Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Edmund's Kills Inside Line

One of my favorite automotive blogs, Inside Line, is being absorbed into its corporate host,

I don't like it.

It looks like Edmunds is abandoning the blog format, as the new "What's Hot" page that will now contain InsideLine's content does not offer comments.  And the pop-up screens are annoying.

I like Edmunds, and use it a lot, for car research.  But let the blog be the blog and the research site be the research site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coda Death Watch?

Bad news leaking from Coda,  according to inside sources off the record, Coda has laid off a large portion of its employees.

The other day, my employer hired someone who was formerly working at Coda.  I heard that he said that things were "tough" over at Coda.

Now, has information that Coda has laid off around 50 employees, which represents something like 50% of their employees.  

Is the Coda about to go the way of the Aptera?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Coda Flunks Front Crash Test

The NHTSA has released the test results of their crash testing for the Coda electric sedan, and amazingly, it flunked.  Coda only got 2/5 stars for the driver in a head on crash, while oddly doing quite will on side impacts.  It still gets a 4/5 overall rating due to its good performance in side impact and rollover, but a bad driver score in a front crash test is a major disappointment.

Not a good showing for the first Chinese built sedan to go on sale in the U.S.

Friday, December 07, 2012

How To Get Your 45MPG+

So you bought a shiny new hybrid, maybe a C-Max rated at 47mpg, or maybe a Prius rated at 46mpg.  You start driving it to work, and you are disappointing that that instead of mid-40's mpg, you are getting something like 37mpg.  

What you need to do is drive like the EPA's FTP75 drive cycle.

You need to have a lot of stop-and-go driving, from 0 to 30mph back to zero, with moderate acceleration.  This will maximize your regen braking and recharge your battery.
And, you need to drive an average of around 55mph for the highway portion.  All of this needs to be done on relatively flat ground, with minimal headwind.

Another trick, you need to limit your trip to the length of the EPA75 drive cycle, which is 1874s long (31.2 min).  If you drive longer, you'll use more gasoline, and get lower fuel economy; if you can drive shorter, you'll see even better numbers.

I'm only partly joking.  The biggest factor in fuel economy at highway speeds is, well, the highway speed.  If you can slow it down from 70mph to 60mph, you'll see big improvements in your fuel economy.  

(Graphic courtesy of Detroit News)
Inline image 1

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Right To Work and Unemployment

There is a raging debate in Michigan now over "Right To Work" laws, which are being proposed by the Republican controlled state legislature.  RTW would allow workers in a union shop to refuse to pay dues if they don't want to be members.

This chart, which I made, is a histogram of unemployment rates (as of Oct 2012) in Right To Work ("RTW") and Forced Union ("FU") states.

As you can see, RTW states have a lower distribution of unemployment rate, and FU states skew higher.

Now, correlation does not necessarily mean causation... but the trend is clear.  RTW states have lower unemployment rates.

The $550 Car Battery

Braille Battery is going to start selling an aftermarket car battery which uses the lithium ion chemistry instead of lead acid.  It will weigh only about 6lbs, and is claimed to hold its charge, maintain voltage under load, and recharge better than a lead acid battery.  

But this cutting edge battery will cost you: MSRP is $550, or about 5x a normal lead acid battery.

You can read the PR here. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Lincoln Motor Company

Ford is re-branding (or, maybe, re-re-branding?) Lincoln as Lincoln Motor Company.  
Personally, I'm not sure it matters, everyone knows that Lincoln shares platforms with Fords.
The key is to get some interesting product out there, soon, before people drift away completely.  The MKZ looks promising.
One tidbit is hopeful:  From Paul Eisenstein: "Rear-wheel-drive is definitely in the works," one of Ford's top executives confirmed in a background conversation with
Let's hope so!  Based on the lack of rear wheel drive platforms at Ford (you have Mustang and Falcon in Australia) I am guessing they are looking at the obvious and resurrecting the Lincoln Coupe, based on Mustang.  Will they call it the MK9?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Starbucks for $7? Phew...

$7 Starbucks Geisha coffee?  Yawn.  When Starbucks starts selling Kopi luwak, then I'll be impressed.

Monday, November 26, 2012 gift certificates are lame

Someone gave me a gift of a gift certificate.  It entitles me to purchase like $50 with of dining coupons.

The problem is, there are all sorts of restrictions.  Every restaurant I see in my area that I would care to visit has large minimum orders, "dine-in only", "at least 2 entrees", etc.  

Too many strings.  

My advice: don't bother giving people these things, they're lame.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How To Use A Cheap Air Impact Wrench

I picked up a cheap air impact wrench from a certain retailer of cheap tools (rhymes with beers).  It is rated for up to 400 ft-lbs of torque, supposedly.

When I connected it to my 6 gallon "pancake" air compressor, and tried to use it to loosen my car's lug nuts, it was unable to budge them.  In fact, I could hold the socket with my hand, and feel that it was really feeble.

Then I read the instructions.  The recommended air hose is 3/8"ID, while my hose is a 1/4" ID, and I also have 1/4" fittings all around.  No wonder, the small hose and fittings are so restrictive, the impact wrench probably doesn't get enough air flow to do its thing.

So I went to Home Depot (which is like a pilgrimage site for me, I circle it's aisles many times...) and picked up a modestly priced 3/8" ID hose, as well as some 3/8" "automotive" fittings.  By the way, the 3/8" fitting kits were more expensive than the hose itself!

At home, I removed one of the quick connects from my pancake compressor and using some nylon plumbers tape to make a good seal, screwed on the huge 3/8" automotive connector.  Then I put the matching bits on my hose, and on my air wrench.

Now, the air impact wrench whacks off the lug nuts like a champ.  The air flow is obviously much improved--running the air gun continuously will drain my 6 gallon air tank in about 30s.  Which is why the instructions recommend a 20gal tank.

But don't let that dissuade you.  If you only need to use your air impact once in a while (like me, to rotate my tires), it will work.  You may have to give your compressor a little bit time in between pairs of nuts to rebuild its pressure.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Ethanol Mandate...

The ethanol mandate is idiotic and should be scrapped.  Not waived, or delayed, but killed.

Making fuel from food crops is basically a price support (read: corporate welfare) for corn farmers, at the expense of other consumers of corn.  The much anticipated cellulosic ethanol production that President George W. Bush anticipated when he signed the mandate has not materialized.  

In other words, we all pay more for food, so we can put ethanol in our gas, and make some farmers more money.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tesla COTY Reminds Me Of...

