Next-generation Nissan GT-R could go hybrid

June 24th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Rumors of a hybrid-drive system for the next Nissan GT-R aren’t exactly new and have been dominating fan websites since last year. But now there may be some truth behind the speculation. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s has made a very public commitment to electric vehicles, so it won’t be a surprise that the automaker is seriously considering adding some form of battery power to the next version of its hero sports car. Speaking at a recent event over in Australia, GT-R chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno confirmed that an alternative powertrain of some description will be a necessity to keep the GT-R up-to-date and to help meet future emissions and fuel economy regulations.

Over in Europe big guns Mercedes-Benz and Audi have already announced plans to build electric versions of the SLS AMG and R8. According to Mizuno, Nissan is hedging its bets and this stage and is considering a straight battery variant, a hybrid or even a diesel version. A battery version is a strong possibility, but Mizuno also says a hybrid wouldn’t be too hard thanks to the GT-R’s front engine/rear transaxle layout. Currently the Nissan Leaf and other EVs are giving Nissan some breathing room on the total emissions regulations, so a new GT-R isn’t going to happen tomorrow. At this point work hasn’t begun on the new model and no official decision has been made on the powertrain. Stay tuned.

Rotary-power rumours for next-generation Mazda MX-5

June 18th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Some interesting rumors have started surfacing that the next-generation 2012 Mazda MX-5 could tip the scales at just 1,000kg and deliver an impressive 4.7l/100km economy without dropping any horsepower. Initial reports claimed that the MX-5 was achieving this feat by using Mazda’s forthcoming SKY-G engines, but now a very different story is coming out of Mazda HQ.

Apparently the 2012 MX-5 will receive a rotary powerplant with a displacement of either 1.2 or 1.3 litres, this will help the roadster drop off a few pounds in the process. However, the Wankel engine isn’t exactly known for its fuel efficiency so the rumored rotary would be of the hybrid variety. That sounds unbelievable, but the Wankel/hybrid pairing has already been achieved in the form of a Fiat 500 prototype built by FEV. The little Fiat contains a rotary engine that also acts as a generator for a Lithium-Ion battery pack.

While it’s an intriguing concept, this time round the MX-5 will most likely use a small, efficient four-cylinder with turbocharging. After all, one of the most attractive qualities of the MX-5 is it’s bargain price tag, and hybrids aren’t cheap, or that light either.

Next-gen Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru STI to be diesel powered

June 17th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

According to internet rumours, both Mitsubishi and Subaru are planning diesel versions of their respective sports-focused EVO and STi models.

For Mitsubishi, the story seems fairly far-fetched, and at this stage unlikely. But according to a UK car magazine, the brand has considered scrapping a petrol-powered Lancer Evolution model altogether, while also rejecting plans for a petrol-hybrid version, and has instead settled on producing the model as diesel-electric hybrid only.

Producing the EVO as a diesel-only offering has some major drawbacks. It would keep the vehicle out of most motor-sport competition for one, and it would also make it a difficult sell in diesel-resistant markets such as Japan and the United States. The only positive is an ability to keep its CO2 emissions to below the 200 g/km mark.

In terms of performance the new diesel-electric set up should allow the next-gen EVO to do the 0-100 km/h sprint in under five seconds. The model would also continue to use the S-AWC all-wheel drive system that makes the EVO such a sharp handler.

For the Impreza STi the changes won’t be so extreme, Subaru is planning on a diesel version for the new model due out in 2012. The engine would be an increased-output version of the 2.0 litre diesel that’s currently in the Impreza lineup.

Toyota’s FT-86 coupe delayed and could be a hybrid

May 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Rumours have begun circulating that the release of Toyota’s FT-86 rear-drive sports coupe will be delayed from 2011 to 2013.

The reasons behind the delay are varied, and include speculation on a different design direction, the economic slowdown, Toyota’s recent recall issues and interestingly the possibility of a revised powertrain strategy that could include some kind of hybrid power.

The FT-86 generated some serious interest in the performance car scene after all it was to be the spiritual successor to the Corolla AE86 but it was just a concept. Now, Toyota is apparently second-guessing the styling of the coupe before it reaches production. ToMoCo is also keeping a close eye on the success of the Honda CR-Z, which may end up influencing Toyota’s decision on the final drivetrain specs of the FT-86.

