The year was 1966, and General Motors was working on the future. From January to October, some 200 people worked in three shifts on the Electrovan, the first electric vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It had room for two, weighed 7,100 pounds, and could hit 60 mph in a not-quite-compelling 30 seconds.
But it was the first of its kind, a new way of doing things. Hydrogen-powered cars can be refueled in just a few minutes, are just as capable as their gas-loving counterparts, and emit nothing but water as a byproduct.
Today, GM heralded the Electrovan’s 50th birthday, noting it has since spent $ 2.5 billion developing fuel cell technology.
Rad, right? Yup, until you realize that for all that time and money, the automaker has made effectively zero progress getting humanity to ditch fossil fuels for hydrogen.
Plenty of folks are still pursuing this dream. Honda’s offering the Clarity Fuel Cell sedan in Japan. Toyota’s Mirai is available in the US, starting at nearly $ 60,000. Chevy just made a hydrogen-powered pickup for the US Army.
But no one’s solved the fundamental problems with hydrogen power: There’s no real infrastructure to get the fuel around the country and into cars. And while hydrogen’s the most abundant element in the universe, making it into a useable fuel often involves natural gas—hardly a zero-emissions process.
So yeah, GM marking 50 years of working on the stuff is like a a PhD celebrating his tenth year working on that thesis—and insisting he’ll be done real soon.
Ludicrous mode just got loonier.
Tesla Motors announced today its new Model S P100D model will hit 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, thanks to a bigger, 100-kWh battery. That’s an upgrade over the P90D’s 2.8 seconds, and just one tenth of a second slower than what the million-dollar Ferrari LaFerrari can do. Except that this is a four-door sedan. The P100D version of the Model X SUV will hit 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
That’s the best stomach swirl for the money the auto industry has ever offered, and a terrific example of how much better electric cars are than internal combustion engines at delivering torque. The bigger battery will also offer 315 miles of range (up from just under 300) in the sedan, Tesla says—but not if you spend all your time enjoying that acceleration.
Of course, with great power comes great pricing. Well, great for Tesla, which is charging a base price of $ 134,500 for its fastest car ever. The P90D with “ludicrous mode” starts at $ 119,500. The Model X with the bigger pack starts at $ 135,500. If you’ve ordered a now measly-feeling P90D but haven’t gotten it yet, you can upgrade for $ 10,000. If you’re already driving one and now feel utterly lame, you can have the extra power installed, but it’ll cost you $ 20,000.
In June, Tesla introduced the cheaper Model S 60, powered by a 75-kWh pack running software that limits its capacity by 20 percent. Customers who later decide they want more power can hand over $ 9,000, for which Tesla hits a button to update the car’s software and “unlock” the battery’s extra capability.
It’s easy to imagine Tesla will do something similar with this bigger pack, for buyers who aren’t quite ready to spend the extra cash. Spend P90D money today, and once the 2.8 second sprint to 60 mph loses its edge, break out the credit card.
Is a 0 to 60 mph time improvement of .3 seconds worth the extra cash? Tesla hopes so, because it says every dollar it can make off its luxury models will help fund its efforts to build the long-awaited, affordable Model 3, which should enter production late next year.
Over the past few years, the world has gotten to know some pretty cool electric vehicles: ludicrously quick Teslas, solar-powered planes, sport bikes with Italian styling. To add to the pile, Nissan now introduces the BladeGlider, a Zeus juice-powered razor blade on four wheels.
Released in Rio de Janeiro this week, the prototype version of a concept Nissan first showed in 2013 is a 268-horsepower sports car with a heart of green, powered by a 220kW lithium-ion battery.
The BladeGlider comes with rear-hinged dihedral doors (because conventional openings have no place in the future) and in two colors: “cyber green” and “stealth orange” (because … deer can’t see it?). The open top lets everyone know who’s releasing the fewest emissions in town, and the three-seat configuration borrowed from the famed McLaren F1 allows room for two passengers. Roll up to the club like the sustainable Liberace you are.
You shouldn’t expect Nissan to actually put this thing on the market, but combined with the successful, all-electric Leaf and its leading efforts in the race towards autonomous driving, it’s clear the Japanese automaker’s girding up for the future.
Bugatti did not design the Veyron to serve any practical purpose. It designed the car to stack up superlatives like a pre-schooler piles blocks: heedlessly. The Veyron was the fastest, most powerful, fanciest, and most completely unnecessary car on the planet for the entirely of its 10-year run. Bugatti made just 450 of them, sold them all for an average of $ 2.6 million apiece, and reportedly lost money doing it.
