The unveiling of the Mercedes Project ONE hybrid hypercar and the Aston Martin Valkyrie has shown that automakers are willing to push the boundaries of green technology beyond using it merely as a way of increasing fuel economy. The one automaker that has been strangely absent is one of the pioneers of modern hybrid tech, Toyota. The Japanese auto giant is keen on jumping into the act, and has unveiled the GR Super Sport concept at the prestigious Tokyo Auto Salon.
The latest in a recent string of concept and production vehicles to wear the GR (Gazoo Racing) badge, the Super Sport is perhaps the wildest and most spectacular concept that we have seen yet. The concept draws much of its styling inspiration from Toyota’s past LMP1 entries, with the look having a strong resemblance to its most recent entry, the TS050. This family link also shows in its performance hardware, with power coming from a 2.7 liter biturbo V6 that’s capable of pumping out 986 horsepower, and is part of a potent hybrid system. 18-inch wheels shod in massive 330/710 R18 tires help keep the GR Super Sport composed on the track, while the rear mounted exhaust produces an authoritative soundtrack.
Aerodynamic efficiency is also at the forefront of the GR Sport’s mission in life, and this is achieved with a massive front splitter as well as an equally potent rear diffuser, which also enhances the GR Super Sports aesthetic appeal to a high degree. A rear wing generates much needed downforce, and the absence of the rear window and side mirrors forced engineers to utilize a novel camera system, with two mounted rearwards, and the remaining pair located on the front fenders, which look like they are floating in the air from certain angles.
The real question here is whether the GR Super Sport will make the same leap to production that the Valkyrie and Project ONE achieved? Or if it will remain a one off fantasy. Toyota’s vagueness on the subject certainly doesn’t shed any insight with the company only claiming that “It will be some time before you all have the opportunity to get behind the wheel.” However, concept cars like this do typically preview the next generation of performance models for a company, so there could be a slim chance of a production version appearing in some shape or form in the near future.
Despite concerns about the slow rollout of the $35,000 Model 3 Sedan and its shockingly high rate of cash burn, Tesla is pressing forward with its ambitions to shake up the world of automobiles and has done so in a new and unique way with the unveiling of the Tesla Semi truck.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk exuded confidence in his new big rig, and started off his remarks with perhaps the most impressive performance statistic of this beast, a 5.0 second 0 to 60 time when it isn’t shackled to a load. You read that correctly, 0 to 60 in 5.0 seconds, a time normally reserved for many modern performance cars, and a massive leap over the 0 to 60 times boasted by many of its petrol powered opponents. While it would be interesting to see how this big Tesla does in a drag race, the truck is no slouch either when towing a trailer filled with 80,000 lbs of stuff. Tesla claims that it can maintain a 65 mph speed on a sustained five percent grade wheras other diesel trucks can only do the same feat at 45 mph.
The exterior styling of the truck is clean, and obviously geared towards achieving maximum aerodynamics. While it will not win a beauty pageant anytime soon, The front fascia has a pseudo-aggressive look, and the slick headlights help endow it with a slight degree of elegance. The truck currently does not have a sleeper unit, but we actually prefer the bigger cab over the smaller box style unit that Tesla also had on display for the world’s press. The rear wheels are hidden behind panels, and keen observers will notice the centrally mounted driving position which supposedly enhances visibility for higher levels of safety. The rear fascia (if you call it that) is predictably utilitarian, but we do like the tasteful taillight strip which builds on its futuristic theme quite nicely.
In addition to the centrally mounted driving position, Tesla designers also aimed to maximize space by moving the passenger seat behind, and to the right of the driver versus the normal side by side configuration utilized by current big rigs. Tesla also enhanced interior storage, and claimed that these changes were inspired by feedback from commercial truck drivers. The interior also features two big screens borrowed from the Model 3 with the right screen featuring radio and navigation controls, and the left screen covering vehicle settings and other truck related functions. Tesla claims that like its passenger cars, the screens could eventually be updated to be more configurable which should please drivers looking to tailor them to their specific industry, and the transportation needs of their rigs.
