Friday, February 26, 2010

Suburu Spreads its Wings

Suburu Spreads its Wings
Originally uploaded by lee.ekstrom
The Suburu Hybrid Tourer Concept uses twin gull-wing doors and steeply raked front windshield for a spectacular display at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Michigan. Look for future Subaru vehicles to take on the new front grille design.

The Hybrid Tourer was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2009. Nice wide-open door to the interior. I'm not sure how this would work in Michigan with snow, sleet, rain and other nasties.

The Hybrid Tourer will use a 2.0 litre turbocharged boxer engine along with two electric motors. Suburu is planning on using a Lineartronic Automatic Transmission (actually a CVT) and utilizes a rear motor that can be used at start up or during acceleration. A front motor would be used as a power generator and aid in acceleration.

Reminds me of a fresh vehicle that could easily be used in "Back to the Future X."

Toyota "Baby Prius" FT-EV II Concept

Lot of weird stuff happening here. Funky in a freakish kind of way. Love the graphics on this EV concept. Not so sure about the drive-by-wire joystick control that replaces the steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals.

Reminds me of the song we sang in Junior High about how things are interconnected, called Dry Bones:

"The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone,
The foot bone connected to the heel bone,
The heel bone connected ot the ankle bone,
Now hear the word of the Lord... "

Most vehicles on the road today are using drive-by-wire technology. Even vehicles you think of as mechanical in nature like the Jeep Wrangler use the linkless pedal. But a decoupled steering wheel is a whole 'nuther ball of wax. Toyota's version of the campfire song:

"The steering wheel's not connected to a steering column
The steering column's not connected to the the track rod,
The track rod's not connected to the tie rods,
Now hear the word of the Toyoda..."

Are American's ready to trust Toyota's trick technology?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Toyota FT-CH Concept Car

Toyota FT-CH Concept Car
Originally uploaded by lee.ekstrom
Toyota's Hybrid Concept vehicle debuted at the 2010 North American International Show in Detroit, Michigan. Toyota is gunning for a price-point lower than the Prius to lure a younger, hipper audience. The dedicated compact hybrid will be aimed primarily for the urban environment. Drop the wheels, replace the interior floor mats, fix the drive-by-wire electronics and it might actually sell.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tantalizing Tango

I couldn't believe this vehicle was legit when I saw it at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Michigan. The more I researched this vehicle - the more it grew on me. At first glance, the Tango looked too tall and seemed like it might tip over on a windy day.

Rollover Potential:
Not to worry, remember this is an electric vehicle (EV), with the 988 lbs of Hawker batteries under the floor. This allows for a low-center of gravity, with go-cart like-handling and NHTSA 5-star equivalent static rollover threshold rating.

OK, but what about the thin shell? It looks like it's made of cardboard! Slow down, and you'll find out the Tango team's outlandish claims appear to be legit. Underneath the 100% carbon fiber/epoxy panels is a chrom-moly steel race car roll cage. According to Tango engineers this roll cage meets or exceed both SCCA and NHRA regulations. There are four times more side door protection bars than found in the largest SUVs.

This part blows me away. Tango can rocket down a 1/4 mile track in 12 seconds at over 120 mph and blast you from 0-60 mph in a mere 4 seconds. That's mind-bending speed. How does it accomplish this extraordinary feat? Torque. Lots of it. The two electric motors in the Tango EV have more torque than a Dodge Viper V10 engine. Racing slicks and proper gearing help too.

The Tango can charge to 80% of its capacity in just 10 minutes from a 200 amp charging station. Impressive. A full charge takes about 3 hours from a standard dryer style outlet.

Looks tiny. Not so say's Tango (well, maybe for Shaq). Comfort comes in many sizes - someone claimed it comfortable that cleared 6-foot 10-inches and weighed 325 lbs.

A whopping 10 cubic feet of space. Just a little shy of a 2006 Wrangler (11.6 cubic feet).

High-quality lead acid batteries (19 of them) made by Hawker. Cost to replace - guestimate is around 6K.

