Archive for the ‘Hybrid Cars’ Category

Mercedes-Benz debuts Qualcomm’s wireless charging for the hybrid S Class

October 11th, 2016

(credit: Qualcomm/Mercedes-Benz)

Back in 2015 we took a look at Qualcomm’s Halo wireless car charging technology. It uses induction charging to top up a hybrid car’s batteries without the hassle of actually having to plug in, at roughly the same efficiency as a wired connection. Since then we’ve been wondering when we might see a Halo-equipped car reach market. Wonder no more: on Tuesday, Mercedes-Benz and Qualcomm announced that the 2017 S550e (the hybrid version of the flagship S-Class sedan) now has the option of wireless charging.

Instead of a cable for plugging one’s S550e into the wall, owners will get a charging pad for their carport or garage. Simply drive the car over the pad, and once the two halves of the charger are aligned, charging begins. It’s a 3.6kW system (Qualcomm has previously told Ars it could also work at 6.6kW), which makes it suitable for topping up the 8kWh battery in the big Benz, but as yet probably too slow for a fully electric vehicle.

As yet there’s no price on Mercedes-Benz’s website for the wireless charging option, but given the S550e’s base price of $96,600, we’re pretty sure it’ll be affordable to owners.

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Gallery: Hybrid hypercar happy hour

July 5th, 2015

Earlier this week we published our review of BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. You should still read that piece, but the short take home is that it’s an amazing car and you ought to buy one if you can. However, it’s not the only game in town when it comes to plug-in hybrid sports cars, merely the cheapest. Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche have all recently brought such cars to market. While they may beyond the reach of most of us, Alex Bellus (a good friend of Cars Technica) just conducted a photoshoot with a McLaren P1 and not one but two Porsche 918 Spyders. And because both Alex and Imola Motorsports (not to mention the cars’ owners) are nice people, they’ve allowed us to share the results.

The two cars embody the two different corporate philosophies at work at McLaren and Porsche. The McLaren P1 brings to the road a lot of know-how and technology McLaren have learned from Formula 1, with a drag reduction system just like the F1 car (a button on the steering wheel changes the rear wing’s angle of attack to let you go faster in a straight line). Porsche’s 918 Hybrid also has racing roots—the naturally aspirated V8 engine is derived from the mid-2000s RS Spyder prototype racer—but by all accounts is a more thoroughly developed road car, no doubt a result of Porsche’s much longer experience building road cars, as well as the fact that it’s larger production run (Porsche is building 918 918 Hybrids, compared to 375 McLaren P1s) gave the company a bigger budget to work with.

Sadly we’ve yet to log any time behind the wheel of either of these hybrid hypercars (or a Ferrari LaFerrari for that matter), so if you (or someone you know) happen to have one in your garage and want to see it featured on these pages, don’t be a stranger.

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Why don’t we drive more electric vehicles?

July 3rd, 2015

One of the more challenging jobs the auto industry has right now is explaining to consumers that the future isn’t going to be like the past. We desperately need to reduce vehicle carbon emissions in order to avoid turning the planet into a hellscape, and that means turning to cars with some kind of energy storage other than hydrocarbons we’ve dug up from the ground and then distilled. That’s where people get confused and the message stalls, a problem laid out in a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences.

For many decades cars have been simple things with internal combustion engines. They burned gasoline or sometimes diesel and occasionally even liquified natural gas. Sometimes they had turbochargers or superchargers to ram more air into the combustion chamber, and very occasionally that combustion chamber was something odd like a Wankel rotary engine. Now, the need to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality means many more options when it comes to a vehicle’s powertrain.

The array of options can be bewildering, says the National Academy of Sciences’ report. Commissioned by Congress, it examines the hurdles to adopting plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). The Academy splits PEVs into four classes: Long-range battery EV (BEV)s like the Tesla Model S, short-range BEVs like Nissan Leaf, range-extended plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV)s like the Chevrolet Volt (which drive on electric power most of the time), and minimal PHEVs like the plug-in BMW i8 (which can perform short trips on battery power alone).

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Hyper-hybrids battle at Le Mans this weekend: Don’t miss it!

June 12th, 2015

Most people think Christmas is the 25th of December, but for Cars Technica, Christmas comes in June, this very weekend. Yes, It’s time for the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, the greatest race in the world. In this year’s event—the most exciting in almost two decades—four different car companies are doing battle to see whose hybrid is the fastest around the 8.46 mile (13.629 km) circuit. Audi, Nissan, Porsche, and Toyota all have very different answers to that question, with some fascinating technology being put to the test.

The rules for the top class, called LMP1, provide remarkable freedom when it comes to designing a car. A formula determines how much fuel a hybrid LMP1 can use based on how much energy it plans to recover over a lap. Audi and Nissan are in the 2 MJ class (which allows them the most fuel, still about two-thirds less than the winning car used two years ago). Toyota is in the 6 MJ class, and Porsche is the first company since the new rules came into effect to opt for 8 MJ.

Audi, which has dominated the race since 2000, has three R18 e-tron quattros. These feature a mid-engined 4 L V6 turbodiesel (550 hp/410 kW) driving the rear wheels and a motor-generator unit that captures kinetic energy (MGU-K) from the front axle (270 hp/200 kW). The MGU-K stores (and uses) energy in an electric flywheel. The R18 isn’t the fastest over a single lap, but it may well be over a race stint.

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