Turn signals — amber or red? Turns out, it really matters

What color should rear turn signals be? In North America they’re usually red, and can also be amber. Almost everywhere else in the world, they have to be amber.

Traffic moves and changes quickly. Fractions of a second make the difference between a crash and a miss. That means that clear, unambiguous brake and turn signals must convey their message without requiring any unnecessary decoding — as in, a red light = brakes and amber = turn.

Amber wins over red even without the less dramatic niceties: in traffic, drivers looking well ahead can make better decisions about lane changes; traffic congestion is reduced. But safety regulations aren’t based on common sense; they’re supposed to be based on evidence, facts, and science. So what are the facts?

In 2008, NHTSA (the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, responsible for writing U.S.… Read the rest

Eiko Clear Vision Supreme with Solex™ and other headlight bulbs: What works and what doesn’t

This is an article about a particular brand of headlight bulbs — Eiko Clear Vision Supreme with SoLux™ Technology — but before we get there, some backstory:

Not too long ago, the word most used, abused, and misused in the world of automotive lighting was “Xenon.” Every marketeer slapped “Xenon” on the package in hopes it would distract you out of questioning the high price (and usually short life) of the bulbs. Pesky facts (such as all halogen bulbs containing some xenon gas in their fill mix) didn’t matter; what was important was capitalizing on a usually-undeserved association with the high-intensity discharge—HID, popularly called “Xenon”—headlamps that were new at the time.

But HID headlamps aren’t new any more; LED headlamps are the latest new thing, and there’s no easy way to hook a marketing line effectively from halogen bulbs to LED headlamps.… Read the rest

How hybrid-electric cars and trucks work

 For many years, it seemed that the internal combustion engine was superior. No serious contender had won out, with electric and steam fading early in the automobile’s history, and Chrysler’s “burn anything” turbine efforts finally ended by the Federal government (despite promising results). Slowly, though, the technology for merging electric and gasoline vehicles started to arise, with on-board computers, new materials, and new ideas. The combination is ideal in many ways: electric motors have very high torque, to get a car rolling almost immediately; gas motors are more efficient when running at a constant speed (e.g. to produce electricity); and, if you use electric power, you can generate it while braking, recapturing energy otherwise lost as heat. Now, nearly every automaker is working on hybrid systems, with Chrysler focusing on a “through the road” system (where one set of wheels is gas powered, another set electrically powered) and General Motors very excited about a new development, hub motors, where small electric motors can be fitted into the wheel hubs for strong, quick acceleration, without the lag time of gas motors.… Read the rest

The General Motors Ride-and-Drive, 2011

The General Motors Ride-and-Drive, 2011

by David Zatz

The General Motors Ride-and-Drive has been making its way throughout the nation, to address the gap between their cars and public perception. In short, Chevrolets, Buicks, and GMCs are far better than most people think they are, and GM is out to prove it by letting you drive their cars alongside Toyotas, Hondas, Dodges, and Fords — their biggest competitors. We sent a reporter to the Meadowlands Arena location, held in the stadium’s massive parking lots and, for the Volt, out on the street.

Since the big attractions were the Chevy Volt, Camaro, and Corvette, GM cleverly put down two conditions: you could not drive a Volt until you had driven a Cruze, and you could not drive a Camaro or Corvette until you’d driven any of their other vehicles first.… Read the rest

Chevrolet Silverado hybrid-electric pickup truck: ahead of its time

It sounded like such a good idea: instead of putting a hybrid-electric powertrain into a class of cars that’s already pretty efficient, GM and Dodge would put them into their least fuel-efficient vehicles. Increasing the mileage of their big pickups would save more fuel than optimizing an already-efficient compact car.

Companies (and people) may need big engines for hauling things around or towing, but they still have to stop for traffic and intersections. Commercial pickups can also spend a lot more time on the road than commuter cars, resulting in more savings.

Both GM and Dodge tried to sell their hybrids to reluctant buyers by making them faster than the regular vehicle; thus, Dodge used the Hemi and Chevy used the 6.0 liter V8.  In both cases, the hybrid also helped the engines go to four cylinders more often (both have cylinder deactivation), so there’s an added benefit.… Read the rest

A GEM of an electric car

A GEM of an electric car

By Terry Parkhurst

Electric cars have been called “the next big thing” many times in the past, thanks to their quiet motors, clean (nonexistent) exhaust, and the ubiquity of electric power in every other part of our lives.

Remember how executives at General Motors, back in 1980, were predicting that by 1990, fully 10% of that company’s product line would be powered solely by electric power? A decade later, GM built a state-of-the-art electric car, the EV-1, to meet the mandates of CARB (California Air Resources Board). Later, they literally destroyed the EV-1, allowing a few to survive in places such as the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles.

Chrysler Corporation, for its part, built a rather cleverly engineered electric minivan starting in 1993; most were sold to utilities and other fleets, but some were also sold to individuals.… Read the rest

White Zombie: electric-powered drag car

The White Zombie is a Datsun 1200 that turns 11.466-second elapsed times in the quarter mile with a trap speed of 114.08 miles-per-hour. And to cap it off, there are about 800 pound-feet of torque at zero rpm. How’s this possible? Well, it’s solely through electricity. It’s an electric-powered Datsun 1200 and it can smoke gas-powered muscle and sports cars in a way that would make Mr. K proud.

The car’s owner, forklift repair technician John Wayland of Portland, Oregon, is a big fan of early seventies Datsuns.  “I gravitated to Datsun because of things like the independent rear suspension on the 510,” he said. Indeed, he admits to having owned 77 Datsun 510s and 12 Datsun 1200s.

He used the 1200 series as the basis for his electric powered screamer “because it’s one of the lightest little sedans that’s also structurally strong enough for what we it needed to do.”

The car he calls “White Zombie” has gone through several incarnations since he started racing it, back in 1994.… Read the rest

Turbochargers: an interview with Garrett’s Martin Verschoor

by Terry Parkhurst. Copyright © 2006 Terry Parkhurst; all rights reserved; used by permission.

Martin Verschoor is the technical director of Garrett Engine Boosting Systems. He is originally from Holland; and known to most people within Garrett as simply “Mart.” Mart is the go-to guy in terms of questions on the future of turbo development. Here he shares his thoughts on American versus European performance parameters, and how the turbocharger can be applied to emerging technologies such as hybrid (gas IC and electric) cars and fuel cells – for both Garrett turbochargers and other brands.

Why are turbochargers more readily accepted in Europe and what do you think that need to be done to make turbos more popular in the United States?

There are a few elements in place and what it comes down to is economy and driving style, the European driving style.… Read the rest