MID WEEK MO­TOR­ING,

The Tribune (NZ) - - MOTORING - COM­PILED BY RICHARD MAYS

VOLVO VA-VA-VOOM

Want one of the new sev­enseater $136,000 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin En­gine plug-in hy­brids?

Join the queue. Not only are Ki­wis wait­ing up to 12 months to buy one, they’re not even both­er­ing to test drive the ve­hi­cle, named Car of the Year in 2015, be­fore driv­ing one away.

The first New Zealand al­lo­ca­tion of the XC90 T8 was snapped up be­fore the cars landed.

De­spite the size of the ve­hi­cle, its 2.1 L/100km fuel econ­omy make it more fuel ef­fi­cient than many small ve­hi­cles on the road, but not at the ex­pense of per­for­mance, with a com­bined out­put of 300kW and 0-100km/h time of 5.6 sec­onds.

Volvo’s first all-elec­tric ve­hi­cle is due for global re­lease in 2019.

ELEC­TRO MA­NIA

As EV driv­ing ranges in­crease, the prices are fall­ing, mak­ing them much more ac­ces­si­ble.

GM’s is say­ing its all-elec­tric Chevy Bolt hatch­back will have a range of at least 322kms. Nis­san’s next-gen­er­a­tion Leaf elec­tric car will match that dis­tance on a sin­gle charge. Tesla’s Elon Musk has says the US$35,000 (NZ$50,200) 2017 Model 3 will travel at least 345 km be­tween plug-ins.

Ford’s new Fo­cus Elec­tric model has a driv­ing range of 160km up­graded from the 2016 model’s 122km limit. Ap­par­ently the av­er­age Fo­cus driver clocks up around 48km a day.

The car­maker is in­vest­ing US$4.5 bil­lion in elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cles and will add 13 elec­tric cars and hy­brids to its lineup by 2020. Plug-in hy­brids are ex­pected to be the fastest-grow­ing type of elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

But with fuel prices low, Ford has had a hard time at­tract­ing buy­ers to its hy­brid and plug-in mod­els, the C-Max, Fu­sion and Lin­coln MKZ hy­brids. US sales of those mod­els have fallen 6 per cent this year, with buy­ers pre­fer­ring SUVs and pick­ups. US sales of Ford’s SUVs rose 16 per cent in the first quar­ter.

MIT­SUBISHI MAY­HEM

Re­spon­si­ble, trust­wor­thy, sel­f­reg­u­lat­ing cor­po­ra­tions? Yeah right!

First it was VW cheat­ing on emis­sions test­ing. Now it’s Mit­subishi (MMC). The com­pany ad­mits rig­ging fuel econ­omy test­ing meth­ods in Ja­pan over the last 25 years by as much as 10 per cent to get a bet­ter fuel econ­omy cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

So far lim­ited to Ja­pan, the test ma­nip­u­la­tions in­volved 625,000 mini-ve­hi­cles pro­duced since mid-2013. Mod­els were Mit­subishi’s eK Wagon and eK Space, and 468,000 cars it made for Nis­san, which mar­kets them as the Dayz and Dayz Roox.

But Ja­pan’s trans­port min­istry has found ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in mileage data on other MMC cars, and wants an ex­pla­na­tion.

MMC is likely to have to com­pen­sate driv­ers for the ex­tra fuel used, re­pay gov­ern­ment tax ben­e­fits, com­pen­sate Nis­san and face po­ten­tial le­gal suits and fines.

The bill could be as much as 166,000 yen per car (NZ$2204) or close to US$1 bil­lion (NZ$1.4b).

Fol­low­ing the news, MMC lost around half its mar­ket value (US$3.7 bil­lion) in just over a week, while or­ders for its cars in Ja­pan have halved.

KICK-ASS CACTI

A cactus-in­spired skin could hold the se­cret to cre­at­ing a more ef­fi­cient elec­tric car.

Aus­tralia’s Com­mon­wealth Sci­en­tific and In­dus­trial Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (CSIRO) and Korean sci­en­tists have cre­ated a mem­brane that holds wa­ter like cactus, and has the po­ten­tial to boost the per­for­mance of fuel cells in elec­tric cars.

Cur­rently elec­tric cars must carry a power-sap­ping ra­di­a­tor, wa­ter reser­voir and hu­mid­i­fier to en­sure their fuel cells stay cool.

The new fuel cell mem­brane em­u­lates the tiny pores in the skin of a cactus that close to con­serve wa­ter in dry con­di­tions and open at night to ab­sorb mois­ture.

It means fuel cells can re­main hy­drated without the need for bulky ex­ter­nal hu­mid­i­fy­ing equip­ment.

PHOTO SUP­PLIED

Plug-in hy­brid ver­sions of the Volvo XC90 are be­gin­ning to ar­rive in New Zealand – to a keenly wait­ing lineup of cus­tomers.

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