Blog


Game Change? The UK is testing out roads that charge electric cars as they go

A trial in England is hoping to significantly boost the range of electric cars by introducing roads that can charge the vehicles as they drive along them. During the trials, vehicles will be fitted with wireless technology and special equipment will be installed beneath roads to replicate motorway conditions. Electric cables buried under the surface will generate electromagnetic fields, which will be picked up by a coil inside the device and converted into electricity. Read full post here. Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter... read more

Is the Wankel Engine Dead?

Dr. Felix Wankel was a German tinkerer who started with drawings and prototypes of rotary engines in the 1920s. His first patent for a rotary engine was granted in 1936. But it was not until the 1950s, when motorcycle manufacturer NSU, used his designs. Early Wankel engines were of a design called “drehkolbenmaschine” (DKM) in which an inner rotating housing and rotor move around a fixed central shaft. The DKM was remarkably smooth in operation, and could run at over 20,000 rpm.  The DKM engine design had drawbacks, though, so the “kreiskolbenmotor” (KKM) was developed. In the KKM, the rotor and output shaft rotate with in a fixed housing. All the rotary engines that Mazda made were of the KKM design. The main advantages of a Mazda Wankel KKM engine were size, simplicity, and smoothness. A double-rotor Wankel has just three moving parts (!) – two rotors and the crankshaft. Because intake and exhaust timing are taken care of by ports in the housing, there are no camshafts or valves. This makes a KKM design a very simple engine to build. Disadvantages, yes there are some. Because of the long, narrow combustion chamber shape, the Wankel is less efficient than a regular four-stroke piston engine. Fuel consumption was can be high too high, especially in the earlier, less-sophisticated engines.  As far as emissions go, nitrogen oxide emissions are lower than in a piston engine but carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons are higher. So does the rotary have a future?  It might. Emissions can be problematic running on gasoline but, guess what, the Wankel seems perfectly happy running on hydrogen... read more

Things to Keep in Your Car

You never know when it will happen. Dead batteries, flat tires and other problems can happen to anyone at any time.  The best defense is a good offense so let’s get prepared with a set of tools and some emergency gear so you are ready for whatever happens.  Here’s a list of 6 items you should consider keeping in your car. Flashlight –You know that the next time your car breaks down it will be at night, so get a good quality flashlight. The cheap $2-$3 dollar lights aren’t “mission ready” for this sort of thing so get a quality LED light and some fresh alkaline batteries. Jumper Cables –You don’t want to be stranded with a dead battery and not have jumper cables. Everyone should have a pair in their car.  Chances are these will really save the day for you at some point. Hand Tools – The best thing to do is purchase a kit containing the basic tools in those convenient plastic cases you see in auto parts stores and hardware stores.  These small kits are generally $10-$30 and contain the essential tools you need. First Aid Kit – If you have kids, you will likely dig into a first aid kit long before your next car issue occurs, so consider getting one right away. Most pharmacies have affordable first aid kits Work gloves – A set of work gloves is a great thing to have in your emergency kit.  Most people neglect to get them. You may need them just to keep your hands warm during cold weather and this could be significant in itself.... read more

World’s Fastest Hot Tub

Everyone on this planet has a dream.  In 1999, two Canadian engineers,  Phillip Weicker and Ducan Forster, took a 1969 Cadillac DeVille and built it into world’s fastest hot tub. Some said it couldn’t be done. It all started back in 1996 when the two were attending McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.  Presumably after drinking a lot of Molson beer, the two engineering students decided to take an abandoned car left on campus (a 1982 Chevrolet Malibu) and turn it into a hot tub – a fully operational, fully drivable hot tub. Fast-forward several years and both Weicker and Forster have graduated and are both working as professional engineers.  As what sometimes occurs to those born with insatiable creative urges, the desire to make it “bigger” reared its head. The first thing they did was purchase a massive 1969 Cadillac DeVille and completely gutted it. The interior was removed and an elaborate custom fiberglass tub was installed.  To drive the vehicle, marine-style steering wheel, gauges, and throttle controls were fitted. The factory-installed 427-cubic inch V8 was rebuilt and serves two important purposes: propelling the DeVille forward and heating the pool water to a balmy 102 degrees. Since the completion of the Carpool DeVille, both engineers have become minor on-line celebrities and emblematic of what can occur when you think creatively.  Those who said that “a fast hot tub was just a dream and could never be created” were proved wrong – very wrong. Boy, was this a fun story to write. Source: McLoughlin Fiat – Used Vehicles   Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter... read more

About Continuously Variable Transmission (CVTs)