Tesla's Model S winning the Motortend Car Of The Year award reminds me of another premature award, when the Nobel Prize committee awarded a newly elected Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for things he was going to do.

I'm not saying the S isn't a great car, it might be, based on the few professional reviews that have been published.  Only a few hundred Model S have been shipped to end consumers so far, and Tesla is still producing only a couple hundred cars a week.  The S is not yet in what you would call "mass production".  

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Suzuki Packs It In

American Suzuki is filing for bankruptcy protection, and the mother ship (Suzuki Motor Corp) is leaving the U.S. market.  This is not a surprise, as Suzuki's cars never really took off, and the brand remained nearly invisible.

If I had to pick a next brand to go, I think I would pick Smart (998 sales in Oct 2012) or Mitsubishi (3,981 sales in Oct 2012).

Monday, November 05, 2012

Did Hyundai Cook Their MPG Numbers?

Did Hyundai cook their MPG numbers on purpose?  

Peter DeLorenzo, blogging over at The Autoextremist, makes the bold and blunt accusation that Hyundai purposely tweaked their calculations so they would claim 40mpg on several vehicles, for marketing purposes.

I'm not sure I would put that over on Hyundai.  They aren't some Chinese striver, desperately trying to break into the western market, packing their stuff with melamine and lead.  Hyundai is a serious, and very successful company, and they know full well the marketing damage and bad press that would come from cooking the numbers.   They were also aware that the EPA spot-checks fuel economy and emissions certification claims with their own testing.

No serious automaker would risk an embarrassing public EPA scolding, fines, and class action lawsuits to get from 38mpg to 40mpg, the risks are too great.

I have huge respect for DeLorenzo's opinion, but I think he's just flinging mud here.

My theory is that Hyundai's engineers either mis-interpreted the test procedure for fuel economy, with regards to the dynamometer setup, or perhaps messed up their testing methodology for obtaining some aspect of the road load calibration such as the air drag coefficient or road friction term.   Since the error was in their favor, they didn't challenge their results.  You can bet that if Hyundai was getting 36mpg instead of an expected 38mpg, they would have reviewed their procedures very closely.

Obama Vs. Romney: Who Is Better For Auto Industry?

Is Obama or Romney better for the auto industry?

It is true that Obama saved GM and Chrysler from a possibly very messy end, by forcing them into a government financed bankruptcy.  And it is true that Romney came out against government funding for the bankruptcy.  I think that if Romney were president at the time, and his advisors were telling him that a million jobs could be lost, he would have figured out a way to fund a quick-rinse bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler.  Probably, Romney would have not favored the UAW and threw the private bondholders under the bus as badly as Obama did.

But that is in the past.   The American public will not  approve of another bail-out of the auto industry, no matter who is president.  If GM or Chrysler fall down again, they will have to go it alone.

Going forward, who is better for the industry?

I believe that Romney is better based on his promise to back off of intrusive regulation, and aggressively pursue free trade agreements with major partners.  I think under Romney, the EPA will be reigned in somewhat, and who knows, maybe the CARB could be put in its place with some carefully crafted legislation. 

I also think Romney will be better for industry sales.  If he is successful with his economic growth agenda, I would expect sales to increase.

Friday, November 02, 2012

More Fisker Fires

Not good for Fisker.

Jalopnik has photos of 16 Karmas that burned out after being submerged by the rising seas caused by hurricane Sandy.

That's 16, at the same time and place, all of them failed the same way. 

This points to a design flaw... some electrical connector, which is energized at all times, is not sufficiently protected from water intrusion.  Or, perhaps, the battery pack itself is not properly designed against submersion.   Either way, it is more bad news for Fisker, and possibly for anyone who wants to insure a Fisker.

Inline image 1
Photo courtesy of Jalopnik

Hyundai's MPG Mistake


Hyundai is under investigation by the EPA for over-estimating the fuel economy, on the Monroney (consumer info) sticker, by about 3%, affecting about 900,000 vehicles.

This is going to be a very expensive mistake for Hyundai, in cash and market perception.  And with a big election so close, I can only assume EPA is going to hammer them with fines.

Sung Hwan Cho, president of Hyundai America Technical Center Inc., said the company in 2010 changed testing procedures to calculate road resistance that accidentally overestimated the fuel economy.

So what happened?  It sounds like Hyundai screwed up their dynamometer calibration for road loads.   In order to get a close match between road performance and lab results, Carmakers calculate numerical coefficients which are used to estimate the effect of air resistance, rolling resistance, vehicle inertia, etc. on a vehicle on the road.  These coefficients are used to correct the load that a chassis dyno puts on a vehicle, so that the fuel economy and emissions results are a reasonable match to real world performance.

With this change, Hyundai can't brag about having so many 40mpg vehicles.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ford Announcement: Fields COO, Farley to head Lincoln

This morning, Bill Ford Jr. and Alan Mulally announced that Mark Fields was going to be promoted to Chief Operating Officer, reporting to Mulally. The heads of Ford's various organizations would report to Fields, but the heads of HR, and Finance would report to Mulally.  

I have met Mark Fields once, at an industry event, a few years ago, during his "Bold Moves" effort.  I only spoke to him very briefly, but from his demeanor I got the impression that he is a very bright guy, very driven, and a bit cocky.  I also have the sense that he has an aggressive, competitive edge to him, more of a "hard charger" than you see from Alan Mulally.  

I think Mark Fields will serve Ford well.  He was partly responsible for the Ford Fusion, which helped save the company, product-wise, in the late 2000's.  

I was surprised to see that Farley was put in charge of Lincoln as well as Marketing and Sales.  It seems like a really big job--both global marketing for Ford and running the Lincoln brand are huge jobs.  I hope he can pull it off, because Lincoln really needs help.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sad At Sears

The other day, I made a run to Sears, to buy a battery for my Craftsman li-ion compact drill.  It's a great little tool.

I spent some time wandering through the hand-tool section, and realized that the old Craftsman brand is basically dead.  Craftsman tools used to all be made in the U.S.A, to a nice level of fit and finish.   Now I see two grades of Chinese made stuff--chintzy and somewhat nicer.  

I used to buy only Craftsman hand tools, but it looks like when I need new ones, I won't make an extra effort.  I can just as well buy Mexico/Taiwan sourced hand tools for slightly less money at Home Depot.

