Military vehicles, economy improvements, new tech: Tuesday newsbriefs

October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Whilst nominally considering myself to be of pacifist tendencies, I have to admit a fascination with military vehicles. This one’s worthy of note as it’s part of the US Army’s programme to reduce its dependency on foreign oil (insert snarky comment here) and has thus been developed with fuel-efficiency in mind. The FED Alpha, built by Ricardo and now undergoing a real-world testing phase, features an efficiency-optimised Cummins I4 engine, low rolling-resistance Goodyear tyres, a 28-volt integrated starter-generator which powers electrical accessories and on-board equipment, low-friction gears, a lightweight aluminium structure, armouring and underbody blast shield, plus an economy display and accelerator feedback to encourage the driver to proceed efficiently.

  • And talking of big tanks… Ford is to unveil the next-generation Escape SUV (US-market Kuga) at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month. It’s not quite the gas-guzzler it was – despite the fact that the hybrid option has been dropped. Ford says that the new Ecoboost engines – downsized, turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinders – are so efficient the hybrid’s effectively redundant. 1.6- and 2.0-litre versions will be offered. More at Edmunds AutoObserver.
  • Another good-news story from Ford: it’s researching the use of coconut husks as a plastic reinforcement in vehicle interiors. The coir fibres are combined with the plastic for additional strengthening, and mean that less petroleum is used; they give a more natural look, as well, and could be used in storage bins, door trims, seat trims or centre consoles, says Ford. They’re being supplied by garden products company Scotts Miracle-Gro, which says it uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year and is excited to find “a high-value use” for its leftover material. Ford is now testing the material for durability and fire safety.
  • And more Ford: experiments with a waste heat recovery system have shown that this could provide nearly all the necessary electrical power for the (old) Escape in most driving conditions except city use, where the engine is frequently off, especially in the hybrid version. Full details at Green Car Congress.
  • The Daimler/Europcar car2go car-share scheme is launching in France. A fleet of 200 Smart Fortwos is being deployed for short-term and one-way rentals in Lyon for flexible, on-demand borrowing by members. The car2go launch in Vancouver mid-June has proved highly successful, now averaging 4000 rentals a week and with over 5000 members now registered.
  • Hyundai is planning a plug-in hybrid i30 to undercut the Toyota Prius PHEV, reports Auto Motor und Sport. Scheduled for 2013, apparently.
  • Heard of the Achates engine? It’s a two-stroke, three-cylinder, opposed piston unit, said to offer high thermal efficiency and fuel economy improved by 10.4% compared to a similar, conventional four-stroke. It can be lighter-weight, and works at lower pressures and temperatures; in medium-duty (truck) applications it could offer a 19% fuel economy improvement, it’s claimed. Full science bit at Green Car Congress.
  • NPower has got in on the EV charging act: it’s offering Easy Box and Smart Box fast-chargers (£900-£1000, three times faster than a 13-amp socket) and a two-charger, freestanding Smart Station for businesses and public places (£4000), as well as a special tariff called juice-e for off-peak charging – and instant recognition of the car/owner account when  plugging in elsewhere. A further fast-charger said to be up to 12 times faster than a domestic socket is under development for 2012 (Autocar).
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