Saturday, September 29, 2012

Red Bull releases re-edit of F1 car in Lincoln Tunnel with only engine sounds

Just like any vacation, Red Bull Racing had plenty of fun last month when it did a little sightseeing in New York City and New Jersey. First, the team stopped and got a photo op with the New York skyline while playing The Star-Spangled Banner and then it took to the streets of New Jersey driving along the proposed route of the 2014 Grand Prix of America (you know, if it actually happens). Every good trip must come to an end though, so the team heads to the Lincoln Tunnel for the final video of Red Bull's trip, which is just as fun to watch as it is to listen to.

Red Bull Racing teased us with this video last month, but now we finally get to see its RB7 Formula One racer tearing through the tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan. The 1.5-mile long tubes usually see daily traffic of well over 100,000 vehicles, and we're sure there's never been such a powerful car (or so little traffic) commuting underneath the Hudson River. The best part is that the car's engine provides the only soundtrack.

Portland to Dakar : The Raiden Files

The brief was simple: test Icon's new Raiden all-condition, all-weather motorcycle gear by putting two riders through all conditions and every kind of weather. The result is a 30-minute mini-movie called The Raiden Files that puts Ernie Vigil and The New Guy on a ride from Portland, Oregon to Dakar, Senegal with a few stops along the way.

There's a two-wheeled parkour through Portland, 1,000 GoPros, four-wheeled drones, Costa Rican rainforests and Brazilian deserts, and a whole lot more in the epic ride video posted below. It's good stuff, and if you need more Icon's Limiter magazine has it.

From AutoBlog.Com

PayPal's Elon Musk Talks SpaceX On '60 Minutes'

PayPal co-founder Elon Musk sat down with Scott Pelley in a 60 Minutes interview aired March 18 to discuss one of his most ambitious ventures to date: the spacecraft manufacturing company SpaceX.

After trying his hand at the web, photovoltaic products and services, biotechnology, and electric cars, it's no surprise that the $2 billion entrepreneur has now moved on to building spacecrafts -- especially given the obvious passion he has for space (just watch him speak about it in the video above).

Musk founded SpaceX right after eBay bought PayPal back in 2002, and -- along with sending a greenhouse onto Mars with an intercontinental ballistic missile -- one of his objectives with the company was to make space travel more available to the public. As he explained to Pelley:

"What I'm trying to do is make a significant difference in space flight and help make space flight accessible to almost anyone, and I would hope for as much support in that direction as we can receive."

Unfortunately, this idea is strongly opposed by space veterans like Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, who have spoken out against the commercialization of space travel and who also happen to be some of Musk's biggest inspirations.

But at least NASA and President Barack Obama are both willing to support Musk in his ventures; the President personally visited SpaceX's launch site back in 2010, not long before the successful test launch of the unmanned SpaceX rocket, Falcon 9.

And now that Musk has proven he can send things into orbit, his next step is the test launch of an unmanned spacecraft named Dragon to carry cargo to the International Space Station. According to Mashable, the mission was originally set to be completed on February 7, but NASA recently confirmed on Twitter on March 15 that it will now take place on April 30.

All of these missions are mere steps Musk must take to reach his ultimate goal: a contract with NASA to launch America's next manned aircraft. In fact, he has a SpaceX manned shuttle prototype already ready to go.

While the space industry may see Musk as a long shot, that doesn't mean he lacks the brains, the skill, and the money (he's already shelled about $100 million out of his own pocket into SpaceX) to get the job done. Look at it this way: Only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back to Earth -- the U.S., Russia, China, and (you guessed it) SpaceX.

Article from HuffingtonPost.Com

Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting Suburbia #Ted

Ellen Dunham-Jones fires the starting shot for the next 50 years' big sustainable design project: retrofitting suburbia. To come: Dying malls rehabilitated, dead "big box" stores re-inhabited, parking lots transformed into thriving wetlands. (Filmed at TEDxAtlanta.)

Ellen Dunham-Jones takes an unblinking look at our underperforming suburbs -- and proposes plans for making them livable and sustainable.

"From the perspective of climate change, the average urban dweller in the U.S. has about one-third the carbon footprint of the average suburban dweller.” (Ellen Dunham-Jones)

Robin Chase on Zipcar and her next big idea #Ted

Robin Chase founded Zipcar, the world’s biggest car-sharing business. That was one of her smaller ideas. Here she travels much farther, contemplating road-pricing schemes that will shake up our driving habits and a mesh network vast as the Interstate.

With Zipcar, Robin Chase introduced car-crazy America to the concept of non-ownership. Now she's flipping that model with Buzzcar, which lets you rent your own auto to your neighbors.

"We need to reduce CO2 emissions in 10 to 15 years by 80 percent in order to avert catastrophic effects. … What are catastrophic effects? A three degree centigrade climate change rise that will result in 50 percent species extinction.” (Robin Chase)

Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock #Ted

Bill Ford is a car guy -- his great-grandfather was Henry Ford, and he grew up inside the massive Ford Motor Co. So when he worries about cars' impact on the environment, and about our growing global gridlock problem, it's worth a listen. His vision for the future of mobility includes "smart roads," even smarter public transport and going green like never before.

