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  • Thailand courting Japanese green car production

    make-car-630

    Thailand, the ASEAN production hub for pick-up trucks and small cars, has been for some time now trying to position itself as a hub for green car production. Now, Bangkok Post reports that the government has pledged further investment privileges and full support for finance, R&D, human resources and infrastructure in the effort to promote Thailand as a hub for hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles.

    Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha met with country CEOs from Toyota, Isuzu, Nissan and Honda earlier this week. The four Japanese car brands accounted for 58% of Thailand’s automotive shipments last year, totalling 1.25 million units worth US$7.58 billion, led by trucks and eco-cars. Including equipment and parts, total export value amounted to US$25.60 billion in 2015.

    According to Chutima Bunyapraphasara, the permanent secretary for commerce, the PM ordered the Industry Ministry to team up with the Finance, Commerce, Labour, Natural Resources and Environment and Transport ministries to map out details of supporting plans covering investment privileges, tax incentives and other benefits to continue drawing in investment from the auto sector. Related industries have also been ordered to jointly prepare the country’s automotive development roadmap for the next five and 20 years.

    Mazda 2 Sedan Thailand 21

    A sign of not standing still, Gen Prayut confirmed that Thailand will continue to support eco-car production, but urged players to apply higher technology and alternative energy, including biodiesel and ethanol. The government also pledged additional privileges for pick-up trucks that use biodiesel, in a push to support B20. The PM also encouraged the four Japanese CEOs to invest in setting up a battery production facilities.

    Responding to this, the Japanese carmakers promised to continue investing in Thailand, and for future vehicles too if the government offers clear-cut policies, Ms Chutima said. They also asked about Thailand’s current and future strategies to support car exports, particularly through more free trade agreements (FTAs).

    It was previously reported that carmakers based in Thailand are keen for the country to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a US-led 12-nation trade pact that Malaysia is a part of.

    thailand traffic

    “At present, Thailand has yet to lose much competitiveness against four ASEAN countries (Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam) that joined the TPP. The pact will deliver a huge impact to Thailand once they develop their own automotive industries to support TPP members or Indonesia decides to join the trade pact,” said Pitak Pruittisarikorn, CEO of Honda Automobile Thailand, who added that only 70% of Thailand’s total production capacity of 2.9 million vehicles a year is currently being utilised.

    While Thailand is not currently in the TPP, Ms Chutima said the government has been proceeding with talks under the framework of existing FTA pacts, and new ones with the likes of Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and some countries in the Middle East and Africa.

    All three major car producing countries in ASEAN – Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia – have initiatives for eco-friendly vehicles, but ours is considered the most advanced for energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs), Frost & Sullivan VP for Asia-Pacific Vivek Vaidya told a seminar hosted by the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand late last year.

    Volvo and Mazda export cars from Malaysia to Thailand; both have benefited from EEV incentives

    One good thing about the Malaysian package is that manufacturers can localise EEV production into a variety of car segments including hybrid and electric with small production volumes, it was noted.

    Vaidya suggested that the Thai government push for hybrid and electric production by providing investment incentives, and not focus on production volume in the initial stage. Waiving import duties on CBU imported units and subsidising prices would be effective in the short term, he said.

    Malaysia, ahead of the curve?

     
  • Ford patents “Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System” – includes a retractable projector screen

    Ford Autonomous vehicle entertainment system patent-01

    Ford has recently filed a patent for an “Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System” in the US. Found in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database, the patent highlights a retractable projector screen that covers the entire windscreen. This feature, of course, will be applicable to its autonomous vehicles only and to add to that, it may not actually see the light of day.

    In the background portion of the patent, it notes that as a vehicle operates in autonomous mode, it will “relieve occupants, especially the driver, from some driving-related responsibilities.” It then goes on to explain that this will give the driver the opportunity to do other things while travelling, which includes watching a movie or other media content.

    It comprises of two (or more) media displays and two controllers – an autonomous mode controller and an entertainment system controller. When operating in autonomous mode (selected via the controller), the entertainment system will present media content on a first display. In non-autonomous mode, the media will then be transferred to a second display.

    4 copy

    For the first and main display, the patent reveals that there’s a projector mounted to the ceiling of the vehicle. Meanwhile, the image will be projected to a screen that “may be located near the front of the vehicle, such as the windshield.” Said screen will retract from the ceiling, when the vehicle is in autonomous mode.

