The Confusions Over Utility Vehicles

In one sense every car is a passenger car, although many are also created with another purpose in mind, so when we use the term “passenger vehicle” we’re referring to a car whose primary purpose is to carry groups of people. Many passenger cars have features that ignore things like rough roads, so there is a need for something that carries people and is a bit more rugged, whether this is more one type of vehicle or the other is open to debate.

Utility Vehicles

Utility vehicles are designed for a specific purpose; it isn’t a passenger car alone. Many utility vehicles like SUVs were designed for off-road usage and for towing other vehicles in a way similar to a jeep.

Small utility vehicles are likely to be electric/zero emission. They aren’t as good as jeeps for towing due to their compactness. To add to the confusion, a jeep is called a light utility vehicle, even if there are many utility vehicles which are lighter.

A coupe utility or tray utility vehicle has a cargo “bed” at the back. These are known as ‘utes in the back.’

Sports Cars

Because of the link with sports utility vehicles, it is worthwhile to identify just what a sports car is – one which is designed for on-road driving. As with the SUV both designs are prioritizing handling, power, and acceleration.

The Tesla Cybertruck, which is new for 2021, may be thought of as a cross between a coupe utility vehicle and a sports car; the large storage area of a coupe utility vehicle but with the performance of a sports car. Its appearance is futuristic, note the stainless-steel facade. It also has the 0-60 rate of 2.9 seconds. It has been built for such functions as moving, carrying and towing.

Regular SUVs

A regular SUV has been also referred to as a tall SUV due to its increased height. The purpose of the height is ground clearance so you vehicle can climb over obstacles. Many are 4-wheel drive and may be referred to as 4×4, but technically these can be any car with off-road functionality, so it might be a jeep.

There is a feeling of chunkiness in the design and a long jump to the ground. It has the ability to drive through dirt, mud and some rocky surfaces, though there are limits to how far it can go. Always check it over when you have finished for the day.

Crossovers:

Crossovers are a type of sports utility vehicle crossed with a passenger car; they’re not designed for off-road use as much as a regular SUV. 50% of all SUV purchases are crossovers. There are sub-compact, compact, mid-size and full size crossovers available. In the UK they may be thought of being hatchbacks with some extra styling.

Why buy a crossover? The plus points include a large cargo space, a large passenger area and a nippy engine.

SSVs

An SSV is a small vehicle designed for recreational use. The number of passengers can be from 2 to 6 and the seating is “side by side”. Some SSVs have enclosed cabs, some do not. They are made by manufacturers such as Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki.

Essentially all SUVs, jeeps, coupe utility vehicles and crossovers are multi-functioning vehicles and they all come down to being of utility or usefulness; whatever your needs.

Electrical and Hybrid – Early Influencers

The first electric car was built in 1832 but it wasn’t very practical, the battery was hard to charge, the range wasn’t great, etc. Over the next 70 years the Netherlands, Eastern Europe, and the US attempted to improve on that early design.

Electric taxis began in 1899. Ford and Edison attempted to build their own electric car, but it didn’t go anywhere, so to speak. Given the popularity of steam-powered locomotives at that time, the popular opinion was that someone would invent a practical road version, which would become worldwide success. Weight and cost of fuel made steam forever impractical for road use, but you could see why most people could wrap their minds around that compared to an electric car.

Electric or Gas?

In the minds of potential car makers at the time it, the choice to use electric or gas was a much tighter race. It could have gone either way until the Model T arrived on the scene. Finding oil in Texas may also helped seal the fate of electric vehicles for more than 100 years. Bear in mind that for centuries we only used whale oil for lamps, heating, etc. The crude oil to gas innovation was a game changer, and with a domestic source, well, that seals the deal.

Infrastructure and Expansion

Because so many cars used gas it created a demand for gas stations. No one built a network of electric fill stations because the cost was inhibitive. This further pushed electric out of favor. As oil prices have climbed and fallen through the years the topic of electric fuel has resurged periodically. The obvious advantage of Electricity is that we can and already do generate it using whatever source is most cost effective locally.

The disadvantage of electricity is that it’s not cheap to generate many places and it creates more demand raises prices. In effect, when I drive more, I pay for the gas I use, but when I drive an EV everyone pays more for power to heat their home, etc.

Either way, the fact that there wasn’t a distribution network for EV’s continued to be a factor in Americans not adopting electricity as car fuel for more than 150 years. And considering that the power grid goes nearly everywhere in the US, it’s surprising that they only recently managed to cobble together an infrastructure for refueling electric vehicles.

What About Hybrids?

