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Autoblog Podcast #407

Posted Nov 25th 2014 5:45PM

Autoblog Podcast logo

Episode #407 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Sebastian Blanco talk about the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, the Toyota Mirai, and the BMW 3 Series falling off the Car and Driver 10Best list. We start with what's in the Autoblog Garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!

Autoblog Podcast #407:

In The Autoblog Garage:
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Sebastian Blanco
Runtime: 01:07:55

  • Intro and Garage - 00:00
  • Challenge Bibendum - 18:32
  • Toyota Mirai - 28:20
  • C/D 10Best - 44:52
  • Q&A - 53:52

Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
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[MP3] Download the MP3 directly

Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com

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Mitsubishi Mirage sedan confirmed for US

Posted Nov 25th 2014 2:15PM

Mitsubishi Mirage

The Mitsubishi Mirage easily takes the cake as the worst new car I've driven in the last year. Actually, make that the worst new car I've driven in several years (Side Note: when was the last time I drove a Smart Fortwo?). But regardless of what I, or my colleagues, think about the Mirage, it's selling decently – Mitsubishi has moved over 14,000 of them so far this year, which is actually higher than the company initially expected. And now, we've got official confirmation that the sedan version is headed our way.

This isn't really shocking, considering earlier reports, but Motor Trend received further confirmation of the Mirage sedan's arrival during last week's Los Angeles Auto Show. There's no official timing as to when the sedan will arrive, and when I reached out for comment, a Mitsubishi spokesperson said of this report, "Yep. Confirmed."

So, yeah, the Mirage sedan is headed our way. It'll probably come in somewhere around the low, low $12,995 price of the hatchback, and hopefully, it'll be better to drive than its more versatile hatchback sibling. And hey, if it can help Mitsubishi build sales momentum here in the US, then that's a win, right?

News Source: Motor Trend

Saleen says it's out of money, owes millions

Posted Nov 25th 2014 1:30PM

Saleen Four Sixteen

Saleen Automotive is best known for building hot numbers including countless tuned Ford Mustang muscle cars, and more recently, for offering a custom version of the Tesla Model S. Unfortunately, the company needs a huge infusion of cash even faster than its cars if it wants to stay on the road beyond the end of the year. In a new Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Saleen admits that its financial situation is dire, and it has just $7,261 in cash sitting in the bank as of September 30.

That lack of liquidity is just the very tip of the iceberg. According to Jalopnik, poring over the SEC documents reveals that Saleen Automotive owes $5,634,841, which includes about $500,000 in payroll taxes. Over $1 million of those bills are at least 90 days overdue, and the business expects to default on $398,176 owed to the bank unless an extension is granted. The money just isn't coming in to pay for all of this, either. Revenue is down by half, and Saleen is posting quarterly losses in the millions.

With just $668,629 in assets, the numbers don't balance out. Saleen is hoping to find a buyer to inject the millions needed to save it from going under but admits in the SEC filing: "These factors raise substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern."

Steve Saleen re-acquired the rights to the Saleen name in 2012 after a high-profile court battle. Publicly, the company appeared to be doing at least somewhat well, continuing to introduce the muscle cars for which it is known, as well as expanding its offerings into the world of electric cars with an eye toward the future. Clearly, based on this SEC filing, however, things are looking dire for the well-known outfit.

News Source: Jalopnik

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Eco-Motive gets patent for CNG-gas hybrid H-Motor

Posted Nov 25th 2014 12:33PM

Eco-Motive dual fuel 'H' engine

If you've ever wanted a powerplant that looks more like a greeble from a Star Wars spaceship than a block engine, Eco-Motive has your answer. The just-announced dual-fuel "H" engine can burn gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG).

Eco-Motive has been awarded a patent for the engine (number 8807098), which is described this way:

The twin vertical bank hybrid internal combustion H-engine system disclosed herein is basically two separate engines, each one operable on a different fuel type and housed within the same engine block, and each one having individual lubrication systems but sharing a common power transmission system.

Eco-Motive says that drivers can, at the push of a button, switch between fuel sources and that the dual-fuel tech can be used with existing engines. A celebratory press release (available below) says that the new engine is, "the next step toward adoption by major original manufacturers worldwide of a revolutionary, cost-effective technology that can cut global emissions, slash oil consumption and increase fuel flexibility for consumers." The patent, though, simply says that the driver will benefit from the fuel choices by "[taking] advantage of whichever one has lower fuel prices."

