Friday, May 30, 2014

CMax Solar Energi Concept

Making the most of the sun in sunny So Cal

I really love this concept and when Ford invited me down to their Los Angeles Regional Office (in Irvine?) I jumped on it.  I'm a solar kinda guy, made the decision to fall off the grid last year and don't regret it at all.  A plug-in hybrid with a solar panel on the roof should have been a no-brainer, but it took the folks like  Mike Tinskey at Ford and his team to come up with a way to make it practical.  Mike is the Global Director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure so he knows a lot about this topic.

Solar panel efficiency has gotten better in recent years, now up to 21% of energy captured converted to power.  This isn't enough however to give a full charge to the car in an average city like someplace back east like Charleston SC, but in a city like Los Angeles the potential is there to bring the batteries to a full charge during the course of an 8 work day.

Ford teamed up with the folks at Georgia Institute of Technology and came up with a carport looking lens concentrator that would effectively increase the amount of light hitting the panel to maximize electricity production.  The car is on a platform that would move and track the sun during the course of the day to ensure best possible light concentration on the panel.  This technology primitive as it is hints at greatness to come.  Imagine it.  Plug in at night, drive your 20 miles or so to work in EV mode, charge by the sun and drive home the other 20 miles on a solar charge home.

Why is this important?  A lot of reasons.  We are cursed with the highest density and gridlocked traffic where this bump and go is actually the EV/Hybrids strength as all that stopping is an opportunity to regenerative brake charge the batteries.  The use of a hybrid/EV serves to lessen significantly the pollutants and green house gases being emitted all working to give us cleaner air.

Interesting stats came out of this meeting.  The last couple of years the hybrid/EV has accounted about 3-4% of all car sales here in the U.S.  The startling bit of that stat is that fully half of those sales took place right here in California.  Leaders in the transition to sustainable CLEAN transportation.

A few nifty factoids on the CMax Solar Energi concept and the potential it represents.
·         C-MAX Solar Energi Concept eliminates the need to plug in and charge a hybrid vehicle altogether. It harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to the panels on the vehicle’s roof
·         C-MAX Solar Energi Concept represents an exciting possibility for the future of mobility. This prototype is part of Ford’s vision for imagining what sustainable transportation will look like in 2024 and beyond and the near-, mid- and long-term steps we must take to get there
·         Internal Ford data suggest the sun could power up to 75 percent of all trips made in a solar hybrid vehicle. That means a typical owner can avoid sending more than four metric tons of greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere ever year.
·         According to our climate scientists, if all light duty vehicles (cars and trucks) in the US adopted this approach, we’d reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) by more than 1 billion metrics tons per year.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sneak peak at a couple of 2015 Chevy's

 2015 Chevy Cruze
2015 Chevy Malibu?
My little corner of L.A, is used for filming a lot of commercials.  Car commercials in particular are done here as it could be Main Street anywhere USA.  

First up was the face lifted 2015 Chevy Cruze which I blogged about when it was first introduced.  Solid little car that I actually liked quite a bit.  The image isn't that great as I was trying to grab the pic with security folks yelling and trying to get people, especially people with cameras out of the way.  The grill is new, larger more like the familial face...or a cross between next generation Focus and a Dart, not bad, but falling into the the trap of familiar rather than unique face of tis own.

The second car, not sure which model it is.  I think its the Malibu, but I'm not sure as it was devoid of side badging and I couldn't get to the rear for a close look.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Contest courtesy Turtle Wax to win a new "stang

I just found out about this contest. Go to twitter and follow @TurtleWax.  Tweet your reflection photo with the hashtag #reflectie and the @TurtleWax in the body of your text with your reflection in a car by July 14 2014.  From there some entity will pick out the 10 best and an online voting contest will start August 1st running through September 1...and winner presumably annoucnced shortly there after.  Full contest rule HERE.

I've got gawd knows how many reflecties out there from the various events and car shows I've attended.  I'll enter a few as wtf...its worth a shot at winning a new 'stang.  Here are just two:

Monday, May 12, 2014

What kind of driver should you be?

