Automotive

Nissan Futures 2018: Electrifying the Future

Exciting times ahead!

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Nissan wants to reshape the future of mobility by electrifying it.

Just recently, we caught a glimpse of what’s ahead as imagined by the Japanese company at the Nissan Futures event in Singapore. Think of it as a thought leadership platform that aims to gather both industry stakeholders and media.

Not only that, electric vehicle experts and government representatives from different parts of the ASEAN region were also present to participate and engage in panel discussions.

Although what most people were probably looking forward to the most was the chance to see Nissan’s newest technologies in action during the test drive. But apart from that, the event was to discuss Nissan’s goal to transition our everyday way of life into a connected, more efficient, and smarter future.

This was the first time an event like this was held in the Asia and Oceania region so it got us excited to see what the company had in store for us.

Benefits of Electric Vehicles

Before we dive into anything, let’s first get a grasp of what an electric vehicle (EV) is and what its benefits are.

EVs have zero tailpipe emission — meaning they don’t give out fumes harmful to both the air and people. They are virtually noiseless, unlike internal combustion engines. EV users also save a lot on maintenance since having a battery-powered motor has less moving parts than a conventional engine. Wear-and-tear would also be minimized.

2018 fully electric Nissan Leaf 

Most importantly, they reduce dependence on oil.

EVs are an integral part of a cleaner and more sustainable environment. For some, just knowing that they’re doing their part to save the earth is reason enough to get an electric vehicle.

So with that out of the way, let’s now get to what Nissan Futures is working on for Southeast Asia.

Electrification in Southeast Asia

Among the topics discussed was the status of Southeast Asia and its readiness for adapting an electrified future. It’s a fact that while car ownership from this region is high, electrification of the automotive sector is relatively slow to take off.

This is why Nissan commissioned Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company to conduct the study “Future of Electric Vehicles in Southeast Asia.”

There were 1,800 respondents in ASEAN, revealing that 37 percent of prospective buyers are open to considering an electric vehicle as their next car and customers specifically in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia emerged as the most enthusiastic about adapting electric cars.

This came as a surprise to most people and because of these findings, Nissan actually gave us their word to look into bringing the technology to these countries sooner than originally planned. 

Key Factors for EVs to Take Off

What does it require for EVs to take off? Well, as taken from the same survey, more people will make the switch to EVs if they were offered incentives.

Three in four people in Southeast Asia are ready to jump from conventional cars to EVs if taxes are waived. And about 70 percent of them will also welcome adaptation if charging stations are installed in apartment buildings.

Power stations for apartments and establishments

This means that the government will play a huge role in making these dreams a reality. Right now, not all countries in the region are capable of establishing infrastructures to support electric vehicles.

This is also the main reason why the new Nissan Leaf will not be available in all targeted ASEAN countries right away (see the countries here).

Shaping the Future

So how exactly does Nissan plan to shape the connected future? The keywords are Nissan Intelligent Mobility.

It basically determines how the company’s cars are powered, driven, and integrated with society.

Nissan Intelligent Mobility is already present in some of their vehicles. The auto-parking technology, 360-degree view, connected data — all emerged from this DNA.

During the event, Nissan showed off more of its new technology through interactive displays.

EPORO robots mimic the movement of schools of fish

We were first introduced to these robots called EPORO. Although they remind us of a crossover between Wall-E and Eve, these robots weren’t made to just be cute. These were designed and based off of schools of fish that move together in the same direction, never touching one another, and avoiding obstacles with single collective motions.

Using the same principle, when an obstacle presents itself to block its path, the robot will stop and so would all the others behind it. Nissan envisions to use the same algorithm on their vehicles so they can communicate with one another on the road and avoid colliding with other cars.

It’s not yet perfect, as we’ve seen them get confused once or twice. But with tweaks and updates, Nissan says this should take care of safety concerns when self-driving cars are the norm.

Charging port for the new Nissan Leaf

The company also talked about Alliance Connected Cloud, a shared technology in vehicle connectivity through a platform shared by Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi. The connected cloud will store data for customers to enjoy a variety of services.

