Wednesday, October 27, 2010 02:47
While writing a driving impression on the 2011 Nissan Leaf, I tripped over some unfamiliar acronyms: kW, Nm, and kWH. With hybrids, I can write about the gas engine and dodge the electric part, but the Leaf is all-electric. (Do NOT call it a zero-emissions vehicle. To make electricity, coal is burned upwind from my house. Note to EV- and plug-in hybrid advocates: If you’re not demanding the construction of nuclear powerplants or volunteering to have noisy, bird-killing wind turbines placed on your roof, you’re hypocrites.)
Anyway, my first stumble was the output of the electric motor. Nissan says its peak power is 80kW, while its maximum torque is 280Nm. “kW” is one kilowatt and is equal to about 1.34 horsepower. So the Leaf’s motor is roughly equal to a 100-horse gas engine.
“Nm” is Newton-meters. One Nm is equal to about 0.74 pound-feet of torque. Since an electric motor makes its maximum torque at zero rpm, the Leaf produces a neck-snapping, tire-squealing 207 pound-feet of torque the instant you touch the accelerator. (Don’t call it a throttle, the loud pedal, or the gas.) Unlike a gasoline-fueled car, the neck-snapping is over almost as soon as it begins, as torque, I mean Newton-meters, start dropping like a rock. Electric cars will have great 60-foot times, but don’t run the whole quartermile. More...
Friday, October 22, 2010 05:56
You’re Roger Penske, one of the most successful racecar owners in history and owner of a third of Ilmor Engineering, Inc. Still, the doors in the above photo are as close as you’re going to get to the dynamometer testing area at Ilmor’s Plymouth, Michigan facility during operations. (Waivers can be granted by the president—Ilmor’s, not Obama. Regardless, we didn’t get one.) It’s easier to get a tour of U.S.S. Ronald Reagan than to photograph dyno testing of the Honda IndyCar series engines Ilmor builds and tests for partner Honda. When RP visits, all engines are covered.
Ilmor’s engineers have been the largely unsung wizards behind engines such as the Mercedes pushrod engine that dominated the ’94 Indy 500 and the Chevrolet Indy engine of the ‘90s. Honda engines built and tested by Ilmor have won the past five Indianapolis 500s, two of those in Penske’s car. (Just like every other team, Penske’s Indy engines are selected by a draw conducted by series officials.)
For the uninitiated, a dyno is a device that measures torque and horsepower by simulating the forces an engine faces pushing a car down the road (or a boat across the ocean). There are several types of dynos. For one, the engine turns an alternating current electric generator. Another pumps water. NASCAR great Bobby Allison built a redneck dyno where the engine turned an airplane propeller. Ilmor has dynos that can handle up to 2,000 horsepower and others that accept 16,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). More...
Monday, October 11, 2010 02:49
From where I lay on the garage floor, it seems that almost all politicians think cars are either long and black, or yellow with a light on top and, either way, you ride in the back.
But Real Car Guy Warren Mosler is running for Senate in Connecticut. He’s running as Independent, which means he has no chance of winning. But, if his racing and car-building efforts are any indication, Mosler doesn’t give up after the first—or even the 88th—fight.
Many will know Mosler from the MT900, a spectacularly beautiful, incredibly over-powered, shockingly affordable (for this niche) supercar. Others will remember Mosler’s first cars, called Consuliers. They were whatever is the opposite of spectacularly beautiful. But they were economical with fuel and resources and incredibly fast.
Along with Don Fuller, Indy and NASCAR vet Chet Fillip, and Mosler, I co-drove to overall victory in two 24-hour races in one of Warren’s creations. Also, Fillip and I co-drove to a pair of wins in six-hour races at Sebring.
Warren, a self-made millionaire, had unconventional ideas about cars. He also has unconventional ideas about our current financial situation. His ideas are complicated, so they’re easy to misrepresent in a 15-second sound bite. Be open-minded when you go to moslerforsenate.com.
As gear oil drips in my hair, here’s my position: It’s impossible for him to do any worse than those in already in Washington. Also, he’s not a lawyer. And he’s a real car guy.
Friday, October 1, 2010 02:35
From the Department of We Knew It Was Too Good to Last: 2012 Dodge Viper concept shown to dealers looks like an Alfa. The new Dodge (should we call it Dodgetto, or Alfa Dodgio) and Chrysler (no longer Mercedsler, now Chrysler Romeo) just rolled out the new Viper at a dealership intro—gen-five, as it were—and hey, look, that’s an Alfa!
Not exactly. Well, possibly exactly, not pretty much. Remember badge engineering? The saddest examples were probably indistinguishable ‘80s GM front-drive products like the ChevOldsBuPontMaliCutlaCent 6000 Supreme, but everyone’s doing it. Mazda or Mitsubishu pickups look familiar? How about that small Saab wagon a few years ago? Even the guys at Porsche/Volkswagen (oops, Volkswagen/Porsche) and all their offspring share stuff all over the place (more than they’ll admit). Perhaps boring old badge engineering has gotten an American icon all mussed up too. More...
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 03:34
Want to leap to the front of the curve instead of always chasing it? Want the skinny without the fat? Need to understand why things matter instead of choking on the fluff? Have some insight—it’s on us.
Logical Caterpillars in the Nissan LEAF
Something’s rotten in the tree that sprouted Nissan’s LEAF. For instance, the hype behind the new electric subcompact and how it's being subsidized by Uncle Sam. Electric cars, should they become practical, need to be financially obtainable without dealership welfare. Concepts worth their salt will prove themselves in a free market, but the LEAF comes to the dinner table with $7,500 in federal tax dollars propping up each sale, plus what’s offered by the government in your state. More...