Turbo-boosted engines becoming the norm at Ford and VW


Click to enlarge2014 Ford Fiesta Turbo ST

Despite the hiccups associated with any technology, the U.S. automaker Ford says it can see a day when all vehicles are either hybrids, electrics or powered by turbocharged engines.

Ford produced its 2 millionth EcoBoost engine Tuesday and said it plans to add to its lineup of five turbocharged powerplants, ranging from a 3.5 liter V6 to a tiny 1 liter three-cylinder engine, and may include a smaller EcoBoost V6 for the next F-150 pickup…

“Five is not the end of the road,” said Ford Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Joe Bakaj. He said EcoBoost technology would help the automaker meet the federal mileage requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

It was a “big risk for us as a company to go from a big V8 to a V6. We knew on paper it would be great, but until you launch and see consumers vote, you don’t know if the strategy will work,” he said Monday at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich.

About 20 percent of all new Fords have direct fuel injection EcoBoost engines, which generate the power of a larger conventional internal combustion engine via turbocharging and software while delivering improved fuel economy.

Although an EcoBoost engine is more expensive than a conventional gasoline engine it recoups the additional cost in fuel savings four times faster than a diesel engine…

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VW switches on largest solar park at a US auto factory

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This mostly is a VW press release; so, forgive the first person language. It’s still an achievement.

In December 2011, the Volkswagen plant near Chattanooga, TN was certified LEED Platinum. That’s a difficult level to reach – as we described at the time – but the one billion dollars the company spent there fit snugly into the VW corporate storyline: we’re going to make cleaner cars at cleaner plants. We’re going to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent (between 2006 and 2015). We’re going to make sure our production facilities are 25 percent more “environmentally compatible.” We’re going to Think Blue.

No other factory, so far, has achieved the Platinum award.”

Today, VW made good on one important piece of its LEED Platinum promise: generating its own clean energy. The huge new solar park that was turned on today was always part of the Chattanooga plan, but its official start marks one more way that VW is at the forefront when it comes to building cars cleanly…

Located just a short bus ride away from the factory, the 65-acre solar park (33 of which are the solar panels themselves) is the largest single array in Tennessee. It is also the largest solar park at a US auto factory. It is made up of 33,600 individual solar panels that together generate 9.58 megawatts of DC power (that’s at the panels, it’s 7.6 MW of AC power going into the plant) and 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity a year. That’s 12.5 percent of the plant’s power needs. In CO2 terms, this means emissions are reduced by 6,675 tons a year, or the amount that 360 average US homes would generate.

VW currently builds the Passat in Tennessee, and last year – the first year of full operation – the company built 152,546 vehicles there, beating the target of 145,000. While most of these are sold in the US, some are exported to our North American neighbors as well as South Korea and the Middle East. The solar park is international as well, since VW partnered with Phoenix Solar, a German solar company with operations around the world, and Silicon Ranch…

Wolfram Thomas, Group Chief Officer for the Environment, Energy and New Business Areas, said today that, “All our 100 plants are to be environmentally optimized. All our plants must become 25 percent more environmentally compatible.” We look forward to seeing how this all plays out, wherever the sun shines.

Good for you, VW. Corporate monsters round the world talk a lot about environmental goals. Nice to see one put their money where their mouth is.

Cost of a ground-up cross-platform redesign? Next-gen MQB architecture VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda = $65 billion


A little longer, lower, wider, better aero – and 50mpg

For many in the US, a first Volkswagen will be either a Jetta or Passat, both of which have pretty good trunks. But we just drove this all-new seventh generation Golf and it needs to be on that same consideration list because it is a nearly perfect, sensibly sized trunkless car…

But this Golf VII, introduced in September at the Paris Motor Show, is an all-new car, even though from the outside things look strictly evolutionary. The chief ingredient in making true this claim of being “all-new” is the use of a completely reworked architecture called MQB, which stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, or “modular transverse matrix.” New architectures for any company signify shockingly massive investments, and therefore the damned things had better be really good for the bottom line. In the case of MQB, company leaders estimate the price tag for its four years of development totals $65 billion, so the intent is that MQB will stick around for at least a decade before a replacement architecture is even talked about…

Making certain it earns its keep quickly, VW Group has announced that MQB will be used on everything with transverse engines coming from VW, Audi, Seat and Škoda, ranging from models the size of the next VW Polo on up to the next Passat – that is to say, a major percentage of all cars produced within VW Group. So far, we’ve driven MQB with the new Audi A3, and now here with the four-door Golf Mk VII.

