Kamis, 04 April 2013

Tunland surprises on dynamometer

ALWYN VILJOEN got on a roll with the biggest Chinese bakkie in South Africa and was left quite breathless.
On the dynamometer at the Bosch Diesel Centre in Pietermartzburg, the Foton Tunland made 379 Nm, 19 Nm more than it has on paper. (INSET) Hayden Keating — KZN’s youngest certified expert on modern, high-pressure diesel systems — declared himself favourably impressed by the big new Chinese.
IF you are in the market for a double cab, you can do a lot worse than the Foton Tunland 4x2.
This big Chinese bakkie retails for just under R250 000, but performs on par or better than bakkies in its power league, offering as many Newtons as the Defender Pickup, but costing R110 000 less.
Wait, who is Foton?
If you have never heard of Foton, you can be impressed by the fact that this state-owned Chinese company convinced the Americans at Cummins to built a special engine for their bakkie — at 2,8 litres, it is the smallest in the legendary Cummins stable.
Cummins were only too happy to be associated with Foton, which lay claim to be the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in terms of sales since 2009.
South African is one of more than 125 countries where Foton models are sold, including Foton tractors, which have ploughed a respectable furrow for themselves in KZN.
So how strong is this Tunland?
Foton says their Cummins ISF 2,8 turbo diesel generates 360 Nm at 1 800 rpm. This puts it on par with the 3,0-litre Defender and among the five strongest bakkies in SA, none of which can compete with the big Chinese in price.
Its peak work rate is a respectable 120 kW at 3 600 rpm. But that’s on paper. On the dynamometer at the Bosch Diesel Centre in Pietermartzburg, the Tunland gave 19 Newtons more — 379 Nm at 137 km/h on the test bed. The extra power happened at 2 897 rpm, but as most South Africans drive their double cabs like a petrol, these high revs seemed tailored to our market.
How does it rate against SA’s strongest bakkies?
Nissan’s very thirsty Navara 3,0 dCi V6 leads the pack with 550 Nm,
Next up is Ford’s formidable Ranger 3,2-litre at 470 Nm, a spot it shares with Mazda’s BT50.
The Tunland 2,8 and Landy Rover
Defender 130 TD Crew Cab ties at third with 360 Nm.
In fourth place, SA’s best-selling bakkie, the Hilux, makes 343 Nm.
VW’s frugal Amarok 2,0 biTDi rounds off the top five at 340 Nm.
Where can I service it?
To date, a dealer network is the one weakness in Foton’s foray into SA’s competitive bakkie market.
There are currently 35 dealers listed on their website — almost half of them in Gauteng. Five KZN dealers are in Durban, Gateway, Pinetown, Newcastle and Uvongo.
What payload does it carry?
The Tunland’s ladder-frame chassis rides on 16-inch Savero radial tyres that enable a payload of 965 kg on the 4x4, which pulls a 2,5-ton braked trailer. The big load bin measures 1,52 metres long, 1,58 metres wide and is 44 cm deep. Rubber lining is standard.
Is it comfortable?
The roomy cab competes easily with any of the other top double cabs in terms of leg and head room.
The plastic cladding and wood panelling look neat and — more important for a bakkie — clean easily.
The ride is pliant rather than juddery, thanks to an independent double wishbone upfront. The rear has standard leaf springs.
Honestly now, no niggles?
Hayden Keating
The emissions warning light came on intermittently, which Hayden Keating — KZN’s youngest certified expert on modern, high-pressure diesel systems — said likely indicates an over-sensitive air sensor controlling the exhaust gas regulator valve. The clip in the rear ashtray came lose and the radio only has an auxiliary cable, not a USB port.
And what if it breaks?
The Tunland comes with a three-year, 100 000 km warranty, but with a Cummins engine and Bosch parts, chances of breaking are slim.
What do the experts say?
Deon Jacobs, Land Rover specialist at Offroad Fanatics, said: “This bakkie will put Foton on the map.”
Shabir Razak, diesel service adviser, said: “You know, I am half sold just by the Cummins badge. You don’t get comebacks with Cummins.”
Gary Peacock of Idada Motors Repairs took one look at the engine and said: “Now that is what I call a proper intercooler.”
As The Witness reported at the launch of the 4x4 Tunland Comfort, the Tunland has the looks, the price, and most of the goods to impress any bakkie-buyer in SA.
At R250 000, the 4x2 Tunland may not set any new benchmarks, as did the Ranger or Amarok, but it does have all the basics and over delivers when it comes the power.

