The Truth About Cars » Charger The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Charger Piston Slap: Spicy…or Spicier? Mon, 12 May 2014 11:11:46 +0000

John writes:

Wasup, Sajeev!

I have an 06 R/T Charger and I am contemplating getting a set of Eibach springs for it. What other costs might be associated aside from installation? What other products would I need to purchase, if any?

Thanks for any input,

Sajeev answers:

Well son, there was once a time when lowering springs ruined the suspension settings of a half-assed platform: hat tip to my dear Fox Body Ford. Hopefully your German-bred Chrysler product has none of those problems.

Eibach makes two kits for your car: spicy and spicier. That’s because the lower you go, the more heat you gotta handle.

Lowering (or lifting, for that matter) springs alter any vehicle’s suspension geometry.  A wheel alignment is mandatory, and the LX forums seem to agree.  Mild lowering kits (1.5″-ish max) are usually fine with stock dampers, even if a firmer shock compliments a lower and (usually) firmer spring.  More aggressive setups usually need a matched set of dampers to go with, unless you care not about ride degradation.

Sometimes a full suspension kit includes an anti-roll bar upgrade too, which could help the feel and scrub understeer but the reduced left-to-right suspension flexibility isn’t necessarily that fantastic. More jolts don’t translate into faster lap times: do extensive research before you buy.

There’s also the matter of stock wheels: even the R/T might look a little silly with a lower body and boring-ass stock wheels. A bigger rim with a shorter sidewall is needed to “complete the look.” A different offset rim (see hyperlinked thread above) can also help with the inevitable: the meeting of expensive rubber with metal body parts. And brings me to the big problem with aftermarket lowering bits: driving style!

The more you have, the more likely you’ll avoid the punishment of potholes, pavement joints and puddles.  If you live in a place with bad roads, or flooding, you might want to reconsider.  Because nothing’s worse than a sore back, a tired ass and a hydro-locked motor if you treat a lowered car like a normal one.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

See the slippery slope here? What exactly do you want?  Looking lower requires more parts than just springs to complete the look.  That’s the stance or hellaflush look, and it ain’t cheap. Going faster for the road and track? Going full aftermarket may be overkill: I’d try some factory funded engineering perfection via SRT-springs, famously high quality dampers (like Koni, Bilstein) and stickier tires on stock wheels. That won’t make you look any cooler, but you certainly will be.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Piston Slap: High Caliber Aftermarket Stoppers? Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:13:51 +0000

John writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’ve had a 2009 Dodge Caliber SRT4 for a few years and it’s coming up to its first all-around brake job at 50,000 miles / 80,000 km (I drive like a granny). I work at a dealership (different brand) but can get parts at a bit of a discount. Still, OEM brakes + pads on this thing are $980+tax Canadian. From what I’ve seen I can get aftermarket ones for a quarter of that. One of the mechanics here suggests I put on OEM pads and aftermarket discs.

What do you recommend? Any good aftermarket manufacturers who meet or exceed OEM standards? I know with this car you’ve got the weird fake differential that uses braking to adjust for wheel slip, would non-OEMs eff this up? When I private sale this next year, will having aftermarket brakes effect the resale value with the type of people who buy these cars?

The car has been surprisingly reliable, but I’m only doing 8,000km a year. Debating getting employee pricing on something more…Swedish.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sajeev answers:

I’d be shocked if Chrysler makes the brake bits that rest in their branded boxes.  Brakes, like many other parts, are usually made to OEM specifications by a third party supplier. Which is great, except when it’s not. A few thoughts lifted directly from my experiences:

  • Brake pads: high quality ceramic street pads from any parts store (i.e. not the cheapest) stop, leave similar amounts of dust and be silent like an OEM pad.  Plus, if you know a bit more about materials, you can choose an aftermarket pad’s composition (organic, ceramic, semi-metallic, full metallic, etc) to tune the brakes to your particular needs.  I prefer carbon metallic pads, as I’m easy on the brakes (Houston is flat, and metallics heat up quickly here) and they do an amazing job when I do need them.  If not, maybe ceramics are more your speed, so to speak.
  • Brake Rotors:  Even though the dudes at the parts counter swear that the pricer USA-made rotors are better,  I’ve had amazingly good luck with the cheapest, Chinese-made stuff. Perhaps it’s partially because of a friend that tows for a living; he mentioned they are all the same, too.  IMO, the USA made stuff has nicer machining around the hub, but that’s about it.
  • Brake Rotors II: Avoid the ricey aftermarket slotted/drilled rotors (crack prone) and stick with the conventionally vented units.  High Performance cars may have factory drilled/slotted rotors, and if so, stick with OEM just to be safe.

With this in mind, let’s answer your questions:

 1) What do you recommend?

Your car’s rear brakes are like any other Caliber, so I’d recommend any high quality ceramic pad on a cheap replacement rotor. Since the fronts are lifted from the Chrysler LX cars, get a cheap LX rotor and your choice of pad.  Me personally?  Get semi-metallic (carbon metallic) pads all around, especially since a common upgrade for the SRT-4 appears to be the same semi-metallic pad used on the LX Cop Cars.

2) Any good aftermarket manufacturers who meet or exceed OEM standards?

I’m not interested in endorsing one big name pad manufacturer over another for pads. They are all good, and I have yet to regret owning cheap rotors.

3) I know with this car you’ve got the weird fake differential that uses braking to adjust for wheel slip, would non-OEMs eff this up?

I seriously doubt it. But that’s a question for the forums: do some homework, don’t listen to me.

4) When I private sale this next year, will having aftermarket brakes effect the resale value with the type of people who buy these cars?

I think saying that you upgraded to semi metallic pads like the LX Cop Car is a huge plus given the intended buyer.  So maybe you should listen to me.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Charger Live Shots Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:32:15 +0000 2015-Dodge-Charger-10

Alongside the 2015 Dodge Challenger, the 2015 Charger made its debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Charger, which will follow the Challenger to the showroom a few months later, will bring both the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to the party. The former will push 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic, which will also help send the HEMI’s 370 horses and 395 lb-ft of tire-destroying torque to the back or, if equipped, all four wheels.

The big change, however, is its Dart/Durango-esque look, including LED daytime running lights and the blacked-out grill that will likely be obscured by the bull bar of the police-ready variant when the fleet orders are delivered and prepped.

2015-Dodge-Charger-10 2015-Dodge-Charger-13 2015-Dodge-Charger-18 2015-Dodge-Charger-17 2015-Dodge-Charger-7 2015-Dodge-Charger-9 2015-Dodge-Charger-8 2015-Dodge-Charger-23 2015-Dodge-Charger-16 2015-Dodge-Charger-20 ]]> 44
Product Review: LX Dual USB Car Charger with Leather Grip Mon, 03 Feb 2014 13:00:22 +0000

The vehicles we aspire to own have one thing in common: timeless design over mere transportation: Ferraris over Fiats. CUVs instead of sedans, or personal luxury vehicles in lieu of a hatchback. So why not treat yourself to a leather-wrapped charging apparatus? IMG_2492 Oh yes, it charges your smartphone/tablet with precision…but where’s the passion in that? Let’s charge things up with a review enhancement to id America’s “LX Dual USB Car Charger with Leather Grip” with a two-pronged (get it? nevermind…) attack:

  1. Rename this stunning work of modern art with a more fitting title: ZOMG LEATHER USB CHARGER!!!1!  or “ZLUC” for short.
  2. Go down memory lane: showing how much better automobiles from several decades work with a ZLUC in their cigar holes.

And, for this Lincoln-Mercury fanboi, what better starting point than the famous 1961 Lincoln Continental? IMG_2484 As you can clearly see, ZLUC is a fantastic fit in one of the finest automobiles to grace American roads in the 1960s.  The leather-wrapped goodness shows itself off against the strong aluminum elements of the Conti’s dashboard.  Also note how ZLUC is intended for Apple products ONLY… Android users?  No leather wrapped chargers for you. In fact, do yourself a favor and close this browser (probably not Safari, either) and peep those all-plastic chargers on eBay. Philistine! I’m just kidding!  ZLUC’s packaging lists the following items as worthy of getting their electrons massaged by the tender luxury of leather wrapping, in this order:

  1. iPad
  2. iPad mini
  3. iPhone
  4. Tablets & Smartphones

So you Android and Windows people can indeed continue reading! IMG_2498 The Continental Mark III was well-known for the time a C/D scribe made it from coast to coast with no money, only promises to gas station owners underwritten by the sheer class of this stunning machine.  So how dare you consider any non-ZLUC phone charger to duplicate this trip today? IMG_2485 Note how ZLUC not only adds to the Mark III’s faux stitching with its REAL leather wrapping, the contrasting color actually matches the wood grain trim!  And when not needed, it hides easily in the ashtray binnacle so mere mortals who live without leather infused battery charging shall not be violently jealous of your elevated status. Like you Android users! IMG_2499 Obviously the pinnacle of personal luxury design was the late 1970s, before there was a cure for disco fever with downsized machines “from here to eternity.”  And obviously the Continental Mark V was the baddest of them all: three inches longer than a Ford Excursion when Cadillac was downsizing their rides for some stupid energy crisis. How will ZLUC fare against the toughest American Hustler? Could it possibly fail? IMG_2486 ZOMG DAT LEATHER AND WOOD!  You are an absolute fool to not rest your tired booty after a long night of coke snorting disco dancing in the super-classy interior of the Mark V, and let your iPhone recharge via leather wrapped battery rejuvenation! IMG_2489 Quite honestly, you need multiple ZLUC’s for every cigar hole in a Mark V!  Why you need TWO of these beauties for the rear of both door panels. IMG_2491 Did I forget the 1980s?  Hardly.  Yes the 1990s had mobile phones, but never such uncharted luxury as a USB charger wrapped in the same quality leather as the finest German machine of the era. Yes, the ZLUC smells as good as it looks! But I digress.. The futuristic center stack of the 1993-1995 Lincoln Mark VIII looks rather fantastic in its so good it’s almost not faux wood trimming, complete with ZLUC’s matching brown leather wrapping.  Also note the high-tech technology of the blue LED light on ZLUC’s face, proving it’s ready to take your mobile device to the next level… …with luxury in mind! 971620_10151508996138269_1350646760_n Why that leather wrapped charger is so fantastic I will never use my factory installed car phone again…ever!


But how timeless is this classic for one’s cigar hole?  Let’s put it to the ultimate test. IMG_2490 ZOMG TESTAROSSA LEATHER USB CHARGER!!!1!  As the photo shows, Crockett and Tubbs only need a ZLUC in Cocaine White Leather to completely dominate the Drug Trade! Is there a better way to look moody and intense while charging your iPhone? I think not! Can you imagine the great selfies Crockett could post on Instagram if his iPhone was connected to ZLUC? Hashtag that’s what’s In The Air Tonight!

So can you, dear reader, put a price on such perfection?  You fool, the ZLUC is priceless!  Or $24.99 plus shipping, available directly at id America’s suitably upscale website. Well, what are you waiting for?  A leather wrapped invitation to buy one of these babies for yourself?


