Best of the Web: The Coolest New Cars For 2020

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Though there is an assortment of brand-new and fully redesigned passenger cars hitting the road for 2020 model year, their numbers are dwindling as buyers are instead choosing sport-utility vehicles as their rides of choice. Stalwart sedans like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus are being discontinued, with the number of small cars in particular thinning rapidly. While there were 26 subcompact models on the market as recently as 2016, they’re down to just 17 for 2019, with the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic reportedly bowing out at the end of the current model year.

Here’s a look at some of the most prominent introductions reaching dealers’ showrooms for 2020 for those who still aren’t averse to driving a sedan or coupe. We’ll catch up with the hottest new SUVs for the rest of you in a separate post.

Filthiness of Motorsports

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Not all motorsports are the same; some of them are dirtier than others. People seem to like this though, getting off the beaten track and exploring.

Whatever type of racing you take part in, it’s almost a certainty that you will have a dirty engine. Now that emissions need to be regulated from a car, it is harder to make changes to a vehicle to improve the speed. Something like trying to break a land speed record could prove almost impossible under these rules.

gokart-1080492_1920One exception is go-kart racing. This is probably the cleanest form of motorsport, especially the new e-kart races. The e-karts actually go faster than regular go-karts (fast is a relative term) but without the sound of the engine it doesn’t quite seem the same.

General speedway is not at all dirty, except for the occasional crash leading to the odd spilling of blood. Stock car racing is similar in that you keep to a track but with more alterations of the car, leading to greater tendency to get covered with dirt.

Which leads to dirt tracks. These tracks are typically a type of clay though any soil may be used. After the race is over the track is watered and combed in order to keep the track usable. In the US, dirt tracks are oval with a banked edge. Elsewhere on the world grass is often used, meaning you may get grass marks on your clothes in addition to mud. Those dry-cleaning bills are really stacking up! 😉race-car-1031767_1920

Perhaps the most dirt is in desert racing. Sand and dirt from other racers hang in the air and an open roll cage cockpit makes it certain that all the dirt lands on you. Also, you’re more likely to repair your own car than general racing and so add grease and oil to the mix, or worse. The heat will affect the tires, so touching them is not a good idea if you can help it. And not all the grime is comping from the outside. (You’re going to sweat).

Some rally racing takes place off road, so here you will have to deal with dirt itself rather than the sand of desert racing. With the presence of rain, this will turn into mud making it even filthier.

off-road-2915957_1920Glistening white snow surrounding ice tracks misleads the casual observer into thinking this must be a relatively clean sport. The tendency to be run over by your own motorbike, however, dispels that idea!

For many racers filthiness and dirt goes with the territory. When it comes to treating your leathers, it is not a good idea to use low grade cleaner as it will crack the hide, making your clothes look oily and greasy. Look for specialist cleaners to do the job.

In racing parlance, “A clean race” is one without cheating, or many crashes. While the term doesn’t refer to one where your uniform gets ruined, it’s an interesting thing to ponder. Perhaps, on second thought, most of us watch races secretly hoping things get dirty.

 

What’s News: GM to spend $2 billion

GM will spend $2.2 billion to build electric and autonomous vehicles at Detroit plant

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Last week, GM-subsidiary Cruise unveiled the Origin, its first self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals. At the time, the company’s CEO Dan Ammann promised to reveal production details in the days to come. Well, today’s the day, with GM announcing plans to spend $2.2 billion to retrofit its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for the production of autonomous and electric vehicles.

In addition to the Origin, the facility will also produce all-electric SUVs and pickup trucks. The automaker plans to release 20 electric nameplates by 2023, the first of which will be an electric truck slated to go into production in 2021. This will be followed “soon after” by the Cruise Origin, a shared, electric, self-driving vehicle unveiled in San Francisco last week. Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first “fully-dedicated” electric vehicle assembly plant, the company said. (The news was first reported by The Detroit News last week.)

Car Business Start-ups

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When you consider a business start-up these days, you probably think of something like a restaurant or a clothes shop. No one, but no one, is going to think about manufacturing cars. Much like an old fashioned car itself, an auto manufacturer will likely splutter along and or come to a grinding halt.

factory-35108_1280As much as it might feel like most modern auto-makers have simply always existed, the truth is they started the same way you or I would try our hand at being a restaurateur. Imagine yourself in the olden days making a go of it at making cars. It might help to have a history of a few car businesses beginnings.

