Episode 395 – Moth-Eye Windshields?, Analysts Predict Rebound, Progressive X-Prize

May 19th, 2010 at 12:05pm

Runtime 8:40

Scientists in Germany are studying moth eyes to develop non-reflective windshields. Analysts predict that car sales will rebound in two years in the U.S. All that and more, plus a look at the Progressive X-Prize, a contest where participants build an affordable car that can be mass produced and get 100 miles to the gallon.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Welcome to Autoline Daily! Here’s the top news for Wednesday, May 19, 2010.

In a story that is just starting to leak out now, Toyota evacuated its manufacturing headquarters in Erlanger, Kentucky last Friday when a suspicious-looking package ended up in the mail room. Reuters reports that in the last week other suspicious-looking packages were mailed to its engine plant in West Virginia and its assembly plant in Texas, but they were not evacuated. Another package was intercepted in Indiana that was addressed to another Toyota plant located there. The FBI says it is not calling these packages threats against Toyota, but it continues to investigate them.

GM WON’T OFFER UNION BUYOUTS (subscription required)
General Motors spent many billions of dollars offering buyouts to UAW workers over the last couple of years. But now the company is telling the union it’s not going to do that anymore. The Wall Street Journal reports that GM is still paying unemployment benefits for 5,000 workers on lay-off, and it will not offer them buyouts when those benefits expire. Last week we reported that UAW vice president Bob King said the union wants to start recuperating some of the concessions that it made.

MOTH-EYE WINDSHIELDS? (subscription required)
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials in Germany are studying moth eyes to develop non-reflective windshields. Yep, you heard me right, moth eyes. According to Ward’s, the eyes of a moth do not reflect light so they’re not visible to predators. Scientists have studied this and have developed a windshield coating that does the same. Tiny bumps, smaller than the wavelength of light, stipple the surface of the coating which filters light, making it easier on the driver’s eyes. The scientists believe the new coating could be applied to other components, making them more durable and easy to clean. Moth eyes!

Automakers are gearing up to introduce EVs in the American market. Yesterday we reported the pricing for the Nissan Leaf and now Gasgoo reports that Chinese automaker, BYD will charge $40,000 for its EV, the e6, in the American market. Gasgoo reports that the car can travel over 180 miles — over 300 kilometers — on a single charge. Personally, I have a hard time believing that driving range. On what kind of driving cycle? No one else can come close to that kind of range. I don’t think BYD has come up with a breakthrough. I think we need to have a global standard that is used to compare driving ranges.

In other BYD news, analysts at Goldman Sachs say it’s time to dump the company’s stock. They say it’s overvalued. But Goldman rates Chinese automaker SAIC as a buy. It’s interesting to note that billionaire investor, Warren Buffet, holds a stake in BYD. So who should we trust, the Oracle of Omaha, of the investment firm that helped crash the global economy?

And speaking of disasters, it looks like the auto industry could climb out of it faster than expected. A.T. Kearney estimates that carmakers will sell about 14.4 million vehicles in the U.S. next year and roughly 16.1 million in 2012. And by 2015 it estimates that sales could hit 17.5 million, topping the all-time record of 17.3 million set back in 2000. Why the optimistic forecasts? A.T. Kearney cites the average age of cars in the U.S. – which is the highest it’s been in 60 years – plus pent-up demand from nearly 20 million consumers who postponed buying a new car because of the recession.

GM PUSHES CHINA ON AUTONOMY (subscription required)
Ward’s reports that General Motors is calling on the Chinese government to help develop a new mobility system that would allow electric cars to communicate with each other and their surroundings. GM wants to build autonomous EVs that can park themselves, automatically charge their batteries and pick up their owners when summoned. GM says much of the technology already exists and that China is in the perfect position to leap-frog the world into this “mobility internet,” as it’s called.

The Progressive X-Prize is a contest to see who can come up with an affordable car that can be mass produced that gets 100 miles to the gallon. No major automakers are involved in the X-prize. It mostly involves inventors and tinkerers who work out of their garage. We’ll show you some of their cars, right after this.

The first X-Prize was all about finding who could come up with a commercial rocket that could blast people into space. It was won by the brilliant aerospace designer Burt Rutan and his SpaceshipOne which is now being commercialized by billionaire Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines. Well, the next step in the X-prize is to come up with a car that can get 100 miles per gallon. Jeff Gilbert of WWJ Newsradio 950 filed this report.

Thanks for that report Jeff. I hope to get out to the Michigan International Speedway later this summer to watch the competition first hand.

