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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Update Saturday, October 13, 2018 - October 19, 2018

Too many Leaves, or is that Leafs?

Gen 2 Leaf.

According to the Nissan stats, Nissan has sold more than 300,000 Leafs globally, but that is from day 1 of offering the Leaf. Yet you will be lucky to see one in Thailand, and it boils down to finances. It makes sense for the Nissan UK plant to keep shipping to nearby Norway, where EV embracing customers are queuing up, before shifting focus to other countries where demand is negligible.

This demand hasn’t happened by chance. For years Norway has encouraged its citizens to choose EVs, with policies that make them price-competitive.

Normal cars were always heavily taxed in Norway and they still are, but EV buyers sidestep substantial taxes based on CO2 emissions, introduced in 2006, and weight, plus a hefty 25 percent GST.

Norwegian EV buyers get other benefits, such as not paying annual road taxes while also getting free use or heavy discounts on toll roads, ferry and parking station fees and the right to legally use bus lanes.

“The politicians didn’t do this to be nice to EV owners,” says Marina Maneas Bakkum, Nissan Nordic Europe communications director. “They have signed international agreements on CO2 emission reductions. They have found out that this is actually the easiest and cheapest way to get it, to take if from the transport sector.” Pro-EV policies, she says, are supported by all the parties in Norway’s parliament.

Current reviews of the Leaf in Norway are all very positive, with a claimed range of 270 km and can achieve an 85 percent charge in about 45 minutes.

The new Leaf is better looking and more powerful. It’s quick, quiet and very smooth, partly because the Nissan never needs to change gears. It has only one.

Its new 40 kWh battery pack (the first Leaf launched with a 24 kWh pack, later upgraded to 30 kWh) delivers a longer driving range between recharges; 270 km according to the latest and more realistic energy consumption test.

The Leaf is also surprising fun to drive, especially in e-Pedal mode. Selecting this boosts the strength of the car’s battery-filling regenerative braking. Ease right off the accelerator pedal and the Leaf slows significantly. This makes driving in stop-start traffic easier than a normal car. And e-Pedal also works really well on winding country roads.

Recharging? Plug the fast-charger cable into the second socket in the Leaf’s nose and it takes 45 minutes to get to 85 percent charged.

Most of the 1500 or so DC fast chargers in Norway are 50 kW but faster 150 kW examples are being installed in some locations.


What did we learn?

What did we learn? Well, we learned that if Hamilton (Mercedes) is A Grade, the rest of the drivers are B+ at best.

The script for the second half of the season was for a titanic battle between Hamilton and Vettel (Ferrari). Both vying for the elusive 5th World Drivers Championship. A final shootout in Abu Dhabi would have the fans gasping for the 2019 season. That was the Liberty Media Hollywood version. Unfortunately, the titanic battle has become a damp squib, with Ferrari getting the script all wrong. The battle between silver and red has degenerated to the stage where Mercedes can do no wrong, with Hamilton at the front, while Ferrari cannot even decide on which tyres to use. Couple that with elementary driving mistakes by Vettel and the result is already evident. Vettel has something akin to a snowball’s hope in hell of challenging Hamilton in the last four races. They can start engraving the trophy.

Bottas (Mercedes), like a good little puppy dog, kept the pack away from the anointed one and will be second, as he was in Japan, and who ever remembers which driver came second in any competition.

School bully is the next position in the sit-com and Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) fits perfectly. He has learned the tactic of placing his car on the track where you either give way or crash. Being 21 years old he is automatically 10 foot tall and bullet proof. However, someone will find how to synthesize kryptonite. Max Vercrashen will have a short life at the top.

Everybody’s hero, jovial Aussie Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) has found that he is no longer the crowd’s favorite, or even Red Bull’s. Destined to go to Renno 2019, he has seen his position usurped by the Dutchman, and while he can still show them all how to overtake (15th to 4th in Japan), if you’re not in the A Team you’re not in the game.

Fifth in Japan was Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), having been cast aside by Ferrari (again) and headed for Sauber next season. Kimi is famous for his one-liners delivered in monotone from the cockpit, my favorite being, “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.”

And the pretender to the throne, Sebastian Vettel? Sixth was not in the script. Lost out in a wheel to wheel dice with Verstappen resulting in a spin, and had to come from 19th. Ferrari should look at keeping Raikkonen and abandoning Vettel.

There was the usual grid bingo, with demerits which are ridiculous. If the engine coughs, move back five places. If the gearbox won’t select, move back another three spots. As a competitor, it is enough of a penalty that you have to revert to your “second” engine, gearbox or whatever. The contest doesn’t need all these artificial methods to bunch up the field.

