Autofield Blog

The Road to Smart Transportation: What About the Ruts?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. September 2014

“A tide of innovation has invigorated the global auto industry, and we are taking these giant leaps forward to remain a leader of new technology.

“We are not doing this for the sake of the technology itself. We are doing it because it’s what customers around the world want. Through technology and innovation, we will make driving safer.”

That was General Motors CEO Mary Barra during her keynote address at the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) World Congress in Detroit last week.

2015 Cadillac CTS

Cars talking to cars

She was talking about two new technologies.

One is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. This is a system wherein vehicles so equipped with the sensors and communications setup will be able to send/receive information about the driving environment from other so-equipped vehicles as well as from the infrastructure. This not only has the potential to improve safety, but to reduce congestion on the roads as drivers will have comprehensive information about their driving environment.

General Motors plans to introduce V2V on the 2017 Cadillac CTS.

The other technology is called “Super Cruise.” At least that’s the working name. This is an automated driving technology. This will include hands-off lane following (yes, no hands: the car steers itself), braking and speed control. This would allow the car to do the work in tedious driving situations, such as in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or during long road trips. (It should be noted that the driver is still to be “attentive.” No dozing.)

While all of this is certainly impressive, there is one thing that comes to mind, especially for those of us who live and drive in the southeastern Michigan region. There is serious attention being given to “intelligent” vehicles and highway systems. But for the most part, many of the roadways look like this:

Chevrolet Designs for Pothole Perseverance

Solid infrastructure is going to have to precede intelligent infrastructure.

Since When Did the FIA Care About Cash?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. September 2014

This past weekend the 2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship kicked off with a race in Beijing. That’s “E” as in “electric.” Yes, electric car racing.

Renault Formula E 1

The FIA is the organization that puts on Formula One races. Formula One and all things associated with it tend to be over-the-top when it comes to monies spent.

Yet the Formula E seems to be quite different.

There will be 10 races in the season. According to the FIA, “All rounds will be one-day events with practice, qualifying and the race taking place in a single day in order to reduce costs and minimize disruption to the host city.”

This is about economy, not excess.

This is a spec series, at least from the standpoint that there is a single car homologated by the FIA. This is described as an approach that ensures “a balance between cost-effectiveness and sustainability.”

The car is a Spark-Renault SRT_1E. It is built by a French company, Spark Racing Technology. The carbon fiber and aluminum monocoque is built by Dallara. The electric powertrain and electronics come from McLaren Electronics Systems. Williams Advanced Engineering provides the batteries, which produce 200 kW, or approximately 270 hp. (During the race, the power is restricted to 150 kW, 202.5 hp. However, there is a “FanBoost,” which is a five-second increase to 180 kW, 243 hp, which is based on fans voting for particular cars.) The five-speed sequential gearbox with fixed ratios “to help reduce costs further” is from Hewland. Tires are from Michelin. And the whole thing is orchestrated by Renault.

To be sure, electric vehicles are about efficiency and economy. (OK, maybe the Nissan LEAF and Kia SOUL EV are and the Tesla Model S not so much.) But this emphasis on frugality is rather surprising.

2014 Lexus CT 200h

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. September 2014

While I am loathe to directly quote a press release, I’m doing so here to make a point:

“In 2007, the F brand launched with IS F, a super sedan that catapulted the Lexus brand onto tracks and into driving purists’ hearts with a specially built 416 horsepower V8, track-tuned chassis and street-dominating attitude.
“Then came the Lexus LFA, a V10-powered supercar that sent a 552 hp, carbon-fiber shockwave through the world’s top sports car echelon.”


“The ‘F’ stands for Fuji Speedway, where Lexus conducts much of its high-speed development. It could also stand for fun, as defined by three key elements: response, a continuous-acceleration feeling, and a sound that excites.”

The 2014 Lexus CT 200h in question here is the “F Sport” model.

CT 200h 1

Mind you, it is not a CT 200hF. But it has “F” accoutrements. Well, at least the grille is different than the ordinary model. There is a sport-tuned suspension. It rides on 17s. The steering wheel and shift knob are leather covered. And there is a nice F badge. Etc.

· Super sedan.

· Super car.

· Fuji Speedway.

· CT 200h.

As they say in those quizzes: “What doesn’t belong?”

The CT 200h is a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Mind you, I really like the CT 200h, which, in the event you don’t know, is a hybrid. It has a 98-hp, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s mated to the motors of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system for a total system output of 134 hp.

CT 200h 3

In “Redline” exterior paint, with black NuLuxe seats (a material that is not leather but seems like leather), and the huge aluminum pedals, it looks like a hot hatch.

But even if you turn the dial to the “Sport” mode (the other options are “Normal” and “Eco,” and there is a separate button that allows long-speed, short-distance EV travel), even though it adjusts throttle and steering response, you are not going to think to yourself, “Damn, this is a car that I just can’t wait to get to the nearest racetrack—if I don’t get a speeding ticket on my way there!”

In all honesty: while coming to speed on I-275 here in the Detroit metro, I became a bit discomfited. It got there, eventually, and then sailed right along, but if it is acceleration you’re looking for, perhaps the IS F is what you’re looking for—in fact, you might not even need to get to the IS F, as the 306-hp IS350 is plenty responsive (and you can get the F SPORT package for this, too, and really end up with a more credible car in the “super” category).

