Fuel

Ford Working on Bringing Carbon Fiber Body Panels into Mass Production

Ford Working on Bringing Carbon Fiber Body Panels into Mass Production

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.

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2012 Lotus Nemesis by Ecotricity

2012 Lotus Nemesis by Ecotricity

The Lotus Nemesis was able to shatter the U.K. land speed record for an electric vehicle in September 2012, but many people didn’t even know this vehicle existed. Did Lotus create an electric model while no one was looking?

No, the Nemesis isn’t an all-new electric vehicle built by Lotus in an attempt to rebuild its damaged image. The Nemesis is actually a one-off Lotus Elise converted to electric power by Ecotricity – a Great Britain-based renewable energy company.

Typically, when you think of the electric vehicle, you imagine the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV; you think, a slow and ugly buggy that looks as if the manufacturer built it out of spite rather than to actually sell. Well, first we had Tesla eliminating the ugly and slow stereotypes rather effectively and now you have this Nemesis ripping that stereo type to shreds and stomping it into the ground.

Click past the just to read our full review on the Lotus Nemesis.

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2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion Concept

2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion Concept

We saw the first rendition of the Golf BlueMotion Concept about five years ago and it was impressive, boasting a 62.8 mph rating and emitting just 119 grams of CO2 per km. We then got a look at the second-gen model in 2009 with its 74.3 mpg and 99 g/km of CO2. Here we are at the 2012 Paris Auto Show and Volkswagen has the third generation BlueMotion Golf ready to show off.

Volkswagen really has something to prove in the mpg department, as it is one of only a handful of automakers available in the U.S. that has openly protested the new CAFÉ standards. VW has attempted to make it clear that its reasoning behind protecting the standards is not because it doesn’t want to build fuel-efficient vehicles, but rather because it feels the yearly improvement numbers are skewed to making it easier on American car and truck manufacturers.

Well, here stands a chance for VW to truly prove that it is all in on saving us money at the pump. So let’s have a look at what Vee-dub-ya has served up.

Click past the jump to read our review on the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion Concept.

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Honda Confirms Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles for 2015

Honda Confirms Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles for 2015

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.

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2013 BMW Concept Active Tourer

2013 BMW Concept Active Tourer

The BMW Concept Active Tourer is set to be unveiled at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, which begins on September 29th and it will debut with some all-new BMW technology. BMW sees the Active Tourer as its way to fit in with the 5-percent annual mpg growth required by the recently passed CAFÉ extension through 2025. Believe it or not, this compact crossover actually shares a small amount of DNA with the upcoming i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, which we will get into later.

The Concept Active Tourer is just as its name alludes to, a concept. However, it is a great glimpse into the upcoming technologies that BMW plans to add to its line up in the coming years. One brand-new item the Concept Tourer bears is the eDrive system, which we’ll describe in more detail later. The second new technology is the first-ever appearance by the much-anticipated BMW 3-cylinder engine.

As with any concept car that we see, we have to ask a few questions. First, is this concept a reality or is it a pipe dream that will likely never see the light of day in its conception form (See: Pontiac Sunfire)? Secondly, can this concept even compete in its market in both price and performance?

Click past the jump to read all about the BMW Concept Active Tourer and get the answers to these questions.

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2013 Hummer H3 Electric by Prindiville

2013 Hummer H3 Electric by Prindiville

Electric cars are certainly beginning to take flight lately, with Tesla becoming the unlikely leader of the whole revolution. Okay, maybe it’s not quite a revolution yet, but it’s at least starting to gain a little more traction. It has gained enough traction to garner the attention of UK coach builder, Prindiville.

Prindiville, being the creative company that it is, couldn’t just make any run-of-the-mill EV. Nope, its engineers and designers came up with a near mock up of the latest Hummer H3 – you know, one of the many defunct GM brands – only miniaturize and electric driven. What a concept!

Prindiville has now begun production and released a slew of specifications, so we felt it was time to give it the appropriate TopSpeed once over via a full review. So is this new custom EV in a shrunk-down Hummer body a good buy for the average driver?

To find out the answer to that and more, click past the jump.

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Extended CAFE Standards Are Officially Signed Into Law

Extended CAFE Standards Are Officially Signed Into Law

We often bring up the CAFE standards, as they directly impact our covering of supercars that obviously do not fit into this plan. As much as we hate to admit it, fossil fuels are at about a quarter tank right now and fading fast, so something had to be done.

