The world’s first production line for fuel cell powerplants was unveiled last week by Mercedes-Benz, in Burnaby, B.C.
The first fuel cell stack came down the line earlier this month, said Mercedes-Benz Canada last week, at the official opening ceremonies of the 3,300-square-metre research and manufacturing plant. This will be where the drivetrains of all Mercedes-Benz fuel cell vehicles will originate, starting with the B-Class Fuel Cell scheduled to go on sale in 2015.
Initial employment is set at 50 people, with plans to grow “as necessary based on future activities,” said a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson this week. The research and production centre will therefore likely do more research and development work over the next two years than manufacturing, although test units and research fleet vehicles will be produced there as well. Corporate parent Daimler sent test fleets of 100 Smart fortwo EVs to various cities in anticipation of its all-electric Smart fortwo Electric Drive, which will go on sale in the spring of 2013 in Canada.
Daimler is working hard to take a leadership position in the advanced green vehicle space, with the opening of this facility, an expanded car2go car-sharing service launching this weekend in Toronto and in Calgary July 21, the upcoming Smart EV, and the Smart ebike that will be available in mid-July at Smart retailers across the country.
The Smart ebike uses a 250-watt electric motor to provide an electric “boost” to your pedalling. The battery can be recharged by leg power, through regenerative braking, or by removing it from the bike and plugging it in until full, which can provide up to 100 km of boosted riding, according to the company.
This boost came in handy on even slightly uphill roads and in strong headwinds during a brief test ride recently. Just be sure to hang on tight with the boost set at the highest level, as the $3,240 ebike’s healthy ‘oomph’ can snap your head back more smartly than the original Smart four-wheeler.
The upcoming Smart EV two-seater, once it arrives in both coupe and convertible models next spring, will arguably be a much better value, at least if you live in the EV rebate provinces of Ontario (max $8,500), Quebec ($8,000) or B.C. ($5,000). At a starting MSRP of $26,990 and $29,990 respectively, they will become the lowest priced plug-in cars available in Canada, and competitive price-wise with their premium gas-fueled Smart counterparts.
With a range of up to 145 km, a top speed of more than 120 km/h, and a post-rebate starting price in Ontario of $18,490, this would be the first modern EV available for less than $20,000 (before taxes, options and freight) anywhere in the country. A similarly equipped 2013 Smart fortwo gas coupe starts at $17,500, and even if you add in a handy charging station to the EV’s price for $1,000-$2,000 installed, the Smart EV will easily pay you back, in dollars and performance: with five extra horses, 28 extra lb-ft of torque, silent operation and no lurching transmission.
It’s not surprising that Mercedes-Benz Canada released the pricing so early, even though it’s rare that any car maker announces prices in Canada this far away from the vehicle’s arrival date. Smart dealers began taking orders for the EV this month, and the low pricing has raised eyebrows of admiration in EV circles across the country.
Goodwood showcases future sports cars
This weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed will see a number of auto makers showcasing – at speed, not just on a stand – their future sports cars, either confirmed or contemplated. The confirmed ones include Bentley’s Continental GT Speed, its fastest car ever, while the contemplated ones include Infiniti’s sexy Emerg-E concept, and a race-ready Mazda MX-5 variant.
The Continental GT Speed coupe will put out 616 hp from its massive 12-cylinder engine, powering it up to a reported 329 km/h, with a 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.2 seconds, says Bentley. The four-seat, all-wheel drive two-door will start deliveries in October, for a price that, well, likely won’t be too far from its lofty top speed.
Infiniti lists the svelte mid-engine Emerg-E as a future vehicle on its consumer website, though a Nissan Canada official insisted that it should be listed as a concept. “There are absolutely no plans to build it, that I’m aware of,” wrote Didier Marsaud, the firm’s senior corporate communications manager, in an e-mail this week. The 402 hp Emerg-E is a mid-engine plug-in hybrid, with an electric motor at each rear wheel that allows it to travel on electricity for about 50 km before a three-cylinder gas engine starts recharging the batteries.
It will be driven by Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber on July 1 since reigning F1 world champion Sebastien Vettel will drive the super pricey (circa €120,000) FX Vettel edition named in his honour.
Nissan will also attempt a world record top speed run – in a Nissan Leaf! That record will be for driving a car as fast as possible in reverse, where it will attempt to hit its regular 140 km/h top speed in reverse up the famous 1.16-mile hay bale-lined course, run on Lord March’s sprawling estate.
Web site’s 11 best used car bets
U.S. car pricing site Edmunds.com released its Best Used Car list for 2012 recently, and it makes for interesting reading for those in the market for a used car. The list prioritizes reliability, safety, value and availability – based on the assumption that widely available cars will have more supply and therefore cost less than hard to find ones. That availability may vary in Canada, but still, it’s hard to argue with this list:
- Compact Sedan: 2005-2010 Hyundai Elantra
- Midsize Sedan: 2005-2010 Nissan Altima
- Large Sedan: 2006-2010 Hyundai Azera
- Coupe: 2005-2010 BMW 3 Series
- Convertible: 2005-2010 Mazda Miata
- Wagon: 2005-2010 Pontiac Vibe
- Compact SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Honda CR-V
- Midsize SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Ford Explorer
- Large SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Chevrolet Tahoe
- Minivan/Van: 2005-2010 Honda Odyssey
- Compact Truck: 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma
- Large Truck: 2005-2010 Ford F-150
- Luxury: 2005-2010 Infiniti G35/G37
- Hybrid: 2005-2010 Toyota Prius
- Sport Compact: 2005-2010 Subaru Impreza WRX
Two new Minis by early 2013
Mini confirmed this week that two new Minis will be available by early next year: a five-door, two-seat Clubvan work van, and a production version of the Paceman, which is essentially a three-door version of Mini’s Countryman crossover.
Details about the Paceman will only be released in September, said a BMW Canada spokesperson this week, but the Clubvan will be available in November, and will be based on the current Clubman model. But it will lose the driver’s side door as well as black out the rear windows, but will keep the large right-side Clubdoor, as well as wide opening rear doors, for cargo access.
No pricing yet, but the only engine option will be Mini’s familiar base 1.6-litre, 121 hp four.