There are still mass market hand tools made in the U.S. with a no-B.S. warranty.  Check out Klien and Channel Lock.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MI LG Chem Plant: Public Loan, No Batteries

According to a local news report, the LG Chem battery plant recently built in Holland MI is sitting idle.  After building pre-production test units, the workers are now basically idled, spending their time cleaning the grounds, training, and wasting time.  

Workers at LG Chem, a $300 million lithium-ion battery plant heavily funded by taxpayers, tell Target 8 that they have so little work to do that they spend hours playing cards and board games, reading magazines or watching movies. 

So what happened?  Simply, lack of demand from GM for Volt batteries. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Starbucks Poor

Ugh.  Medium coffee and a cookie, almost $5.  Why do I come here again?  

Friday, October 05, 2012

Vu1, what happened?

I am frankly frustrated.  I was excited to try a new kind of high efficiency, long life, dimmable, high color accuracy light bulb called an ESL, invented by this outfit called Vu1.  Vu1 started a plant in Czech Republic, built one batch of bulbs, which quickly sold out, then closed the plant and moved manufacturing to China.  For a long time now, they have been essentially quiet.  

C'mon Vu1, can you ship some bulbs for people to buy, already? 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Debate Thoughts

Automotive content in last night's presidential debate between Obama and Romney was minimal.

Obama, in the opening remarks, quickly mentioned the automotive industry as an economic recovery success story.

Romney later counter-punched, mentioning Fisker, Tesla, and Ener1 as money losing examples of Obama's green jobs initiative.  Romney also made a point to mention that the cost of gasoline has doubled since Obama took office.

Obama missed the chance to slam Romney for not supporting the taxpayer funded rescue of GM and Chrysler, a major tactical error.  

Romney +1 point, in my estimation.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mazda's i-ELOOP: Mild Non-Hybrid Regen

Mazda is promoting its new i-ELOOP regenerative braking technology as part of its "Skyactiv" suite of fuel saving technologies.

i-ELOOP is a system that uses a capacitor to store electricity from the alternator, which is controlled so that it generates electricity mostly during deceleration.  

So this is a regen system which runs from the belt driven alternator, and the small amount of energy it captures is used not to move the car but only to recharge the battery and run the electrical system.

This isn't hybridization, it is just alternator duty cycle optimization.  It won't save much fuel, maybe 3-5%, but on the other hand, it won't cost or weigh much either.  

The big fuel economy savings are when you store lots of energy from braking in a battery or super-capacitor, and then use that power to re-accelerate the car.  Mazda, however, isn't up to making the investment, apparently.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fisker's Bad Karma

Consumer Reports is a fairly tough judge of consumer vehicles.  I frequently disagree with their judgements, but they are very influential, so much so that the major automakers strive to develop their vehicles with CR testing in mind.

Consumer Reports does not like the Karma.  In fact, they give it a failing grade

The Karma ranks as our lowest-rated luxury sedan. Of all sedans, only three have lower overall scores: Chrysler 200,Dodge Avenger, and Nissan Versa SV.


It looks to me like Karma is going to be a beautiful failure.  With Tesla coming online, with a much more practical vehicle, and other big luxury players looking into electrification, customers will have few reasons besides styling to pick the Karma.  Years from now, collectors will gather to share horror stories about bad software and clumsy user interfaces.  

Still, I have to give credit to Fisker, even if they do fail, at least they managed to produce a beautiful and driveable vehicle, which is more than can be said for many other electric start-ups.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Leaf Batteries Wearing Out Early

Looks like Nissan's decision to use an air-cooled battery system on the Leaf is going to cost it a lot of goodwill.  Inside EVs writes up a well controlled test to determine if reduced capacity display Leafs also show reduced range.  Which they do.

Bottom line: if you live in a hot climate, don't buy a Leaf until they change the battery temperature management system design.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dirty Blonde

I just discovered that Atwater Brewery's excellent Dirty Blonde beer is now available in cans.  

I love good beer in cans, because they are lighter and less fragile than glass bottles.  And, you might be surprised ot hear, beer stays fresher in cans because they are opaque, unlike brown bottles.  Light is bad for beer.

If you have never tried it, Dirty Blonde is a cloudy light ale, not too hoppy, with a hint of orange peel.  It is a great summery brew.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Return Of The Rotary?

Mazda recently killed off its consumer market rotary offering, the RX-8, but according to Motor Authority, Mazda may use a rotary engine as a range extender in a hybrid electric application.

The neat thing about using a rotary (or any other) engine as a range extender, is that you can optimize the engine for electricity generation duty, and run them at a more efficient operating point.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Myths and Truths about 55mpg CAFE

Ranting against the CAFE regulations is one of my favorite topics.

Here are some of my reactions to some of the myths that the Obama administration is promoting about the new 54mpg-by-2025 CAFE plan.

"Cars will still be affordable"--no, not exactly.  The government's estimate on the average mark-up to meet CAFE was around $2,000/car.  However, realize that this is based on various assumptions, which may not play out, and probably does not take unintended market consequences into account.  If batteries continue to be very expensive; if there is a shortage of key materials because everyone is rushing to electrify; large vehicles may have to be over-priced to offset losses on small vehicles, and etc.  The other unintended side effects: if cars are more expensive up front, financing will be harder to get for some customers, causing lost sales.  People will hold on to used cars longer, making used cars more expensive, and ironically, reducing fleet fuel economy and safety.

"Consumers will be able to choose" -- Actually, I see consumers being pushed towards smaller, lighter vehicles and hybrid-electric vehicles, giving up some utility and cargo capacity.  I also larger vehicles like pickup trucks becoming more expensive.  The wealthy will be able to buy whatever they want, even V8 powered muscle cars, but the average joe will be pushed towards small cars.

"This will create jobs" -- dubious.  Yes, you may need more engineers to engineer the advanced fuel saving powertrains.   However, that may be offset by losses in dealerships and other secondary jobs, if overall new car volume goes down.   And if China starts importing cheap fuel efficient or battery electric cars down the road, undercutting the American makers, expect job losses.  If new car volume is reduced, manufacturing jobs will suffer also.

"Energy Independence" -- sort of.  Less oil use is good, for that goal.  And so is electrification.  However, the raw materials of electric vehicles--rare earth metals like neodymium, and battery components like lithium, are overwhelmingly supplied by countries like China and Russia.  We will be at the mercy of a different sort of cartel.

"Good for the middle class" -- Higher cost vehicles, less choice in the market, older average age of vehicles on the road, possible job losses in dealerships and manufacturing plants.  The only thing good here for the middle class is a smaller gas bill.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Coda Recall: All 78 Vehicles?

