VW ID. Buzz getting an autonomous version, reveal timing confirmed

The Volkswagen ID. Buzz is going to be a significant model just because it’ll be the first time VW has actually brought a retro Microbus to production, and an electric one to boot. But that significance goes further, as the company announced it will be the basis for its first road-ready autonomous vehicles. Prototype testing begins this year, and the plan is to have autonomous models out in 2025 and to be used in a ride-sharing program like VW’s MOIA program it operates in Hamburg and Hanover in Germany.

The announcement also comes with a rendering of the planned autonomous ID. Buzz. It looks extremely close to the concept cars, both passenger and commercial versions. The shape and window openings are all nearly the same. Of course, being an autonomous vehicle, it has various radar or LIDAR sensors tacked to the corners, including a prominent one on a roof bulge. It gives it the look of the bridge on the Enterprise. Another interesting change is the lack of two-tone paint or a trim line that dips down the nose to emulate classic VW vans. While it’s still obviously retro, we’re hoping that VW will still offer a two-tone color scheme. Finally, the lower grille looks simplified and more like that of the ID.4 and ID.3, rather than the myriad of little holes like the concepts.

We’re also getting closer to finally seeing the production ID. Buzz. VW mentioned that the van will be revealed next year. The company had said this a few years ago, but we’re glad to know that the pandemic hasn’t derailed and delayed production plans.

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Chevy Silverado ZR2 looking bigger, more capable than Trail Boss in spy photos

Since 2019, there have been reports that Chevrolet has been working on a full-size answer to the Ford Raptor and Ram TRX, which were further stoked by a factory-modifed race truck. Now we have spy photos of what seems to be a serious Chevy Silverado off-roader, which we will refer to as ZR2 like its little Colorado sibling.

The front offers the most clues to the truck’s increased capabilities. The hood has a huge bulge of camouflage, which we suspect may hide a big cowl like that on the Colorado ZR2. The front bumper, particularly when compared to a Trail Boss prototype seen earlier, seems to be turned up more at the edges for better clearance around the tires. The ZR2 doesn’t have the aerodynamic air dam either, which further aids clearance. Underneath is a deep and wide skid plate for protecting all the Silverado’s vulnerable mechanical bits.

Chevy Silverado Trail Boss and ZR2 prototype

Another thing that makes it clear this is burlier than a Trail Boss is the ride height. It’s clearly sitting higher, and the tires are significantly bigger. We can’t make out a tire size in the photos, but we know that the Trail Boss so far has been equipped with 32-inch tires. We’re betting the tires on this ZR2 are 35-inch units, putting it on par with the standard Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX.

We also can’t make out the shocks, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the Silverado ZR2 uses a beefier version of the Colorado ZR2’s spool-valve shocks. We know that Chevy has worked on a version, since they were fitted to the aforementioned race truck, which, incidentally, also got 35-inch tires and more skid plates. And if that race truck is a model for the production truck, expect long-travel front suspension arms to arrive, too.

Past reports have the Silverado ZR2 slated for the 2022 model year along with a significant facelift for the whole truck line. It will likely only be offered with gas V8 engines, possibly even the supercharged V8 rumored for GM’s full-size SUVs.

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Ferrari returning to Le Mans top flight with hypercar in 2023

Ferrari 488 GTEs from the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Ferrari will return to the top flight of endurance racing with a hypercar entry in 2023, competing for outright Le Mans 24 Hours victory for the first time in 50 years, the Italian marque said on Wednesday.

Ferrari last entered the top category at Le Mans in 1973 and rivals will include Toyota, Peugeot, Porsche and Audi among major manufacturers.

The Hypercar category replaces the previous LMP1 in endurance racing.

Ferrari has won Le Mans outright nine times but not since 1965, when it fought a famed battle with Ford at the Sarthe circuit in western France. The marque has tasted success more recently in GT racing, winning the 2019 GTE Pro category.

“With the new Le Mans Hypercar program, Ferrari once again asserts its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in the major global motorsport events,” said Ferrari president John Elkann in a statement.

The name of the Ferrari car and the drivers have yet to be announced.

