Tag Archives: Gadgets

Finally, a plug-in hybrid with four-wheel-drive is coming

A graphic of the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid powertrain.

A graphic of the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid powertrain.

(Credit:
Mitsubishi)

News leaked out early today that Mitsubishi will debut its upcoming plug-in hybrid Outlander SUV at the 2012 Paris Motor Show.

Although there is no official news release or announcement from Mitsubishi, Edmunds InsideLine confirmed with a company spokesperson that the SUV is headed to the auto show next fall. It also confirmed that U.S. buyers will get the vehicle either in late 2013 or 2014.

The plug-in hybrid will be based on the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander, and will have three driving modes, including all-electric, serial hybrid, and parallel hybrid. Based on the PX-Miev II Concept that debuted at the 2011 Tokyo Motor show, it’s powered by a 2-liter 70kW engine, two 60kW electric motors, and a 72 cell lithium-ion battery pack. It will have an approximate 30-mile all-electric driving range, and a total driving range of approximately 500 miles on a full tank with the batteries charged.

The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander on which the plug-in hybrid model will be based.

The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander on which the plug-in hybrid model will be based.

(Credit:
Mitsubishi)

This news would make the Mitsubishi Outlander the first SUV to enter the U.S. market with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It is also the first plug-in hybrid vehicle to be equipped with permanent four-wheel-drive. The model will be an attractive buy for cold-weather dwellers who want a jack-of-all-trades vehicle with electric drive capability.

Although overseas
car prices don’t always translate, Australian news outlet Herald Sun says that the plug-in Outlander will be $5,000 more than the internal combustion-engine-equipped SUV. That steep premium means that car buyers won’t be choosing this SUV to save money in the long run. But it may be a price drivers are willing to pay to ease their conscience. This combination of fuel efficiency and utility could be the right recipe for U.S. car buyers who are looking to reduce fuel consumption, but not limit where they go or what they can do with their car.

Source: Edmunds InsideLine

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Ford’s 999cc EcoBoost engine wins top honors at Engine Awards

Ford Focus EcoBoost

Ford’s 999cc engine only has three cylinders, but produces 123 horsepower.

(Credit:
Ford)

2012 International Engine of the Year Awards (pictures)

Click through for the full photo gallery and more details.

This year’s International Engine of the Year Awards saw many repeats from 2011, but stealing the show was a new sub-1-liter engine from Ford. Using direct injection and a turbocharger, this 999cc engine manages to generate 123 horsepower, enough for most subcompact and compact
cars. And in European test cycles, the engine manages well over 50 mpg.

Despite the economy of Ford’s engine, the Green Engine Award went to GM for the range extended electric power train in the Chevy Volt and Opel Ampera.

Here are the various categories, with their respective winners:

  • 2012 International Engine of the Year: Ford 999cc three-cylinder turbo (Ford Focus)
  • Best New Engine of the Year: Ford 999cc three-cylinder turbo (Ford Focus)
  • Green Engine of the Year: GM 1.4-liter four-cylinder range extender (Opel Ampera)
  • Best Performance Engine: Ferrari 4.5-liter V8 (Ferrari 458 Italia)
  • Sub 1-liter: Ford 999cc three-cylinder turbo (Ford Focus)
  • 1-liter to 1.4-liter: Volkswagen 1.4-liter four-cylinder TSI Twincharger (VW Golf, Jetta, Tiguan)
  • 1.4-liter to 1.8-liter: BMW 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo (Mini Cooper S)
  • 1.8-liter to 2-liter: BMW 2-liter four-cylinder turbo (BMW 328i)
  • 2-liter to 2.5-liter: Audi 2.5-liter turbo (Audi TT RS)
  • 2.5-liter to 3-liter: BMW 3-liter six-cylinder turbo (BMW 135i, 335i, 535i, X3)
  • 3-liter to 4-liter: BMW 4-liter V8 (BMW M3)
  • Above 4-liter: Ferrari 4.5-liter V8 (Ferrari 458 Italia)

The International Engine awards are run by UKIP Media. For 2012, judging was done by 76 automotive journalists from 35 countries.

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Scout navigation app: Basic route guidance for free

Scout navigation

The main interface for Scout shows drive times to preloaded work and home addresses.

(Credit:
Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

In light of Apple’s recent announcements about its Maps app, the idea of another navigation app for the
iPhone might seem redundant, but Apple’s program will have a hard time matching the route guidance capabilities of Telenav’s Scout.

This recently released free navigation app builds on Telenav’s extensive experience in mobile navigation. Telenav came up with a new interface design and made the app free as a way of competing in the increasingly cutthroat world of navigation software.

Scout’s major drawbacks are that it is strictly an online app, and voice prompts require a $9.99-a-year subscription. I also found some aspects of the interface a little bit subtle, making it not always apparent how to find certain features and begin navigation.

