BMW iX3: More than Meets the Eye When Going Green

BMW now has plans to continue to electrify its line up with an EV version of the X3 compact SUV with the new iX3 (not to be confused as a sibling of their i3 EV). And while it may feel like BMW is a bit late in joining the party when it comes to EV SUVs they have announced plenty about their plans for the iX3 to get drivers excited.

Range is the name of the game when it comes to EVs and BMW is promising over 440 km from the 74-killowatt-hour battery pack. Where the range will end up when the iX3 is on the road driven by consumers it is hard to know as some vehicle’s ranges have ended up less than what one would expect based on EPA testing.

The iX3 will combine the electric motor, electronics and transmission into a single unit. This saves on space and weight—the latter always being of concern when it comes to EVs. So far BMW has only mentioned rear-wheel drive and initial ratings have the iX3 at around 286 HP and 295 pounds-feet of torque.

As far as “going green” BMW is attempting to go beyond reducing fossil fuel usage. The car maker claims they are trying to be eco-friendly in all areas of production such as where and how raw materials are gathered, daily usage and recycling potential. BMW is also trying to address the environmental issue of used batteries by planning a second life for the iX3 battery packs after their use in the vehicle.

Land Rover Buys Custom Off-Road Company Bowler

Land Rover has bought Bowler, a popular off-road Land Rover tune up company, for its Special Vehicle Operations arm. Bowler is well know for their off-road performance cars and tuning vehicles for rally events, and specifically Land Rover tuning.

Land Rover believes that Bowler will add much needed know-how to the brand in terms of low-volume production of durable components that will perform in extreme conditions. Creating unique vehicles like custom Land Rovers for competition is a fast growing business, according to Land Rover, and that this kind of production will amplify the primary attributes of the brand.

Bowler had already formed a partnership with Land Rover in 2012 to create the Defender Challenge by Bowler, a rally series that took place between 2014-2016.

Land Rover has said that initially the day to day operations, location and 26 person staff of Bowler will not change for up to a year giving the merger a chance to stabilize. The rest of the plan, according to Land Rover, was simply to grow the business Bowler is already doing.

Many believe Land Rover will continue to use the Bowler name when creating off-road variants. It is a known name by a team who has demonstrated what all you can do with custom Land Rovers.

Audi Testing Exoskeletons to Assist Workers

Automaker Audi reported that they are currently experimenting with a pair of exoskeletons intended to help their workers when they are doing overhead jobs by protecting their joints and reducing stress on their muscles. At this time about sixty of their workers will be using these exoskeletons over a period of weeks at specially selected workstations in areas such as the paint shop, tool construction and assembly floor.

Audi stated that the production of their vehicles requires lots of jobs where overhead work cannot be avoided and that sometimes options for traditional ergonomics and other solutions run out.

Currently Audi are testing the Paexo by Ottobock and the Skelex 360 by Skelex.

Extensive testing needs done so the exoskeletons can be fitted to employees’ specific needs. Thus they are being tested in a variety of capacities: installing brake lines; screwing underbody paneling in place or applying sealing and corrosion protection.

Both types of exoskeletons being tested are worn like a backpack—across the shoulders and with a belt around the hips. Shells protect the wearers arms when doing overhead jobs. The shells absorb and redistribute some of the arms weight onto the hips via the structure of the exoskeleton. This weight redistribution takes stress of the shoulders. And it is all done mechanically—no motorized parts are involved.

Audi has had some success using exoskeletons in their Gyor, Hungary plant.

Ford Welcome’s Some Employees’ Furry Friends to Work

When Ford, for the first time in seventy years, went outside its own organization to hire a CFO besides an impressive resume Tim Stone came with something unusual. He brought his furry pal Finely, a 7 year old Australian shepherd that comes to work with Stone nearly every day.

Finely isn’t just a well-behaved office mate whose job description focuses on stress-reduction. He is kind of a mascot for a new program at Ford offering 1,300 office employees the chance to bring their dog to work.

This comes as part of a larger program to grab from the pool of hard to attract tech talent to the Motor City. Other initiatives include a campus redesign that does away with hierarchy and turning an old train station into a modern office space.

In a search for hundreds more tech experts. Places like Seattle and Silicon Valley have long offered similar campus layouts and bring your pet to work programs. Studies show that having access to a dog can not only reduce stress but increase productivity. One Amazon campus has about 7,000 registered dogs.

Ford Makes a Bid for UK Police Service

In the UK, police will trail the new Ford Ranger Raptor and Ford Focus ST estate as law enforcement considers these new Ford vehicles for full-time, UK police service.
The new Ranger Raptor, well a modified version, will be trailed by South wales Police.

While some question the Ranger Raptor’s 105mph top speed—which at a glance would be unlikely to concern a criminal—Ford believes the vehicle has plenty of power to keep up with criminals making an escape across gravel, mud and sand. New features like Fox-brand shock absorbers and their so-called Baja desert race mode are intended to improve law enforcement’s ability to chase bad guys across rugged or rural terrain.

At the moment, South Wales police force is the only one putting the Ranger Raptor through trials. Though Ford claims that several other special police units of made inquiries about the new rugged terrain vehicle. And Ford experts think that law enforcement interest will only increase as the Ranger Raptor is put through paces.