2016 Smart Forfour

Posted Nov 25th 2014 11:58AM

2016 Smart ForFour

The Fortwo always has been – and always will be – the prototypical Smart car. While it has been far and away the brand's best seller, it's not the only model to to wear the moniker. A decade ago, Smart rolled out the larger Forfour, but like the brand's other models that have come and gone, it wasn't much of a success. Now, Smart is back and taking another stab at it with the introduction of this all-new Forfour. And this time, we think it's in a much better position to succeed.

Where the previous model shared its underpinnings, production line and front-engined layout with the Mitsubishi Colt, the new Forfour was co-developed with – and will be produced alongside – the new Renault Twingo we drove recently. Like its predecessor (and its contemporary French cousin), the new Forfour is not presently earmarked to be offered in America. But curiosity got the better of us when we were offered the chance to drive it back to back with the Fortwo upon their launch in Barcelona.

Driving Notes
  • Like the smaller Fortwo, the new Forfour will be offered with a choice of two three-cylinder engines mounted all the way at the back: a normally aspirated 999cc engine (available in 59- or 70-horsepower states of tune) and a 898cc turbo kicking out 89 hp. Either engine can be mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch transmission (save for the lowest spec, which can only be had with the manual).
  • We sampled the top-spec model, fitted with the same turbo engine as the Fortwo we'll get in the States, sending 89 hp and 100 pound-feet of torque through the five-speed manual straight down to the rear wheels.
  • The Forfour's (relatively) great mass means that, even with forced induction, it still takes 11.2 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour from a standstill. That's a 0.8 seconds behind the Fortwo with the same powertrain, but a solid 4.7 seconds quicker than the next (naturally aspirated) version down. It hardly felt rapid, but it kept pace just fine with European city traffic.
  • Regardless of spec, however, the rear-engined layout it shares with the Fortwo and Twingo makes the new Smart Forfour exceptionally agile. That it felt any less scrappy than the Fortwo is a testament only to the latter's agility, because compared to anything else on the road, the new Forfour will change direction like a frightened street cat. Not only does it have a less pogo-ey ride than the Fiat Panda (one of its natural competitors), it'll turn around in just 29.4 feet, which makes it almost as nimble as the previous Fortwo's 28.7-foot turning circle. (Still not quite as tight as the Fortwo's 24-foot circle.) That's the kind of maneuverability that can, for a Smart driver, make the three-point-turn a thing of the past and parallel parking a cinch in even the tightest spots.
  • The new Smart Forfour will also physically fit into a smaller spot than just about anything available Stateside. At 137.4 inches long, it's not only shorter than any four- or five-door sold in America, it's more compact than most any two- or three-door hatchback, too. It's over two inches shorter (if you can believe it) than a Fiat 500, and nearly ten inches shorter than the old Forfour. In fact, the only thing you'll find in a US showroom with a smaller footprint (aside from the Fortwo) is the Scion iQ. Or a scooter.
  • Despite the compact dimensions, Smart has managed to fit in four seats and four doors. The cabin is not what you might call "spacious," of course, but Daimler engineers have been at least as creative as their counterparts from Renault in maximizing the available space.
  • Not only can the rear seat backs fold flat to create a level load surface capable of swallowing up more than 34 cubic feet of stuff, the rear seat bottoms (which conceal a cargo compartment in the Twingo) can also flip over to a lower position to fit taller items in the back seat of the Forfour. Even the front passenger seat folds forward to make for a 7.2-foot loading length for long items (or a napping space for a basketball player), and though the Forfour loses the Fortwo's split tailgate, the rear doors open nearly 90 degrees to facilitate access.
  • Like other four-door city cars, those rear doors include only pop-out vents instead of roll-down windows, but the Forfour has other ways of letting in the light and fresh air: our tester was fitted with an optional double panoramic glass roof, and while the two-door cabrio is still in the works, the four-door can also be equipped with an electric folding fabric roof panel. Trim and features are otherwise just like the Fortwo – which is to say refreshing and full of personalization options – only with an extra pair of seats and doors in the back.
  • The addition of those extra doors and the longer wheelbase they entail does not do the Forfour any favors in the styling department, though. Daimler's designers apparently tried to translate the Fortwo's rounded-box styling to the Forfour, but while it looks better than the previous duck-billed model of 2004, we're of the opinion that Renault did a better job at styling the Twingo than Smart did the Forfour. But that's a matter of personal preference.
The question we're left with after driving any overseas model is whether or not it should be offered in the States. And with the Smart Forfour, we're just not sure one way or the other. On the one hand, the added usability could stand to attract some new buyers who might be enticed by the idea of frugal, no-more-than-what-you-need transportation – especially if offered as part of the Car2Go car-sharing program – but turned off by the notion of having little more than two seats and a glovebox at their disposal. On the other, the Forfour's pedestrian pace and questionable styling may turn others away and could potentially stretch out what the Smart brand has come to stand for in the minds of American consumers.

