With apologies to Jim Kenzie…

The column by Jim Kenzie published on Saturday October 1st, 2016, needs a little editing. Jim’s words, my words.

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Is the time finally right for electrically fuelled cars?

It’s long past time.

There is little doubt that electric motors are a pretty good way to power a vehicle. Maximum torque at zero r.p.m., so excellent launch characteristics and strong acceleration. Low to no noise, compared to ‘infernal’ combustion. And zero emissions from the vehicle itself.

None of this is news. It was all true of the Baker electric, which went out of production in 1916.

The problem with the Baker Electric remains the problem with all modern battery-powered cars.

It’s called “energy density”, which is a measure of how much power you can get per kilogram of weight.

And, frankly, we are a heck of a lot farther advanced now than we were a century ago. Continue reading

I love Jim Kenzie, but…

I’ve read Jim Kenzie’s columns in the Wheels section of the Toronto Star for more years than I can remember.  He’s a great read: informed, enthusiastic, and not afraid to have a politically incorrect opinion about the vehicles he reviews.

I have to take exception to his column in the Saturday, March 12th edition of the Toronto Star.  In it, Mr. Kenzie goes to considerable lengths to declare electric cars a waste of time and taxpayer money.  Let’s take a look at each his arguments. Continue reading

Stick and Ball Sports

The professional sports leagues have a few things in common.  In baseball, basketball and football, a ball is used.  In hockey, a ball with the top and bottom sliced off, makes a puck.  In baseball and hockey, a bat or stick is used to hit the ball or puck to score.

Baseball and hockey, both stick and ball sports, have different rules.  There are nine players in the field for one team, and one opposing player in baseball.  For hockey, there are two opposing teams made up of six players each.

Hockey has three periods of 20 minutes each.  Baseball functions with up to nine innings.  In baseball, each team takes a turn hitting the ball to score.  In hockey, there is a free-for-all during a period in which to score.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of the sports analogy.  Here’s my point: Continue reading

No allergy to duck fat: 2016 Honda HR-V vs 2016 Mazda CX-3

On a recent trip to New York, we found ourselves in a great French restaurant on Park Avenue.  While ordering, I asked if their ‘frites’ were cooked in oil that was shared by breaded items.  The owner happened to be sitting nearby at the bar, and he assured me that there was nothing to fear in the fryer, unless I was allergic to duck fat.  He said he’d give up wine before giving up duck fat.

North Americans are having their wine/duck fat moment.  Large SUVs are giving way to small CUVs.  People are downsizing their vehicles, and not a moment too soon. Continue reading

Spied: Top Secret Telsa Model “T”

Much has been made of the soon-to-be-released Telsa Model X.  This will be Tesla’s foray into the sport utility market.  The Model Three, a more affordable sedan, is still on the drawing board.

Unknown until this past weekend, we discovered a new entry for Tesla.  With a more mainstream sedan, a luxury sedan and full-size sport utility on the market, Tesla will enter the light pickup truck market soon.

Spotted at the Buffalo Supercharger station, the heavily camouflaged truck is, as expected, not sale ready.  Further research reveals that it is almost identical to the previous generation Chevrolet Silverado, obviously trying to slot the new vehicle between the current mid-size (Chevrolet Colorado) and full-size (MY15 Silverado, F-150) truck offerings.  The truck will be charged at the front of the vehicle, rather than the hidden charge port on the left rear of the current
Model S.

Choosing to compete in the most brand loyal segment, pundits will ask if Tesla has bitten off more than it can chew.  But if Tesla can snag even a small sliver of the light truck market, the investment will be worthwhile.

Here’s a quickly grabbed shot of the new Tesla T. Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

At the recent New York Auto Show, I had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Smith, Executive Director of Global Design at Cadillac about the new CT6.

Andrew said the design was deliberately polarizing.  Not everyone will like it, but those that do, will embrace the new sheet metal language.  I complimented him on the illusion of the short front overhang of the vehicle, giving it a racing, almost snub nose appearance in profile.  It was a deliberate attempt at making the vehicle look larger than it is, with the added benefit of maximizing the wheelbase for a more comfortable ride.  It’s a skillful illusion, as the nose protrudes as much as any vehicle’s, and the effect is taut and lean for a very large car.  I commented on the homage to the late 1970s Seville with the suggestion of a bustle-back (which dates back to the 1930’s, and has been seen in a number of GM vehicles over the years) and it adds to the visual interest of the rear.  Andrew smiled at the reference, and we compared notes on the success of the BMW 750’s bustle back on sales (it was the biggest selling 7 series in BMW’s history at that time).

 

Like a number of luxury manufacturers, Cadillac is changing the formula for naming its vehicles.  In the past, this car would have been know as the XTS, the flagship of the line.  Its replacement, the CT6, borrows from its slightly smaller sibling, the CTS, with the S changing to a ‘6’.  When the CTS is replaced in a few years (it was pretty much all new last year), it will undergo a re-naming, and the ATS will come to a similar fate.  We’ll see if the naming scheme confuses buyers or positions the vehicles in their minds the way Cadillac intends.

 

Connecting to the Grid

A New York Times article about the struggle solar panel purchasers are going through in Hawaii should give Ontario consumers pause.

The article describes the local utility, Hawaiian Electric Company, as making things difficult to get solar panels, installed by individual  homeowners, connected to the grid.  The article alleges that many electrical utilities are looking at reducing the monies paid for privately generated solar energy, adding fees and making it difficult for solar panel companies to operate.

HEC is a publicly held company, not owned by the government.  Is this what will happen with the proposed sale of Hydro One?  What certainties will we have that the initiatives brought in by the previous government will continue?  Will electric vehicle subsidies be the next to go?

It’s not a question of whether or not we can afford solar energy fed into the grid.  It’s a question of whether or not we can afford not to.

 

Kathleen Wynne’s New Year’s Resolution

I remember my father pulling into the Canadian Tire gas bar, and before he came to a stop, an attendant was at his window asking if he wanted ‘regular’ or ‘high-test’.  Without any more conversation, the windows of his car were cleaned and the oil level checked.  If memory serves, gas was about $0.35 a gallon, and a fill-up could cost about $2.50.

Today, we ask ourselves if we want to endure standing in the cold to pump our own fuel, and brave more of the nasty winter winds to clean our own windshield.  Cars don’t consume oil like they used to, even though we should still check the level at every fill-up.  Fuel, up until a few short weeks ago, was $1.30 per litre, and to fill the tank in my moderately sized sport utility cross-over vehicle, was $80.00 Continue reading

2014 Mazda 3 GX vs 2014 Toyota Corolla CE

Today is the battle of the light weights (low curb weight, excellent fuel economy, inexpensive to operate), while they’re heavy weights in the automotive world (biggest market segment), especially in Canada.  The compact arena is a smack-down, blow-out, take no prisoners fight, where customers often purchase their first brand new car. A manufacturer like Toyota needs these customers to be happy so they can put them into a Lexus in 30 years.

So let’s take a look at the lower end of the compact scale, which doesn’t mean low-end in terms of amenities and features.  What would a prospective purchaser look at, and likely buy? Continue reading