May 14, 2009

Good News for Tesla Motors: $100K Porsche looks like S clone

Now that Porsche has unveiled the final production version of its long-awaited 4-door sedan, the $100,000 Panamera, it is clear that the vehicle bears many similarities to another hi-tech sedan, the all-electric Tesla S Sedan. I cobbled together some shots to show what I mean:

Both cars are very good looking, and both designs owe something to sport sedan styling pioneered by the Maserati Quattroporte, blending 4 doors into a swooping roof line. Both the Pamamera and the S have extensive sun roofs. Both have hatchbacks, made possible by the slope of the roof. I am in no way suggesting that anyone is copying anyone here; if you want four doors and seating for four in a smooth shape with low drag coefficient then this is the shape. Porsche rounds the Panamera's rear in keeping with the Porsche "look" while Tesla's Franz von Holzhausenon takes a more carved, angular approach that has slight echoes of the Nissan Altima and recent BMW 3 series. Bear in mind that von Holzhausenon's remit here is to craft a look that gets the pulse racing yet appeals to a wide audience. After all, the Tesla sedan spearheads the company's bid to take all-electric vehicles mainstream.

But under the skin the cars couldn't be more different. The Panamera runs on fossil fuel and requires a fuel tank. The Tesla takes its power from batteries built into the chassis. That allows the Tesla to have a huge trunk space. How big? It can accommodate a third row of seating! Pricing is also very different, roughly $60K for a Tesla versus $100K for a Porsche. But performance may be quite closely matched (hard to believe perhaps, until you experience the Tesla's neck-snapping acceleration off the line).

May 11, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Has Some People Upset

As you may have heard--or if you're like me, had not heard--the U.S. government is considering several programs that offer people money for their old cars. There is already a program along these lines in California that pays you cash for turning in an old polluting car.

Oddly enough, when I lived in California I passed off my old polluting car to the authorities by parking it illegally, repeatedly, because there was nowhere legal to park. Then I went out of town on business one time and found it gone when I returned. The city kept the vehicle in payment for the fines, which suited me fine.

But apparently this cash-for-clunkers talk has upset some people, such as those who collect old cars and some car bloggers. So now we have anti-C4C folks name calling people who have reported it fairly objectively, like John Voelcker at

In a rare case of me admitting that I just don't know enough to render an authoritative opinion, I'm going to sit out the C4C debate. However, I will throw a question into the ring: What happens to the flow of used vehicles to Africa? I was told by a "used car industry insider" in Florida that a lot of used cars that don't fetch money at auction are shipped to Africa. I had assumed they went there to be fixed up and driven. But maybe they go to be buried. It wouldn't be the first time we have dumped our inconvenient waste in poor countries. Hopefully any C4C program the government executes will include an environmentally sound end-of-line process.

May 6, 2009

Hybrids Decline as Diesels Pop? Google Trends paint interesting picture

Figured I would check out the new Google Trend gizmo which lets you chart search trends. You can adjust the terms and the time frame. I found that a one year view from the US perspective shows "hybrid" declined rapidly as fuel prices eased (or family budgets tightened).

May 5, 2009

National Train Day: Saturday, May 9!

That's right, May 9 is National Train Day in America. Amtrak gets high marks for the marketing campaign on this one.

I really like the idea of getting people excited about train travel and several angles are being played in this one campaign. There is an appeal to "Trainiacs" but also to families and executive travelers.

If only more people would get behind the idea that investing in trains is an investment in the future. Think of all the jet fuel emissions we could save with high speed inter-city links. Not to mention the productivity gains--it is so much easier to work on a train than a plane. (Assuming Amtrak or whomever installs broadband--it is not hard to do guys--if they can do it on buses between Philly and Manhattan you can do it on trains.)

Anyway, check the site and you will find links ot all sorts of train-related events around the country this weekend.