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Building a better Pinewood Derby car with science

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 13:45

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Screencap from a video explaining the science behind building a Pinewood Derby-winning car.

Every corner of human endeavor has its researchers, and that includes activities that we might think are just supposed to be fun for kids, like pinewood derbies. In case you don't know, a pinewood derby where kids build a car out of a block of wood, add some nails for axles and plastic wheels and then race them head-to-head on a length of track with an elevated starting line. It's all about kids having fun with gravity and little chunks of timber.

Except it isn't at all, because dads are involved, and that means that winning pinewood derby cars use the kind of science and technology real car enthusiasts are familiar with: center-of-mass studies, polished axles, lightweight wheels and copious use of graphite.

YouTube regular Mark Rober gives an excellent explanation of what goes into a champion derby run, with science help from Dr. Scott Acton, a physicist with spacecraft and defense component maker Ball Aerospace. But Rober mostly uses children's blocks to lay it all out, and then he wins, which are things we can all understand. You'll find an education in the video below.

Continue reading Building a better Pinewood Derby car with science

Building a better Pinewood Derby car with science originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Leno's steam-powered 1925 Doble E-20 is fascinating

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 13:44

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Doble E-20

The steam-powered car is considered an old-fashioned relic in today's age, but in his latest video showing off his 1925 Doble E-20, Jay Leno demonstrates that at its best, steam provided a realistic challenge to the internal combustion engine. This car has some real provenance too. Famous industrialist Howard Hughes is counted among its owners, and Leno claims he liked it so much because it was the only car that performed as well as his Duesenberg.

While the Doble's four-cylinder compound engine makes only 150 horsepower, it produces a staggering 1,000 pound-feet of torque, according to Leno. That much power means that a transmission isn't necessary, and it directly drives the rear end.

For much of the video, Leno puts on his teacher's cap and explains step-by-step how the Doble's advanced steam engine works, and it's a very complicated piece of machinery, especially if your are used to internal combustion engines. One of the most interesting parts is the system's efficiency, because after being used in the engine, the gas is condensed back into water and heated again.

If you're a fan of engineering or mechanical systems, this is a fascinating video to watch, and it's amazing how functional the Doble makes steam power appear. In fact, it's almost possible to see steam as a realistic alternative to modern engines. Scroll down to watch Professor Leno give you an inside look at his idea of the pinnacle of the steam-powered automobile.

Continue reading Leno's steam-powered 1925 Doble E-20 is fascinating

Leno's steam-powered 1925 Doble E-20 is fascinating originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Watch Congress sample Toyota's i-Road 3-wheeler concept

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 13:45

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Toyota i-Road in Congress

Toyota brought its new i-Road, a three-wheeled, all-electric low-speed vehicle that debuted in 2013 at the Geneva Motor Show, to the Capitol for some of our elected officials to test out. As easy as it is to forget that politicians are people, too, it was refreshing to see a human side to many of them as they zipped about one of the Capitol's many meeting rooms.

We'd say their reactions were surprisingly positive. Of course, some were just down there because Toyota is a big presence in their respective districts, but the bulk of the senators and representatives seemed like they just wanted to zip about the makeshift indoor course on the leaning trike.

Take a look below at the video from Bloomberg.

Continue reading Watch Congress sample Toyota's i-Road 3-wheeler concept

Watch Congress sample Toyota's i-Road 3-wheeler concept originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Toyota unveils two new small displacement engines

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:31

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Toyota small-displacement engines

Toyota introduced a pair of brand-new engines in Japan today, that it says will eventually spawn 14 different variants by 2015. Where these two engines stand out in today's world, is that neither mill boasts direct injection, and both are naturally aspirated.

The larger of the two is a 1.3-liter, while the smaller engine, a 1.0-liter, was developed in collaboration with Daihatsu. What makes these two unique is that they both use the Atkinson cycle. Now, we aren't going to bore you by explaining just what this is - there's Google for that. Suffice it to say, Atkinson engines are highly efficient, but that efficiency comes by sacrificing power. That's why they're so popular in hybrids, which can offset the power losses.

