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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Technology

Toyota Prius Takes It to the Next Level With Smart Grid System

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 11:05AM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Prius Takes It to the Next Level With Smart Grid System test 1-1

The Toyota Prius is already the best-selling hybrid and probably  the most recognizeable face of the green movement within the automotive industry. That distinction is about to become even more pronounced. Toyota has said that when the plug-in version of the Prius launches in 2012 in Japan, the company will also launch the Toyota Smart Center, a networked home smart grid system that will work toward better energy efficiency.

The Smart Center will link a home's grid with televisions and mobile phones, allowing homeowners to view their consumption, view the charging status of their Prius, and monitor other aspects of power consumption. The system will help homeowners make better decisions about energy consumption, calculating strategies that can cut usage and save money. Toyota aims to use the system and Prius plug-in toward helping homes to become up to 75 percent more efficient than standard homes with gasoline vehicles parked out front.

Unfortunately, for those who own or plan to buy other plug-in cars, the Smart Center will be designed to work only with the Prius Plug-In. If successful, perhaps Toyota will expand the line with a more universal model.

ALMS Wrap Up Pt.2: Best GT Season Ever Comes Down To The Last Corner

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 10:55AM | By: John Welch

ALMS Wrap Up Pt.2: Best GT Season Ever Comes Down To The Last Corner test 1-1

The LMP classes provided us with fewer thrills than we were hoping for at the 2010 Petit Le Mans, but this minor let down demonstrates the beauty of multi-class racing: the LMP race isn't the only race going on. There are also GT cars, and this year, many GT cars. By the end of 2008 GT1 had grown too expensive for its own good, reduced, in North America, to a near exhibition race between the two defacto-winners, Corvette Racing C6.Rs No.3 and No.4. By 2009 there wasn't even an Aston Martin DB9R racing in the ALMS, needless to say Saleens, Maseratis or Lamborghinis. GT1 had to go, and GT2 had to step up and fill the huge gap left by the massive engined, carbon-braked premier class. No problemo.

How does 6 manufacturers, all fielding two or more fully funded cars, sound? Maybe even a four-way points battle for all three championships: Drivers, Teams, and Manufacturer? You got it, and just for fun, that points battle came down to the last corner on the last lap. Purty dang exciting, especially considering some of the catastrophic accidents seen this season. Those BMWs have been rebuilt, what? Eight hundred times? Since March? Yeah, that sounds right . . .

The Petit Le Mans was a fitting end to a grueling season, the Corvette Racing ZR1s out for blood and everyone else just trying to survive to the 70% mark. Having never gone a season in ALMS competition without winning a race, things looked pretty bleak for the fledging GT2 squad coming into Road Atlanta. New engines and the associated teething problems that come with them have kept the yellow and black fiends out of the winner's circle for nine rounds; would their season end with heartbreak?

Risi Competitzione and BMW Rahal/Letterman enter Petit Le Mans determined to capture the Manufacturers title, while Porsche veterans Flying Lizard Motorsports attempt to use a relaxed strategy to ensure they get the Drivers title, then race balls out to the finish for the Manufacturers and the win. Endurance races have seemed like elongated sprints for the ALMS this season, and Petit would be no different. These cars and others duked it out for 1,000 kilometers and covered the holes in LMP excitement rather well. GTChallenge, a pro-am class made up of Porsche GT3 Cup cars, came down to the wire as well, and what of that silly 911 Hybrid deal? It lasted the entire race, and under different circumstances could have been very competitive. More on the stunning Porsche Hybrid, race results and recap inside the post.

Ford's Innovative Liquid-Cooled Battery System

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 9:33AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford's Innovative Liquid-Cooled Battery System test 1-1

The Ford Focus Electric debuts in the U.S. late next year and in Europe in 2012. The Focus will be powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery that employs heated and cooled liquid to help maximize battery life as well as all-electric-powered driving range. Focus Electric is one of five new electric vehicles that Ford plans to launch over the next several years in North America. The all-electric Ford vehicle will not use any gas and is expected to have a driving range of up to 100 miles.