The Spec's are impressive:
Width: 39" (5" narrower than a Honda Gold Wing)
Ground Clearance: 4" (won't be seeing this clear snow on any dirt roads near my house in the winter)
Batteries: 19 Hawker Genesis G70EP lead acid batteries (list for about $435 each - not sure about long-term life-expectancy of lead acid batteries - one site says "GENESIS product will deliver up to 400 cycles")
Motors: 2 Advanced 9" motors, one driving each wheel with over 1,000 ft-lb of combined torque at low rpms (wow!)
Tires: Toyo Proxes T1R: 195/45R14 front; 215/45R15 rear
Range: 40-60 miles max with lead-acid batteries
Cost per mile: About 1/10 the cost of gasoline car for the average commuter (about a penny a mile)
Top speed: 135 mph
Emissions: It would be zero if it weren't for the tire smoke

Kind of reminds me of a pink panther cartoon I was watching recently. Waiting to see Chief Inspector Clouseau coming out of the vehicle in his original way. Much like Clouseau character, I want to see the Tango prosper - even as it defies the odds on its way to success.

Friday, February 19, 2010

1899 Electric Race Car

Camille Jenatzy, the Belgian race car driver know as the "Red Devil" thanks to his flaming red hair, set the first land speed record over 100 km/h on April 29, reaching 105.88 km/h (65.79 MPH) in the CITA No 25 La Jamais contente.

The "Jamais contente" (Never content), was originally built of an alloy of tungsten and aluminum. One hundred two-volt cells provided the spark and two 50kW electric motors helped propel the bullet-shaped race car into the record books. The contente is deceivingly heavy - 3,197 lbs. The same weight as a 2008 BMW 128i (which can go 0-66 mph in about 5 seconds.

This is a replica of the famous electric vehicle built in 1993-1994 by French students. You can can find it at the Le Musee de la Voiture National Museum when not on the Auto Show Circuit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Electric Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart

Can you picture this bullet proof golf buggy in a five-star Hilton hotel lobby? The Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart (ATAC) debuted yesterday at the DefExpo 2010 arms fair in India. The battery is said to last up to six hours, has a top speed of 15 mph, and will cost around $45,000 (two million rupee) if it ever becomes a reality.

The half-ton mini-tank has four firing ports, bulletproof windows and can carry two fully-armed personnel. No mention if the tires and front end are bullet-proof, what the armor can take, if the belly can take a grenade blast, air filtration system, or is actually field-tested.

The ATAC was designed in the aftermath of the Mumbai (Bombay) terrorists attacks in 2008 where 17 security personnel died. The mayhem occurred in two luxury hotels in a 60 hour stand-off. All told, 183 people were killed in the melee, including two NSG commandos and 15 Maharashtra police personnel. Metaltech managing director JB Sehrawat told the AFP news agency, "It's a product of our sense of helplessness over the casualties we took in the attacks. We put our heads and hearts together and came up with the ATAC."

According to some Israel Security Force officials, and the Rand Report, the Indian National Security Guard (NSG) and their "Black Cat" commandos engaging "Operation Black Tornado" were slow to the draw. Mumbai security forces had no local Hostage Recovery Team and equipment was lacking. To counteract that, Metaltech prototypes (a.k.a. Anti-Terrorist Assault Cats) will be offered to India's elite NSG units for testing as well as to the sponsors of the upcoming November 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in in New Delhi.

The stealthy-quiet armored attack cart was designed to fit in tight quarters found in airports, sports stadiums, hospitals, casinos, hotel hallways and other areas traditional security vehicles can't go. Metaltech claims it can even fit inside most service elevators.

According to the Rand Report "Terrorists Can Think Strategically - Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks" given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in January of 2009, "Terrorist attacks on flagship hotels are increasing in number, in total casualties, and in casualties per incident." You may see this type of vehicle making its way into upscale hotels just for liability sake as well as perceived vulnerability and a security officers challenge of prevention, preparedness and response.

Just a hunch, but David "Brad" Bonnell, Director of Global Security for Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) may be in line for a few new ATACs. Two of the IHGs Mumbai properties were involved in the 2008 attack. You can read more about the legal and moral duty of a hotel concerning safety and security in Bonnell's well-written "The Mumbai Attacks: A Wake-Up Call for America's Business Sector." In it Bonnell states, "The threat of a terrorist attack against a hotel has now become a conspicuously forseeable and predictable threat, particularly in those parts of the world where a Jihadist threat exists."

Additional reading on the shift of terrorists to "soft targets" such as hotels - among the most prominent symbol of Western culture - can be found in the Stratfor Global Intelligence document "Special Security Report: The Militant Threat to Hotels."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Revolutionizing Rehab

Running can be brutal on muscles and joints. That's all changing thanks to the Alter-G M300-series treadmill. The special training treadmill has a sealed enclosure around the runners waist that uses upward air pressure to support the body for surreal anti-gravity workouts. The pressurized environment can take away up to 80% of the user's body weight, helping to reduce pounding on the joints.

