By on September 20, 2011

TTAC wasn’t able to be on-hand for the Chengdu Auto Show, but thanks to Carnewschina.com, we’ve got the latest in “we’re far enough into the interior that foreign firms won’t complain about our blatant ripoffs” styling, from the new heavyweight champion of Chinese ripoffs: Yema Motors. Seriously, calling these things “derivative” is wholly undeserved a compliment. And if you think this Audi A4… excuse me, Yema F16, is bad just wait until you see the rest of their new cars. From the Infiniti-aping E-series, to the Touareg-alike “T-SUV,” to the Subaru Forester clone F99/F10, the stylists at Yema Motors take their mimicry very seriously. And apparently the last original idea their design team had was “I know, let’s put our faux-Audi grille on the Faux-rester.” Tada, new model! The Jiade Dynasty rolls on…

 

By on September 17, 2011

Not long ago, I considered asking the Best and Brightest if something like this were possible. You see, when I was a younger man, I was a big fan of the game Aerobiz, a tough, take-no-prisoners Super Nintendo simulation of the (Cold War-era) airline business. Since I’ve been immersed in the world of the car business, I’ve often wondered if it were possible to create a game that similarly captured the challenges of running a car company. And now, it seems, that game is already in development by a couple of coder car nerds from Australia. Called “Automation,” the game is still a ways from completion and its creators are soliciting pre-orders to help fund development (sound like any car startups you can think of?).
(Read More…)

By on September 6, 2011

Welcome to Bob Lutz week at TTAC! I spent several hours recently with the auto industry’s most notorious executive, and elements of that interview will be the basis for much of my writing this week. We’ll also be capping the whole thing off by voting on the 2010-2011 Lutzie award for most unfortunate quote by an auto exec. And rather than jumping right into the meat of the interview, I want to kick off Lutz week by looking at a few cars that came up in our meandering conversation. After all, these are not just vehicles… when Lutz brings them up in an interview, they become stories, little encapsulations of his philosophy or the state of the company that made them. Let’s start with a car that I literally had never heard of before he mentioned it almost in passing: the Dodge Dakota Convertible. Eat your heart out, Murano CrossCabriolet… the Dakota was the original “WTF-vertible.”

(Read More…)

By on August 30, 2011

Boston.com’s On Liberty blog reports that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of citizens to video police officers, ruling in part that

changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

So great was this victory for First Amendment rights and the New Media, that an Albuquerque police officer celebrated by getting caught in flagrante delicto while in uniform. You know, in case there was any question as to why the courts really ruled this way. And if this whole story smacks of Jalopnik-style only-barely-related-to-cars desperation, we’ve got a “Stump the Best And Brightest” challenge to keep things car-centric: what model of vehicle is the officer “laying down the law” on?

By on August 27, 2011

This is the kind of video that might suffice as standalone weekend entertainment. After all, braking a truck with your feet is a pretty demonstrably bad idea. But the lovable nerds at Popular Science just had to take it a step further and work out the physics of trying to halt a truck ala Fred Flintstone, noting

Let’s estimate he can push down with a force about a quarter of his weight. If he weighs 200 pounds, this would result in a force of 50 pounds, or 225 N. We also know that the force of friction (F) between his feet and the asphalt depends on the force with which he pushes down (N) and the “coefficient of kinetic friction”(μ) between the soles of his shoes, which we will assume are made of rubber, and the pavement.

F = μN

The μ between rubber and asphalt varies between 0.5 and 0.8. Let’s assume a value of 0.7. Therefore, solving for stopping distance, we get:

D = ½(2100kg)(18m/s)2/(0.7)(225N) = 2160 meters, or over 1.3 miles!

The situation might be improved if he exerted his full 200 pounds, or 900 Newtons, of force against the ground. In that case:

D = 1/2(2100kg)(18m/s)2/(0.7)(900N) = 540 meters (about a third of a mile)

However, the amount of torque exerted on his ankles and knees might make that a problematic proposition.

Surf on over to PopSci for the entire breakdown (no pun intended).

By on August 18, 2011

One of the most challenging aspects of running a blog like TTAC is managing diversity. As a global site, TTAC and its readers are exposed to the full range of diverse global perspectives, but our largest market, the United States, is also home to incredibly divergent views and lifestyles. Much is made of our national polarization these days, and when the topic turns political, TTAC often finds itself on the front lines of America’s cultural and ideological battlefield. Luckily we’re all of us bound together by something that transcends much of what divides us: our shared fascination with cars gives us the opportunity to interact with and relate to people with whom we may have little else in common.

Take this photo: depending on your perspective, this scene, photographed near my home in Portland, OR, might be a symbol of the ultimate automotive aspiration or a dread vision of a dystopian anti-automotive future. But regardless of how the image relates to your personal views and circumstances, nobody can deny that the people who live in that house think very seriously about their automobiles. And even the most unabashed, gas-huffing EV skeptic has to respect that. Vive le difference!