Over the last several years, many manufacturers have been offering a new type of transmission technology in their vehicles.  Technically it’s an “automatic” but not the familiar old automatic; it’s called a CVT (continuously variable transmission).  CVTs are similar to automatic transmissions when you drive them but operate on an entirely different principle “under the hood.”  Here are the details: Conventional automatic transmissions use multiple sets of gears that provide different gear ratios or speeds. As the number of gear ratios increase (as they have been recently for fuel economy reasons), automatic transmission can become quite complex.  Enter the CVT. A CVT replaces the gear sets in automatic transmissions with two variable-diameter pulleys, each shaped like a pair of opposing cones, with a metal belt running between them. The way they work is that during operation the pulleys move in and out such that a drive belt between moves higher on one pulley and lower on the other. The result of this movement is a “continuous” numerical gear reduction. You can picture this roughly as the way a 10-speed bike works, by routing the chain over smaller or larger gears to change the gear ratios. It’s a very simple principle. The controls for a CVT-based car are the same as an automatic-based car: Two pedals (gas and brake) and a P-R-N-D-L-style shift pattern. The CVT’s biggest problem has been user acceptance. Because the CVT allows the engine to rotate at a wide range of speeds, the noises coming from under the hood can sound odd to ears accustomed to conventional automatic transmissions. The gradual changes in engine note may sound like something is... read more

3 Ways New Truck Efficiency Proposal Is Big Win for U.S.

The Obama administration announced June 19 a proposed rule calling for increased fuel efficiency of and reduced tailpipe emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. This is good news for businesses and consumers, who stand to benefit from significant fuel cost savings. The rule, if passed, would also help the environment through reduced carbon pollution. Read full post here.   Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter... read more

Intelligent Headlights

Imagine car headlights made up of thousands of small cones of light instead of one broad fixed beam.  Now make these cones movable so you can direct them around in front of the car, say for example, away from oncoming traffic at night or around angles when your car is turning.  Here’s another possibility, let’s make these lights capable of projecting graphics on the road too such as arrows, lane markers or even textual information. Welcome to the concept of programmable headlights.  A team of engineers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has developed a prototype of a programmable headlight that performs these functions. The secret of how this is accomplished isn’t new; it uses a version of the Digital Mirror Device (DMD) chip that Texas Instruments has been making for video display devices for years. In older rear screen projection televisions, DMD chips are mated with spinning color wheels to make bright video images.  In the Carnegie Mellon application, only a DMD-like chip and a light source are needed to light up the road ahead. As you may imagine, driving the DMD chip in a programmable headlight device requires some sophisticated electronics and sensors. One amazing feature still under development is the ability to make snow and rain “disappear” when you drive. To make snowflakes or raindrops disappear, the system tracks the falling flakes, predicts where they are going, and then turns off the beams that would otherwise reflect light off the flakes. This occurs so rapidly that to the driver it appears that that the snowflakes aren’t there.  The driver effectively sees “between the flakes.” A particularly intriguing... read more

Tula Technology

Tula Technology, Inc. announces the completion of a new round of investment led by Delphi Automotive PLC, a leading global automotive supplier. The investment will be used to advance the continued development and commercialization of the company’s revolutionary, fuel-saving Dynamic Skip Fire (DSF) cylinder deactivation system. Tula’s DSF technology is the industry’s first individual cylinder deactivation system, delivering exceptional fuel efficiency while successfully managing engine noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). In independent tests, DSF has improved fuel efficiency by 17 percent as measured on a CAFE basis when compared to a vehicle that does not have cylinder deactivation. Read full post here.   Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter... read more

Chrysler’s Airflow

The Chrysler Airflow, widely considered the first streamlined car of the 1930s, nearly put Chrysler Corporation out of business.  The story involves Walter Chrysler with eyes so firmly fixed on the future that he essentially ignored what the consumer wanted. According to legend, one of Chrysler’s big three executives, Carl Breer, was watching a squadron of military aircraft on maneuvers and wondered why cars weren’t so streamlined. He communicated this with Walter Chrysler and with his blessing work got under way.  Breer, along with fellow Chrysler engineers Fred Zeder and Owen Skelton, began a series of wind tunnel wind tunnel tests, with the cooperation of Orville Wright to study which forms were the most efficient shape created by nature that could suit an automobile. Chrysler built a wind tunnel at the Highland Park site, and tested at least 50 scale models by April 1930. The original idea had been that the Airflow would be introduced only as an advanced DeSoto automobile. But as the car began to take shape, Walter Chrysler became increasingly excited about it and this lead to the release of four different Chrysler Airflows. This would prove to be a very poor decision. Although initial response was very strong, it soon tapered off.  Many frankly said the cars were ugly. Plenty of design changes were executed but they didn’t help much. Chrysler Airflow production, which had totaled 10,839 for 1934, fell to 7,751 in 1935. Only one Airflow series was offered for 1937, the ill-fated vehicle’s final year of production and sales totaled just 4,600 for the season. It is rumored that Ferdinand Porsche imported an... read more