Monday, August 14, 2017

You can't have a "partial zero emission" vehicle.

If you live in the US you'll have likely seen a little badge on the back of some vehicles that reads "PZEV" which stands for "Partial Zero Emission Vehicle".
Of course the only true zero-emission vehicle is an electric car, and even then that only considers the car itself, because emissions are created during the production of electricity (to charge the car) and during the manufacture of the vehicle, so there really is no true zero-emission vehicle in existence. So what is PZEV?
It's just a marketing gimmick. PZEV is a label manufacturers can put on a car if it has no evaporative emissions from its fuel system, has a 15 year warranty on the emission control components and meets SULEV exhaust emission standards.
Let's deal with each of those one at a time.
No evaporative emissions from the fuel system. Seems logical, right? I mean you don't drive around with an open container of fuel so surely every vehicle manages to meet that criteria? It depends on what you mean by "no evaporative emissions" because as soon as you take the petrol filler cap off, petrol starts to evaporate - it's why you can smell it. If that description refers only to the car when it's not being filled up, then it applies to every car built pretty much for as long as filler caps have had bayonet fittings and rubber seals. So that items is a bit of marketing BS.
A 15 year warranty on the emission control components? Don't make me laugh. If that were true, oxygen sensors and catalytic converters would be covered by the vehicle warranty, meaning owners would not be charged for having them replaced. Clearly that's not true - go to a dealer with a 6 month old car with a dead oxygen sensor and you'll be $200 out-of-pocket. So that item is also marketing BS.
So what about SULEV? That stands for Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. In theory these engines produce "90% less emissions than equivalent petrol powered vehicles". That's a really woolly and vague statement, but all you need to know is that there are only 22 vehicles in existence that meet this criteria and 8 of them are either hybrids of natural gas vehicles and one of them isn't manufactured any more.
So in summary, "PZEV" really means nothing. Feel free to go ahead and remove that label from the back of your car.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

New American Top Gear

Not keen to accept defeat, the BBC are trying again with Top Gear America and their latest incarnation aired this weekend. They've gone away from the old US format and are trying the old UK format - studio audience and three blokes standing talking. The three blokes are Tom Ford (who's a lot smaller than he used to be), Michael Fichtner (a US actor who appears not to know much about cars), and Antron Brown (????). As Tom Ford put it himself, three people who've never met, who aren't friends but who have to manufacture chemistry because of program and budgetary requirements.
And sadly that sentence laid the groundwork for what was to come which largely involved Fichtner banging on and on and on about fuck-yeah-murica, Tom Ford going on about how this wasn't Top Gear UK and Antron Brown trying to explain to people who he is and what he does.
The Honda NSX segment could have been good, but was too short. The star in a reasonably priced car was as dull as dishwater to watch. The main event - a VW Buggy run across Baja should also have been exciting but somehow wasn't (but Brown did complain about how these old buggies couldn't do 300mph). Fichtner's piece on the US obsession with trucks started out wonderfully and was instantly ruined with fuck-yeah-murica-Ford-Raptor and five more minutes of screaming. There was no news.
I think this might be another trainwreck-in-making, not helped by the fact that their new home is the Speed Vegas track where a driver and instructor were killed earlier this year in a fiery crash. It would seem like a good place to film except the track is open during filming, meaning you get some awful edit cuts where one presenter is talking and you can hear and see cars on the track behind them, and when it cuts to one of the other presenters, the sound of the cars just cuts off and the track is suddenly empty.
It's not as bad a start as the original Top Gear America which just outright sucked from the opening 10 seconds, but it's pretty close. The difference here is that these three hosts aren't trying to be comedians like that idiot New Yorker and the fat guy in plaid. So there's a glimmer of hope.
We'll see what next week brings.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Newsflash : Tesla Model 3's will be delivered starting on friday.

Or not.

