GM’s Attempts at Environmentally Friendly Vehicles

Car companies today are being pushed harder and harder to protect the air and make cars more fuel efficient so that less gas is used, or a different type of power is being used.  General Motors (GM) has made attempts in all of the major categories to make cars that are more environmentally friendly.  They have made more fuel efficient cars, hybrids, electric, light electrification, biofuels, and hydrogen.

GM has 25 vehicles that have an EPA of at least 30 mpg on the highway in todays lineup.  GM wants to design, build and sell the best vehicles with the environment in mind.  GM engineers are developing technologies leading to better fuel economy and reducing emissions.  GM’s hybrid, the Chevy Volt, gets an estimated 98 MPG on electricity, 35 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway using gas.  Customers have reported going more than a month between filling up with a daily commute of less than 35 miles, with regular charging.  The average volt owner travels 81 percent of the time on pure electricity.  Light electrification is a solution that enhances fuel efficiency of up to 25 percent when paired with GM’s existing engines.  The process involves an electric motor recapturing energy and shutting of fuel when braking.  These engines also shuts-off and restarts the engine in city driving (stop-and-go).

In terms of non-petroleum engines, GM has a pure electric car, the Chevrolet Spark EV, and has cars using biofuels.  They are also working on hydrogen fuel cells.  The Chevy Spark, is sold in Oregon and California.  It goes 0-60 in 7.6 seconds and puts out 400 lbs. per foot of torque.  It gets 82 miles of range, and can have an 80 percent charge in less than 20 minutes.  GM believes that biofuels are the most significant near-term solution to reducing the dependence upon petroleum and carbon dioxide emissions.  GM is the world leader in producing FlexFuel (vehicles that operate on both petroleum and E85 ethanol) and offer more models.  GM is also still working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; customers drove over three million miles in the test vehicle fleet, and GM is using their feedback to improve upon the cars.

I believe GM is making great strides towards building the cars of the future.  I think this will help them to get out of the hole that they were and are in, both before, and after, the government bailouts.  I think hydrogen fuel cells will have a major part in determining what the future holds for the consumer in terms of the vehicles they drive.  I also think electric cars are gaining a foothold; however I do not believe that it will last, unless the range of these cars increases or it becomes faster and easier to gain a charge on them.  I would like to drive the Spark, just to see how it holds up against the sports cars of today.


2015 Chevrolet Spark


3 for 5

How stuff works is a website that provides information on multiple topic including, cars, culture, and environment.  Under the “auto” tab, there is a slideshow article that was over 5 future car technologies that might have a chance at working.  The five that are in “5 Future Car Technologies That Truly Have a Chance” are: 1.) Cars That Communicate with Each Other and the Road, 2.) Self-driving Cars, 3.) Augmented Reality Dashboards, 4.) Airbags That Help Stop Cars, and 5.) Energy-storing Body Panels.  Christopher Neiger wrote the article, and I think that four of the five technological advances listed could work, but in my blogs, I am looking at technologies that advance the auto industry and could potentially be in “future cars.”

I do not see self-driving cars become a reality for the everyday driver.  I think there is too much extra things that would have to be put into these cars making them affordable only to the wealthy.  I also do not see them catching on in the “Heart of America.”  People in this region like to drive their own cars and do not want technology to have control over whether they make it to where they are going or drive off in a ditch.  I also only see cars that communicate with the road and other cars only catching on in major cities, and I think they would be great to help traffic flow and make city driving less dangerous and chaotic.  In the Midwest, there is no need for them.  The number of cars in the middle of the country wan in comparison to the big cities on the East and West coasts.

Some of the technologies listed by How Stuff Works, have a less technologically advanced form already on the market.  Toyota has sonar in some cars (Prius for example).  Toyota’s sonar sends out wavelengths that bounce of the car in front and determine how far ahead that car is.  With the push of a button and cruise control, the car will stay that distance behind the car ahead; this is great for interstate/major-highway driving.  This sonar can also will also start to apply the brakes if you get to close; it may not necessarily keep a driver out of an accident, but it will slow the car down, making the collision less dangerous.  There are multiple car companies that have the technology to keep you in the lane you are driving in.  The car detects the line and if you drift of, the car corrects itself.  I believe this to be the start of the movement towards driverless cars.  The Augmented Reality Dashboard is really a cool thing, but is merely an advanced form of the Heads-Up Display (HUD) that many cars have, like GMC’s Acadia.  The airbags that help stop cars use technology that is already existing to raise the car and help improve safety.

I believe that Augmented Reality Dashboards (AR) are something that can really help drivers, and allow traffic to move at higher rates, which brings up a whole new argument.  Engineers are developing AR to be able to identify objects in front of a vehicle and tell the driver how far away that object is.  The AR, like HUD, will overlay information on top of what the driver sees through the windshield.  If approaching too quickly a red box might appear, the AR would also tell you how to move into a different lane before you collide with the car in front.  The AR also has a GPS that will show were the car is and where to turn without the driver ever having to take his/her eyes of the road.

