Nissan’s Luxury Line

nssan
nssan

Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury line, continues its legendary design, performance and technology with the all new 2014 Infiniti Q50. According to Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen, “This exciting new Infiniti Q50 stretches the boundaries of what a sports sedan can be, propelling Infiniti in a bold new direction.”

One of the iconic features of the Infiniti line is the ‘double arch’ grille design along with the arch roofline and crescent cut C pillar. Like its predecessors, the Q50 provides sporty aggressive styling with the distinctive LED headlamps and marker lights further highlighting the sharp outlines of the car. Other improvements include the narrow, roll formed, A and B pillar doors that help provide better entry and exit from the car and more space within the cabin itself. The Q50 contours of the body line provide better airflow and decreased drag with zero front and rear lift effects. All these exterior improvements have been designed to provide greater strength and agility for better overall performance.

The Infiniti Q50 would have two options for powertrains. While there is a conventional powertrain, the main focus of the line would be its hybrid powertrain system. The Q50 would feature the latest Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid System with Intelligent Dual Clutch Control. This system features a 3.5 24 valve DOHC aluminum alloy V6 engine and a one motor/two clutch motor control powered by laminated lithium battery array. The V6 engine provides an estimated 296 horsepower and can turn an estimated 255 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor on the other hand, is rated at 50 kW with an estimated output of 67 horsepower and turn 199 lb-ft of torque. Thus the net power output of the Q50 is at 354 horsepower, making it quick to accelerate with fuel economy in mind.

The Q50 powertrain is controlled by a seven speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, allowing for manual shifting or steering column mounted paddle shifters built from magnesium. Options include rear wheel drive or the intelligent All Wheel Drive system that Infiniti provides. The handling is governed by Infiniti’s four wheel independent multilink suspension where the front is a single pivot double wishbone design while the rear has a multi-link coil spring designed Dual Flow Path shock absorbing system providing greater camber stiffness and better riding comfort. The suspension is tuned for sport purposes, creating a more agile and stiff vehicle drive compared to its predecessors.

For safety, the Q50 has the very first Active Lane Control system that utilizes a camera based straight line stability system to improve vehicle stability and driving capability. This is a level up from the Lane Departure Prevention system to prevent lane drifting but also to adjust to driving conditions as well as road surfaces.

Let’s all wait for this new hybrid luxury car design from Nissan.

The Travel of the Electric Car

some cars at zero pollution
some cars at zero pollution

The electric car revolution is clearly at hand. Aside from the actions undertaken by the electric car manufacturers, the government is now taking a more active participation in the change that is approaching at the horizon.

One such move is the government requiring that electric and hybrid vehicles produce more noise when travelling at low speeds. The purpose of the noise is to warn pedestrians of the presence and passing of these vehicles.

The move is an application of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 as electrics and hybrid vehicles produce less noise compared to its conventional engine vehicles. This is most important when the electrics or hybrids are at low speed to warn pedestrians, bicycle riders and those that are visually disabled. The main agency proposing the changes is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and their main proposal is to have car makers produce more noise at speeds under eighteen (18) miles per hour. At higher speeds, these new vehicles are able to produce adequate noise.

For manufacturers, a wide range of options are available but the sounds need to be uniform in order that other road users can distinguish between ambient noise and the oncoming vehicle. The government agency has opened commentaries from concerned citizens on the proposal and would use the recommendations for the final rules to be implemented. It is projected that the new noise regulations would save future accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists on the road.

This is but another sign that the electric revolution is here. The figures from 2012 clearly show the increasing market share of electrics and hybrids on the road. Amongst the biggest gainers is the Chevrolet Volt, which tripled its share in the United States this year alone. A total of 23,461 Volts were sold but this represents only one third of a percent of total sales of passenger cars in the country.

Experts are projecting an annual sales figure of 3.8 million electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by the year 2020. Other vehicle sales include the Nissan Leaf or non plug in hybrids such as the Toyota Prius would continue to climb in sales in the coming years.

Just wait and see.

Toyota Issues Prius Recall

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

In an unprecedented move, the biggest Japanese automaker Toyota is recalling 670,000 units of its Prius hybrids it produced between 2004 and 2009. The focus would be the U.S. market, where reports of loss of steering and hybrid powertrain issues have been reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This is just part of the total recall of 2.77 million units, which include not just the Prius but also the Corolla and the Wish worldwide. These vehicles distributed worldwide are being recalled because a specific metal in the steering mechanism is not able to withstand the stresses involved in its operation. According to a statement from the company, “the part could wear out of the steering wheel is frequently and forcefully turned to the full left or full right position while driving at low speeds and that could result in the loss of steering ability.”

The first reports on the metal failure came to the attention of the carmaker back in February 2010, but the results were inconclusive. This year, specifically last February, Toyota was first notified of the steering loss of a unit in the United States. After a thorough investigation, the Japanese automaker finally identified the cause of the issue and decided on issuing a recall to correct the mechanical problem.

A second recall would cover 350,000 units and would involve the replacement of an electric water pump that may fail and shut down the hybrid powertrain system. This though would not affect the gas engine’s operation, according to an email from Toyota spokesman Bryan Lyons.

