by Dr. Iain Corness
Honda shows off its new FCV
Honda has announced plans to build a new hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric
vehicle ahead of its debut at the 2014 Los Angeles motor show.
The Honda FCV Concept is set to be a successor to the FCX Clarity sedan,
featuring improved efficiency in an aerodynamic package that follows lines
pioneered by the original Honda Insight hybrid of 1997.
The manufacturer says the hydrogen-powered machine has 100 kW electric motor and
a range of more than 700 kilometers from a new fuel stack that is 33 percent
smaller than its previous efforts.
New packaging has made the FCV Concept the first car of its kind to combine all
elements of its power train under the bonnet, leaving plenty of conventional
space in the cabin and boot.
The car has room for five adults and is set to go on sale in Japan from March
2016 before arriving in the US and Europe.
The car is unlikely to come to Thailand, which currently lacks hydrogen
refuelling stations necessary to run the new FCV, though anything might happen.
It offers an additional dash of practicality through a separate power exporter
that should allow owners to pump up to 9 kW of energy into their home or
business, reducing greenhouse emissions through conventional energy sources.
Honda says the car “can function as a small-sized mobile power plant that
generates and provides electricity to the community in times of disaster or
Honda’s preview of its fuel cell car comes the same day that Toyota confirmed
the name for its production-ready, hydrogen-fuelled Mirai sedan which goes on
sale in Japan, the US and Europe next year.
Cadillac ATS-V goes head to head with sports sedans
The soon to be released Cadillac ATS-V will compete against
vehicles such as the BMW M3/M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and Audi RS 5.
The ATS-V for 2016, features rear-wheel drive and will go into production in the
spring. It will be available in sedan and coupe styles. Cadillac says the ATS-V
will include a 3.6 liter V-6 twin-turbocharged engine - the first offered in a
Cadillac V-Series car - and new design and performance systems to boost
performance. Cadillac says the car is track-ready from the factory floor and
offers a sophisticated luxury driving experience on the road.
“Cadillac’s V-Series is the best example of Cadillac’s emerging product
substance - and the purest expression of the passion at the core of the brand,”
Cadillac’s new president Johan de Nysschen said.
GM’s luxury brand rolled out its high-performance V-Series in 2004, and the
ATS-V is the first of the next-generation V-Series vehicles for the luxury
brand. Cadillac is expected to show a new CTS-V early next year.
Cadillac is offering the smaller V-Series as a niche product, but knows it is
important as it works to attract younger and more-affluent buyers. CTS-V Series
sales represent about eight percent of overall CTS sales.
The ATS-V’s twin-turbo is rated at 455 horsepower and 445 foot-pounds of torque.
Cadillac says the engine is tops in the segment for six cylinder output,
traveling from zero to 100 km/h in around four seconds and has a top speed of
more than 230 km/h. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual or a paddle-shift
Engineers redesigned the chassis, suspension and drivetrain for the ATS-V. The
car includes Brembo high-performance brakes, third-generation Magnetic Ride
Control and is stiffer structurally. It has touring, sport and track driving
modes, an available track aerodynamic package and rides on specially developed
Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
The ATS-V will have GM’s performance data recorder available, allowing drivers
to record high-definition video, with data overlays of their driving
Designers changed nearly all exterior panels of the car including fascias,
fenders, the lightweight carbon fiber hood with vent and rear spoiler, to
support capability and aerodynamics.
“All of the design elements have a purpose,” Andrew Smith, executive director of
Cadillac global design, said. “They contribute to lift reduction, enhanced
cooling, reduced mass or all of the above.”
The interior features available 16-way adjustable Recaro seats in the front and
cut-and-sew Cadillac elements throughout.
Analysts say the ATS could benefit from a special model to boost appeal.
Cadillac rolled out its ATS compact luxury sedan in fall 2012 as a 2013 model
and this fall began offering a Coupe version. But sales have stalled and are
down nearly 19 percent this year through October.
