Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New vehicle only one metre wide designed for cities

A revolutionary new type of vehicle only one metre wide and specially designed to drive in cities is being developed by a team of European scientists.
The vehicle combines the safety of a micro-car and the manoeuvrability of a motorbike, while being more fuel-efficient and less polluting than other vehicles.

The CLEVER (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) vehicle is a £1.5 million collaborative project involving nine European partners from industry and research and part of which is under development at the University of Bath’s Centre for Power Transmission and Motion Control.
The aim is to produce a stylish tilting three-wheeled vehicle that is fully enclosed and has seats for the driver and a passenger. Its strengthened frame will protect the driver in a crash and the vehicle will have a top speed of approximately 50 mph.
At just over three feet (1 metre) wide, it is 20 inches (0.5 metres) less than a micro-car, and three feet less than a medium sized conventional car. This reduced width means more efficient parking bays, and the possibility of narrower lanes for such vehicles.

Read full article here. With thanks to Peter Flanagan.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ford Hybrid Concept Car: the Reflex

Ford's Reflex concept is a small sports car that incorporates a number of interesting features, including a diesel/electric hybrid system that captures power from solar panels on the car, as well as an interior camera — dubbed "baby cam" — that streams live video of the rear seats to the driver. Smaller than the Nissan 350Z, the Reflex's front fascia features Ford's new three-bar grille, which in this application is made of aluminum and has a matte finish. Taking a cue from high-end, exotic sports cars, the Reflex has swing-wing doors that are hinged in back. Polished-alloy wheels measure 20 inches in diameter, and the roof of the car is fitted with solar-powered fans that circulate air when the car is parked. Inside, the Reflex has two front bucket seats and a small backseat roomy enough for two children or an adult. Mesh material covers the seats, and the rear seat belts have integrated inflatable bags in the shoulder strap that deploy during a collision to disperse crash forces across the chest. For the littlest of kids, a rear-facing child safety seat is included.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

DaimlerChrysler eyes takeover of Smart engine plant

STUTTGART, Germany (MarketWatch) -- German-U.S. carmaker DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) intends to fully take over the plant that produces the engines for the Smart "forfour" model and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s (7211.TO) Colt model, according to an application filed for the deal.
The Federal Cartel Office published the application.
The eastern Germany-based plant, which is operated by MDC Power GmbH, is a 50-50 joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi.
DaimlerChrysler has said it will stop producing the Smart forfour model and is in talks with Mitsubishi over compensation payments for canceling the partnership contract, which would otherwise have expired in 2010.
DaimlerChrysler wasn't immediately available to comment.

View source.

Happy Earth Day

Friday, April 21, 2006

Most NedCar workers join strike

21 April 2006
AMSTERDAM — Only 370 of the 1,000 people scheduled to work turned up for their shift at the only major car assembly plant in the Netherlands on Friday morning.
There was some jeering but no physical confrontations as the minority crossed the picket line at the NedCar factory in Born. The assembly lines were kept running but production levels were far lower than normal.
NedCar, the only large-scale automobile producer in the Netherlands, started in August 1991 as a joint venture between Mitsubishi, Volvo and the Dutch State. It is currently 100 percent owned by Mitsubishi.
The assembly plant's future has been called into question by DaimlerChrysler's decision to halt production of the Smart ForFour there. This leaves NedCar with production of Mitsubishi's Colt, but there are no guarantees it will get the order to build the Colt's successor.
Talks between Mitsubishi and NedCar's management have failed to generate commitments about the future, though the Japanese firm said it would allow NedCar to seek a replacement for the ForFour.
The strike is intended to pressure Mitsubishi into guaranteeing the plant's future and to backtrack on its decision to cut one shift of 1,000 people due to the cancellation of the ForFour order.

Read more here.

How smart is Smart for you?

