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Is India finally ready for hybrids?

For a very long time, terms like clean energy, battery-powered vehicles and zero exhaust emissions seemed as alien to India as pothole-free roads, speedy court trials and low inflation levels. Now it seems like things could change. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, which was first launched in 2013 and re-launched with a facelift in the first week of May 2015, has so far accounted for 80 percent of Camry sales since its launch. According to the carmaker, the Camry hybrid has sold more than 280 units in 50 days, as against 720 units sold in the whole of last year. However, this sales volume is still insignificant compared to other ‘conventional’ competitors and highlights an important question: Is India ready for hybrid cars? Honda and Toyota have had a tough time selling their hybrid offerings in the past. The Honda Civic Hybrid was launched in 2008 at Rs 21.5 lakh. By the end of March 2009, only 297 hybrids were sold against the 5,656 conventionally-powered Civics. The Civic Hybrid was discontinued after that. The Prius, launched in 2010 at Rs 27-29 lakh, didn’t do well either. Only 167 were ever sold. There are a number of reasons why hybrid cars did not sell well in India. The biggest problem was that they were all CBUs and hence high import duties made them expensive to buy. Incidentally, the running costs are also typically higher than an equivalent diesel-powered car. For instance, the running cost of the Camry Hybrid which does 19.16kpl (as per ARAI), comes to Rs 3.9 per kilometre (see box). On the other hand, the diesel Skoda Superb that returns 17.2kpl (again, ARAI), costs Rs 3.4 per kilometre. The Superb turns out to be a cheaper car to run as it has lower diesel prices working in its favour. As always, ARAI figures are merely indicative, and both cars will return much lower figures in the real world. Carmakers are doing all they can to make hybrid cars seem like an attractive investment. Toyota has, for example, decided to assemble the Camry Hybrid locally, making it the first carmaker to assemble a hybrid in India. This has helped in pricing it closer to its conventional sibling, with a difference of under Rs 6 lakh between the two. The positive response is evident in the sales ratio, proving that Indians have shown a changed perspective towards hybrid cars. That said, a top-spec Superb diesel costs Rs 27.06 lakh, while a Camry Hybrid has a higher sticker price of Rs 33.68 lakh (both prices are ex-showroom, Mumbai). For perspective, Skoda sold over 1,200 Superbs (petrol and diesel) in the last financial year alone. Hybrids do have benefits over diesel cars such as a smoother drive, much better refinement and good acceleration in stop-start conditions, making them perfect for city driving. Additionally, the government rolled out FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric vehicles – in April, to provide impetus to the nascent hybrid and electric vehicle industry here, and also boost the government’s ‘Make in India’ programme. Under the scheme, incentives have been introduced for all categories of hybrid and electric vehicles of upto Rs 29,000 for two-wheelers and Rs 1.38 lakh for four-wheelers. Increasingly, automakers have realised that acceptability among Indians for hybrid cars is rising and despite the sales numbers being insignificant, the potential is much higher now than ever before. In February, BMW launched its Rs 2.29 crore i8, a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid with an all-wheel drive system; the first plug-in hybrid vehicle from the automaker. Although sales of the i8 won’t be anything to write home about, it is still an important addition to the slowly evolving hybrid car space in India. Maruti seems to have caught on and is rumoured to be launching a hybrid version of its best-selling Swift hatchback called the Range Extender that was earlier under development for a pilot project for the Government of India. Let’s see if it does well in the hybrid space. So with the increasing interest of car buyers coupled with incentives by government, the time does seem right for car makers to enter the largely-ignored electric and hybrid car market in India. Courtesy: Autocar

Jun 30, 2015
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samsung builds Safety Truck

samsung has designed a new webcam-LCD screen system that will help drivers overtake in the safest manner possible. This system, called the safety Truck, will be particularly effective while driving behind a large vehicle. As part of the technology, a webcam will be mounted on the vehicle in front. An LCD display unit will be installed on the rear of the same vehicle. A set of four screens will provide a see-through view of the traffic in front, helping other drivers behind massive vehicles. The view is transmitted wirelessly and will not be affected by weather or poor lighting conditions. A truck with the webcam system from Samsung is undergoing testing in Argentina. A similar video system was tested by the University of Porto in Portugal in 2013. The system was implemented in a driving simulator, and then on an actual car. The biggest issue with the 2013 version of the system was a 200-millisecond delay in the video relay. The issue was solved by fixing both the camera and display on the same car. This ''safety Truck''system also has a separate Night mode which will display an infrared image of the road on the rear-mounted LCD screens. See-through systems have been designed by other carmakers too. Toyota, for example, used retro-reflective materials and video cameras to make the rear seat and boot of the Toyota Prius “invisible”, helping improve parking and reversing. Jaguar has also built a smart Windscreen that employs a 360-degree camera arrangement to eliminate blind spots, and allowing for an X-ray-like vision from the driver’s seat. The Samsung Electronics ''safety Truck is still being worked on and the company has not revealed any information on when this technology will be commercialised. Courtesy: Autocar

Jun 29, 2015
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New 2016 Mini Clubman unveiled