A very fast yank

The U.S.’s answer to the Veyron, the Hennessey Venom GT.
(Pic: Gizmag.com)
The run over a 3,2 km course was conducted at the United States Naval Air Station, Lemoore, in central California. The speed was validated by two VBOX 3i GPS tracking systems, and assured as true and honest by official VBOX personnel.
John Hennessey admitted the Bugatti Veyron has run 430,9 km/h, but pointed out Bugatti limits the Veyron’s top speed to 415 km/h, leaving the ambiguous award of fastest production car to Hennessey. His Venom GT is a highly modified, but street-legal, Lotus Elise, with a V8 engine and twin-turbochargers. The Venom GT weighs 1 244 kg and has a power-to-weight ratio of 0,74 kW (one horsepower) per kilogram.
Hennessey plans to build only 29 of the Venom GTs, selling them from $1,2 million

Go-anywhere Mantis

Turbo diesel transport like no other
IT took four years and countless cups of tea to launch the Mantis, a form of turbo diesel like no other, walking as it does on six legs.
Designed and built in Britain by Matt Denton, founder of Micromagic Systems, but who is perhaps better known for making the animatronic turtle in the Harry Potter movies, the Mantis is not aimed for production, but is up for hire.
It took Denton four years to build this clamber-anywhere robot.
The hydraulics of six legs are powered by a 2,2-litre Perkins turbo diesel and controlled by rather powerful computer, either from inside the helicopter-like cockpit or remotely.
”This walking idea started as an idea back in 2007. We secured private funding in 2009, and after three years of design, building and testing, the robot made its first successful test drive in the summer of 2012 at the Bestival UK. The Mantis weighs as much as a small car at 1 900 kg, has knees that are 2,8 metres high, which bend with 18 hydraulic actuators.
Programming the software to keep the centre balanced was the main difficulty in building the Mantis.
As a result, the cockpit resembles that of a helicopter, which has force transducers, angle sensors and an inclinometer that enable the operator to “walk” the Mantis over almost any terrain.
Denton, whose company produces mail-order mini-robots and animatronics for film and television, was the first to walk it.

Selasa, 02 April 2013

Fiat’s family-friendly mini van

FIAT last week launched a family-friendly version of its durable Doblò mini panel van.
Dubbed the Panorama, it competes with the VW Caddy Maxi, which VW only sells with even seats in the diesel engines.
The Panorama comes only with Fiat’s proven 1,6 Multijet 105 HP, a little wonder that churns out 290 Nm of torque at only 1 500 r/min.
A six-speed manual gearbox transmits the power to the front wheels.
Seven seats are standard, all clad in “Pacman Grey seat fabrics”, which Fiat stated had “been designed with functionality in mind to create an appealing environment”. Being a panel van originally, drivers get the benefit of a panel shelf above their head and — as with all European cars — every hollow nook and cranny has been turned into a handy packing space. Fiat boasts that the dashboard, in “Plancia Grey” trim is designed “to ensure top level ergonomics and driving comfort”.
The boot holds 790 litres with the second and third rows up, and 3 200 litres with the seats folded. A tonneau cover shields valuable luggage items from prying eyes.
The Panorama comes standard with a three-year/100 000 km full-maintenance plan and warranty for peace-of-mind driving.
Seven seat, sliding-door competitors
Doblò Panorama 1,6 Multijet R280 000
VW Caddy 2,0 TDI Trendline R288 870

Four best tricks to save fuel

WITH the fuel price going up — again — more and more readers find themselves driving with the needle dangerously close to empty. And when the warning light comes on, the question everyone has is how far can you go before coming to a shuddering halt?

The analog generation (left) will find digital gauges (right) both confusing and strict when running on empty.
In the case of the left fuel gauge, you typically have at least five litres left in the tank. If the fuel gauge is digital mess like the one on the right, reserve means reserve and empty means empty.
Tricks to save fuel:
• don’t free-wheel, as the fuel injector shuts off while the car is in gear and you don’t step on the accelerator;
• limit fuel evaporation by parking in the shade and ensuring the cap seals tightly;
• don’t idle, switch off;
• ensure your tyres are inflated, harder is better; and
• keep the air filter clean.

