Sunday, March 28, 2010

First U.S. site for Smart car2go concept is Austin, Texas

It might be the oil-rich state, but Texas will be the first U.S. home for Daimler’s innovative, environmentally aware car2go pay-as-you-go city-transport concept.
The concept has just moved from the pilot phase to a full-time business for the 120,000 residents of Ulm, Germany, and Daimler has announced that 200 car2go Smart Fortwos will flood downtown Austin this fall.
This isn’t the first car-sharing scheme in the United States, but it might be one of the simplest, and it’s backed by the auto industry’s oldest name. Daimler’s idea for car2go is to make driving through traffic-clogged cities as cheap as talking on a mobile phone.
Loosely based on Paris’s noted Velib city bicycle system, Ulm dwellers or visitors can drive away in any car2go vehicle for 19 cents a minute by showing the car a chip attached to their licenses.
“The idea is that when you want a car, you just take it, and when you’ve finished with the car, you just leave it,” car2go project manager Robert Henrich, said. He said it’s a free-flowing system and you never have to return the car to where you picked it up. “So if you want to cross the city, you just take a car, cross the city and then leave it.”
The Austin trial will start with 200 Fortwo Micro Hybrid Drives for city employees and, to make the system more environmentally friendly, they will use an automatic start-stop function to kill the engine when the cars are stationary.
Daimler hopes that the Austin version will develop like the Ulm project, which began with 50 cars for 500 employees in October 2008, spread to 100 cars for 1,000 users this February and now has 200 cars available for any resident to use any time.
With 750,000 people, Austin is much larger than Ulm, but Austin is known for its open-mindedness, its high cycling rates and its public transportation systems.
“We very much look forward to becoming the first international partner of car2go,” Austin Mayor Will Wynn said.
“Our city is known for its strong sense of environmental responsibility. The project has our full support,” he said.
Jérome Guillen, director of the Business Innovation department at Daimler that developed the car2go concept, said, “We deliberately chose a large American city. In the U.S.A., the car-sharing market has the highest growth rates in the world.
“Membership is free. We’ve taken a lesson from the mobile phone industry and you pay by the minute, which covers all the fuel and insurance costs as well,” he said.
Daimler eventually hopes to have cars within a three-minute walk of every city driver, with a fleet of cleaners keeping them pristine around city streets.
The automaker hinted that the system may upgrade from the fuel-sipping CDI Smart to a fully electric Smart that is being tested in London.

2010 New York Preview: Are GM’s EN-V concepts the future or folly?

Toronto Star - John LeBlanc
As a follow up to last year’s two-seat Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility concept developed with Segway, Government Motors brought to last year’s New York auto show, the U.S. automaker has released details of a trio of new Electric Networked-Vehicles (EN-V) concepts for this year’s Big Apple show media days, scheduled for next week.
This time around, GM teamed with its Chinese manufacturing partner, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group (SAIC), for its trio of show cars.
GM says “they represent three different characteristics that emphasize the enjoyable nature of future transportation: Jiao (Pride), Miao (Magic) and Xiao (Laugh).”
In addition to being shown in New York next week, the concepts will be showcased from May 1 through October 31 at the SAIC-GM Pavilion at World Expo 2010 Shanghai.
The EN-V concepts, two-seat electric vehicles—that weigh less than 500 kg and about 1.5 metres in length—were designed to “alleviate concerns surrounding traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability for tomorrow's cities.”
GM’s press release ominously predicts that “by 2030, urban areas will be home to more than 60 percent of the world's 8 billion people.”
GM’s Blade Runner-like projections aside, do you think the automaker, using our tax dollars, should be playing around with cars that won’t see the light of day for 20 years, if ever?
Or should GM stick to trying to make more competitive Chevys and Cadillacs?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

smart drive kit for the iPhone: More safety and lifestyle

smart is the first car brand to develop its own drive app for the iPhone. Together with the vehicle-specific smart cradle for the iPhone the popular phone becomes a multimedia trip computer that is optimised for the smart fortwo in terms of function and design.
The smart drive app for the iPhone has all the important features needed whilst driving: phone calls via hands-free system, your own extensive music collection, internet radio and a clever navigation system with a special smart touch. There are also smart extras – for example the Car Finder that will guide you back to wherever you parked your car. The new smart drive app for the iPhone boasts an outstanding design and is simple to operate thanks to extra large buttons. The new app makes urban mobility even easier and more fun - the declared ob-jective of smart's philosophy.

