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Seriously, wind thumping noise in the Volt needs a dealer fix?

A common complaint in many new cars is wind resonance at high speeds with a window all the way open.  This is due to better aerodynamics which we want.  This resonance often sounds like a flat tire or produces a pressure on your eardrums.  Sunroofs can also produce the throbbing sensation.  If you blow across an open bottle top you’ll get the idea.

Solution: open the thumping window more or less, open another window a crack to get some cross flow, or turn up the interior fan ventilation.  Any of these will stop the thumping.  The bigger issue for an economy car is that drag reduces fuel economy at speeds which can produce any thumping.  As a rule of thumb, it’s more efficient to use the climate control or adjust the fans to get a breeze at greater than 40-45 mph.

I guess this isn’t good enough for many people because the Chevy Volt now has a dealer kit to fix the thumping by disturbing the smooth aerodynamics.  It’s additional side mirror trim that sticks out and deflects the air into the cabin.  It requires at least a day for installation since it requires painting.  Just crack another window open!

From Autoblog

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How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan (and VW)

Bloomberg Markets is reporting that BMW, Volkswagen and Ferrari have been using tungsten ore sourced from Colombia’s FARC rebel terrorists. The extensive story focuses on Colombia’s illegal mining trade and calls into question the provenance of the rare ore that is used not only in crankshaft parts production, but is also found in the world’s computing and telecommunications industry for use in screens.

The ore is mined by the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army), and exported to Pennsylvania, where it is refined. The refined ore is then sent over to Austria, where a company called Plansee turns it into a finished product. Now, it’s important to note that we aren’t talking about the world’s supply of tungsten here. In 2012, Plansee’s American refinery purchased 93.2 metric tons of tungsten, valued at $1.8 million. That’s peanuts, with the entire Colombian tungsten mining industry producing just one percent of the world’s supplies.

That doesn’t make indirectly supporting FARC any more acceptable, though. BMW, VW and Ferrari are all committed to not accepting mineral supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also in the grips of a guerrilla insurrection funded, in part, by illegal mining. The same commitment would figure to extend to Colombian mining, but as BMW points out, it’s difficult for a multi-national manufacturer to know where every item in its supply chain comes from. A company spokesperson says as much, telling Bloomberg, “These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance.”

This response is perhaps somewhat blasé, but BMW, Ferrari and Volkswagen aren’t directly negotiating with the FARC rebels, and we’d be stunned if the three manufacturers were even aware of where the tungsten was coming from. By the time it arrives in their respective factories, it’s traveled from Colombia, to Pennsylvania to Austria, making for a rather difficult web of countries and networks to track. Even so, with Bloomberg drawing a spotlight on the activities, we’re assuming a few phone calls are going to be made.

from autoblog

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VW XL1 video at the Geneva auto show 2013

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VW Golf Hybrid rated at 188 mpg? A closer look at the fuel economy rating.

The VW Golf hybrid was just confirmed for model year 2014 and is rated at 188 mpg!  However, before you say this number can’t be real, it probably is and you probably won’t get that mpg except in optimum conditions.  I predict the fuel economy rating of the VW Golf hybrid will be in the 90 mpg-e (e for equivalent) range.  Maybe up to 100 mpg-e or high 80s, somewhere in that neighborhood.  How did I arrive at this number?

First, the 188 mpg rating is a projected number for the European driving cycle which favors city driving and benefits from things like engine start-stop features.  The US driving cycle does not gain anything from engine start-stop even though it will increase real world fuel economy.  So if your driving habits are mostly city where hybrids shine and less highway, expect a higher mpg-e and real world mpg.

Most of this is because the VW Golf hybrid will be a Chevy Volt style hybrid instead of a VW Jetta style hybrid or Prius hybrid.  The Golf has a 31 mile electric only range vs. the Volt’s 35 miles electric only range and 94 mpg-e rating.  The Jetta hybrid and Prius hybrid have an insignificant or limited electric only range.  Even the Prius plug-in hybrid with lithium ion batteries has only an 11 mile electric only range and is rated at 95 mpg-e.

So even though the plug-in Prius has a very short electric only range, it still gets a high mpg-e rating in the 90s.  So I’m calling the VW Golf hybrid mpg-e rating in the 90 mpg-e range, or as the Chevy Volt calls it, 200 mpg!

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Audi testing A1 e-tron Dual-Mode Hybrid concept [w/video]

Small car, many motors.

Audi, which has been testing its A1 e-tron extended-range plug-in around Munich, has started doing the same with a version that has a conventional engine and two electric motors.

