Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Scosche motorMOUTH II Bluetooth

I was recently given a Scosche motorMOUTH II (model BTAXS)
bluetooth gadget to try out.*

The motorMOUTH II is an ingenious idea, one of those "why didn't they think of it sooner!" type things. It is basically a bluetooth headset combined with a stereo mini-jack. Instead of sticking it in your year (that would really hurt) you plut it into your car's aux input. It plays the audio from your phone call, or stereo audio via A2DP, through your car's sound system.

I have been using the gadget for a few days, and I think it is worth buying. If your phone rings, you just change your input to AUX, and press the button on the side to answer the call. You can also use the button hang up, redial, and voice dial (if your phone supports it). It isn't large or obtrusive, and while I didn't care for the shiny plastic microphone end, it isn't ugly. Since it can be plugged directly into a mini stereo jack, it can be installed without wires trailing all over.

Inbound sound quality is reasonably good. Streaming music from my iPod was decent, but not as good as a direct USB connection. I did find that the volume level was a little low, but I was able to compensate it on my head unit by increasing the gain on the AUX input. People I called on the unit told me that I sounded reasonably clear, but occasionally a little "robotic" or "tinny", which suggests that a high level of compression and noise cancellation is going on. My callers were able to understand me even with the car moving at highway speeds, and I didn't have to shout.

The design of this unit suggests an interesting unintended use. If you were to plug this unit into the input jack on your PC sound card, or another recording device, you could easily record telephone conversations, conference calls, or other audio streams that come through your bluetooth connection.

  • Reasonably good incoming audio and A2DP sound quality
  • Good battery life
  • Plugs into your AUX port directly
  • Easy to use (like a bluetooth headphone)
  • Useful accessories included, such as Y adapter, extension cable, dash mount
  • Compact

  • Unit resets when connected to power and drops bluetooth link temporarily.
  • Non-standard power connector, should be micro or mini USB
  • Outgoing sound quality mixed
  • You may need to increase your AUX volume
Overall, I think this is a great gadget, and I would buy one. It is more convenient than a stand-alone bluetooth speaker, or fumbling with an in-ear headset while in the car. And it is quite a bit cheaper, at around $70 (Amazon Link), than an add-on bluetooth module for your factory stereo, which will typically cost around $300.

You can find the PDF manual here.

*Note: a publicist for Scosche sent me a motorMOUTH II to review, I did not purchase this unit with my own money. But I would, because it is good.

Volt Spotting

I saw this Volt parked in Southfield today. A lovely dark red specimin.

Notice how GM is hiding the exhaust. Can you see a tailpipe? The muffler is that light gray thing on the left side. I can't tell where the tail pipe exits, it is well hidden. I'm not sure about the wisdom of the reverse lamp location, it seems like it would get grimy under there from road grime during the winter months.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Disappearing Drive Problem Solved

I have this problem on my Windows 7 desktop PC at home, that from time to time my secondary 1.5TB WD Caviar Green hard drive disappears from the system, as if it wasn't installed at all.

It turns out to be a bug in how Windows wakes up SATA drives--there is a time-out, and apparently some large SATA drives don't wake up fast enough, and are assumed to be missing.

There is a Microsoft hotfix for the problem here.

If your large SATA drive isn't the primary drive, then you won't see the BSOD or error messages, obviously.  Instead it will just be disappearing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some Double Rainbows

There were some scattered showers this evening, with patches of blue sky, it was very striking. I caught these gigantic double rainbows with my (weak) cell phone camera.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shocking News: Americans Won't Pay More For Electric Cars

From Edmunds Green Car Advisor:

About two out of three Americans say they wouldn't be willing to pay more for an electric car than for a comparable gas-powered vehicle, while just 17 percent said they'd pay more than a $5,000 premium for an EV, Nielsen Co. said, citing its September poll of more than 2,300 people.

I guess the good news is that about 30% of Americans would pay extra for an electric car--but most of them would not pay more $5,000.  

To me, the reason is obvious.  People are still mostly motivated by costs, not by environmentalism, and the reduced range of an electric vehicle is also a point of concern for the average person.  Now, if gas prices would stabilize around $4/gallon, I am sure the numbers would shift.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mahindra Trucks... Still Dead

Despite some sputtering noises to the contrary, it appears to me that Mahindra's plan to import diesel light trucks into the U.S. is still quite dead.

