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Peel P50: The world’s smallest car is back

world's smallest carA Smart Fortwo seems like a small car. Upon first seeing one, many people think that it is unsafe, and wonder how it can keep up with traffic with only 70 horsepower. However, the Smart is not that small. It’s 106.1 inches long, but there is a car out there that is only 54 inches long. When the Peel P50 debuted in the 1962, it was the world’s smallest car, and it still is. A new company is putting this three-wheeled moped back into production.

Some futurists predict that people will give up their cars for more efficient personal transport pods, but we’ve already been there. One person can barely fit inside a P50 and, at 130 pounds, the car might weigh less than the driver. Despite being designed during the Kennedy Administration, the P50 does have some modern features. For example, it is mid-engined, just like a Ferrari 458. By “mid-engined,” the company means that the engine is in the cabin, alongside the driver.

The original engine as a 49cc moped unit, which made 4.2 horsepower. The new P50 (and its two-seater Trident sibling) uses a slightly less powerful, 3.35 hp engine. Luckily, the old car’s reverse-less three-speed transmission has been replaced with a modern CVT. Peel is also offering an electric version with the same power. The engine and transmission should be enough to get the P50 up to 28 mph. The top speed is electronically limited; clearly Peel needed to reign this beast in to keep its customers safe.Peel P50 being towed by person

Safety is an important thing to consider, since a swarm of P50s can fit in a truck’s blind spots, and there is nothing to absorb the impact.

A car that can only go 28 mph does not seem very useful, but the Peel has some major advantages over normal-sized autos. It gets an estimated 118 mpg, without any batteries, electric motors, or regenerative braking. It makes the Peel EV’s 35 mile range seem kind of silly. No wonder Peel’s slogan has always been “almost cheaper than walking.” The P50 does makes a credible replacement for your own two feet, as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson demonstrated when he drove one through offices and elevators at the BBC’s headquarters.

Now, lazy office workers everywhere can rejoice, because the Peel is back. The Isle of Man-based company stopped producing cars in 1969, but it has been reinvigorated by cash from the BBC business show Dragon’s Den. A new P50 will cost about $16,000, which is $2,500 more than the gargantuan Smart. An original Peel would have cost $2,200 in today’s money.

Other cars offer more amenities for the price, but you can’t park them in your living room. That will probably be enough of a reason for some people, especially if they already have a car. It will also make Smart drivers feel good, since their cars are like monster trucks compared to the P50.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
Back on top: Bugatti Veyron Super Sport is once again the world’s fastest production car – for now…

The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport is officially the fastest production car in the world - again. It hasn't gotten any faster, and neither has its competition, but the Guinness Book of World Records has changed its ruling on a technicality that temporarily disqualified the 1,200 horsepower legend.
Last week, Guinness ruled that Bugatti had made an illegal modification to the Veyron SS for its 267.8 mph record run at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany in 2010. Bugatti disengaged the car’s electronic speed limiter, which normally restricts it to 258 mph.
In an official statement released last Friday, Guinness said disengaging the speed limiter wasn’t significant enough of a change to warrant removing the Veyron’s crown.
“Having evaluated all the necessary information, Guinness World Records is now satisfied that a change to the speed limiter does not alter the fundamental design of the car or its engine,” Guinness said.
All in all, it’s been a pretty good week for Bugatti. In addition to getting the production car speed record back, Volkswagen’s crown jewel is claiming the world record for an open-topped car.
The Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, which is to the Veyron Grand Sport as the Super Sport is to the standard Veyron, achieved 254 mph at Ehra-Lessien. Guinness was not involved in the record attempt.
Both the Super Sport and Vitesse use a reinforced version of Bugatti’s quad-turbocharged W16 engine, producing 1,200 hp and 1,106 pound-feet of torque. They also feature aerodynamic modifications over their “base” siblings that allow them to reach record-setting speeds.

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Guinness strips Bugatti Veyron Super Sport of its world speed record

You may remember the Guinness Book of World Records declaring the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport the world’s fastest production car in 2010. You may also remember the Hennessey Venom GT coming very close to beating the Veyron’s record recently.
Yet neither of these cars are the fastest production car in the world, Guinness says. While the numbers don’t lie, neither the Veyron SS nor the Venom GT meets the world record authority’s standards for a “production car.”
The Veyron SS was declared speed king in 2010 after clocking 267.8 at Volkswagen’s top secret German test track. However, Bugatti deactivated the car’s electronic speed limiter for the record run. Veyron Super Sports sold to customers are limited to 258 mph.
Guinness considers this a modification, and since cars going after speed records can’t be altered in any way, the Veyron SS has officially been disqualified.
A certain car builder in Texas was probably very happy to hear this news. The Hennessey Venom GT, a modified Lotus with 1,244 horsepower, recently hit 265.7 mph.
So will the Venom be taking the Veyron’s place in the Guinness Book of World Records? Nope; Guinness doesn’t consider it a production car either, because Hennessey hasn’t built enough copies.
To qualify for the record, carmakers must build at least 50 examples of a contender per year. Hennessey hasn’t even built 10 Venom GTs.
So what is the fastest production car in the world, according to Guinness? It’s the car the Veyron SS beat in 2010, the 1,287 hp SSC Ultimate Aero. With a top speed of 257.41 mph, it beat the standard Veyron in 2007.
SSC has talked about building a second, more powerful model to take on the Veyron SS, but that is now redundant. No one likes to win based on a technicality, though.
Meanwhile, Bugatti is reportedly working on a new model. Maybe it will set a new speed record while satisfying Guinness’ rules.
Is Guinness being fair, or did the Veyron SS deserve to lose its crown? Tell us in the comments.

