EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News

Nepal gov’t EV usage proposed for high-level officials


The government of Nepal has drafted a proposal that requires their high-ranking public officials to exclusively use electric vehicles for their daily commuting, the Kathmandu Post reports.

This recommendation of transport usage for the country’s government officials has come from an internal committee of the ministry, says Nepal transport ministry joint secretary Mani Ram Bhusal. “The government is spending a huge budget over these vehicles every year,” Bhusal said.

“Although the initial investment for buying EVs will be higher, expenses on fuel will be saved and maintenance will be cheaper. Most importantly, the message for the promotion of EVs will go out loud and clear,” the joint secretary added.

This proposal needs to be approved by the cabinet before coming into force, and it also makes it mandatory for said government officials to provide ‘a solid reason’ for not being able to commute in environmentally friendly vehicles if they cannot begin use of EVs, the report said.

BYD Denza 500.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) became the first government agency in the country in 2017 to purchase an electric vehicle as part of an effort to replace the internal combustion engine-powered vehicles currently in the government fleet. This was followed by the purchase of an EV by the president’s office in a symbolic gesture for the promotion of eco-friendly vehicles in the country, the report added.

Policies and action plans have been put forth by the Nepal government for the promotion of EVs in the country, however progress has been mostly held back by the lack of infrastructure for the support of electrified mobility in the country, the Kathmandu Post noted, with the lack of charging stations being the key obstacle to the growth of the EV volume.

“If government officials start using EVs then there will be charging stations at vehicle parking stations as well. Even the public can use such charging stations by paying some amount; it will definitely accelerate the infrastructure development (for) EVs,” said the president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Nepal (EVAN), Umesh Shrestha.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, hyundai, International News

Hyundai eco-friendly car for Chicago – Sonata Hybrid?


At the Chicago Auto Show later this week, Hyundai will be introducing a new eco-friendly model for the United States market, and judging by the current lineup, it will most likely be the new Sonata Hybrid. The outgoing seventh-generation model has been on sale in the US since 2015, and the company has already confirmed that the latest version will arrive sometime this year.

Based on the outlandish coupé-like eighth-generation Sonata, the new Hybrid is powered by a Smartstream G 2.0 litre direct-injected petrol engine, which in its home market of South Korea makes 150 hp and 188 Nm of torque. It is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with an integrated 38 kW (51 hp)/205 Nm electric motor, providing a total system output of 192 hp.

So equipped, the Sonata Hybrid is capable of delivering a fuel consumption figure of 20.1 km per litre, though the US’ more stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests may result in lower numbers. The Korean-market Sonata is also available with a solar panel roof that recharges the battery and provides a claimed 1,300 km of extra travel distance a year, although it’s unclear if the US will receive it.

Other new items for the Hybrid include Active Shift Control (ASC), which uses the electric motor to align the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission. This is claimed to cut shift times by 30% and minimise friction while shifting, leading to increased durability. The boot size has also increased dramatically, jumping from 377 litres to 510.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News, MINI

2020 MINI Cooper SE – more technical details revealed


In July 2019, MINI introduced its first ever electric car, the Cooper SE. Technically, the automaker’s first EV was the MINI E which debuted in 2008, but that car was a strict two-seater (the battery pack took up most of the rear space) and production was limited to just 500 units for private leases.

The new Cooper SE, on the other hand, can be purchased by just about anyone who wishes to ride on the new-age mobility bandwagon. It actually sits on the same UKL platform that underpins the 3-Door and 5-Door hatches, so dimensions, weight, design proportions, and interior space are more or less identical. These are exactly what the MINI team strived to keep, by the way.

It should also be known that the UKL platform became the base for BMW’s FAAR platform, which was designed from the outset to accommodate hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains for its compact cars. Introducing the Cooper SE at the end of the F56’s life may not seem like a good strategy, but let’s just say it’s better having it made now than later, especially with all the post-Brexit uncertainties.

The recipe for the Cooper SE is simple – take the heart of the BMW i3s and flip it for a front-wheel drive application (the i3s is rear-driven and the transverse electric motor is fitted at the back). The compact electric motor, which has integrated power electronics and single-stage transmission, is held in place by a solid tube structure. It also weighs less compared to a conventional engine.