Big blow for battery R&D

TOO HOT TO HANDLE: Mitsubishi has suspended work on the electric Outlander and i-MiEV electric car while it sorts out an over-heating battery.
FEW readers of The Witness are old enough to remember when electric cars outnumbered cars with engines that relied on exploding the fuel inside a cylinder or two in order to get the wheels turning.
This was, however, the state of transport at the end of the 1890s, when many people shuddered at the thought of driving an “infernal combustion engine”.
The infernal combustors however proved more reliable and oil was being found everywhere, which soon saw the demise of the electric car industry as “ice” engines started to rule.
High oil prices, which oil guru Leonardo Maugeri said should cost about $70 per vat of Brent crude according to all the laws of supply and demand, has however started to drive people back to electric vehicles — or evees.
To date, the main problem in flogging evees is their batteries, which give about a quarter of the range of a typical fuel combustor.
Battery technology has however been improving every year with vast funds invested to develop units that can rival the range of a fuel tank.
This progress has now received a major blow, with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation last week announcing it had suspended production of its Outlander PHEV crossover and a variant of its i-MiEV electric car.
The website Electric Cars News reports that one lithium ion battery melted at a dealership and another caught fire in an assembly plant. Mitsubishi said faults were detected in two more vehicles. Mitsubishi also has suspended sales of both plug-in electric vehicles in Japan.
The batteries involved in the incidents were made by Lithium Energy Japan, a venture between G.S. Yuasa, Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi Corp. Company investigators are working to identify the cause of the problem.
The incidents are the latest involving the Kyoto-based company’s batteries as U.S. and Japanese authorities probe the cause of overheated units that grounded Boeing’s Dreamliners in January.
The battery in the i-MiEV caught fire at Mitsubishi Motors’ Mizushima plant in Okayama Prefecture on March 18 when it was being charged during a test before installation in the vehicle.
Although the battery and cable were charred, no one was injured.
The Outlander PHEV battery, which was taken apart, showed signs of a short circuit in the interior wiring. When the battery pack was examined by the supplier, it was found that one of the battery pack’s 80 cells had overheated, melting adjacent cells.
The 80 cells in the drive battery pack are divided and set into three blocks within the drive battery pack. In the past, defective batteries were discovered on the same production line after impurities became mixed in the battery interior. Drivers have been advised not to recharge their Outlander plug-in hybrids through its plug.
They should also turn off the electric-only drive mode and disable the function that allows the engine to recharge the battery while driving. The Outlander PHEV, sold only in Japan, is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. next year.
The battery glitch is not expected to delay the U.S. launch.
Mitsubishi has yet to determine the cause of the problem but hopes to restart production within weeks, Koketsu said.
The Outlander PHEV went on sale in Japan on January 24 and Mitsubishi has sold 4 000 units.
That is nearly double the total of the standard gasoline-only Outlander, which has sold 2 500 vehicles in Japan since it went on sale here in October.
All of the 4 000 Outlander PHEVs sold so far could potentially be affected by the problem. The i-MiEV and a commercial vehicle variant called the Minicab come in two trim levels. The upper trim, which gets a bigger, more-powerful battery, uses the Lithium Energy Japan power pack. The lower trim uses a less-powerful battery made by Toshiba. Mitsubishi has halted production of only the vehicles with the Lithium Energy Japan-made batteries. The Toshiba batteries apparently are fine.
Mitsubishi has sold 15 000 i-MiE­V electric cars, since the model’s debut in July 2009.
About 1 300 were sold in the U.S. Mitsubishi has sold an additional 4 000 Minicab EVs, all in Japan.
Through February of this year, Mitsubishi sold 1 210 i EVs, including 600 in the U.S.
(Additional reporting by Electric Cars News.)

Rea tsamaya– let’s go!

PRETORIA, 2009 - One of SA’s longest-running bus-companies, North West Star, recently took delivery of 60 new Mercedes-Benz OF1730-buses as part of a R92 million-contract that will refurbish its fleet with 77 new Mercedes-Benz busses.
The OF1730-bus was specifically designed to meet both South Africa’s tough road conditions and the future public transport needs of metropolitan governments.

