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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Battery-powered Tesla Model S hits the streets in the US

Tesla S

The first customer cars are rolling out of the Tesla factory averaging around 10-12 cars a week. By the end of the year, California-based Tesla claims they will have delivered 5,000 of this latest vehicle.

Selected future owners are being given the opportunity to drive this new vehicle and the general opinion is that the Tesla S is a very well made luxury car, and the range is excellent. Three battery sizes are on offer: 40 kilowatt-hour, 60 kWh and 85 kWh, with base prices for the models equipped with each ranging from USD57,400-77,400; however, a fully spec’d Model S goes for over USD100,000.

The 85 kWh has a claimed range of almost 500 km, whilst the smallest (and cheapest) 40 kWh battery model should have a range around 250 km.

Charging again takes time, and it is obvious that a dedicated charging point will be needed to recharge the batteries in a reasonably short time. Some figures being bandied around range from four hours, which is very acceptable, to over 50 hours which is ridiculous.

The styling gives the Tesla S a look reminiscent of Jaguar or a Fisker but with a wide and not so attractive mouth. It does not scream “Future Electric Car”, but is a pleasant mid-size hatchback.

In some ways similar to the BMW iDrive controller, the Tesla S has a 17-inch tablet display in the center of the dash as the central controller. The only buttons turn on the hazard lights or open the glove box.

The Model S power plant is located between and just behind the driven rear wheels. The liquid cooled battery pack makes up the floorpan of the car and is encased in steel and plastic. The smooth exterior and under-floor produce a very low drag coefficient of 0.24, reputedly the lowest of any production vehicle. And with 300-400 bhp from the electric engine, it is a very rapid motor car, despite the weight from the battery pack boosting the overall weight to around 2,500 kg. Performance models are rated at 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque and can accelerate from 0-100 kph under five seconds.

While the Tesla Roadster sis not really take off, in the US, the Tesla S looks as if it will have a much more secure place in the US sales figures.

Want a durable car? Try the Durable Car Company

Morrie Minor

I am indebted to George Strampp who brought the Durable Car Company to my attention. This enterprising (re)manufacturer is dedicated to hand-crafting body parts that will allow Morris Minors to keep on going forever.

It was started by Dhanapala Samarasekara, a retired Sri Lankan diplomat, who said, “We cannot do away with transport. But we should use it in a meaningful way.” And for him, by keeping Morris Minors going, he breaks the cycle of ‘planned obsolescence.’ Samarasekara calls it a waste. “What a wastage of human effort it is.”

Of course, it isn’t quite that simple, as the auto industry’s planned obsolescence does employ millions of people worldwide and puts food on those millions of tables.
But the other side of the coin is by giving people in third world countries mobility, which can in turn assist them in finding employment and putting food on the aforementioned tables.

But why start a spare parts factory for a car that hasn’t been manufactured for more than 30 years? Because there are still 300,000 of these cars on the roads, and if spare parts can shore them up, these Morris Minors will go on forever.

Samarasekara has a business relationship in partnership with Charles Ware, an Englishman who has been concerned with the conservation of useful things since the early 1960s and sells the parts for the Morris Minors in the UK.

What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?

We learned that when Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) says he is “on it”, it means he is almost uncatchable. He dominated the Hungarian GP, being fastest in every session and controlled the race from the front. The “Lotus” pair of Raikkonen and Grosjean might have been looking at taking over the lead, but they were, in reality, never in the hunt.

Grosjean, who finished third has plenty of raw speed, as could be seen from the Qualifying, but has yet to turn that into race pace. When he does, he will be the next champion, but don’t expect it this year! His team mate Raikkonen continues to give good solid performances, but if the team can’t get him up on to the top step of the podium, he will get bored and take his ice cream and retire again. Or - he might go back to Ferrari to replace the underperforming Massa.

