News: Lotus Evora: The concept formerly known as ‘Eagle’


Lotus has finally given a name to the ‘Eagle’ concept that was centre stage on the Lotus stand at the British Motorshow. The new Lotus will not be the much hoped for Esprit, but will be labelled ‘Evora’.

The 3.5 litre V6 is said to pump out 280hp (208kW) in a car weighing 1350kg. These figures are nothing to really shout about and look set to distance the Evora from the light-weight sporting theme that Lotus has excelled at in the past. Funny then that CEO Mike Kimberley would say “I think Colin Chapman would have approved” as Chapman was about weight saving.

View the press release below, but beware. It contains high levels of self congratulatory remarks.

With its stunning visual impact, exhilarating all-round dynamic performance, innovative chassis technology and high levels of luxury, packaging and convenience, the Evora heralds an exciting new era for Lotus.

The first all-new Lotus since the iconic Elise made its debut in 1995, The Evora enters the sports car market as currently the world’s only mid-engined 2+2. Powered by a Lotus-tuned 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 280 PS, and weighing just 1350 kg (prototype specification), the Evora promises breathtaking performance. During preliminary testing around the famous Nürburgring, the Lotus chassis engineers report that it is extremely agile and great fun to drive – even when clad with the full development disguise that hid the beautiful lines from the prying motor-industry paparazzi.

In addition to its excellent performance and exemplary handling, the Evora offers a more refined ownership experience than Lotus’s existing smaller four-cylinder models. Its elegantly styled cabin is elegantly trimmed and its equipment list includes contemporary features such as an advanced touch-screen multi-media system and electric power-fold door mirrors.

Because one of the roles of the Evora is to attract new customers to the Lotus brand, much attention has been paid to its ease of use. Wider, taller door apertures and narrower sills make getting in and out of the cabin a less athletic undertaking than it is in Lotus’s smaller sports cars (the Elise, Exige, Europa and 2-Eleven), while the design of the cabin itself will accommodate two 99th percentile (6ft 5in tall) American males in the front seats.

The ‘convenience factor’ of the Evora extends to less obvious areas of the car. For instance, beneath the skin the entire front-end structure is a high tech aluminium sacrificial modular unit, attached to the main extruded aluminium tub. This modular unit is designed to deform for maximum safety, and to reduce repair costs in the event of a frontal impact.

The Evora has been designed with global automotive regulations in mind, and future derivatives are planed, these including amongst others, a convertible.

The Evora will be hand crafted and built on a dedicated new assembly line within Lotus’s advanced manufacturing facility at Hethel in the east of England; capacity limitations will restrict production to approximately 2000 cars a year, ensuring the dynamic new sports car’s rarity and exclusivity.

Mike Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc, has this to say about the exciting new model: “The Evora is the biggest milestone Lotus has achieved since the Elise was born 13 years ago and is part of our bold five year strategic plan, which includes the introduction of new cars and technologies to many more markets around the world. The Evora also represents Lotus core values of performance through light weight and efficiency and proves that you can have phenomenal performance, fuel efficiency elegant design and practicality all in a class leading mid-engine 2+2 sportscar, which will meet global safety and homologation standards”

Mike Kimberley continues, “Looking to the future, we will continue to research, develop and produce lighter, more efficient vehicles which are linked to our extensive and well-regarded work on all aspects of future fuels, alternative engines and electric and hybrid vehicle solutions for the future. We all have an environmental responsibility to future generations and the Evora is another example where Lotus is seen to make significant steps towards improving the efficiency and sustainability of the motorcar keeping Britain at the forefront of the high technology motor industry.”

By the time the Evora reaches the Lotus showrooms from Spring 2009 onwards, it will be the most thoroughly tested Lotus car in the history of Lotus. It will also be one of the company’s great milestones.

The order book is now open in the UK and across continental Europe, with markets around the world to start taking orders in due course. Final specifications, options and prices of the production Lotus Evora will be published closer to the sale date in the many Lotus markets around the world.

Mike Kimberley sums up, “This year Lotus celebrates its 60th anniversary and it is fitting that 2008 is also the birth of the Lotus Evora, a fantastic addition to the Lotus range. The Lotus Evora represents Group Lotus, a company that is at the forefront of the automotive industry, in a changing world where priorities of efficiency, economy and environmental impact go hand in hand with performance, design and individuality. I think Colin Chapman would have approved.”

