Introduced as a 2005 model, the Cobalt was GM’s most ambitious attempt to go fender-to-fender with compact Asian imports. It had a tough act to follow replacing the Cavalier. Motor Trend loved it saying it was solidly built, suitably refined, and attractively priced, it’s an American car that can compete with its foreign rivals. Let’s put a pin in that and come back to it later because it’s the SS model that is a real hoot and this week’s car spot. Sure they gave it a huge rear wing but more important is that the SS is supercharged putting out 205 horsepower, quite a lot for a 2,800-pound compact.
In Motor Trend testing, the Cobalt SS was the fastest regular-production front-drive car through the slalom they’d tested in three years, faster through the cones than the new Corvette Z51. The SS out-cornered the VW R32 on the skidpad, outgunned the MINI Cooper S 0-to-60 mph, and out-stopped the Subaru Impreza WRX 60-to-0 mph. I had a chance to ride along with the dad and daughter of this Cobalt SS at Road America’s Winter Autocross Series when I ran my 22 Jeep Compass in. This car is a little rocket and it was really cool to hear the whine of the Roots-type Eaton blower pumping 12 psi of boost.
Now let’s get back to the 800-pound gorilla in the room, GM quality. In typical form with the company cutting corners, there were lots of recalls. It began in November 2004 with a small recall on the new-for-2005 Cobalt due to a headlight shield that could loosen and cause additional glare for oncoming traffic affecting just 1,378 vehicles. The numbers kept getting worse with several more recalls for a variety of issues. In March 2010, GM conducted its largest Cobalt recall to date, 905,000 examples of the 2005-2010 Cobalt and 2007-2009 G5 (its Pontiac cousin), for a bad power-steering system that could make the car harder to turn at low speeds.
A guy that I used to work with has a SS and he told me that once you get past all the recalls, it was a pretty decent car and a blast to drive. America put up with all the headaches because GM sold over a million of them before production ended in 2001 and the Cobalt was replaced with the Chevy Cruze in 2010. Just 3,168 Cobalt SS Turbo coupes were ever made, and the sedan is much rarer with just 474 being produced. What are they worth now? You can pick up one of these pretty cheap, under $5,000. The daughter was telling me that they picked up this one with a salvage title and another one as a parts car.
Thanks for stopping by and checking us out. Be sure to check back next Friday for another car spot along with some of its history. Have a great weekend.
This past Saturday I was up at Road America, just about my favorite place in the world next to AirVenture in Oshkosh, taking part in the third race in the Winter Autocross Series presented by David Hobbs Honda. 120 drivers came from as far away as South Carolina and had an experience they will never forget.
I was again driving my 22 Jeep Compass with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine putting out a whopping 177 hp. I actually put down some respectable times but a good ten seconds slower than the fastest drivers in Subarus, Audis, and BMWs. But hey, still had a great time as did the other drivers I talked to.
Thanks to Erick Heling, Programs Manager, at Road America for making this happen and to members of the Fox Valley Sports Car Club who did a great job with scoring and generally making sure things ran so well out on the courses. Click here to see the final results. Note: had better times than a Subaru WRX and Tesla:) Go check out the video and meet some of the other participants and see how I did.
What do a Subaru WRX, BMW M340 X-Drive, Audi S4, and Jeep Compass all have in common? I know, not much, but they all competed this past Saturday in the Road America Winter Autocross Series presented by David Hobbs Honda.
I was crazy enough to enter our 22 Jeep Compass. Underpowered compared to almost all of the vehicles entered but as I found out, it’s not all about horsepower and speed as much as it is about having fun.
When BMW says Competition, it means it, and then some …
Where to begin?
Once, maybe twice a year, a car arrives for testing that properly belongs on a racetrack as normal city and highway driving will not suffice, like putting pro athletes in a Juniors tournament with one arm tied behind their backs.