Audi’s Dual-Mode Hybrid A1 e-tron concept car has multiple drivetrain modes that let the plug-in hbyrid’s 1.5-liter TFSI internal combustion engine like both a conventional engine and an on-board generator, depending on the car’s speed and other conditions. The engine can also be disengaged from the drivetrain by a claw clutch when needed. This is usually when the car is operating in electric mode, up to speeds of 34 miles per hour. Then there’s serial mode, where “the combustion engine and the alternator … produce electrical energy to support, relieve or substitute the battery should it be discharged.”

There’s a four-minute video floating around that provides some computer-generated images of the car’s exterior and drivetrain system and that lays out how the car operates, complete with cool, mellow electronica music. You can see it below, along with Audi’s too-long press release. The upshot is that the dual-mode e-tron delivers a combined 177 horsepower, can go about 56 miles on battery power alone and gets a whopping 235 miles per gallon equivalent (using an unspecified measuring stick).

Audi has already tested its “regular” A1 e-tron extended-range EV for about 30,000 miles. That concept car combines a rotary-engine range extender with an electric motor to give the vehicle a total range of about 150 miles.

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Back to the past and not in a good way

One of the cars they had at the 2012 New York Auto Show was the electric Delorean.  Yes, the Back to the Future car.  While the Delorean was a revolutionary car and a much loved movie hero, this car should have stayed in 1985.

The presenter was well informed about the car and the electric Delorean had some nice specs: 0-60 in about 5 seconds, about 100 mile range, and 125 mph top speed.  Unfortunately, one major problem is that…it’s a Delorean.

Both electric and gas powered Deloreans are sold as new, untitled cars from the 1980s because the cars are built from new, unsold frames with VINs from the 80s. When the original Delorean went under, they had years worth of parts to build new cars which were eventually bought by the new Delorean. The new Delorean can completely rebuild old cars or build you a new one from spare parts. The problem is that they’re still building cars from the 1980s. 30 years of advancements in car design are generations beyond the old safety, suspension, and convenience features of the Delorean. Since the car was designed in 1976, it was designed before computers did most of the design and engineering testing. One of the reasons kit cars can be built to such high performance levels at minimal cost is because they don’t meet any modern safety, emissions, or fit-finish standards. And even then, since you’re building it yourself, you save lots of money. The new electric Delorean has an estimated price of $95,000. For that kind of money, why wouldn’t you buy a Tesla? Because they’re too common?

If I had the car and parts, I would happily assemble this car as a toy or boulevard cruiser but when there’s a much better modern car, I don’t know how many buyers will choose this.  Even a mass produced Tesla or Leaf have limited capability. So what is this car? A fun project and good promotional tool for a good car from 1985. The license plate says “Gas? Where we’re going we don’t need gas”. I’ll wait for the hover conversion.

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VW e-bugster video

I came across this video of the new e-bugster. It’s only a concept but it does give some clues as to what future electric and hybrid VW might feature.

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Volkswagen eT! electric delivery van is out of this world

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once opined that using an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest work van concept from Volkswagen. The German Automaker has partnered with the German Post Office and the University of Art at Braunschweig to create the eT! electric delivery van. The company says that vehicle offers zero-emissions driving and can be operated by a joystick-type device on the passenger side if necessary. We aren’t entirely sure how that second feature lends itself to making deliveries any easier, but we applaud the automaker’s efforts toward facilitating practical jokers everywhere.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that VW says that the eT! can be operated semi-autonomously. The vehicle can follow a delivery person from house to house or return to the driver after being parked. While there are no details currently available on the vehicle’s drivetrain, Volkswagen does say that the eT! is equipped with electronically opening doors.

eT! is electrically powered and drives semi-automatically on command

Driver can steer the eT! by ‘drive stick’ from passenger’s side as alternative

Wolfsburg / Potsdam, 18. November 2011. For over 60 years now, commercial vehicles from Volkswagen have maintained a visual presence on the world’s streets. They are helpers in everyday life, which bring us people goods, services, postal deliveries and occasionally emergency assistance as well. Volkswagen Group Research, which is responsible for the world of tomorrow, together with the German Post Office (‘Deutsche Post AG’), which is one of the largest customers of lightweight commercial vehicles – as well as the University of Art at Braunschweig – formed a think tank on future transport and mobility issues. Finally, these research activities led to a completely new vehicle concept for the delivery and logistics field: eT!

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Director of Volkswagen Group Research: “We analysed process flows and customer needs in detail, and from these analyses we derived ideas on how the segment of delivery and courier vehicles could be further developed over the long term. In this context, we focused on zero-emissions driving and available space in urban areas, semiautomatic driving functions that offer relevant support and simplify work processes and the integration of new communication technologies. On top of that, we also set out to design a very emotionally appealing commercial vehicle. To attain these goals, our teams not only looked towards the future from the past, but also worked from a future perspective to implement an advanced development concept based on technologies available today.”

