New car technical innovations from Nissan, Volvo, Mazda and BMW


While ePOWER Nissans have been sold in Japan since 2017, the technology has just arrived in the UK, beneath the bonnet of the popular Qashqai SUV. ePOWER comprises electric propulsion only, using a 140kW motor. Yet, this is a hybrid, by virtue that a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine recharges the battery packs. Under full acceleration, or when driven at high speeds, the combustion-derived electrical energy is diverted from the battery pack to the motor directly, via an inverter. As is the convention with high-voltage vehicles, the system also boasts kinetic energy recuperation, under braking and deceleration.

While nothing novel, this engine also varies its compression ratios, between 8:1 and 14:1. The system works not using valve gear adjustments but an actuator changes the pistons’ strokes. While adopted for ePOWER, the variable compression technology was used first by Infiniti, as we highlighted last year ( genesis-new-car-technical-innovations). Unfortunately, Nissan’s luxury brand is neither built, nor available, in the UK any longer.

Nissan reports that, in low-power demand situations, such as cruising with a charged battery pack, high compression mode (combined, presumably, with low turbo boost pressures) is selected for efficiency and low emissions. Low compression situations are needed with high power outputs and Nissan reports that the compression adjustments are seamless. While the fuel consumption and emission figures are not confirmed at the time of writing, preliminary figures for the Qashqai ePOWER indicate 53mpg on the combined cycle and 119g/km.


Critics of Battery Electric Vehicles may be rubbing their hands with glee, as concerns grow about UK public charger access failing to meet projected demand. The same worries blight those of us that do not have access to private driveways and are forced to park curbside. Yet, wireless charging is nothing new. Even certain motorcars have wireless pads installed within their interiors to facilitate mobile ‘phones charging. Therefore, why can this technology not be upscaled for Battery Electric Vehicles?

Volvo thinks that it can, even for high-mileage applications. Currently, the Chinese-owned company is trialling wireless charging technology in its first BEV, the XC40 Recharge. Rather than being used occasionally, the cars will be put to work by Cabonline, the Nordic region’s largest taxi operator. Each vehicle is expected to cover at least a 12-hour shift, covering 60,000 miles per year.

These vehicles are charged wirelessly at a station, based at the company’s HQ in Gothenburg, Sweden. Recharging commences as soon as the vehicle parks over a charging pad, embedded in the ground. A 360-degree ADAS camera system is employed to ensure that the vehicle is parked accurately. The charging station energises the pad and this power is picked up by the car’s receiver unit. Volvo Cars claims that the charging speeds are four times faster than a hard-wired 11kW AC charger, although not quite as fast as a 50kW DC fast charger.

While we admit that these vehicles are not for commercial sale (yet), should the experiment be a success, it might provide a safe answer to urban issues of on-street EV charging.


With motor manufacturers desperate to slash CO2 outputs, many of them are pooling resources. More recently, several Toyota- based models have appeared that lean on the company’s self-charging, high-voltage hybrid prowess. First came Suzuki, with the Across PHEV (based on Toyota’s RAV4) and the Swace Hybrid (a tweaked Corolla estate). Now, the Mazda2 Hybrid enters the ring, looking strangely familiar…

While it looks like a Toyota and is built by Toyota, it is unsurprising that it is nothing more (or less) than an undiluted Yaris. This means that it benefits from Toyota’s fourth- generation hybrid technology, which has much in common with the same systems that are used with the larger petrol engines in the Toyota Corolla/Suzuki Swace and RAV4/Across ranges. Yet, the Mazda2/Yaris employ a 1.5-litre engine triple, which utilises Atkinson cycle variable valve timing (as is Toyota’s way) and a balance shaft to reduce the natural imbalance that afflicts three- cylinder units. Toyota also claims that this engine possesses the world’s fastest combustion speed.

Being a high-voltage Hybrid, the Mazda2/Yaris can be driven in electric-only mode and the engine can both recharge the batteries and drive the wheels. Working together, the electric motor and engine can produce 114bhp, enough to achieve 0-62mph in fewer than 10 seconds and an average of 72mpg.

Confusingly, the ageing conventionally-engined, third-generation Mazda2 (with its different bodyshell) remains on sale. Mazda justifies its decision, because it ensures that: “Our customers will have the widest choice of small cars in UK showrooms.”


While powering a relatively small coupé with a straight-six engine seems hardly revolutionary, we deem it worthy of inclusion, because the latest M240i xDrive is the only car in its class to be thus equipped. One has to hope that, in an era of engine downsizing, this is not the last Bimmer iteration of the straight-six, especially as BMW has canned its V12, Rolls-Royce models excepted.

Even so, the Germans have developed the M240i’s engine to be the most powerful in-line six in the company’s core engine portfolio. The unit was developed using the motor racing prowess of BMW M GmbH and features a closed-deck aluminium crankcase, an alloy cylinder-head, weight-optimised pistons/connecting rods and a forged steel crankshaft. The new 3.0-litre power plant develops 34bhp more than its predecessor, totalling 374bhp. The peak torque of 500Nm is also impressive, especially as it is available not at a set engine speed but between 1,900 and 5,000rpm. This explains how the range-topping M240i xDrive coupé can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds.

New Car Focus: BMW i4

By making its latest electric vehicle simpler, Rob Marshall finds that BMW has made the electric car better.

Regardless of whether you are a Bimmer liker, or hater, the company deserves credit for its stance on EVs. Back in 2008, BMW had embarked on ‘Projekt i’, an exercise that involved leasing 500 Battery Electric MINIs to selected North American punters and a further 24 to designated Londoners. This was not environmental greenwash. As BMW saw its moral responsibilities extending beyond the motorcar and into its ‘fuel’, it partnered with Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian hydroelectric firm that generated 28% of Germany’s total electricity supply at the time.

Sure enough, the fruits of the ‘Projekt’ included a continued relationship with hydroelectric power, which BMW now sources more locally and uses it in its factories. This is a crucial point, because EV’s environmental worth is undermined, if produced in a country, where fossil fuels provide most of the electricity, which is the situation in Germany, unlike the UK. ‘Projekt i’ also spawned the intriguing and promisingly different i3 and i8 models. Unfortunately, those high-voltage BMWs were built on expensive bespoke platforms and, despite being interesting and desirable, they are hardly mainstream. The new i4 five-door hatchback, or ‘Gran Coupé’ in BMW marketing parlance, is being launched alongside the iX SUV. Both vehicles are underpinned by the same basic Cluster Architecture (CLAR) BMW’s new i4 Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is a Gran Coupé (i.e. a five-door hatchback) with dimensions that are similar to those of a current production 3-series. Pictured is the rear-driven i4 eDrive40 platform that is shared with other petrol/diesel/hybrid BMWs, including the G20 3-series.

