Archive for the ‘Concept’ Category





On Friday I was treated to an update by the MD of Renault Ireland Mr. Eric Basset concerning the state of play when it comes to the Zero Emission future. As I wrote before on these pages the objective of the Renault project is “affordability” in the electric future of automobiles. To that end Mr. Basset announced the pricing for both the commercial Kangoo and the Fluence.

Back in July this year I got to test both cars which at the time were still prototypes and I was left with the feeling that I’d just seen the future of the city car, well today I see the future of electric transport and it comes from France.

Renault have decided to make a bold move of leasing the batteries that power all of the models, which means you buy the car and rent the batteries, this also means as new batteries come on stream you’ll be able to get upgrades, at the end of the battery life when it needs to be recycled Renault will look after that too.

The pricing for the Fluence is going to be very good, remember that the Fluence ZE is the same car that you see on the roads in Ireland at the moment, the electric version is to be priced around the same level as the current diesel model, it goes like this

RRP: €26,620, the Government will give €5,000 towards the purchase which makes it €21,620 which puts a couple of hundred Euro over the price of the mid range Fluence dynamique diesel. The leasing of the battery will cost €72 per month with a limit of 15,000kms, if you add to that the cost of charging the battery the total cost of ownership should work out the same as a diesel variant.

The Kangoo ZE is €20,000 exc VAT, again the government will give an incentive making the van €15,870, the same lease teems apply on the battery.

It’s a new method for selling a car, it’s all new even the car. It’s the intention of Renault to become a one stop shop even being able to sell insurance.

I have always derided EV cars on two fronts, the first was the purchase price, all of them are far more expensive than their alternative petrol model but Renault has addressed this with the affordability for everyone, the other problem was range.

The range of these cars is no better than anyone else, but Renault unlike every other manufacturer are bit researching and making the batteries, the leasing of the batter makes a lot of sense as currently to purchase one of these battery units runs to some €10,000 or more. Plus batter technology is moving so fast that if you bought a Nissan Leaf right now that can do 180kms and in twelve months time a new battery comes out that can make the Leaf do 250kms, where does that leave you?

With Renault you lease the battery, so when a better one comes along you just head to a Renault dealer and get your battery swapped, plus your old one gets recycled.

There will be 1500 charging stations to be installed country wide and mapping technology is being researched that will allow you to no only plan your route via the charging stations but will tell you if the stations are in use.

Such is the interest in the Renaults that more staff is coming on board to deal with the volume of enquiries, there’s two more models to come yet, the two seat and four wheel Twizzy along with the Zoe a medium sized hatchback that will be unveiled in Geneva this coming March.

I really do thing Renault have hit the nail on the head with the complete package for EV ownership, expect to see lots of these cars on the roads of Ireland.







An animated demonstration of the unique Wankel...

Image via Wikipedia

The Romper 1958

Did you know that when Mazda was founded it was called Toyo Cork Kogyo Co, and that it made cork-based products, it wasn’t until 1931 that a little 3 wheeled truck rolled off the production line in Hiroshima?

Mazda in one form or another has been around longer than television, hearing aids, Aerosol sprays and even the Iron Lung, during the 1920’s Henry Ford perfected mass production and thereby managed to sell some 15 million Model-T’s. The illegal bars called “Speak easiest” were big in America along with Al Capone, and in 1927 the world’s first talking pictures were shown to an amazed audience.

In 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, ending World War II, Mazda donated part of its headquarters to the Hiroshima prefecture to help get over this mass extermination of human life.

In 1958 Mazda introduced the Mazda Romper, a 4-wheel light truck. 1960 Mazda brings out its first 2 door passenger car called the R360 Coupe (not a very catchy name), 1961 Mazda buys the patent for an alternative engine concept invented by German Felix Wankel: this engine uses combustion to spin a flat disc, rather than move a piston up and down, not until 1967 did Mazda develop the Wankel concept into a valid alternative engine and launches its first rotary-engine car, the Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S.

In 1977 the Mazda Familia/323 launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show, in 1979 Ford and Mazda enter into, what Mazda call, a capital tie up.

In 1980 Mazda launches front-wheel drive (FWD) Familia/323 in 1980. It wins Japanese Car of the Year and in ’84 Company is officially renamed as Mazda Motor Corporation.

The 90’s brought us the now iconic MX 5 and the first official imported Mazda MX-5s are delivered to private customers in Europe. Mazda 787B No.55 wins the Le Mans 24-Hour Endurance Race claiming the first victory for a Japanese automobile and the rotary engine in ’91.

