December 31, 2009

Balls On Fire, Rolling Down the Road

Hopefully Dylan will forgive the play on Wheels on Fire but I just wanted to do one last post of the year and put two sites on your New Year's Eve list:

The Biggar Bonfire: We attended this event several times when we lived in Scotland and it is well worth braving the cold. The pipes, the bars, the flames, the smiling faces. What's not to love about this Hogmanay event.

The Balls of Fire: We never made it to this one, but again you have the pipes, the crowds, and flames. Only this time they are swirling balls of fire, proceeding down the main road and into the harbor. There's a webcam and more on the site.

So let's hope these and all the other end-of-year festivities around the world usher in a New Year that is brighter than the one that is ending. Here's to a great 2010 for all!

December 27, 2009

Back to the Future of Cars? Test Driving Jeremy Dean's Futurama

And now for something completely different, on the road.

Back in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the only economic crisis in the last 100 years that was worse than the one we're enduring today, a strange new form of road vehicle emerged for the first time: the horse-drawn automobile. In America they were dubbed Hoover carts or Hoover wagons, after Herbert Hoover, who was president when the depression hit and was widely criticized for not doing more to prevent or alleviate the suffering it brought. In Canada these vehicles were called Bennett Buggies after that country's Prime Minister Bennett who was in power from 1930 to 1935 (and of whom it has been said "his own wealth (often openly displayed) and impersonal style alienated many struggling Canadians").

A collision of two phenomena conspired to put these strange hybrid contraptions on the road: a. the rapid growth of automobile ownership in the 1920s, notably the Ford Model T, and b. the rapid drop in the affordability of gasoline during a time of mass unemployment and asset devaluation. The result? A sizable population of people who owned cars--having bought them with cash--but were unable to afford the fuel to run them. Because the bottom had fallen out of the market for used cars, some people figured why not take out the engine, add some poles, and harness up a horse? The hardware, wetware, and skill-set required for this conversion were readily available, particularly in more rural areas. (And pretty much all of North America was, at that time, more rural than it is today.)

Now imagine being shot forward in time from 1930 to 2010 and the first thing you see is a cart horse shackled to a Cadillac Escalade or GMC Hummer. Would you be surprised? Probably not.

Such is the thinking behind the recent conceptual works of contemporary artist Jeremy Dean. Few automobiles capture the excesses of the first decade of the 21st century better than the Hummer and the Escalade. They are both the apotheosis of consumerism and the antithesis of sustainability. And the juice that keeps them going--petroleum--is liable to such violent price swings that we live our lives just one act of terrorism away from prices that most people could not afford.

As an artist, Jeremy has always sought new ways to bring our reality into perspective. As a documentary filmmaker, Jeremy has spent a lot of time uncovering and studying images of the past. So when he encountered Hoover carts during research on a documentary, Jeremy couldn't shake the image and its potent symbolism. And while the world of today is clearly very different from the world of the 1930s, the realization that we have been pursuing a life-style we cannot afford to sustain is even more pressing today than it was 80 years ago. Jeremy has dubbed this project The Futurama of Cars.

You can see more examples of the works here. And you can help Jeremy realize the Futurama of Cars: an actual 21st Century Hoover Cart that Jeremy plans to drive through New York in March, 2010. That's right, a working horse-drawn vehicle based on a Hummer or Escalade. So heads up if you own one of these vehicles--Jeremy is accepting donations, and he doesn't mind if the motor is blown. And heads up any chop shops who want some free publicity for helping make this dramatic horsepower conversion.

Indeed, anyone can help move this project forward by visiting the KickStarter web site. Check out the wild project video and consider making a pledge. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful rewards on offer for pledging, including Warranties, Registration, and Titles.

As works of art, these 21st century Hoover carts take our minds on the road, on a journey through concepts like wealth and poverty, excess and indulgence, environmentalism and sustainability, waste and frugality, form and function, practicality and absurdity, art and atifice, design and desire. Why not come along for the ride

October 15, 2009

Seismic Stuff: Practical Electric Flight Takes Off (from China)

I wanted to point out a great article in this month's edition of Sport Aviation, the EAA magazine.

That would be EAA as in Experimental Aircraft Association.

