Back to the future for Ford!

Back to the future for Ford and electric cars. Cool piece on the history and uncertain future of electric rides!

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Everything old is new again, goes the old refrain, and nowhere is that more true than in the auto industry. Though they may seem high-tech, primitive navigation systems first appeared in the earliest days of the 20th Century, and fuel-saving CVT transmissions date back even further.

Then there’s the electric vehicle, which has suddenly became the hot topic on this year’s auto show circuit. But if you’d been around for the first big U.S. car show, a century ago in New York, you’d have discovered there were as many battery-powered vehicles as those running on gasoline. Even Henry Ford got into the act, producing an electric flivver for his wife Clara, and asking old buddy Thomas Edison to try to come up with a longer-range battery.

Read the full article here.


Electric vehicles starting to sprout a new industry

There is no doubt that electric vehicles are going to change the landscape of the US auto industry. Will power central stay in Michigan or will new and innovative forces crop up all over the country and develop new hubs for this upcoming power surge. No one really knows which electric based technologies will survive this transition and what is on the horizon that is being studied around the world as we speak. One thing is for sure and that is vehicles will be much cleaner and efficient in the coming years than what we are driving today and that’s a good thing! The Detroit Free Press has some great stories on what we can expect going forward.

The race to develop electric vehicles is generating billions of dollars of investments as a new set of companies vies for a piece of this expanding global market.

Amid the excitement, Michigan has planted its flag as a center for advanced battery manufacturing.

Heavyweights such as A123, Compact Power and Johnson Controls-Saft are all building or planning to build plants that will make lithium-ion batteries.

Read the full article here.


Mastering the new lingo – parallel vs. series hybrid

chevy-volt-concept-07’s Autotopia blog has a cool post of five auto-related terms that will be dying out soon along with five new terms that we’ll need to become familiar with. You’ll soon be forgetting terms like gas pedal, MPG, throttle, transmission and tachometer. Here’s one of the new ones:

Parallel vs. series hybrid – These terms have so far been relegated to the geeks, but as the industry progresses and hybrids of all stripes become more common, you’ll want to know the difference. They refer to how the gasoline engine and electric motor are configured. A parallel hybrid like the Toyota Prius uses a traditional transmission to couple the gasoline engine and electric motor to the wheels. Such vehicles use internal combustion and electricity to drive the wheels. A series hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt does away with the transmission because the engine drives a generator that takes over when the battery runs down. The electric motor is the only thing driving the wheels. Many see the series hybrid as the “true” hybrid configuration minimizing energy loss due to wasteful idle engine spinning friction.

Also, get ready to hear the following terms as well: Lithium-ion battery, continuous vs. peak power, kilowatt-hour vs. kilowatt and drive-by-wire.


Back to the future


For years, the Big Three automakers fought efforts in Congress to increase mileage standards. Now we’re all paying the price.

Given the gas price shock last summer and the current economic crisis, Ford is rediscovering some old techniques to help them improve gas mileage in its vehicles.

As fuel-economy standards get tougher, auto companies are peering into a future where next-generation electric vehicles and advanced hybrids beckon. But these days, Ford Motor executives have one eye on the future and one on the past. Ford is dusting off a host of old ideas for boosting gas mileage and slashing emissions. Some of these concepts were dreamed up decades ago, deployed in lots of small European cars, and vigorously promoted by environmentalists. But in Detroit, the technology has mostly sat on the shelf.

Not anymore. Ford now emphasizes fuel economy across its whole lineup. And for its 2011 Explorer the company is making prominent use of such “retro” green technology as lighter-weight steel body parts and “direct injection” engine technology. This technique, which dates to the 1940s, feeds gas and air straight into the engine cylinder instead of premixing it, resulting in a more efficient fuel burn. Together, the technologies could allow the new Explorer to reach highway fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon, upstaging Toyota’s Highlander hybrid, which gets 25 mpg. “There is a lot we can do to get meaningful fuel-economy improvements without going all the way into electrics,” says Ford’s global product development chief, Derrick Kuzak.

It’s about time.


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