Friday, April 29, 2011

Pre-Indy 500 Solar Car Race In New Mexico Team

100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 this year. In the first week of May, before the air is filled with the raspy voice supercharged engine, iconic racetrack will host the show gasoline-free when 12 teams from around the country race their solar-powered car in the Formula Sun Grand Prix. A group of engineering students from the University of New Mexico will be racing three-wheeled, single seat vehicle, Lobo del Sol, which can hit speeds up to 70 mph.

Four drivers will take shifts because their car lap around the 0.9 mile closed track with the aim of racking the most mileage for three days of racing, explained Olga Lavrova, research assistant professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering university and advisor teams. Pod-like craft resembling a retro science fiction movies, Lobo del Sol is 6 feet and width 16 meters. Array 64-square-foot photovoltaic cells mounted on the front and back of the car to convert sunlight into electricity to run the engine, which uses between one and two kilowatts of power for normal driving. This compares with a microwave oven that uses an average of about 1.5 kilowatts of electricity.

The car also has an on board battery that stores enough energy to power the car for between half an hour and an hour in cloudy conditions or after sunset. The battery can charge from zero to full capacity in about three hours, Lavrora said.

“That’s the beauty of the solar cars: most of the daytime they don’t ever need to be plugged in,” said Lavrora. “If you need some capacity to drive after the sunset that’s when they have to be plugged in.”

“That’s why I am strong believer that solar should become a feature on more cars. A lot of times cars sit in the parking lot and it’s full-blast sunshine and you could be recharging your battery,” she said.

While lightweight cars, like the students’ racer, are readily juiced with solar energy, full-scale commercial solar cars are still a thing of the future since roof-mounted photovoltaic cells produce a minimal amount of electricity. This is because they occupy little space and their ability to function optimally is compromised since they lie flat, instead of being angled toward the sun like photovoltaic cells on buildings, according to MIT’s Technology Review.

Using stationary solar panels to charge the batteries of plug-in hybrids is a cheaper and more efficient way to harness solar power, according to the Review. Fully electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf, can be charged the same way.

However, small buggy-like solar machines do exist. The Venturi Eclectic, an electric car that has solar panels and a wind turbine on the roof, and can also be plugged in to charge, has been on the market since 2007. Popular Mechanics described the vehicle as “very comfortable and manageable as an urban get-around car,” while referring to it as a “golf-cart-on-steroids” with “slightly-better-than-motorcycle crash protection.” The French made car can reach a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour and has a range of 30 miles.

Lavrora pointed to the new Toyota Prius, which comes with the option of having solar cells installed on the roof, as an example of the incorporation of solar technology into car design. The cells do not power the car, but rather run fans that extract hot air from the car when it’s parked, which cools the car down so the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard.

When asked what she envisages for solar power’s contribution to transportation in 10 years time, Lavrora said she sees people making use of small, solar-powered commuter cars on a “when needed” basis. These cars might form part of car sharing networks, similar to Zipcar, she explained.

Solar power could also be used in more buildings and be used to power streetlamps and traffic lights, she said.

Solar power could already be more widely used, but its implementation is being held back because tax breaks are given to oil and mining companies while very few are given to solar and wind companies, she said.

“And then, of course, you hear the general public complain that solar is so expensive. Well, the truth is gas and oil has been made cheaper for us through subsidies and that’s why nobody is complaining about it,” she said.