21 April 2006
Gavin McGrath
The tiniest car Australians can buy is the Smart Fortwo. It's cute, built by Mercedes-Benz and has the kind of fuel efficiency that would have greenies and economic rationalists in cheerful agreement.
Trendy European urban dwellers love them. The Smart Fortwo is all the rage in Italy, where petrol prices are now more than $2 a litre and finding a parking spot is only slightly easier than finding an echidna.
Smart has great hopes for Australia, where about two-thirds of the population, representing nearly 13 million people, now live in the nation's state capital cities.
"People in Italy who can often afford to drive a big car on the weekend would not dare to drive it in town during the week. They buy a Smart especially for that," Smart spokesman Tony Andreevski says.
Read full article here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Auto Matters - The End of Adventure in NY City : Jan's Blog

It looks like my trip across America by SMART car was a resounding success. With only one minor, easily corrected hiccup along the way, my SMART car performed well. It was able to do the posted speed limits - which were as high as 75 MPH. Headroom was incredible, with a good six inches of clearance above my head, and the seat was comfortable. The heating and air conditioning systems worked well and, considering the diminutive external dimensions of the car, it had an amazing amount of space inside. Normally one person doesn't take three suitcases (I brought computer equipment, camera gear and two weeks worth of clothes, in addition to leaving some space intentionally empty so that I could bring back materials from the auto show), so your luggage would probably fit without taking up so much room.
My calculated fuel economy varied somewhat during the trip, from a high of 52 MPG after a leg between California and Arizona, to a low of 34 MPG after a particularly nasty stretch of road in California that included a long climb uphill in windy conditions. My average mileage was probably in the low to mid-40 MPG range. Then there is the rock star factor. There was hardly a time when I wasn't approached by curious onlookers when I stopped. They really liked the car and were eager to learn more about it.

See blog here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Two-seat electric cars to be built in St. Jerome

MIKE KING, The Montreal Gazette Published: Friday, April 14, 2006
Automobile manufacturing is about to return to the lower Laurentians, switching from the production of gas-guzzling muscle cars four years ago to environmentally friendly electric vehicles.
But don't expect to see any of the battery-powered Zenn minicars on Quebec streets - or elsewhere in Canada - any time soon.
Although the Zenn (Zero Emission No Noise) meets all federal highway regulations, British Columbia is the only province so far where the vehicle can be legally licensed.
The Zenn is a tiny two-seater similar to the popular Smart Car.
Feel Good Cars Corp. of Toronto has leased 40,000 square feet of extra space in the Bauer Nike Hockey Inc. skate and helmet plant in St. Jerome, 60 kilometres north of Montreal, to serve as the primary production and research and development facility for the Zenn.
"It'll take about a month to get things outfitted and ready to go," company chief executive Ian Clifford told The Gazette by phone. "We chose St. Jerome because ITAQ is there."
It was at ITAQ, the Quebec Advanced Transportation Institute, that the Zenn prototype was created. ITAQ is a government-funded agency that is intended to be a catalyst for the development of sustainable transportation technologies. Clifford said his firm paid ITAQ "close to six figures" for its consulting and engineering services.
View source.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Drivers Licence Coming short?

Winner of Smart South Africa's branded car competition
By Marchelle Hermanus
Smaller hatchback cars seem to be all the rage these days, with many fledgling drivers opting to go for these instead of the "accident-prone" bulky variety. But now a Gauteng law impacting on learner drivers is soon to be ruled as a nationwide law. Learner drivers, beware.
According to reports, the Transport Department has passed new laws, already being adhered to in Gauteng, governing the length of vehicles used in tests nationwide.
So what does this mean for those who plan on getting their drivers license any time soon? It means that if the car you plan on passing with doesn't measure three metres from bumper to bumper, you won't be allowed to take the test.
Cape Town driving instructor Nino Julius says lately many things have been happening in the traffic department that driving schools are unaware of — such as the new driver's licence laws. "As far as my knowledge is concerned, we don't know something like that happening, it's news to me," he said.

