James Bond is a Roll Tide fan

Supercars are (almost) everyone’s dream to own and drive. The power. The speed. A good excuse to disregard fuel economy. There is also the appeal that comes with driving the same car as James Bond or the like. Aston Martin has noticed that American sales have up ticked, and are now considering a plant in the supercar capital of America…Alabama?…
Aston Martin

Wait. Alabama is known more for lifted trucks and yelling at people on Sundays for not being in church, than for $100,000+ luxury vehicles. Why would they choose Alabama as their first plant? It could be that the executives in London are Roll Tide fans down deep, but I think it may be slightly more strategic.
In 1997 Mercedes-Benz opened a plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and most recently have produced the Mercedes C-Class at that plant. Fast forward to 2014, the parent company of the German luxury auto maker purchased a 5% stake Aston Martin. As a part of the deal Mercedes would also provide engines and electrical components to Aston Martin. So the addition of a plant in Alabama by the Bond brand would make a decent bit of sense as the two makers could exchange parts easily.

What is more striking about the placement of the plant; Alabama does not require the use of Union only workers. The Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa is not unionized and in fact Mercedes recently got in trouble for antiunion practices. The United Autoworkers union has tried for some time to unionize the Tuscaloosa plant with little success. I would fully expect the UAW to try the same with the new workers of Aston Martin.
The decision by Aston Martin to go to Alabama instead of Michigan is just another blow to the deteriorating Rust Belt and more specifically Detroit. The UAW is in dire need of an increase of membership as they are down to a mere 319,000 because jobs have moved out of the union requiring states and even the country. It seems that the automakers no longer want anything to do with the Unions if it is possible to avoid them.

Jalopnik AutoCar Mercedes

Meet the Jetsons

Flying cars, they have been the focus of science fiction for decades now with nary a likely product to hit the market.  Everyone from the Jetson’s to Total Recall has speculated on what flying cars will look like and how they will work. And why not think that it is a possibility? Everyone has a Star Trek Communicator after all. Well starting in 2017, Austrian company AeroMobil looks to change that by providing the first commercially available flying roadster.
AeroMobil 3.0

I know….we have heard this before, but the company has done a multiple announcements about it. They have also started publicizing the upcoming Aeromobil 3.0 at South by Southwest in Texas a few weeks ago. It goes without saying that this toy will cost a pretty penny. Vaculik at SXSW was quoted as saying that the cost of the luxury car will fall between the new Tesla models and “a few hundred thousand dollars”.  But if you are one that can afford a brand new Tesla, and like the idea of being able to pull right onto a landing strip for take-off, then this is for you. The range on the car is around 435 miles (the release did not specify if that was driving or flying distance) with a top airspeed of 124 miles per hour.

Wings Out

AeroMobil is not the only company working towards this, Terrafugia based out of the United States has their own version starting at $279,000 (although there has not been word as to when it will be commercially available). Even the EU has started developing their own flying car.

EU PAV

Personally I’m very excited for the AeroMobil, although I won’t be rushing to buy one this may be the start of a new revolution in transportation.  As long as Harrison Ford sticks to the autopilot.

 

Check out the video below to see the AeroMobil 3.0 in action:

Source: Forbes Forbes AeroMobil

Solar Roadways

American roadways are crumbling, and are in desperate need of repair. We are also in need of more sources for renewable energy. Why not combine the two? Solar Roadways is a company based out of Idaho that aims to do just that. Each module has a solar panel, a heater, LED display, and a microprocessor.
Panels only

Each module is covered with tempered glass similar to the type that you would find in your windshield. Solar Roadways also covers the glass in a grip material to increase traction in slick conditions. The glass has been thoroughly stress tested so there is no worry of breakage.
Tempered glass

Inside, each module has a solar panel which will power not only the module itself, but the power grid too.  Calculations done by Solar Roadways, estimate that if the U.S. was recovered in these, they we could produce up to 3x the power that we use currently. For more wintry areas snow plows will become a thing of the past with the built in heater. Unfortunately kids may no longer get snow days—
Snow removal