Henry Royce of Rolls Royce fame started an electrical and mechanical business in 1884. He only started manufacturing and selling cars twenty years later. Starting up in another type of machine shop and then specializing in the newest product is a smart move, and you may notice it as a theme in this post.

Daimler trained as a draughtsman before becoming a workshop inspector for the Mercedes Benz company. It’s a smart idea to apprentice before buying your own company.

Renault originally consisted of Louis, Marcel and Ferdinard Renault. The skills of working in their textile business assisted them in creating a car company, though the connection is not immediately apparent. At least get some skills in business before starting your car company.factory-35104_1280

Nissan began as a truck making company for the military. Only when the idea of the personal car ownership became possible did the founder Masujiro Hashimoto move into automobile manufacturer. It’s the old entrepreneur’s mantra of seeing a need. When you can get a fat military contract do it.

Another Japanese company, Toyota has its origins as a creator of looms, or cloth weaving devices in 1924. It was the capital gained from this that they invested in a car factory.

Porsche has some similarities with Nissan in that it started with military vehicles, though Ferdinard Porsche the founder had experience in building coaches. After that he designed cars for Daimler before coming up with the automobile which is synonymous with him.

BMW originally made airplanes before moving into – no, not cars – motorcycle engines, railway brakes and various pieces of home equipment. BMW didn’t found an automobile empire so much as buy one, purchasing Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach in 1928.

Soichora Honda’s experience before running a factory was a mechanic at a garage for racing cars. Honda’s responsibility was to finely tune the cars to make them fit for the race.

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The Eastern European business Skoda had simple origins, as a bicycle factory which in turn bought a motorcycle factory before developing cars for the Czech patron. Despite a few misstarts as a business, such as not knowing whether to concentrate on front or rear engine vehicles they are now a classic name all over Europe and beyond.

Range Rover also started as a bicycle concern, but they also manufactured tricycles. They were based in Coventry in England. John Kemp Stanley inherited a sewing machine factory. The logic for turning it into a bike factory must be there, but you might need to study how these factories work to figure it out. Again they went into motorcycles before turning to automobiles. Almost an echo of other car factory stories.

The moral of this seems to be if you want to be able to run a car factory, try running some other form of factory first. Otherwise try to work with a different type of car firm or with military vehicles of some sort.

It is probably one of the most highly competitive industries in the world and makes billions every year. Good luck.

 

Car Power – Used for the House?

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One of the problems with an electric car is the cost of building up the right amount of power. With home electricity sky-rocketing people might wish they could run their house off the car’s battery in a pinch, but that cannot be done just yet.

For a second let’s suspend the fact that you buy your car so you can drive it, not run the battery dead powering your house.

When power is shut down, nothing in the house will work. And there are hundred reasons for a power outage: wild fires, seasonal winds and so on. So there is a market for alternatives.

The technical name for such power is a bi-directional battery, one that works with two objectives in mind. It gives the customer more choice, but it does ramp the prices up.

There is enough electricity in a car to power a house but getting it out is the problem. The difficulty is that houses are so plugged into the grid that it becomes the default setting; creating any generator that would power the house outside the main system would present a difficulty.

The power company would treat a power line as a cut, even if the house is simply switched over to battery for a time, and someone would try and repair it. It seems overzealous but the reality is that generators are set to kick in when the grid is down, so the houses aren’t built to toggle back and forth from grid to local generation.

There’s a problem with the current too. The battery is DC powered and the grid is AC powered, so you need a way to convert this (also known as inverting this). Some nerd needs to come up with a way for a car to discharge its power to act as a battery back up to a house in an emergency.

In recent years we’ve seen people go to their car to charge their cell phones when the grid is down. Why isn’t this possible on a slightly larger scale? Why couldn’t your hybrid act as a whole house generator?

There’s an access conflict too. Only a certain number of people can access the electricity grid and any new rules need to be regulated fairly. There are laws on the books that say if your home generation system, think solar panels on the roof, generate more power than your home is using, that the local PUD must buy the excess from you. So it’s possible to sell back power.

So for emergencies it might be a nice option and there are number of players who are looking at the concept. The people at Nissan are looking at developing a project in Copenhagen and there is an office in Chile actually pulling power from a car to conduct business. It’s just doing it on a large scale which is the headache.

Enter the experimental Den Do Drive House by Mitsubishi. The company’s goal is to create a more efficient electric ecosystem, where power can be generated locally when possible and off grid when not, then stored in a house battery or the cars battery as needed. So there would be times when the car would be feeding power back to the house to avoid buying grid power. Why? Well the grid gets its energy from a number of different sources. Some more cost effective and some which are deemed “renewable.” The cost per KW hour varies because power is sourced in response to demand.

The local power company currently negotiates rate in bulk and then resells the power to users at a consistent price, but in the bulk market electricity is bought and sold based on demand and availability. In the past, availability was steady from sources like nuclear power or coal plants, and seasonal from dams. However, wind power varies continuously and unpredictably. The thing most users don’t understand is that there is no giant battery out there storing up wind energy for the times the wind isn’t blowing. Why not? Because the laws of physics prevent such a device from working.

Enter the Mitsubishi Dendo Drive House. If entire developments were to each have local generation and local storage of power, its possible for rate payers to share in the hourly rate swing of power costs and using their smart home, sort of game the system to minimize their liability. It would pay for itself over a number of decades. It just isn’t a short term solution to cheaper electricity bills. The installation of the house will all be done by Mitsubishi and is cost inhibitive unless some sort of government grant enters the scene.

So the while the Dendo Drive house may be a long-shot, only practical in a true energy crisis, a bidirectional switch with local house battery storage could come in handy when the grid goes down. It could let your keep the lights on in your home for a few hours…until your gas tank runs dry.

 

What’s News: Toyota Recall

Toyota recalls 3.4 million vehicles worldwide, says air bags may not deploy

The recall includes 2.9 million vehicles in the U.S., and covers 2011-2019 Corolla, 2011-2013 Matrix, 2012-2018 Avalon and 2013-2018 Avalon Hybrid vehicles.

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The vehicles may have an electronic control unit that does not have adequate protection against electrical noise that can occur in crashes, which could lead to incomplete or non-deployment of the air bags. It could also impede the operation of seat-belt pre-tensioners.

In April, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expanded a probe into 12.3 million potentially defective air bags covering a number of automakers, including the vehicles Toyota is recalling.

A New Decade of Cars

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Jag XJ

It’s difficult at the start of a new decade to see what exactly the selling patterns and trends might be going forward. The apparent answer from marketers can be seen in cars like the Mustang Mach-E and the BMW i4. Although manufacturers obviously research into what makes a car popular, they will ultimately only know how the public feels when they walk into a show room (or tiptoe through a website.

But what do the next batch of cars say about what automakers guess will be the trends?

Apparently in developing a 2021 Mach-E, Ford sees their future as trying to get the best of both their sports car past and their SUV present. Reinforcing this is Ford’s all-electric Mustang, no doubt designed for people nostalgic about the original vehicles. As they say in the video below, if you want to drag race after you drop the kids at soccer, this is the car for you.

Jaguar is planning a XJ for 2021 which will be a type of sedan. As something of a departure they are marketing it as all-electric and the ability to charge itself as a fast rate.

The plans for Mercedes Benz seem a bit more, shall we say pedestrian? Well, how else could you describe an entry level Merc? Despite this they seem to be in favor of keeping the same amount of luxury in the C-class if reducing the price. They also have additional touchscreens in the vehicle.

For 2022 BMW is looking into creating an electric car in the style of sedan with similarities to the Tesla. It shouldn’t be regarded as that suspicious that the BMW 3 series will be outflanked by the M3 and M4 which have an inline-six engine (this is an engine with all its cylinders along a common crankshaft in a straight line).

Another make which seems to be going the way of an SUV is the Chevrolet. The Tahoe will see a change in the styling in the front and the back suspension will make it drive more like a car than a pickup.

One name you might not associate with SUVs is Ferrari, but this may change in 2022 which currently has the working name of “Purosangue”. though it’s difficult to tell you much more than that.

What you might not have heard of yet is an e-tron. An e-tron is a range of sports vehicles made by Audi in the style of an SUV and those in the know reckon they will be big in 2021. The big selling point will be “self-determined mobility” (i.e. using the technology to make the driving experience easier.)

The Kicker has been showing you Rivian for quite a while, BUT if you have been hiding under a rock, but it turns out this is the type of brand both Amazon and Ford are banking on. The idea is to start with a basic shape and adapt it to different electric vehicles. There are plans for a pickup to be on sale for late 2020, as an alternative to the Cybertruck by Tesla.

Due to their recent emission scandal many experts assumed that VW would move to selling electric vehicles but that hasn’t happened, though there are plans for something called an ID Crozz in 2020. This is also believed to be a competitor to the Tesla.

At the moment it’s hard to see definite trends, but the smart money would bet on Electric and SUV.

The Chemical Composition of a Car

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The purpose for examining the Chemical Composition of a Car is to search out ways to make cars safer, lighter, stronger etc. Anything a car company learns from such investigation then goes through a lengthy analysis but does eventually result in improvements to the vehicle itself or to the manufacture process—but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Shell:

A car is mostly steel, which is an alloy (not just a compound) of mainly iron and carbon. The difference between a compound and an alloy isn’t terribly technical. Compounds are two or more elements combined by whatever means, that bond chemically to form a new substance. Think of it more like baking a cake, where the results are not only more than the sum of the parts, but the entire nature of whole is transformed into something new. An alloy, on the other hand, results from introducing metals of different kinds into a molten steel. The effect is to produce something that is fundamentally the same as it would have been, except that it takes on properties from the foreign element. Think of it like adding high carbon steel to low carbon steel to produce a sword that in not brittle but is hard enough to hold an edge.

Steel is used for low cost as well as being resistant to corrosion. A car also contains an amount of aluminium which has steadily increased in price in recent decades. One main reason for price hikes in aluminium is the large amount of electricity used in it’s manufacture. More expensive renewable energy, plus more things (like cars) that run on electricity causes the price to skyrocket. Using aluminium is an attempt to make the car as light as it can be.

The shell of a car undergoes a phosphorous acid bath. Phosphorous acid is a compound of phosphorous, hydrogen and oxygen (all acids contain hydrogen, by the way). Although not the safest chemical to use it is has been granted Safer Choice Criteria, meaning that it is currently the lesser of the available evils.

Fuel:

Gas and engine oil is made of hydrocarbons which enter the environment as a result of car usage. The current thinking is that the best way to reduce gas emissions is to employ solar energy or electric power, but many European countries have invested in “clean diesel,” which is less processed than car gas and contains more energy. But again such an alteration won’t happen quickly. Engine oil may need also to be altered but what to alter it to is still a mystery.

A substantial change to the composition of gas occurred in about the 1990s when leaded petrol was phased out, even if it happened at different times in various states. The reason why lead (or to be more precise a chemical compound containing lead) was used since about 1925 to this decade is that it was felt that it was almost impossible to do otherwise. Frank Howard said that lead was a “Gift from God” and as with everything else it’s hard to change the establishment.

Engines:

Though an engine is all about converting chemical compounds many do not stop and think what chemicals are in the actual engine itself. A number of the parts are plastics, including flow passages and molded composite parts. Luckily in recent years plastic materials have been replaced by a safer metal.

There is extensive research going into the use of ceramics in engines. Sounds a bit crazy but the Japanese are doing pretty cutting-edge things with ceramics that are superior in weight to strength ratio, until they hit certain temperatures. The Jury is out, but…

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Tires:

Rubber which makes the tires as well as various items in the car is mostly carbon and oxygen but also contains trace elements of Zinc, sulfur and other elements. Rubber can’t really be described as environmentally sound though. On one hand rubber does decompose, on the other hand it takes about 50 years to decompose.

There is also Silicon in rubber, as well as in the car’s windows. In order to stop squeaky noises, Silicon is also used as it makes an ideal lubricant. It shouldn’t be applied to the rubber part of the door but to the metallic part.

Exhaust:

The majority of the material that comes out of a car exhaust is Nitrogen, with water vapor (or H2O ) and CO2 making about 13% each. Although these are considered non-toxic they still make a contribution to the greenhouse effect.

What might be the biggest surprise element in your car is copper! There’s a lot more copper in your car than you probably expect because it’s an element of the braking system. If you didn’t have copper in the car, you’d have problems.

In conclusion:

You don’t think of a car as a bundle of chemicals but it is a factor in our environment. Car chemical improvement is a continuous process. Researchers want to replace current chemicals and substances with something “better.” Better means something safer, less impactful on environments, lighter, or maybe something most cost-efficient.