In Geneva, in 2010, the news of a partnership between Mercedes, the oldest carmaker, and BYD, one of the newest, raised many eyebrows. German know-how with cheap Chinese batteries? Nobody was quite sure about the outcome, but the result is on this page, and it should convince most doubters. The car is built on the platform of the previous Mercedes B-class (not sold in America), which was thought from the start to receive an electric propulsion. It had a sandwich floor to accommodate batteries. Many prototypes were built (also in the A-class, which used the same platform), but none ever reached the production stage. In Europe that is, because here’s the Denza in China. To please Chinese customers who like a roomy back, the wheelbase has been slightly lengthened to give more legroom, and because the Chinese enjoy everything that shines, the designers chose a very flashy grille.
The most popular plug-in hybrid is the Chevrolet Volt, isnt’ it? This is what most people believe, and it’s quite true that there are more Volt cars driving the planet than any other plug-in hybrid but for the first months of the year, the BYD Qin in China has been vastly outselling the Volt in the US. This car has been raising many eyebrows in the western world since its launch. Its 290 hp gas-electric powertrain promises great performance with a 0-to-60 mph in less than 6 seconds, but the most surprising is that BYD is in no hurry to bring it to the rich U.S. or European markets.
The DriveNow car-sharing service, a joint-venture between BMW and Sixt is less than 3 years old, it started June, 9th in 2011, but it has already gained more than a quarter million customers. The service is available in five German cities (Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Munich), as well as in San Francisco. It’s a bit like the Parisian Autolib, but DriveNow is very different from the French car-sharing services, because it uses much nicer cars. Continue reading
Cars used for fuel economy records are most often diesels, or hybrids, but here’s one with a conventional gas car. Well, maybe not so conventional after all. Peugeot’s doing this to show how efficient its new PureTech engine is. This is a 1.2 liter turbocharged and direct-injected 3-cylinder. A much downsized engine, but with 130-hp, it’s perfectly adequate for the Golf-sized Peugeot 308.
The proposition was not very exciting. A city car with very little power (18 kW peak), a short range (8 kWh battery) and poor build construction. OK, the car was cute, and convenient for the city with its large sliding doors, but drivers looked elsewhere when they went car shopping. Basic gas cars were cheaper with real road credentials, and the little Mia just couldn’t compete. Many people would like to buy a cheap EV, but very few people are ready to give up on everything that makes a car enjoyable to drive electric. Continue reading
After Milan, Rome is the second Italian city to get car2go, the world’s largest car-sharing service. It began with 300 cars, but it will grow to 500 next month. The car2go service is already well known, but it will have another important asset in the capital of Italy, Continue reading
When Renault unveiled its new Twingo a few weeks ago, we wrote an electric version was highly unlikely. After seeing the car in the flesh, and a talk with the people who made it, we can now confirm that there won’t be an electric Twingo. Continue reading
The Renault Zoé received one major complaint when it launched: it was impossible to plug it on a standard home socket. It was only possible with an aftermarket cable, with no support from Renault, which required all customers to buy an expensive wallbox. Renault understood this was an inconvenience, and said it was looking for a solution. The problem lied in the Chameleon charger. Contrary to Continue reading
There will be a few hybrids and electrics at the upcoming Geneva motor show, but the cars most Europeans buy are diesels, and nobody expects this to change in the foreseeable future. Happily, car manufacturers are good at making diesels, and they always make them thriftier and thriftier. Both Ford and Volvo will introduce new engines for their high-selling compacts in Geneva. Continue reading
Rinspeed, from Switzerland, is one of the most imaginative tuning firm in the world, but its latest creation looks rather mundane. It looks like a production car: a Tesla Model S. Externally, that’s still what it is, but the car has been much modified in the inside. It has been fitted with a steer-by-wire system, and that allowed the steering wheel to be installed a sliding arm. The wheel can be moved to the center, with the driver and its passenger free to enjoy a tablet computer right in front of each of them. Some might argue it will be inconvenient to drive like this, but Continue reading
It’s only a rumor, and there’s not much to back it up: Apple could buy Tesla Motors. Executives from both companies met last year, but Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, if he confirmed the talks, didn’t say a word about their content. Many investors will dream of a fusion to get the stocks even higher (and make a hefty profit), but a take-over is highly unlikely. Elon Musk says it, and so should Apple for the non exhaustive list of reasons I’ve compiled below.
There was a paradox with the Opel Adam. The car’s looking modern and cool but its engines were not at the same level, and its fuel economy wasn’t as good as the class leaders. The new downsized, turbocharged 3-cylinder changes all that. This 1.0 liter ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo makes 115 hp and 122 lb-ft of torque at a very low 1800 rpm. That’s better than an average 1.6-liter, but more than power, Opel says it is refinement which is its new engine’ strongest asset. Three cylinders engines are badly known for their rough behavior, but Opel’s engineers worked extra hours to correct that.