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Subaru considers its EV future

Subaru CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga said his company is looking at electrifying existing models of its fleet rather than designing an all-new line-up in its future technological plans.

“If there’s already an attractive Subaru model, for example the XV crossover, and if a customer in Beijing wants one but is only allowed to buy an electric vehicle, if there’s no electric version then he can’t buy it,” he told journalists at Subaru’s Tokyo headquarters.

“Providing the choice of an EV means the customer can still desire the same Subaru.”

Car makers around the world are have pledged billions of dollars of investment into developing EVs in recent months as investment in electric infrastructure, such as charging stations, grows.

Subaru plans to release a plug-in hybrid next year and an all-electric vehicle by 2021, and has budgeted $1.7 billion for their electric research and development. However, this investment lags behind competitors like Toyota and Honda.

Yoshinaga is banking on the company’s reputation in road safety rather than its engines. The brand has performed well in Australasian-based ANCAP road safety tests, with every vehicle graded receiving a 5-star rating. The XV crossover, recently released in New Zealand, scored a 5-star rating overnight.  

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First ride-sharing EV arrives in Auckland

Matthew Olde and Ben Carter with Cityhop’s new Nissan Leaf

Car-sharing platform Cityhop has launched the first rent-by-the-hour EV in Auckland in partnership with Mercury.

“It’s easy to see that our city has too many cars. We’re crawling along traffic-choked roads every day,” says Ben Carter, development manager of Cityhop.

“People can now have access to a car when they need it, meaning they drive less, save money and reduce congestion. International research has found that every car share vehicle takes 9-13 privately owned cars off the road,” he added.

Carter said it was an exciting opportunity for the 2500 drivers already registered with the Cityhop programme. The Nissan Leaf is located on the second floor of the Tournament car park on the corner of Khyber Pass and York Street in Newmarket.

Mercury has had EVs in its fleet since 2013, and plans to transition at least 30 per cent of company vehicles to plug-in EVs by 2019.

“We’ve added this EV to Cityhop’s fleet to share the experience and allow more drivers to find out for themselves how EVs live up to their reputation,” said Mercury executive Matthew Olde.

“We are also excited for our Newmarket-based Mercury teams to have an opportunity to try car-sharing, as we learn about how car sharing might address some of Auckland’s transport challenges.”

“With around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity supplied from renewable energy sources it’s important that we get out of the slow lane and into the fast lane of e-mobility. We are partnering with Cityhop to learn as much as we can about how, why and when people and businesses turn to different, electrified ways of getting around so that we can help promote change that makes Auckland and New Zealand better for all of us,” Olde said.

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Mercedes builds new EV battery factory

Angela Merkel attended the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone at the new factory

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG has broken ground on its $690 million electric battery plant in Kamenz, Saxony, at a ceremony attended by German chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The automotive industry is facing a fundamental transformation and we see ourselves as the driving force behind this change,” said Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche.

“The battery factory in Kamenz is an important component in the implementation of our electric offensive. By 2022, we will have more than ten purely electric passenger cars in series. We also continue to drive forward the hybridization of our fleet.”

Daimler has invested an overall $1.6 billion in global battery production so far, and have delivered over 80,000 batteries to consumers. The new battery factory, the second built by the company, will begin operation next year.

 “With the second battery plant in Kamenz, we are giving the initial start for the development of the first premium eBattery factory,” said Mercedes board member Markus Schäfer.

Mercedes have also unveiled more plans for their next-generation electric fleet, which has been promised almost $16 billion of funding. Ten EVS will be launched over the next five years.

The company predicts total vehicle sales for Mercedes-Benz will be between 15 per cent and 25 per cent electric by 2025.

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BMW expands NZ i network

BMW’s i3 is the top-selling new EV car of 2016

BMW Group New Zealand has announced an extension to the existing inetwork. Winger BMW in Wellington and Christchurch BMW will become official i sales dealers from July 1. The two dealerships join authorised i dealer Auckland City BMW.

The BMW i is a full-package electric support service which provides private and public charging stations to BMW EV drivers, advanced navigation software to locate chargers and map out efficient driving routes, and electric aftercare maintenance and repair.

