Archive for October, 2010

Electric Audi A2 sets EV range record

Audi A2 sets EV range comparable to gas cars

Long story short, 379.9 miles is the record for public roads.  Compared to the Nissan Leaf which may have real world ranges of over 100 miles, the A2 still had range left so it might have gone over 400 miles.  Past records for EV were done under controlled conditions or on a track, this test was done at an average speed of 55 mph in traffic and real world driving.

The Audi A2 was never sold in Europe and wasn’t considered the smash hit that it could have been.   The car is smaller than the Audi A3 sedan and unique to such a small car, featured an all aluminum chassis.  While the size was small the features light, it was more expensive but lighter and perfect for this test.

The real breakthrough was the Lithium Polymer Cell batteries.  They’re not in production yet but are production ready for use in automobiles.

Source: UPI.com

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2011 Porsche Cayenne price and EPA mpg rating confirmed

The Porsche Cayenne S hybrid mpg has been confirmed to deliver 21/25 mpg

Porsche’s first hybrid, the Cayenne S goes on sale November 2011 and start at $67,000.

Like all Cayenne, it’s based off the VW Touareg chassis but unlike past Cayenne, it uses the same hybrid drivetrain and system as the Touareg.  Past Cayenne used unique to Porsche suspension and engine combination.  Therefore, it shares many of the features of the Touareg hybrid including electric only drive up to 37 mph, and coasting with the engine off and decoupled.  Below in the gallery is a picture of the hybrid drive system.

Peak power is also similar.  The Cayenne S hybrid’s engine is rated at 333 hp and 44 electric motor for a total of 380 combined horsepower.  Peak torque is 428 lb-ft at only 1000 rpm.

While the rated mpg is 21/25 doesn’t sound very impressive, the base engine’s mpg is only 14/20 which is an improvement of 50% and 25%! 25 mpg is certainly achievable without the Cayenne hybrid but not with this amount of style and speed.

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2012 VW Jetta hybrid mpg best in class?

The new style VW Jetta are being delivered in Canada now.  What about the VW hybrid Jetta?

Volkswagen product strategist Toscan Bennet said that the VW Jetta hybrid will have best in class fuel economy.  Because it won’t be based off a Chevy Volt type 99% electric drive with a gas engine for range assist or a Prius type parallel hybrid, the VW Jetta hybrid will probably have fuel economy similar to other hybrids like from Honda.  Nissan licenses Toyota’s Prius hybrid technology but VW has developed the VW hybrid Jetta drivetrain on their own.

While technical details aren’t yet known, it’s a very good bet that it will use mostly existing parts out of the parts bin.  Therefore, I’m hoping that it will have a 1.4L twincharge engine with an electric motor between the gas engine and the transmission.  The 1.4L twincharge engine has both a supercharger and a turbocharger.  While it’s not sold in North America, I’ve seen it in cars when abroad and it’s small enough to fit tidily in the engine bay and still accommodate additional hardware.  They can make up to around 170 hp so combined with the electric motor, it should have around 185-190 hp.  The 1.4L twincharge engine has about 180 lb-ft of torque and when combined with the electric motor, it should have around 230 lb-ft of torque.  More importantly, the electric motor provides all that power at the bottom of the power band where the small displacement engine is weakest.

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2011 VW Touareg hybrid pricing released, not for Canada

Some news regarding 2011 VW Touareg hybrid pricing – it looks like it will be $60,565 in the US, destination fee not included.  This is $3,065 more than the “executive” trim level VW Touareg TDI.

While this isn’t confirmed yet, this makes sense, especially since the Touareg hybrid packs a lot of technology into the car.  I don’t know how much money VW makes on the Touareg but it hasn’t been a good seller of late except for the TDI.  If you look at pricing overseas, the VW Touareg is a $60-100,000 US dollar car! (As priced at volkswagen UK).  Is the hybrid technology worth the extra $3,065?