What about hybrids? For some reason cars tend to have only one source of power. It’s just how it’s always been so it seems normal to us but compared to boats where it’s common to have more than one power source you’d think someone would have created a hybrid earlier. It was not unusual for seacraft to have more than one type of power, say electric and gas powered, or wind with a gas engine.

Obviously, it would be difficult to create an engine that ran on diesel or gas. But using an electric engine for around town, then switching to gas for longer trips is an easy way to overcome the lack of range in EV’s.

The military is now exploring hybrids

One of the early adopters of the hybrid concept was the US military, such as the High Military Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Humvee, which is a kind of a cross between a truck and a tank. But in civilian terms this isn’t a “Hybrid” because the engine isn’t a hybrid, it’s more of a cross-over vehicle.

The military is interested in EVs and HEVs, likely because of the infrastructure issue discussed above aren’t as big a deal for the military. The US military frequently have to build infrastructure on the fly (think MASH units, mobile communications, and refueling stations). Therefore they’re better positioned to change large numbers of their vehicle pool to EVs or Hybrids.

For more on the other advantages to Ev’s and HEVs in the military see this article.

The EV1

In the 1990s, the EV1, was an experimental two-seater that car historians agree was ahead of its time. Most of them were recalled, some of them were even stripped by teams of engineering students. The majority of those which remain intact are in museums across the country. Its total horsepower was an adequate 137hp.

The EV1 ultimately suffered from a lack of demand. The first big mystery here is, why so many were produced if it was only a test concept. The second big mystery is why they were only made available by lease instead of directly sold to the public, and that only in certain markets. The third big mystery is why GM decided to gather them all back up after lease and crush them. Literally, crush them!

One possible explanation is that GM was trying to turn a concept car into a solution for a proposed California Zero Emission Law that eventually went away under pressure from American Automakers. Still, the prevailing theory among EV enthusiasts is that Big Oil had to play a roll in all this.

The Prius

The Prius was another early innovator regarding the later electric powered cars. A four-door sedan originally, it was considered to be the cleanest vehicle on the market in 2007, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It is currently available in 90 countries, including Japan and the US. The newer models have hybrid in addition to all electric modes.

Honda Insight

The Honda Insight began as a two-door and achieved the heights of being the top selling car in Japan. In 2010 it was the most inexpensive hybrid on the market.

VW Custom Conversion

A VW Beetle was converted to run on both electric and gas by the students in Minnesota. It managed a maximum speed of 70 mph.

It seems as if the electric and hybrid revolution is well underway with new manufacturers like Tesla, Rivian, and Nikola, and with the Big Players like General Motors announcing their intents to make only electric cars in the near future. It’s the direction the world is heading.

Military Hybrids and EVs

The US military is interested in Electric powered vehicles (EVs) and Hybrid Gas/electric vehicles (HEVs). A common reason civilian adoption of EV has been slow is the cost of creating an infrastructure to fuel them. The time it takes to charge an electric vehicle is not conducive to just popping in to fuel up, as one does with a gas, diesel, or even propane. However, the infrastructure issue isn’t as big a deal for the military as they frequently have to build infrastructure on the fly (think MASH units, mobile communications, and refueling stations).

Advantages of vehicle that could be powered by more than one source like a hybrid are many. It would be flexible in longer campaigns, especially considering the use of regenerative braking, which allows the vehicle to recoup vehicle inertia back into potential energy by recharging the batteries. Another possible advantage is silent running, as electric motors don’t make very much noise.

Still another potential advantage for EV’s and HEV’s (Hybrid Electric Vehicles) would be modular design capability. This refers to the military’s recent passion for retrofitting equipment. When you spend up to a billion dollars each for certain vehicles it’s frustrating when they become obsolete quickly do to technological advances. The US military must remain cutting edge, but modular design allows them to avoid replacing their entire fleet every year. One example of would be the refit nose cones and tale parts that allow the Air Force to turn bombs originally designed to fall on enemy targets in WWII, into guided bombs able to steer toward a specific target. Only with modular design vehicles a single powertrain and suspension could be quickly refitted for use as an armored troop carrier, a tank, or a cargo transport.

However, the real advantage is the degree to which military vehicles already use increased electronics. With onboard radar guiding systems, satellite communications, electronic counter measure, and so on, adding a generation source is sort of a no-brainer.

The military seems hesitant to take the plunge on EVs and HEVs until the tech advances a little. Specifically, the battery life and overall vehicle range needs to improve. However, experts anticipate military EV’s and/or HEVs in the next five to seven years.

Link to more research.