(id America provided their LX Dual USB Car Charger with Leather Grip in brown leather for this review.)

IMG_2498 web_feature_lxcarcharger IDPA201BRN_angle IMG_2492 IMG_2484 IMG_2485 coverphoto IDPA201BRN_front 971620_10151508996138269_1350646760_n IMG_2490 IMG_2491 IMG_2489 IMG_2499 IMG_2486

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American Graffiti – X Sun, 15 Dec 2013 12:00:08 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Way back in 1973, a relatively young and inexperienced director by the name of George Lucas made a movie that starred a whole bunch of nobodies. Called “American Graffiti,” it turned out to be the little movie that could. Co-Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz for just $775,000, it went on to become one of the most profitable films of all time, making an estimated $200 million dollars and, in the process, turned several of those “nobodies,” people like Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Summers, and Cindy Williams, into bankable stars. In 1995, the National Library of Congress declared it to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation by adding it to the National Film Registry.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the story by revealing any of the finer points of the plot. Generally speaking, it is the story of teenage angst and antics set amid classic cars and punctuated by great old-time rock and roll music and the action follows several teens on a hot August night in the far away year of 1962 as they cruise their cars around the California town of Modesto in search of action and adventure. The movie hit theaters just as the first wave of the baby boom generation, people born between 1946 and 64, began to close-in on the ripe old age of 30 and to see it now is to look back upon the days of their youth through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia.

It has taken me a long time to appreciate it. I was all of 7 years old when American Graffiti went into theatrical release and didn’t actually sit down and watch it until VCRs became commonplace in the American home sometime in the early 1980s. Frankly, I didn‘t get it. For me, a founding member of Generation X who was born in 1966, the movie seemed a cloying tale of ancient silliness that had long since been wiped away the decades that had followed them. I think now, however, that the real problem was that, even though I was the same age as the kids depicted, I would never have done the things they did. Having nothing real in common with any of the characters, I ended up listening to the dated, but admittedly wonderful, soundtrack and watching that old Detroit iron endlessly circling the town. In that regard, at least, the movie reflected a reality that I actually knew. That’s because, despite the 20 years that had elapsed between the action depicted in American Graffiti and the tawdry days of my own youth, virtually nothing had changed.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

I got my driver’s license in early 1983 and by my senior year of high school, 1984, my Nova and I were a regular part of the street scene. My car, armed with a six cylinder and a three on the tree, was never competitive but, thanks to my ability with pin stripe tape and a set of rallye wheels that came from my brother Tracy I had a good looking little cruiser that was both reliable and about as fuel efficient as I could get. It was my buddies who had the heavy iron, Rick with his Javelin at first and later a 69 Charger and Denny with a 340 Demon, who carried the honor of our small group. Even so, we were never the “fast guys.”

The fast guys were older than us. Already working solid $4.00 and hour jobs 40 hours a week, they had real money to throw at their cars. There was Jim, who had an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a 442 front end grafted on. It wasn’t fast, but it was custom. Then came Dave, whose father owned a local body shop, who had a wickedly fast 68 Camaro but who spent most of his time selling and smoking pot rather than actually racing. Next was Bob, who had a custom bodied Comet Caliente that mounted square headlights above a front spoiler do big we called it “The Bulldozer.” And finally Tye, our own local hot-rodder who had finished school just a year earlier. His 68 Mustang had none of the shine or polish the other cars enjoyed, but he worked relentlessly to make it just a little bit faster each week.

Perhaps it was because their cars were so similar beneath the skin, or perhaps it was because, when everything was said and done, they were both a couple of jerks way down deep inside, but for some reason Bob and Tye who should have been, in my opinion, friends were instead mortal enemies. I remember them now, a couple of wanna-be toughs in greasy pants and with cigarettes dangling from their lower lips as they glowered at one another from opposite ends of our local video game arcade’s parking lot. They got there early and staked out their spots, their supporters filling in around them while the rest of us endlessly circled around like a giant school of fish.

Like stags in the rutting season, each boy was compelled to trumpet his prowess in the loudest way possible and every so often, one or the other would jump into his car to start and rev his uncorked engine. If we were lucky, the other boy would respond to the challenge and a burn off contest would ensue. Back and forth it would go, the pressure of imminent conflict gradually increasing by the hour as the witching hour drew nigh. Then, just before midnight, when most of us had to be home, both boys would lead their troops to the battlefield.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

We had a special spot close to the Everett Boeing 747/777 assembly plant. The factory is immense and tens of thousands of people work there. Every shift change floods the roadway with commuters and as a result the plant is served by its own 6 lane wide highway spur. At one end, close to the factory gate is a stoplight to control ingress and egress from the huge parking lots that line the roadway and approximately ¼ mile away is a giant overhead sign that directs traffic onto the main highway, East to Mukilteo or West to Everett. The course was wide, safe and, at anytime other than shift change, totally desolate.

The two caravans of cars, and those of us who had dared to break our curfews to become hangers on, would converge on the spot just prior to the main event. Looking back on it now, the local police had to know what we were doing but for the most part they left us alone. Generally they were good to us so long as we were good to them and, unlike the movie (spoiler alert!) we played no shenanigans. Usually we would get about 30 minutes on-site before a single cruiser would roll through with its lights on reminding us that we needed to go home.

In that 30 minutes we had, however, the ritual was unvaried. Bob and Tye would stage up singly and make a practice run while the other watched. Final adjustments would be made and burn offs would follow. At last, the night culminated as they came to the lone, door handle to door handle.

The stoplight switched to green and both drivers hammered the gas. The sound of their Fords’ engines pounded the night and reflecting back at us off the wall of the factory as the two cars accelerated. Bob hit his shifts perfectly while Tye’s automatic did the work for him as they came out of the hole and ran up to speed. It was neck and neck and then, slowly the Bob’s Bulldozer began to inch away. He stretched out his lead to one car length as then two before they passed the finish line. The winner would slow and turn, making a victory lap along the line of kids while the loser, unwilling to face the jeers of the masses, would continue up the on ramp and onto the freeway.

With the main movers done, the rest of us would take our own turns. Rick or Denny would take on all comers, sometimes winning sometimes losing, while I looked for someone whose engine was as deficient in acceleration as my own lest I be beaten to a pulp every time. There was never money involved, we never had more than a few dollars in our pockets anyhow, it was all for fun and, perhaps, just a bit of pride. And then, as he 30 minute mark would approach, that single police cruiser would come and, as quickly as it started, it would end.

At the end of the movie, we get to find out what happened to the kids those “nobodies” played. As the credits rolled, a single subtitled line told us their fates. Without ruining for you, all I can say is that some of them went far in life and some of them didn’t. I would imagine it is the same for the kids I knew too. Some of us have found our way to places no one would ever have believed we could go while others of us still struggle. The one thing we have in common now are those nights and the heady days that came at the ends of our own childhoods. Maybe one day, someone will make a movie about that.

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Vellum Venom: 2013 Dodge Charger SRT Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:26:11 +0000

@willstpierre tweets:

@SajeevMehta Art history teacher talked about using vellum today. Nobody else knew what it was #bringbackvellumvenom




While Ford and GM pissed away decades of heritage for horribly demure (yet disturbingly plump) full size sedans built on a namby pamby FWD globalized chassis, Chrysler took the hard points of the Mercedes-Benz W211 sedan to make America’s one and only four portal bad motherfu*ker.

Get used to this face, because it’s today’s American Bad Ass Sedan.


Pardon me while I remain infatuated with the SRT’s perfect use of subtle bends to make a seriously muscular nose. The phrase “power dome hood” has been around for decades, but this fascia earns that title many times over.


The hood and fenders meet logically, elegantly against the slender headlights. While the bulldog grille accentuates the nose’s massive flatness, the Charger SRT asserts itself like no other machine in its class.


This design feature (assuming it’s radar cruise control) is far from invisible on the Charger’s facade, but at least the horn-shaped bezel complements the lower bumper’s curvature.

The wave at the bottom of the bumper bends harmoniously with the fog light surround and the grille’s teethy edge. The high spot over the foglight needs a belt sander, but this is a super hormonal family sedan by design. And it still looks the part without being cartoonishly overstyled like a C7 Corvette.


Dodge’s signature grille looks great: the original Viper started it and kudos to Chrysler for not blowing it with a switch to something less recognizable. The four pointed grille takes on a new dimension with the honeycomb treatment inside the “star”, proving this design stands the test of time by never remaining stagnant.

If only the other American brands (except Cadillac) could make a grille design and stick with it. Too bad about that.


Brand honesty is a great thing, but a tall and flat truck-y nose is not.  This design would be amazing on the sleek beak of an old school Plymouth Fury. No matter, the face is suitably modern muscle car angry.  And the staggered headlight sizing is the icing on the cake.


There’s an oh-so-subtle straightening of the wheel well arch as it meets the aggressive flaring of the front bumper. Man, now THAT is trick.


While unstoppable on a slender ’70 Fury, the Charger SRT’s gaping maw needs the shadows of black paint to compensate for this much real estate. But still, look at the power dome hood’s hustle and flow as it sweeps to the windshield!  The number of shadows on the hood (like the hard bend at the center of the hood, and the matching bends at the ends of the fenders) shows great attention to detail on the modern muscle car theme.


So many fast, long and flowing lines.  And none fight with each other! Note the negative area needed for the hood scoop:  there’s plenty of space to make a name for itself (i.e. unique shapes) on the Charger’s vellum.

9_2Another bonus: the hood scoop’s honeycomb is wide open: no solid blocks of cheapness here.

9_3Could this be a late 4th Generation Camaro? No matter, this gives the Charger SRT even more street cred, since the Camaro is now a plump tribute to the first generation of Chevy’s Pony Car.

10There’s a reason why that nose is painted black: it’s huuuuuge. The added contrast might remove visual bulk, but the middle band (the part below the grille, above the valence) needs body color paint instead.

11Six point four liters of REPRESENT: no greenwashed pretensions like Ford’s Ecoboost V6 (formerly and rightly called TwinPower), no excuses given. It’s just another American bad ass, right?

12With our last installment in mind, the Charger’s elegant side cove comes correct. While far cooler if the cove started on the fender (like a C5 Vette) it’s still a nice touch considering the height and visual heft of today’s sedans.

12_1Clean integration of the wiper arm and cowl cover. Nice.

The American Bad Ass has no DLO FAIL.


Such a perfect meeting of A-pillar, fender and front door! And to everyone else: how frickin’ hard is this to make?  No excuses, just do it!


Even the panel gaps are close enough to perfect. This is how you craft a sedan!

15_1The black Charger nearby highlighted the door cove’s flowing lines as it reaches the C-pillar. Sure, like all new cars, it’d be nice to section 1-3 inches of door sheet metal to lower the body and visually lengthen it…perhaps one day we will get that design aesthetic back.