This focus on fuel efficiency extends throughout the new engines, which also benefit from tweaks like a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system and a trick intake port, while the 1.3 employs Toyota's iE variant of variable valve timing. Both engines can be fitted with stop-start tech. According to Toyota, when fitted with stop-start the 1.3 should provide around a 15-percent bump while the 1.0-liter will increase economy around 30 percent, when they arrive on the road.

We're not going to lie, the non-hybrid Atkinson system is a question mark. But according to General Manager of Powertrain Planning Shouji Adachi, it shouldn't be an issue.

"There is always the challenge of lower performance in torque," Adachi-san told Automotive News. "For the new engines, we were able to resolve these issues."

We're presuming that what Adachi is referring to is Toyota's use of high compression ratios on both engines - 13.5 in the case of the 1.3L and 11.5 in the 1.0L. Using a higher compression ratio allows the engine to develop more power thanks to increased thermal efficiency. In the case of the 1.3L, max thermal efficiency is at 38 percent, which Toyota says is quite good. The 1.0L is just a smidge behind, at 37 percent.

So, power concerns momentarily swept aside, where to do we think these engines will end up? According to AN, non-hybrid, JDM compacts will be the first to use the new engines. From there, though, it's really anyone's guess where these engines and their variants will end up. Scroll on down for the short press release on the two engines, from Toyota.

Continue reading Toyota unveils two new small displacement engines

Toyota unveils two new small displacement engines originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Senate committee votes to keep driver black box data private

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:01

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Automotive Black BoxDrivers are one step safer to having improved privacy behind the wheel. The Senate Commerce Committee has granted bipartisan approval to legislation that aims to protect the information on automotive Event Data Recorders (EDR), also known as black boxes. The committee concluded that the vehicle owner is the one who owns the information stored on the device.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) first proposed the rules last year. The legislation stipulates that the owner or lessee of the vehicle is the only person entitled to the data in the black box, outside of a few specific conditions. The information can still be accessed if authorized by a court or if the owner consents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may collect data for recalls, but personal information must not be disclosed in the process. Finally, law enforcement may use the data if needed following a crash. According to the senators, 14 states already have data recorder privacy laws.

"EDRs can serve a useful function by helping to make cars and streets safer, but access to the data should be treated as personal except under very specific circumstances," said Senator Hoeven in a statement on his website.

Black boxes are already installed in over 90-percent of vehicles and track data like speed, braking, airbag deployment and some even know the vehicle's location. Previously, NHTSA proposed that all future vehicles must come with data recorders. According to The Detroit News, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen, has given support to the committee's rules.

Senate committee votes to keep driver black box data private originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Audi and FAW to launch A6 E-Tron in China

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 12:32

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Audi A6 e-tron

Audi and its Chinese joint-venture partner FAW have announced that they'll be building a production version of the Audi A6 E-Tron Concept, shown at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show. Based on the China-only long-wheelbase A6, the plug-in-hybrid model is being targeted specifically at the People's Republic.

Audi is promising a 50-kilometer (31-mile) electric range for the fuel-sipping sedan, although there are precious few details beyond that. We do know, though, that this will be a Chinese-built vehicle, with assembly slated for the FAW-Volkswagen joint-venture factory in Changchun. We presume we'll find out more when the Beijing Motor Show kicks off a few weeks from today.

"We are the market leader in China's premium segment and will continue systematically with the application of efficiency technologies. Audi is thus supporting the Chinese government's targets for the reduction of fuel consumption," said Dr. Dietmar Voggenreiter, the president of Audi China.

Take a look below for the full press release from Audi and FAW.

Continue reading Audi and FAW to launch A6 E-Tron in China

Audi and FAW to launch A6 E-Tron in China originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Land Rover augments off-road reality with amazing Transparent Bonnet tech

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 13:31

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Land Rover Transparent Bonnet system

With very few exceptions, production off-road vehicles all mount their engine up in front. The trouble is that the hood can obstruct the view to the terrain ahead. Leave it to Land Rover, then, to come up with a novel solution.

When the doors open at the Javitz Center next week for the 2014 New York Auto Show, Land Rover will present its new Discovery Vision Concept. The vehicle will show the way forward for the brand's next generation of SUV, and included with it will be this Transparent Bonnet system. The system uses cameras located in the grille to project an image of the terrain ahead on the vehicle's Head-Up Display, making the hood virtually transparent to make navigating up-close obstacles like large rocks and narrow tracks that much easier.