Most people won’t have a problem with Scout’s online requirement, as the majority of navigating is done in places with a data connection. When I drove into an area with no cell reception, Scout’s maps disappeared, although it did still show a line indicating my direction on the screen. Unlike some other navigation apps, Scout can’t preload maps for a route.

The main interface combines a small map, a search box, points of interest, and buttons for home and work addresses. These buttons automatically compute the drive time for the home and work addresses saved in the app, showing these times right on the main interface. This feature can be particularly useful for people who want to determine the best time to head for work or home, as the drive times will take traffic into account if the app includes the voice guidance annual subscription.

When I first started using Scout, I did not notice any favorites or recent destinations list, and found myself looking up addresses repeatedly with the search box. Poking around the interface, I finally found that touching the Drive button took me to a screen with a recent destination list, a link to my phone’s contacts, and similar saved addresses.

Similarly, after finding a destination with search, Scout brings up a nice little card for the place that includes the address, phone number, crowdsourced reviews, and a button to share the location through e-mail or text messaging. But there is no button that says “Navigate” or “Set this address as a destination.” Instead, I had to touch the address on the screen, which caused Scout to calculate routes.

Scout offered three routes for each destination I chose, then required me to pick one of them and push the navigate button to begin route guidance. It seemed like a lot of steps to go through to begin navigation, but it was nice to have the multiple routes shown right from the start.

Scout navigation

Scout’s route guidance graphics include lane suggestions on freeways, the speed limit, and estimated arrival time.

(Credit:
Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Without the voice prompt upgrade, Scout is a purely visual navigator, and does not take traffic into account. But it worked very well as long as I could clip the phone somewhere in the
car where I could see it. Its turn instructions were easy to follow and shown well in advance of upcoming turns. It also shows maps in 2D or 3D views, at the driver’s preference.

Adding the voice guidance subscription, Scout became much more useful. In fact, I found that I began to rely on it for most navigation, even if I already knew my route. With the upgrade, it does an excellent job of integrating traffic. Frequently I would start out on a trip, and Scout would announce that it adjusted the route based on a traffic problem up ahead. It is quite satisfying to go cruising down a clear road, imagining that somewhere nearby is a massive jam-up.

The voice prompts made it unnecessary to put my phone up on the dashboard, as they included the names of the streets on which I would be turning. These voice prompts also talked through multiple, close-together turns before I reached them, giving some advanced preparation. I was also able to turn off my iPhone’s screen, saving its battery, and still hear the voice prompts.

On arriving at a destination, Scout does not automatically end its route guidance, which would be nice. Instead, I had to either touch the end-trip button, which kind of disappears in the lower right-hand corner of the route guidance screen, or shut down the app. Unlike some other navigation apps, Scout doesn’t automatically resume a route when it is shut down and then restarted.

One other feature that might keep Scout relevant once Apple’s maps app becomes generally available is its integration with the Scout.me Web site and in-car infotainment systems. The Web site is supposed to let users select destinations on their PCs and share them with the phone app. That would be useful when, for example, getting an e-mail with a physical address and pasting it into the Web site. However, the Web site is still in beta, and never linked up with my phone.

The other component of the Scout ecosystem, integration with cars, will have to wait until automakers implement the compatible software. Telenav has a strong working relationship with Ford, so I would expect it would be the first automaker to incorporate Scout. With full implementation, drivers should be able to find a destination using the phone app or Web site, and send it to the car’s navigation system.

Scout is available for the iPhone as a free download. Voice prompts, with traffic routing, can be added for a price of $9.99 per year. Click here to download Scout.

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Saab to live on as electric car manufacturer

The Saab 9-3 ePower, a prototype electric test vehicle.

The Saab 9-3 ePower, a prototype electric test vehicle.

(Credit:
Saab)

The show’s not over for Saab. An investment group agreed to buy the Swedish automotive manufacturer and plans to build electric
cars for the Asian market, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.

Saab’s savior is a Chinese-Japanese investment group, whose key player is energy tycoon Kai Johan Jiang. Jiang founded the alternative energy supplier National Bio-Energy Group in China, and his other company, the National Modern Energy Holdings, owns 51 percent of National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, the company set up to buy Saab, according to BusinessWeek. The remaining 49 percent of National Electric Vehicle Sweden is held by Sun Investment, a Japanese company that plans to bring technology to the table to help build Saab’s electric lineup.

Saab Phoenix concept (photos)

The first electric vehicle will be the 9-3 Electric Car, according to blog SaabUnited.com, with plans to build a new generation 9-3 EV based on the Phoenix platform that debuted in 2011. The company will leverage its existing ePower program to quickly bring the EVs to market.

Saab expects to produce its first EVs sometime in 2013 or 2014, and the vehicles will be built in Saab’s existing facilities in Trollhattan. Interestingly, the new buyers have purchased the patents for the 9-3, but not the 9-4, 9-4x, or 9-5, reports SaabUnited.com. GM has refused to supply parts for the 9-4x following any change of ownership, according to MotorTrend.

The Saab 9-3 ePower.

The Saab 9-3 ePower.

