Green Update–>Quiet Cars, 1 Series Hybrid, Benz Bash, GM, and AMP

November 24th, 2009

BMW 1 Series HybridBefore we get into the techy stuff, a report from Japan claims that hybrids and electrics are too quiet, so the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is considering whether to put beepers on the cars to keep pedestrians safe.

The policy would require that when vehicles are running at speeds less than 20 kilometers per hour that they activate a beeping noise that is similar to the sound of the engine. The policy would not allow the sound to be musical or a chime and would permit the driver to temporarily disable the beeping sound.

Too bad, we were hoping for musical chimes, filling the streets of Tokyo with irritating car music. BTW, how can a beeping noise sound like an engine? Only in Japan.

A new BMW 1 Series hybrid (above) is now testing in Germany. The gas-engine version has been around for a while, and the hybrid (so far) looks the same: like a car out of the 1930s. Details here. The company is going whole hog, if you will, on hybrids, with the ActiveHybrid X6 and the 7 Series, both of which we looked at. BMW is not likely, we imagine, to produce the car in this form, and it won’t come to the U.S. until 2011 or 2012 in any case. So there is still hope.

Mercedes F-CellMercedes will show the F-cell hydrogen electric at the L.A. Auto Show on December 4. Built on the B-Class platform, this is an entirely new car for Benz, with zero emissions of course, and very little prospect of being widely available anytime soon. However, there will be 200 production F-Cell cars in the U.S. and Europe made available to lease customers for “real-life testing.”

2010 Mercedes S400 HybridBenz has had the S400 Hybrid for sale in the U.S. for a while now, and you know how we feel about overpriced, overweight cars like this. But this news just in from Autoweek has laid us out. They reported on an event in Manhattan called Eco-luxe whose purpose was to bring journalists to a fancy restaurant to consort with green marketers selling everything from “quintuple-filtered vodka made in low-landfill facilities to carcinogen-free water bottles…. Guests who wanted test drives held off on cocktails before sampling the rides,” thank God, which included the S400 Hybrid.

GM, it appears, has not given up on using the so-called two-mode hybrid system, which it developed with Mercedes and Chrysler in 2004. This technology combines “an electric continuously variable transmission (eCVT) with two electric motors, four fixed gears, various clutches and planetary gearsets, heavy-duty electronics, and originally, a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.” The Volt, as you know, will use lithium-ion batteries, but this complex system was developed for trucks, buses, and heavy-duty applications in which it works well. One wonders what kind of vehicles GM envisions for it in the future.

Finally, AMP=D showed a marvelous ’33 Ford electrified hotrod coupe at SEMA 2009, demonstrating that the good ol’ hotrod spirit is alive and well. The crew took a high-torque (660-lb-ft) motor designed for a bus, dropped it into this well-executed fiberglass ’33, and they project 0-60 mph in 3 seconds. Its range is 100 miles. Have a nice day.

Should hybrids and electrics require noisemakers? Are pedestrians in danger? Why or why not?

—jgoods

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