The number of V8 engines for passenger cars is certainly on the decline as OEMs work to address looming CAFE regulations. While there is a lot of calculations involved in determining the number for a corporation’s average fuel efficiency—everything from vehicle footprint to credits achieved for alternative powertrains—hitting 35.5 mpg for 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025 isn’t the sort of thing that makes gas-hungry V8s particularly viable.
But for those who don’t want to give up their V8s, particularly while, say, watching a NASCAR race on a hot summer day, there is a clever option that won’t get you very far, but which can help slake your thirst.
The “American V-8 Piston Power Pack” cooler. Yes, an ice chest that has plastic cylinder covers. Pop the cover and pop in your favorite beverage. The ice (as well as other beverages) can be fitted into the block.
While an increasing number of engines—including V8s—have aluminum blocks, the beverage cooler is lightweight foam.
There is also a small speaker located on the top that, when depressed, activates a sound chip that announces “Drivers, start your engines!” Presumably one needs to have had a few beverages before the rationale for that becomes evident.
Still, if there is an old-school automotive enthusiast who likes to keep a cold one nearby, this could be the ticket.
(And speaking of tickets, let’s take this opportunity to remind you not to drink and drive.)
You can learn more here.
Although you might think that this image
is some sort of tribute to Star Trek Into Darkness, it is actually associated with the General Motors Warren Enterprise Data Center—“a state-of-the-art $130-million” facility that GM opened earlier this week on the ground of its Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.
The center is being used for a variety of data-intensive operations, including crash-test simulations and allowing Global Product Development teams to make tooling payments to suppliers during development thereby, no doubt, encouraging suppliers to maintain their development rigor.
About it, Dan Akerson, GM chairman and CEO said, “Having a single nerve center for our global operations will get newer vehicle designs and technologies into our customers’ hands quicker and improve the bottom line.” He added, “IT is back home where it should be, and it further drives unnecessary complexity from our businesses while improving our operational efficiency and better supporting our business strategy.”
Among the fun facts about the Enterprise Data Center: there are 1,600 miles of high capacity fiber wending their way through the facility; there are 24 server clusters, each with six cooling systems, any one of which has more cooling capacity that an average home’s central air system; which leads to the not surprising figure of the Enterprise Data Center using the electricity consumed by 2,700 average homes.
In addition to which, GM is spending an additional $100-million at its Milford Proving Grounds, also in Michigan, for a second Enterprise Data Center.
Given that it seems as though many U.S.-based companies are locating data centers in places other than the U.S.—or if they are siting them in the U.S., southeastern Michigan is undoubtedly not on the site selection list—GM deserves credit for investing in tech in an area that gave birth to the company back when adding machines were awesomely clever devices.
I happen to like OXO products, those graters and grinders and peelers and whatnot with the chunky black handles or gripping surfaces.
Compared with other graters and grinders and peelers and whatnot, the OXO products tend to be more expensive. But they are exceedingly well designed and exceedingly well manufactured.
You can pay less and get nearly the same functionality. You can pay less and get something that may even resemble the OXO. You can pay less and get, well, what you pay for.
You get less.
While it is something of a stretch from a $14.99 ice cream scoop to a 2013 Mercedes ML550 4Matic with a base price of $58,800 that has been nicely tricked out with things like voice controlled navigation, power folding mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps, lane-departure assist, air suspension, AMG 20-in. wheels, and more so that that price is now $80,815, the OXO products came to mind when I was driving the ML550.
You know when you have a faux OXO. It just isn’t as, well, substantive. It doesn’t have the same heft. It doesn’t have the same feel.
And you know when it’s real.
And the ML550 is the real deal.
Although German vehicles not all that long ago competed on the basis of something called “German engineering,” it seems that that has been replaced by everything from LED lighting (yes, the ML550 has LED daytime running lamps) to characters ranging from Kate Upton (Merc) to Leonard Nimoy (Audi).
Yet fundamentally, the solid “thunk” of a door shutting on something like the ML550 is what the engineering in question—which, interestingly enough, is actually manufactured in Vance, Alabama (outside Tuscaloosa)—is really all about. While some people use “vault-like” to describe the solidity, I imagine that the doors at Fort Knox close with more of a “whoosh” than the solid sound of security that is provided in this vehicle.
Sure, there are adjustments galore that you can deploy to climb over any nearby mountain ranges with complete confidence. But face it: You are about as likely to encounter those conditions as you are likely to use all of the 402 horsepower of the 4.6-liter V8 under the hood of the ML550.
It’s one of those things where it’s not that would, but it sure is nice knowing that you could.
