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Bernard
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Henrik, Current "autopilot" implementations are only effective on the safest roads: limited access, good visibility, clear markings. Making this feature mandatory would have very little impact on crash rates (pardon the pun). It's little more than a luxury/convenience feature, as currently implemented.
Are we talking about saving 30% compared to a current state-of-the-art tractor trailer, or compared to something we haven't seen in 10 years? Volvo says that "some of its aerodynamic features have already been implemented," which tells me that the 30% improvement is compared to a rig with no side skirts, no radial tires, etc. In other words, it's 30% better than something no major operator uses on the highway anymore.
Harvey, Not only can they be turned off, they have to be turned off if you don't want to drain the battery. People forget to turn them back on and drive around with no lights. As you say, 30 years ago that was the case with all cars. Now almost every other car does that for you, but not Toyota. Of course, Toyota will also sell you a car in Canada that has daytime running lights (legally mandated), but that doesn't turn the rear lights on! The drivers think their lights are on (the headlights appear to be, and the dashboard is all lit-up), but they are not, and their cars are invisible at dusk, in the rain, in fog, etc... It's a nasty business: squeezing every penny out of customers, even if it kills them.
It seems like most cars driving around at night with their lights off are Toyotas. The drivers don't have a clue, their dashboards are all lit-up... Maybe this AHB technology will finally fix the problem, twenty years after other brands started making automatic headlights standard. Even my lowly mid-1990s Subaru had headlights that you never had to mess with: turn them on when you take delivery, leave them on for the life of the car.
Carl, Yes, one BMW was actually within the regulatory limit, and a few other marques were close. Keep in mind that the sample size show in the chart is tiny, 22 vehicles from 10 brands. One shouldn't extrapolate from that. The interesting thing is the three brands that emit way more on-track than in the lab: Opel (GM), Ford, and Renault. VW/Audi emits somewhat more outside the lab, and every other brand emits roughly the same amount in either test.
Now is hardly the right time for Europeans to relax their NOx limits. Perhaps they should adopt the EPA's stricter NOx limits and testing regimes?
Let's start with autonomous snowblowers. Those would actually be useful. This article explains why Google-sponsored research finds autonomous cars to be "safer": they don't work in snow, or in rain, or in changing conditions, or in construction zones, or in high-density traffic, or around bicycles!
This result is hardly surprising, given that so-called self-driving cars only work in ideal weather conditions on clear roads. The human-controled accident rate is also near zero in similar conditions. In other words, the headline should be "new cars driving on perfect roads in perfect weather have fewer accidents." This has nothing to do with autonomous tech, other than the fact that it exposes some current limitations.
SJC: The 4wd model is Japan-only for now. That's supposedly because it is not quite as good as non-Japanese customers would expect. The plug-in could be introduced later, if Toyota feels that there is a market. The current plug-in Prius hasn't been a success (commercially or technologically), so maybe they won't bother. Overall, this is a small update of Prius technology. It looks like Toyota had already exploited almost all of the potential energy savings in the previous two generations. It may be a good car, but it's also the end of the road for hybrid tech. If the next Prius (in 5-6 years) gets another 2 MPG improvement, that's only 100 gallons (380 liters) over a lifetime, a savings of $1 or $2 per month.
Henrik, You've made some assumptions that may not pan-out. NOx requirements are less strict outside of the US and Canada, so a NOx level that's "up to 40x the limit" in the US will be much closer to compliance in the rest of the world. In other words, you can't just multiply 11 million times 40 and "compare to the pollution from 440 million extra cars." 10.5 of those 11 million were probably nearly compliant or fully compliant in their delivery market, so they wouldn't have been much worse than competing cars. Also, as the article above alludes, NOx is only one pollutant. We don't know that VW diesels were non-compliant for DPMs and other pollutants.
"While most new diesel vehicles cost more than their gasoline counterparts—from a few hundred dollars to several thousand—resale values after three years are 30-50% higher for diesel passenger cars and SUVS, and 60-70% higher for diesel medium-duty pickup trucks." Doesn't this put 3-year resale values at or above the new selling price? Seems unlikely to me. I know diesel cars typically hold their value better, but not by that much. Ironically, they reason they are more expensive on the used market is that a disproportionally large segment of diesel buyers want to save money by buying used. They pay more to pay less, as it were.
Thomas, As with the Cruze's diesel, Honda would probably need to make major modifications to this unit to comply with US environmental laws. I doubt it would be worth the effort, the regular gasoline Civic is already cheap to run and long-lived.
Davemart, "the 50% of people with nowhere to plug a car in" I'm not convinced that 50% of car owners live off the grid. The lack of charging stations is a short-term problem. It can easily be remedied if there is sufficient demand.