In addition to jerking around the dealer network and potential customers, and creating ill will, Mahindra has to overcome a legal battle with its original distributor, Global Vehicles.

Also, not to pile on or anything, but while Mahindra may have certified its emissions for the EPA, I have not heard anything about NHTSA certification to FMVSS or crash testing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

E15: Good For Corn Farmers, Confusing For The Rest Of Us

EPA is announcing today that they are ready to approve E15 (15% ethanol) gasoline blends, but only for 2007 model year and newer vehicles.

That's silly.

Are gas station owners really going to set aside one or two pumps for E15, and label them?   Consumers would then be faced with 5 types of gasoline choose from: base, mid-grade, premium, E85, and E15.  Some people will be confused and put E15 in pre 2007 vehicles.  Others will be confused and shun E15.  

EPA should have waited to see if E15 was good for all "modern" vehicles, and then switched E10 to E15, since they are apparently required to enrich the corn farmers and ethanol refiners.

People running E15 should expect to see a small degradation in fuel economy.  Since ethanol is about 25% less energy rich than gasoline, switching from E10 to E15 should look like a 1.3% fuel economy reduction, or about 0.4 mpg in a car that averages 27 mpg.  Switching from E0 to E15 will cost about 3.8%, or about 1 mpg.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Semiotics Of Volt: The Meaning Of "Direct"

GM's clarification about how the Volt powertain has an interesting statement:

There is no direct mechanical connection (fixed gear ratio) between the Volt's extended-range 1.4L engine and the drive wheels.

Note how GM defines "direct mechanical connection" as "fixed gear ratio".  However, to a technically minded reader this sounds like semantic squirming.   

Here is how it works.  There is a planetary gearset.  In the Volt, the outer ring is locked by a clutch, and is also connected to the gas engine and generator motor.  The generator can be used to recharge the battery, or to produce torque.  

When the ring gear is locked ("grounded") to the transaxle case (C1 locked), there is no torque path from the gas engine to the wheels, which are connected to the planetary gears.  If C1 is unlocked, C2 and C3 are locked, then torque flows from the gas engine to the wheels.

The point is, there is definitely a mechanical connection from the gasoline engine to the wheels, because the clutches can be commanded to send torque to the  ring gear and therefore out to the wheels.   

Volt Frenzy, Part III

After doing some reading around, it does seem like the blogosphere overreacted to the news that the Volt's gasoline engine *gasp* can actually help push the front wheels.

My conclusion is that it doesn't really matter. Since a gasoline engine was put on-oard to charge the battery, the Volt was never going to be a pure electric car. From the very beginning, it was thought to be a "series hybrid" (gas to electric to wheels), but now we see that it is really a "series/parallel hybrid" (gas to electric and gas to wheels).

So what?

If you drive less than about 40 miles per day, it will act more or less like an electric car, carrying around some extra weight in the form of a vestigial gas tank and small engine. If you always remember to plug it in, and never put a drop of gasoline in it, it should work fine*.

If I understand the design correctly, the difference in how the Volt operates and how a Prius operates isn't significant, except that one is tuned to rely more on its electric power path, and the other is tuned to rely more on its gasoline power path. It seems to me that GM could, with software changes, tune the Volt to work like a Prius. They could use the gasoline engine to send more torque to the wheels, and less to charge the huge battery.

*Actually, we need to ask GM... can the Volt run without a drop of gas in it, ever? Or will it annoy the user with warnings and chimes because it wants to run the gas engine from time to time to keep it fresh?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Telegraph Rumor Was True!

A few months back, this article in the Telegraph caused a stir among the Volt followers. In it, Andrew English quotes an Opel engineer working on the Ampera (Euro Volt):

"We are considering driving the wheels directly from the petrol engine," says Andreas Voight, an Opel project engineer.

The Car Connection, wanting a clarification, went to GM and asked about this. GM responded with two points:
"We're definitely not making any changes,"


Peterson also directly refuted English's claims regarding the Volt's high-speed need for the gasoline engine, stating that during the 40-mile electric-only range, there is no circumstance under which the gasoline range extender will turn on--no matter the power draw or speed. Beyond that range, it supples ample power for the electric motors, whatever the driving conditions.

Now, the "no changes" comment is a bit of a red herring, because the original article was under the misconception that the planetary gearset link between the engine and axles was new. So GM was able to give a correct answer to the wrong question.