It's just one of the new technologies which Land Rover will demonstrate in the new Discovery concept, and - like the depth sounders mounted in the mirrors of the Range Rover Sport - the system follows a proud tradition of technological innovation pioneered or adopted by Land Rover to enable more capable off-roading. Check out the system in action in the video and the details in the press release below.

Continue reading Land Rover augments off-road reality with amazing Transparent Bonnet tech

Land Rover augments off-road reality with amazing Transparent Bonnet tech originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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GM investing $449 million in next-gen electrification

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:30

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GM Detroit-Hamtramck Factory

It has been a rough couple of weeks for General Motors with the constant scrutiny on its recalls in the public eye, but the company is trying to move forward. This week, it announced a $449 million investment into its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Battery Assembly plants. Part of the money is going into upgrades that allow for the next-generation Chevrolet Volt to be built.

The expenditure includes $384 million for Detroit-Hamtramck that already builds the Volt, Malibu, Impala, Cadillac ELR and Opel Ampera. It's getting new body shop tooling, equipment and upgrades to build the next-generation Volt and two other future, unrevealed vehicles. "These investments will help the next-generation Chevrolet Volt build on its position as the leader in electrified propulsion," said Gerald Johnson, GM North America Manufacturing vice president, in the company's statement.

The other $65 million is going to Brownstown, which makes the lithium-ion battery packs for many of GM's electrified vehicles. The new funding is being put towards production of the company's next-generation of lithium-ion batteries and future battery systems.

GM is remaining tight-lipped about when the investments into the plants are beginning. "We have no timeline at the moment [for the upgrades]," said GM spokesperson for the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, Dave Darovitz, to Autoblog. He also couldn't give us any further info on the next-gen Volt or the other two new vehicles being built there. Scroll down to read more about the investment.

Continue reading GM investing $449 million in next-gen electrification

GM investing $449 million in next-gen electrification originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 09 Apr 2014 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Zero Motorcycles announces small recall for potentially catastrophic motor failure

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 19:30

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Zero Motorcycles

Bad news for those rooting for electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero - the brand is recalling 94 bikes built between December 26, 2013 and February 18, 2014. This is the second recall for the small-scale manufacturer in the past year, following a larger, 268-unit recall in August.

More troubling, though, is the reason the bikes are being recalled. According to the notification from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the motor's rotor could make contact with the stator (the stationary part of an electric motor) while the bike is in motion. Should this happen, the rear tire could seize. We shouldn't really need to explain why this would be bad.

The recall affects certain bikes in the 2014 S, SR, DS and FX lines. Perhaps the sole scrap of good news here is that the recalled bikes do cover a very small range of dates - less than two months. You can view the affected date range for each model in the press release.

Zero will begin its recall campaign this month, and will test and replace affected motors free of charge. Take a look below for the full notification from NHTSA.

Continue reading Zero Motorcycles announces small recall for potentially catastrophic motor failure

Zero Motorcycles announces small recall for potentially catastrophic motor failure originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ford Australia pulls the ol' talking car prank

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 16:01

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Ford Talking Car

Siri from Apple has proven that being able to talk to your technology doesn't always work perfectly. But what if it could eventually go far enough to give a personality to inanimate objects like our cars? Ford took just this path to comedic effect by playing a prank on many unsuspecting Australians, in a new commercial for its EcoSport compact crossover.

The Aussies seem very nonchalant about having a random parked car talk to them, and they seem surprisingly game when it asks them to get in, call a celebrity and tell a joke. (We're guessing there are some hilarious outtakes, too.) Scroll down to watch some folks from Down Under have a conversation with Ford's CUV.

Continue reading Ford Australia pulls the ol' talking car prank

Ford Australia pulls the ol' talking car prank originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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This is what Microsoft's latest Windows In The Car looks like

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 14:29

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Screencap from a presentation of Microsoft's coming Windows-in-Car interface.