I keep coming up Rally Driver or a variation there of.  What sort are you?  This gem showed up in my email today and it made me laugh. Hard.   Out Loud.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ecoboost Tour - do it and you'll be surprised

It takes real chutzpah to invite people to test their product against the segment leaders, or in the case of the Ford F150 its closest competitors.  But Ford is doing just that and opening eyes in the process.  Their Ecoboost products are more than competitive in my not so humble, ditto their hybrids and no one else domestically has car like the Fiesta ST or the Focus ST (before the trolls attack...the VW GTI isn't a domestic so there).

Friday I was invited to the Ecoboost Tour on a VIP Pass along with a lot of other Media Types to spend the morning taking turns driving various Ford products and their competitors, often a market leader.  We were given a closed loop circuit on a track at Santa Anita Race Park to run the cars back to back and then render our opinion.

First stop for me was the Hybrids.  Pitting the Prius V against a Ford C-Max.  First one up was to step into the Prius V.  No power seats in the top line model, whats up with that.  Can't exactly dial in a comfortable seating position without it.  *Grumble*.  Silly drive selector aside its not that bad of a car ergonomically once you get it and get your self half way situated.  Its definitely lacking in power, in the slalom portion of the circuit it was flaccid, kinda like a 40 year old Buick Estate Wagon.  No fun with this car.  Definitely for the point A-B commuter. Mileage...disappointing 38mpg.

The C-Max as a joy and complete polar opposite.  Power seats to dial in the perfect seating position, better materials that you touch.  More of a luxury feel.  On the track this car was more more at home in the curves and the slalom.  Even the acceleration portion this car went faster with less of a foot plant than the Prius V.  Granted I spent most of my time in EV mode, an option not available on the Prius V...but I got a whopping 64.7 out of it.  Impressive.  It drove and handled like a much smaller car.

For kicks and giggles I took out a gorgeous new Fusion Energi (Ford talk for plug in hybrid) on the track.  It was done up in the new for 2014 drop dead gorgeous Sunset.  It didn't disappoint me in how it rode and handled.  I managed a very respectable 81.3 MPE in all electric mode.  My only niggle is that I would have liked to have a Camry hybrid or Accord plug-in to go up against it.

After the Hybrids is the main event.  Ecoboost Mid-size car, SUV and Pick-up against its competition.

First drive was the Honda's CRV and the Ford Escape have been duking it out this year for sales dominance.  The Escape with its 2.0L Ecoboost just knocked the snot out of the CRV in the acceleration run.  It just flew down the straight away and braked straight going into the curves.  No drama just an urgent slam back into the seat when you stepped on it. That 2.4l naturally aspirated engine just isn't a match for the Ecoboost.

In the Slalom its close for the two, the CRV does nose dive on braking a bit more than the Escape and demonstrates a little tilting sensation in the curves, but not scary.  Close but I'd still give the edge up to the Escape.  The CRV was put together well inside, but its much more simple and lacks the elegance of the Escape, material choices the Escape winds hands down.

Next I stepped into the Fusion with its 2.0L Ecoboost to go up against the Toyota Camry with a 3.5L V6.  In the straight line acceleration the Fusion was easily 10mph faster at the end of the run than the Camry.  the Camry power came on in a swell with the big gain after 30mph where it seemed to come up on cam and get is power.

In the slalom the Camry was outright scary.  It sloshed through the slalom so bad I feared I was scrubbing the door handles on the tarmac.  The Fusion was confidence inspiring and just swooshed through the curves with little tilting sensation.  Fusion was the clear winner in this portion of the test.

I'll toss down the gauntlet and tell you the Camry needs a lot of work inside and mechanically to be the car the Fusion is.  The only reason I think the Camry sells is on its bullet proof reputation of durability in getting you from point A to B daily.  Live is more than just a straight line without detours.

The Final test in this cycle was the spanking new redesigned Chevy Silverado against an F150 FX4 Ecoboost.  The Ecoboost won on acceleration against the 5.3L V8 by a nose.  Handling was similar with it really too close to call.  Interior fit and finish...really Chevy, your interior materials are no where near as nice as my Focus, and you are wanting how much for this truck and can't spring for decent fabric?  I will be most curious to see what happens when the new F150 comes out this fall, all aluminum for a 700 lb weight loss which will translate to better economy, performance and handling.

The final stop, and absolute kick in the pants is the ST Performance Academy where you get to run a Fiesta ST on a race course and are timed against other participants.  Its a ton of fun and the Fiesta ST is an amazing machine.  The time to beat was 30.1 seconds through a half mile course.  After 3 tries I got a nice upper third result of 33.611.