The trainer was originally conceived for use by NASA for astronauts during space flight. Robert Whalen, head of the Musuloskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory in the Gravitational Research Branch at Ames Research Center, along with colleague Dr. Alan Hargens proposed the idea of using a special treadmill to add weight to an astronaut's body during low gravity exercise in space. Thankfully the opposite effect takes place on earth.

Athletes conditioning and speed training for the Olympics have been able to record sub world record times thanks to the leg-up provided by high-tech training machine. They say it's like running on air. The machine allows athletes to overcome chronic pain, push through injuries and best of all, helps runners regain their confidence in running again.

Professional sports teams like the Oakland Raiders and Miami Heat have used the Alter-G G-Trainer to fast track the recovery process from game-day battle bruises. Now they're being joined by the common man thanks to a huge price drop in equipment. The new Alter-G M300 treadmill has a starting price of $24,500. The a big drop from the original $75K Alter-G P200 treadmill used by the pros.

Two years ago the FDA approved it for medical applications. The M320 Anti-Gravity Treadmill is sure to become the standard in rehabilitation and training across the industry. Current uses of the trend-setting treadmill include:
  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Weight control, gait training for neurological patients
  • Rehabilitation after total joint replacement
  • Rehabilitation following injury or surgery of the lower extremity (hip, knee, ankle or foot)
  • Strengthening of elderly patients
  • Help amputee veterans learn to walk with prosthetics
  • Aid in relearning balance caused from traumatic brain injury
You're going to see more and more of these units in colleges, health-care rehabilitation units, nursing homes, and even leased-units in garages of high school athletes. The term "revolutionary" is often and freely used in relation to this training tool ... in this instance, it is wholly appropriate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Top 20 List: Why Boy Scouts Camp in Cold Weather

Our Boy Scout Troop went cold-weather camping this past weekend. I posted a photo on Facebook. A friend asked, "Why on earth are you camping when it's so cold??"Good question.

It didn't take long to come up with my Top 20 List:
  1. Because it builds boys into men.
  2. Because your "100 craziest things I've ever done" needs improvement.
  3. Because it beats playing video games alone.
  4. Because your best buddies are doing it.
  5. Because you like it when your clothes smell like an oak-seasoned fire.
  6. Because you can sleep in a warm bed anytime.
  7. Because extreme anything is cool.
  8. Because microwaved s'mores just don't taste right.
  9. Because snow happens.
  10. Because jokes are funnier when your sitting around a fire.
  11. Because training for signs of hypothermia and frostbite in the summer just seems weird.
  12. Because life knowledge is different than book knowledge.
  13. Because there are no mosquitoes.
  14. Because surviving is fun.
  15. Because it tests what your made of.
  16. Because experience counts.
  17. Because being prepared is a way of life.
  18. Because it toughens the spirit.
  19. Because it invigorates the soul.
  20. Because it's what Boy Scouts do.
Boy Scouts of America is celebrating 100 Years of Scouting in 2010.

Monday, February 8, 2010

GEM Green Police Superbowl Ad

Anyone notice Chrysler's GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) Superbowl commercial last night?

Audi of America's "Green Car" commercial produced by Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco was trying to highlight the Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel. But you would hardly know it by screen time. The GEM "Green Police" vehicle was the star with 11 seconds of video time - the Audi TDI only 8 seconds.

Considering a 30-second Superbowl spot cost about $3 million - that's about $1 million of no-charge advertising. Not a bad showing for Chrysler's unsung neighborhood electric vehicle. Thanks Audi!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I love mechanical things. During my college days down in Detroit I would canvas the resale shops for old cameras. Some stores let you fill up a grocery bag for $5.00. The detail and workmanship on many of these vintage cameras is exquisite. There are still some amazing deals out there - including this wonderful site called

Goodwill Industries shops across the country offer up musical instruments, antiques, cameras and more to the highest bidder. Better yet - it goes to charity. rated this site as one of the best websites for 2009. There are some treasures that get passed along as well - and because there aren't as many people searching the prices are typically better than eBay.

Consider this beauty. It's a Zeiss Ikonta 521/2 Camera with Zeiss-Opton Ser. No. 35748 Tessar 106 mm lens. Bidding started at $5.00 and is now $45.00. Most likely it will go for much less than the going rate on eBay where a similar camera (Ser. No. 35518) has a Buy it Now price of $563. According to the eBay post - the Ikonata 521/2 camera with this 106 mm lens was produced in November of 1948 - and only a little over 200 cameras were produced with the uncoated Opton 106 mm lens before they switched to the coated 105 mm lens. Rare indeed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010