The past several years (broadly coinciding with the discovery and eventual contribution to Driven to Write) have been a period of rediscovering my enthusiasm for cars; their history, engineering, aesthetics and the experience of driving them. More recently, however, I have found myself troubled with doubts as to the potential future of such enthusiasm and increasingly, by questions regarding the moral status of our collective hobby.
If the above sounds a little melodramatic, consider the following: Whilst there are questions to which no definitive answer is possible – the value of which lying more in the discussions they prompt, rather than in finding one true solution – such as what constitutes the good life, free will versus determinism and why my smartphone came with two entirely separate SMS apps installed by default, questions relating to the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine are, to most rational persons, not amongst these.
He’ll never sell any ice-creams going at that speed…
School was never a favourite period of life for your author, but one aspect of physics lessons in particular remains lodged in the mind – the fact that water and electricity do not mix well. Therefore, as we career toward an electrical vehicular future, how do we go deal with the worst happening – an electrical fire caused by either malfunction or accident?
Today, Britain has over 23 million vehicles road-bound with around 400,000 propelled by some form of electricity. Exponential growth in the coming years will see these figures shift ever-upwards, so one hopes the manufacturers will Continue reading “The Appliance Of Science”
“We aim to make not only the best electric car but also the best car in the world.” This may sound somewhat boastful but the chap expressing these words has quite the curriculum vitae to back it up.
Peter Rawlinson began life in South Wales, raised and schooled in the Vale of Glamorgan, later graduating in Engineering at Imperial College, London. Jaguar employed his young talent, where he reached the heights of Principal Engineer before quitting to assist Lotus. During his stint at Hethel, Rawlinson managed to Continue reading “Understanding the Welsh Air. And Yoghurt.”
I was five years old that Christmas when the bright yellow truck arrived – chunky tyres, opening doors and that tipper truck action – get me to a sand pit, now! Tonka toys were large, usually painted bright yellow and virtually indestructible. Since that time my interest into the real-life enormous dump truck has never waned.
Think electric power is the preserve of cars future? Think again…
Mention hybrid vehicles and one immediately thinks of Toyota and the 1997 Prius, the first commercially successful passenger car of this type. There are, however, earlier examples and today we look at an unlikely pioneer, Briggs & Stratton.
Outside the US, the name Briggs & Stratton is most often associated with lawnmower engines of modest capacities and power outputs. This understates considerably the size and global reach of the company. Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-capacity internal combustion engines for agricultural, industrial, marine and recreational applications.
Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company manufactures around ten million engines annually in plants located in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and sells in over 100 countries worldwide.
In the late 1970’s, following the fuel crisis earlier in that decade, Briggs & Stratton began thinking about the viability of hybrid power. It recognised that most road vehicles of that era were highly inefficient: their large capacity internal combustion engines were required to produce enough power and torque to accelerate them up to the speed limit on highways but, thereafter, only a fraction of the power output was required to Continue reading “American Pioneer”
At the Frankfurt motor show, those manufacturer-representatives in attendance, have it would appear, spent the obligatory press days smiling through clenched teeth. Boldly proffering their very latest in hybrid combustion and in a few notable cases, pure-EV offerings, the combined European, Far Eastern and in a few cases, North American carmakers are nevertheless casting anxious skywards glances towards a rapidly darkening vista.
European EV sales are on the rise, but the internal combustion hegemony remains for now at least, unassailable.
The electric age is just around the corner, just as it has been for some time now. Despite the fact that it patently is the legislative-default future direction of travel, and that regardless of whether we are early, late, enthusiastic or reluctant adopters (or should that be adaptors?) of the automotive EV, we’re getting them anyway. But not quite yet.
Over the first six months of 2019, sales of dedicated electric cars have been on the rise, as one might expect, illustrating (it is said), greater acceptance from customers than the plug-in hybrid model currently favoured by most of the auto industry, at least until they can place their electrified ducks in a row. (A clumsy and frankly dangerous metaphor, for which I apologise).
Without wanting to drag Brexit into this**, I have to note that Larry Elliot at the Guardian is now visibly wrong about another big thing, the Renault-FCA merger (if it is even a realistic prospect). For your information, Elliot has been at the very least tolerant of the lunacy of Brexit. Now he is suggesting that the mooted, hinted, suggested alliance of FCA and Fiat is even worth considering.