    When in manual-driving mode, said screen will retract into the ceiling. The visuals will then be transferred over to a secondary display. The secondary display device, according to the patent, can include the screen in the dashboard, instrument cluster or the rear view mirror.

    So guys, what do you think of this “in-car entertainment” for an autonomous vehicle? Share with us your thoughts, below.

     
  • 2016 BMW Motorrad price list for Malaysia released – price drop for certain models by as much as RM6.5K

    Authorised Malaysian BMW Motorrad dealer Auto Bavaria has published a price list effective March 1, 2016, on their Facebook page. Posted on March 9, the 2016 price list for BMW’s motorcycles locally sees some changes, mostly for the better.

    The adventure series bikes, especially the big R1200GS Adventure, saw the biggest price change of RM6,500 to RM114,900 from RM121,400, while the smaller F800GS saw a change of 4.6% to RM61,900. The S1000RR superbike recorded a drop of RM4,000 to RM104,900.

    BMW-Motorrad-Pricelist-2016

    The R1200RT sports-tourer also saw a major drop of RM5,000 in price, down to RM123,900. However, the naked S1000R saw a price hike of 4% to RM88,300. The 2015 price of RM84,900 for the S1000R was a limited offer price for October.

    Dropped from the price list are the K1300RS sports-tourer and K1300R roadster, which were discontinued from production some years back. Also omitted from the BMW Motorrad 2016 price list are the C600 Sport and C650GT scooters.

     
  • Audi R8 – entry-level coming 2018 with twin-turbo V6?

    Audi R8 V10

    When the all-new Audi R8 was launched last year, it was only available with a 5.2 litre naturally-aspirated V10 in 540 hp and 610 hp Plus forms; the much-loved 4.2 litre NA V8 of the original was dropped. Now, Car and Driver quotes “reliable sources” as saying that an entry-level model is slated to return in 2018, but – as previously reported – with turbo power instead.

    That power is expected to come from a 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6 – a development of the 354 hp mill seen on the new Audi S4 – mated to the V10’s seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission and rear-biased quattro all-wheel drive. The addition of another turbocharger is expected to bump power to around 450 hp; enough, C&D says, to propel the base model R8 to a top speed of 306 km/h.

    This means that the car will not be powered by a 2.5 litre turbo five-pot like the one on the TT RS, as reported by a number of publications. “A five-cylinder engine in the R8 would have created a strange internal competition between the entry-level R8 and the TT RS,” said one source.

    Audi R8 V10

    The report also states that a V8-powered model won’t be returning to the lineup. Production of the NA V8 has been discontinued, and a turbocharged mill would put it too close to the current V10 models.

    In other R8 news today, the topless Spyder variant has been spotted by our European spy photographers completely undisguised and in a retina-searing yellow hue. Expect it to also feature the twin-turbo V6, in addition to the Coupe’s current V10.

     
  • Land public transport fares not dictated by oil prices but by GST, higher insurance premiums, forex – SPAD

    Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said that the fare rates of land public transport like buses or taxis are not dictated by world oil prices, even as the latter has been falling steadily, according to Bernama.

    The former home minister said that this was because the cost of petrol or diesel only constitutes 10% of the operating costs of the companies providing public transport services, adding that the cost of maintaining these vehicles on the road affected the fare prices more.

    “There are other influencing elements, such as the goods and services tax (GST) imposed on vehicle spare parts,” Syed Hamid said. “Aside from that, the companies have to bear with higher insurance premiums and fluctuating foreign exchange rates.”

    Additionally, Syed Hamid claimed that while commuters had complained about land transport fare increases, they also said that the quality of these services were much improved now.

     
  • DBKL: 1,136 abandoned vehicles towed-away in 2015

    Abandoned-cars

    Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has revealed that it has towed away a total of 1,136 run-down, abandoned vehicles last year. According to a report by Bernama, DBKL enforcement director, Datuk Mohd Sauffi Muhamad said that the amount of towed-away abandoned vehicles has almost doubled in 2015 compared to the year before.

    In 2014, a total of 634 abandoned vehicles were towed away by DBKL, while 415 vehicles were towed in 2013. The vehicles are said to be found mostly in car parks and public housing areas around the city.