As executive chair of the Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford leads the company that put the world on wheels.

"When you factor in population growth, it’s clear that the mobility model that we have today simply will not work tomorrow. Four billion clean cars on the road are still four billion cars, and a traffic jam with no emissions is still a traffic jam.” (Bill Ford)

Anna Mracek Dietrich: A plane you can drive #Ted

A flying car -- it's an iconic image of the future. But after 100 years of flight and automotive engineering, no one has really cracked the problem. Pilot Anna Mracek Dietrich and her team flipped the question, asking: Why not build a plane that you can drive?

Anna Mracek Dietrich is one of the creators of the Transition, the "plane you can drive.

Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers #TED

Using robotics, laser rangefinders, GPS and smart feedback tools, Dennis Hong is building a car for drivers who are blind. It's not a "self-driving" car, he's careful to note, but a car in which a non-sighted driver can determine speed, proximity and route -- and drive independently.

Dennis Hong is the founder and director of RoMeLa -- a Virginia Tech robotics lab that has pioneered several breakthroughs in robot design and engineering.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Porsche Cayenne S Diesel - More Power!

We recently drove the new 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel – the automaker's first oil-burning offering here in the States. But here in Paris, Porsche has pulled the wraps off of a more powerful version of the diesel Cayenne, and on paper, it sure looks sweet.

The meat and potatoes of the Cayenne S Diesel package is a twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter diesel V8 that produces 382 horsepower and 627(!) pound-feet of torque. Having that much grunt on tap means the all-wheel-drive Cayenne will shoot to 62 miles per hour in a scant 5.7 seconds, topping out at 157 mph. Even more remarkably, when you aren't driving with a lead foot, the S Diesel will return around 28 miles per gallon. Impressive stuff.

Porsche officials have told Autoblog that we won't be getting the Cayenne S Diesel here in the United States, meaning we'll have to make due with the 240-hp 3.0-liter oil-burner.

From AutoBlog.Com

2013 Volkswagen GTI Concept

Alright, this is an amazing upgrade from the rounded younger generations. It has a ver aggressive look to it, and finally... finally VW has gotten rid of those awful wheels from the past and morphed them into something a little more contemporary.  

Now my only problem is that it is still only available in fwd. I know it snows in Germany, and it snows in Colorado where I live. Buying a non AWD car is just asking to get stuck in a packing lot with 3" of snow, yet alone when we get the 9" in a single storm.

VW if you are listening, please make a GTI with AWD that is not the R, I don't want to step $35,000 on a hatchback. Also while I have you attention, A GTD in America would be great! 

If you're looking for thinly veiled production models from the 2012 Paris Motor Show, Volkswagen has you covered. The German automaker showed off its GTI Concept alongside a smattering of other Golf variants.

A prototype in name only, the concept gives us a glimpse of what the MkVII GTI will bring to the table in terms of aesthetics. Volkswagen says the next-gen GTI will boast an 18-percent bump in fuel efficiency, which could see the sports hatch top 36 miles per gallon highway on the U.S. scale. Not too shabby, especially given the machine should retain its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

Volkswagen has also rummaged up a few extra ponies, as the company claims the MkVII will dish out around 217 horsepower, a 17-horse nudge over the current generation. Expect more solid numbers to surface closer to the production model's actual debut.

From AutoBlog.Com

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mini Countryman JCW priced from $35,550

Alright, for the same price as a Subaru WRX STI, Mitsubishi EVO 10 and a VW GTI R
you can have a lot less power and a lot slower of a machine.

This engine is competing against the WRX and GTI at $11,000 less! 
If you want to go against the crowd and drop $35,000 because you will be the only one in town to have one... Go For It.

But just remember, you will be the only one in town who has one for a reason.

Got a hankerin' for a Mini crossover that boasts all-terrain traction while simultaneously wears the badge of race-bred performance? Well, the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works is just that sweet spot in the company's Venn diagram of "huggable performance" and "all-wheel drive." The company has just announced pricing for its spectacularly named John Cooper Works Countryman Cooper S ALL4 (phew!), and the cost of entry starts at rather dear $35,550. Though Mini doesn't specify if if destination charges are included (usually $700 for other models), it is general practice for the brand to include it in its pricing.

For that $35.5K, you get a turbocharged 1.6-liter four with 208-horsepower and 198 pound-feet of torque, 18-inch alloys, sports seats, a lower and firmer sport suspension, and of course the All4 all-wheel-drive system. Fun fact: This is the first-ever AWD model ever to wear JCW livery.

While Mini does not list options prices for the JCW Countryman, they are sure to be plentiful. For the sake of comparison, the JCW Clubman stars at $33,000, and when fitted with features like racing stripes, customized mirrors, heated Recaro front seats, Bluetooth, navigation, sport suspension, and other goodies, the price can jump upwards of $5,000, and that's before adding a typical Mini assortment of cheeky accessories and plug-in doodads.