Further developed by Microsoft, Nissan told us to expect added functionalities in different departments — security and safety included. 

And finally, we were introduced to Nissan’s e-Powertrain.

e-Power on the Nissan Note

e-Power can be confusing since it sits between the usual combustion engine and an electric vehicle but it’s not quite a hybrid. Instead, the small engine doesn’t make the wheels turn but simply charges the battery whenever the juice runs out. It is still the electric motor that makes the car move.

This is what was installed on the Nissan Note also on display. For countries that aren’t that prepared to go fully electric yet, e-Power might be Nissan’s solution for now.

Test Drive

The second day was more of a hands-on with not one, not two, but three Nissan cars on the Nanyang Technological University’s Center of Excellence for Testing and Research of AVs or simply, CETRAN.

It’s basically a small test circuit for autonomous vehicles to ensure safe and seamless integration onto public roads. For this activity, there were two variants of the Nissan Note: one with a normal combustion engine and one with e-Power just so we could compare the two. While the last vehicle to test out was the fully electric 2018 Leaf.

Nissan Note with e-Power

Unlike its gasoline counterpart, the Note with e-Power is quiet as you’d expect on an electric vehicle. The engine only works once the battery is low but even then, it’s been reported to be efficient. According to the Japanese fuel efficiency test, the Note e-Power can reach 32.7 kilometers to a liter.

Then we got inside the 2018 Nissan Leaf.

It’s been an icon for the Japanese carmaker since it became very popular when the first model came out. In fact, the predecessor was one of the best-selling EVs of all time — with over 300,000 units sold worldwide. For this new model, the company is proud to claim the title as the most advanced, yet accessible 100 percent electric vehicle on the planet.

The new Leaf has an improved design and now features a clear-cut curve for its rear bumper

The new Leaf features increased power and range from its 2010 predecessor. It also carries a new electric powertrain that delivers 110kW of output and 320Nm of torque, improving acceleration.

A jolt of power from a full stop is what they’ve been proud of achieving and we got to put it to the test while at the track.

Driving the Leaf was very nimble and response time on the gas pedal was so impressive that the car almost pounces as soon as you hit the accelerator.

Nissan is also introducing new features to the 2018 Leaf. The e-Pedal has been tweaked to act both as a gas pedal and brakes for a sort of one-pedal driving. Stepping on the gas accelerates the car just like a normal vehicle would, but letting go of the pedal brings the car to a complete stop.

It was designed to help during heavy traffic so the driver wouldn’t need to keep on switching between the gas and brakes from time to time. We were also able to clear corners without hitting the breaks so the potential to reinvent driving is really there.

Another demonstration on the Leaf was its ProPILOT Park feature.

It’s the company’s version of self-parking wherein you only need to press the ProPILOT Park button and the car will automatically detect the space to park in. It takes a while for it to park — about one to two minutes but it does the job easily especially for those who find it a bit challenging when it comes to parking the vehicle.

Conclusion

From all these we can see that Nissan, just like other big automotive companies, has some pretty serious plans to reinvent how people move from one place to another. Statistics from the survey might show that some countries in the ASEAN region are not yet ready to jump fully on the EV bandwagon, but it’s good to know that Nissan still has solutions in mind like the e-Power on the Note.

It was also pretty evident during the event that Nissan has the tech to back up and build an entirely new ecosystem for transportation (and they already look promising), but companies like them also need to work very closely with the government of targeted countries in order to fully prepare for a connected city.

So how long until we live the envisioned life? Well, Nissan claims that we will be in a massively connected environment by the year 2020 — that’s if everything goes according to their timetable. Exciting times ahead indeed!

Automotive

All-new Honda Fit debuts with hybrid variant, five trims

Different trims for different lifestyles

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The 46th Tokyo Motor Show is at full swing and one of the biggest names in car manufacturing has just unveiled its newest offering in the compact car segment. The all-new Honda Fit wants to cater to almost every lifestyle you may have — whether you want things simple or a bit flashy, rugged or elegant.

For the exterior’s design, the company gave importance to “emotional value” which is a new concept that they’re going for. Instead of going for design cues that are sleek and intimidating, Honda evidently took the more conservative route with softer curves and a generally mild-mannered expression.