See complete story here.http://motoring.iafrica.com/215860.htm

Driving-licence laws get smart

11/04/2006 23:26 - (SA)
Eagan Williamson, Beeld
Pretoria - Learner drivers trying to get their licence in a car less than 3m long haven't a chance of passing, warns a traffic department chief.
"A pair of oversized spotlights, a towbar or a big bumper won't make a short car long enough - the learner driver just won't get a licence," is the word from Centurion licence-office chief Wouter Marais.
He was talking on Tuesday about new legislation setting a minimum length for light vehicles used for driver's licences.
"You'll fail on the spot if your vehicle isn't the required 3 m long," said Marais.
The legislation stipulates that a passenger vehicle may not be shorter than 3m and a heavy vehicle not shorter than 6m.
Marais said a specific list of vehicles which did not comply with the required 3 m had not been prepared for them yet, but the perky little Smart car, for example, would not meet the standard.
Marais suggested that prospective applicants for licences should first make sure at home that their vehicles were long enough, before they went for the test.

Read the full story here.

Members agree with Kevin's Smart idea

Cambridge Evening News
A CABBIE with a Smart idea to create Britain's smallest fleet of taxis has been given the go-ahead by supportive councillors.
K evin McCarthy has been told he can run tiny two-seater Smart cars as taxis.
Councillors on the East Cambridgeshire District Council Licensing Committee ignored offical advice and stamped their seal of approval on the scheme - the first of its kind in the UK.
Mr McCarthy, 46, questioned hundreds of passengers to see if they would use the two-seater cars as taxis after 80 per cent of his fares involved ferrying just one person around.
Smart cars are distinctive for their small size and low fuel consumption, which make them economic to run and environmentally friendly.
Mr McCarthy said: "My customers all thought it was a great idea because it would make them feel like they are doing their bit for the environment.

Read full article here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

ZAP Showcases Brazilian OBVIO !

Alcohol-Gas-Electric ''Trybrid'' Microcar at New York International Auto Show; Additional Consumer Products and Efficient Vehicles Will Also Be Featured
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 13, 2006--Automotive pioneer ZAP (NYSE Arca:ZP)(PCX:ZP) announced today that the OBVIO ! 828, a Brazilian concept car utilizing "trybrid" technology -- gasoline, electricity, and alcohol -- will be on view at the New York International Auto Show, which runs April 14-23, 2006 at The Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City.
Unlike the current gas-electric hybrids, ZAP says its "trybrid" designs run on three sources of energy: gasoline, electricity, and alcohol. ZAP has contracted with OBVIO ! for exclusive US distribution of Brazilian-made automobiles.
"The New York International Auto Show is the ideal opportunity for introducing the OBVIO ! to forward-thinking drivers, media and investors. Americans are recognizing the importance of multi-fueled, environmentally friendly, and fun vehicles. Additionally, Brazil is gaining recognition as a leader in gas-ethanol engine technologies and conserving natural resources. The OBVIO ! is a prime illustration of these concepts. Fuel-efficient vehicles are playing an increasing role on the highways and in our society. Through ZAP's automotive portal, we are pleased to offer consumers overseas vehicles, like the OBVIO !, for use in the US," remarked Steve Schneider, CEO of ZAP.

Read more here.

Daimler gears up for faster growth

Wednesday, April 12, 2006; Posted: 12:30 p.m. EDT (16:30 GMT)

BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- DaimlerChrysler is poised to raise its profitability through 2006 but will continue to cut jobs as it works to reinvigorate its marquee Mercedes-Benz product lineup, chief executive Dieter Zetsche said Wednesday.

The company also will stick with struggling compact brand Smart, he said.
"We are not satisfied with last year's results," Zetsche told some 8,000 shareholders of the world's fifth-largest automaker at a Berlin convention center. "We can only safeguard the future of our company and the jobs of our workers if we achieve profitable growth."

Zetsche, making his first appearance as CEO at the annual meeting, got a much warmer reception than his predecessor Juergen Schrempp, who was greeted last year with boos amid mounting problems at Mercedes Car Group -- rising losses, a recall and problems with the Smart unit.

Read full article here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lithium Technology Delivers Battery for Zytek Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Program

Source: Business Wire [Apr 04, 2006]
SYNOPSIS: These batteries can be charged by either the ICE, by regenerative breaking, or by household mains (plug-in hybrid), and will have a modest all-electric range.

