Monday, September 25, 2006

Green stuff: Driven by Oil; EEStor super-batteries


Just caught a programme on BBC Radio 4 called Driven by Oil. The last part of a four part series on the oil industry, the final episode has writer/presenter Tom Mangold taking a look at (or, I suppose, a listen to) non-oil based forms of fuelling and energy for motor vehicles. Only half an hour long, and in spite of some slight naivete about plug-in electric vehicles, it's well worth a listen. The Radio 4 mini-site is here. If you're quick you may even be able to Listen Again to last week's segment before they update to this morning's programme - which is repeated on Radio 4 at 9:30 this evening.

Speaking of plug-in "ev"s (that's "electric vehicles", acronym fans; not to be confused with rv - which is an altogether different kind of American motor-dream), I don't know how I missed this initially, but I did:

Never-Ending Potency: Battery Replacement Could Charge Electric-Car Industry

This concerns an apparent breakthrough in battery technology using ceramics that originators EEStor claim could lead to mains rechargable electric cars with a 500 mile range from only "$9" of electricity. Even more impressive/significant/unbelievable is the kicker, where EEStor suggest a full charge would only take "five minutes". A completely fantastic achievement, or just completely fantastic?

Right now it's very difficult to know. Speculation has been bubbling about this company for some time, and there still seems to be very little in the way of actual answers. No major car manufacturers are involved at this stage, that's one thing for sure - but they do have other heavyweight investors. The technology itself appears to be based on capacitors, rather than a more traditional "battery" - not a new concept, but this would represent one of the first proper instances of implementation. I can't help but think that being ceramic, even if it is true it's going to be awfully heavy.... Canadian company Feel Good Cars, makers of the ZENN, above, are reckoning they'll have the tech on the road by 2008, however, so I'll just stand back and wish them luck.

Ignore the indecisive spelling of EEStor in both main pieces (and the typographic formatting war at the Giz), and the commentators at both Jalopnik and Gizmodo have some interesting things to say. I've listed a few other Google sourced references below.


Links:

Driven by Oil website and Listen Again (usually available for one week from broadcast only) [requires RealPlayer] @ BBC Radio 4

Never-Ending Potency: Battery Replacement Could Charge Electric-Car Industry @ Jalopnik

EEStor Ceramic Battery: Internal Combustion Replacement? @ Gizmodo

EEStor Capacitors- "This could change everything" @ Treehugger

EEStor Ultracapacitor Shuns Publicity
@ The Energy Blog

Gentlemen, stop your engines @ CNNMoney.com

Kleiner Perkins' Latest Energy Investment @ BusinessWeek online

Feel Good Cars Tuning Up For Production; EEStor ESU on Track
@ Green Car Congress

The Silver Bullet? @ Dymaxian World

Kleiner's secretive battery-ultracapacitor company, EEStor @ SiliconBeat

Feel Good Cars [official website]

What's in store for EEStor? @ Clean Break

Picture: the ZENN - from the Feel Good Cars website - on the occasion of winning Gold in the Urban Vehicle category of the 2006 Michelin Challenge Bibendum

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lotus: +3 models; -200 jobs.


The negative aspect of recent Lotus announcements doesn't seem to be getting much attention, so I thought I'd raise it here.

Yesterday, the Malaysian-owned, Norfolk-based sportscar manufacturer revealed plans for three new models in the next five years. Since this included plans for a super new range-topping Esprit, I suspect that the most sensible course is to remains skeptical - a new Esprit gets announced with yawning regularity and hasn't yet made it more than about six months before the project is cancelled. Or delayed. Or, whatever. The other two vehicles are something in the mid-range (isn't that the Europa? No...?), and something high-performance in association with parent company, Proton (*cough* haven't heard that before...).

The day before yesterday, Lotus released a statement saying it still had a bright future - in spite of plans to cut up to 200 jobs from its Hethel base. Falling sales in the US are being blamed. A report today suggest that Proton are determined to hold onto their sporty little number no matter what - so I guess things can't be too bad.

I like Lotus. Let's hope their long-term strategy people know what they're doing.