In other news, it looks like VW Canada will not sell the Touareg hybrid for 2011.  According to auto123.com, VW Canada Public Relations Manager Thomas Tetzlaff said “We have decided to launch our hybrid solution with the Jetta hybrid in 2012. It represents volumes that we can support properly.”  The majority of Touareg sold in Canada are TDI, why not give the hybrid a chance?  And why would the Touareg hybrid require Jetta hybrid to be sold?  The mechanics would go to separate training – it’s not like they share very many parts.

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Why buy the Touareg hybrid when the TDI is also available?

Someone asked on a forum, why buy the 2011 Touareg TDI when the Touareg hybrid is also available?

I too was skeptical when VW announced that they were going to put a hybrid drivetrain in the VW Touraeg.  The V6 TDI engine is particularly suited to SUV because it gives plenty of low end power, isn’t too heavy, and SUV are intended as work/commuting cars.  But that’s where I’m wrong and why there’s a market for the hybrid.

The Touareg hybrid is better than the TDI for those who don’t want an SUV but do.

What do I mean?  My family used to have an SUV which was used often for carrying heavy loads in the back related to work, towing cars, a boat, or even the log splitter.  It was just a mid sized SUV but it was used as SUV are best used.  This is not how most people use their SUV.  For example, why did the 2011 VW Touareg lose the standard 4xmotion in North America?  Because the standard 4motion is good enough and saves weight vs. the heavy duty 4xmotion.  How often are you going up a 32 degree incline and cursing the fact that you can’t get home because you don’t have the 45 degrees of climbing ability that comes with 4xmotion?  If you’ve ever been on a 45 degree incline it feels as if you are going straight up because all you can see is sky.

The Touareg hybrid is good for those people who might consider the BMW X5 – they want a fast SUV that is used as an on-road car and for everyday driving, the kind of driving that people do everyday, except for those who use SUV as working vehicles.  The fuel economy is about the same as the TDI even though it’s a heavier car (which also is good for towing), and it has the same tow rating as the Touareg TDI.

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VW Touareg hybrid vs. Toyota Highlander hybrid

In an earlier post, I compared the Touareg hybrid to the Lexus RX hybrid.

How does the 2011 VW Touareg stack up to a car which uses similar technology, the Toyota Highlander hybrid?

Not surprisingly, the Toyota Highlander hybrid is very similar to the Lexus.  I’m not sure if they use the same base V6 engine but the Lexus makes a few more horsepower – 295 hp vs. 280 hp.  The Lexus RX 450h hybrid is all new for 2011 so maybe it got the new engine a year earlier than the Highlander.  This is in stark comparison to the VW Touareg hybrid which makes 380hp!

The Toyota highlander also shares the low tow rating – 3500lbs.  The Touareg can tow over 7700lbs!  Part of the reason why is the completely different drivetrain layouts.  The Touareg uses a full time AWD system driven by the engine or hybrid motor.   The Toyota’s front wheels are driven by the hybrid drivetrain.  The rear wheels are driven by electric motors.  The nice advantage of this system is that the regenerative braking is much more effective by being placed right at the wheels instead of having parasitic powertrain losses through the transmission and driveshaft.  This also increases fuel economy which is the whole point of buying a hybrid…I think.

The disadvantage is that it’s weak.  If you ran them much harder they might overheat.  The rear wheels are also not driving the car at all times.  In the Touareg, the rear wheels are constantly powered to around 60 percent.  This can change according to demands.  While this is fine for normal street driving, the Highlander better take the low landers because Toyota’s site specifically says it’s not for off road use.  I guess the real question is: were you ever really planning to take the Touareg off road?

The Touareg is a real off roader with serious SUV credentials but also a real hybrid.  The Highlander is a basically a RWD assist V6 Prius.  The Prius is a pretty good hybrid though…

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2012 VW Jetta hybrid vs. 2011 Hyundai sonata hybrid

Hyundai released their bluedrive Sonata hybrid and the specs look pretty good.  How do they compare to what’s known about the VW Jetta hybrid?

The sonata battery takes up 5.7 cu ft of the 16.4 cu ft of trunk space.  This is probably how the Jetta hybrid is going to pack the battery pack.  The electric blue-e-motion Golf electric concept car did it the same way.  Why put the battery so far from the engine?  First, the hybrid system adds weight to the front of the car so that’s the last place you want the additional weight of the battery.  Second, since they are based off production cars and not custom chassis, there is a limit to where you could place the battery.

