Friday, August 28, 2009

August 2009 Dream Car of the Month - Noble M12

Noble Automotive Ltd. was established in the UK in 1999 by Lee Noble with the goal of producing low volume sports cars that would compete performance wise with much more expensive models from other companies. They succeeded.

Their second model was called the M12 and was a 2 door mid engine 2 seat sportscar that was originally planned as a hardtop and convertible however no convertible was ever produced. All M12s were powered by some form of modified Ford Duratec V6 engines in various states of tune and with boost. The M12 GTO was powered by a 2.5L turbo Duratec that produced 310HP and the M12 GTO-3R featured a 352HP 3.0L turbo Duratec engine.

The body of the M12 is a fiberglass composite atop of a full steel tubular frame and integrated roll cage. This created a very rigid and light car with an amazing power to weight ratio. The body shell is manufactured by Hi-Tech Automotive of Port Elizabeth, South Africa and shipped to Noble in England where the engines and suspensions are added and the car completed. Because of the stiffness of the chassis, there were no anti-roll bars used in the suspension which allowed for great handling on the track and some comfort on the road.

Noble M400

In 2004 Noble released the M400 which was an evolution of the M12 and featured a 3.0L Twin Turbo Duratec V6 producing 425HP/390TQ and was able to hit 60mph in around 3.5 seconds. In order to reach those power numbers, some modifications to the Ford powerplant were required including better cams, forged pistons, oil coolers and of course two intercooled turbos. Transferring the power to the ground is a Getrag 6 speed manual transaxle with a Quaife differential. The car's top speed is around 185MPH and max conering Gs have exceeded 1.4. This amazing performance is possible due to the car's very light weight of around 2337lbs.

Noble has now moved their focus on to new models the M15 and M600 which are targeted to take the performance and price up a notch. Their performance target with the M600, which will feature a twin turbo Volvo V8 with 630HP, is the Ferrari F40.

The M12/M400 however are not dead. Noble sold the rights to the M400 to a US company, 1G racing from Ohio. 1G was originally an importer of Noble cars to the US. Since the cars were not legal for sale in the US, 1G bought the bodies and engines separately and sold them to US customers as kit cars to get around local laws regarding production car crash testing and emissions. The have now changed their name to Rossion Automotive and have began manufacturing a modified M400 called the Rossion Q1 that maintains the performance of the M400 but adds luxury to the car to bring it up to the standards of modern sportscars.

Rossion Q1

The Q1 sports a 450HP/400TQ 3.0L Duratec and will blast to 60mph in about 3.3 seconds. It also uses a redesigned body that develops more downforce and is more aerodynamic than the original M400. The bodies are still manufactured in South Africa and they are shipped to Rossion for completion of the car. Prices for the new Rossion Q1 are over $100,00 US.

I can't wait to win the lottery. So many cars to buy and this one would definitely make the list.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GM announces Volt's mileage rating

GM announced today that the Chevy Volt has been evaluated by the EPA and has received a rating of 230MPG! That's simply amazing.

At about $40,000, the first generation Volt won't be cheap but combining government incentives with increasing gas prices, you just may come out ahead.

If this car really delivers, GM may have hit a home run just when they need it most.

Here is the AP article:

WARREN, Mich. – General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car should get 230 miles per gallon of gasoline in city driving, more than four times the mileage of the current champion, the Toyota Prius.

The Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles. The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.

GM came up with the 230-mile figure in early tests using draft guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended range electric vehicles, said Tony Posawatz, GM's vehicle line director for the Volt.

If the figure is confirmed by the EPA, which does the tests for the mileage posted on new car door stickers, the Volt would be the first car to exceed triple-digit gas mileage, Posawatz said.

GM has produced about 30 Volts so far and is making 10 a week, CEO Fritz Henderson said during a presentation of the vehicle at the company's technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren.

Henderson said charging the volt will cost about 40 cents a day.

"The EPA labels can and will be a game changer for us," he said.

Most automakers are working similar plug-in designs, but GM could be the leader with the Volt, which is due in showrooms late in 2010.

Toyota's Prius, the most efficient car now sold in the U.S., gets 48 miles per gallon of gas. It is a gas-electric hybrid that runs on a small internal combustion engine assisted by a battery-powered electric motor to save gasoline.

The first-generation Volt is expected to cost near $40,000, making it cost-prohibitive to many people even if gasoline returns to $4 per gallon. The price is expected to drop with future generations of the Volt, but GM has said government tax credits and the savings on fuel could make it cost-effective, especially at 230 miles per gallon.

"We get a little cautious about trying to forecast what fuel prices will do," Posawatz said. "We achieved this number and if fuel prices go up, it certainly does get more attractive even in the near-term generation," he said.

Figures for the Volt's highway and combined city/highway mileage have not yet been calculated, Posawatz said. The combined mileage will be in the triple digits as well, he said, but both combined and highway will be worse than city because the engine runs more on longer highway trips.

The EPA guidelines, developed with input from automakers, figure that cars like the Volt will travel more on straight electricity in the city than on the highway. If a person drives the Volt less than 40 miles, in theory they could go without using gasoline.

The mileage figure could vary as the guidelines are refined and the Volt gets further along in the manufacturing process, Posawatz said.

GM is nearly halfway through building about 80 Volts that will look and behave like the production model, and testing is running on schedule, Posawatz said.

Two critical areas, battery life and the electronic switching between battery and engine power, are still being refined, but the car is on schedule to reach showrooms late in 2010, he said.

GM is simulating tests to make sure the new lithium-ion batteries last 10 years, Posawatz said.

"We're further along, but we're still quite a ways from home," he said. "We're developing quite a knowledge base on all this stuff. Our confidence is growing."

The other area of new technology, switching between battery and engine power, is proceeding well, he said, with engineers just fine-tuning the operations.

"We're very pleased with the transition from when it's driving EV (electric vehicle) to when the engine and generator kick in," he said,

GM also is finishing work on the power cord, which will be durable enough that it can survive being run over by the car. The Volt, he said, will have software on board so it can be programmed to begin and end charging during off-peak electrical use hours.

Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG are all developing plug-ins and electric cars, and Toyota Motor Corp. is working on a plug-in version of its gas-electric hybrid system. Nissan Motor Co. announced last month that it would begin selling an electric vehicle in Japan and the U.S. next year.