Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The great Volkwagen emissions scandal. Or rather a great political science scandal

Is it just me who finds the VW emissions “scandal” a jaw dropper? The same VW group, by the way, that owns Ducati along with all the other marques in the picture.
Not jaw dropping because I didn’t think motor manufacturers were fiddling emission declarations, but because I assumed our self-serving masters knew about it but were happy to at least look as if they were doing something about the environment.

But it turns out they really didn’t know, because none of them have even a passing knowledge of engineering, the experimental method or – god forbid – science. It even turns out that the UK’s House of Commons science committee is chaired by someone with a degree in – get this – dance. I suppose it makes a change from the usual blagger’s charter of politics, philosophy and economics favoured by most of the folk who run this country.

But with the rise of technology driving wealth for anybody outside the city, you’d hope for better. Google and Amazon are changing our society, yet I’d wager the aforementioned chair of the science committee doesn't even have a science A level. Land Rover Jaguar – about our most valuable manufacturing company – can’t recruit enough engineers. This might be a good thing, with our youngest about to start a MechEng degree at Warwick, which is establishing a joint academy with Land Rover Jaguar. Further good news is that almost 80% of Warwick’s engineering graduates are working in engineering within 6 months of qualifying. There just aren’t enough folk with science A levels – never mind degrees – to satisfy our needs.

Yet when was the last time we had a Prime Minister with an engineering or science degree? Ironically it’s back at the point we started out on the farce of emission control that has always seemed to me – as always - more about being seen to do something, rather than actually grasping the nettle.

Margaret Thatcher (yes it was she – Chemistry from Oxford, and married to a former BP executive) was championing British Leyland’s lean burn technology (her Marxist haters might want to read that again), reasoning it was cheap and that using less fuel would, ergo, mean lower emissions. But the Americans wanted a simpler fix for their gas guzzlers, and pushed their platinum catalytic converter technology instead. Never mind that this meant mining, refining and transporting platinum, it was their technology and a quick fix. And also never mind that lead in petrol buggered the catalyst because the US had already phased its use in fuel out, where Europe hadn’t quite got there. So we’ve gone from a time when lead from vehicles was commercially viable to collect from road junctions, to a time when the same is now true of platinum. Oh, the irony. Maybe we should have just handed our lean burn technology over to the Americans, just as we did with the A-bomb and jet engine.

Of course the fragile catalytic convertors needed all sort of technology to protect them from too much or too little fuel, being too hot or too cold, and so on. Eventually engineers realised the same sensors and controls could spot when an emissions test was being run – a certain distance at a certain speed, for instance – and make sure the emissions and noise levels complied with legislation. The rest of the time it’s a free for all which is why in practice some cars and motorcycles can’t meet track day noise requirements, despite complying with them in theory.

Yes, VW took this one step further with a urea tank that only supplied the exhaust system's diffuser under test circumstances, but it’s surely just another step into this cheaters charter that’s been going on for decades. Or maybe I’m missing something. Perhaps it can all be explained by interpretive dance rather than by science.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Ducati to launch nine(!) new models for 2016

Ok, it's the usually PR guff; except for the statement that two 2016 Ducati models will take them into new market segments. Any guesses? Minoli once hinted at an off roader (Scrambler based?), and  I guess in the niche hunting world that is motorcycling the Multistrada is neither an adventure bike nor full dress tourer.
  • Nine new models for the Ducati 2016 range to be presented at EICMA 2015 (17-22 November, Rho/Milan)
  • New Monster 1200 R wins public and media acclaim after its unveiling at the Frankfurt IAA
  • Positive growth trend continues for the made-in-Bologna bike brand: before the end of the year the symbolic figure of 50,000 sales will be exceeded

Borgo Panigale (Bologna), 17 September 2015 – The first of a major series of new bikes that will join the Ducati 2016 range has been presented at the Frankfurt-held IAA (Internationale Automobil Ausstellung). The new Monster 1200 R, the most powerful supernaked ever built by Ducati, made its official debut at this prestigious international showcase where it was immediately given a warm welcome by the public and media alike.

With its 160 hp, a new, even sportier look and an array of components worthy of a real "superbike", this latest Ducati is just the first in a long, exciting series of new models to join the "made in Bologna" 2016 range - a range that represents, beyond any shadow of doubt, the biggest, most decisive attack on the market ever to have been launched by Ducati.

"The year 2016 will see continued growth at Ducati,” stated Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, at the Frankfurt fair. “No less than nine new models, including the just-unveiled Monster 1200 R, will be joining the 2016 range. Never before has Ducati presented so many new bikes and EICMA will provide the perfect platform on which to show them to all to our enthusiastic customers.

Two of these will take us into segments in which we’re currently not present and this is going to be one of the greatest challenges of 2016: to extend the Ducati hallmarks of style and performance to motorcyclists who were – until now – beyond our reach.

 Following a highly positive 2015, we look to the future with optimism and confidence. Given the results achieved during the first six months of the year, with 22% growth and 32,600 bikes delivered, we can already state that 2015 will see us attain another absolute record as we expect - for the very first time in our company’s history - to break through the symbolic barrier of 50,000 bikes sold before the end of the year.

Nevertheless, our main goal is not so much the pursuit of ever-greater volumes but, rather, to keep on surprising our customers with awe-inspiring bikes. The increase in sales is simply a consequence of just how incredibly well-received our products are - products that stem from implementing strategies that are in keeping with our identity, looking to new markets and taking on tough new challenges every day”.