That could mean a hybrid powerplant is on the cards, which may not be a bad thing, but if Toyota decides to produce the coupe as a front-driver, it will loose most of its cred rapidly. More will be revealed when the next example of the FT-86 debuts at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 2011.

BMW confirm 3-Series hybrid

May 20th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Luxury is starting to mix in with hybrid technology more and more. Now it looks like BMW’s 3 Series will be the next vehicle to get the electric motor treatment. While speaking with shareholders, BMW top brass Norbert Reithofer annouunced that the company’s high volume seller 3 Series will be offered with a hybrid option shortly. Exactly when hasn’t been announced but the 5 Series hybrid is scheduled for sale next year, so the 3-Series hybrid may spark up sometime in 2012.

BMW says that its biggest motivation for spreading hybrid tech amongst its models isn’t just emissions standards. The German manufacturer also said that high demand in Japan has created the move. According to Reithofer, most Japanese consumers won’t take the time to look at a brand unless there are multiple hybrid options offered.

While the move is mostly sales based, it won’t hurt the company’s goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 25 percent between now and 2020. It appears now that hybrids are key to meeting the new emissions rules while still allowing adequate power to move relatively large, heavy luxury cars around.

Land Rover LRX to be unveiled at Paris Motor Show

May 13th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Is the world ready for a kinder, gentler, environmentally friendly Sport Utility Vehicle? Land Rover thinks so and is hoping to cash in with its hotly anticipated LRX. The new SUV will be unveiled in production form at the Paris Motor Show later this year. With a North American debut in LA following shortly after. According to reports, the LRX will go on sale globally in the third quarter of 2011.

The LRX Concept was first seen at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, where it was very well received by both the press and the showgoing public. The LRX is expected to be Land Rover’s most fuel efficient model and will be offered with both a conventional combustion engine and later a diesel-electric powertrain.

Land Rover’s first hybrid drivetrain will consist of a 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine mated up to a 25kW electric motor. The system would be a full parallel hybrid, meaning it could operate on any combination of gasoline or electricity using a lithium ion battery pack. The hybrid version of the LRX will be more than 100kg heavier than the standard version and will make use of the new ZF eight-speed transmission.

Porsche already has 900 customers for 918 hybrid

April 28th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Porsche is reporting that is now has more than 900 potential customers for its upcoming 918 Spyder hybrid.

The two-seater 918 Spyder hybrid was first shown at the Geneva auto show last month and represents an entirely new model for Porsche, which is aiming to increase sales to around 150,000 units a year by developing new products.

The hybrid drivetrain on the 918 Spyder features a V8 with 368 kW (493 hp) mated to three electric motors totaling 160 kW (215 hp). In total the 918 produces a whopping 528 kW (708 hp). The 0 to 100 km/h sprint is achieved in a mere 3.2 seconds and top speed is 320 km/h.

Fuel economy is also very impressive with the 918 Spyder hybrid sipping on just 3 liters/100 km, according to Porsche.

Porsche development boss Wolfgang Duerheimer said in a recent interview “I’m confident that we will soon reach the threshold of 1,000 potential customers. We need 1,000 seriously interested people to make a sound business case,”

The 918 Spyder hybrid is scheduled  to make a production-ready debut sometime in the next five years.

Toyota Prius minivan ready for 2011 production

April 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Rumours of a larger Prius vehicle have been circulating for a while, but it now looks increasingly likely that Toyota is preparing to launch a new hybrid minivan that will wear the Prius badge. This new vehicle will be the first completely new vehicle added to the Prius range and could join the well-known hatchback sometime next year.

The new Prius hybrid minivan may be the first vehicle from Toyota to be equipped with an in-house developed lithium ion battery pack. With three rows of seats the Prius Minivan should also be equipped with sliding doors and should be able to seat up to seven people, further pushing Toyota’s hybrid appeal into the family-vehicle market.

Very few details are currently available but in terms of pricing Toyota would like to keep the price close to that of standard petrol minivans currently on the market.

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