That was this week’s BMW M3 Competition xDrive, which might be better suited to running on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, or up at Road America. That Competition part of the name should serve as a major clue as to the sedan’s strengths.
Power is excessive, but I mean that in a good way. This AWD version’s twin-turbo I6 creates a massive 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Top speed is 180 mph and it’ll crush 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, BMW tells us. Car and Driver magazine reports 3.5 seconds to hit 60 mph. Whatever!
At the “base” level the M3 is no slouch either, its slightly detuned twin-turbo I6 makes 473 horsepower, but get this, it comes with a 6-speed manual. Not many sports sedans offer that in any form these days. BMW says it’ll do 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds, if you can live with that.
Move up to the mid-grade Competition (no xDrive) and you’re back to 503 horses and a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds. So there ARE choices.
Coupled with BMW’s superb 8-speed automatic tranny, complete with big paddle shifters jutting out like antlers behind the steering wheel for manual gear selection, the shifts are silky smooth in the Competition xDrive. So there’s a bit of a luxury feel along with the race car vibe.
Adding to that image for the test car was its retina-melting Sao Paulo Yellow paint job, very similar to the BMW-built MINI Cooper convertible I tested last summer. Some called it lime green, as it certainly has a greenish hue. Still, this baby is easy to find in a parking lot, and surprisingly at no extra charge.
Further spiff comes from BMW’s Yas Marina blue and black leather interior, with touches of that bright yellow for trim. It adds $2,550 to the price tag, but worth every buck.
I’m not sure an interior ever got this much attention from riders and passersby, nor made me want a car as much as this does. The color mix, which some said looked a patriotic nod toward Ukraine, is stunning. Matched with the wild exterior this was easily the most exciting looking car I’ve driven in years, maybe since an Audi R8 14 years ago.
As touted earlier, the power drives home the excitement, but the grip the xDrive AWD system adds, along with sports sedan steering precision makes the M3 special. This is the first time xDrive is available on the M3 and adds $4,100 to the sticker. Naturally there are some stout tires here too, Michelin Pilot Sport performance models, ZR19s in front and ZR20s in back.
Other than when it was wet, these fat boys hunkered down to the pavement like gum stuck on a shoe. That means crazy good cornering. My video guy, Paul, giggled like a pre-teen hearing mom cuss for the first time as we put the car through its paces on winding rural roads.
Let’s see, rocket ship power, super adhesion, light and nimble handling, racy exterior and interior. What’s not to like?
Not much, really, but the ride is race car stiff, so urban pot holes and pavement cracks do stir the interior. Occasionally it was jolting, but mostly well controlled. Railroad tracks were surprisingly easy on the tush.
A few other performance points need addressing here. First, there was an M driver’s package on the test car, which adds $2,500 and raises the electronically controlled speed limiter from 155 to 180 mph. That will only help on the track, which is fine, because the package also includes a voucher for driver training at one of BMW’s two performance centers in the U.S.
Speaking of track time, the M3’s adjustable drive modes include Normal, Sport and Track. That last one optimizes power, shifts, steering effort, and suspension settings for the weekends you take the BMW to the track for an extracurricular workout. I used it to blast down a highway entry ramp and hit a 3-digit number higher than any I’d hit previously. (Do not try this at home!)
There also are adaptive dampers on the M3, plus adjustable brake pedal feel, particularly helpful if on track. A diffuser in back helps stabilize the car at speed and the rear spoiler should help too. It’s carbon fiber, as are the exterior mirror caps. That costs $4,700 extra. A carbon fiber roof is standard.
Carbon fiber trim is inside too ($950 extra) on the dash and console, plus the steering wheel’s hub. Oddly that wheel isn’t a racy flat-bottom model, which I’d expect. First, it would look the part, but more importantly it would free up some knee space that’s much needed by short drivers trying to extricate themselves from the race seats.
That’s right, the test car added carbon fiber race seats for $3,800. They fit the driver and front passenger like they are track bound with power adjustable side bolsters. These things are extremely comfy, once you drop into them, and that’s how you enter. Then they are as snug as Aunt Agnus hugging you after Thanksgiving dinner.
