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Renault Master van: first hydrogen prototype unveiled

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HYVIA – a joint venture between the Renault Group and turnkey hydrogen company Plug Power – has revealed a prototype version of the Renault Master van that will go on sale next year.

Featuring a 30kW fuel cell and 33kWh battery, the Renault Master Van H2-Tech offers 12 cubic metres of cargo space and up to 310 miles of range. Refuelling is said to take no more than five minutes, similar to the combustion-engined vehicles of today.

The van contains four pressurised tanks and each will hold 6kg of hydrogen. To complement its creation, HYVIA has also unveiled a prototype refilling station that “will be available to purchase, lease or rent”.

“I am proud to unveil our first hydrogen prototypes,” said David Holderbach, the start-up’s CEO. “HYVIA, it’s about hydrogen mobility solutions for a tailor-made offer to our customers to meet the challenges of hydrogen mobility. HYVIA will be able to deploy its entire ecosystem in all territories and professional fleets for carbon-free mobility. HYVIA is moving fast, bringing together the strengths and skills of two leaders: Renault Group and Plug Power.”

Further prototypes are in the pipeline, based on the Chassis Cab and Citybus variants of the Master van. The former will deliver 19 cubic metres of cargo space and 155 miles of range, while the latter will provide a 186-mile range and capacity for up to 15 passengers.

The prototype van was built at Renault’s plant in Batilly, but the integration of the hydrogen powertrain was conducted by PVI, a subsidiary of the Renault Group. The motor is produced by the Cleon plant and fuel cell assembly will begin at the company’s facility in Flins by the end of 2021.

The hydrogen filling station is designed to showcase what HYVIA calls a “complete hydrogen ecosystem” for production and distribution, with fuel either generated on site using water electrolysis or supplied in bulk via trailers.

Earlier this week, Volvo provided further details on a collaboration with steel manufacturer Ovako that will use excess hydrogen from the firm’s new, low-carbon production processes to power local fuel cell vehicles.

2021 Fiat 500 Red range: prices and specifications revealed

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Fiat has revealed prices and specification details for the upcoming Red editions for the 500 family, created in partnership with charity Red, which was formed to fight global pandemics. 

All models in the 500 family will gain an all-red design. Prices start from £16,435 for the mild-hybrid 500, £22,995 for the electric 500 and £24,125 for the 500X crossover

Each car gains red paint, logos, mirror caps and design cues on the alloy wheels. Inside, they receive a red dashboard, bespoke floor mats and a red aluminium accelerator pedal. 

The seats are made from ocean-recovered recycled plastic. As standard, the driver’s is coloured red and accompanied by black passenger seats, but buyers can choose one uniform colour. 

A black panoramic roof is available for hatchback models, while the Red logo is positioned on both door pillars. 

The entry-level 500 Red (£16,435) is powered by a 70bhp 1.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine. It’s based on the Dolcevita specification and features a chrome-plated front grille, chrome door handles and a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It can be specified with Pasodoble Red, Electroclash Grey, Bossa Nova White or Crossover Black paint.

The electric 500 Red (£25,495) is offered with a choice of two powertrains: 95bhp and a WLTP range of up to 118 miles or 118bhp and a range of up to 199 miles.

Paint colours of Mineral Grey, Ice White and Onyx Black can also be selected.

Prices for the 500X Red start from £24,125. It’s based on the Cross specification with 19in alloy wheels and a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen with sat-nav. 

It’s available as a regular model or with a black soft-top roof. Paint colours available include Passione Red, Fashion Grey, Ice White and Cinema Black, all accompanied by red design cues.

Orders for the 500 Red range are open now.

Each model is provided with a welcome kit, including a hand-sanitiser dispenser and a bespoke key cover. New customers will also receive an email signed by Fiat CEO Olivier François and Red co-founder Bono.

As part of the partnership with Red, Fiat, Jeep and Ram will donate more than $4 million (£2.96m) over the next three years to help fight the global Covid-19 and HIV/AIDS pandemics.

Volvo C40 recharge

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Performance is both silent and violent. The long travel of the C40’s throttle pedal makes it easy to modulate its considerable urge, and the top 25 percent delivers effortlessly rapid real-world pace. Pressing harder proves the twin motor C40 can generate and maintain impressive longitudinal G-loadings up to and beyond legal cruising speeds. A 4.7-sec 0-62mph time makes it one of the quickest accelerating Volvos of all time.