According to Ford, “Thermal management of lithium-ion battery systems is critical to the success of all-electric vehicles because extreme temperatures can affect performance, reliability, safety and durability." Ford implemented an advanced active liquid-cooling and heating system to help control the temperature of the lithium-ion batteries which enables them to power the vehicle at optimal conditions in any temperature.

“All-electric vehicles do not have a conventional engine on board, so it is critical we maximize the performance of the battery under various operating temperatures,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford director, Electrification Program and Engineering. “Active liquid systems are more effective than air systems at regulating lithium-ion battery temperature, as a result, the active liquid system on Focus Electric will play a key role in providing our customers with the best performance possible."

Lamborghini Partners With Callaway Golf On Composites

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:23PM | By: Chris Weiss

Lamborghini Partners With Callaway Golf On Composites test 1-1

At the 2010 Paris Motor Show, Lamborghini announced a new partnership with Callaway Golf. Much deeper than a series of Lambo-branded golf clubs, the new partnership will work toward development of a composite material at the forefront of Lamborghini's goal of lightening its future models.

When I initially read the headline pairing Lamborghini and Callaway Golf, I immediately thought that the latter was licensing the Lamborghini name for a pair of clubs or series of golf equipment, similar to the lawn tool partnership with IKRA Mogatec. In fact, I didn't even bother reading it at first because golf ain't really my thing, and it seemed like a sad way for Lambo to whore itself out.

Turns out the partnership is actually a lot more substantial. The two companies will work to develop of a material called Forged Composite. Basically a type of carbon fiber, Forged Composite is stitched from 500,000 individual fibers. Lamborghini debuted the material on its new Sesto Elemento, a car that weighs a super-light 2,200 pounds, thanks to minimalist design and innovative composites like this one. Callaway will use the material to lighten its golf line.

According to Lamborghini, Forged Composite is a third as dense as titanium but still plenty impact resistant, making it ideal for automotive applications. They credit the material for helping to make the Sesto the spry, capable, lightweight bullet that it is.


ALMS Wrap Up Pt.1: Peugeot Plays Proud Protagonist, Audi Alarmed Antagonist

On: Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 3:09PM | By: John Welch

ALMS Wrap Up Pt.1: Peugeot Plays Proud Protagonist, Audi Alarmed Antagonist test 1-1

So many crazy things happened before, during, and after the 2010 Petit Le Mans that one post just won't cut it. In the name of clarity and full coverage, let’s start with the Prototype categories.

As we should know by now, the American Le Mans Series generally acknowledges two prototype classes, LMP and LMPC. For longer endurance and ILMC-sanctioned events the LMP class is split into LMP1 and LMP2; LMP2 cars are light and average 550 bhp, LMP1 vehicles are heavier and have more power on tap. It really should be classified "The Diesels and everyone else" as the Audi and Peugeot diesels are nearly unstoppable, under the current rules.

So, for last Saturday's 10 Hour Enduro (or 1,000 kilometers, whichever comes first) in Braselton, Georgia, we had a shoot-out between the dominate diesel entries, another race-within-a-race between the ALMS LMP regulars, and a third contest for LMPC honors. Because of the rule changes between the ALMS and the ACO's Le Mans rule book, the LMP2 class was rendered inert—the real races were between the Audis and Peugeots, the LMP1 Lola of Intersport Racing, the Patron-Highcroft ARX-01c, the Drayson Lola, and the Cyto-Sport Porsche RS Spyder.

LMPC, a new for 2010 category featuring identical (at the start of the season) Courage FLM-09 prototypes, has been hard fought by the Green Earth Team Gunnar and Level 5 Motorsports teams. Going at it tooth and nail all season, these two teams have helped elevate LMPC far beyond its original expectations as a boring spec-class that will only slow down serious competitors in the LMP and GT classes. That hasn't been the case; besides offering extremely economical racing for the teams (a few entries have run the same Chevrolet LS3 crate engine all year) the class went into Petit with a tie in the points lead. Pretty exciting for a "field filler" classification.