Ferrari have been looking for other activities in which to redeploy staff as a Formula One budget cap takes effect and the sport’s oldest and most successful team are forced to slim down.

Some technical staff have already moved across to work with the Haas F1 team, which uses Ferrari engines and has a close partnership with Maranello.

Ferrari also has a thriving young driver academy with endurance racing, another arena for gaining experience.



U.S. Postal Service awards billion-dollar truck contract to Oshkosh

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) said on Tuesday it will award a multibillion-dollar, 10-year contract to Oshkosh Defense to manufacture a new generation of postal delivery vehicles.

Under the initial $482 million investment, Oshkosh Defense, a unit of Oshkosh Corp, will finalize the production design, testing and vehicle tooling necessary prior to vehicle production.

The contract, which could be worth more than $6 billion in total, allows for delivery of between 50,000 to 165,000 of the vehicles over 10 years that will be a mix of internal combustion-powered and battery-electric vehicles. Oshkosh had teamed up with Ford Motor Co. on its proposal based on a Transit van.

The current gas-guzzling USPS delivery vehicles are nearly 30 years old on average. An audit report last year said USPS spent $5,000 alone per delivery vehicle annually on maintenance costs.

Oshkosh shares rose about 6.1% on the news.

Shares of Workhorse Group, a losing bidder that sought to build electric only vehicles at the former GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, were briefly halted and lost almost half their value after the news.

Colliers Securities analyst Michael Shlisky said Workhorse’s loss of the contract is “really bad news for recent Workhorse investors.”

USPS, which began planning to replace the current fleet in 2015, said the new vehicles could be retrofitted later with “electric vehicle technologies.”

The USPS fleet has more than 230,000 vehicles, including 190,000 that deliver mail.

New USPS vehicles will begin deliveries in late 2023 and include air conditioning and heating, improved ergonomics, and advanced vehicle safety technology including air bags and 360-degree cameras. They will be able to carry more cargo and better accommodate higher package volumes.

Last month, President Joe Biden vowed to replace the U.S. government’s fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles with electric models. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the USPS contract decision.



Hyundai Ioniq 5 revealed with long range, strong performance, concept car looks

When the Hyundai 45 concept car was revealed two years ago, we were impressed by the sleek, creased sheetmetal and airy interior. But we figured that whatever production car came of the design would receive major styling changes to make it work. We were wrong. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 delivers on the looks of the concept inside and out with very few changes, and it’s bolstered by the enticing E-GMP platform’s range, features and powertrain layout.

The outside of the Ioniq 5 is as striking as the concept, and we’re particularly impressed that Hyundai brought the boxy headlight and taillight treatments to market unchanged. The creases on the outside are intact, and they work great with the edgy, forward-leaning hatchback shape. The reveal car features 20-inch wheels that do look smaller than the concepts, but retain the detailed, aerodynamic design. There does appear to be more body cladding, which adopts little creased lines to help it fit in with the exterior’s theme. The car has also sprouted door handles, but they’re flush as to not distract from the shape and to aid aerodynamics. In some markets, the mirrors can be replaced with low-drag cameras and OLED screens, but they won’t be coming to America. On the topic of cool, green features, a solar roof is available like that on the Sonata Hybrid, which can charge the drive battery.

As for size, the Ioniq 5 is unusual. It’s nearly 2 inches shorter in length than the Elantra sedan and about 2 inches taller than a Kona, but its 118.1-inch long wheelbase is longer than the Palisade’s. In EV terms, it’s various dimensions align more closely to a Mustang Mach-E or Nissan Ariya than to a Nissan Leaf or the new Chevy Bolt EUV.

Inside, the dash is as minimalist as that of the 45, and it now has a fun magnetic panel that you can pin photos, notes and such to with fridge magnets. The seats now look more like what you’d find in a car rather than a midcentury modern home, but we’re not too disappointed. Why? Well, the front seats not only recline, but even have a La-Z-Boy-like leg rest. The car adopts a moveable center console that can allow for additional space under the dash. The rear seats also slide fore and aft to provide either more passenger room or cargo space. Dual 12-inch displays handle instruments and infotainment, and the head-up display will provide augmented reality-style graphics and information. In a video shown to the press, it works similarly to the Mercedes-Benz augmented camera system in that it can project arrows that look like they’re at a similar depth as the street you need to turn onto.