The Tesla Semi Truck has conventional exterior mirrors mounted on the outside of the vehicle, but both screens also show the sides of the truck thanks to cameras mounted on the bottom portion of the mirror assembly. Tesla claims that these are part of the Autopilot system, but we suspect they are also designed to help drivers be more acclimated with the central driving position. As a bonus, Elon Musk claims that the front glass is “explosion proof” and that it could withstand the force of a nuclear blast. While we are not eager to find out how the Tesla Semi Truck fares as a bomb shelter, the exaggerated explanation could mean that the glass is more durable than conventional windscreens, and that could appeal to fleet managers looking to shave precious maintenance dollars, especially money that goes into replacing windshields damaged by rocks and other debris.
Performance in this segment is more about road tripping versus 0 to 60 sprints, and the Tesla Semi Truck aims to achieve this by offering drivers a 500 mile driving range between charges. Notably this is lower than diesel trucks equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks, but Elon Musk was quick to point out that 80 percent of all trucking routes are 250 miles or less which could give the EV truck an edge, especially if it has a reliable network of charging stations in place.
Speaking of charging stations, a project this big requires an equally big charging source, and Tesla has unveiled the answer to keeping the big Tesla Semis powered up, Megachargers. Designed to be even more powerful than the standard Supercharger network, Megachargers will still retain the global network that has come to define the Superchargers and Musk revealed that “truckers will be able to travel anywhere in the world via the Megachargers.” The main reason why this is possible is in the way that they work, with the Megachargers drawing their juice from solar energy. This allows them to stay off the main electrical grid, and in turn not only give drivers locked electricity rates, but also 400 miles of driving range in a 30 minute charge.
This is not a bad combination, though we are curious to see how quickly Tesla can get the Megacharger network up and running, especially considering that the California based firm plans to unleash the first units onto the marketplace in 2019. Another challenge will be how much of a strain this new model will put on Tesla’s already precarious cash reserves, especially if sales do not meet projections. Contrary to Tesla’s flash and circumstance, the Tesla Semi Truck is NOT the first EV big rig in the marketplace. For example Daimler already has an all electric concept truck out on the road, while Nikola Motors is also embarking on a production green big rig of their own, the electric-hydrogen fueled Nikola One.
Lamborghini has always been known for offering high performance supercars that embrace the tantalizing combination of sleek sporty styling, and the soundtrack that can only be provided by a massive V12 engine. The one thing that Lamborghini has never offered is an all electric supercar, but the company is slowly changing its tune, and has joined forces with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students to create its wildest concept car yet, the Terzo Millennio.
The exterior styling of the Terzo Millennio reflects the wild styling themes that have defined Lamborghini models for the past few years, while also serving as a compelling glimpse into the brand’s future. Terzo Millennio means “third dimension” in Italian, and its slick suit of clothes certainly looks the part. It not only adds high levels of style and flair, but also advanced technologies that could very well change the way electric cars are produced. For instance, the Terzo Millennio pitches conventional battery packs, and instead adopts advanced super-capacitors that can quickly store and discharge energy. Lamborghini is quick to point out that they can even do both at the same time, while also having a longer shelf life than typical battery packs.
The super-capacitors and the four in-wheel mounted electric motors that they power allowed Lamborghini designers to use their full imagination on its design language. The end result is a slick body that is entirely made out of composite materials, which goes beyond shaving weight, and plays a role in maximizing energy storage. This ingenious layout allows the bodywork to function as a battery which not only helps lighten overall vehicle weight, but allows the car to store more energy than one with bulky battery packs.
In addition to its talents as a battery, the bodywork also has a degree of immortality that would make the T-1000 from Terminator 2 Judgement Day green with envy. This is achieved with specially designed sensors that allows the material to sense small cracks, and subsequently heal itself before they turn into larger cracks that threaten the concept’s overall structural integrity. The chassis of the Terzo Millennio was constructed using Lamborghini’s familiar Forged Composites technology, and was designed to give the concept world class handling manners, especially out on the track.
