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Fuel cells will flop outside Japan, says VW

Posted Sep 21st 2014 2:00PM

Toyota FCV

"It may fly within Japan, but not globally," VW's Shoji said.

It's long been battered into our beleaguered auto writer brains that the ultimate future source of motivation for tomorrow's cars and trucks is not gasoline, diesel, electricity, natural gas, propane or solar power – it's the hydrogen fuel cell. It's been the Next Big Thing since the start of Next Big Things.

Despite decades of prophesizing, the availability of fuel-cell vehicles and the infrastructure to go with them remains exceedingly limited. And to hear Volkswagen explain it, things aren't poised to get any better any time soon.

The German manufacturer's Japanese president, Shigeru Shoji, tells Bloomberg that FCVs aren't likely to catch on beyond Japan's borders, where the vehicles have a shot at catching on due to huge subsidies offered by the government. Hydrogen buyers in Japan can receive up to $28,500 in breaks from the government if they adopt the zero-emissions vehicles.

"It may fly within Japan, but not globally," Shoji told Bloomberg in an interview.

The heart of the issue rests, not surprisingly, with costs. Because storing and transporting hydrogen and building out the necessary infrastructure to make it available to consumers is so pricey the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – which as Bloomberg explains it, is targeting a "hydrogen society" – needs to incentivize adoption.

Volkswagen's statement comes as Toyota prepares to launch a fuel-cell vehicle (shown above) on the American West Coast. With sales slated to kick off year, Toyota expects the cost to fill up the FCV to start at around $50 before falling to $30. VW, doesn't seem too sure of that, though.

"There are still a lot of questions lingering about how practical it is even though Toyota launches next year," VW spokesman Yasuo Maruta told Bloomberg. "By the time it gets very usable by the normal customers, it's maybe still a decade or two decades away."

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News Source: Bloomberg

Nissan could have bought a stake in Aston Martin as early as 2012

Posted Sep 21st 2014 12:00PM

Aston Martin

Aston Martin has a very interesting future ahead of it. While the British brand appeared to be struggling with aging tech for a while, fresh investment from Daimler may have shown a light toward the future with the brand getting engines and electronics from them. Also, former Renault-Nissan top exec Andy Palmer has jumped ship from the French/Japanese automaker to become CEO of the much smaller sports car company. Interestingly, though, new reports from unnamed Nissan sources have indicated that Palmer has been pushing to work with AM for years.

Three unnamed company insiders told Reuters that Palmer made attempts to convince Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2012 and 2013 to invest in Aston Martin, but his proposals were shot down both times for unspecified reasons, according to Automotive News. "We looked carefully at the proposal but we passed on it," said one of the sources.

You can easily see why Palmer was eying Aston Martin even back in 2012. It's no secret that the British sports car mavens were in need of extra funding, well before the Daimler investment. Building vehicles these days is only getting more expensive with stronger safety and emissions requirements. Just look at the brand's desperate hope to get a side-impact crash exemption to keep selling its models in the US as an example.

Still, It's fun to imagine automotive history going a very different way than it has. Think of the possibility of Aston Martin models using Nissan V8s or even the turbo V6 from the GT-R, but wrapped in the British brand's svelte styling, or that the rumours of Mercedes and AM possibly sharing platforms in the future were instead with Infiniti or Renault.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Leno drives Volvo P1800 from Roger Moore's The Saint

Posted Sep 21st 2014 10:00AM

Volvo P1800 from The Saint

Outside of a few notable exceptions, Volvo usually isn't associated with making beautifully curvaceous vehicles. But in the 1960s and early '70s the company proved with the P1800 that its cars didn't only have to be safe but staid family transportation. Underneath that shapely styling were a lot of components from the brand's parts bin, but that didn't bother Roger Moore when he drove one of these in the TV series The Saint. Actually, the future James Bond actor didn't just get behind of one of these; he owned this exact 1967 P1800 S. It's this week's highlight on Jay Leno's Garage.

Moore was the car's original owner, but it also appeared in studio scenes of The Saint. Despite its famous provenance, when owner Bill Krzastek bought the P1800 in England, it was in pretty rough shape. The Volvo underwent a nine-month restoration to get it back into shape, which included some new body panels and wheels. Krzastek claims that much of the interior is original, though.

