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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Reports

Porsche Was the Original Innovator of Hybrid Cars in the Early 1900s!

On: Sat, May 29, 2010 at 10:47AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Lohner Porsche Hybrid Car test 2

There are a lot of people out there that think that hybrid cars and electric cars are something rather new (myself included here). But in actuality, they have been around for a lot longer than you may have ever thought. Another interesting factoid is that the original maker of the world’s first truly electric cars and hybrids was none other than Porsche. I know that this may be—or may seem—hard to believe at first glance; I sure didn’t think that this was true. But as you read on, I aim to reveal to you my findings. After coming across some rather interesting and eye-opening information on the history of electric cars and hybrids in the United States, I was quite intrigued to learn their moniker. And indeed, as I found out, Porsche was the pioneer of the very first electric cars and hybrids. Here is the kicker, the ice cream sundae-topper and the deal-maker: They were making these hybrid and electric cars way back in the early 1900s!

Before I delve any further into this, it begs to ask one question: If we had this technology for over a hundred years—and then some—why is it only as of late that hybrid cars and ‘green’ cars, like electric and solar-powered cars, are finally making their debuts? One has a good mind to think that the oil companies were not that enchanted at the prospect of losing business, to the tune of trillions of dollars. Because if you really think about how much gas Americans have consumed over the past 100 years or so, that’s quite a pocketful of goodies that have been earned! But if we had only embraced this hybrid technology far earlier, one has a good mind to think that we would be leaps and bounds from where we sit presently—as it relates to the overall technology of these cars, and our precious and fragile, deteriorating environment.

Also, it makes one ponder if we would have been able to avoid terrible and devastating environmental disasters, like the BP Gulf Oil Spill?

The BMW Z4 E89

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 2:54PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The BMW Z4 E89 test 1-1

The new BMW Z4 E89 offers the pleasure of a roadster with the style and finesse that could only come from BMW.  With the seating position moved close to the rear axle, retractable hardtop, and traditional Roadster dimensions, pure driving pleasure are the only words to describe this classic roadster comeback. The car’s modern classic look was created from its flowing lines, the long and low-slung engine compartment lid, short overhangs, the long wheelbase and large wheels, and the low seating position as well.

This outstanding two-seater BMW Z4 E89 offers a unique combination of sophistication, speed and luxury. The two-piece lightweight hardtop comes to rest in the roof compartment, saving maximum space in the process. Even with the roof closed, the new Z4 retains the proportions typical of a genuine roadster.

. . . And Just In Case You Can't Wait For Saturday

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:36PM | By: John Welch

. . . And Just In Case You Can't Wait For Saturday test 1-1

CBS will broadcast last week's American Le Mans Series Race tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. EST. The program will feature a documentary format, similar to 2008's "Truth In 24".

If you just can't wait until tomorrow afternoon, or you (like I,) want to witness every nanosecond of the 6-hour Grand Prix of Monterey, the entire race can be viewed courtesy of the ALMS and TodoCast.

TodoCast is a new system for professional videographers, event producers, content owners and organizations looking to reach their fans with Live Internet Broadcasts. Fortunately for us, the American Le Mans Series is one of those event-producing organizations! The race is split into three parts: hours one through three, hours four and five, and the final hour. Simply fill out the requisit "login" information, complete your free registration, and you're ready to consume six hours of motorized madness.

I have taken advantage of this service already, spacing the race out over several evenings. Even a casual fan might get lost in the intense action, action that doesn't lose pace over the course of six hours. The first two hours feature a hellacious duel among the LMP competitors, and the final four is a non-stop, fender crushing, teeth gnashing, GT brawl. The top four cars are often four different makes, and the lead changes hands so often you might think it was every lap.

The CBS broadcast has it's place. The drama and excitement of a Le Mans-style enduro might not be immediately obvious to an uninitiated observer, and the high-style documentary (ala NFL Films) is an excellent way to introduce the series. For the previously aware, however, the ability to view all of the pulse-pounding action from the Grand Prix of Monterey is a blessing from God, or Buddha, or Xenu Warrior Princess or whoever you donate your ten percent too.

Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 11:26AM | By: John Welch

Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season test 1-1

After four weeks of heel cooling and relaxation, the Grand-Am Series revs back up this weekend, at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The Lime Rock circuit has never hosted a Grand-Am event; series regulars are excited about the opportunity to race at the historic venue. Scott Pruett, Ganassi/BMW Racing driver: "I feel it's going to be a unique opportunity for everyone. It's a one-day event, which means as a team you have to be ready to roll right when you come off the truck - and the Ganassi team continually shows a lot of ability in that respect."

How’s this for a crammed schedule: The teams practice, qualify and race on Monday. After the race, they will pack up and head straight to New York for the Sahlens 6 Hour at Watkins Glen. The next weekend. Yikes.