There’s simply no graceful way to crawl out of the seats, as high as those lower side bolsters are. A driver must pull up on the steering wheel (flip the tilt wheel all the way up and latch it), lift their behind onto the side bolster, and then turn the legs to the door for a less than attractive exit.
Ironically for such a sporty sedan there’s decent room in the rear seat for a couple adults and a nice sized trunk, in case the M3 needs to haul several sets of golf clubs, or four suitcases for a weekend trip.
There are, of course, all the usual safety features and a wireless charger, power trunk lid, and, get this, 8 actual pre-set buttons for the radio below the 12-inch info screen. Bravo! BMW keeps the console-mounted rotary knob as a redundant way to adjust the info screen.
Seats are heated, not cooled, up front and the steering wheel also is heated, part of the $1,800 executive package. That also includes remote start, the power trunk, an HUD and something called Gesture Control. It doesn’t stop the gestures you may wish, and it can be confusing and annoying. I found it randomly turning on the radio as I was talking (with my hands naturally) to a passenger. And I never could get it to turn up the radio volume with the swirl of a hand, as the screen suggested.
Other add-ons here (not all needed) included a parking assistance package for $800 that adds parking assistant plus, and a drive recorder (think aircraft black box); and M Drive professional for $900 that includes a lap timer (finally!) and onboard drift analysis, again something you’ll only use at the track unless you have extremely tolerant neighbors.
The cooling, high-performance tire package adds the adaptive suspension, racy Michelin tires and special alloy wheels for $2,400.
If fuel economy matters to you then looking elsewhere is advisable. I got 18.4 mpg in about 60% highway driving and using an admittedly heavy foot when blasting up to highway speed. The EPA rates this AWD model at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Sadly premium fuel is required.
Surely you jest, and don’t call me Shirley! Base for this model is $77,895, including delivery. This one hit $95,895 with options. If you simply must save some cash, opt for either the “base” M3 at $71,095, or Competition model at $74,790, and reject the notion of options.
This is a street-legal racer for less than $100 grand and looks spectacular. Surely (I warned you) that counts for something!
FAST STATS: 2022 BMW M3 Competition xDrive
Hits: Racy looks, color and interior. Monster power, excellent handling and grip, AWD. Heated seats and wheel, wireless charger, big easy-to-use screen, 3 drive modes including Track, 8 pre-set radio buttons, spectacular looking interior, extreme seat support w/power bolsters, good trunk space.
Misses: Firm ride, prefers premium fuel, no flat-bottom wheel contributes to tough exit, price, and the annoying unpredictable gesture control.
When just about anybody mentions VW, the first image is probably the bug. Not exactly a family-friendly vehicle and that’s part of the reason VW introduced the Type 3 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1961. In the U.S. it was to compete with Chevy’s Corvair which hit the market a year earlier. The Type 3 came in three body styles, Notchback, Fastback, and this Squareback (sort of a wagon) that I spotted near Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on a recent trip.
More than a million of these were manufactured in Germany, Brazil, and Australia until production ended in 1973. What are they worth? I checked on Classic.com and found them just as affordable as the bug ranging from $3,000 all the way up to $43,000 while averaging around $15,000.
MAMA Fall Rally: So many vehicles, so little time …
Once or twice a year, lately depending on the Covid threat, Midwest auto writers gather their helmets and egos before snagging seat time in the latest new machines from the top automakers.
I use that term loosely because, to be honest, most of the vehicles that they make, and we drive, are trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. So be it.
This October we spent nearly two days at Road America, the National Park of Speed, near beautiful Elkhart Lake, Wis., at what’s called the MAMA Fall Rally, MAMA standing for Midwest Automotive Media Association. That’s us Midwest journalists who cover the auto industry year-round.