Results from Suzuka

1 L Hamilton Mercedes

2 V Bottas Mercedes

3 M Verstappen Red Bull

4 D Ricciardo Red Bull

5 K Raikkonen Ferrari

6 S Vettel Ferrari

7 S Perez Force India

8 R Grosjean Haas

9 E Ocon Force India

10 C Sainz Renault - 52 laps

11 P Gasly Toro Rosso - 52 laps

12 M Ericsson Sauber - 52 laps

13 B Hartley Toro Rosso - 52 laps

14 F Alonso McLaren - 52 laps

15 S Vandoorne McLaren - 52 laps

16 S Sirotkin Williams - 52 laps

17 L Stroll Williams - 52 laps

DNF

C Leclerc Sauber Accident damage - 38 laps

N Hulkenberg Renault Rear end issue - 37 laps

K Magnussen Haas Accident damage - 8 laps

The next GP is in America October 21. This is telecast in Thailand at 1.10 a.m. I think I’ll miss it.


Add to the pluses

Leaf Gen 2 Fast charge Leaf.

If the 200 km-plus real-world driving range of the new Leaf seems too short, a solution is on the way. Nissan execs confirm a big-battery e-Plus version, with extra power, will go into production soon. Its 60 kWh battery pack stores 50 percent more energy, and will increase driving range by a similar amount. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive, so the long-range Leaf will be more costly.

EVs account for 26 percent of new car sales but only 6 percent of the 2.7 million cars on the road are electric. And even if Norway hits its goal of 100 percent of new passenger vehicle sales being electric or zero emission by 2025, some 40 percent of cars still going six years beyond that will still use internal combustion.

Nissan Leaf

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags

Engine: Synchronous electric motor, 110 kW/320 Nm

Fuel consumption: None

0-100 km/h: 7.9 secs

EV’s are here to stay and the Norwegian model owes the popularity of the Leaf to governmental legislation. The same could happen here if our new government (next year) hears about the positive effects on the national bottom line.


F1 heads for the dogs

Another nail in F1’s coffin has been announced with the advent of in-race betting. This is from the company which took over Formula One and banned grid girls, starts races at 10 minutes past the hour, DRS and other nonsense.

Other “sports” which allow the use of ‘in-event’ gambling are now tainted (or covered in it), with corrupt practices. How difficult is it for individual drivers, or complete teams, to have a long pit stop with a troublesome wheel, or even stick it in the wall to help another driver, as has been done before. You help me and I’ll help you next race. How long before a new dial appears on the dash showing four aces in a row when they are where the best betting result will be?

We have already been told that F1 is ‘entertainment’ not sport, so we get the Singapore GP headliners being some singing budgies, instead of Hamilton and Vettel. As F1 becomes more farcical, the closer I get to MotoGP. For me, the only problem is I was a lousy motorcycle racer, where I was good on four wheels and I relate to cars more than bikes. I also never fell off my race cars, which is more than I can say about my race motorcycles. That reminds me of an Enduro I ran in, and after half an hour I saw I was catching the bike in front. Summoning all my (nonexistent) bravery I drew up alongside and looked over to find that the other rider was a girl, and I promptly fell off. She never even stopped to help me, so you can forget about the #MeToo lot.


Autotrivia quiz

Last week was all about Count Zzborowski and his Chitty Bang Bang, and first in was Tony from the Queensland Gold Coast. Well done, Tony! Unfortunately you are a long way away from Casa Pascal’s breakfast. As an aside, there used to be a great circuit on the Queensland Gold Coast, complete with a nail-biting high speed sweeper under the bridge at the end of the straight. Unfortunately it is now a housing development.

So to this week. Who is the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles in the world? Be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected] . And in addition, if you are a Pattaya resident, the closest correct answer will win a free voucher for Casa Pascal’s Breakfast BBQ. One local resident wrote back to say he had enjoyed the Casa Pascal BBQ brunch and went so far as to say it is the best breakfast in Thailand. Good luck!


Update October 6, 2018 - October 12, 2018

Germany’s Porsche says it won’t produce new diesel models

Porsche.

Berlin (AP) - Porsche’s chief executive says the sports car maker won’t produce any new diesel models in the wake of parent company Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal.

CEO Oliver Blume told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that, although Porsche itself never developed and produced diesel engines, its image has suffered from the scandal that erupted in 2015. He was quoted as saying the company wants to concentrate on “what we can do particularly well,” citing high-performance gasoline models, hybrids and starting next year, electric cars.