VWs – US and Europe

The last Polo was on sale in the 2016. To the outsider it might not seem like the end of an era. This was after all the fifth generation Polo and it was declared World Car of the Year at the New York International Auto Show in April 2010. But no more Polos made their way across the Atlantic.

It does seem a bit of a pattern. The vehicles available in Europe differ both in style and quality to those in the US. VW gets tax credits for manufacturing cars in the US yet there’s still that differentiation between the two markets.

There are models like the Golf Estate and the VW van California which although it might evoke the Californian spirit is not available in the state, indeed not elsewhere either.

There are some interesting features to the California camper such as the self-leveling system and a number of swivelling captain’s chairs. But VW doesn’t think there’s a profit in them stateside.

The European Passat is midsize, just below luxury quality. The US version however is more like an Audi (at half the cost of the Audi A6).

European Passat 2019

But is it all that different? There is an increase in torque and an improved interior but that’s ultimately it.

The Passat GT with the diesel or hybrid engine is not available in the US, so you will have to make do with other GT models.

Other European VWs include:

The VW Mk7 GTi had a Porsche style about it. The 2019 GTi is slightly similar, but not quite.

Mk2 Golf Rallye was used in the World Rally championship in 1986. It had a 1.8 liter engine and noticeable box-fenders.

VWs haven’t sold Coupes in the US since 1994; so more than 25 years. The Scirocco was based on Italian design. It was revived in 2006 and you might have thought it was for sale in the US, only it wasn’t.

What about the Rabbit Pickup? You may think anything pickup is a sure thing in the US market, but it’s hard to keep up with models like the Silverado. The Rabbit Pickup is a small front wheel drive; it’s not exactly an off-road vehicle. So, it’s not in available over here.

The ID3 is another example of a VW not being launched in the US, which is especially a shame as a new generation electric power. Because it is a hatchback it’s not considered that marketable, though there are some US customers who have been crying out for an electric VW.

If it was an SUV not a hatchback it would be a different matter. But all cars need to find their feet and Europe is the best place to experiment as far as Volkswagen is concerned.

It’s a global brand but make no mistake, the European style of VWs are nothing like the American VWs. But then again, all brands vary from country to country. It keeps the money flowing even if the product is not exactly the best.

Tesla Cars – Their Success Continues

Tesla seems to have a different way of selling than its rivals. They speak of being mission-focused, consumer-focused and giving a consistent experience, but how does it stack up?

There is certainly expansion occuring, not only in the US but also they are building factories in China and Germany. But why have they reached such lofty heights?

Despite various models, such as the Roadster, Model S and Model X they seem more than a car company. With (according to CNN) revenue valued at 24.6 billion, they are also a hardware and software company.

There are other authorities which speak well of Tesla – the Owner Satisfaction Survey in 2017, run by Consumer Reports, placed them highest. The survey looked into such variables as the driving experience, comfort and value amongst other items.

These cars are in majority sold online, selling cars directly to the customers instead of using dealerships. Their showrooms are in malls and places with high footfall instead of the regular out of town places. There is remote diagnosis and even remote repair so no need to visit the customer. Relying on mobile technology they don’t make a profit on service.

The prototypes of the Tesla were revealed in July 2006 in Santa Monica to 350 invited guests. It was certainly about quality, not quantity.

A loan from the US Department of Energy in January 2010 of a massive 465 million dollars was certainly good for business. It was repaid in 2013 in full. Tesla has been developing its technology in an environmentally friendly way ever since.

Surprisingly, the patents aren’t heavily protected but can be used by other companies. As a sidenote, the number of patents registered is certainly a sign that it’s a technology company with a emphasis on the internet; most car companies have only the odd patent. While they are flexible with their patents, there are several trade secrets of Tesla which do remain private.

If you wish to let Tesla self-drive, there is an autopilot program available. If you wish to drive it yourself reviews of the cars talk about a “feeling of acceleration” in addition to “ride quality.”

There is some controversy as to whether it is actually “self-driving,” the car still needs to be supervised. The Tesla can handle various automatic tasks such as lane centering, lane changes, self-parking and summoning cars from a parking space or a garage. It all sounds pretty cool.

20% of all electric cars were produced by Tesla, which given the strong Japanese and German electric car market this is quite an achievement. So in the grand scheme of all cars made in the world, Tesla has a tiny piece, however in an apples to apple comparison to similar cars produced they are a big fish in their tiny pond.

So, are you self-driving or are you supervising the driving? In September 2020 someone was charged with driving over 90mph, it appears both “passengers” where asleep. According to the authorities these support systems are meant to be complementary, the human behind the wheel is ultimately responsible.

Despite this differentiation from how other car makers sell their cars, there is a huge amount of choice with a Tesla. The sky is the limit—did you know they were developing a space program as well?

