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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Technology

Chevy To Back The Volt Battery With 100,000-Mile Warranty

On: Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 11:32AM | By: Chris Weiss

Volt Battery Plant Manager  Marisol McCormick assembles the first Volt batt test 2

If you are a little hesitant to buy into hybrid or electric vehicle market because of the unproven nature of the technology behind these vehicles, GM has just made your decision a little lighter. The automaker announced today that it will extend an industry-leading 8-year/100,000-mile warranty to the lithium-ion battery used in the Volt. Not only does GM stress that this is the longest, most robust battery warranty to be offered on any electric vehicle, it states that the warranty is transferable, at no cost, when the Volt is sold. The newly announced battery warranty is also better than the 5-year/100,000-mile warranty Chevy offers on its gasoline engines.

GM's new warranty covers not only all battery components—numbering 161 in total—but also extends to the thermal management system, which is used to warm or cool the battery depending upon outside weather conditions, the charging system, and the electric drive components. It should deliver extra consumer confidence in the integrity of the new electric drivetrain being used within the Volt.

While the new warranty delivers extra protection, GM is confident that its battery offers the on-road performance needed to stand up to daily driving. The battery has been developed to hold up under extreme temperatures, rough terrain, and other rigors of everyday use. According to GM's own numbers, testers have put one million miles and four million hours into testing every aspect of the batteries including short circuiting, corrosion, water submersion, and extreme temperature shifts.

White House Touting Green Vehicle Technology This Week

On: Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 5:27PM | By: Chris Weiss

President Obama test 2

This week should prove to be a pivotal time for the green vehicle market, with a variety of high-profile public events and announcements taking place around the United States. President Obama and administration officials are making their way around the country to promote electric vehicle technologies. The officials will be visiting electric component plants in the east and midwest to attend grand openings and grant award events. At the same time,  the world's second richest man—Bill Gates—announced that he will invest in EcoMotors, a Michigan-based engine manufacturer that is committed to making more efficient engines.

Thursday, the Department of Energy will release a new report about the impact of governement grants on electric vehicle development. Among other things, the report will demonstrate how costs of developing batteries for electric vehicles will lower from $33,000 today to $16,000 by the end of 2013 and to $10,000 by the end of 2015.

Also on Thursday, a host of officials will be bolstering public attention to the administration's work in promoting the future of electric vehicles. President Obama will be in Holland, Michigan for the opening of the $303 million Compact Power lithium-ion battery plant, which received $151 million of federal money. The plant will employ 450 workers by 2013. On the same day, Ed Montgomery, executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers, will be at GM's White Marsh, Maryland plant in recognition of a $105 million grant for electric drivetrain development, and Secretary of Labor Hillary Solis will be promoting a $49 million grant to battery manufacturer Celgard in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chevrolet Caprice PPV Detective Package; We Want A Cop Car

On: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:28PM | By: John Welch

Chevrolet Caprice PPV Detective Package; We Want A Cop Car test 1-1

Chevrolet keeps giving us reasons to believe that, maybe, one day, they will bring back V8-powered Austrailian sedans like the now deceased Pontiac G8. Based on the Holden Commadore, the G8 offered near-BMW levels of dynamic satisfaction while packing a small block and an American badge. It wasn't around long enough and we miss it dearly.

The obvious thing to do, it would seem, would be to slap a bow tie on the G8's nose, call it a Caprice, and continue selling it. The problem here is that the G8 didn't sell in large enough numbers to justify the tooling needed to make the Pontiac-Chevy switch. A nice excuse, if they weren't building these things for the police. Which means they have the tooling. Which means there is no reason why I can't go order up a Matte Black SWB Caprice with a 6.0 liter something or other and a manual tranny. None, completely ridiculous.

Though I can't explain GM's weird, masochistic need to keep its best products to itself, I can tell you everything about the Caprice Police Package. Though we have reported on the PPV before, we now have the enitre GM Fleet Sales order sheet. Details inside the post . . .