The Italian supercar maker has not been shy about stating its disdain towards autonomous technology, but Lamborghini engineers have equipped the Terzo Millennio with a type of virtual co-pilot that shows the driver the fastest line around a track. The idea here is to help improve the driver’s reaction times, while also making them comfortable even on an unfamiliar track.
“We are inspired by embracing what is impossible today to craft the realities of tomorrow: Lamborghini must always create the dreams of the next generation,” said Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali.”
Sadly the Terzo Millennio and its futuristic charms are not heading into official production anytime soon, but some of its styling elements could trickle down into the Aventador’s replacement which is due to arrive towards the end of the decade.
When Volvo first revealed that it was spinning off Polestar into its performance exclusive brand, we we’re curious what the safety focused Swedish carmaker had in store for enthusiasts. Volvo decided to unveil the answer to this question in grand fashion, with its first Polestar badged model, the Polestar 1
The Polestar 1 (not to be confused with the decidedly rarer and distinctively British McLaren P1) is a halo offering for Polestar, and aims to be a dramatic preview of what the young brand will have to offer in the near future. The P1 (short for Polestar 1) will arrive as a 2+2 Grand Touring coupe that will utilize much of Volvo’s current design language, but it amps things up by featuring carbon fiber bodypanels (a trick borrowed from the Aston Martin Vanquish.)
The panels help shed weight, and also add 45 percent more torsional rigidity to the car. In addition, they also lower the center of gravity slightly which is key in a car designed to tackle sharp corners and apexes at full gallop.
Like other current Volvos, the interior of the P1 is a gorgeous exercise in elegant design with the Volvo logo being pitched for a Polestar exclusive symbol, as well as more black accenting than other Volvo efforts which subtly highlights the more performance oriented flair that the P1 possesses. This flair for attention also highlights the P1’s platform with the car being built on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA platform) but perhaps befitting of the Polestar designation, roughly half of the components were allegedly created from the ground up by Polestar engineers. Case in point, Polestar’s claim that the P1 will be the first car to feature Ohilns Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi) and the first to feature a dual electric rear axle to maximize torque application at each wheel.
The P1 will be powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain that is expected to produce over 600 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. These are impressive figures, and while Polestar remained quiet on the Polestar 1’s true capabilities , look for it to go toe to toe with select versions of the Tesla Model S as well as other compelling rivals. When its not out on the track, the P1 is also capable of achieving an all electric driving range of 93 miles, which is further than any hybrid offering on the market today.
When the Polestar 1 eventually goes on sale, it will not be sold in a traditional sense of the word. Instead, Polestar vehicles will be sold exclusively online, with Polestar offering the model on a two to three year subscription basis with each package including pickup and delivery services, as well as rental options for other vehicles in the Volvo model lineup in the event the P1 needs to spend extended time in a Volvo repair garage.
Production is slated to begin in mid-2019 with the model being followed by the Polestar 2 full electric EV vehicle as well as the rumored Polestar 3 which is expected to bring Polestar into the highly competitive SUV market.
When the Mazda RX-8 ceased production several years ago, its departure represented not only the end of an era for Mazda, but also seemingly sealed the fate of the rotary engine, which was once seen as a novel solution for higher fuel economy by automakers back in the 1970s. However, recent comments by a high ranking Mazda executive appear to suggest that the rotary could be making a return to production automobiles, albeit in an unexpected role.
In a recent interview with the folks at Automotive News, Mitsuo Hitomi chief of Mazda’s powertrain division revealed that there could be a very good chance that the next iteration of the rotary engine could appear as a range extender for electric automobiles. While this would be a dramatic change in role for an engine that once defined the pinnacle of Mazda performance, its potential shift in function could help the novel powerplant fulfill its original green intentions, especially when one looks at prior efforts at this idea by Mazda.
Back in 2013 Mazda was already working on a rotary engine equipped extended range EV, with this early effort materializing in the Mazda2 RE Range Extender concept car. The tiny concept had a 250 mile driving range with half of it coming from its battery, while the other half was supplied by a 330 cc rotary engine which was hooked up to a 2.6 liter fuel tank. More recently, the RX-Vision concept also teased a rotary powered performance vehicle that could also add electrification to its list of tricks if it ever makes its way into formal production.