Links:

200 jobs to go at Lotus car factory @ EDP24

Lotus plans to cut up to 200 jobs @ BBC News

Lotus 5 Year Plan Heralds 3 New Models
@ WorldCarFans.com [via Jalopnik]

Malaysia'a Proton says will not sell Lotus unit even if things get tough @ Life Style Extra

Lotus Europa S gallery @ New Car Net


Picture from here. They have a bunch of other pictures, too (scroll right down to the bottom of the page).

Happy day for Hamster fans - Richard Hammond out of intensive care.

Just seen a BBC television news update that reports Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond is now out of intensive care, and doctors are "satisfied" with his progress. The Telegraph website is confirming this here:

Hammond moved out of intensive care

Guardian Unlimited has an article that's also worth a look for some further optimism-boosters:

Hammond recovery is likely-experts

They've spoken to some neurological experts who reckon the fact the Hamster was able to talk to rescuers at the scene indicates his brain was already beginning to fight the injury. He's no-where near out of of danger yet, but this at least gives ground for hope. He always gives the impression of being a tenacious fellow - so this all sounds like good news.


Links:

Hammond moved out of intensive care @ Telegraph.co.uk

Hammond recovery is likely-experts
@ Guardian Unlimited

Richard Hammond update [internal]


Picture from the Telegraph.co.uk

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Richard Hammond update


Just a quick post to catch up with the current status of seriously injured Top Gear presenter, Richard Hammond.

All the news reports are suggesting that he remains stable. That's the good news. Less good is the accompanying information that reveals he has suffered a significant brain injury. A recovery is expected - but it seems this is guardly expected to be "good" rather than full.

Beyond this personal element of the story, the BBC is unsurprisingly about to find itself under serious scrutiny regarding the circumstances surrounding the occurrance of the accident. ITV's television evening news has just suggested that Hammond was not initially supposed to the Top Gear presenter driving the car - although they have not named who he was replacing. The use of language within the programme is a little, uh, suspect, however - as how "late" a replacement he was seems to be in some doubt. The change was reportedly due to a diary clash.

Finally, confusion seems to remain about whether or not he was attempting to break the British Land Speed Record. IrishExaminer.com reports the organisers say he was not; ITV continues to speculate that he was; the BBC is saying nothing either way.

I guess it really doesn't matter. We're all thinking: get well soon.

The readers of PistonHeads have set up a donation page for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. You can get to it here; amazingly it's already raised over £10,000, enough for a dozen rescure flights.


Links:

Hammond 'was not attempting land speed record' @ IrishExaminer.com

TV presenter suffers brain injury @BBC News

Get Well Soon Hamster @ Justgiving

Richard Hammond critically ill after jet car crash [internal]


Picture: Sky One

Green stuff

Just a couple of quick environmentally responsible mentions.

First off there's this:

Green-Car-Guide.com

A website, launched today (so the press release claims, anyway), which purports to be the first UK guide to green motoring. It includes a top ten of green cars you can buy (woo!), and other cool green-motoring goodness. My personal favourite is the Honda Insight rally car - which they claim is the world's only hybrid competition vehicle of this type.

Then there's the bizarre-seeming situation that sees the American state of California suing six of the world's largest car makers. GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan have all been hit with a lawsuit concerning their contribution to global warming. ITV has a brief intro to the story here. How the other manufacturers escaped I have no idea...


Links:

Green-Car-Guide.com


California sues car manufacturers @ ITV


Picture from the hybrid rally car page @ Green-Car-Guide.com

New Gran Turismo - no cars or courses? Has Sony finally lost the plot?


Eh? Ok, ok, so it is just a rumour - based on a forum translation (hmmm...) of an interview with Kazunori Yamauchi, the creator of the best car racing game ever, Gran Turismo. But, it seems so bonkers at first glance that...well, let me explain.

It's claimed Gran Turismo for the forthcoming PlayStation 3 Sony games console - already troubled - is going to come initially in two versions. The first of these, Gran Turismo HD: Premium, is pretty much a just a demo for GT 5 proper, containing a measly 30 cars and only two (two!) tracks, with two more courses and 30 additional cars available only via download. The second, Gran Turismo HD: Classic, is a specced-up edition of the last PS2 GT release - except, they've taken away all the cars and race circuits. Instead you're supposed to purchase these from Sony, using the 'microtransaction' system built into the Sony online network.