While the C40’s ability to deliver speed is impressive, it is definitely not a sportscar. Suspension settings are soft and there is noticeable pitch, dive and roll when asking it to alter its vectors. The electronic control systems work cleanly to deliver drama-free traction, but the combination of a 2185kg kerbweight and our test car’s all-season Pirelli Scorpion tyres resulted in some lurid understeer on wet surfaces.

Gentle use suits the C40 far better. On smooth Belgian tarmac it felt impressively pliant and refined, with only the start of wind noise from the A-pillars at motorway speeds distracting from the calm of the cabin. The switchable one-pedal operation also worked impressively well, delivering near imperceptible stops.

The C40 has made the switch the Volvo’s Google-based infotainment system, this running a crisply rendered 9-inch portrait touchscreen which looks great. This also controls various dynamic functions, although these need to be found within several layers of sub-menus. Volvo’s determination to simplify controls also means the C40 does without any handbrake button, or any starting procedure beyond getting into it with the key and selecting drive. (Strangely there is a still a blank on the dashboard where the regular XC40 has its engine start button.)

Mini Moke to go electric-only from 2022

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The not-long-revived Mini Moke will become an electric-only model from the start of next year and the company behind the car is claiming it’s the first heritage brand to go fully electric.

Order books for the new EV are open now, with prices starting from £29,150 before taxes and incentives are applied, which amounts to £32,480 in the UK. Customers have until 1 January 2022 to place the final orders for the combustion-engined version.

The electric Moke is available in right- and left-hand drive and power is sent to the rear wheels by a 44bhp motor. As the vehicle weighs only 800kg, that’s enough for 0-34mph (0-55km/h) in 4.5sec and a top speed of 62mph.

The size of the battery hasn’t been disclosed, but the Moke delivers 89 miles of range – enough, the company says, for five trips between Cap-Ferrat and Monaco. Charging takes four hours through the car’s Type 2 charging port.

The Moke measures 3225mm long by 1660mm wide, with a height of 1546mm. Ground clearance is given as 18cm.

“Moke going electric secures the appeal of one of Britain’s best-loved marques for many generations to come,” said Moke International CEO Isobel Dando, a former product lead at Rolls-Royce. “Moke’s marriage of fun, personality and open-air thrills will only be enhanced through the performance and silent running of an electric powertrain. We are proud to write a new chapter in one of British automotive folklore’s best love stories.”

The electric Moke will be built “at a state-of-the-art facility” in the UK operated by the Northamptonshire-based Fablink Group. Moke International says it has half a million square feet of production space at its disposal, employing around 700 people across six UK sites.

The brand was revived in 2017, with the success of various special editions leading to investment that, the firm says, has secured its long-term future.

The company also says it was able to commit to the UK as its manufacturing base thanks to a government grant from the Niche Vehicle Network, as well as the post-Brexit trade deal that “allows UK automotive businesses tariff-free access to EU markets, based on defined rules of origin”.

As such, all of the car’s battery cells, motors and inverters will be sourced from “tier one European suppliers”.

The first deliveries of the electric Moke are expected to take place in the summer of 2022. Customers will be able to personalise their cars “to their exact tastes and sensibilities”, with power steering, regenerative braking and heated windscreens all included as standard.

McLaren Applied appoints Nick Fry as chairman

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Nick Fry has been appointed non-executive chairman of McLaren Applied, the business’s first board-level hiring since it was acquired by Greybull Capital in August.

Fry is the former CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team, has held managing director positions at Aston Martin and Prodrive and is a veteran of various leadership roles at Ford.

McLaren sold its Applied technology division earlier this year as part of a major fundraising push. This also included the sale Woking headquarters for £170 million and a minority stake in the McLaren Racing F1 team fetching £185m. 

An injection of £550m was also compiled from a number of investors, including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, last year.

“Nick is a recognised leader in both motorsport and automotive, having been deeply involved with both growth companies and large, complex organisations,” said Marc Meyohas, managing partner at Greybull Capital. “It’s a clear endorsement of the McLaren Applied strategy and roadmap that we can attract an individual of his calibre and expertise.

“This is going to be an exciting and rewarding period in our development, and Nick is going to be a valuable asset to us all.”

Fry added: “I’m delighted to be joining McLaren Applied. The company has a clear vision to pioneer a better future across its key markets of motorsport, automotive and transportation.

“I’m looking forward to working with this talented team as we launch innovative new technology, including high-performance electric powertrains components, connectivity solutions for public transport and new additions to our market-leading range of motorsport products.

“This is going to be a wonderful adventure helping the company achieve the success it richly deserves.”

