Monday newsbriefs

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Schoolkids have built a car that’ll do 1980mpg, or the equivalent thereof. Yes, really. Kingdown School from Warminster took victory in this year’s Mileage Marathon Challenge at Mallory Park, Cambridgeshire, with their streamlined vehicle. Also noted is the 1325mpg car driven by 11-year-old Kitty Foster from King’s School, Ely, though this car (pictured, as I can’t find a decent copyright-free shot of the winning car) was built with help from the professional Cambridge Design Partnership, complete with trackside telemetry and GPS to get the best out of the microdiesel engine with oxygen generator. 

  • BMW’s M3 CRT made its debut at the Nurburgring last weekend; this 450bhp V8-engined racer is, quite apart from being very quick, the first car to feature carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) made in a new production process. CFRP has been used, in a super-strong cellular carbon structure, for its bonnet and seats to give a weight saving of up to 50% compared to conventional carbonfibre, and will next be used to make the bodyshells of the upcoming i3 and i8 electric and hybrid vehicles. The basic carbonfibre-threaded material is woven into ‘mats’, impregnated with synthetic resin and then hardened; all cuttings and waste from the process can be reused. With the M3 CRT’s seats, the CFRP layers are wrapped around a honeycomb of recycled paper and a layer of carbon.
  • Continuing last week’s aviation theme: from September, Royal Dutch KLM is to start operating 200 flights between Amsterdam and Paris using biokerosene synthesised from waste cooking oil. Full story at Green Car Congress.
  • More on Mazda’s new laser-ignition rotary engine at Autocar. It’s up to 1600cc, and part-aluminium; the laser-controlled combustion (instead of spark plugs) enables more precise monitoring of the fuel-air mixture and thus improved efficiency, lower emissions and better torque delivery, it’s reported.
  • Autocar also has spy shots of the revised Renault Twingo, coming later this year – but the real story’s the all-new 2014 model. This will be smaller, a sister model to a reborn Smart Forfour (Daimler did the deal with Renault-Nissan this time) and will feature a new 900cc three-cylinder engine (to be used extensively in the Renault-Nissan line-up). Expect all-electric versions, too.
  • Americans marvel at tram use and pedestrianisation in Europe’s cities: a rather charming just-woken-up report in today’s New York Times.
  • Meanwhile down in Nevada, the state has authorised the use of automated driverless cars on its roads. Only in clearly defined areas and with appropriate certification, however, before you get worried about robo-cars prowling the highways like zombies. It’s all in aid of ongoing research, such as the DARPA work on drones for military use.

Monday morsels

July 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • The next-generation Ford Focus RS could be a hybrid, says Autocar. Ford insiders hint that the hot hatch could have a 250bhp EcoBoost turbocharged 2-litre driving the front wheels and an electric motor to power the rear wheels, for full AWD ability as well as fuel-saving.
  • Mazda is to launch its CX-5 mini-SUV late next year. The CX-5 will be the first Mazda to get the new ‘Sky’ petrol engines, which feature piezo-electric direct injection, regenerative braking, low-friction oils and components, stop-start plus lighter-weight transmissions, and it is said to weigh a good 100kg less than its rivals (Autocar).
  • The EU Transport Commission has proposed the addition of  ‘eco-driving’ criteria to practical driving tests. In the UK, new drivers are already asked to answer questions related to fuel-saving and vehicle emissions in their theory tests, but this measure could see drivers EU-wide tested on their practical techniques – and potentially denied their licence if they speed up too quickly, brake too suddenly, rev too high or otherwise waste fuel unnecessarily.
  • Dealerships in Illinois, Indiana and Texas are planning to import a Chinese-made electric SUV. The Zoyte SUV is said to have a range of 250 miles between recharges, a top speed of 70mph, a battery warranty up to 185,000 miles, and a sticker price of just $29,995 (Autoblog Green). Unlikely for Europe.
  • There’s a well-considered overview of the development of algae for biofuel at the New York Times. It need not compete with food production, and with appropriate checks, it’s not too risky, is the conclusion.

Black Widow weighs less

February 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, you may not be able to do the family shopping in it, but the Black Widow (pictured) is worthy of note for its 2752mpg fuel consumption (yes, you read that right; there is no decimal point). It’s the work of mechanical engineering students at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and their entry into the Shell Eco-Marathon this year.

This three-wheeled streamliner, developed from the Supermileage team’s contenders in previous years, now weighs just 96lbs. Power comes from a 500cc Honda four-stroke engine – giving just 3bhp – and thanks to the low weight and a drag coefficient of 0.12, it can do a 30mph top speed.

Though the Black Widow is designed solely as a hypermiler with next month’s Eco-Marathon in mind, the Cal Poly engineers are working on a second, more usable version to compete in the Urban Concept category of the event. Spokesman Verent Chan told Wired.com that though these cars are really just academic concepts, the project is “training engineers to push the boundaries of efficiency so that when they enter the working world, it will be no different (to) how they approach other designs.” You can follow the progress of the Black Widow and the Urban Concept at the Supermileage team’s blog.

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