With all that said, its important to look at the finer details into how such an idea is possible. While the rotary engine has never been known for its efficiency (a key trait that made automakers such as GM and AMC abandon the idea for their lineups,) it is a very smooth running engine, and is also reasonably compact when compared to a conventional engine. Modern technology could allow Mazda engineers to make the engines even smaller than before, which will not only improve overall fuel economy, but also improve space and weight savings for the vehicle at the same time. These latter two traits would allow Mazda to add more batteries, or simply keep the car lightweight, and use this newfound lightness to retain the spirited handling that Mazda models have been long known for.
While this news might not be encouraging to rotary die-hards eagerly awaiting an RX-8 successor, Hitomi also revealed that a bigger rotary engine is also in development with the engine being tuned towards formal sports car applications. However, like many good things in life, the engine is reportedly being stonewalled by management that want a better business case for offering such a model in the first place. If we were in the board room, we would highlight the lack of a formal halo entry in Mazda’s lineup, which would help create a halo effect for other Mazda models including its growing CUV lineup. Either way, it looks like the humble rotary has a strong chance at catering to a new era of buyers if all the cards are right.
Following the initial announcement of the e-Volution concept, Mitsubishi has released several more images of the mysterious e-Volution concept ahead of the concept’s formal debut at the Tokyo Motor Show.
As promised by company execs, the Evo badge has returned but wheras it once defined an era of high performance sport sedans, Mitsubishi aims to resurrect this legendary nameplate on a high riding electrified crossover entry. Contrary to previous rumors, it
appears that the concept will be a plug-in hybrid versus a pure electric model, most likely due to reduced battery range in a pure electric offering, as well as the precarious condition of Mitsubishi’s finances.
“This very high performance automobile will blend Mitsubishi Motor’s signature 4WD and electric powertrain know-how with advanced Artificial Intelligence technology under a low slung aerodynamic SUV coupe shape” the company revealed in a release that accompanied today’s release.
Buyers looking to add one to their garage (perhaps as a companion to its rally based predecessor) will have to endure a potentially long wait with a Mitsubishi executive revealing that the new performance model (if it proceeds to production as expected) will not arrive in dealer showrooms for three to six years. It’s unknown if Mitsubishi will also produce a more conventional hybrid crossover, which could serve as a figurative launching pad for the more performance oriented Evo badged variant.
We are curious to see where this endeavor goes next, especially since a production version of the e-Volution would give Mitsubishi a performance model in a segment of the SUV market that the Japanese auto giant has traditionally stayed away from. In addition technology from its new corporate partners Nissan-Renault could also allow the model to be tailored to more international markets, while also reducing the costs of scale and production at the same time.
When Volvo first announced that it intended to seriously pursue electrification a few years ago, the world wondered what it would entail for the Swedish brand, and its lineup of vehicles. In a new announcement released earlier today, the car giant further detailed its ambitious plans while perhaps signaling a broader shift for the industry.
A key item of note here is that every new Volvo offering will be either a full EV or hybrid vehicle starting in 2019. Volvo also promises to include at least one electric motor in each of its new offerings.
“This is about the customer. People increasingly demand electrified cars, and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose which electrified Volvo you wish” explained Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson.
However this sudden embrace of electrified powerplants doesn’t mean that Volvo’s iconic internal combustion engines will get the figurative pink slip anytime soon. Buyers will be asked to choose from either mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full electric technology for their Volvo purchase, which will help retain customer flexibility and loyalty.
Volvo also plans to release a 48 volt hybrid system before the end of the decade, and to also roll out five all new battery electric models. Three of them will join the main Volvo lineup, but the other two will be performance tinged Polestar entries. Look for all five models to roll out between 2019 and 2021 with information being released possibly in late 2018.
Following the launch of its Model X SUV, Tesla has released a shadowy teaser image of the next step in its plans to dominate the CUV market the Model Y.
