Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mercedes Replacing Robots With Humans On Assembly Lines

Here’s an interesting story. According to Quartz, Mercedes is replacing some of the robots on its automobile assembly lines with human workers. Markus Schaefer, Mercedes’ head of production, told Bloomberg News that humans are better suited for the customization their cars require. “Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” he said. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”
Humans replace robots on assembly line
Robots are excellent at doing repetitive task reliably, but don’t do as well at adapting when the specifications for individual car.s vary. Mercedes now plans to use smaller robots that will work alongside people. This is an idea that is gaining traction at BMW and Audi as well.
Peter McOwan, computer science professor at Queen Mary University of London, tells Quartz that humans often have superior skills, even on the production line. They have better vision, for example. Robots can struggle to adjust with changes in lighting, shadows, or recognizing objects from a variety of directions and distances. Humans also have a highly developed sense of smell, which is something robots lack, at least for now.
Because of those extra senses, people can smell burning and recognize it is a warning sign. They can also tell that a certain scraping sound may mean that an object isn’t fitting correctly. Humans have flexible hands that can fit into small spaces. They can adapt to the various pressures needed to hold an egg or lift a brick. Robots don’t usually have such a variety of skills integrated into one device..
McOwan does point out that the next generation of robots will be far better equipped to mimic human behavior. “They are still a while away from being deployed in the rough and tumble world of the manufacturing floor, and clearly need a great deal of real world testing both for quality and consistency of performance in complex and flexible real world situations,” he says. “There are issues of ensuring proper levels of safety too, and such robots will be more expensive than humans in the beginning.”
In other words, there will always be a place in manufacturing for human beings — at least for the next couple of years.
Photo credit:  Reuters/Petr Josek Snr via Quartz

Friday, February 26, 2016

Honda Says Two Thirds Of All Its Cars Will Be Electric By 2030

Does it seem that Honda suffers from a bit of schizophrenia when it comes to electric cars? It was one of the first companies to introduced a hybrid vehicle when it brought the original Insight to market in 1999. That car was a three passenger hatchback that was optimized for aerodynamic efficiency and it introduced America to the word “hybrid.” Toyota followed soon with the first Prius.
Honda Clqrity
While the Prius has been very successful for Toyota, the Insight was just too goofy for mainstream drivers. It looked weird and it drove weird. Honda then went on to stumble its way forward with a Civic Hybrid that started off full of promise but crashed after issues with battery life surfaced. The company had to re-tune the car to save the battery, but that made it no more efficient than an ordinary Civic, even though it cost $5,000 more. Sales plummeted to near zero.
Next, Honda brought out an all new Insight. This one didn’t look so strange, but it did look exactly like a Prius. It sold in the dozens. Next up was the CR-Z, billed as the world’s first hybrid sports car. It had the looks, but its leisurely performance to 60 mph was measured in furlongs per fortnight rather than miles per hour. It too evoked only the most tepid response from shoppers.
Honda finally wised up and brought a very good Accord Hybrid to market. As soon as customers realized what a good car it was and started demanding more, the company stopped selling them. What’s up with that?
But now, Honda says it has gotten religion when it comes to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric cars, and hydrogen fuel cell cars. During the annual State of the Company speech in Japan recently, CEO Takahiro Hachigo told the audience that two thirds of all Honda cars will have an electric motor by the year 2030, according to AutoBlog. “We will make a plug-in hybrid type available for our major models and increase the number of models sequentially.”
The Clarity fuel cell sedan goes on sale in Japan this spring. It should be available in the US about 12 months later. Honda says it will use the same chassis to manufacture a plug-in hybrid car for 2108. Is Honda really ready to get off the schneid when it comes to electrified cars? It better be, if it expects to remain in business very long.

California Will Spend $9 Million To Complete West Coast Electric Highway

The California Energy Commission has awarded nearly $9 million to 4 companies to complete the West Coast Electric Highway. The project is intended to make it possible to drive an electric car from Vancouver to the Baja peninsular. The new funding — $8,875,457, to be exact — will be used to create DC fast-charging stations along Interstate 5, State Route 99, and Highway 101, according to EV Obsession.
42% of the money will go to ChargePoint ($3,739,615). EV Connect will get 21% of the money ($1,843,179). NRG EV Services will get 19% ($1,659,928) and Recargo will get 18% ($1,632,735).  The request for proposals for the work went out last July and resulted in 35 proposals in all. The solicitation defined 7 primary areas for the work to be done and 2 secondary segments.
For the primary sectors of the West Coast Electric Highway, each charging location must have at least one CHAdeMO fast charger, one SAE CCS Fast Charger and one J1772-compliant Level 2 charger. Fast chargers are not required for secondary segments, but proposals that included them received priority in the bidding process.
Each ChargePoint location will include a 50 kW Express DC fast charging station equipped with both SAE Combo and CHAdeMO connectors as well as Level 2 charging stations, according to Charged EVs. ChargePoints’ part of the project will also include two showcase sites with scalable intelligent energy storage management systems and a solar generation system that can charge the stationary storage and/or export power to the grid.
“The West Coast Electric Highway is key to expanding access to infrastructure, especially in rural, disadvantaged communities, to drive EV adoption,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint CEO. “This project will support EV drivers in their daily travel and give drivers range confidence for longer distance travel.”
Fast charging is vital for motorists traveling long distances away from home. Level 2 chargers can only add about 15 miles of range for every hour of charging, but a fast charger can usually restore a depleted battery to 80% of its capacity in a hour or less. Fast charging is considered a vital part of convincing mainstream drivers to consider driving an electric or plug-in hybrid car.
Projects like this are much easier to put in place on the west coast, which has only three states from north to south as opposed to the 13 states that line the eastern seaboard. Getting cooperation among all those political jurisdictions is like getting Chris Christie to lose weight — not impossible, but very, very difficult.

