First we had the choice of regular, premium, supreme or diesel. And generally the decision was an easy one, since most cars are built with a decided preference.
But now there’s the Fiat Siena Tetrafuel, which gives us the option of running on four completely different types of fuel. According to Italiaspeed, this vehicle has struck gold in the Brazilian market, being introduced with the capability to fill its 1.4 liter engine with either moisturized alcohol, pure gasoline, natural gas, or Brazilian gasoline (which is made up of alcohol, pure gasoline and natural gas).
Despite what Kermit the Frog says, it’s pretty easy to be green these days. America is loving green so much that it has almost become unpatriotic to question the credentials of anyone who claims to be promoting light-impact products. Wired.com recently took that step, uncovering unethical and probably illegal business tactics at ZAP! Corporation, one of America’s largest all-electric vehicle companies, based in Santa Rosa, CA.
ZAP! has been in business since 1991 when garage-tinkerer Jim McGreen invented electric conversion kits for bicycles. He dubbed his new company ZAP (zero air pollution) Power Systems and started looking for investors. Gary Starr was the first to write a check, and the company incorporated in 1994. Starr was a solar car pioneer who was asked to leave the company he helped to create, U.S. Elecricar — marking an ominous beginning to the company.
ZAP! grew quickly after McGreen invented the Zappy, a standup scooter that Kevin Spacey rode on the David Letterman show. Revenues were over $1.4 million by 1998. Revenues did not bring profits, however, and Starr and McGreen had a major falling out over whether to move production overseas. Starr maneuvered to increase the company’s board to seven members, giving Starr enough votes to get rid of McGreen. Starr succeeded, and by the end of 1999, McGreen, who had founded the company in his garage, was gone – no HP story to tell here.
Remember when instant mashed potatoes arrived on the food scene? While not as delicious as fresh and homemade, they boasted a precious saving of prep time in the kitchen. The problem was lumps, which are inherent in the natural variety but were noticeably absent from the fake ones. So, in an effort to produce more a more realistic-seeming fake product, the manufacturers of instant mashed potatoes began adding lumps.
But they didn’t fool me. They were still instant mashed potatoes.
Henrik Fisker is now attempting a similar endeavor with his new plug-in/solar electric hybrid Karma sports car. The fast but environmentally responsible vehicle can travel 80 kilometers (50 miles) without relying on gas, which cuts down tremendously on emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. When battery power runs out, the engine utilizes a one-gallon fuel reserve to recharge the car. Nice.
You may not want to book future air travel too far in advance, for the new pricing wars may not come from recognizable names like Delta and American. The LTA (lighter-than-air) movement is taking off (pun intended) and competition in the design phase seems pretty stiff.
Here are the Contenders:
Perhaps the leader in airships right now is Skycat. Their Skycat-20 (a heavy-lifting, cargo aircraft) is due to make its maiden voyage in 2008 with a 6-month world tour. While most of us probably don’t have half a year to gallivant around the globe, what’s most intriguing is Skycat’s plan for a mass transport ship that will reportedly lower travel costs to $9 per 100 km, with movability (akin to that of a cruise) and passenger capacity (600+) unparalleled in modern flight services. Overall, Skycat flies the gamut of possible uses at about 25% the energy use of diesel and 40% of traditional aircraft.
I’ve always wanted a Volkswagen bus. Long before I was able to drive, I had a fantasy of living down-and-out in a VW camper, aimlessly meandering it along isolated roads far from civilization and parking it along the beach or deep in the woods in order to catch some sleep and gather supplies.
My fantasy never came true and it never will. Turns out I’m not a down-and-out sort; my idea of roughing it is downgrading to a three-star hotel. But luckily for me, there’s nothing rough about the new Volkswagen Westfalia Verdier Solar Powered Mobile Micro Home.
Micro Homes are the way of the future. At least that’s what the design team at Verdier Solar Power thinks, as well as the Jury at Germany’s Caravan Salon Dusseldorf, who awarded the company a Special Design Award for their inspired VW redesign.
The coming together of the Westfalia, long a symbol of the hippy culture, and the green energy technology of Verdier takes the camper experience and turns it on its head, transforming the simple VW bus into a modern, self-sufficient driving/living machine with a smooth design and the coolest features this side of a high-end fifth wheel. Verdier set out to enhance the “light recreational vehicle” and make the Westfalia traveling experience more luxurious and autonomous. And the result is one of the tightest designs I’ve seen.
Driving by construction sites I can’t help but notice the massive dump trucks loading, unloading, and polluting the air. And with gas prices being so high, I can imagine that owning and operating one of these is pretty costly. Could there be a solution on the way? Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC) thinks so.
MFTBC started the journey toward creating green dump trucks in October 2005 when they released the Shin Caterpillar, which employed Advanced Combustion Emission Reduction Technology (ACERT). According to Mitsubishi’s website, they also created new designs for the air intake and exhaust to prevent gas from being mixed with the air that travels through the cylinders, while their “CAT” monitoring system helps to track fuel efficiency and emissions.