Simply titled "Electric Flight," this article is the first description that I have read of practical electric flight, not as a concept, but as a reality, with an objective test pilot at the controls. Taking off and landing on battery power.

Just to be clear, the actual plane you see in the picture is capable of taking two people aloft for several hours with no fossil fuel, just batteries, with a recharging cost of about $3 per hour! Future developments could well produce versions that are capable of flying cross-country (in stages) just like any other Light Sport Aircraft, but without many of the pre-flight checks required by petroleum powered aircraft (e.g. there are no oil/air/fuel filters to check). And this is not the opinion of some electric vehicle nut. The author of this article, Dave Morss is a very practical test pilot with 25 years experience. He was clearly impressed by the plane, the Yuneec e430, and the team that created it. Consider these two quotes:
As for dependability, this may be the first plane I’ve tested that could fly nonstop, except for battery changes, for three days right out of the box (literally) with no squawks.
Nobody told them they couldn’t build an airplane in three months, so they just did it. It’s refreshing to work with a team with no limits. They’re relentless. They’re ingenious. And they’re determined to make electric flight a reality.
What makes this aircraft so seismic is not just the realization of practical, comfortable electric flight that can be mass produced--an enormous thing in itself--but also the fact that the team making it happen is from China. If anyone needed convincing that Chinese are serious competitors in both innovation as well as production, this is it.

(Unfortunately, I have not found the article posted in any public location on the web but I will keep looking and post a link if I find one.)

September 1, 2009

Great But Could Be Greater: BRAMMO Enertia Powercycle

[Stop Press: Updated Price Closer to $7,000 after Federal tax credit! Way to go Brammo]

So, it now looks like you can now buy a real electric motorbike, for immediate delivery. This is the BRAMMO Enertia Powercycle. It is described by the maker, BRAMMO, as:
"the perfect commuter vehicle for the environmentally conscious visionary. Classic styling joined with the latest technology!"
I think it does look pretty cool, if you go for the industrial gray seen here, rather than the symbolic green. But I also think BRAMMO is doing several things wrong, starting with a six letter name that is all caps. I mean BMW and GMC yes, but it's Honda, not HONDA. Unfortunately, merely switching to lower-case cannot save the actual product name: Enertia. What is that? A lifeless lump? Something that has run out of gas? I know it's green so maybe they meant e-nurture, like nurturing the environment by going electric. Whatever, that name has got to go. If I was lucky enough to have one of these bikes (and in many ways I do want one of these bikes) I would be scratching the name be off there in a flash. Come to think of it, the Brammo Flash is way better than the BRAMMO Enertia.

But I won't be getting one of these bikes, not at $12,000!!! That's right, that's the cost of this device, apparently set that way to make sure film stars and rich people are the only "environmentally conscious visionaries" seen astride this product. To put this in perspective, you can buy two decent low-emission, gas-powered motorbikes for that. Heck, get a 2009 Honda CRF230M for $4,750 and you can brag about getting 90 miles to the gallon, maybe not as green as an e-bike, but a pretty small footprint nonetheless. Are green bragging rights really worth $7K! Shoot, you could buy the Honda and give the $7K to Greenpeace.

[Note: 70 days after I posted this, the price was cut to $7,995 which means the effective price, after Federal Tax Credit = $7,195, and the Brammo is now a serious contender for commuters and street bikers.]

Nope, this is not the way the world shifts to e-vehicles. I am seriously looking at getting a motorbike to use instead of a car when I make my daily run to the post office (which I make because the post office won't deliver to our house). But even if I won the lottery tomorrow it would be hard to justify paying 2X the going price for decent motorbike just to be seen on a BRAMMO Enertia.
.

August 31, 2009

It's Official: British Car is Fastest Steam Kettle Ever, Clocking Over 148MPH

For the record: On August 26, Don Wales successfully set a new land speed record for a steam powered car. The British car set the world record for a measured kilometer, achieving an average speed over two runs of 148.308 mph.

August 25, 2009

Official Steam Land Speed Record Broken, All Time Record is Next

A pair of regulation runs across a California dessert have resulted in a new official world land speed record for a steam powered vehicle!