Mercedes is experimenting with airbags to help make cars safer.  The idea behind airbags helping to stop cars is this: raise the car and slow the car down.  The airbags would be deployed when the car sensors determine that a crash is inevitable.  The airbags use friction to slow the car down before impact.  They also raise the car up to eight centimeters, countering the nose-dive motion when “slamming on the brakes,” allowing more of a bumper-to-bumper contact.  It also helps to keep passengers from sliding under their seat belts during a collision.

Finally maybe the most important piece of technology for the future of the automobile is exists in energy storing body panels.  Exxon Mobile predicts that half of production cars will be hybrid.  This is great for the environment, but the problem is the energy for the cars.  The batteries in hybrids are very heavy and use a lot of space.  Even with the advances in batteries, the weight of hybrids depends significantly on their battery.  Hybrid batteries become charged when the engine is using gas.  This is wear body panels that can store energy can help to reduce the weight and use less of the gas to charge the battery.  In Europe a group of nine auto manufacturers are researching and testing panels that can store energy and charge faster than the conventional batteries in use today.  “The panels that are being tested, are made of polymer fiber and carbon resin that are strong enough to be used in vehicles and pliable enough to be molded into panels,” says Christopher Neiger, which potentially could reduce the weight of the car by up to fifteen percent.  These panels get the energy they store from technologies like regenerative braking or simply the car being plugged in.  These panels will store the energy and feed it back to the car when it is needed.    These panels would make the car lighter, therefore making it more efficient (eliminating wasted energy needed to pull the extra weight), and help to reduce the side of the hybrid batteries.

Toyota Variable Valve Timing (VVT)

Toyota has been a leader in innovation for fuel economy for many years now.  In 1991, Toyota introduced their Variable Valve Timing in the 4AGE engine.  This engine “features 5-valves per cylinder, and a two-stage, hydraulically-controlled cam phasing system.”  VVT-i came in 1996 and added intake valve timing to cam phasing.  This became the norm in the bulk of Toyota’s engine line-up.

The reason to vary the valve timing is fuel economy.  “Introducing VVT to a combustion engine allows for more precise control of engine output and can greatly increase fuel economy.”  VVT is measured in either early or late opening or closing of the valve.  Later opening of valves allows for reduced nitric oxide emissions while effecting torque very little.  Opening the valve earlier results in valve overlap, which means, “the valve will send hot exhaust through the intake valve where it is momentarily cooled in the manifold before returning to the cylinder in the next stroke.”

VVT-i is now used in Toyota’s engines.  There are multiple types of VVT-i used in different ways. The i in VVT-i stands for “intelligent.”  VVT-i improves the timing more than VVT by controlling the opening and closing height and duration throughout the camshaft and the lifters, and controlling the duration through the changes in the camshaft’s rotation.  VVT-i works by using a variable-speed head on the camshaft; this is where the timing system gives the rotational force to the camshaft.  This system has shown improvements in engine performance output under different driving conditions, improving fuel economy by double digit percentages in many of Toyota cars, thus becoming well reviewed and received with engineers and mechanics.

Dual VVT-i adds in control of exhaust, and found in the latest V6 engines, and show advantages in catalytic converter heating, compression minimizing (improving the idle fuel economy), and timing to include more variation.  Variable Valve Timing and Lift with intelligence (VVTL-i) is enhanced VVT-i that allows valve lift control to go with timing control.  VVT-iE (VVT-i by Electric motor) is the exact same as Duel VVT-i with the exception of an electronically-operated actuator adjusts the camshaft timing, rather than hydraulic pressure.  Last, the Valvematic system uses an “oscillating camshaft design that gives a rocking motion to a partial camshaft lobe.”  This comes from the steam engine and allows continuos lift, as well as duration, adjustment, though they are not separate as in VVT-i.

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Toyota Parts Center

Apple iCar?

Apple has been a leading company in technology for the past decade.  They have revolutionized phones and tablets.  Now Apple is trying to enter into the auto industry.  According to a report from Britain’s Financial Times, Apple might soon have a car ready for production.  This comes from more than one source for the Financial Times, whom work closely with Apple.

The Financial Times reports states that Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president and iPhone and iPad designer, is working closely with heads of the automotive industry.  Apple has even hired “an executive from Mercedes-Benz’s research and development division.”  The experts in the auto industry that Apple is hiring are rumored to be working in a secret lab near Apple’s Silicon Valley campus.

This isn’t something to be surprised about.  The biography, written by Walter Isaacson, about Apple CEO Steve Jobs told about how Jobs wanted Apple to develop its own car.  A car wouldn’t be the first thing in the auto industry that Apple has either.  Apple has put out CarPlay, available through a range of manufacturers from Ferrari to Ford.  CarPlay allows you to control your iPhone through the car dashboard.