For this event, we picked the upgraded 146-horsepower 2.0 TDI Golf in its top European Highline trim using an optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with shift paddles. At this launch event, the TDI motor we chose was available alongside a revamped 138-hp 1.4 TSI gas engine with Active Cylinder Technology, but the latter is not on call for US deliveries, so we took the global diesel route…

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World record 1,626 miles on one tank of diesel

Apparently not happy with collecting over 40 world driving fuel economy records, the husband and wife team of John and Helen Taylor – also known as “the world’s most fuel efficient couple” – have been back on the road to claim the world record for the longest distance traveled on a single tank of fuel. The record 1,626.1 mile journey was achieved in a stock 2012 Volkswagen Passat powered by a 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel inline four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission.

The Taylors’ three-day trip started from Houston, Texas, on May 3, and took them through nine states before the tank of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel ran dry in Sterling, Virginia, on May 5. Over the three-day journey, they averaged 84.1 miles per gallon, and outdid the previous record of 1,526.6 miles on a single tank of diesel achieved by a VW Passat 1.6 BlueMotion diesel in Europe.

In an effort to conduct the world record attempt under real world driving conditions, the couple packed 120 lbs of luggage and drove during daylight hours. They also took turns driving and traveled a maximum of 14 hours per day.

The Passat’s speedometer and odometer were calibrated by a state certified testing station in Houston, with law enforcement officers on hand to validate mileage, fuel fill-up, and gas tank sealing before the Taylor’s set out. Upon reaching Sterling, Virginia Sheriff’s Deputy verified the car’s mileage before removing the fuel tank seal.

Bravo. Much of our extended family has made the switch to diesel-powered vehicles. Especially the pickups in the family.

I’d love to have a diesel Jetta or Passat as the next car added to our family; but, the price difference for an econobox like a Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio is sufficient to keep us facing Asia rather than Europe or the US for the next vehicle. That will be a 10-year car for us. After that, we’ll think about a 20-year car and a diesel.

One year of owning the Chevy Volt + work, commuting = 237mpg


Chevy Volt belonging to Lyle Stuart, founder of GM-Volt.com

My Chevrolet Volt was delivered on December 17th 2010, and as of today I have owned and operated the vehicle for a full year.

It is nearly five years in fact since I first founded this website in an effort to gain and sustain national attention on electric cars and this vehicle in particular, and to push GM to develop it…

To this day I still get a thrill when I jump in and power it up. I drive often with a smile on my face. I thoroughly love not using gas almost of of the time, and having the safety and freedom to kick in the gas generator when needed.

I have found the car of impeccably high quality and 100% reliable performance in all kinds of driving situations and environments. The car is worthy of all the awards it has received.

Thus far I have put on 8,635 miles and used a paltry 36.6 gallons of gas with a lifetime fuel efficiency of 237 miles per gallon…

My oil life still says 56% and I haven’t changed it. I rotated the tires at 7,500 miles and had a software upgrade performed…

Though perhaps not important, I am a bit surprised GM won’t meet its first year target of 10,000 cars. Considering all the attention and robust discussion I observed while running this site, and the calls by many for great volumes, I was sure demand would be higher. Eventually I still think it will. A lot of it is economic. In these tough financial times with gas prices stable, the $41,000 without tax break price tag remains out of reach for many. It is great though that the car is on the road so that in the future, through economies of scale the price will drop and more will be sold. As well, surely some are waiting for the first generation to work out its kinks and are watching on the sidelines eventually planning to buy a next generation model.

There were naysayers ever since the Volt concept was announced in January 2007, and many are still here today and will be ad infinitum. They may never be silenced, but the reality is GM has made the dream come true of a mass production electric car with range extender and it is an awesome thing indeed. I also think its fair to say the company ushered in a new era of accessible electric transportation as essentially every automaker has followed suit with electric cars of their own.