The gig is we can take a few choice vehicles, usually the fast and furious type stuff, onto the Road America racecourse. Awesome! Second, we can take most of the vehicles around the access roads at the race track, or out on the surrounding highways and byways, always being mindful of the local constabulary.
So this year my videographer and co-driver Paul Daniel and I jumped in a bunch of these newbies to snag videos for you, driving impressions for me to use in reviews, and photos to share now and later of the new sheet metal, and plastic.
Here’s a quick look at some of our drives
This is a series electric like the former Chevy Volt (too bad it got axed) where there’s a gas engine, but it’s used to charge the batteries so the Karma is powered by electric motors only. But the gas gives it a sizeable range, more than 300 miles. This is a full-on luxury, think Gran Turismo like a Maserati Trofeo Ghibli, or such. Cost is $100 grand and change, nearly $110,000 here. For more, watch this video.
New Jeeps: Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Grand Wagoneer, Compass
Paul here, our resident Jeep guy. Jeep has been busy this year launching or will be launching a bunch of new vehicles this year. They enter the three-row SUV category with the Grand Cherokee L. That’s right three rows of seats and seats that can actually seat somebody older than your fourth grader. They are also in the process of updating the Compass which competes in the compact SUV category. I was impressed with the pre-production model I drove and it should help improve its ratings. See the video.
Grand Wagoneer though was Jeep’s biggest launch, literally with a wheelbase of 123 inches. It’s also the highest priced Jeep in the lineup with the top model going for almost $105,000. You’ll note the Jeep name isn’t on the vehicle anywhere though, just Grand Wagoneer.
The interior is nothing short of spectacularly packed with leather and wood (real wood) and all the tech you could possibly imagine. Digital displays line the dashboard. The one in front of the passenger will, say you’re looking for a place to eat, search places nearby, get directions, and then swipe it over to the driver’s side. This stuff is straight out of the movie Ironman. The only thing missing is the woodgrain exterior paneling from the original. Somebody will do that. Check out our video here.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 392
I’m excited that Ford brought back the Bronco. Competition improves the breed and even though I’m a Jeep guy, somebody nipping at their heels will make them bring new options to the market. Case in point, the big V8 that Jeep pounded into the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. I got a chance to take it off-road. The rumble alone gives this a huge cool factor, something Bronco doesn’t have, yet. Ride along with me here. Notice the big grin on my face.
Jeep’s First Hybrid, the Wrangler 4xe
Who would have ever imagined a hybrid Jeep much less a Wrangler? It’s here and the number one selling hybrid to boot. I drove this after getting out of the 392 and the first thing I noticed was the sound or lack of it. It was super quiet, but handled the muck, mud, and rocks just as well as the 392. Jeep’s new plug-in-hybrid Wrangler promises 375 horsepower and 49 MPGe. It will get to 60 in just under seven seconds, not too shabby.
The 4xe is the second-most powerful Wrangler behind the 392 V8 model, and the most fuel-efficient if you pay attention. The hybrid powertrain and battery add significant weight, offsetting the Wrangler 4xe’s performance potential and gas-only fuel economy. Fail to plug in the Jeep Wrangler 4xe regularly, and you not only give up all of its advantages, but without the battery charged, it returns poorer fuel economy than a regular four-cylinder Wrangler. However, keep the battery charged with a 220v outlet and you’ll be in for a treat. The other treat is the $7,500 tax credit you get for going green in this Jeep. Thanks Uncle Sam!
Hyundai Santa Cruz
I should have one of these non-pickup pickups shortly for a full drive. This cutie is based on Hyundai’s fine Tucson crossover, but with a pickup bed in the back. Yet it’s stylish and will hold four adults easily with good rear-seat room. It also drives and rides like a crossover, which is its base. Look for this and the new Ford Maverick compact pickup to duke it out for sales. Check out our quick walk-around video.