Ultimately, we're sure Daimler will carefully evaluate the Forfour's prospects for the North American market. But at the end of the day, the Forfour still stands a much better chance of making its way to Smart dealers in the US than the Renault, whose American prospects essentially depend on Carlos Ghosn packing his suitcase full of Twingos and physically bringing them to Nissan showrooms.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

Recharge Wrap-up: Saleen renames its Tesla, Nissan announces "No Charge To Charge" in Atlanta

Car2go Reaches 13,000 Members In Brooklyn, Launches Mobile Access

Posted Nov 25th 2014 8:02AM

saleen st tesla model s

Saleen has renamed its Tesla Model S the Saleen ST and has added a version the P85D to its modified lineup. Formerly called the Saleen FourSixteen, referencing the car's 416 horsepower, the ST stands for "Saleen Tesla." While the ST receives no increase in output, modifications include aerodynamic, suspension and brake tuning, as well as some aggressive looks to go along with it. Customers can also opt for Saleen drive ratios, making the 691-horsepower, dual-motor version accelerate from 0-60 in less than three seconds. The Saleen ST380 starts at $132,000, with the ST691 starting at $164,600. Read more at Motor Authority or in the press release below.

After one month of operation in Brooklyn, Car2go has over 13,000 members in its new locale. Users in what is now the carsharing service's fastest-growing market have already logged 55,000 miles for the Brooklyn fleet, with the average trip taking 22.45 minutes. The most popular destinations for Brooklyn users are The Barclays Center, Prospect Park and Williamsburg. Car2go has also announced its Mobile Access feature, which allows users to begin their trips with the mobile app as an alternative to using the member card. Read more in the press release below.

Nissan has announced its "No Charge To Charge" program for Atlanta. That means customers who buy or lease a Nissan Leaf at Atlanta dealerships will receive free charging at more than 12 fast-charging stations in the Atlanta area. Nissan is extending the program to customers who got their Leaf beginning November 1, 2014. Nissan offers "No Charge To Charge" in 12 other markets, with at least 12 more planned for the US. Read more in the press release below.

Tesla has named Ricardo Reyes as its communications chief. Reyes led Tesla's communications department until 2012, when he left the company to work from Square. Returning to Tesla, Reyes will oversee Tesla's online presence and public relations. After looking for someone like Reyes to fill the position, Tesla CEO Elon Musk eventually was able to bring the man himself back to the company. Read more at Businessweek.
Related GallerySaleen Tesla ST
Saleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla ST

News Source: Motor Authority, Saleen, Car2go, Nissan, Businessweek

Image Credit: Saleen

Is Tesla under investigation from the SEC? *UPDATE

Probes Reporter Thinks It's On To Something With FOIA Requests

Posted Nov 24th 2014 7:00PM

China Tesla

UPDATE: Tesla spokesperson LIz Jarvis-Shean told AutoblogGreen that "We don't comment on rumor and speculation."

Let's call this one unsubstantiated at best. Probes Reporter is a site that tries to figure out what's going on behind the scenes by filing a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the Security Exchange Commission (SEC). Based on the responses it gets, it guesses whether or not the SEC is investigating companies. Earlier today, Probes Reporter issued a Tweet that says: "Tesla Motors May Have an Undisclosed SEC Probe - Added to Watch List."

Probe Reporter says that it got a letter from the SEC in early October that cited the "law enforcement exemption" of the FOIA in order to deny PR access to the records it was asking for. PR says that this acknowledges "some sort of investigative activity." Probe Reporter also says that about two-thirds of these sorts of exemptions "are confirmed on appeal," so the company's history with this strategy indicates there is a real chance the electric automaker is indeed facing some sort of investigation. Again, we don't know anything for certain.

For now, Tesla hasn't made any official statement on the matter (we've asked, and will update this if we hear anything) and the stock market doesn't seem to care. TSLA was up 1.62 percent today, to $246.72, in part because analysts say this is just a rumor at the moment, according to ValueWalk.

News Source: ValueWalk, Probe Reporter

Image Credit: Ng Han Guan / AP

Recharge Wrap-up: Atlanta Falcons electrify with ChargePoint, LiquidPiston unveils X Mini engine

Firm Invests Millions In The Hybrid Shop; EVs Could Mitigate Grid Destabilization Events

Posted Nov 24th 2014 4:58PM

liquidpiston x mini rotary engine

ChargePoint is partnering with the Atlanta Falcons to provide more EV charging stations at the team's facilities. The chargers are used by players, employees and fans and ChargePoint has donated additional stations for installation throughout the city of Atlanta. The city, county and state are all seeing growth in the number of EVs on their roads, with Fulton County doubling its EVs from 3,063 to 6,027 in the first half of 2014. Georgia currently boasts more than 14,200 plug-in vehicles. ChargePoint and the Falcons will host an official activation event at the Georgia Dome before the game against Pittsburg on December 14. Read more in the press release below.