News: TH!NK about it: Norwegian company releases electric vehicle


Norwegian electric company TH!NK (yes with an exclamation mark for the ‘i’) have put their latest offering on show at the British Motorshow.

The company claims that the TH!NK city has a range of 210km and only requires an overnight charge and will cost around NZ$265 to travel 16100km. Of course that is based on grid electricity costs in the UK.

As an inner-city alternative TH!NK could have something.

View the press release below

Displayed at the 2008 British International Motor Show at ExCeL London by Norwegian electric vehicle pioneers Think, a company with 17 years experience in electric vehicles, the new TH!NK city will be available for UK customer orders next summer.

TH!NK city is a true, modern urban car, not a quadricycle. It is a fully environmental vehicle, emission free and 95 percent recyclable. With an energy efficiency three times that of a traditional combustion engine car, it is a vehicle that realistically meets the growing challenges of environmental protection, traffic congestion and emissions legislation.

The two-seater urban car has a top speed of 110km/h. It accelerates from zero to 50km/h in just 6.5 seconds and to 80km/h in 16 seconds. It requires just an overnight top-up of electricity and can travel for 210km in city driving on a fully charged battery.
To charge the batteries from 20 per cent capacity to 80 percent takes just four hours. Over 10,000 miles use, the total cost of electricity used to power a TH!NK city will be in the region of £100 (NZ$265)

TH!NK city is designed to meet the strict safety requirements of both Europe and the USA, as a genuinely-safe road car. It is the world’s only crash-tested and highway-certified EV. The car is equipped with ABS brakes, airbags and three-point safety belts with pretensioners and it surpasses all European and US requirements.

“Unlike the lower-range, electric quadricycles that have had limited success in the UK, the TH!NK city is a real car which provides a realistic option for those motorists who want to drive a true zero emissions car,” said Richard Blundell, Managing Director of Think UK.

“Concern for the environment has been at the heart of the development of TH!NK city. It’s not only environmentally sound to drive, but the car itself is designed to be recycled,” he said, “Driving a silent car will give urban motorists a totally new experience. The TH!NK city produces no waste heat and no pollution. Critically for London and many other urban markets it beats the congestion charge!”

“Moreover, the TH!NK city is fund to drive, cheap to run, great to look at, generates incredible mileage figures and is extremely kind on the environment.  This is a proposition that we believe will interest many drivers who are re-thinking their approach to motoring,” he added.

Engineers, developers, buyers and designers in the Think company have focused on utilising clean recyclable materials and non-polluting production processes. The dashboard can be completely recycled. The fabrics, body, supports, air ducts, adhesives and fixings are designed using the same recyclable materials.

TH!NK city’s body is made of recyclable ABS plastic, designed specifically for city driving. Not only is it ideal for motorists who want to avoid visible scratches and irritating dents, the unpainted, self-coloured plastic bodywork also reduces both energy consumption and toxins, while making the panels easier to recycle. The battery is returned to the supplier at the end of its useable life.

These factors have been warmly welcomed by the auto insurance industry, resulting in reduced auto insurance rates by as much as 30-50 per cent.

Standard equipment on each TH!NK city includes power steering, central locking, a 4kW electric heater, and electric windows and mirrors. Optional equipment will include air conditioning, a pre-heat timer, electrically heated windscreen, full length sunroof, Radio CD with MP3, USB, Bluetooth, a navigation & multimedia system, alloy wheels, roof rack and 2 + 2 child seats (including 3-point seat belts)

Production started this year in Norway, and the first batch of right-hand drive cars will be delivered to UK customers in summer 2009. Prices of the TH!NK city will be announced closer to the on-sale date.

Company history and background

Think designs, develops, manufactures and markets environmentally friendly vehicles and technologies. The company has more than 17 years experience in developing and producing electric vehicles and there are about 1,200 Think-built vehicles driving on Norwegian roads today, many with over 100,000 miles registered on their odometers.

The latest TH!NK city is the sixth-generation electric vehicle that has been produced in Norway. Series production of the newly designed TH!NK city car has recently started and the first cars have already been delivered to Norwegian customers. Currently, cars are being produced at a rate of three to five a day, rising to 20 a day in the next six months.

The capacity of Think’s first assembly plant in Aurskog, outside Oslo, is presently being increased to 10,000 cars per year. Think plans to increase its production capacity with new assembly plants in the USA, Continental Europe and Asia in the next two years.