And with that, it’s time for me to sign off. I’d love to hang around and chat, but my schedule’s full the rest of today. Don’t worry though, we’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of Autoline Daily. As always, thanks for watching and we’ll see you then.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

38 Comments to “Episode 395 – Moth-Eye Windshields?, Analysts Predict Rebound, Progressive X-Prize”

  1. tj Martin Says:

    And now for the worst Automotive news of the week .

    Automotive News Europe has reported that VAG will be purchasing either all of , or a majority stake in the Italian Automotive Design Icon Ital Design Giugiaro .

    ” And another one bites the dust ”

    Can it get any worse out there ? Yes , unfortunately it most certainly can …… and will .

  2. Buzzerd Says:

    What exactly does a non threatening suspicious looking package look like? and is a non threatening package a threat? and why do bars have parking lots if we’re not suppose to drink and drive…..

  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    I suspect our own dearly beloved Smokey Hyundai character may be responsible for all those “suspicious” packages sent to Toyota, since his hatred for the company has been clearly expressed by him in this blog!

  4. dcars Says:

    Isn’t BYD known for making exaggerated claims to create buzz and then makes a statement later that denies it?

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    John is correct to be skeptical about the 300 KM range of the BYD but note that they can’t sell it below $40,000 (!!!), which, for a car made in China, is equivalent to over $100,000 if it was made here.

    So I suspect that the BYD has far more batteries than the other EVs on sale, hence the range.

    On the X prize, most of these vehicles looked like silly toys. Are these supposed to be STREET LEGAL? 100 MPG is nothing if you go exotic, there are “cars” making 1000s of MPG in each year’s competitions. And are these real family cars? many of them look like modified “Dumbs” (aka “Smarts” puny 2 seaters with next to no cargo space!)

  6. Nick Stevens Says:

    TJ: Since you use VAG all the time, I looked it up and was told that VW-Audi has NOT used this acronym since 1992.

  7. Mark Says:

    Hi John,

    Why isn’t Nissan being accused of dumping practices when it prices the Leaf at $6K less in the US than in UK or Japan? It seems that Japan Inc. has gotten away with this for year on their cars and consumer electronics devices. Any idea why the US allows this to continue or how Japan defends this practice?

  8. Nick Stevens Says:


    Everybody has been doing that for many decades. Cars in the US are far l ess expensive than identical models overseas, esp. luxury german cars but also toyotas and hondas. A base 1.4 lt corolla in Europe back in 2005 was 17,000 EUROS, not dollars! That was $23k back then, when you could buy one here for $15k and a bigger engine and tougher safety and emissions standards.

  9. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The only thing needed to have a package appear suspicious is for it to ‘not’ have a return address or other identifiers that would show a place of origin. (suspicious times for sure)

    As far as the BYD distance claims, the 17.5 million auto sales and the 100 mpg street legal automobile; show me (and I’m not even from Missouri)

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    And closer to green vehicles, the same PRius that costs $22k here costs Euros 27,000 (very base version) in Europe, ie close to $40,000 when the Euro was strong. of course, with $9 a gallon gas there, the priyus’s outstanding real world MPG is more valuable than here with $3 gas!

  11. tj Martin Says:

    Nick Stevens ;

    I’m not sure where you found that tid bit ( Volkswagen/Audi not using VAG anymore ) but all the Euro press UK included as well as the majority of automotive reporters here ares still using the VAG moniker . So I’d severely question that source you found .

    Heck even Bugatti and Lamborghini execs when interviewed say they’re a part of VAG .

    So sorry there Nick but i’ll keep using it as well .

    Pedro Fernandez ;

    The H/S Suspicious package comment . I’m still laughing .

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    tj: IT’S A FACT. The VW group abandoned the VAG acronym, as I said, in 1992. That’s 18 yrs ago. The source is the web, I’ll give you the quote:

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to:navigation, search

    VAG is a three-letter abbreviation that may refer to:

    * Freiburger Verkehrs AG, the municipal transport company of the city of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany.
    * Vereinigte Astronomische Gesellschaft, astronomy society
    * a former name for the Volkswagen Group, a German automaker, used from 1978 to 1992. “

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    Back to that 100 MPG prize:

    What the hell is the $ level that makes it “AFFORDABLE”? What kind of legal nonsense is this? They need to specify a strict upper limit to the cost or price of the vehicle. $25,000 sure is affordable, but $50,000 is NOT, sure not for these Mickey Mouse 2-seater converted “Dumbs”!

  14. tj Martin Says:

    Nick Stevens ;

    Now I’m surprised at that comment ( Prius MPG ) coming from an Engineering Prof .