The large loan for the fleet-upgrade was raised in Malasia with Mercedes-Benz Finance facilitating the deal.
The contract include site maintenance as well as road side assistance provided through the local dealership.
In receiving the buses, Mr Pule Pule, CEO of Noth West Star, recalled some of the tougher times faced by the company, which started out as Africa Bus Services in 1972, then became Bophutatswana Transport Holdings (BTH) and in 1994 re-registered as North West Star.
“In 1999, we were heavily in debt, three years later, we were showing a profit of just under one million – our success was rooted in the community taking ownership of North West Star buses,” said Pule.
Before the handover, the new Mercedes-Benz OF1730-buses were introduced to the communities of Hammanskraal and Soshanguve by the Soshanguve Community Radio, which travelled on open double-deck bus, singing the praises of the the brilliantly-shined new buses as they paraded along the various bus routes in the area.
Jan Kruger, Asset Manager of North West Star, explained that North West Star commuters typically travelled to Rosslyn and Pretoria CDB. “As far as possible, the same drivers drive the same routes in the morning and evening, with the result that commutters do not treat us as an impersonal bus service, but more like a safe and reliable lift-club.”
To ensure the reliability and effeciency of the buses, Mercedes-Benz used more than 30 years of experience to stipulate exacting designs for the chassis and interior.
The chassis are built at the Mercedes-Benz Bus Centre in São Paulo, Brazil, with Marco Polo providing the specially adapted bodies which include a driver door. Assembly takes place in East London.
The new Mercedes-Benz OF1730 bus meets European III emission-standards and has diesel consumption figures of between 30-35 litres per 100km compared to the older buses’ 47 litres per 100km.
The South African design has in fact proven so successful that the São Paulo Bus Centre is now considering a right hand conversion for the Latin American market, which sells 27 000 buses per year, compared to South Africa’s 120.
Most of the drivers who formed a chior to serenade their new buses have been with North West Star for more than three decades. Few of them have driven more than 10 buses in this time.
Their praises of the Mercedes-Benz’ duralability were summed by Soshanguve Community Radio, which boasted, “they deliver each on time”, while on of the drivers added that the new buses were “Brazilliant!”
Willem van Breda, expert on public transport, said punctuality was core to any form of public transport.
He added that current implementation of the National Land Transport Transition Act would greatly co-ordinate the various modes of rail, bus and taxi-transport  to better serve commuters.
“The national aim is to to deliver the commuter cheaply, safely and on time by providing the most seats at the lowest cost for each leg of the journey, be it taxi, bus, or train”.
He added that both the cities Thswane and Johannesburg would each start R2 billion projects to implement rapid transit project for their surrnounding communities.
“The Tshwane rapid transit project will cover some 700km of routes and is being modelled on the rapid bus transport systems which originated in Brazil and has since been adopted in Europe and the Far East.
Rapid transport systems typically create a circular route using bus-only lanes in the middle of existing roads, on which a bus would pass on average every 10 minutes. Taxis would deliver commuters from the suburbs to the main bus routes using similar taxi-only lanes. Such rapid transit systems drastically reduce congestion, the bane of every driver on the road.
“Tenders are expected to be invited before year end, and thanks to their fleet of new 1730-buses, North West Star is ideally placed to tender,” said van Breda.

Senin, 01 April 2013

BMW and Continental team up on auto drive

The rapid rise of self drive cars will
make this type of driving a lot safer.
BMW and Continental have teamed up to develop an “electronic co-pilot” for cars.
Scheduled to run to the end of 2014, the goal of the joint project will be to develop a number of prototype vehicles capable of highly automated freeway driving on European freeways from 2020, with fully automated systems expected from 2025.
The next test phase for prototype vehicles involves testing them — with trained drivers behind the wheel — in typical driving conditions that will include intersections, toll stations, roadworks and national borders.
Both BMW and Continental have already logged thousands of kilometres using semi-autonomous systems. Continental worked with Mercedes on adaptive cruise control and emergency braking assistance systems. It also participated in the EU research project called HAVEit, where it was responsible for developing a highly automated assist system for driving around traffic jams and roadworks.
Like Google and Audi, Continental also took one of its self-driving car testbeds to Nevada in early 2012, where it became the first automotive components supplier to receive Nevada DMV permission to test on public roads and recorded over 24 000 km of highly automated driving.
BMW famously demonstrated its BMW TrackTrainer on the world’s most popular car programme Top Gear, The self-driving BMW track car uses high-resolution GPS and video data to navigate around race tracks fully autonomously, and the Emergency Stop Assistant, which has some novel attributes, including monitoring the driver for incapacitation.
If the vehicle senses through biosensors that the driver is having a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, then it will take over operation and bring the vehicle to a safe stop on the side of the road and call for help.
In mid-2011, BMW also tested a self-driving car on the A9 Motorway between Munich and Nuremberg, where the car mixed in with traffic and obeyed the traffic laws.
The BMW test vehicle was equipped with 360-degree LIDAR (laser radar), radar, sonar, and computer vision systems using cameras to detect other cars and monitor traffic.
In comparison to the Google self-driving car, which sports a large spinning LIDAR unit on its roof, the autonomous BMW appears much like a standard model.
By concentrating on automated freeway driving, the companies hope to make the technology safe, attractive and affordable for customers. However, they anticipate autonomous driving technologies will be rolled out in stages, with partially automated driving possible from 2016, highly autonomous systems available from 2020, and fully autonomous systems appearing in vehicles from 2025.