Skoda handed control of Volkswagen Group MQB-A0 platform

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Skoda has been given full technical control of Volkswagen Group’s entry-level MQB-A0 platform – the first time it has had responsibility for a cross-brand architecture.

It follows the Czech manufacturer’s development of the specialised MQB-A0-IN platform for the Indian market, where series production of the Skoda Kushaq compact SUV began in June. This will form the basis of other Skoda and Volkswagen products in the future, with a second model due to be revealed later this year.

The existing MQB-A0 platform underpins the Volkswagen Polo and T-Cross, the Audi A1 Sportback, Seat’s Arona and Ibiza and Skoda’s Fabia, Kamiq and Scala.

Giving Skoda control of MQB-A0 is a significant step in Wolfsburg’s plan to use the Czech firm as its lead brand in emerging markets, namely Russia, Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The Volkswagen Group points to independent market studies that suggest deliveries of ICE vehicles will rise by 58% to 7.5 million in these territories over the next 10 years, with a further million expected to be sold in the five-year period thereafter.

Skoda’s experience in entry-level segments will be used to target new models in those growth markets.

“By assuming responsibility for the MQB-A0 global platform, Skoda Auto is in charge of the worldwide development of a platform for the first time,” said Skoda CEO Thomas Schäfer.

“We’re applying our development expertise, taking on even more responsibility within the Volkswagen Group and at the same time strengthening Skoda Auto’s headquarters as an important European development centre for the Group.

“I’m convinced that we will be able to win over many new customers thanks to the MQB-A0 global platform and bolster the Group’s position in the entry-level segments.”

Ralf Brandstätter, chairman of the Volkswagen board of management, added: “Through our comprehensive platform strategy, we achieve economies of scale that enable us to offer our customers worldwide state-of-the-art technology and high quality at competitive prices. Based on this, the Group’s volume brands – Volkswagen and Skoda – can quickly deliver products to customers that are unique in the volume segment.

“As a brand with significant expertise in entry-level mobility, Skoda is ideally positioned to assume worldwide responsibility for the successful further development of the MQB-A0 global platform within the Volkswagen Group. This way we’re creating synergies that will further increase profitability within the volume group.”

Nearly-new buying guide: Lexus IS

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To drive, the IS feels crisp,secure and refined on the move, with the hybrid able to run on electric-only power for short distances. It steers and handles well, with decent acceleration to back it up, while the ride is reasonably comfortable. This allows the IS to impress in town or on the motorway.

The interior is beyond reproach in terms of build quality, and the materials feel premium, too. The IS has generous levels of standard tech for the class, plus its safety and security features are outstanding.

There are no real issues with space in the front. At the back, there’s as much leg room as in the BMW 3 Series – meaning more than in the Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Between £12,000 and £15,000 will get you a 2014 car with an average mileage and a full service history. Increase the budget to £15,000-£18,000 for a 2016 IS, while 2017 and 2018 examples start from £18,000. Spend between £20,000 and £30,000 on cars from 2019 and 2020 (when UK imports ended).

BUYER BEWARE

Electrics Although the IS has a very good reliability record, some owners have reported problems relating to the engine electrics and non-engine electrics (sat-nav, air-con and infotainment). Most of these problems were set right under warranty.

Mileage Being fuel-efficient and reliable, IS cars can rack up high mileages fairly quickly, especially if they’ve been used as a taxi. With that in mind, ensure nothing has worn out or seems on the verge of breaking. A test drive is always a good idea.

Exterior condition It is likely that the IS you are interested in will have been used as a motorway tool, so look for stone chips to the lower body and windscreen cracks. Check for dents, scratches or scrapes as well.

Brakes Some owners suggest looking for corrosion on the brake disc surfaces and listening for a rough braking noise below 5mph, which indicates a sticking caliper. Another potential issue is that the foot-operated parking brake can seize up through lack of use.

Major update for 2022 Ford Focus brings infotainment overhaul

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The Ford Focus has been given a major mid-life facelift to keep pace with rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf. Changes include a styling overhaul, new powertrain options and upgraded infotainment.

The new design for the family hatch echoes the recent revamp of the Fiesta, with an emphasis on reworking the front of the car. As with the Fiesta, the Ford badge has been moved from the Focus’s bonnet lip down onto the enlarged grille. LED headlights are now standard on all Focus variants and have the foglights built into them, and a darkened rear light effect includes a new “loop light” pattern.

The redesign encompasses separate styling details for Titanium, ST-Line, Active and performance-focused ST versions, including individual grille and fascia designs. ST-Line models feature side skirts and a rear diffuser and spoiler, while the rugged Active trim has SUV-inspired design tweaks such as additional lower body cladding and larger side vents.