Dodge Viper ACR Looks Like Alfa Romeo’s Zagato TZ3 Stradale

We don’t know if Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s future plans for the upcoming, next generation of the Dodge Viper include the development of a corresponding Alfa Romeo model based on the underpinnings of the muscle car, but famed Italian coach builder Zagato has given the formula a try with its new TZ3 Stradale.
You see, Zagato’s TZ3 Stradale is an Alfa Romeo bodied sports car based on the platform and mechanical hardware of the track-conquering Dodge Viper ACR, which features the same 600HP 8.4-liter V10 engine as the standard Viper SRT-10 along with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a race-spec suspension. All parts of the TZ3 Stradale’s carbon fiber body are new with the cherry topping being the classic Kamm-tail (K-tail) layout.
The TZ3 Stradale is Zagato’s second and final tribute to the 100th anniversary of Alfa Romeo (1910-2010), which started in 2009 with the presentation of the 8C Competizione-based TZ3 Corsa that won the Villa D'Este Design Concept Award in 2010.
Unlike the TZ3 Corsa, which was a one-off commissioned by Alfa Romeo Zagato collector Martin Kapp, the TZ3 Stradale will be built in a limited number of 9 units with the first example having already being delivered to US Alfa Romeo and Zagato collector (and Saratoga Automobile Museum's board member) Eric King. The TZ3 Stradale No2 and No3 will be delivered in Japan and Europe.


Read more In Cars

Swedish Office and GM Allow Antonov to Invest in Saab

It appears that Saab's hopes of survival continue to depend after all that happened on Vladimir Antonov, the Russian banker who was forced by GM to sell his initial shares in Spyker for the Saab sale to occur. Spyker today confirmed that the Swedish National Debt Office (NDO) allowed Antonov to become a major shareholder in Spyker Cars, Saab's parent company.
"This is a great day for our company and for me personally. We worked relentlessly for 11 months to achieve the desired result: restore the reputation of Vladimir Antonov, who made so many valuable contributions to Spyker since 2007 as financier and shareholder,” said Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker and chairman of Saab Automobile.
“We are convinced he will be able to make such contributions again in the near future and look forward to the decisions of the Swedish Government, General Motors and the European Investment Bank (EIB), following the recommendation of the NDO which was the result of intense scrutinising,” Muller added.
General Motors, which has redeemable preference shares in Saab, also gave the green light to Antonov.

“GM continues to be in active discussions with both Saab and the European Investment Bank and has reached a tentative agreement with Saab on a construct which could allow for Vladimir Antonov's acquisition of a shareholder interest in Saab,” the Detroit automaker said in a press statement.
The American company stressed, however, that the agreement requires “certain specific actions to be taken by Saab which have not yet been completed, as well as certain formal consents, approvals and waivers which Saab has not yet obtained.”
Antonov still needs the green light from the Swedish government and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to return as a Spyker shareholder. Saab halted production three weeks ago because it had no money to pay suppliers and announced it will sell production facilities to Antonov and lease them back in order to get cash to restart production.
However, the deal must receive the approval of the EIB, to which Saab owes €400 million.
“Spyker and Saab Automobile are negotiating equity and debt financing and/or technology licensing with various strategic partners, including various Chinese car manufacturers. No commitments have been received to date,” Saab said in a statement.


Read more In Cars

Seat Start Production of Audi Q3 in 2012

It seems that the VW Group’s Martorell plant in Spain will not only build the new Audi Q3, but a similar version of the compact SUV for Seat as well, according to a report from British car magazine, What Car. Industry sources told the publication that the Seat IBX crossover study shown at Geneva this year will be built in the same plant with the Audi Q3, with both models to share the same platform. The production version of the IBX is expected to be introduced next year.
The IBX is Seat's second SUV concept after the Tribu shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007. The Tribu was initially supposed to spawn a production model but the project was canned due to the grim economic outlook at the time.
Now a Seat SUV is closer than ever to reality, even though the production version could differ from the three-door IBX design study. The series production model could feature a more conventional five-door bodywork and internal combustion engines, as opposed to the concept's full-electric setup. The IBX study uses an electric motor to power the front wheels and a battery package that offers a driving range of 45 kilometers (28 miles).
The road-going model is expected to adopt a variety of TSI and TDI engines offering buyers the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. At 4.26 meters long, 1.80 meters wide and 1.62 meters tall, the IBX is very close in dimensions to the Audi Q3, which measures 4.39 meters in length, 1.83 meters in width and 1.60 meters in height.