The remaining dealer network are being upgraded to include BMW i service, which will enable BMW to support customers across New Zealand.

“This commitment from our dealer network further provides customers with even more access to a wide range of electric vehicles, charging and dealer support in all parts of the country,” said commented BMW Group New Zealand managing director, Florian Renndorfer.

This follows BMW’s collaboration with ChargeNet NZ, announced last year, to help establish New Zealand’s electric highway of DC fast chargers that will facilitate EV driving along the length of the country. Charging at a BMW ChargeNow station takes around 30 minutes to reach 80 per cent battery capacity.

BMW’s electric offering, the i3, was the top-selling new EV car in the country for 2016, with 144 units sold.

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Volvo to include Android in next-gen console

Google Maps is one of the new apps available to Volvo drivers

Volvo and Google have announced a new partnership to develop a new next-generation in-car infotainment system based on existing Android software, which will offer drivers access to a range of apps and services.

The new technology is expected to be available for new Volvo models within two years.

“We are making an important strategic step with the Google partnership. Google’s platform and services will enhance the user experience by enabling more personalisation possibilities, while Android will offer increased flexibility from a development perspective,” says Henrik Green, senior vice president of research & development at Volvo Car Group.

The partnership comes as more car makers are trying their hand at developing in-car technology. Many new cars now come with some form of touch-screen entertainment system in the driver cabin.

Google’s involvement means Android, the operating system used across an estimated 88 per cent of smartphones worldwide, will feature the Volvo in-car system, which will better facilitate the development of third-party apps already developed for Android software.

“With the advent of Android we will embrace a rich ecosystem while keeping our iconic Volvo user interface. We will offer hundreds of popular apps and the best integrated experience in this broad, connected environment,” says Green.

Volvo will also updated recent models to include Google Local Search as part of the collaboration. The location-based application will be released to drivers via a system update to existing Sensus Navigation technology.

More details on the partnership will be announced at Google’s annual technology show, Google I/O, later this week.

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The future for NZ vehicles

With the majority of vehicle manufacturers working on autonomous technology, it is no surprise that self-driving vehicles are part of the future.


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Mazda2 updated for 2017

The Mazda2 has had another upgrade and according to Managing Director of Mazda New Zealand, David Hodge, the 2017 version is easily “the most impressive small car on the market.”


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Flying cars are coming!

Forget autonomous and electric vehicles, look up and you could be lucky enough to spot a flying car. 

The Kitty Hawk Flyer

Although the technology isn’t quite at the stage of the much-loved cartoon, The Jetsons’, the trend is becoming so popular that the New York Times recently dedicated a full page story to the subject.

The flying car getting the most coverage in the news just lately is the Kitty Hawk Flyer, which has been backed by Google Founder, Larry Page. 

The Kitty Hawk Flyer was unveiled recently and has been designed to fly over water. “You don’t need a pilot’s license and you’ll learn to fly in minutes,” it states on the official website.

Launched recently on the company website, the vehicle has had mixed reactions from critics but for those who are interested, there is already an offer on the table to donate $100 towards a Flyer Discovery Membership, in order to get first dibs on the machine and a $2,000 discount. 

The Terrafugia X

For those who want something a bit more modern and aerodynamic, the Terrafugia X is a concept which looks high-tech and according to designers, it “won’t require an airport for takeoff and landing, and it will drive on all roads and highways – providing the convenience of true door-to-door transportation”.

Terrafugia translates as “escape the Earth” in Latin and was founded by five MIT graduates in 2006. 

At present, the team at Terrafugia is completing final production vehicle design for the Transition, a less high-tech looking vehicle which the company is preparing to deliver within the next three years. According to the company website, the Transition has already received all of the special legal considerations necessary to enter the US market, which means that we could possibly see it in New Zealand within our lifetime. 

The Transition has a folding-wing, with two seats inside the aircraft and at the moment, it runs on premium unleaded petrol. The designers plan to incorporate autonomous flight technology in the future. 

Although the future of flying cars seems exciting, to some, it is not a new trend, in fact people have been designing flying cars since before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang took to the skies!