Ford has also updated the premium Vignale pack, which is now available on a wider range of models, and introduced five new alloy wheel designs.

The ST hot hatch is further differentiated from the regular Focus with a revamped honeycomb grille and restyled side vents, skirts and spoilers. There is a new design for the 18in alloy wheels, with optional 19in versions also offered.

A major revamp inside the Focus ushers in the use of Ford’s latest Sync 4 infotainment, including a large, 13.2in dashboard- mounted touchscreen. The system now integrates the heating and ventilation controls, which, Ford says, results in a “cleaner and less cluttered centre console”. According to Ford, the system has been designed so that drivers “never are more than a touch or two” from being able to operate any function.

The Sync 4 system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, features speech recognition and can accept over-the-air software updates. Owners with the FordPass app can use that to check their car’s fuel levels and oil life from their smartphone.

Volvo launches first vehicle made from fossil-free steel

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Volvo has revealed what it claims to be the first vehicle ever made using fossil-free steel – one of two initiatives designed to reduce emissions from its supply chain.

The load carrier – typically used for mining and quarrying – was constructed using ‘green steel’ supplied by Swedish manufacturer SSAB in August. Volvo says that 70% of a truck’s weight comes from steel and cast iron, and decarbonising its production is key to achieving its goal of climate-neutrality by 2040.

Weighing 8.2 tonnies, the load carrier is driven by a battery-electric powertrain and can operate autonomously. Small-scale series production is planned for next year, with mass production to follow at a later date.

“This initiative with SSAB sets the benchmark for a fossil-free future,” said Martin Lundstedt, president and CEO of the Volvo Group. “Just as the nations of the world come together at COP26 to address climate change, so too must organisations and industries work in collaboration to develop innovative new solutions for a greenhouse-gas-emission-free future.

“Volvo Group is committed to pioneering partnerships such as this with SSAB to develop attractive, safe and efficient new vehicles and machines that pave the way for a more sustainable transport and infrastructure system adopted for the future.” 

The president and CEO of SSAB, Martin Lindqvist, added: “Having the world’s first actual vehicle made using SSAB’s fossil-free steel is a true milestone. Our collaboration with Volvo Group shows that green transition is possible and brings results. Together, we will continue reducing climate impact all the way to the end customer while ensuring that our customers get high-quality steel.”

Volvo also provided further details of its collaboration with steel firm Ovako, which plans to use a new plant in Hofors, Sweden, to heat steel with hydrogen prior to rolling for the first time. The model is expected to “greatly reduce CO2 emissions” in steel production, and surplus hydrogen created in the process will be used to power local hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

Williams F1 to be climate positive by 2030

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Williams Racing has stunned the Formula 1 world and catapulted itself into a ‘green’ pole position by announcing a comprehensive plan to become climate positive by 2030.

The plan, developed over the past year to embrace all relevant global initiatives such as the UN Climate Change Agenda, goes much further towards building and proving the sustainability of motorsport than any current racing team or series, and undoubtedly helps to demonstrate that F1 racing can remain viable far into the future. 

It also opens a path the whole sport could follow towards climate positivity, putting the world’s premier motorsport code on a path to match or even beat the sustainability credentials of all-electric racing series such as Formula E, which up to now have taken the limelight. Williams has already achieved FIA three-star environmental accreditation, a tough standard.  

Announcing his revolutionary climate positive plan today, Williams CEO Jost Capito drew a strong link between the team’s new green agenda and the benefits its technical progress can bring to the wider car world, citing Williams’ “strong heritage of developing Formula 1 technology and transferring it to the EV, sustainable transport and energy sectors”.

“Our planet and society are changing faster than ever,” he said. “We want to push the envelope and be the pace setter for sustainability in global motorsport and in the wider automotive industry. We will be using our knowledge to nurture and develop advanced technology to meet this goal.”

Capito said that, as a result of recent sustainability research, Williams Racing already understands where improvement is required, but (in a marked departure from the team’s usual on-track philosophy) it is also willing to share best practice and learn from those who share its sustainability goals.

Williams’ commitment to 2030 climate positivity rides on five pillars, says Capito. These include climate action to reduce carbon emissions for travel and at the team’s own Grove HQ; new moves to preserve the biodiversity of Williams’ 60-acre campus; sustainable innovation such as lifecycle management of racing cars; improving access to the sport for all; and showing a willingness to become the pace-setter in these areas and more. Williams is working towards its goals with specialist sustainability agency Enovation Consulting.  

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