In April this year, Think reached across the Atlantic and established TH!NK North America in partnership with the leading clean-tech investors RockPort Capital Partners and Kleiner Perkins, Caufield and Byers. Sales other than initial trial and demonstration projects will begin in the North American market in 2009.

At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, Think announced a strategic partnership with energy giant General Electric, also an investor in Think. Think has also established partnerships in the US with lithium-based battery suppliers A123 Systems and EnerDel.

Think has been developing and producing urban mobility solutions since the early 1990s. The first prototype predecessor to today’s modern TH!NK city was developed in 1991. TH!NK city was initially put in serial production in 1999.

During recent years, a wave of environmental consciousness and climate change awareness has ripened the market for alternative mobility solutions. In 2006, new Norwegian investors bought Think, and an experienced management team was engaged to lead the global design, development and commercialization of Think’s electric drive train mobility products.

Both new and former staff members were added to the team, and a new, global strategy was outlined for the company. A USD 97 million private placement during 2007 prepared Think to go into regular, serial production of the sixth generation TH!NK city. It also ushered in a new and dynamic ownership of experienced, clean technology investors. The car company of the 21st century was on the road.

“We are the car company of the 21st century. We develop zero emission vehicles and sustainable solutions and we are proud to be launching TH!NK city in new markets in 2008 and 2009, something that shows that the demand for sustainable solutions and zero emission vehicles is greater than ever before,” says Jan-Olaf Willums, CEO of Think Global.

Blogs: Do your car purchasing habits minic your parents’?

(Fellow scribe) Ben and I were talking yesterday about the cars that are in your family holiday photos. He was saying that if you look back through his family’s snaps there’s always a Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore in there. I have personally heard people say that they bought their car because it was the same brand as their Dad used to drive. My family always had one runabout (Mazda 323 or similar), a van (usually a Toyota Hiace) and a powerful car (3 x Rover SD1 3.5V8, 3 x Saab 9000 turbo) – I wouldn’t want to own either of those, but my lust for horsepower is retained, burned into my soul from a young age.

I was too young to appreciate the V8 roar in the Rover, and by the time I was really interested in cars Dad was onto his first Saab. For me, a ride in that when Dad was in a hurry, was a thrill. It made the 0-60mph dash in a shade over 7 seconds, accompanied by lots of torque steer, and at the time that was quick. It was also comfortable. It was a time when the UK police were sensible with their speed policing – if everything was moving at 80-90mph (up to 145kph) on the motorway, they’d just let it flow.

For a while I thought I’d end up buying a Saab, but I found myself in rally-bred Japanese pocket rockets. Ben, on the other hand, has just been reliving his youth with a Ford G6 and HSV GTS. So, if you had good experiences in the cars that your parents had (i.e. if they were cars that were exciting, didn’t break down, etc), then perhaps you’re more likely to be loyal to those marques.

The Holy Grail of brand loyalty is when the kids start buying what the parents drove, but with the thousands of options available nowadays, and people’s urge to be independent, this could possibly be a futile wish by the car manufacturers of the future.

News: Volkswagen lightweight mid-engine Elise-beater on the cards


Rumours of a lightweight mid-engine car from VW-Audi continue to circulate and look to climax with the unveiling of a such a Volkswagen at the Los Angeles Motorshow later this year.

There are also rumours that this car could also be the Audi R4, the phantom-like unconfirmed but believed-to-exist model, that has auto-nuts blabbering like alien conspiracy theorists.

A third shot in the dark (that could still hit the target) is that with Porsche owning part of Volkswagen a resurrection of the 914 tag could be on the cards.

Facts will dissolve speculation when the L.A Motorshow opens in November.

News: MINI SUV could be on the shared BMW-Fiat platform


News of the MINI SUV said to labeled ‘Crossman’ and to debut at the forthcoming Paris Motorshow could utilise the partnered platform from BMW and Fiat has come to light.

The platform is touted to be under consideration for the new Fiat Punto Grande, the Alfa Romeo MiTo and the MINI Crossman. It has been substantiated that the platform codenamed C-Evo will be used for the new Alfa 147 and could house either FWD and AWD set-ups.

While the look of the MINI Crossman has caused considerable debate, it looks unlikely that BMW won’t produce it. The big MINI is due out in 2015.

News: NICE car company shows off electric future


Launched two years ago in London, NICE is back with a bang — or as loud a bang as an all-electric vehicle company can make.

NICE (which stands for No Internal Combustion Engine) will be showing off 3 horseless carriages in their electric stable at the upcoming British Motor Show.

