It’s been more than eight years since I first drove one of BMW’s MINI E electric prototypes around downtown Los Angeles. One of the first characteristics I noticed about that car was the extremely aggressive regenerative braking that enabled driving virtually without touching the brake pedal. While BMW has persisted with that strategy as the only control mode on the production i3, other automakers have provided similar abilities only when shifting the transmission to Low mode. After driving the new Chevrolet Bolt EV from Tesla’s Silicon Valley backyard into the heart of San Francisco, I think all Bolt drivers should consider driving this way all the time.
It’s been a decade since General Motors finally gave up on trying to stake out a claim in the minivan market and then trying to recast its vans as pseudo-SUVs. In 2006, GM launched an all-new platform for full-size crossover utilities that was known internally as Lambda and ultimately spawned four nameplates, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the now-defunct Saturn Outlook. Having achieved some notable success with the platform with steadily growing sales of more than 200,000 units annually since 2010, an all-new second-generation Lambda is now ready and hit the streets in 2016 under a redesigned version of the Acadia.
Last year Chevrolet decided to join the rapidly burgeoning B-segment (aka subcompact) crossover utility field with an entry called the Trax. The Trax joins GM’s other similarly sized and surprisingly successful crossover the Buick Encore at a more affordable price point to challenge the likes of the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and Nissan Juke. In a segment expected to spawn several more entries from the likes of Ford, Hyundai and Toyota in the next couple of years, does the Trax have what it takes?
As we roll into the 2016 model year, General Motors is finally about ready to put its 2009 bankruptcy behind it as it completes the launch of a full lineup of post-reorganization vehicles. In addition to all-new vehicles designed and developed in this decade, GM is also rationalizing its in-vehicle infotainment options which had become fragmented over the past four years. For Chevrolet, that means there will basically be two levels of infotainment under the MyLink brand.
Yet another automotive proving ground opened in Ann Arbor, Mich. today, but the Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) is quite different from existing tracks. There is no shortage of automotive test tracks scattered around southeast Michigan mostly operated by automakers and larger suppliers that do everything from salt baths to high-speed stability to running over pounding potholes. These facilities tend to be highly secured facilities where outsiders are rarely welcome. Ford engineers don’t get to hang out at GM’s Milford Proving Ground and GM people are persona non-grata in Dearborn. At MTC Mcity course, all of these engineers will have a place where they can come together and collaborate along with researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).