Underneath the striking body is Hyundai’s first implementation of the E-GMP platform. It can be equipped with either a rear motor and rear-wheel drive or two motors and all-wheel drive. A standard 58-kWh battery or optional 72.6-kWh battery can supply power. The single motor configuration makes 215 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and the dual-motor setup makes 302 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque. Despite the identical power ratings, the big 72.6-kWh battery versions accelerate faster than the small 58-kWh one. We’ve listed the powertrain combinations and acceleration times below.

  • Single-motor 0-60 mph times
    • 72.6-kWh: 7.4 seconds
    • 58-kWh: 8.5 seconds
  • Dual-motor 0-60 mph times
    • 72.6-kWh: 5.2 seconds
    • 58-kWh: 6.1 seconds

As for range, Hyundai has only given an estimate for the longest-range, rear-motor, big-battery configuration at 298 miles on the WLTP cycle. We would expect the EPA range to be a bit shorter. Based on what we know from the Kona Electric and its 64-kWh battery size and 258-mile range, we would expect the 58-kWh Ioniq 5 to have a range between 200 and 250 miles.

Hyundai says the Ioniq 5 will go on sale sometime in the first half of 2021 in “select markets,” so it will probably be released for the 2022 model year. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but that should be coming in the near future. The Ioniq 5 will also be joined in the next year or two by the Ioniq 6 sedan, based on the Hyundai Prophecy concept, and the Ioniq 7 large SUV.

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Tesla stops taking orders for the entry-level Model Y

We hope you didn’t have your heart set on that brand new Standard Range Model Y. As Electrek has learned, Tesla has quietly stopped taking orders for the ‘entry’ version of the electric crossover mere weeks after launching it. At the moment, you’ll have to spend at least $48,990 for the Long Range all-wheel drive variant ($1,000 less than before) if you want more interior space than the Model 3 can offer.

It’s not clear why Tesla dropped the Standard Range trim, or whether or not this is a temporary move. We’ve asked Tesla for comment, but the EV maker is believed to have disbanded its PR team.

It would be an odd decision if it was permanent. Tesla cut the base Model Y’s price to $39,990 just days earlier in an apparent effort to boost sales — this would clearly have the opposite effect. It might represent a pause as Tesla deals with an order backlog, retools production or otherwise decides that it can’t sell the Standard Range vehicle for a while.

If nothing else, the removal underscores complaints about Tesla’s sales strategy. The company’s frequent price tinkering can make its EVs more accessible than those from veteran automakers, many of which wait until new model years to drop prices or add features. However, the inconsistency also makes it difficult to know when it’s a good time to buy. You may hold off on a purchase only to watch a deal vanish without warning, leaving you no choice but to either keep waiting or buy an alternative.

This story originally appeared on Engadget.

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White House sends letter to Taiwan about chip shortage

TAIPEI — Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua said on Saturday she had received a letter from the White House on the global shortage of auto chips and Taiwanese semiconductor firms are “doing what they should” to address the problem.

Tight chip supplies have caused problems for auto makers globally, who in some cases are having to curtail production.

This week U.S. President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, thanked Wang for her efforts to resolve the shortage in coordination with the island’s manufacturers.

Wang told reporters that she had received the letter on Friday night, adding she had previously met with local chip makers on the issue, referring to meetings she has held in recent weeks.

“Going forward, manufacturers are doing what they should,” she said.

This is a problem affecting car makers around the world, including in the United States, Japan and Europe, and Taiwan is an important supplier, Wang added.

“We are helping as much as we can,” she said.

The shortage has affected Volkswagen, Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and other car makers.

Chip makers including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip maker, have pledged to prioritize production.

The issue has become a diplomatic one. As well as the letter from the United States, Germany’s economy minister has also written to Wang asking for help.