Following Apple's unveiling of CarPlay at this year's Geneva Motor Show, Microsoft used its recent Build developer conference to reveal how it plans to allow the integration of its smartphones with automobiles. Instead of automakers using Microsoft programming to create their own infotainment interfaces, this would port your mobile phone's screen onto the car's touchscreen but with the look of the Windows "Metro" UI.

The system uses the Mirrorlink standard, which is (also) a rival to CarPlay, the major difference between the two being that Mirrorlink can port Windows, Android and Blackberry phone systems, and Google has its own Open Automotive Alliance dedicated to Android integration. Automakers won't have to choose just one, having come together to establish open standards that can incorporate the different systems.

Microsoft's concept provides almost complete control of what's on your phone, throws in GPS data like speed limits and some vehicular controls, and will let developers create apps that adhere to safe driving protocols. The system doesn't have a name or an arrival date yet, but Microsoft is testing it out on the road right now. You can watch it be demonstrated - and yes, crash, since it's pre-production software - in the video below.

Continue reading This is what Microsoft's latest Windows In The Car looks like

This is what Microsoft's latest Windows In The Car looks like originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Fiat updates 500 with new display, automatic transmission for turbo models

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 14:01

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Fiat 500 upgraded interior

Just last month at the Geneva Motor Show, Fiat announced some updates for the European-spec 500, including a new dashboard display. Now it's announced that the same updates are being applied to the US-spec model.

Similar (if not identical) to the display in the 500E, the conventionally powered 500 now benefits from a seven-inch high-definition TFT instrument display to monitor data including vehicle speed, fuel level, fuel consumption and remaining range. Data from the infotainment system is also displayed on the panel, and if you spec your Cinquecento with the rear parking sensor, that'll be displayed on there too.

There's a redesigned center console and some new color options as well, but those looking for a turbocharged experience without the hassle of swapping gears themselves will be more interested in the new automatic transmission option. Previously available only with a manual, Fiat is now offering the 500 Turbo, 500 Abarth and 500 Abarth Cabrio with a six-speed automatic transmission supplied by Aisin. Look for the new models to hit your local Fiat Studio this July, and feel free to read the official announcement below.

Continue reading Fiat updates 500 with new display, automatic transmission for turbo models

Fiat updates 500 with new display, automatic transmission for turbo models originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Newest version of Honda's ASIMO coming to TV on April 15

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:02

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Honda Asimo

Honda's ASIMO robot is moving into its teenage years, having originally been introduced in 2000, and like all teens, it's still learning. The bot has received regular incremental upgrades over that time, and the latest version will premiere on LIVE with Kelly and Michael on Tuesday, April 15.

The newest enhancements provide ASIMO with improved hand dexterity, the ability to use sign language, run faster, climb stars more smoothly, balance on one foot, jump and more. Honda says other new features will be demonstrated with hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on the show.

The ongoing development of ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, is being done so that one day it can help humans who require assistance. The current version is 4-feet, 3-inches tall, weighs 110 pounds and is made mostly from magnesium alloy and plastic. A big limit is still its lithium-ion battery that only provides 40 minutes of charge. The robot has not needed human control to move since a previous iteration in 2011, which also improved its manual dexterity. It could even pour drinks.

While you can't stroll into your local Honda dealer and buy an ASIMO (at least not yet), its technology has been adapted to other Honda projects. The Miimo lawnmower trims grass without human assistance, and the Uni-Cub β mobility device is adapted from the robot's balancing and movement tech. Scroll down to read a bit about the new abilities.

Continue reading Newest version of Honda's ASIMO coming to TV on April 15

Newest version of Honda's ASIMO coming to TV on April 15 originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 10:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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World's first all carbon-fiber RV is black, green and super slick [w/video]

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 20:16

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GCT CR-1

Carbon fiber is becoming more and more prevalent on production vehicles - look no further than the BMW i3 - but a new company headquartered in Speedway, IN, is taking the ultra-light material to the next level. Soon you will be able to order a 35-foot-long, tow-behind RV made from a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and body. The company behind it is called Global Caravan Technologies, and it recently revealed the production-ready prototype of its CR-1 trailer.

GCT was founded in the summer of 2013, and design of the CR-1 began in September. The company worked with IndyCar Series racecar builder Dallara to develop the technology capable of building such massive pieces of carbon fiber for the monocoque. It's still keeping the exact production process a secret. Company CEO Charles Hoefer tells Autoblog, "There are lots of patents involved and underway." The production model will be shown in the fall, and sales will begin in the first quarter of 2015.