West Coast Electric Highway

Thursday, February 25, 2016

VW Up! Gets a Turbo Power Up!grade for 2017

2017 Volkswagen Up! Gets Turbo Power Up!grade
Volkswagen will launch an updated version of its Up! fuel economy champion for 2017. And, when it debuts next month at the Geneva auto show, it will debut with 89 turbo-fed horsepower and nearly 120 lb-ft of TQ. (!?)
Volkswagen’s diminutive Up! commuter has always been a favorite, being available in a number of green-ish variants that range from CNG and biomethane combustion to fully electric options. Cool as those Up!s were, you could never really say that the 54 HP Up! cars seemed like they’d be a blast to drive … with a 50% bump in power, though?
That might be OK!
In addition to more HP and TQ, the latest VW Up!, VW also changed the bumpers and lights, made smartphone integration easier and upgraded your stereo options with a few new units. One of those is found in the Up!Beats special edition model, which features a 300-watt sound system and special badging/interior graphics.

2017 VW Up! Beats Special Edition Interior

As for the rest of the Up!s, they get seven new colors (Teal Blue, Coral Red, Costa Azul, Honey Yellow, Edelweiss, Blueberry and Savanna Gold), bringing the total to thirteen. The options list includes matching interiors, contrasting roofs, colored alloys, and a bunch of decal sets to make your Volkswagen Up! yours.
You can check out a few pics of the Savanna Gold, below, then let us know if you think a power boost is what it would take to make the Up! relevant to US buyers in the comments section.

2017 VW Up! Turbo Power

2017 Volkswagen Up! Gets Turbo Power Up!grade - Geneva
2017 Volkswagen Up! Gets Turbo Power Up!grade - Geneva
2017 Volkswagen Up! Gets Turbo Power Up!grade - Geneva
Source | Images: Volkswagen, via Jalopnik.

England Lake District Rents Electric Cars Painted To Look Like Sheep

The tourism boffins in England’s Lake District want to make electric cars available to visitors so they can motor around in silence without creating carbon emissions. But these cars don’t look like just any electric cars. They are painted to look like the sheep that dot the countryside. If you have ever traveled to the hinterlands of Jollye Olde Englande, your strongest memory will probably involve being surrounded by sheep. Lots of sheep. Sheep as far as the eye can see.
Twizy Electric car painted like a sheep
There are about 10 sheep for every person in western England, out where the towns have names like Bowness-on-Windermere, Broughton Mills and High Newton. The County Council has selected the Renault Twizy for the job of making tourists feel comfortable doing what tourists do. The quirky little cars have a maximum speed of 50 mph. They can go up to 40 miles on a charge, which is enough to meander over to Ambleside, Penrith or Keswick for a pint and still get home without plugging in.
The council has arranged for 10 of the electric cars to be on hand for visitors. They rent for £10 an hour, £25 for a half day, or £45 for a full day. The pound is worth about $1.50 these days, so just multiply all of those amounts by 1.5 times. The hope is that people will leave their regular cars at home and take the train to the Lake District. That way, they won’t be spewing out carbon emissions all the way from Charring Cross.
“It damages the environment if there’s lots of cars on the road, it’s not a nice place to drive around if you’re sitting in queues of traffic,” says Nicola Parker of the Cumbria County Council. “The Twizy provides a low emissions, sustainable way of travelling around the area. They’re completely silent, it’s peaceful, you can explore the nooks and crannies of the Lake District in a fun and quirky way.”
Twizy electric carHow quirky? The shepherds in the area use an archaic system to count their sheep. Instead of one, two, three, they say yan, tyan, tethera. So the ten Twizies are named accordingly: yan, tyan, tethera, methera, pip, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera and dec. Quirky you want? Quirky you got!
“A lot of people, they might just use it as a form of transport because we get a lot of motor homes that don’t bring vehicles and they kind of feel like they’re stuck here but if they have these to hire they can kind of get out and about,” Sarah Lightburn of Watermillock tells ITV News. “They’ve basically just been couples because they’re two seaters and they’ve just been kind of travelling around Glenridding and other places, which are tourist attractions really.”
If you’re in Cumbria County any time soon, be sure to rent one of these adorable electric cars. What better way to see sheep than from a sheep car, especially if you only have yan, tyan, or tethera hours available?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Audi Shuttles VIPs At Berlinale In Its Autonomous A8 L W12