Volt To Make Its Official Debut During World Series

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 3:41PM | By: John Welch

Volt To Make Its Official Debut During World Series test 1-1

Welp, its about damn time. Chevrolet has finally announced when they will bombard us with Volt marketing, and there is no Volt song or dance in sight. Settling on a slightly, uhm, manlier medium for introudcing their much-hyped hypermiler, Volt commercials will officially debut during the 2010 World Series. That would be a series of fairly important baseball contests, for those who will click off this page and return to Second Life.

The spots will highlight Chevrolet's place in American culture, possibly featuring reminders of important Chevrolets built over the course of the company's 100-year history. This is a rumor mind you; GM has been totally silent regarding the content in the ads, announcing only that they will begin airing Volt spots during Major League Baseball's fall classic, and continue to run the ads for the remainder of the autumnal season.

GM is scheduled to begin production of the Volt for retail sales on Nov. 11 at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The Volt is being marketed as a "halo car" to underscore GM's green credentials. The campaign will run on TV, radio, and in print media. Because of the amount of ad support Chevrolet is putting into the World Series, MLB and Fox have agreed to push the start time of Game Three of the World Series to a more managable 6:57 pm - instead of effing midnight or whatever MLB had originally planned. This will be the earliest starting time for a WS game since 1987. The purpose of the early start time? Still clouded in mystery rolled in an enigma and swallowed by a cunundrum. In other words, we have no idea.

Though GM has declined to report exactly what they have spent on the ads, they are certain that they are close to if not the largest investor in this year's World Series. GM plans to resume this advertising campaign during the NFL's Super Bowl, in Feburary 2011.

GM Specifies Volt Electric Range of 20 to 50 Miles Depending On Conditions

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: Chris Weiss

GM Specifies Volt Electric Range of 20 to 50 Miles Depending On Conditions test 1-1

For as long as we can remember, the Chevy Volt has been defined by a 40-mile electric range. Chevy quotes that range in official materials and it's been the most practical number that we've seen to denote how far the car will drive under battery power. Much more practical than the 230 mpg number the company once touted.

Of course, any such figure, even those prized mpg numbers from the EPA, are subject to a certain amount of variation based on how, when and where you drive. And the Volt is no different. GM recently clarified that Volt drivers can expect to get anywhere from 25 to 50 miles of all-electric driving depending upon a range of factors.

Spokesman Rob Peterson said last week that after further testing Chevy had come to the new conclusion. Certain predictable factors like use of air conditioning, heating, extreme weather, aggressive driving and hilly drives can limit the range of the Volt. The extra 300 miles provided by the range-extending gas engine was unaffected by the new announcement.

Despite these newly detailed caveats, GM is sticking with its 40-mile range for "most drivers under normal conditions." This is an important distinction, since Chevy has said that that figure gives the car enough electric range for 75 percent of U.S. drivers to get to work under pure battery power.

Jaguar Jumps Back in the Supercar Ring With Paris Concept

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 9:11AM | By: Chris Weiss

Jaguar Jumps Back in the Supercar Ring With Paris Concept test 1-1

Back in the early 1990s, Jaguar was among the elite of the elite in terms of high-performing supercars. For a brief time between 1992 and 1994, the company produced the XJ220, a car that held a world speed record of 217 mph for several years before the McLaren F1 broke it with its 240 mph run. Not only was the Jaguar XJ220 fast, if you look at a list of the world's fastest cars over the past 20 years or so, the XJ220 was arguably (not very arguably, in my opinion) the sexiest one of all.

Unfortunately for the auto world, while the XJ220 was a great success at the track, it was a market flop. And Jaguar abandoned the supercar segment ever since its production ended. Until today.

Lamborghini Pulls Covers Off 'Sesto Elemento' Concept After Leaked Photo

On: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 9:37AM | By: Chris Weiss

Lamborghini Pulls Covers Off 'Sesto Elemento' Concept After Leaked Photo test 1-1

Lamborghini tried its best to keep our interest piqued for its Paris show car. They released five non-revealing teaser photos as of Tuesday, and yesterday, we were expecting nothing more than the sixth and final teaser. Unfortunately, for the Raging Bull, a leaked document showing a new, unidentified Lambo next to such cars as the Audi A8 and the Porsche 911 Speedster showed up on the French Blog Automobile. And thus, Lamborghini's hand was forced into a full reveal instead of just another painful teaser.

