The (new) Nurburgring is in use this
weekend for the German Grand Prix. Up in the mountains, it
is close to Michael and Ralf Schumacher’s home town of
Kerpen, so I am sure both of them have done many laps of the
famous “old” Nurburgring. Unfortunately, the days of the old
circuit through the forest have gone, as far as F1 is
concerned. Following claims from the drivers that it was too
dangerous, this new 2.882 mile circuit, with little
character, was constructed in 1984, close to the original
track. It is of interest to note that the first thing that
the new generation of F1 drivers do on arrival at the
circuit, is to shell out a few Deutschmarks to drive the
famous old circuit, the Nordschleife!
Nobody could ever claim to be the absolute master of the
Nordschleife, which is still used for Touring Car
categories. Any driver who has driven on the old circuit
speak in terms of awe of what is possibly the most demanding
circuit ever constructed. I have driven it! Totally mind
blowing! A circuit that keeps you on your toes for the
entire lap. The laconic Aussie Frank Gardner, with a total
disregard for political correctness, claimed it was designed
by Adolf Hitler for Jewish drivers!
I will be watching from my perch at Jameson’s Irish Pub Soi
AR, in front of the big screen. Join me before 6 p.m. for a
meal before the action starts at 7 p.m. We watch the South
African feed and do not have to worry as to whether UBC will
show it, and we don’t have to suffer the adverts either!
Last week I mentioned that engineer
Malcolm Loughead invented a hydraulic brake so what did he
call it? (Clue – think phonetics.) This was really simple,
he called the company and the brakes “Lockheed”, which
eventually went on to being the aircraft company.
So to this week What did the original FIAT 500 have in
common with the 1961 Lincoln Continental? Clue: don’t
contemplate suicide over this.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
Electrifying battery news
I have written before about electric cars, and how I believe
that they are the vehicles for the future. Only electric
vehicles have the ability not to pollute the planet or
produce greenhouse gasses, and do not need an expensive
public fuel delivery system to get the fuel to the vehicle.
We already have power grids to our homes. Reticulation is
Electric motors have been around for well over 100 years,
and the technology in converting electricity into rotational
movement is well known, and becoming increasingly more
efficient. All that we need now are lightweight,
rechargeable batteries to power the on-board electric
motors, and we have the power source that does not pollute,
and can be recharged in our own homes, using the electricity
grid. Just like our mobile phones.
If you accept that basic premise, then it would seem logical
that we should be looking at new battery technologies,
rather than trying to work out how to deliver the dangerous
chemical hydrogen to the consumer. A powerful lightweight
rechargeable battery is all that we need to enter the next
automotive era. However, when will that be?
A Finnish inventor, Rainer Partanen, says the time is now.
“For years my intention was to develop a battery which could
give a better change to increase the use of electric
vehicles. The problem has been insufficient source of power.
When I finally found out the solution, it surprised even me
because materials are harmless and recycleable.”
These radical new Partanen patent Europositron-based
batteries are capable of being manufactured with minimal
changes in existing manufacturing processes. With a
theoretical energy density of 2,100 Wh/litre, cycle time of
more than 3,000, an operating temperature range of minus 40
to 70 degrees centigrade, life expectancy of 10 to 30 years
and the use of abundantly available aluminium, this
technology promises to transform the global battery market.
Those who have looked into the Finnish inventor’s battery
believe it has many applications for today’s society. The
international scientific press stating, “Already,
Europositron’s technology is being considered across a wide
spectrum of applications ranging from tiny button batteries
to high capacity standby power supplies. The earliest
large-scale applications of Europositron’s technology are
expected to be for electric vehicles. Data reveals that low
weight, high performance batteries based on Europositron’s
technology would offer a considerable advantage over
conventional lead batteries in terms of reducing the weight
of the vehicle and in facilitating greater mileage.”
I am not the only person that feels this way. Researchers at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a
battery that could do just that, and also might never need
to be replaced.
The MIT team have seen that although devices powered by
electricity have become more hi-tech, the batteries to make
them portable are not so hi-tech. In fact the battery
technology has been largely ignored, comparatively.
Just as Partanen uses existing technology to manufacture his
batteries, the MIT team have done the same. They turned to
the capacitor, which was invented nearly 300 years ago.
According to the MIT research team, capacitors contain
energy as an electric field of charged particles created by
two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last
longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage
capacity is proportional to the surface area of the
battery’s electrodes, so even today’s most powerful
capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized
standard chemical batteries.
Up till now, this has been a problem that could not be
overcome, but the researchers solved this by covering the
electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes.
Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water
than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments
basically increase the surface area of the electrodes and
allow the capacitor to store more energy.
This technology has broad practical possibilities, affecting
any device that requires a battery. Schindall said, “Small
devices such as hearing aids that could be more quickly
recharged where the batteries wouldn’t wear out; up to
larger devices such as automobiles where you could
regeneratively re-use the energy of motion and therefore
improve the energy efficiency and fuel economy.” Not quite
perpetual motion, but heading in that direction.
Schindall and his team are not alone in looking at
capacitors as the future of batteries, with a research group
in England recently announcing advances of their own.
However, Schindall’s MIT group expects their prototype to be
finished in the next few months, and they hope to see them
on the market in less than five years.
Schindall thinks hybrid cars would be a particularly popular
application for these batteries, especially because current
hybrid batteries are expensive to replace. However, I
believe that Schindall is actually selling himself short. An
all-electric vehicle powered by his powerful batteries,
rechargeable at home, rather than relying on re-using the
energy of motion, would to me make more sense.
Whatever, the future is here. It is electric. And we need be
held to ransom by oil producing countries no longer. The
future is getting brighter.
Insurance company finds thieves like luxury cars!
It is amazing the stuff that you can read. An insurance
company in Australia has paid somebody to go through their
files and they have discovered that thieves go for the top
end of the auto market, and not the cheapies!
and unwanted by thieves.
German luxury cars topped the list of most frequently stolen
vehicles, with Audi and BMW number one pick for a heist,
followed by Jaguar.
And the cars the thieves did not want were Volkswagen, Ford,
Mitsubishi, Mazda, Kia, Peugeot, Daewoo, Nissan and the
least likely to be stolen was Daihatsu. (I knew there was a
reason I drive a Daihatsu!)
I wonder if it ever occurred to the compilers of this
earth-shattering research that there is no profit to be made
in selling cheapies, but for the same amount of effort
car-jacking the expensive vehicles gives a much better
financial return. Thieves are not financially unaware.
Frequency of thefts
1. Audi 123 percent
2. BMW 117 percent
3. Jaguar 100 percent
4. Alfa Romeo 89 percent
5. Saab 74 percent
The same company also looked at crash experience, and found
that expensive cars were crashed (or made claims) more than
the cheapies again.
Frequency of at-fault accidents
1. Alfa Romeo 58 percent
2. Proton 19 percent
3. Mazda 13 percent
Frequency of not at-fault accidents
1. Audi 102 percent
2. Alfa Romeo 94 percent
3. Proton 75 percent
And the safest at 30 percent less than the average? Daihatsu
Looking at those statistics, when you buy an Alfa Romeo
you’re going to get wrecked, one way or another, that is if
the car thieves haven’t got it first.
New FIAT 500
The big news is the release of the “new” (retro-style) FIAT
500, and it does certainly remind you of the old one.
However, the old one was definitely a micro car and very
inexpensive. That is what made it so popular. Anyone could
afford one. That may not be quite the same for the new one.
It seems as though FIAT want to get on the trendy Mini
bandwagon, with scores of options in trim and equipment,
with this new car, with 12 colors and 15 interior trims. In
comparison, the old one was produced for nine years before
it even got carpets and reclining seats!
According to the news around Italy, FIAT has already taken
40,000 orders for their new baby. The new 500 was designed
by the Centro Stile Fiat in Turin and will be built in the
Polish factory of Tichy.
The 500 is 3.57 meters long, 1.65 m wide, 1.49 m high, with
a wheelbase of 2.30 m.
Initially (and in Italy), the engine range will be composed
of one turbodiesel engine and two naturally aspirated
gasoline engines: the 1.3 liter Multijet turbodiesel engine
with 75 ps, the 1.2 8v engine with 69 ps and the 1.4 16v
engine with 100 ps. All will be coupled with 5 or 6 speed
manual gearboxes. Nothing is said about the eventual use of
the other power-steps of the 1.3 Multijet engine (90 and 105
ps), or about what engine will be used in the upcoming 500
Abarth (perhaps it will be the 1.4 T-Jet, soon available in
the 120 and 150 ps versions on the Bravo).
This is where the old 500 and the new 500 are totally
different. The previous model was indeed had a 500 cc (well,
499 anyway) engine, while this new one is almost triple the
capacity. The new one has seven airbags and discs at the
front. The old one had no airbags and tiny drums all round.
The original sold over four million of the 500’s, but
without the minimalist cheapness of the old model, I doubt
if the new one will have such a run. It looks like being
just a ‘trendy’ vehicle, and as such can suffer an early
death when something even trendier comes out.