Nothing, not even the fierce Detroit winter can get in the way of the annual exodus of automobile enthusiasts to the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). I love cars, I’ve always been fascinated by them. I can talk confidently about driverless cars and am one hell of a parallel park-er. But if cars were video games, I’d be what you’d call a casual gamer, and maybe that’s why I am here.
To the casual observer, NAIAS 2016 is all about fancy new cars, and for the most part, that’s about right. All the big guns have come out to play with their best foots forward. At least 5 high-end luxury cars were unveiled at the show, and as many concept cars were introduced, teasing a not too distant future in travel.
This event sets the stage for the rest of the year and then some. And even sans an in-depth understanding of what makes cars tick, its pretty evident we have a lot to be excited about.
But there’s more to NAIAS 2016 than meets the eye. It is a critical time for the auto industry, fresh from a record breaking year of car sales, it is a time of much potential and growth. But looming in the shadows is a threat of disruption from the technology sector.
With fully automated, driverless cars almost tangible, and players like Apple and Google in the mix, tech companies are poised to change the game forever as automotive manufactures struggle to keep pace with technological innovations.
Which is understandable, its easier to build a smartphone, than it is to build a car. The average car product cycle is 3-5 years, upgrades are almost impossible unless you buy a new car, and most automotive giants are just not as nimble as a tech startup, or a tech giant with the resources to experiment on some crazy idea that may change the world.
But there is one car company that’s dared to be different. Headquartered not too far from where NAIAS is taking place is the Ford Motor Company, technology savvy, innovation focused, and no longer just a car company anymore.
The self proclaimed mobility company is looking into a host of already existing technological advancements that can make their way into the cars of tomorrow. Beyond driverless cars there’s electrification of vehicles, always-on Internet connectivity, data collection, apps and software, and integration with the Internet of Things.
Smart Home Integration
As the tech world zeroes in on the smart home, Ford believes cars can and should be part of the equation. Very soon, Ford cars will integrate seamlessly with existing smart hubs like Amazon Echo, a virtual personal assistant built into a cylindrical bluetooth speaker. Amazon Echo responds to voice commands and can control household appliances, answer Internet-based questions, and even online shop for you.
Soon Amazon Echo will also be able to start your car, and tell you how far more you can drive based on your current fuel levels. Users will also be able to summon Echo remotely from inside their Ford vehicles, so you could for example, ask it to turn on the lights, or open the garage door as you approach.
Wearables are another growing trend in the consumer tech world and inside Ford’s newly minted Automotive Wearables Experience Lab, scientists are looking into how smartwatches and fitness trackers can best complement the driving experience.
From simple things like receiving alerts on your smartwatch when you leave car doors unlocked or your keys inside. To more high-tech solutions like automatically uploading health and sleep information from your wearable to your car, and having the car adjust safety settings based on its assessment of your current state. If your car thinks you didn’t get enough sleep, Ford’s adaptive cruise control technology can increase the distance between your car and other vehicles to allow more time for your reflexes to kick in case of a traffic incident.
In its own respect Ford is working to make its own cars smarter. A joint project with IBM hopes to create a platform that will allow researchers to collect data from cars, identify trends and patterns, and use those findings to provide commuters with better transportation decisions. The nitty gritty of this platform is way too geeky, but it should theoretically be able to tell you when taking the subway, or a bicycle is a more time efficient means of getting to work on a particular day. The platform should also benefit what Ford calls Parking Prediction technology to help you find empty parking spots.
While as expected, cars were front and center at the North American International Auto Show, Ford was looking beyonds cars. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of new cars including the new super high-tech Fusion Sedan, the monster F-150 Raptor pickup truck, as well as the first pre-production model of the GT Super Car.
Instead the message was about doing things differently and driving change. As the motoring world is bracing itself for disruption, Ford is on a bold path to disrupt themselves.
Explainer: 4 electric car myths, debunked
What you should know about the car of the future
Did you know that the first electric vehicle was invented by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson in 1832? Back then, electricity-powered cars were nothing but curiosities and novelties. Now, electric vehicles are readying themselves to take over the car industry in just a few decades.
As with all revolutionary technology, reception for electric cars is lukewarm at best. Most consumers are still wary with converting to full electric, citing an unstable and uncertain future for the industry.