Like the A-pillar, the B-pillar is sleek and clean.  The black trim always helps integrate the glass into the rest of the body: necessary when your greenhouse is sleek, fast and a bit on the skinny side.

17Not so great at the C-pillar: the greenhouse ends in a BMW-style Hofmeister Kink, but the door’s cut line refuses to play ball.  Instead of continuing the natural curve, it bends backward before repeating the kink’s curvature. Quite static and sad for a muscle car, actually.

18But there’s nothing but love for the black-chrome SRT rimz with Brembo stoppers. #wheelporn


Apparently the SRT brand has some curb (rash) appeal.  Literally.

19_1Gas filler door bisects the quarter panel with elegance and symmetry.  Nice.

19_2Aside from the usual complaints about sky-high belt lines, huge flat buffalo butts and the need for dubs to fill the gap…well, the Charger still has a nice profile.  I’d lose that spoiler in a heartbeat: it accentuates the buffalo butt.

20The door cut line and that Hofmeister kink look fine from here, even if they are too slow or static. The tapered C-pillar works well with the obligatory muscle car fastback roof line, but it’s a shame the lower half (i.e. the quarter panel) lacks tapering (inwards) to match.This touch helps tremendously in reducing automotive buffalo butt.

21Still, this sedan is a looker. The flat door handles look great, and there’s no DLO FAIL. The flat edge at the rear window gives a little muscle, keeping it from looking flabby.  Just a little more tumblehome at the B-pillar is all that’s needed for maximum style.

22 The C-pillar extends above the plane of the rear window.  Perhaps it’s a hat tip to the earlier Chargers, and perhaps it does a fantastic job keeping this area from being too flat and boring.

23But from this angle, the black plastic finish panel needs to go.  Painted metal would look much cooler.  Or just make the whole thing flush with the rear glass.

24Naaaah.  The effect is that of an American Bad Ass. Close enough to perfection for a mass-produced machine.

25An elegant backside, provided one never steps back to notice the height and bulk.

26A buffalo butt for sure, but the strong vertical cut line at the end of the tail light assembly isn’t without its charms. Too bad this Charger is so tall yet short on overhangs: more style from its 1960s forefather could complete the look.
26_1That hard vertical cut line ends rather abruptly at the base of the bumper’s sweeping bend.  A rounded edge is better than a 90-degree ending in this case.

28I don’t believe an American Bad Ass needs ‘dem fancy ‘furrin diffusers on its bumper. Because this is a bit much.


Especially considering the super clean and recognizable-from-a-mile-away tail lights.  The LED perimeter is a bit of old-school Detroit, from an era when beancounters had no say when a design studio demanded a feature, an era when insurance companies and beancounters didn’t dictate a vehicle’s design (expensive to replace full width lights)…so add the modest brand badging (aside from the dealership tattoo on top of the trunk) and the Charger SRT embodies many of the traits we love in American sedans.

In a modern tall+boxy package, sadly.  With a warranty, gladly.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Vellum Venom: 1970 Dodge Charger RT-SE Tue, 17 Sep 2013 13:21:13 +0000

My departure from the cloistered world of automotive design was anything but pleasant: leaving the College for Creative Studies scarred changed me, possibly ensuring the inability to conform to PR-friendly autoblogging. Luckily I am not alone. While Big Boss Man rests in Chrysler’s doghouse, a remotely nice comment about their door handles perked the ears of the local Chrysler PR rep…and she tossed me a bone.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Hovas’ Hemi Hideout: so here’s a slice of Mopar history worthy of a deep dive into the Vellum. Oh, thanks for the invite, Chrysler.


An unforgettable face: the iconic 1968-1970 design was Chrysler’s most memorable effort to spook insurance and safety special interest groups into forcing “better” vehicles on the public. Sure, we’re better off now, but is a fragile chrome halo of a bumper really that useless?

Isn’t this bumper (and complex hidden headlights) worth the extra insurance premiums? Worth it to have a disturbingly clean and minimalist design?  Probably not…


But still, you can’t argue with how stunning and shocking this is.  While nothing like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, the Charger’s front clip is a timeless work of art.  The blackout grille extends over the headlights, encased in a deep silver rim, topped with a chrome bumper…wrapped up with a name: Charger R/T.  This nose and this name made a promise to would-be new car racers of the era, and its aged phenomenally well.

That said, my favorite grille of this body style was the cleanest: the 1968 Charger was the one to have. It makes the otherwise clean 1970 Charger look downright fussy!


Things fall apart as you look closer, however.  Maybe the solid grilles over the headlights look cheap, and the panel gaps are too sloppy. The round signal lights look like a leftover assembly from the 1950s. Or perhaps the license plate should be located even lower as to not interfere with the bumper’s strong minimal form.


Even though the front end looks flat from many angles…

Note how the chrome bumper tapers in near the headlights, then pushes back out at the ends of the fenders. The silver rim accentuates this dance, ditto the fenders and hood.  But that black sheet of grille?  It peaks at the middle and nothing more.  The different high/low spots are phenomenally beautiful, it is fantastically executed on this front fascia.  5

The hood’s recesses and that strong center mohawk add a bit of excitement to an otherwise far-too-subtle design for a Mopar Muscle car. If you had a problem with Mopar Minimalism!


Somehow I doubt the meaty rubber trim does anything to protect the Charger’s painted body from the front bumper.  Not to mention the horrible fitment of this (replacement?) trim. I’d hate to be a broke-ass dude in the 1980s when someone slams their 5-mph bumper’d Monte Carlo into my otherwise cherry 1970 Charger.  The damage would be extensive…and would go unrepaired!



Hood pins are cool…but following their cable to this horrendous gap in the rubber trim leaves much to be desired. Damn, son!

7_1But it’s less offensive when you step back a little.


The only thing cooler than Rallye wheels and Goodyear white letter polyglass tires on this Charger would be the new-age 17″ repros with fat steel-belted rubber.  I love the proportioning of a proper 1970s muscle car with 17″ rolling stock: it’s perfection.


The hard bend (with a slight upward angle) at the end of the fenders just “ends” me. It’s another snapshot on vehicle design that emulates the timelessness of the infinity pool in modern architecture. Combine with the Charger’s long front end and deep fenders (i.e. the space between the hood cutline and the end of the fender) and this is simply a fantastic element.


The hood’s negative areas add some necessary excitement, otherwise this would be too boring for an American muscle car.  There’s just too much real estate not to do…something!


The signal repeaters at the beginning of the negative area’s cove are a styling element that I wish could come back.  But no, we need standard bluetooth and keyless ignitions instead…probably.


I’d trade all that standard technology for a hood this menacing, this modern.

Mid Century Muscle?

Mad Men Mopar?

Don Draper’s mid-life crisis machine?

All of the above. 13
The intersection of the cowl, fender, hood and door isn’t terribly elegant.  Newer cars have “hidden” cowls, an advancement that’d make the Charger shine. Because not having the fenders and hood sweep over THIS space does THAT front end a huge disservice.  Plus the panel gaps kinda suck, too.

At least there’s no DLO fail.  But imagine this angle with the 1980s technology of hidden cowl panels!


A little faster A-pillar would also be nice, it’s too static just like the cowl. But asking for such changes 40 years later is beyond idiotic. And while the R/T door scoop isn’t nearly as hideous as the afterthought scoop on the 1999 Ford Mustang, you gotta wonder how “ricey” this looked to old school hot-rodders making sleepers out of Tri-Five Chevys and boring 1960s sedans.


The pivot point for the vent window is an interesting bit of kit.


Chrome elbow sleeves, because a computer couldn’t bend/cut one piece of bling for us back then. Bummer.


Yeah, the R/T’s useless scoop is pretty much Muscle Car Rice.  While it kinda accentuates the genesis of the door’s muscular bulge, it’s completely superfluous. 19

Chrysler’s side view mirrors for the time were pretty cool by themselves…but they didn’t match the max wedge (get it?) demeanor of the front end.  20
I never noticed the three lines inside the R/T’s slash.  Definitely adds some excitement without today’s emblem marketing overkill.


Note how the R/T scoop does match the contrasting muscular wedge of the door.  Problem is, the scoop is obviously a tacked-on afterthought.  Negative area like the hood was a smarter alternative. But the interplay between doors lower wedge and the strong upper wedge coming from the fender is quite fetching.  As if the Charger is ripped from spending years a the gym.


Yup, toned and perfected at the gym.  Too bad the door handles belong on Grandma’s Plymouth.  Perhaps we all shamelessly raid the parts bin…22_1

The SE package was always the Super Classy Excellent model to have.  The vinyl top, these “proto-brougham” emblems and the interior upgrades are totally worth it. What’s up with the pure modern “SE” lettering with that almost malaise-y script below to explain what SE stands for? I’d cut the emblem in the middle and only use the upper half.

I’d save the lower half for the disco era, natch. I mean, obviously!


Vintage Mopar marketing sticker?  Check.


Classic Detroit is present in the Charger’s profile.  Long hood, long dash-to-axle ratio, long fastback roof, long quarter panels and a long deck. That’s a lotta long!

The only thing too short are those doors: the cutline should extend several inches back for maximum flow.  And from the subtle curve in the front fender to the stunning hips above the rear axle, does the Charger ever flow!


Aside from the obvious problem with rearward visibility, how can you hate this buttress’d roof?  The fastback C-pillar is a long, daring and classy affair when trimmed with chrome and textured vinyl.  Keeping the roof from being too boring was the rear window’s use of a different vanishing point than the C-pillar, which translates into a different stop on the blue body.


To make up for the different vanishing points, more chrome and vinyl. I can dig it, but perhaps such design novelties are better off on a less mainstream product.  Or perhaps not…because how many people wanted a Charger back in 1970?  And how many people want one now?  Me thinks the number is exponentially higher today.

Yes, I know these pictures suck. But you can’t imagine how painful it was to coax a cheapie digital camera to do the right thing under the harsh lighting provided by half a million dollars worth of vintage neon lights. And now I hate neon lights.


Chrome and vinyl: so happy together.


The different vanishing points for the C-pillar and rear window make for a little problem: the trunk’s cutline should be much closer to the rear window.  And while that’d make a stupid-long trunk, it would look stupid cool.

Just in case you didn’t know where the new Challenger got that fuel door idea from. Too bad the new Challenger doesn’t have the Charger RT’s sense of chrome trimmings elsewhere to integrate it into the package.  That said, this is a beautiful piece of outstanding metal on a minimalistic body. Which makes it a wart…and by definition, warts must be destroyed.

Killed with fire. Or splashed with acid.  Or whatever it takes for a Dermatologist to knock ‘em off a beautiful body.


A part of me wishes the Charger’s back-end had the same round chrome bumper treatment as the front.  And no chrome around the red tail lights.  Actually just graft the front end entirely back here, and replace the black grille with red tail lights. A bit stupid perhaps, but it’d make a completely cohesive and eye-catching design.


That said, the Charger ain’t no slouch in the posterior.  The vertical bumperettes need to find lodging elsewhere, ditto the round backup lights.  But the space between the lights is the perfect location for a branding emblem, and the impossibly thin decklid looks quite sharp.