By on August 18, 2011

What’s next for the whale penis leather upholsterers at Russia’s gauchest tuning house, Dartz? How about a wrapping a Ferrari F430 in leather-grain vinyl? Sophisticated! [via GTspirit]

By on August 17, 2011

Who’s ready for some politics? With the presidential election still over 14 months away, recent Iowa straw poll winner Michelle Bachmann is upping the campaign promise ante by telling a Greenville, SC crowd

The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.

Without even taking a side in the muck of presidential politics, it’s plain to see how ridiculous this statement is. As Politico helpfully notes:

Bachmann didn’t detail how she would cut the price of gasoline, which is tied to the global price of oil. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I think gas should probably be taxed to a point where Americans pay about what the rest of the world does, in order to pay for the externalities of oil consumption. Most auto execs agree, arguing that America’s artificially low gas prices play hell with product planning. But even (or is that especially) if you’re a hard-core anti-tax free-market fundamentalist, Bachmann’s statement should be treated with scorn. After all, markets, not presidents, should be setting oil prices. But what’s principle (or even good practice) when compared to the need for political pandering?

By on August 11, 2011

Steampunks and Atomic Age nuts rejoice! WardsAuto reports that Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems is “getting closer” to developing a prototype electric car which develops its power using the radioactive heavy metal Thorium. According to LPS’s CEO,

when thorium is heated by an external source, it becomes so dense its molecules give off considerable heat. Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser… These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car. A 250 MW unit weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kg) would be small and light enough to drop under the hood of a car… Because thorium is so dense, similar to uranium, it stores considerable potential energy: 1 gm of thorium equals the energy of 7,500 gallons (28,391 L) of gasoline. Prototype systems generate electricity within 30 seconds of firing a laser. This can feed power into a car, without the need for storage.

What about radioactivity? (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2011

What does one say about a clip like this? Besides, perhaps, that I hope you all are enjoying your weekend as much as this guy. Meanwhile, hit the jump for what I believe to be the inspiration for this “project” (if, in fact, it was inspired by more than a bottle of vodka)…
(Read More…)

By on July 28, 2011

As we’ve already seen, BMW is building a record number of variants of its next-generation 3 Series, including “GT” hatchback and X4 “Sport Activity Coupe.” But as this photo shows, there is at least one other Dreier bodystyle that we hadn’t heard about yet: the long wheelbase sedan (top). Given the brand’s post-Bangle swing towards extreme styling consistency, the decision between a LWB 3 series and a 5 series seems to have serious head-scratching potential… but it’s not something we’ll have to worry about. The LWB sports sedan will only be sold in China, according to Auto Motor und Sport, where upmarket buyers favor chauffeurs… even in the Ultimate Driving Machine.

By on July 28, 2011


Remember Hybrid-Kinetic Motors, the hugely ambitious venture by former Brilliance Chairman Yung Yeung that was supposed to build 300k physics-defying hybrids per year at a brand-new $1.5b Alabama factory (with the modest goal of producing a million vehicles per year by 2018)? H-K Motors was never taken very seriously here at TTAC, and despite appearing to be a visa scam, the firm signed a $500m design deal with Italdesign/Giugiaro, and was reportedly working with a German engineering firm… and Alabama’s Baldwin County sure took the firm seriously. Unfortunately, al.com reports that

In 2009, Chinese company HK Motors had taken notice of the megasite and announced plans to build a $4.36 billion green energy automobile manufacturing plant that would employ 4,000 workers.

Under a plan unveiled two years ago, the Pasadena, Calif.-based subsidiary of Hybrid Kinetic Group Ltd., of Hong Kong, would start production in Baldwin County in 2013. The cars built there would run mainly on compressed natural gas, backed up by electric batteries and a small gasoline tank.
The company announced that it expected to build 300,000 vehicles each year at the outset, with production increasing to 1 million by 2018 by 5,000 local employees. The company purchased a battery manufacturer and other component businesses in subsequent months.

But local officials said last month they would be marketing the site to other companies with HK Motors apparently unable to secure financing for the venture.

I’m sure nobody’s surprised by this at all… after all, I never found anyone who believed a word of the Hybrid Kinetic mumbo-jumbo. But what reminded me of the H-K fiasco, and what led to me to find that it had officially abandoned Baldwin County (after it shouldered $70k in surveying costs, no less) was news that a hybrid van manufacturer is setting up shop in St Louis, which has lost Ford and Chrysler plants. What reminded me of the H-K situation? “Emerald Automotive Limited,” which is promising 600 UAW-represented jobs and gas- and diesel-electric delivery van production by the end of next year, doesn’t have a freaking website. That’s never a good sign…

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