Monday November 14th, 2011 19:21 Keep your Tyres in Top Condition

As any car enthusiast will know, the hardest parts of a car to keep bright and shining are the wheels. This stands to reason as they are continually being coated with road grime and dust from the brakes.

Brake dust can corrode alloy wheels and is difficult to remove. It’s caused by the friction between brake pads and discs. This happens with all cars, whether they are conventional or hybrid cars, it’s not something that can be avoided. As you brake, the brake pad surface gradually wears away, producing the dust that lands on any nearby surface – your wheel rims being first in line.

As the different compounds used to make brake pads contain different amounts of metal content, different brake pads can create varying levels of brake dust. The dust is a mix of metal filings, carbon fibres and adhesive residues. The adhesive helps the dust stick firmly to every surface in comes in contact with, and as the adhesive is acidic, it will cause corrosion, too.

Erosion of the wheel rims doesn’t look pretty, and if left too long it will eventually begin to affect the structure of the wheel.

Fortunately there are ways to combat brake dust. Firstly, you can change your brake pads for low dust-generating brake pads. Choose some that have a high metal content or contain Kevlar-based compounds. Alternatively, or as well, you can fit dust shields. These sit between the rim and the bub, but some people don’t like the way they look. Finally, and perhaps most effectively, you can establish a good wheel care routine.

This isn’t as burdensome as it sounds – at a minimum you can wash the wheels once a week and apply sealant every quarter. This relatively simple procedure will prevent corrosion from taking place. Make sure that you don’t let the weeks slip to months during the winter. Even though it may seem a little pointless as the wheels get dirty again immediately, it’s a better policy than letting salt and brake dust build up.

Whether you’re driving one of the latest eco cars UK showrooms have to offer, or your car has been a faithful part of your household for the last decade or more, all cars will benefit from this kind of regular maintenance.

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Sunday November 13th, 2011 13:57 Subaru Set to Unveil Advanced Tourer Concept Hybrid

Subaru has revealed that it will showcase the Advanced Tourer Concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show in Japan.

The Advanced Tourer Concept is a hybrid car, and is seen as a potential replacement for the Subaru Legacy.

Through the use of a single electric motor, the ATC will have a silent electric mode when travelling at low speeds. The lithium-ion batteries are recharged by a regenerative braking system which kicks in under deceleration.

The Tourer Concept is fitted with a horizontally opposed 1.6-litre turbo boxer engine mated to an electric motor. It may not be as big as the 2.0 and 2.5-litre boxer turbos of the past, but Subaru believe that the 1.6-litre turbo engine is both cleaner and more efficient. Although there are no official statistics for this yet, the word is that the Tourer Concept’s power output will match the 262bhp of the 2.5-litre boxer unit, while both emitting less CO2 and using less fuel at the same time.

Performance figures for the Tourer Concept should be an improvement on those of the current Legacy model, as the engine drives through a Lineartronic CVT transmission. This sends power to all four wheels.

The styling of the car uses Subaru’s “confidence in motion” design language. Visually, the Tourer Concept resembles a cross between a Jaguar XF and an Audi A6. The signature Subaru grille and angular headlights have been restyled to give the car a more aggressive appearance at the front.

The car’s interior features Art Deco style wood and polished aluminium surfaces with leather surfaces. In a fairly strange move, the steering wheel features a built-in digital monitor that displays maps, TV and internet. This is not exactly the safest feature in the world, but it is a concept car after all.

Perhaps with that digital monitor in mind, Subaru’s EyeSight crash avoidance system is incorporated into the design of the Tourer Concept. This system uses two mounted cameras above the rear-view mirror to monitor pedestrians and cyclists.

The Tokyo Motor Show – which runs from the 30th of November to the 11th of December – is a big event for Subaru, as the new BRZ sports car will also allow be on display.