There’s a subtle dovetail at the end of the trunk, a nod to modern aerodynamic designs. I love it, don’t you?


Can’t say the same for the undefined space between the rear bumper and the quarter panel.  Yeesh, this was acceptable in 1970?


The trunk’s gap also leaves something to be desired. While I like the interplay between the chrome bumper and the tail light trim above the license plate area, it’s a bit too subtle.  Wait, did I actually mean what I said?

The difference in “heights” at the license plate should either be a bit more aggressive, or completely, exactly the same as the rest of the light/bumper ratio.


Maybe the crude black paint on the tail light’s chrome trim is the byproduct of a terrible restoration…but considering factory correct restorations elsewhere include similarly sloppy craftsmanship to mimic the factory…

Oh boy.


The tail lights are sunken significantly into the body, just like the grille up front.  Me likey enough to adore: such use of aggressive negative areas needs to come back in a BIG way.


There’s something about the chrome trim’s application around the trunk lock…


Even the camera-infurating action of all those neon lights can’t hide the ugliness here. Maybe my idea of having an all-encompassing chrome bumper instead of chrome around the tail light isn’t such a stupid idea after all. It’d certainly address this problem.


The round backup light does this design no favors. Exposed screws on the chrome bezel makes it worse. Weren’t there some square lenses Chrysler coulda parts-bin’d instead?

38 No matter: the 1970 Charger is an unforgettable machines.  I can’t imagine owning one when new, only to move on to tackier metal from the disco era.  And if a 1970 Charger owner was loyal enough to stick around during the Iaococca era and beyond, well, they’d be justified to hate everything made after 1970. Just look at that roof!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Enter The Bigtruck: SRT Experience Reviewed Mon, 19 Aug 2013 13:00:55 +0000 bts

We’d like to welcome TTAC contributor, point-of-view video auteur, and fan favorite Bigtruckseries to the site for his first contribution. Bigtruck, as many of our readers know, is the owner of a Chrysler 300C. After adding a Jeep Cherokee SRT-8 to his fleet, he decided to attend the SRT Experience and chronicle the event for us. Bigtruck’s not the only reader we’d like to see contributing feature articles, so if you’re interested, please contact us. In the meantime, enjoy a one-hand-on-the-B-pillar romp through Chrysler’s enthusiast event. Naturally, there’s plenty of video! — JB

“SRT” stands for “Street & Racing Technology”. I always assumed it stood for “Street Racing Technology”, but for litigious reasons, “street racing” is something that I’d doubt Chrysler LLC would want to promote.

SRT EXPERIENCE is a driving course designed to acclimate SRT drivers with the extreme handling abilities of their vehicles using tight race courses and slaloms under instructor supervision. My nearest SRT Experience track was in Englishtown NJ, a 56 mile drive from my house in Queens. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day yesterday with calm 80 degree temperatures.

Each course lasts from 8AM – 4:30 PM. Upon arrival, we were given a name badge and an “SRT” branded flash drive. Each car has a Race Keeper digital media recorder which created video on our drives to keep for Facebook or Youtube. We were provided with a full breakfast and lunch with a very NASCARish – country western feel: Hot Dogs, burgers, bacon, eggs and pulled pork among them. Each course segment had their own coolers and snack racks where we could eat chips, cookies, Gatorade or soda on a whim.

There were approximately 40 SRT owners at the event. We marveled at each other’s cars and mods as we arrived in the parking lot. No Vipers… plenty of Chargers, Jeeps and Challengers and 2 other 300SRT just like mine. I’ve never seen that many SRT vehicles in the same place before and the immediate thoughts about “global warming” and “fuel costs” were inevitable.

The cost of the event was $699 for people who just want to try out the cars While this would be good for car reviewing outfits that want to sample all the vehicles at once, it’s quite expensive if you were “considering” buying an SRT instead of a 5.7-L and wanted to test drive the vehicles first. The cost for non-drivers is $150 which is really steep considering they aren’t driving, but I’m sure the cost of feeding them is factored in.

I’d like to see Chrysler offer a discount of the track experience to people who purchased the cars used – perhaps a 50% discount – and perhaps a shorter course (i.e. 10 – 12am).

Included vehicles were:
3 x 2013 Chrysler 300SRT
3 x Dodge Charger SRT/ Super Bee SRT
3 x 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
3 x Dodge Challenger 392 SRT

The Dodge Viper was NOT included in the experience. A real let down – but understandable considering the price of the car ranges well beyond $100,000. It was available on the road course in the first year, 2005, and I think the first half of the second year, but they lost two or three in that time. One was literally ripped in half when a lady spun it sideways into a barrier. After $200,000 in losses, they restricted them to the autocross portion for a few years. They took them out completely during the production hiatus. Might not bring them back, given the new hard edge they have now – even the autocross course might not be safe.

The first course was two Slalom laps using the Challenger. The objective was to complete it fastest without knocking over cones (2 second penalty per) and coming to a final dead stop in a stop zone. I ran 34 seconds in the first run with 1 cone penalty and 34 seconds in the second run with no penalties. I easy acclimated to the Chargers and the 300 (since I own one), but the Challenger took more getting used to because It felt lighter and abnormally long through the Slalom – probably my least favorite to drive.

The second course was a Drag strip where we had to face off against another driver in the Charger. We were to not only start properly as soon as the tree’s green light hit, but come to a full stop at the end of the drag and then make a turn through into another slalom with a full stop in the pit. I won 3 out of the 4 races.

It was quite funny that the instructors instructed us to drive with hands in the 10-2 position, but I naturally used my right hand on the wheel with left hand holding the window frame to drive – and still did it perfectly. I was so used to driving that way, I even used my turn signal!

After lunch, we went to the main roadway for alternating drives in the 300, Charger, Challenger and Jeeps. We were first instructed how to keep a position behind the instructor – basically following his tracks. We were not allowed to turn off ESC or pass and needed to keep a 3 car length behind the next car.

We recently leased a 2014 JEEP SRT to accompany my 300SRT so we have a second track experience which I’ll have my girlfriend attend. I’d still have to pay $150 to sit with her through the course if I wanted to accompany her. The 2014 JGCSRT SRT was the one product I went to the SRT Experience simultaneously determined to beat on, but absolutely terrified to do so.

I’ve gotten so used to speeding in my sedans that I’m absolutely terrified of speeding in an SUV due to the ride height. There was a lingering fear in my mind that my Jeep SRT joyriding would end in a rollover. It didn’t. The Jeep SRT handles like magic and the suspension does everything it has to in order to stay planted. It’s fast, but the 2010 model seemed faster – partly because it weighed around 500 pounds less. I also preferred the look of the original. In white paint, the 2014 looks more like a Porsche Cayenne than a Chrysler product – wherein the 1st generation model was unmistakable for a “Jeep” at any distance.

The 8 Speed transmission adds just 1 MPG (during Highway-speed heavy driving rather than city) and the electronic shifter STILL SUCKS. I haven’t been happy with the 8-speed since I test drove the Audi A8 – long before the Chryslers got it.

The Jeep offers Launch control with the ability to personally set the RPM meter at which to launch, but just like the Charger, Challenger and 300, the Jeep feels too heavy.

On the street – these cars are monsters… especially when facing down 4-cylinders, and v6 powered econoboxes dominating the roadways, but on a track, these cars are overwhelmed by mass and immense dimensions. The highest speeds we saw (even the pros) were well below 101 mph and pushing them into the 80′s on straights caused us to panic break constantly due to the foresight that stopping these beasts or forcing them to turn once we past 75mph was tremendously hard. Driving behind instructors was a harrowing experience. We were supposed to maintain 3-car length distances, but it was too difficult to accelerate to high speed when the instructor did, stay on his tracks, and then decelerate around turns. I found myself staying 1 car length behind, constantly worried that my pursuer would rear-end me.

At one point, the instructor of a Challenger took a hard skid right off the track, through the grass and into the oncoming lane. He had a young non-driver in the car with him. Had there been an oncoming vehicle, they could have been hit.

I learned plenty about the limitations of the SRT vehicles as I abused them. All of these cars are straight line cruisers only. Even from what I’ve seen of the more attractive Viper SRT, it appears that the new Corvette is more ready for the party.

Overall, my experience at SRT’s track meet was fantastic. Lincoln doesn’t offer a product like this and Cadillac doesn’t offer a program like this for their V-series. Neither Mercedes nor BMW offer these programs either. I’m proud to be a 3-time SRT owner and hopefully the products will continue to improve with aluminum blocks and better fuel economy.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Of Portal Handling Pleasures Tue, 09 Jul 2013 12:00:29 +0000
Jeremy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

G’day from Down Under. Big fan of the Vellum Venom column of yours. Car design, and more importantly the smaller details of car design have always fascinated me, even though I couldn’t design a car if my life depended on it. The first bit of design that really hit me was the first appearance of BMW’s “Angel Eyes” on the E39 M5.

Anyway, I’ve always wondered when and more importantly why have the “pull-type” door handles become the norm?

Excluding exotics, pretty much every car on sale now has this type of door handle. It’s obviously not a legal requirement, as the Civic hatch (among others) has “hidden” rear handles. I do think it’s boring though – every door handle is the same. It seems gone are the days of the NA MX-5 handles, or even the door handles on the EA-BF Ford Falcons.

Sajeev answers:

Agreed 100%, and thank you very kindly.  Your (wonderful) note poked at another one of my sore spots in modern automotive design: but while DLO FAIL is a horrid workaround, pull-out handles are merely a disappointment. But are these part of our mandatory modern automotive design lexicon, like goofy tall hoods needed to pass muster with Euro NCAP pedestrian protection standards?

Nope: along with your examples, peep ‘dat Dodge Charger SRT8 above. Two generations of the Dodge Charger wear unique, almost-flush mount door handles! For all the grief this website gives DaimlerChrysler-CerberusChrysler-FIATChrysler for their evil ways (baby) can you believe someone allowed the Dodge version of the Chrysler 300 to have unique door handles?

So Chrysler’s got themselves a mighty-fine handle.  Now take the Toyota Venza for an example of a pull-out handle.

To Toyota’s credit, their corporate pull-out handle is differentiated (by model) through unbelievably simple yet clever/unique door skin stampings: giving the impression of a different handle with just a tweak to the negative area underneath.  Not to say that Toyota has only one type of pull-out handle, far from it.  Which begs the question, why make every unit a pull-out handle casting if you’re making multiple designs for various vehicles?

I think there are multiple reasons, and cost has nothing to do with it.

First, embracing basic Physics: a door handle that pulls straight out shall open a door more efficiently than a flush mount handle with its “dog leg” hinges.  Why pull up and around when you can pull straight out?

Second, durability:  flush door handles with the aforementioned dog leg hinges are less durable.  Take the ones my Lincoln Mark VIII’s door handle (above).  The dog legs behind the plastic bezel are made of cheap pot metal, and careless user inputs mean they will shatter in cold weather…when trying to open a door as magnificently huge as said Lincoln.  They needed to be higher quality (i.e. more $$$) because of point Number Three.

