Monthly Archives: May 2017

Now EV in China

Much noise has been made about the “affordable” Tesla Model 3, but it looks seriously pricey compared to the latest electric car from GM. Dubbed the Baojun E100, it has about 100 miles of range and costs less than the average motorbike when government subsidies are taken into account. The caveat? It’s only available in China.

That’s right, the E100 won’t be showing up in Chevrolet or Buick dealerships anytime soon. It was been developed in conjunction with state-owned SAIC, one of the largest manufacturers in China. GM has been working with SAIC since 2001, selling cars under the Wuling and Baojun brand names. The pairing, known colloquially as SGMW, sold more than 1.5 million cars last year.

Aimed at city dwellers, the E100 is absolutely tiny. It has a 1,600 mm (5.25 ft) wheelbase and is just 1,670 mm (5.48 ft) tall, with a 3.7 meter (12.14 ft) turning radius. Those figures make the SmartForTwo look like a Land Rover Defender, so they should make the car perfect for swinging into small spaces in downtown Shanghai.

Power comes from a single motor making 100 Nm of torque and 29 kW (39 hp), with about 155 km (96 mi) of range on a single charge. There isn’t any mention of fast charging, but the regular wall plug will charge the lithium-ion pack in 7.5 hours. Regenerative braking also helps feed energy back into the battery on the move.

Even though it’s not overly powerful, Baojun says the car will still hit 100 km/h (62 mph) on the highway. After all, even people who live in the city need to get away occasionally. Whether you would actually want to mix it with semi-trailers and big family four-wheel drives that dominate the highways in your tiny EV is another question.

Inside, the two-seat E100 has a 7-inch touchscreen with wireless connectivity. The options list isn’t particularly long, but buyers of the upscale Zhixiang model benefit from keyless entry and a better air filter for the climate control. Given how poor air quality has become in some Chinese cities, the more expensive model might be worth a look. Much like the Model 3, the E100 has its air vents integrated into the dashboard, and there are no conventional instruments in front of the driver.

Bamboozled by stickers on street signs

Amid the rush to develop self-driving cars, there are a few questions that need answering. We’ve been worrying about hackers taking control of our autonomous vehicles, but it turns out they could be spooked by much simpler means. A team of researchers says strategically placed stickers on street signs could be enough to confuse self-driving cars.

The team, which included researchers from the University of Washington, University of Michigan, Stony Brook University and UC Berkeley, needed only a regular printer and a camera to trick the vision systems in their autonomous test subjects.

One method for bamboozling the self-driving cars involved printing a poster and simply sticking it over the existing sign. The result would look slightly off or faded to human eyes, but it caused the cars to misidentify the stop sign as a speed sign from a number of different angles. In the real world, that could obviously have some serious implications.

The other approach taken by researchers was more akin to an abstract art or guerrilla marketing project. The team stuck a few small stickers in strategic places on the stop sign and found they had the same impact as the full-sign coverup. Stickers reading “love” and “hate” made the cars think the stop signs were actually speed signs (or a yield sign, in one case), while smaller stickers placed around the sign had the same effect.

Gray stickers masking a right turn arrow made the test cars think it was a stop sign two-thirds of the time, or an added-lane sign for the rest of the time.

Dominate the auction grid at Monterey Car Week

The rash of supercars we have seen since the turn of the millennium are already beginning to ripen at auction, and no less than 17 modern supercars are expected to sell for more than a million dollars at Monterey Car Week this year.

Monterey has traditionally been the domain of classic cars of yesteryear, but the spending power of the Monterey audience has seen it become the domain of anything rare and exclusive. This year RM-Sothebys is adding selected jewelry to the auction card, recognizing that any large gathering of wealthy individuals is an opportunity to market a myriad of wares.

The most prominent of the supercars of recent years is Ferrari’s La Ferrari, with no less than four of the 949 hp hybrids going to auction with prices ranging from US$4.7 million through to $3.3 million.

That’s considerably above what buyers paid for the car from Ferrari – the buy price was around $1.4 million for each of the 499 LaFerraris built, but to get on the list of prospective buyers, you also needed to be a good Ferrari customer with a string of Ferraris behind you going back a few years. Hundreds of people met those criteria and still missed out.

Getting a LaFerrari, McLaren P1 or Porsche 918 requires qualifying as a good customer which can be a difficult task, and they are so desirable as a badge of success that it has inflated the sell price well beyond the buy price – when the 500th and first publicly available LaFerrari was auctioned by RM-Sothebys last December (2016), it fetched $7.0 million – five times the sale price to Ferrari’s finest clients.