Autonomous cars seem to be everywhere nowadays (that’s an exaggeration, I know), with the latest sighting being a driverless Audi A8 L W12 that served as a VIP shuttle at Berlinale.
The driverless Audi in question apparently relied upon easily identifiable buildings for its orientation, along with other computations. This was then compared against a map to allow the vehicle to chauffeur the VIP passengers in question to the event’s red carpet.
Audi autonomous driverless
The Audi Board Member for Technical Development, Dr Ing Stefan Knirsch, commented: “We are developing and testing our technologies for piloted driving under all conditions. We have already proven that we can have piloted cars drive safely on a race track and on the expressway. At the Berlinale, we have now mastered a complex urban traffic situation with maximum ease.”
The picture above certainly seems to show just that, and the occupants themselves appear to be quite happy with the results. The autonomous Q7 was reportedly programmed to drive the way a chauffeur would, making a slow and smooth approach right to the curb.
Green Car Congress provides some related news:
Audi is deploying some 300 vehicles at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, roughly 100 of which are equipped with hybrid drivetrains. The stars of this year’s Berlinale will ride to the Berlinale Palast in the new Audi Q7 e-tron quattro.

Tesla Fights On In Utah And Connecticut

Just as the Kook Brothers are fighting a losing battle against electric cars and renewable energy, the car dealers in several states continue to oppose allowing Tesla to sell its cars direct to consumers. Last year, Tesla spent $3,000,000 building a stunning new showroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, only to be told two weeks before it opened by the state’s Attorney General that Utah law prohibits auto makers from owning dealerships. Under the AG’s ruling, people could go to the Tesla store to look at cars and get repairs, but were prohibited from taking test drives, discussing prices, or buying a car while there.
Tesla Motors
The Utah legislature took up the matter, but ended up passing a bill that allows people to buy a car at a Tesla store but forces Tesla to ship each car purchased into Utah from out of state. The company cannot maintain an inventory of cars within the state. Tesla is challenging the law in a legal action that is now before the Utah Supreme Court.
“If Utah is really about free markets, if it’s really about innovation, if it’s really about new business models that provide the consumers with choice, why would you restrict that?”asks Jim Chen, the company’s vice president for regulatory affairs. Governor Gary Herbert wants Tesla to be able to sell in Utah, even mentioning the company in his State of the State speech. He is  hoping lawmakers can work something out before the session ends, spokesman Jon Cox told ABC News.
Tesla says that it can’t sell its cars through traditional third party dealerships because they have to convince customers electric cars are better than a car with a traditional internal combustion engine. Tesla maintains that constitutes a conflict of interest for conventional dealers, whose major source of income comes from selling ordinary cars.
Support for regular dealers is eroding. This week. Cadillac boss Johan De Nysschen proposed a new system for smaller dealers that sounds a lot like the Tesla plan. Customers would view new cars on virtual reality devices, then order them online. Cadillac would fill the orders from cars available at regional distribution centers.
Tesla is also renewing its effort to get the state of Connecticut to change its law prohibiting direct sales. A bill approving the change passed the Connecticut House of Representatives last year but died in the Senate after Connecticut’s dealer association mounted a furious opposition.
“We believe we would fail if we were to sell through third parties, because third parties aren’t fundamentally as interested in selling electric cars as we are,” Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president of corporate development, told Connecticut Magazine. “Connecticut residents have to drive to New York or Massachusetts, and that’s an inconvenience,” says O’Connell. “They can also buy them online or over the phone, but this is a high-touch purchase. People want to be able to go in and literally kick the tires and drive the car.”
The bottom line is, franchise dealer laws are so over. In a couple years, people won’t even remember what all the fuss was about. Once Tesla kicks down the door, other manufacturers, including the Big Three in Detroit, will probably be only too glad to come thundering through.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Nomadic Power Battery Trailer Boosts EV Range

Is the Nomadic Power battery trailer a dumb idea or pure brilliance? Located in Stuttgart, Germany, Nomadic Power may have solved the biggest issue people have with electric cars — range. Those of us who live in the US have this lingering fantasy about the Great American Road Trip. It’s the notion that we can pack the family into the family car and hit the open road and go wherever we choose — Disney World, the pier in Santa Monica, or Yosemite. It’s not so much that we will, it’s more that we could.