Third, weight: today’s doors are larger (taller) than ever, with more side-impact protection than 20-ish years ago, more speakers, extra sound deadening material (including thicker glass) tighter weatherstripping (more force sucking shut in certain weather conditions) and more power features (power windows, locks, key-less transmitter sensors, etc.).  So, assuming similar construction and material choices (i.e. plastic, not steel) why would you work harder operating a dog leg hinge?

When you combine my three points, you have a slam dunk case for widespread adoption of pull-out handles. Assuming the same level of material quality in both designs, the pull out handles are more durable over years/decades of use.

About your “when” question: the ’00s were the era of abandoning flush mount handles, as almost every mainstream vehicle was redesigned in this decade. Except for the Ford Ranger (2011, out of neglect) and the Dodge Charger/Challenger (out of Who The Hell knows).  Am I right or wrong here?

Anyway, thank you all for reading. Have a great week.

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Two Fri, 31 May 2013 22:52:04 +0000 2014 Fiat 500e, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Because of my RA (Range Anxiety), I drove Zippy Zappy gently on day 1, plugged the EV in immediately upon arriving at home and nixed my impromptu drive to the beach. (I haven’t named a car since I was 12 but the garish orange hue and pill-box proportions have made the name stick.) Thanks to my prudence (or was it fear?) I awoke to a 90% charge. According to Fiat’s computer, that was good for an 87 mile journey, plenty for my 52 mile one-way commute. Of course, it was after I started climbing up the mountain pass that separates my home from civilization that I asked “how am I going to charge today?”

You see, [for me] planning is something you do after you meet a problem, then you back-date the plan so you can claim you were prepared all along. As a result, I decided to turn off the heater in the car to save mileage, after all it was “only” 43 outside. The heater is thing most people don’t think about when it comes to EVs. In your gasoline car, you use the heater all you want and don’t run the A/C to save gas because heat is a “waste” product of combustion engines. EVs turn this logic on its head. Since there’s very little heat happening under the hood they have to use resistive heating elements to heat the cabin. According to Toyota, heat pumps would be more efficient but they cost way more and add a great deal of complexity and weight. Running the A/C in the little Fiat consumed about 1.5kW of power while the heater on medium sucked down nearly 8kW. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I decided the heated seat wasn’t cutting it and I needed to be more realistic so I set the climate control to 68. Let the future be damned!

Once on the freeway I realized my RA had returned. I decided to set the cruise control to a decidedly pokey 59 MPH, a speed that even tractor trailers don’t stoop to in California (even though their speed-limit is 55). At this speed I was able to commune with other EV drivers on the highway  (the ones I normally fly by in the left lane.) When I drove a BMW Active E, I got waves and thumbs up from the LEAF drivers. I decided to try the same in Zippy Zappy but the lack of decals announcing the Fiat’s electrification caused confusion in the LEAF drivers and just made them swerve wildly thinking I was some crazy person out to get them. My bad.

2014 Fiat 500e Charging Illegally, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

55 miles later (I decided to take the flattest and shortest route) I arrived at work where I discovered my RA was unjustified. I had 45% of my battery left. Charge time at 120V was 12 hours and 45 minutes. Electrical codes in the USA limit the 120V EVSE plugs to about 12A which isn’t very fast. Logically 8 hours at 120V would be more than enough to get me back home, but since I work in an area that has only street parking, things had to get creative. Extension cord plugged into the outlet in the hall (the breaker that wouldn’t trip), down the hall, through my office, out the window, across the lawn, over the sidewalk and into the street. I don’t recommend trying this in San Francisco, I’m sure an ADA compliance mob would stone you to death. (If you are meter maid in the Bay Area, I deny all knowledge of the picture above. It was someone else.)

After a few hours, I bothered to look into charging stations. After all, I did sign up for a ChargePoint account a while back. Low and behold there was a charging station just around the corner charging $0.49/kWh. Looking at the map it’s obvious what a year has done to the EV landscape, there are easily three times the number of public EV charging stations in the Bay Area than there were a year ago. Because I’m selfish, what mattered was there were now EV stations near ME.

2014 Fiat 500e, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ll digress for a moment. People call the thing on the curb with the cord and plug a “charging station” but that is something of a naming error. All modern EVs have on-board chargers. That thing that you connect to your car is an over glorified “smart” extension cord. The purpose of the “charging station” is to tell the car what kind of power is available (120/240 V) how much current the car is allowed to draw and to provide some safety mechanisms to protect the person plugging in. All the magic is happening *in* the car. As parts are getting cheaper and more widely available, faster chargers are being integrated into EVs. The first LEAF’s 3.3kW charger took 9 hours to fill the battery at 240V, barely 2.5x faster than at 120V. A year later most EVs use a 6.6kW charger that completes the task in 1/6th the time. Good news for me. Since I’m supposed to be getting more exercise I drove a few blocks, plugged in and walked back. Two hours later I had for the first time in my life, a full EV battery and I have a picture to prove it.

Drive Route With Topo

Feeling like an ePrisoner eLiberated from their eBondage, I renewed my pledge to test drive Zippy Zappy like any other car. That meant taking Highway 35 home. If you aren’t familiar with the Bay Area, the coastal mountain range separates the population from the sea. At some point a brilliant highway engineer decided to put one of the most scenic highways in the state along the ridge of the range. The trip (shown above with an elevation profile) takes me from sea level to 3,157 ft, then down to about 400 ft with plenty of ups, downs, sweeping curves and corkscrews. If you haven’t driven it and live nearby, shame on you.

About the time I reached that first 2,000+ foot blip on the left of the graph, I had a mild panic attack. ZZ said I wouldn’t reach my destination. Had I bitten off more than she could chew? No, because the software in the car is only using your past record for future range. By climbing rapidly, it assumed the next 40 miles would be on a similar incline. Don’t blame the software. Blame me. The driver is in control so I had to take my (limited) experience into account. I decided not to bail (and charge in Palo Alto). I pressed onwards. (But I set the cruise control to 50.) In the process I snapped some cool photos.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


My faith was rewarded as I neared CA Highway 17 with a battery still 40% charged. I decided to throw caution to the wind and visit downtown Los Gatos. The EV gods smiled upon my diversion and without looking for one, I stumbled upon a brace of EV chargers. One was occupied by a decidedly non-EV BMW 760iL, which I briefly considered putting a door ding in “accidentally” as I got out.  One expensive carrot cake and a 1.8kWh charge later I headed home.

Since I didn’t make it to the beach yesterday, I decided today would be the day. Thanks to my nifty iPhone app from ChargePoint I found that there was an EV station operated by the City of Capitola By The Sea just two blocks from my favorite beach dive restaurant. A quick numbers game in my head told me that 2 hours would not only power me back up the hill to home, but also put me in a better charge situation. There was just one problem. OK, two. The EV station had one broken charge cord and some douche in a LEAF had occupied the other for 2 hours over the parking limit and counting. What would you have done?

Columb ChargePoint Station, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I sat in the car and contemplated my options. 1 unplug him and plug myself in (not on his dime, the sessions stop when you unplug). 2 leave him a nasty note and hunt for another station. 3 wait him out. I waited for 20 minutes at which point he had been over his 4 hour parking limit (clearly signed) by almost 3 hours (according to the charging station). I thought: lave a note explaining why I had unplugged his ride so that he (or maybe she) wouldn’t retaliate by unplugging me when they returned. No pen. I took the high road and moved on to an EV station 7 blocks away.

After a stroll along the beach and dinner, we walked by the LEAF (still plugged in) and left him a more tactfully-worded note than I had planned. I reminded the driver that the spot clearly said “4 hour limit” and that there are other EV drivers out on the road that need to charge. I may or may not have indicated that I would unplug his shiny red LEAF with “NOGAAS” license plate should I see it there for 4 hours again. Or maybe not. Is this the start of “plug rage” perhaps??

Upon returning to ZZ, something else crossed my mind. This EV station is new, and like others is no longer in a prime parking area. Instead they jammed it at the back of the parking lot. Preferential EV treatment may be starting to end as early as it started.

EVs in the mist, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day two and 155 miles ended with a 68% charge.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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Bosch Launches EV Home Charger With Sub-$450 MSRP Fri, 10 May 2013 15:19:44 +0000 power_max4_LG-main

Bosch has introduced a home charging point for EVs that costs half as much as current competitors, which will no doubt be welcome news for current and prospective EV buyers.

Dubbed the PowerMax, the charger is said to be capable of 240V charging at half the time of the equivalent Level 2 chargers currently available on the market. The PowerMax comes in a 16 amp configuration with a 12 foot cord or a 30 amp version with a 25 foot cord. Bosch said that it was able to lower the price of their charger by eliminating the overly-long cords featured in many competitive units. Sales begin in June, and while a home evaluation is included in the price, installation is extra.

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New Or Used? : What Isn’t Better Than A Panther Edition Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:00:42 +0000
TJ writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Need your assistance for a fellow panther lover (my aunt) who is going to be looking for a new ride this fall.

She currently has a Mercury Grand Marquis (her second or third) and loves the car and would replace it with another in a heartbeat if they were still for sale.  If you’re asking why she’s getting rid of it, there isn’t any particular reason.

My aunt always replaces her cars ever 3-5 years (so B&B please no exhortations to keep the car, that was my original advice and it isn’t happening) and this one is coming up on it’s expiration date.  A word about my mother’s family so you realize how committed they are to this sort of car: My mom is one of 4 sisters, and between them, they’ve owned (at least) 2 Cadillac Devilles, 2 Eldorados, the aforementioned MGMs, a Buick Lesabre or Park Ave, and a Lincoln Town Car.  You get the idea.  They like them big, floaty, with a cavernous trunk, and preferably with a leather couch or recliner in the front.

I’m gonna try to take her to the Miami auto show this fall so she can see sample all her options at once, but wanted to see if you had any guidance.  Of the new cars that will be on offer, what is the next best thing to her beloved Panther?  My aunt realizes most people have migrated to SUVs/CUVs, but she says they won’t work because she finds them too difficult to climb in and out of (she’s 65 and barely over 5′ tall).

My first two suggestions were shot down, which were a Chrysler 300 (does’t like the styling) and a Chrysler Town and Country (doesn’t want a minivan).  I still hope that maybe sitting in the 300, or seeing the versatility of the T&C may change her mind (she has two still growing grandkids).  The next best option I could think of was the Ford Flex, with the Taurus being a distant 4th.  Any other suggestions?

I’ll have her look at the LaCrosse, Genesis, Azera, Avalon, and ES350, but I’m concerned they will be too small and/or not cushy enough, and the Cadillac XTS may be too pricey and not torquey enough.  While she is a 65 year old Grandmother, after 20 years of Ford 4.6 and GM 3800 ownership, she’s also used to lazy, effortless low end grunt helping her force her way through South Florida’s insane traffic, and I know the XTS has been hit hard in reviews for its combination of a peaky engine, high curb weight, and tall gearing.  Have I missed any other worthwhile options?  Thanks for your help.