    Come on Nick , you know as well as I do , after the reams of real world comparison tests that the Prius mpg figures are not only grossly overstated but in reality are worse than that of a comparable sized gasoline engined car .

    More hype than reality is the fact when it comes to any of these so called Green Hybrids

  15. tj Martin Says:


    Given the choice of believing Wikipedia and taking the word of VAG ( Volkswagen Audi GROUP ) members such as SEAT Lamborghini etc. Well I’d think as an educator you’d know the answer.

    Wikipedia – Nice bit of fluff entertainment and good for a bit of general info but far from reliable and accurate .

    Please don’t tell me you allow your students to use Wikipedia for their Research Papers . The wife and I are disgusted enough with the current state of higher ed. ( hence both being ex higher ed profs )

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    I googled this, since John may take a week to answer: here are the reqs for the 100 MPG prize, no $ limit i can see for “affordability”:

    “Vehicle requirements

    Within the Competition Division, there are two vehicle classes—Mainstream and Alternative—both of which have the same requirements for fuel economy and emissions, but differing design constraints. The Alternative class is further divided into tandem and side-by-side classes. Vehicles in the Mainstream Class must meet specifications that are derived from typical small, five-passenger, economy mixed-use vehicles. The Alternative Class has fewer performance and design restrictions and provides an outlet for innovation. Both classes allow entries that are modifications of an existing popular vehicle, provided that all PIAXP requirements are met.

    Vehicles in both classes must have a fuel economy of 100 MPGe (21 kWh or 2.35 liters of petrol/100 kilometer) and produce less than 200 grams/mile CO2 emissions (measured well-to-wheel). For electric vehicles, the CO2 emissions requirement is a more binding constraint. Because CO2 emissions will be calculated assuming a national average of electricity sources projected to 2014, an all-electric car will have to achieve 114 MPGe in order to produce less than 200 grams/mile CO2 emissions. Further, electricity consumption is measured at the “plug” side of the battery charging device, so it would have to achieve 114 MPGe, assuming 100% efficient battery charging. If the charger were 85% efficient, this requirement would grow to 134 MPGe.[10][11] In the other words, efficiency of electric cars should be not 21 but 16 kWh/100 km.

    Vehicles in both classes also must have features expected of a modern automobile including an enclosed cabin with windshield and windows, operating windshield wipers, washers, headlights, horn, indicators, brake lights, reflective devices, rear and side-view mirrors, and seat belts. They must have the usual automotive controls, including accelerator pedal, brake pedal, steering mechanism (not necessarily a wheel) and indicators. They must be “highway capable”, which is defined as the ability to maintain 65 mph (105 km/h) on a four percent uphill grade and to accelerate from 40 mph (64 km/h) to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 9 seconds. They must be able to brake from 60 to 0 mph in less than 170 feet (52 m), meet existing noise standards and use tires that meet automotive or motorcycle (alternative class only and only if the vehicle is otherwise eligible to be classified as a motorcycle) standards. Both must meet the same set of static and dynamic stability requirements.

    The mainstream vehicle must seat at least four adults with at least two side-by-side front seats, have at least 10 cubic feet (0.28 m3) of useful cargo space in one contiguous location not counting the passenger seats, accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 15 seconds or less, and be able to drive 200 miles (320 km) without refueling or recharging. The mainstream vehicle must have four or more wheels.

    The alternate class vehicle must seat at least two people, accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 18 seconds or less, and be able to drive 100 miles (160 km) without refueling or recharging. The alternative vehicle has no minimum number of wheels, but it must remain upright when stopped with no driver inputs.[12]

    While the main focus of PIAXP is fuel economy and carbon emissions, not safety, the vehicles must be “production capable”. Therefore, the entries must either be fully compliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and other applicable National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requirements or compliance has to be “designed in”. For example, allowance for airbags in the designs is considered acceptable without actually installing the airbags.[13] Teams are also required to submit a business plan which clearly demonstrates an ability to produce 10,000 vehicles per year. Note that teams are not required to be under-taking this plan, but the plan has to exist and the car has to be designed such that this plan is feasible.

    With the lack of mainstream entrants from established automobile companies, a Demonstration Division was created so that automakers could at least display and promote their highest efficiency vehicles alongside the main competition. However, there were too few entrants by the March 1 registration deadline, and this division was canceled.[14] The only confirmed entrant was the Tesla Roadster, which had dropped out of the main competition.

    Vehicles in the Demonstration Division would have met the same requirements as Mainstream Class vehicles in the Competition Division, except for MPGe and CO2 emissions. There was no Alternative Class equivalent in the Demonstration Division. These vehicles would have been stock vehicles, i.e., vehicles identical to those for sale or pre-production prototypes of vehicles intended for sales.

