Chevy Volt is to be cloned
GM’s clever extended-range electric vehicle known
domestically as the Chevrolet Volt will also be pitched at the Euro
market wearing Opel Ampera badges. GM has already confirmed the Volt
electric car will also be sold in Australia from 2012 wearing Holden
Volt in disguise
The Opel Ampera, with a different bodywork from the Chev Volt will
make its debut at the Geneva motor show (March 5 to 15). I would
also be hopeful of the Volt being shown at the Bangkok International
Motor Show (March 26 to April 6).
The Europe-focused concept retains the five door, four seat
configuration of the Volt, but this disguised shot indicates the
Opel will be distinguished by a different nose with a grille and
headlight treatment that are unique to the car.
For short trips up to 60 km, the Ampera runs only on lithium-ion
battery power charged via a standard 230v outlet, and the range is
extended via a 1.4 liter four cylinder petrol engine that drives a
53 kW generator which subsequently sends charge to the batteries or
the electric motor. The petrol engine does not directly drive the
Ampera in disguise
GM argues the Ampera will be well suited to the daily driving
schedule of most European customers, and points to the statistic
that approximately 80 percent of German drivers travel less than 50
“With the Ampera, Opel will be the first European automobile
manufacturer to provide customers several hundred kilometers of
non-stop electric driving,” said GM Europe chief marketing officer
The Chevy Volt goes on sale in the US next year wearing a sticker
price in the region of $US40,000, so it won’t exactly be a
high-volume proposition, but it’s shaping up as a significant
vehicle nonetheless. Of course, if the price of crude spikes again
to $146 per barrel, electric cars will be cheaper in the long run,
by a country mile.
Meanwhile, you can expect to see more of the car in the upcoming
Hollywood blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, in which
it plays an autobot character named Jolt.
Last week I asked why was a Packard tourer disguised as a police open Lincoln in
Chicago, and when? The answer was that it was the car used in the St.
Valentine’s Day massacre, 14th February 1929. However, I have to say that some
authorities say it was a Cadillac, and others that it was a Peerless. As none of
us were around at that time, and the cars used in the massacre were chopped up
afterwards, I doubt if we will ever know. Interestingly, none of the killers
were ever brought to justice.
So to this week. I am sure you are all aware of the Gobron-Brillie and the
Delaunay-Belleville, which had four pedals, instead of three. What were the
pedals, and why did it need four? To make it easier, some Mercedes models also
had the four pedal arrangement.
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The end of the Honda S2000
After 10 years, and multiple awards, the Honda S2000 sports car has
been canned by Honda. Another victim of the world economic downturn, and
cost-cutting at Honda.
The last ever car rolling off the line at Suzuka, Japan will be in June 2009.
Honda UK said, “It was only ever designed as a limited edition to celebrate
Honda’s 50th birthday in 1999, and now it’s time to focus on new technologies
and the sporty derivatives these can offer.”
The S2000 has always been a driver’s car, hailed for its engaging drive on and
off track, both of which are reflected by the numerous awards the car has won.
Its 2 liter engine remains one of the highest output per liter and one of the
highest revving engines ever made. In recognition of this it has won the
International Engine of the Year five times in its lifetime, as well as Auto
Express Best Sports Car for three consecutive years plus a whole host of other
Another nail in the coffin of exciting motor cars, I am afraid.
Batteries not included?
Better believe that the future is electric. Despite the current
price of oil being down from the ridiculous $146 a barrel a few months ago,
the world it seems has become tired of the pimps at the pumps, and is
‘revolting’ against the OPEC oil countries.
Not only is GM well down the electric track (see the item above) but it has
also announced that it plans to make its own lithium-ion electric-car
battery packs at a new plant in the US from 2010.
GM’s new battery plant will be in Michigan and, while negotiations are still
continuing with state and local authorities, the company is confident that
facility preparation will begin in the next couple of months, with
production tooling to be installed mid-year and output starting in 2010.
Volt prototypes will continue to be tested using lithium-ion battery cells
supplied from South Korea by LG Chem (though GM conveniently refers only to
an LG subsidiary based in Michigan).
