October 22nd, 2012 at 12:05pm
A boom in the Brazilian market has one automotive manufacturer introducing seven new models. Has the U.S. auto industry fully recovered? A report from WardsAuto indicates it may have. Reading between the lines has us thinking we may see the first zinc-air battery soon. All that and more, plus an independent car tech believes he has solved the draw-backs of the rotary engine.
Welcome to a new week of Autoline Daily. Have we got a lot of news to get to today. Later on in the show we’ve got a story on what could be a major breakthrough on the rotary engine, discovered by a back-yard mechanic. But before we get to the news, have you seen the results of the Autoline poll? We asked you which presidential candidate would be the best for the automotive industry and the results are an exact mirror of the national race. Based on your voting, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are tied, both with 46 percent. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party got 6 percent, while Jill Stein of the Green Party and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party both got 1 percent. I think the Autoline poll is a great indicator of how this election is going to go.
CHEVY ONIX DEBUTS IN BRAZIL
Lots going on in the booming Brazilian market. Chevy took the wraps off a new subcompact, called the Onix, which debuts at the Sao Paulo Auto Show this week. It’s powered by a 1.4 liter engine with a 6-speed automatic. GM Brazil is introducing seven new models to offset a drop in sales.
BMW AND VW BUILD IN BRAZIL
The AP reports BMW will invest $500 million to build a new plant in the country. And Bloomberg reports that Volkswagen will spend $4.4 billion to upgrade its factories and models in Brazil.
CHINA TAKES ON AUTONOMY
You’re all familiar with Google’s autonomous vehicle, and now China plans to start testing them, too. They’ll run from Beijing to neighboring city Tianjin, a distance of 120 kilometers. The National Natural Science Foundation of China, which is conducting the tests, is planning a longer test drive in 2015 that will cover 2,400 kilometers. The Foundation says it has made several technological breakthroughs, but is still way behind Google and others..
DELTAWING A TRUE COMPETITOR
Speaking of innovation, the Nissan DeltaWing race car ran in the 10-hour 1,000-mile endurance race at Road Atlanta and finished a very credible fifth place. This despite the fact it had to start dead last, and was not allowed any wave-arounds under yellow flags. Otherwise, it would have finished higher up the rankings. We love following the DeltaWing because it represents such a breakthrough in racing design. It has half the horsepower of the cars it runs against.
AUTO SALES ON THE RISE
Good news on the sales front. WardsAuto forecasts that the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Sales Rate, or SAAR, will top 15 million units for the first time since February, 2008. If the industry can consistently hold that rate in the months to come, then I think we can officially declare that the auto industry has fully recovered.
COULD LF-LC GET ZINC-AIR BATTERY?
Lexus is unveiling the latest version of its LF-LC concept car. Now it’s painted blue and it’s being shown at the Australian auto show, but here’s what caught our eye. Toyota says the hybrid uses an “advanced high-energy battery pack.” Now if this was a lithium-ion battery, you’d expect them to say so. Could this car be fitted with the zinc-air battery that Toyota has been working on? If so, it could be a breakthrough. Toyota isn’t saying what’s under the hood, but we sure need to learn more about this car.
THE ULTIMATE DELIVERY VEHICLE
On Friday, Local Motors announced the winner in the first phase of the Ultimate Delivery Vehicle Challenge sponsored by Domino’s Pizza. Over the course of the 6-week competition more than 1,500 concept files were submitted. Of those, 127 concepts met all competition criteria with Anej Kostrevc of Slovenia submitting the winning design. The challenge still has three more phases of interior, surfacing, and rendering that will conclude February of 2013.
ROTARY ENGINE BREAKTHROUGH?
The Wankel engine always held out a lot of promise, but never was able to fully deliver on those promises. It was never very fuel efficient, and the exhaust temperatures were very high. But now an independent car tech thinks he has stumbled onto what held that engine back Coming up next, what could be a breakthrough for the rotary engine.
Some of the best automotive innovations come from shade-tree mechanics and backyard tinkerers. One such inventor has focused his attention on improving the rotary engine. Ernie Brink has come up with several upgrades for these unique power plants.
Ernie’s been fascinated by these high-revving engines for decades. As a former Mazda technician he’d better be. Even though they’re nearly extinct today, he’s very optimistic about the rotary’s future. In fact, he’s come up with two possible breakthroughs to their design, the first of which addresses their inherent loss of compression.
By ditching those big fat spark-plug holes and replacing them with narrow slots — no wider than 1.5 millimeters he says — compression is no longer wasted out the exhaust. But there’s more on the table with the Wankel engine.
The idea behind that offset combustion chamber is to help kick the rotor in right the direction so it’s not pushing against itself. Ernie has actually built a specially modified engine to put his theories to the test. The results of this experimentation were astounding! He claims EGT, that’s exhaust-gas temperature, fell by 600 degrees Fahrenheit!
We don’t really know if Ernie has come up with a breakthrough, but what he’s saying certainly seems to be logical. I hope someone with the will and the resources can fully test out his theories. Are you listening, Mazda?
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.