You almost certainly won’t ever know the God-like power of driving a Veyron, let alone that of its even more gobsmacking successor, the Chiron. But TMB Art Metal will sell you a bit of Veyron, fashioned into a pair of cufflinks. The British firm makes these snazzy accessories from the front wheel of a Veyron damaged in a crash. (Don’t judge; 1,200 horsepower is difficult to control.) Just $ 385!
The cufflinks won’t carry you to 200 mph in under 25 seconds, but given that they cost roughly 385,000 times more than a perfectly serviceable pair of plastic buttons, they’re every bit as impractical and excessive as the car that can.
Elon Musk, a man not known for subtlety or lack of ambition, has a plan to dominate the transportation sector. He doesn’t call it that, of course. He gave it the far more benign name Master Plan, Part Deux.
Beyond creating a vertically integrated company that builds electric vehicles, batteries to store the power to propel them, and the solar panels to generate that power, he wants to create whole new vehicle lineups. Some of them sound like they’re in advanced stages of development.
The plan, which Musk posted to the Tesla Motors blog on Wednesday afternoon, comes a decade after Part One, which essentially laid out the company’s plan to make boatloads of money with the Model S so it could produce the more affordable Model 3. Having crossed those things off his to-do list—while also outfitting an automobile factory, a battery factory, and, oh, running SpaceX and Solar City—Musk has moved on to the second phase of his plan.
Even as the company scrambles to produce the Model 3 sedan that Musk remains convinced will bring EVs to the masses, Tesla Motors, according to the Master Plan, Part Deux, sees itself creating a compact SUV and “a new kind of pickup truck.” Beyond that, Musk says, “there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport.”
He means big-rigs and buses, and says both are the early stages of development—and could be revealed next year. “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”
Now, electric buses are nothing new. San Francisco is crawling with them. But a Tesla bus? You know it would be gorgeous. Musk says they’d be smaller than you’re used to, but offer plenty of room for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes. They’ll be quick enough to keep up with traffic, and deliver a smooooth ride.
Where things get really wild, though, is his claim that Tesla buses would not have to stick to pre-determined routes like the busses that rumble past your office. A little intelligent planning with smartphones and mapping (think = Uber Pool) can deliver people right to their door. He’s even put some thought into what people without smartphones will do. They can use fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops, which will otherwise be redundant.
Looking a little further into the future, Tesla will continue developing its autonomous technology so all of these cars and trucks and buses do the driving. And then come the autonomous ride-sharing services in which Telsa owners let strangers borrow their cars or Tesla operates urban fleets “ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.”
Individually, none of these ideas is at all radical. You’d be hard-pressed to find an automaker that isn’t following Google in the race to autonomous cars, Daimler recently unveiled an autonomous big-rig, and a Tesla co-founder has developed a pretty sweet electric garbage truck. What is staggering here is the scale. Musk wants to do it all, immediately, and tie it all together in a cohesive system.
It’s so crazy it’s brilliant. And if Musk’s record so far is any indication, don’t bet against him pulling it off.
Spoiler alert: Old Yeller, the most loyal of hounds, gets rabies and dies at the end of the book/movie.
So “Ole Yeller” feels like a weird moniker for Ford’s latest special edition Mustang, until you realize it’s not named for that most loyal of hounds, at least not directly. The name actually comes from the famed P-51D Mustang fighter plane still flown by stunt pilot Bob Hoover. And it actually makes sense once you know Ford plans to auction off the ride and give the proceeds to charity.
Anyway, on to the car. This Ole Yeller is actually a Shelby GT350 Mustang, powered by a 5.2-liter V8 engine that barks out 526 horsepower and 429 pound-paws of torque. Because there’s some measure of justice in this world, the driver controls all that power with a six-speed manual transmission.
To make this GT350 extra special, Ford threw in “Ole Yeller” accents and badging, Recaro racing seats, and gauges inspired by plane cockpits. Of course, there’s extra carbon fiber, and the mirrors apparently project images of the P-51.
Just don’t park it near any rabid wolves.
The Germans believe golfers need a more “premium” mode of getting around the links. If you can suspend your skepticism, the Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car makes a compelling case. It has fancy wheels and a carbon fiber roof and Mercedes describes it as “sporty and well-balanced,” which seems like a stretch. The rear spoiler doubles as a golf bag holder. Of course.
Inside, a 10.1-inch touchscreen keeps tabs on your range, (up to 50 miles), lets you select sport (!) and eco modes, and displays a course map and scorecard. A mini fridge under the leather seat keeps your beers cold, and cupholders keep them from toppling when you get up on it.
