June 29th, 2010 at 12:00pm
The auto industry is heating up in the Muslim world — Ford is expanding its operations in Turkey, Abu Dhabi wants to build cars and Nissan is making a big investment in Indonesia. Researchers at Purdue University have developed a new way to make hydrogen. Tennessee opens the “White-Lightning Trail,” a collection of roads celebrating the history of NASCAR. All that and more, plus a look at Michelin’s advanced Active Wheel technology.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
FORD EXPANDS IN TURKEY
You don’t hear a whole lot of developments in the auto industry coming out of the Muslim world, but that is starting to change. Ford announced it will expand its operations in Turkey. According to Bloomberg, the company doesn’t only want to build vehicles in Turkey; it wants to grow its engineering capability in the country as well. Ford and its joint venture partner, Koc Holding, build trucks and the Transit Connect in Turkey. Last year the two produced over 170,000 vehicles.
ABU DHABI WANTS TO BUILD CARS
More news from the Middle East, Bloomberg reports that Abu Dhabi wants to set up an auto industry zone that covers 11-square kilometers – 4.2-square miles – to assemble vehicles. The emirate already has investments in Ferrari and Daimler and could use those relations to build the center and maybe get some production.
NISSAN BULLISH ON INDONESIA
And Nissan announced it will double production in Indonesia by 2013. According to Bloomberg, it will invest $20 million at a plant to increase capacity to 100,000 units. Nissan is optimistic about growth in Indonesia, a country of 230 million people. The company plans to open a research and development center in the country next year and is also considering using it as an export base.
R&D FOR ALGAE
From the Muslim world we shift to the research going on with alternative fuels. We keep hearing about more and more R&D involving making fuel from algae, and now there’s more. Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Department of Energy is taking a three-pronged approach to commercializing biofuel made from algae. It’s putting $24 million into three different research groups which include participants from academia, national labs and private companies. It includes oil and bio-engineering companies as well as manufacturers like Boeing and General Motors. While fuel from algae looks extremely promising, it’s still at least a decade away from commercialization.
HYDROGEN FROM HYDROTHERMOLYSIS (subscription required)
In a related development, Ward’s reports that researchers at Purdue University have developed a new way to make hydrogen. They call the process hydrothermolysis, because it uses both hydrolysis and thermolysis. That can sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to us non-scientific types, but the bottom line is that the process could yield a lot of hydrogen from a relatively small amount of material, in this case ammonia borane. The big drawback to fuel-cell cars is that age-old question: where are you going to get your hydrogen? Maybe Purdue is on to solving that problem. So far it proved that the concept works, but it’s a long way from commercialization.
IN REMEMBRANCE OF
Autocar is reporting a historic milestone, but a sad one. Charles Spencer King, father of the Range Rover, has passed away. The prolific, 85 year-old engineer died last weekend as a result of injuries sustained from a collision with a van while riding his bicycle. His career started way back in 1942 when he worked at Rolls-Royce as an apprentice. After the war he moved to Rover and helped develop several turbine-powered cars. While at British Leyland he took the lead in creating numerous Triumph models including the TR6 and TR7 sports cars. For all of his achievements he’s best known as a driving force behind the original 1970 Range Rover.
Now for a bit of history. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Tennessee tourism officials are trying to attract NASCAR fans that want to retrace the mountain roads where the sport was born. The state’s newly christened “White-Lightning Trail” spans several hundred miles across nine counties in Northeast Tennessee. Now you can drive the same roads moonshiners used half a century ago to transport loads of illegal liquor. The appropriately named trail also highlights some of the region’s historical sites, including the hometowns of several country musicians. Tennessee tourism officials are quick to point out that the highway is not about promoting moonshine, but I would expect some tourists to drive like those moonshiners did.
They always tell you not to try and re-invent the wheel, right? Well, here are some engineers who went out and did it anyway.
As you may recall, we were in Rio a few weeks ago at Michelin’s Challenge Bibendum where there were a number of interesting electric vehicles. In fact, Michelin even had a hand in developing one with its Active Wheel innovation. Here’s Autoline’s Chip Drake with the story.
The Active Wheel technology — which integrates all essential components into the wheel such as electric power, electric suspension
and braking — was actually unveiled by Michelin at the end of 2008.
What made it news down at the Challenge Bibendum was that it was now in The Will — a drivable prototype.
Driving The Will around Rio was only the second step in the development process. For now, the testing continues, and then, maybe someday … somewhere … production.
Thanks for that report Chip. Michelin’s Challenge Bibendum was filled with a lot of fascinating cutting-edge cars with all kinds of propulsion systems. We’ll be showing you a few more in the coming days.
And that is it for the latest update on the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.