Lyle is right about the price. Certainly in my family. I’d love to have a Volt be our next car; but, the cost/benefit ratio just ain’t worth it – yet. We’d need an extra 10 years beyond the 10 year minimum we look at when purchasing a vehicle. Even though – we buy good enough designs and practice sufficient maintenance – we have gone well beyond that 10 year number with our existing passenger car and pickup truck. The Volvo has almost 30 years and 280,000 miles on it. The Dodge pickup is a 1994 and has gone over 220,000 miles.

Right now, the leading contenders to replace the Volvo are the Prius Aqua – landing next year, the VW Golf diesel and the electric Mitsubishi i-Miev. After federal tax credits – we get squat from the state of New Mexico – they would cost $9-14K less than the Volt.

Volkswagen’s Bulli offers Kombi nostalgia + economy

Volkswagen has had two of the most loved models in the history of the automobile, both originally built on the same chassis. It’s not surprising then, that the company keeps reprising them, bringing their relevance into focus.

The latest evolution of the iconic Microbus/Kombi wagon surfaced in Geneva. The new ‘Bulli’ concept offers a flexible layout, seating for six, a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery, an 85 kW electric motor with 260 Nm torque,140 km/h (87 mph) top speed and a range of 300 km (186 miles).

There’s still not enough range just yet for a serious escape vehicle – if there’s no electricity available where you’re going, you’re on a 90 mile leash – but suitable as an urban electric all-purpose vehicle…

The electric Bulli will probably not be the first of this shape available, as VW pointed out that both petrol and diesel direct injection engines can be accommodated by the front-wheel-drive design.

Like many vehicles in Geneva, the tablet or iPad has been used in the center console as a multifunctional touchscreen interface and controller. In the Bulli, it acts as an interface for Internet-based applications, the media and entertainment functionality of the vehicles’ telephone and navigation.

This year’s Geneva Show is turning out to be a real show for lifer car-nuts. There are a few more concepts and – more important – ready for production models I’ll be posting about over the rest of the week.

Porsche + Suzuki + Volkswagen = top auto group [almost]


Why are these men smiling?

Germany’s Volkswagen AG will buy a one-fifth stake in Suzuki Motor Corp for $2.5 billion, tapping the Japanese firm’s expertise in small cars and dominance in India as VW seeks to become the No.1 automaker.

The move is the second coup this week for ambitious VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, coming on the heels of the German carmaker’s $5.8 billion purchase of a 49.9 percent stake in sports car maker Porsche AG.

Piech’s top lieutenant, VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, was hopeful the Suzuki alliance would help catapult the Wolfsburg-based carmaker past industry leader Toyota Motor Corp ahead of plan.

“If that succeeds faster (than 2018), we’re happy,” a grinning Winterkorn told reporters as he sat next to Suzuki’s nearly 80-year-old CEO Osamu Suzuki at a Tokyo press conference…

“I don’t want you to misunderstand: Suzuki is not becoming a 12th brand for Volkswagen,” Suzuki said when asked whether the company might get a German CEO in the future. “I don’t want other folks telling me how to do things…”

Volkswagen, with its 10 brands including Audi, Skoda, Seat and Porsche, has said it wanted to become the world’s No.1 automaker by 2018 — a goal it would reach with relative ease if Suzuki became a subsidiary…

In modern markets a 20% stake really is a controlling interest in a corporation. Though, Volkswagen – and Piech – have the corporate smarts to manage a familial relationship with Suzuki. It’s probably going to be easier than the soap opera that has accompanied the acquisition of 49,9% of Porsche.

Diesel vs. hybrid: saving fuel the smart way

vwhonda

Regardless of whether you’re talking politics or automotive technologies, the voting and driving public often gravitates to what’s new and fresh.

This herd mentality suggests that there’s hope in what’s new simply because it’s new. Focusing on automotive technology, the green trend AOL Autos identified at the recent 2009 Detroit Auto Show seems to be pushing buyers into two camps: diesel or hybrid.

But we’ll let you in on a secret: The traditional four-stroke internal combustion engine isn’t dead, nor is it irrelevant to the green movement. Not by a long shot.

The initial revelation is that efficient gas engine-powered cars ain’t dead. Wow. Whoda thunk it?

All I have to do is look out the window at the number of Mitsubishi Eclipses, Honda Fits, Toyota Yarisi, VW Beetles making it down the street. All efficient. All a pretty good return on economy and performance vs. cost. People in the hinterlands ain’t as dumb as Detroit thinks they are.

