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Popemobile Goes Hybrid

1930 Mercedes-Benz Nurburg 460 Pullman

No wonder that Pope Bendict XVI is also known as the “green pope” for his support of eco-friendly causes. He will get the very first green popemobile in the form of a hybrid Mercedes-Benz M-Class. If we were to believe Wirtschaftswoche, a German business paper, the hybrid crossover will feature lithium-ion batteries and will have an electric driving range of up to 20 miles.

In 2010, Benedict had his thoughts on getting a pure-electric solar-powered Popemobile, but his closest advisors said that a hybrid would be more suitable, mostly because it would eliminate potentially threatening situations.

The car will be delivered towards the end of this year or even in early 2012 and will join six or seven Mercedes-Benz heavily armored vehicles, including a modified S-Class model and two customized Gelandewagens.

Mercedes-Benz has been supplying Popemobiles to the Vatican for more than 8 decades. The very first one was delivered to Pope Pius XI and was a Nurburg 460 Pullman limousine from 1930. The current fleet includes a M430 that was delivered in 2002 for John Paul II, the previous pontiff, along with a G500 cabriolet from 2007 and a G500 hardtop from 2008. These two last models are wearing a Vatican Mystic White livery.

Source: Inside Line

Electric GreenGT LMPH2 Set To Race At 2012 LeMans

Electric GreenGT LMPH2


In the experimental race class of next year’s Le Mans endurance race we’ll get to see this new GreenGT LMPH2 racer. In this video we catch a glimpse of the car doing a demonstration lap at the famous circuit, being driven by Christian Pescatori, who is part of the team responsible for the development of the racer. The announcement was made last week at a press conference by the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO), who is the association in charge of the Le Mans race.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1REDthL-VI[/youtube]
GreenGT, the Swiss-based team, will continue with the development of the car until the 2012 edition of the LeMans where we shall see this hydrogen-fueled car racing among other competitors in the experimental class. The car will hold 12 kg of hydrogen in 700 bar high-pressure tanks and the power output is expected to be around 402 hp (408 PS / 300 kW).

Source: GreenGT via WCF

Lotus Will Build Its Own Engines

Lotus Elan


We have some great news if you are a fan of Lotus. Dany Bahar, the company’s boss recently affirmed that they will develop their very own lineup of V6 and V8 engines, after deciding to postpone the launch of the all-new Elan model. The first prototype V8 “will fire up in July”, a year after the company has started working on new engines. According to insiders, this power unit will produce approximately 550-570 hp.

Lotus decided to develop its own lineup of engines after their Internet survey which was carried out after presenting the six concept cars at last year’s Paris Motor Show. The 10,000 responses they got suggested that the British company should start making their own engines, instead of borrowing them from Toyota.

Source: Lotus via Autocar.co.uk

Ford Reveals Tiny 1.0-liter EcoBoost Engine

A few days ago, Ford announced a new engine in its lineup, the 3-cylinder 1.0-liter EcoBoost power unit, which will be the smallest one available and it will be offered on a global scale. This new small power unit will benefit from a turbocharger, twin independent variable camshaft timing (aka Ti-VCT) and direct injection.

We don’t know the exact output of this engine but Ford says that it will offer similar performances in comparison to the bigger, 4-cylinder 1.6-liter unit that they use in the Fiesta, which means that power output should be around the 120 hp (122 PS / 89 kW) and 112 lb.-ft (152 Nm) mark.

We’ll have more information in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

PS: The engine in this photo is a 4-cylinder EcoBoost gasoline unit from Ford.

Source: Ford via WCF

Fiat 500C Arrives In The U.S.

2012 Fiat 500C

The second model in Fiat’s lineup for the North American market is the 500C. The base price for the convertible is $20,000 for the entry-level “Pop” model; while the top-spec “Lounge” will set you back $24,000. The 500C variant is available in only two models, while the hatchback has a third one, named “Sport”.