With the car and fuel industry hanging in the balance, gas car companies have a lot to gain by downplaying the benefits of electric vehicles. Due to the lack of information available, unproven myths inevitably pop up. Myths, as always, need to be debunked especially when electric cars overtake gas car production.
Myth 1: Electric cars are more expensive than gas cars
The cost of an electric vehicle is the most hotly contested aspect of EVs. Admittedly, the world’s most famous electric car, the Tesla Model S, still falls under the luxury car category. The battery-powered car still hovers around the US$ 100,000 range.
Budget-friendlier alternatives are out now, but their price ranges are still a bit more than a conventional car. The Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf both cost around US$ 40,000, for example.
Additionally, installing a home charging station compounds that price by about US$ 600.
It’s no surprise that most consumers are turned off by the exorbitant costs of EVs. However, the one-time price tag fails to show how much cheaper it is in the long run.
Right now, the cost of one kilowatt-hour (the standard for EVs) is below the cost of one liter of gasoline. Roughly estimating, one kWh costs 20 cents, while one liter of gas costs US$ 1, according to today’s standards.
The Nissan Leaf carries a 40kWh battery. Charging it to full will cost 40kWh x US$ 0.20 = US$ 8. Meanwhile, a 40L gas car will cost 40L x US$ 1 = US$ 40. Added with a much steeper maintenance cost, gasoline vehicles will quickly overtake the cost of EVs in the long run. (Of course, actual costs will still vary on usage, real prices, and road conditions.)
Myth 2: EVs don’t perform as well as gas cars
Don’t be fooled. Even if EVs are remarkably silent on the road, they are hiding powerful engines that are quickly catching up to the standards of speed today.
At their core, gasoline vehicles are inherently faulty. Their emissions aren’t only a hit on air pollution; they also mean that a car wastes a huge portion of their energy through heat, smoke, and other harmful pollutants.
On the other hand, EVs convert up to 62 percent of their stored energy for movement. For comparison, gas cars only use up 21 percent of their energy.
In terms of mileage, EVs can travel up to 193 kilometers on a full charge, adequate for a day’s worth of traveling. However, gas cars still rule the road by hundreds of kilometers more. It’s only a matter of time before EVs catch up, though. The industry-leading Tesla Model S 100D already tops out at 530+ kilometers.
Finally, when it comes to speed, EVs can do well to catch up with you in traffic. For example, both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt reach speeds of up to 150km/h. While the more widely available EVs can still be woefully left in the dirt on a straightaway, the Tesla Model X blazes through with a top speed of 250km/h.
Amid all of this, EVs do their jobs quietly. If you’re not paying attention, an EV can sneak up on you from behind. Besides air pollution, EVs avoid noise pollution, too.
Myth 3: Maintaining an EV is more trouble than it’s worth
Both an EV and a gas car take you from one place to the other. EVs just do it with far fewer components. Unlike conventional cars, EVs aren’t frequent visitors to the mechanics. Fewer parts mean fewer components to maintain.
That doesn’t mean that everything is breezy, though. Replacing the battery is a nightmare for your budgeting. For example, a Nissan Leaf replacement battery costs US$ 5,499.
Thankfully, batteries are a lot more durable than you would expect. The Nissan Leaf guarantees a battery life of eight years or 100,000 miles (or approximately 161,000 kilometers). Most electric car brands already offer warranties (including replacements) before their batteries expire. Moreover, electric car batteries are completely recyclable. You might even get a trade-in return for your old battery.
Currently, the only hurdle impeding an electric car’s maintenance is the lack of able mechanics who specialize in EVs. On the bright side, by the time that you’ll need a thorough repair on your EV, the employment industry will have evolved to accommodate your needs.
Myth 4: Electric vehicles are the saviors of the environment
There is no doubt that EVs eliminate the carbon emissions that gas cars will always emit. Even from their construction, EVs carry a design trait that puts them beyond gas cars: They don’t have a tailpipe.
Currently, 75 percent of air pollution comes from motor vehicles. With their energy-efficient design, EVs eliminate the pollution caused by carbon emission. Converting to an EV is one of the greenest decisions you can make to save the environment.
However, it has its own fair share of gray areas. Critics often share the myth that EVs only displace the emissions from the tailpipe to a coal plant’s smoke stack.
Which is partly true.
On their own, the world’s main methods of producing power are terribly unprepared for a sudden surge in demand. Despite recent developments in renewable energy, coal power is still the world’s leading generator of electricity.