From AutoBlog.Com

Bentley unveils Continental GT3 racer

Ten years after unveiling the concept car that ultimately became the Bentley Continental GT, the iconic British company is back at the Paris Motor Show, with another high-performance "concept" car. The newest member of the Bentley family, this Continental GT3 is a concept in name only, as the company is explicit about the fact that its debut marks a return to motorsports for the brand.

The last time we saw the flying B on a racecar, it was when Bentley was claiming honors at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003. The GT3 seeks to take up that mantle, as well as the storied history of road-going Bentleys being transformed into competent racing machines.

Though technical details are nonexistent in the Bentley press release, the company has given us something to work with, in terms of the racecar that will ultimately result from this program. The GT3 will, naturally, build on the very strong performance of the Continental GT Speed, adding a rear-drive chassis, a massive aero package (the wing seen here in no joke) and "state-of-the-art motorsport hardware."

Bentley's return to the track isn't so far off, either. The company claims that the FIA supported racer will be in the pits by the end of 2013; capable of competing in multiple series and events, including endurance racing. If the final product doesn't end up at Le Mans, we'll eat our hat.

Pictures of this Bentley beast not enough for you? Well, follow this link for a Continental GT3 video, you speed freak.

From AutoBlog.Com

2013 Mercedes CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake

Our jaws collectively dropped at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show when the Vision CLS concept debuted. Had Mercedes-Benz decided not to build it, there might have been hell to pay. But build the W219 CLS-Class starting in April of 2004 they did, and the accolades never ceased for that first-generation model until it was replaced in the summer of 2010.

The W218 second generation model is still loved, though seeming much less than the groundbreaking original, And, as though it knew this reaction was coming, Mercedes showed us all the Concept Fascination at the Paris Motor Show in September 2008, which was ultimately massaged into the Concept Shooting Brake shown at the Beijing Motor Show in April 2010.

Mercedes couldn't do just another wagon with the CLS; it had to be something that echoed of pure styling exercises, and perhaps excess. Eyeing up this production version of the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake built in Sindelfingen, we remain largely pleased, even when our professional objectivity changes to cold subjectivity. Keeping in mind the point of this lower volume lifestyle hauler, there are only two tangible bits on the car that we're not in love with, and that's not bad at all.

Whereas on the CLS coupe – *a-hem* – we would have loved to see a real two-door happen, for this new wagon style (sorry... shooting brake), Mercedes could never do a true shooting brake with just two forward doors; that would have been silly and might have sold in similar numbers as many a shooting brake in history has sold – frequently in single digits. No, it had to be a more useful wagon but with a lot of impractical swoosh.

Deliveries of the CLS Shooting Brake start in Western Europe in early October, in the United Kingdom in December, and then all other markets by late January of 2013. There were five engine trims of the X218 shooting brake available for our drive around central Italy, and we managed to have an easygoing tour in what would be a 402-horsepower CLS550 Shooting Brake trim if it were to make it to North America. And that was nice enough, but our holy grail came in the guise of the thoroughly distinctive 528-horsepower bi-turbo CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake.

Of course, the thing goes like stink, getting to 60 miles per hour from a stop in just 4.3 seconds thanks in no small part to the total torque of 516 pound-feet between 1,750 and 5,250 rpm. Not surprisingly, a CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake feels a lot like a $92,400 E63 AMG Wagon, only better when the demanding curves start to show up beneath the tires. Going by the 8.4-percent average price increase between the cars on the German price list, the CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake would start at about $100,150 if it were meant for American roads.

The various physical reasons for the better dynamics of the CLS power hauler versus the E63 wagon start at its size and weight. Whereas the wheelbases are the same, the CLS is a more aerodynamic 4.1 inches longer, an inch wider, and 4.1 inches lower at the rooftop than its potent E63 cousin. The CLS63 is also about 25 pounds lighter and the standard wheels worldwide are the 19-inch ten-spoke alloys that are standard on the E63 wagon only in North America. And rather than calling the hotter performance option either the Performance Pack or Driver's Package, this is called a classier Edition 1 on the CLS Shooting Brake in all markets. (Except in the United Kingdom, where it will go by Performance Pack. Go and figure.) As with the E63 wagon, this takes power to 550 hp, torque to 590 lb-ft., and acceleration to 60 mph gets one tenth of a second quicker.

So everything mechanically on the CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake is literally identical to the E63 AMG Wagon, only that the size/aero/weight alterations altogether have their desired effect. Ride and cabin noises are intoxicatingly sophisticated when the console rheostat is set at C for Controlled Efficiency (formerly Comfort) and the standard AMG Ride Control suspension is on the most civil calibration. We were breezing along – well, more like gusting along, it being an AMG – and on the CD changer there was waif-y Norah Jones as co-pilot singing breathily over the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system. It was all very sweet and sturdy and meditative.