The BMW i4 eDrive40 is rear-driven, using a 335bhp (250KW) motor, and possesses a 366 miles range between charges and can dispatch 0-60mph in 5.6s. The i4 M50 has the honour of being the first all-electric BMW M car and is equipped with an additional electric motor on the front axle, giving all-wheel drive capability (albeit still with a rear drive bias) and a combined output of 536bhp (400KW), translating into a 0-60mph acceleration time of 3.9s and a 317 miles stated range.

The fifth generation eDrive drive unit comprises the electric motor, inverter and a single-speed transmission. BMW claims it has a 50% higher energy density than a current i3.

BMW claims that the electric drive motors boast a 93% efficiency rating, which helps to keep down the battery size and weight.

Addressing the critics…

The i4’s handsome but conservative looks hints at technical convention. Indeed, on the surface, there is little to surprise and delight: the battery pack is fixed to the floor pan, while the main motor/transmission/differential is mounted beneath the boot floor. Yet, looking closer reveals clever thinking to address common EV criticisms. While the precise battery cell technology is not revealed, BMW has made the batteries less bulky, championing a cell height of 110mm. It is also another manufacturer that realises how disproportionately heavy battery packs harm handling and efficiency. It has also strived to keep pre-assembly component distances as low as possible. BMW produces its prismatic cell modules in Dingolfing (Germany), the flexible assembly specifications of which vary according to model. The batteries are then transported to Munich. The i4 possesses four modules, containing 72 cells each and three 12-cell modules, giving a gross energy content of 83.9kWh. The battery warranty lasts for just under 100,000 miles, or eight years.

While it cannot do much about the locations in which the precious metals are situated, BMW has taken the human rights problems of cobalt mining into its own hands, by sourcing the rare element from mines in Australia, rather than the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The company has also strived to reduce the cobalt content within the battery packs, although as the ~5% cobalt (traditionally) accounts for ~95% of a traditional high voltage battery’s scrap value (lithium is relatively worthless), this might make it harder to justify recycling from an economics point of view. Even so, BMW claims a 90% recycling rate, compared to the EU legal limit of 50% by weight.

BMW i4 assembly takes place in Munich, on the same production lines as petrol/diesel/hybrid 3-series and M3 models.

The i4’s high-voltage battery pack is fitted to the underside by a fully-automated system.

Perhaps more importantly, BMW utilises electromagnetism to replace permanent magnets within the drive motors, avoiding the need for expensive and rare earth elements to be used in their production. This is a radical departure from convention, by making its EV less dependent on very rare and expensive elements. With the US considering the imposition of tariffs on neodymium magnet imports, BMW’s decision may be crucial to reduce the cost of EV production – although whether these savings will be passed to the customer, or not, is another question altogether.

Under the skin…

The voice-activated HVAC system possesses three zones. The cabin filter uses nano-fleece technology and more conventional activated carbon to enable ultra-fine dust and even certain micro-bacterial particles to be kept out of the cabin. A pre-conditioning function can be activated by the driver via the BMW smartphone app, prior to entering the car.

The basic thermal management (i.e. not just cooling but also heating) for the battery and associated hardware comprises three coolant circuits, interconnected by electric valves, all of which share a common expansion tank. This can, for example, allow heat from the drive motor to warm the battery pack. The new heat pump system uses 75% less energy than the current i3 and consists of a high-voltage refrigerant compressor, a pair of evaporators, a water-cooled condenser, and two 9KW heaters for extremely cold conditions. Surprisingly, the resultant energy savings can increase driving range by up to 30%. While the advantages offered by enhanced battery density, less weight and a more efficient drive unit benefit handling and acceleration, BMW has also considered that EVs tend to have feeble towing capacities. Yet, the i4 can tow up to 1,000 kgs.

Dependent on specification, up to 40 ADAS systems can feature, although they all work using camera, radar and/or ultrasonic sensors. Out of the six categories of automation, defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the i4’s systems achieve Level Two (i.e. ‘partial automation’), where both steering and speed are controlled simultaneously. While Distance Cruise Control is hardly novel, the i4’s system can also stop the car at red traffic light signals. While BMW says this feature is unique to the segment, it has not been confirmed if its availability is restricted only to the German market. The Route Monitoring function is another noteworthy feature, because it uses the satellite navigation system to select the appropriate speed for the selected route.

Summary: By normalising its new BEV, BMW has improved the electric vehicle in several important ways, especially by reducing its environmental impact at the manufacturing stage. The i4 will be available in the UK from November. Prices start at £51,905 for the i4 eDrive40 and commence at £63,905 for the i4 M50.

Compared with the i4 eDrive40, the i4 M50’s suspension differs by possessing adaptive M suspension dampers, an additional front strut brace, an increased track width (26mm front, 12mm rear), increased negative camber at the front axle and additional rear axle reinforcement. Both models boast self-levelling rear air springs.


4-Focus – New car tech from Tesla, Peugeot, BMW and Renault


According to BMW, the future of driving pleasure is electric and emission-free at a local level. However, the company that prides itself on producing Ultimate Driving Machines, admits that the silent clinical efficiency of pure electric driving loses a degree of driver ’emotion’.

Its answer is to engage the services of Hans Zimmer, a film music composer, to create a series of scores that are relayed into the cabin via the speakers of the company’s battery electric (BEV),
or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars. It claims that, in the future, electric driving pleasure will be enhanced by acoustic feedback to every movement of the accelerator pedal. This is in addition to the artificial sounds that an electric vehicle must emit outside at low speeds, to warn pedestrians of their presence.

Both Mr Zimmer and Renzo Vitale, Creative Director of Sound at the BMW Group, have produced scores, tailored towards each electric vehicle’s different characters. A more vivid driving tune has been developed for the more sporting electric ‘M’ cars, the first of which (the i4 M50, as featured in our New Car report) will be launched within the next twelve months.

