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EVs and hybrid vehicles reach 3m worldwide

Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid vehicles units have reached 3 million worldwide. 

Numbers of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles are only going to get bigger, as they are at the top of the priority list for auto manufacturers.

EV Volumes has predicted that there could be 5 million EVs and hybrid vehicles worldwide by the end of 2018.

Countries like China and Norway are reigning the leader board in terms of how many plug-in vehicles are on their roads.

China had an impressive 184,000 plug-in vehicles in 2017, a 15 per cent increase from 2016 (28,000 units). One third of vehicle sales are plug-in models in Norway, which will rise to 40 per cent thanks to Norway’s government incentives and subsidies to reach carbon neutral targets.

The electric fleet in New Zealand is also growing exponentially with a whopping 6,884 EVs and hybrids recorded in February 2018.

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CHCH polytech training with hybrid EV

Students training as Electrical and Mechanical Automotive Engineers at a polytechnic in Canterbury now have access to a hybrid car, exposing them to the swift technological developments in the industry. ­

Hybrid cars are becoming more popular in New Zealand, having increased from 12 cars to 1330 in the three years since the end of ­2013, according to NZTA statistics.

Source: NZTA

Ara (formerly Christchurch Polytech), who is offering the new training options to students, in the past has focused on traditional cars.  Tutor David McBlain supports the Institute’s move to train students in the emergent technologies.

“As a college we’ve obviously got to adapt and keep up with the latest technology so that the students can actually see what is available and how the technology is actually developing for the future.”

McBlain owns a fully electric vehicle and says he has experienced the benefits first hand. He says that the benefits of charging his vehicle at night outweigh the costs of paying for fuel.

“My car is a short range vehicle and will do 120-130km on a single charge. I commute 100kms a day, so it’s enough for me to get in and out to work.”

McBlain also says that the mechanical challenges presented by EVs are simpler to remedy than those of the internal combustion engine.

“When you look at the technology involved in an electric vehicle and under the bonnet, there is actually far less componentry to go wrong. There’s no gear box, it’s just a final drive. Engine losses are minimal. Acceleration is much superior.”

At present, manufacturers generally service their own EV models, so there is little scope for training apprentices to service EVs. Students at Ara’s Electrical and Mechanical Automotive Engineers programme are likely training for future positions with manufacturers or in house servicing that is provided by the manufacturers.

McBlain stresses the importance of equipping students for the market which they will enter as graduates.

“The technology is here now and it’s only a matter of time over the next couple of years, for the electric vehicles to become more prevalent in New Zealand and Australia. They’re coming now so the future mechanics need to be trained and ready.”

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Toyota, Mazda to build joint EV plant

Executives announced the partnership at a conference in Tokyo over the weekend.

Japanese rivals Toyota and Mazda have announced they will join forces to build a $2.2 billion electric car factory in the US.

Toyota has also announced a plan to take a five per cent share of Mazda Motor Corp as part of the new joint venture.

The plant will be capable of producing 300,000 vehicles a year, executives told journalists at a news conference in Tokyo, and will employ approximately 4,000 people. Vehicle production is slated to begin in 2021.

Reuters reports that future EVs will include a Toyota Corolla and a Mazda crossover utility vehicle.

“There will be new rivals appearing – Apple, Google – these are IT companies, we also need to compete with them too,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

Toyoda said that the development of electric vehicles and alternative energy, which he has been overseeing in the company since last year, was different than traditional combustion engines.

“There are no nautical charts for us to follow,” he added. “It’s without precedent.”

Toyota has previously set a goal for all vehicles to be zero emission by 2050. Until now, the top-selling car maker has been investing heavily in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles over EVs, which it said are best suited for short-distance commuting.

Toyota and Mazda are the two of the top-selling passenger car brands in New Zealand, taking out first and third place respectively in both new and used passenger vehicle sales last month.

A future mass-produced Toyota EV would cause a storm amongst electric Kiwi drivers; the major electric-powered Toyota model currently on the market, the Prius, was New Zealand’s top-selling hybrid and eighth highest-selling used vehicle overall in July. 

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Lexus LC Coupe debuts in New Zealand

The Lexus LC 500 Coupe has launched in New Zealand, with 10 models already snapped up on pre-order.  