Cumbria police force will test the Ford Focus ST estate. The ST has a top speed of 155mph and Ford thinks these specialized vehicles will help police catch the bad guys on regular roads and highways. The ST is are made by the Special Vehicle Prep team at Ford and come with a full assortment of police style add-ons, both hardware and software.

Info on New Ford Mustang Mach-E Electric SUV Leaked

Information about Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E electric SUV has been “leaked” through their online configurator just a few days before its official release at the LA Motor Show.
The Mustang Mach-E, which Ford conceived as a high-end, performance oriented rival to Tesla’s Model Y. Until now the vehicle had only been described as “Mustang inspired” but no name, specs or other information was available.

The available information indicates the Mach-E will be made available with several options of power output. 0-60mph times, it seems, will vary from mid 3 seconds to mid six seconds. The EPA rating system for range puts the models between 230 and 300 miles. Additionally, the models will feature either rear wheel or all wheel drive.

Some are speculating that this move means that Ford intends to use the Mustang legacy to grow a fuller line of car models. This would allow them to take advantage of their heritage among US consumers and could lend credibility to new Ford models in foreign markets.

After its official reveal, according to Ford, they will begin taking deposits for the Mach-E in the US and Europe. The first wave of buyers will be offered a supped up performance First Edition model. However no additional pricing or spec information was made available.

Volvo Will Pay British Customers’ Electric for a Year

In an effort to encourage drivers of their plug-in hybrids to use them in the greenest way possible, Volvo is offering new hybrid customers a free year of electricity.

Volvo is calling it their “Take Charge” offer. This was announced when they revealed the new XC40 Recharge EV recently. This incentive is available to any British customer who chooses one of several plug-in hybrids. The offer is good through June 2020.

While Volvo has an electric version of any car in their cadre, the plug-in hybrid style of vehicle is available in their V90, V60, S60, S90, XC40, XC 60 and XC90 models.

Volvo will require users to record their average electrical use for a charge through the “On Call” app. Customers will then get a rebate based on their average energy usage.

Volvo stated that their purpose was multi-faceted, they want make it clear that hybrids are a sustainable transitionary vehicle or a greener option of those who don’t favor full-electrics. Also, to fight the belief that plug-in hybrids are bought only because of the tax incentives then never plugged in.

Bentley’s New App Gives Users Virtual Tours and Drives

Bentley is rolling out a virtual experience app for its 3rd gen Flying Spur vehicle. Users will be able to experience the new vehicle before it is delivered to dealerships in early 2020.

The app is free for users to download through Google Play the Apple App Store. While it is intended primarily for potential buyers, Bentley suspects many fans of the brand will enjoy the virtual experience of the luxury car the app will provide.

Bentley fans will be able to explore the exterior and interior of both versions of the new Flying Spur. There is a luxury featured version with a gun metal exterior and the specially tailored interior. The performance-oriented model is also included in the app for virtual touring as well and users can view the new black accent.

Bentley had previously employed a similar app for its EXP 100 GT concept car which allowed fans to tour the car and place the car virtually onto different locations, even their own driveway. These features all remain in the new app for the Flying Spur but Bentley has added the option to take a virtual test drive, which will likely hold wider appeal.

For serious buyers Bentley has included contact options directly in the app for their dealerships and configurators.

Japanese and Chinese Companies Team Up to Reuse old EV Batteries

Itochu (Japanese trading house) and BYD (China’s top EV producer) have come together on a project that seeks to find a second life for automotive batteries as storage for renewable energy. Disposing of these batteries improperly can be an environmental hazard.

As we move into the electronic vehicle age, what to do with used auto batteries, most of which use lithium ion cells, is a question the Itochu/BYD venture seeks to answer. The power duo will team with Shenzhen Pandpower who recycle vehicle batteries. By 2020 the trio want to create global business in which the reused auto batteries become container-type storage for renewable energy.

The typical battery lasts about 8-10 years and that means the first fleets from Nissan and BYD will start aging into needing new batteries. Even though these batteries can no longer power a vehicle, their capacity remains at a level that they can be used for simple storage. To store solar or wind energy for fluctuations in weather and usage many of these small batteries would be put inside a 40-foot container and become a 1,000 kWh storage battery.

It is expected that these will be used primarily in the industrial and commercial sectors, though the Itochu/BYD says one container, fully charged, could meet one day of energy needs for 100 households.

Mazda EV Details Leaked Just Before Tokyo Motor Show

The Japanese media has leaked info on the new Mazda EV just before the official reveal at the Tokyo Motor Show. The new model will be called the MX-30. It will feature a 35.5kWh battery and will be powered by a single electric motor at 138bhp and 195lb ft of torque. It will be front-wheel drive and a single speed transmission.

The MX-30 will follow in the direction of the recently available Mazda3. The MX-30, available next year, features a coupe style cabin and gets its light look from a unique door concept. The front end is meant to have a friendly expression, according to Mazda.

Mazda chose interior materials that are supposed to be comfortable, yet eco-friendly. And the cabin, pin pointed around the center console, is supposed to create a closeness between the driver and passenger seats.

The leaked imagine shows the MX-30 has adopted an SUV type body to make room for underfloor battery packs. The range will be somewhere in the 120-150 mile range, which lands the new EV’s range around average in the market. It will take both a domestic 6.6kW charge as well as public rapid charge at 50kW.

See you on the streets next year MX-30!