In the great world wide web, some are embracing such a concept - and I can sort of see the appeal, like virtual card collecting, only using real money - while others are claiming it's merely 'an entertaining vilification of the microtransaction and nothing more'. The skepticism is based soundly on the cost, figuring it likely to be in excess of $400 to complete the set, so to speak - and that's at the low-end of the scale. The PS3 is already predicted to be ultra expensive. I guess it would be total genius if Sony could get the scheme to work...

The download element is likely to exist in some form - simply because it will allow the games' producers and even car manufacturers to add to the available rolling stock as new models are created, as well as offer additional courses. There's even talk of limited releases on some vehicles, which frankly I find rather enthralling. Can you imagine how much these will start going for on eBay? (And, I'm not joking.)

But the concept of a racing game you can't actually play straight out of the box? Seems pretty unlikely to me.


Links:

Dubious Rumour: Gran Turismo HD to ship without cars or tracks @ joystiq

Gran Turismo HD: Classic - the first driving game without cars? @ APC Magazine

Gran Turismo to be sold without cars? @ Fragland.net

Beyond3d Forum thread [the rumour originator?]

Gran Turismo World [official site]

Gran Turismo (video game) @ Wikipedia

Kazunori Yamauchi @ Wikipedia

PlayStation Global [official PS site]

PlayStation 3 [official PS3 site]


Picture from Gran Turismo World downloads page.

The Moonbeam. Have you got a license for that, sunshine?


What's the best thing you could do with a couple of clapped-out Honda scooters?

No, not that. A chap named Jory Squibb in the United States has built himself...well BusinessWeek describes it as a car, so I guess I'll go with that. Squibb calls it the Moonbeam. It uses a 150cc motor from a 1987 Honda Elite 150, cost $500 in scooter parts, another $2,000 in additional bits, and 1,000 man-hours. But, more positively, apparently gets 105 US-mpg when on an 'economy run', and 80-85mpg around town. Which is kind of impressive.

Mr Squibb is even willing to help you build your own, and has set up a website to show you the way. Perhaps not recommended for very hilly areas...can't imagine it has very much torque to tug all that extra bodyweight around.


Links:

$2,500 DIY Cars @ BusinessWeek Online

Jory Squibb (Moonbeam website)


Picture from the Moonbeam website

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Richard Hammond critically ill after jet car crash


My apologies, but I have been unable to update both versions of this site simultaneously. So, for further news that I've managed to gather about Richard Hammond - the Top Gear presenter was seriously injured in crash while piloting a jet powered car earlier today - please check with the LE version of IR:

Hammond: BBC Update Again [ir:le]

Hammond: Sky has more details [ir:le]

Richard Hammond update [ir:le]

Richard Hammond critically ill after car crash [ir:le]

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It's a MONSTER


I have a confession to make. I've always thought the Audi Q7 looks like it's about to devour everything in front of it on the road - it doesn't just seem aggressive, but hungry, too. Um, so it makes me kind of wonder if the new 6.0-litre V12 TDI version isn't taking things a little too far...

Showing no signs of just being a publicity stunt for the upcoming Paris motorshow, this bulging beasty is apparently already in pre-production; it's no shock that Audi is looking to cash in on the phenomenal performance of its R10 diesel race-car, I just didn't quite expect it to roll out the scheme in an SUV. The V12 TDI Q7 uses tech-sorcery derived from the R10 to deliver 500ps (493bhp) and 1,000Nm of torque (that's 737lb ft) - the latter from only 1,750rpm - making it the most powerful diesel passanger car ever seen. 0-62? 5.5 seconds. Top speed thankfully limited to 155mph. It's got a six-speed auto, twin-turbos, makes an actually quite remarkable 23.7mpg, and meets all current and near-future European emissions regulations.

The sheer hilarity of such an achievement should definitely not be overlooked. I imagine the in-gear acceleration will be monumental enough to have all but the most extreme AMG and Brabus-tuned Mercedes drivers sweating when they see this thing's gaping intakes appear in the mirror behind them. I think it probably needs the even more aggressive new bodykit, just so people know to get out of the way - before it's too late. Munch.