    Worryingly, the growing number of abandoned vehicles doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In January and February 2016 alone, DBKL reports that there were a total of 266 abandoned vehicles that have been towed away. A sum of 196 vehicles were detected via complaints made by the public, while the remaining were found through DBKL’s own surveillance.

    kl-city-jam

    The DBKL chief explained that when a vehicle is found to be abandoned, the administration, with the help of the Road Transport Department (JPJ), will issue a notice to its owner to collect the car.

    If no action is taken, the vehicle will then be towed away to a DBKL storage depot in Salak Selatan. Another notice will be sent, and should the owner respond, an RM100 claims charge would be imposed, and a further RM10 per day for each day that the vehicle has been in DBKL’s storage.

    “If no claim is made in one month after the notice is issued, the vehicle will be scrapped. In the case of vehicle frames and those without engines or number plates, it will be scrapped immediately,” Sauffi explained.

     
  • SPIED: Renault Maxthon – Koleos replacement testing

    Renault Maxthon 4

    The Renault Maxthon has been sighted testing again, thanks to our European spy photographers. Strongly tipped as the second-generation replacement for the Koleos, the Maxthon is said to be positioned above the Kadjar and Captur.

    These set of pictures do not appear to differ much from our previous spyshots of the SUV. Renault’s current design philosophy, as seen on the Renault Talisman and Megane IV, is pretty apparent, with the large Renault logo front and centre. The car’s interior should largely resemble those models as well.

    The SUV will reportedly be 4,700 mm long, riding on the Renault–Nissan Common Module Family architecture (CMF-CD), similar to the setup on the third-generation X-Trail. However, unlike the X-Trail, the Maxthon may not be offered with a seven-seater option.

    Spy-Photo

    In a report by Automotive News, Renault’s design chief Laurens van den Acker said, “I don’t think there are enough families with four kids to justify adding another seven-seat model.” Currently, Renault offers the Espace and Kangoo for those looking for a seven-seater.

    As for engine options, expect Renault’s range of petrol and diesel offerings to be available, mated to either an automatic or manual transmission. Given the winter testing conditions, all-wheel drive will most likely be on the cards as well.

     
  • Honda Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle goes on sale in Japan

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    Honda has started sales of its Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle in Japan. The spiritual successor to the FCX Clarity, a lease-only hydrogen-powered vehicle introduced in 2007, made its debut at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show in October last year.

    The Clarity is the world’s first five-passenger sedan type fuel cell vehicle (FCV), realised by making the fuel cell powertrain more compact using original Honda technologies and fitting it entirely under the hood of the car, the company says. The Toyota Mirai is a four-seater.

    Combined with improved powertrain efficiency and a reduced energy requirement for driving, a 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen storage tank provides a cruising range of approximately 750 km in the Japanese cycle, an increase of around 30% compared to the previous FCV model. This also means that the Clarity has the best range among all zero emissions cars today, surpassing the Mirai FCV’s 502 km (US EPA-estimated) range. By the way, FCVs emit only water vapour from the tailpipe.

    4151028_003H

    The long range improves the practicality of the Clarity as an everyday car. Its hydrogen tank can be refilled in around three minutes, not too different from a regular internal combustion engined car.

    Despite the reduction of the powertrain’s size, output is up. The motor in the Clarity is good for 130 kW at 500 volts, which is up from the 100 kW at 300 volts produced by the FCX Clarity. Its output density of 3.1 kW per litre, meanwhile, betters the FCX’s 1.85 kW per litre by a staggering 60%. Torque is also up, with 300 Nm of twist compared to the 256 Nm.

    The Clarity Fuel Cell is even powerful enough to be a donor. In combination with a portable external power output device called the Power Exporter 9000, which also went on sale together with the car, the Clarity can function as a “power source on wheels” capable of supplying approximately seven-days’ worth of electricity for an average (Japanese) household.

    4151028_011H

    For the first year, Honda will focus on lease sales of around 200 units to local government bodies or businesses it has already been working with for the popularisation of FCVs. During this period, Honda will collect info and feedback before retail sales to individual customers begin.

    Honda will start with small-volume production at Tochigi, eventually expanding production volume for the FCV. The company plans to introduce the Clarity Fuel Cell to Europe and the US before the end of 2016. In Japan, it is priced at 7.66 million yen (RM276,343). We’ve sampled this amazing machine and you can read our first impressions story for more.

