Mercedes delivers a no-excuses sports car.
How do you say “animal” in German?
That beastly description came to mind during my weeklong test of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, a snarling, snapping, 563-horsepower homage to Benz’s classic 300 SL gullwing of the '50s. Judged strictly on performance, the SLS is quite simply the best -- and certainly the purest -- Mercedes sports car in history. Yes, better than the departing Mercedes SLR McLaren, though the SLS’s controversial styling can’t match the drama of that supercar.
By Diana T. Kurylko, Automotive News
It's not as easy as plug, charge, unplug and go--a lesson Mini learned at the onset of its electric car trial.
It took Mini up to seven months to get all the local approvals and proper electrical hookups for the 450 lessees of the Mini E electric car. The pilot test project began in April 2009 and was scheduled to end this summer. But participants can choose to continue for another year and then lease a second electric car that parent company BMW will put into a trial in 2011.
The participants are in New York, California and New Jersey, where parent BMW of North America is based.
Before any lessee could drive the Mini E, a 220-volt charger had to be installed in the lessee's garage--and that's where the problems began.
Mini thought installing the required high-voltage charge box would take about 30 days from the time a lessee took delivery of a car. In California, which has experience with electric cars, some of the municipalities approved the necessary permits in days.
But the process was considerably slower elsewhere.
"There are 30,000 municipalities responsible for permits in the U.S.," says Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicles operations strategy for BMW. "Some had never seen a permit for an electric car, and some had arcane rules."
Where do tires go when they die?
(Written by Jacob Gordon of Treehugger.com)
Michelin, with an eye on the next generation of hybrids and electric cars, has been working to make tires more energy-efficient. But the tires themselves can still have a serious impact on the planet: Each year in the U.S. we toss out roughly one tire per person. These used to get plowed into landfills and amassed into mountains (which seemed, inevitably, to catch fire). But we’ve moved beyond that -- at least, it would seem so.
Ask the average person what a tire is made of, and he'll likely say rubber. In fact, only 17 percent of a passenger car tire comes from plant-derived rubber. The rest is synthetic rubber, i.e. petroleum. That’s why tires burn so well. With the rise of laws that forbid dumping tires in landfills, they have become an increasingly popular fuel for power plants, cement factories and other industrial furnaces. Tires have more energy density than coal and about the same energy density as heavy fuel oil.
Audi's Sound Concept vehicle.
The German automaker's Sound Concept adds 62 speakers -- five woofers, five tweeters, 52 midrange speakers -- into a Q7 with the aim of creating a physical principle known as "wave field synthesis." For the layman, this essentially means creating a nonlocalized virtual starting point for sound waves, driven by individually powered speakers. In even more layman's terms, it means that no matter your position in the car, or how much you move when you're in there, it sounds like you're in the ideal listening position.
Hear what the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle will sound like when it finally rolls off production line.
In response to mounting pressure from pedestrian rights groups and advocates for the visually impaired, Nissan has announced it will add warning sounds to its upcoming electric car, the Leaf. According to a report published on ConsumerReports.org, Nissan’s Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians has been in development for years. But now, the automaker has video so you can hear what it will sound like -- while the vehicle is in drive, that is.
When the Leaf is going forward at low and moderate speeds, a whirring sound -- almost like a toy jet engine -- is heard. When the Leaf is in reverse, pedestrians will hear a chime, repeating much like the beeping sound often heard when trucks are backing up.
Check out video after the jump.
Material costs might threaten the future of affordable green cars
Talk with any executive involved with hybrid- or pure-electric vehicles, and the conversation inevitably comes back to cost. The hope is that economies of scale will save the day, bringing down component costs and making green vehicles affordable and profitable for all. Except that prices might not fall.
Several recent studies indicate that the cost of batteries may not decline as much as hoped over the next decade. What's more, some researchers think the cost of rare-earth elements--essential to key components in an electric drivetrain--actually may increase.
Toyota and Tesla may be collaborating on a new city car.
Electric vehicles are steadily building momentum here in the U.S. What hybrids like the first-generation Honda Insight and Toyota Prius started has grown with the development of vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt, and the segment is beginning to turn ever so slowly to full EVs with the likes of the Nissan Leaf. You can bet that fledgling electric-vehicle makers like Tesla and Fisker are keeping a close eye on how products from the big automakers fare in the marketplace, as both theoretically have electrified products coming to the marketplace in the next few years. In the meantime, though, buyers may be able to get their hands on a vehicle with plenty of Tesla influence from a well-established carmaker: Toyota.
The EPA releases its list of the top 10 fuel-sippers of the last 25 years, which reveals that fuel-efficiency hasn't been a priority in quite a while.
Surprise, surprise, surprise: Cars have become less fuel efficient over the past 25 years. In fact, according to a list posted on the Environmental Protection Agency's fueleconomy.gov website, only four (including one 2000 model year vehicle) of the top 10 most fuel-efficient cars of the past 25 years were introduced within the last decade.
And the reasons are quite simple: Modern safety equipment has added weight to today’s machines; horsepower has increased substantially; and low gas prices for most of the past 25 years have kept innovation on the mileage front almost at a standstill.
So which vehicles do you think offer the best mileage? Check out the entire EPA list after the jump.
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Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)
Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V
James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5