2002 brought us the Zoom-Zoom message, in the same decade we started to see the Mazda 6, 2004 and the 700,000th MX 5 rolls off the production line in Hiroshima.

In 2008 the Mazda 2 wins car of the year, and we get to see the next generation of the Mazda 3. Launch of Mazda’s unique i-stop system (on Mazda3) that uses the engine’s remaining combustion energy to restart twice as fast as competitor systems in 2009.

Presentation of the Sky Concept, next-generation power trains in 2009 as well with global roll-out starting in 2011 that use 15 to 20% less fuel at the same levels of driving fun Mazda is known for.

Mazda has seen it all, I’ll never forget the desire I had for the 323F as a young man, I always wanted one, and I even had a poster of it on my wall. The RX7 and RX8 are both still cars I’d love to own, I’d even get to say Wankel.

For me the crowning glory of the Mazda range has always been the MX5, no other car goes like it, or drives quite the same. It’s a car that can put a smile on your face every time you turn the key, hard top, soft top; flip up lights it’s had everything. There’s still many of the older models on the road today and tonnes of spare parts, you should have a go in one, even the basic ones are a hoot to drive.

Mazda continue to bring us alternative looking cars to the boring looking Euro-boxes, I mean look at the current line up that Mazda have, somewhere between a Manga cartoon and Transformers, while still being solid and reliable.

Happy Birthday Mazda, lets hope you keep giving us the Zoom-Zoom factor.

For more information on the current line up have a look at

Car Sales

The BMW 5 series has become the top selling car in Ireland, yes the luxury diesel has beaten the odds and out sold the Yaris, Shane Teskey Director of said that “With 349 vehicles registered last month (all of them diesel) the 5 Series outsold the runner up (Toyota’s Yaris) by 151 units. The figure represents an impressive 10% of all diesel cars registered in Ireland in August and proves that luxury cars are still on the shopping list for Irish car buyers.”

Other interesting statistics for last month include:

  • 5,315 New Cars were registered in August – up dramatically on last years August total of 2,347
  • The Top Selling Make for August was Toyota with 687 registrations
  • Over 51% of registrations were in Band B continuing the trend of eco-friendly motoring
  • Over 68% of cars registered were Diesel models
  • Black and Silver are still the most popular colours with 26% and 24% of registrations respectively
  • The leading county for registrations was Dublin with 1,987 registrations (37%) with Leitrim recording just 26 (0.5%) new cars sold.

You can get all the stats from


The lid has been lifted on the DS4, the tall crossover type car will be shown at the Paris Motor show, if you’re not going to that here’s some pictures.


The Zoe

I got up this morning knowing that I would have to go along to the ZE (Zero Emission) road show that Renault was putting on. Mostly these kind of shows are about a car company blowing its own trumpet and saying that the car they are about to bring out is the best thing since Christopher Columbus discovered America, or they just try to “sell” their product to the waiting press. What I got was something completely different, Renault were genuinely proud of the products that were on display, it was like they had all helped bring this range of cars to the Irish road and I was about to drive their little babies.

It takes a monumental effort to bring one car to the road, but it takes real passion and dedication to bring an entire range out, and then equip them all with electric engines, you have to admire a company willing to take a plunge like that, nonetheless Renault are well on the way to achieving just that.

While most other car companies are bringing out just one electric or hybrid car Renault are going for 4 of them with plans for more. It’s a rather large gamble, the Renault – Nissan Alliance are investing 4 billion into the zero emissions programme, there are 1000 staff at Renault and another 1000 at Nissan working solely on electric vehicles.

Affordability is the key word of the day, “Renault’s  aim  is  to  market  electric vehicles  at  prices  comparable  with  those  of  a  diesel-powered  car  of  an equivalent size and equipment level. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of electric vehicles will be similar to that of internal combustion-engined vehicles from launch.” Inside of 18 months Renault aim to have the entire infrastructure in place that’s needed to run electric cars, this includes an agreement with ESB for charging stations, workshops and spare batteries.

The Fluence

Of course driving the car will take a bit more planning than driving its fossil fuel alternative, there’s the little matter of recharging the batteries. The range of the Fluence and Kangoo is 160kms, with passengers and things in the boot that will be less just as it is for any car, the more weight you carry the worse the MPG. There will be 3 ways to get a full tank of electricity. Standard charge of 6-8 hours, using a fast charge station will get an 80% charge in 20 minutes and the ability to swap your empty battery for a full one in 3 minutes, you won’t need a set of spanners, your dealer will look after that.