Based on the consumer inquiries and the dealer feedback, the Italian automaker is expecting that the cabrio version will exceed 10% of all 500 sales. For this year, Fiat’s sales target in the United States is 45,000 units for the 500 model

The car is available with a choice of three colors for the convertible top: red, black and tan. The sliding roof of the cabrio comes with a color-matched spoiler. Customers can choose from one of the 14 exterior colors available.

The Fiat 500C is sold with a four-year / 5,000-mile warranty that includes roadside assistance. In addition, buyers also get a three-year / 36,000-mile maintenance package.

In other news, the automaker said that 58 of its 130 dealerships planned for the United States are up and running. The Fiat 500 went on sale on March 2nd and customers already bought 2,200 units. Regarding the 500C, the company says that it has 70% less header shake in comparison to its rivals.

The Fiat 500C is powered by the same engine as we find in the standard 500 model, a 1.4-liter FIRE power plant that benefits from the company’s MultiAir technology that can regulate the valve openings in order to bring maximum efficiency, fuel economy and performance. The convertible mechanism of the car was built by Magna, while Haartz was responsible for developing the cloth for the car’s power top. In comparison to the regular version, the cabrio is 50 pounds heavier.

Source: Fiat via AutoNews | Photo: CarAndDriver

Good Debut For Raikkonen In NASCAR

The former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen has made its official debut in the NASCAR racing series last weekend and he did a pretty good job. He participated in the Camping World Truck Series NC Education Lottery 200 in his No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota Tundra.

He started the race from the 31st position, managing to end it in a respectable 15th position, crossing the finish line on the same lap as the leaders of the race. At one point during the race, the Finnish driver was on the seventh place, but he lost a lot of ground when he missed a pit stop at a crucial moment in the race.

He successfully evaded lots of multi-car accidents that happened in front of him and he managed to survive a couple of close calls. Kyle Busch, Raikkonen’s teammate won that race.

The F1 champion will return this weekend to Charlotte in order to participate in the Nationwide Series race, driving a Toyota Camry.

Source: Autosport via AutoBlog | Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty/NASCAR

Jaguar Delays Entry-Level Model

2011 Jaguar XF

Jaguar has announced last week that the entry-level model will be delayed in order to make room for the new generation of the XF which will be launched sometime in 2015. The reason behind this decision was that the model would have stolen sales from the current XF because both models have just about the same size. This means that the entry-level model will be out after a new, bigger XF is launched.

By postponing the launch of this model, the British automaker will have more time for improving the car, which will probably launched in 2016 or 2017.

Source: Jaguar via Autocar via WCF

EVCup Delayed Until Next Year

We have some bad news for those of you who were waiting for the European-based EVCup as it was delayed until next year. This specially-designed electric car race series has been conceived in order to bring EVs to the world of motorsports. The good news is that the races scheduled for the end of this year, the ones at the Auto Club Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will still be organized.

This EVCup consists of three different race classes: the CityEV, SportsEV, along with the PrototypeEV. The latter was designed for any type of non-production electric racing vehicle. The first category features only Think City EVs that have been race-modified. As far as the SportsEV class is concerned, it exclusively consists of only Westfield iRacers single-seaters.

We’ll keep you posted if more changes will occur in the EVCup schedule.

Source: EVCup via AllCarsElectric

Lotus Elan Delayed Until 2016, At Least

Lotus Elan Concept

It seems that we have some bad news for those of you who were waiting for the revival of the Lotus Elan. A spokesperson for the company told our colleagues from Car and Driver the other day that the 2-seat, mid-engine coupe will not be out until 2016, at least. The car that we saw last year at the Paris Motor Show was supposed to be out sometime in 2013 or 2014, replacing the Evora.

Lotus says that its Evora model, which was introduced in 2009, will be “allowed to have a more traditional life cycle”. In other words, it means that the British company will continue to produce the model for at least 5-6 years. There are good chances for a second generation of the Evora, but nothing is certain at the moment. If there won’t be a second-gen Evora, Lotus will roll out the Elan, but we don’t know if the company is considering two distinct cars, one Elan and one Evora II.