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa.--April 4, 2006--Lithium Technology Corporation ("LTC") (OTC Bulletin Board:LTHU), a leading manufacturer in the rapidly emerging large format rechargeable Lithium battery market, announced today that it has delivered, through its wholly owned German subsidiary GAIA Akkumulatorenwerke GmbH in Germany, a Li-ion battery for a hybrid vehicle that is being developed by UK based automotive technology specialists Zytek Systems as part of the Energy Saving Trust's Ultra-Low Carbon Car Challenge (ULCCC).
In March 2005, Zytek was awarded grant funding from the Energy Saving Trust for the 2nd phase of their ULCCC project to develop a new high efficiency, dual mode hybrid vehicle. The vehicle is based on the new Smart forfour and will utilize a hybrid power train based on 1500cc, 3-cylinder turbo charged diesel engine coupled to 2 high-efficiency permanent-magnet electric motors.
Zytek has ordered three Li-ion batteries with output of 288 V, a capacity of 7.5 Ah (or about 2.2 kWh of energy) and with a capability to deliver 25 kW of power. These batteries can be charged by either the ICE, by regenerative breaking, or by household mains (plug-in hybrid), and will have a modest all-electric range. The first battery has been installed in the vehicle and road tests will commence shortly. The remaining two batteries will be delivered in April 2006.

Read full article here.
Read related SCOOT article here.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spy Photos Of The Newest Smart ForTwo

Posted on April 6, 2006
Although not scheduled for release until April of 2007, spy photographer extraordinaire 'skoochyatone' has just sent us the first images of what we can expect from the newest smart fortwo.
As you can see from the photos, it appears the latest smart will remain similar in shape and size to the current model. Early rumors indicate the next smart fortwo will feature more streamlined headlights (see last photo), and despite the disguise, the spy photos appear to substantiate this fact. It also appears as though the new smart will be moving away from the three-tiered rear lights and adopting a more traditional approach, a move that most smart owners won't be losing any sleep over. View source here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dealership to sell Smart Car in Kirkland

The first authorized dealership in Washington to sell the DaimlerChrysler Smart Car will unveil the car in Kirkland this weekend.
The Green Car Co. dealership will sell the tiny Mercedes Smart Car, rated at 40 miles per gallon and only 8 feet long. In comparison, a Mini Cooper is 12 feet long.
The Smart Car is powered by a 61-horsepower turbocharged engine. The sticker price ranges from $26,900 for a hardtop to a $29,900 for a convertible.
The Green Car Co. is licensed by California-based Zap (NYSE: ZP) to sell American versions of the Smart Car. The car, however, does not meet regulatory requirements in several of the states, including California. Zap also will sell another fuel-efficient vehicle, its Xebra city car, later this year, according to Zap.

AutoMatters: ZAP's SMART Cars are On The Road

How easy is the SMART car to park? The results to both of these tests were made clear at our lunch stop in San Francisco. After our obligatory photo shoot of the SMART cars with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, we made our way alongside cable cars to world famous Fisherman's Wharf. The problem is, we could only find three parking spaces and there were six SMART cars. What were we to do?
The answer was plain to see: park two cars to a space. We did and there was even room to spare. It was an amazing sight. These cars are really, really short. They passed Test 5 with flying colors and, in the process, drew a large crowd of curious onlookers. Trying to answer their many questions made our lunch break much longer than we had intended, but that was fine. The whole point of this tour is to let people know about SMART cars, and they really seem eager to learn.

Read more about Zap's smart trek from Santa Rosa, CA to New York City here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mitsubishi's Dutch car-making unit confirms plans to downsize

Bruce Mutsvairo
Associated Press

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Mitsubishi Motor Corp.'s Dutch car-making unit NedCar is expected to slash "a few hundred jobs" in a reorganization aimed at cutting production costs, a spokeswoman said.
A company statement said Mitsubishi ordered its Dutch operation to downsize to one shift as it closes the assembly line for the four-seat forFour model of DaimlerChrysler AG's Smart car, keeping production only of the Mutsubishi's Colt.
Earlier Monday, workers downed tools to express concern over the plans to discontinue production of the Smart model, and threatened more labor sanctions to come.
"What action would you expect from the employees? We will continue to press ahead with strikes," workers representative Jean Wouters told Dutch Television.
Company spokeswoman Liz Tans said it was uncertain how many workers would be affected by the restructuring, but local media put the figure at about 1,000.
Tans said negotiations would continue, but "it's clear a few hundred people will lose their jobs."
"Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has requested NedCar to draft a restructuring plan for a one-shift operation, based on a current production volume of Mitsubishi Colt, in the context of intended smart forFour exit," said a NedCar statement.