Then with the rheostat knob indicating either Sport+ or Manual and the suspension dialed to the sportiest rigidity and lowest stance, we effectively had a whole new car. Aside from the substantive momentum of a 4,310-pound quoted curb weight, another slight issue governing exactly how precisely the car handles itself is the latest generation electro-mechanical steering system. Versus the really poorly calibrated version of this steering on the new SL-Class, we are able to live with it here although the entrance and mid-section of curves are still pretty numb affairs. The standard Continental ContiSportContact 5P tires – 255/35 ZR19 96Y front, 285/30 ZR19 98Y rear – hold things very nicely as they must, but there remains a less than satisfying disconnect between the asphalt and our hands at the wheel. As we've said prior to this on the newer AMG models, however, for everyday driving this criticism just doesn't apply and all is well enough.

The AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed sports transmission with steering wheel paddles and console lever for shifting sequentially is a love/not love situation for us. It weighs a good amount versus other units, errs frequently on the slow side for shifts, and will deny downshifts exactly when you need them. The latter bit is to protect the gearbox from over stressing and the fluid from getting too hot when entering a lower gear at revs too close to the 6,400 indicated redline, but it is at times a frustrating aspect of this transmission as coupled to the lower revving bi-turbo 5.5-liter V8. The only solution is to trust the pulling power of a higher gear with lower revs while exiting favorite corners. Once you get that groove going and give up your preconceptions, though, it is supremely satisfying.

Our 63 AMG test unit did not have the $12,625 carbon ceramic brake discs, but we have enjoyed this new generation of discs that are more finely tuned, less grindy and don't shriek at low speeds. As it was, the standard lead-aluminum compound discs were fine albeit occasionally lacking the big bite for later braking. We did have the $2,030 sport limited-slip differential, and this added the usual very enjoyable liberty with the tail end of the car. Finally, the quad-tip exhaust does what it does on all AMG cars: gargle in bass tones. Yet here, the cabin isolation from that sports thunder is particularly effective.

The two things on the design that do not really work for us are the now-always-present E-Class coupe haunches and the very pinched rear limit of the long side glass. The first-generation CLS disguised its sharing with the E-Class so well that this was never even brought up in conversation. This new generation of the CLS, however, hides nothing in this regard and it feels like something key has been lost. As to the rearmost side windows getting pinched, the shape looks out of joint with the taller rear portion of the body work around it. In addition, the resulting wide rear pillars create mega blind spots in certain driving situations.

All in all, however, this is a brilliant niche execution created in a part of the Mercedes lineup that can justify such a non-vital car getting the green light. With the rear seat backs up, cargo room of 20.8 cubic feet in the CLS shooting brake is down 18 percent versus the E-Class wagon. Rear seats dropped forward, the CLS shooting brake's 54.7 cubic feet is down 26 percent against the E-Class wagon. Not only is that a healthy sacrifice, but the very curvy nature of the shooting brake tail that makes it so sexy also puts into question just how useful that cargo space can be. (There's that "u" word again.)

The car you see here has been ordered up with a full Designo personalized interior, full luxo leather over optional heated and ventilated front seats, has the rear cargo floor in American Cherry Wood, brightens the night and curves with full-LED adaptive headlights, and has the carbon fiber effect interior detail bits. The notion of the CLS Shooting Brake not coming almost de rigueur with most of these interior touches is an odd one, but you can get your shooting brake as standard issue as you please even at this pricey AMG level.

But in North America we needn't worry anyway, since there are categorically zero current plans for the CLS Shooting Brake to make the swim across the Atlantic to us. Guess we'll need to satisfy our fast and big Merc desires with a taller E63 Wagon.

Article from AutoBlog.Com

AMG CLS 63 Shooting Brake. Niche Car Porn - CHRIS HARRIS ON

Tesla Cuts Revenue Outlook, Unveils Plan to Sell More Shares

Luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. facing a revenue squeeze from production problems, said on Tuesday it would sell about 5 million shares to raise cash after winning breathing room on terms of a $465 million U.S. Energy Department loan.

Tesla said production of its new Model S electric sedan is running between four and five weeks behind the company's original plan, sending its shares down about 10% to $27.66 in 4 p.m. Nasdaq trading on Tuesday.

The selloff, and the operational and financial problems that Tesla disclosed, are a blow to high-profile co-founder Elon Musk, who led a glitzy unveiling of a new battery charger on Monday, the same day the company got the DOE to amend its loan terms.

Tesla's troubles could prompt more criticism of the Obama administration's green-technology investments. Republicans have made the failure of another Energy Department loan recipient, solar panel maker Solyndra, an exhibit in their election case against President Obama's economic policies.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based luxury electric-car maker expects an as much as $200 million shortfall in revenue this year as a result of production delays. It projected full-year revenue of between $400 million and $440 million, down from between $560 million and $600 million earlier.

