Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mini Goes Electric


Another automobile manufacturer, Mini, dips its cast aluminum toe into the electric vehicle market, but this type it's scooter prototypes that appeared at the Paris Motor Show, rather than cars, as profiled by Wired magazine.

Details are scarce. It has an electric motor. You plug it in. But, the prototypes recall classic Italian scooters and Mods versus Rockers schtick.

There are three “interpretations” of the design by Adrian van Hooydonk, senior VP of design for BMW Group. One is a two-seater done up in the same colors (matte charcoal and yellow) as the Mini-E electric prototype. The second is a single-seater Mini calls “almost purist in design.” The third draws on British ’60s pop culture, particularly “the distinctive graphics of the Mod era.”

As a Mini Cooper owner and an admirer of the technology emerging from this BMW Group, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saab Goes Electric


From borderline extinction to a surprising renaissance under the Dutch firm Spyker, Saab may still have some innovative ideas left in its automotive bag of tricks. The company has unveiled its first electric car, an introduction which should help keep alive its reputation as an idiosyncratic but forward-looking auto manufacturer, as reported by AllCarsElectric.

Mats Fägerhag, Executive Director of Vehicle Engineering at Saab Automobile, says that "this program is designed to evaluate the potential for developing a high performance, zero emission electric vehicle and is an important next-step in the extension of our EcoPower propulsion strategy".

Let's hope that this is a positive step toward recovery for a car company that (at least until the GM years) always bristled with personality.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Real-world road test: life with a plug-in Prius


Adam Vaughan puts the new plug-in Prius through its paces in London and its outskirts and discovers that the vehicle is reasonably practical. But clearly more charging points are needed for this type of vehicle. Even in the mighty metropolis of London there are far too few.

Plugged in via the leads in the boot, the electric battery was topped up for free in an hour and a half. While Westfield’s developers deserve credit for installing the points in the first place, they also warrant a raspberry for allowing any car to take the charging spaces – they’re not reserved for electric vehicles.

And here lies the only real drawback to PHEVs: there are not enough places to charge them, even in the urban areas where they’re best-suited. Home-charging, in particular, is tricky in cities because of the lack of driveways and garages. Of course, because you have petrol as a backup, you don’t have to panic about recharging as you would with a 100% electric vehicle. But by not being able to charge out and about, you lose the unique environmental and financial benefits.

It's promising technology if we find smarter ways of generating the energy supplied to the charging points, but that's another problem for another day.