We do know that more variants of the Evora will be launched in the following years. This year, Lotus will roll out the Evora S with a 345-hp engine and the Evora IPS which will feature an automatic gearbox. Although this is good news, these two new variants will not pay the company’s bills and the executives over at Lotus know this so more tweaked Evoras will certainly be launched in the future. If you didn’t know, the car was developed from start to accommodate an open-roof model and we will probably see one in 2-3 years or so. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if we’ll see a more lighter and track-oriented Evora, following the same recipe of just about every model ever made by Lotus.

The Lotus Esprit is set to arrive in dealerships in 2013 which means that until then the Evora will be the only model produced by the company, taking into consideration that starting with this summer; the company will discontinue the production of its legendary Elise and Exige models.

As a reminder, back in September last year at the Paris Motor Show, the British automaker said that they are developing six new different models. It seemed a little bit too much ambitious at that time and now we have the confirmation that they can’t live up to their promises. We believe that other scheduled introductions will also be delayed. Let’s hope we’re wrong about this one.

Source: Lotus via Car And Driver

Chevrolet Astro Van – Home for Seven Weeks of an American Woman

It is incredible how some things happen in our lives: an American woman, who got stocked with the car in the mud for seven weeks, out in the Nevada wilderness, has survived during this period living in her family’s Chevrolet Astro Van. All that she ate was a bag of trail mix and a few pieces of candy.

She and her husband had left on a 1.200-miles road trip from British Columbia to Las Vegas, but somehow along the way their car ended up stuck in the mud. After a few days of waiting for someone to find them, the husband left on foot in search for help. The woman stayed in the car, and this is how she was found by a group of hunters after seven weeks. Unfortunately, there is still no news about the man, but the search for him continues.

That’s the ABC news spot on this amazing “surviving by living in a car” story.

[Source: Abcnews]

BrandZ Top 100 Places Toyota On No.1 Spot

Despite a long and agonizing recall campaign, the Japanese automaker Toyota has managed to regain its position as the most valuable auto brand in the world, jumping 11% to $24.2 billion in the BrandZ Top 100 annual ranking, overtaking BMW, last year’s number one brand. These results have been compiled by the Millward Brown research company. From 2006 to 2009, Toyota was the most valuable auto brand in the world.

Mercedes-Benz managed to grab the 3rd spot this year, with a 12% increase, overtaking Honda, which was followed by Porsche. Nissan achieved a 17% increase, mostly by its highly-acclaimed Leaf model, finishing the top on the 6th place.

Millward Brown measures brand equity, based on interviewing more than one million consumers globally and analyzing business and finance performance of each automaker by using data from Bloomberg and Datamonitor.

Here is the top 10 of the world’s most valuable car brands in $ billion; rank in top 100; % change

1. Toyota $24.2 — 27 –11%
2. BMW $22.4 — 30 — 3%
3. Mercedes $15.3 — 50 — 12%
4. Honda $14.2 — 56 — -1%
5. Porsche $12.4 –66 — -3%
6. Nissan $10.1 — 88 — 17%
7 VW $7.4 — * — 6%
8. Ford $7.4 — * –5%
9. Audi $3.8 — * — 5%
10. Lexus $3.7 — * –new

* Did not qualify for the top 100

This year’s top 100 ranking is led by Apple, with a brand value of $153 billion, followed by last year’s Google, with $111 billion.

Source: Millward Brown via AutoNews

Oil Price Drops, Gas Price Increases

We live in a crazy world where the price for gas increases, although the oil price drops. According to Lundberg Report, the average price of a gallon of gas in the United States rose to 4$ a gallon, which is 12 cents more than two weeks ago.

According to some analysts, $4-4, 50 is the tipping point at which the drivers change their driving patterns by riding with friends, trying to combine trips or simply reduce the numbers of miles covered.