On Monday, it won a waiver on terms of its DOE loan, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The waiver postpones $14.6 million of a loan payment due next month to Feb. 15, revises other scheduled payments and commits to submitting by Oct. 31 a plan to repay the 10-year government loan ahead of schedule.

Deepak Ahuja, Tesla finance chief, said that the company projects it would have about $100 million in cash at the end of the third quarter excluding proceeds from the stock sale. He said that sale, which is scheduled to close on Thursday, should raise about $128 million.

Tesla is currently at its "lowest cash position," but expects to start generating cash from operations by the end of the fourth quarter, Mr. Ahuja said.

The company has about $133.4 million in deposits from would-be customers, some of which would be refundable if the customers cancelled their orders. Mr. Ahuja said that Tesla approached several thousand customers this quarter to get them to commit to cars, and about 1,000 asked for their $5,000 deposits back. But he added the cancellations were more than offset by 2,600 new vehicle reservations.

Mr. Musk, who currently holds about 26% of the electric-car maker's stock, has committed to buying $1 million worth of the shares.

Tesla, in its filing, said that including proceeds from the proposed share offering, it expects to have $228 million in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash by the end of the month. The company said it plans to cut capital spending by 20% in the third quarter from second quarter levels.

The all-aluminum body Model S is the company's second vehicle and is designed and priced to sell in higher volumes than its existing Roadster, which costs about $109,000. The company earlier had hoped to produce this year 5,000 of the Model S cars, which are priced between $50,000 and $98,000 after federal tax credit.

Tesla didn't provide details of the production problems in its filing. It alluded to concerns about quality and concerns about suppliers as reasons why its Fremont, Calif., factory has produced since June just 255 Model S cars as of Sept. 23.

"Certain suppliers have experienced delays in meeting our demand and we continue to focus on supplier capabilities and constraints," Tesla said.

The U.S. last year suspended payments to another luxury electric car startup, Fisker Automotive Inc., after that company fell behind schedule in its effort to engineer a midsize, plug-in hybrid sedan called the Atlantic that would compete against the Model S.

Anaheim, Calif.-based Fisker had been awarded $529 million under the DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program in part to re-tool a former General Motors Co. factory in Delaware to build the Atlantic. That plan is now on hold, and Fisker and its newly appointed chief executive, Tony Posawatz, are trying to raise private capital to replace the frozen federal loan.

Many established car makers with long histories of launching new models struggle to hit ambitious launch schedules without compromising the assembly quality of their vehicles.

Tesla said that it plans to "reach our objective of weekly production of 400 Model S vehicles before the end of 2012 which should enable us to produce more than 20,000 Model S vehicles in 2013.

Electric Cars Struggle to Break Out of Niche

Tesla Motors TSLA disclosed that it needs to raise more capital because the launch of its new Model S luxury sedan is going slower than expected. A top Toyota Motor Corp executive said vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are more likely to be viable by 2020 than battery electric cars. And the Congressional Budget Office said federal tax credits that subsidize plug-in car purchases up to $7,500 aren't an effective way to reduce gasoline consumption or cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

These setbacks come as big car makers are gearing up to push a significant number of new hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles onto the U.S. market. The question is whether the latest group of electric vehicles will offer enough features and reliability and an attractive enough price to move electric cars beyond niche status.

By the end of next year, the number of battery electric cars on the market could double to 20, and the number of hybrid models could grow to about 73 from 42 now, says Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, a Washington, D.C., group that represents the electric-vehicle industry.

Among the new entries: A gas-electric hybrid Volkswagen Jetta, the first hybrid sedan from the German auto maker; a plug-in hybrid Ford Fusion; electric luxury cars from BMW AG and Audi AG; and a Toyota Prius hybrid that can be recharged from the grid.

One reason for the product blitz is new federal rules mandating a near doubling of fleet average fuel economy by 2025. Another is the desire to connect with affluent consumers.

Today's electric car owners are highly educated, relatively young (50 years old, compared with 53 for the industry on average) and affluent, with incomes that average $148,346 a year, says Strategic Vision, a market-research firm in San Diego, Calif.

But all the electric cars and gas-electric-hybrid models currently for sale in the U.S. have captured just 3% of total sales through the first eight months of this year. The Toyota Prius line accounts for more than half of the hybrid sales. Electric cars such as the Leaf account for barely a 10th of the market. About 1 in 10 of today's new-vehicle owners say they will consider an electric the next time they buy a car, says Strategic Vision.

Battery costs—which translate to high car prices—are at the root of the challenge the industry faces in selling these cars. At an estimated $600 per kilowatt-hour, or about $10,000 to $12,000 for a fully electric car, lithium-ion car batteries cost too much, industry executives say. A recent McKinsey & Co. study predicted costs will fall to as little as a third of current levels by 2020. Skeptics say it isn't clear the required breakthroughs will occur.

I spent several days with two of the new all-electric models hitting the market, the Honda Fit EV, and the Ford Focus Electric. These cars illustrate the big obstacles that still stand in the way of a broad move to battery-powered motoring.