Read more In Cars

Porsche 911 GT3 500HP

The new 911 GT3 RS 4.0 is Porsche's ultimate street-legal track racer and a fitting farewell to the current 911 series, codenamed 997, which will soon be replaced by an all-new model set to be unwrapped at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
There’s a lot to like about the new GT3 RS including the fact that it is fitted with the largest engine ever to be mounted on a factory-approved 911; a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six unit that develops 500 horsepower at 8,250 rpm, 50 horses more than the standard GT3 RS. It is also the most powerful 911 naturally aspirated engine with 125 horsepower per liter. The engine carries the crankshaft from the 911 GT3 RSR racing car, while the forged pistons' connecting rods are made from titanium.
The impressive output and peak torque of 460 Nm (339 lb-ft) at 5,750 rpm help the sports car achieve stunning performance, such as the N├╝rburgring-Nordschleife lap time of 7 minutes 27 seconds, 1.7 seconds faster than the Carrera GT and 6 seconds faster than the GT3 RS. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a six-speed sports transmission with gearing designed for the circuit. Porsche says the car sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and to 200 km/h (124 mph) in under 12 seconds.
The 911 GT3 RS 4.0 uses motor racing suspension components and weight-saving materials such as carbon fiber for the bonnet and front wings, plastic for the rear windows, light bucket seats and even weight-optimized carpets. As a result, the car tips the scales at just 1,360 kilograms (2,998 lbs) with a full tank of fuel. The power-to-weight ratio is an amazing 2.72 kg/hp, as very few production cars drop under the threshold of 3 kilograms per horsepower.
On the outside, the 911 GT3 RS 4.0 is finished in white as standard and comes with optional “RS 4.0” decals. It is also distinguished by the wide track and low stance, a large rear wing with adapted side plates and central twin tailpipes. The front bumper sports lateral air deflection vanes, which make their appearance for the first time on a production Porsche. They increase downforce on the front axle and in combination with the rear wing push the car onto the road with an additional 190 kg (426 lbs) of aerodynamic force at top speed.
The car will launch in Germany in July 2011 with a starting price of €178,596, taxes included. In the U.S., the 911 GT3 RS 4.0 will cost $185,000 (excluding destination charges) and will go on sale in late 2011. Production will be limited to just 600 units worldwide.


Read more In Cars

Chevrolet 2012 Corvette new Design

Chevrolet will improve the Corvette’s performance capabilities with a series of enhancements for the 2012 model year aimed at offering better on-track performance and on-road comfort. The subtle performance improvements concern the Z06 and ZR1 models, while the rest of the Corvette lineup receives modest interior and equipment updates.
New for the 2012MY are the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup Zero Pressure tires, which are available for the 505HP Z06 and the supercharged 638HP ZR1 models. These competition-oriented tires promise to increase cornering and handling capability during warm, dry conditions. Combined with the Performance Traction Management (PTM) technology, the Michelins are said to offer an 8-percent gain in maximum lateral acceleration (more than 1.1 g) and shorter braking distances.
The new Michelins are included in the optional Z07 performance package for the Corvette Z06 and a new PDE performance package on the ZR1. The tires come with all-new aluminum Cup-style wheels in satin black or machined finishes that are about 5 lbs (2.2 kg) lighter and stronger than the 20-spoke wheel.
Another upgrade is the racing-style spoiler included in both Z07 and PDE packages. The Z06 will also get the Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension technology and Brembo carbon ceramic brakes with the Z07 package. Additional optional extras include the carbon fiber hood on Z06 models and taller gearing for the ZR1 in 5th and 6th gear for a 2-mpg improvement in highway fuel economy.
Inside, all 2012 Corvette models will get new seat and steering wheel designs. Chevrolet says the seats will feature larger bolsters for improved lateral support and optional microfiber suede inserts. In addition, all models receive contrasting color stitching (red, blue and yellow), and padded center console and armrests.
In terms of equipment, there will be a new Bose audio system with nine speakers (compared to seven in 2011), better tuned to the cabin's acoustics. The 2LT trim level will feature a new Technology Package that includes navigation, head-up display, Bose premium audio system, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity and a USB port. Finally, customers will be able to chose brake caliper colors from red, yellow, silver or gray.
Chevrolet will reveal the 2012 Corvette models alongside the Chevrolet Centennial Edition at a special event this weekend at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Production begins this July.


Read more In Cars