What’s new is the T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack, which has been designed to maximise the underfloor space vacated by the exhaust system, and thus is unique only to the Cooper SE. The gross energy content is 32.6 kWh (net content is 28.9 kWh; 350.4 volt), and a solid base plate protects it from the damaging effects of road debris. Should the car get into an accident, an automatic failsafe function immediately switches off all drive components. Other vital electronics are also shielded by reinforced bumper support.

As an extra step of precaution, the car’s height is raised by 18 mm to provide more ground clearance for the battery, and the only visual evidence of this the wider gap between the tyre and the wheel arch. In all, MINI says the Cooper SE weighs 145 kg heavier (1,365 kg) than the Cooper S 3 Door with Steptronic transmission, but its centre of gravity is lower, and perhaps affects weight distribution for the better as well.

Now for the numbers. The electric system provides 184 hp (135 kW) at 7,000 rpm and 270 Nm of torque from 100 to 1,000 rpm, figures which are close to the Cooper S’ 192 hp/280 Nm output. Being a city car, outright performance takes a step back in favour of daily usability and range, although peak acceleration remains impressive – the nought to 60 km/h sprint is achieved in 3.9 seconds, but 0-100 km/h is nearly double that at 7.3 seconds.

There’s still lots of pep for when the roads clear up. MINI says getting from 80 km/h to 120 km/h takes just 4.6 seconds, but the top speed is capped at 150 km/h. For those wondering, this is as hot as the Cooper SE gets. There won’t be an electric JCW model in the near future, and we’re told that the electric motor is currently at its peak potential. We daren’t ask more for a city car, to be frank.

What you’ll get is decent urban mileage, or up to 270 km to be exact. Charging tech is identical to the i3s, and there’s an 11 kW onboard AC charger with a Type 2 connection. Charging can be done via a 7.4 kW single-phase AC outlet, but this takes 4.2 hours (or 3.2 hours to 80%), the longest needed for a full charge.

When plugged into a the MINI Electric Wallbox (11 kW three-phase), a full charge requires 3.5 hours or 2.5 hours from 0 to 80% charge. DC fast-charging is also supported (via CCS Combo 2 connection), although only up to 50 kW. Here, it takes just 35 minutes to get 80% from flat, or 1.4 hours from 0 to 100% charge.

There’s brake regeneration as well, with two thresholds (-0.19 m/s/s and -0.11 m/s/s) – to choose from. The former allows drivers to experience single-pedal driving (it decelerates more aggressively), while the latter feels more like a natural deceleration in combustion engined cars. There’s no switch to turn this off, so just keep that in mind.

The suspension is also very much similar to the regular Cooper S. The front is managed by a single-joint McPherson strut with aluminium swivel bearing and anti-dive control, while the rear gets a multi-link setup with weight-optimised trailing arms. No adaptive dampers here, and the Cooper S’ Passive Sport Suspension (makes the Cooper SE slightly more comfortable) is omitted as well.

For design, the Cooper SE is differentiated by the psychedelic highlights which adorn the closed radiator grille, side mirror caps, scuttle plates, alloy wheels, and tailgate decors. Standard wheel size is 16 inches, but this can be upgraded to larger 17-inch items which are unique to the electric model only (pictured here). Those who don’t fancy the design can opt for any 17-inch alloys available on the 3 Door and 5 Door models.

Step inside and you’ll be greeted with a largely familiar cabin. To start, the instrument panel is brand new, featuring a 5.5-inch digital instrument display with the similar bright yellow theme. The display itself is coated with a matte finish, which cuts out reflections. This provides info such as battery charge level, selected drive mode, available range, and basic multimedia info.

Other touches unique to the Cooper SE are the yellow start-stop ignition toggle, eDrive mode (Sport, Mid, Green, and Green+), yellow topstitching, and floor mats with MINI Electric embroidery (the last two is part of the Interior Style MINI Electric option). Standard kit includes LED headlamps, dual-zone climate control with pre-conditioning (via MINI Connected), and 6.5-inch Connected Navigation system (upgradable to 8.8-inch Connected Navigation Plus with wireless charging tray in the armrest).

As mentioned earlier, cabin space is unaffected by the switch to electric propulsion, and so is the boot space. There’s still 211 litres of space, enough to fit a couple of luggages, and the rear seats fold flat (60:40 split; both seats come with Isofix anchor points) to provide 731 litres of space.