Over the last few months, one of the hottest car segments was the compact, fueled by the launch of the Chevrolet Cruze and the Hyundai Elantra. Due to the reason that the Japanese auto industry is still affected by the natural calamities, the inventory levels of high-mileage hybrids will be limited through this following summer.

Source: Reuters via Yahoo! News via TheCarConnection via GreenCarReports| Photo: WorkSmarterNotHarder

Laser Igniters Under Development

Last Sunday during the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics, held in Baltimore, a very interesting paper was revealed by a team of researchers from Japan and Romania, offering a promising future for more efficient engines that eat up less gas. How? By using lasers to ignite the fuel-air mixture, instead of the regular spark plugs.

Up until now, the lasers that were capable of providing sufficient power for igniting a fuel-air mixture, were large and impractical to use for a car engine, and also quite fragile. The good news is that this Japanese-Romanian team of researchers has conceived a new, tougher and smaller laser that is made out of ceramics, instead of the regular crystalline materials, making it significantly more durable and resistant to the very high temperatures of a car engine.

These ceramic laser cylinders accumulate the energy that is sent through the fiber optic cable from lower-power lasers. They release this energy into the cylinder in pulses just 800 trillionths of a second long. If these can be developed to be sufficiently tough in order to withstand car use, the lasers will not have to be replaced, in comparison to spark plugs which must be changed once the metal tips erode.

The most important advantage of this laser technology is that these plugs can be focused to emit pulses at different depths within the cavity of the cylinders, which allows a better control of the entire combustion process.

If an engine-control software could be capable of simultaneously or sequentially igniting the fuel-air mixture at various spots throughout the engine’s combustion chamber, a more complete combustion process could become available and the energy which is contained in each of the hydrocarbon molecules could be more fully exploited, thus lowering fuel consumption and offering increased gas mileage, which is the ultimate goal of this technology.

The team of researchers is now in talks with Denso, which is a very popular auto-parts manufacturer that does a lot of business as far as conventional spark plugs are concerned. Hopefully, they will be able to commercialize this revolutionary design.

Source: GreenCarReports via Jalopnik | Photo: Gizmag

Chinese Investment Saves Saab, For Now

2012 Saab 9-3 Griffin

Saab’s problems with cash flow have been solved, at least for a couple of months, courtesy of a significant Chinese investment that will allow the Swedish automaker to resume production at its factory in Trolhattan. Spyker, the owner of Saab, has announced this week that they’ve signed up a deal with Hawtai, a Chinese car manufacturer, which will invest 150 million Euros, taking 29.9% stake. They will also give Spyker another 30 million Euros as a convertible loan.

This deal will clear the path for Saab’s entry to the very competitive Chinese market, which is very important for the company’s attempt to boost up sales to a profitable level. Hawtai decided to make this move because of Saab’s potential for technology sharing as well as the company’s European sales network.

The Trolhattan factory has been closed for more than a month due to unpaid bills, the suppliers refusing to send the necessary components. Production should restart next week and everything should be back on track.

Yesterday, Spyker grabbed another 60 million Euros of funding from a Lithuanian-owned investment fund and Vladimir Antonov, a very wealthy Russian businessman.

Source: Saab via Autocar

Top 10 Most Dangerous Races

Racing is without any doubt one of the most dangerous sports in the world, taking into consideration that drivers reach speeds of over 250 mph and we don’t have to tell you what could go wrong at such speeds. In this week’s top 10 we are going to talk about the most dangerous races out there to point out what drivers had/have to go through every time they get behind the wheel of a racecar. The order is random as we can’t put a ranking on the number of deaths or accidents.

Let’s start with the first days of racing and look back at the early 1900s for the Paris-Madrid race.