Elon Musk asked people at a reception in Paris recently how much range they would like in their electric cars. “500 miles,” he was told. He responded by saying that a battery large enough to deliver that much range would be too heavy and too expensive to be practical. Most of the time, the majority of all that battery capacity would be wasted. We may all think about driving that far on a single battery charge, but the reality is that Americans drive less than 40 miles a day, on average.
Instead, imagine a storage battery mounted on a trailer. Then imagine a series of sharing stations every 100 miles or so along America’s highways. Drive in, drop off the old trailer with its depleted battery, hook up a new trailer with a fully charged battery and be your way in minutes. Bazanga! No range anxiety and no sitting around some truck stop for an hour or more waiting for the battery in your EV to recharge. The company says its battery trailer could add from 100 to 250 miles of range, even taking into consideration the losses from towing the trailer itself.
Is that silly? Absolutely not. The world’s automakers are spending billions to develop hydrogen powered cars. Why? The number one reason is because people want to be able to fill up and go in no more time than it takes to get a tank of gasoline today. It has nothing to do with saving the planet, rising sea levels, or breathing clean air. It has to do with convenience.
Nomadic Power battery trailier
A few years ago, people talked about battery swapping schemes. The Nomadic Power battery trailer is infinitely easier and cheaper. It makes so much sense it will probably be banned by 17 Republican governors. And there is another side to the equation. What if, instead of renting a trailer, people could buy one and use it as energy storage device for a solar or wind power system at home? Now you have the fusion of extra mobility when you need it and living off the grid when you don’t.

Even Elon Musk has expressed a liking for the idea, according to Swiss website Bilan. “We welcome that Elon Musk is interested in the concept of trailer based load extension like ours in order to further increase the autonomy of Tesla models. We are working on this concept for some time thanks to the support of the European Union and federal authorities and should be able to start mass production shortly,” says  Manfred Baumg√§rtner, CEO of Nomadic Power.
Is this brilliance or madness? Does it make more sense to spend a few hundred dollars renting a range extender battery trailer when you need one or thousands of dollars to buy a car with a larger battery for those few days a year when you travel far from home? Please let us know what you think in the comments section.

Honda Updates Two Motor Hybrid System For Odyssey

The Honda two motor hybrid system used in the Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-in Hybrid has been significantly updated for use in the new Honda Odyssey Hybrid that went on sale in Japan earlier this month. Compared to the old system, the new power control unit, which includes the electric motors, is 23% smaller and 27% lighter than the one in the Accord Hybrid, Honda tells Automotive News. The intelligent power unit, which includes the lithium ion battery, is 11 percent smaller and 6 percent lighter.
Honda two motor hybrid sytsem
Honda calls its new system the Sport Hybrid i-MMD powertrain. It claims the improvements result in better power and fuel economy. Honda could utilize the updated system in a future version of the Accord, but nothing has been decided yet hybrid engineer Jiro Kuroki told Automotive News during a test drive. The company expects fully one half of its domestic Odyssey sales will be hybrids.
The Japanese Odyssey is a very different vehicle than what Honda sells in the US. It’s a smaller car built on a completely different platform. It is marketed in 22 countries around the world, mostly in Asia and the Middle East. Honda has no plans to add a hybrid to the U.S. version because it doesn’t see any demand for it, Kuroki said. That could change in a hurry, though, if customers start flocking to the newChrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid van that is due in showrooms later this year.

Oddly enough, Honda led the hybrid vehicle parade earlier this century when it introduced the original Insight. That car has a single electric motor. Since then, two motor systems are all the rage, with theChevy Volt leading the way. However, Hyundai is bucking the trend by going back to a single motor in its new Ioniq hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. Hyundai says using one motor enables a significant saving in manufacturing costs.
Honda also announced that the batteries for its new hybrid cars will be sourced from Panasonic, rather than Yuasa, which provided batteries for the prior hybrid system used in the Accord. Panasonic also provided the battery for the Honda Fit Hybrid.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

2017 Kia Optima Sportswagon Arrives … in Europe - Press Release

Hot on the heels of the release of the redesigned 2017 Kia Optima and Optima Plu-in Hybrid models late last year, images of camouflaged Optima wagon- the production version of the Kia Sportspace concept teased last year– test mules started appearing in various publications. Now, the slick-looking family-hauler is finally here … kinda.
See, despite launching great products like the V8-powered K900 and the newly-revealed 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid SUV in the US already, the sexy, sexy, sexy 2017 Kia Optima Sportswagon is for European eyes only.
We’re on top of that, though, because our friends at TopSpeed have access to European talent. They write, “While Kia didn’t provide any shots of the front or rear seating area, it is safe to assume it probably looks very similar to the Sedan. According to Kia Kia , the cabin is finished with “a high proportion of soft-touch materials, cloth and leather trim in natural tones, and tasteful metallic accents.”
Like the new sedan, then, the Optima Sportswagon’s cabin also has a significant amount of soundproofing, which Kia (like Mercedes and others) claim will help to reduce driver fatigue and, therefor, distractions.
You can check out some of the newly-released official pictures and the official Kia press release, below. When you’re done with that, let us know what you think of the Sportswagon’s journey from concept to production in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