Another Green Episode | Autoblog Podcast #665

In this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder and West Coast Editor James Riswick for an episode dedicated to electric cars. First, they talk about what they’ve been driving, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the new base, rear-wheel-drive Porsche Taycan as well as the Polestar 2. Then they dive into some green news, including the reveal of the Audi E-Tron GT, the new Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV and plans to go electric by companies like General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover.

Autoblog Podcast #665

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  • What we’re driving:
  •  News


Autoblog is now live on your smart speakers and voice assistants with the audio Autoblog Daily Digest. Say “Hey Google, play the news from Autoblog” or “Alexa, open Autoblog” to get your favorite car website in audio form every day. A narrator will take you through the biggest stories or break down one of our comprehensive test drives.

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VW considers separately listing Porsche to raise money

HAMBURG — Volkswagen is considering a listing of its luxury car division Porsche AG to rake in cash needed for the group’s shift towards software and electric vehicles, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

“Those considerations exist,” the source said, but cautioned the idea was still far from being discussed in committees and that any listing was not to be expected in 2021.

Manager Magazin had reported the news earlier, boosting Volkswagen shares by as much as 5.7%. The magazine said Volkswagen could list as much as 25% of Porsche AG, a stake that could be valued at 20 billion to 25 billion euros ($24-$30 billion).

Volkswagen declined to comment. Top shareholder Porsche Automobil Holding SE, which holds 31.4% of Volkswagen and 53.1% of the group’s voting rights, also declined to comment.

The news comes hot on the heels of Daimler’s announcement earlier this month that it will spin off its trucks division, marking the latest German company to break up as sprawling industrials seek ways to lift valuations.

Volkswagen faces tough competition in developing electrified and self-driving cars. The merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-owner PSA to create the world’s fourth-biggest automaker Stellantis, adds to the pressure.

Speculation about a listing of Porsche AG — which some analysts believe could be worth as much as 100 billion euros and more than the current market capitalization of its parent — is not new.

In an interview in 2018, Porsche AG finance chief Lutz Meschke said the unit could be worth up to 70 billion euros as a separately listed company.

He said at the time that Ferrari and Aston Martin had both benefited from listings, and Porsche should think about ways it could make itself more attractive.

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Next-generation Honda HR-V revealed as a compact hybrid crossover

The next-generation Honda HR-V has been revealed, and in many ways it’s a major departure from the old model. Not only does it have a sportier stance, but it’s now a hybrid only. But there are still some classic HR-V features sprinkled about.

The shape of the HR-V (shown here as the Japanese-market Vezel) is much more coupelike with the forward leaning rear hatch. The tall, wide headlights and more vertical nose make it look wider and more imposing. The myriad diagonal creases of the outgoing model are gone, making the new car cleaner overall. The slatted grille is also quite interesting, as the slats appear to blend into the body work. Like the old HR-V, the new one has a rear door handle that’s integrated into the door frame, giving it a two-door appearance.

Inside, the interior looks like what has been previewed for the 2022 Honda Civic. The dash is low, wide, and minimalist, and has the popular single air vent motif. In the center stack, there are dedicated, physical controls for climate control with three stylish knobs. Pulling from the old HR-V again, the rear seat still has the versatile split fold-down and flip-up functions. Exact dimensions for the interior and exterior haven’t been provided, though, so we’re not sure how much larger the new HR-V is.

Only one powertrain has been announced for the HR-V so far: the naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid. Though exact numbers haven’t been given, it should be the same powertrain found in the new Fit. The gas engine makes 96 horsepower and 97 pound-feet of torque while the electric motor makes 106 horsepower and 187 pound-feet. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available.

In Japan, the HR-V goes on sale this April. No release announcements have been made for the U.S., but we would expect Honda to offer it, here, considering the general popularity of crossovers. And as far as Honda’s offerings go, it sold slightly better than the Odyssey, and more than double either the Passport or Ridgeline last year. It’s possible it could use the same hybrid powertrain as in Japan and Europe, but it could also get the closely related but higher output 1.5-liter hybrid from the Insight. It’s rated at 151 horsepower combined, and its electric motor makes 197 pound-feet of torque.

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