Ford SUVs

Ecosport

A mixture of SUV and a Smart car is one of the ways to think about the Ford Ecosport. There’s a certain capable, go anywhere attitude about it.

Bronco:

New models include the 2021 Bronco and the 2021 Bronco Sport, as well as the Mach-E. It might worry some people that the pictures tend to be computer generated images, rather than actual photographs.

Cars can be photographed before they go into pre-production, though it is a more expensive way of doing things. You can produce a car before they go on sale to the general public, but for some reason they don’t. It’s something we’ve had to get used to.

According to the Ford website, the Sport is more designed to be “adventure-ready.” Both have an EcoBoost engine, which means it is turbocharged, but also that it’s a gas engine, rather than electric. There are Hybrid Ecoboosts available, but Bronco Sport isn’t one of them.

The original Bronco was much more box-like than the 2021 model, though it does keep the grille and some of the flat body sides. Though more compact, it was still considered a SUV, bearing some similarities to CJ-5 Jeep and Dodge Ram Charger. Even today the Bronco keeps to its Goes Over Any Terrain original slogan.

Mach-E:

We referred to the Mach-E above, a big selling point of which is the All-Wheel drive and its ability to accelerate with some style. If you prefer you can also use the front axles, or alternately the back axles. It’s big selling point is the Mustang power. Like the Bronco, it is using an animal analogy here.

Kuga

For those who want a plug-in hybrid, you might consider the Kuga, the full hybrid will be available in the last quarter of 2020. “Full Hybrid” may seem a contradictory term, they do hold some electric charge but can rely on the usual combustion engine too. Given its the usual version, why did Ford start with the Plug-In?

There is also colors like a Chrome Blue (a metallic version of that specific tone) and three choices of silver-Moondust Silver, Diffused Silver and Solar Silver-moondust being the lightest shade. There is an opportunity to build your own Kuga online and observe how it looks on the road.

Though there is more choice with the Kugu than the Bronco and the Bronco Sport, the Broncos do appear to have more character and may be better designed for those with families. Apart from having clean fuel, it’s hard to grasp the personality of the Kugu. Shouldn’t clean cars also have a personality? Or do too many characteristics confuse the buyer. Still Broncos have the edge.

Given that Bronco delivers both sports AND utility they could be impossible to beat in this class, though the Mach-E gives them a run for their money. Only time will tell if the new Bronco garners the kind of cult following the earlier models enjoyed. Many people prefer a specific generation of Bronco so these new models will have to earn their spot like all SUVs.

What’s news: Big Tesla E-Semi Order

Tesla (TSLA) has secured a massive order of 130 Tesla Semi electric trucks from Walmart Canada.

Back in 2017, shortly after the unveiling of the Tesla Semi, Walmart Canada ordered 15 electric trucks from the automaker.

They have been adding to that original order and now almost 3 years later and after the Tesla Semi program was delayed, Walmart has announced that it is expanding its Tesla Semi orders to 130 trucks:

“Walmart Canada is now reserving a total of 130 Tesla Semi trucks, making it one of the largest reservations of electrified trucks in the country. The move comes on the heels of Walmart Canada announcing a major $3.5 billion investment over the next five years aimed to generate significant growth in the business and is aligned with  Walmarts global goal to target zero emissions by 2040 announced at Climate Week earlier this month.”

Tesla first started taking reservations with a $5,000 deposit per truck, but it later changed the listed deposit price to $20,000 for a “base reservation” of the production version and the full $200,000 for the “Founders Series” truck.

It means that Walmart would have placed over $2 million in deposits alone for the electric trucks and the total order could be worth over $20 million.

It makes this new order one of the biggest orders to date for the Tesla Semi….

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Emission Rules For Traffic

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had developed clean automotive technology and state of the art testing to help prevent air pollution, even if a ZEV or Zero Emissions Vehicle is a long way away (it’s not quite the same as an electric vehicle, see below).

The regulations around vehicle inspection are all over the place. Some states require periodic safety inspection, some states require safety inspection upon sale or transfer. Some states require a safety inspection when registering from elsewhere (different state or country), for instance Maryland and Alabama.

It seems that most states are on the side of the businesses, they don’t require inspection tests at all. States such as Minnesota and Kentucky have removed their tests and other states may follow suit. The tests might be unpopular but having them is better for the environment than not having them.

California set the strictest standards of all, with legislation that predated the 1970 Clean Air Act. California’s new laws weren’t that popular with the automobile industry as a whole, to put it mildly, even though some feel it should be the standard for all states.

