Weekly Motoring news Roundup February 19th

Maserati Grecale SUV prototype

Maserati Grecale SUV prototypeAs we come to the end of another week  we look at some of the motoring news which you may have missed starting with these teaser pictures of the Maserati Grecale SUV prototype


A prototype of the new Grecale SUV has been photographed outside the historic Maserati plant on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena. The employees were the first to diffuse these images on the social networks.

Maserati Grecale SUV prototypeInnovative by nature, Maserati decided to share the photos of the new model exclusively with the Maserati Family.

The prototype cars are currently undergoing a period of intensive road, circuit and off-road tests, in various conditions of use, to acquire vital data for the preparation of the new SUV’s final setup.

The Grecale will be built at Cassino (Italy), where an investment of about 800 million Euros is planned.
The Maserati Grecale will receive its World Premiere before the end of 2021.

Morgan Motor Company unleashes the Plus 8 GTR special project

Raw, visceral, loud, and low, the Morgan Plus 8 GTR represents what the Morgan Motor Company can create when its design and engineering teams let their imaginations run wild. Limited to just nine examples, it marks the first in a line of Morgan special projects set to commence this year.

MlorganThe Plus 8 GTR explores design themes such as the high shoulder line, not seen on a traditional Morgan body for decades. Its five-spoke centre-lock wheels are reminiscent of Morgan’s 1990s Plus 8 race cars, framed perfectly by subtly re-sculpted wheel arches. Further design elements include a revised rear end, front wings, and front splitter, and the fitment of a hard top. The model also benefits from learning and expertise gained by the company since the Plus 8 officially finished production in 2018.

One particular design inspiration was the Plus 8 race car that competed in the GT series throughout the late nineties, more commonly known as ‘Big Blue’. This car served as the testbed for Morgan’s first bonded-aluminium chassis, which would go on to underpin the Aero 8 and ‘Aero-chassis’ Plus 8 models. It seemed fitting, following the recent launch of Morgan’s latest CX-Generation bonded-aluminium platform, to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the car that pioneered Morgan’s use of aluminium structures.

The project has only been possible because of the recent availability of a number of Plus 8 rolling chassis, which have been re-acquired from a third party following a discontinued project. These were all built by Morgan before 2018, and were never used for their intended purposes. All are to be recommissioned and will benefit from the upgrade of selected mechanical components.

As part of their transformation from rolling chassis to finished vehicle, each GTR will be handcrafted using Morgan’s traditional coachbuilding techniques. In a break from over a century of Morgan tradition, much of this work will be completed not at its famous Pickersleigh Road factory, but at the nearby Morgan Design and Engineering Centre (M-DEC). The Plus 8 GTR runs alongside core programmes and is one of several Morgan special projects to be announced this year. It follows numerous special project Morgan models in recent years, such as the Aero GT, SP1 and Aeromax.

These ‘Aero-chassis’ Plus 8s use the Morgan first-generation bonded-aluminium chassis developed initially for the Morgan Aero 8. Previously, from 1968 to 2004, Plus 8 models used Morgan’s traditional steel chassis and were powered by Rover V8 engines.

All ‘Aero-chassis’ Morgan Plus 8s were powered by the BMW N62 4.8-litre engine, and the GTR will be no exception. In its original specification this unit produced 362 bhp, however, the exact power output for the GTR is yet to be finalised. A choice of a six-speed manual or ZF six-speed automatic gearbox will be available, with fixed allocations for each transmission option.

Just nine Morgan Plus 8 GTRs will be built, with production beginning in summer 2021. The transformed special project will be available in certain worldwide markets, subject to local rules on the importation of European vehicles. As part of the special projects programme, customers will be invited to commission their bespoke Plus 8 GTR alongside Morgan’s design team.

Vauxhall celebrates the revolutionary Ampera’s 10th birthday

Vauxhall is celebrating the 10th birthday of its first electric car with a range extender, the Ampera, which made its world premier at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, and jump started Vauxhall’s commitment to electric vehicles.

Vauxhall AmperaThe Vauxhall Ampera was the first electric car with an extended range from a European manufacturer, and established Vauxhall as a pioneer in electric mobility. The Ampera has since been followed by a fleet of award-winning electric Vauxhall’s including the all-new Corsa-e, Mokka-e, Vivaro-e and Combo-e. Vauxhall committed to offering an electrified variant across its entire model line-up by 2024 and introducing eight electrified models by the end of 2021.

The revolutionary, sleek and practical Ampera was Europe’s first electric vehicle to enable “go anywhere at any time” mobility. When it went on sale at the end of 2011, the Ampera founded a completely new vehicle segment in the European automobile market.

Even before the Ampera went on sale, it received more than 5,000 pre-orders from potential customers across Europe. A year later it was named the “2012 European Car of the Year” alongside its Chevrolet Volt sister car. The Ampera also won the 13th International Monte Carlo Rally for electric cars and alternative propulsion systems. The winning Ampera was driven by French rally legend, Bernard Darniche and Joseph Lambert, three more finished among the top ten.

The Ampera confirmed Vauxhall as an innovation-leader and immediately became Europe’s best-selling electric car in 2012, with 6,631 units and roughly a 21% share of the European electric passenger car segment.

Key to the Vauxhall Ampera was its innovative electric Voltec powertrain. Combining a 16kWh lithium-ion battery and a 111kW (150PS) electric motor with a highly efficient 1.4-litre petrol engine as a range extender, the Ampera had a total range of more than 350 miles.