BEV maker Coda is recalling 78 vehicles due to improper installation of side curtain airbags.

Now, what is shocking here is not the reason for the recall (stuff happens) but the number.

Has Coda really only sold 78 vehicles since March?  If so, that is a disaster for them.  They're going nowhere fast.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tesla Model S Track Numbers

Edmunds was allowed to test a Tesla Model S with instrumentation, and it does put down some impressive numbers, particularly stopping distance, considering how heavy it is:

0-60 (sec): 4.3 (4.3 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 12.6 @ 108.3 (12.6 @ 108.2 w/ TC on)
60-0 (ft): 108
Slalom (mph): 66.8 (66.0 w/TC off)
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.86 (0.86 w/TC on) 
However, one grain of salt: this car was not purchased, it was loaned from Tesla, so it may not have production software.   I'm not saying it is a magazine special, but it could be.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Aptera, again?

According to this piece in the Press Democrat, the assets of Aptera were purchased by Jonway Group, a Chinese carmaker who also is tied up with Zap Motors (Zap Jonway).  Jonway plans to build the composite shells for the Aptera trike and ship them to Santa Rosa, where they will be assembled into vehicles and sold by a new company, Aptera USA.  

Me, I'll believe it when I see it. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Condolences To The Sikhs

I wish to extend my condolences to the Sikh community for their tragic loss.

No religious community should be attacked with violence.  In the United States, we are historically tolerant and welcoming of minority religious sects.  I work with several Sikhs, and they are to a man generous, kind, hard working, cheerful people.  I have never been approached by a Sikh with the intent of converting me to their faith.

Anyone who feels threatened by Sikhs is an ignorant jerk.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Right To Repair Compromise

Where I stand on "Right-To-Repair".   Right-to-repair is a requirement that automakers allow independent repair shops (outside of franchised dealers) access to their proprietary diagnostic tools and information.  There is a big battle brewing in Massachusetts over RTR.

There are already generic diagnostic interfaces (OBD-II, SAE J1979) mandated by law which all automakers must support.  However, they are also allowed to keep proprietary DTCs and diagnostic routines, which may require proprietary tools or information use.  This hinders independent repairers from doing many procedures, for example, reprogramming a vehicle with modern encrypted anti-theft keys to accept a new key.

I do not think that automakers should be required to divulge proprietary information which could be used by competitors to reverse engineer some of their technology, or by thieves or amateur modders to easily hack into cars.  However, independent mechanics should be be able to do most repairs on a vehicle, at least as far as being able to accurately diagnose a problem by pulling information from the on-board diagnostics.

Perhaps the right way to go is to enlarge the industry standards for diagnostics, so that more specific failure codes are publicly known.  That way, generic tools would have access to more details.  Sensitive functions, like re-flashing modules, should remain proprietary, to prevent easy tampering with the software or disabling of important functions.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Welcome to Sonic Electronix

Welcome to our new blog sponsor, Sonic Electronix! A great place to buy your automotive aftermarket electronics, and they have  excellent BizRate and ResellerRatings scores.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Swedish Magazine: "Jeep Grand Cherokee Unsafe"

Swedish Car magazine Teknikens Varld has posted more video on the shocking tip-up of the Jeep Grand Cherokee on their "moose test", which is similar (though not identical to) the Consumers Union lane change test.  

After Chrysler's engineers checked out the vehicle, and re-loaded it according to their measure of GVW (which was 200+ lbs lighter than Teknikens Varld's weight), the vehicle no longer tipped up.  However, if you watch the video, you'lll see that it is roll-hopping substantially, with the front wheel in the air much of the time.  And in multiple runs, the Jeep suffered a tire de-bead.

A de-bead is when lateral forces on a tire push it so far that it loses its bead seal, and allows air to escape.  This results in a nearly flat tire on the de-beaded wheel, and is dangerous because if there is a rim hit, that wheel could dig in and increases the risk of a rollover.  

You can watch the video for yourself here: (and I highly suggest you do)

Teknikens Varld conclusion is that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is not safe.  I don't entirely agree, as this is a very demanding maneuver, and the vehicle is loaded to maximum capacity.  For most people, who will be driving the vehicle at a lighter loading, there is probably ample safety margin.  However, it is significant that competitors such as the Volvo XC90 pass the same test.

I think Chrysler has some more ESC tuning work to do on this product.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jeep Moose Test Failure

The reason that the Grand Cherokee failed the Swedish Moose Test run by Teknikens Värld is that they unintentionally overloaded the vehicle.  Apparently, Chrysler filed the wrong curb weight with the Swedish government. 

Since the behaviour of the Jeep Grand Cherokee was both dangerous and potentially lethal, we suspected that the car was actually packed with too much weight. We immediately proceeded to weigh the car on a scale and got our answer. The Jeep Grand Cherokee does not have a curb weight of 2 347 kilos (5 174 lbs) that the Swedish certificate of registration indicates (see the attached image below), a figure that Jeep/Chrysler has provided to Transportstyrelsen. In fact, the car actually has a curb weight of 2 505 kilos (5 523 lbs) with a driver in the car. That is a full 158 kilos (348 lbs) more than what Jeep/Chrysler claims the car to weigh in the official documentation provided to Swedish authorities.
Add the 602 kilos (1 327 lbs) that Jeep/Chrysler claims the car being capable to load and the total gross weight is now at 3 107 kilos (6 850 lbs). This can be compared to the claimed total gross weight in the vehicle's registration papers – 2 949 kilos (6 501 lbs). This, again, is a number that Jeep/Chrysler have provided. In other words – if one packs a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 3.0 CRD V6 with the maximum allowed capacity, one overshoots the total gross weight of the car by 158 kilos (348 lbs). Worth mentioning is that we only overshot the total net weight by 58 kilos (128 lbs) since we unloaded 100 kilos (220 lbs) out of the car when we performed the test as can be seen in the video clip. The car still went up on two wheels.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Coda: EV Penalty Box

A very unflattering review of the Coda sedan has been published in the NYT, written by Brad Berman.

In addition to a long list of missing basic equipment (no cruise control, no one-touch windows, etc.), Coda adds to its sins a stiff ride and poor NVH.

Perhaps Coda will find a large base of customers willing to sacrifice ride quality and amenities in exchange for a dependable range of 100 miles. I'm not in that group; in the production version I drove, the high-pitched whine was just the beginning of the Coda cacophony.
When starting out, the electric motor groans in low deep spasms as speed builds. At higher speeds, wind noise and buzzing intrude. The ride is harsh, giving passengers intimate knowledge of every imperfection in the road.