Ford Motor Co. says the Focus delivers energy consumption equivalent to 110 miles per gallon. The Fit EV is rated at a gasoline equivalent of 118 miles per gallon.

In real life, electric-car "mileage" isn't a relevant statistic. Range is. After an overnight charge, my test Focus had about 70 miles of driving range, according to the onboard computer.

Dashboard displays by the Focus's speedometer keep you informed on how quickly your driving style is depleting the lithium-ion battery pack installed in the rear cargo area. If you maintain steady speed and coast to stops so the brakes can recharge the battery, ghostly virtual butterflies fly joyfully around a screen.

Mashing the accelerator on freeway ramps and keeping up with traffic at 75 miles per hour? No butterflies for you. Come winter, running the heater will hurt an electric car's range, as will cold's tendency to degrade battery performance. In very cold weather, the chemical reactions that generate electricity slow down. Cars' heaters run down the battery, too. Companies say they are expanding the temperature range at which batteries deliver full performance.

The Fit offered more driving range, calculating my power consumption at 4.3 miles per kilowatt-hour over a 35-mile trip. At that rate, I could drive about 80 miles before recharging or calling a tow truck.

Or I could buy a gasoline Honda Fit that has more cargo room, gets 31 miles per gallon and starts at about $15,000, or less than half the $37,415 list price of the electric model.

Honda is leasing the Fit to customers in Oregon and California for $389 a month and plans to expand leasing to six East Coast markets early next year. The Focus Electric, priced at $39,995, was launched in California, New York and New Jersey earlier this year. Ford says it will be available nationwide by the end of the year.

Leasing is one way that electric-car makers can make the upfront price less of a hurdle. Nissan is offering discounted Leaf leases, with some dealers offering payments as low as $219 a month.

Gary Lieber, of San Jose, Calif., bought a Nissan  Leaf electric car for a practical reason. "Our fuel bill has dropped from $60 a week to about $45 a month," he says. But Mr. Lieber, retired from a career that included stints at Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., says car makers will have to be patient. "You've gotten all the early adopters," he says.

Article from WSJ.Com

Tesla Supercharger: An In-Depth Look: Free, Solar-Powered Driving

Shortly after I became interested in battery-electric cars some 20 years ago, I was driving cross-country. Somewhere in Colorado on Interstate 70, I spotted Alan Cocconi headed the other way. Or, rather, the white Honda CRX he'd converted to an electric car pulling an aerodynamic trailer containing a generator running flat-out to keep him going. I had gotten to know Cocconi after his work on the GM Impact, a prototype of the EV1. The purpose of his trip was to show that an electric car could cross the continent -- if it had a generator behind it.

Two decades later, it's still a problem to drive an EV between even Los Angeles and San Francisco -- without Cocconi's generator, that is. Even the long-range, 85-kW-hr battery Tesla Model S with an EPA-certified 265-mile range is 100 miles short of spanning California's two biggest cities.

But come October, we'll see the beginnings of a pretty slick solution courtesy of Tesla via an initial constellation of five, high-power, direct-current chargers called Superchargers, located along several of California's most traveled routes. A Supercharger will be positioned in Lebec (or Tejon Ranch north of the notorious "Grapevine" climb above L.A.), in Harris Ranch in Coalinga (midway between L.A. and San Francisco near Interstate 5), Gilroy (convenient for Silicon Valley types using the Pacheco Pass to dogleg over to the I-5), Folsom (between the Bay Area and Reno/Lake Tahoe), and Barstow between L.A. and Las Vegas (surprise).

Why none smack in the middle of L.A. or San Francisco? Tesla figures the car's considerable range ought to take care of the vast majority of intra-city journeys. The charge stations will be located in shopping malls that include restaurants where you might want to stop and relax anyway -- I'm guessing a Starbucks, for sure.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk pointed out that stops on long drives often wind up taking 30 minutes if you use the bathroom, grab a snack, and stretch your legs. And in that time, Tesla says the Supercharger will add about 150 to 160 miles to Model S' range. At full rip, it'll dispense energy at a nominal rate of 90 kW (but it's capable of charging up to 400 volts at 250 amps, or 100 kW) -- that's a 300 mph rate -- or 4.7 times quicker than the already very aggressive Tesla home charging solution when coupled to the optional Twin Charger on-board unit (240 volts at 80 amps).

The Supercharger is a veritable electron fire hose, delivering DC power directly into the battery and bypassing the car's on-board chargers. We recently had an opportunity to use a Supercharger prototype with a Model S and what's most unusual about it -- although it shouldn't be, I guess -- is the cable's girth. It's quite a chunk of wire. The weight of the cable is elegantly dealt with at the Supercharger station by having it vertically emerge from the bottom of what amounts to its "pump." The cable's own weight then bends it over at an angle to match the height of the car's charge port. Think of a wilting flower. From there you just plug it in. Tesla doesn't use the SAE standard J1772 charger receptacle (i.e., the male and female parts of the plug itself) but instead uses its own, elegant-looking slim-line one. Plugging in can be a close fit, but even with the chunky cable, it's easy to do. While charging, a ring around the car's charge port blinks green -- quickly at first, then slower as the battery fills. The illumination ceases when the car's locked to avoid drawing attention.