The British Speed car exceeded 150mph at one point and averaged a shade under 140mph. In official terms, the record is now 139.843mph. According to the Daily Mail there will be further attempts to try and best the unofficial record of 145mph. Definitely another feather in the cap of British engineering, which also holds the overall world land speed record. And interesting to note the numerous speed-family connections mentioned in the Daily Mail article.

August 19, 2009

The Kettle is On! The British Steam Car Challenge is going for the "world land steam" record

Once again there are folk from England sweating in the American desert in pursuit of speed. But this is not the world land speed record for cars with jet engines (as claimed and owned by the British Thrust II). This is the speed record for steam-powered cars.

Known as the British Steam Car Challenge, the project is in California right now and is likely to break the record any day now. That means going over 145mph while powered by hot water (heated by propane).

The vehicle specs are amazing. The Inspire, as it is called, stretches 25 feet in length, weighs 3 tons, and has a steam turbine that generates 360 hp. Theoretical top speed of the car is 170mph. Now that might not sound very fast. There are several production sports cars capable of exceeding 200 mph with internal combustion engines. But an IC engine is inherently dirtier than a steam engine, which can be fired by much cleaner fuels. The problem with developing a fast steam powered car is size. It is possible to build steam engines that generate 3,000 hp but they are huge. Indeed, the only place you are likely to find them is in steam locomotives.

The fastest British steam locomotive, arguably the fastest ever (argued in immense detail here) was the Mallard. It was rated around 3,000 hp and at times it achieved speeds in excess of 120 mph. But it weighed over 100 tons! The Inspire is one eighth of the power with one thirtieth of the weight! That is an amazing feat of engineering.

July 19, 2009

Good Food and Drink on the Road

Recently it occurred to me that over the years I have recommended, via blog posts, comments and tweets, a fair number of places to eat, places that are scattered around the country, places that folks who are on the road might like to know about. I figured I would start rounding round them up here. And here are the first two:

City Coffee Company, St. Augustine, FL: Written up in this blog post. Best coffee on the north side of town. Great bear claws and breakfast burritos. Free WiFi of course (a good thing because there is no 3G in St. Augustine at this point and the Edge signal is pretty weak on the north side of town.

Stage Coach Coffee, Cooperstown, NY: I have tweeted this several times. Best decaff latté on the planet. And the most unusual signature French Toast. Seen in the iPhone snapshot on the left, this is "Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée French Toast." Totally delicious and very filling. As served at the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

More to come...

June 20, 2009

Flying Launch Pad Cruises New Mexico Skies

Couldn't resist blogging this story as it shows progress towards commercial space travel has not been stopped by the recession. Not to get all philosophical and stuff but I think that leaving planet Earth is where evolution is headed.

I'm not saying all Earthlings will relocate to another planet or planets, but some will. And of course, that could make Earth a more accommodating place for those who stay behind. At some point in the future there will be humans looking back, in time and space, saying "Yep, that whole Virgin Galactic thing was a turning point." Kind of like the VIC-20 or TRaSh 80.

May 14, 2009

Good News for Tesla Motors: $100K Porsche looks like S clone

Now that Porsche has unveiled the final production version of its long-awaited 4-door sedan, the $100,000 Panamera, it is clear that the vehicle bears many similarities to another hi-tech sedan, the all-electric Tesla S Sedan. I cobbled together some shots to show what I mean:

Both cars are very good looking, and both designs owe something to sport sedan styling pioneered by the Maserati Quattroporte, blending 4 doors into a swooping roof line. Both the Pamamera and the S have extensive sun roofs. Both have hatchbacks, made possible by the slope of the roof. I am in no way suggesting that anyone is copying anyone here; if you want four doors and seating for four in a smooth shape with low drag coefficient then this is the shape. Porsche rounds the Panamera's rear in keeping with the Porsche "look" while Tesla's Franz von Holzhausenon takes a more carved, angular approach that has slight echoes of the Nissan Altima and recent BMW 3 series. Bear in mind that von Holzhausenon's remit here is to craft a look that gets the pulse racing yet appeals to a wide audience. After all, the Tesla sedan spearheads the company's bid to take all-electric vehicles mainstream.