What you don’t get is a 3-pointed star. This ride wears the logo of Garia, the golf cart manufacturer that Mercedes worked with. There’s no word on price yet, but this is a case where asking that question means you can’t afford one. They’ll no doubt be popular in Florida.
Caption: Ferrari says the convertible version of the LaFerrari is for those “who refuse to compromise on the joy of al fresco driving even when at the wheel of a supercar.”Ferrari
Caption: The Italians won’t reveal any specs on the new hybrid ride until the Paris Motor Show in October, but say they’ve modified the chassis to be just as rigid as the original coupe, with a tweaked design to make up for the havoc wreaked on the aerodynamics by an open top.Ferrari
Caption: You can bet your offshore bank account that without a roof in the way, the price will go up, too.Ferrari
Using the Ferrari LaFerrari supercar to actually go somewhere is rather like using a jet engine to dry your hair: some combination of appealingly and appallingly unnecessary.
But if that’s your style and you’ve got the stockpiles of gold to fund it, you may as well combine the two extremes and pick up the LaFerrari convertible, the latest spin on Maranello’s supercar della giornata.
The “base” version of the LaFerrari, which entered production in 2013 and costs more than a million dollars, carries an 8.0-liter V12 engine and a 120-kW electric motor that together propel the pile of carbon fiber, leather, and human-shaped money piles to 62 mph in under three seconds, and up to 217 mph. Ferrari apparently put so much brainpower into its most powerful car ever, it didn’t have any left over to think of a real name for the thing.
Same goes for the new edition, which Ferrari just calls “the open-top version of the LaFerrari,” a machine for those “who refuse to compromise on the joy of al fresco driving even when at the wheel of a supercar.”
The Italians won’t reveal any specs on the new hybrid ride until the Paris Motor Show in October, but say they’ve modified the chassis to be just as rigid as the original coupe, with a tweaked design to make up for the havoc an open top wreaks on the aerodynamics. You can bet your offshore bank account that without a roof in the way, the price will go up, too.
Still, it’s one exciting way to get the wind in your hair.
When your car is already so exclusive that prospective customers must apply to buy one, apparently there is just one way of making it even more desirable: Make an even crazier version for exactly one person.
Now, it’s not like the Ford GT needed any improvement. It just walloped Ferrari, Aston Martin, Corvette, and Porsche to win its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But in the supercar realm, there’s always someone who wants more.
Ford delivers it with the Ford GT ’66 Heritage Edition, a black and silver homage to the GT40 that swept the Le Mans podium half a century ago. The “standard” 2017 GT runs $ 400,000 or so, and squeezes more than 600 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine. The special edition boasts the same specs but gets comfier seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and blue webbing on the seat belts to match those of the the ’66 car. For bonus points, Ford is making each 20-inch wheel from a single piece of forged aluminum, which is painted gold. And it’s exposing more of the car’s carbon fiber. Because carbon fiber is cool.
No word on what the car costs or who’ll get to drive it home. Rest assured it will require a very big check—and a very good application.
Britain’s decision to back out of the EU sent the pound into the loo, which is bad news for everyone but the guy who just bought a bespoke Aston Martin.
Beyond offering some protection from market upheaval, having a crazy amount of money lets you ask Aston Martin to spend nine months building a one-of-a-kind roadster. The British automaker started with a GT12 Coupe but voted to ditch the roof so the chap could hear the V12 roar. They also swaddled the car in carbon fiber and bolted on a titanium exhaust, because of course they would.
A GT12 hits 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and runs $ 340,000. The convertible is probably a bit slower and one hell of a lot more expensive, even with a cratered pound. Aston Martin head honcho Andy Palmer says this car “demonstrates the expanded capabilities of Q,” the automaker’s bespoke department. Maybe Britain can stand on its own after all.
Caption: Maserati has updated its flagship sedan, the Quattroporte, with new styling and tech features.Maserati
Caption: The Italians doubled down on the car’s already sporty look, adding a sharper grille with more chrome and covering the side skirts, sideview mirrors, and front bumper in matte black.Maserati
Caption: The new infotainment system is built around an 8.4-inch touchscreen, runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and hopefully will be easier to use than its predecessor.Maserati
Caption: So how about a gesture control for next year’s car?Maserati
Caption: More importantly, they added adaptive cruise control, lane departure and forward collision warnings, automatic braking, features that make driving easier and safer. Maserati
Maserati finally got around to updating the Quattroporte, its flagship sedan. At a glance, you’ll see more chrome on the grille and matte black on just about everything else. It’s nice, but the interesting changes are the new infotainment system and the suite of active safety features.