The advanced powertrain ensured the Ampera’s front wheels were electrically driven at all times, with an electric range of up to 50 miles, with additional range provided through the 1.4-litre petrol range extender. The electric range was enough to cover most daily commutes and with CO2 emissions of just 27g/km ensure the Ampera remains exempt from current congestion and emissions charges. With up to 370Nm of torque, the Ampera accelerated from 0-62mph in under nine seconds.

Drivers could choose between Normal (default), Sport, Mountain or Hold modes to optimise the car’s energy management depending on prevailing driving and road conditions. Normal and Sport mode were ideal for daily driving needs, while the Mountain Mode enabled the 1.4-litre range extended to run before the battery reaches its minimum state of charge to ensure optimum performance on sustained inclines. Hold mode, meanwhile, engaged the range-extender immediately to preserve charge.

The Ampera could be fully charged in nine hours through a standard 230V supply, with owners able to programme the charging times.

The advanced Voltec electric powertrain was not the only revolutionary feature in the Ampera, as its eye-catching design was also a completely new direction for Vauxhall. The sleek body style was highlighted through the use of specially designed wheels that helped reduce drag and improve efficiency, while inside high-definition displays with touchscreen functionality replaced conventional dials and buttons.

Despite its dual powertrain, the Ampera featured a large boot, with 310 litres of space, extending to 1,005 litres when folding the rear seat.

Vauxhall also worked hard to ensure the new Ampera was fun to drive. The McPherson front suspension featured struts with aluminium lower control arms and hydraulic ride bushings, while the semi-independent rear suspension featured a compound crank which helped reduce weight, without sacrificing stability or feedback.

The Ampera also featured a regenerative braking system that helped improve the car’s electric range – another innovation that has since become commonplace in electric vehicles.

The Vauxhall Ampera was Vauxhall’ first electric vehicle with a range extender and placed Vauxhall as an early pioneer of electrification – a strategy it has since wholly committed to.

Project Siren: Ford and Venari Group Use Blue-Light Expertise to Produce New Lightweight Ambulance 

Ford today announced plans to re-establish its presence in the UK ambulance market, with an innovative new Transit ambulance developed in conjunction with industry experts and front-line medical teams under the code name Project Siren.

Scheduled to enter production in mid-2021, the new vehicle’s lightweight design is fully compliant with the national specification advocated by the Lord Carter Report, offering all the equipment and capability of a front-line ambulance within a 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight. Based on the Ford Transit chassis cab, the body and conversion will be built wholly in the UK by Venari Group – parent company of the UK’s leading ambulance manufacturer, O&H Vehicle Technology.

Project Siren front“Our exciting new lightweight ambulance is the result of listening to our customers, understanding their needs and finding innovative solutions to meet them”, said Dr Graham Hoare OBE, executive director, Business Transformation, and chairman, Ford of Britain. “By collaborating with blue-light experts Venari Group for Project Siren, I’m confident that this new vehicle will redefine the blueprint for ambulances and help to transform the productivity of front line ambulance services in the UK.”

Project Siren used an agile, collaborative process and direct customer input from NHS Ambulance Trusts to create the new vehicle, which is designed to improve patient treatment as well as safety and ease of use for paramedics. Advanced digital connectivity supports efficient restocking and vehicle maintenance, while the lightweight design helps reduce emissions and operating costs associated with using heavier vehicles.

“We’re delighted to have teamed up with Ford in the development of our 3.5-tonne ambulance, which will provide a step change in design for our incredible emergency services”, said Oliver North, CEO, Venari Group. “Harnessing the capabilities of Venari and Ford has created an engineering team that is – in my 15-year experience in emergency service vehicle production – the most formidable of its type, meeting the complex requirements of the Carter Report with zero compromise on quality.”

The vehicle’s launch will follow detailed testing and validation at Ford’s advanced proving facilities. The new lightweight design has been developed to be fully compatible with all-electric powertrains, providing a future-proof solution for ambulance operators looking to transition to zero-emission fleets.

Nissan announces future plans for small vans in Europe

Nissan have confirmed plans for its next generation of small vans for customers in Europe.

Leveraging further the strength and scale of the Alliance, Nissan’s future range of small vans will be manufactured in Maubeuge, France, the Alliance’s small van center of excellence.

NissanAlthough naming and detailed product information will be released closer to the launch date, Nissan has confirmed the range will include all-electric and internal combustion engine options, as well as commercial and passenger vehicle variants, with various size combinations.

Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta said: “This future van announcement is more evidence of the strong momentum building for Nissan in Europe as we continue to advance our Nissan NEXT business transformation plan.

“Manufacturing our future products together with our Alliance partner brings competitive advantages for both companies and is another example of our win-win strategy.

“While it is too early to give any detailed product information, our customers can be sure they will have a strong Nissan identity and continue our mission of making the all-electric driving experience a viable option for everyone.”

Like the current Nissan NV250 van, which has been manufactured at the Renault Maubeuge plant since 2019, the next-generation model will be built on an Alliance platform alongside the next-generation Renault Kangoo.

The allocation of the next-generation of Nissan small vans to Maubeuge plant means that in the future, all of Nissan’s vans for European customers will be manufactured in France.

The next-generation all-electric van will continue the success of the Nissan e-NV200, which was the first all-electric commercial vehicle for the mass market when it launched in 2014. Not only does it offer a zero-emission solution for deliveries into towns and cities, but can save businesses significant amounts of money through avoiding fuel, vehicle duty and city centre congestion zone charges.

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