That race, a six-hour endurance race at the famed Watkins Glen course, will feature star power in the form of Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson. More on that next week; right now we are focusing on the Connecticut farmland and Lime Rock Park. This race at the 1.5 mile Lime Rock circuit will be a one-day event. Practice begins at 9 a.m. ET, with qualifying at 11:55 a.m. and the green flag waving around 2 p.m.


Ford Preparing To Ax Mercury

On: Thu, May 27, 2010 at 5:07PM | By: John Welch

Ford Preparing To Ax Mercury test 1-1

The American Car Company graveyard might get a little larger soon; it looks like Ford is getting ready to give Mercury the "'Ole Yeller" soon. Allan Mullaly made it clear when he took the reigns at Ford, that he would emphasize one premier brand, Ford, and would eventually wind down extraneous brands Lincoln and Mercury. According to sources, the automaker's top executives are preparing a proposal to kill Mercury to be presented to directors in July. Mercury is already losing two of its models next year, leaving it with a serious product drought.

The plan hinges on Ford's ability to convince Lincoln/Mercury dealers to close or consolidate with existing Ford dealerships, a negotiation that could get rocky. No dealer wants to give up his franchise. Unfortunately for them, this plan falls right in line with Ford's other cost cutting measures, namely the elimination of small-niche European brands like Volvo and Jaguar. With the Euro-pudge trimmed, Mullaly is now turning his attention to Ford's North American fat.

Ohio to Get New Plant for Manufacturing Electric Car Batteries for Coda Automotive

On: Wed, May 26, 2010 at 4:46PM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

lithium-ion battery test 2

There is some good news for all of you hybrid-loving and ‘green’-going folks out there who have always thought that a really good electric car could be made in the US and not be as plagued with issues as some electric cars are. Coda Automotive, which is a newer electric car company based in California, has announced they will team up with some of the Chinese suppliers they use to make their revolutionary new Coda sedan, slated for a 2011 release. They are using a newer form of automotive-grade lithium-ion batteries that are supposed to offer a similar mile-per-gallon/mile-per-charge ratio as gas-powered cars do. Looking at their website (http://www.codaautomotive.com), the company states the car will get about 90-120 miles per charge, with a six-hour charging period required.

According to a report published by the Wall Street Journal, “Coda, which announced the move Tuesday, will final-assemble the electric car at a facility in the greater Los Angeles area with component modules produced in China. It will initially make the car available only in California, where it is targeting sales of 14,000 electric sedans by the end of 2011.”

But the fledgling automaker has been searching for a place to hunker down and really make these lithium-ion batteries in a more permanent setting in the US. This is because they are so costly to import from overseas. The same article sheds more light on why Coda is looking for a US-based lithium-ion batteries manufacturing plant.

When It Comes To Personalized License Plates, Choose Your Words Wisely

On: Tue, May 25, 2010 at 9:55AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

When It Comes To Personalized License Plates, Choose Your Words Wisely test 1-1

You have probably heard the phrase “be careful what you ask for.” Well, when it comes to ordering personalized license plates “be careful what you write.”  A federal judge in South Carolina said the state violated the constitution when lawmakers voted to authorize license plates inscribed with the words “I believe,” as well as images of little crosses and stained glass windows. 

The statute the judge was referencing pertains to our constitutional rights for separation of church and state.  Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who initiated the legislation allowing the license plates to be printed, condemned the ruling, stating, "For those who say proclaiming 'I believe' violates the constitution by giving preference to Christianity, I think this lawsuit clearly discriminates against persons of faith."

Advocate for separation of church and state, Rev. Barry Lynn said in a news paper interview; "Government must never be allowed to express favored treatment for one faith over others."

More recently a New Jersey woman in Manville received a letter from the State Motor Vehicle Commission asking her to send in her license plates as a result of a complaint filed about the plates being offensive. The plates donned the letters “BIOCH”, supposedly insinuating 'biotch', slang word for 'bitch'. Evidently the motorist had been legally driving around in her Chrysler convertible, license plates personalized with the letters “BIOCH” for four years before the state realized what the slang stood for.

Tesla, Toyota's Fremont Revival of the NUMMI Auto Plant Has Residents Estatic

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:43AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

New United Motor Manufacturing Inc test 2

The city of Fremont, California is buzzing with giddiness. This is for a very good reason. After taking a huge economic blow during the housing market collapse (which greatly affected the state), as well as the combined decline and near fallout of the auto market, the city is starting to rebound. This is because Toyota—who co-owned with GM the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont, which employed around 5,000 autoworkers, but was closed down early in 2010 by both entities due to declining auto sales—has announced that they plan to reopen the plant in the near future to start producing a new line of electric cars to be branded by Tesla.

This could not come at a better time for the residents, the businesses, and the entire town of Fremont. Bringing back thousands of high-paying jobs to the area could really revive this once prosperous but now struggling town. And the Mayor of Fremont could not be any happier about this prospect.

