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Posts Tagged ‘commuter cars’

GM Developing New EN-V

Rickshaw-like battery vehicle targets inner-city commuters.

by on Oct.13, 2011

The 2nd-generation Chevrolet EN-V could appeal to entry-level commuters, the maker believes.

It looks like a self-propelled rickshaw, with more in common with the quirky Segway personal mobility device than a conventional automobile, but General Motors is convinced its EN-V concept vehicle could play a major role in the future of transportation.

So, the U.S. maker says it will develop a second-generation EN-V to not only test out the idea of operating on only two wheels but also to explore concepts that include autonomous mobility – the sci-fi fantasy of cars that can operate entirely on their own.

“We someday anticipate connecting all vehicles through a mobility network that could include autonomous driving,” said Jim Federico, a senior product executive with GM, which showed off a prototype of the EN-V gen-two during a news conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet brand.

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The original concept, first shown at the 2009 New York Auto Show, carried a generic GM badge. The switch to Chevrolet reflects that brand’s role as the primary provider of basic transportation within the General Motors family, explained Chip Perry, GM’s vice president of global marketing.

“By 2030, more than 60% of the world’s 8 billion people will live in urban areas,” he noted.  “The Chevrolet EN-V represents a possible solution for global customers living in markets where alternative transportations solutions are needed.”


Aston Gives Cygnet The Green Light

But is it really an Aston?

by on Oct.12, 2010

Aston Martin has approved production of the new Cygnet luxury microcar for 2011.

Aston Martin’s first urban commuter luxury car, the Cygnet, will go into production next year, the automaker has decided.

The three-door hatchback, visually the polar opposite of a sleek Aston sports car, will be produced at the maker’s Gaydon assembly plant alongside more exotic models like the DB9.

Aston officials say they decided to approve the project after realizing that a good 30% of their current owners also have microcars, such as Smart or Mini, that they use for commuting.  Aston is betting that by placing its winged badge on the hood it will be able to get a significant premium for the Cygnet over more conventional urban runabouts.

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Production is expected to run about 2,000 units annually, and the price tag is reportedly in the range of 30,000 to 50,000 British pounds, or something under $50,000 to $80,000 – though Aston has not announced any plans for U.S. distribution.

Whether it will be able to make a go of the Cygnet remains to be seen,  in part because the little hatchback is largely based on a rebadged Toyota iQ minicar – even though the Aston version will be upgraded with plenty of upscale touches, including a swaddling of leather in the cabin.


Top Picks and Nits for Commuter Cars?

AAA releases its version of practical cars for daily driving.

by on Mar.23, 2010

If you can get past Toyota's recall and safety troubles, Prius remains a great commuter car.

AAA released its top vehicle picks for commuters today based on practicality, safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and affordability criteria.

The non-profit motoring organization, with 51 million members, says the average motorist spends roughly 41 minutes a day traveling about 22.5 miles round trip to/from work in personal vehicles.

Its top picks for commuting – with my comments, and please add yours – are:

  • Honda Insight: This car is among the ultimate in gasoline fuel economy while being reasonably comfortable for the driver and front-seat passenger. It is also less costly and more fun to drive than some of its hybrid competitors.

(Well, maybe since the promised low-price version of the Toyota Prius has never appeared. However, my trips to Honda dealerships revealed that most of the cars offered are higher trim levels, so the alleged price advantage is confined to press releases.)

  • Ford Fusion: Four-cylinder versions offer an appealing combination of power, riding comfort and handling competence. The Hybrid offers even more economy, but the fuel savings come with a major bump in the purchase price.

(No kidding the hybrid is more expensive. Be sure to drive the four-cylinder before you buy it. its performance is, well, leisurely.)

  • Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Everything that you ever hated about diesels has been exorcised in this latest version of the Volkswagen diesel engine. It is quiet, with just a trace of diesel clatter at idle; peppy, especially when underway; and every bit as economical as the most miserly hybrids. It also is great fun to drive. Comfortable front seats are a plus.


(I do not think the Jetta is every bit as “economical” as most hybrids. Our testing shows Prius with a roughly 10 mpg advantage in urban, suburban and highway conditions. See also Road&Track, March 2010 for an even more rigorous testing data. And fueling a diesel, especially at truck stops, is a less than fun experience.)   (more…)

First Look: Volvo C30 Battery Car

Volvo testing compact battery-electric commuter car.

by on Jan.07, 2010

Volvo's battery-electric C30 will begin fleet testing this year, but no date has been set for retail sales.

At first glance, you might not pay much attention to the seemingly familiar Volvo C30 as it rolls by.  But the unexpected absence of sound should be a clue that something is not quite as familiar as it first might seem.