Blume added: “That also means that there will be no more diesels from Porsche in the future.”

He said Porsche hasn’t had any diesels in its range since February and the “test phase” has shown that many diesel drivers are prepared to switch to gasoline or hybrid cars.

Poor old Rudolf Diesel (RIP) who disappeared overboard while heading for the UK with his wonderful diesel engine, who never got to hear a Pattaya baht bus.


JD Power finds Service Fees and Costs Enhance Customer Satisfaction

Clear communication with customers both before and after vehicle service is one of the key drivers of customer satisfaction, particularly when providing service fees and cost estimates, according to the J.D. Power 2018 Thailand Customer Service Index (CSI) Study,SM just released.

Customer satisfaction among vehicle owners whose service fees are higher than expected (17 per cent) is lower than those who say the fees are as expected or lower than expected (83 per cent) (751 vs. 847, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale).  The accuracy of cost estimates also has a high impact on customer satisfaction, with those customers who received an accurate estimate far more satisfied than those who received an invoice that was higher than the estimate (839 vs. 714, respectively).

“It is crucial that the service advisor fully understands and manages customer expectations related to service fees,” said Siros Satrabhaya, Regional Director for Thailand at J.D. Power.  “The customer should be aware of all details associated with the service, from the details of work to be carried out to the estimated cost before the service begins.  The bottom line is that when a customer pays their actual fees, it should be about the same or lower than the estimation given.  This is a very simple process to get right that has a substantial impact on the customer’s service experience.”


GM getting ready for electrification (at the top level)

Chevrolet Bolt.

General Motors looks at an electric future, to expand on its Chevrolet Bolt which began life as the Chevrolet Volt, which was the Bob Lutz baby. (Bob will always be remembered for dismissing climate change, saying “Global warming is a crock of sh*t.”)

Pamela Fletcher, currently GM’s vice president of global electric vehicle programs, takes a new role beginning Oct. 1 as vice president of innovation. GM confirmed Fletcher’s newly created position is directly under the CEO Mary Barra.

Fletcher led the team that launched the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which now serves as the platform for GM Cruise’s steering wheel-free Cruise AV, before she was put in charge of global EVs at the end of last year. GM being an equal opportunity organization, I am sure, with her move to Barra’s team represents the latest female at GM to take a high-level leadership role.

Fletcher’s former boss GM’s vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs, Doug Parks will continue in that role, as well as taking over Fletcher’s EV duties.

“Pam’s new role leverages her engineering and entrepreneurial background to focus on identifying, integrating and accelerating new growth opportunities that will directly benefit our customers,” Parks said.

GM’s vice president of global strategy, Michael Ableson, moves to a newly created position of vice president of electric vehicle infrastructure. His global strategy team will now report to Fletcher.

Ableson will lead GM’s efforts in developing necessary partnerships or identifying incentives and investments that could lead to a strong EV charging infrastructure. Improving existing charging infrastructure and making charging stations more widely accessible will be crucial as GM looks to remove barriers to electric vehicle ownership. GM is expected to hit the 200,000-vehicle cap as soon as the end of this year for a $7,500 federal tax incentive designed to encourage electric-vehicle sales.

The executive restructuring, was first reported by Automotive News, comes as GM is readying to kick its 20 EVs by 2023 initiative into high gear by the end of this year.


What did we learn from the Russian Grand Prix?

Well, we learned that Bottas (Mercedes) is expendable, and as a ‘thank you’ Hamilton (Mercedes) invited him to share the top step of the podium. I remember a certain Michael Schumacher being gifted a race win by Rubens Barichello, who had been ordered to cede, and Schumacher then invited Rubens to share the top step of the podium. This brought the wrath of the FIA who fined Schumacher one million dollars. Fast forward to Russia and Team Orders again with Ocon (FIndia) and his team mate Perez taking turns at being the lead car.

With contrived pit wall racing and contrived DRS overtaking, there isn’t much to get excited about F1 anymore. By contrast, I watched footage from the Goodwood Festival of Speed and there were honest drivers, racing in honest cars. Such a difference!

We were also informed of the tyres that Pirelli had brought to Sochi. Hypersoft, Ultrasoft and Supersoft. Spectators do not care what the tyres are called, let’s try Soft, Medium and Hard which is more understandable.

The other factor in today’s F1 is the “Strategy”. Another factor of no interest to the spectator. Perez (FIndia) stating, “Strategy will be crucial because we are not starting on the best compound and those just outside the top 10, on harder tyres, will be the main threat.” The public just want the highly (over)paid prima donnas to get out there and ‘race’ each other.

