ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 26, 2011

Ford, Toyota Co-Developing RWD HEV Powertrain

The new CAFE standards are proving to be a real matchmaker.  Ford and Toyota have jointly announced a co-development program to develop a RWD hybrid powertrain.  

Ford,of course, is one of the top sellers of light trucks (F150) and body on frame SUVs (Expedition, Navigator).  Toyota is not a major player in trucks, but does sell Tundra and a variety of BOF SUVs such as the Sequoia and 4Runner.  By working together, the two companies can reduce the high development costs of a new hybrid powertrain, and eventually be able to meet or exceed the CAFE standards for light trucks.

What is odd, to me, about this tie-up is the cooperation between to major rivals.  Remember recently the dust-up over IP, when Ford and Toyota agreed to cross-license HEV patents, and the ensuing confusion in the consumers mind, where some people thought Ford was buying Toyota's Prius system.  Why not GM?  GM/Allison have been doing RWD truck hybrids for a while now.  Oh, maybe this is why not.

In general, we are going to see more of these cooperative moves.  For example, Chrysler will need to get in bed with someone to develop their own truck hybrid system, as trucks are a big part of Chrysler's business model. 

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 23, 2011

Audi Reveals New A8 Hybrid in 2012

2012 Audi A8 Hybrid

After the presentation of the A8 Hybrid Concept in 2010, Audi is introducing its frugal four-cylinder limousine, which goes on sale in 2012. Audi had made very few changes to the model such as the smaller (18" instead of 21") but same alloy wheels and conventional looking engine cover.

The car features the same parallel hybrid powertrain that combines a modified 2.0-liter turbocharged TFSI gasoline engine delivering 211HP and 350 Nm (258.15 lb-ft) of torque, with a disc-shaped electric motor that develops 40 kW (54HP) and 210 Nm (154.89 lb-ft). Its short-term system output is rated at 245-horsepower and 480 Nm (345.03 lb-ft) of torque. The A8 Hybrid goes from standstill to 100 km/h (62mph) in 7.7 seconds and has a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph).

Its fuel consumption is under 6.4 liters per 100 km, and CO2 emissions below 148 grams per km. In addition, it can travel on electric power alone at speeds of up to 100km/h (62mph) for a distance of up to three kilometers or 1.86 miles at a constant 60km/h (37 mph).

There are three different modes to drive in which "EV" stands for electric drive, "D" where the system controls both the engine and the electric motor, and the "S" mode for a sportier driving style.

Ferrari 458 Italia Spider at Frankfurt Motor Show

Ferrari 458 Italia Spider

The world's first mid-rear engined convertible with a retractable hard top was officially unveiled ahead of its launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The Spider features a single-piece aluminium hardtop just ahead of the engine bay with a tonneau cover and two buttresses. The aluminium structure offers lot of advantages which includes a reduction of 25 kg and a deployment time of just 14 seconds. The new Ferrari 458 Spider will go on sale early next year.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 19, 2011

Pre-Cruise: Ferndale Police Cars

Some of the police cars in Ferndale.

Pe-Cruise: Ferndale Choppers

I saw this lovely orange chopper in Ferndale.

And this bicycle was neat, too.

Pre-Cruise: Public Safety Fun On Woodward

One of my favorite places to go at Dreamcruise time is the area in Ferndale near city hall, where many interesting police, fire, and EMT vehicles are displayed.

More Pre-Cruise Photos

Some stuff I saw in and around Ferndale today.

Woodward Pre-Cruise: The Focus ST

I took off of work early today and went to Fashionable Ferndale to see if I could find Ford's Focus ST which they were going to show off. Hidden in plain view behind a trailer, and freshly detailed, here it is in its golden glory.

A few observations. I tried to see if I could tell if it has the new REVO knuckle or not, so I took a few undercarriage photos. I'm still not sure, because there wasn't much space to put a camera down there. However, this one is clearly FWD, not AWD as some had hoped.

Some cladding in the way, hard to see the front suspension.
No RWD on this one.

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 17, 2011

California Clean Cars Confusion

In California, an umbrella organization called the California Clean Cars Initiative is advocating ever tougher standards.  It is a coalition of various organizations, including respectable ones such as American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, and others which are more pollitlcally radical such as The Center for Auto Safety (trial lawyers) and Union of Concerned Scientists.  

And, as usual, Consumers Union joins with the lefties to advocate for unaffordable cars, in opposition to their consumer oriented mission.

One trick that the CCCI pulls is that they conflate "healthy" and "clean" air with "climate change".  I think everyone agrees that smog forming compounds such as NOx and ammonia are dangerous.  The automakers have met every LEV requirement thrown at them, drastically reducing the amount of air pollution from combustion and fuel evaporation.  