Steve Says:

Every model you mentioned from the Lacrosse to the ES350 offers more overall interior space than the ol’ Grand. Though they all fall short of the Panther when it comes to the, “Why the hell would anyone buy a new one?” factor.

As for the ride, the Hyundai models ride a bit more taut than the others. So scratch those two.

The LaCrosse would be a good blue plate special car for her given her apparent apathy for quality interior components. But I would check to see if the interior design agrees with her first.

The ES350 is wonderful, but steep. If your Aunt has a liking for large Marge levels of interior space and a floaty ride, I would strike a deal for the outgoing prior gen Avalon. It also has a cost contained interior that is thankfully two clicks above the last Grand Marquis redesign, and you may be able to cut her a good deal.

Then again, the Shoney’s capital of the world may not offer much in the ways of discounts for a Camry-esque product.

I understand your kvetching about this expenditure. My own mom has that same Floridian ailment that is replacing a perfectly good car for no other reason than the changing of the tides. Every ten years I buy her a new Camry. Why? Beats me. However the depreciation works out to only about $150 a month. For what works out to $5 a day, I can deal with it.

I would focus on helping her with the selling of her car and the negotiation process, if she desires your help, and start with having her rent a Buick LaCrosse for the day. You may be able to find an Avalon for rent as well. This is Florida after all. Give her a couple days to make the decision, and remember to be a mensch when she picks that aqua blue model with the glossy white vinyl roof.

Sajeev Says:

I’m glad to hear she doesn’t like the 300: not because it’s a horrible vehicle, but because it doesn’t personify the values present in Panther Love.  Those proper American Sedans doing their job since the 1950s. That’s history, and that’s okay.  Now she needs to learn to compromise…somewhere.

Aside from a CPO Mercedes with some sort of thumpin’ V8 under the hood, there’s nothing in play that’s torquey enough to be a contender in the motor and styling department.  Make sure she test drives all the cars mentioned above, but there are two machines for me in this situation: the Toyota Avalon and the Camry LE. Yup, the LE.

Granted, I haven’t driven a new Camry yet, and I didn’t like the previous model (because we still had Panthers back then) but this is probably the best machine for a numb, floaty, and isolating cabin.  The Avalon? Perhaps better, but maybe not enough to justify the price.

I once grudgingly admitted that my last trip through NY, NJ and PA was far more pleasant because the (last gen) Camry LE (with those tall sidewalls) did a good job obliterating every bump on the road. While it wasn’t that unique blend of isolating-while-inspiring-confidence like RWD Panther Love, it worked. Aside from the lack of torque, the Camry might be the best bet here.  And I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

]]> 44
New Improved 2013 Volt – Now Charges 30 Percent Slower (Push “Leaf” Button To Fix) Tue, 04 Dec 2012 18:20:04 +0000

In late 2011, photos of melted and damaged Volt charging cords appeared on the internet. GM initially blamed wiring problems in the electrical outlets, eventually, the company announced that they would replace all the 120V chargers in all 2011 and some 2012 models with a new unit. About 9,500 charging units were replaced.

When the 2013 model came around, Volt owners were faced with a new and improved feature: Longer charge time. In self-help groups on the Internet, the culprit was quickly found:  GM had reduced the default circuit load of the charger from 12 Ampere to 8 Ampere. Then, a low intensity war on the message boards ensued, and is still rages on. Here the latest dispatches from the front:

Volt owners found out that there is a way to make the Volt charge at 12 Ampere and therefore faster. But that is buried a few levels deep in a maze of menus – and most annoyingly, it can’t be made sticky. Must wade through menus every time. Of course, the most practical solution would be to use the 240V charger on a 240 V circuit (something yours truly could install in a few hours, including a trip to the hardware store), but owners confess that they are too lazy/stingy to do that, and the complaints continue.

“Melissa” of  “Chevrolet Customer Svc” intervened. Chevrolet must have the matter outsourced, because Melissa identified herself as an “Associate of Morley Companies, Inc.” On its website, Morley introduces itself as a “group travel, business theater, interactive, research, performance improvement, exhibit, display and experiential marketing firm,” which more than establishes its credentials to handle the matter. Especially after its associates receive some remedial English lessons.

Melissa informed the frustrated Volt owners that it’s not a bug, it’s a feature:

As a safety feature the Volt will automatically default to the 8amps. This was designed by the engineers as a safeguard the Volt needs. This is to assist and remind owners that the Volt needs to be on a dedicated, grounded, oriented outlet on an individual circuit to be able to charge. This feature is to prevent the outlet getting “warm” and overheating.”

To change from 8A to 12A, says Melissa, is very simple. It also reminds the Volt owner that there is a competing product from Nissan:

“The 2013 owners only have to push the “Leaf” button, select the charging tab, then charge level, and then push the amps they would like to charge at. You can change this level while driving. “

Oops. Don’t let Ray LaHood read that last. No, you can’t make the 12A setting sticky, and don’t hold your breath that this will ever change:

This is the way the Volt was designed for the 2013, there will not be an option to retrofit, or change the charge cord charging design. We truly do value your feedback regarding this safety feature.”

Howls of protests ensued. “This is absolutely idiotic form a usability stand point.” You honestly want us to push FOUR times?

Yep, says Melissa. “I understand your frustration for the safety feature and we appreciate your feedback for the option.”

That exchange happened in early September. It did not appease the Volt owners, and the discussion is raging on, wisely sans Melissa. Tired of talking to themselves,  enraged 100 Volt owners  widened the conflict.  Complaints appeared in comment sections of Forbes.  Expect more elsewhere. TTAC just received a reader’s letter, complete with headline! (See above.)

BS comment: Of course, pushing buttons four times won’t make charging at 12A any safer, and it won’t help the outlet keep its cool. It simply gives GM opportunity to instruct the user each and every time of the potential hazards, and (hopefully) lets GM off the hook.  A standard three prong (with ground) U.S. outlet is good for 15 Amp, should be connected to a 15A wring with a 15A breaker, and therefore plenty for a 12A load. If something else is on the line, the breaker should blow. Note the shoulds.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Dodge Avenger Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:00:38 +0000

A sports car. A luxury car. A truck. A car for third-world nations.  And yet CCS never gave me a project that said, “lower your standards and design a great rental car” for a week of studio work.   Does anyone design anything with unloved dispensability in mind? But I see it that way: leaving the design world to (eventually) to flash my MBA with an occasional corporate trip…with the obligatory rental car.  But how pretty is the Queen?

The fleet queen that is.

Bland and chubby. The password for Dodge’s Avenger is encrypted with elements from big brother Charger, slapped on a horribly chubby and bland body.  But check out the cute little negative area for the license plate.  This car has some, uh, charming elements to it.

But I can’t stand the de-Ram’d grille and logos of the post-Bankruptcy Dodge. And the Corvette Grand Sport-esque twin red hashes by the Dodge emblem. It’s sad to see how Dodge and Ram are split up for some sort of impending fiscal cliff for the MOPAR folk.

Bear with me, because some of the subtle detailing on the headlights are quite significant, and maybe even worthy of duplication on superior vehicles. Note how the lower element is comprised entirely of signal/parking lights.  This could almost be a German vehicle from this angle.  Almost!

There is very little pointless flash on these assemblies, just a little eyebrow of “beveled irrelevance” compared to so many other foolish wastes of space…I’m looking at you, Cadillac ATS.

The bumper’s lower half has a little speed bump, giving a bit of flash for no reason.  You know, like a tunerboi body kit for damn near any import.  I’m not hatin’ because it actually looks cool.

Back up to the lights.  Note how slender and sleek the Avenger looks from here, with a gentle power dome in the hood starting from a logical place in the grille.  The sunken-in headlights are clean and beautiful. I’d eliminate the hard bend in the fender to accentuate the domed hood and minimize the cut line between the hood and fender, but that’s no deal breaker. Rental car and all that.

The shadow of the stamped-in racing stripe doesn’t work for me.  Perhaps if they ended near the two dots (windshield washer nozzles), but certainly not as it stands.

And here is why you will never like the Avenger: the headlights are HUGE!  Only from a few angles do these things squint like the glare of an angry woman. If the front clip was the size of a Dodge Stratus, everything falls naturally into a cereal bowl of nicely proportioned Rental Car Granola.  Too bad about that.

And these not-quite-split 5 spoke wheels are so vanilla that I long for the days of generic rental car hub caps.  Here are plenty of hard edges with no soft contours to add excitement.  The spokes’ overzealous negative area in the rim is too much, but luckily the wheel weight covers one of the offending lines.  And why the chrome center cap?

Whoa dude. NO DLO FAIL. I’m starting to like this machine more than most of its competitors.

Seriously, how frickin’ hard is it to make shit like this on EVERY CAR? Logical, clean and lacking idiotic plastic filler panels to give the illusion of speed and pretension.

The cowl is both clean, skinny and minimal on bends and baubles, too.  I suspect this is another positive byproduct of not having a roof so fast as to encourage DLO fail.

The side-view mirror is recessed in a trick sheet metal stamping around the windows.   This is a logical, cheap and beautiful way to make a greenhouse with…once more…NO DLO FAIL.

Too bad about the floating, trim-less glass and the black rain gutter that ends so cheaply at the top of the windscreen.  While the Avenger is perfectly quiet and comfortable at speed, this looks like a magnet for wind noise.

From the bottom cut line of the doors, you can see a little taper at the bottom of the body.  It looks interesting, if not exciting. The blocky door handles don’t try to be wispy, frou-frou and flashy…and it works.

Black trim on the B-pillars when Chrysler coulda easily left them body color and saved a few pennies. Very nice.  With tinted windows, the Avenger’s greenhouse looks almost pretty.

Okay, so maybe this black b-pillar decal isn’t the highest quality of trim. On many other sedans, this area sports black plastic covers instead of tape. Bummer.

Oh man, that’s a fat, fat hunk of rear door.  Things aren’t looking good for the Avenger.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the intended greenhouse design, if this was applied to the Dodge Charger instead.  And while the Charger is far from a sleek and sexy C-pillar on a slender body, it isn’t nearly this horrifying. The hard points needed for the C-pillar/Quarter Panel/Rear Door means a ridiculously vertical cut line for the door. Add the flowing glass, round gas cap and the door’s line doesn’t flow…and it doesn’t work.

Those unbelievably timid wheels don’t help, either.

If the vanishing point for the door cut line ended about a 1/2 inch forward, there’d be some rake from this angle.  And the Avenger would look better.

And while the Avenger’s rear greenhouse doesn’t have DLO fail like that of a Chevy Cruze, they had to have this big plastic filler panel…probably so the glass was the right size to roll down the door.  Visualize this design with a fixed vent window instead and things don’t get much better…a solid piece of glass is necessary to give that Charger-esque look.  I feel the designers didn’t have a choice here.