One of the most exciting things to come out of this could be reconfigurable roadways. Each tile is pressure sensitive, and will light up when a child or animal steps onto the road. This could help people living in the country see deer or other large animals way before they are in danger.  Reconfigurable roads could also help prevent improve travel time by rerouting drivers around traffic jams. The LEDs in the module could also be used on a playground and be reconfigured to fit a child’s needs.
Configurable roadway

Other benefits from these modules are: easily repaired roads compared to expensive resurfacing (each hexagon is removable), rerouting of power and telephone lines to a tunnel attached to the modules, rerouting of storm drains in another tunnel attached to the modules. The Federal Highway Administration awarded two contracts to solar Roadways in 2009 to build a prototype (and eventually a 2nd prototype in 2011). Hopefully with the Federal Highway Administration contracts, we can see real world trials sometime soon. Watch the video below to find out more.

Solar Roadways

Auto Loan Bubble?

In 2008 home foreclosures rose an astounding 81%, starting one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory. Although there were many factors contributing to this fallout, two big components were: 1. lenders overextending themselves on subprime mortgages; 2. Buying and reselling of debt, while piecing it out. Today mortgage lenders are more conservative on whom they lend to and how much. The people handing out car loans may not have paid attention to this lesson. A story reported on NPR’s Planet Money showed that auto loan lenders are approving buyers with poor credit history for expensive new cars. The story was taken up again by NPR’s All Things Considered, where they detailed a buyer who was pressured into buying a car that he couldn’t afford at 18% interest. Companies like Westlake Financial provide some of these higher interest loans, but also larger companies like GM and Chrysler have also been approving buyers like there is no tomorrow (which if you recall GM & Chrysler were a part of the Auto bailout) . Subprime auto loans have slowly been slowly gaining media attention. In addition to Planet Money and All Things Considered, Here and Now as well as Bloomberg have been talking about them. All of the stories are quick to point out that auto loans are not the same as mortgages, arguing that buyers have to get to and from work so it is a good investment. This may be true, but is very similar to the argument that investors made when subprime mortgages were on top. Although I do not think that it is time scream that the sky is falling, I do think that government oversight and regulation on subprime lending needs to happen so that a repeat of 2008 won’t happen. If you want to read more click here, here, here, or here.

Zelectric

In 1938 the very first Volkswagen Beetle rolled off of the assembly line. Since that time more than 21 million of the “classic” beetle have been produced. This makes it one of the most produced cars in history as well as having had the longest lifespan (including the redesigns). But what does a future of shrinking amounts of oil, and the increasing acceptance of electric cars hold for a classic? Zelectric may have an answer to that.

Based out of San Diego, Zelectric retrofits the VW Beetle (1958-1966) with a 65kW AC motor. This doubles the horsepower of the original motor as well as gives it a top speed of over 100 mph. Although much like the early Teslas, the new electric motor does limit the range of the car to 80 miles before needing a charge. Unfortunately this car won’t be making long distance road trips anytime soon.

Zelectric is proud to point out that each car is custom fitted for its motor and that they do not nor will they use conveyor belts. If you want to own one of these beauties it will cost you ~$37,000 if you are providing your own Type 1. If you are buying one from Zelectric that price goes up to around ~$54,000. If Beetle’s aren’t quite your style but looking for a similar classic Zelectric will do pre-80’s: VW Karmann Ghia, VW Microbus, VW Thing, VW Squarebacks, VW Notchbacks, VW Fastbacks, Meyers Manx, Porsche 356, Porsche 911, Porsche 912, Porsche 914, and Porsche replicas. But who could turn down this beauty?
Zelectric Beetle
All in all, these are great looking cars that are virtually maintenance free. They may not be able to make a cross country trip just yet, but with Tesla and others advancing the storage capacity this shouldn’t be a problem much longer. If you want to find out more about Zelectric watch the video below or go to Zelectric.

Credit for photos to Zelectric
Credit for VW statistic to Werner Oswald ISBN 3-613-02116-1 pg. 39