The Hybrid Shop has announced a multimillion investment from a Northern Virginia investment firm. Funds managed by the multibillion dollar firm now own 38 percent of The Hybrid Shop, a network of dealers providing maintenance services for hybrids and EVs. "The fact that a multibillion dollar investment firm would want to invest in an early stage company serves as affirmation of our brand, business model, and future potential," says The Hybrid Shop CEO Dave Crawford, "as well as recognition of our success to-date in our ongoing efforts to achieve a position of innovation and fast-growth in the rapidly-evolving hybrid and electric space." Read more in the press release below.

LiquidPiston has unveiled a prototype of the power dense X Mini gasoline engine. The 70cc rotary engine is quite small and simple; with just two moving parts, it fits in a box as small as 6.6 inches by 6.2 inches by 5.4 inches. In testing, the X Mini produces 3.5 horsepower at 10,000 rpm, but LiquidPiston expects the final product to weigh just three pounds and produce more than five horsepower at up to 15,000 rpm. The X Mini could be used to power lawn equipment, UAVs, mopeds, EV range extenders and the like, as well as new applications not yet discovered. LiquidPiston also says its low NVH will help with comfort and product life. Read more in the press release below.

A new study says using EVs for energy storage could help during grid disturbances. Researchers showed that EVs can be signaled to respond appropriately to disturbances by discharging a certain amount into the grid rapidly when power is low, and storing energy quickly when there is a spike in surplus. This reduces grid fluctuations and allows the grid to resume stable operation more quickly after a destabilizing event. Too many EVs connected to the grid in this way, though, can cause an overreaction to events, which lessens the benefits of the vehicle-to-grid system. Read more at

News Source: ChargePoint, The Hybrid Shop, LiquidPiston,

Image Credit: LiquidPiston

Car2go turns your smartphone into carsharing key with Mobile Access

You No Longer Need A Card To Share A Car

Posted Nov 24th 2014 2:59PM

Calgary Car2go

Car2go Mobile AccessFor all the smarts in the Smart cars used in Car2go, the cars haven't been smart enough to talk to users' smart phones. At least, not in the way you might want them to talk to each other. Until now, Car2go users have had to carry a special card with them to gain access to the broad network of carsharing vehicles. Now, you can get in and drive using your phone and the Car2go app.

Previously, the app would let you find a Car2go vehicle, but an update to allow Mobile Access. As long as you can update your app to version 2.0 (on iOS or Android), you can now use your phone to find, reserve and unlock a Car2go to start your trip and then lock up and end your trip when you're done. The standard card still works, as well.

The slick new feature works on all 12,500 Car2go vehicles in North America. The service was also recently updated with Regional Access to allow any user in North America to use a Car2go in any other North American city. When the European fleet gets integrated, we'll be even more excited. Read more below.

With your phone replacing the card, Car2go has gotten a lot easier to use. I've certainly missed out on drives when I've forgotten my cars. With one less thing to carry, I've got one more reason to share a car.

News Source: Daimler

How Tesla is getting around Michigan's 'no sales' law

Turns Out, Canada Is Right Next Door

Posted Nov 24th 2014 12:01PM

Tesla Model S

A fully-charged Tesla Model S can get from Detroit to Toronto if the driver doesn't have a lead foot. A more important US-Canada city tour would be from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, which is only a two-mile journey through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. This is key, because Tesla is thinking some Michigan folks will make that trip to check out the all-electric Model S, perhaps rattling some political cages as well.

The California automaker recently drummed up some Detroit/Windsor-area exposure by holding Model S test rides in Windsor, according to CBC News. While the act itself isn't that brazen, it's a not-so-subtle dig at the state that the Big Three US automakers call home and which recently joined the ranks of states that take a hardline approach against Tesla legally selling its vehicles directly to customers. Michigan joined states like Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Arizona requiring the automaker to work through third-party dealerships. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that House Bill 5606, "doesn't change current law at all," but if Canada all of a sudden gets a lot of positive attention for being more open and Tesla's online sales rise, perhaps some minds will change.
Related GalleryTesla Model S
Tesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model S

News Source: CBC News

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco/AOL

Audi boosts A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid production to 50 a day

Posted Nov 24th 2014 10:30AM


Should we try to translate "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" into German? Audi might force us to do that. That's because the German automaker has stepped up production of its new plug-in vehicle – the A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid – which is never a bad thing.

