Archive for the ‘John’s Journal’ Category

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Utilities Could Lease EV Batteries

June 30th, 2008 at 4:03pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Plug-in hybrids with lithium-ion batteries are going to be really expensive, but there could be a clever way of cutting the cost.

A plug-in hybrid car with 40 miles range of pure electric power is going to need a lithium-ion battery pack that costs about $10,000.

But it turns out that after those batteries hit their lifetime expectancy in cars, they can still store 80 percent of the electricity they’re designed to hold. And that has attracted the attention electric utilities. They could yank these things out of hybrids and daisy chain them together to make big electric storage depots.

Then, during nighttime, when electric utilities have excess capacity, they could make electricity and store it in those batteries, and then draw that electricity out during the day for peak demand. So plug-in hybrid owners might only lease those batteries for the time they use them, or even sell them to the utilities, and that could cut the cost dramatically.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford Starts Cars without a Starter

June 30th, 2008 at 10:15am

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Ford EcoBoost
Turning an engine off every time you stop at a red light can save a lot of gas, and Ford has figured out how to start an engine without a starter.

Ford is going to get heavily into what they call direct fuel injection on most its engines in the next decade to save fuel. And the company discovered something very clever that it can do with that technology.

When an engine stops, the computer that controls it knows the exact position of each piston. And when you go to start the engine, it knows which piston is ready for its power stroke. So it injects fuel into that cylinder and then instantaneously commands the spark plug to fire, which detonates the fuel, pushes down the piston and…starts the engine.

In other words, Ford has figured out a way to start an engine without a starter, and it’s going to incorporate that technology into its hybrid systems to hold down wear and tear and reduce the cost.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: Hey GM, Bring Back the EV1

June 28th, 2008 at 11:00am

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A decade ago General Motors put one of the coolest cars of all time on the road, the EV1. While there were a number of hard-core EV enthusiasts who became passionately committed to the car, it never caught on with the masses. But that was then and this is now. GM should seriously consider . . .

This article continues on Autoblog

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Should the U.S. Drill for more Oil?

June 27th, 2008 at 7:00pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Spindletop

There’s a raging debate going on in the country about whether we should drill for more oil. Here are some facts to consider in that debate.

The United States is a major producer of oil. We produce about 40 percent of all the oil we use. And we could produce more. It’s estimated there are about 31 billion barrels of proven reserves in the U.S. of untapped crude, and maybe a lot more.

Currently, we import 60 percent, or about 13 million barrels a day, of petroleum products. About 30 percent of our imports come from Canada and Mexico, who are our largest oil suppliers. But 40 percent of our imports come from OPEC countries.

Environmental critics say doing more drilling will not be enough to reduce prices much, and they’re right. But those in favor of energy security point out that if the U.S. did tap that oil, we could cut off all imports from OPEC for the next 16 years. And that’s what this argument is about, balancing the environmental risk against a national security risk.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Chinese Car Buyers are totally into Electronics

June 27th, 2008 at 4:07pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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When it comes to what they want in their cars, Chinese customers are quite a bit different than Americans.

Visteon recently conducted research in different markets in the world where they asked car buyers to bring in pictures of products that convey high quality and craftsmanship. American customers brought in pictures of traditional luxury items like high-end furniture and artwork. But Chinese customers brought in pictures of high-tech electronics, like iPods, cameras and expensive sound systems.

So armed with that knowledge, Visteon is now designing interiors for Chinese customers that mimic high-tech electronics, with electronic readouts, very small gaps and cool metallic surfaces.

Another thing Visteon learned is the Chinese don’t want Chinese lettering on any of the controls. They want English. That’s the world standard today and they don’t anything unless it meets the world standard.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Door Panels Convey Quality

June 24th, 2008 at 8:00pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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When people get into a car, you know what conveys quality and craftsmanship more than anything else? Well, you’re not going to believe it.

Over at Visteon they did some heavy-duty research to learn what people perceive that reflects quality. They wanted to know what part of the interior conveys craftsmanship more than any other part.

And what they found is that people focus in on the door trim panel more than anything else — more than the steering wheel, or dashboard or console or seats. It’s all part of what Visteon calls brand halo quantification. That is, how you quantify what parts of the car can put a halo on the brand.

And what they learned out of this is that they can recommend to automakers the kind of materials and technology to put on their door panels to make customers believe it’s a really top-quality car.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Peak Oil Theory

June 24th, 2008 at 6:00pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The peak oil theory suggests global oil production will peak around 2012. And if it’s right, today’s gas prices could look like a bargain.

Not everyone buys into the global peak oil theory, which first gained notoriety about a decade ago. That theory postulates that oil production in the world will hit its maximum around 2012 then drop off quickly after that.

So far that prediction seems to be right on track. Oil production is already declining in many oil-producing countries. But global demand for oil keeps climbing, and prices, as we all know, are soaring.

But if global oil production starts to decline sometime around 2012, prices are going to go a lot higher than that. The pessimists are saying we could see $500 a barrel. I’m not trying to be an alarmist in reporting this, I’m doing so because a lot of people have not heard of the peak oil theory. And with oil prices doing what they’re doing, it’s a topic that really needs a national debate.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: How Many Brands are too Many?

June 22nd, 2008 at 6:27pm

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With gas prices soaring and SUV sales sinking, General Motors just put its HUMMER brand under “strategic review.” That’s generally the term used when a company is getting ready to dump a brand. And that begs the question . . .

This article continues on Autoblog

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: FEV Cylinder Deactivation

June 20th, 2008 at 3:50pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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Automakers are looking far and wide for ways to save fuel, and cylinder deactivation is a great way to do it.

If you can shutdown some of an engine’s cylinders when you don’t need all the power you can save a lot of fuel. Chrysler and GM both use this technology on some of their pushrod V8s, which gives them about 10 percent better efficiency.

The supplier company FEV is developing a system that works on more advanced overhead cam engines. At the SAE World Congress in Detroit they showed off a collapsible roller finger follower. This technology is a simple and cost-effective way to add cylinder deactivation to smaller engines.

Look for more of this kind of technology in the future, especially as automakers work to meet the strict fuel economy standards that are coming in 2020.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Eyes on Design

June 17th, 2008 at 5:10pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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If they could convince the car companies they work for to go for it, car designers are chomping at the bit to come out with much more modern designs.

It was a fascinating discussion of top designers from Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Nissan and General Motors last week. It was part of a series organized by Eyes on Design and held in conjunction with the Automotive Press Association.

The designers talked about a lot of different topics, but what really got them going was a deep desire to make cars look much more modern than they do today. These designers really want to come out with designs that say, “Now this is for the 21st century.”

They all say their car companies can be awfully careful and traditional when it comes to design and if they were given free reign they would come out with designs that don’t look like anything on the road right now.