So let’s assume you’re interested in driving green. By this we mean you want a fuel-efficient vehicle that reduces your carbon footprint. Today, the celebrities of the green movement are diesel- and hybrid-powered vehicles.

Here’s a quick review of these different technologies. The defining characteristic of the diesel engine is its compression ignition cycle; this means that the engine uses ultra-high compression ratios in the combustion chamber to ignite the fuel-air charge (gasoline-burning internal combustion engines use spark plugs to fire up).

The defining characteristic of a hybrid is that these vehicles use a combination of electric motors and internal combustion engines (working in tandem) to propel the vehicle.

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Record auto sales in April for GM, VW and more – in China


If one’s told you, yet – Warren Buffett bought 10% of this company
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

There are a fair number of ignorant, ill-informed and just plain agitprop articles floating around American media about how the global recession – or should we just identify the source and call it the American recession – is affecting China. Truly stupid propaganda saying Chinese are being forced to smoke more cigarettes, drink more beer, etc., to keep their economy afloat.

Americans have no perception about the immense opportunity afforded by a marketplace of consumers with tons of money in savings and decades worth of pent-up demand. Here are just a few facts about current car sales:

China’s automobile market has emerged from the shadow of the global financial crisis and the industry downturn, as the government’s stimulus measures have borne fruit, said industry analysts.

“China’s automobile industry has kept itself ahead of the others as reflected by the robust April sales numbers,” said Hui Yumei, analyst…with Sinotrust.

General Motors, the first firm in China to release its domestic April sales numbers, said yesterday that vehicle sales rose 50 percent on an annualized basis in April to 151,084 units, a new monthly high.

Its German rival Volkswagen may also have recorded impressive sales in April. The company’s China president and CEO Winfried Vahland had predicted during the Shanghai automobile show last month that “our sales in April are likely to surpass March figures”.

“It is a clear signal that the domestic automobile market is back on track and will keep growing this year,” said Zhong Shi, an independent auto analyst…

That figure will be matched with the 34.4 percent fall in the US market in the same period, its lowest year-on-year growth rate in 30 years, according to Xinhua. China’s automobile market has been increasing for four consecutive months since last December, after it encountered the first drop since 2006 in August 2008.

I imagine the RNC will have to put out a press release saying the Chinese government is hiring out of work Sumo wrestlers from Japan to twist peoples’ arms to force them to buy cars. Mind you, I hope they eventually grow better taste than buying Buicks. 🙂

42-mpg VW Diesel Roadster – sexy, efficient, and did I say sexy?

Diesels are fuel efficient and practical, but they’re dogged by a reputation for being about as much fun as a tax audit. VW’s worked hard to change that perception with cars like the Jetta TDI, but it might be the sweet Concept BlueSport roadster that finally convinces Americans diesels are cool.

The mid-engined sports car made its world debut at the Detroit auto show, and although it’s just a concept, there’s no reason why VW couldn’t – or shouldn’t – build it. The car gets 42 mpg and emits about as much CO2 as a Toyota Prius, and it is emissions-legal in all 50 states so even car-crazy Californians could buy one.

Volkswagen has been toying with the idea of a two-seat, mid-engined sports car since unveiling the Concept R in 2003. It rolled out another one, the EcoRacer, two years later at the Tokyo auto show. Such a car always seemed like a long shot, though given it would compete with the Audi TT and perhaps the Porsche Boxster. But VW keeps teasing us, and along comes the BlueSport, built with off-the-shelf parts to keep costs down – and raise our hopes that production might be financially feasible.

Propulsion comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged common-rail TDI clean diesel similar to the mill in the 41-mpg Jetta TDI – named Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. VW says the engine produces 177 horsepower and a very respectable 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough to propel the BlueSport to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. Power flows through a six-speed paddle-shifted DSG transmission with dual clutches. Start-stop technology helps improve fuel economy, and regenerative braking provides additional energy for on-board systems like air conditioning.

VW is one of the few carmakers whose sales didn’t suck last year. Like Apple, customer loyalty plus being smart enough to sell to the qualities that establish that base in the first place – combine to help.

Those qualities can also serve to expand the existing base. Who doesn’t want a car that performs better, gets better mileage, whose overall costs diminish? And it’s sexy.

Thanks, Helen