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How does an electric car get 99 miles per gallon? MPGe ratings explained

How can a car that requires no liquid fuel get 121 miles per gallon? That’s exactly the paradox you’ll encounter when looking at the window sticker of a 2013 Scion iQ EV which, in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fuel economy tests returned 121 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) combined.
When the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf launched in 2010, the EPA thought it would be a good idea to update its ratings for non-liquid fuels. With more battery electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids hitting the market every year, it’s an increasingly important task. Here’s how the EPA gives electric cars fuel economy ratings.
Comparing apples to apples, and kilowatt-hours to miles per gallon
It’s important to remember that electricity has its own efficiency scale. In addition to putting an EV’s MPGe on the window sticker, the EPA includes kilowatt-hours per 100 miles (kWh/100m). On said window sticker, you’ll find this number in small print, to the right of the car’s combined (big print), city, and highway MPGe numbers.
Taking a second look at the Scion, we see that it’s rated at a much more reasonable sounding 28 kWh/100m combined. For another example, take the more mainstream Leaf: it’s rated at 99 MPGe, but only 34 kWh/100m (both figures combined).
Why does kWh/100m go down as MPGe goes up? One is a measure of energy consumption while the other is a measure of energy efficiency: using less energy (be it kilowatt-hours of electricity or gallons of gasoline) to travel a given distance makes a car more efficient than one that uses more energy to travel the same distance.
So, since the Scion uses fewer kWh to travel 100 miles than the Nissan, it’s more efficient and gets a higher MPGe number.
Why bother with MPGe then? Kilowatt-hours per 100 miles is the electric equivalent of miles per gallon, but that’s helpful only if you’re comparing electric cars. With so few EVs available to consumers right now, that seems unlikely. It also creates a problem for plug-in hybrids.
Mo' fuels, mo' problems
It’s difficult to come up with a hard and fast fuel economy metric for plug-in hybrids because, on the average drive, they can operate as EVs, gasoline cars, or both. That’s why General Motors calls the Chevrolet Volt an “extended-range electric vehicle,” not a hybrid. Fisker does the same with its “EV-ER” (electric vehicle, extended range) Karma.
Whatever you want to call it, you’ll see two fuel economy figures on a plug-in hybrid’s window sticker. On the left is MPGe, and on the right is gasoline-only miles per gallon. Below the boxes that list the fuel economy numbers is a bar with the car’s range; electric-only range is highlighted.
With a 2013 Volt, you’ll see 98 MPGe combined, 37 mpg combined, and a 38-mile electric-only range in bold.
Why MPGe?
MPGe describes the energy efficiency of a fully electric car and half of the fuel economy equation for a plug-in hybrid, but what exactly is one MPGe?
Making things even more confusing, the answer involves yet another form of measurement. The EPA uses the standard conversion of 115,000 British thermal units (BTU) per U.S. gallon of gasoline as the basis for its MPGe metric.
When a U.S. gallon of gasoline is burned, it releases the equivalent of 115,000 BTU. Since BTU is a measure of energy, it can be used to directly measure electrical output. In this case, 115,000 BTU is equal to 33.7 kWh.
When an electric car draws 33.7 kWh of electricity from its batteries it has used the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. Take the Leaf: it requires just over 33.7 kWh (34 kWh, to be precise) to go 100 miles, so it gets a rating of 99 MPGe.
What does it mean?
Unfortunately, none of this will be much help on the dealership lot unless you consider your priorities first. Specifically, you need to think about whether emissions or low fuel cost is more important to you (and do some homework), and try to get a feel for how you’ll be using the vehicle.
MPGe allows you to compare electric cars to conventional ones, but an EV or plug-in will almost always be more efficient than a gasoline or diesel vehicle. What other types of cars do you know that can get 99 mpg?
Consequently, MPGe is a better yardstick for fuel savings than for vehicle-to-vehicle performance. If you know the distance of your daily commute, you can calculate how much fuel you’ll use in each potential purchase.
To help your wallet feel even better the EPA also includes annual fuel cost and fuel savings figures on window stickers. However, these numbers are calculated based on the national average of 11 cents per kWh, and an assumed 15,000 miles per year driven. Obviously, your mileage can vary, and so can your electricity rate. Check with the power company before taking the EPA’s numbers for granted.
What about emissions? The EPA rates cars on a scale of one to 10, but there’s more to this than meets the eye. If you charge your Leaf with a homemade windmill, you have nothing to worry about. If you plug it into a wall outlet, things can get a bit complicated.
Because electric cars get their power from greenhouse gas-emitting power plants, they indirectly contribute to pollution. This varies by region, but you can use the EPA’s nifty greenhouse gas emission calculator to get an exact number.
For example: Rolling out of General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan assembly plant, a 2013 Volt emits 300 grams per mile (g/mile), but in Portland, Oregon it only emits 200 g/m.
Your mileage may vary
This is a disclaimer that has to follow any fuel economy estimate, and it’s especially important when it comes to EVs and plug-in hybrids. Charging stations aren’t exactly plentiful, and charging a dead battery still takes at least a half hour. If batteries are all you’ve got, plan your trip carefully.
Juggling two fuel economy numbers and two range estimates doesn’t make life much easier when you have an onboard gasoline engine to supplement those batteries. It’s hard to know how much of a given drive will be done with electricity, but the EPA’s unofficial user mpg tallies (available with the official ratings at can at least give you an idea of what other drivers are experiencing.

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