Two powertrain options are available on the two-door coupe, which is built in Lexus’ Motomachi factory. A 5.0-litre V8 engine powers the petrol variant and is matched to a 10-speed automatic transmission, producing 351kW of power and 540Nm of torque.

A hybrid option is also available, which contains a 3.5-litre V6 engine partnered with a 310-volt lithium-on battery for a total 264kW of power.  The hybrid engine is matched to a combined CVT gearbox and traditional four-speed automatic transmission.

Since its launch, the Lexus LC 500 has won several design awards, including the 2016 Production Car Design of the Year, and ‘best production car’ design at its launch at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The ergonomically-designed cabin also contains a 10.3-inch infotainment system and Satellite Navigation. Drivers can choose from six driving modes – ECO, Comfort, Normal, Customise, Sport S and Sport S+.

The LC 500 and 500h come with the Lexus Safety System+, which includes pre-crash safety system, autonomous emergency braking, an all-sleep dynamic radar cruise control, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure alert, and vehicle sway warning.

Pricing starts at $215,000 for the glass-roof model with either the V8 or hybrid powertrain.

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NZ launch for hybrid MINI

The first-ever plug-in hybrid MINI is due to launch in New Zealand in August. The Cooper S E Countryman has borrowed technology from BMW’s iPerformance electric vehicles to develop the battery and electrified all-wheel drive.

The 3-cylinder petrol engine is matched to an electric motor powered by a 7.6kWh battery, developed at BMW’s Dingolfing plant.

The hybrid engine delivers a maximum system output of 165kW of power and 385Nm of torque, and contains a modified 6-speed Streptronic transmission.

A full battery charge takes just over three hours from a conventional wall socket. The hybrid delivers a top all-electric speed of 125km/hr with a range of up to 41 kilometers. Fuel consumption has been rated at 2.3l/100km.

“With the new MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, for the first time we have the hallmark ‘go-kart feel’ driving experience of a MINI with the benefit of electric, zero-emission motoring”, said BMW Group New Zealand managing director Florian Renndorfer.  

The hybrid motor is controlled by an energy management system, which optimises on-road driving efficiency and performance, allowing for emissions-free driving in day-to-day traffic and a combination of fuel and electric power when intense acceleration is needed.

Pricing for the Cooper S E Countryman starts at $59,000 plus on-road costs.

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NZ date set for Lexus LC 500 launch

Lexus has announced its New Zealand launch of the LC 500 coupe, with the vehicle to hit domestic dealerships from mid-July.

The new LC 500 contains a 5.0-litre V8 engine, which generates 351kW of power and 540Nm of torque, and is matched to Lexus’ first direct shift 10-speed close ratio automatic transmission. 0-100km/hr takes 4.7 seconds.

The 500h is powered by a 264kW 3.5-litre V6 hybrid engine containing a lithium-ion battery and two electric motors paired with a new multi-stage hybrid transmission. Engineers have combined a CVT gearbox with a conventional four-speed automatic to emulate a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Reaching 0-100km/hr is a fraction slower than the V8 500, at ‘under five seconds’, according to Lexus. An ‘EV-only mode’ has been included, where the driver can switch off the petrol engine at speeds up to 140km/h, although there’s been no confirmation of driving range.

Pricing will begin at $215,000 for the glass-roof model in both the V8 and hybrid powertrain, and $220,000 for the carbon-fibre roof option, which contains four-wheel steering and variable gear-ratio steering.

Ten vehicles have already been pre-ordered in New Zealand. In Japan, buyers face a three-year waiting list due to high demand.

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Mevo pod a hit

New Zealand’s first electric hybrid car-share company, Mevo, has added a pick-up- zone on Queens Wharf called the Mevo Pod.


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‘Edgier’ NX SUV destined for NZ

Lexus has unveiled an edgier looking NX compact SUV at Auto Shanghai that will arrive in New Zealand before the end of the year.
Paul Carroll, the senior general manager of Lexus New Zealand, says “the styling of the latest model has been taken to the next level”.

Carroll expects the 2018 NX to continue the strong surge of sales by SUVs. Three quarters of Lexus’ sales last year were SUVs, with the NX and RX taking the lion’s share, with nearly three quarters of them being hybrid models.

