Renault has introduced a special version of “driving school” Zoe. It’s to allow learner drivers to familiarize themselves with the electric car in their first hours of driving.
Available since January, the Zoe dedicated to driving schools had been formalized in October, since the Paris Convention of Network driver education centers (RECs). Fitted directly in Renault factories, it has double pedals and double interior and exterior mirrors.
Plug-in cars promise great efficiency, but is Audi’s new A3 e-tron hybrid a better bet than range-extending i3 and Outlander?
Eco-friendly plug-in models are slowly gaining in popularity, so it’s no real surprise that after decades of experimentation Audi has finally decided to jump on the petrol-electric bandwagon.
The new A3 e-tron is based on the classy A3 Sportback, and packages together a 1.4-litre petrol turbo and 75kW motor, while a compact lithium-ion battery pack sits under the back seat. Its raw statistics certainly look compelling, with a 31-mile claimed electric range, CO2 emissions of 37g/km and 176.6mpg economy.
Just as importantly, Audi says these figures don’t come at the expense of the standard Sportback’s space, refinement and upmarket appeal.
However, there are many different ways to package the perfect plug-in, as our other contenders here prove. Mitsubishi’s rugged Outlander PHEV claims to deliver all the practicality of the standard model, but – with a 30-mile electric range – city car-humbling costs.
Completing our trio is BMW’s daring i3 Range Extender, which sets the class standard for efficiency, design and driving dynamics.
The i8 interior is very good, but the BMW i3 interior to me is the real winner. It’s just so different and refreshing and inspired.
Interiors are one of the most important aspects of an automobile. It’s the place where you will spend 90 percent of the time with your car. So the interior must be a nice place to be. A good interior is one that is comfortable, ergonomic, and aesthetically pleasing all at the same time. But the really special ones are the kind that are able to do all of those things as well as being very different and shaking things up a bit.
The interior that I think does this best is the BMW i3.
The i8 is very good too, but the i3 to me is the real winner. It’s just so different and refreshing and inspired. With its exposed carbon fiber, funky recycled seats, eucalyptus wood and incredibly open design, the i3 is like no other interior on the market. Which perfectly suits the i3, a car like no other on the market. It’s also so unlike any other BMW on the inside. The i8 sorta kinda feels like a typical sporty BMW from within those swan doors. But the i3 feels different. It feels happy and serene, not at all sporting, which was the idea to begin with.
Car and Driver recently sat down with the head of BMW i design, Benoit Jacob, and asked him some questions about its design. What he shared on designing the i3’s interior was quite interesting. When asked if there was an overall theme to the interior design of the i3, Jacob had this to say
“What if the interior would inspire a more relaxed driving behavior? It’s Zen, in a way. From a higher design level, that was quite an interesting challenge.”
Jacob also spoke about the use of the wood on the dash and how it pays homage to older BMW’s, such as the 2002 —
“I’m very passionate about cars, and I believe there is no future without history. Sometimes, if there’s a way to echo the past a little bit—without any sort of retro design, because that’s absolutely not the point—why not? It just came by chance.”
It’s so refreshing to hear a designer trying to inspire a driver with the interior. Too often, these days, car interiors are so flooded with buttons and mobile phone connectivity that the car feels so detached, like a computer. They feel like they’re just there as vessels for the driver to control the car. While that is, technically, what a car interior is, I like an interior to give the car a mood. The i3’s does that better than any other. And I applaud BMW for straying from its sporting roots to try a different genre. It’s refreshing and I hope there’s more to come.
Dubbed “the UK’s first eco town”, the NW Bicester development in Oxfordshire will run a range of ultra-low emission vehicle initiatives including an electric car club for the first phase of its development.
The NW Bicester project is being developed by A2Dominion, which is teaming up with ultra-low emission vehicle leasing company Fleetdrive Electric to encourage sustainable travel choices at NW Bicester.
The aim is to get some 10% of residents switching to ULEVs by 2017.
These initiatives include subsidised electric vehicles (EVs) for champions within the community to share their experiences of using EVs, pop-up neighbourhood test drive events and “try before you buy” flexible leasing options through Fleetdrive Electric.
As well as boasting an electric car club, car charging points will be available communally and optionally available to all homes on the first Exemplar phase. Cycle stores will come as standard for each home and the development will have safe, segregated cycle-ways and pedestrian routes linking directly into the town’s existing network.
The partnership is being launched at a special event on Thursday 26 February at the John Paul II Centre in Bicester that will enable Bicester stakeholders and residents to find out more and also test-drive a range of ultra-low emission electric vehicles including the Tesla Model S, BMW i8 and i3, Audi e-tron, VW e-Up!, e-Golf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Nissan LEAF.
Louise Caves, strategic partnership manager for NW Bicester, said:
‘Travel accounts for some 32% of a typical UK carbon footprint with private car use alone accounting for 18% of this. As lead developers of the UK’s first eco town, A2Dominion is committed to shaping a range of options and initiatives designed to encourage people’s choice of travel to be as environmentally friendly as their home.
‘We’ve planned for a range of alternative modes of travel to minimise CO2 emissions and enable residents to make sustainable transport choices and built features into the design to make travel by foot, public transport, bike or electric car an easy option.’
Tesla’s P85D uses dual motor, four-wheel drive technology to deliver a supercar-smashing 682bhp in ‘Insane’ mode. Wow!
Verdict – 5 stars
The Tesla P85D is an all-electric car and that means it has one big flaw: the UK’s electric car charging network is still under-developed. But with four-wheel drive and 682bhp in ‘Insane mode’, the P85D is such an incredible feat of technology it’s impossible not to be amazed by it. The flagship Model S offers immense power, Mercedes-like levels of luxury, lots of space and the promise of more Tesla-dedicated ‘Supercharger’ charging points in the near future. The Tesla P85D really pushes the boundaries of electric car motoring and is arguably the first fully-electric car a petrolhead can get excited about without feeling guilty.
Tesla may be a small car company compared to the likes of Ford, Volkswagen or Toyota but it has big ideas. And one of those ideas of founder Elon Musk’s is to prove that electric cars can have supercar-rivaling performance and still deliver all the benefits of zero emissions motoring.
This is the latest product from that vision; the Tesla Model S P85D – an electric car that has 682bhp and can rocket to 60mph in 3.2 seconds. Supercar fans will notice the P85D is as quick to 60mph as a McLaren F1, a car which Musk stated was used as the benchmark when it came to fast acceleration times. And yet, the P85D has a theoretical range of 300 miles, seats five (or even seven if the two boot seats are specified) and has Mercedes-levels of luxury.
The secret to the P85D’s immense power lies with its dual motor technology. A 464bhp electric motor on the back axle powers the rear wheels while up front Tesla has added a smaller motor with 218bhp on the front axle to drive the front wheels.
It makes the P85D four-wheel drive and capable of traveling on all road conditions including snow and ice – just like an Audi RS6. Tesla’s system can adjust the torque between all four wheels 100 times per second thanks to its electric powertrain, giving superb levels of grip.
Hop in, pull down the Mercedes-derived column gear change selector to ‘D’ and you’re good to go – there’s no need to start the car as carrying the key fob in your pocket both opens the doors and switches the ignition on. Touch the throttle and you’re thrown back in your seat with the only noise being a high-pitched whistle from the electric motors.
Once you’ve had enough of that, it’s time to experience the neck-snapping acceleration. A few prods on the tablet screen in the centre of the dash and the driver can change the ride height, control how severe the brake regeneration is and tweak a multitude of other functions. It’s also here where you can switch the P85D’s acceleration from ‘Sport’ to ‘Insane’ mode.
Do that and you’re not only flung back into your seat but your neck snaps into the headrest as you ride on the twin electric motors’ full power. As you race to 60mph your body is put through 1g – such is the severity of the dual motors unleashing their arsenal.
The sensation is made all the more ‘insane’ by there being no engine noise to accompany it. While a Nissan GT-R can get to 60mph a few tenths quicker, that car’s wailing V6 and rapid-fire gearchanges make it very clear what’s happening. With the Tesla, though, there’s just an eerily quite cabin and uninterrupted acceleration courtesy of the single-speed gearbox.
Straight-line speed isn’t the Tesla’s only forte, though. Thanks to that four-wheel drive system that’s continually shuffling the power to whichever wheel that needs traction the most, the P85D handles well too. The car’s natural style is to stay flat through corners; carry too much speed into a bend and the front washes wide but it’s only natural for a car that weighs more than 2.2 tonnes. The steering is weighty – it can be made unnecessarily heavy in ‘Sport’ mode – and while it misses out on being the last word in precision, the P85D is a credible sports saloon.
Shareholders ask the five largest US oil companies – Valero, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Chevron – to disclose the risks their operations and facilities face from rising sea levels and storm surges
[Published 26 Feb] Investors and nonprofits on Thursday asked the five largest US oil companies to disclose risks to their facilities from climate change.
In letters signed by Calvert Investments, Pax World Management, Walden Asset Management and other investors, as well as nonprofit advocates Ceres and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the groups express concern about “the lack of public disclosure of physical risks due to climate change”, such as from storms and flooding.
The letters are tied to a report, released by scientific advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday, that concluded that coastal refineries owned by each of the companies – Valero, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66 – are in danger of potentially costly disruptions due to rising sea levels and storms.
“To be clear, oil companies are going to suffer from climate change too, and they’re not doing enough to disclose that to investors,”
said UCS’s Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy and the author of the report.
“Refineries have low profit margins and are situated on vulnerable coastal locations. Any disruptions in refining operations could have material impact on companies’ cash flows.”
The US has 120 oil and gas facilities within 10 ft of the high-tide line, Goldman said.
According to the report, which used storm surge modeling and geospatial data to map risks of flooding at coastal refineries in low-lying areas, Valero’s Meraux refinery in Louisiana faces the starkest physical risk among the refineries studied.
With forecasts that sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico could rise 3-4 ft (about 1 meter) by the end of the century, parts of the refinery are likely to be inundated by 2050, Goldman said.
That’s not even including the risk from storms. Storm surges from hurricanes already have reached as high as 28 ft (8.5 meters).
“Even today, a category 3 storm could put the facility under water,” Goldman said.
The Meraux refinery, previously owned by Murphy Oil, suffered $330m in damages due to hurricane Katrina, noted Gabriel Thoumi, a senior sustainability analyst at Calvert Investments, which signed the letter to oil companies.
A new fleet of 100% electric Nissan LEAF taxis has gone into service in Blackpool 130 years after the tourist resort introduced one of the world’s first electric tramways.
The 12-strong fleet of LEAFs has been introduced by local firm Premier Cabs and will operate in and around Blackpool and neighbouring Lytham St Annes on a 24-7 basis.
The company, which ordered the cars through leading North West Nissan dealer Chorley Group, expects to replace more of its 170-strong fleet with the British-built models and its sister vehicle, the e-NV200 Combi in the months ahead.
Each vehicle will cover up to 55,000 miles a year in the course of covering around 200 fares per week. They will be supported by a dedicated network of five rapid chargers that can charge the vehicles from zero to 80 percent in as little as half an hour.
The move will double the existing charging network in the Blackpool area. However, it is not clear whether these points will be available to the public.
With running costs from two pence per mile, the LEAFs will allow Premier Cabs to drastically reduce its biggest single expense, fuel. And these savings will be passed on to the drivers, who will take home between £80-£120 per week extra by driving a LEAF. This, in turn, will allow the company to tackle one of its biggest challenges: driver recruitment.
Managing Director, John Cutler, said:
“We’ve done the maths and we know the LEAFs will save the business money but that wasn’t the main factor in our decision. We wanted to do something special for our customers and for the town and this really fits the bill.
“This gives Blackpool a fleet of clean, green and very comfortable taxis that passengers will love and the town can be proud of.”
The move to electric taxis has already been made by a few forward thinking companies. Last May, St Austell-based C&C Taxis clocked up 150,000 miles and more than 37,000 individual fares in its fleet of electric Nissan LEAF taxis.
In December, it also took delivery of one of the first all-electric Nissan e-NV200 Combi models to arrive in the UK.
A wave of charge points to support the fast-growing popularity of plug-in vehicles will be installed across the UK after the government set out £32 million of infrastructure support up to 2020.
Homes, hospitals, train stations and A-roads will be some of the locations for further charge points to maintain Britain’s position as a global leader in this cutting-edge technology.
The support compliments the fast-growing popularity of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) with grant claims rising 4 fold in 2014 compared to the previous year as take-up of plug-in car grants continues to rise.
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles also recently announced changes to the Plug-in Car Grant. From 1st April 2015, buyers of eligible electric cars will be able to claim 35% of the vehicle’s OTR price as opposed to the 25% currently offered.
In addition, another £11 million of funding has been announced to boost the UK’s position as a world leader in low emission vehicle technology innovation. The funding will be provided to 50 organisations, ranging from small businesses to major universities, working together on 15 research and development projects.
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said:
“The funding announced today marks another milestone in the government’s support for ultra low emission vehicles as their popularity takes off.
“The public will find it even easier to charge their cars when they are out and about thanks to our £8 million commitment to support new charge points across key locations in our towns and cities. Today we have also announced another £15 million to continue the rollout of convenient home charge points across the country.”
The £32 million infrastructure commitment will include:
£15 million to continue the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. ULEV drivers will receive a 75% grant of up to £700 towards installation from 13 April 2015.
£8 million to support public charging infrastructure across the UK which, alongside £15 million Highways Agency funding announced in Autumn 2014, will deliver charge points on major roads and across towns and cities- bidding for these schemes will open in May 2015.
£9 million to address other infrastructure priorities, for example, ensuring that the UK’s world-class charge point network remains accessible and open for users – further details will be announced later this year
The government and industry are also working closely on the Go Ultra Low campaign to increase consumer and fleet uptake. Seven major vehicle manufacturers and the government are backing Go Ultra Low to highlight the increasing variety and benefits of ULEVs.
There’s been no shortage of excitement during the first four Formula E races. As well as stunning overtakes, there’s also been plenty of crashing. Ranging from simple mistakes, to massive hits, we’ve selected the five most jaw-dropping so far.
No-one was hurt in any of these incident, although there were some bruised egos and hard-hit cheque books!
What do you think of our choices? Please leave your comments below.