Lastly, for safety, there’s a hydraulic twin-circuit brake system with ABS, Cornering Brake Control, DSC with brake assistant, hill start assist, brake dry function, fading brake support, electronic differential lock control, and performance control. There’s no hardware to enable more advanced features like autonomous emergency braking or active cruise control with braking function, and it’s unclear if there will ever be. So, anyone looking forward to this?

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EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News

Thailand announces cheaper annual road tax for EVs


In a bid to encourage the use of alternative energy instead of fossil fuel, Thailand’s department of land transport has announced incentives for those who use clean energy vehicles. This will come in the form of cheaper annual vehicle tax for electric vehicles, The Nation reports.

According to the department, the tax for a passenger electric car with not more than seven seats will be calculated according to the weight of the car at the same rate as a fossil-fuel seven-seat passenger vehicle.

Vans, trucks, motorcycles as well as road rollers, tractors used in agriculture and taxicabs running between provinces running on electric power will pay half the tax of a vehicle of the same type using fossil fuel. For example, personal motorcycles that use fossil fuel pay an annual tax of Bt100 per vehicle, while electric motorcyles will pay Bt50.

The department’s deputy director-general for operation, Jantira Buruspat, said the move is part of the campaign to improve the air quality. She said that the increase in particulate matters smaller than 2.5 microns were affecting people’s health and impacting on their quality of life. A separate news report indicated that the air quality over the weekend in six Bangkok districts were at unsafe levels.

She said that as of December 31, 2019, there were 40,712,043 vehicles registered in the country, of which 27,749,524 were gasoline-powered vehicles and 11,294,017 were running on diesel. While only 2,854 electric vehicles are registered, the total including 117 electric buses, the adoption of hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids is far more encouraging, with a combined total of 153,184 vehicles registered.

Thailand is looking towards electrification, and wants to encourage automakers to build more EV or hybrid vehicles in the Kingdom. The government is set to draft a roadmap for the production of electrified vehicles to begin within three years, and says it must be finalised this year. Tax breaks have been planned, with an excise tax exemption being offered to automakers producing EVs in the country from 2020 to 2022, compared with an excise tax rate of 2% in normal cases.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News, Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz EQS teased, prototype next to concept


Official “spyshots” of test prototypes are a thing now, and Mercedes-Benz has recently posted photos on Facebook of an EQS mule next to last year’s concept. This confirms that not only is the flagship electric sedan headed to production, it’s coming pretty soon – reportedly in 2021.

Looking at the differences between the two, the prototype sports a number of production-ready details such as door mirrors and handles, discrete head- and tail lights and smaller wheels. It also appears to be taller, but otherwise it retains the same “one bow” monobox profile as the show car.

Expect the interior to feature the concept’s portrait-format touchscreen running a new version of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) – something that should also appear in the next-generation S-Class. The Vision EQS also featured displays in the front doors and a rectangular steering wheel, but it’s unclear if the production version will have them.

Preliminary specifications include outputs of over 350 kW (470 hp) and 760 Nm of torque from twin electric motors that also provide all-wheel drive. This would enable it to get from zero to 100 km/h in under 4.5 seconds, while the range is quoted at up to 700 km/h on the WLTP cycle. The large lithium-ion battery is capable of being charged up to 80% in less than 20 minutes via a 350 kW fast charging station.

GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS at Frankfurt 2019

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News, Maserati

Maserati Ghibli PHEV heads to Beijing motor show; Quattroporte and Levante to be facelifted this year


Maserati is set to bring a hybrid version of the Ghibli to the Beijing Motor Show in April, which will also be the Italian marque’s first electrified model, Automotive News Europe reports. This is expected to feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain, though Maserati has yet to release details of the hybrid electric drive system.

China is an important market for Maserati, and the move to electrification is likely to boost demand for the brand in the country as buyers of the PHEV Ghibli would be eligible for a 10,000 yuan (RM5,882) subsidy from the Chinese government, Automotive News Europe reported. The incentives are offered for plug-in hybrids, but not for other kinds of hybrid vehicles, it added.

The possible sales volume boost will be timely as Maserati sales in China dropped by 27% to 6,100 units last year, according to estimates from market researchers JATO Dynamics. Meanwhile, the Italian carmaker is expected to release its sales figures for 2019 next month.