Harrison and Stringfellow’s ‘Ariel’

In 1841, William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow patented a flying car called ‘Ariel’ which had a wingspan of 150 feet.  It was incapable of flight, however an updated version was built in 1848 which was able to fly short distances. 

The first successful flying car to achieve type certification in the United States was the 1923 Pitcairn PCA-2 which was built by Harold F. Pitcairn and sold in the mass market. 

And even as recently as the 1980s, the Sky Commuter was developed by Boeing engineers and a concept version of the vehicle could be purchased for (US)$71,500.  

The vehicle worked via a gas turbine engine and cost Boeing $6 million dollars in development costs. 

Whatever your feelings are about flying vehicles, their are people out there who are determined to develop a vehicle that will be sustainable, affordable and safe.  The question is, who will succeed?

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Tesla long-haul self-drive this year

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk says self-driving Teslas will travel between Los Angeles and New York by the end of the year.

“November or December of this year, we should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey,” Musk is reported saying on Friday according to TEDblog. 

Musk spoke at the TEDTalk in Vancouver on a number of topics, including his new project, The Boring Co, which aims to create a series of high-speed underground roadways under existing networks for cars.

“We’re trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion,” Musk is reported to have said.

Musk announced via a Twitter during April that: “Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September. Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.” He also tweeted that Tesla’s pickup truck will be unveiled in 18 to 24 months. Tesla also plans on starting production of the small sedan Model 3 during the middle of this year.

Tesla launched its first Supercharger station in Hamilton in April.

“It is extremely important to us and our mission that charging is convenient, abundant, and reliable for all owners, current and future. In 2017, we’ll be doubling the Tesla charging network, expanding existing sites so drivers never wait to charge, and broadening our charging locations within city centers,” Tesla says.

500 Chrysler minivans join AV trial

Local residents can test the self-driving cars

Google’s self-driving car project, recently renamed Waymo, is set to expand in Phoenix, Arizona, with Fiat Chrysler confirming an extra 500 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans will join the 100 already on American roads fitted out with Waymo’s autonomous technology.

Waymo has also announced that members of the public can use the fleet of self-driving cars for everyday travel, and is taking applications from Phoenix residence who want to use the service.

“The collaboration between FCA and Waymo has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market,” says Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

“The addition of 500 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans is a further acknowledgement of the hard work put forth by both engineering teams.”

Waymo CEO John Krafcik says the collaboration is “helping both companies learn how to bring self-driving cars to market, and realise the safety and mobility benefits of this technology.”

The Chrysler minivan’s electrical systems, powertrain and chassis has been modified to accommodate Waymo’s hardware, which has racked up nearly 3 million miles on on-road testing.

With self-driving technology shifting from simulation software to the roads, traditional car companies are teaming up with tech firms to ensure their stake in the rapidly growing business.

Uber’s self-driving trial in partnership with Volvo began in December last year, and stole headlines after an SUV crashed while in autonomous mode. The vehicle was found not to be at fault, and the trial quickly resumed two days later.

Ford teamed up with start-up Argo in February, and plans to begin testing AVs in Europe this year. General Motors bought out Cruise automation in 2016 to bolster their self-driving ambitions, and recently partnered with Lyft to launch self-driving Chevrolet Bolts on the road, currently planned for 2018.

Despite some public unease around self-driving cars, experts are confident autonomous technology is a safer option than human drivers – of the 1.2 million deaths that occur on roads every year, 94 per cent are attributed to human error.  

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MG reveals electric supercar

MG Motor debuted a concept all-electric supercar at Auto Shanghai. The E-motion pays tribute to typical MG style while featuring a plug-in electric motor under the hood in a first for the British car maker.

The electric motor, developed in-house by MG engineers, will achieve 0-100km/h in less than four seconds, and have a range of over 500km.

“The MG E-motion electric supercar concept demonstrates our global vision for the future,” says Matthew Cheyne, head of sales and marketing at MG Motor UK.

“The next-generation model is the latest step in achieving the ultimate driving experience.”

Cheyne told journalists at Auto Shanghai the EV will have a starting price of less than $55,000, and production would commence in 2020.  

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