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Toyota flip-flops, to debut to two electric vehicles and a plug-in hybrid in 2021

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Toyota future electric vehicle designs - 2019

Toyota on Wednesday confirmed plans to launch two electric vehicles and a plug-in hybrid in the U.S. this year.

The new models are part of a large-scale electrified-vehicle push. By 2025, Toyota wants 40% of its U.S. vehicle sales to be electrified models, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric cars, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, a company press release said. The automaker expects that to increase to nearly 70% by 2030.

No details of the two electric vehicles or the new plug-in hybrid were released, but Toyota confirmed that it is developing a dedicated EV platform called e-TNGA, and previously said it was working on solid-state batteries for future electric cars. The automaker unveiled a handful of EV designs in 2019, and last year confirmed a partnership with Subaru for an electric SUV that will likely be sold under both brands.

Toyota has largely avoided battery-electric vehicles, pitching fuel cells as an alternative zero-emissions technology, and continuing to push the hybrid technology it pioneered with the Prius. As recently as December 2020, company president Akio Toyoda opined that there was too much hype surrounding electric cars.

Toyota future electric vehicle designs – 2019

Wednesday’s announcement indicated Toyota hasn’t completely changed its stance on EVs. The company said internal research showed that battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids have “similar environmental benefits.” Greenhouse gas emissions are “roughly the same” for the two powertrains when factoring in emissions from U.S. grid electricity production, according to Toyota.

However, that contradicts what the Union of Concerned Scientists has calculated in its annual studies of EV emissions. There is almost nowhere in the U.S. where an EV doesn’t produce significantly lower emissions, even when factoring in grid electricity, according to the group. Furthermore, all-electric cars have the potential to get cleaner as the grid transitions to renewable-energy sources.

The Toyota release also said the the automaker is aiming for “a diversified product portfolio with multiple forms of vehicle electrification” that will “let consumers choose the model that best suits their usage needs and cost profile.” So while Toyota is introducing some electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids could still account for a bigger share of sales volumes.

Toyota hasn’t sold a battery-electric vehicle in the U.S. since the Tesla-powered RAV4 EV ended production in 2014. So far, the only one of Toyota’s promised new EVs to launch has been the Japanese-market C+Pod minicar.

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2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S-Class brings the V-12

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2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

When the 2021 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S-Class debuted it was missing one piece of utter excess: a V-12 engine.

On Monday the German automaker confirmed it would indulge excess in the form of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680. It’s the Maybach S-Class with 12 cylinders and twin turbos, and it arrives in U.S. dealers in the first half of 2022.

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

What sets the new Maybach 680 apart from the lesser 580 is its four additional cylinders. The twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 engine produces 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, which is 125 hp and 222 lb-ft more than the twin-turbo V-8 model. The extra power will accelerate the Maybach and its owners in comfort from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds vs the V-8 model’s 4.7-second jaunt. Top speed is limited to 130 mph. A 9-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels for the first-time in a V-12-powered Maybach with 31% of the power going to the front wheels and 69% to the rear.

Like the V-8-powered models, the V-12 Maybach features four-wheel steering. The rear axle can turn the wheels up to 4.5 or 10 degrees depending on whether the wheels are staggered.

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

Determining whether a Maybach has a V-12 or V-8 under its hood will be difficult as the only discernible difference will be a small V-12 badge on the front fenders and the exhaust note.

V-12-powered Maybach S-Class sedans will feature the same long wheelbase as the V-8 models. The grille gets the Maybach treatment with vertical slats that look like what one would find on a pinstripe suit. A two-tone paint finish can be ordered.

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

Inside the Maybach S-Class offers up a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster augmented by a 12.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The interior is lined in real wood, nappa leather, and metal.

The reclining rear seats feature a heated cushion on the headrests and a massage function comes standard. Silver-plated champagne flutes and a refrigerated compartment are optional.

Mercedes-Benz is quiet on pricing for now, but the Maybach S680 will undoubtedly cost more than the 580 model, which is priced from $185,950. 

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Stellantis and Foxconn forming partnership to produce connected electric cars

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Stellantis logo

Stellantis and Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm best known for contract manufacturing the Apple iPhone, appear ready to announce a partnership to produce electric cars.

Reuters first reported the news Monday, and Stellantis later announced a joint press conference with Foxconn, to be held Tuesday.

The partnership follows a deal announced last year between Foxconn and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), before the automaker finalized its merged with PSA Group to form Stellantis. That deal, which called for a joint venture to manufacture electric cars for the Chinese market, was put on hold due to the merger, according to Reuters.

Stellantis logo

Foxconn appears eager to expand from manufacturing smartphones to manufacturing electric cars. The company unveiled its own modular EV platform in October 2020. Dubbed MIH, it features in-house-developed hardware and software, and is designed for both car and SUV body styles, Foxconn said at the time.

Earlier this year, Foxconn also entered into a joint venture with Fisker Inc. to build a sub-$30,000 EV, with a target launch date of 2023. The two companies have said this EV, codenamed Project Pear, will be built in the United States. However, Fisker’s first model—the Ocean crossover—will be built at Magna’s factory in Graz, Austria, using a platform designed by that company.

Foxconn has also invested in some Chinese automakers. It invested $350 million in Xpeng in 2018, and invested in troubled EV startup Byton earlier this year. Byton started pre-production of its M-Byte crossover in April 2020, but progress stalled due to cash shortages. The two companies said in January that the new goal is to start deliveries in the first quarter of 2022.

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McLaren Formula One team to run Gulf Livery in Monaco

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McLaren MCL35M Formula One car in Gulf livery

One of racing’s classic liveries will soon be paired with one of its most iconic venues. The McLaren Formula One team will run a one-off Gulf livery for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix on May 23, the team announced Sunday in a press release.

Both McLaren MCL35M race cars will be decked out in the familiar Gulf Oil blue and orange, while drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Land Norris will wear matching race suits and helmets with “bespoke retro designs,” the team said.

Gulf Oil is already a McLaren sponsor, and has a long history with the company. It first became a McLaren sponsor in 1968 and continued through 1973, in both F1 and the Can-Am series. The partnership was renewed in the 1990s, with the #41 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail that finished second at the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans wearing a version of the Gulf livery.

McLaren MCL35M Formula One car in Gulf livery

The livery is rarely seen in F1, but has adorned numerous race cars in other series, including the Porsche 917K and Ford GT40, making it one of the most recognizable in motorsports.

The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix is scheduled for March 23. F1 skipped Monaco in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. McLaren enters Monaco third in the Constructor standings, behind Mercedes and Red Bull, and just ahead of Ferrari. Norris and Ricciardo are currently fourth and seventh in the driver points standings, respectively. It’s a big improvement from just a few years ago, when McLaren was reduced to a backmarker team.

The Gulf Oil sponsorship also allows McLaren supercar customers to request the blue-and-orange livery through the McLaren Special Operations (MSO) personalization program. The company showed off a Gulf-liveried Elva speedster late last year to entice customers to open their wallets for what is likely a costly option.

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