Hypothetically, if everyone in the world adopted EVs right now, coal plants would have to exponentially increase their output, creating more smokestack emissions as a result.
Luckily, the world isn’t ready to go full EV yet. Early predictions still date the takeover to 2040. We still have a lot of time to adjust our energy consumption for more energy-efficient means, like solar, hydro, and nuclear.
In reality, EVs can’t save the world by themselves. The myth that they just displace damage is only half-true. However, the environment can’t survive with 50 percent solutions. It has to rely on us changing our perspectives on energy.
Electric vehicles are the future. But with unchecked energy consumption rates, that future can look quite grim.
Ford unleashes 2019 Ranger Raptor
The only factory-built performance truck across Asia Pacific
The legendary F-150 Raptor now has a sibling and it also packs serious muscle.
Ford Motor Company has just launched its first Ranger Raptor in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s the company’s new off-road, performance pickup truck which combines Ford Performance DNA with the Ranger’s toughness and engineering that it has become known for. Think of it as the toned-down version of the F-150 Raptor.
When it comes to design, though, there is very little difference between the two.
The front shows a familiar grille with the iconic FORD lettering pressed proudly at the center. There’s also the frame-mounted front bumper and dent-resistant front fenders to further toughen it up for the wilderness.
Just like its older brother, the Ranger Raptor is huge from all angles. It stands 1873mm tall, 2180mm wide, and 5398mm long while ground clearance has further been lifted to 283mm. The truck has a towing capacity of 2500kg so it can definitely haul things for you.
What truly sets this apart is at its core. The Ranger Raptor’s chassis frame is specifically designed for traveling at high speeds off-road. Made of various grades of high-strength low-alloy steel, the frame is made to absorb the blows of off-road driving.
“The standout experience of the Ranger Raptor, hands down, is how far you can push it off-road versus any other available production road vehicle in our markets, and still ride like a millionaire on-road,” said Damien Ross, Chief Program Engineer, Ranger Raptor, Ford Motor Company.
Under its wide hood sits a 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo four-cylinder diesel engine that pumps out 213PS of power and 500Nm of torque. This is then mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the F-150 Raptor and comes with a unique electronic terrain management system featuring six drive modes (Gravel, Mud, Rock, Baja, etc).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ford vehicle without the host of safety features. It carries the advanced Driver Assist Technologies at the push of a button like the SYNC 3 voice assist system, SatNav, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, and Load Adaptive Control among others.
“It really is like a motocross bike, snowmobile, and an ATV rolled up into a pickup truck — it’s an incredible, awesome experience!” said Jamal Hameedi, Chief Engineer, Ford Performance
This macho vehicle is not to be confused with the Ford Ranger that was announced last month at NAIAS. The Ranger Raptor will be produced in Ford Thailand Manufacturing and will be available for the Asia Pacific region. Color palettes include Lightning Blue, Race Red, Shadow Black, Frozen White, and Conquer Grey.
2018 Nissan Leaf is coming to Asia and Oceania
New electric vehicles are coming our way!
Since its launch in 2010, the Nissan Leaf has sold over 300,000 units worldwide, making it the world’s bestselling electric vehicle. To further extend the reach of the most sought-after EV, the Japanese carmaker will bring the second-generation Leaf to seven new markets in Asia and Oceania.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf was showcased during the fourth edition of Nissan Futures, a three-day event in Singapore which focused on how new mobility solutions can help tackle challenges such as pollution, urbanization, and congestion. This was also the first time Southeast Asia got a preview of the new zero-emissions vehicle from Nissan.
The new Leaf features notable accretions in performance and range over the first-gen model. Its electric motor now produces 38 percent more power and 26 percent more torque at 110kW (148hp) and 320Nm, respectively. It also has a higher-capacity 40kWh lithium-ion battery that increased its operating range up to 400km which is more than double the previous model.
Among the new car’s features are ProPILOT Park — an automated parking function, guided by four high-res cameras and 12 “ultrasonic” sensors. The car isn’t fully autonomous but, at least, it can park itself.
It was revealed that the new fully electric Leaf will be available soon in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. The company also plans to introduce it to other markets in the region, including Indonesia and the Philippines.
The exact date of the car’s arrival on said markets remains vague, but delivery should happen before 2019.
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