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Hydrogen-powered Aston Martin Rapide S race car. (Aston Martin)
Hydrogen-powered Aston Martin Rapide S race car. (Aston Martin)

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Hydrogen-powered Aston Martin to race at Nurburgring Add to ...

Aston Martin will seek to run the first race car to attempt a zero CO2 lap in a mainstream international car race, when it lines up a gasoline and hydrogen-powered Rapide S hybrid to the starting line of next month’s 24 hour sports car race at Nurburgring.

Based on the firm’s recently released Rapide S four-door, the car can run on pure gasoline, pure gaseous hydrogen, or a blend of both. In pure hydrogen mode, Aston Martin and the hybrid system’s developer, Alset Global, aim to show that a zero emissions lap of the Nordschleife is possible while emitting only water from the exhaust.

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The car comes as a bit of a shock, as it’s the first time Aston Martin has publicly confirmed that it is researching hydrogen in its road cars in any capacity, even though it has not committed to actually coming to market with a gasoline-hydrogen gas-powered hybrid. Still, there were hints in that direction, namely from long-time AM CEO, Ulrich Bez.

“As we celebrate our centenary in 2013 and look back on a century of excitement, innovation and style, it’s also the perfect time to look to the future with this astonishing race car,” said Bez in announcing the race car. “Aston Martin has a strong track record of innovation and, with our superb history of competition and testing at the Nurburgring, it is only right that we showcase this amazing new technology at this year’s 24-hour race.”

Inaugural Canadian eco award fraught with controversy

The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid won the inaugural Canadian Green Car award, narrowly beating out the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid, in a clean sweep of regular, non-plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada presented the award at the Green Living Show in Toronto, in co-operation with the show’s organizer, Green Living Enterprises. The results for all 15 competitors are posted on AJAC’s website at ajac.ca, and have been heavily criticized by fans and owners of battery electric cars especially, which fared poorly, given the award’s inclusion of range and recharge times as key features of the entrants’ powertrains.

“We are extremely proud that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid has been honoured by our country’s top automotive journalists as the recipient of the inaugural Canadian Green Car Award,” said Steve Ross, Ford of Canada’s product marketing manager, sustainability and electrification. “The Fusion Hybrid is an important vehicle in the Ford line-up.”

The Fusion Hybrid, which finished with 793 points, was among five finalists also on display at the Green Living Show, which ended last Sunday. The Sonata Hybrid finished with 785 points, followed by the VW Jetta Turbo Hybrid (777). The C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid’s zero emissions range of about 36 kilometres in all-electric mode and minimal price increase over the regular C-Max Hybrid – after provincial rebates in Ontario and Quebec especially – couldn’t lift it onto the podium, with 766 points. Mazda’s highly efficient Mazda3 SkyActiv (755) compact was the only non-hybrid car among the five finalists.

The awards and its voters also assessed market potential, taking into account factors such as availability, build quality, driving experience, overall features, general consumer appeal and price. Peter Gorrie, chair of the awards, admitted when the finalist list was released that these latter criteria likely prevented any battery-electric vehicles from making the finalist list.

“The judges’ scoring was based on real-world impact and market acceptability, not just technological wizardry,” said Gorrie, in defending the finalists on AJAC’s Facebook page. “It is a debate: which is greener, selling 1,000 Leafs and Volts, which will displace some of the emissions from regular cars, or 100,000 highly efficient fuel burners, which will displace, in total, far more emissions?”

EV owners and advocates loudly questioned this argument in critiques online and through various social media. Such vehicles put out zero local emissions and little greenhouse gas emissions, even from the electricity plants in the three provinces where they’re most popular – Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. They therefore questioned whether presenting a Green Car award to a vehicle that uses fossil fuels – even in lower amounts, in a vehicle with mainstream appeal – was a worthwhile environmental exercise.

“The real travesty here is people may believe that these (finalist) vehicles are the greenest choices available,” wrote Leaf owner Kelly Carmichael on the AJAC page.

The new award was announced at the Canadian International Auto Show in February and AJAC co-ordinated online voting by auto writers across the country with expertise and an interest in green car technology.

Save some green on hybrid deals

Canadian auto pricing site unhaggle.com has published the five best deals on 2013 hybrid vehicles it has seen for April, with manufacturer discounts of up to $9,000 for some models, while at least one Cadillac Escalade Hybrid buyer on the site combined a $7,000 manufacturer credit with similar dealer rebates to net a total discount of more than $14,000.

That $14,080 total discount was the best hybrid deal it saw so far this month, the site reported recently, with cash buyers of the Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab Hybrid eligible for the highest manufacturer incentive of $9,000. That manufacturer rebate drops to seven grand if one opts for the zero per cent financing for up to six years, with one buyer reporting a total discount of $13,385 on this fuel-efficient pickup.

The next largest manufacturer and total discounts, respectively, were on the 2013 Lexus GS 450h ($5,000 for cash buyers; $9,249 reported), the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($4,000; or $6,034) followed by the Toyota Prius with Plus package ($2,000, or $3,287).

Bugatti sets top-down speed record

Upon setting a world record for fastest production convertible, established with the top down but windows up, Volkswagen über-brand Bugatti will sell eight special commemorative editions of its Veyron Super Sport roadster for a flabbergasting €1.99-million – plus tax.

The special Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse World Record Car (WRC) will debut at the Shanghai motor show that opens this week, after a “regular” 1,200 bhp Veyron GS Vitesse lapped the VW Group’s massive oval at its Ehra-Lessien proving grounds at 408.84 km/h. The mark was validated by TÜV, the German organization for Technical Inspection and Certification, after the Guinness Book of World Records validated the hardtop version of this car at 431 km/h in 2010.

That Guinness record was brought into question in the past two weeks when it came out that the coupe comes with electronic speed limiters that restricts it to 415 km/h, limiters that were removed for its test. But Guinness confirmed that this restrictor, does not constitute a change to “the fundamental design of the car or its engine.”

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