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PopSci Test Drive: The Chevy Equinox
We test plenty of cars here at PopSci, but it's not everyday we get to try one as forward-looking and promising at the Equinox. The car runs on hydrogen fuel cells; turn the ignition and the car instantly (and silently) churns out enough electricity to power six houses. So how does that much raw, green power feel? Check it out as senior associate editor Sean Captain takes the Equinox on a spin up the Vegas Strip.
40th-Anniversary Hot Wheels Rope in Big Designers From Detroit and Beyond
The ubiquitous Hot Wheels brand of toy cars is releasing a 40th-anniversary collection designed by real automotive car manufacturers. Designers from Chevrolet, Dodge, Honda, Lotus, Mitsubishi and Ford were invited to submit drawings for the limited edition set. The winning 1/64 scale models were selected by a panel of executives and writers from automotive publications like Car and Driver. Though most of the designs appear to be free of any rigorous DOT road-worthiness constraints, each entry had to pass the "one lap" test on Hot Wheels' own oval test track.
The Gangster Grin (shown here) was the winning entry from the Ford family. Its 1950s influence and low-slung appearance led co-workers of designer Steve Glimor, a former Hot Wheels intern, to suggest it was smiling. It's good to see that form doesn't always have to follow function.—MotoMatt Cokeley
Amar G. Bose, the scientist founder of the high-end speaker company that bears his name, announced a plan several years ago to revolutionize the auto suspension system.
Popular Science gave him a Best of What's New award for the innovative design, and although three years have passed since then, and no new car has featured Bose's suspension, the technology is far from grounded to his research labs. Bose, who says he has spent 27 years on the project, and more than $100 million, intends to partner with a car manufacturer within the next year.
Read more about the fascinating lecturer turned entrepreneur here.—Gregory Mone
GM announced yesterday that the company plans to release its electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, by the end of 2010, despite concerns from employees that the date might be too ambitious.
The company's goal is to swipe the mantle of environmental-friendliness from Toyota, and get consumers to start associating GM with green cars, not just the Hummer.
As for the details: The plug-in Volt would re-charge through a wall socket, and be designed for shorter trips. The Volt would run for about 40 miles on battery power, and have a gas-powered engine as a backup, in case you can't make it to an outlet in time.—Gregory Mone
L.A. Auto Show: Chevy Tahoe Hybrid Wins Green Car of the Year
A full-size SUV with a 6.0-liter engine is Green Car of the Year? Strange but true: The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid beat the Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, and Saturn Aura Hybrid for the honor. It makes sense, though: that enormous engine is a two-mode hybrid—a second-generation hybrid powertrain that both boosts mileage at highway speeds and allows for the serious towing power a vehicle like the Tahoe needs. (Incidentally, PopSci gave the two-mode hybrid a Best of What’s New award in our December issue).
The Tahoe is the first hybrid full-size SUV, and it avoids the temptation to use that electric motor just to add horsepower while keeping fuel efficiency constant. In fact, the Tahoe gets impressive gas mileage: 21 mpg in the city, which makes it as efficient as a Toyota Camry with a 4-cylinder engine. So as odd as it may seem that a giant SUV would be anointed Green Car of the Year, the Tahoe is certainly more of a game changer than the other four finalists. That said: Here’s hoping that a truly revolutionary car—a full-fledged production plug-in hybrid or fuel-cell vehicle—comes along soon to claim this prize.—Seth Fletcher
Update: Oops. Frank Gehry's appearance at the Audi Cross Cabriolet concept reveal confused a number of observers, but none quite as much as me. Turns out Gehry was there to help sell the car and ruminate on the nature of design, but he didn't have a hand in designing the car itself.
One of the few big world premieres here at the L.A. Auto Show, at least so far, is the flashy, meaty convertible you see here – the Audi Cross Cabriolet Quattro concept. Designed in coordination with starchitect Frank Gehry, The concept is meant to be overtly, self-consciously “American,” hence the bold “Sunset Copper” finish, the big gaping maw, the less-than-slender proportions all around. And hence plenty of power: Its 3-liter, 6-cylinder TDI diesel engine can do 0-60 in 7.2 seconds. In efficiency mode, the Cross Cabriolet gets 20 percent better mileage. Headlamps and tail lamps are all LEDs. Audi reps say some of the design cues in this concept will appear in the new Q5, set to appear next year, which may explain some of this convertible’s very SUV-like lines. Will it get built? We’ll see. If so, let’s
hope it holds together better than some of Gehry’s other recent projects... —Seth Fletcher
And then there were eleven. Yesterday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that it had narrowed the field for its Urban Grand Challenge to just under a dozen robotic vehicles. 35 teams were part of this week's qualifying rounds.
The finalists, which include a truck, a Prius and a sedan, will be competing this weekend for $3.5 million in prize money. To finish, each robot has to complete a 60 mile course in under six hours. And there's going to be live traffic—roughly 50 human-driven vehicles will be on the road. The robots will even have to deal with four-way-stops. Which would be amazing, since that's something most humans can't even figure out. Tomorrow, watch the race live here.—Gregory Mone
Nissan is debuting a new technology in Japan this month. It's called the Around View Monitor, and it creates a composite image of the scene around your car. And I want one.
Four cameras, one each at the front corners, one at the back, and another near the driver's side rear wheel, capture the scene as shown in the images on the left. Inside, the driver sees the total picture, a top-down view. This technology could be a dream for parallel parking, and a bonus for parents who don't want to run over Little Susie's favorite toy as they back out of the driveway. The tech is slated to come to the US in December in the new Infinity EX35.—Gregory Mone
A company called Aperta is taking reservations for the production version of a three-wheeled, 300 MPG concept car that looks like it was lifted from a '60s science fiction flick.
Eventually, the company says an all-electric model that will cruise for 120 miles before needing a re-charge will be available for $26,900. A hybrid version will sell for $29,900. In a year, you'll also be able to reserve a model that flies directly to the Jovian moon Europa, where it will convert into a submarine and take you deep below the surface to search for alien life forms.
OK, so maybe that's not quite true. And we're reluctant to believe those 300 MPG claims, too. That said, the company's Web site sure is sweet.—Gregory Mone
Forbes just released a list of the least fuel-efficient hybrids, and though the fact that some of these supposedly green rides aren't exactly saving the planet shouldn't shock too many people, it's still nice to see the guilty called out. Just because your Lexus LS 600h has some batteries in it shouldn't make you feel all nice and environmental. The thing still burns up a gallon of gas every 21 miles. Even worse: A GMC Sierra model that gets only 16 mpg. Enough said. Here's the list.—Gregory Mone