CT 200h 2

The remarkable part about the CT 200h is the miles per gallon performance, which I found to be better than that listed on the window sticker. I got 45 mpg without turning the nob to “Eco.” The sticker says a combined 42 mpg, so that’s certainly nothing to sniff at. While in recent months gas prices have remained fairly stable—and it should be noted that the car takes regular—and so people have generally thought that opting for a hybrid may not be worth it, two points:

1. Hybrid or not, the CT 200h is a nice car in that compact luxury category.

2. Do you honestly think that gas prices are going to continue to be low, or do you think that maybe, just maybe, if there is a war in the Middle East things may change pronto?

If you’re looking for a small, luxury hatch—and admittedly, there aren’t a whole lot of people in the U.S. for whom that statement has any relevance, as “luxury” and “hatch” seem to be words that can’t come together—then the CT 200h could be just the thing.

As to whether you’d opt for the F version or not—and the F additions look good, but the performance. . .not so much—is a matter of taste and perspective.

Mind you, Lexus not the only luxury brand that offers this sort of kit for cars that are not going to leave the person in the lane next to you shaking their head at the alacrity with which you get away when the signal turns green, but the CT 200h play is really about really good fuel efficiency. While there are plenty of other hybrids available, realize that you can count the ones that have a specific body style pretty much on one hand (and if you take the Prius variants out, you’ve got fingers left over).

This one is well done, indeed.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.8-liter DOHC four

Horsepower: 98 @ 5,200 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and heads

Motor/generator: 650-V

Total system output: 134 hp

Transmission: electronically controlled continuously variable

Steering: Electric power steering

Wheelbase: 102.4 in.

Length: 171.2 in.

Width: 69.5 in.

Height: 57.3 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.29

Seating capacity: 5

EPA passenger volume: 86.1 cu. ft.

EPA cargo volume: 14.3 cu. ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 43/40/42 mpg

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Pro 3D Printer to Be Launched

By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. September 2014

Although this illustration appears to be a man standing next to either a major appliance or a classic minicomputer from a company like Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) from back in the day. . .


. . .it is actually a 3D printer that will soon be launched by German RepRap. Although the company is known for its personal printers based on the fused filament fabrication (FFF) process, this one is for commercial customers. (FFF, in case you’re wondering, is basically a process in which a plastic filament, such as PLA or ABS, is driven from a spool, through a heater that melts it, and then onto a platen in a directed manner so as to build up, layer by layer (with layer heights of up to 0.5 mm), the required object.)

The printer, as yet unnamed, as it will be introduced at the Euromold event in Frankfurt in late November, so the marketing people have some time to come up with a moniker, has a printing volume of 1,000 x 800 x 600 mm.

The company insists that this is not a scaled-up version of its X400 machine. The X400 has a print capacity of 400 x 400 x 350 mm.

Perhaps between now and Euromold the company will come up with a name that isn’t X1000. Something more imaginative, perhaps.

How to Make a Hellcat

By: Gary S. Vasilash 15. September 2014

Russ Ruedisueli is vehicle line executive and Head of Engineering at SRT. Which means that Ruedisueli and his team create cars that go fast. Really fast. They engineer cars where everything is functional toward that end. They engineer cars that are stylish enough for show, but they are most certainly about go.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Like the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. As Ruedisueli points out in this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” the speed of an SRT product is not electronically limited. And the Hellcat—which was the internal code name for the 6.2-liter HEMI engine that has become the moniker for this version of the SRT Challenger—has/is a 707-hp supercharged engine. If mated to a Torqueflite 8H90 transmission, the curb weight of the car is 4,439 lb. If mated to a six-speed manual Tremec TR-6060, the curb weight is 4,449 lb.

So think about that: 707 hp. 4,449 lb. Pretty quick.

Hellcat a

Ruedisueli talks about the engine that is the highest horsepower mill that Chrysler has ever produced. About the forged-steel crankshaft with induction-hardened bearing surfaces, a crank that can withstand firing pressures of 110 bar. About the high-strength forged-alloy pistons. The heat-treated aluminum-alloy cylinder heads. Cast-iron block. About the supercharger that can handle up to 30,000 liters of air per minute.

About the exterior design that includes such things as the “Air Catcher” inlet port, which is located at the driver’s side parking lamp and feeds air right into the engine air box. About the hood with dual air extractors.

The Hellcat is at the top of the horsepower ratings among the offerings of the Detroit Three by some non-trivial measure. Ruedisueli admits that when they were thinking about developing the engine, they assessed what the other guys were doing, estimated where the other guys were going, and, in effect, decided to go big with the Hellcat.

It is an interesting story that Ruedisueli tells that’s of interest to engineers and auto enthusiasts alike. And especially to those who happen to be both.

In addition to which, John McElroy, Chris Paukert of and I discuss a variety of subjects including the “firing” of Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, the passing of auto industry icon Jim Harbour, the characteristics of the forthcoming fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 (a.k.a., Miata), and a whole lot more.

And you can see it here:


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