"We are forging a niche that hasn't existed before," said Hoefer about GCT. He predicts the production CR-1 will have a base weight of about 6,000 pounds, which the company claims is about half as much as a traditional RV of this size. For drivers, it means estimated fuel economy that's 100 percent to 150 percent better than competitors. The body and monocoque are completely bonded with no screws or fasteners, which also makes the CR-1 one of the stiffest trailers available.

As you can expect with its cutting edge tech, the CR-1 won't be cheap. Hoefer predicts that the production version will start around $170,000 with a top-shelf, fully customized model coming in at around $770,000 - a massive sum, but not unheard of in the RV industry. In return, buyers will be offered luxury features like a full-height closets, a walk-through master bath, 700-watt solar system, integrated generator, adjustable-tint privacy glass, run-flat tires, and system controls via iOS, Android or PC.

The CR-1 prototype was built at GCT headquarters, next door to Dallara, but the company is still deciding on a location for the factory. It has plans to expand in the future with more available lengths. Scroll down to watch a video of the launch and to read more about the revolutionary caravan that we're guessing even the boys at Top Gear won't want to destroy.

Continue reading World's first all carbon-fiber RV is black, green and super slick [w/video]

World's first all carbon-fiber RV is black, green and super slick [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:16:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Toyota 86 gets PlayStation-based telemetry system in Japan [w/video]

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 15:01

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Toyota 86 Sports Drive Logger

Part of the fun in taking your sports car to the racetrack is going over your telemetry and seeing how you did from one corner to the next. We've seen a variety of these onboard systems at work - with the Performance Data Recorder on the Corvette Stingray emerging as one of the latest and most advanced - but Toyota is taking things a step further with its new Sport Drive Logger.

The system is being rolled out (at least initially) on the Japanese Domestic Market Toyota 86, a coupe European customers might more readily recognize as the GT86 and what we would call the Scion FR-S (itself a kissing cousin to the Subaru BRZ). Despite its name, the Sports Drive Logger doesn't have anything to do with competitive lumberjacking, instead, it's an integrated telemetry system that, as promised, syncs up with Gran Turismo 6 on the PS3. Developed in partnership with Sony, the system logs all manner of data - including satellite positioning, pedal depression, steering angle, gear selection, engine revs and vehicle speed - onto a USB stick for transfer to your PlayStation.

Once loaded into the video game system, the data recreates a virtual representation of your track run and displays it - along with all the raw data - as if you had lapped the circuit in the game. Drivers will even be able to compare their laps against their friends' through the system, which initially offers support for Fuji, Tsubuka and Suzuka, "with additional circuits planned for the future." We're still waiting for confirmation on if and when the system will be available in the US (with support for some of our favorite Stateside circuits), but in the meantime, you can scope out the details in the press release along with the video footage below for a closer look.

Continue reading Toyota 86 gets PlayStation-based telemetry system in Japan [w/video]

Toyota 86 gets PlayStation-based telemetry system in Japan [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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VW could bring wireless EV charging to market by 2017

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 08:59

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2014 Volkswagen e-Golf

Some of Volkswagen's plug-in hybrids and electric models like the e-Golf (pictured above) might be ditching the cord in the coming years. The giant automaker has plans in place to offer wireless - or inductive - charging as an option on some models as soon as 2017, according to reports. Owners would get the added convenience of juicing up at home by simply parking their cars over a sensor and walking away.

While it seems like a great addition to plug-in vehicles, inductive charging still faces some hurdles before it becomes more prevalent. There are currently competing standards for the tech. If Volkswagen enters the market too early, buyers could be left out in the cold with cars only able to use an unsupported specification. "For example, if you have different cars in your household or in your company you do not want to buy such an inductive charging system for each car. You can expect it in more-or-less three years when we are ready to bring it into the market," said VW engineer Herbert Ruholl to Ecomento.