The Sonata can cruise on electric only up to 62 mph with its 2.4L gas engine.  Combined power is 206 hp and 193 lb-ft of torque.  The real innovation of the Sonata is the lithium polymer batteries.  Most manufacturers use nickel metal hydride due to cost.   The lithium polymer batteries are lighter, make less heat, and have no memory effect.

What kind of mpg does it get? 36 mpg city/40 mpg highway.  The 2012 VW Jetta hybrid mpg rating isn’t yet known but it should be at least close to the TDI which is rated at 30/42 so the hybrid better get at least 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

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Porsche hybrid for every model planned

According to an interview with Automotive news Europe, “In the future, we will have hybrid drive in every model line.” says Porsche development chief  Wolfgang Duerheimer.  The challenge is meeting CO2 emissions limits per manufacturer.  Makes like VW or Chevy can sell base economy models or diesel options which lower their CO2 emissions but Porsche makes sports cars.

They are not designed to have higher mpg and lower CO2 emissions but that doesn’t mean that a sports car can’t.  Lower weight will improve handling, acceleration, tire grip, and fuel economy.  For those who can’t see a diesel Porsche 911, this means hybrid drive.

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First drive of the 2011 VW Touareg hybrid

Fuel economy is a funny thing. In Europe, better efficiency has always boiled down to two simple concepts: diesel fuel and turbos. But like the 35-year-old who won’t drink tequila because of a bad experience in college, American buyers’ stomachs start turning whenever manufacturers talk about oil-burners – clean or otherwise. That’s a problem for carmakers like Volkswagen. You see, the company can build an arsenal of clean diesel vehicles that have no problem turning out excellent fuel-economy numbers without the weight, complexity or burden of lugging around a partially electric drivetrain, but that doesn’t mean Americans will buy them. Nope. On this side of the pond, fuel efficiency translates into just one word: hybrid.

And that’s exactly why Volkswagen has taken to electrifying its beefy 2011 Touareg, the very first production hybrid in the company’s history. Volkswagen has made no secret of the fact that it plans to be the world’s number one automaker, and that part of its plan for global domination involves broadening its appeal in the still-juicy American market. If you were wondering exactly what that meant for the company’s lineup on our side of the world, wonder no more. We’re living in the future, and it’s a place stocked with a blazingly-quick, fully capable and quasi-efficient SUV from Germany with love.

The hybrid market seems to be split into two very different design camps: those that look like the latest running shoes from the year 2275 and those that don’t. The Touareg Hybrid falls into the latter category, opting for discrete hybrid badges nestled in the grille and stuck to the flanks of the already attractive and newly redesigned standard Touareg body, instead of a German take on the future of footwear.

We couldn’t be happier about this decision.

Up front, the Touareg Hybrid wears its new corporate nose with pride. The headlights are now bedazzled with LED daytime running lights and the sleek grille is bolstered by large air intakes set low in the front fascia. The look is both handsome and just a touch aggressive, befitting a vehicle capable of picking up its skirt and hustling to 60 mph in a scant 6.2 seconds. The vehicle’s profile doesn’t exactly shatter any SUV molds, but its rear benefits from a set of pronounced haunches that give the Touareg Hybrid some additional flair.

Volkswagen says that it only plans to sell the Touareg Hybrid in one trim – fully loaded. In an effort to make things easier for both dealers and buyers, the company has slimmed its ordering structure from over 400 available variants of the Touareg last year to just over 40 possible combinations for 2011. Part of that effort means the decision makers at VW came to the conclusion that most buyers would want their high-rider with all the fixins, so you can forget about getting a stripper model with a lower price tag.

That’s probably just as well, because this machine isn’t your typical eco-warrior. Inside, buyers are treated to power leather thrones that are fully adjustable and boast a memory function for up to three pilots, and the dash is dominated by a large, full-color LCD touch-screen. Navigation, entertainment and the rearview camera are all accessed through the screen. Attractive wood trim accents are camped out along the dash and door panels, and help give the cabin a little extra touch of class.

