What 0->62 mph in 3.2 seconds and 78mpg looks like? Porsche debuts screaming hot “mother of all hybrids”

August 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm

(source: Porsche via Wired)

Hybrids and super fast were usually not spelled in the same sentence until Porsche opened a can (rather a car) of   surprise for the motoring world with its new hybrid 918 Spyder in Geneva earlier this year.

Now for the first time some of those potential customers got to see and hear Porsche’s latest creation in person. The 918 was flown over from Germany for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Montery, California. The video above shows a covert shakedown drive before the car was shown to the public.
Read More http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/08/video-porsche-918-hybrid-makes-debut-drive-in-california/#ixzz0wtLtUQEV

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Meet GM’s new EN-V , the transporter for 2030 is sleek, electric & automated

March 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

(Sources: Wired; RTTNews, Associated Press, The Detroit News GM Press Release)

Image Courtesy: GM

General Motors always dreams big, no matter how much money they have in their bank account.  Now that Uncle Sam’s treasury is backing up the financial future,  GM continues its tradition of dreaming big and the latest outcome of this is a future where people navigate crowded cities in big Segways that look kinda like a Dyson vacuum cleaner and can drive you home when you’ve had one too many after a long day at work. . Seriously.

Today, GM unveiled a trio of electric “urban mobility vehicles,” built with help from the über-geeks at Segway, today in Shanghai. They’re called Electric Networked Vehicles (EN-V) and they’re designed for cities bursting at the seams with traffic.  The EN-V, pronounced “envy,” is GM’s latest effort to burnish its credentials as a future-focused, environmentally friendly company and shed its image as the bastion of the gas guzzling Hummer. The automaker is in the process of winding down Hummer after a deal collapsed to sell it to a Chinese heavy equipment maker. The helmet-shaped two-seater vehiclesunveiled today in Shanghai will be now showcased at world expo 2010 to be held in Shanghai starting May 1 through October 31. The pavilion will be shared by GM with its Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp.  There will be three models on display in Shanghai:

  • Red – Jiao, or Pride – Created by designers at GM Europe, the vehicle was influenced by bullet trains and Chinese opera masks.
  • Black – Miao, or Magic –  Sculpted by designers at GM’s Advanced Design Studio in California and influenced by the consumer electronics industry’s sleek, masculine looks.
  • Blue –  Xiao, or Laugh –  Created by GM Holden’s designers in Australia, who took a more lighthearted approach to the vehicle’s “gumball blue” paint and nautical design.

Shanghai is the perfect place to show the funky runabouts because China is the largest automobile market on the planet. A lot of thought is going into figuring out how all those people buying all those cars will get around. Sixty percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030 and there will be 2 billion cars on the road. Automakers are looking for ways to build cars that pollute less and take up less space.gm-en-v-02

Here are some interesting nuggets gleaned from the above sources:

  • To that end, the two-seater concepts are about one-sixth the size of a conventional car.
  • They’re made of lightweight materials like carbon fiber and weigh just 1,000 pounds apiece. GM says you can squeeze five of them into a single parking space.
  • The 1.5 meter by 1.5 meter (about 5 foot by 5 foot) EN-V appears to build on GM’s earlier work with Segway Inc. in developing the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) concept vehicle. It will use the same types of battery cells as the Segway and the same battery supplier, Valence Technology Inc.
  • The propulsion technique employed in the prototype was, however, introduced earlier by GM on its Hy-wire concept, introduced at the Paris Motor Show 2006.  The forward-thinking concepts build upon we saw last year in New York.
  • Powered by Lithium-ion batteries and enriched with capabilities like dramatically smaller turning radius, the zero-emission vehicle is designed to travel at least 40 kilometers on a single charge.
  • GM notes that the operating costs are one-fifth to one-sixth the price of a conventional motor vehicle and one-third to one-fourth the operating cost of a passenger car.
  • The EN-Vs are super-connected. They’ll use GPS, distance-sensing technology and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to ease congestion and reduce the risk of accidents. GM says the vehicles can “sense” what’s around them and react quickly to obstacles or changes in driving conditions.
  • There’s a motor in each wheel and a lithium-ion battery. It’s got “dynamic stabilization technology” so it can balance on two wheels, and GM says it can “literally turn on a dime.” It also says the vehicles have a range of 25 miles and a top speed of 25 mph, which it says is more than adequate for daily city driving.
  • There will be an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles worldwide in 2030. That’s up from 844 million three years ago, according to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.
  • People living in major cities will have a more difficult time commuting because in 20 years, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to GM.
  • In major cities, 30 percent of fuel is wasted while drivers hunt for parking spots, which adds to the cost associated with operating vehicles.