Like Tesla’s other teaser images, this one does not reveal too much detail. However, it does give a preview of the basic styling direction Tesla is trying to achieve with the Model Y, as well as the proportions for the front end. Unlike the Model X, the Y is expected to feature a more traditional apperance, and that could include ditching the X’s glitchy falcon doors for more conventional units.
While the Model Y is based on an all new platform, Tesla admits that the Y will eventually outsell the Model 3 due to the high demand from CUV buyers. Tesla also admitted that it wanted to avoid some of the styling compromises that emerged when designing the Model X.
“I think we really made a mistake trying to derive the design for the Model X from the Model S platform” Musk revealed at a recent shareholders meeting.
Look for the Model Y to also feature a more approachable pricing ladder albeit in the higher end of the CUV segment where it will compete with rivals from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.
Fisker’s EMotion EV has big ambitions, and aims to make up for all the sins that were committed by Henrik Fisker’s prior attempt at an EV, the Fisker Karma. Following the prior unveiling of several teaser images, Fisker Inc has released several new photos of a prototype, as well as confirmed the official price tag for the stylish coupe.
The new round of photos showcase several changes between the renderings and the prototype, with a key revision taking place in the front fascia. Unlike the renderings, the prototype appears to have toned down the styling in this area somewhat, with the car ditching the faux air intake ducts on the hood and front bumper. Other than those tweaks, the basic design retains select traits from the Karma which has been reborn separately under the umbrella of China’s Wanxiang corporation, but with a wedge shape versus the more organic lines that defined the Karma.
In addition to the new images, Fisker Inc also revealed to the folks at TechCrunch that the EMotion will have a starting price of $129,900 (excluding various taxes and options.) This pricing ladder appears to suggest that the company is aiming to position the EMotion above Tesla’s Model S P100D. While its 161 mph top speed is lower than the Tesla, the EMotion would have a higher 400 mile driving range, which should please buyers that have range anxiety. Other goodies include weight reducing carbon fiber and aluminum wheels, 360 degree optical sensors, as well as fast charge technology that can allegedly provide 100 miles of driving range in less than nine minutes.
If the EMotion eventually makes its way to formal production, it would be built from carbon fiber as well as aluminium to help shed weight, while also increasing overall fuel economy at the same time. The EMotion would also be a technological showcase, and could possibly arrive with advanced levels of autonomy, especially with LiDAR sensors and specially designed mirror cameras.
Fisker revealed that the company plans to begin accepting pre-orders from prospective owners on June 30th, but official production is expected to not begin until 2019 or later. In the meantime, look for the company to release more information as its reveal draws near including pictures of the interior.
The Clarity fuel cell was a big achievement for Honda when the Japanese auto giant first unveiled it several years ago. However, the fuel Cell represented only a small portion of the Clarity’s full potential, and Honda has unveiled the final two members of the Clarity family under the bright lights of the New York International Auto Show, the Clarity Electric and the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid.
The Clarity PHEV is equipped with an ultra efficient 1.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine to generate electricity and directly power the front wheels in certain driving conditions. The engine is capable of delivering 181 horsepower and is paired with a lithium ion battery pack. Honda claims that the PHEV can be driven on all electric power up to 42 miles and achieve up to 42 mpg when the gasoline engine is running.
Meanwhile the Clarity Electric is solely powered by an electric motor that delivers 161 horsepower, and its battery can be fully charged in three hours or up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. Honda claims that the Clarity Electric is capable of achieving up to 111 MPGe but curiously its 25.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack is not that much bigger than the plug-in hybrid. This particular figure contributes to the Clarity Electric’s rather modest 80 mile driving range which is one of the lowest in the market and falls short of the Chevrolet Bolt and the Volkswagen e-Golf.
Honda claims that the Clarity Electric compensates for that initial disadvantage by being more spacious and luxurious than any other non-Tesla offering out on the market. It will be interesting to see if this will be enough to win over electric car buyers, but both models feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability as well as sustainable bio-fabric and plastic trim.
Honda revealed that both models are expected to start in the mid-$30,000 range before tax incentives but wheras the PHEV will roll out in all 50 states right out the gate, the Clarity Electric will initially only be available in California and Oregon before eventually rolling out in the remaining 48 states.