Inside, the company boasts its “four dimensions of comfort” that should make everyday drives more enjoyable. From having a wide, comfortable view, body-stabilizing seats, smooth-running engine/motor, to a spacious interior, the all-new Fit should have you covered.

As mentioned previously, the company aims to cater to different lifestyles by offering its new compact car in five different trims or types:

BASIC

The basic type of the all-new Fit offers both high-quality design and comfort. This type will feature a simple and endearing appeal. It includes a front face with a gentle look and a seamless flowing exterior.

HOME

This type strives to realize a relaxing and carefully designed space using the sense of sight and touch. This is achieved through coordinating colors and materials, including natural-looking fabric seats made with high-quality materials, a genuine leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Prime Smooth soft padding.

NESS

This type features exciting color coordination and adopts water-repellent materials for the seat surfaces while soft padding has been installed on the instrument panel. It has a sporty and fashionable vibe which will enable customers to enjoy driving just like they enjoy fitness and sports.

CROSSTAR

This type features an exterior design developed exclusively for the CROSSTAR. It flaunts a set of 16-inch aluminum wheels that look good both in the city and outdoor environments.

As for the interior, water-repellent materials are also used for seat surfaces and soft padding on the instrument panel. This type projects a compact yet tough look.

LUXE

Striving to create a space where people can spend elegant and comfortable time in, the LUXE comes standard with genuine leather seats while pursuing excellence in visual and tactile quality. For the exterior, platinum-style chrome plating and 16-inch aluminum wheels were adopted to increase the high-quality feel.

In addition to those trims, the Fit will also be available in a two-motor hybrid system called e:HEV.

As far as features are concerned, we’re far from over. This new offering comes with Honda Sensing technology which is what we saw on the recently launched Honda Accord in the Philippines. It basically uses cameras and sensors to be able to avoid collisions.

Another thing is the Honda CONNECT. It actually makes its debut along with the new Fit and offers three services.

First, you can use it to access certain vehicle functions remotely, then it connects the vehicle to emergency support in case a traffic accident happens, and finally, its “rush over” service dispatches a security guard when the system detects an abnormal situation happening to the vehicle.

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Automotive

Teaching robots new tricks

Older replacement parts made available

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Technology has played a big role in automotive production. In the past, body panels were made by hand — by hammering sheet metal into a mold to get the desired shape. It required individual skills and craftsmanship to produce quality parts and took time to finish.

Today, these parts are all made by machines (or robots) in a process called die stamping which only takes seconds to finish. Thanks to them, car manufacturers can now produce quality products with minimal manpower.

This also allowed car brands to come out with new models with short intervals in between. And with every new update, these robots had to be reprogrammed and replaced — leaving old stamps decommissioned. The result? Owners of older car models are running out of replacement parts.

To address this, Nissan has come up with a process to program robots to create phased out parts. They call it dual-sided dieless forming.

The technique involves two robots working from opposite sides of a steel sheet with perfect synchronicity. Using diamond-coated tools to gradually shape the steel, this technique is cost-effective and can make a wide variety of replacement parts available for discontinued models. Previously, this was not possible due to high costs and limitations on equipment.

Dual-sided dieless forming had previously been considered too difficult to commercialize but thanks to Nissan’s Production Engineering Research and Development Center, the brand made three major breakthroughs.

  • The development of advanced programs capable of controlling both robots with a high degree of dimensional accuracy, enabling the formation of detailed convex and concave shapes.
  • The application of a mirrored diamond coating to tools, reducing friction while eliminating the need for lubrication. This has numerous benefits, including consistency of surface quality and low-cost, environmentally friendly operation.
  • The generation of optimized pathfinding logic for robots, drawing on the ample expertise and press-forming simulation techniques ordinarily used by Nissan’s production engineering teams. This enabled Nissan to achieve high quality results early in the development process.

Nissan plans to continue with this development and pursue mass production.