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Maserati Alfieri concept

According to Maserati’s business plan detailed last September, the marque will be releasing fully electric successors to the GranTurismo and the GranCabrio, both of which will be manufactured at the Turin production facility which has been earmarked for an investment of 800 million euros.

Another all-new sports car from the marque is set for unveiling in May, and this will also likely be hybridised instead of purely electric, given that the released teaser clip featured the sounds of an eight-cylinder engine and Maserati having stated previously that all future models will be electrified or fully electric.

This new car, therefore, isn’t meant to replace to GranTurismo, as the aforementioned EV successor to the GT is slated for arrival in 2021 instead, with the GranCabrio successor following suit in 2022. Rumours and past suggestions from Maserati itself hinted for this to be a smaller, sportier model that is likely to be the productionised version of the Alfieri concept.

Closer to the present, The flagship Quattroporte sedan and the Levante SUV are also due to receive facelifts this year. This will be the second update for the Quattroporte, with the first facelift unveiled in 2016, with the Levante having made its debut the same year.

GALLERY: Maserati Alfieri concept

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, hyundai, International News

Hyundai pick-up truck may get Genesis GV80 inline-six


The new inline-six diesel engine which powers the Genesis GV80 could also go into the future Hyundai pick-up truck, Car Sales reported. “(For) this engine, we can have so many applications. (Hyundai) also make commercial vehicles and so on, so this engine will be out there for quite some time,” Hyundai R&D chief Albert Biermann told the Australian website.

This suggests that the new inline-six diesel will almost certainly be employed for powering other models that the engine can be fitted to, as the company will want to maximise its returns after the development of a new engine. Is it a confirmation that it will go into vehicles outside the Genesis banner, though? “We have not finally decided yet,” Biermann said.

In the Genesis GV80, the turbodiesel straight-six produces 278 PS and 600 Nm of torque; if installed in the forthcoming Hyundai pick-up truck in the same state of tune, this would endow it with more power and torque than the Mercedes-Benz X 350 d, which has 258 hp and 550 Nm of torque, and the Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 TDI, which has 258 hp and 580 Nm of torque in its most potent guise.

Though previously the X-Class was rumoured to have a V8 variant in development, such a model is less likely because this mid-sized pick-up segment is predominantly focused on four-cylinder variants, and the X-Class range as a whole was reportedly due to be dropped from Mercedes-Benz’s product line-up.

Hyundai chose to develop an inline-six diesel because it is inherently refined, and the longitudinal layout posed no packaging problems in the GV80, just as it wouldn’t be an issue in a large commercial vehicles, Biermann said. “It just makes the smoothest power. We developed the car from the beginning – the new platform (which will underpin the next G80 sedan) was already considered with that engine,” he said.

That the GV80 is bound for the European market with the diesel six-cylinder engine shows that Hyundai wants to spread the engine’s development costs over the widest possible range of applications, the Australian website noted, and Biermann confirmed that the GV80 will meet Euro 6 ‘Step II’ emissions regulations.

“There was a time, two years ago, when everybody was saying ‘diesel is over’, but now you have people saying: ‘with this new diesel technology, the air that comes from the tailpipe is cleaner than the air (the engine) sucks in, right?’ It is like that with the next level, so will it die or not die? Time will tell,” Biermann said regarding the viability of diesel in Europe.

Regardless of the outlook for diesel, Hyundai is ready, along with hybrid, mild hybrid, PHEV, fully electric as well as fuel-cell models in development, Biermann said, also adding that the 3.0 litre inline-six diesel is compatible with hybrid drive, though he did not elaborate further.

With Genesis head William Lee stating that the luxury brand will skip hybrids and head directly to EVs, hybrid drive applications for the diesel inline-six appears to be focused outside the Genesis brand, which adds weight to the idea of this powertrain going into other future Hyundai models.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, Mercedes-Benz, Spyshots

SPYSHOTS: Mercedes-Benz SL returns to fabric roof, to receive up to 800 hp in SL73 hybrid twin-turbo V8


The all-new, next-generation Mercedes-Benz SL has been spotted by our spy photographers, and the forthcoming roadster appears to be undergoing some key changes for its next iteration. Firstly, the next SL will mark a return to the fabric roof after preceding generations of the folding hard-top which the German brand started using with the first SLK, and this generation of SL will also feature rear seats.