However, CO2 is not a carcinogen, and it doesn't form smog or acid rain.  It's plant food.  Hypothetically, a hydrocarbon fuelled vehicle could be designed which would combust its fuel so cleanly, and apply an effective aftertreatment, so that the exhaust would be composed only of CO2, NO2, and H20--complete combustion, with allowance for nitrogen interactions.  However, CCCI would not consider this "clean and healthy" air, because of the global warming lobby.

CCCI would be better off advocating for the removal of dirty-running old cars from California's roads, and going after non-transportation sources such as lawnmowers, boats, and airplanes, if they were serious about the health effects of real pollution.

Yaris Fail

I have not seen the new Toyota Yaris in person yet.  Maybe I'll cross paths with one on Woodward this weekend.  Anyway, looking at the photos and early impressions from other reviewers, I think I can sum it up by quoting Toyota's Yaris tagline. 

"Yaris.   It's A Car."

Or, to quote the ever snarky Car And Driver, "Yep, it's a car. There's not much else to say."

In other words, Toyota is making no effort to build an interesting small car.   They are relying on their reputation for safe, comfortable, reliable cars, and a little bit of styling upate, to try to compete against a very hot small car marketplace.  Meanwhile, Fiat 500 brings style and cute by the bucket.  Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 bring sharp styling and zippy handling.  Honda's Fit brings excellent packaging, good handling, and good fuel economy.  Chevy Rio brings interesting styling and promises strong performance.

So why the capitulation?  The b-car space is going to become more important as fuel economy targets tighten, it seems odd that Toyota would hold back.  If I had to guess, I would say that Toyota was saving its powder for its refresh of its key product, the Camry.

BMW's four-cylinder 5 Series

BMW 5 Series

BMW is all set to improve the overall fuel efficiency for the 2012 model. This model will have an introduction of a new 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Removing these two cylinders will increase the fuel economy, and you can apply those pump savings towards the higher purchase price.

Significance of packing and storage services

Basically there are two main reasons why people relocate. Some people relocate to start a new life at a place they had loved so much after retiring from their jobs. Some relocate to meet the company demands and many companies in the last decade or so have expanded across shores and installed a new branch for business purposes. You might have been one among many asked to relocate to the newer branch. Relocation implies a lot of overhead on everyone and it is a very painful task. Remember one thing; if any of your properties gets damaged during relocation, the repaired or replaced products are never the same as what it was before. It is a huge responsibility and you need experts to handle the relocation job for you.

If you are a guy settled in Chicago or settling down in Chicago, Chicago Movers is one of the best companies you could avail for your relocating needs. They are highly reputed and experienced and they handle the task in quite some professional manner. They have highly skilled and trained laborers for handling the task. They literally move anything and everything. To top it up, they take full responsibility for your properties which is exactly what you need in terms of quality of service provided.

Most of the professional movers and packers company also provide you with packing and unpacking services by which they come to your place with appropriate packing materials, pack your properties, store it in case if required and unpack it when they drop it off at your new destination. Just that you might have to pay more for the number of days you have availed for storing your properties. Chicago mover has certainly made the relocating task much easier.

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 16, 2011

Germany's Brands Remain Unaffected by Economy Slump

BMW 1ER M Coupe

The auto industry hasn’t escaped from the slowing global economy which affected the stock markets due to the US credit rating downgrade. This month has been the worst since November 2008 for the Euro Stoxx Automobile and Parts Index.

Despite the slowing economy, its the luxury car makers who were able to withstand than the mass brands like Fiat and Renault. German premium auto manufacturers are by far the best bet. BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche are the most stable brands because wealthy buyers still have enough money to spend than middle-class consumers.

2012 Lexus CT 200h gets F Sport package

2011 Lexus CT 200H

Lexus is improving its visual appeal and performance of its CT 200h by adding an F Sport package. It gets a revised body kit with a meshed-out front grille, high-gloss alloy wheels, metal front scuff plates, a perforated leather steering wheel, leather shift knob, aluminum pedals, optional perforated leather seats and a re-tuned suspension.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 12, 2011

Goodyear's AMT Project

Goodyear is working on an R&D project to design and demonstrate truck tires which maintain their own pressure with some sort of internal pump and valve system.

Goodyear's Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) will enable tires to remain inflated at the optimum pressure without the need for any external pumps or electronics.  All components of the AMT system, including the miniaturized pump, will be fully contained within the tire.

This is an interesting idea, and not totally new, a company called CODA in the Czech Republic has been promoting a design recently which self inflates.