This is a cousin to Toyota’s 86. Both are 2+2 sports cars for the economy-minded, but who want generous power and sports car handling. Rare I know. But the BRZ was a hoot on the track, handling great, easy to point into corners, decent brakes, and plenty of grunt from its new naturally aspirated 2.4-liter boxer engine, thanks to Subaru. That belts out 228 horsepower and sounds much racier than you might imagine. Can’t wait for a week’s drive in this baby!
Alfa Romeo Giulia QV
Not many Fiats or Alfas even offered by Stellantis in this country. Who’s Stellantis? That’s the conglomerate that owns Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Chrysler.
Anyway, the Giulia is a delight to drive, with very quick handling, and excellent sports sedan ride. It feels tight and well-made, despite what you might have heard. Power is kick-ass quick and with a rip-roaring tone too, and there’s an 8-speed automatic to put the power down efficiently too. Manuals are fun, but today’s automatics shift quicker than mere mortals. Alfa says 0-60 mph flies by in 3.8 seconds. I can’t argue with that.
VW is all-in on electric vehicles, both in Europe and here in the States and its ID.4 is its first foray into full electric. It’s a compact crossover with 260 miles of range and VW will pay for your first three years of fast charges wherever you need them. Nice! From a looks standpoint, ID.4 is a middler, with no real standout looks. But then it also doesn’t look like a Prius or Insight to scream that it’s eco-friendly. By the numbers, it’s got good power at 295 horses and 339 lb.-ft. of torque, which VW says does 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. Respectable!
Driving it was fun, although the funky gear selector on the side of the instrument pod takes a lot of getting used to. Power is good, handling fine and ride seems OK, although a longer drive is upcoming so I’ll know more then. AWD also is available and at $43,675 VW is happy to point out this is the least expensive AWD EV. Possible the ID.4 will get VW back in the game in the US.
While the former NX was a nice small crossover it didn’t strike me as anything special, considering it’s a Lexus. I considered it a fancy Rav4. But it has been reworked and electrically gizmotized to a major degree. It’ll let you know, for instance, if a bicyclist is riding by so you won’t open a door in front of the cyclist. So more beeps and whistles that some will love. I can do without that, but the ride is sublime, handling quick and responsive and the interior concert hall quiet. Now it IS special.
Ford Maverick FX4
I remember when Mavericks were cheap Ford cars, now it’s a compact pickup like Ford Rangers used to be before they grew up to be as big as an old F-150. But the Maverick will sell like weed at a rock concert because it truly is a useful small pickup and starts about $20 grand. Bingo, this is exactly what folks have been asking for for years. Very capable, easy handling, good ride and if you go hybrid (brilliant idea!) it’s rated now at 42 mpg by the EPA. This is gonna be a monster hit!
BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe
Trust me, everyone at the rally wanted to get a little seat time in this beast. The color alone assured you were taking a trip down the Hot Wheels track at about a 75-degree angle. Power? Oh yeah! How’s 503 horsepower grab you and delivered to all four wheels. Twin-turbo power is said to do 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and I believe it. This is a rocket, but with giant discs to slow it just as quickly. Handling? It’s a BMW. Nuff said. And I LOVED the racy carbon fiber seats that were as comfy as a luxury sedan, but waaaay more supportive. Hope I get to test this one for a week sometime!
Ford Bronco Wildtrak 4-door
Yes, that spelling is right as car makers love funky spellings of common words. A lot of folks have been waiting for Bronco and it’s slowly making its way into the market. The 4-door version looks all the world to me like a Land Rover and Ford assures us it’ll go off-roading like a champ. It offers a roof that folds back like a Jeep too, and despite looking like a monster truck, it’s easy to handle and drives smaller than it is. Bravo. Power is from a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 310 horsepower with the turbo kicking out 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Love this new SUV! Here’s a quick walk-around video.