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Saturday November 12th, 2011 20:19 All-Electric Car In the Works for SEAT

 

SEAT has revealed that it is currently working on prototypes of a fully electric and a plug-in hybrid car. The Spanish car manufacturer anticipates that the plug-in hybrid car will be launched in 2015, followed by the all-electric car in 2016.

In the mean time, units of the all-electric Altea XL Electric Ecomotive and the Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive will both be made available to Spanish government institutions in Catalonia and Madrid. This should enable SEAT to assess the usage of these cars, giving the car manufacturer an idea about the potential for mass production in the future.

Talking about the reasoning behind SEAT’s strategy, SEAT President James Muir said: “Customers demand a more sustainable form of mobility, but their needs are diverse. Therefore, we believe that a parallel strategy of developing two different technologies will put SEAT in the best position to meet their needs.”

So what about some actual information about the two forthcoming green models? Well, the Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive plug-in hybrid has a range of 52 kilometres when full electric mode is engaged. Its top speed in this mode is 120 kph. When it is in its combined mode, it should have a top speed of 170 kph, and an impressive emissions rate of 39g/km of CO2.

In comparison, the Altea XL Electric Ecomotive will have a top speed of 135 kph. The electric engine will produce 115 hp as well as 270 Nm of torque. A climate control system whereby rooftop photovoltaic cells recirculate fresh air inside the passenger compartment will reduce energy needs. Impressive stuff.

It is not just these two new green cars that the Spanish firm has in the pipeline, as in the next year, four new models will be launched next year. The first of these models is the SEAT Mii, set for a European release in spring.

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Sunday November 6th, 2011 21:49 SEAT Look to the Future with the IBX Concept Car

Earlier this year, at the Geneva Motor Show, SEAT unveiled its latest concept car – the IBX hybrid car. The concept car has been described by SEAT as a cross between a sports utility vehicle and a sports coupe, and represents the company’s vision for an urban SUV.

In terms of its appearance, the two-door concept car has an understated, minimalist feel to it. A crisp and clean exterior, devoid of any flashy design features, gives the SEAT IBX a confident and sporty look. The IBX bears no ornamentation, and SEAT representatives say this is because “perfect design requires no decoration.”

SEAT’s Chief Designer Luc Donckerwolke said of the IBX: “We are proving that with our design, our sporty pedigree and our youthful character, we can also create a vehicle concept that is unique among SUVs.”

This uniqueness among SUVs may come from the fact that the IBX is both agile and compact enough to meet the demands of urban streets and parking spaces.

SEAT say that the IBX has an electric range of 50 kilometres, something that will no doubt appeal to those living in city areas. This electric range should be more than enough to cover local everyday journeys, while having an emission rate of zero. The car can be charged from a domestic power point, but the IBX’s internal combustion engine means that the concept car will be able to handle longer journeys just as easily.

Although there has been no official confirmation, there have been reports that the IBX concept car will go into production in the near future. If it does, then SEAT’s hybrid car is sure to create a stir with in the SUV market with its sports coupe sensibilities.

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Wednesday October 19th, 2011 20:08 BMW Prepares 3 Series for 2012 Release

BMW has revealed that its new 3 Series range will be displayed in public for the first time at the Detroit Motor Show in January. However, UK customers will have to wait another month before the cars actually go on sale.

The German car manufacturers are already claiming that its direct market rival to the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class is a better drive. BMW also claims that it is not only more comfortable and spacious than its market rivals, but is also lighter.

In addition to petrol and diesel models, BMW are offering full hybrid and four-wheel-drive models for the first time.

The entry-level 316d ES will cost upwards of £24,880, while the 335i will cost customers £35,525.

All engines in the 3 series will be turbocharged, and this will make for some pretty impressive performance statistics. The 328i, powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine will go from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds. The top of the range 335i, powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine, allowing it to run an impressive 302bhp. This power means that the 335i is capable of going from 0-62mph in just 5.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 155mph.