In July 2006 Mitsubishi started production on a model dump truck called the Canter Eco-D. Recently unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Canter Eco-D uses a hybrid system and has a lightweight build and an emissions control that help ensure that the truck cuts back on pollution.
Here’s something that I think few people know about hybrids (at least I was oblivious): technology and price can differ significantly based on the engine, not the manufacturer. At this month’s Detroit Auto Show, GM/Saturn showed off its different versions of the Saturn SUV, The Vue.
The Vue currently in production sports the BAS (battery, alternator, starter) hybrid engine which is not much more expensive than full gas power. In this system, the batteries turn a beefed-up fan belt that then turns the pistons in the engine without using gas. The batteries are recharged through braking and the engine shuts off at stoplights, just like other hybrids. The catch is that the efficiency benefits are marginal – only about 5 mpg – yet still significant and one step cleaner.
I’ve always said “You can’t go wrong with a Honda.”Not very American, I know, when you consider the worthwhile Fords and Chevys out there, but my experience through several Hondas over the years is that they work their ass off for you and give you very little trouble.
However, my internal jury is still out on the Puyo, the hydrogen concept car premiering at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of the month. Juiced by hydrogen fuel cell technology, the Puyo takes efficiency to new levels while displaying an aesthetically ambiguous shape that looks neither hard nor soft, and both box-like and rounded. It’s certainly odd looking. But I thought my CR-V was odd when I got it. (Is it a station wagon? Is it a minivan? Is it an SUV? It was all of those and more. And it was a great care.)
But the funky thing about the Puyo is, it actually is soft. Honda calls it their “gel body” – it’s designed for safety in the event of a collision. And it also glows in the dark, which may help cut down on collisions. Certainly no one in their right mind would aim their vehicle directly at a glowing car.
Bentley, the mega-luxury British carmaker owned by Volkswagen, announced at the Geneva Auto Show this month that it will phase it its all-gas engines by 2012. This marks the first luxury auto line – and one of few overall – to switch to bio- and flex- fuel engines.
The first of these flex-fuel engines is due out in 2009, and by 2012 Bentley will be using a new powertrain that’s expected to include hybrid technologies. If you’re a Bentley fan — and chances are you’re not, because these are some of the most expensive cars on the market — you won’t have to sacrifice power or luxury; Bentley remains dedicated to providing its customers with excellent performance.
Tesla Motors has unveiled their first dealership in Santa Monica, California, reportedly “attracting a gaggle of reporters”. (Hopefully they weren’t obscuring actual consumers.) The chi chi location reflects the high taste of the consumer: the über slick Roadster retails for a cool $109,000. The second location, further north in San Carlos, is specifically aimed at the Silicon Valley elite.
With a range of 220 miles per charge and mileage equivalent to 135 mpg, the electric engine doesn’t lack in horsepower, going from still to 60 mph in less than four seconds. No wonder the demand has been high. 600 orders so far and another 400 on the waiting list. Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
VW shows off a new concept car called the UP. Could this be the rumored Apple / VW vehicle all of us will instantly want to go along with our iPhones and MacBook Pros? Well, if the interior is any hint, I am guessing the UP is not too far off from a future iCar. Buzz around the internet earlier in the month, was that Volkswagen and Apple were collaborating on an iCar project, so it wasn’t surprising when VW’s rear-engined up! Concept Car was introduced in Frankfurt, and a close-up of the dash’s navigation, climate, and in-car entertainment screen revealed a suspiciously Mac OS-eqsue interface, with Mac screen fonts, Mac reflections, and even Mac-like universal pictograms for each function.
According to a recent intervie with VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, there will be a "New Small Family" of value-priced rear-engined cars.
via: AutoblogGreen Like the original Volkswagen and the much newer Smart ForTwo, the up! has it’s engine mounted in the back driving the rear wheels. Unlike the Smart, the VW gets four seats into its 11.3 foot length. As a somewhat more practical challenger to the Smart, it may be interesting to look back at the history of Smart. The Smart was conceived by Swatch founder Nicholas Hayek and was originally a partnership with VW. Now VW has built this new car as a low cost urban transportation module with low CO2 emissions.” Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
What would it take for you to give up the spacious luxury of your Suburban, Expedition or Escalade? Nothing? Even if the word “compact” fills you with horror, bear with me a second. Let’s just say you were ready to take the plunge into downsizing for clean air’s sake. You might want to check out the iQ microcar.
Created in Toyota’s advanced European design studio, the iQ was first previewed at the Frankfurt Motor Show last September. Designed with their Vibrant Clarity philosophy in mind, Toyota managed to create a petite but viable alternative to the CO2-emitting vehicles we’ve been told are as good as it gets.