(Credit:
Saab)

The Saab 9-3 ePower.

The Saab 9-3 ePower.

(Credit:
Saab)

You wouldn’t be alone in wondering if this sale will just be another short-lived iteration for the brand that can’t seem to build any traction. The market for electric cars isn’t exactly booming in the U.S. or in China. In fact, the auto market in China has seen a dramatic slowdown, and electric car manufacturer BYD reported a 90 percent drop in sales, according to CRI.com.

Source: Detroit Free Press

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Nissan turns two Jukes into loudest mobile DJ station

Your
car‘s bass may set off car alarms and wake babies, but compared to Nissan’s Juke Box, it is no more than the sound of a pin dropped onto a carpeted floor. The Nissan Juke Box project boasts sound louder than a 747 taking off.

Nissan’s exhibition audio system features not one but two Jukes, each fitted with two 18-inch subwoofers topped by arrays of mid- and high-frequency speakers. Nissan rates the system at 150 decibels from 18,900 watts.

Rather than just dump speakers and amps into the Jukes, Nissan worked with London’s Ministry of Sound, a club that boasts one of the best audio systems in the world. Ministry of Sound brought in Martin Audio, the designers of its club’s system, to build custom cabinets and fit the speakers and amps into the Jukes.

The intention was to create a very loud system that retains excellent audio quality.

Rather than play music off either of the Juke’s head units, the system is designed to be hooked up to a mobile DJ station. The sound projects from the open rear hatches of the Jukes.

The Juke Box, as Nissan calls the whole system, will tour Europe after its Le Mans debut. The Ministry of Sound will also host a Web radio station on its site playing recorded sessions from the Juke Box every other Monday night from 5 to 7 p.m., GMT.

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BMW i focuses on eco-luxury to ready i3 for sale

The BMW i3 Concept.

The BMW i3 Concept.

(Credit:
BMW)

How does a
car manufacturer whose motto is ‘the ultimate driving machine’ sell a front-wheel-drive car that takes 8 seconds to hit 60 mph and tops out at 93 mph? By shifting attention from under the hood to inside the cabin, focusing on the urban-electric lifestyle.

BMW opened its first dedicated BMW i store in London this week. The BMW i3 isn’t scheduled to enter production until 2013, but the company is taking advantage of the summer Olympics to boost the new vehicle line’s presence. The store serves as a showroom for its upcoming line of electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

BMW i3, Pedelec Concept (pictures)

The main draw of the BMWi showroom is the chance to kick the tires of the updated i3 Concept. Unveiled last year, the revamped electric car received a new interior kitted out with eco-friendly materials and styling. Sustainably harvested Eucalyptus wood is used for the instrument panel, high quality wool adorns the cabin, and the upholstery leather was tanned with natural agents instead of chemicals. The materials give the four-seater a loungey feel, according to a BMW press release.

What makes this i3 Concept unique isn’t just the switch from plastic to natural materials. Missing is the protruding center console, gearbox, and tunnel that separates the driver’s cockpit from the passenger. Reverting to the old style bench seats will make it easier for the driver to slide over and exit from the passenger side if needed, which is common in dense urban areas with tight parking quarters.

The interior of the updated i3 Concept.

The interior of the updated i3 Concept.

(Credit:
BMW)

Electronics are also a main focus inside the i3 cabin. Three displays, including an 8.8-inch display on the dash and 6.5-inch instrument cluster display, relay vehicle information to the driver with full graphics. That’s a lot of LCD coming from a company that once thought cupholders were distracting in vehicles.

The i3’s power output remains unchanged at 170 horsepower. However, BMW released photos and information on its high-speed i Wallbox, which can recharge the i3’s battery up to 80 percent in just an hour.

In addition to the i3, the BMW i store will also show off the i Pedelec Concept (Pedal Electric Cycle), a two-wheeled counterpart to the i3. The compact, foldable e-bike helps riders peddle up to 16 mph and has an range of 16-25 miles. Conveniently, two Pedelecs can be stored in the cargo area of an i3 with the seats folded flat, and they can also be charged from inside the car. Using a standard electric socket, the bikes take up to four hours to recharge an empty battery, or only 1.5 hours using a fast charger, according to BMW. Despite the Pedelec’s compact portable nature, don’t think you’ll be carrying it around with you everywhere — it weighs more than 44 poinds.

BMW i8 Concept Spyder (photos)

These two products are wrapped up in what BMW calls its 360-degree Electric Mobility package. This package includes such services as home and public charging, and smartphone apps for travel planning. For single-car households, BMW will provide access to its DriveNow shared vehicle network.

BMW seems to be following Tesla’s lead by opening retail shops in non-traditional locations. A different kind of car needs a different kind of sales channel, and customers may need a little more hand-holding to make the electric switch. The freestanding BMW i-branded stores should help customers shift their focus from the performance they’ve come to expect from BMW vehicles and instead marvel at a different kind of engineering that will affect not just their commute, but electrify their lives.

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