    Vehicles in the Demonstration Division would have been tested in the same way as Competition Division vehicles and would have participated in the PIAXP competition events under the same rules in order to demonstrate and showcase their capabilities and performance.[15]”

    BUT since the Tesla roadster was allowed to enter, a car with base price at $100k and loaded over $115k, this is a Mockery of the word “affordable!”.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    TJ martin:

    YOu are beginning to really ANNOY me. Maybe you should take COVER.

    SPARE ME the ch4eap shots about WIKIPEDIA. It is NOT like I use it for my RESEARCH!!!!!!! For matters like THIS, it is 100% RELIABLE!

    Stop challenging the OBVIOUS, that VW’s OFFICIAL NAME has NOT been VAG for 18 years.

    AND do NOT talk about the PRius if you have NOT acrually DRIVEN IT as I HAVE and said many times in this forum!

    I have rented a 2nd gen prius (the new one is even BETTER, including MPG!!!!) at LAX last April and June 2009 and have seen igts AWESOME MPG for myself. It got over 52 MPG city, 47 MPG highway at 75 MPH on cruise, and even 62 MPG and 69 MPG on a leisurly scenic drive one evening at Palos Verdes.

    There is NO other hybrid that even comes close, And this is WHY the Prius UTTERLY DOMINATES the Hybrid segment, practically selling more cars than all other models (10 or 20) combined!

    IN CONTRAST, the POS Nissan Altima Hybrid they gave me another time barely got 32 MPG!!!

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS TJ, I sure am NOT a mere “Engineering prof”. There are 10,000s of these. As i said, you have no clue.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:


    I would Appreciate if you CUT IT OFF with your CHEAP SHOTS!!!!! It is OUTRAGEOUS to suggest that I use Wikipedia for UNIVERSITY RESEARCH. I use it for the likes of YOU and discussions like this one, where it is 100% aCcurate.

    AND I DARE YOU TO PROVE ME WRONG! YOU look it up, and find out for yourself. And in fact I GOOGLED IT, I did NOT just go to Wikiopedia, it was GOOGLE that produced the links.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Volkswagen international web sites have numerous references to “Volkswagen Group,” but no mention of VAG. I suspect the wikipedia article is correct, and the VAG name has been officially retired by Volkswagen AG. That doesn’t keep people from using it, just as I still use the term “two door sedan” which is an older term that is not used much any more.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    OF COURSE It is correct, Kit. The company changed its official acronym 18 years ago. Obviously TJ and wife were never in Engineering, much less in the Automotive business.

  22. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS how is a two door sedan different than a coupe? You can keep using it, but it is a grossly miselading and not useful term.

  23. Nick Stevens Says:

    Here is a possible explanation why VW-Audi Group stopped using the VAG acronym 18 years ago:

    Another definition of “VAG”, from the urban Dictionary on the web:

    “vag :
    Abbreviation for Vagina, but is used more as a gross term than good.
    What’s that smell? oh, it’s probably Lisa’s vag. Oh man, that sushi looks like someones vag!!”

  24. tj Martin Says:

    Nick ;

    Out of respect for the others on the site I won’t bother to respond to your individual repeated insults and insinuations.

    As to not having a clue , well my good man its you that have no idea what so ever as to what my background may or may not be now do you ? So perhaps before sticking thy foot firmly in thy mouth might I suggest you keep your ire aimed at the likes of H/S before one like myself is forced into a position of whittling you down to size a few notches .

    I’ve shown you more than a reasonable amount of respect . So how about returning the same in kind ?

    The Wikipedia as research comment was meant to be a bit of humor ( which you missed ) And sorry but a little research on your part as to the reality of the Prius will turn up a fair amount of evidence supporting my . not your claims .

    And again ; if its good enough for the individual manufactures of the VOLKSWAGEN AUDI GROUP ( VAG) to continue to call it so I should think it more than acceptable for one to use that term here without incurring a rash of anal , how do the Brits call it , Anorak invectives .

    Grab a Valium or go kick your dog man . Better yet just calm down . Because Dear Sir i am neither impressed or intimidated .

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VAG referred to Volkswagen Audi Group. That was before they had Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley, Seat, Scania, a probably one or two other brands I’m not thinking of. Now, Volkswagen Group makes more sense than VAG.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Most older cars generally called two door sedans had the same amount of cabin space as their four door counterparts. Now, there probably aren’t any such cars, at least in the U.S. market, thus the common use of the “coupe” moniker which is now used for some four door cars.

