Details on Kia’s First Two Plug-In Hybrids

Korean automaker Kia has released details about its very first plug-in hybrids. The release is planned for the UK at the moment. The vehicles are based on the Ceed Sportswagon and the Xceed crossover.

Bot the vehicles are powered by a four-cylinder, 1.6 liter gas engine combined with a 44.5kW electric motor that runs on a 8.9kWh lithium-polymer battery. The outputs of the motors combined add up to 139bhp with 195lb ft in torque. This gives both a 0-62mph rating of 10.8 seconds in the Ceed and spot on 11.0 seconds for the Xceed.

Kia’s first pair of hybrids also share an automatic, dual-clutch six-speed transmission (unlike most hybrids which us a CVT, continuously variable transmission). Kia explained that this prevents energy loss in the powertrain and makes the vehicles more enjoyable to drive.

Kia also used regenerative breaking to capture kinetic energy that would be lost. Combined with all the other technology on board Kia rates the all electric range of the Ceed at 37 miles and 36 for the Xceed. Both the new hybrids will charge in about 2 hours.

Combining the above with regenerative braking that harvests kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost, Kia claims an all-electric range of 37 miles for the Sportswagon and 36 miles for the Xceed. Both can be charged in around 2hr 15min via a 3.3kW AC charger.

Kia is offering a towing pack for each vehicle, unusual in a hybrid. Kia has released no specs on towing power.

Kia is taking orders for the Ceed and Xceed now and expects the first vehicles to roll out in April 2020.


How to Tune Up a Tesla: The New Custom Car Fad

To some, driving clubs for electric cars and owners wanting to “sup them up,” are foredrawn conclusions of the electric vehicle era. To others, perhaps not. However, both are a growing trend.  

But where does one go and what does one do to “sup up” an EV? The Tesla model S can already do 60MPH in 2.4 seconds which is faster than most other vehicles regardless of their energy source.  

Where is answered by a company called Unplugged Performance which is coincidently right next door to the Tesla headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Their guarantee? That their modifications to your EV wills have seconds off your best times.  

Up until recently electric vehicles have been off the radar of aftermarket improvements, but with the growing popularity of racing EVs making them faster seems a natural evolution.  

Ben Schaffer, company co-founder, came from a career wherein he modified popular Japanese cars like the Nissan GT-R and others. While Unplugged isn’t the only name in the game, they are best known. They also run a group for Tesla owners, and they organize track days for Tesla drivers all over the country.  

But how do you tune an electric vehicle? Modifications do not include adjusting engine settings. The modifications often have to do with weight or aerodynamics and include items like carbon fiber parts, new wheels, sports tires, performance breaks, shocks, suspension and more. These kinds of modifications give racers an edge over a stock car, though not in the manner of a tuned gasoline engine.  


Uber Expands Its “Side Gig” Service Beyond Driving with Uber Works Temp Job App

Uber has been piloting a temp staffing service in Chicago. The service, Uber Works, will connect users with businesses who need short-term workers in hospitality, light industrial, events and other sectors. Miami is Uber Works next planned home.

Initially the service has connected workers from your usual staffing agencies with work; however, the service will expand to invite its large driver pool to these temp jobs as well. But you won’t have to be an Uber driver, have a car or a driver’s license to use Uber Works in its final form. Anyone with a smart phone will be able to use the service to find temporary work.

Uber Works, according to Uber, is just one part of a plan to leverage the technology and workers they already have into other service areas beyond ridesharing.

During testing in Chicago Uber Works connected workers with restaurants and Uber’s trucking business customers. They then added short-term warehouse and industrial jobs. And just like their ride hailing service, Uber Works sets up back up workers in case the first-choice cancels.

Right now, Uber Works is essentially a buffer between the worker and staffing agencies which handle payroll, benefits, etc. Uber will continue to expand the reach of Works in Miami.

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.