The locations of the three Superchargers serving the I-5 corridor (the Gilroy one doing so indirectly) are interestingly located, suggesting that an actual L.A. to San Francisco drive might more likely involve two shorter stops. In the next two years Tesla says it will create a Supercharger corridor cutting across the country, including a stretch between central Ontario and western Quebec.
For those left anchorless by the tech-culture loss of Steve Jobs, it's time you met Elon Musk. Although as a presenter he's as startlingly improvisational (including blank pauses to think about what to say next) as Jobs was practiced slick, the crowd surrounding him at this week's event announcing the Supercharger project was no less rapt. I mean, this was a presentation of a charger for an electric car, for heaven's sake. But when Musk said "This is as important as SpaceX's docking with the International Space Station, people leaned forward to listen, hushed. Including the attorney for the Red Hot Chili Peppers standing next to me.

For those left anchorless by the tech-culture loss of Steve Jobs, it's time you met Elon Musk. Although as a presenter he's as startlingly improvisational (including blank pauses to think about what to say next) as Jobs was practiced slick, the crowd surrounding him at this week's event announcing the Supercharger project was no less rapt. I mean, this was a presentation of a charger for an electric car, for heaven's sake. But when Musk said "This is as important as SpaceX's docking with the International Space Station, people leaned forward to listen, hushed. Including the attorney for the Red Hot Chili Peppers standing next to me.

But Musk backed the comparison up with some potent visual and conceptual arguments. Behind him was what indeed looked like a small rocket ship emblazoned with the Tesla T, apropos as the presentation was taking place adjacent to the building in which the Falcon 9 rocket is built. That's what will -- at some locations, at least -- contain the power electronics, as well as be one heck of a rest-stop attention-getter. (The kids will go nuts.) The stations themselves -- all five were built in secret and are operational -- look like miniaturized gas stations. But their roofs are actually a bank of solar cells provided by Musk's third company, SolarCity. And here's the trick: Over the course of a year, Tesla says they will return more electricity to the grid than the cars being charged there take from the grid. It's an argument of sorts against the glaring reality that in many states, local electrical generation can actually result in an EV being dirtier, CO2-wise, than a high-mileage gas car. Musk wants you to think of your future cross-country drives in a Model S as solar powered in an indirect sort of way, so who cares about Kentucky's coal-fired power plants? (By the way, California's comparatively clean electricity doesn't need this defense.)

Moreover, charging will be permanently free to Model S owners with the 85 kW-hr battery, and Supercharging capability can be purchased for the 60 kW-hr version. As Musk said, as long as you bring enough sandwiches and drinks, you could drive across the country without gas money in your wallet. Tell me, is this not Jobsian showmanship? The stations will have an expandable number of stalls depending on demand, but if it's one with, say, four stalls, two cars can be charged at full speed, while two others arriving later initially get lower priority (slower charging) until the first two reach a partial charge, and then all the charging rates are renegotiated. I doubt we'll see this as a problem for quite some time, though.

No, it's still not as quick as hitting a gas station. But relaxing for 30 minutes in a Starbucks sure beats pulling a screaming generator behind your Model S.

This article was found at

For @TeslaMotors , One Supercharger to Bind Them

On Monday night at its design studios in Hawthorne, Calif., Tesla Motors introduced its Supercharger, a glittering monolith capable of bringing the battery of a Model S sedan from flat to full in about an hour.

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, has always known how to manufacture excitement around the company’s products, and the introduction of the 480-volt Supercharger was attended by enough smoke and lasers to suit a reunion of Spinal Tap. Mr. Musk said the chargers would dispense free electricity generated without emissions through a partnership with SolarCity, a builder and installer of photovoltaic equipment led by Peter and Lyndon Rive, cousins of Mr. Musk. The Tesla executive is also SolarCity’s chairman.

The Supercharger will be installed at solar carports loosely resembling filling stations and are capable of charging several vehicles simultaneously, as well as returning surplus power to the grid. Khyati Shah, a spokeswoman for SolarCity, wrote in an e-mail that two of the six Superchargers already installed had solar capability, with the others running off of grid power. One solar unit is 24 kilowatts and the other is 26.

Mr. Musk said the Supercharger network would address some anxieties that might be inhibiting wide consumer adoption of electric vehicles, including concern about power-plant emissions related to charging; the cars’ inability to travel long distances; and operational costs. The Supercharger will charge at 100 kilowatts and eventually up to 120 kilowatts, he said. “What it means is that you can drive for three hours, stop for less than half an hour, recharge, and be ready to go again,” Mr. Musk said. A Model S would reach a state of half-charge in 30 minutes.

The system is not compatible with existing Level III fast chargers. It complements elements of the company’s charging system unveiled earlier, including the high-power wall unit and plug design the company demonstrated for Wheels last year.