“As the CTS and ATS struggle in sales, product clearly isn’t the issue,” Akshay
Anand, a Kelley Blue Book analyst, said. “As Cadillac continues to undergo its
brand transformation, staying in the limelight will be key as it attempts to
take down German luxury marques. The ATS could really use a halo vehicle,
especially since all its competitors have performance variations as well.”
On paper, this Cadillac concept looks as if it could be the halo vehicle
required. My only misgivings lie with the fact that it looks too much like the
Same Same but hardly different
I really wonder about auto stylists. How much original thought and design do
they put into new cars, or is the time spent driving round competitor’s design
studios to see what they are coming forward with? Remember the Bangle Bottom on
the BMW’s? Everyone hated it, but it then appeared on the Toyota Camry and
others. The origin was then forgotten.
This year’s styling cue is the sculpted body line angling up from the front
wheel arch and up to the rear. Boring!
Mercedes Benz B series
What did we learn from Yas Marina?
Well, we learned that Mercedes lost one car but won two championships, Williams
secured two podiums and Daniel Ricciardo was the best of the rest.
After a magnificent start, it was obvious that Hamilton was never going to be
headed, and the only question mark was going to be reliability, but it was title
aspirant Rosberg whose car harvested the energy recovery gremlins, leaving him a
woeful 14th at the finish.
“A great day for England,” I was told by one of the audience in Jameson’s Irish
Pub, echoing Prince Harry’s, “Lewis, you are a legend. Thanks for not making the
British public sweat.” And so a second World Driver’s Championship (WDC) for
Afterwards the mass hysteria escalated in the post-race period, comparing
Hamilton to the previous British double championship drivers Graham Hill, Jim
Clark and Jackie Stewart (Our Nige, only won one WDC). So, did we learn
something of Hamilton’s talent compared to those who went before? It is always
difficult comparing drivers in different eras and in cars with different
technologies. I suspect that the modern F1 cars are easier to drive than those
from 30 years ago, as we see new faces in Friday practice sessions immediately
up to speed, with no apparent learning curve. And let us not forget that the
Mercedes cars this year have been one second a lap quicker than anything else,
leaving Hamilton to only battle with one car - his team mate, who fell at the
However, Mercedes earned their Constructor’s championship and their WDC and are
keeping their two drivers for 2015, there being no reason to change.
Surprise package for the race was Felipe Massa in the Williams, with a gritty
drive to second place, besting team mate Valtteri Bottas again. Will the
resurgent Williams continue as a threat in 2015? They certainly have the drivers
if their designers can come up with the car.
Another satisfied driver was Daniel Ricciardo finishing fourth in his Red Bull
in the race and third in the WDC, totally eclipsing Vettel who never got the
opportunity to wave the finger aloft all year. He will be going to join Ferrari
and have the dour Kimi Raikkonen as his partner. I cannot predict great things
for that driver pairing.
The media was pushing hard to try and drum up enthusiasm for purported battles
for seats for 2015, which would depend on the outcome of the Yas Marina race.
Prime was the seats at McLaren, with Alonso leaving Ferrari after five years and
returning to McLaren according to the paddock gossip - and ex-King Carlos of
Spain who said, “He’s going to McLaren!” Of the two incumbents Button and
Magnussen there is much discussion, and whilst Button has been head and
shoulders above Magnussen, what must not be forgotten is what salary does each
expect? Button is an ex-driver’s champion and very well experienced - but my
spies would suggest that he has to decrease his salary demands if he wishes to
stay. Uncle Ronster is going to announce the line-up December 1. Expect Button
out and Magnussen to remain.
Force India is hanging in there, despite financial worries for its owner Vijay
Mallya, and its drivers are hanging in there as well. Hulkenberg can always be
relied upon, but without money for development, they will continue to be just
also-rans. Other drivers and teams continue to amaze. Not for results or
uncovered talent, but for the fact that they are still there, and that covers
“Lotus”, Sauber, Caterham, Marussia and Toro Rosso.
2015 will be a watershed year for F1, and I am not sure that Jean Todt’s FIA has
any real idea of the crisis, or what to do about it!