First, Mazda took its stellar CX-30 compact crossover and then dropped in an electric power system to make its first EV. Like the CX-30 (my car of the year for 2021) it handles great and rides well. But the electric power makes it super quiet and peppy off the line, well, much like the CX-30, but with electrons running things instead of gas. Basically, it’s quick, handles, and rides well. Need more? Its other different feature is clamshell rear doors which create a nice large opening for folks to climb in the rear seats. Range is 130 miles, so better than some EVs, but not up to Tesla or Mustang Mach E standards. The good news, a hybrid model is said to be coming soon.
First, the Tucson has been restyled and looks as sharp as the rest of the Hyundai lineup. Plus running from $25,000 to $35,000 for starting prices and including a sporty N Line model, it is family-friendly. I like its ride and handling in particular as some compact crossovers can be a little severe in ride quality sometimes. Power is decent too with a 2.5-liter I4 delivering 187 horses, plus this cockpit is sharp looking too.
Ford Mustang Mach 1
OMG, this is muscle car madness at its finest if you still love the roar of a gasoline-powered V8, and really, who doesn’t? I won’t go into all the details here. I’ll just say this, 480 horsepower at less than $55,000. Top speed 168 mph and on the track it’s more fun than a human should be allowed to experience, well, almost. For a full review: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium | Savage On Wheels
Nothing new and exciting here, but the Mazda3 hatch was already exciting and still is one of the coolest sports hatches in the world. Had this one on the track and did 110 mph easily on a long straightaway and man this baby handles too. Needs performance tires naturally, but the 2.5-liter turbo I4 cranks 250 horses and sounds like it means business at high revs. AWD gives it super traction too!
Last week a bunch of us Midwest auto writers got to give the new 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid pickup a spin up at Road America, and trust me Ford is gonna sell a LOT of Mavericks, both ICE and hybrid powered.
Now the EPA has today rated the hybrid at 42 mpg in city driving, making the Maverick the most fuel-efficient hybrid pickup in the States. That’s huge for Ford and for cleaner air. Maverick is first of all a compact pickup, think of it along the lines of the old Ranger pickup, but with better drive, ride and now fuel technology.
I was impressed by how well the Maverick handled and weathered bumpy pavement, a given here in the Midwest. This feels more refined and yet is modestly priced so families can afford one. Base price is around $21,000, with delivery fees, for the 2.0-liter ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) EcoBoost model that went on sale in September. That engine has 250 horsepower and will tow 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.
Maverick Hybrid pickups are to start hitting dealerships in December so will likely be getting to customers by January. The truck is rated 37 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Note that hybrids usually deliver better fuel economy in city driving when their electric motors do more of the work. Ford says EPA estimated driving range is 500 miles for the hybrid too.
The hybrid model packs 191 horsepower and will tow up to 2,000 pounds. It is powered by a 2.5-liter I4 and hybrid electric motors.
Both models are known as SuperCrews with full-size rear doors and seating for four or five.
I don’t have blood, pretty sure I have motor oil in my veins. It started before I was even born. My mom’s dad sold Pontiacs and Hudsons while my other grandpa was a Chevy guy. My dad worked for AMC/Chrysler for 27 years and I’ve been told that I was conceived in the back of a Nash. I love everything about cars, from how they are designed, manufactured, marketed, and tested. I especially love high-performance cars and have driven, the new Corvette, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Ram TRX, along with several Jaguars. It’s the sound, I love the sound, and the power when I step on the gas. I love the way they handle and have driven several of them at Road America.
EV’s to me are a waste of time.
I will admit that most of them can out-accelerate even the biggest and baddest V8 but outside of that, I see no upside. Ok tree huggers, jump in telling me how they save the planet with their zero o2 tailpipe emissions but you are forgetting one huge item, actually several. First, all the current EV’s are manufactured the same way ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles are. In a factory that uses tons of electricity to make the steel and or aluminum used in the body, frame, and other areas, the plastic found in the interior, and carpeting. How about that glass. Forged in the same factory that supplies manufacturers of ICE vehicles. And let’s not forget about the batteries. Their carbon footprint for manufacturing is even larger and where do they go when they wear out?