But it’s the back seats that are really impressive. The rear bench is fully adjustable, sliding forward and aft enough to make room for long-legged passengers or any rear cargo that may require an extra touch of space. Likewise, the seats can be quickly folded for plenty of additional storage room. As an option on all Touareg models, Volkswagen is offering an expansive panoramic sunroof that the company says is a full 350-percent larger than the piece found in the previous model. The glass does plenty to brighten up the rear of the cabin.

Volkswagen seems to have plenty of faith in the company’s turn-by-turn navigation system. We were unleashed on the unsuspecting countryside surrounding Nice, France with nothing more than the sternly feminine voice of the nav to guide us via a series of way points. Despite twisting roads and tight city avenues, the system never led us astray. If we missed a turn, it was quick to recalculate to find the best route ahead.

By and large, the cabin is logically laid out, though we were frustrated to find that the adjustment for the side-view mirrors is mounted flush on the driver’s side door. It takes a second or two to translate the forward/backward control knob with the left/right movement of the mirror. Otherwise, the only complaint that we could drum up after a few hours in the cabin is the fact that the air-conditioning in the Touareg Hybrid doesn’t always seem up to the task of cooling the interior, especially at low speeds in direct sunlight.

Cabin qualms aside, the drivetrain in the 2011 Touareg hybrid is nothing short of engineering wizardry. If you’re familiar with the equipment on board the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, you won’t find too many surprises here. A supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine produces 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, though a parallel electric motor throws in a little extra oomph for a combined punch of 380 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque. Behind the engine and motor sits an eight-speed automatic transmission that puts power to all four wheels via the company’s all-wheel-drive system and a new Torsen rear differential.

Like the Cayenne, the best part of this combination is the fact that the engine is separated from the transmission via a decoupling clutch that will allow the vehicle to coast at speeds well above the posted limit with the gasoline engine completely off. Volkswagen calls this “sailing,” and it comes in handy on hilly terrain with extended downward grades. The trick helps the Touareg Hybrid return a projected 25 mpg city and 21 mpg highway – numbers that are a little higher than the 18.4 mpg combined we saw during our time behind the wheel. Still, they aren’t bad for an SUV that still packs a full 7,700 lb towing capacity – exactly the same as both the diesel and gasoline versions.

Power for the 47-hp electric motor is stored in a sizable 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery stored under the rear cargo area. A total of 240 cells are on hand to store juice for later, and Volkswagen has integrated a special aluminum crash box around the cells to protect the battery pack in the event of an accident. In order to keep things cool, the Touareg Hybrid draws cold air from the cabin and spits air heated by the batteries to the exterior of the vehicle.

There’s no getting around just how heavy this vehicle feels, even compared to its super-sized brethren. The Touareg Hybrid comes in at 5,135 lbs – a full 424 lbs heavier than the standard 3.6-liter gasoline V6 version and 261 lbs pudgier than the oil-burning Touareg. As such, you won’t be flinging this machine through any winding mountain passes anytime soon. The weight does have the benefit of giving the Touareg Hybrid a slightly softer ride compared to its siblings, something that we’re sure American buyers will appreciate. Otherwise, the SUV feels like a more refined evolution of the high-riding set. Despite its girth, you aren’t beaten over the head with a sense of top heaviness. Instead, you simply can’t help but feel that the tires are sweating bullets when the tarmac goes twisted.

When things straighten out, however, you’re rewarded with the surprising kind of acceleration that only 428 lb-ft of torque can present. It feels like a well-fed fraulein has decided to have a seat on your chest. Unfortunately, for all of the giggles that the skinny pedal can induce, the brakes on the Touareg Hybrid are downright unnerving. While it takes half a second for the supercharged six and the electric motor to shrug off two and a half tons of German luxury, the brake pedal will bring the whole game show to a stop at the first hint of contact with your leather-soled penny loafers. Be warned: these stoppers are the sensitive kind. The Touareg Hybrid’s regenerative braking system is likely to blame, as it’s taken many generations of hybrids for other manufacturers to get the balance of regen and actual braking to feel natural and not unnerving. Volkswagen’s sort of new at this whole hybrid thing.