Mini takes the wraps off the 2016 Clubman – the largest offering from the car maker yet. Subsequent to the unveil of the Clubman Concept at the Geneva Motor Show last year, Mini has finally taken the wraps off the 2016 Clubman. So far the Countryman was the largest model in Mini’s product portfolio, but thanks to the larger dimensions, the new Clubman now takes the title. The new kid on the block is 4,253mm long and 1,800mm wide making it 158mm longer and 10mm wider than its sibling in discussion. In fact, it is also fairly larger than its predecessor. But on the flipside, the increase in size has also led to a hike in the weight of 155kg. In the looks department, the new Clubman sticks to Mini’s new design philosophy that we have already seen on the new-generation models. Up front the Clubman gets a large single-unit grille that is complimented by those massive circular headlamps on either side. As is typical of all Mini designs, the Clubman too gets a neatly rounded body. At the back the taillights have now been placed horizontally instead of the previous vertical ones. And then of course, unlike the previous generation model, the Clubman now has 6 doors with two doors on either side at the back. With a large round console in the centre that houses the infotainment system and the signature BMW rotary dials between the front two seats, the Clubman’s dashboard is quite similar to the other Mini models on sale currently. Needless to say, with the increase in the overall size, the space on the inside has been improved too. The new Clubman is expected to be powered by a 3-pot 1.5-litre gasoline unit that makes close to 135PS of power and 220Nm of torque. The Clubman is also likely to be offered with 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel unit and a more powerful 2.0-litre petrol unit as well. Aside from all these engine options, a Clubman S John Cooper Works also might introduced later. As of now Mini only sells the Cooper and the Countryman in India and it seems unlikely that the 2016 Mini Clubman will make to our shores soon. But then with the pace at which the market is opening up to new products, things might just change by the time BMW plans to bring it here. Courtesy: Zigwheels

Jun 27, 2015
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Jaguar F-Pace Upcoming SUV Teased

With a video released online, the UK based car manufacturer reveals its plans of bringing in the new Jaguar F-Pace luxury SUV With the demand for SUVs constantly on the rise, manufacturers are adding more models to their portfolio in this class. Hyundai is set to bring in the compact SUV Creta and Chevrolet is testing the Trailblazer in India. Meanwhile, the story is quite similar for Luxury car makers in the international market including traditional sports car makers like Lamborghini. Now even Jaguar seems to be working on a new SUV, which it has christened as the Jaguar F-Pace. What was first revealed as the CX-17 concept has finally taken shape in the form of the Jaguar F-Pace and the luxury car maker is expected to debut it at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show which is just three months away. But before the official unveil; Jaguar has released a teaser video of its upcoming SUV online which has kicked up a Storm in the brand aficionados. The video shows Director of Design, Ian Callum working his magic on a canvas alongside a montage showcasing the car and some of its details. Needless to say, that the Jaguar F-Pace will sport the same design language as the rest of the Jaguar models. Up front it has that long bonnet with its creases leading into the Jaguar family grille. The sleek headlights too have Jaguar written all over it. From the back the new Jaguar F-Pace luxury SUV flaunts a Coupe like design and gains its inspiration from the F-Type. Jaguar is now venturing in to it''s sibling - Land Rover''s territory by entering the SUV space, and might even be a bit late for the party, especially considering that its rivals Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have been in the market for quite some time now. Keeping these factors in mind, Jaguar is expected to make the F-Pace luxury SUV an unbeatable package. Courtesy: Zigwheels

Jun 27, 2015
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Aston Martin DB9 GT unveiled

Aston Martin has revealed the DB9 GT which will make its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This will be the last iteration of the DB9, before it gets replaced by an all-new Best UK Replica Watches for Sale,Buy Fake Watches Shop Online model to be released in 2017. The DB9 GT is expected to go on sale globally from September. The DB9 GT is powered by a 540bhp 5.9-litre V12 engine. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Aston Martin claims the DB9 GT can reach 100kph from rest in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 295kph. The DB9 GT weighs 1,785kg and 1,890kg in open-top Volante form. Described by Aston''s product development boss Ian Minards as “the very best of what DB9 can be”, the car gets a double wishbone suspension at the front and rear. Drivers can choose between Normal, Sport and Track driving modes via the car’s adaptive damping set-up. The GT receives new badges on its exterior, although the most striking modification is its black front splitter and rear diffuser. Carbon-fibre tail inserts and new 20-inch alloy wheels are included in this model. Inside, the DB9 GT gets a new generation of Aston Martin’s infotainment system. The AMi II touch-sensitive set-up features redesigned menus and more personalisation options. The car’s leather seats now carry the GT badging, and the steering wheel is clad in Alcantara. Interior options include a range of trims and finishes for the centre console, as well as a steering wheel inspired by the One-77. Apart from revealing the DB9 GT, Aston Martin has also introduced some changes in the Vantage and Rapide. Vantage models get a new touch-sensitive centre console and the Vantage S and Rapide S get the firm’s AMi II infotainment system. Courtesy: Autocar

Jun 26, 2015
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