Mitt and micro-motoring, fine-tuning for efficiency

October 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Bizarre ‘revelation’ about Mitt Romney – was he once an advocate for micro-motoring and vehicles like the Opel RAKe (pictured)? Apparently so. The New York Times says that back in May 2006, as Massachusetts governor, the would-be POTUS “was chatting with his Montana counterpart about his vision for an energy-efficient car of the future – lightweight and narrow, with tandem-style seating, so that two vehicles could drive side by side in one highway lane.” Montana governor Brian Schweitzer said: “He was getting animated about all these little cars”, and promptly told him that Republican voters weren’t going to like that idea much.

The NYT notes that since then, Romney has ditched his other environmental campaigns too, as well as making a last-minute reversal on a climate change pact. And those “little cars”? Well, as Romney’s wife’s got ‘a couple of Cadillacs’, kept at their different houses, and he has a Mustang and a Chevy pick-up, we can only assume that his tandem-seaters were intended for the common folk and 47-percenters.

  • Other news: The BBC’s looking at “campus cars” – low-range, lightweight buggies, usually electric – for short-range local use based around a site such as a university campus or business park. Short film, featuring the Californian Local Motion Light Speed Vehicle, here.
  • BMW is collaborating on an EU-funded project to develop ‘webinos’ – open-source, web- and browser-based applications for cross-platform communication – and to build a vehicle API. A demo car is at a trade show in Munich this week; more at Wired.
  • Carbonfibre’s going mainstream: Ford has developed a CFRP (carbonfibre reinforced plastic) bonnet which weighs 50% less than a steel equivalent. It’s part of a plan to reduce its vehicle weight by an average 340kg by the end of the decade. More here.
  • It’s the little details: adjustable cylinder honing can give a 3% fuel efficiency gain in piston engines, say researchers from the Frauenhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology. Their honing tool contains tiny piezo actuators which can create ‘imperfections’ in the cylinder bore, which then offset static distortion during production and assembly, and thermal distortion when the engine is operating. This reduces internal engine friction and lubrication needs, as well as prolonging cylinder life (AutoTech Daily).
  • And in EVs, new control algorithms can double the speed of lithium-ion battery charging, increase battery efficiency, enable the use of more powerful motors, allow for a lowering of their weight and give potential cost reductions of 25%. The University of California, San Diego, has been funded by the US DoE to work on developing the concept in partnership with Bosch. Release posted here.
  • A Finnish start-up called Scarlet Motors has signed a technology/R&D partnership deal with Helsinki’s Metropolita University of Applied Science to develop an electric sports car. Metropolita is the team behind the E-RA (Electric RaceAbout) prototype which has set speed records on ice and at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe.
  • The UK’s first all-electric car club, E-Car, has launched at its first location in Milton Keynes. More at Next Green Car.
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