But under the skin the cars couldn't be more different. The Panamera runs on fossil fuel and requires a fuel tank. The Tesla takes its power from batteries built into the chassis. That allows the Tesla to have a huge trunk space. How big? It can accommodate a third row of seating! Pricing is also very different, roughly $60K for a Tesla versus $100K for a Porsche. But performance may be quite closely matched (hard to believe perhaps, until you experience the Tesla's neck-snapping acceleration off the line).

May 11, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Has Some People Upset

As you may have heard--or if you're like me, had not heard--the U.S. government is considering several programs that offer people money for their old cars. There is already a program along these lines in California that pays you cash for turning in an old polluting car.

Oddly enough, when I lived in California I passed off my old polluting car to the authorities by parking it illegally, repeatedly, because there was nowhere legal to park. Then I went out of town on business one time and found it gone when I returned. The city kept the vehicle in payment for the fines, which suited me fine.

But apparently this cash-for-clunkers talk has upset some people, such as those who collect old cars and some car bloggers. So now we have anti-C4C folks name calling people who have reported it fairly objectively, like John Voelcker at GreenCarReports.com.

In a rare case of me admitting that I just don't know enough to render an authoritative opinion, I'm going to sit out the C4C debate. However, I will throw a question into the ring: What happens to the flow of used vehicles to Africa? I was told by a "used car industry insider" in Florida that a lot of used cars that don't fetch money at auction are shipped to Africa. I had assumed they went there to be fixed up and driven. But maybe they go to be buried. It wouldn't be the first time we have dumped our inconvenient waste in poor countries. Hopefully any C4C program the government executes will include an environmentally sound end-of-line process.

May 6, 2009

Hybrids Decline as Diesels Pop? Google Trends paint interesting picture

Figured I would check out the new Google Trend gizmo which lets you chart search trends. You can adjust the terms and the time frame. I found that a one year view from the US perspective shows "hybrid" declined rapidly as fuel prices eased (or family budgets tightened).

May 5, 2009

National Train Day: Saturday, May 9!

That's right, May 9 is National Train Day in America. Amtrak gets high marks for the marketing campaign on this one.

I really like the idea of getting people excited about train travel and several angles are being played in this one campaign. There is an appeal to "Trainiacs" but also to families and executive travelers.

If only more people would get behind the idea that investing in trains is an investment in the future. Think of all the jet fuel emissions we could save with high speed inter-city links. Not to mention the productivity gains--it is so much easier to work on a train than a plane. (Assuming Amtrak or whomever installs broadband--it is not hard to do guys--if they can do it on buses between Philly and Manhattan you can do it on trains.)

Anyway, check the site and you will find links ot all sorts of train-related events around the country this weekend.

April 30, 2009

Stunning Tesla Model S Sedan: When a silent test drive can speak volumes

Thanks to good friend and fellow green car enthusiast, David Brussin, CEO of inherently green Monetate, I attended a great party last night, superbly hosted by New York mega-agency IAC, where the guest of honor was a stunning new emissions-free car, the all-electric Tesla Model S Sedan.

While David chatted with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, I had a chance to discuss the Tesla S design challenges with Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausenon. He said that in many ways the challenge was to avoid being too audacious, given the freedom afforded by an electric power train (like the absence of a large engine up front and a large fuel tank in the rear). The role of this sedan is to get mainstream consumers excited about an all-electric vehicle without coming across as far out.

In my opinion von Holzhausenon has succeeded on all fronts with this design. It would be a head-turner if it was a regular petroleum-powered car. As an electric it will turn even more heads, even though people won't hear it coming, or going.

Later in the evening we hooked up with Green Car Reports Editor-in-Chief John Voelcker and went for a test drive in the sedan. A very short test drive, but enough to leave a lasting impression, of amazing acceleration--accomplished in almost complete silence--and of terrific cabin space design. John has a more detailed write-up here.

BTW, during my chat with von Holzhausenon I was gratified to hear him acknowledge Coventry's continuing role as a source of automotive design and engineering talent. An excellent evening all round.

April 26, 2009

Move Over Mini? Fiat 500 could be the next big little thing

There is at least one bright spot in all the gloom surrounding the US auto industry today: Fiat might soon own a big slice of Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Why is this good news? Fiat makes some cool stuff, not the "least" of which is the ultra-cool Fiat 500. And the deal with Chrysler may bring this affordable high mileage mini-car to America.