Read more here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

European car firms’ drive for alliance falters

DAIMLER and Renault have been unable to resolve differences over valuations as the car makers explore a share swap that would bring Daimler into the Renault-Nissan alliance, two reliable sources said yesterday.
Daimler and Renault, which said in December they were in talks about jointly developing small cars, had also been discussing a share swap, the sources said.
Daimler is seeking a partner to improve profitability of its Mercedes A-Class and Smart cars by sharing development of vehicles and engines. The discussions were “more extensive and more advanced than realised”, Sanford C Bernstein analyst Max Warburton wrote in a report on Monday, citing “industry contacts”. An equity tie-up would bring “financial and strategic security” to Renault, the London-based analyst wrote.
“I struggle to see the will on both sides” for Daimler and Renault to swap stakes, said Philippe Houchois, an analyst at UBS in London who has “buy” ratings on Renault and Daimler shares. “There isn’t much scope for the companies to co-operate beyond small cars.”
Florian Martens, a Daimler spokesman, declined to comment on any share-swap negotiations with Renault. Daimler, based in Stuttgart in Germany, is discussing joint production of small cars with car makers including Renault, he said, repeating comments by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. Simon Sproule, a spokesman for Renault-Nissan, said he had “nothing to add” to remarks by CEO Carlos Ghosn, who said on March 3 that there was no “particular prospect” of an equity tie-up for the alliance.
Renault, which is based in Boulogne-Billancourt, rose as much as 67c, or 2%, to à 34,24 and traded at à 34,22 before midday in Paris, valuing the company at à 9,7bn. Daimler gained 37c, or 1,1%, to à 33,70 in Frankfurt, giving it a market valuation of à 35,8bn.
Daimler aims to boost sales of small cars to lower carbon-dioxide emissions to meet tighter regulations. The company is also looking to double its offering of compact Mercedes-Benz models to four to attract younger drivers.
Mercedes drivers are 55,6 years old on average in German-speaking Europe, compared with 45,6 years for BMW and 47 for Audi, according to research firm Sinus Sociovision, of Heidelberg in Germany.
Daimler is building a new factory in Hungary as part of a à 1,4bn investment in compact models, which will introduced next year.
Source: Business Day

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Electric two-seaters are traffic beaters

By Michael Bettencourt - Globe and Mail

Almost invisible among all the flashy hybrid supercar concepts at this year's Geneva auto show was the Smera, a super-skinny electric car from French start-up Lumeneo that underscored a growing presence of such tandem two-seaters at major auto shows this year.
The Smera looks like a Smart given a giant squeeze from both sides - the passenger sits behind the driver, leaving a vehicle that's just a touch wider than a typical front seat.
The idea behind it is also an extension of the Smart's vision - that most cars typically carry only one person at a time, and therefore are much larger than they need to be for commuting.

Read full article here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Smart lauds winners of global customizing contest

Under the heading of "It's about time!" comes Smart car's worldwide design contest, which finally has found a winner.
The guy who decorated his Smart car with the print job, above, will get 1,500 euros in prize money. Tamir Shefer of Jaffa, Israel, beat out 8,000 other entries. Not bad.
"The response to this competition greatly exceeded our expectations – in terms of both quantity and quality," says Marc Langenbrinck, managing director of the international Smart brand. More than 600,000 votes were recorded online.

You can see the top entries at: