A123 has been put through the ringer in recent history, most notably with its massive battery recall, and now it is just about belly up. Things were starting to look up for the battery make when it announced that a $450 million deal had been reached with Wanxiang Group Corp, but that deal recently fell through.
Now the inevitable is upon A123, as news came across the board that A123 had filed for bankruptcy protection, despite having received a $249 million government grant. With this bankruptcy filing also comes the likely liquidation of its assets. It appears as if A123 has already gotten a head start on this liquidation by negotiating to sell off its automotive business to Johnson Controls – well-known for building nearly every lead-acid and gel battery sold.
The deal is not yet done, but it is reportedly for the sum of $125 million and will include the Fisker, GM, and BMW contracts that A123 has already inked. Part of the proposed deal includes Johnson Controls fronting A123 $72.5 million in “debtor possession” funds to keep the bankrupt company running while the sale is being completed. There is no timetable for the completion of the deal, but per the press release, things will continue as usual for A123 during the entire sale process.
All we can hope for is a full turnaround once this technology gets in the hands of Johnson Controls, as the fate of the EV realm rests heavily on the technologies developed by A123. This could possibly be part of the reason that Fisker wasn’t shy about announcing that the upcoming Atlantic was delayed. We’ll also keep an eye on the Chevy Spark EV project to see if that is put on hold until this situation is resolved.
We’ll keep you updated.
Click past the jump to read A123’s press release.
Volkswagen’s compact hatchback positioned right between the Up! and the Golf – the Polo – is all set to put on its big-boy pants. That’s right; VW is giving the Polo the “R” treatment. No, we’re not talking about the “R-Line” treatment, which is little more than some aesthetic changes. We mean the balls-to-the-wall high-performance “R” treatment, much like what the Golf is getting.
The details on this model are not yet complete, but we do know that it will borrow the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine from the outgoing GTI mk6. VW will then punch up its horsepower to the 225-pony range and ship it to the front wheels – no AWD option. According to reports, the Polo R will bolt to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds and give it a 150 mph top speed, making it extremely quick for its class. Sure, the Focus ST will smoke it, but it’s a step under the Focus’ class.
Much like the Polo R-Line, the Polo R will feature some extra ground effect and larger rims to give it a sportier look, but the complete details on the exterior are not yet known. We also expect the suspension to be lowered and the brake system to be upgraded, giving it better handling and braking to better work with the 45 extra ponies.
According to reports, the Polo R is all set to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2013. Rumors are also afloat that the Polo R will hit European showrooms in mid 2013, but there is no confirmation yet. Of course, the Polo will not be offered in the U.S.
We expect to see the Polo R to go head-to-head against the Renault Clio RS and the Peugeot GTi, which each feature a 197-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine. Depending on the weight difference, this could give the Polo R a significant advantage.
We’ll add more information to this review as VW releases more details.
Image Note: All images are of the Polo R-Line
For the vast majority of the automobile’s life, horsepower has reigned supreme as the bragging right of most car owners. Torque snuck its way in through the 1980s and is now a little more relevant, but it was all about that almighty HP for the most part. Well, as the emission standards and fuel crisis of just about every decade emasculated muscle cars more and more, a new spec started rearing its wallet-friendly little head: miles per gallon.
With the price per gallon of gas tickling Abraham Lincoln’s feet in some areas of the U.S., mpg is becoming more and more important. In fact, just months ago, Consumer Reports did a survey that showed 37 percent of car buyers actually make their car-buying decision based on the mpg of a car. The next highest percentage chose build quality, and that tallied up to only 17 percent of the people polled.
It has gotten to the point now that even Lamborghini has introduced a start-stop feature on the 2013 Aventador, Ferrari and Porsche are building hybrids, and there is an electric-powered sedan hat hits 60 mph in 4.4 seconds while getting 90 mpg equivalent. This leads us to the inevitable, the sports car world is the next thing that has to change or die off altogether, as the supercar world is already rolling toward the mpg side.
There is mention of the Mustang and Camaro both switching over to turbocharged V-6 or, god forbid, 4-cylinder engines. If the pony cars can do it, chances are the sports cars of the world – Nissan 370Z, Porsche Boxster, Mazda Miata, etc. – are all going to have to push their mpg to extremes to remain competitive. This could ultimately increase sticker prices significantly and might result in buyers having no problems saying, “yeah, my car only has 100 horsepower and looks like a shoe, but it gets 75 mpg!”
The UK has been dealing with terrible gas prices for ages and you can see it in its cars. For example, the Nissan 370Z costs $33,120 in the U.S. and gets 26 mpg highway. In the UK, however, Nissan had to tweak it to meet the EU’s more stringent fuel economy regulations, raising its highway mpg to 36, but bringing the 370Z’s cost to an astronomical £29,975 ($48,202 at the current exchange rates). Would you pay nearly $50K for a base 370Z? I know I wouldn’t.
This may very well result in the death of the sports car, what a scary thought. Ultimately it is a change-inexpensively-or-die situation for the sports car as we know it in next 10 years…
In the world of supercars, carbon-fiber body panels are old news and now carbon-fiber tubs are the new rage. Within the average car-buyer’s reach, carbon fiber anything is just about out the window. Well, Ford may have something to say about that in the future.
Currently Ford is working with the folks at Hightech.NRW to develop a carbon-fiber body panel development process that could revolutionize the construction of every car on the road. See, the reason carbon fiber is so expensive is because it takes many labor hours to build even the smallest piece. What Ford is working on is developing pieces in just a fraction of the time it currently takes, starting with constructing a Ford Focus hood in less than 15 minutes.
The main goal of this project is to ultimately reduce the weight of these panels by about 50 percent in an effort to lift fuel economy. A cool side effect of this process could possibly be the use of these panels on more high-performance Ford products, like the Mustang GT and the Ford Focus ST.
Ford’s plan is to lower the weight of its cars by upwards of 340 kg (749 lbs) by 2020. This would take a car like the Focus ST and suddenly drop its curb weight to as low as 2,300 lbs. That would jump it to an impressive-for-its-class 9.12 pound per horsepower. To boot, it would sharply increase its already stout 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
Now, are there really 700-plus pounds of weight to be dropped from the Focus ST’s body? Likely not, but that gives us an idea of the benefits that this fuel-saving measure can have on us performance junkies. Ford does not plan on these panels being ready for use any time in the near future, but eventually they should be a part of Ford’s complete lineup. With the automotive world being a copycat-heavy realm, all of the other manufacturers will likely follow suit quickly.
Click past the jump to read Ford’s press release.
If, about 15 years ago, we would have said that Kia would turn out to be an innovative and trend-setting car company today, you likely would have looked at us in amazement as you laughed us off. Well, here we are in 2012, and Kia – along with its parent company, Hyundai – is setting the bar pretty high for the likes of Honda and Toyota.
Onto one of the odder and somewhat trendier vehicles in Kia’s lineup, the Soul… Kia has just announced that, along with the 2014 redesign of the Soul, it will also boast an all-new electric variant. No, not a hybrid or a extended-range EV: straight electric.
The details are still very scarce on the upcoming Kia Soul EV, but we do know, via Kia’s president of the European division, that it will be released in the middle of 2014. This isn’t Kia’s first EV, as it already sells the Ray EV in its home market. Likely, the Soul will feature a drivetrain based off of the Ray’s 50 kW electric drivetrain that also boasts a 16.4 kWh lithium-ion battery that nets it an 86-mile range.
As for styling, we have seen a few spy shots of the upcoming Kia Soul and we anticipate that the EV model will feature the same styling language, sans a few minor modifications. We know from these shots that the headlights are a little more square than the current generation, the grille is positioned slightly higher, and there is something new going on in the back end, which was covered in heavy camo. The remaining details on the 2014 Soul’s exterior are a mystery.
We’ll keep an eye on this upcoming EV and add to our review as the info becomes available.
The Renault Clio RS sees regular use as Nürburgring Taxis, and German tuner, Cam Shaft, felt it was time to release an upgrade kit inspired by these Nürburgring cabs. Now, when we say "inspired by," we use the term rather loosely, as this modification is rather extreme, especially the aesthetics.
The exterior is wrapped in a Graphite Metallic wrap, so the color matches that found on the `Ring taxis, but you get a smattering of lime green on the mirrors, one on the hood (which also boasts a skull decal), and one on the driver side rear quarter panel. The windshield features a rather ominous “Move Right>>” decal that is inverted so you can read it in your rearview mirror. You also get a set of powder-coated lime-green 17-inch rims wrapped in 215/45R17 Kumho rubber.
On the inside, you get a rear-seat and upholstery delete and a lime-green roll bar installed. You also get a set of Recaro racing seats with “Renault Sport” stitched into the headrests. Also added into the interior are several interesting “sticker-bomb” wraps around the center stack bezel, center vent bezel, armrests, and the door sail panels.
If the wrap, interior, and “International Motherf*cker Crew” decals are not extreme enough, what’s under the hood and under this hot hatch’s skin just may seal the deal. On the corners are H&R coilover units to help this hatchback handle the `Ring’s curves and a set of larger brakes borrowed from an Mk2 Renault Megane R26R. Under the hood is the 2.0-liter engine that any Renault Clio RS owner would recognize with a pair of changes, a reprogrammed ECU and a K&N sports air filter. These combine to boost the power output of the 2.0-liter 4-banger from 197 horsepower to 222 horsepower.
There’s no official pricing available on the tune just yet, but we’ll get you a price once Cam Shaft releases it.
The Kia Picanto is not a model you’ll find zipping through the streets of the U.S., but it has been a relative hit in developing markets, thanks to its low price, and even in the U.K., thanks to its stellar gas mileage. In the 2013 model year, Kia is releasing a series of “Originals” 3-door collection.
The most recent addition to this new collection of 3-door Kias is the all-new Picanto City. This model is, from the outward appearance, almost identical to any 3-door Picanto you’ll see frolicking through the streets of the U.K., but under the hood, in the wallet, and at the pump, it is much different than you would expect.
The U.K. super-mini segment is already overcrowded, so how well can Kia expect to do with this ultra-economic super-mini car?
Click past the jump to read our full review on the 2013 Kia Picanto City and find out how well it stacks up to the growing list of super-minis in the U.K. Full story
With the Paris Auto Show quickly approaching, we are awaiting the release of the GTI version of the Golf Mk VII. Unfortunately, VW has been pretty stingy with its information on the upcoming GTI trim, but the sneakiness that is the Internet, has picked up on some images and information on the upcoming Golf VII GTI Concept that is reportedly a near-production version.
We have already received just about all of the information available on the 2013 Golf Mk VII, but this sports edition is one that tuners everywhere seek out. The outgoing GTI is peppy enough, boasting a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that rips off a 0-to-60 sprint in just 7.3 seconds. While that’s no Ferrari, it is pretty sweet for a hatchback that gets 33 mpg on the highway.
With the performance and stylish appearance that the 2013 Golf VII GTI offers up, can VW really do anything to make this compact hatch even more desirable?
Click past the jump to read our full review on the Volkswagen Golf VII GTI to find out. Full story
In the world of electric vehicles, Tesla is busy placing the finishing touches on the Sistine Chapel while the rest of the automotive world is still fumbling around with paint-by-numbers kits. Tesla managed to pull off making an EV lineup that is sexy, efficient, range-heavy, and cost effective while the rest just can’t keep up.
We knew that Tesla had its new “Supercharger” that it was working on, but we were none too sure exactly what it was going to end up being. Well, now we know. The Superchargers are a line of charging stations that Tesla is building to help make driving EVs nearly as convenient as combustion vehicles by providing extremely fast charges.
Tesla announced that the initial six chargers will all been high-traffic corridors in California and will be 100 percent fueled by sunlight, which makes them 100 percent green too. They can provide 100 Kw of power in just 30 minutes, which is good for about three hours of driving at 60 mph. In the future, Tesla plans to crank them up to 120 Kw. To boot, Tesla also announced that these Supercharger stations will be completely free of charge for Tesla Model S owners to use.
Tesla plans to extend the Supercharger network next year to other high-traffic areas and eventually plans to have enough stations to travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal, and L.A. to New York in an electric vehicle without worrying about discharging the batteries. For Tesla Model S owners, this would mean completely cost-free travel across the country, sans wear and tear on the car and food.
We must tip our hats again to the genius that is Tesla. How exactly it pulls off these types of advancements in technology without going belly up is beyond us. Let’s just hope it can keep this trend up and get us away from fossil fuels altogether and into EVs that put most gasoline-powered cars to shame.
Since 2009, Honda has had hydrogen fuel cell vehicles running around in Europe and in 2011, Honda joined the Clean Energy Partnership in Europe to help bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the forefront. Now Honda is set to expand its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle production in a huge way by replacing the existing FCX Clarity with an all-new fuel cell vehicle in 2015. What’s more is that this car will be marketed in Japan and the U.S., as well as Europe.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen to create electricity and the electricity is used to power the car. This means that there is literally no non-renewable fuel used and the only emissions created are water vapor. The details are still pretty sketchy on the entire project and Honda has pretty much only let us in on a little bit of information. In a statement, Honda stated that this new fuel cell vehicle will “showcase further technological advancement and significant cost reduction that Honda has accomplished.”
The latter statement is thanks to a new manufacturing process that Honda will adopt that allows it to produce its cars at the same time around the world, as opposed to staggering the production around the globe. Per Honda’s research, and general consensus agreement, this will reduce the cost of producing all Hondas, not just FCVs.
The biggest issue that Honda will run into in the U.S. is the hydrogen-delivery infrastructure. You can’t really head on down to your local BP station and top off your hydrogen tanks at will. It definitely takes a little planning and we are interested to see what Honda has up its sleeves for this. Don’t be shocked to start seeing Honda offering up filling stations at local dealerships that sell these cars.
We’ll keep you up to date on the production and details on this upcoming Honda FCV.