Click here for some interesting pictures and a detailed scoop.  If you are interested in reading more about the concept and have the time to enjoy some cool videos that demonstrate the technology and vision, click here.

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Google’s Tentacles Unlock the Potential for Big Brother’s Foray into Unchartered Terrorities

June 24, 2009 at 4:09 pm

(Source: Daily Mail, UK & The Internet Patrol.com)

Candid Camera: Google Street View captures moment muggers prepared to pounce on teenage victim

Caught red-handed: This image taken by a Google Street View car shows the suspects following the boy down the street before he was attacked - Image Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Dutch police have arrested two brothers on suspicion of robbery after their alleged victim spotted a picture of them following him on Google’s Street View.

The boy, 14, was mugged last September after two men dragged him of his bike in Groningen, 110 miles north-east of Amsterdam.

His attackers got away with around £140 and his mobile phone. Police were at first unable to track down the suspects.

But the victim contacted them in March after seeing what he believed to be an image of himself and the two men on Street View.

Officers got in touch with Google for the original picture because the people’s faces were blurred.  The company complied, and a robbery squad detective immediately recognised one of the brothers.

Prosecutors will now decide whether to charge the suspects, whose identities were not released.  Click here to read the entire Daily Mail article.

While this story has a happy ending (except for the twins), it does cause one to wonder just how far we are moving towards a big brother state.

Take, for example, this photo caught by the Google Street View camera:

Burgler Caught on Google StreetView Camera - Image via The InternetPatrol.com

Now, perhaps this is a cat burgler. Or perhaps it’s someone who locked themselves out of their house. Or someone just practicing their climbing skills.

If there are burglaries going on in the area, however, what do you think the odds are that this man is going to get hauled in for questioning?

That said, I think that the first big law suit – which could win – over invasion of privacy with respect to Google Earth, will be when a philandering spouse is caught by the other spouse because they happen to see a picture of the philanderer with their paramour on Google Earth, and a messy (and costly) divorce ensues. Or maybe when a wonderful birthday surprise is ruined because the intended giftee accidentally sees the person purchasing the gift during a moment of serendipitous Google Earth browsing.

Since it was launched in 2007, Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide.

But it has drawn complaints from individuals and institutions that have been photographed, including the Pentagon, which barred Google from photographing U.S. military bases for the application.

Mapping North Korean Railways Using Google Earth

An article that appeard on Wired about Google’s hallmark mapping software, Google Earth,  reiterates the above notion that such technologies can aid the big brother, not just on surface of the earth but also do that from miles above the earth.

For all the saber-rattling North Korea has been doing, precious little is known about daily life in the isolated nation. Even a railway map is close to classified information.

North Korean Subway Station - Image Courtesy: Wired

A doctoral student at George Mason University is using satellite images to get a closer look at a historically secretive country. North Korea is once again in the news because of its growing nuclear threat and the imprisoning of two American journalists. By closely examining Google Earth and corroborating physical evidence of infrastructure with reports from visitors and defectors, Curtis Melvin has assembled a workable map of North Korean railways — not to mention hidden palaces and outdoor food markets. The Google Earth overlays are available at his blog, North Korean Economy Watch.

“I am confident I’ve mapped over 90 percent of the system above ground,” Melvin told Wired.com. “There are probably still railway lines in low-resolution areas that I have not been able to find. Additionally, there are likely underground passages that I am unable to map, and the size of these I cannot guess.”

Since Kim Jong-Il is reportedly terrified of flying, Dear Leader travels on a luxurious private train that carries him between “on-the-spot-guidance opportunities.” That’s one thing for which we don’t blame him, considering the state of national airline Air Koryo. According to Melvin, there are special train tracks that carry VIPs to oases of luxury in the impoverished nation. “Several elite compounds have private train stations,” he said. “We can follow the railway lines through the security perimeters and into the elite compounds.”

Melvin has even managed to dig up some dirt on the inscrutable Pyongyang Metro — that’s the system’s Puhung station in the photo. Far from a Potemkin public transit system, the parts of the metro hidden from tourists seem to be less impressive but still functioning. “I have seen a couple of official pictures of other stations. They are much more spartan than the two shown to tourists,” Melvin said.

Click here to read the entire Wired Autopia article.

