Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

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.

Friday, March 09, 2012

EREV Advantages

The beauty, from an engineering point of view, of the EREV (range extended electric vehicle) architecture, is that in theory the range extender technology could be adjusted to be the most efficient or cost effective, without changing the essential function of the vehicle.  For example, if a new engine maker such as Cyclone Power or EcoMotors, or perhaps some future Sterling engine developer package an emissions compliant powerplant which could generate enough electricity to sustain an EREV, we could see vehicles which burn different fuels than gasoline competing against the old gasoline ICE.

The problem with EREVs, of course, is that they are very complex, requiring both electric and combustion systems, with their separate controls and sensor networks.   As Fisker and GM are finding out, this is not easy to pull off cleanly.

"White Box" Range Extender Engines

Consumer Reports blog has an interesting interview with Henrik Fisker, the daddy of the troubled Fisker Karma (he must feel somewhat like Paris Hilton's dad).

In one of his answers, Fisker states that he sees a market for range extender engines which are non-brand, because they are no longer the core of the automobile.

When do you predict electric cars and plug-in hybrids will become more affordable?

Over the coming years, I could see several opportunities where gasoline engines are produced by certain carmakers in very high volume and provided to various carmakers who make electric cars with range extenders, because the gasoline engine only functions as a range extender, so you can take cost out of that gasoline engine in the future. And you can also produce in very high volumes for various carmakers since [wouldn't any longer be] the heart of the automobile.

This is a very interesting prediction, and I think it could be good for companies such as GM, who have expertise in producing small engines that meet stringent emissions requirements and have good reliability.  OEMs could soak up their extra manufacturing capacity by making "white box" engines to sell as range extenders, which they would probably have to sell complete with engine controller and software calibration.   They would, however, be enabling the competition. 

On the other hand, what established automakers are already good at is making small engines.  What is elusive is cost effective development of the electric side of things, such as regenerative braking, battery management, etc.  So perhaps a better idea for the likes of Fisker and Tesla, if they are to survive, is to sell their electric propulsion expertise to laggards in the hybrid-electric space, such as Chrysler and BMW. 

Review: Detroit Tire & Wheel Co. (Old Redford)

The other day, I noticed a nasty bulge in the sidewall of the right rear tire on my car. Bulges are something you want to be careful with, because it means that the layers of rubber that form the critical sidewall of your tire are delaminating, or weakened in some other way. There is a risk that the bulge will rupture and you will find yourself with a shredded tire at highway speed.

The new tire dealers want about $200 for my tires. My other 3 tires are in good shape but are worn to about 50%, it seems silly to put a new tire with 3 older ones. So I started looking for a used tire.

Some people balk at used tires, but in my opinion, they are like any other car part. If you buy one used, and inspect it carefully, you are going to save money and most likely have a perfectly useable tire.

I did some calling around, but couldn't find anyone with my exact tire in stock. I wanted to match the exact make of tire, so that my tread pattern, grip, noise, and other characteristics would match. On a lark, I stopped in at Detroit Tire & Wheel Co., a wheel and tire shop in Old Redford, on the corner of Grand River and Lahser (22116 Grand River313 794 0888)

They guys working here found an exact match to my tire, with about 50% tread life remaining in their collection, mounted and balanced it, and had me out in about 15 minutes. The cost was a reasonable $50 --  $35 for the tire and $15 for mounting and balancing.

If you need a used tire, these guys are a good choice.

*I was not compensated in any way for this review, I'm just a happy customer.

Fisker: Half-Baked

Ford was roundly (and rightfully) scolded by the automotive press and by consumers for shipping a buggy, slow MyFord Touch infotainment system.

But, if Sync crashes and reboots on you, the car is driveable.

There are growing reports on internet forums that Fisker's Karma suffers from software bugs that make the car unsafe.  For example, this report on

complete blackout while driving
situation driving at 7pm pst this evening and for the second time in two weeks at 70 miles per hour the "idiot lights" behind the steering wheel all light up the car goes dark including the headlights and then the dash disappears and after a few seconds it rebuilds itself. This is very dangerous and random. Has anyone else experienced this and if so what have you done about it. This condition is a safety issue and an accident/lawsuit waiting to happen.     
And, of course, the now famous Consumer Reports' own Karma bricking.

Why would Fisker ship a vehicle that was suffering from severe software issues?  My guess is the need the money badly, and expect the owners to understand that beautiful cutting edge cars need some growing time.

The problem for Fisker is that there are lot of ways to spend $100,000, and get world class transportation.  For example, one could buy one of the industry's most reliable hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius or Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and have money left over for a killer sports car.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

DOE to Carbon Motors: Denied

The Department of Energy has denied Carbon Motors' application for an ATVM loan, which they were going to use to bring to market a purpose built police car running a BMW sourced diesel power train. 

Good decision.

Carbon Motors' business plan was always bizarre to me.  They admitted, up front, that each vehicle would cost around $60,000, and would have negligible resale value because they were intended for government use only.  The idea was that police departments would save money on fuel by running a diesel engine, an therefore recoup the cost of the car, while gaining lots of great law enforcement features.

But developing a whole new platform is expensive, and requires a ton of physical testing, after many thousands of hours of CAE simulations.  When an automaker develops a new platform, development costs can run into the half-billion dollar range, and more, from design to manufacturing. 

And while the program would have generated many U.S. jobs, I think it was probably difficult for the Obama administration to approve a project that sources high-value components from BMW in Germany.

Carbon Motors should have started with a more modest goal, perhaps: retrofitting a proven platform, like the Dodge Charger, with a high efficiency diesel powertrain and whatever custom police tech they wanted to sell.  They would have avoided most of the engineering, while reaping most of the benefits. 

Does the U.S. police market need another interceptor, when Chrysler, Ford, and GM all have proven offerings in this space?  Why would police fleets pick up an unknown and unproven design, with a foreign sourced powertrain requiring BMW tools to repair?

Carbon Motors now has to raise money the old way: convincing private investors that they have a viable product.  I wish them luck, they will need it.

Story here.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Electric Cars Aren't Selling

Another "Emperor is naked" moment.  The combined sales of Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, the only currently available plug-in electric vehicles, for the month of February were a whopping 1500.  Meanwhile, the F-series trucks sold 47,000 (31:1 ratio).  Chevrolet Cruze sold about 20,000 (13:1 ratio) .  

And Ford is about to jump in with the Focus Electric, and Mitsubishi also with the i, offering greater choice to the apparently disinterested consumer.  I hope they aren't expecting much volume!

2013 Fusion Hybrid: 47MPG

I am impressed.  In a press release touting their fuel efficient offerings, Ford claims (no EPA sticker yet) that the 2013 Fusion Hybrid will get 47mpg.  They don't say if that is the combined, city, or highway number, but given that it is a hybrid, best case is probably the city number.

If this holds up, Fusion Hybrid beats all other hybrid sedans in production, and even beats the Prius V (44 city). 

We'll have to wait for the MSRP to be announced to decide if the Fusion Hybrid is a good deal, or not.  My personal opinion is that a hybrid needs a 5 year payoff to be attractive. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Hummer Is Dead, But The Brand Slinks On...

The Hummer vehicle brand is dead.

But, you can still buy lots of Hummer and Humvee branded stuff.  Like a cheap knife/flashlight combo at Amazon. 

I wonder if we'll be seeing Saab branded junk soon, too?