Roads Laced with a Titanium Dioxide Could Reduce Pollution

On: Mon, Jul 12, 2010 at 4:15PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Roads Laced with a Titanium Dioxide Could Reduce Pollution test 1-1

New research being done at the Eindhoven University of Technology (EUT), located in the Netherlands, may find a way to decrease air pollution, creating cleaner air for us to breathe, and for the environment.

It seems that researchers at EUT have discovered a method to efficiently remove up to 45% of the nitrogen oxides from car exhaust that end up in the atmosphere. The process of removal of the nitrogen oxides involves mixing titanium dioxide with concrete before pouring it onto the roadways. The titanium dioxide is a catalytic substance (which means that it helps to breakdown other elements), and it seizes the nitrogen oxides in the air, transforming them into nitrates which can be easily washed away by rain water.

Exposure to high levels of nitrogen oxides is known to cause damage the respiratory airways. Contact with the skin or eyes can actually cause burns. 

Nitrogen oxides are broken down rapidly in the atmosphere by reacting with other substances commonly found in the air. The reaction of nitrogen dioxide with chemicals produced by sunlight leads to the formation of nitric acid, which is a major constituent of acid rain. Nitrogen dioxide reacts with sunlight, which leads to the formation of ozone and smog conditions in the air we breathe.


New Technology May Allow the Blind to Drive

On: Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 3:41PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New Technology May Allow the Blind to Drive test 1-1

When it comes to innovative automobile technology, the possibilities are seemingly endless. In recent news, there is actually a new driving interface being developed that is intended to allow the blind to independently drive a car on the open road.

The new technology being designed by engineers at Virginia Tech utilizes several methods to inform the driver of his/her surroundings. One such non-visual cue is sent via a set of gloves called “Drive Grip.” The gloves vibrate on various portions of the knuckles to signal to the driver with information regarding where he/she needs to turn. Another type of interface  is called “AirPix,” which uses compressed air to inform a blind driver of where other cars and obstacles are located in his/her immediate environment, creating a type of map that the vehicle operator would use to understand when and where to navigate the vehicle.

The project started in 2007, when a group of Virginia Tech researchers participated in a competition to develop a vehicle that could drive itself. Later, that same group received a grant from the National Federation of the Blind to incorporate the laser detection system, which allowed the car to navigate and detect obstacles, into an interface that could be understood through tactile senses instead of sight.

A Short Rant On The Eve Of The Shopper's First NASCAR Race . . .

On: Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 4:27PM | By: John Welch

A Short Rant On The Eve Of The Shopper's First NASCAR Race . . .  test 1-1

NASCAR is not a topic we devote a ton of time to (well, no time at all, yet) because, like Formula 1, it is heavily copyrighted and there are billions of other places to get info on either series. We like to stick to our favorites, if we can, series such as the ALMS, Grand-Am, and other assorted North American racing. Drifting, rally, and random sports cars can all be found here, but generally NASCAR is left to Speedtv.com, NASCAR.com, and everyone else with an affinity for turning left. That is, until we get a dedicated NASCAR writer, which we are currently attempting to obtain.

Slow going on that front, the human race is becoming disenfranchised with rolling billboards that have absolutely zero relevance to the autos being sold by today's manufacturers. Exactly which Toyota is it that is powered by a push-rod actuated V8 again? That's right, there isn't one! Which means Toyota developed the engine just for stock-car racing (and Tanner Foust's wicked Scion tC, which, itself, has little, if anything, to do with an actual Scion tC), thereby proving what is already obvious: developing new methods of brake cooling is the only thing NASCAR does for the auto industry, as a whole.