Italian automakers have always had the ability to sell their vehicular technology on the basis of lifestyle and aesthetics (c.f. Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lambretti, Ducati). The new Fiat 500 is no exception, except it is undoubtedly more reliable than the old Fiats most Americans have known (a.k.a. Fix It Again Tomorrow). This remake of the original mini-car from the 1950s and 60s is really exciting stuff. Even Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson was impressed. And check out Motor Trend raving about the fiesty 500 Abarth pictured here.

Also check out design of the Fiat 500 web site. Also cool. And there's talk of a diesel version and an electric version (of the car, not the web site). What's not to love? As to reliability. I've rented Fiats on several trips to the UK in recent years and had no problems. In fact, I even owned a Fiat Strada in the U.S. in the 1980s, probably the last time Fiat had dealership arrangements this side of the Atlantic. I put a lot of highway miles on that little hatchback across many Western states and I don't ever recall it failing to start (I even cut a hole in the roof and fitted a sunroof--but that's another story.

The Italian connection continues in our diesel Jeep Liberty, the engine of which is sourced from Italy. We've put 38,000 miles on it since late 2005, through all kinds of weather including deep winter. It's towed big trailers for days with no complaint. I like it. I also like the idea of Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealers carrying small Fiats. If they do it right, I'm thinking they could sell like hotcakes.

April 25, 2009

Brits Go For Steam Car Record!

Given the connection to John Cobb, the first person to exceed 400mph in a wheel driven car, and to Coventry, home of the fastest car in the world today, I thought this video news story was great, headlined "A British team is looking to beat the speed record for a steam-powered car.

Steam car races toward record: Video story fromReuters.com

The current record has stood for 103 years, having been established at just over 127 miles per hour in 1906. At that time, that speed, achieved by a steam powered car, was THE world land speed record (LSR). That record stood as the LSR until 1910 when it was narrowly eclipsed by a combustion-engined vehicle. For the whole story, check the official site.

April 13, 2009

Of Fighter Pilots, F-16s, Grim Reapers, Air Guards and Airlines

Last weeks' news item about "Suicide by F-16" sparked several thoughts, happily none of them suicide-related.

Have you ever experienced the "suddenly they're everywhere" phenomenon? For example, your friend takes you for a drive in her new car, a model you've never really noticed before, and in the next few days you see loads of these cars and it's like all of a sudden they're everywhere? Well the same thing happened to me with fighter jets. One day a pair of F-16s are scrambled by Wisconsin Air National Guard and the next I'm seeing all sorts of F-16 related stuff. Admittedly, I went looking for some of it. Like the Air National Guard thing. I was curious about how many American states have their own fighter jets. Turns out a lot of them do.

Have you ever flown into a commercial airport, on a commercial flight, but seen some military planes parked away on the far side of the airport? In America those planes often belong to Air National Guard of the state in which you are landing. Checking out the "local" air guard, I found that the military jets I had noticed at Syracuse airport, which I sometimes fly from, were F-16s from the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard.

Purely from a design and engineering perspective, the F-16 is an impressive machine. The design has a sports car look to it and performance to match. The F-16 has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, which means it has enough power to climb and accelerate vertically. F-16s are used by several flying demonstration teams including the USAF Thunderbirds and the Royal Netherlands Airforce F-16 DEMOTEAM. The cockpit, which comes in one- and two-seater configurations, is designed so the pilot's position is semi-recumbent, rather than sitting up straight. Apparently this helps pilots handle the terrific G-forces the plane is capable of generating during maneuvers.

So as I am Googling through this stuff I find out that the the 174th Fighter Wing is losing its F-16s. They are being replaced with Reapers. What's a Reaper? An MQ-9, a.k.a. Predator "B", as in great big brother to the Predator drone. The Reaper is an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan wider than a regional passenger jet and the ability to stay aloft for over 40 hours while carrying hundreds of pounds of bombs and missiles.

The Reaper is worthy of a separate blog post, but the point that caught my eye about this huge shift for the New York Air National Guard is the effect on pilots. Out of 30 F-16 pilots with the 174th, only 20 are staying on to fly the robot planes. Which got me thinking. Maybe a shift to drones will help the commercial airlines, who are finding it hard to get experienced pilots.