This early development car is certainly wearing heavy disguise, which leaves still a considerable amount of the aesthetic to the imagination, though the move to a fabric roof construction will help offset any weight gain from additional equipment to come with the next-generation luxury roadster. This will share underpinnings with the next Mercedes-AMG GT, both of which will use the Modular Sports Architecture and save on development costs as a result.

With the next SL to be engineered alongside the next AMG GT, the luxury roadster can be expected to be ‘far sportier’ than the current model, said AMG chief Tobias Moers, though it will still have the “perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort” in order to fulfil the cruiser brief, Moers said, adding that this forthcoming SL will be made exclusively as a roadster, which means there will no longer be a hardtop.

It is very much early days in terms of determining the next SL’s engine line-up, however this is rumoured to comprise a 435 hp inline-six, a 522 hp biturbo V8 and the obligatory Mercedes-AMG SL63 version with around 612 hp. This generation may also mark the return of the SL73 AMG badge, the larger numbers denoting not a 7.3 litre V12 but rather an electrified petrol V8 powertrain. This is expected to be a 204 hp motor for a total output of 800 hp and 1,000 Nm of torque, our sources say.

We can expect plenty more development car appearances in the coming months by the next SL which could debut in 2021 at the soonest, and the next-generation AMG GT sports car sibling that shares its platform is set to follow a year after as a 2022 model. Until then, what do you think of the SL’s return to the fabric roof?

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News, Maserati

Maserati lets us listen to its new electric powertrain

Maserati has previously announced its plans for the electrification of its vehicle line-up, and is now giving us a sample of what’s in store. The Italian carmaker has begun the testing phase of its new electric propulsion systems, and is letting us hear them in action.

That may sound odd considering the company’s history of developing cars that emit lovely noises from an internal combustion engine, but the company is assuring its customers that its EVs will have an “unmistakable sound.” Just so its known, while electric motors run rather silent, they still emit a whine and whistle, which Maserati are aiming to amplify and use it to enhance the driving experience.

“During this experimental phase, the sound that will characterise the electric engine will also be developed. The next full electric models will have a distinctive signature sound, already a unique attribute of all Maserati cars equipped with traditional combustion engines,” the company said in an official release.

Maserati’s electric powertrains are currently being developed at its facility in Modena, with all research and development work being carried out complete in-house. The company also noted that the GranTurismo and GranCabrio will be its first cars to adopt the electric powertrains, and will be built at its Turin production hub.

If there’s any concern that Maserati will complete abandon internal combustion engines, rest assured that this will not happen. The company has previously stated while EVs and plug-in hybrids will be part of its line-up moving forward, there’s no possibility that the whole range will ever go fully electric.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, Jaguar, Spyshots

SPYSHOTS: Next-gen Jaguar XJ goes fully electric


The next Jaguar XJ flagship sedan will become fully electric, which will be followed by the next-generation Range Rover that will share its MLA platform. This development mule photographed here wears a modified Jaguar XF exterior, though a camouflaged front end and taller side sills mark this out as something different underneath.

The MLA platform’s ‘skateboard’ architecture means that the next XJ – the group’s first to use the platform – and by extension, the next Range Rover won’t be confined to just a fully electric drivetrain, as the platform will accommodate diesel, petrol, hybrid as well as fully electric powertrain layouts, Jaguar Land Rover said, and is said to be even lighter than the outgoing D-series platform.

The Tesla Model S is the obvious contender in the premium electric sedan segment, though this, along with the fully electric Jaguar XJ will be joined by EV models from the traditional luxury establishment, namely the Mercedes-Benz EQS, fully electric BMW 7 Series, Porsche Taycan and the Audi e-tron GT.

Powertrain details for the next Jaguar XJ are still scant, though for comparison Autocar reported that the Mercedes-Benz EQS is expected to use a 90 kWh battery pack for an estimated range of ‘between 400 km to 500 km’. An 80kWh battery gives the 402 hp/765 Nm EQC crossover a range of 417 km, while the base Porsche Taycan 4S with the standard 79.2kWh battery offers 407 km of range and a peak output of 530 PS.

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