Toyota reported to the NHTSA the water pump issue back in 2009 and was redesigned for 2010. However, pump failures continued and Toyota was finally able to identify the problem as a coil wire that once scratched would corrode and break leading to the water pump failure. This is the second time that the Prius hybrid system had a problem with its cooling system. Back in 2010, the company undertook a customer satisfaction campaign that covered 390,000 model 2004 to 2007 Priuses sold in North America. The company promised to replace the coolant pump as it could result in malfunction leading to stoppage in the operation of the hybrid system.

Also covered in the email from Mr. Lyons, the service campaign dealt with a “different problem than the new recall.” It reiterated that the customer satisfaction program was sufficient as the vehicle can still run on the gasoline engine alone. It further reiterated that there have been no reports on any accidents in the United States related to the recall issued. The recalls though is deemed voluntary but once a safety problem has been identified, the company is required to inform the NHTSA within five (5) business days its recall plan and failure would result in fines and penalties.

Ford Seeking to Lead Hybrid Market

hybridcarsign
hybridcarsign

In another strategy poised to push Ford to the top of the hybrid market, the Detroit based company is launching C-Max Energi plug in hybrid. This vehicle has been rated at 620 miles by the Environmental Protection Agency. This was confirmed in a telephone interview and would be appearing on the Energi’s windshield wiper as it arrives in dealerships next month.

This rating has left the competition eating its dust. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid has been certified at 540 miles and the Chevrolet Volt at 380 miles. This prompted Toyota spokesperson John Hanson to say “Congratulations to Ford” in an email.

Carmakers have only included the estimated range in their selling point of vehicles as consumers start to focus and value fuel efficiency and economy. The recent scholarship indicates the range number as it would become a greater factor in the decision-making process in purchasing vehicles.

According to the study conducted by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at the New York University, “The 21st century is emerging as the century of the ‘supercommuter’.  The recession has made people much more”. This is was further explained by Mitchell L. Moss, Center Director in saying that more and more Americans are willing to travel beyond the bounds of their metropolitan regions for their jobs and commute ninety miles or more one way. He added that with more fuel efficient cars like hybrids and electrics, the future of the supercommuter is set. “It fits their lifestyle, they can drive more using less gas – or no gas”, he said.

Ford noted that the Energi can deliver up to 21 miles of all electric range with an EPA certified 100 mpg in combined urban and highway driving. When using hybrid mode, the car has a combined rating of 43 mpg. All this gives the C-Max as a hybrid vehicle with a rating of 570 miles of total range. According to Ford engineers, “We know customers are sensitive to fuel economy, but they’re also concerned about range because they look at the time between fill-ups.”

Ford expects that the Energi version would account up to twenty percent of C-Max sales in the US alone with a base price of US$33,475 with a federal income tax credit of US$3,750 that would lower the price to US$29,995.

Another plus factor for the vehicle, at least for those in California, is the grant of approval for coverage under the Golden State Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker program under the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. This, together with the other incentives, would surely create greater demand for the plug-in hybrid car demand.

Sales Outlook for Alternative Fuel Vehicles Varied

volkswagen logo
volkswagen logo

Many auto executives in attendance at the Paris Motor Show expressed reservations about the sales outlook for battery powered cars. In the beginning, the numbers were projected to be low, but the latest numbers from Tesla and Renault are indicating near dismal sales in the near future.

The CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, stated at the eve of the Paris Motor Show that the companies should instead focus on plug-in hybrids. These vehicles can run on battery power for limited distances and would be able to utilize standard internal combustion engines as range extenders. Winterkorn said, “We had a realistic view of the technology all along. There will be, for a long time to come, no alternative to the internal combustion engine.”

Volkswagen is among the car manufacturers participating in the annual Paris Motor Show. This year, the exhibits and the discussions would run until October 14th. The company is by far the largest carmaker in Europe thus statements about technology would definitely sound off the direction many carmakers would make moving forward. The German giant though has not shelved its own plans of creating an all-electric vehicle fleet but the management committee of the company has made it clear that plug-in hybrids would be the more pragmatic approach in the reduction of automobile emissions in the near future.

For its part, French carmaker Renault, who partnered with Nissan for its own electric vehicle models, said that there is still hope for battery powered vehicles. The company though admits that sales are far below initial projections to only about 15,000 units since the carmaker unveiled the unit for market release.

According to Jerome Stoll, Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Renault, “You are always disappointed when you fix a big ambition and you don’t meet it.” He added that while Renault was the market leader in electric vehicles, “I am not happy about the size of the market.”

Battery powered vehicles provide more advantages compared to internal combustion powered vehicles. These include quicker acceleration, quieter rides and lower costs. These advantages though are still being underappreciated because of the high purchasing cost together with the limited range capabilities of these electric vehicles compared to gasoline powered ones. Another main issue would be the lengthy time needed to recharge the vehicle in order to get to full range.

Plug-in hybrids also have other issues, such as limited range on battery power alone, but with range extending gasoline engines additional complications occur. These include having two motors, one electric and one gasoline powered, batteries as well as fuel. These add-ons effectively takes up space in the vehicle and removes much of the efficiency benefits of the vehicle. The market needs to develop smaller but more powerful engines to make plug ins more efficient in terms of space and weight in the long run.

As for Volkswagen, it would pushing for an expansion of its plug-in hybrid line with the introduction of the Golf plug-in by 2014. Volkswagen also has partnerships with other European carmakers such as Audi, Seat, Skoda and Porsche together with other brands.