The latest task has been to create suitable drive sounds for the more mainstream iX and i4 models. BMW says that the IconicSounds Electric also takes cues from the driver’s personal preferences, which may mean that it can be switched-off. Indeed, IconicSounds is deactivated automatically in the ‘ECO PRO’ mode.

When COMFORT mode is selected, BMW says that an immersive and pleasant atmosphere is created but the sound deepens dependent on throttle position. In SPORT mode, in particular, the car’s aural spectrum becomes more powerful and the system reacts within milliseconds. For the M cars, the differentiation between COMFORT and SPORT is made more prominent.

IconicSounds Electric is a standard fitment on the BMW iX (pictured) but optional for the i4. With the latter, it will be interesting to see whether customers will be prepared to pay for the privilege of artificial interior sounds, or whether the technology will be exposed as an irrelevant gimmick.


While it has focussed considerable efforts on BEVs, Renault has adopted a novel transmission for its high-voltage hybrids, with or without plug-in functionality. As Renault’s solution had to be applied to SUVs and city cars, the new gearbox had to be compact, relatively inexpensive to make, not overly complicated and efficient. The result is a new ‘automatic’ transmission that is neither a CVT, nor a DCT, but a friction clutchless dog-clutch gearbox, that the manufacturer has protected with 150 patents.

The E-Tech is a series-parallel hybrid drive system that utilises the pre-existing Renault/Dacia/Nissan 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with this clutchless dog-clutch transmission, which is mounted transversely in the Clio hatchback / Captur SUV applications. A 230V 1.2 KWh battery pack is used for the Clio; the Captur (and Mégane) Plug-In versions possess a more substantial 400V 9.8KWh unit. The electric motors are situated within the transmission case.

On the overrun (i.e car moving, accelerator released), the main electric motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery in the conventional sense. The driver can toggle the gear lever between D (Drive) and B (Brake), which increases the regeneration level. The second, smaller electric motor (again, fitted within the gearbox) is used only when ‘Sport’ mode is selected for maximum acceleration.

As the driveline possesses neither friction, fluid nor wet clutches, the car moves from stationary using the primary electric motor. The engine is used to power the wheels only when the vehicle is in motion.


Gifting misleading titles to safety equipment risks giving drivers a false sense of invincibility. A worrying trend is people confusing ADAS with driverless technology, many of whom should know better. Indeed, our own government attracted criticism from the AA, Thatcham and the Association of British Insurers in April, when the Department of Transport defined cars with Automated Lane Keeping Systems as ‘self-driving’, when the system is categorised officially as Level Three ADAS.

Tesla has also been found guilty of over-egging ADAS as automated driving. Last year, a German court found its ‘Autopilot’ claims were misleading, as the system is really Level Two ADAS, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Level Five, incidentally represents full automation.

As many readers realise, ADAS relies on the car’s ability to ‘see’ its surroundings and it does so using ultrasonic sensors, radars, cameras and lidar. Interestingly, the new Tesla Vision system ditches radar completely, in favour of eight cameras. According to reports, Elon Musk has reported that the new camera-only system is likely to be safer than radar, because they are less prone to confusing signals. However, some industry commentators have questioned the wisdom of removing radar, considering the hardware is less vulnerable to low light and poor weather conditions, compared to cameras. While Tesla Vision is available only on North American specification Model 3 and Y cars for now, it will be interesting to see if removing radar is the right move, especially considering Tesla’s ambitions to be at the forefront of automated driving technology.


Built on the basic mechanical platform of its BEV e-Expert LCV, Peugeot is one of the first brands to offer hydrogen-power with a plug-in facility. Considering that there are 11 hydrogen filling stations in the UK, at the time of writing, the ability for the van to run on both hydrogen and battery power boosts its appeal.

While the e-Expert Hydrogen’s 10.5kWh battery can be recharged in fewer than 30 minutes from a 11kW, 32A wall plug, or six hours from a conventional 13 amp home socket, it can be tanked with hydrogen in under three minutes. The hydrogen is stored beneath the main floor and the battery mounts above the cylinders, directly beneath the seats. The e-Expert Hydrogen also boasts revised spring and damper settings over the BEV version.

At start-up and low speeds, the high-voltage battery powers the drive motor. Under cruising conditions, the 45kWh hydrogen fuel cell takes over. During acceleration, overtaking, or when climbing hills, the fuel cell and battery work together. On the overrun, and during braking, the electric motor supplies current to the high-voltage battery. The combination of battery and hydrogen propulsion provides a 245 miles range, a maximum payload of 1,100kgs and a 1,000kgs towing captivity. Interestingly, Peugeot guarantees that the lithium-ion battery will retain 70% of its charge capacity for eight years, or 100,000 miles. As Peugeot and Vauxhall are owned by the same group, the Vivaro-e Hydrogen is a badged-engineered alternative.


Opus IVS 360 Case Study

Opus IVS 360 OEM-trained Master Technicians help a customer with a BMW fitted with a M57TU engine and automatic transmission, suffering from a blocked DPF.

The Opus IVS team provide live repair guidance to workshops globally. The team helps technicians establish the fastest, most reliable, and accurate diagnosis, and take them through the process step-by-step, all the way through to vehicle repair. Ultimately, workshops have access to a team of ‘behind the scenes’ OEM brand-specific technicians that they can rely on daily to provide the actual fix.

The IVS 360 team often see multiple cases of the same nature. This is particularly true of BMW vehicles fitted with the M57TU engine and automatic transmission, which results in a blocked DPF.


• DPF will not regenerate


• Engine over-cooling, even after fitting main and EGR thermostats

The Fix

• Retrofit an additional thermostat

BMW cars fitted with the M57TU engine and automatic transmission often suffer from a blocked DPF. Here’s a typical scenario:

Diagnosis has been carried out and during a test drive you have noticed that the engine fails to reach over 68 oC (approximate). When left to idle, the engine temperature can be seen to increase. This indicates a thermostat is sticking open. The normal repair of replacing the main engine cooling thermostat and EGR cooler thermostat has been carried out and a test drive has been undertaken to test the operation of the cooling system. However, once again, the engine temperature fails to exceed 68 oC (approximate).

The cause can be the automatic transmission oil cooler thermostat stuck open. A test to prove this would be to clamp off the pipe between the cooling system and the automatic transmission oil cooler then repeating the test drive. The automatic transmission oil cooler thermostat is not available separately from the cooler, however there is a work around. You can purchase an inline thermostat that is available from the VAG group or many of the main aftermarket parts retailers, Part number 4e0121113.

For more information about IVS 360 and how it can support your workshop, visit

Opus IVS helps independent automotive workshops repair the most complex vehicles fast with diagnostics, programming and live repair guidance from OE brand-specific master technicians. As vehicles become technologically advanced, we enable independent automotive workshops to get them back on the road safely. Powered by Autologic, Opus IVS is committed to helping workshops complete repairs with intelligent vehicle support today, for a safer world tomorrow.


4-Focus – new tech innovations from Volkswagen, Skoda, Hyundai and BMW


Electric power steering (EPS), defined by an assistance motor mounted on either the column, or rack, has played a significant role in reducing emissions and manufacturing costs, as well as allowing carmakers to evolve their autonomous systems.

While ‘Steering Assist’ would not have been feasible without EPS, Park Assist utilises the same hardware. It works using a series of ultrasonic distance sensors and cameras (in some cases) to assess the area, prior to reverse-parking with no driver input. However, most systems rely on the driver sitting within the cabin to control the pedals. Since the UK’s Highway Code was updated in June 2018, drivers can park their car legally from outside the car, provided that they remain within a six metre radius.

While this technology featured initially on some very high-end models, it is filtering down to non-premium brands. While the Touareg’s price tag is hardly commensurate with Volkswagen’s original ‘people’s car’ mantra, it is inevitable that Park Assist will feature on less expensive models over time. Within the Touareg, the driver operates the system, by selecting a parking space on the dashboard touchscreen. The display provides ‘Park Assist’, or ‘Park Assist with Remote Control’ options. Should the driver make the latter selection, he/she can alight from the vehicle with the key fob. The parking manoevre is then controlled via the mobile phone app, which is compatible with Apple iPhone (from 6s and iOS 13), although Volkswagen emphasises that the owner has to keep a finger on the ‘Drive’ icon in the ‘phone touchscreen for safety reasons.

While some readers might question the wisdom of such systems, Volkswagen insists that it is perfectly safe and secure. Additionally, with mobile phone technology advancing at a relatively fast pace, it will be interesting to see not only how quickly but also for how long carmakers will be willing to update such features.

See it in action, here:


It is quite illogical that some customers believe that a £9.99 eBay
EOBD dongle can beat the advanced diagnostic equipment and
data library that represent a considerable investment to the typical
aftermarket garage. The situation could get worse. Customers could
approach you, claiming that their mobile ‘phone, or tablet, has
‘diagnosed’ the issue for them and that, should you disagree, you
either do not know what you are talking about, or you risk being
accused of trying to ‘pull the wool’. It seems crazy, but interesting
nonetheless, that ŠKODA Auto After Sales and ŠKODA Auto DigiLab
are introducing a Sound Analyser mobile ‘phone app, which can
record vehicle noise and compare them with ‘healthy’ pre-stored
sounds on its database. Should it uncover any discrepancies between the files, the app’s algorithm will diagnose the issue and suggest solutions.

It is no joke. According to Škoda, the aftersales departments of 245 dealers in 14 countries are trialling the Sound Analyser App currently, with the aim of reducing workshop time and bolstering customer satisfaction. The current version not only works with engine faults but also those that afflict the air conditioning compressor and DSG gearbox clutches. Škoda boasts that the app has a >90% accuracy record.

Quite why a major OEM desires to reduce the profitability of main dealer workshops, who struggle to make a living on new cars sales alone, seems a strange decision. Furthermore, why introduce the app separately from its dealer-level diagnostics platform? More importantly, how effective is it in real-life? While Autotechnician has not trialled it, you might wish to see if it works in your aftermarket environment, by downloading the ‘app from here: :


With so many manufacturers racing to electrify their models, Hyundai’s Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) shows that the company is serious with its ambitions to sell one million battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2025. These will include the obligatory SUVs, cross-overs and saloons, as well as a high-performance model, with a 0-60mph acceleration potential of under 3.5 seconds.

Understandably, the quest for lightness is ongoing, with less weighty batteries installed as low as possible within the structure to optimise handling. All E-GMP-developed cars use the same basic battery module, fitted with differing numbers of pouch-tyre cells, dependent on the model.

Aside from a 400 volts version, an 800 volts alternative with a 300 miles’ range can be fast-charged to an 80% capacity in under 20 minutes, and give a 60 miles range boost within five minutes, when used with a 350kW charging network. These claims are not especially impressive, incidentally. Still, Hyundai is a strategic partner in the IONITY fast-charging network, which is looking to grow by 25% within the next twelve months. IONITY, whose other partners include BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group attracted attention in early 2020, for increasing its charging prices by 500%, making EV per-mile costs far more expensive than that of a petrol gas-guzzler.

The E-GMP offers several world-firsts. Two-way charging means that the car can be used as a power source to either charge another BEV, or operate mains-powered electrical equipment, rated up to 220 volts and 16 amps. Additionally, the running gear comprises the motor, transmission reduction gear and inverter within a single module. Whether, or not, this complicates repairs is unclear, although Hyundai insists that it improves reliability.

While mainly rear-driven, all-wheel-drive versions possess an extra front-axle motor, the power delivery to which can be altered to optimise grip, performance, or energy consumption. The driveshafts, uniquely, combine the wheel-bearings that cuts weight by 10% and increases shaft stiffness by 55%.

The first car that will introduce the E-GMP to the British market is the Ioniq 5, available later in 2021.


The modern age has seen drivers and owners become decreasingly aware (and often, less sympathetic) about the technology that makes their vehicle move, stop and steer. This has been replaced by a greater interest in the more superficial ‘driver-focussed digital experience’, to which manufacturers have been eager to pander. This digital tech is extending its reach into and beyond the workshop, too…

Like Škoda’s Sound Analyser, BMW’s Remote Software Upgrades do not apply solely to one model but shows how another respected OEM is pushing its digital strategy. Software upgrades are nothing new but performing them wirelessly, rather than via the physical EOBD port, is a newer phenomenon. The sceptical reader might argue that this is part of a plan to reduce the EOBD’s relevance and persuade legislators that it is no longer needed – potentially locking-out the independent repair shop. It is a genuine worry, as the IAAF (for example) attests.

