A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
China builds huge sea-crossing bridge
As a country that’s long been a bit of an overachiever in the wall department, China can always be relied upon to put together some seriously impressive architecture. Of the three longest bridges in the world, two are in China, their spans combining to make some 280 kilometres of bridge.
Now, China can add the longest oversea bridge to its list of man-made wonders, with the Hong Kong-Macau-Zuhai Bridge, which opened this week. The bridge took nine years to build, cost an estimated $20-billion to construct, and is reportedly capable of withstanding earthquakes, typhoons, or even an errant cargo ship drifting into it.
At just under 55 kilometres in length, the bridge is four times the size of the Confederation Bridge that links Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick. Laid out on the most direct route, it would be capable of linking Vancouver Island to the mainland.
So, next time you’re stuck in ferry traffic, just think that we only need to spend between 10 and 20 billion dollars to have a proper continuation of the Trans-Canada highway. That’s like the cost of taking your car on the ferry four times, if you also splurge on fries and gravy in the Coastal Cafe.
Porsche to launch new Cayman T variant
The best Porsche sports car is whatever one you can afford (in my case, that’ll be a Hot Wheels). However, picking out the best Porsche from the current lineup isn’t about how much you can spend, it’s about subtler details. For instance, the king of the hill GT2RS is undoubtedly the fastest, but it’s not the most charming.
While it now lacks a bit of flat-six character, the Cayman two-seater is still probably the best sports car that Porsche makes. Now powered by a turbocharged flat-four (it doesn’t sound bad, per se, but there’s a bit too much Subaru WRX for the snobs), the Cayman is still a little lighter on its feet than the 911, and while it doesn’t quite have the pace of Porsche’s iconic rear-engined cars, it’s a bit sweeter to drive.
Earlier this summer, I had a go in a 911T, which is Porsche’s new lightweight flavour of 911. Instead of adding power and performance, they actually stripped out a few creature comforts, and added lighter glass. This made the car noisier and a bit more of an experience, which made it a bit more fun to drive at normal speeds.
Now, Porsche is going to do the same thing for the Cayman, with a T version of the mid-engined two seater getting a mild power bump, lighter glass, and fewer options. It won’t be much quicker, but it’ll feel quicker, which is certainly good news as speed limits haven’t changed much.
Rolls-Royce commissions Faberge egg
As Porsche tries to find its way back to the purity of its past, Rolls-Royce is ploughing forward with even more seriously spendy silliness. In this case, they’ve laid the proverbial golden egg, as made by famed Russian jeweller Faberge.
I didn’t know anything about Faberge, so I went and looked them up. Apparently starting off as an Easter present that Tsar Alexander III gave to his Empress, the Imperial-class jewelled eggs are incredibly intricate artworks that are worth an absolute fortune. Only two have been remade in the modern era, at a cost of multiple millions of dollars.
The Rolls-Royce version features a crystal Spirit of Ecstasy figure, with the ribs of the egg mechanized to open like a flower. It’s about 15 centimetres tall, and crafted of diamonds and amethysts and rose gold. Call me a philistine, but when a car company spends several million dollars on an egg, maybe those of us driving around in 10-year-old Hondas that smell a bit sulfurous should start eyeing our torches and pitchforks.
Nissan Leaf gets on the (German) grid
Anyway, that’s probably enough fomenting revolution for now. On to an updated from another kind of revolution: electric car ownership.
One of the major problems brought up anytime people start talking about switching our national fleet of vehicles over to EVs is that the infrastructure can’t handle the load yet. Now, Nissan’s become the first company to officially have its cars become part of the solution.
In all likelihood, Germany is going to emerge as a front-runner in EV adoption. The whole Volkswagen diesel emissions mess is still driving political opinion, and there’s a will to fix the problem. As Germany ramps up their infrastructure to be able to handle widespread EV usage, engineers are looking at using battery-powered cars as, well, batteries.
With Nissan’s Leaf, the idea is pretty simple. A car can charge during low demand times, such as overnight, and then energy can flow back into the grid during peak demand. Owners can get paid for the difference, so if you leave your EV home on a nice day and ride your bike to work, you get double the benefits.
The Leaf is due for a bit of a battery upgrade in the near future, with a 60 kWh planned – that’s about a third larger than its current battery. Tesla tends to make all the headlines, not least because of whatever antics Elon Musk is up to, but the Leaf is a sensible, affordable choice for most people, and it continues to get smarter.
Seattle street turns into ball pit
Just to the south, some of our American neighbours got a rude addition to their commute on Wednesday afternoon, when a load of huge steel ball bearings fell out of a truck at the top of a hill. The bearings, most of which were the size of a lawn bowling set, came bouncing down into traffic, causing people to swerve all over the place.
Happily, no one was injured, though several cars were damaged. Let this be a reminder that driving is always about expecting the unexpected.