Also on hand to enjoy were some 2015 models coming on sale soonish.
Coming this fall is the aluminum bodied F150.  Loosing nealry 700 lbs will increase its performance on all measures including the all important fuel economy.  Top MPG powerplant is expected to be a 2.7L V6 with stop/start technology and bring in near diesel numbers without having to pay the premium for diesel fuel (which is 25-75cents/gallon over premium here in L.A).
2015 Ford Expedition in Platinum trim.  New for 2015 is a host of changes, the biggy being the dumping of the thirsty 5.4L V8 and slipping in the more powerful and efficient 3.5L V6 Ecoboost.
The Transit Connect grows up for the new model year and loses a lot of its Eastern European quirkiness.  Bigger and with Ecoboost engines its being billed as the alternative to the mini-van.  Should be interesting to see how it performs in the market.
The show stopper for me, and I did save the best for last was the 2015 Mustang.  What a beauty this one in Charcoal metallic was.  Its a "base" V6 with a nicely optioned up leather interior.  I so want this car, but we aren't in the market for one now, but I did get the Mrs blessing to add it to a short list when we are ready for a new car in a couple of years.  Make mine this exact color and trim but swap out the 300+ Horsepower 2.3L Ecoboost please.

In the end we were given an exist interview and asked our opinion on a lot of topics.  Overall I can't believe how crappy Toyota's products are against the comparable Ford, folks just need to drop the marketing rhetoric of both and drive them back to back and make up their own mind.  Ford will the  own the pony car market again when the new Mustang launches.  Camaro is a good competitor but won't have the weight and performance edge, Challenger doesn't count as its a bloated pig for old farts.  Just my not so humble ramblings after a fun day on a track.

More pics from the event in my flickr album.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mustang Madness at the Petersen

Last weekend opened the Mustang Madness show at the Petersen.  Put on with the help of Los Angeles mega dealer Galpin in the valley this show was nothing short of amazing in its celebration of 50 years of Mustang.  You start the show with the 1965 Mustang convertible that Ronald Reagan used for his gubernatorial campaign and worked your way to the coming 2015 Model.
Each generation from start to current had a one off sample along with a descriptor board that told its story. For the 4th generation they had a super rare SVT with the R package deleting anything that would weigh it down and was really a race car for the streets.

Of course this being put on with the help of Galpin Ford they had a few treasures from their collection that made the show even more unique and helped explain the magic and mystique that is the Mustang.

Included in this show was a barn find 1967 Shelby GT that they originally sold new.  They tracked down the succession of owners and bought it back to add to their collection.  Its the classic barn find showing its age, wear and tear, but wonderfully unmolested over all those years.
They Galpin folks even had a couple of examples of their custom race cars from back in the day.  One was a 1969 Dragster funny car with four 351 Clevelands bolted together making some 1000 horsepower. Another was a prostocker with a massive supercharger poking out of the hood.

Of course not all the customs there were outrageous examples like this.  Some were subtle redos like the 40th anniversary Iaococa custom.  Only a few were made and not a single panel is interchangeable with a stock Mustang. Only a few hundred were ever made and most went into the hands lf collectors.  This car was a tribute to Lee Iaococa whom without his championing the car it would have never been produced.
More pictures of the show and the Petersen in General can be found in my flickr Album.

The Petersen for the uninitiated is probably one of the best curated automotive museums in So Cal and is situated in Museum Row in the mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles.  The museum is several floors and has several shows rotating through during the course of a year.  I highly recommend you visit, even if you aren't a fan of cars as it does some really good dioramas showing the importance of the car and car culture on our countries growth.

The Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Thursday, May 1, 2014

PCH aka CA Highway of the best roads

I love this stretch of road.  I highly recommend it over the 101 or the 5 to the Bay Area.  Scenic as hell. Full of twisties to keep it exciting.  Detour and do Hearsts Castle in San Simeon.  A few miles further up the road are protected coves full of California Sea Lions that you can watch with their pups.  A few miles further up is the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.  All gorgeous places to stop and take pictures.

I did it first in 1989 on my honeymoon with my lovely wife.  I've since gone back and done it a few more times.  The pace is more relaxed.  There is infinitely more more to see and do than the trip up the major freeways.  Added boner is you get to skip the gawd awful odors of Harris Ranch in Coalinga.