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Archive for June, 2007

The Next-Generation automobile

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on June 18, 2007

For all of the different styles of automobiles around, it’s amazing how similar they all are to each other. Doors that open outward (in almost every case). Driver in sitting position with passenger beside him. The list of similarities goes on and on.

How many standard features of our cars could be done differently, if not for convention?

Some are obvious; the steering wheel could easily be replaced by a joystick or rudder pedals, etc. The accelerator could be replaced with a lever, as in jet planes. The rear-view mirrors could be replaced with video displays.

What’s not so obvious?

What makes a car a car, exactly?

As an aside, many of the previously obvious characteristics that make a car a car have been challenged in recent years. Ignition keys – once all cars had them. Not any more; remote keyfobs take their place in some new cars. Analog speedometers have been displaced by digital displays in a dizzying number of cars, and heads-up displays are available, as well.

What’s next?


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Are electric cars ready for primetime?

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on June 14, 2007

It sure seems so.

In the last couple of years, several all-electric autos have been announced. While most of them are from independent companies created for the purpose, even Chevrolet is a player.

Tesla Motors

The Tesla Roadster appears to have the best shot of being produced.

Tesla estimates that their home charger will require 3.5 hours to fully charge the lithium-ion battery pack if it is fully discharged. The batteries will give a 200 mile range per charge and last for 100,000 miles before needing to be replaced.

The car is being assembled by Lotus Cars and will sell for $92,000. Their FAQ states that cars will be delivered by Fall 2007, but the order page says June 2008.

Lightning Car Company

The $300,000 Lightning GT takes an even more performance-oriented approach with 700 horsepower worth of electric motors mounted directly in the wheels. They estimate 0-60 mile per hour times of 4.0 seconds.

Lightning is currently taking orders for 2008 delivery.

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevy Volt can operate as a pure electric car for only 40 miles at a time. GM says that this is sufficient for 78% of all commuters. The Volt; however, carries an on-board generator and gas tank sufficient to give it a 640 mile range at 50 miles per gallon.

The Chevrolet Volt’s electric motor is rated at 160 Horsepower which should be good for a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds.

No pricing information or production time frame is available.

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Saturn Vue – One Step Up, Two Steps Back

Posted by ifitsgotanengine on June 8, 2007

Most car companies strive to make each successive generation of their automobiles better. Most do. Typically, new versions of cars are roomier and faster. Just look at the line of Honda Accords. Along the way, however, they end up heavier. The automakers strive to avoid this, but it happens.

The newest version of the Saturn Vue isn’t any larger than the outgoing model. This is a refreshing change, and on first look, seems to indicate that GM is finally waking up to the $3.00/gallon realities facing motorists today.

Look a little closer, and the truth rears it’s ugly head.

The new Vue is heavier than the model it replaces. The new Vue is slower than the model it replaces. The new Vue gets worse gas mileage than the model it replaces. The new Vue is more expensive than the model it replaces.

But at least it’s not any roomier.

Posted in GM, Saturn | 1 Comment »