Lexus has sold 183 new passenger vehicles in New Zealand during the year to March 2017 and has 0.7 per cent of the new passenger vehicle market share here.

Lexus’ Safety System + will now be available on all new models. It combines the pre-collision system, radar cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beam and intelligence clearance sonar. The suspension has also been revised to improve turn in steering response.

The NX will continue to be available in standard, Limited and F Sport models with a choice of two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive across the seven-model range.
Details on engine specification and pricing will be announced closer to the New Zealand launch date.
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Prius the top-selling car in Japan for 2016

The Toyota Prius was the best-selling vehicle in Japan for the 2016 financial year for the first time in five years, according to Toyko-based newspaper Japan Today.

For the year ending March 31, 2017, the Prius sold 225,066 units, a 44.3 per cent increase on 2016. Second was the Honda minicar N-Box, which sold 192,369 units, followed by the Toyota Aqua Hybrid, which sold 155,566 units.

The fourth-generation Prius XW50, first released in December 2015 to strong sales, is the most fuel efficient model yet, consuming 4.4L/100 km. Only three plug-in hybrid models have a higher rating – the Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3 REx and Prius PHV.

This was followed with the release of the second-generation plug-in Prius Prime PHV in February of this year, which also helped boost sales.

Strong Prius sales in Japan will be a boon for New Zealand importers and drivers, with used Prius sales doubling year-on-year last month as demand continues to grow.  

The hybrid has recently one of the most popular imported used cars in the country, hitting the monthly top ten for the first time in March 2017 with 389 vehicles sold.

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Ford plans to electrify its EV fleet

Ford has announced plans to electrify most of their fleet by 2025, beginning with two new EVs for the Chinese market.

The Mondeo Energi, set to launch in early 2018, will be the first plug-in hybrid manufactured by Ford’s Chinese operations. Another fully electric small EV will be released within five years.

According to the Society of Automotive Engineers of China, new-energy vehicles are expected to account for over 15 per cent of total passenger vehicle sales in China by 2025.

“The time is right for Ford to expand our EV lineup and investments in China,” said president and CEO Mark Fields in a statement.

“We are prioritising our electrification efforts on China to reflect its importance as a global electrified vehicle market.”

Ford plans to offer a range of EV vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully battery-powered electric vehicles. The car maker aims to add electric powertrain options to 70 per cent of the vehicle models they produce by 2025.

Nearly $6.5 billion has been invested so far into electrifying Ford’s fleet. 

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Three cars earn five-star ANCAP ratings

Hyundai i20

Four cars have been tested in the latest round of Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) safety ratings, with three of four receiving a five-star rating.

The Audi A5, Volvo S90 and Hyundai Ioniq hybrid all achieved the top rating. A second Hyundai model, the i20 hatch and crossover, only received four stars. This rating applies to vehicles released in New Zealand from December last year.

AA Motoring Services general manager Stella Stocks said the result will be disappointing for consumers, and the Korean brand usually has a strong track record for car safety.

“Safety standards are rising, which means car markets need to push harder to meet consumer expectations,” Stocks said.

Most new cars come with crash prevention technology such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and emergency brake assist as standard. However, none of these are available on the i20.

The Hyundai hatch scored lower marks in child occupant protection, which was rated at 73 per cent, and safety assist, rated at 64 per cent. Adult occupant protection was rated at 85 per cent.

The other three cars were lauded for their safety features by ANCAP chief executive officer James Goodwin.

“Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and reversing collision avoidance are however standard on all variants of the new hybrid model introduced by Hyundai – the Ioniq. Lane support systems and a manual speed limiter are also standard features adding to its top safety credentials,” he said. The five-star rating applies to all vehicles produced from February this year.

Goodwin added that the advanced safety technologies on the Volvo S90 “performed extremely well, with complete collision avoidance in all scenarios and at all test speeds,” but noted the knee airbag, which is standard in European models, was not found in Australasian models. Volvo S90s sold after October 2016 fall under the five-star rating.

“High scores were also achieved by the Audi A5 which is equipped with an ‘active’ bonnet and advanced AEB system which can detect and avoid collisions with pedestrians,” Goodwin concluded. The rating applies to cars produced March onwards.

Safety specifications, however, do differ between the Australasian A5 models, with adaptive cruise control and lane support systems standard for New Zealand consumers but optional in Australia.

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