So much for the manufacturing. Now let’s talk about tax revenue. Except for Teslas, owners receive a tax credit. Less revenue to run this country which almost always seems to be running out of money. Now since EV’s don’t fill up with gas, there’s lost tax revenue there that goes to many things like road construction and repairs. Boom, gone!
Now let’s talk about charging. It’s gotten a lot better. The longest range EV according to the EPA is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus which will get you 263 miles before needing a charge. But here comes the downside and deal-breaker for me. It requires 8.5 hours to get a full charge and that’s assuming you can plug into 220V. Sure, the standard argument is that you can do that overnight but what if you need to travel a longer distance? I hate waiting.
Let’s talk about them spontaneously bursting into flames. Have you read about the Chevy Bolt? Here’s a new term for you, thermal runaway. This happens when the battery overheats, over-pressurizes, and boom! (I’ll talk about my experiences in a bit). This happened so much that GM was forced to recall all of them. Do EV’s catch fire more than ICE cars? There is no reliable data. What is a fact though is that because of all that energy in the battery they generate more heat and take longer to put out.
My blogging partner, Mark, reminds me that EV’s are coming. More like the flavor of the month. With virtually no infrastructure for charging, they are decades from any mainstream acceptance. Here’s an example. Kwik Trip is a large midwestern gas station/convenience store operator and I go there a lot.
I found this example recently. Their charging station with the same 120 v plug you’d find in and outside plug at your home. Think of the charge time on that bad boy. Even with tax credits according to Pew Research about 231,000 all-electric vehicles were sold in 2020, down 3.2% from 2018. In each of the past three years, EV’s accounted for about 2% of the U.S. new-car market which is tiny. It would most likely be even smaller if it were not for government tax credits as incentives, some as high as $7,500.
I’m fine with hybrids and had a chance to drive two very different ones recently at the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) event at Road America.
First, there was the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe which I had a chance to take off-road. The first thing I noticed, especially after just driving the Wrangler 392 with its rumble, was how quiet it was. And it was never lacking for power when I needed it to climb a hill or get through some mud. FYI, it is the number one selling hybrid. What does that say for saving the planet and having a whole lot of fun doing it?
The other vehicle was the Karma GS-6, a masterpiece of design. This car oozes cool both inside and out. The interior looks like it were designed for the 25th century. So futuristic-looking but with a price tag of just over 100 grand, not for everybody.
Electric propulsion works well on a smaller scale
Here’s where I’m big on battery-powered propulsion. One of my time, and money-sucking hobbies, is radio-controlled airplanes. This is the segment that has experienced a huge jump in technology in the last couple of years. My first electric plane was a small Piper Cub or something that resembled one, with a two-foot wingspan. It carried six nickel-cadmium batteries slightly smaller than AAA’s. The battery took about an hour to charge and the plane flew for maybe five minutes. Charging the battery was sketchy at best. If you looked at them the wrong way, they would burn up. Sound familiar? The plane barely had enough power to get out of its own way.
Flash forward to today. Now we fly with Liquid Polymer batteries (LiPo’s) which hold tons more energy. I just sold my last gas-powered airplane and except for my turbine jet am now an all-electric fleet. This wasn’t something that I had decided to do on a whim. It took a while so that I could have several planes utilizing similar batteries based on their size. While there are still electric planes that will have very short flight times, mine can fly on an average of five to eight minutes. That might sound like a short time but it’s maybe slightly shorter than gas-powered planes. Care must be taken with the batteries just like the ones that go in the car because they can catch fire and have been known to burn up a car or entire garage.
Some of my planes are actually jets with electric ducted fans powering them. Sort of like a little turbine except with an electric motor. It takes 30 minutes to an hour to charge the batteries on one of the several chargers I have. All of the flying fields have the power for me to charge the batteries. One even uses solar cells that charge storage batteries. Unlike the EV auto industry, there are no tax breaks for guys like us for doing this. It is driven by demand only and doing really well. Each time I show up at the field I see new electric planes.