While I am puzzled by the mania for the use of leather as trim on such items as instrument panels—this has become, in effect, the new LED—I find that the interior of the ML550, which has more leather than a Johnson and Murphy store, to be done in such a way that it seems in keeping with the whole ethos of a private club (OK, I’m guessing here, having not been in that sort of establishment and basing it primarily on James Bond books), but one that can not only get you from A to Z in a trice, but which could probably ford streams while doing so.
Let’s be honest here. More of us are going to get OXO pepper mills than ML550s. And many of those who get ML550s are probably going to work their pepper mills—more likely sourced from Tiffany than OXO—harder than they do the SUV.
But if you could, and if you’re interested in the solidity of authenticity, then know that the 2013 Mercedes ML550 is the real deal.
Engine: 4.6-liter bi-turbo V8
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 402 @ 5,000 to 5,750 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 1,600 to 4,750 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed electronic with paddle shift
Wheelbase: 114.8 in.
Length: 189.1 in.
Width: 84.3 in.
Height: 70.7 in.
Curb weight: 4,982 lb.
EPA: 14/20/16 city/highway/combined mpg
Last week at an Applied Materials plant in Austin, TX, President Barack Obama told the assembled, “After shedding jobs for a decade, our manufacturers have added now about 500,000 new manufacturing jobs over the past three years. That’s good news. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan, and Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And after placing plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. This year, Apple started making Macs in America again.
Outside the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan, where Ford invested $555-million, in part, to capacitize the plant to build the Ford Fusion, which is also being built in the company’s plant in Mexico.
“So there are some good trend lines there, but we've got to do everything we can to strengthen that trend. We've got to do everything we can to help the kind of high-tech manufacturing that you're doing right here at Applied. And we want to make sure it takes root here in Austin and all across the country. And that means, first of all, creating more centers of high-tech manufacturing.
“Last year, we launched our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio, to develop new technologies and equip workers with the skills required to master 3-D printing techniques. And in my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to set up 15 more of these manufacturing hubs all across America, and I said that my administration was going to go ahead and move forward with three new hubs on our own, even without congressional action.
“Well, today, we're launching a competition for those hubs. We are looking for businesses and universities that are willing to partner together to help their region -- help turn their region into global centers of high-tech jobs. Because we want the next revolution in manufacturing to be ‘Made in America.’ We’re going to do that.”
Regardless of who you voted, for, we can undoubtedly all agree that making things in America is absolutely essential for the well being of our economy.
Indeed, according to a recent Gallup poll, 45% of Americans said they made a special effort to “Buy American.”
Again, a good thing.
But what’s a little troubling is that when asked why they did so, Gallup found these answers:
While there is something to be said for those who are buying American to support the country, jobs and the overall economy, there is something troubling about the low number associated selection of U.S.-made products because they are better.
Now this is not to say that this means a huge majority thinks that products made in America are not as good as those made elsewhere.
But the goal of any manufacturing initiative—federal, state or local—ought to be one where it isn’t just about manufacturing or even “high-tech” manufacturing, but it ought to be about building the best products in the world such that it is unthinkable that a given product made in the U.S.A. wouldn’t be the number-one choice, patriotic or not.
Although there continues to be a question of whether electric vehicles (EVs) are going to become something other than a curiosity or novelty, a couple of recent data points ought to make some of the skeptics check their assumptions.
Not only is this the first all-electric vehicle to achieve such a rating, but the last time a car ranked so high was in 2007, when the Lexus LS 460L achieved 99 out of 100, as well.
Although the Tesla Model S has a base price of $89,650, Consumer Reports described it as “easily the most practical electric car that has been tested to date.”
This practicality is predicated largely on what its 85-kWh lithium ion battery pack does: facilitate a range of approximately 200 miles.
And Consumer Reports calculates that a full charge costs about $9 (with the national average for electricity being 11 cents per kWh), which is analogous to filling up a car with gasoline that costs $1.20 per gallon.
Speaking of charging and money, last week Bosch Automotive Service Solutions introduced the Power Max, which it claims is the first electric vehicle charging station that costs less than $450, or about half of the price of other units.
The Power Max provides 240-V charging capability, and is said to be compatible with all electric vehicles.
“We believe that for the foreseeable future most EV drivers will primarily charge at home. Because many of the incentives available to offset the costs of purchasing and installing residential Level 2 charging stations are expiring, we believe it’s critical to maintain the momentum towards Level 2 by offering high quality but lower cost charging solutions to our customers,” said Tanvir Arfi, president, Bosch Automotive Service Solutions.
Add it all up ($89,650, $1.20/gallon, $450 charger), and it all begins to make more sense—no pun intended.