While BMW’s Remote Software Update is not novel, the latest upgrade (to version 07/20 of the BMW Operating System 7) is noteworthy, because it is the largest of its type ever undertaken by a European carmaker, affecting over 3⁄4 of a million cars globally.

The software includes updates to BMW Maps, the cloud-based navigation system, and adds Google Android Auto that permits drivers to use their smartphone apps via wireless communication on the infotainment system. Apple Maps navigation information is also enhanced, as is BMW’s version of Amazon’s Alexa, the ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’, which will include new commands wihtin its repertoire. The Connected Parking function seeks-out free spaces and the Connected Charging feature helps drivers of Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs) and BEVs to identify the location, opening hours, providers and availably of public charging points.

eDrive Zones is a new and unique service, which not only assist a BMW PHEV driver to drive in, what the carmaker calls ‘a more environmentally conscious manner’ but it also influences the drive system. It does so, by switching to electric drive automatically, when it recognises when the car enters one of Europe’s 90 eDrive urban zones.

4-Focus – Innovative Technology – Vauxhall 4WD, Nissan & BMW Braking & Lexus Lighting

4-Focus – Iain Robertson takes a look at innovative technology in newer models.


Since Vauxhall (and its German sister, Opel) were subsumed into the French PSA Group, it was anticipated that the originality we have come to expect from the former GM dependent would be lost forever. However, those wily characters at the division’s German engineering base have managed to incorporate an intelligent 4×4 system within the Peugeot 3008 platform used for the Grandland X model. Where the French donor relies on clever electronics from Bosch for its traction and anti-slip front-wheel drive control, Vauxhall will introduce a space and weight-saving electric motor on its model’s rear axle that will drive the rear wheels electronically on-demand. The new car is scheduled for introduction to the new car scene in August. Intriguingly, there is no power- sapping and heavy propshaft running down the Grandland X’s mid-line, which also means that cabin space remains uncompromised. Clever Vauxhall/Opel. Less mechanical hardware also equates conveniently into lower maintenance bills and less demand on technician training, although their understanding of vehicle electronics must continue to grow apace with the arrival on the same model of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle status. With a promised 49g/km CO2 emissions and a combined 300bhp petrol engine and 13.2kWh Li-ion battery pack, its performance package is pretty hot too. 


While brake assist technology, a semi-autonomous driving aid, is not new, it has been described variously as one of the greatest contributions to driver safety and Nissan was in the forefront of its development. In fact, by adopting a ‘greater good’ policy with the release of technical information (much as Volvo did with its three-point safety-belt developments), an ADAS intelligent brake assist is now available on an increasing number of vehicles, including light commercials and trucks. In essence a three-stage system, developed in Japan, as a result of a desire to reduce the 29% most frequent tail-end type of collisions in that country, a laser radar sensor detects both distance to a preceding vehicle and its relative speed differential. The first stage issues both a visual and audible warning to the driver, giving time to take evasive action. Stage two, in the event of an unavoidable clash, the vehicle’s brakes are activated automatically, without driver intervention, to shave off speed and reduce potential damage. The third stage is a relatively new development that involves aspects of artificial intelligence, as the car’s braking system pre- energises to ready the brakes for instantaneous response by the driver, while the seatbelts are tightened around occupants as a means to mitigate injuries should a crash result. In its ultimate form, as Volvo has shown on its latest models, an autonomous steering correction can also be made to avoid any clashes, which almost removes the driver from the equation completely. 


For many years, German carmaker BMW has endeavoured to live up to its much-vaunted status as ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’. The majority of its ‘M’ designated models have incorporated a number of driver configurable aspects, most of which have been centred on a blend of throttle responses, automated gear change timings and suspension settings. However, for its latest M8 model, being able to alter brake settings is an entirely new prospect. The brake-by-wire system brings together brake activation, brake servo and braking control functions within a single compact module. It is said to reduce the total system weight by around 2kgs and employs a vacuum-free brake servo to enhance the overall efficiency of the system. The brake pressure required is managed by an electric actuator, which enhances speed of reaction, while improving any interventions by the car’s stability control system. A fascinating side benefit is that the haptic feedback telegraphed to the driver’s feet is not just intuitive but introduces enhanced dynamics and a level of ‘feel’ unheard of outside a formula racing car. Precise metering of braking power is available at all times, regardless of road surface imperfections, the amount of lateral acceleration (such as when power-sliding), climatic conditions, or higher brake temperatures. In addition, the driver can determine one of two levels of sensitivity through either Comfort, or Sport selections, the former being closer to the current norm, while the latter is enhanced for track days. The system is available for both standard M compound brakes and the optional carbon-ceramic alternatives. 


Endeavouring to innovate is part of the Lexus remit. The luxury arm of Toyota was among the pioneers employing LEDs for vehicle headlights and the forthcoming new RX SUV model introduces another new form of illumination technology in BladeScan. It operates by shining light from the LEDs onto a pair of compact, blade-shaped mirrors that are rotating at very high speed, before it is transferred onto a lens, to illuminate the road ahead. The resultant wide-spread illumination is controlled precisely by synchronising the spinning of the blade mirrors, although, because they spin at over 900rpm, it is virtually impossible for the human eye to see them working as described and they do not introduce ‘flicker’, which can be equally distracting. The system also works as an adaptive type, which means that glare levels are reduced significantly and, even if there are vehicles ahead, sensors will detect their outlines and shut off individual LED elements to avoid it. However, the total spread of unobstructed light has been optimised both forwards and laterally and, as a measure of their improved performance, nocturnal pedestrian recognition has been enhanced from around 32 yards to 56 yards with the BladeScan system. It is also said to react better in difficult conditions, such as low-lying fog and mist. As Lexus possesses a sound reputation for model durability, we have to presume that the system will operate long after the car’s warranty period has expired. 


4-Focus – Innovative technology – BMW, Hyundai, MG & Audi

Iain Robertson takes a look at innovative technology in newer models.