I'm also wondering if the Reapers will be physically based in Syracuse, in which case I may see them on my next flight out of there. But being drones, I guess it's possible that they could be flying anywhere, while still being piloted from Syracuse. And that's what I call a trip.

(BTW, the pic in this post is from the web site of the Royal Netherlands Airforce F-16 DEMOTEAM, shot by P. van Uffelen © 55 jaar 313 Volkel 2008. The pic in the previous post was from the incredibly detailed Wikipedia entry about the F-16.)

April 8, 2009

The Cost of Suicide by F-16: Depends on who pays for the petrol?

As reported by the AP, a flight student who stole a plane in Canada was attempting "suicide by fighter jet." His attempt failed but I'm thinking how do you even try that?

Apparently the man "entered U.S. airspace and flew an erratic path over the Midwest with the military on his tail before he landed safely on a rural Missouri road, federal authorities said Tuesday." The article went on to say:
"Adam Dylan Leon, who was running out of fuel when he landed the plane Monday night in Ellsinore, Mo., was charged Tuesday with transportation of stolen property and illegal entry. The six-hour flight prompted a brief evacuation of the Wisconsin Capitol and warnings to commercial aircraft over Chicago and other cities, but terrorism is not believed to be a motive....The plane was intercepted by F-16 fighters from the Wisconsin National Guard after crossing into the state near the Michigan state line." -- Flight student charged with piloting plane into US
Ever wonder what an incident like that costs the government agencies that have to deal with it? Things like the fuel for those F-16s for example? Word on the street says the cost of jet fuel used in this incident was, wait for it: $800,000. Mr. Leon was apparently unhappy when he embarked on this journey. I think he's going to be even unhappier if they ask him to chip in for the gas.

April 5, 2009

Diesels, The French, Chevaux and Cheveux, and Other Lovable Topics

I have to begin this post with some apologies. Two people commented on past posts and I didn't notice. I have only just approved their comments. Zut alors! I will change my comment settings.

So first there was a comment, signed by "A Frenchman" but under the blogger profile Christine, on my post about the Citröen 2CV. The comment pointed out that:
The name of the car is actually "Deux Cheveaux" which literally means "Two Horses" or 2 horse power. You have written "Deux Cheveux" which means "Two Hairs"!
This was a major typo on my part. I did know that the Deux Chevaux got its name from its 2 horse power motor, I just flunked French on that post. That's a pity because I like French, the language, and many other things French, like the smell of diesel in the morning while sipping a café crême and eating a croissant outside a French café (and yes, I do know why they are crescent-shaped).

I take some comfort in the fact that I am not the only person to make this mistake. There's a very nice Flickr photo of a 2CV labeled with my spelling. And Googling my spelling turned up this enjoyable NY Times article on the 2CV appropriately titled Plenty of Smiles Per Gallon. Of course, the picture in this post is NOT a 2CV but a more recent Citröen, the Xantia. This is similar to an earlier model my brother owned, the station wagon version of which had an enormous storage capacity and superb suspension that was able to lower the tailgate for loading and avoid the nose-in-the-air effect of carrying heavy cargo. Like most European cars it cruised smoothly and effortlessly at 100mph.

Which brings me to my second oversight, an unmoderated comment about diesels and their efficiency, from someone who runs his diesel Citröen Xantia on used vegetable oil. And apaprently this is even better for emissions than ultra low sulphur diesel. The person said: "It has an output of only .75% co2 against a figure of 2.5/3.00% published by the manufacturers...and I get MY fuel from the local takeaway!"

Anyone for cod and chips and a gallon of veggie oil? Ah, I love the smell of cooking oil while sipping a pint of Stella on the patio on a mild Spring evening!

March 28, 2009

Electric Delivery Vehicle Plant Coming to Kansas City, With Chips

Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. Corporation plans to assemble all-electric zero-emission commercial vehicles in Kansas City with production of the first zero-emission commercial trucks scheduled to begin third quarter of 2009.

SEV U.S. Corp will initially focus its production on battery-electric-powered vehicles for depot-based predictable-route delivery fleets.

