• Koch heads planning anti-EV lobbying campaign?

    February 20, 2016

    A group associated with Koch Industries is reportedly planning to launch an anti-EV campaign to promote petroleum-based transportation fuels.

    The organization is said to be led by Koch board member James Mahoney and lobbyist Charlie Drevna, former head of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, according to HuffPost.

    Approximately $10 million is expected to be spent on the campaign each year. Its goals are said to include attacks on government subsidy programs for electric vehicles, including the $7,500 federal tax credit.

    The incentives were implemented as a way to help offset the relatively higher cost of battery-powered vehicles. Battery prices per kilowatt-hour are expected to maintain a steadily decline, however, eventually making EVs competitive with gasoline-powered vehicles without dipping into taxpayer funds.

    The lobbying group is expected to launch its campaign sometime this year, likely receiving funding from Koch Industries, a Koch foundation or a different entity associated with the company or its controlling brothers, Charles and David Koch.

    “They’re worried about state and community subsidies,” the unnamed source told HuffPost. “In 20 years, electric vehicles could have a substantial foothold in the U.S. market.”

    EVs currently account for a small fraction of US automotive distribution. Upcoming models, including the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3, are attempting to usher in an era of wider adoption in the next few years.

  • Maserati Levante leaked ahead of Geneva debut

    February 20, 2016

    The Maserati Levante is scheduled to make its world premiere in just a few weeks at the Geneva Motor Show, but a set of leaked photos posted by AutoWeek.nl has provided us with an early preview of the brand’s first ever SUV model.

    Although inspired by the Kubang concept that debuted at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, it’s clear that Maserati designers have been tweaking the SUV’s look over the last five years. The production-intent Levante features a more serious looking front end with headlights that have adopted a horizontal treatment. A large, concave grille remains — complete with the Maserati logo on the middle — but the lower section of the utility vehicle’s bumper has been reworked for a more up-scale appearance.

    The side of the Levante features Maserati’s signature portholes, as well as a rear fender character line that mimic the ones found on the Quattroporte sedan. The rear of the Levante features a sharply-raked tailgate and sporty-looking quad exhaust outlets.

    The interior of the Levante uses Maserati’s familiar cabin layout, including steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to reflect the SUV’s athletic nature. This particular model is outfitted with red leather that exemplifies Maserati’s Italian flair.

    Also leaked was a screen shot of the Levante’s option sheet. According to the leak, the Levante will be available in at least three different trim levels — 350, 430 and Diesel.

    The Levante 350 will use a turbocharged 3.0L V6 and will presumably pack 350 horsepower. It will be capable of accelerating from 0-62 in 6.3 seconds, with a top speed of 151mph. The Levante 430 will use the same 3.0L V6, but probably tuned to 430 horsepower. It will sprint from 0-62 in 5.2 seconds and have a 164mph top speed.

    The Levante Diesel, which will likely be limited to the European market, will use a 3.0L V6 of unspecified horsepower. The oil-burning Levante will be capable of accelerating from 0-62 in 6.9 seconds and will be capable of hitting 143mph.

    Although not listed, it’s believed that the Levante will also be available with a V8 engine. That eight-cylinder model should be good for 580 horsepower.

    Be sure to check for more details when the Maserati Levante is officially unveiled on March 1.

  • Total recall: Legislator wants every Takata airbag replaced

    February 20, 2016

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has come under fire for its handling of the Takata airbag recalls.

    Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has asked agency administrator Mark Rosekind to simply demand a blanket recall for all Takata airbag inflators in US vehicles.

    The NHTSA so far has only recalled specific part numbers once failures have been identified in the field or in laboratory testing. At least one death has been blamed on an exploding inflator type that had not been covered under previous campaigns, as lab tests had not yet resulted in any ruptures.

    Nelson claims the NHTSA’s timid approach “appears to be confusing many consumers.” Many cars have been recalled multiple times due to different inflator types on the driver and passenger sides. In other cases, some recalls are focused on high-humidity states — where most of the deaths have occurred — while others are implemented across the entire nation.

    The NHTSA has also been criticized for allowing regional recalls on vehicles that may spend a significant amount of time in high-humidity states, even if they were not sold or registered in the trouble states. Examples include vehicles used by Florida ‘snowbirds’ and college students.

    NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge suggests the agency does not have enough data to demand a total recall of all Takata inflators, according to a statement to the AP. It is unclear if the agency will consider a wider recall on Takata inflators that use the controversial propellant ammonium nitrate, believed to be prone to degradation and explosion after prolonged exposure to moisture. Many automakers have already moved away from ammonium nitrate inflators, however the NHTSA has stopped short of deeming the chemical inherently unsafe for use in vehicles.

    Analyst estimates suggest there are 50 million unrecalled Takata inflators in US vehicles.

  • Spectre’s Aston Martin DB10 fetches $3.5M at auction

    February 20, 2016

    An Aston Martin DB10 has been sold for an impressive £2.4 million (~$3.5 million USD) at Christie’s auction house in London, beating expectations by more than a million dollars.

    The DB10 was prominently featured in the latest James Bond film, Spectre, culminating a half century of collaboration since the iconic DB5 first appeared in Goldfinger.

    The auctioned car is the only DB10 example to be offered for public sale, and one of just 10 examples ever built. Each vehicle was hand-built by a team of craftspeople and engineers at Aston’s Gaydon headquarters in the UK. Most were used for filming, save for two show cars.

    Despite serving as a film prop, the DB10 was built with a 4.7-liter V8 capable of launching the coupe to 190 mph. None of the production cars were certified for street use, and the auction winner will likely keep the car tucked away in a collection.

    Funds from the auction will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders.

  • Apple’s alleged car testing facility annoys neighbors

    February 20, 2016

    Apple’s alleged car testing facility has drawn the ire of residents in the surrounding Sunnyvale neighborhood.

    A letter to city officials complained of “motor noises at 11:00pm,” audible through closed windows, according to an AppleInsider report.

    A local resident told 5KPIX of a “high-pitched hum” that sounded like motors being tested, occasionally punctuated by “slamming, clanking, almost a grinding sound.”

    The property was purchased by an obscure entity believed to be an Apple-controlled shell company. The city has approved the site for use as an “auto work area” and a repair garage, fueling speculation that it serves as a satellite headquarters for Apple’s alleged Project Titan car development initiative.

    It is possible the noises are simply tied to construction work at the facility, or if neighbors are catching an audial glimpse of Apple’s automotive skunkworks in action. In any case, the owners are said to have received approval to build a 10-foot privacy fence around the building.

    Security guards have allegedly followed locals who walk their dogs near the site. If true, the aggressive tactics may be contributing to heightened frustration and paranoia in the community.

    Recent reports suggest Project Titan may have encountered difficulties establishing clear goals as executives ramp up pressure to finalize a product before the end of the decade.