Vettel (Red Bull) was unable to give the finger the exercise, and although he is up near the top of the championship table, he does not look like being a certainty to repeat his WDC title. Adrian Newey will have to weave some more magic before that will happen, though Newey being the creative engineer that he is, might just come up with something, and which will be legal as well.

His team mate Mark Webber again disappointed his fans. Did not make the top 10 in Qualifying, but did a blistering first lap to leap to 7th from 11th but then the forward march stopped and he finished 8th, though Red Bull has said that he had a differential problem. Let us hope it was not a gearbox problem which would mean a five place grid demotion at the next meeting (Spa, September 2). Quite frankly, these penalties for changing an engine or a gearbox are ridiculous. What does the FIA hope to achieve by these, other than trying artificially to mix up the field.

While on the FIA, its much vaunted DRS system did not work in Hungary. It requires much longer straights than were available at the Hungaroring. The results of the race depended once again on the tyre lottery. Top teams are able to double-guess the degradation of their tyres and bring their drivers in at the last minute before the tyres “fall off the cliff”. But get it wrong and the driver is stuck in slower traffic and the team ends up with poor results.

Alonso (Ferrari) drove a consistent race. Not fast enough to challenge for the lead, but fast enough to keep challengers behind him. He has really become the ‘thinking’ driver. Massa did scrape into the points, but Ferrari is looking for more than that for Felipe. Word is that Ferrari has not taken up its option in Massa’s services for next year. Pack your bags now, Felipe.

Button, in the second McLaren, showed plenty of tiger in the opening laps, but then after the pit stops the fire went out and he just maintained position and “passing” became a lost art. Let us hope the holiday will sparkle Button up again.

One of the best drives of the day came from Senna in the Williams. Stayed out of trouble, drove sensible and was rewarded with 7th place, in front of Webber, Massa and Rosberg (Mercedes). His team mate Maldonado repeated his barging style of driving and the stewards repeated the drive through penalty. When will he ever learn?

Schumacher (Mercedes) had the weekend from Hell. Overheated on the grid, turned the engine off but could not restart. Then hit for speeding in the pit lane in his hurry to join the race, a subsequent drive-through penalty and then a puncture.
A break of four weeks now until Spa. What will we do?

A Pugyota? Or even a Toyotroen?

A Jumpy Citroen.

The motor industry has long been known to be incestuous. But look at just how incestuous. Toyota Motor Europe and PSA Peugeot CitroŽn have announced a new agreement on light commercial vehicles for the European market. Under the plan, PSA Peugeot CitroŽn is to supply Toyota with light commercial vehicles for sale in Europe under the Toyota brand.

PSA Peugeot CitroŽn will supply medium size vans derived from its existing vehicles Peugeot Expert and CitroŽn Jumpy. The supply of vehicles will commence from mid 2013. The agreement also includes collaboration on next generation vehicles which are to be produced by PSA Peugeot CitroŽn. The collaboration is expected to last beyond 2020.
Toyota Motor Europe will participate in the development and industrial investment costs for the next generation product. There are no plans for the two companies to enter into capital tie-ups or joint production.

“The Light Commercial Vehicle segment is an important one for us in many markets throughout Europe,” said Toyota Motor Europe President and CEO Didier Leroy. “By joining forces with PSA Peugeot CitroŽn, we have found a good solution for our loyal customers following the recent discontinuation of our own Hiace model. We already enjoy a successful joint-venture partnership with PSA Peugeot CitroŽn in the small car segment and they are a leader in the European light commercial vehicle market, with a solid reputation for quality and versatility.”

“We are delighted to announce today the enlargement of the scope of our successful cooperation with Toyota. This agreement launches the development of a new generation of mid-size Light Commercial Vehicle offering both companies a competitive product for the European market,” quoted Jean-Christophe Quťmard, PSA Peugeot CitroŽn programs executive vice president.

However, while PSA Peugeot Citroen may be pleased, the auto unions in France are not so overjoyed as they fear more job cuts may be in the offing.