Friday is apparently The Big Day for the Model 3. It's the day Elon Musk has scheduled an event to hand over the first 30 Model 3's to their owners.
There's a slight wrinkle though - nobody knows what the finished spec of the car is, or even 100% what it looks like. The photos and videos that surfaced two weeks ago were supposed to be the first cars off the production line. Or not. And nobody knows at all what the interior looks like because there've been no photos or renderings and the ones shown off at the original event were known to be mock-ups.
The other problem is the sub-version. It doesn't matter if you wanted a fully-loaded 4WD version with a sunroof, Tesla will hand over the simplest, most basic versions on Friday. Musk has said previously that the initial production run will only be the bare-bones stripped-down version in an attempt to not replicate the over-complex Model X fiasco.
Or not. Nobody really knows, least of all the owners. Tesla hasn't contacted the people on the deposit list. (see this Bloomberg article). So right now, 30 people will be (or not) getting cars on friday, but those 30 people don't know who they are yet. In all reality they're most likely to be employees. Of the other owners, nobody has been contacted about final price, spec or delivery dates. That's troublesome because most people don't have $40k lying around to drop on a whim so they need to arrange financing, but without an actual price or date, they can't do that.
Tesla said originally that 373,000 people put down deposits on the car but that number hasn't been updated since mid-2016. What we DO know is that in the absence of ANY information from Tesla, some of those have now cancelled their reservations and received their money back. But again, we don't know HOW many that is. Of those still holding a deposit, many of them might pull the plug depending on what they see on friday.
The other option is that on Friday, Tesla just open up the order portal and if those people are not paying attention (and/or when the website crashes), they could lose their place in the line even if they DID put a deposit down.
Readers of this blog know I have no time for Musk or Tesla, hence my (sadly too) frequent bashing of the both of them. But be honest - if you look at the clown show going on right now, would YOU want to give that company any money?
Is the Tesla 3 going to be the No Man's Sky of cars?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I said it last week. I'll say it again. Kvyat needs to lose his license.

Simple enough. Another race weekend, and Danny Crash causes another crash. This time he took out his own team mate. The FIA have to act. Kvyat will get someone killed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When will Daniil Kvyat be banned from F1?

Throughout his career in GP3, Daniil Kvyat became known as "Danny Crash" because of the sheer number of times he wrecked either his car, or his and one or other competitor cars during races. It seems that habit hasn't gone away as this weekend he caused yet another crash in F1 - this time hitting Alonso and bouncing him into Verstappen, taking both out.
This is nothing new. Just off the top of my head, these are the crashes he's caused recently that I remember:
2015 Japan, Q1 - crashed and missed everyone
2016 Russia, Lap 1 - crashed into Vettel twice and Ricciardo once. This was when he was demoted.
2016 Austria, Q1 - crashed and missed everyone
2016 Monaco, Lap 21 - crashed into Magnussen.
2016 China, Lap 1 - crashed into Vettel, who was bounced into Raikkonen.
2016 Brazil, crashed into Palmer.
2016 Spain, crashed into Magnussen.
2017 Spain, pre-season testing.
2017 Monaco, crashed into Perez.
Kvyat is a dangerous F1 driver. Yes, all F1 drivers take risks but most of those are calculated risks and when there just isn't room, the other drivers tend to back off and try again. Not so for Danny Crash - he'll jam that car in where it just won't fit and his attitude is "me first, and screw everyone else".
At some point the FIA are going to have to step in and take away his F1 license because at the rate he's crashing into other cars right now, he's going to get someone killed.

Friday, July 7, 2017

It's a bad week for Tesla fanboys.

So we learned this week that Tesla will start production of the Model 3 on time. That's a surprise for the company. That's also the end of the good news.
Tesla claimed they would produce 200,000 by the end of 2017. That figure has been revised down to 20,000 - 10% of what they promised. Which is largely what everyone with any common sense predicted, because there was no way Tesla was ever going to meet their target - they still don't have the capacity to build cars at the rate required to make those sorts of numbers. According to Tesla, the sales figure issue stems from a "severe production shortfall" of 100 kWh battery packs. This in turn is because their gigafactory is both late getting up to full speed, and running into production and QA issues in the parts of the factory that are operating (the gigafactory is a phased factory, meaning they're already in production at one end of the facility while the other end is still being built and fitted out). This is classic Tesla, with Musk personally overselling something and Tesla ending up under-delivering.
Add to that the increasing wariness about the Model 3 by both customers and the motoring press because at this late stage there are still no official photos or information of the production-ready version of the car. Pile on to that the sales figures released this week that show sales of the Model S are 'flat' and the Model X are 'declining' and the result of all of this is that the Tesla share price is down 20% from last week.
But wait! There's more!
The Model S just failed a crash test; the offset-frontal test is one of the most common accidents in almost every country in the world. It happens when cars turn across oncoming traffic and about 35% of the front of the car hits the same 35% of the front of the opposing car. This is the one test that every manufacturer wants to ace because it's so important and so common. It's been around in Europe since the late 1990s and the IIHS introduced it in America in 2012. Notable failures to date include the Dodge Challenger and Fiat 500.
The Model S was put through its paces and passed four of the crash tests but failed the critical offset-frontal crash, giving it a score rating of "acceptable" - which translates to a four star safety rating, not five. The reason was because the driver dummy smashed it's head on the steering wheel and driver's side A pillar, through the airbag, the front wheel shattered, and the brake caliper and rotor penetrated the passenger compartment.
So Tesla's stock price will likely drop a little more when the market opens on monday - how much nobody knows but don't be surprised if this drop totals 25% by the middle of next week. I'm not a stock-watcher but even in I know that when a company loses 20% of it's share price in a week, that's A Bad Thing.