2017 Kia Optima Sportswagon | This is it!

    The all-new Kia Optima Sportswagon, Kia’s first ever D-segment tourer, will make its global premiere at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show (86 Salon International de l’Automobile) on 1 March.
    Inspired by the 2015 SPORTSPACE concept – shown for the first time at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show – the Optima Sportswagon offers the striking exterior design and high quality interior of the 2016 Optima saloon, with the added practicality and appeal of a tourer bodystyle.
    Michael Cole, Chief Operating Officer, Kia Motors Europe, commented: “The Optima has come to define Kia globally, and is credited with kick-starting the brand’s design-led transformation. The SPORTSPACE concept from 2015 was a clear intention of where we wanted to take the Optima next, and the Sportswagon adds an extra level of style and practicality to the well-received saloon.”
    Cole added: “This is an important product for Kia in Europe, and it will increase our presence in this hugely important segment. In Europe, two thirds of all sales in the D-segment, and three quarters of all fleet sales in this class, are made up of tourers, so the Optima Sportswagon will play a critical role in attracting new private and corporate buyers to the brand. This is an important conquest product for Kia.”
    The Optima Sportswagon will be available with a choice of efficient and responsive petrol and diesel powertrains, including a high-powered GT model. The Optima Sportswagon is equipped with a range of innovative safety assistance and infotainment features, ensuring maximum occupant safety, comfort and enjoyment.
    The Optima Sportswagon is due to go on sale across Europe in Q4 2016.
    The all-new Optima Sportswagon: Kia’s first-ever D-segment tourer
    Inspired by the Kia SPORTSPACE concept shown at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the Optima Sportswagon is Kia’s first foray into the competitive D-segment tourer segment. A thoroughly practical vehicle for everyday use, the Optima Sportswagon will also be among the most stylish cars in its class, with a long, lean and dynamic profile. The Sportswagon retains the same width (1,860 mm) and length (4,855 mm) as the saloon, and grows by 5 mm in height (to 1,470 mm) to accommodate the expanded boot.
    The new Optima Sportswagon features the same sharp lines and smooth bodywork that has come to define the latest Kia models. While the front of the car remains the same as the Optima saloon, its strong, rising shoulder and gently sloping, swept-back cabin continue for longer to produce its distinctive tourer body shape.
    The overhang at the rear adds greater visual volume to the back of the vehicle, though this extra mass is disguised elegantly by the raked rear window and tapering roofline, giving the Sportswagon a genuinely athletic stance in a typically conservative segment.
    At the rear of the car, wide LED tail lamps wrap around the corners of the bodywork. The rear bumper houses a single oval exhaust and features an integrated air diffuser, for a sporty finish.
    The Optima Sportswagon will be available in Europe in a choice of nine paint colours, and will ride on alloy wheels ranging from 16- to 18-inches in diameter.
    High quality interior with Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™
    The all-new Kia Optima Sportswagon offers a premium-quality, driver-focused interior, with features and technologies typically associated with vehicles from the class above.
    The wide dashboard, designed along a horizontal plane, helps to create a genuine sense of spaciousness and modernity, with the same high material quality and design that characterises the interior of the Optima saloon. For a quality ambience, the cabin is finished with a high proportion of soft-touch materials, cloth and leather trim in natural tones, and tasteful metallic accents. High levels of soundproofing reduce driver fatigue during long journeys and when travelling over broken surfaces.
    The new Sportswagon is available with a choice of single- or two-tone colour interior schemes: single-tone (black) or two-tone (dark grey with light grey) in cloth or leather trim. The console is finished in gloss black and chrome.
    The same technologies that make the Optima saloon one of the most innovative cars in the D-segment are featured in the Optima Sportswagon – a range of on-board technologies to improve usability, comfort and convenience.
    The Optima Sportswagon is equipped with Kia’s latest audio-visual navigation (AVN) system, available with 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment – the latter when specified with the satellite navigation system. DAB digital radio, which is available across a number of European markets, is fully supported with Kia’s AVN.
    The Optima Sportswagon will additionally be among first Kia models to feature Android Auto™, designed to work with Android phones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, and Apple CarPlay™ for iPhone 5 or newer. Both systems feature voice control and allow the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead at all times.
    Available from launch, Android Auto™ connects to the user’s phone and lets them access smartphone apps and functions through the in-car infotainment system, such as voice-guided Google Maps navigation, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition. Android Auto™ also lets users stream music from Google Play Music.
    Apple CarPlay™ – available on Sportswagon models by the end of 2016 – will enable full Siri voice control to control the phone’s various functions and apps, including navigation via Apple Maps, calls and text dictation. Apple CarPlay™ also supports other audio apps, such as music streaming or audiobooks that the user may have downloaded to their iPhone.
    The AVN system also offers the full Kia Connected Services package, with up-to-date, driver-oriented information. Provided by technology company TomTom, the broad range of available connectivity features includes live traffic updates, speed camera alerts, local search and weather forecasts. In Europe, the system will be available to Optima Sportswagon buyers free of charge for seven years after the car’s purchase.
    The touchscreen infotainment system is paired with a six-speaker audio system as standard, while music lovers can also specify a powerful 590-watt Harman Kardon Premium Sound system, with eight speakers, an external amplifier and subwoofer, and Clari-Fi MP3 restoration technology.
    The Optima Sportswagon is available with Kia’s new wireless charger for mobile devices, situated at the base of the central console. The 5W wireless charger lets users charge their phone on the move, without a wire. With ‘foreign object detection’, the charging system activates when a compatible device is placed on the pad and warns owners when they’ve left a phone on the charger when they leave the vehicle. The system displays the phone’s charging condition on the instrument cluster, and features a safety system to prevent overheating while in use.
    The Optima Sportswagon additionally features two USB charging points, one in the front and one in the rear, to allow passengers to charge mobile devices, depending on trim level.
    Depending on market, other available features will include: 360-degree Around View Monitor, with four cameras helping the driver to manoeuvre when parking by displaying a birds-eye view of the Optima Sportswagon on the touchscreen; Smart Parking Assist System (SPAS), which parks the car automatically in parallel and perpendicular spaces and helps drivers safely leave a parking space; and Dynamic Bending Headlamps, which sweep the road ahead in line with the steering wheel for greater visibility and improved safety at night.
    Versatile practicality features and 553-litre cargo capacity
    The all-new Optima Sportswagon is the most practical Optima ever, with generous cargo capacity and a range of innovative and useful features to ensure the best possible use of storage space.
    The additional cargo space resulting from the tourer bodystyle makes the Optima Sportswagon one of the most practical cars in its class, with 553 litres (VDA) of cargo space behind the second row of seats – 48 litres more than the Optima saloon.
    A series of highly ergonomic features in the boot render the car more practical than many other D-segment tourers. These include a safety barrier net built in to the back of the rear seats and pop-up sliding luggage rails to secure individual items which are likely to slide or roll around the boot. A low, flat boot lip, and a Smart Power Tailgate – which opens the boot automatically when the Optima’s smart key is located in close proximity to the rear tailgate – enables owners to load heavy items easily.
    Highly-versatile 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats are fitted as standard, enabling owners to slide longer outdoor equipment – such as skis or snowboards – through the central seat, while two rear passengers can still sit in comfort.
    High strength bodyshell with active safety technologies
    The new Sportswagon offers a high level of safety from its lightweight, high-strength body and high levels of passive and active safety. Kia’s engineers have targeted a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating throughout the Optima Sportswagon’s development programme. The Optima saloon recently scored the maximum five-star rating from the independent safety organisation.
    The bodyshell of the Optima Sportswagon benefits from the extensive application of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS), which makes up 51% of the body. AHSS has been used to reinforce the car’s A and B-pillars, side sills, floor and front wheel arches, with particular attention paid to the roof, C-pillar and rear bulkhead, which have been adapted in the Optima’s transition from saloon to tourer.
    Inside the strong bodyshell, passive occupant safety is assured with driver, driver knee, passenger, two front side and two curtain airbags all fitted as standard.
    The Kia Optima Sportswagon is expected to be a strong performer in Euro NCAP’s increasingly important Safety Assist category thanks to its suite of new active safety technologies designed to avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision.
    Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) is fitted as standard, ensuring stability under braking and cornering by controlling the car’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and electric motor-driven power steering if it detects a loss of traction.
    The Optima Sportswagon is available with a wide range of optional active hazard-avoidance technologies, depending on market. These include:
    Advanced Smart Cruise Control (SCC), which automatically adjusts the Optima’s speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front
    Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)*, which employs a long-range radar detection system to detect a potential collision with another vehicle or pedestrian and help bring the car to a halt
    Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), which detects the Optima’s position in relation to lane markings and takes automatic corrective action if it senses the car starting to draft without the use of indicators
    High Beam Assist (HBA), which automatically adjusts headlamp range according to other vehicles and road conditions
    Speed Limit Information Function (SLIF), displaying the speed limit in the driver’s instrument cluster based on cameras detecting roadside signs
    Blind Spot Detection (BSD), with a visual warning in the door mirror when another car enters the driver’s blind spot
    Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), which warns against other cars driving behind the Optima in car parks while reversing.
    The Optima Sportswagon’s AEB system is unique in its segment in Europe for offering not just a short-range radar, but also a longer-range unit which is able to identify cars and pedestrians further away and at higher speeds than many competitors.
    The short-range ‘City’ radar helps drivers to avoid or mitigate the effects of front collisions when travelling under 50 kph, while the longer-range ‘Urban’ radar enables the Optima Sportswagon to detect and respond to obstacles at speeds between 30 and 80 kph. The AEB system’s pedestrian-detection function is designed to identify pedestrians when travelling up to 60 kph and reduce the risk of a collision.
    *The Autonomous Emergency Braking System (AEBS) is an assistance system and does not relieve the driver from his/her responsibility to safely operate the vehicle at any time. The driver still has to adapt his/her driving behaviour to his/her personal driving capabilities, to the legal requirements and to the overall road and traffic conditions. AEBS is not designed to drive the vehicle autonomously. For further information, please refer to the owner’s manual.
    Smooth ride, agile handling and optional electronic suspension
    Central to the appeal of the new Optima saloon is its ride comfort, high-speed stability and engaging handling. The Optima Sportswagon’s suspension system has been engineered to isolate vibrations and bumps from poor road surfaces, and while improving handling agility.
    The Optima saloon’s fully-independent suspension hardware is carried over for the new Sportswagon derivative, however spring, damper and alignment settings have been adapted for the new tourer due to the new version’s different weight distribution, which is slightly more rear-biased.
    The development brief for the Optima’s fully-independent suspension – compared to the last-generation Kia Optima – saw engineers move front and rear subframe mounting points further out towards the edge of the vehicle for a smoother ride over uneven surfaces. Two additional front bushing mounts (now four) increase lateral stiffness, while more robust wheel bearings complete the front suspension changes. The results are evident in the Optima Sportswagon’s quick responses to steering inputs, high level of traction under cornering and stability on motorways and poor surfaces.
    At the rear, the Optima’s multi-link suspension features large dual lower-arms with thick, highly energy-absorbent bushings. Further defining the Optima’s ride and handling characteristics, stability and bump absorption are both high.
    The Optima Sportswagon is equipped with Kia’s new rack-mounted electric motor-driven power steering system (R-MDPS), fitted as standard for European models with the 1.7-litre CRDi engine and GT models, empowered by the new 2.0-litre T-GDI engine. Mounted directly on the steering rack, rather than on the column, R-MDPS provides a high level of steering feel and quick, linear responses to driver inputs – particularly around the centre. R-MDPS enhances the Sportswagon’s sharp handling characteristics, and places it among the most agile cars in the D-segment.
    Customers can specify an optional electronic controlled suspension system with internal valves (ECS), to deliver ride and handling tailored exclusively to the tastes of European drivers. ECS employs internal valves for each of the four dampers, and is connected to a G-force sensor in the ECU and two G-force sensors built into the front wheels. Using these sensors, ECS detects steering inputs and accelerator pedal position, and monitors road conditions, to adapt the suspension for a firmer, sportier ride or for greater comfort – drivers can choose from ‘sport’ and ‘normal’ modes accordingly. The system provides individualised damping force for each wheel more quickly than ever before. ECS will be available from launch on models fitted with the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine, and will be fitted as standard to all 2.0-litre T-GDI GT models.
    Choice of petrol and diesel power with manual or automatic transmissions
    The front-wheel drive Optima Sportswagon will be available with a range of Euro 6-compliant petrol and diesel engines when it goes on sale across Europe. The Optima Sportswagon offers the choice of either a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel or 2.0-litre CVVL petrol engine, while GT models are equipped with Kia’s new high-powered 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol direct injection engine.
    Upgraded for its application in the Optima saloon and carried over unchanged in the Sportswagon, the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine will account for the majority of European sales. The engine benefits from a series of modifications, resulting in greater power output and torque, and reduced emissions. Producing 141 ps and340 Nm torque, the upgraded 1.7-litre diesel engine will offer low CO2 emissions and high economy, pending final homologation later in 2016.
    The 1.7-litre CRDi engine is available with a six-speed manual transmission or Kia’s new seven-speed double-clutch transmission, capable of handling the higher torque outputs of the turbodiesel engine and engineered to offer a sportier driving experience with smooth and instantaneous gear changes.
    The Optima Sportswagon is also available with a 2.0-litre CVVL petrol engine, featuring continuously variable valve lift technology for smooth delivery of its 163 ps power output and keen accelerative response. The 2.0-litre CVVL petrol engine can be specified with either six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The high-powered Optima Sportswagon GT features Kia’s new 2.0-litre T-GDI GT petrol engine, which transmits engine power through a six-speed automatic.
    Kia Optima Sportswagon on-sale from Q4 2016
    The Optima Sportswagon will go on sale across Europe in Q4 2016, with the company’s unique 7-Year, 100,000 mile warranty as standard. For European markets, the Optima Sportswagon will be built at Kia’s Hwasung manufacturing facility in Korea.

Source | Images: Kia, via Topspeed.

The Tesla Roadster Turns Ten This Year

Set your way back machines to 2006, boys and girls, and enjoy this video reveal of the Tesla Roadster. The first thing you might notice is the poor quality of the video. Did we imagine back then that cameras would exist in a few short years that would make self driving cars possible? Heck, most of us thought Netscape was a leading tech company and was a good investment! Goes to show how much we knew, huh?

The Tesla Roadster came about because an engineer named Martin Eberhard thought electric cars would be a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels for its transportation needs. Even though the people at the head of the country have changed, that basic principle remains at the core of everything Tesla Motors does. At the unveiling, Eberhard told AutoBlog Green, “You can have a car that’s quick and you can have a car that’s electric. Having one that’s both is how you make electric cars popular.”
That statement was prescient. At the time, electric cars were little more than glorified golf karts. Eberhard knew instinctively that people love high performance vehicles. Even after he an Elon Musk had a falling out about how to move the company forward, that understanding remained at the heart of the succession of Tesla products that have made headlines — the Model S 85+, the S P85,  P85D, P85D with Insane Mode, and the latest full bore nutso car from Tesla, the P90D with Ludicrous Mode.
These cars that have appeared in hundreds of YouTube videos drag racing against everything from polo ponies to race prepped Ferraris and ignited a storm of enthusiasm for electric cars. If the Tesla Model S had the same acceleration as a Chevy Malibu, Tesla would have missed out on at least 50% of the favorable publicity it has enjoyed over the years.
Tesla founders Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning are still working in the EV industry. Recently they made a major investment in Alta Motors, makers of Redshift electric motorcycles. Ian Wright now makes the world’s most efficient electric garbage trucks. He thought Musk was wrong to pursue electric automobiles when diesel trucks are such a major source of carbon pollution. Only technical chief JB Straubel remains from the original Tesla team.
It is worthwhile to look back at the Tesla Roadster, if only to mark how far the electric car industry has come in ten short years. Who would have thought the day the Roadster first appeared that Elon Musk would be talking about cars that can drive themselves cross country a decade later? The changes between then and now have been dramatic, but the core principal of Tesla Motors remains the same — to lead the world to a fossil fuel free future, regardless of what the Kook Brothers may say.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mercedes Announces New, $3 Billion Diesel Engine Family

Mercedes-Benz Diesel Engine OM654
Despite the trouble other European manufacturers like Volkswagen and Fiat may be having with diesel emissions, Mercedes-Benz has remained adamant that its diesels are fully compliant. The company looks set to double-down on those claims with the billion dollar launch of an all-new, all-turbodiesel engine family.
Codenamed OM654, the latest Mercedes-Benz built 2.0-liter diesel offers 191 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s nearly 25 more HP than before from an engine that weighs 76 lbs. less and delivers a 13% improvement in fuel economy than the outgoing “advanced” 2.0 diesel.
All of that should help make the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E220D- the first production car to get the engine when it goes on sale in Europe later this year- a pretty fun car.
Fun or not, though, the new Mercedes diesels will doubtless be subjected to independent testing. To prepare for this inevitability, Mercedes is using a new type of “selective catalytic reduction” (SCR) converter. The company says the SCRs will help to eliminate the sort of nitrous oxide emissions that have caused VW so many recent troubles.
Time will tell if Mercedes gets caught with its TDI pants down, I guess. In the meantime, check out these pretty engine pictures and let us know what you think of MB’s “clean” diesels in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Mercedes-Benz’ New Diesel Engine Family

Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016 Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vierzylinder Premium-Diesel, OM 654, 2016   Mercedes-Benz four cylinder premium diesel, OM 654, 2016
Source | Images: Mercedes-Benz, via MBWorld.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Nokian Rolls Out First Winter Tire Designed For EVs

Nokian makes the first winter tire optimized for electric cars such as the BMW i3. It combines extremely low rolling resistance, excellent grip, and exceptional driving comfort, the company says. It is the first winter tire with an A energy rating and can reduce rolling resistance as much as 30%.
Nokian low rolling resistance winter tire
In the good old days of motoring, if a car needed more performance, a manufacturer could just add more cubic inches or raise the compression ratio. Today, range is more important to drivers of electric vehicles that outright performance. It becomes even more of a concern in winter, when cold temperatures have a negative impact on battery power.
“Every mile counts, so when it comes to tires, low rolling resistance is a must,” says  Graham Heeps, editor of Tire Technology International magazine, which named the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 the Tire Technology of the Year recently. “We are really thankful for this significant award. This is also an excellent opening shot for the 80th anniversary year of Hakkapeliittas,” says Juha Pirhonen, vice president of R&D for Nokian Tires.
“We are proud to be able to offer more winter grip, more peace of mind and, in particular, more range to the ever-increasing number of electric car owners with our top class Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tyre. Making transport safer and greener is a leading principle for our product development,” says Pirhonen. The R2 is currently available only in the 155/70R19 84Q size, which is perfectly matched to the needs of the BMW i3.
Nokian is based in Finland, where drivers know a thing or two about winter driving and every driver over the age of 14 is a master of the “Scandinavian Flick.” Its winter tires are born, bred and tested at the company’s testing facility located in Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta is one of the best known winter tire brands in the world. You can learn more about the rigors of the Nokian testing process in the video below.