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BMW and the Ultimate DC Charging Machine


By: Gary S. Vasilash 30. July 2014

Imagine pulling up to a gas station with a GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Etc. logo and topping off your tank and driving away without having put a charge on a credit card or cash.

This, in effect, is what is happening in the still-growing world of electric vehicles. Not only are the vehicle manufacturers faced with the daunting challenge of creating vehicles that are durable, reliable, capable, and, yes, even appealing, they are also dealing with the development of a recharging infrastructure.

BMW charger

Tesla has done the most in this space, creating its Supercharger network of stations that allow owners of its EVs to plug in to get a sufficient amount of juice (generally 80% of charge) in about 20 minutes and then continue.

BMW has announced that it, along with Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, has developed “BMW I DC Fast Chargers” for its i3 electric vehicle. This fast charger can recharge an i3 to 80% in 30 minutes.

Another advantage, this of a infrastructural nature, is that the device, unlike other charging stations, which are approximately the size of a major appliance, measures just 31 x 19 x 12 in. and weighs just 100 lb., so it can be affixed to a wall. In addition to which, BMW is going to market the devices to “authorized BMW partners” for $6,548.

And while on the subject of money, it is worth noting that i3 drivers in California who activate their ChargeNow cards, which come with the i3, and use it at a participating eVgo Freedom Station (which, admittedly, sounds a bit over the top for what is otherwise described in an internal combustion context as a “gas station”; c’mon, electronics aren’t that fancy) by the end of 2014, will have free DC charging—which necessitates, of course, it i3 being equipped with the SAE DC Fast Charging option—through the end of 2015.

“This is a milestone in the development of the DC fast charging infrastructure. With more than five years of real world experience, we understand that a robust network of publicly available DC Combo Fast Chargers is a key part of the mobility of tomorrow. . BMW is offering the BMW i DC Fast Charger at an appealing price point, and more manageable size, to make the convenience of DC fast charging more accessible for BMW i3 owners,” said Robert Healey, EV Infrastructure Manager, at BMW of North America.

At some point, the charge stations are going to charge the same way that the aforementioned gas stations do.

But as OEMs build the market for EVs, it seems as though it is a good time for early adopters when it comes to the cost of energy.


Ford Looks at Variations on a Car Sharing Theme Through Time


By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. July 2014

Ford has created an infographic on the subject of for-hire transportation which is both informative and somewhat mystifying.

That is, the whole concept of owning cars or renting cars or sharing cars or taking cabs or taking a service like Uber or Lyft is something that a whole lot of people—both individuals looking for a way to get from A to B in a reliable way as well as automotive OEMs that are either starting their own vehicle-sharing services (Mercedes car2go) or are working with an existing one (Ford and Zipcar)—are talking about more and more often of late.

So that’s the informative part.

The somewhat mystifying part is how Ford calls out that it ended production of the Ford Crown Victoria and the Lincoln Town Car—the ne plus ultra of cabs and black cars—back in 2011, arguably one of the greatest puzzles or gaffes in recent automotive history.

Still, it is worth taking a look.

The Business of the Back Seat

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Making Draft Selections, Automotive Style


By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. July 2014

Car and Driver.

Cars.com.

The Detroit Bureau.

Motor Trend.

The Detroit Free Press.

Motor Trend Audio.

Automotive Design & Production.

You get a group of guys who work for those outlets together, and quite naturally the conversation turns (after discussions about food and complaints about long airline flights stuffed in insufferably small seats in the back of the plane) to cars, car companies and automotive executives.

Portlandia

Team logo for one of the fictitious car companies

But in this case, rather than having a completely free-flowing conversation, Jeff Sabatini, Aaron Bragman , Paul Eisenstein , Scott Burgess, Mark Phelan, Charlie Vogelheim, and I (each of whom work for the aforementioned publications, in that order), had it focused in the “Autoline Automotive Fantasy Draft.”

There are “team owners” who are tasked with making decisions about how they’d staff their very own car companies and how they’d position it in the market.

Find out why Sabatini thinks there could be an intersection between cars, bicycles and beer. Find out why Bragman thinks an ideal feature for his automobiles would be sourced from Weber Grill. Find out why Eisenstein is looking, not surprisingly, for global domination (and is probably working on a Death Star at this very moment). Find out why I would put my premier dealership in Omaha, Nebraska.

Find out why Phelan and Burgess—the color commentators—pretty much think we’re all jackasses.

And see the announcer, Vogelheim, performing his thankless duties while wearing a tux.

This may be one of the funniest hours you’ll ever spend in front of a computer.

OK. Moderately funny.


Bentley Goes Racing


By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. July 2014

It has been several years since we’ve had the opportunity to drive—maybe that should be pilot—a Bentley, but our recollection is that it is the most sumptuous and powerful car we’ve ever been in. There have been more sumptuous cars in terms of amenities (e.g., the new Mercedes S-Class comes to mind) and there have been more powerful cars in terms of, well, as Iggy might put it, raw power (e.g., the new Dodge Challenger, with the Hellcat engine that produces 707 hp vs. the 500 hp of the Continental GT V8).

Bentley Continental GT3-R 

This is the Continental GT3-R, which will reportedly cost on the order of £ 240,000

That said, the Bentley cars are nothing if not notable in many ways. Including what’s done with them.

Because racing is the sort of thing that vehicle manufacturers do to validate their bona fides, Bentley races. In the Blancpain Endurance Series. As of right now, the #7 Continental GT3 is leading the points in that series.

This Saturday, July 26, they will be on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The Continental GT3 is built by Bentley’s motorsport team in conjunction with M-Sport, a racing organization best known for its activities in rally racing. Somehow the Ford Focus RS WRC seems a long, long way from the GT3, but racing is racing.

Bentley at Goodwood Festival of Speed, 12 July 2013

Racing at Goodwood

What is rather amusing (in a droll British sense, mind you) is that one of the sponsors of the Continental GT3 racing program is Naim Audio, a British purveyor of high-end audio systems.

Somehow we can imagine the drivers in Belgium rolling along in their GT3 with a bit of Handel’s Water Music cranked up to 11. . . .


Brembo Invests Big in Brake. . .Castings


By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. July 2014

Generally, it seems that when people think about high-tech automotive components, they tend to think of things that are more along the lines of things silicon-based.

But arguably, companies like Brembo, as in the innovative company that produces brakes for a wide variety of automotive products, with some of the leading cars among them (e.g., Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4, Lexus RC F Sport, McLaren 650S, Corvette Z06), are as technologically sophisticated as any out there.

Opel Astra brakes

And so it is surprising yet satisfying to learn that Brembo is investing $100-million to build a new foundry for cast-iron brake discs. . .in the U.S. Specifically, in Michigan.

While many companies have outsourced things like foundries, Brembo is going to be building one that will have an annual output of 80,000 tons of brake disc castings. The plant is expected to go into production in 2017.

It is all part of a strategy for more vertical integration. When announcing the new foundry, Alberto Bombassei, Brembo S.p.A. chairman, said, “The increasing number of global platforms being built by vehicle manufacturers prompts us to seek the best possible integration between the different stages of the value chain, replicating the integrated production model that we have adopted for some time now in our facilities in Italy, and recently in Poland and China.”

Who would have thought that there would be a $100-million investment in a cast-iron, not silicon, foundry in the U.S.?




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