The core of his recent article is that “Frosty relations between France’s Macron and Italy’s Salvini could scupper talks over £29bn merger”. It sounds so knowledgeable but Franco-Italian relations are 800 km beside the point.
Second, it’s not 1976 any more, a time when national leaders could push around large corporations as de Gaulle did with Fiat and Citroen. But the problem is so much more fundamental: the idea of FCA linking to Renault is as insane as suggesting someone should consider marrying a syphilitic zombie. In this instance Renault-Nissan is the “someone” and FCA is the “syphilitic zombie”. While Renault has had its downs and up, the F in FCA has been only able to Continue reading ““To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!””
Has Genesis shown us a fresh face in emission-free motoring?
Since the advent of the automobile, cars and cities have co-existed in uneasy truce, but as concerns over deteriorating air quality gain traction across the developed world, it seems increasingly likely that our towns are simply not big enough for both. So the mid-term future for the combustion-engined private car, in an urban context at least, is looking bleak.
However, like most behavioural shifts, this is unlikely to occur overnight, but already, as previously reported both here and elsewhere, city legislatures are taking matters upon themselves by limiting or banning outright, vehicles which fail to Continue reading “Fresh Mint”
On the face of things, Honda’s Geneva e prototype – a thinly veiled (95% production-ready, we are told) version of the forthcoming production Urban EV, marks not only a refreshing change from the over-decorated norm but also a satisfyingly close approximation of the car Honda showed at Frankfurt 2017 to audible gasps of pleasure from the massed cohort of auto-commentators, this non-attending scribe included.
Because if indeed this broadly represents the form the production version will take (and informed speculation suggests it does), it presents a wildly divergent face to the one Honda currently presents to the world. Continue reading “Charges Will Apply”
Are we witnessing the slow demise of the inexpensive citycar?
Had one been in possession of a crystal ball back in 2009 I’m not sure anyone would have believed predictions for where the motor industry would be placed only a decade later. It would simply beggar belief and yet here we are, still hoping for the best. But the news just keeps on worsening.
The matter to which we turn our attention today is the Chinese car market, which (and I burn with shame to admit this) for the most part has remained a matter of supreme indifference to me. This is a frightful dereliction of duty on my part; I ought, as one of DTW’s editorial team to Continue reading “The Magic of Stones”
Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.
In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”
…is paved with good intentions. But where is it leading us?
Recently, Driven to Write held a metaphorical Bunsen burner to the feet of BMW development supremo, Klaus Fröhlich in the wake of some rather petulant comments he made. On this basis, you might be minded to Continue reading “The Road to Zero”
Denmark announced a few days back that ICE cars would be banned from sale by 2030. That’s 12 years or roughly not enough model cycles…
A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines. The UK has, not surprisingly, gone with a cut-off for ICE engines of 2040 but I think that if this change-over happens at the planned speed, the UK will change over faster than 2040. (Whether or not it´s part of the EU, EU policy will affect the UK).
“Electric now has a Mercedes.” Yes, but have you seen it?
“EQ or Electric Intelligence by Mercedes-Benz is our electric mobility brand. EQ represents ‘Emotion and Intelligence’, two Mercedes brand values. It comprises of all essential aspects related to customer-focused electric mobility and goes beyond the vehicle itself.” Mercedes-Benz.
A recent conversation with an industry insider prompted an observation that at Driven to Write, we tend to give Mercedes-Benz’s Chief Creative Officer a bit of a hard time. In this individual’s not entirely unwarranted view, we have a tendency (as one might say in football parlance) to Continue reading “Flicking the Switch”
As the motor industry presses towards widespread adaptation of electric vehicles, a notable voice sounds a cautious note.
As a rule, the motor industry prefers to speak with a unified voice on the wider issues which affect its interests. Certainly, when it comes to the subject of electric vehicles, the direction of current can probably be best described as direct. Or to put it another way, on this subject at least, most automotive CEOs are broadly speaking, on board.
Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.
Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.