I drove the 2015 Quattroporte S Q4 from Manhattan to its spiritual summer home, the Jersey Shore. The performance impressed me—the sedan hits 60 mph in less than five seconds, thanks to all-wheel drive and a 3.0-liter V6 that thankfully doesn’t keep its voice down.
But the Maserati fell short when the road straightened and traffic piled up. I found the infotainment system infuriating, and the navi system’s maps illegible and often incorrect. Worse, the car lacked safety features like blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning offered on cars one-third its price. This isn’t a problem in sports cars like the Alfa Romeo 4C, the Quattroporte’s corporate comrade, because you expect them to be something of a pain in the ass to live with.
But the Quattroporte is a flagship sedan competing with the likes of the Audi A8, Mercedes S-Class, and BMW 7 Series—all of which offer superior amenities. The Maserati starts at $ 106,900. Buyers may want Italian performance and styling, but they’re also going to want the best of modern automotive technology.
So it’s a smart play adding adaptive cruise control, lane departure and forward collision warnings, automatic braking, and a surround view camera, all of which make driving the Quattroporte easier and safer. The infotainment system is built around an 8.4-inch touchscreen, runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and ought to be easier to use.
Maybe for next year, Maserati can add a gesture control system to suit its Italian heritage.
Tesla’s Model S just got more affordable. Elon Musk’s electric car company announced this morning it will introduce a version of the sedan with a less powerful 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, at a base price of $ 66,000. That makes it a bit cheaper than the previous cheapest version of the car, which started at $ 70,000.
The Model S is still very much a luxury car, and that new lower price is still double what Americans pay on average for a new vehicle. But it’s striking because it’s the first time Tesla has made one of its products cheaper. Since its 2012 introduction, Tesla has steadily improved the sleek seven-seater—and the price has gone up accordingly. It was introduced for under $ 60,000, but the base price had risen up to $ 70,000. (The top of the line model, the P90D, with all-wheel drive and a 90-kWh battery pack, starts at $ 109,500.) The sedan now comes with all-wheel drive (a $ 5,000 option on the new 60-kWh version), autopilot, and a slew of software improvements that make driving on electricity more practical.
The new Model S 60 will offer a range of more than 200 miles (you get close to 300 in the 90D), a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.5 seconds, and standard active safety features. You get the hardware (cameras and radar) necessary for autopilot, but the software that actually lets you take your hands off the wheel will cost you another $ 2,500.
Interestingly, the battery pack in this new car is in reality a more powerful 75-kWh pack, handicapped to perform as if it were a 60-kWh unit. For $ 9,500, you can unlock the car at any point with an over-the-air software update, and snag a 19 percent range bump.
Though it’s possible there are other practical benefits to offering this battery, Tesla says the price drop is a response to potential customers “who would like to buy a Model S, but can more easily afford it only at a lower price point.”
Whatever the reasoning, there’s symbolism here. For the past decade, Musk has been promising an electric car for the hoi polloi, to do in this century what Ford’s Model T did in the last. That car will be the Model 3, the $ 30,000 car Tesla showed off in March, but won’t start building until late 2017, at the earliest.
This Model S is no working man’s car, but it’s a step closer to the masses.
If you’re making a supercar in 2016, you need a few key ingredients. More than 500 horsepower, whether from internal combustion, electric motors, or both. Doors that open up (like this), not out (like this). And carbon fiber. Gobs of it.
The McLaren 675LT has all of that, which makes creating yet another variation on the theme tough. After all, how do you top dihedral doors and a V8 that sounds like heaven as it produces a demonic 666 horsepower? You make the entire thing out of carbon fiber and call it the “McLaren Special Operations Carbon Series LT.”
It’s not like the 675LT Spider, the foundation upon which Mac based this insanity, wanted for carbon. The bumpers, underbody, side skirts, intakes, airbrake, rear fenders, and rear deck are made of the stuff. You might wonder, what’s left? Well, the retractable roof, the A-pillars (the vertical supports between the windshield and doors), the trunk, and the wings. Oh, and the gas tank cap. The Spider weighs just 3,016 pounds, the extra carbon makes the special version even lighter.
Necessary? God no. Desirable? Hell yes. McLaren is making just 25 copies, and has already sold each for a bit more than half a million apiece. McLaren plans to start deliveries later this year. That certainly means a few trips up some very long driveways, but the car’s 0 to 62 mph time of 2.9 seconds and 203 mph top speed should get all that gloss-covered carbon fiber to the doorstep right quick.