AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Europe to Cut CO2 with Dinky Diesels

April 22nd, 2008 at 5:16pm

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Over in Europe they plan to dramatically boost fuel economy and drastically cut CO2 with dinky little diesel engines.

Even though European cars get terrific fuel economy, largely thanks to fuel prices that are a lot higher than ours, they still need to do better. European automakers face extremely strict limits on CO2 emissions.

So the next generation of diesels in Europe will have an average displacement of only 1.5-liters, versus an average of about 2-liters today. But they’ll have plenty of power thanks to aggressive turbo charging strategies.

And many of them will have what they call micro-hybrid technology which uses simple stop-start technology. That turns the engine off when you’re at a red light. In fact, the Europeans claim that within a decade they’ll have millions more micro-hybrids than either the U.S. or Japan.

Modern-Day Muscle

April 21st, 2008 at 5:00pm

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When most people think of horsepower they think of muscle cars – burly, rear-wheel-drive Detroit iron with chest-thumping V8s and enough power to turn tires into plumes of smoke. But kids today are creating a performance genre that’s all their own. They’ve pioneered what’s called the “sport compact” car. They’re small, typically imported vehicles that come with four-cylinder engines. Their owners modify them to create serious power and head-turning looks.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: SAE Wrap-Up

April 21st, 2008 at 2:00pm

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This is what we call SAE week in Detroit. It’s when automotive engineers from all over the world get together here to share their ideas on the burning engineering issues of the day. And there’s no question that boosting fuel economy and reducing CO2 topped the agenda.

I can’t pretend to say I . . .

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Europeans Miffed US is going with Hybrids

April 21st, 2008 at 1:00pm

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Map of EuropeOne of the things I learned at last week’s SAE show is that the Europeans think we’re going the wrong way with hybrids.

The European auto industry is kind of miffed that the United States is not pursuing diesel technology more intently. The Europeans have invested heavily in diesel technology and they would like to see us rely on them as technology partners, instead of relying on the Japanese, who hold the lead with hybrids.

Personally, I think both technologies have merit, depending on the kind of driving you do. If it includes a lot of stop-and-go traffic, hybrids are better. If you don’t do a lot of stop-and-go, diesels are better.

But the bottom line is, the Europeans claim they can do a better job of reducing CO2 with diesels than hybrids can, and do it at a lower cost.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Engineering Shortage Hurts Fuel Cells

April 21st, 2008 at 11:16am

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Two years ago I would have said the future looks bright for fuel cells. Now, I’m not so sure.

There was a lot of great information that came out of last week’s SAE show at Cobo Hall. And no doubt about it, green issues dominated the discussions. The auto industry is fixated on boosting fuel economy and cutting CO2 emissions.

But interestingly, there seems to be a growing consensus that hydrogen and fuel cell cars are slipping down the priority list for most automakers; at least for the short-term. The problem is an acute shortage of engineers.

In fact, I’m told there are not enough engineers to work on all the hybrids the car companies plan to come out with in the next decade. So that means they’ll have to cut back on their hydrogen programs to free up engineering talent. And so fuel cells look like they’re being relegated to somewhere farther into the future.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: If They Build Them Will You Buy Them?

April 15th, 2008 at 2:30pm

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I just got done driving the new Dodge Challenger SRT8 this week. And I fell in love with it. The styling snaps your eyes right to it, the proportions are gorgeous, and the performance numbers are breathtaking. But it’s even more visceral than that.

The exhaust note is incredible. Put the hammer down and you get . . .

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Car-in-a-Box

April 14th, 2008 at 5:25pm

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Surely you’ve heard of kit cars. From knockoffs of the legendary AC Cobra to Ferrari replicas built on Pontiac Fiero chassis, interested buyers can find replicas of countless different vehicles. Part of the appeal of kit cars is that owners get to assemble the vehicles themselves. But kit cars don’t always have to be copies of existing models. Here’s a look at one of the tiniest cars that’s ever been sold as a kit.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: The Plug-In Race is about to Heat Up

April 9th, 2008 at 2:30pm

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I just shot a show with three leading environmentalists in California, all with the idea of getting into their heads and figuring out where the next round of CO2 regulations is headed. After all, as goes California, so goes the nation-and ultimately the world.

What the California environmental lobby wants are . . .

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Heat-Seeking Missile

April 8th, 2008 at 4:55pm

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Almost every luxury automaker builds an entry-level sports sedan. BMW makes the acclaimed 3 Series, Audi the elegant A4 and Cadillac the dashing CTS. Lexus has fielded a car in this segment since 2001 when they introduced their IS.

Today, the IS stacks up favorably with its competitors, particularly the Teutons. But unlike the Germans, Lexus has never offered a high-performance version, or a high-performance anything for that matter, until now. Lexus stuck a bull’s-eye on the back of vehicles like the M3 and RS4, and then they homed in like a marine sniper. Now they’ve just fired off their wickedly fast IS F, but the question is, did they hit their targets?

 

 

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: R.I.P. Dodge Viper

April 1st, 2008 at 4:17pm

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A few blogs back I wrote about how Chrysler is going to combine its three brands and start eliminating overlapping models. The idea is to have Dodge concentrate on trucks and work-utilities, with Chrysler exclusively selling cars, and Jeep offering only SUV-based Jeeps.

It’s a bold plan, but a risky one. And while I see. . .

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