  27. tj Martin Says:

    Kit Gerhart ;

    Sorry; I meant to respond to your ” Any F1 Fans in the US ” question yesterday but business took me away .

    So yes . I for one have been following F1 since 1965 with memories stretching all the way back to afternoons in ” The Bog ” at Watkins Glen .

    But in all honesty I now follow F1 more out of habit and nostalgia rather than any real interest in the sport since the Max & Bernie Show began turning it into more of a spectacle than sport .

    As to Toyota’s failure in the sport well that was more a case of them thinking that the TTE facilities could magically become a top notch F1 facility in spite of having little success in the sport as an engine supplier and almost no experienced staff on hand to make the change .

    Out of a certain amount of arrogance Toyota assumed that their success in the WRC as well as Sports Cars and Indy would immediately translate into instant F1 success .

    Sadly but unsurprisingly that did not turn out to be the case .

  28. tj Martin Says:

    Kit Gerhart ;

    Volkswagen and Audi are the principles of the automotive group which may explain why even the Execs at Porsche still refer to it as VAG .

    The list includes SEAT , VW , Audi , Skoda . Lamborghini ,Porsche and Bugatti .

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:


    Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_3_Series

    BMW made two door sedans as recently as 1994 in the form of the second generation “E30″ 3 Series.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    tj Martin Says:
    May 19th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    “The list includes SEAT , VW , Audi , Skoda . Lamborghini ,Porsche and Bugatti.”

    …plus Bentley and Scania.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    FWIW, it doesn’t bother me at all that people still use VAG. I sometimes refer to a friends 350Z as his “Datsun,” and he is not offended at all.

  32. tj Martin Says:

    Kit Gerhart

    “it doesn’t bother me at all …… ”

    Precisely . VAG just being the commonly used vernacular as well as short hand for Volkswagen AG .

    And you’re right . Bentley I flat out missed . Scania I was unsure of . So I went to Scania’s site and there they were under Ownership as the largest shareholder . Volkswagen AG. Takk

  33. Andrew Charles Says:

    No Chinese company has yet built a car that can rival the Dacia Logan, Fiat Uno or Chevy Celta for value for money. Sure you can get a Chinese pickup for $5,000 less than a Thai pickup from Isuzu, Toyota, Mazda or Mitsubishi, but only because the Chinese truck is actually a 20 year-old Mazda, Isuzu or Toyota with at best a 1-star crash rating. Brilliance had to pull out of Europe because they couldn’t sell a midsize sedan for less than a European sedan from Ford or Opel. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect BYD to sell the e6 for $40,000, and probably still make a loss on every one. BYD does use a unique battery technology which is supposed to be cheaper and more compact, kind of the whole point since it is first and foremost a battery company that decided to make cars, and bought an existing manufacturing plant making cars based on obsolete Mazda technology to do so.

  34. Andrew Charles Says:

    VAG could stand for Volkswagen AG, or Volkswagen Audi Group. The reason Audi was included is because it is still a separately listed, publicly-traded company (even though VW owns almost all the shares). Porsche Holding was required to make a separate offer for the outstanding Audi shares when it acquired a major stake in Volkswagen, but I don’t think many of the remaining minority shareholders took up the offer.

  35. dcars Says:

    Is GM getting tougher with the unions?

  36. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    LMAO Pedro, hell no. I hate Toyota, but Im not going to jail for that cause.




    Who Cares? If people were more concerned about the quality of their cars, then VAG or whatever you guys want to call it could actually pull off being #1 in Global sales.

    Its like the same old tired Hyoon die, Hun day, Hahn Day, Hahn Die argument. As long as they make good cars then fine who cares how its pronounced or abbrievated.

  37. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    VDub could Blow it totally with this Generation if they keep pushing these JD Power’s Least reliable Compacts (Cough, Cough Golf) JD Power’s least Reliable, etc, etc…

    My Fellow Gen Y 29 Year old Co worker asks me Hyundai questions a lot lately, becuase shes tired of bringing her Golf to be serviced.

    They can try all they want with this NMS, NCC, etc… in America but if they are going to get a more diverse audience that will stay and be faithful they have to boost that quality up.

  38. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# Andrew Charles Says:
    May 19th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    VAG could stand for Volkswagen AG, or Volkswagen Audi Group. ”

    While this is possible, I doubt that many companies in germany sacrifice two of the three letters of their acronym to indicate they are an AktienGesselshaft. (shareholder owned company). Since VW officially retired the name VAG in 1992, I respect their wish. If you changed your name from Andrew to Andreas, for example, I assume you would want me to call you by your own preferred name.