As similar as the new BMW 1-Series looks to its 2004 originator, it has been the Bavarian firm’s Millennial present, the MINI, that is driving it from rear to front-wheel drive, although engineering for 4WD is also a major consideration. Of course, BMW seldom makes changes to its range, unless it can, firstly, offset costs against other products and, secondly, ensure 

that the research and development is carried out by a sister brand. In this case, the core architecture of the new 1-Series hatchback comes from the BMW X1 SUV, while the mechanical package is a direct lift from the MINI Countryman…and you just thought that ‘Mini’ was becoming ‘Maxi’… The search for greater cabin flexibility and space lies behind the decision, with a simpler rear axle in 2WD form (no propshaft) and suspension set-up. However, BMW also gains around £600 saving per unit, as a result of swapping inline to transverse engine layout. The X2 Tourer was the first BMW to go front- wheel drive and lessons learned from that model have been incorporated in the new higher volume 1-Series, which will also share its 4WD hardware in due course. Featuring a similar chassis vectoring system to that which debuted on the i3S (EV), the revised layout proposes to be the best front-driven car presently on sale. 


HMI is the Human-Machine Interface that is said to make car dashboards more intuitive and user-friendly. Hyundai intends to replace all hard keys with touchpads, to increase both clarity and flexibility. In addition, both user-customisable aspects and even haptic feedback (increases tactile switch sensations), via the steering wheel, are yet to make volume production but they are being readied presently. Hyundai’s next-gen proposition features a steering wheel equipped with two displays that are larger and ergonomically adjusted, with adaptable ‘pads’ on either side of the cross-spokes. The instrument cluster will be changed to a multi-layer display. It allows a natural method of attention control, using visual 3D effects, with one part of the graphic shown on the front display and the other part on a rear display. Information indicated on the steering wheel located screens changes according to the instrument cluster menu level and also by reacting to the driving situation, which can display ‘shortcuts’ tailored to individual driver needs. Unsurprisingly, the technology is similar to smartphones. The end of the road is not yet in sight for production readiness but Hyundai will use the results of the human clinics taking place in Korea, North America and Europe to integrate them into its future car interior Virtual Reality development plans. 


Chinese carmaker SAIC has produced the MG3 hatchback since 2013 (revised last year). It is well-regarded for its comprehensive equipment list, affordable pricing and five years manufacturer’s warranty. Intended as a budget car, it relies on traditional engineering that is both inexpensive and easy to maintain. SAIC also hosts a number of British and overseas student interns at its UK Technical Centre at Longbridge, Birmingham, whom it tasked with building a race-viable version of the MG3. 

The company provided the base model and set a budget of £5,000. Starting with a used car, it proves to be an inexpensive means to go motor racing and is a most welcome project in an otherwise high-cost arena. Apart from a trim strip-out, fitting a roll-cage, race seat, safety harness and fire extinguisher system (regulation essentials), the suspension and brake friction materials were upgraded and the car repainted and liveried. It can be raced on road tyres, or uprated alternatives. Driven at Castle Combe racing circuit (Wiltshire), the car handled neutrally, shifted gears effortlessly, stopped and steered perfectly and was immense fun to drive surprisingly quickly. The MG interns have also created a 250pp ‘Build Book’, which outlines all project ‘how to’ details. Whether you, or your customers, wish to go motor racing, the development of this truly cost-effective means to do so legally is now available. 


Volkswagen Group is renowned for trying different types of forced induction on both its petrol and diesel engines, even employing both turbo and supercharging on the same unit. For the first time in the history of Audi’s ‘S’ series models, a torque-rich 3.0-litre V6 diesel factors-in a high-performance option. Developing a
substantial 516.3lbs ft of torque, it is augmented by a 48V electrically-powered compressor (which sits in the vee of the engine) that combines with the exhaust-driven turbocharger to produce 350bhp. The supercharger pre-empts any hint of turbo-lag, to which conventional turbocharging is susceptible, to provide vigorous mid-range urge and, with a 250milliseconds spool-up time, near-instant responses to throttle input. The result is a 0-60mph time of 4.7s and a restricted top speed of 155mph. Yet, it also features Mild Hybrid technology, with a belt-driven alternator-starter and a 10Ah lithium-ion battery located beneath the boot floor. Apart from a ‘Start/Stop’ facility, its direct connection to the crankshaft allows it to recover up to 8kW of power under acceleration that is stored in the lithium- ion battery for later deployment. However, the engine can coast for up to 40s, with the ICE deactivated, which helps the car to return up to 36.2mpg and emit just 162g/km CO2 (WLTP figures). Advanced cooling provides speedy warm-up and the engine is exceptionally refined overall. 


Diagnostic results in a flash

Autotechnician visits BMW & Mercedes specialists Burton Motor Workshop to see how pass-thru diagnostics has affected their business. 

Burton Motor Workshop, a large, independent MOT/repair and used car sales business in Burton-on-Trent, has evolved alongside vehicle technology over the years, with owner Jeremy Scott investing in the latest diagnostic equipment and training for his staff, to ensure they remain competitive with local dealers. When we visit, there are three diagnostic jobs in the workshop where Burton Motors are the second or third garage the vehicle has been to, they often get referrals from other local garages. 

This time last year, they invested in the Delphi DS-Flash Pass- Through package, which enables independents to undertake dealer-level diagnostics and services. It facilitates online access to vehicle manufacturer’s websites, enabling workshops to reprogram and update electronic control units. 

We spoke with technicians Michael Rowland and Carl Atkinson to see how they are getting on with the equipment. 

In a nutshell, what does the DS-Flash package enable you to do? 

Michael Rowland (MR): “The interface enables you to access the dealer – Volkswagen Audi Group, Vauxhall, Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover… It comes updated with everything that each particular manufacturer requires to run their Pass-Thru system. First, you have to set up an account with BMW; with VAG you have to get your user ID, get your GeKo license [this allows teaching of engine immobiliser components and keys] to be able to use their software. Once you are up and running, you can use it as a diagnostic tool.” 

Was it easy to set up?

MR: “There is no user manual, as such. It’s a case of playing with it. Every manufacturer is different; how it’s set up, what it allows you to do, what it doesn’t – and it’s down to you to find out what it’s capable of but Delphi’s Technical support team are there to help you get set up.”

What is the benefit of using the DS-Flash over a dealer tool?

MR: “For us, it’s the ability to carry out software updates and code.”

Carl Atkinson (CA): “If you buy the dealer tool on its own, you are restricted to a computer per manufacturer, whereas what Delphi has managed to do is partition the computer.”