    GALLERY: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell at Tokyo 2015

     
  • Energica electric bike announces first UK dealership

    Energica Ego45

    Italian electric motorcycle manufacturer Energica, based in Modena, Italy, has announced the appointment of its first UK dealer, Moto Corsa limited, located in Salisbury. Energica produces three electric bikes in its range, the Ego sportsbike, the streetfighter styled Eva, and the limited edition Ego45.

    Powered by a a synchronous oil-cooled motor with permanent magnets, the Ego produces 100 kW (approximately 136 hp) from 4,900 to 10,500 rpm. This might not sound like much, but the torque from an electric motor is instantaneous, unlike conventional internal combustion engines driving a gearbox.

    In this case, a torque figure of 195 Nm is quoted, from zero to 4,700 rpm. Compare this to the Kawasaki Ninja H2, which produces 156 Nm at 12,500 rpm. The 11.7 kWh battery is good for 1,200 charging cycles and takes approximately 3.5 hours to recharge to 100% capacity on AC power, while 30 minutes gets the battery to 85% on DC.

    Range is said by Energica to be 150 km with an average speed of 80 km/h, and 190 to 200 km with an average speed of 60 km/h for street use. Range drops dramatically with a small increase in speed, only 50 km at 100 km/h, according to Energica’s website.

    Moto Corsa will be Energica’s official importer for the UK, said an autoevolution report, but there is no word on UK pricing as yet. Energica quoted a 2014 price of between 22,000 to 25,000 euro (RM100K to RM115K) for the Ego on their website, while no price was disclosed for the naked Eva.

    GALLERY: Energica Ego


    GALLERY: Energica Eva

     
  • BMW i5 confirmed – EV with range extender, CF body

    BMW-i5-Theo-Render

    It is no secret that the BMW i division’s model range is far from fulfilled, with just two opposing vehicles on each end of its spectrum. On one end, you have the BMW i3, a compact all-electric vehicle designed for zero-emissions city slicking, and on the other end, you have the BMW i8 hybrid sports car, which has a mind for the track and little else.

    A BMW i5 has long been rumoured to fill the gap between the two models, and now, Henrik Wenders, head of product at BMW i, has confirmed those plans to Car and Driver. Naturally, the product man wasn’t keen on revealing too many details just yet, but provided some insight towards the i5’s development direction.

    First of all, Wenders said that the i5 will be a vehicle more suited towards longer distances of travel, and have a greater capacity to carry more people and luggage in it. He didn’t mention what sort of a body style the i5 would adopt, but did say that it would need to be a household’s primary vehicle, not its third car, like he believes the i3 is.

    “We are thinking of a new i model above it (i3) to attract families, and that means it must be capable of being the first car in the household. We are still working very hard on the usage concept, but this needs to be defined by the market, and not by us,” Wenders said.

    BMW i3.

    The product chief also mentioned that the i5 would have an optional range extender petrol engine like the i3 currently offers. That also confirms that the i5 would be an all-electric vehicle, and not a hybrid as rumours have previously suggested.

    However, Wenders adds that the market’s reception towards the range extender option for the i3 suggests that its original traction battery is often enough to actually satisfy customer use. In many cases, Wenders explains that the optional petrol “generator” is more of a psychological comfort than an actual necessity.

    “The range-extender plays an important part in the next years when range remains a limiting factor and a source of anxiety. Of course, once we get to a range that is more comparable with that of an internal-combustion engine, it will become obsolete. So this is the reason I can say we will continue to offer the range-extender in the future as optional equipment, to address different customer needs,” said Wenders.

    Wenders remained cautions when speaking about the electric i5’s potential driving range. With several manufacturer’s setting targets in access of 500 km these days, the BMW i division sees no point in developing a model with such figures if it doesn’t fit the requirements of its true purpose.

    “We are not going to join the race about maximum range figures. Currently if you compare those figures and see what kind of energy investment is behind it, you often see the total carbon footprint of those models is higher than a car with an internal-combustion engine. That doesn’t make any sense,” Wenders explained.

    He also confirmed that like the i3, the BMW i5 will feature a carbon-fibre structure – so too will other BMW i models in the future. What would you expect from a BMW i5? What features would you like to see it have? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

     
 

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