Seriously, the justification for racing is the development and implementation of new parts and systems in road cars, not a circle jerk for Cheerios, Pennzoil, and freaking cell phone companies. All other racing employs sponsorship; don't get me wrong, but other forms of racing are directly responsible for traction control, self-tightening belts, Rain-X, HID lightning, variable valve timing, suspension lightening and strengthening, and suspension design, on the whole. Carbon fiber, carbon Kevlar, dual-clutch gear boxes (Porsche 962, loogitup!), methods of engine cooling, passenger cooling, aerodynamics, methods for testing . . . this list could go on for days. NASCAR contributes tiny 15-inch rims that limit brake size. They then go to short tracks and road courses and run those brakes into the ground. The research done at the track has directly affected brake development at many companies, Brembo and Stop Tech being two of the biggest and most recognizable. Compare that with the developments and advancements achieved in Rally, sports car, or Formula 1 racing, and one might think that NASCAR is doing the rest of the racing world a slight disservice.

In no way am I stating any sort of hatred for NASCAR, just a disgust at its popularity relative to its competitors. NASCAR absolutely has its place. Think about what is going on out on the track: a Sprint Cup stock car is heavy, really heavy, 3,400 lbs. to be exact. There is no other serious race car on this planet approaching that sort of mass, not even close. Even dirt modifieds weigh a thousand or more pounds less. That heavy car is fitted with a fussy, nearly six-liter V8. These engines wind out to more than 9,000 rpm, and stay there for 350 to 600 miles. Pegged, at redline, for three hours. The technology may no longer be relevant to anyone other than Chevrolet customers, but the fact that these engines can squish on push-rods for that amount of time is just an astounding feat of engineering. It is a total shame that that engineering doesn't matter to anyone other than Corvette, Bentley, and truck buyers.

Recent Survey Indicates Motorists Feel Safe Even After Recalls; iPhone App Says They Shouldn't

On: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 1:37PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Recent Survey Indicates Motorists Feel Safe Even After Recalls; iPhone App Says They Shouldn't test 1-1

In spite all of the recent media on recalls for many automotive brands, a survey conducted by Speedemissions Inc in Atlanta, suggests that motorists in the U.S. feel safe, or safer driving their vehicles than they did a year ago.  In fact, the survey polled over 1,300 motorists and 79% responded favorably.

But according to an article posted on Speedemissions.com; a new iPhone application that diagnoses an automobile's computer systems points out that consumers may not be as knowledgeable about the mechanical safety of their vehicles as they may have initially believed.

The Daily Commute in the Year 2020

On: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 2:26PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The Daily Commute in the Year 2020 test 1-1

It’s always fun to read about the latest in automotive technology and imagine just what the newest most innovative features will enable cars of the future to be able to do.

A recent article in Popular Science has done just that, as they have projected how several different future automotive technologies will define the average driver’s commute in the year 2020.

The first category describes how “traffic probes” will be automated.  PopSci projects that phones and cars will be equipped with GPS navigation technology that will read the traffic patterns and display reports in real time pertaining to which route is least congested and accident free.

Nationwide Gets New Cars, Dodge Challenger Is Gorgeous

On: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 1:46PM | By: John Welch

Nationwide Gets New Cars, Dodge Challenger Is Gorgeous test 1-1

NASCAR is unveiling (that’s right, I didn't say "NASCAR is reveals . . .") new bodywork for the second-tier Nationwide Series. This is bad because these new silhouettes are much closer representations of their respective models then what are used in the Sprint Cup Series, and they are also much more desirable models. Ford and Dodge have pulled out all the stops, serving up bodies that are not aero-perfect but that follow the spirit of racing much more closely than in years past. Win on Sunday sell on Monday works much better if the winning car represents at least some of the content provided by the customer car. Seriously, who buys a Fusion because it is fast? Fusions aren't fast, so nobody. The Mustang on the other hand . . . just sayin' . . .

Daimler AG to Test New Electric Car Fleet in US

On: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 12:06PM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Electric Smart Car  test 2

Daimler AG – the gargantuan German automaker – is looking to go ‘green’ this year with the announcement of the launch of their newest electric vehicle innovation: Smart USA. The manufacturer of these newer mini electric cars is owned by Daimler, and is being spurred forwards by the company in attempts to capture potential US holdings of the ever-growing and expanding consumer demand for efficient and green electric cars in the US. Similar to the late 90s, when GM released the first electric car in the US, dubbed the EV1 (or Electrical Vehicle One), these newer Smart Cars will only be available for leases to businesses, as the company does not plan on selling them at dealerships right away.