But on the more direct question, GM appears to have claimed that the gasoline engine will not be needed in the first 40 miles, and that it supplies "ample power... whatever the conditions".

It is possible that in the testing and calibration optimization work late in the program, that GM's powertrain engineers discovered that they couldn't meet certain requirements (highway acceleration?) unless they blended in some good old fashioned fossil fuel-to-the-rubber torque. In which case, GM wasn't trying to mislead, they just didn't know yet.

Edmunds: "GM Lied",

Edmunds' Mike Magrath writes, in very strong terms, about the admission in an online interview that yes, the Volt's gasoline engine can send torque to the drive wheels, if needed.  

"flat-out lie to make things look better."

This is a devastating PR failure for GM.  After the long and massive build-up for the Volt, and the swearing up and down that it was a "range extended EV", this makes GM look really desperate for public approval, and ready to play semantic games to look better than they really are.

A true, pure,  "range extended electric vehicle" would have no mechanical torque path from the engine to the wheels, in the minds of the EV boosters and automotive bloggers.  To electric car fans, the Volt was just demoted to a plug-in gasoline hybrid, with a large electric reserve, but a PHEV nonetheless.  The Volt will now be compared not with the Nissan Leaf, but with the Prius plug-in.  And when Ford brings out its electric Focus, it will be able to claim the first new American all-electric sedan.

What GM did was take a similar architecture to the Prius or Ford hybrid, and do two things--add a much larger battery pack, and tune the software so that the car "chooses not to" use its gasoline engine for propulsion except for rare circumstances.  So it is a PHEV trained to act more like an EV than an HEV.  

The question now is, how will the public react?  Will they listen to the bloggers and EV enthusiasts, that Volt is not literally an all electric vehicle, or will they agree with GM, that since it runs almost all the time on only on electric torque, it is effectively a range extended EV?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sharron Angle on Dearborn

Sharron Angle, a Republican candidate who is trying to unseat Harry Reid in Nevada, was recorded at a town hall meeting answering a question from a guy concerned about creeping Sharia law in the U.S. The left has latched onto her quote as proof that she's an anti-Muslim bigot and a crackpot.

I thought I would get to the bottom of it, so I downloaded and listened to the audio recording (available here) of the event. The remarks of interest start at about 43:00, "My question is very controversial..."

Here is what she said, if I am understanding the audio clearly:

OK, we're talking about a militant... um... terrorist situation. It... I believe it isn't a wide spead thing, but...
it is enough that we need to address, and we have been addressing it. Um, uh, my thoughts are these, first of all, Dearborn Michigan and Frankfurt Texas are on American soil, and under constitutional law, not sharia law, and I don't know how that happens [noisy] in the United States. It seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to take even hold in any, um, municipality or government situation in our United States.

Um, as far as the mosque at ground zero, I made my own statement when that was first brought up, I'm a personal property rights defender...

Now, the non-charitable way to read this is that she is agreeing with the questioner that Dearborn is under sharia law. However, she is clearly fumbling around at first, with lots of stuttering and "ums". I think what she may have meant to say is that Sharia is not really an issue ("isn't a wide spread thing", "Dearborn... under constitutional law, not sharia law") but that she is against it ("fundamentally wrong with allowing"). She then goes on to talk at length about the mosque at ground zero, more smoothly, which is probably the question she was prepared for.

An experienced pol would have skipped the stuttering, said "I'm not aware of the situation in Dearborn, but in general, I'm not for allowing sharia law..."

As an occasional visitor to Dearborn, I can attest that there is significant cultural friction between the Muslim population and the other, mostly Christian ethnic groups, but they don't have anything like Sharia yet.

Between Angles stumbling and the poor audio quality, I am not sure you can use this to show she's unhinged. At worst I think it shows someone fumbling for an answer and botching the delivery.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Secretary LaHood, Man Of LaMancha

Secretary of Transportation Roy Lahood is advocating bans on in vehicle cell phone use, even of the hands-free variety.  

I don't think it is going to happen--people like the ability to make hands-free calls.

Much bigger safety gains might be made by training people to follow basic traffic rules, like not driving slow in the left lane, and wearing seatbelts.  Approximately 18% of all U.S. drivers still don't regularly wear their seatbelts! (source)