The additional inductive charger also won't be cheap. Currently there are no automakers that offer the system as an option on models, but Evatran offers an aftermarket upgrade called Plugless for the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt that adds the tech for around $3,000. Toyota has been testing a wirelessly charged Prius in Japan and is licensing the WiTricity induction standard. If it acts fast, VW could be one of the first to bring the innovation directly to customers.

We spoke to VW about inductive charging. "We haven't got anything planned short-term on that," said Mark Gillies, VW US Product and Technology Manager, so we wouldn't expect inductive charging to show up on US vehicles for a few more years, at least.

VW could bring wireless EV charging to market by 2017 originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 02 Apr 2014 07:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Next Mercedes SL to ditch retractable hardtop?

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 19:58

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2013 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG

Mercedes-Benz has had great success with its front-wheel drive compact platform that underpins the CLA-Class, GLA-Class and other models. Now, it looks like that spirit of sharing might be moving up market for the Three-Pointed Star. AutoBild in Germany suggests the company is working on a modular chassis for the next SL-Class and SLK-Class, and it would be just one of many rumored changes for the droptop models.

The report claims that Mercedes is developing a new Modulare Sportwagen-Architektur platform. As the name suggests, it would underpin the company's sports cars, including the SL in 2021 and SLK in 2020. This solution would mean cheaper development costs and more shared parts. However, it would also provide a performance advantage with a lower mounting position for the engine and transmission, according to AutoBild.

The SL and SLK would also see major changes to their roofs. The new SL would move from its current folding hardtop to a fabric top to save weight and go for a more classic design. On the other hand, the SLK would stick with its current retractable hardtop.

In terms of future engines, AutoBild believes that Mercedes' rumored 3.0-liter inline-six is going to make up most of the SL's engine options with 365-horsepower and 435-hp versions. The SLK would make do with four-cylinder engines and lower power tunes of the inline-six.

Commenting on the possibility of a shared platform, Christian Bokich, Mercedes-Benz US manager of product and technology PR said: "At this point, it's too early to tell."

Next Mercedes SL to ditch retractable hardtop? originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Volvo updates Inscription packages for 2015 XC60, S80

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 19:31

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2015 Volvo XC60 Inscription

Volvo is improving the luxury offered by the XC60 and S80 with upgrades to both models' Inscription packages for 2015. It is also making all of its models (other than the soon-to-be-replaced XC90) available with its new Drive-E engine family and Sensus infotainment system.

The Inscription package was previously available on both the XC60 and S80, but new upgrades include Sovereign Hide leather throughout their interiors, including on their instrument panels, seatbacks, center armrests and headrests. Inscription also adds wood inlaid trim and new floor mats. On the outside, the package is offered in Crystal White Pearl, Electric Silver and - exclusively for the S80 - Ember Black. The XC60 comes with 20-inch, ten-spoke wheels, and the S80 receives 19-inch wheels of the same design.

As part of its sponsorship of a yacht race, Volvo is also bringing the XC60 Ocean Race Edition to the US. Buyers will get their choice of black or blonde leather seats with orange stitching, a map of the race route on the rear load cover and the event's logo around the car.

Coming this summer, all of Volvo's models, except the XC90, will come with the Swedish automaker's latest Sensus infotainment system as standard. It includes a cloud-based service that streams music and allows drivers to book service appointments at their Volvo dealer automatically.

By May, the company's Drive-E engines will also be available in all models save the departing XC90. We've contacted Volvo about pricing for the new packages, and we'll update this story when it replies. Scroll down to get more details on these models' 2015 updates.

Continue reading Volvo updates Inscription packages for 2015 XC60, S80

Volvo updates Inscription packages for 2015 XC60, S80 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tesla behind lobbying push to ditch side mirrors

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 18:58

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Tesla Model X

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration passed a law yesterday forcing new cars in the US to come with standard backup cameras by May 2018, and if Tesla has its way, this could be just the beginning of changing how motorists see out of their vehicles. The electric car manufacturer has teamed up with the 12-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbying group (which represents major companies like General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen) and filed a petition on Monday asking NHTSA for permission to replace sideview mirrors with cameras.

Currently, side mirrors are required on cars in the US, and they can't legally be replaced by camera technologies filling a similar role. The petitioners' chief argument is that sideview mirrors add drag and decrease fuel economy. According to Automotive News, Tesla founder Elon Musk has been lobbying for laws that allow automakers to use sideview camera systems exclusively for the last two years, but claims it's nearly impossible for a single person to change the regulations.