MR: “We are a Bosch Car Service garage, I attend regular courses and we bought the KTS 590 to get ready to do it ourselves [perform pass-thru] but each manufacturer wants the computer set up in a different way to the others, so we’d need a laptop that could run Toyota on, one for BMW, VAG and so on. Plus, you need to sit down, figure out what it needs, make the investment on each laptop… With the Delphi machine, although we’ve still got the Delphi interface to hook up to the various VMs, we’ve managed to hook up ICOM to that pass-thru computer, a BMW dealer level interface. Software updates are now a lot faster.”

Have you experienced any problems whilst using it?

CA: “If you are struggling with a connection or there’s something not quite right about the configuration of the computer Delphi has a helpline so you can get the computer back online, so we don’t have to spend days messing about with it. When updating the BMW drivers, as it loaded a Java update onto our system,
it crashed. We would have had to sit down and work our way through that, whereas we could just leave it. We rang the Delphi helpline, they took us through a few items then they took control of the computer and dealt with BMW direct. We wouldn’t have had the time… they were just brilliant.” 

MR: “Two days after calling Delphi, they had BMW Germany involved in it, it was a massive issue. There’s no way Carl and I would have been able to sort that.” 

CA: “We might have moved a bit away from the Flash box for BMW, but that’s our main business. If we were a general workshop, not specialising in BMW, we wouldn’t have invested in ICOM, the BMW interface, it’s just that its quicker for us…. There are some big BMW software update files that can take days.” 

MR: “We use the Flash every day and we can’t afford to be without it for that time.” 

“We’ve got new broadband, it’s about 82 MBPS now and that’s made a massive difference. You really have to have the infrastructure in place.” 

How has the DS-Flash impacted on the business? 

MR: “We specialise in Mercedes, VMW and VAG. We were in limbo… we were sending work elsewhere, we knew pass-thru was the way forward. If you specialise in something, you have to operate at dealer level. Couple of phone calls later, we had a demonstration in the workshop and we knew straightaway that was the one.” 

Is it mainly used for software updates? 

MR: “We mainly use it for BMWs, we tend to get a lot of them. Every manufacturer is different in how they run their online platform tool, but BMW takes a read of all the control units and a full identification. It will generate a fault code list from that and generate test plans. I’ve learnt it can make you lazy. You’ve still got to use your diagnostic process. It will be specific, in the sense that sometimes the CAS (BMW antitheft alarm system) goes out of alignment. I had one where another garage had constantly been starting it, as it was a non-runner. That’s thrown the CAS out of line with the DDE [Digital Diesel Electronics system manages all engine functions in BMW diesel models]. So, it generated the CAS alignment fault code and it instantly took me to realign the CAS and that was all within half hour.” 

CA: “With BMW, once you have a fault code locked, it will give you a test plan and if you follow it, it will ask you to test something and lead you to where that fault lies. These cars are so clever, think how many times your computer will do a Windows or OS update, a car’s the same. A lot of faults can come down to a software issue rather than a physical fault.” 

Can you give us an example of how the DS-Flash was particularly helpful with diagnostics? 

CA “We had a hybrid Lexus in and two cells in the battery were faulty…” 

MR: “It attached a photo of the live data of the battery block that had gone under voltage. You can take it with you and see the live data, so we could pinpoint which cells were dropping out. We just went in, ripped the battery out, ordered a new cell. So that’s one job we’d never have been able to do without that tool. When you think that a battery replacement would have been four grand? Seven? He came to us from the main dealer. The dealers do us a big favour by not doing things quite right!” 

Paul Sinderberry, Delphi Technical Sales Manager, admits it can be a complicated tool to use because you’re accessing VM software and they all differ in their set up but for garages who are already heavily involved in diagnostics, it’s capabilities can prove very lucrative. “Many garages who will buy this product are workshops who are already doing a lot of diagnostics and they want to take their business to the next level – they may be doing diagnostic work for other workshops,” Paul explains. “One of the great things with the DS-Flash and using the OE software is that you get very in-depth diagnostics. When you have to replace a control unit, it normally means a trip to the dealer and dealerships tend to put independent garages to the back of the queue and you have to wait days to get it programmed.”

The DS Flash comes complete with a DS-FLASH VCI, cables, a battery support unit, licence keys and a laptop PC – pre-configured for VAG Group, BMW, General Motors, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Customers get a 12-month support package with the equipment, support via the technical helpline and a full day of training, for anybody that’s maybe not used to vehicle manufacturer software. They can come along, set the accounts up, install the software on the day and get some basic user interface training – how to navigate the websites and the software. It is a complex product and to use it to its full potential you need to understand the ins and outs of it – the training incorporates an overview of what pass-thru is and its capabilities. 

Delphi’s VE2 & VE3 courses ensure technicians are up to speed with the principles of EOBD, ECU communication and CAN protocols. This level of knowledge is essential to ensuring that they get the most out of the DS Flash. 


Inside the curious world of electric classic car conversions – By Thomas Harrison-Lord

Deep in the Welsh countryside, something quite unique is brewing, but you won’t be able to hear it. Welcome to the intriguing and developing world of electric classic car conversions. Yes, you read that correctly, electric classic car conversions. But, before you sharpen up your pitchfork in defense of petrol or diesel, it is worth investigating a growing business.

The company Electric Classic Cars takes a humble Fiat 500, Volkswagen Beetle or retro Range Rover and turns it into a fully electric vehicle for the 21st century. In fact, they can convert any classic car, pre-1990s, to run purely on electricity. The process itself started life when Richard Morgan — founder of Electric Classic Cars — decided to play around with a derelict Beetle he had knocking about in a barn. During the restoration, he tried something a little different and fitted an electric motor, inverter and batteries. This has now spawned into a full-blown company, providing electric conversions by request.

Richard and the team’s next project is a Jensen Interceptor, one of the most beautiful designs from the 1960-70s, but the process is far from easy. Before they get to work, the first task is to try and find a similar vehicle in the UK — preferably one that has its engine out. Even for more ubiquitous vehicles, this can be a challenge.


As Richard enthusiastically explains, once a vehicle has been sourced, the measuring begins. “Someone will come to us with a type of car they would like and a list of demands such as charging time, range and performance. With an electric conversion, this is determined by how much space there is for batteries, which means we have to find a vehicle to measure and calculate how many battery packs we can install. Only then can we go back to the customer with what is achievable. Even then, once we begin, we may come across something structural that can’t be moved, and we have to re-align expectations.”