 The question for Coda is, will enough private buyers overlook creature comforts, and buy a $35,000 car based only on its range, or will they trade down in range to buy a more up-to-date EV like the Leaf for Focus?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wheego, Where Did It Go?

Remember Wheego?  The BEV company selling a Chinese sourced ripoff of the Smart, upfitted with electric powertrain?

In this telling article, we learn that they have only sold "a few dozen" cars.  And, better yet, new sales are on hold because they need a waiver to sell highway vehicles in 2012 that don't have stability control.  Apparently, Wheego didn't have budget to develop stability control the first time out.

My only interaction with Wheego was sitting in a Whip demo car at a local ex-Chrysler dealer, which has since gone defunct.  The ex-Chrysler dealer struggled mightily to sell Wheegos, but couldn't move a single one.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tesla Model S Regen Strategy

Early reviews of the Model S have been published, after Tesla allowed some journalists a short guided test drive of the vehicle.  Here is one:

What is interesting to me here is the "one pedal driving" comment. What Tesla apparently has done is tuned a very aggressive off-throttle regen.  In the gas side of the biz, you would say that they used very little "dashpot", in other words, allowing the throttle plate to close quickly.  In this case, of course, you get electric regen braking, not engine vacuum based braking.

This is interesting because many efficiency gurus actually prefer a lot of dashpot--this allows for an efficient "pulse and glide" driving style, while saving heavy regen for actual braking events.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Songs Of My Youth

I'm sitting here working on some stuff, and listening to "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" by Iron Maiden.  I can't believe this came out in 1988... it is so tight and so progressive, it's still amazing music.  You have never heard it, you must check it out.

Here's the best song, IMHO:  "Infinite Dreams".

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini Review: Volt Vs Focus EV

At a supplier demo event recently, I was given the chance to test drive, back to back, a Chevrolet Volt and a Ford Focus EV.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

I was amazed at how obviously different the two vehicles were in driving character, and  particularly, in their sounds.

The Volt, from the driver's seat, was a little cramped, I found my head a bit close to the headliner at the sides, and had to lower my seat a bit more than I would like.  The center stack was a mess of graphical buttons, which were not fast to learn, though I am sure with time you would get used to it.  The interior finish was a mix of shiny hard plastic and crinkly hard plastic, for the most part.  I wasn't really a fan of the high-gloss finish on much of the plastic.
The driving experience of the Volt was pleasant, with lots of torque from standstill and good acceleration through about 50mph, which was as fast as I had a chance to take it.  The car felt fairly heavy, but body movement was smooth and controlled. 

The regenerative brakes didn't fell bad, they had a bit of a grabby feel until you got used to them.

The rear passenger space on the Volt isn't good for adults.  I was banging my head on the headliner near the windscreen, and the seating position was not pleasant.  I would not want to be a rear passenger for more than a short trip in the Volt.

I thought the IP graphics were nice, but I was annoyed at the animated green ball that GM is using to indicate regen.   It is constantly animated, rotating in place or shrinking/growing, and I found it distracting. 

Next I had a chance to sample the Focus EV.

The Focus EV had a much sportier character, handling wise, than the Volt.  It also had a much more conventional interior, basically the same as the gasoline Focus in high-end trim.  The switchgear was normal and easy to use, and the LCD IP had more traditional style bar graph/pie chart type graphics. 

The Focus also had lots of lower speed torque, and accelerated easily to 50mph without trouble.  The regen braking was smooth and wasn't obtrusive, to me.  I thought the pedal feel was more linear than the Volt.

I didn't have a chance to ride in the rear seat of the Focus, but I heard that the battery package does compromise the leg room and cargo floor.

The big difference between the two vehicles, other than the interior, was the overall sound in the cabin.  The Volt was much boomier than the Focus, letting in more low to mid frequency road noise, combined with noticeable whine during regen braking.  There was also a quiet, high frequency sound when accelerating, almost a whistle.  The Focus also had some electric whine during acceleration and braking, but it was noticeably quieter than the Volt.  Comparing either vehicle to a gasoline car of the same class is eye opening--these vehicles are shockingly quiet in electric propulsion mode.  I would even say the quietness is a major reason to buy an electric vehicle.

Neither vehicle would really work for me as they stand.  For about the same price, I would like a Focus EV with a gasoline range extender, though this beast would not have room for the extra equipment.   The Volt is a great car, if you are willing to overlook seating utility and funky controls in exchange for a range extending gasoline engine.  The Focus EV is a fantastic car, if you can live with the restrictions on range (76mi EPA estimate). 

If I had to pick one for my $40,000 before credits, I would take the Focus EV as a better place to sit as driver.  It is really neat to drive, as long as your range holds out.

Volt Pluses:

  • Unobtrusive gasoline range extender
  • Decent handling
  • Good acceleration
  • Snazzy graphics on IP

Volt Minuses:

  • Glossy or crinkly hard plastic interior
  • Animated graphics annoying
  • Road noise and braking whine
  • Cramped rear seats
  • MSRP

Focus EV Pluses:

  • Gasoline Focus interior
  • Gasoline Focus chassis
  • Very quiet

Focus EV Minuses:

  • 76mile range
  • Rear seat leg room
  • Compromised cargo space
  • MSRP

Friday, June 08, 2012


Sad news.  Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Bros) are hanging it up after 25 years on the radio.

At least there are many years worth of back shows to listen to via streaming.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Scam Marches On

Amazingly, my #1 most popular post is still the eBay Motors/Western Union scam.  And, sadly, people are still falling for it!

Here is an email I just received from Kathy.

I believe we have fallen for one of the scams you describe on your blog.  Is there any recourse we may try to get our money back?

Feeling sick,
My response:

Hi Kathy,

If you sent the scammer money using Western Union/Moneygram, and they picked it up, then I am afraid you are basically screwed.   You can file a report, however, you are unlikely to see a penny back.  If they did not yet pick the money up, call WU right away and see if they can cancel the money order.

Take this as a very expensive, harsh lesson: never buy ANYTHING using non-reversible payments (e.g. Western Union money transfers).



We made the call to Western Union etc and the money was picked up.  We are filing a report with the FBI and State Attorney General in case we have a chance of getting anything back.  Painful lesson for our 21 year old son!  Thank you for your response.