While converting planes from fuel to electric is popular I want to share an example of one of the planes that I built designed specifically for electric power. The Avro Vulcan was a cold-war era four-engine jet bomber the English flew. It was designed to defend England from a Russian nuclear attack. Go check out this video and turn up the volume to hear what’s called the Vulcan Howl. The Jet was so far ahead of its time.
My radio control model is a large one, an 80-inch wingspan, the fuselage is 74 inches long and it weighs just 14 pounds. It’s powered by four electric ducted fans and requires four Li-Po batteries. Efficiency in the build was critical here and with a combination of balsa, ply carbon fiber, and foam it has a 14-1 thrust ratio.
A friend of mine and I both built Vulcan’s a few years ago and they are a blast to fly. We have had both of them up at the same time as you can see inthis video.
Will commercial aviation go all-electric? Not in a mine or your lifetime. Right now they are just getting into that but on a very small scale. Commuter aircraft is a possibility but that represents about 2% of all commercial flights.
And finally my point
A good friend of mine, Mike Dorna, who works at Briggs & Stratton here in Milwaukee, forwarded a great article on this whole electric bruh haha. Mike’s dad was one of the Model Makers who developed an EV hybrid for the company while they were still just dreams. Jay Leno did a segment on it.
The article by Tony Adams, who launched Engine + Powertrain Technology International brings up valid points that are often ignored by the media. He points out that gigafactories are being built but the eco-ramification of building them is being ignored. The exhaustion of cobalt and other rare earth materials with questionable supply chains is being overlooked. Then there are the eco-credentials of the batteries themselves is being disregarded and so are the weight and generally negative dynamic effects of heavily over-burdened cars.
Rather than trying to create a totally new system that will expend gobs of energy, how about alternative fuels like maybe hydrogen? It’s free and the most abundant chemical in the universe and we don’t even have to drill for it! Talk about zero emissions, this is it and cars can be developed to run on it. Gas stations can dispense it just like they do gasoline now and it’s a much better alternative than electricity.
They simply take energy and turn it into rotational movement – the difference is that in a normal electric car, this energy only comes from an onboard battery that needs to be charged up, while in a hydrogen car it comes from an onboard generator that uses hydrogen. A hydrogen car can be taken from empty to full in a few minutes at a fuel pump, like a petrol or diesel car – so in this way, they’re better than electric cars, and it’s convenient.
Porsche is testing a synthetic eFuel made out of CO2 and hydrogen and is produced using renewable energy. This creates a liquid that an engine will burn the same as if it was gasoline made from crude oil, but in theory, an eFuel can be produced in a climate-neutral manner. They expect to have its first small test batch, 34,340 gallons ready by 2022.
Ok, I’m done now. Watch carefully how the EV game is played out in Europe. The UK has set 2040 as a date where they are going to ban the sale of ICE cars. Good luck with that. Please somebody make sanity take over. The market should be determined but consumers, not politicians. This is nuts!
I’m not a bigger is better sort of guy. My parents used to tell me the best things come in small packages.
So I’m not one to automatically rave about Toyota’s new Highlander because it has grown dimensionally, about 2.5 inches of wheelbase and overall length. But if you’re a larger family looking for a super reliable mid-size sport-utility vehicle to haul seven or eight folks, that extra room is as welcome as a stimulus check. Continue reading 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD→
Mercedes-Benz has been dominating Formula 1 racing for six years and it has a long history of dominant race cars dating back to the 1930s. Famous race drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and now Lewis Hamilton have put Mercedes squarely in the public eye.
Winning is the name of Mercedes game and Mercedes has been slapping an exclamation point on that in its road cars since 1967 via AMG. That’s Mercedes high-performance division, a separate unit that virtually customizes certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles to near race standards. AMG was launched by Daimler, Mercedes’ parent. Continue reading 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster→