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Episode 423 – More R&D For Algae, Tennessee Opens “White-Lightning Trail,” Michelin Active Wheel

June 29th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:12

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.

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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.

MOONSHINE DRIVE
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.

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29 Comments to “Episode 423 – More R&D For Algae, Tennessee Opens “White-Lightning Trail,” Michelin Active Wheel”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    In the Muslim world it’ll be called the Ford Exploder, and to hear the word reliable coming from the mouth of a French engineer is remarkable, after all they have not been able to make reliable cars after 100 yrs of building the the damn things.

  2. tj Martin Says:

    For all the supposed good news from Ford of late here’s a bit of disturbing news coming out of Missouri .

    NPR and the local News Agencies today are reporting that as of yesterday the Missouri Legislators are discussing a possible $15 Million Dollar per Year for the next 15 years bailout ( not a tax credit etc. Cash ! ) in order to prevent the KC,MO Ford Plant from
    either severe cut backs and layoffs or Shut Down .

    Now this is not a one time 15 million payment . And its not from the Federal Government but rather from the State of MO . Nor is it as I stated Tax Cuts or Credits . This is in essence a $15 million dollar a year for 15 years bribe so that Ford can keep a plant running .

    Money by the way that MO absolutely cannot afford as its infrastructure rapidly unfolds in light of the financial crisis

    So in light of this new revelation , how seriously can we take all of Fords claims of their success , not needing bailout money from the Feds etc, when they’re demanding funds from local and State Governments just to keep a specific plant operating .

    I also wonder if any other States are dealing with this same issue with Ford or any of the other Big Three

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Interesting, but no thanks to driving the ‘moonshine roads’; first they may be routed similar the the original (maybe not) routes but the surfaces and layout have surely changed over the years. Plus you want to emulate a hopped up car, racing (from the law) in the hills of Tennessee…………why? Part of NASCAR history, yeah kind-of, but a serious connection to what we have now, not even close.

    Michelins ‘all in one wheel’, again interesting, but there was no mention as to what benefits would be expected; just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s better.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    tj: I think Ford is holding the “we’ll move our assembly to Mexico” play card if either the UAW or the govt does not allow for further cost cutting so they can prop up their profits because they’re anticipating continued slow sales for the foreseeable future

  5. GPL Says:

    pedro and tj,

    Ford just wants to shut down the plant. They don’t need the capacity any more, and they’re not moving production to Mexico.

    Currently the plant builds F-150′s and Escapes. The F150 is already being built at other US plants that can absorb the capacity and the Escape is moving to the a platform shared by other products that will be built in Louisville which also has excess capacity, so the St. Louis plant becomes redundant.

    The MO government is just trying to get Ford to reconsider by sweetening the deal for them to stay. IF the cost is less than the economic impact of the plant closure, the cost to the MO taxpayers is a net benefit as a reduced loss.

  6. paulstewart Says:

    pedro fernandez, that so called little joke was not called for in the least.

  7. tj Martin Says:

    GPL

    Thanks for the added insight . Thats not quite how NPR the Missouri State Legislation and the Local News are presenting it but I can see how your scenario may be correct . I guess only time will tell .

    The completely ridiculous thing about this if as you’re saying Ford just wants to close the plant : is that just a little over three years ago Ford had a major hiring push at the KC, MO plant along with transferring 100′s of Ford employees to the KC plant from all over the country .

    So less than three years after the push was over , they don’t need the plant any longer ?

    Which ever scenario is correct , either way I’m just not buying into Fords self proclaimed success Hype they’re spreading about . Because bad management is bad management and bad management always leads to failure . And in the case of the Big Three . EPIC Failure .

    Which is to say ; I’m smelling a GM style Rat with Ford . I might be wrong . Yet as the Randy Newman song goes .

    ” But I don’t think so ”

    Again … Time will tell

  8. tj Martin Says:

    Pedro Fernandez ;

    As to paulstewarts comment to you . On the Ford Exploder . Uh…… maybe questionable . On the French Auto Industries inability to produce a reliable car . Spot On !

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Oh, I was under the impression that Muslim extremists were trying to blow us up to smithereens. It must be all the biased media in this country.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    June 29th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    “…and to hear the word reliable coming from the mouth of a French engineer is remarkable, after all they have not been able to make reliable cars after 100 yrs of building the the damn things.”

    I rented a Citroen C4 two summers ago, and it was a rather nice car and didn’t break down. I only drove it about 1500 km, though.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit: I’m sure any car maker today can build something that will last at least 3 yrs without any catastrophe, except maybe Tata, even the horrible Yugos were running for a couple of years. ps I still have fresh in my mind the images of the nice Muslim women celebrating the collapse of the twin towers, so please Mr. Stewart, give me a freaking break!!!

  12. paulstewart Says:

    pedro fernandez, then the Right thing to do is to say Muslim Extremists, not just Muslims.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Are you telling me that all those women celebrating were extremists? Why would they celebrate the death of thousands of innocent people unless they supported the extremists?

  14. paulstewart Says:

    Stay on point, what you said was not the right thing. There are Muslim Extremists, just like Christian Extremists,etc.etc. You said “Muslims” in your joke.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    June 29th, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    “Kit: I’m sure any car maker today can build something that will last at least 3 yrs without any catastrophe, except maybe Tata,”

    I was not intending to say French cars were super reliable because my rental went 1500 km without a breakdown. In reality, though, I don’t think they are too terrible, at least PSA products. I know two Brits with fairly high mileage PSA cars, a C4 and a 207, and both have done well. PSA’s 4 cylinder diesel engines have a very good reputaion. It’s too early to know, but I hope their gas engines are good, since my Mini has one.

  16. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Sorry to hear about the accidental death of Charles Spencer King. Its a measure of how well medicine has lengthened our lives, that we express sadness that C.S. King lived “only” 85 years instead of the 90 or more he might have lived if it weren’t for that tragedy. I suppose we can take some comfort in that he died with his shoes on, not in bed with Alzheimer’s disease or anything else like that.

  17. Craig Roach Says:

    Hey John,

    There seems to be an initiative lately by a number of players to mount the electric motors to each wheel instead of a centralized motor. I understand it’s implications for the potential to reinvent the look of a car, but isn’t it essentially like filling your tires with concrete in terms of unsprung weight? It seems like a completely opposite concept than what Colin Chapman was famous for during his career.

    I’d love to know your insight on this. Thanks!

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# paulstewart Says:
    June 29th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Stay on point, what you said was not the right thing. There are Muslim Extremists, just like Christian Extremists,etc.etc. You said “Muslims” in your joke.”

    This is the most ludicrous, offensive lie I have ever heard in defense of the TERRORISTS.

    Stick your head deeper in the sand, Paul Stewart.

    In your perverted, brainwashed mind, devout CHristians what exactly are “extremist christians”? I have not seen any in the news slaughtering 1000s and 10000000s of people. On the contrary, your Extremist Moslems were the ones that murdered the 4,000 UTTERLY INNOCENT Americans and others working on WTC and the Pentagon on 9/11,

    and it is the MOSLEMS in SUdan, extemist or not, that murdered the 1,000,000 CHRISTIAN Sudanese in Darfur.

    Whenver you go buy any Brains (you are really low on this commodity) and accuratre information, ask also for a ton of decency. You could sure use it!!

    You make me puke.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS Stweart, are you still mourning for the passing of the Klansman Robert Byrd (D-KKK, W.VA), who was not just a dumb member but also a recruiter of 150 fellow-idiots to the Klan, and who then “repented” to become the biggest THUG in the US Senate (quite a feat), stealing billions of hard-earned taxpayer money to fund moronic projects bearing his name (like the infamous monorail in the middle of nowhere) that nobody uses, while W VA is still as poor and backward as it ever was?

  20. Nick Stevens Says:

    “the U.S. Department of Energy is taking a three-pronged approach to commercializing biofuel made from algae.”

    That convinces me that itwonteverhappen.com, as Peter sez.

  21. paulstewart Says:

    It’s sad to see that Nick Stevens has to come help pedro fernandez and that he can’t defend him self. I’d say Christian Extremists would be the one’s up in Northern Ireland be they Protestents or Cathlics that kill innocents. Or the KKK who lynch & the ones who planned & carried out the Ok building destruction several years back. Stevens your the one so full of yourself it’s silly. You have no monoply on this site at all. You are the idiot ! How they ever let you in the U of M system it’s pathetic. So then all Muslims are bad or evil is that correct ? And all Christians are good. Your a disgrace to U of M and Michigan. Your a worthles piece of Trash. Worse yet your a spineless piece of protoplasm. This site should deal with the auto industry not your political diatribe.

  22. dcars Says:

    The quality of all cars has gone up dramatically, even French cars! When they sold Renaults in the US they were very distinctive, but I was afraid to buy them due to their poor reliability. Our market is so competitive I doubt that we will see the newer French cars anytime soon, which is too bad.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey Stewart, YOU are the one that has turned this into a political discussion, why don’t you go back to making bombs for the muslims and arabs that want to destroy our way of life, Benedict Arnold. There are thousands like you that live here but hate this country and love its enemies, you’re not alone.

  24. GPL Says:

    “Thats not quite how NPR the Missouri State Legislation and the Local News are presenting it…”

    Considering the sources, what do you expect? The government and local news have an obvious interest/bias in the plant remaining open, as it affects their markets. If NPR’s is less obvious, I’ll just say that they tend to hang out at the left end of the media spectrum, so with whom would you expect them to side, the big auto manufacturing corporation, or the Democratic party supporting/voting UAW?

    As for hiring push three years ago and closing next year, that isn’t all that unusual. Economic conditions change, product mixes change, and plans change. In the last three years the Escape has been selling well as the market moved away from the larger SUV’s in favor of the smaller ones, and the Escape isn’t built anywhere else, so it would have been necessary to increase production at the MO plant to meet the demand.

    Now the Explorer is moving to the Taurus platform, and so is moving to Chicago where the Taurus is built, vacating the Louisville plant, which is being retooled for small vehicles sharing the new Focus’s platform. That isn’t news. Ford announced that two years ago, and that the Escape would be sharing that small vehicle platform has been known for some time as well. The only news here is confirmation of what many have suspected all that time.

    That leaves the MO plant with only the F-150, which is also built in other plants that have excess capacity. Ford has excess capacity all over the place and needs to reduce is. Again, that isn’t news. The only question has been who would get the ax, and I am among many that have been speculating that it would be the MO plant. It only makes sense. The music has stopped, and the MO plant doesn’t have a chair.

    That’s tough for those employees that will lose their jobs. I know. I’ve been laid-off twice myself, but I’ve also been able to keep my job a few times because someone else was sacrificed to allow the company to survive. That’s just how it is.

  25. Zieke Says:

    Why can’t you people stick to the automotive content of these posts and cut the MINDLESS drivel of trying to sound intelligent on subjects nobody cares about???

  26. Nick Stevens Says:

    paulstewart Says:
    June 30th, 2010 at 8:11 am

    It’s sad to see YOU turn the truth on its tail. There is NO comparison between the massacre of 1,000,000 defenseless christians in DARFUR by MOSLEMS, Stewart, and any pitiful excuse you can come up with. Your utter lack of knowledge is mind-boggling, and your hate against the christian faith is noted.

  27. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# paulstewart Says:
    June 30th, 2010 at 8:11 am

    It’s sad to see that Nick Stevens has to come help pedro fernandez and that he can’t defend him self. I’d say Christian Extremists would be the one’s up in Northern Ireland be they Protestents or Cathlics (SIC!!!!!) that kill innocents.”

    I assume your social worker can take dictation, you worthless piece of illiterate bum! You can’t possibly be able to use a computer with the level of stupidity and illiteracy you exhibit.

    “Or the KKK who lynch”

    Oh, I see you read the obituary of your excremental KKK “Grand Cyclops” RObert Byrd, eh? The KKK recruiter who brought 150 (!@!!) idiots lile YOU to the Klan, and then proceeded to become the most corrupt US senartor? you remember, KKK-D-W.VA Byrd?

    ” you have no monoply (SIC!!!!) on this site at all. You are the idiot ! ”

    You worthless illiterate, if I am “the” idiot, you are the LORD of the Village idiots th3e world over. You got the brain of a 4 year old, and ther kid was moghty glad to be rid of it!!!

    “So then all Muslims are bad or evil is that correct ? And all Christians are good.”

    You said that, not I.

    “Your (SIC!!!!) a disgrace to U of M and Michigan”

    You are the height of illiteracy, a truly worthless piece of trash, and an evil one to boot. I am paying your unemployment benefits so you can contribute them to AlQaida and make bombs with the $, you utter evil, serially lying like a dawg, worthless bufoon..

    ” This site should deal with the auto industry not your political diatribe.”

    Look who’se talking! I am here to discuss CARS, Pedro, not I, made some innocent joke about the Ford Exploder, and YOU then were the one that started it all.

  28. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS Sorry about the above, but I just could not be silent while this worthless Stweart bum twisted the truth OUT OF ALL PROPORTION.

    And I can’t resist adding that you worthless Liberal clowns, Stewart, took the KKK murderer Byrd, and not only did you make him the most corrupt US Senator, you made him the LEADER of the Dems in the Senate!

    DId you give him the Nazi salute too, you worthless punk?

  29. Nick Stevens Says:

    As for the worthless attacks and clueless lies that punk stweart hurled at me about my Academic Career, the thug got it, as always, 100% backwards.

    Suffice it to say that it is the U of M nn Arbor that actively recruited me, the head of my dept back then traveled to the East Coast to recruit me, and I sure did not disapoint them, since I was awarded a roomful of honors and awards after I was hired, including some of thew highest the U awards annually. My privacy forbids me to give more details, nor do I want to, but that hate-filled thug Stewart provoked me.