Audi reveals sketches of electric Urban Concept (+video)

August 12th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Design sketches have been released of Audi’s Urban Concept vehicle which is set for its debut at next month’s Frankfurt Auto Show.

The Urban Concept is the latest in a range of e-tron electric car concept Audi has revealed with many scheduled for production in the coming years.

The car is an open wheel, 1+1 seat, ultra-light cruiser for congested urban environments. Interestingly, the passenger doesn’t sit directly behind the driver instead the passenger seat is located to the right and just slightly back from the driver’s seat. Access is via the tailgate with a roof that slides back to open as well.

Development of the concept focused on lightweight construction, efficiency and reduction. There is no unnecessary weight and the drivetrain is built for absolute efficiency. The concept is made from a carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) monocoque frame that integrates the substructures of the two seats as well. The alloy wheels measure 21-inches. Continue reading “Audi reveals sketches of electric Urban Concept (+video)” »

BMW’s future i4 and i5 eco vehicles to fill out range

August 10th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

BMW’s recently revealed i sub-brand is one of the most exciting and ambitious moves in the automotive world recently (read news) and will expand after the i3 and i8 go on sale in the next three years.

What’s next? Well the following models will be the i4 and i5 which are rumoured to be a smaller coupe and a family focused four-door sedan.

Both the i4 and i5 models will have a carbon fiber reinforced plastic “Life” bodye to keep weight down and use variations of the drivetrains powering the i3 and i8.

Apparently the i4 will use the same underpinnings as the i3, but will drop the rear doors and seats to become a two-seater with a lower roof, wider track and a increased dynamic ability. Power will likely come from a tweaked version of the  i3’s electric motor, with the same optional range-extending engine mounted out back. If the i4 is created in this way BMW will have a more affordable two-door option in its range. Don’t expect to see the i4 roaming streets for about five or six years. Continue reading “BMW’s future i4 and i5 eco vehicles to fill out range” »

BMW confirms new ‘i’ eco-friendly sub brand

February 22nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The BMW Group has just confirmed its new sub-brand called “i”, which it will use to market a fresh range of eco-friendly vehicles including regular and plug-in hybrids, and pure electric models.

The first models to be launched under the new sub-brand won’t arrive till 2013 and will be called the BMW i3 and i8. The i3 is set to be an all-electric city car, that will be based on the Megacity Vehicle. The i8, is a more exciting plug-in hybrid sports car based on the Vision EfficientDynamics concept study unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Both new models will be based on BMW’s latest construction concept called LifeDrive that makes use of an aluminium chassis to house the powertrain, while the passenger cell consists of high-strength but extremely lightweight carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP).

“Both cars have been designed specifically for their respective alternative drive systems,” explains Klaus Draeger, the BMW Board member responsible for development. “We used the innovative architecture and CFRP to cancel out practically all of the extra weight added by the batteries. For our customers this means superior driving dynamics combined with significantly increased range using electric power.”

While BMW did not disclose further details about powertrains during the announcement, the company recently revealed that the 1-Series ActiveE’s electric synchronous motor with 168HP (125 kW) and 250 Nm of torque which will be used in the i3. Continue reading “BMW confirms new ‘i’ eco-friendly sub brand” »

Peel to restart production of the world’s smallest car (+video)

August 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In the past ten years there’s been a much increased emphasis on small cars with brands like Smart and Mini getting busy vying for customers that want something a little bit smaller. But none of these current machines can come close to matching the 1962 Peel P-50, which still currently holds the record as the smallest car ever produced.

Exactly how small you may ask, well the wheelbase measures 127 cm, total length measures 134.1 cm, width measures 99 cm and height comes in at 119 cm. The kerb weight is a crazy 58kg.

It’s not surprising that this micro machine only required a single cylinder engine displacing just 49cc to get it moving. The powerplant was mated to a three-speed manual transmission without a reverse gear, which was achieved by the handy grab bar at the very rear. One door could be used for entry and exit on the left side of the car, which opens to a single seat and enough luggage room for a grocery bag. Sounds like fun? We think so too, but sadly there were only 50 made on the Isle of Man in the UK, so they are quite the rarity.

Now, in a twist of fate, Peel Engineering has recently reopened its doors and is planning a small production run of 50 brand new cars, divided up between the P-50 (pictured in blue) and the bubble-top Trident (in red). These reborn Peels will each sell for a heavy £12,499 ($27,500 NZ) and will use an electric powertrain instead of a scooter engine. Few other details have been released at this stage.

Check out a old school video of the Peel P-50 from when it was originally released below.

Toyota and Tesla working on electric RAV4

July 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota and Tesla have officially announced that the companies are in partnership and are building an electric prototype based on the RAV4 crossover. A production version of the concept is expected by 2012. The initial prototypes are currently in development with a Tesla electric powertrain and two vehicles based on the Toyota RAV4 platform should be finished by the end of July.

If it all works out, it will be great news for fans of the original RAV4 EV which debuted in the late 1990s over in the States.

The new RAV4s will use Tesla’s liquid cooled lithium ion battery configuration that contains thousands of laptop cells. The very first prototype is already running and a larger fleet will be prepared this year for further testing by Toyota.

Click here to read a Car and SUV road test of the RAV4 diesel currently available in NZ.

Next-generation Nissan GT-R could go hybrid

June 24th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Rumors of a hybrid-drive system for the next Nissan GT-R aren’t exactly new and have been dominating fan websites since last year. But now there may be some truth behind the speculation. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s has made a very public commitment to electric vehicles, so it won’t be a surprise that the automaker is seriously considering adding some form of battery power to the next version of its hero sports car. Speaking at a recent event over in Australia, GT-R chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno confirmed that an alternative powertrain of some description will be a necessity to keep the GT-R up-to-date and to help meet future emissions and fuel economy regulations.

Over in Europe big guns Mercedes-Benz and Audi have already announced plans to build electric versions of the SLS AMG and R8. According to Mizuno, Nissan is hedging its bets and this stage and is considering a straight battery variant, a hybrid or even a diesel version. A battery version is a strong possibility, but Mizuno also says a hybrid wouldn’t be too hard thanks to the GT-R’s front engine/rear transaxle layout. Currently the Nissan Leaf and other EVs are giving Nissan some breathing room on the total emissions regulations, so a new GT-R isn’t going to happen tomorrow. At this point work hasn’t begun on the new model and no official decision has been made on the powertrain. Stay tuned.

Geely plans to build World’s cheapest car

May 10th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Recent rumours on the web are all about Geely and its upcoming attempt to produce a car that sells cheaper than the current cheapest Tata Nano. The Chinese automaker has announced that it will be bringing its IG concept to market, and that it will cost a mere $2,250 USD ($3,136 NZ) at current conversion rates. That’s a pretty crazy price but Geely claims that its pint-size econobox will be a higher-quality alternative to what’s currently coming out of India.

The engine is expected to be a 70 horsepower, 1.0-litre unit putting power to the front wheels via a CVT gearbox. The car’s initial sales markets will be China and Russia. The company hasn’t made mention of any fuel economy numbers just yet, but with an engine that size it should be very thrifty.

Geely plans to have the IG in showrooms by 2012, and it’s also possible that an all-electric version will be built not long after.

All electric cars – made in Australia

March 17th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Senator Lyn Allison takes a drive in the locally-produced, all-electric Blade Runner car and calls on the Government to make the Green Car Innovation Fund available to smaller scale manufacturers and converters.

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