The Wall Street Journal report really offers some perspective on what the German carmaker is hoping to accomplish by leasing these new test fleets in the US. “Smart will lease a fleet of 250 electric cars to businesses, organizations and select people, in Portland, Ore.; San Jose, Calif.; Indianapolis; Orlando, Fla.; and the Washington, D.C.-Boston corridor. A similar effort was started last year in Europe and will spread to Asia next year for a total test fleet of 1,500, Smart said in a statement.”

As to the range and efficiency, as well as the leasing terms, of these newer electric cars by Daimler, the Wall Street Journal report said that, “The car would be leased for four years at $599 a month and would be under warranty during the full period. It would have a projected range of 82 miles and would be limited to 62.5 miles per hour.”

The move by Daimler to start making electric cars in the US is tantamount to growing competition in all sectors with rival automakers, according to the Wall Street Journal report. “Smart also is joining a growing group of auto makers betting on electric vehicles. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is the most ambitious, with plans to sell as many as 150,000 electric cars in the U.S. in 2013, but Toyota Motor Corp. , General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC all have announced electric cars due out in the next few years.”

The president of Smart USA, Jill Lajdziak, stated in an interview with the newspaper that, “Certainly, for growth of the brand, this is a milestone. The mere perception in the marketplace of Smart is of an environmentally friendly vehicle.”

Substandard Features

On: Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 10:38AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Substandard Features test 1-1

One of the theories that physicists tell us about the universe is that it is a constant cycle of expansion and contraction. The red tint that glows around distant stars is empirical evidence that those celestial bodies are, in fact, headed far off into uncharted space. Those same scientists tell us that one day the expansion will cease and that the light around those stars will begin to have a blue tint to it, indicating that the universe is heading back inward, and that the contraction has begun.  

It seems that the financial cycles of the United States are not much different from the cycles of the universe. The Roaring 20s were a time of great celebration and expansion, while the 30s brought on the biggest contraction in US history, only to be followed by he booming expansion of WWII. This cycle of cycles has continued until the market crash of 2008 signaled the beginning of another contraction. As we’ve seen, major car manufacturers are not immune to the ways of the universe, with two of the big three needing bailouts from the federal government. Although those debts are all but paid off, it does not mean that the automotive industry is out of hot water by any means. Perhaps instead of fighting the Big Crunch, as it’s called in the scientific world (the antithesis of the Big Bang), car makers and consumers should start to change their attitudes towards embracing the coming contraction. How so?  Well, it seems that in times of crisis, all but the very essentials are deemed unnecessary. The superfluous extras that are expendable are well, expunged, and the bare necessities rise from sub-standard to the standard.  

In a country where people are losing their houses, jobs, and shirts at an alarming rate, a quality car is almost a luxury. But the fact of the matter is people like owning new cars. So how can car manufacturers find an acceptable compromise between the need or want for a new car and that fact that many people have had to make concessions and work jobs that will earn them less compensation? Easy, change the standard!  

For the last twenty years or so, car companies have competed with each other on the premise that more is more. More gadgets, more gizmos, more ‘packages’, more paint schemes, and more gimmicks will lure the potential buyer to their product. Anyone remember the Wide Track Grand Prix? How about the ‘Cab Forward’ Dodge Intrepid? Or maybe even more gimmicky ads like the Dodge Neon that always said, “Hi!” Or perhaps you remember Cadillac Catera: “The Caddy that zigs!” These were all goofy marketing ploys to suggest that those cars were different or better, when in reality they were just average cars with nothing all that special about them. But up until the late 20th century, options like power steering and power brakes were just that—options. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to push onward, and understand that car manufacturing, and the country, may have to take a step or two backwards before it can move forward.