The rules for heavy duty vehicles are very strict-requiring ultra-low sulfur diesel – 15 ppm (parts per million).

Around the World in two Paragraphs

It’s not a problem confined to the US. In 2009 a regulation said that all new passenger cars should have 130 grams of CO 2 as a target, but it was finally phased in as late as 2015. It seems as if many countries are slow to catch up to the emission standard and in 2021 they are due to change again.

In a perfect world, all vehicles would be zero emission, but we have not got there yet. A Google search of Zero Emission Vehicles will produce a list of low emission cars such as Audi or Mazda. However, if a car is recharged from fossil fuel, it cannot be called a ZEV.

ZEVs

The problem is further exasperated by hybrids being sold as ZEV – the problem is does anyone know or care if it’s being run on electrical power or not after it is sold? There’s something is suspiciously wrong with the classification here.

Fuel Cell Vehicles may be considered the better of the low emission vehicles as they run on cells powered by Hydrogen, rather than traditional methods. They work by transforming the Oxygen in the air. Even these type of car rely on a natural gas power, so more fossil fuel. It does seem a bit of a battle here to change the status quo.

Changing the Status Quo

Low emission zones in certain towns and built up islands may be one way to fix it as long as they are enforced strictly. The larger vehicles, such as trucks have the toughest rules, but it doesn’t mean that SUVs aren’t a problem. Some areas are imposing a diesel surcharge and you might wonder if companies would rather pay the charge than alter the fleet of trucks. Legislation can only go so far.

What’s news: New Land Rover–it plugs in

“The advanced new P400e Plug-In Hybrid perfectly balances performance with fuel economy and all-electric off-road capability,” senior manager for powertrain advanced engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, Iain Gray said in a statement. “The latest model also provides refined and powerful new in-line six-cylinder diesel engines that bring improvements in fuel economy and drivability. They join a comprehensive range of powertrain options for Defender.”

Original story link

The Future of Transportation

OP-ED by Stephanie Larson

With the interstate building project of the 1950s, most U.S. cities suddenly became connected by paved roads. What was once dirt and gravel roads became paved asphalt highways. For car lovers, these highways were a dream come true. Drivers finally had long stretches of paved roads where they could see what their vehicles could do.

Some thought the interstate system was the future of transportation, but technology is advancing and changing how drivers get around. Here are some automotive advances you should watch for in the coming years.

1. Self-Driving Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are already here, and several car manufacturers have models slowly making their way up the guideline levels set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There are four levels and two sub-levels vehicles have to pass before considered fully-automatic and safe to drive.

Most self-driving models are at level one. The vehicle reliably provides drivers with warnings and information. Some vehicles are in the early stages of level 2 for automated parking and highway driving. However, Google is currently the company ahead at level four. While the company’s vehicle is fully-automated there are still a few glitches that need to be worked out.

Soon, your car may be the one driving instead of you.

2. All Electric Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are becoming more common as technology progresses. The batteries are capable of holding a charge longer and the vehicles are getting a little bigger instead of smaller. All electric models still won’t be larger than a small sedan for quite some time.

One of the appeals electric vehicles have is its simple components. Without the need for gasoline, several components will no longer be necessary. The essentially scale-downed vehicles are also expected to cost consumers less in the purchase price and maintenance.

These advancements in technology have even lead Bloomberg New Energy Finance to predict electric vehicles will comprise 35 percent of worldwide car sales by 2040.

3. Self-Driving Electric Vehicles

It’s not uncommon for technologies to mix. Smart cars owe their intelligence to computer technology. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine smart electric cars. Automobile manufacturers with eminent plans to release self-driving technology in 2022 now include giants like Ford. However, the automotive giant plans on using the technology in their hybrid vehicles first.

In the future, ride share services like Uber and others could do away with their drivers. When you use the app to order a ride, a self-driving electric vehicle shows up. Instead of bus drivers and train operators, public transportation could also become fully automated, along with electrically powered.

With these vehicles, you are the passenger.

What These Changes Mean For You

It’s impossible to stop technology advancing and this means changes, even in transportation. Self-driving cars, both gas and electric will be on the roads in the future. However, this doesn’t mean that your love of the open road has to change.

Electric cars don’t have the ‘oomph’ that an 8-cyllander engine has. Self-driving vehicles are still crashing into things on road tests. However, these glitches will be fixed, and these automobiles will become a common sight on the interstate.

There is one thing that will remain the same regardless of how far technology goes. Vehicle maintenance will always be important. Even self-driving electric vehicles need regular tune-ups. You will also want to keep an eye on the battery condition. This is something that you should still be doing regularly whether you drive a hybrid or have a gas engine.