Although GM likes to call the Volt an electric car, it does have a petrol
engine that acts as a “range-extender”. When the car’s batteries run down
(after about 65 km), the engine fires up and acts as an electric generator
for the batteries, rather than driving the wheels directly, as do most
previous hybrids, though Dr. Porsche’s original designs of 1902 worked on
that principle where the petrol engine was merely a battery re-charger.
Toyota is the world’s new number one
Toyota is now the undisputed world leader, after knocking at the
door for a couple of years, after it displaced Ford in the number 2 slot. It
officially became the global best seller as General Motors 2008 figures
slumped with the general auto industry crash in America, following the
The official GM sales total last year was 8.356 million vehicles, while the
Toyota tally was 8.972. This result ends 71 years at the top for GM, which
had been the leader ever since it overtook Ford during the depths of the
It has all been downhill for the US auto industry. GM’s sales figures were
down 10.8 percent from its 2007 result of 9.37 million, and at home in the
USA its result was down 21.1 percent to 3.56 million.
Under normal circumstances, you would have expected Toyota to be trumpeting
this from the rooftops, but it is a much subdued Toyota at the top. It has
recorded its first downturn in 10 years, as it also heads towards the first
trading loss in company history. Toyota has already shut 10 of its 11
factories in Japan, and all its other plants are on slowdowns, or temporary
For those with an interest in the stock market, the poor showings in the
auto sector is reflected in share prices. GM shares fell 14 cents, or 4.1
percent, to US$3.36 in the US, while Toyota’s US. shares rose 80 cents, or
1.2 percent, to US$66.68. Toyota is number 1 everywhere.
Has F1 priced itself out of the market?
With the news that the Royal Bank of Scotland is asking for a
bail-out from the British government, what is going to happen to the
sponsorship it has provided to Williams F1?
With the news that the ING Dutch bank is asking for a hand-out from the Dutch
government, what is going to happen to the sponsorship it has provided to
You don’t need a degree in higher maths to work out that the annual budget is
going to be decreased for both of those teams. And, if you look further, there
will be many other sponsors tightening the drawstrings on the money wallets.
That includes the manufacturers in manufacturer teams such as BMW.
We had ‘shock, horror’ headlines in the media before Xmas 2008 screaming that
Honda had withdrawn from Formula 1. Which it had, time frame immediately. As I
write this, nobody has stepped up with a concrete plan of a takeover. We’ve had
lots of media smoke and mirrors, but nothing yet in the way of rebranding. Times
Much is being made of ‘cost cutting’ by the FIA and the teams, but whilst they
have limited testing and said that engines have to last longer, they have on the
other hand introduced the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) which will cost
an arm and three legs to design, test, retest and make work. The KERS is
expected to take off around 0.3 of a second per lap when it is used for the
seven seconds before it is exhausted, but it is still in the very experimental
phase. The very expensive experimental phase, and that certainly does not go
In reality, F1 is not sustainable, and in fact has been unsustainable for years.
It has inflated its value to potential sponsors, who now no longer have cash
reserves they can throw about, and to F1 in particular. The simple business
model of income and expenses has been in the red for years, when you take away
‘false’ income from sponsors. Any dip in sponsorship exposes the real situation.
And that is what we have now.
So, is this the end of F1? Is this the end of motor sport? No it is not, but it
is the end of unbridled spending.
I am old enough to remember motor racing before sponsorship was allowed on the
cars, before Lotus painted their cars red, white and gold, having received
backing from Gold Leaf cigarettes in 1968. Motor racing was alive and well in
1966, with many teams and many different engines used. These included the
Europeans Ferrari, Lotus, Cooper, BRM, the American Eagle, the Australian
Repco-Brabham, the NZ McLaren-Ford and Honda (yes, the same Honda as has just
pulled out - again). The engines ranged from four cylinders to V12, to H16 and
included turbocharged engines, rotary Wankels and even turbines. Engineers
enjoyed experimentation, and diversity was the result.
No, with tighter budgets, we might see some diversity again, if the FIA leaves
the formula alone. Let us hope so, for all our sakes, in Europe and Asia.