Drivers looking to buy something more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly should perhaps look toward the 320d Efficient Dynamics. Powered by a 161bhp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, it manages 68.9mpg while emitting just 109g/km of CO2. This emissions rate means that it will be tax-free in the first year.

BMW expects to have eight versions of the 3 series on sale by March 2012 that have emissions under 120g/km of CO2. The ActiveHybrid 3 will be released towards the end of 2012. For now though, BMW enthusiasts should look towards the Detroit Motor Show for a closer look at the new 3 Series.

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Monday September 26th, 2011 10:58 Campaign for Uniform Electric Vehicle Charging Gathers Speed

It looks very much like the standardisation of charging plugs for electric cars will become more commonplace throughout Europe in the next few years.

A proposal put forward by ACEA, the automobile manufacturers’ trade association, recommended that the same charging equipment should be used in all countries, regardless of the make of the car, electricity provider or country.

The move towards standardised charging is seen as an important step in helping electric vehicles gain a more viable share of the market. The lack of universal charging equipment is seen as a potential barrier to prospective buyers of electric cars.

The ACEA report looked at a number of factors involving the charging of electric cars, such as the public charging infrastructure as well as the vehicle inlets themselves. The report also looked at the issue of both fast and slow charging.

Ivan Hodac, Secretary General of ACEA, said: “This is a major step towards the broader introduction of electrically-chargeable vehicles in Europe and paves the way for a harmonised solution around the globe.”

“Standardisation provides predictability to investors; it enables economy of scale and reduces costs. We have also ensured a solution that meets the highest safety standards and is easy to use.”

The ACEA hopes that its recommendations will be accepted by the European Commission, as well as standardisation bodies and infrastructure providers across Europe, as quickly as possible. This approval will allow the vehicle manufacturers to start integrating the uniform technology into production cars. The ACEA have set a goal of 2017 for full implementation for new electric vehicles.

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Sunday September 25th, 2011 02:20 Government Grant Fails to Encourage Car Buyers to go Electric

 

New data from the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggests that sales of electric cars in the UK are progressing at a rate significantly lower than had been anticipated. To date, only 812 battery models have been bought in the UK in 2011. This is in spite of the incentive of a £5,000 government grant for each buyer of a fully electric or plug-in hybrid car.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular electric car is the Nissan Leaf, with 499 cars being sold. The figures from the SMMT are much bleaker for the other five electric car models currently available in the UK, with none of them managing to sell even a quarter of the Nissan Leaf’s figure.

At a cost of £230 million, the £5,000 subsidy for plug-in cars was initially conceived by the previous Labour government to try and cut the upfront cost of electric vehicles for buyers. Although cheaper to run than a conventional car, the upfront cost of an electric car is typically at least a third more.

The subsidy managed to survive the current coalition government’s swinging cuts, although its funding has only been guaranteed for the first year. With sales of electric cars at such a low rate, there is little chance that the £43 million set aside for this year – the equivalent of 8,600 cars being sold – will be reached.

The poor sales of electric cars in the UK stand in marked contrast to sales of new cars in general. SMMT’s figures show that registrations of new cars in August were up by over 7%.

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Wednesday August 31st, 2011 13:51 5 Reasons Your Next Car should be a Hybrid

The cost of motoring is increasing more and more, which is leading to people buying hybrid vehicles and more eco-friendly models to cut down on costs.
Here, we’ve come up with five reasons why a hybrid should definitely be on your car buying list this year

1) Not only are hybrid cars good for the environment, they’re also good for your finances because they require less fuel to be consumed, cutting down on the amount you pay out for petrol each month.

2) If you travel into the centre of London regularly, or even make use of the Low Emission Zone around the city, you’ll benefit in monetary terms from having a hybrid. Your vehicle will be exempt from the Congestion Charge and the Low Emission Zone levy because it produces low levels of CO2 – saving a considerable amount of cash over a year if you use these frequently.