"We feel the greatest opportunity to have a major impact on the electric vehicle industry is through fleet operators who utilize commercial vehicles in a depot-based delivery model," said Bryan Hansel, chief executive officer SEV U.S. Corp.

"As more truck fleets adopt this technology, it will drive advancements in battery technology, drive down manufacturing costs, and form the foundation of a U.S.-based supply chain that, over time will also significantly reduce the cost of commercial electric vehicles. This will make them a natural choice for fleet managers with a depot-based delivery model."

Apparently, Frito-Lay has already signed up to use these vans for local delivery of its snack foods and chips. What a great fit! Zero emissions to foul up city streets, plus the power requirement goes down as the truck progresses through the route and then heads back to the depot to charge overnight for the next day's deliveries. Just like the electric milk float I drove 40 years ago!

Full Story on BEVs to be built in Kansas City by Smith

Peugeot diesel in 407 beats CO2 figure

Peugeot installs small diesel engine in 407, beats CO2 figure

"Peugeot is on to something since they put a 1.6-liter 110hp HDi diesel in the Peugeot 407, getting a relatively large car that burns just 4.9 l/100 km of diesel (equivalent to 48 mpg) and keeps CO2 emissions at a respectable 129 g/km."

Diesel Motorcycle? Yes, if you're military

"The HDT motorcycle diesel engine is based on state-of-the-art high-speed automotive diesel engine technology, engineered into a complete power unit suitably sized and packaged for installation in a compact on/off road motorcycle."

Looks at these specs, for 600cc diesel motorbike engine:

Power: 28 PS [21 kw] @ 5500 rev/min.
Torque: 32lbft [44 Nm] @ 3000 rev/min.

HDT - Hayes Diversified Technologies, Diesel Motorcycle Manufacturer

March 27, 2009

The Awesome Tesla S: These guys GET cars

Car fans! Forget Jeremy Clarkson's addle-headed ambiguity about the Tesla roadster (let's face it, the guy doesn't even get why diesels are awesome and Americans drive F150s). The real Tesla has emerged and one look tells you: THESE GUYS GET CARS! Just look at this photo:
What eco-conscious family man or woman wouldn't want to be driving this?

This pic appeared on the NY Times car blog. Shots like it will be heard around the automotive world. As many of us have said for so long now, eco-friendly doesn't have to be frumpy. Heck, family-friendly doesn't have to be frumpy. I mean, just compare this Tesla S design with what many people consider the epitome of 4-door car design, the Maserati Quattroporte.

I snapped a Quattroporte in Moscow a few years ago (excuse the sunburst in the upper left, but I needed to obscure the name of the establishment outside of which it was parked, and the dude with the bulge in his jacket who was obviously guarding the car):
It's about line and proportion. It's about adding form to function. The fact that folks at Tesla get this proves geeky can be gorgeous, and that bodes well for the future of all electric vehicles.

Leave boxy and square to the milk floats, where it makes perfect sense. For cars that move people, let the coachwork flow around the essential hardware and wetware. The natural result is a planet saving-ly low drag coefficient and looks that people will love.

(Trivia Fans: Astute readers will note that the Maserati Quattroporte is featured in the template of this blog, at the bottom right of this page. Yes, we likee that much. Just as we loved the long gone Citreön Maserati.)

3 Cheers for Tesla's Stunning Model S

First Look at Tesla's Stunning Model S | Autopia from Wired.com:

"The car has drawn comparisons to the Jaguar XF and the Maserati Quattroporte, and although von Holzhausen didn't cite those vehicles as influences, he welcomed the association.

'I hear Jaguar, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, and I think that's positive,' he said. 'People have positive associations with those brands, and I think that's a good reflection on Tesla. If they said it reminds them of the (Ford) Pinto or the (Pontiac) Aztek, we'd have problems.'"

March 24, 2009

Peugeot Promises A Diesel Hybrid For 2011 Le Mans

For all of us who said, many years ago, diesel hybrids were the way to go, Autopia from Wired.com presents this superb piece of eye candy:



May it kick serious butt in competition and pave the way for passengar cars with all the benefits that diesel hybrids have to offer (click for a sharper image). And check out Peugeot Promises A Diesel Hybrid For 2011