That’s because the Swedish import’s conventional gasoline engine has been replaced by a small electric drivetrain.  The C30 battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, is, for now, just one of a small fleet of prototypes, but if the until now secret development program pans out, it could bring Volvo’s entry into the small but fast-growing battery commuter car segment.

“The Volvo C30 is the first model we will try out with electric power,” explains Lennart Stegland, Director of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles.  “This car’s excellent properties in city traffic and its relatively low weight make it particularly suitable, since electric cars are primarily expected to be used in and around cities and for daily commuting,”

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While the automaker isn’t revealing all the details, yet, it appears the C30 BEV will use about 24 kWh of lithium-ion batteries, enough to give it a range of about 150 kilometers, or 94 miles, per charge.  The relatively light and compact C30 should be able to accelerate from 0 to 100 kmh (0 to 62.5 mph) in “less than 11 seconds,” according to a corporate news release.  Top speed is limited to 130 kmh (about 81 mph).


First Look: Rinspeed UC Commuter Car

More than a car, it’s a “mobility concept.”

by on Dec.16, 2009

The Rinspeed UC? isn't just a commuter car, the company asserts, but an entire "mobility concept."

The Rinspeed UC? isn't just a commuter car, it's said, but an entire "mobility concept."

We’re always intrigued when e-mail comes in from the quirky Swiss design house, Rinspeed.  Over the years, they’ve come up with flying cars, floating cars, and even a vehicle that can reconfigure its interior layout depending on how many passengers it’s carrying.

But the latest design exercise, due to make a more formal appearance at the Geneva Motor Show, early in 2010, is decidedly more than just another concept vehicle.  It is, in the company’s words, “an entire mobility concept.”

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The goal is to create “a new and highly emotional web-based car world that interweaves individual and public transport in an intelligent way. We want to create a community of people who are open for a new definition of mobility,” says Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht.  If you want to cut through the hyperbole, read on.


First Look: Aston Martin Cygnet Commuter Car

Not your father’s Aston – nor 007’s.

by on Dec.16, 2009

The grille is classic, but there's a lot of Toyota in the overall design of the Aston Martin Cygnet commuter car concept.

The grille is classic, but there's also a lot of the little Toyota IQ in the overall design of the Aston Martin Cygnet commuter car concept.

Automaker’s often talk about their DNA, the defining characteristics of a brand, which might be quality, design, performance or price.  Say the name, Aston Martin, and sleekly elegant high-performance sports cars immediately come to mind.

So a first look at these, the first official pics of the Aston Martin Cygnet concept car, is likely to come as a real disconnect.  The three-door hatchback is, at least visually, the polar opposite of classic Aston models, such as the DBS.

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What Aston has come up with may, however, be more in tune with global realities, where there are fewer and fewer opportunities to put a sports car through its paces.  The British maker – now owned by Kuwaiti investors, appears to be betting that there’ll be a booming market for downsized commuter cars, in the years to come, and that there will always be at least a few affluent buyers willing to spend the extra money for something truly exclusive.


First Look: Aston Martin Cygnet

Can a commuter car also be a luxury car?

by on Jun.29, 2009

Most folks would say that luxury cars and commuter cars are mutually exclusive.  Not Aston Martin, which is developing the Cygnet concept in partnership with Toyota.

Most folks would say that luxury cars and commuter cars are mutually exclusive. Not Aston Martin, which is developing the Cygnet concept in partnership with Toyota, and using the Japanese maker's iQ as a base.

Say the name, Aston Martin, and it invariably brings up images of the most exclusive automotive products, like the DB9 or Vanquish, vehicles that can push into the $250,000 territory.

So what is Aston doing with the Cygnet, which it is billing as an “innovative commuter car concept”?  There’s a lot of interest in basic, around-town transportation, these days, but most offerings are rather basic affairs, like the Smart fortwo or the Think City electric vehicle.  Has the British maker found a way to make the terms, luxury and commuter car, synonymous rather than mutually exclusive?

It should help that Aston has turned for help to Toyota, maker of the Yaris, Venza and other forms of basic, around-town transportation.  While the British marque isn’t offering many details, it does confirm that the Cygnet concept is based on the Japanese maker’s pint-sized iQ, a 3-door hatchback that was first introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show.  Measuring just 117.5 inches, nose-to-tail, iQ went on sale in Japan in late 2008, and in the U.K., this past January.

“Now is the right time for Aston Martin to take this first bold step to embark on this special project,” said Aston CEO Ulrich Bez, in a prepared release, adding “Much work is still required, but I am confident that this project could become reality in the not too distant future. This concept – akin to an exclusive tender to a luxury yacht – will allow us to apply Aston Martin design language, craftsmanship and brand values to a completely new segment of the market.”