I wonder if the - surprise, surprise - LED-strip running lights are six-a-side, rather than the V10 Audis' five...


Links:

Paris motorshow


Pictures: Audi

There's real work, if you can get it


Oh, oh - and I have also got some work published elsewhere:

500 horsepower Vauxhall announced

I really enjoy writing newsy stuff like that, so I hope you enjoy reading it. It's also nice when genuine professionals think your stuff is good enough to go out to the general public, so I was really pleased to see these little items make it onto the web. Ace.


Links:

500 horsepower Vauxhall announced @ MSN Cars UK


Picture: Vauxhall

Quentin Wilson says...


Heh. Well, the UK's roads are always entertaining. I've been doing a lot of motorway work recently, and the above is just one of the amusing sights I've seen in the process. Poor image quality due to using a camera phone (which I would NOT recommend while driving...etc, etc).

Hum, so long time no post. I know. I have actually finished with my university course now, and the plan has always been to spend September regrouping and figuring out exactly what I'm going to do next. I've even already had one interview - which I think went quite well. I'm leaving the description of the site alone for the moment, since I'm still officially a student until the end of the month, I think. I will try and update the sites with RSS tags, though - something I didn't know I had until a reader pointed them out to me (d'oh)! My internet access is currently a little patchy, but I'm still aiming to get some more regular posting done as possible.

'K, that's it for now - just wanted to let people know I'm still alive. ;-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

PistonHeads on the Weineck Cobra


Well, I wasn't planning on posting anything else this week, but when I saw this on PistonHeads I couldn't resist.

It's Ian Kuah driving the Weineck Cobra. Now, you might not have heard of this thing, but, well, you should want to know about it - just incase you think your Veyron's going to have it easy when it pulls up next to you at the lights.

Looks like an AC Cobra that got a little further carried away with the steriods (I mean, let's face it, more ordinary specimins of the beastie already look like substance abusers), but the shape is about all it's got in common with the original design. Custom built by "master mechanic" (I'm quoting Kuah here) Klaus Weineck, it features an aluminium/titanium chassis, independent double wishbone suspension, and a 12.9 litre bespoke block V8. The mill makes 1,100bhp at 7,000rpm and generates 1,299lb-ft of torque - while the car weighs only 1,000kg. Fortunately it also has enormous brakes, oil coolers everywhere, and is intended to withstand Dubai-grade levels of heat.

My favourite part is the 427 badge it's still sporting on the side. You can look to buy one here. The site should bring a smile to your face, at the very least - but make sure you have the sound turned up!


Links:

Weineck Cobra @ PistonHeads

Weineck official site


Picture from the PistonHeads article - as if you couldn't tell from the banner...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hey...whoa!


Hello all!

I'm in the final few days of my degree at the moment, and things are moving...smoothly. Yes, actually, smoothly. I'm still anticipating a little bif of last minute chaos, but at the time of writing it's all good.

Two reasons for this post. Firstly, I just wanted to make a quick mention of the JCB DieselMAX, which has broken the diesel engine land speed record three times in the last six days. Pretty awesome achievement. The last set of runs - first thing this am, Utah Saltflats, USA - averaged just over 350mph (although it's yet to be officially verified). You can read all about the speed record bid at the DieselMAX site, here. My favourite part about their most recent press release is the quote from pilot (in every sense of the word) Andy Green...350mph and they still haven't gotten the thing into top gear. Magic. There are some brilliant photographs on the site, too. Which leads me neatly onto the second reason.

In the process of putting together a website for the course and my final MA project I discovered today that I have a really neat photograph of the Lamborghini Miura concept, which I took at the Geneva Motorshow this year. And I just wanted to share it with you. Click the image for a bigger view.


Alright, catch you later - and soon.


Links:

JCB DIESELMAX official site

#14: Let's go retro [internal]

#19: The Geneva Motorshow [internal]


DieselMAX photo from the images section of the official site. Miura courtesy of yours truly - and with no photochoping at all, I promise. It's not even cropped. And maybe you'll think it's a little washed out...but I just love it. And my Canon 300D. *is pleased with self*. Notes: is lucky sometimes.