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Automotive

2019 Suzuki Jimny: A little monster on steroids

We took it to where it truly shines

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What is cute and adorable but also fierce and beastly when set loose? No, the answer is not a rabid puppy — it’s the all-new 2019 Suzuki Jimny.

When we talk about extreme off-roading, normally we would think of big, bulky, expensive SUVs with massive tires, monstrous lift kits, and a gas-guzzling engine. No one will think of a small, Japanese kei car to be a good off-roader, but that’s where most are wrong.

The 2019 Suzuki Jimny is probably one of the most anticipated 4x4s this year and is one capable off-roader in the market today. We were given the chance to bring the 2019 Jimny All Grip Pro to our favorite off-road testing grounds at Jungle Base in Tanay, Rizal — a renowned playground in the off-road community.

Let’s begin with the looks. The styling will not fit everybody’s taste. There is not much to look at with the exterior since it’s basically a box on wheels. Though it stays true to its styling heritage and looks more like a modern second-gen Suzuki Samurai.

Personally, though, I like it. It’s simple, rugged, and I actually find it kind of cute. Being the way it is, there is so much potential to personalize it to your preference and needs and it excites me to see differently customized Jimnys on the road. It’s a blank canvas waiting to be modified.

The interior is also pretty basic and really has no luxury features but we can easily overlook that since this small SUV is not built for luxury; it’s built to be tough. Mounted on the center is a very decent infotainment system. It spans nine inches across but it does not support Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Other features include Cruise Control, Hill Descent Control with Hill Hold, Traction Control, and Power Windows. You have loads of headroom, decent legroom for the front but a bit cramped at the back. Seats are also fairly comfortable.

On a personal note, I really liked how the B-pillar is placed behind the driver giving you an unobstructed panoramic view of the side of the car — advantageous for offroading.

Driving the Jimny on paved roads felt bouncy and jiggly, while cornering had to be done carefully. Body roll is an issue and being a narrow and tall car, you kind of feel like you could roll when taking on tight corners with speed. It also struggles to gain speed even with a new and more powerful engine. This means you sometimes need to catch the right timing when overtaking.

No one will be buying the Jimny for racing, anyway, as speed is not its best asset. This car truly shines when the pavement ends.

Once we got to the dirt road, we were amazed by how smooth it suddenly felt. Driving at around 40kph on soft gravel felt like driving on butter. It was unbelievably quiet and smooth, gliding through the trail and absorbing the bumps.

Switching to 4-Low when the trail got tougher impressed us even more. The little Jimny tackled large rocks, ditches, and mud effortlessly. Thanks to its trailing arm coil spring suspensions up front and at the rear, as well as its improved approach and departure angles, articulation was beyond impressive.

On paper alone, it even has a better approach, departure, and break-over angles than a stock Jeep Wrangler and I honestly did not expect that much wheel travel.

Its new 1.5-liter K15B DOHC VVT engine produces only 101 horsepower and 130nm of torque which may seem small. Although you have to remember this car weighs only a little over a thousand kilos giving it a better power-to-weight ratio than most SUVs out there.

Even on engine idle speeds, this little monster on steroids crawls without even having to step on the throttle. It has solid axles both front and rear but it lacks any type of locking differentials. However, the vehicle will sense when a wheel is losing traction and will automatically apply the brakes to distribute power to other wheels. It’s not as good as differential locks but it will still get you going.

Its rigid ladder frame can handle any twists and uneven terrain without having to worry. Water wading is a downside, however. Being very light, the Jimny can easily be swept away in strong currents when river-crossing and is highly discouraged. Rollover angle is also very limited since it’s tall and narrow, but not to worry as you get a digital clinometer display to make sure you don’t exceed the limits.

An important note to remember is that the Jimny has quite a small tank. When over landing, make sure you bring enough extra fuel for the trip the back. Consumption on average is 12-15 kilometers per liter and around nine kilometers per liter when offroading.

Priced at PhP 1,095,000 pesos for the GLX All Grip model, the Suzuki Jimny is probably the most affordable off-road SUV that is truly capable. Now that I’ve driven and tested it, I want one for myself more than ever. It’s extremely fun, tough, efficient and I highly recommend it.

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