After a short speech given by the charismatic Eric Basset the MD of Renault Ireland we were let loose with the cars, we were reminded that these are prototypes and are worth a million Euro each. Trying not to think about crashing a million Euro I hopped into the drivers seat of the Fluence ZE, the first thing I noticed was that there were no lights, bells or screens telling you where the power is coming from, it’s just an automatic car, it even has a standard key. Foot on the brake, turn the key and…..nothing, some of the dials moved on the dash but no noise, an eerie silence so I selected D, let my foot off the brake and the car rolled forward. This being an electric car there is only two gears, forward and reverse the technical name for the transmission is direct drive, with reducer and forward/reverse inverter. The motor produces 70kw/95hp with 226nm of torque, it may not sound like much but the power is there all the time, no waiting to get the revs up, if you push the accelerator to the floor you get all the power all the time. Even though it can rev up to 11,000rpm there’s just a faint whirr of a fan while the speed climbs constantly, when you lift off the batteries begin recharging, there’s a small dial on the dashboard telling you if you’re using power or recharging, on the road it feels like a Renault, soft and comfortable even with the 250kg battery in the back, which will be moved under the floor for the production model which means a 300ltr boot. It’s just like any saloon car to drive, and that’s the key, this is a real car a normal car, not a gimmick it’s a car you can use every day for albeit short journeys

The Kangoo van was also available for driving; it looked just like any Kangoo van on sale now except for the charging port on the front of the car. Reversing it was a little scary because the car makes no noise you become acutely aware of anyone standing or walking behind the van they won’t hear you moving. Strange as it may seem, Renault are researching sounds that can be used when the cars are going less than 70kph, there is talk of an MP3 player being put in so you can choose your own sounds but I doubt that will happen, much more likely is car sounds being played through a speaker. The batteries are already under the floor of the Kangoo the cargo space is between 3 and 3.5 meters cubed and it can carry 650kg.

There are two more cars in the range, The Zoe which will be a hatchback of similar size to the current Clio with a range of 200kms, finally the weird looking Twizy which is going to be an urban car, by the way the pictures you see here of the Twizy is the finished article, the Zoe will look different but the basic shape will remain, both of them will be released in 2012.

There’s still a huge amount of work for Renault to do before you’ll see these cars in the showrooms, but they seem committed to the project with good firm dates in mind. Renault are set to produce a range of electric cars for every taste, they are really trying hard to cover all the bases. What was a niche market Renault are now opening up to be a main stream segment, this is Renault in full attack mode and it’s great to see. Expect to hear a lot more about Renault’s electric future in the coming months, until then you can read the full Renault ZE Press release and get all the latest info from the ZE website There’s loads more pictures here



Aston Martin Cygnet concept

Posted: July 13, 2010 by smokerspack in Car news, Concept, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Morning people, after watching the rather excellent episode of Topgear on Sunday I got some emails asking about the Cygnet piece the lads did in the news. So after blasting a couple of emails off here’s the details.

Aston has to bring down the Co2 levels of their cars, and as Aston don’t really do anything but V12 or V8 engines they have decided to make the Cygnet, there’s no details of the engine in this car yet but you can bet there won’t be a V8 howl coming out if it, it will be a hybrid or electric low Co2 engine of some kind.

Aston Martin Chief Executive, Dr Ulrich Bez says “Many of our customers have a need for a small car for urban and city use,” in other words if you own a DB9 you need a Cygnet so you can park in a city, he continues “The Cygnet Concept brings intelligence, innovation and artistry to the small car market. The Cygnet Concept represents the natural choice for those customers looking for a premium commuter car.” “Our past, our future and our backbone will always remain sports cars, but the Cygnet Concept will support this by offering our customers a greater degree of freedom in the urban context.”

In a press release Aston say: As a luxury commuter car that can slip easily and unobtrusively into the city, the Cygnet Concept is a highly intelligent solution to urban mobility. Using tried and tested technology, together with Aston Martin’s acclaimed levels of personalisation and customisation, material quality, craft skill and tactile delight, the Cygnet Concept is innovative and forward-thinking, a genuine solution for future mobility and a natural partner for Aston Martin’s line-up of acclaimed luxury sports cars.

It’s not going to be very unobtrusive now is it. More pictures below…have a good day folks

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