3) As well as emitting less CO2, hybrids are designed to be far more efficient than their conventional counterparts, meaning you’ll get better mileage each time your travel – a huge bonus if you use your car for long journey.

4) Another cost advantage of a hybrid is that its car tax band is lower, because it produces fewer emissions, so you’ll make significant savings on road tax every year you have your vehicle.

And finally:

5) With green technology improving all the time, hybrids and electric vehicles are only going to get better. In the coming months and years, they’ll become more fuel efficient and are bound to cover bigger ranges, so they’ll be an investment that will pay back fairly quickly.

The UK government is trying to reduce the country’s emissions by 34 per cent within the next nine years and you can really play a key role in these efforts if you have a hybrid vehicle.

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Sunday August 28th, 2011 14:46 Audi Reveals the Hybrid A8 Saloon

 

With the Frankfurt Motor Show just weeks away, Audi has revealed its hybrid A8 Saloon car. The Hybrid A8, set to debut in Frankfurt, runs on a four cylinder 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine and a lithium-ion battery.

While the petrol engine produces 207bhp and 350Nm of torque, when coupled with the 40kw battery, the total output of the A8 hybrid is raised to 241bhp along with 427Nm of torque.

In terms of its green credentials, the hybrid A8 can claim CO2 emissions of 148g/km. One thing Audi will undoubtedly be looking to improve upon in future hybrid models will be the fuel economy of such models. As it stands, the A8 has a fuel economy of 44mpg. That falls a fair distance short of Audi’s alternative diesel offerings and will perhaps give potential buyers some pause for thought.

On electric power alone, the A8 is capable of reaching up to 62mph, taking 7.7 seconds to reach this speed. With the petrol engine in use, its total top speed stands at 146mph.

Drivers have the option of three different driving modes: The ‘EV’ mode prioritises the electric motor, while the ‘D’ option offers up an efficient combination of both the engine and the electric motor. In addition to these two modes comes the ‘S’ mode, which places an emphasis on greater acceleration.

The Audi A8 hybrid saloon has been given an exclusive Arctic Silver paint finish, and comes with three-zone automatic air conditioning, LED headlights and a BOSE sound system as standard.

Series production of the hybrid A8 will begin next year, and models should be expected to reach the UK by late 2012. If you want to take a closer look at it before then, then you will have to take a trip along to the Frankfurt Motor Show, which is open to the public from the 15th of September.

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Wednesday August 3rd, 2011 15:40 Is compressed natural gas the future of greener motoring?

Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed natural gas (CNG) has many advantages over conventional fuels like petrol and few of the disadvantages. In fact, one of the low emission cars that has been designed to run on CNG, the Honda Civic GX, has been awarded the accolade of “Greenest Car” by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, for an amazing eight years in a row, beating hybrid cars and all-electric vehicles in the process.

But CNG isn’t perfect. It does produce some greenhouse gases – it’s just that they’re significantly less than with petrol. It is also far safer than other fuel options in the event of a fuels spillage.

Also, CNG can be mixed with biogas from landfill sites or with wastewater, making the fuel greener still as the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is not increased.

CNG is made by compressing natural gas (mainly methane) to less than 1% of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. It is then stored and distributed in hard cylindrical containers at a pressure of 2900–3600 psi.

And this is its greatest single drawback; the storage facilities needed in cars take up a lot more space than petrol due to the need for the safe storage whilst under compression. So it may be a while before CNG is widely used in family cars, for example, due to storage constraints as things stand.

But it can be used in all normal internal combustion-engined cars that have been converted to CNG.

The fuel contains no lead or benzene so there is no lead-fouling of the spark plugs, and maintenance costs are far lower.

CNG fuel systems are also sealed, so there is no spillage of fuel or losses due to evaporation.

But the main advantage is that CNG is simply cleaner and better for the environment.
CNG emits significantly less in pollutants such as carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulate matter.

Image provided by Darin R McClure. Thanks a lot!

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