Sideview cameras have been on concept cars for decades, but augmenting external visibility with cameras and sensors has been a growing trend in production automotive technology over the last five years or so. Nissan uses its Around View Monitor to supplement mirrors with a bird's eye composite view of the vehicle during tight maneuvers, and the LaneWatch system from Honda displays a rear-facing passenger-side view to eliminate blind spots during lane changes. Tesla's early Model X concept (pictured above) had small pods on the side with cameras mounted in them, but more recent versions have switched to conventional mirrors.

Regulations tend to move slowly within NHTSA - it delayed passing the backup camera standard five times since 2011. One day, new cars will probably drop side mirrors entirely, but that leap is still probably many years away.

Tesla behind lobbying push to ditch side mirrors originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 01 Apr 2014 17:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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After years of delays, NHTSA issues backup camera rules

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 16:03

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(EL) DENVER, COLORADO -SEPTEMBER 11TH--2008--The 2009 Ford Flex vehicle on display at Elway's Restaurant in Cherry Creek Thursda

Cars being sold in the United States must come equipped with a backup camera by May 2018.

Federal safety regulators finalized a rule requiring the installation of rear-view cameras Monday morning after years of delays. They believe the law will reduce the number of pedestrians killed each year when they are accidentally backed over.

Roughly 200 people are killed and 14,000 are injured in such accidents every year in the United States, and slightly less than half the victims are children under age five too small to be seen from the driver's seat. A government analysis has shown that about half of the victims could have been saved by a backup camera.

Slightly less than half the victims are children under age five too small to be seen from the driver's seat.

Safety advocates hailed the finalization of the standards Monday, which came one day before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was scheduled to hear a lawsuit brought by safety groups seeking to compel a final ruling in a years-long process.

"This has been such a fight," said Janette Fennell, the president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit organization that advocates for safer vehicles for children. "But we're ecstatic to hear the news."

It has been a bruising battle. Congress passed legislation requiring the adoption of a rear-view visibility standard in 2007. President George W. Bush signed the "Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act" into law. It required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue specific standards by 2011. But officials delayed the deadline for writing those rules five separate times. In December, several organizations filed a lawsuit to force NHTSA to release the rules.

"As a father, I can only imagine how heart-wrenching these types of accidents can be for families," said US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "We hope that today's rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents."

The rules apply to all vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds, including trucks and buses. Cameras must show a field of view that encompasses a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle.

The rules apply to all vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds.

Data shows that backup cameras have already been popular with consumers. They're included on slightly less than half all new models sold today, and a NHTSA analysis concluded they'd be available on 73 percent of all vehicles covered by the rule by 2018 anyway.

The same analysis found that equipping a car with a backup camera would cost $43 to $45 per vehicle in a car already equipped with a visual display, and $132 to $142 for vehicles without one.

Critics of the legislation have said that the cost of enacting the law will tally between $700 million and 1.6 billion, a cost that will be passed along to car shoppers. With NHTSA reportedly employing a statistical cost of $6.1 million as the financial worth of a human life, this legislation is expected to cost between $11.8 million and $19.7 million per life saved.

Yet NHTSA's analysis doesn't discount the "emotional cost" of accidentally killing children is something that lies outside the scope of its normal cost-benefit analysis:

"The agency recognizes that most people place a high value on the lives of children and that there is a general consensus regarding the need to protect children as they are unable to protect themselves," the report said. "As backover-crash victims are often struck by their immediate family members or caretakers, it is the Department's opinion that an exceptionally high emotional cost, not easily convertible to monetary equivalents, is often inflicted upon the familes of backover crash victims."

Fennell, who has worked with many families involved in backover injuries and deaths, said the grieving parents often feel like they're the only ones to ever experience such an accident. But they often grow angry when they realize that an average of 50 such accidents are reported every week, but no standards have been reached to prevent them. Now, those standards exist.

"These are not accidents," Fennell said. "These are predictable, preventable tragedies."

After years of delays, NHTSA issues backup camera rules originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 31 Mar 2014 15:03:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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