The little black plastic triangle of DLO fail outside turns into some hideous thing you always see when backing out of the airport parking lot.  Very sad.

Then again, you can make this look beautiful.  And the Avenger has some rather flowing lines. Note the gentle crease on the C-pillar near the rear window, and the strong shoulder-line from the base of the rear window that extends into the rear door.  On a shorter car with a little more wheelbase, this would be absolutely stunning.

There’s a reasonable amount of tumblehome too, accentuated by the strong shoulder line mentioned above.  Very cool.  Everything looks even “faster” when adding the divot-and-dip of the decklid.  Provided you don’t step back a foot, and remember this is a tall and dorky rental car.

That floating glass and poorly integrated rain gutter are back again on the Avenger’s hindquarters.

The tip of the decklid tapers in a bit, making for a larger gap at the end.  Not cool.

There she is, in all her rental car beauty.  Like mentioned before, this greenhouse would look so good with more wheelbase and MUCH less height.  Again, superimpose the silhouette of the Dodge Stratus, force that on the Avenger’s design elements and you’ll find the silver lining here.

Wait, can such a silver lining exist?

A very tall and stubby back end.  But there’s something hunky and chunky about the taper of the lights, slope of the decklid and chisels in the bumper. It’s a Dodge, not a Toyota!

Too tall and too much bumper!  I also wish the tail lights had two bright circular elements per corner, to emulate the front end’s headlights. Yes, the brake lights are a happy quartet, but there’s only one pair of white pimples.

I know that computer assisted design and awesome modern plastic casting techniques make seriously complicated stuff, but the Gatling gun look in automotive lighting pods must die a painful death…perhaps with Gatling guns?

But every car needs disco ball back up lights!  DISCO BALL BACKIN’ THAT AZZ UP!

Unlike the last gen Toyota Camry, these emblems look rather fantastic up close: providing contrast to the corners/edges/bends in the white paint, but they are otherwise lost on a gigantic ass when you step back. Too bad about that.

The modest black trim on the rear bumper is actually quite appealing, if the painted bumper above didn’t completely drown it out.  Someone please take 2-3 inches out of the Avenger’s mid section!

Something about the manual release gas cap finger divot is both cheap and cheerful at the same time. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done for not much cash.  Kind of like IKEA, but without the insane assembly time and those carts that won’t go all the way to your vehicle’s butt in the loading zone.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a fantastic week!

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 12_1 14 15 16 17 17_1 18 19 19_1 19_2 20 21 22 23 24 25 25_1 25_2 25_3 25_4 25-5 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 DSCN1938 Hertz, don't it? (photo courtesy: Sajeev Mehta) 1 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 52
The Truth About Tesla’s Charging Stations Tue, 25 Sep 2012 16:52:46 +0000

Tesla has officially launched their long-awaited “Supercharging” network last night to a star-studded crowd in Southern California. (We assume it was star-studded since our invitation got lost in the mail.) The EV network promises to enable Model S and Model X owners to charge 150 miles of range in 30 minutes. What about your Roadster? Sorry, you aren’t invited to this charging party. Have a Tesla and a LEAF? You’ll have to be satisfied with separate but equal charging facilities as the Tesla proprietary charging connector restricts access to Tesla shoppers only. Is this class warfare or do we parallel the computer industry where connectors come and go with the seasons?

What’s the big deal with charging? Let’s go over the Model S’s charging time chart and you’ll understand. From a regular 120V wall outlet the Model S will gain 4-5 miles per hour of charging and consumes about the same amount of power as a space heater. Charging at 41 amps, the car gains 31 miles per hour and consumes as much power as TWO average electric clothes dryers. Charging at 81 amps (a service that many homes with older wiring or smaller services cannot support) the Model S gains 62 miles an hour and consumes more power than an average home’s A/C, dryer, washer, stove, oven, lights and small appliances put together. With a range of 300 miles and a 10 hour charge time at the 41A rate, it’s easy to see why fast charging stations are appealing. Tesla’s Supercharger’s specs are yet to be revealed, but by the numbers it is apparent the system is delivering a massive 90kWh charge which is likely 440V DC at around 200A. An hour of charging at that rate is 70% of the power that my home uses in an entire month.

Is this a Tesla issue? No, it’s an EV issue. If you expect your EV to drive like a regular car, modern EVs are a delight. If you expect your EV to refuel like a regular car, we’ve hit a snag. But it’s more complex than that, you see, only three of the four Model S trims support DC fast charging and the only other EVs on the market with a DC charge port are the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Except they don’t use the same connector or the same standard. Oops. Adding more complications to the mix are the EVs with no DC charge connector like the RAV4 EV, Volt, Prius Plug-In, Accord Plug-In, Focus, Active E and Coda while the new Chevy Spark is rumored to début a third standard: the SAE combo plug.

Of course, if you think of your car like you think of your cell phone, this makes sense as the phone you bought last year wont use the same charger as the phone you buy today. If you think of this in car terms however it’s like buying a new car and finding out that most of the gas stations have a nozzle that won’t fit your car.

Back to those Tesla charging stations. Tesla opened the first four in Southern California and announced two more stations will go online in October with stations in Las Vegas, Northern California and Oregon by summer 2013 with the 100 station network being complete by 2015. If that network sounds familiar then it should, because the recent settlement in the California vs NRG lawsuit means there will be 200 new CHAdeMO stations in California over the same time frame in addition to the 8 already installed and the 75 commercial stations planned or under construction. It isn’t just California on the CHAdeMO bandwagon however, the Department of Energy claims there are over 113 CHAdeMO stations in the USA and a 1,200+ unit installed base in Japan.

What does this mean to Tesla owners? Until Tesla creates a CHAdeMO to Tesla charging adapter cable (much like they have a J1772 to Tesla cable for use at public AC charging stations), Tesla owners will be restricted to regular AC charging or the smaller Tesla only charging network. On the flip side, Tesla is promising the Tesla charging stations will be free to Tesla owners, positioned next to trendy restaurants and you won’t have to mix with the Leaf owning rabble. You can also feel superior because Tesla’s newer standard charges 80% faster than the 50kWh CHAdeMO connector.

What does this mean to LEAF and i-MiEV owners? It means this is just the beginning of a standards battle. If you bought an EV before this raft of new J1772-connector-toting models, you know what I’m talking about. While CHAdeMO has the lead now, depending on what standard the rest of the industry supports this could change rapidly.

What about the rest of us? If we continue to build more battery electric vehicles and continue to develop batteries that are more and more power dense, you can expect even the snazzy Tesla charging connector to be outdated on a few years. If you expect an EV SUV to deliver 300 miles of electric range, AWD, decent performance, mild off-road ability and Range Rover quality luxury trappings, then expect it to have a battery that is 50-100% larger than the Model S’ massive 85kWh pack. This means you have to either take all the charging rates and nearly double them, or you have to develop a charging method that charges 50-100% faster to keep the same performance.

Of course, just like LEAF owners experience battery degradation caused by repeated use of DC quick charge stations, Tesla owners should be mindful that batteries don’t last forever and the faster you charge them the shorter their life will be.


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Junkyard Find: 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Fri, 25 May 2012 13:00:12 +0000 Most folks think of Cobras or Mustangs when they think of the late Carroll Shelby, but don’t forget the Shelby Chryslers of the 1980s! Shelby cranked out a run of turbocharged front-drive Dodges that delivered amazing-for-their-time bang-for-buck performance, and they’ve remained quite affordable. So affordable, in fact, that Shelby Dodges are not uncommon sights in self-service junkyards; just in the last couple of years, I’ve found this Daytona Shelby Z, this Omni GLH, and this Shelby Charger awaiting their appointments with The Crusher. Last week, I spotted another one in a Denver yard.
Yes, this car was based on a platform designed in France by Simca, and it’s true that the L-bodies were flimsy throwaway cars that tended to disintegrate in a hurry, but so what? 146 horsepower in a 2,350-pound car was ridiculous in 1985!
The Omni GLH and the Shelby Charger were more or less the same car beneath the skin, with the same 2.2 liter turbocharged engine under the hood.
This example is pretty much a thrashed-to-death basket case, though it doesn’t seem to be rusty. Will beat examples of Shelby Chargers ever be worth enough to be restorable?

17 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 01 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 02 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 03 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 04 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 05 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 06 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 07 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 08 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 09 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 10 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 11 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 12 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 13 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 14 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 15 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 16 - 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 34
Boycott Costco! Save The Chargers! Sun, 21 Aug 2011 15:22:13 +0000

The New York Times is outraged:

“Just as plug-in cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt enter the market, Costco is reversing course and pulling its chargers out of the ground, explaining that customers do not use them.”

Why in the world?

Costco was an early leader in setting up charging station, also in setting an example for other retailers, such as Best Buys and Walgreen. By 2006, Costco had 90 chargers at 64 stores. It didn’t matter that next to nobody had an EV.  Even after GM ditched the EV1, Costco kept the chargers.

Now as EVs are finally showing up in (small) numbers, Costco is pulling the plug-in poles.

“Nobody ever uses them,” said Dennis Hoover, the general manager for Costco in northern California, to the Times. “At our Folsom store, the manager said he hadn’t seen anybody using the E.V. charging in a full year.”

Plug In America, a California-based E.V. advocacy group, is mounting a spirited save-the-chargers campaign:

“Costco’s charging stations have supported the pioneering owners who purchased electric vehicles in the 1990s and early 2000s. As documented in Who Killed the Electric Car, most of these cars were taken back by the automakers and crushed. Fortunately, hundreds of these vehicles were saved by the electric vehicle activists who founded Plug In America. The owners still depend on these cars, many of which still perform just as well today as when new. These cars are a testament to the longevity and reliability of electric vehicles.”

The Costco outlets are outdated by current standards and most likely only fit those pioneering cars from the last millennium. A state-supported program would let Costco upgrade them at no cost.

Hoover is aware of the state-funded upgrade program, but does not want to use it: “Why should we have anybody spend money on a program that nobody’s thought through?”

Or maybe Costco is afraid of the electric bill, now that EVs possibly will show up en-masse?

You never know.


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Stranded EV? Help Is Near. Well, Not Quite … Mon, 06 Jun 2011 10:10:10 +0000

„When you run out of battery with your EV, no AAA will help you – except with a tow.”

This line is a favorite weapon in the low-level propaganda war between gas and electric. Now Nissan, purveyor of the Leaf, goes on the counter-attack. Nissan deployed its first roadside service vehicle equipped with a charger to assist EVs that ran out of juice.

So far, it’s a trial only, together with the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), Japan’s counterpart of the AAA. The trial service commences on June 7, 2011.

JAF will deploy the roadside service vehicle with the charger from its Kanagawa branch office and will use it on a trial basis as part of its service menu from fiscal year 2011.

There are other precautions that need to be taken. Masakazu Kume, Executive Director of the JAF said: “We have already prepared insulated gloves and goggles for our service vehicle staff to assist EVs. We will actively respond to requests from EV motorists as more and more EVs hit the road.”