“The researchers analysed the total csot of ownership of cars over four years, inlcuding the purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxation and mantinance. They were suprised to find that pure elcectric cars came out cheepest in all the mrakets they examined: UK, Japan, Texas and California,” the Guardian wrote**. Last night I stood in the underground garage where my car is parked and it occurred to me that almost none of the vehicles parked there would Continue reading “How the Cnidarian Drifts in the Sapphire Waters”
With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?
Earlier in the week we considered the mainstream industry’s lack of leadership when it comes to the design of electric cars. But at the Frankfurt motor show this week, two industry leaders fleshed out some of the challenges they’re facing. Firstly Mercedes’ Dieter Zetsche pointed out to auto journalists the effect the push to electric is likely to have on profitability.
At first glance, this is a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but while the mighty Stuttgart Untertürkheim car giant can weather the loss of 50% of its potential profits, putting aside an alleged €4.0 billion to cover the likely revenue shortfall, it raises questions of how other less financially robust car businesses can possibly Continue reading “Danger, High Voltage”
Sino-American Lucid Motors have revealed their Air saloon, a truly good-looking car.
Take a look at these photos. This is what a modern, elegant and distinctive car looks like. It will be on sale in 2018 though only in Canada and the US. The details can be inspected here. What is interesting is the approach Lucid have taken, managing to give the car a clear identity without recourse to strange detailing and without obviously using a grille-like oblong at the front. Continue reading “They Got This One Right”
Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?
The ID concept is claimed to have a 371 mile range (compared to the 248 miles of a Renault Zoe). At present Chevrolet’s Bolt promises around 230 or so (and Car and Driver have confirmed this). I’m more interested in the visual semantics of electric cars though. Tesla have chosen to make their cars look quite conventional (less so with the X). BMW have opted for po-mo design while the Zoe could conceivably be an ordinary modernist car: not Tesla’s classicism and nor either obviously outré. Continue reading “Question of the Day”
This is an odd subject for a site devoted to automobiles. Have we made a bit of mistake? Can we avoid another?
Two items appeared on the ghostly, glowing timewaste that is my iPhone. In one article the CEO of Lyft, John Zimmer, observed that Americans were pouring away an average of about $9000 a year owing a car. He estimated the occupancy rate was about one percent given that most cars have four seats and are used less than 5% of the time.
The Lyft chap predicts car ownership in cities will decline markedly in the next decade: “Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” he wrote. “And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city dwellers will stop using a personal car.”Continue reading “Joining the Dots”
Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.
Prompted by AN, I took out my photos from 1997 and found the shots from the day I drove the EV-1 (top, right) in California. The salesman at the car dealership presented the EV-1 as a something for enthusiasts (which contrasted with the sludge I expect he was selling). The idea was that the EV-1 would appeal to people still interested in the technology and car-ness of cars. At the time I was a bit cynical about the GM car. 90 miles didn’t really seem that impressive although even today a 90 mile range would be very useful for most people’s daily needs. I got that wrong then. The Bolt has a 238 mile range.
In previous posts I have discussed how far we might be into the era of the electric vehicle. About half-way, I reckon. Further developments point in the direction of a quickening pace of change.
In just just nine short years, Holland may have no ICE cars on sale. The Dutch lower house passed this legislation the other day. The upper house is voting soon. While it might seem extreme (it is bracing enough), the Green proposal involved banning existing petrol and diesel cars. On balance, the legislation is probably a good compromise as it lets the existing fleet of cars run out their service life. It also avoids compulsion: would 5 year old Focuses and 9 year old Volvos simply have their road-licence revoked, rendering them unusable and unsaleable in Holland? The problem is obviated: the current stock of cars will be used until one by one their owners give up maintaining them and they swich to electric cars. Continue reading “This Town Isn’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”
In the not too distant past DTW covered the matter of the slow end of the internal-combustion engine era. The matter comes up again… It’s not so bad really. In fact, it’s great.
This time the prompt for this article is a proposal by the German Green party to essentially do away with petrol and diesel engines by 2036. Their proposal is reported by Der Speigel. The alternative is to use electric cars and more buses and trains. In my earlier article I mentioned that certain north European and North American states were planning to be rid of ICE vehicles within forty years. I suggested that Continue reading “More Harbingers”