Peterww, How exactly are you going to use full throttle for more than a few seconds? 10 seconds at wide-open throttle will likely have you driving over 160 km/h. Maintaining that speed only requires a fraction of the available power. Being a German car, it is voluntarily limited to a 250 km/h top speed, which again only requires a fraction of the total available power to maintain. I don't believe that there's much incidence of people towing heavy trailers on endless hills at 250 km/h, and I've driven on three continents in the past year. The fact is that this engine will behave like any other large 4 cylinder engine 99% of the time, while having the ability to provide an occasional "overboost." Conceptually, it's not dissimilar to a V8 engine with cylinder deactivation. The way to tell for sure is to look at the cooling system. If it's built to provide 500 hp continuously, it will have huge radiators (like inter-city transport trucks). If it has normal-sized radiators, then it's using the engine as a heat sink to absorb momentary full-power demand, and radiating that heat over time. Modern engine management software and sensors will prevent it from providing more power (and heat) than it can dissipate.
Peterww, The difference between this and a racecar engine is that this engine will only use full power for a few seconds at a time. 10 seconds of full throttle will make the car go faster than any legal speed limit, and even unrestricted top speed on the Autobahn will only require a fraction of the engine's total output: aerodynamic cars can reach 250 km/h using 150 kW or less. How does it promote green transport? Engine downsizing. You can get supercar performance using an engine that's the same size as that in a 4 cylinder Toyota Camry. There's no need to drag a huge V8 around all day and only use its full capacity for a few seconds while merging onto the freeway.
Treehugger, The Miller cycle is essentially an Atkinson cycle with supercharging. Supercharging reduces pumping losses (turbocharging is a type of supercharging), as does throttling using valve timing instead of a conventional throttle. The reason why Audi (and others) do this now is that variable valve technology has improved. Previous systems didn't have the flexibility to switch between Otto and Miller cycles. Both the Miller and Atkinson cycles work by cutting-off air intake early. This gives the engine the effective displacement of a smaller engine, while recovering more expansion energy using a disproportionally longer stroke. The problem with that (as any Prius owner will know) is that it creates a very weak, low-rev engine that needs some form of augmentation in automotive applications (battery-electric power in the case of the Prius). These new multi-cycle VVT engines allow you to retain maximum power by using the Otto cycle when you need it, and still have the efficiency of the Atkinson/Miller cycle during the 95% of the time that you don't.
Moving schools won't help. School buses are some of the worst offenders in terms of air pollution.
Harvey, The time stamp on my comment says 2015, not 2025! You mentioned "a recent Fuel Cell," which I took to mean recent past, not recent future.
A good part of the appeal of the C4 cactus is its low price. Adding a fuel cell that costs more than a house (in many parts of the world) would cancel that out. Selling tens of thousands of cheaper hybrids surely has more environmental benefit than building a hydrogen concept car and jetting it around the world to various car shows.
re: why wasn't this done already Long-haul trucks have had aerodynamic devices over their cabs for decades now, so this is a refinement of an existing concept. Most trailers that I see also have side skirts now, and aero skirts between the tractor and trailer. I'm surprised that some of the fine people on this site are unaware of these things. Compare a modern big rig to one from the 1970s and the differences will jump out at you. If anything, the trucking industry has been very welcoming of technological improvements. This includes things that are not so visible, like satellite fleet management, advanced transmissions, optimized cooling and efficient APUs. Every dollar saved in fuel costs improves competitiveness and profitability.
Davemart, By definition, half the drivers are worse than average (and the average isn't very high in the first place). It seems like a distraction to have to monitor and control these safety systems when you should be paying attention to the road. I presume that you live in an area that is infested with photo radars? If you do, then most drivers are already too busy staring at their speedometers to look at the road.
I can see this system becoming a safety liability because it prevents drivers from adjusting to road and traffic conditions. You may theoretically get fewer speeding tickets (I haven't been issued one since the last millennium, so it's not a big concern), but you can no longer place your vehicle in the safest position within the flow of traffic.
Isn't NCAP basically a "pay to play" cartel? I can see why many emerging markets don't want to get caught in that trap. That doesn't mean that they don't care about safety, or that they don't love their children.
EP: 60*60 is 3600 miles, not 360. However, your point stands: it's a very small number. A gasoline station serving so few customers would go bankrupt quickly.
The real reason for the demise of the local transmission shop is that modern transmissions are so reliable. The old 3-speed Hydramatic/Torqueflite automatics needed regular band adjustments, and were more susceptible to failure from overheating and rough handling. Modern computer-controlled transmissions avoid these issue by design. They can not be made to shift inadvisedly (over-revs, that sort of thing), and they constantly monitor fluid temps and pressures. The only maintenance left is fluid changes, which can be handled by non-specialists. There's very little money left in specializing in car transmissions, and that's why the occasional repair is done through replacement.