Remember: This is only a test. There is only one vehicle in Japan, in Kanagawa, outside of Tokyo. AAA doesn’t have such a truck. So keep watching that gauge.


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Review: 2011 Dodge Charger R/T Take One Wed, 11 May 2011 20:53:04 +0000

So I’m driving a $69,000 Cadillac CTS-V, and it makes me wonder—if you can only spend half as much, how much performance do you sacrifice? And if you can spend twice as much, how much can you gain? Today, the first question. If you’re seeking a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedan, but have a budget in the mid-30s, the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is your only option.

For 2011, Dodge has excised the aggressive chunkiness from the Charger’s exterior, substituting smoothly flowing curves. Scallops in the hood and bodysides provide a link to the classic 1968-70 car. The sedan’s face remains suitably menacing, with a large, protruding crosshairs grille. This face notwithstanding, the new Charger is prettier, and less distinctive. Though the 199.9×75.0×58.4-inch exterior dimensions remain about the same, the new car looks longer, with too much visual mass for $995 of bright red paint. The no-extra-charge metallic gray of the tested car much better suits the big body. Even so attired, the Charger lacks upscale aspirations—that’s the related Chrysler 300’s territory. Instead, the Charger’s achieved intent is “four-door muscle car.”

The same is the case inside the new Charger: more flowing lines, limited luxury. The silver patterned trim plate that spans two-thirds of the instrument panel has a retro vibe, though the materials and workmanship here and elsewhere in the interior are mostly up to 2011 standards. Some switches continue to look and feel cheap, and some elements lack finesse. For example, why is the hood over the instruments a couple inches thick? The entire instrument panel could be much more compact with no loss in functionality. The graphics on the 8.4” touchscreen are unusually large, good for usability but not so good for a refined appearance. The best part of the interior: the attractively styled, comfortably upholstered door panels. The most disappointing: the $3,000 Road & Track package no longer includes the aggressively bolstered seats from the SRT8. Instead, synthetic suede center panels have been added to the Charger’s minimally bolstered, less enticing standard seats.

The windshield has been laid back a few degrees, and the windows have been enlarged about 15 percent, so the view from the driver’s seat is considerably less gangsta than before. Given the size of the instrument panel, though, drivers under 6-2 will still want to raise the seat, and even then will feel like they’re wearing a car that’s a couple sizes too large. On the other hand, those who shop at the “big and tall” store might find the XXL interior they’ve been looking for. Room is similarly plentiful in the comfortably high back seat. Perhaps because of its encapsulated conventional hinges, the trunk isn’t as roomy as before (15.4 vs. 16.2 cubic feet). Some midsize sedans have more space for cargo. A split folding rear seat remains standard.

The Charger R/T’s standard 5.7-liter V8 kicks out 370 horsepower at an easily accessible 5,250 rpm, and sounds good while doing so. Torque: 395 foot-pounds at 4,200 rpm. A far cry from the CTS-V’s 556 horsepower, but still about 100 more than in the typical V6-powered midsize sedan. Even though the curb weight is up over 200 pounds, to 4,253, this is a quick car, with a zero-to-sixty in the low fives. Impediments to visceral thrills lie elsewhere. Effective soundproofing reduces the sensation of acceleration and responses to the throttle lack immediacy. The ancient Mercedes-Benz five-speed automatic deserves much of the blame for the latter. A new eight-speed automatic, available with the V6 at the start of the 2012 model year and with the V8 at some point in the future, should improve responsiveness and acceleration. A six-speed manual would provide an even more direct, responsive connection, but this option is restricted to the related Challenger coupe.

The Charger’s chassis similarly feels distant and slow to respond. The Road & Track Package didn’t only lose the SRT’s seats this year. It also lost SRT-like suspension tuning. In standard Charger R/T tune the steering feels light and numb. In sharp contrast to the CTS-V and the late, lamented Pontiac G8, where progressive oversteer can be dialed in almost intuitively, with the Charger it’s necessary to dig deep into the throttle to affect the attitude of the chassis. Though lean in turns is moderate, the Charger always feels every bit as large and heavy as it is. Easy to control, certainly, and far from the floaty land yachts of yore, but a satisfying tight connection between man and machine proves elusive. A $400 Super Track Pak, which includes firmer suspension tuning, should help, but how much? Unless this package makes a huge difference, the Charger simply isn’t in the same league as the CTS-V dynamically. Instead, it’s a modern embodiment of the classic large American sedan, complete with a (mostly) smooth, quiet ride. More controlled and capable, but the spirit remains the same.

Ultimately, the Charger R/T isn’t remotely a half-price substitute for a CTS-V. Compared to the Cadillac, the Dodge feels large, soft, lethargic, and disconnected. Whatever was done to make the revised Grand Caravan ride and handle so well needs to be done here, and hopefully will be done for the upcoming SRT. As is, I didn’t much enjoy driving the big sedan. Nevertheless, the Charger does fill a gaping hole in the market. In every way save trunk space it’s a superior substitute for Ford’s Panthers, now in their final months of production. With ample V8 power, predictable handling, a quiet ride, and a roomy interior, the Charger should fill the Crown Vic’s shoes quite nicely. Watch your speed, or you’ll see a big crosshair grille (further enhanced with flashing lights) in your rearview mirror often.

Bryan Galczynski of Suburban Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep in Novi, MI, provided the car. Bryan can be reached at 248-427-7767.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data

Charger red Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Charger front seats Charger-front-quarter-thumb Charger trunk Charger front Charger rear quarter Charger interior Charger view forward Charger? I just met her! Charger instrument panel Charger engine Charger front quarter 2 Charger rear ]]> 101
GM Invests $5 Million Into Wireless Charger – For The Volt? Thu, 06 Jan 2011 13:13:16 +0000

GM has invested $5 million in the Powermat wireless charging start-up, and they want to use the technology “to charge its soon-to-be-launched Chevy Volt hybrid electric car,” Businessgreen reports. They report from the UK, so they shall be forgiven the “soon-to-be-launched” this one time only. But to charge a Chevy Volt?

Launched 2007, Powermat‘s charging mats are used to charge small electronic devices like mobile phones and mp3 players contact-less. You put them on a mat, and magnetic induction does the rest. Just like charging many new electric toothbrushes. The basic technology is as old as the transformer.

According to Businessgreen, “GM’s investment will support the adaptation of the technology for use by the auto industry and could eventually lead to electric cars being charged simply by being parked in a fitted garage.” Oh yes?

As part of a multi-year deal, GM will have exclusive use of the Powermat technology for one year to place the systems in its vehicles worldwide, GM Ventures President Jon Lauckner told Reuters.

Well, before any cars  are charged in a Powermat-equipped garage, the Volt may use the technology to simply charge personal devices in the car. But not after testing made sure that technology doesn’t mess with the car. A Volt fitted with wireless charging devices will be show at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But that’s the easy part.

I know what you are thinking now: Roads with black … don’t even think it. Charging an amp-hungry car with the technology comes with its own set of, well, challenges.  If you wear a pacemaker, or are worried about cell phones frying your brain cells, you may want to stay away from a garage outfitted with a giant Powermat that gives your car its daily MRI.

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MI State Police: Caprice Cruiser Creams Competition Fri, 08 Oct 2010 19:42:45 +0000

Chevrolet’s new Australian-built Caprice PPV killed the field at the Michigan State Police trials for 2011 models, winning 0-60, 0-100 and top-speed comparisons, the braking competition and turning in the fastest average lap time. Dodge’s Charger nipped at the Caprice’s heels, but the day belonged to Holden. As predicted [unofficial results including Ford's Taurus-based cruiser available at Jalopnik].

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2011 Charger: Civilian Edition Tue, 05 Oct 2010 15:21:05 +0000

For all intents, the 2011 Dodge Charger debuted to the internet two weeks ago… as a police car. Possibly recalling that some civilians might wish to purchase the thing, Chrysler has finally released images of it in R/T guise… but where’s the surprise? The overall design is more delicate and graceful than that of its atavistic predecessor, but it also seems to lack the classical menace of the outgoing model. At least when shown without police livery.

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Hello, Charger Tue, 21 Sep 2010 23:09:03 +0000

As Sajeev points out, America’s police forces could well be the savior of large, rear-drive sedans in the American market. Which is hugely convenient for Chrysler, which recently spent big bucks updating its 300/Charger LX platform. Much to the chagrin of Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, in fact. A devotee of per-platform volume-based “industrial logic,” Marchionne has publicly stated that he would never have spent the money to update a platform with so few “applications,” had he been in charge during the Cerberus era. But winning police fleet business could change all that, and Chrysler is clearly going all out for it.

The 2011 Dodge Charger has not been shown anywhere in civilian guise, but several outlets including the Detroit Free Press have snapped shots of the new sedan testing for police buyers. Given Chrysler’s well-documented struggles with fleet sales addiction, giving police fleet buyers the first look at an “all new” car is an interesting move. Discuss the looks all you want, what I want to know is will consumers go crazy for a cop car? GM obviously doesn’t think so…

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Meeting In A Dark Alley Edition Tue, 24 Aug 2010 15:45:43 +0000

Dodge previews its 2011 Charger by showing a police version almost completely shrouded by the darkness of what appears to be a typical Detroit neighborhood. And as much as we’d like to see more of the next-gen Charger, we understand what Dodge is going for here: after all, government fleets seem far more interested in purchasing Chrysler Group products than we lowly consumers.

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Japan Is Leading The Charge Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:55:25 +0000

While other countries are still struggling with the electric car in itself, Japan is already in the middle of the big charging station craze. TTAC will continue keeping an eye on these developments. No country is better suited for self serve chargers than Japan, where you can buy anything from a vending machine, from flowers to condoms, from rice to the infamous girls’ panties. According to credible statistics, there are 23 people per vending machine in Japan. Soon, there will be more. Vending machines.

Toyota is joining the fray with the first mass-produced charging station with communications functions for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, reports The Nikkei [sub]. It’s from Toyota Industries, the happy big zaibatsu of which ToMoCo is a member.

Using cellular networks, the charging station will stay in touch with charging central, it will handle financial transactions via credit cars, report charging activity and any problems or outages.

The charging stations, which were developed jointly with Nitto Electric Works will be marketed to gas stations, convenience stores and other facilities where people have the 100 minutes it takes to charge up a car.  One of them will cost roughly $6,000.

Meanwhile in the U.S., you have the choice of charging your future Nissan Leaf EV for 20 hours from a standard 120 Volt outlet, or within 8 hours from a special home charging dock that operates on 220 to 240 volts. The latter is easier said than done. Customers must request an in-home inspection before they receive a quote. Next, an electrician will be scheduled to install the dock. Finally, a municipal inspector likely will come to ensure the dock was properly put in.  In some communities, that can take weeks,. That’s why automakers, led by Nissan, are touring city halls to talk building departments into streamlining building codes and permitting procedures. It will be a long road.  “Each town and village is their own fiefdom with their own building codes,” said Jamie Young, associate legal council for Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, to the Wall Street Journal-

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