The sad truth is, Kathy's son is basically out of whatever money he sent, probably several thousand dollars.  The FBI is unlikely to recover a penny.

Remember some ironclad rules of internet commerce:

  • If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is
  • NEVER pay ANYONE using non-traceable money transfers such as Western Union or Moneygram
  • NEVER buy goods from ANYONE on Craigslist who isn't local to you. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Ford May Sales Thoughts

Ford released its sales figures for May today (here).  I took a quick look, and two things really jumped out at me.
First, the redesigned Explorer is doing well, much better than the old truck-based model.  The new Explorer is running around 160,000 units annually, while the old Explorer was around 50,000.
Second, Lincoln is in BIG trouble.  In a rising tide of sales, Lincoln is down 2%, mostly due to the aging of the MKZ.  May saw only 7,274 Lincolns sold.  I suppose a new MKZ will help that, but still, Mustang outsold the entire Lincoln brand in May!
Ford needs to fix Lincoln, quick, or its dealers will starve to death.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Who Live In Glass Houses...

Obama is attacking Romney over Bain Capital's unsuccessful run with a Michigan auto supplier, Cambridge Industries.  Obama should be careful, because Romney's supporters might start reminding everyone what happened under Car Czar Steven Rattner. 

A very "Private equity" like takeover of GM and Chrysler, under which plants, dealers, and many many jobs were cut, in order to re-organize the companies.  The only difference here is that Rattner was using taxpayer money instead of investor money to back the re-organization, but his goals were essentially the same as Bain's would have been: improve shareholder (taxpayer) value by re-structuring the operations into profitable enterprises. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

EPA's Hybrid Payback Calculator

The EPA has posted a very nice interactive hybrid vehicle payback calculator.  It lets you quickly adjust assumptions to see how long a hybrid or electric vehicle would pay for itself based on fuel savings.

For example, comparing a Chevrolet Malibu Eco to a base gasoline Malibu, 12,000mi/year, 60% city driving, gasoline at $3.75, the tool says that you would save a whopping $200/year on gasoline, and that the $550 MSRP difference would be paid off in 2.7 years.

Clearly, the Malibu Eco isn't an irresistibly good deal, because that $200/year in fuel savings is going to cost you several cubic feet of trunk space. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ethics of Manuals?

Over at, David Sirota asks if it is "ethical" to drive a manual transmission.  The reason for his question is recent news that more people are choosing manuals, and also, that automatics are now sometimes equal to or better than manuals in fuel economy.

I find it odd that he only considers fuel economy in his question. 

A more careful ethicist would also consider the resources going into the transmission.  For example, a manual will over its lifetime consume one or two clutches.  An automatic (unless it is one of those rare CVTs) will consume several changes of automatic transmission fluid, a.k.a. oil.

Also, consider that automatics usually cost about $1000 more than a manual.  Why is that?  Simply, omplexity.  The automatic has more parts, including electronic controls.  More parts means more manufacturing footprint to make it.

It seems to me that manuals are more "ethical" than automatics until such time as their fuel economy gains can overcome the manuals advantage in simplicity. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fireman's Lowrider Towncar

I spotted this wild Lincoln Towncar lowrider cruising Southfield today.  He had tiny red wheels, lots of chrome, red tinted windows, and a fire dept. sticker on the rear screen.  His rear axle was braced and chrome plated, as were many other suspension parts.

I found a video about the car on the Detroit Free Press site.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Video: Bridgestone Airless Tires

Bridgestone's airless tire concept isn't new, it was unveiled a few months ago, but somehow I missed this video from the Tokyo Motor Show. It has a nice animation about how the non-pneumatic wheel works: specially shaped plastic spokes carry the load, and deform to absorb impacts.


There are major engineering challenges to be solved for designs like this, so these aren't exactly a few months or even years away from mass production. For example, how do you keep debris from getting caught between the spokes? How will the spokes do when hit with red-hot brake rotors in a repeat braking situation? What happens if you drive over a few large nails, which penetrate through the friction layer and into the spokes, will the wheel still perform?

These type of wheels do have some very interesting tuning possibilities. For example, they could have a different lateral stiffness (very high) than radial stiffness, so impact harshness could be reduced while keeping a sharp turn-in feel.

A few years ago, Michelin brought out a concept the called the Tweel (tire+wheel). After some initial publicity, the Tweel seems to have disappeared--I can't find any new news about it on Michelin's web site any more.

Find great deals on tires online at

Monday, May 07, 2012

Anatomy Of A Scam: Nigerian Check Fraud

So you get an email from someone you have never met, offering you a "work from home job".  You get to keep a sizeable sum of money, in return for simply "processing payments" or some such thing.

If you bite, this is what will happen.

An blandly named fellow, such as "Mark Nelson", will arrange to send you a check, usually by FedEx or priority mail (to give it an air of urgency).

He will ask you to deposit the check, keep some money for yourself, and then split up the rest into smaller Western Union or Moneygram payments.

The reason they use Western Union is that it is not really traceable and can not be revoked. All they need is the Money Transfer Control Number and they have the cash, simple as that.

Then, your bank will sock you with fees and expect you to pay back the fictitious money.

Here we have an example where the package was apparently sent from Boise, ID.  However, using the tracking number on the label will show that it actually came from Pennsylvania!


April 30, 2012, 2:06 pm


Next, notice that the check supposedly was sent from one "Sarah Sparks", but it is signed by yet another character, "James J---" (it is hard to tell".  It is NOT signed by "Mark Nelson". And it was apparently purchased by "Tony Nguyen". 

The fake check itself is pretty good, however, you might notice small flaws.  For example, in this case, the ink used for the check account number, check #, signature, and other information was the same color of black and slightly raised (like a laser printer would produce).  There is no actual "water mark" on the check paper, when you hold it up to the light you only see printed ink.  Also, the "reflective ink" watermark that the front of the check claims is there is not in fact reflective, it is just yellow. 

Don't be fooled.   There is no such thing as a "work at home" job which pays $100's of dollars an hour for cashing checks and sending out Western Union payments.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Some Dart Thoughts

I haven't had a chance to drive a Dodge Dart yet (I'm not one of those big-time auto journalists, you know) but I did get a good look at them at the NAIAS, and also, I have been watching the launch publicity and early reviews.

Here are some thoughts.