First came the “Gas Guzzler” tax, but that had very little impact, as the folks buying those types of cars could afford the extra several thousand dollars. With our backs against the wall, gasoline prices over $4 per gallon and the current CAFE standards expiring in 2016, the government stepped in and began composing an extension to the CAFE standards, which would push the average mpg of all cars and light trucks up to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

There was some battle over these standards being unconstitutional and unnecessary, but ultimately the courts and all sides of the government came to the conclusion that it was a necessary evil. Now this law has become official, as it has successfully passed its final obstacle, the pen of Barack Obama.

The new law takes effect in the 2017 model year, but there is a chance that Mitt Romney could beat Obama and he made it clear that he would immediately repeal the CAFE standards and move more toward encouragement than legislation. We’re not a political site, but it’s likely too late for encouragement to move the mpg needle fast enough.

We have already outlined what the supercar realm may look like by the year 2020, with high-strung 4-cylinders powering our fastest cars instead of massive V-12 engines. This can also cause a push toward LPG, CNG or hydrogen in the future, as the new law includes incentives for natural gas and fuel cell vehicles. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what happens, but the changes in the next 13 years will be drastic.

Click past the jump to read the press release about the finalization of these standards.

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Tesla Refuses to "Enter the Graveyard" with other Failed Companies

Tesla Refuses to "Enter the Graveyard" with other Failed Companies

So many car companies lose sight of the single most important aspect of running a business: keeping cost low and profit high, while maintaining good quality control. This has ultimately landed many start-up companies into early closure and even some juggernauts, like Pontiac and Oldsmobile, into shutting their doors for good.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk really seems to have his finger on the pulse of his business, as they slowly start bringing more mainstream cars – as mainstream as an EV can be – into the market, with its new Model S and upcoming Model X. To help control overhead, each Tesla Model S is built to order, so there aren’t any leftovers on the shelves, but this also poses the risk of not being able to keep up with demand.

At this point, Tesla is manufacturing at its capacity and needs to push out another 5,000 Model S units by December 31st to hit its goal and stay in the black. This is a tall task that will likely not be possible without increasing production, but Tesla’s CEO also knows that increasing production also increases cost, so there needs to be a delicate balance. Musk was quoted saying that “The challenge that Tesla faces over the next few months is scaling production enough to achieve a certain gross margin on our product so we can be cash flow positive. That’s extremely important,” and “If we’re unable to do that, we’ll enter the graveyard with all the other car company startups of the last 90 years.”

Clearly, Musk is willing to take this challenge head-on and he understands what’s at stake. We love the Tesla line and want to see it succeed, and seeing a CEO that is willing to admit the challenges ahead and ready to take them on is a promising start. We’ll keep a close eye on this to make sure Tesla can actually hit its goals for the year and stay afloat.

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Chrysler Mulling Over Plans to Sell EVs and Announces Production of Fiat 500EV

Chrysler Mulling Over Plans to Sell EVs and Announces Production of Fiat 500EV

Chrysler has had only one mass-produced electrified vehicle in its history and that was the now-discontinued Durango hybrid. According to a report from Bloomberg, Chrysler is once again kicking around the thought of electrified vehicles, be it by 100 percent electricity or some sort of hybrid system.

Bob Lee, the head of Chrysler’s engine and electrified propulsion engineering department was quoted as saying “We do believe in electrification, sparingly and for the right kinds of targeted applications.” This basically means that Chrysler is taking its dive into electric propulsion very carefully until it knows that there is a market among Chrysler buyers.

That’s not a huge shock, considering that Chrysler was pulled from the financial flames twice in the last decade, or so – once by Daimler and once by Fiat. Chrysler is finally pulling in a profit and now it’s actually carrying its parent company, Fiat, on its shoulders to keep it from drowning in debt.

Speaking of Fiat, Lee also confirmed in the same report that Fiat is moving into production of the anticipated 500EV, the electric-powered Fiat 500. The 500EV will go into production later on this year and be ready for release sometime in the 2013 model year.

The 500EV will likely be the testing grounds for Chrysler to see if it is a profitable venture or not. We are willing to bet that buyers gobble up the 500EV and that Chrysler soon follows suit with a small EV of their own. Down the road, with fuel prices going how they are, we may even see the Viper utilizing a hybrid system, much like Ferrari is planing to install on its upcoming Enzo/F70.