Stand highlights include a global debut for the new Ze-0. European styled and developed and built in China, it will be the world’s first affordable, 5-door electric family car. Ze-0 brings all the benefits of electric motoring in a package that boasts a range of up to 110km in typical city driving and makes no compromise on specification or styling. It will cost from as little as £13,995 (NZ$37,000) when it goes on sale in the Autumn.

Another world first on the NICE stand comes from the stunning MyCar. This Italian-styled two-seater is small, attractive and competitively priced. It will start from just £8,995 (NZ$24,000) when it too goes on sale in the Autumn and has a range of around 65km – perfect for city motoring.

News: Hyundai displaces Honda to become 5th largest car maker

In less than ten years the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group has climbed the ladder from the world’s eleventh largest automaker to its recently announced fifth position.

With global sales of 3,961,629 units in 2007 this places it ahead of Honda and some of the other car giants such as Nissan, Chrysler and Fiat.

“Given the economic climate at the moment and the continually rising price of crude oil we think this is a great achievement” says Philip Eustace, Executive Director Hyundai Motors New Zealand.

“Hyundai have made giant strides with the quality of the vehicles produced and are now ranking very highly in JD Power surveys and many other consumer surveys.”

Hyundai has several manufacturing plants around the world and will soon be opening a plant in Europe which will have a capacity of 300,000 units per annum. This divestment of production facilities also gives the Hyundai Group immediate access to the emerging markets of China and India and improves their position to supply the mature markets of Europe and North America.

To add to this announcement both here at home and globally Hyundai had more good news.  Hyundai Motor Company posted an 11.4% rise in its global monthly sales for June with a record 253,846 units sold — its best ever result.

Meanwhile Hyundai Motors New Zealand had 374 passenger car sales in June which gave them a market share of 5.54%.  Added to this is 25 van sales taking their total to 399, a 4.1% market share overall. This brings their total sales year to date to 2568, up 22.3% from June last year.

2007 Global Sales Rankings

1. Toyota Motor Corp.                   9,366,000

2. General Motors                         8,902,252

3. Volkswagen AG                         6,191,618,

4. Ford Motor Co.                          5,964,000

5. Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group 3,961,629

6. Honda Motor Co. Ltd.                3,831,000

7. Nissan Motor Co.                       3,675,574

8. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA           3,428,400

9. Chrysler LLC                             2,676,268

10. Fiat S.p.A.                                2,620,864

News: Revised Mercedes-Benz A-Class boasts environmental credentials


From March 2009 an ECO start-stop function will be available on the A 150 and A 170 with manual transmission and the three-door A 160 CDI will benefit from an optional BlueEFFICIENCY package which improves fuel consumption of the Coupe by more than 11 per cent, to 4.4 L/100km. Independent experts have awarded the A-Class with the internationally valid environmental certificate already held by the C-Class and S-Class.

The design has been revised and new technical developments have further enhanced levels of safety with crash responsive lighting and adaptive brake lights.  The car is even more comfortable as a result of new interior materials, with improved adjustment and support in the seats.  All models have new infotainment systems with Bluetooth connectivity, and the engines are now more fuel efficient as a result of three new BlueEFFICIENCY models.

The ECO start-stop function lowers fuel consumption and exhaust emissions by automatically switching off the engine during idling phases.  ECO start-stop will be available from spring 2009 for the A 150 and A 170 when twinned with the five-speed manual transmission and will both be badged BlueEFFICIENCY.  When travelling at low speed, the driver only needs to shift the manual transmission to neutral and apply the brakes. The engine is then switched off, and the ECO display appears in the instrument cluster.

The recycling concept of a vehicle is also considered.  95% of the A-Class can be recycled so already meets the EU regulation coming into force from 2015 and renewable raw materials are used during production including the use of flax, olive stones, cotton, coconut fibre, wood veneers and abaca fibres.

Drivers of the A-Class can now opt for active park assist.  This system which operates up to 25 mph scans the road to identify suitable parking spaces for the car. Once a suitable space is found the driver has the option to park.  By engaging reverse they accept the identified space and then just need to accelerate and brake.  Active park assist takes over the steering and automatically manoeuvres the car into the parking space. The parking space only needs to be 1.30 metres longer than the A-Class, there is currently no other car able to park automatically in such a small space.

The car also has Hill Start Assist, which prevents it from rolling backwards when the driver moves from the brake pedal to the accelerator when moving off on an uphill gradient.