Krzastek comes off has a little bit nerdy, but you have to give him credit. He absolutely loves his Volvo and knows something about practically every detail of his car's history. Krzastek even refinanced his house to fund the purchase and restoration of the P1800. Although, with the right maintenance these old Swedes have been known to go millions of miles. Enjoy this look at one that was a star of the screen in the '60s.

News Source: Jay Leno's Garage via YouTube

Geely to provide engines to Formula 4

Posted Sep 21st 2014 8:00AM

Geely-powered Formula 4 racer

Formula One may get the lion's share of attention, but it's far from the only formula racing series. The FIA Formula E Championship just kicked off in China this past weekend, for example – and while FIA President Jean Todt was in town, he also announced the latest engine supplier for the Formula 4.

Up until now, the FIA had certified three automakers to supply engines for Formula 4 – and they've all been European. But for the first time, a Chinese automaker has joined in on the action. That Chinese automaker is Geely, perhaps best known on these pages as the parent company of Volvo, but a major player in the Chinese market in its own right.

Starting next season, Geely will supply a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine – similar to the one that powers its GX7 sport-ute and Emgrand EC8 sedan, but tuned for racing use – to the Chinese Formula 4 series. The new series is kicking off later this year with a seven-race calendar. After that, and with FIA certification in place, the door will be open for Geely to supply its engine to other local F4 championships as well.

News Source: Geely

Citroen C4 Cactus Airflow 2L promises 141 mpg, no door dings [w/video]

Posted Sep 20th 2014 8:00PM

Citroen C4 Cactus Airflow 2L Concept

Citroen C4 Cactus Aero 2L concept - rear sail area closeupI'm the president of Autoblog's chapter of the Citroën C4 Cactus Appreciation Club. Full Disclosure: I'm also probably its only member. Why am I fan, you ask? Because the C4 and its ding-resistant Airbumps offer the versatility of a five-door Ford Focus, but it's 350 pounds (158.7 kilograms) lighter than today's Mazda MX-5 Miata, tipping the scales at just over 2,100 pounds (952.5 kilograms). And when equipped with a diesel, it returns 91.1 miles per gallon (2.6L/100km) (European), all while looking like the epitome of French quirkiness and style. I can't think of anything not to like about it, aside from the fact that I haven't actually driven it (Citroën, call me, we can change this).

For the 2014 Paris Motor Show, Citroen is bringing a new concept version of the Cactus. Unlike the Adventure Concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, the Airflow 2L Concept is focused on increasing the Cactus' already impressive fuel economy. Through a fanatical observance of aerodynamics and the shedding of a further 220 pounds (99.7 kilograms) of weight, the Airflow 2L Concept returns over 141 miles per gallon (in other words, it consumes just two litres of fuel per 100 kilometers, hence the "2L" in the name).

Aerodynamic drag has been reduced by 20 per cent thanks to three adjustable intakes in the front fascia, which can open and close automatically based on driving conditions. Side deflectors divert air around the body while active shutters on the 19-inch wheels further cut down on drag even further. The old concept car trope of video cameras in place of traditional wing mirrors is present, ostensibly to further reduce drag, while Citroën has added an air curtain system on the front bumper to manipulate air around the wheels.

The Airflow's floor is carbon fibre, while carbon composites have been used in the roof, tailgate and doors. Aluminum has been extensively employed, both for structural components as well as the hood and engine cradle.

Under that hood sits the brand's latest Hybrid Air powertrain, which boasts a three-cylinder gas engine as well as a compressed air motor. Citroën reports that this new powertrain is responsible for 30 per cent of the Airflow's improved fuel economy.

Take a look below for the full press release from Citroen, as well as a hefty gallery of images of the funky, fuel-efficient five-door. We'll have much more on the C4 Cactus Airflow 2L, as well as everything else the French brand is debuting, when we cross The Pond early next month for the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

News Source: Citroën, Q Cars via YouTube

Ford to offer Police Interceptor surveillance tech to competitors [w/video]

Posted Sep 20th 2014 6:00PM

Ford Police Interceptors

Ford unveiled its surveillance mode technology last year as an option for 2014 Ford Police Interceptor Sedan and Utility models, and it has been a huge success. Now, the automaker and its partner InterMotive Inc. have decided to license the patent-pending system, including possibly to competitors and the military.

