May 19th, 2010 at 12:05pm
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.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Welcome to Autoline Daily! Here’s the top news for Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
TOYOTA RECEIVES SUSPICIOUS PACKAGES
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!
BYD e6 PRICING
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.
GOLDMAN SAYS DUMP BYD
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?
ANALYSTS PREDICT SALES REBOUND
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.