We’ll keep an eye on this and let you know once there is some confirmation on a Chrysler with electric propulsion.

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A Look Ahead: What the Supercar Realm May Look Like in 2020

A Look Ahead: What the Supercar Realm May Look Like in 2020

The TopSpeed time machine has taken us ahead before to see what Porsche has in store, now that VW controls it. It has also taken us to an alternate reality, where we got to see just how the i8 could completely fall on its face. Well, now with McLaren confirming what we all suspected (that the V-12 is about to becomes extinct), we are going to fire the old time cruiser back up and see what the supercar world might have in store for us in 2020.

McLaren has already come out and said that the V-12
"belongs in a museum" and plans to downsize its engine lineup, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. You see, in 2014, the FIA is dropping its engine sizes to petite 1.5-liter V-6 plants with turbochargers and energy recovery systems. Six years after that changeover, fuel will likely be so expensive that the FIA may drop to a 4-cylinder regulation, which opens the door for supercars to borrow said technology.

This would mean no more V-12, V-10, V-8, or V-6 engines and just super-powerful 4-cylinders will remain. Pumping 500 to 600 ponies from a 4-pot is not an impossible task, but it requires very precise research and development. The smaller engines will also result in lower weight, more manageable weight ratios, and better handling. Lower weight, in turn, results in better fuel economy and quicker acceleration.

There will be some tradeoffs, as expected. No longer will we have these 200+ mph supercars. You will also have a much less comfortable drive than expected, as these 4-bangers will be much more high-strung and touchy, much like a race car.

The big picture is what matters in all of this. No longer will there be a hunkin’ V-12 engine chugging down a gallon of fuel every 8 to 11 miles. In 2020, we should see smaller 4-pots getting 16 to 18 mpg and still keeping up with their larger ancestors up to 100 mph, which is really all that matters. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I drove 200 mph in my Aventador?”

But what about electric? Click past the jump to read about electric-powered supercars in 2020.

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2013 VIA VTRUX Suburban

2013 VIA VTRUX Suburban

Recently, we introduced you to the VIA VTRUX, an electric pickup truck with a range-extending gasoline engine. Now we are set to bring to you the SUV variant from the same company.

VIA is headed up by former GM executive, Bob Lutz, so these all-electrics are based on Chevy models. The VIA VTRUX SUV, which is also dubbed the Suburban, is based on the 2011 Chevy Suburban, but with a vastly different drivetrain underneath it.

With all of the hybrid SUVs hitting the marketplace, we honestly wonder if there is room for an electric SUV of this nature. Sure, we have the Tesla Model X SUV showing up at some point in the coming years, but it is not your "typical" SUV. The VIA VTRUX Suburban is a traditional SUV that simply lacks the traditional gasoline power.

So, how doe this VIA SUV hold up to its hybrid competition, some of which comes from its own donor company, GM?

You’ll have to click past the jump to find out.

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McLaren Dubs the V-12 as "a Thing of the Past"

McLaren Dubs the V-12 as "a Thing of the Past"

We mentioned a few months ago about how advancements in turbocharging is starting to render V-8 and larger engines obsolete. As much as readers may not have wanted to hear that, it is true. For additional confirmation, we now have supercar builder, McLaren, in our corner.

In a recent interview with De Telegraaf’s Autovisie, McLaren managing director, Antony Sheriff, was quoted saying that “the V-12 engine is a thing of the past” and “the engine belongs in a museum.” Just as we pointed out, Sheriff claims that a boosted V-8 can pump out the same horsepower and more torque than a naturally aspirated V-12, plus it is lighter, less complex, and boasts better fuel economy.

Sheriff went on to further solidify our stance, as he explains that turbocharged V-6 engines may have a place in the supercar world as replacements for naturally aspirated V-8 engines. Granted, this is only the opinion of one automaker and it is not one of the big-three supercar builders – Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche – so it doesn’t mean the V-12, V-10, and V-8 engines are going away just yet.

Having said that, we still hold firm in our belief that, in the next decade, the V-12 and V-10 engines will not be able to survive in a world of $5-per-gallon gasoline. Inside of this time period, smaller displacement engines and electric motors will replace these large, fuel-hungry engines. For now, we at least know that McLaren is on-board with the much-needed changeover.

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