Paris-Madrid Race


Organized in 1903, the Paris-Madrid endurance race consisted of 275 vehicles (59 were motorcycles) and they all started in Versailles and things went terribly wrong very fast. Taking into consideration that those were the early days of racing, spectators were not yet aware of the real dangers involved in this sport, so they crowded the sides of the course and 45 miles out of Paris, a woman was hit and killed by one of the competitors. The recorded number of deaths is seven, but probably there were many others who were killed during the race. Marcel Renault, who was one of the co-founders of Renault, died in an accident during the race, after being in the lead for several miles.

Dakar Rally


Since it was introduced in 1979, the Dakar Rally has taken 45 lives. In this 700-mile trek, fewer than half the 435 entrants managed to finish the last race. To give you an idea of how dangerous the rally is, random shootings are nothing out of the ordinary. Add to this the difficulty of the road and you can figure out why it made it into our top.

Motordome


Motordomes are considered the ancestors of the current NASCAR racetracks. They were small oval courses that were created by using steep bankings and wooden planks. Drivers achieved speeds of more than 120 mph so there were a lot of accidents happening. The most common ones involved cars and bikes that spun out of control, hitting the spectators. They were called “murderdromes” due to the reason that many drivers were killed over a single race only.

Le Mans


The 24 Hours of Le Mans was first held in 1923 and up until now, it has claimed 129 fatalities, according to research group Motorsports Memorial. Probably the most tragic accident occurred in 1955 when Pierre Levegh, who was driving a Mercedes-Benz, crashed his vehicle into a grandstand, killing himself and 83 spectators.

Baja 1000


The producers of the movie “Dust to Glory” consider the Baja 100 as “the most dangerous race in the world”. This race consists of riders of dune buggies, motorcycles, along with other off-road vehicles that have to experience the dangerous of 1,000 miles of rugged terrain. Some of the fanatical spectators are known for digging ditches and throwing objects onto the course in order to obstruct racers.

Mille Miglia


After the horrible things that happened during the Paris-Madrid tragedy, open road races were banned. The Mille Miglia was then born, which was a 1,000 miles long race, featuring powerful touring cars that raced along the highway from Brescia to Rome. The race became popular for its horrible crashes and extraordinary stunts, like the one Hans Herrmann pulled, when he approached the lowered train-track barriers at high speeds and after that he ducked in order to allow the vehicles to go under, immediately after seeing a high speed train coming by. The race was banned in 1952 when Alfonso de Portago, a Ferrari driver, blew a tire at a high speed corner, taking the lives of 12 spectators.

Macau GP


Just about any type of racing takes place on the Macau GP, from touring cars, motorcycles to Formula 3. Taking into consideration that it was designed on city streets, there are plenty of tight corners and long straights where drivers reach very high speeds. Featuring narrow streets, it means that drivers don’t have any run-off space for their cars so you can imagine what might happen. And bad things did happen as after its first year, accidents and deaths became common occurrences.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy


Imagine this:  a bunch of very fast motorcycles that race on a small, 33-mile-by-13-mile island. Due to the fact that the race is held on very narrow streets with tracks lined by stone walls, no wonder that 180 people were killed since the race was inaugurated in 1907. The track was built for motorcycles and according to many people, over the years it has gotten more and more dangerous because motorcycles got bigger and faster.

Nurburgring


It was constructed in the mid-1920 with four configurations (Gesantstrecke, Nordschleife, Sudschlief and the Zielschleife). The first race was held in 1927 and since then, 68 people died. Boasting an average width of 8-9 meters, it is way too narrow for racing events. Locals estimate that there are 3-12 fatalities per year.

Carrera Panamericana


It ran from a southern Mexican west coast city towards Texas. It was organized between 1950 and 1955, and many people still consider it to be the most dangerous race of any type in the entire world. In 1951, two well-known Mexican drivers died, causing reactions of indignation and horror. Two years later, in 1953, a number of competitors died, along with Felice Bonetto who missed his own warning signs and when he entered the village of Silao, he was going at high speeds on rough pavement and he hit a building, dying instantly. The race was cancelled in 1955, after 27 deaths over the five years of the competition, giving it one of the biggest mortality rates per race in motorsport history.


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