We see now why Lamborghini was set on six teaser images: the concept is called 'Sesto Elemento' or 'Sixth Element'. The Sesto is designed to show off a refocused Raging Bull with lightweight design at its core. The coupe makes extensive use of carbon fiber beginning with a carbon monocoque chassis and working into the front frame, rims, suspension components, and body panels. Carbon fiber may be the composite of choice, but other lightweight composites like Pyrosic, a glass-ceramic material, are also used. The result is a scant curb weight (especially for a Lamborghini) of 2,202 lbs. That number is even more impressive as a metric figure: 999 kg.

The lightweight base pairs with a 570-hp V10 engine and all-wheel drive to deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 1.75 kilograms per hp. And it's quick, real quick: 62 mph comes in the same 2.5 seconds that it takes the Bugatti Veyron to complete the same, and the car still manages a very solid 218 mph top speed, despite Lamborghini's new focus on acceleration over terminal velocity. The lightweight design also helps to deliver better fuel economy, something that Lamborghini desperately needs: the Murcielago is the least fuel efficient car in the United States, delivering a measly 8/13 mpg. Lamborghini also brags about the increased handling that the lightened bull possesses.

Ferrari World Announces Pricing, Opens October 27

On: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 4:39PM | By: Chris Weiss

Ferrari World Announces Pricing, Opens October 27 test 1-1

A Ferrari amusement park sounds like something any supercar-lusting, red-blooded man or woman dreamed up on a particular good night of REM. Happily, it's one of those dreams that's as true when you wake up as it is when your eyes are shut. Deep in the works in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World, which features all kinds of Maranello-inspired rides and attractions, has announced its official pricing. And visitors just seething to get their first taste of the park will be able to do it a day earlier than originally scheduled. 

Ferrari World will open on October 27 at 7 p.m., less than one month from today. The park pushed the opening date up by one day. The opening will mark the start of the "inaugural period," which will run through November. In December, Ferrari World will hold a grand opening celebration.

As for pricing, Ferrari World uses height rather than age to distinguish between guests. Guests 1.5 meter (4' 11") and taller will be charged AED 225 ($61) and those guests shorter than that will be 165 AED ($45). And since the park is located in the Middle East, where richer folks love to distinguish themselves from the masses, there will also be a premium ticket, which includes priority on rides and attractions, and entry into a private lounge with refreshments. Those tickets will cost 375 AED ($102) and 270 AED ($74). 

The park will be open on Tuesdays through Sundays beginning at 12 p.m. each day.

Proving The EcoBoost In A Big Way

On: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 10:43AM | By: John Welch

Proving The EcoBoost In A Big Way test 1-1

Yesterday I reported the wealth of engine options available for the 2011 Ford F-150. I also posed some difficult questions: would truck buyers shell out their hard-earned money for cylinder counts less than eight? Are V6 engines stout enough to take the abuse meted out by dirt roads, hauling of large mammals, bulldozer relocation, random falling boulders, and anything else a hairy-chested truck commercial might throw their way?

Ford would like to save you some time and shed light on these quandaries. How's a 150,000-mile bench test followed a week of timber hauling followed by 24 hours of race car trailerin' followed by 1,000 miles of Baja running followed by a complete tear-down sound? Ford will do all of that and more to one, randomly chosen 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6. Not a fully built ringer, just a ordinary engine assembly plucked from the bowels of the Cleveland Engine Plant and thrown on the dyno, eager to pass its first test.

Full details on all of the glorious torture and quotes from Ford, inside the post . . .

UPDATE: Weird things going on with the innerwebs. Notice how we imply that there should be a video of some sort in the body of this blog post? Hmmm, yes, it isn't there. Neither is the webpage I got it from. Perhaps it is being updated? Or, just maybe, the randomly selected EcoBoost engine popped? We'll let you know when we find out!