Audi was circulating prototypes of the PHEV as early as 2012 and launched production this summer at a clip of 30 vehicles a day. Now, the company is saying that it's upped that daily production rate to 50. That's not exactly Ford F-150 manufacturing territory, but it's a pretty good sign that more Europeans are clamoring for the plug-in than Audi expected.

The A3 E-Tron is priced at about $51,000 in Germany and pairs a 1.4-liter gas-powered engine with an electric motor to produce 204 horsepower and get the car from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than seven and a half seconds. More impressively, the A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid can go 30 miles on electricity alone plus another 550 miles on gas power, and gets a Euro-based fuel-economy rating of a monstrous 156 miles per gallon. Check out Audi's press release below and take a look at our drive impressions here.

News Source: Audi

Formula E spools back up for round 2 in Malaysia [w/video]

Electric Racing Series Takes To The Streets Of Putrajaya

Posted Nov 24th 2014 8:01AM

2014 Formula E Putrajaya ePrix

It's been over two months since the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship kicked off with its first race in Beijing. And after an extended break, the action got back under way this weekend with the second race in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The qualifying session saw Nicolas Prost (son the of three-time Formula One champion) land on pole but his lingering penalty from Beijing dropped him down to tenth. Oriol Servia was thus elevated to first place on the starting grid, with Sam Bird alongside him and Daniel Abt in third. Jarno Trulli, Karun Chandhok, Nelson Piquet Jr, Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna – former F1 drivers all – followed with Matthew Brabham (grandson of the late Sir Jack) completing the top ten.

With the new FanBoost function in place, Bruno Senna, Katerine Legge and Nick Heidfeld were awarded extra bursts of power to use during the race. But who would take the checkered flag in the 2014 Putrajaya ePrix? Head on down below to watch the race highlights and to read how the race unfolded.

News Source: Formula E

Nissan's London Black Cab postponed because it can't meet emissions targets

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 1:03PM

Nissan NV200 Black Cab

Emissions concerns in London are causing headaches for Nissan, as the company continues its efforts to bring its Black Cab to the city's streets. A proposed ultra-low emissions zone could lead to standards in the city center that are so strict the gas-powered taxi can't meet them, AutoExpress reports.

It's unclear just how low the new emissions standards may be, although AE references London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and his drive to make every London taxi emissions-free by 2018 as a particular thorn for the Japanese automaker.

It's worth noting that the NV200 taxi is both cleaner and more fuel efficient than London's current fleet of iconic black cabs. That alone makes it seem like reason enough to get the new cabs on the streets. But it's the strictness of the proposed standards and the apparently set-in-stone nature of the NV200's current engineering that is holding up the cab's future.

While Nissan offers an emissions-free e-NV200, it would reportedly need to completely reengineer the NV200-based cab to meet the future standards if they're approved.

Whether that will happen, though, remains an open question.
Related GalleryNissan NV200 London Taxi
Nissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London Taxi

News Source: AutoExpress

Image Credit: Nissan

UK's 2014 Next Green Car Awards fetes VW e-Up!, Tesla Model S

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 8:47AM

Volkswagen e-Up!

They like the Tesla Model S across the Pond, too. The California-made electric vehicle was one of about a dozen models given props by the UK's Next Green Car Awards. And the prizes ran the gamut between conventional, diesel, plug-in and battery-electric powertrains because who doesn't like variety?

Leading off in the Next Green Car awards was the Volkswagen e-Up!, which took home the City Car award. On the smaller side, the Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 Ecotec and Peugeot 308 1.6 BlueHDi were also praised for their low emissions.

Moving up on the weight scale, the Ford Mondeo 2.0 Hybrid took the Large Family car award, while the Crossover award went to the Citroen C4 Cactus 1.6 BlueHDi. Americans may associate "Family Estate" cars with huge, fake-wood-paneled station wagons of the '70s and '80s (and with Clark Griswold), but NGC gave the Family Estate award to the far-more-fun Audi A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 216d, Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, Nissan e-NV200 Combi and Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric were also all given props. Finally, the Tesla took home the top-of-the-line "Executive" prize. Check out Next Green Car's press release below or this PDF.
Related GalleryVolkswagen E-Up!
Volkswagen E-Up!Volkswagen E-Up!Volkswagen E-Up!Volkswagen E-Up!Volkswagen E-Up!Volkswagen E-Up!Volkswagen E-Up!

News Source: Next Green Car


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