x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Supplier warns of 'potential safety issue' with Fisker Karma batteries

This week in Motoring: GM reveals brake solution, Ferrari chief looks to lead Italy, China unveils plastic train that can do 500kph, and Betty the reindeer survives motorway drama.

The Fisker Karma is built at the Valmet plant in Finland. Newspress
The Fisker Karma is built at the Valmet plant in Finland. Newspress

The battery company A123, which supplies batteries for the Fisker Karma extended range electric vehicle, says it has found a "potential safety issue" with the batteries.

According to Bloomberg, the company says hose clamps which are part of the internal cooling system of the batteries have been misaligned and could cause a coolant leak. This could result in possible short circuits, wrote David Vieau, the CEO of A123, in a memo on a company website.

Vieau was quick to point out that the defect would only apply to fewer than 50 cars, and the company has already begun to fix those affected.

The Fisker Karma, an electric vehicle with a battery and an onboard, petrol-powered electric generator, is currently built in Valmet Automotive factory in Finland, the same factory that builds the Porsche Boxster and Cayman.

Henrik Fisker, the man behind the Karma and a former designer with BMW and Aston Martin, has recently said that production of the Karma, which costs US$102,000 (Dh375,000), is up to 25 cars per day and that he expects that to rise to 60 per day next year.


GM has brake noise solution

General Motors says it is developing a brake rotor that will bring an end to screeching brakes on its cars.

The US company claims its fix for the awful fingers-on-chalkboard sound could be in its vehicles within two to three years.

Brake squealing can indicate worn pads but even new brakes can still suffer from the affliction, making it a major problem that car makers have been trying to address for years.

Vibration is the cause of the noise. When brake pads collide with the rotor when the brake pedal is applied, they collide, causing both to vibrate and, in some cases, incessant noise for the driver.

GM's solution, as reported by The New York Times' Wheels blog, is to have a thin ring of metal that touches the brake rotor but is not melded to it, so it absorbs the vibration.

The company compares the effect to placing an object on a ringing bell - the object quells the sound coming from the bell.

The braking system is currently being tested by GM and is expected to be available on some cars and lorries in two to three years' time.


Ferrari chief set to lead Italy?

At the top car brands, media speculation is something that's dealt with on a daily basis. And that's something that's especially true of Ferrari, the Italian company with a rabid following. But the rumours usually swirl around a new vehicle in the works and not, like they are now, about the country's failing politics.

The latest round of whispers has it that Ferrari's chairman, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the prodigy of both Enzo Ferrari and former Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, will likely throw his hat into the ring for Italy's highest office when the next scheduled elections come around in 2013.

The Italian aristocrat and lawyer has long been linked with a potential run for the premiership, and he has chaired influential industrial groups and has coordinated several high-profile sporting events in the past. He set up a centre-left think tank in 2009 called Italia Futura, which could, it's believed, be turned into a political party and mobilised for elections.

Montezemolo has recently denied his ambitions of taking over the country, but in a recent letter to Italia Futura criticising the government, he signed himself as "Luca di Montezemolo, future president of Italy".


China unveils plastic train that can travel at almost 500kph

China has created a train capable of travelling at speeds of up to 482kph - more than 160kph faster than the current fastest train.

The train is made from plastics reinforced with carbon fibre and is shaped to resemble an ancient Chinese sword.

The locomotive, which is currently being tested, follows the country's unveiling earlier this year of an operational train that can reach 321kph and averages 265kph.

The 321kph train can cover the 1,326km distance between Beijing and Shanghai in just five hours.

The test model has a maximum tractive power of 22,800kW, compared with 9,600kW for the current Beijing-Shanghai train.

China has more bullet-train track than any other country in the world, with almost 13,000km of track linking cities at a cost of 700 billion yuan (Dh407.2bn).

The country is expected to add another 13,000km of track by 2015.


Betty the Christmas reindeer survives motorway drama

Driving down the motorway at high speed, you don't expect to see a reindeer strolling down the middle lane slightly dazed and confused.

But that was exactly the scene in Ohio, US, last week after Betty the reindeer fell from the back of a lorry on to the road.

A loose latch caused Betty to be launched onto the concrete and, when the driver of the lorry didn't spot that she was missing, she was left to wander the motorway until motorists called police, who eventually came to rescue her. Amazingly, Betty escaped with only bumps and bruises, according to Stump Hill Farm, who were transporting her to attend a Christmas event when the accident happened.

Tricyn Huntsman, the daughter of Lee and Cynthia Huntsman, who founded the farm, told the Beacon Journal that in addition to fixing Betty's latch, which had a loose bolt, an extra one and lock has been installed, meaning Betty will travel in safety from now on.