There is no doubt that the biggest technical challenge is the packaging. Customers will always want greater range, but Richard needs to make sure there are no major changes to the chassis or bodywork to keep within the original homologation. The cars will be treated by the government in the same way as their original petrol variant.


The biggest query I had was who manufactures the parts. The answer is Tesla. Which is strange, as Tesla is famously at odds with the aftermarket. They don’t provide parts, diagnostic access or allow third party part production. Everything has to be done through them directly.

“The batteries and motors are sourced from damaged Tesla cars, then we use various new controllers, chargers and cooling system elements. These vehicles are going to be scrapped or are sat there not getting repaired, so we purchase all the parts we need. We constantly stockpile things like the batteries and then sell any excess parts on our website. When Tesla produces a new car, the drive units have a lifetime, infinite mileage, warranty. The elements we use to do a conversion are extremely reliable,” explains Richard.

We were able to take a close look at their conversions at the recent Fully Charged Live event, held at Silverstone. On display was a recently completed first generation Range Rover from the 1980s. The first thing that stands out isn’t the electrification, but the quality of workmanship. These vehicles aren’t just converted in the process, some are fully restored inside and out too.

Of course, the second thing that stands out is the massive pack of batteries almost bulging out of the bonnet area, with a second set beneath the boot floor. Under the petrol cap is a Type-2 charging port and otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to tell it was an EV.

“Many people love the iconic looks of classic cars. Modern vehicles can look a bit homogeneous, making classic cars stand out more than ever, but many do not want to deal with the mollycoddling they require. With an electric conversion, once we’ve done the hard work they are effectively maintenance-free. A classic car generally isn’t a daily driver. Our customers want to use something on a sunny weekend, and they want to do it with peace of mind. Suddenly, an electric Fiat 500 starts to make more sense”.

There is a certain joy to be had from changing gears in a classic car, but Richard has even thought of that too: “In our Fiat 500 conversion we still have the gearbox and you still change gears. Okay, you can just leave it in third and it will work in that one gear, but we modify the drivetrain so that if you really want to get a move on, you can change into second and experience the instant torque.

I can hear you asking two very important questions which I have avoided so far. How much and how long? A definitive answer is hard to say at this point. The whole process is in its infancy, and each conversion is custom made for each individual client. Expect around £15,000 for a Fiat 500, and up to £45,000 for a Range Rover. But nothing is off limits so far. A Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud or a Citroen 2CV, the possibilities are endless, just so long as your wallet is too. From start to finish, it took around a year for their latest BMW E9 CS project, including a thorough restoration, but each project varies.

One of the biggest challenges with electric vehicles is the relative lack of upkeep compared to an internal combustion car, and how the aftermarket will evolve and survive in the long term around this. I wonder if conversions will offer a potential revenue stream for businesses in the future, as more customers espouse EV ownership.

We’ve seen recently BMW themselves converting a classic Mini and Jaguar creating the now famous EV E-Type used during the recent Royal wedding, but both are one-off proofs of concept. Richard and Electric Classic Cars are actually hand producing cars for sale, and I applaud the audacity. It may only be in tiny numbers for now, but as batteries reduce in price and emission regulations tighten, in forty years from now, would you rather see electric MG Midgets on the roads or no MG Midgets at all?

UK motor industry body certificates live training of the whole damage repair process at Automechanika Frankfurt

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the only professional body for the automotive sector and Automechanika’s Global Skills Partner, has announced it will be awarding Continual Professional Development (CPD) certificates to visitors who attend the live training and learning seminars of the whole damage repair process at the world’s leading trade event.

Messe Frankfurt has once again worked closely with exhibitors and trade associations to create an interesting professional-development programme for trade visitors from the workshop sector with eleven workshops for repair specialists from the collision-damage segment being held throughout the fair, from 11 to 15 September 2018. Experts will hold the three-hour courses in German during the mornings and English in the afternoons

Bringing together thousands of automotive supply and aftermarket companies on an international platform, the IMI is partnering with organisations like Bosch, DEKRA and BMW to give visitors the opportunity to gain CPD points through training seminars whilst they visit the event. Supporting the need for individuals to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date in today’s rapidly changing industry, the IMI’s CPD certificates demonstrate the person’s knowledge on new products, services and skills after attending a live training seminar during Automechanika Frankfurt.

Raising the awareness of the importance of vocational skills and training across the automotive sector, the IMI will be giving their stamp of approval by certificating the training courses taking place across the 5 days. Training topics include systematic car damage assessments, high-voltage systems, paint refinishing, and bodywork repairs for the BMW 5 Series.

The IMI’s partnership with Automechanika Frankfurt attracts thousands of automotive supply and aftermarket companies on an international platform, and both organisations are committed to promoting the attractiveness, value and results of skills development and personal learning.

Mark Forshaw, Business Development Manager at the IMI, said:

“The IMI is delighted to be working with a variety of CPD partners at Automechanika Frankfurt as part of a new initiative to enhance peoples experience when visiting the show. The training available will give people the opportunity to gain further knowledge, whilst receiving CPD points from the IMI during their visit.

“As the only automotive specific professional body, we continue to champion quality training and believes it’s more important than ever to invest in our workforces. By providing employees with the skills and knowledge we can help secure a strong future for our sector.”

Olaf Mußhoff, Director Automechanika Frankfurt said:

“Education and the promotion of young talent is an important topic today, not only in Germany but worldwide. We are glad that we have found with IMI a very competent and important partner, who actively supports us with his international know-how in further education trainings.”

Please note – participation by advance registration only

 In view of the high degree of interest expected to be shown in the workshops, the participants are asked to register for one or more of the courses on the Automechanika website by 31 August. Participation in all courses, all of which will be held in the Galleria between Halls 8, 9 and 10, is free of charge.

Detailed descriptions of the individual workshops and the registration form can be found here < >

The CPD value of the training events will be calculated by IMI CPD technical experts to ensure IMI guidelines are met. The CPD points will contribute towards the retention of IMI Membership and Professional Registration – as well as being recognised across 57 countries.  All attendees can find the CPD credits they’ve been awarded on both the digital and hardcopy versions of their certificate.