Another factor in today’s racing is called Grid Penalties, and the organizers had a field day. Five drivers sent to the rear of the field. This, in turn, led the teams involved opting to remain in the garages rather than bother to go out in the second round of qualifying. Why bother when you are going to the rear of the grid. Save the engine and tyres.

The “race” began as expected and amazingly all cars got through the first corner. The real (and only) mover was Verstappen who had moved into the top 10 in eight laps. He continued on until he was leading the race by lap 18 and stayed there for 25 laps until he needed tyres, dropping him to fifth.

And that, gentle reader, was the sum total of the excitement in Russia.

Results

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes

2 V Bottas Mercedes

3 S Vettel Ferrari

4 K Raikkonen

5 M Verstappen Red Bull

6 D Ricciardo Red Bull

7 C Leclerc Sauber

8 K Magnussen Haas - 52 laps

9 E Ocon Force India - 52 laps

10 S Perez Force India - 52 laps

11 R Grosjean Haas - 52 laps

12 N Hulkenberg Renault - 52 laps

13 M Ericsson Sauber - 52 laps

14 F Alonso McLaren - 52 laps

15 L Stroll Williams - 52 laps

16 S Vandoorne McLaren - 51 laps

17 C Sainz Renault - 51 laps

18 S Sirotkin Williams - 51 laps

DNF

P Gasly Toro Rosso Brakes - 4 laps

B Hartley Toro Rosso Brakes

Suzuka (Japan) is the next race (October 7) and with spectators leaving F1 in droves and the World Drivers Championship all but finished, I cannot see this next race being exciting either. But we can always live in hope.


Autotrivia Quiz

Tucker 48.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Last week I asked who married a chorus girl, had three cars of the same name, with the first having a 23 liter aero engine in a lengthened Mercedes chassis. That should have been enough clues. It wasn’t’ Tucker, it was Count Zborowski and the cars were Chitty-Bang-Bangs. (The show was Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.)

Since we mentioned the Tucker, let’s look a little further at this legendary motor car. The history and specifications of the Tucker 48 (or Tucker Torpedo as it was initially called) are very interesting.

Called in its advertising blurb as the first “new” car in 50 years, it was the brainchild of Preston Thomas Tucker (1903-1956). Tucker was a great fan of motor racing and a most inventive mind. He hung around Indy and worked with the race car designer and engineer Harry Miller, another individualist.

The Tucker 48 was designed in Michigan, but built in Chicago in a vast factory that is now the site of the “Ford City Mall” on Cicero Avenue. (Now that’s REAL trivia, for you!) The styling was done by Alex S. Tremulis and honestly, while “futuristic”, it could never be called a classic beauty (in the style of a 540 K Benz, for example).

The car was put together by chief mechanic John Eddie Offutt, who had worked with Tucker and Harry Miller at Indy. See how “racing improves the breed” as somebody used to say in their advertising?

The specifications included an H-6 engine (horizontally opposed), ohv, 335 ci (4.50 x 3.50 in. bore x stroke), 7.0:1 compression ratio, developing 166 bhp with 372 lbs/ft torque. The cars were not small with a 128" wheelbase, 219" overall length, 60" high, 79" wide and weighed a whopping 4,200 pounds.

Despite the weight, they were no slouches, doing 0-60 mph in 10 seconds and had a reported top speed of 120 mph. Only 51 were built, but 47 still survive today, now 70 years later. Not a bad effort! By the way, they cost $2450 then and the last one sold for over one million dollars at Auction. That’s certainly a hedge against inflation!

One of the quiz entrants, who only signed the fax as “Thomas”, mentioned that a film was made about Tucker and his cars. There certainly was, Thomas. It was called “Tucker, the Man and His Dream” and was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1988.

A little more info for the Tucker buffs out there - he also designed a gun turret used in WWII, but his armored personnel carrier was rejected by the U.S. Government because it went too fast!

So to this week. Who is the biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles in the world? Be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected] . And in addition, if you are a Pattaya resident, the closest correct answer will win a free voucher for Casa Pascal’s Breakfast BBQ. One local resident wrote back to say he had enjoyed the Casa Pascal BBQ brunch and went so far as to say it is the best breakfast in Thailand. Good luck!


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Too many Leaves, or is that Leafs?

What did we learn?

Add to the pluses

F1 heads for the dogs

Autotrivia quiz


Germany’s Porsche says it won’t produce new diesel models

JD Power finds Service Fees and Costs Enhance Customer Satisfaction

GM getting ready for electrification (at the top level)

What did we learn from the Russian Grand Prix?

Autotrivia Quiz