Read full story here.

Smart Cars to ZAP Across America

Rally Around Smarter Cars
On April 4 an eclectic group of men and women ages 22 to 66 will journey across the United States of America with the aim of reaching the New York International Auto Show, celebrating Earth Day, and returning home, all to raise awareness about advanced technology vehicles. The Smart Car Americanized for ZAP -- the most fuel-efficient all-gas turbo in the country -- has received the regulatory green light through its registered importer to allow for the distribution of the Smart ForTwo Coupe and Cabriolet in the USA. We are now commencing auto sales through authorized and licensed ZAP dealers throughout the country while seeking a select group of dealers to expand its business plan marketing micro-cars.

ZAP with us at:http://www.zapworld.com/blog

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Why Smart was not so smart in North America

The little car should have been the brand of the new millennium

National Post
John LeBlanc, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, March 31, 2006

At the peak of its success in Europe, chic and fashionable Smart cars cluttered crowded European city streets. This early success eventually led to Smart fielding a three-car lineup consisting of the iconic two-passenger fortwo that's been selling in Canada since the 2005 model year, the funky and fun fortwo-based roadster and the four- passenger forfour. And even more Smarts were on the horizon. A ruggedly styled SUV version of the forfour dubbed the formore was planned as a Trojan horse for Smart into the American market.
Despite becoming an icon of European city living, the Smart brand has run at a financial loss for its owners at DaimlerChrysler since its inception in 1998.
Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that after months of speculation as to the ultimate fate of the business and its products, DaimlerChrysler has made the decision that the money-losing brand will live to fight another day; it will just have fewer arrows in its quiver.

Read full article here.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Smart Car Helps Township 'Go Green'

Langley Times
By Natasha Jones Times Reporter
Mar 31 2006

When it comes to fleet vehicles, size matters — to the environment and taxpayers. That’s why Langley Township has bought a Smart car for its bylaw enforcement department. With a pre-tax price of $21,000, the Smart car, made by Daimler Chrysler, is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles available. It operates on biodiesel, which is derived from natural oils such as soybean oil, and blended with petroleum-based diesel. The price is $7,000 less than the Township would pay to replace more traditional vehicles used in its fleet, and will save almost $4,000 a year in fuel costs.

Photo: Langley Township chief bylaw enforcement officer Bill Storie stands
next to a new Smart car that the Township has bought for his department. The car
is one of several elements in a Township plan to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions. The municipality will be releasing a greenhouse gas emissions plan
next month.

Read full story here.
[I am not sure about the biodiesel bit. I will make enquiries]

Focusing on the smart fortwo

  • New smart fortwo to be launched in 2007
  • Cancellation of production of smart forfour intended, subject to negotiations with
  • Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and other partners
  • Sustainable profitability confirmed

Stuttgart, Germany, March 25, 2006

DaimlerChrysler AG is planning to focus on the smart fortwo to ensure the long-term sustainability of its smart brand. Thus, the profitability of smart will be confirmed, with positive results expected from 2007 onward.
The planned measures for a further enhancement of the business modell of smart include the following items:

  • The clear focus on the smart fortwo;
  • the intention to cancel production of the smart forfour;
  • the manifestation of smart and especially the smart fortwo as a long-term and important part of DaimlerChrysler’s product portfolio;

as well as the complete integration of smart into the Mercedes organization.
Overall, these measures are likely to result in a headcount reduction of 300 employees at smart in Böblingen.
The smart forfour is produced by MMC through its wholly-owned subsidiary Netherlands Car B.V. (Nedcar) in Born, Netherlands. The cancellation of the forfour production is still subject to negotiations to be carried out with MMC and all other partners.
The measures described above are still subject to approval by both the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board of DaimlerChrysler AG. The cost for DaimlerChrysler related to these measures are estimated to be in the magnitude of approximately EUR 1 billion.

Source www.daimlerchyrsler.com