Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Friday, August 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. 

Friday, August 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.

Wednesday, August 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.

Friday, August 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.

Thursday, August 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.

Wednesday, August 03, 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.

Monday, August 01, 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.