               CarPlay on the dashboard of a car

Creating and selling a car won’t be easy.  Creating a brand in the automotive industry; companies are established and have been for many years.  What’s more is the fact that creating software and building a car are two totally different things, plus the fact that Apple doesn’t have a factory to build a car, they would have to build on or contract a factory from another company.

All of this is rumored and Apple hasn’t officially announced that it is in the process of building a car, but it isn’t hard to believe that Apple is working on a car.  Apple has a reputation of being a leader in technological advancements.  The iPhone revolutionized mobile phones, bringing entertainment, easier texting, ease of use with the operating system itself, and the ability to surf the internet into the palm of one’s hand.  The iPad now makes tablets like mini computers; office work can be completed on iPads, as well as using it for entertainment, like games, music, books, and many different varieties of downloadable apps to use.

If Apple wants to enter the auto industry, I do not see them having a problem.  They are already a “household name” in the technology field and haven proven themselves to be reliable and innovative.  Just think of what they can do with their technological ideas and powers while designing and building a car.  Considering the fact that Apple has Siri, the car radio, and if you have an iPhone, which will most likely connect to the car, will probably be controlled by Siri, making the car hands free and safer.  Im just waiting to see if the car will be gas or electric.

Original Article found at: Yahoo news (technology)

SUV’s in Europe?

The Chinese automaker Geely Automobile have recently announced in my opinion, a huge gamble. The plans to release a small SUV in Europe. They have announced that they are planning on producing a gasoline version to the US and a couple of alternatively fueled variants which include plug ins.

Being European, I know that SUV’s are not very popular as they are here in the US. The two main reasons being that petroleum is roughly $8 a gallon in the UK, which would make using an economically inefficient vehicle such as an SUV undesirable and is the reason Europe is dominated by smaller, efficient cars. Another reason which is not as big as the previous is that European countries are substantially smaller than America. Roads and city streets are much smaller and there is in general less space across the board therefore it makes sense to drive smaller cars.

The small SUV may work well in Europe however if the alternative fuel is successful. I believe this car could become a success if the fuel is cheaper than gas, as reliant as gas and as easy to access, then I believe Geely’s SUV becoming common place in the European market. However if it was that easy to provide alternative fuels then I think it would already of happened. I cannot see the Chinese automakers car becoming dominant in Europe in the near future however I do believe they are going down the right track to getting SUV’s popularity to increase overseas.Bloggy

Car-to-Car Communication

Having done a little research and put some thoughts in to what type of car the future will produce and what types of new features that are out there which will dominate the automobile industry in years to come, I came across my favorite feature that I think will be implemented sooner rather than later. Car to car communication.

After internet access (WiFi) becomes available in most cars – which I think will be sooner rather than later, I believe the next big car safety feature will be car to car communication. This system uses radio signals to transmit a vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information 10 times per second, and it would receive the same data from other vehicles. The vehicle’s computer would alert the driver to an impending collision, and some systems could automatically brake.

This, in my opinion will provide huge safety benefits for millions of drivers. The Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx estimated that this technology could prevent up to 80% of incidents that do not include drunk driving and mechanical faults.

I can see this being a feature of the futuristic car, however before it is present in every vehicle in the road I can see a couple issues arising; firstly, some drivers may be relying on this technology too much so do not pay as much attention to the road as they are trusting the person in front who may not use the signaling system or may not have it installed into their car. Another issue I can also see occurring is the misuse of the technology, there may be people out there who will send wrong signals to the vehicles around them which can be potentially dangerous to other road users. Overall, I think if taken seriously and installed in most cars around the country this safety feature could be a huge success and at a cost of $100-$200 it is not the most expensive when it comes to buying a safe car.


Chevrolet explores autonomous driving with FNR concept

After recently setting a new goal of passing the 1 million vehicle sales in China by the year 2020, Chevrolet have got another new futuristic design ready to potentially do battle with the Apple car and other high technology designs that will shape the future of the automobile. Could this new crazy looking design with FNR concept be a hit? What even is FNR?

The FNR stands for “Find New Roads” which is Chevrolets design theme. Here they have decided to go for a futuristic, streamlined design with one of the cars main features being its “dragonfly” dual swing doors which will certainly catch a lot of attention at car shows. Its not just the looks of the car though that will cause there to be interest. The car can be charged wirelessly and has magnetic, in wheel electric motors. Its standout feature though has to be the roof of the car. Being equipped with sensors and a roof mounted radar allows this new design to be driverless.

This new high technology, electric car shows us that Chevrolet are working hard to try to compete with other new cars from the various automobile giants as well as trying to meet the customers lifestyles. Chevrolets global chief, Alan Batey states that “this is just the beginning of their efforts to meet the transportation efforts of the future”. This is a bold statement from Chevrolet but one that shows that they have intent, especially in the Asian market which they are targeting more heavily due to the much younger customer base in countries such as China.

I believe that Chevrolet could become a success more in the foreign market than in the USA, but that they will need to further enhance their vehicle if they are going to be able to be a major player in the market as future of the industry.


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