Velocity's Weekly Round Up: Week of February 13, 2012
by Eileen Marable
News from the auto world is coming fast and furious this week. There are game changing concept cars, phone apps, those famous driverless cars and more so let’s buckle up and get going!
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the new laws in Las Vegas that allow driverless cars on the roads. Google has pretty much jumpstarted the trend by being the first to install their driverless system in cars. Everyone’s asking how will this thing work? Here are the basics – Nevada law will require the special cars to have red plates so other cars can easily identify it. Two users will have to be inside the vehicle as a start. They are free to talk on their cell phones or use computers while the car drives along, but forget about drinking. The same drunk driving laws will still apply. The car itself will operate by using existing maps – if it heads into territory that it doesn’t have a map for it will ask you to take over or it will pull over to the side of the road. Not many of vehicles are equipped with the program at the moment so it’s likely you won’t see to many in the near future, but be warned. They are coming!
Word on the street is that Italian auto design house Bertone will be unveiling a concept car at the Geneva Auto Show that is nod to one of Nuccio Bertone’s classic 1970’s designs – the Lancia Stratos HF Zero. Low slung and very angular it was considered pretty far out for its day and the prototype car recently sold for over $1M. The sketches that have come out prior to the show indicate the car will have a similar wedge shaped designed. Nuccio Bertone was the head of the company until he retired in 1997, and the car is part of a 100th anniversary special honoring the company that bears his family name.
BMW has just released its ActiveE electric vehicle – based on the upcoming i3 series coupe. It’s 170 horsepower, 250 newton-meters of torque, 125-kW electric motor is powered by a 32-kilowatt per hour lithium battery pack. You may have heard a lot in the news lately about the Tesla’s battery pack problems – the truth is all batteries are susceptible to variations in the weather. The BMW ActiveE has a remote “smart function” to deal with temperature sensitivity. The folks over at Gizmag give it a thumbs up for drivability, but have concerns about the limited range. It will be available for lease in select US markets.
Here’s a huge leap forward in racing – using the carbon fiber and composite shell of the car as the battery. Why? Well, the so-called “structural batteries” eliminate the need for some of the heavy battery packs and in theory lightening up should help the car perform faster when racing. The technology is being developed by British Defense firm BAE and will be first tested in the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV Le Mans car. BAE has tested the technology in drones but this will be a first for racecars. Because the density of the power in this particular model will be fairly low, it is expected that it will provide the power to onboard systems or act as a supplement to the main battery. Still, it is a fantastic development that is sure to only become more powerful in time!
There’s nothing we like better than a useful list. Thanks to the guys at Popular Mechanics, here is a list of the latest and greatest apps to help you while on the road. From helping you find the cheapest gas in your area to measuring your fuel efficiency, if you are in to cars or just drive a lot and want to be informed then these suggestions are for you.
As usual I love to end on a funny note. I couldn’t stop laughing when I paged through this listing of cars that have been modified to look like various food products. Some of them are actually pretty cool though I wonder about what having a giant lobster on your roof does for performance. Still, I think if I was getting paid to drive around in a giant metal pig I would probably sit back and just enjoy the ride.
My last post is in homage to Swiss efficiency. With the weather being bitter cold in most of Europe this year, one dude added a wood burning stove in his car. Apparently you can’t have too much heat – or miss him coming down the road in a puff of smoke.
So people, would you drive a lobster car? How far would you go with a modification to your car or are some things sacred?