The company hasn’t said exactly how much it’s planning to charge for the 2011 Touareg Hybrid, but we can guess that the figure isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. We expect the fully-loaded, electrified SUV to hit the wallet north of the $44,350 price tag on the current TDI Touareg. The thing is, the diesel version boasts a combined fuel economy of just 1 mpg less than the projected figures of the hybrid. We’re guessing that in real-world conditions, the diesel would likely even edge ahead of its battery-operated counterpart if you spent more time plying the highways.

When the Touareg Hybrid lands in the States later this year, we’re guessing it will find favor with the crowd that’s less interested in which is the better product – the hybrid or the diesel Touareg – and more concerned with the image those tiny hybrid badges put forth. With identical towing capacities, nearly identical fuel economy figures and the fact that the Touareg Hybrid requires premium gasoline, both it and the Touareg TDI are simply different answers to the same question. We’re more inclined to stick with the lighter TDI with its more progressive brake system, but we know we don’t represent the vast majority of SUV buyers, either.

Source: autoblog

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2011 Lexus RX hybrid vs. 2011 VW Touareg hybrid vs. Mercedes ML hybrid

The specs of the Lexus hybrid could not be any more different than the VW Touareg hybrid or Mercedes ML hybrid.  The Touareg hybrid is the heaviest car with the biggest tow rating.  Its tow rating of 7,716 pounds is a little over half as much as the ML and over twice as much as the Lexus.  That kind of sets the tone for the rest of the comparison.

Let’s compare some of the 2011 VW Touareg hybrid specs with the 2011 Lexus RX and Mercedes ML hybrid

The Lexus RX hybrid is all new for 2011 and based off the front wheel drive Lexus ES sedan which is based off the Toyota Camry.  The same bland magic that make the Camry one of the best selling cars in the US also made the RX the best selling Lexus.  The VW Touareg used to share the chassis with the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne but gets an all new chassis and body for 2011.  The Touareg and ML weigh about the same and are more comparable with each other than the RX.

Touareg hybrid power vs. Lexus RX hybrid power and Mercedes ML hybrid

The power of the Touareg hybrid is also a lot greater than its competitors.  Power is rated at 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, all of which is available from a standstill because of the combination of the electric motor and supercharged 3.0L engine.  Look through the hybrid buying guide at the top for a dyno chart.  The Mercedes is rated at 335 hp and 381 lb-ft torque.  The Lexus is rated at 295 hp and 245 lb-ft of peak torque at 4800 rpm.  Toyota hasn’t stated the combined peak torque but the fact that the V6 engine by itself does not give peak torque until that high in the rpm range means that engine pickup will feel significantly weaker than in the Touareg.

VW Touareg fuel economy mpg specs vs. the competition

The fuel economy does suffer for all that performance.  VW has suggested that the highway EPA estimate as 25mpg so I’m guessing city mpg will be around 22 mpg.  The Lexus is rated at 32 city/28 highway.  The ML is rated at 20 city/24 highway.

Why the disparity?  The VW and ML sandwich a hybrid system between a mostly stock gas engine and transmission.  The Lexus uses the technology from the Prius for their engine and actually uses only an electric motor to drive the rear wheels.  There is no mechanical driveshaft in the Lexus RX hybrid which certainly saves weight and space but is also the reason for the lack of off road and towing capability.

A real off roader?

I’ve always been confused by the idea of a crossover – why not get a better handling station wagon instead?  The Lexus is definitely not a real off roader.  As mentioned earlier, the rear wheels are driven by an electric motor.  The Touareg and ML use the same heavy duty suspension layout as their gas and diesel counterparts and the rear wheels are driven by a driveshaft.  If you want a real SUV with real off road capability you need to look to the Touareg and ML .  For 2009, Lexus sold about 84,000 RX vs. about 4,000 Touareg and 25,000 M class Mercedes.  What does this say about buyers who want SUV?  It’s certainly very confusing indeed.  See the VW Touareg hybrid forum and buying guides at the top tabs.

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