The Dart appears to be Chrysler's first competitive compact/midsize vehicle since the Dodge Cirrus of years ago.  It has modern efficient powertrains, a nice interior, and nice gadgets.
It is a 100% improvement over the Caliber, which was, even after a refresh, a cheap rent-a-car.
Reviewers so far have been saying that the driving dynamics are quite good, and NVH is excellent.
Chrysler's weak spot now is quality and reliability.  They need to work hard to convince people that they aren't selling pretty junk.  Though, these days, even below-average quality new cars are quite a bit better than the average of just a decade ago.
I wouldn't buy a new Dart, yet, but I would not hesitate to lease one. 
The other part I'm not sold on is the front end styling.  It seems like a mish-mash of Dodge cross and more organic influences.  I actually like the basic monochrome version much better than the black bedecked Rallye trim.  The front overhang seems very long to me.
Still, this is the first car I have seen from Chrysler in a while that I could see myself owning.

Inline image 1

Friday, April 27, 2012

SOLVED! TheAutoProphet Geocache Challenge 2012


Jason F. has solved the challenge and captured the prize.  However, in true geocaching spirit, he left the container with something new in it for the next person.

I didn't think it would still be there, but wow, there it was! So cool! Thank you for the awesome prize and sharing this great park with me. I will be coming back here for sure. Now in true geocaching spirit I left behind a little prize, and I plan on listing it on a caching site if thats ok with you?
Thanks again!

Ps. I plan on using this to detail my new-to-me 04' Grand Marquis.  :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SAE Congress Tidbit: DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) Issues in US

Listening to an SAE Congress panel discussion about future powertrains. 

A question to the panel, regarding transmission, elicits an interesting comment on DCT (dual clutch or automated manual transmissions)

In the U.S., DCTs (e.g. Ford Focus) are not well liked because they have a less smooth low-speed and stop/start/creep performance compared to a traditional hydraulic torque converter equipped automatic.  In the U.S., customers are used to the very smooth performance of automatics, having mostly abandoned manual transmissions, so the jerky feel from DCTs is a big minus.  In Europe, most customers are coming from automatics, and are used to some clunkiness.

The industry hopes that customer acceptance in the US will increase as consumers become used to the feel of DCTs... but there is a real danger here to the technology, judging by the poor acceptance and near-demise of the CVT in the NA market.

Personally, I would nave no problem trading some clunkiness of a DCT for its advantages: fast shifts, full manual control, and no fluid to deal with.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The 2014 Impala

GM has unveiled the 2014 Chevrolet Impala at the NY Auto Show.  You can see nice photos here.

I like the exterior design, it is a big improvement over the current, ancient Impala. 

The interior is also a big upgrade, but to me seems a bit busy.

GM says that it will come with a choice of 2.5L I4, 2.4L eAssist (mild hybrid), and 3.6L V6 powertrains.  It should get pretty good fuel economy, but with the I4 engines pushing about 200HP, it is not going to feel very quick unless the weight is substantially reduced over the current model.  Looking at the photos, I'd be surprised if it is less than 3750#.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Ford's 5 "Myths", Aren't

Ford has a post on their web site listing 5 "myths" about electric vehicles.

I think these need a rebuttal.

Myth 1:
"The technology isn't ready."
Ford: "
Ford has been putting reliable, efficient hybrid electric vehicles on the road for over 10 years."
Rebuttal: Sneaky Ford is combining hybrid electric vehicles into the same bin as battery electric vehicles.  Truth is, Ford is about to release its first modern mass market BEV.  The electric Ranger of the late 1990's was a low volume fleet product.  And high profile technical issues in the new crop of EVs show that, in fact, the technology is still in flux.

Myth 2:
"Electric vehicles are too expensive."
Ford: "
Ford has yet to determine pricing on its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and all-electric vehicles. Though the initial price of these vehicles may be higher than a conventional gas-powered vehicle, keep in mind that the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is being designed to deliver maximum fuel efficiency. So you may be able to save money on fuel costs. Tax credits may also be available. Check with your appropriate local, state and federal agencies for more information."
Rebuttal: Ford has yet to determine?  They already announced an MSRP of $40,000 for the Focus BEV, and current HEVs, I don't expect the final prices to go down by much--batteries are still expensive.  Truth is, BEVs are prohibitive for most people to buy, until battery costs are reduced dramatically.   HEVs do have a faster payoff, yet even with $4/gal gas, they are not exactly flying off of the dealer lots.

Myth 3: "I'm afraid I'm going to get stranded when the battery runs out."
Ford: "
A Ford hybrid electric vehicle has a gasoline engine, so you're in no more danger of getting stuck than you would be if you were driving a traditional gasoline engine- powered vehicle. The battery of the hybrid electric is also continuously charged while you drive. As for the all-electric vehicle now in development, Ford is working with the public and private sectors to help create the infrastructure that will enable you to recharge your all-electric vehicle in a variety of locations other than your home."
Rebuttal: Ford again combines HEV and BEV into the same answer.  If you have a Focus BEV, chances are you will only get about 75 miles (according to EPA) on average.  That's a mere one hour of driving at Michigan speeds.  Anyone driving a BEV must be careful about range, because recharging takes at least 4 hours for a full charge.

Myth 4: "My commute is too long for an electric vehicle."
Ford: "Because a hybrid electric vehicle has a gas engine as well as an electric motor, no commute is too long for a hybrid. The Ford all-electric vehicle, currently in development, is targeted to go up to 100 miles on a single charge."
Rebuttal: The average daily commute is about 40 miles, so a 75 mile average range should cover it.  But if you are driving in the winter, and using the heater, you probably won't have much range left for the grocery run after work, or the detour to pick up the dry cleaning.

Myth 5: "They don't make electric vehicles in the style I want."
Ford: "Ford offers hybrid electric vehicles in the responsive, fun-to-drive Fusion as well as the Escape small SUV. Other Ford vehicles are currently in development."
Rebuttal: Escape HEV is about to be killed.  Transit BEV is in limbo along with Azure's future.  Which leaves two styles of vehicle--compact hatch and mid-size car.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Republicans Buy American, Democrats Don't

According to a new study by Strategic Vision, these are the top 5 vehicles most popular with Democrats:

  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Volvo C30
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Acura TSX Wagon
  • Ford Fiesta Sedan

Here are the top 5 vehicles most popular with Republicans:

  • Ford Mustang Convertible
  • Audi A8
  • Mercedes GL
  • Ford Expedition
  • Ford F150

Now, there is a very interesting trend here.  Only one of the Democrat picks is built by an American automaker, and NONE of them are built in UAW plants (the Fiesta is built in Mexico).