However, the problem with this concept is that it scavenges energy from the tire rotation to pump the air--which will increase rolling resistance.  There is huge pressure on tire makers to reduce rolling resistance as part of fuel economy improvements.  Unless the government somehow gives credit for the technology to reduce the up-front efficiency hit, I don't see automakers being enthusiastic in replacing their old fashioned tires.  That's because fuel economy tests are performed in a lab, and tires are always properly inflated.

Goodyear press release here.

ಗುರುವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 11, 2011

The Steer Safe: Are The Joking?

There is a hilariously bad invention up on Kickstarter called Steer Safe which is supposed to help people "safely" use their smartphone while driving, by hanging it from the top of the wheel on a cradle.

Why is this so bad that it is funny?

Well, for one thing, it isn't even remotely "safe". It blocks the drivers view of the vehicles instruments. It encourages fiddling with a touch screen while driving. It may interfere with good hand-to-hand steering. And, perhaps most dangerous of all, it is close to the deployment zone of the driver's airbag.

Can you imagine the damage that thing could do, if you are in an accident with airbag activation? As your body moves forward during the crash, the airbag flap opens violently, flinging a glass and metal smartphone up towards your forehead.

Or in a rear-end accident, your iPhone becomes a projectile, snapping out of its holder and flying towards your face.

This thing is so poorly thought out, I have to believe that they guy posting it is joking. Right?

Review: id America Gasket iPhone Case

id America, a maker of iPhone cases and covers, sent me their Gasket iPhone case to review.

The case is made of brushed aluminum, and is designed to look like an engine block, with cut0uts reminiscent of cylinder bores and cooling passages. In addition to the aluminum shell, the case comes with two clear protectors, for the back and for the front screen. The aluminum shell has a suede inner lining to cushion the phone.

I found the case to fit the phone snugly, and the screen protectors did their job without ruining the usability or feel of the touch screen. Installation was not too hard, though it does take some practice to attach the clear protective film (using the supplied squeegee) without leaving any dreaded air bubbles. Once I had it together, the case felt sturdy and substantial.

Overall, I found the case attractive and effective. I like the automotive inspired design. I would definitely buy one for myself, or as a gift for a fellow gear-head.

The Gasket case can be purchasd from id America here for $30.

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 3, 2011

CAFE: Rise Of The Turbo

One way that automakers will meet the new CAFE standards will be to downsize engines and add turbocharging, as a relatively inexpensive and proven way to get variable displacement. And with direct injection and EGR, the ignition charge can be kept cool, allowing the engine to run highly efficiently on regular octane rating gasoline.

This won't be entirely popular, because even today's low mass, twinned turbos do have some power lag, and they do make different and more annoying noises than a traditional big bore motor. Personally, I would drive a 2.0L gasoline or diesel turbo over a 3.0L naturally aspirated engine, if it would save me 20% or more on fuel, whatever noises it makes.

Another concern about turbos is their durability. I think that Audi, Volvo, Saab, and most recently Ford have proven that modern turbos are robust and can last for the design life of the engine. Ford's "torture test" YouTube series is entertaining, if you want to see a turbo engine severely abused.

The reason turbos help fuel economy is that at low engine load, say when you are cruising down the highway, your engine isn't using much of its power, the turbo isn't really running, and the engine is like a 2.0L I4. However, when you are accelerating, or otherwise making a high power demand, the turbo spools up and allows the engine to consume more air (and fuel), temporarily making it more like the 3.0L V6 you used to drive. Because the EPA fuel economy tests have a good bit of steady state driving, and idling, this variable displacement effect of the turbo really helps the MPG rating.

A smaller turbo engine, all else being equal, will also tend to be lighter weight than a comparable larger engine, which is another source of fuel economy gain.

Since turbos are cheaper than batteries and electric motors, the early CAFE gains are likely to happen through engine downsizing rather than hybridization. The next steps will probably be mild hybrids (start/stop, launch torque) coupled with downsized turbocharged engines.

Engineers: CAFE Won't Be Easy

Wards has published a survey of 1,100 automotive engineers (I am sure I was one respondent) which highlights the trade-offs required to meet the new high CAFE standards.

The best part of the article is some of the comments left in the open ended comment box:

In all, survey respondents left 100 pages worth of comments.

"Consumers don't understand what this will cost, and environmental groups don't care," is a typical comment.

"Aerodynamic blobs on the way," another quips.

ಸೋಮವಾರ, ಆಗಸ್ಟ್ 1, 2011

The Mighty Have Fallen


Consumer Reports, formerly certified fanboys of Honda, have utterly dogged the 2012 Civic

It isn't recommended.   Too boring, too plasticky.  

Honda had better be careful.. if they stray too far from their zippy heritage, they are going to get eaten by the very aggressive new up and comers such as Elantra and Focus.