Tesla has six Superchargers in operation, all in California, with more to come in the state by the end of the year. The first stations are expected to be opened to the public in coming weeks.

Mr. Musk said the company intended to have Superchargers installed across much of the United States in the next two years and to have the entire country, and the lower part of Canada, covered in four or five years.

The ability to connect to the Supercharger will be standard on Model S cars with the 85-kilowatt-hour battery, the highest-capacity battery marketed by Tesla, and would be optional for buyers of the sedan fitted with the 60-kilowatt-hour pack. That said, Model S sedans equipped with the 40-kilowatt-hour batteries, and the existing fleet of Tesla Roadsters, will be excluded from using the Supercharger.

Mr. Musk said Model S customers with the necessary equipment would “travel for free, forever, on pure sunlight. It’s pretty hard to beat that.” Not one to understate the company’s accomplishments, he said the Supercharger’s introduction was likely to “go down as being quite historic, at least on par with SpaceX docking with the Space Station earlier this year,” a reference to his space-freight venture. “I really think this is important.”

@AdWeek Ad of the Day: Honda How the automaker gave an indie band its big break, and the surprise of a lifetime

Good-deed advertising is frequently a hard sell, but this is an adorable spot from RPA for Honda, showing the automaker secretly booking very, very indie band Monsters Calling Home on Jimmy Kimmel Live as a thank-you for filming their cool-o music videos entirely inside Hondas.

It's getting harder and harder to do Publishers Clearing House-style "Surprise! You're successful!" videos, although it is a rich tradition dating back to Allen Funt and Candid Camera, and there's a reason it's so effective. It doesn't hurt that the band's neat folk-rock sound is a perfect underscore for the video, or that they seem like nice kids.

Is it me, though, or does this kind of stuff always seem a little mean? Not to jump on Honda—good on them for rigging up such a great deal for these kids, who seem like they probably deserve a break. But does it strike anybody else as awful that the one guy tells them there will be no concert after all for 600 Honda employees—the original ruse—but can they get up on stage and sing one song for the three or four people in the room? Kind of hurts your heart, although I guess for shooting purposes they have to have everyone together on stage to look surprised and happy when they learn the truth.

The most effective part of the nearly five-minute spot, for me, anyway, is the opening, where the band talks about how they ask people at their concerts if maybe somebody could spot them a couch or two for the evening since they're touring for a living and can't afford a hotel. That little section, more so even than the big finale on Kimmel, feels like young people living the contemporary American dream—which is to say, doing the thing you love despite barely making ends meet.

Look at me, I'm getting maudlin. Must be the music.

Client: Honda
Agency: RPA, Santa Monica, Calif.
Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer: Joe Baratelli
Senior Vice President, Group Creative Director: Jason Sperling
Senior Vice President, Executive Producer: Gary Paticoff
Vice President, Creative Social Media Director: J. Barbush
Art Directors: Brian Farkas, Sarah Hass
Copywriter: Tylynne McCauley
Agency Director, Senior Content Producer: Mark Tripp

Production Company: RPA
Director of Photography: Stephen Carmona
Producer: Andrew Scrivner
Assistant Director: Tracy Chaplin

Editing: Butcher Editorial
Editor: Teddy Gersten
Executive Producer: Rob Van
Smoke Artist: Zac Dych

Color: Adolfo Martinelli, Incendio
Audio Mixer: Paul Hurtubise, Beacon Street Studios

Music: Monsters Calling Home

From AdWeek.Com

Volkswagen GTI design study images show up ahead of Paris reveal

Following the debut of the new Mark VII Golf, Volkswagen is set to pull the wraps off of a new GTI Concept at the Paris Motor Show. Though its time in the hot lights is less than a day away, that hasn't stopped the likes of AutoBild from dropping some freshly leaked images of the hot hatch design study on the interwebs.

The "near-production" concept preceding the roadgoing model is a practice that follows suit from the previous GTI debut at Paris in 2008. AutoBild is claiming that the new GTI will feature a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four making 217 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque routed to the buyer's choice of a six-speed manual or DSG dual-clutch gearbox. The German magazine is also saying that there will be an optional performance package that boosts output to 227 hp. 0 to 62 mph is pegged at 6.6 seconds with a top speed of 153 mph in the standard iteration, while the performance package model is said to make the run in 6.5 seconds, topping out at 155.

While the concept features a bevy of traditional GTI hallmark including a plaid interior and black grille with red pinstriping, the concept extends the red line across the headlights in novel fashion. The concept also features Testarrosa-rific gills as part of the lower front valence (we'll have to wait to see in person to see how we feel about 'em).

Inside, the GTI Concept seems ready to hit the road, with touchscreen navigation, pushbutton start and red stitching on the steering wheel and shift boot.

Though the interior looks very production-ready, only time will tell if the roadgoing version of this iconic performance hatchback looks exactly like what you see here.

This article is from AutoBlog.Com