The surveillance mode technology is all about improving officers' situational awareness when their vehicle is stationary, and they aren't paying total attention to their surroundings; when filling out paperwork, for example. When an officer activates the system, the rear radar begins monitoring what's happening behind the cruiser. If it detects someone coming up on the vehicle, then the rear camera turns on, the driver's side window closes and the doors lock. Of course, in busy environments with people constantly walking around, the police can also just keep surveillance mode turned off.

The whole setup is meant to give a cop a few extra seconds to ascertain whether a person getting close to their car means them harm. It even recently won the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executive's Award for the technology's ability to improve officer safety.

"We want to assist with and improve the security of all police officers – whether they are using a Ford Police Interceptor or a competitive vehicle," said Randy Freiburger, who supervises Ford's police and ambulance engineering in its release. Companies that license the tech pay the Blue Oval a fee, and the deals mean expanded proliferation of the automaker's safety systems. Scroll down to see a video of surveillance mode in action and read the full announcement.

News Source: Ford, Fordvideo1 via YouTube

Ferrari to reveal exclusive F12 NART next month in LA

Posted Sep 20th 2014 4:00PM

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

While denying his tenure was coming to an end just prior to his resignation last week, outgoing Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo hinted at two new models to be revealed next month. One we anticipate to be a new version of the 458 – either the new turbocharged M model or the limited-edition Scuderia Spider – to be revealed at the Paris Motor Show on October 2, and the other we knew would be a strictly limited special exclusive to North America. And now we appear to have an idea of what that model will be.

According to Automotive News, we'll likely be looking at a version of the F12 Berlinetta decked out with the blue and white stripes pioneered by the North American Racing Team (NART) and most recently applied to the 458 Speciale. The special model is also likely to get custom bodywork and a revised interior – similar to what Ferrari Special Projects does for individual customers, but produced in a limited run of 10 examples.

All 10 of those are likely to already have been spoken for, with a price tag tipped to exceed $3 million apiece. The model will be revealed on October 12 at a special event in Los Angeles marking 60 years of Ferrari in America which will likely be Montezemolo's last event as chairman before handing over control to Sergio Marchionne and collecting his eight-figure severance package.

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News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Bugatti to replace outgoing Veyron with new Chiron

Posted Sep 20th 2014 2:00PM

1999 Bugatti 18/3 Chiron concept

With around a dozen new units left up for grabs, the Bugatti Veyron is near the end of its production cycle. For its part, Bugatti is planning to replace it with another hypercar, and while it's surely already under development, lips in Molsheim remain tightly sealed until the last Veyron leaves the factory. In the meantime, though, we've got some clues to go by. And the latest comes courtesy of Car and Driver.

According to emerging intel, the Veyron's successor will wear the name Chiron. The name belongs not only a mythological Greek centaur but also to one of the most successful racing drivers of Bugatti's heyday – certainly one of the most prominent not to have been featured in the company's recent Legend series. His name did, however, adorn the Bugatti 18/3 Chiron (pictured above), one of the concepts from the late 90s that paved the way for the Veyron's arrival.

Aside from the name, there are precious few details to go by, but we can expect it to be powered by the company's 8.0-litre W16 engine, unnaturally aspirated and with a likely hybrid boost. Look for even more staggering performance than the Veyron's, with nimbler handling thanks to lighter-weight construction.

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News Source: Car and Driver

Image Credit: Bugatti

2015 Kia Sedona

Posted Sep 20th 2014 12:00PM

Injecting New Life Into A Tired Segment, But Will Anyone Notice?

2015 Kia Sedona

Minivan sales have stagnated in recent years, and Kia tells me that no fewer than 15 models have been completely eliminated from the market since crossovers rose to prominence. So why in the world is the company not only sticking by the Sedona, but also actively investing in it, giving it a complete overhaul for the 2015 model year?

The Korean automaker isn't convinced that the minivan's "family box" reputation is truly warranted, and it sees an opportunity to snare younger, more active buyers by designing, engineering and marketing the Sedona as something versatile, edgy and comfortable. While that logic may seem both a bit familiar and somewhat far-fetched, Kia says forty-five percent of minivan buyers don't actually have kids and are instead simply looking for space, so the approach should be based at least in part on sound reasoning.

I spent an afternoon in Northern California behind the wheel of Kia's new non-minivan with a healthy dose of skepticism about its new strategy, but an open mind, as well. Does the Sedona's execution live up to Kia's lofty criteria and expectations of what a nontraditional minivan should be? Will buyers ditch their CUVs for something with a little more junk in the trunk? Read on to find out.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Zak / AOL

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