In an interview with Mercury News, Bob Wasserman, the mayor of Freemont, expresses his gratitude and explains why he is thrilled about the NUMMI plant being reopened. “In a great big hurry, our fortunes have changed. We're thrilled to see something good happening with that property. It'll employ a lot of the folks who just lost their jobs, but it'll also be a catalyst to bring.”

RSR Jaguar XKR GT Completes Its First Enduro

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: John Welch

RSR Jaguar XKR GT Completes Its First Enduro test 1-1

May 29th. That is the day we will get to view the Monterey Grand Prix. Which took place this last weekend. Blame insufferable television schedules for the delay in coverage. Instead of the race, CBS treated me too an informative (sic) infomercial involving a rotisserie and geriatric joint cream. By some cruel twist of physics Ronco has figured out how to provide the modern senior with an entire Lemon Pepper chicken (white meat only, of course) and pre-warmed Chondriotin-infusing skin cream . . . all on the same plate!! After an hour I was "oohh"ing and "awww"ing right along with the compensated studio audience. Apparently the joint medication doubles as a fine horseradish sauce! Ain't science grand?!

While this shameless advertisement was filling my head with notions of fully-cooked birds in under five minutes, there was a little race going on in Monterey. Maybe you couldn't care less what the results were. Maybe endurance racing isn't your thing. Maybe if I told you the results it wouldn't effect your day one way or the other. And that's fine.

There are some people who will avoid SPEED and ESPN all week because they would like to see the race before they know the results OF the race. I respect those people. Long ago, I was one of them. A tape-delayed race meant complete media shutdown for me, until the day network television got around to broadcasting the affair. I can no longer avoid the results of a race through total computer/television blackout. However, I still respect those who do. I won't ruin the race for you, Comrades, some other website can have the guilt.

I will report on a car that had little to do with the points battle, but whose presence in the ALMS is greatly appreciated. The RSR Jaguar was featured in the 'Shopper blog last year, and we have been anxiously following its development since. Unfortunately, that development has been slow and painful. Completing only a handful of laps in 2009, the Jag was all but absent fro this year's Sebring race. Out in the first quarter of Long Beach, it appeared that the eighth manufacturer in the ALMS GT class was going to be a memory by the middle of the season. These factors conspire to make a 13th (in class) finish seem like a serious victory. A victory for Rocket Sports Racing, for Jaguar, for the AMS, and for us fans.

2011 Chevy Volt Could be Big Jolt for GM

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 10:28AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

2011 Chevy Volt test 2

The latest innovation from GM, as they try to break into the growing world of electric cars, is their newest vehicle: the 2011 Chevy Volt electric car. When it becomes available in November, this vehicle will actually have much to offer to the world of eco-friendly and earth-conscious car drivers the world afar, and for many good reasons too. For one, the car uses a different, newer and very intuitive type of design in the way that their engine actually runs. The electric battery that is housed in the car offers up to 40 miles on a single charge, and according to Chevy (on their website),— it can be easily recharged overnight. If you are running around town and you find that your electrical charge is about to expire, Chevy has that base covered as well.

According to their website, “Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces enough energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas.” The Volt's expected total range on one tank of gas is more than 300 miles, according to GM.

Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors

On: Sun, May 23, 2010 at 10:10AM | By: John Welch

Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors test 1-1

Akio Toyoda is determined to erase Toyota's staid, Big Brotherish reputation. First mandating more passion be injected into Toyota's marginally boring line-up, now he is doing his best to instill a entrepreneurial spirit into Toyota's corporate philosophy. By dropping $50 million into Tesla Motors, Toyoda has found a use for the dormant NUMMI plant, as well as provided his company with some much needed positive motivation.

“I’ve felt an infinite possibility about Tesla’s technology,” said Toyoda, chief executive officer of Toyota, founded by his grandfather. “By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business’ spirit.”

For Tesla, this is the second $50 million investment received in as many years. Diamler bought into Tesla in 2009, though they have reduced their stake since. The Toyota-Tesla partnership doesn’t impede Daimler’s cooperation with the California automaker, said Brigitte Bertram, a Daimler spokeswoman. Tesla is supplying Diamler with battery packs for a test fleet of electric Smart minicars.

The most important news here is the revival of the NUMMI plant in California, a joint venture between Toyota and GM for nearly 25 years. NUMMI produced the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins most recently, but fell on hard times after 2008. The death of Pontiac and Toyota's moving Matrix production to Japan left NUMMI with little to do. First GM, then Toyota pulled out of the plant, leaving all of its 4,700 employees looking for work.

Though not rehiring that much man power right away, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has a comprehensive plan for providing as many jobs as possible. Tesla has hired back about 90 former NUMMI workers and expects to add about 50 a month, Musk said. The plant’s restart “is welcome news for the state’s economy and workers after the closing of this highly productive plant,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement.

Toyota plans to use Tesla's technology to produce short-range plug-in Hybrids, similar to the Chevrolet Volt. The first plug-in Prius should turn a wheel in the fall of 2012.