On the Republican side, 3/5 are Fords, and all 3 are built by UAW run plants in MIchigan-Flat Rock MI, Rouge MI, and Wayne MI. 

I think some re-evaluation of stereotypes may be in order here.  Democrats will fight tooth and nail to increase union power--but don't necessarily buy the products they produce.

Another one bites the dust...

Another EV maker down.  Azure Dynamics is filing for creditor protection after Canada's investment regulatory agency denied their request to issue new shares, which Azure needed to do to generate operating capital.

That's because Azure wasn't selling many electric vehicles, not enough to support operations.

I am somewhat disappointing, because Azure is a relatively mature player, and wasn't going after exotic 3-wheel cars or anything fancy, they are in what should be a solid business: retrofitting existing designs with electric powertrains.

The problem remains, that the EV conversions are so expensive (batteries!) that few businesses can afford to buy them in lean times, even though they do save a lot of money in the long run, in fuel savings.

I hope Azure survives, but the future for small EV players looks dim. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

H1-B Posting At Work

At work today, the company posted a notice in the coffee room that it was pursuing an H1-B sponsorship. 
I have not seen an H1-B notice in a while. 
The engineering market is definitely tightening up again, in Michigan.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Dutch Birdman Is Faking

Take a look at these two frames from Jarnos Smeets test flight video.

In the pre-launch frame, there is a large black dot on the left wing, but no matching dot on the right.

In the post-launch frame, there are large dots on both wings.

That's because the post-launch stuff is CGI.

So why the fakery?  Is Smeets just fooling around, or is this project one of those elaborate marketing devices?

The Truth About Obama's Energy Policy

Obama's reelection team likes to promote the fact that oil and gas production is up during his tenure.  This is great news.

However, this cart from the American Petroleum Institute tells an interesting detail.

Production is up on private lands.  On Federally controlled lands, production is in fact down.  And much of that is due to Obama's policies and regulations. 

Production may be up, but it isn't as large as it could be.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Consumer Reports Hits Fisker Again


But the Fisker is languishing in our lot, going out mostly for short commutes that remain well within cell-phone coverage in case of trouble--a concern in the rural area surrounding our track. Just this weekend, for example, the speedometer and energy meter display disappeared when driving, on top of having several other rogue warning indicators appear last week. It is expected we'll be revisiting the dealership soon. We've had cars in the past that have been troublesome, but never anything like this.

From source.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Obama's Straw Men

Obama loves to argue with straw men. 

His latest tactic?  Accusing people who oppose his energy policy as being "flat earthers".

"We've heard this kind of thinking before. Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. They would not have believed that the world was round."  (quoted from

Um, no.  Truth is Mr. President, we who are critical of your misadventures in energy policy, we adhere to this ancient, dogmatic system called "the laws of economics".   You can have windmills, and Solyndra powered solar power plants, and magical Unicorn tear powered hydro plants.  For a price, paid by us, the taxpayers.. 

Your plans may damage the economy further, kneecap industry with regulations and taxes, and take away consumer choice. 

Replacing Gas Taxes

GM has an open letter on its blog, here, opposing pending legislation in Washington (State) which levies extra fees on EVs to compensate for lost gas tax revenue. 

GM correctly argues that adding fees on EVs will discourage people from buying them.  However, lost gas tax revenues are looming problem.  As gas cars become more efficient, and some people switch to hybrids and pure EVs, revenue from gasoline sales will drop significantly.   Federal and state gas taxes are generally used to maintain the roads.

So there needs to be a "technology neutral" way to fund road repair.  I think a sensible solution would be to drop gasoline taxes entirely, and fund roads through some sort of usage fee that all cars would pay.  There are many ways to do this:

  • Mileage based fees, which can be collected annually at registration renewal.
  • Higher registration fees.
  • Digital toll roads using license plate reading cameras or RFID
  • Extra sales taxes on new car sales
  • Taxes on electricity used to charge EVs (smart metering)

Each of these has advantages and disadvantages.  The nice thing about gasoline taxes is that the fees are collected gradually.  A camera based toll system could work this way, charging your credit card every month for approximate miles driven, however the required infrastructure and privacy issues would be significant. 

Putting the motoring tax on tires is an interesting concept--all cars and trucks, no matter what the powertrain technology, consume tires.  The problem is, tires last a long time, so the tire tax would have to be very high to recapture lost revenue from gasoline.  Can you imagine payint $1000 extra for a set of tires?

Annual mileage based fees would be equitable, but if you imagine having to pay a year's worth of gasoline taxes at once, you are talking about a hefty bill, on the order of $500-700/year for a typical motorist.  Still, if I had to pick my favorite taxation method I think annual miles driven would be my choice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Malloy Hoverbike Model Flight

The guy working on a hoverbike (twin propeller ground effect aircraft) has built and tested a scale RC model. This is a big step, because having a stable control system is key to having a safe bike.


Epic Win Video.

Darth Vader.
Playing the Star Wars theme on bagpipes.
Riding a unicycle.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: Mag-na-port Porting

There is a gun customization and smithing outfit in Harrison Twp, MI, called Mag-na-port Intl. Mag-na-port is famous for inventing an EDM process to cut trapezoidal ports into gun barrels.  The idea is that by venting the gasses upwards, you reduce muzzle jump and felt recoil.

I have always wanted to get some of my guns ported, so I finally took the plunge and dropped off my Beretta M9 9mm, and my Remington 870 12ga shotgun at Mag-na-port.

A week later, they were finished.  The cost was about $250 for both guns, and Mag-na-port gave me a 15% coupon to use for my next service.

The ports were cut cleaning through both barrels, leaving crisp edges and no burrs or other leftovers that I could see.

Shooting the 870

Not the v-shaped gas streams venting upwards from the ports.

Today I took the guns to an indoor shooting range that I like (Target Sports on Woodward) to test drive the ports.

The Beretta M9 was never a very hard recoiling gun to begin with, but I do think the porting helped reduce muzzle rise.  It was quite pleasant to shoot.  I did notice the bright orange gas streams venting upwards to either side of the barrel, but they were gone so quickly that they were not obtrusive.  I need to go back and shoot some +P ammo, as I only had Winchester white box for this trip.

The 870 was still a 12 ga shoulder bruiser, but I also felt that the muzzle rise was reduced.   Additional flash from the vents was not very apparent to me.

For both guns, I could not tell that they were any louder.

Shooting the 870:


Shooting the M9:

* I did not receive any compensation from Mag-na-port for this review, I am just a customer.