The eT! research vehicle could someday actually revolutionise the world of lightweight commercial vehicles. Completely reconceptualised, driven with zero emissions, thought through to the last detail and driving semi-automatically if necessary! Just how wide-ranging the significance of this research project could be for sustainability in the transportation field is underscored by the support for the eT! project by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. “The eT! research vehicle,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, spokesperson for the Board of Management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, “unifies a whole gamut of innovative functions, which will gain in future importance, specifically for logistics businesses. In particular, the possibility of driving the car semi-automatically – and electrically – in downtown areas unifies economical and environmental aspects more systematically than ever. As a vision of the future, the eT! Is showcasing what is the maximum feasible technology for electric vehicles in the commercial market today with a special design that systematically addresses future customer needs.”

“eT! is a pure electrically powered transporter that systematically transfers E-mobility to the area of commercial use,” says Dr. Rudolf Krebs, Group Manager for Electric Traction at Volkswagen AG. And continues: “As a transport specialist, the eT! is advancing to become the automotive building block for an innovative, future-oriented logistics concept, which not only drives with zero emissions in urban areas – thanks to its electric wheel hub motors – but also offers maximum freedom in manoeuvering and turning as well as optimal utilisation of the vehicle’s interior space. If ‘refuelled’ with electricity generated from renewable energy sources, the eT! can indeed be operated with zero emissions. Naturally, the eT! is not a vehicle which – unlike the Golf or up! with an electric motor – could become available very soon. But we must make plans today for what the world of lightweight commercial vehicles might look like starting in the second half of this decade, including with regard to electrical drives.”

To make the working world of mail delivery personnel and courier drivers simpler and safer, to optimise the logistics of delivery and to shorten delivery times, eT! can be operated semiautomatically in certain situations. The car can follow the delivery person from house to house (“Follow me”), or the car can return to the delivery person on command (“Come to me”) – driverless! As an alternative, the driver can direct the car’s movements via a ‘drive stick’ from the passenger’s side that also offers a standing seat and quick access to the vehicle. On the passenger’s side – the side that faces the sidewalk and therefore the working area of the delivery person – there is therefore an electrically opening sliding door that opens to 2 different stages; this enables extremely quick entry into the vehicle as well as quick access to the mail parcels. This makes unnecessary walking movements around the vehicle a thing of the past.

Variants of this lightweight transport vehicle could be implemented for all conceivable business uses. And these derived concepts are also the focus of research activities. Meanwhile, the eT! concept shown in a world premiere at the Design Centre of Potsdam was specially designed for delivery of mail shipments of all types. The research vehicle will now be integrated in a driving test study and further analyzed

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Audi e-tron spyder video

Here’s the latest specs and video of the Audi e-tron spyder – it looks like a very interesting vehicle

Twin turbo V6 diesel engine with two electric hybrid motors
0-62 mph is 4.2 seconds
convertible
expected to be sold in 2014

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Gas back to $2/gallon? It will be if….

…President Bachmann becomes a reality, according to her!  This is a non political forum so I’ll stick to only the question: is this possible?  Short answer: no.

It’s possible that regular unleaded gasoline will come back down to the $2.50-$3.00 range if the price of oil comes down, especially if you live in a state like NJ where gas taxes are among the lowest.  However, Bachmann gave no details on how she would get gas down to $2, only the pledge that it would happen.  Most feel this is unlikely.  This is consistent with the peak oil theory, the point at which gas supply has peaked.  In the long run, gas will not become cheaper because it’s becoming harder and harder to get.  Even optimistic forecasts say around 2020 when peak oil will occur.  [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil"]Here is some more reading on peak oil from wikipedia.[/url]

When oil was a nuisance to farmers drilling water wells and flowed out of the ground freely, it was cheap to make gas out of oil.  Now, companies have to drill deep in the ocean and dig out massive tar pits and separate the oil from the sand.  There are still plenty of areas where oil can flow out of the ground but using that oil will not result in a meaningful reduction in gas prices since worldwide demand is growing faster than supply.

High oil prices trickle down to high food prices and a burden on drivers.  This is one factor why financial analysts believe the chance of short term recession is about 30%.  This type of bad news is good for politicians who are willing to say what the public wants to hear even if it’s unrealistic to the point of being absurd.  Will the short term pain cleanse the petroleum burden for a new energy future?  Yes.  After all, the stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones – they found something better.

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