Insanity, redefined – This road bomb weighing 500kilos can hurl you from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds

May 29, 2009 at 5:39 pm

(Source: Wired)

As the world watched the Spelling Bee competition, I was reading up on the eye candy parked above.  Upon reading, I went searching the dictionary to find the meaning for the word insane, which is listed as follows: In·sane [in-seyn ] – adj. [Latin: insanus] – Not sane, mentally ill or deranged; demented; mad.  But British automaker, Ariel, is trying to change this meaning by doing something that’s much more crazy.  With the wisdom achieved during the development Atom 300, of one of the fastest cars on Earth, which is already achieving sub 3 second times to 60mph and sub 7 second times to 100mph, the folks at Ariel went to work on  the Ariel 500

The limited-edition Ariel Atom 500 is  a 500-kilo (1,100-lbs) smartlooking “bomb”, sporting a 500-horsepower 3.0-liter V8 engine capable of hurling the occupants down the highway at an astoninshing speed (0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds).  Simon Saunders, Director of Ariel,  has this much to say about the Atom 500: “For a few customers the Atom 500 will be the ultimate expression of lightweight performance and represents the outer limits of what is achievable in a road registered car. ”   It is reported that only 25 copies of this vehicle will be offered in the United States at a date and price to be determined.

The only question that comes to mind is what is the purpose of a passenger seat in this vehicle? No way in hell can the driver or the passenger have a conversation traveling at such a neck-breaking speed.   So, I am convinced the sole purpose of having this passenger seat is to pass the eligibility criteria for a “street car”.   A quick check on Google for the 0-60mph speed table shows that a standard Formula One car would clock that at 2.8secs, which is definitely slower than the Atom 500 fitted with a passenger seat.   If that passenger seat is removed, the reduction in weight might make the vehicle even lighter, contributing to a further increment in speed.   Now, imagine showing up at work in one of these!

Now pay $7.50 for printing your airline ticket at your own home! Another Ridiculous Fee From the World’s Cheapest Airline

May 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm

(Source: Wired & TimesOnline, UK)

The tightwads at Ryanair have found yet another fee to foist upon customers already nickeled and dimed to death.

The airline widely renowned for being the cheapest thing going says it will start charging passengers £5 ($7.50) for the privilege of printing their boarding passes at home. It’s the latest brilliant idea from the folks who earlier this year suggested charging passengers to use lavatories. What makes this idea so absurd is it replaces Ryanair’s previous practice of offering free online ticketing as an alternative to checking in at the ticket counter – which costs you £10. Leave it to Ryanair to sell the new fee as a way to save money.

Image: Gizmodo

“For some passengers, yes, the price has gone up,” spokesman Stephen McNamara told the Times of London. said. “But for those used to paying the £10 airport check-in fee, the price has actually gone down.”

Unless you can’t print out your boarding card. Or you lose it. Then you’re looking at a £40 fee.

The airline says anyone who doesn’t have a printer should get a friend to print the pass for them or go to an Internet cafe in order to avoid a £40 fee.

“Online check-in is the future,” McNamara said, according to the Times. “My mother doesn’t have a computer, but would a person without an ATM card have been allowed to hold up the automation of the banking system?”

Ryanair’s move comes as the European Union forces the airline to be more honest in disclosing some of the fees and taxes it slaps on every ticket. Many of them are impossible to avoid, but Ryanair doesn’t make that clear when advertising its super-cheap fares. The Independent notes Ryanair will tack a £10 fee onto its “free” tickets if they’re purchased with normal credit or debit cards, but it doesn’t disclose that charge in the initial price. Combine that with other stealth fees and your free Ryanair flight can end up costing as much as £80 ($120).

According to the EU, the days of the £1 flight that ends up costing £59.99 after the taxes, fees, check-in and baggage charges are over — for half the airlines identified, anyway — and the opt-in boxes for extras such as insurance and priority boarding are no longer ready-ticked. In theory, consumers should see all taxes, fees and other compulsory charges at the beginning of the booking process and not on the bottom line.

“It is unacceptable that one in three consumers going to book a plane ticket online is being ripped off, misled or confused,” said the EU’s commissioner, for consumer protection, Meglena Kuneva. “There are serious and persistent problems with ticket sales throughout the airline industry as a whole. My message to industry is clear: act now or we will act.”

Love is in the air, literally! – Air New Zealand launches matchmaking flights

May 18, 2009 at 10:28 pm

(Source: Wired & The New Zealand Herald)

Love is in the air — Air New Zealand, that is. The Kiwi carrier has launched Matchmaking Flight to bring lonely travelers together. After all, what better way to get to know The One than sharing a 13-hour flight on your first date?

If you aren’t up for a blind date, you can try meeting that special someone on the airline’s Matchmaking Flight website, a social networking where passenger can meet and interact in the safety of cyberspace before meeting at the terminal. That could keep you from getting matched with that sketchy guy in Seat 35B who keeps mentioning the mile-high club.

In a new venture, coined “love at first flight”, the airline says it is aiming to help single Americans find New Zealand dates with a themed flight headed for a dual hemisphere singles party.

It’s almost a given that the first flight will depart from Los Angeles International Airport on Oct. 13. The journey of love, which is an enticing overnight flight, begins with a pre-flight party at the Air New Zealand Lounge. What happens next is up to you. Upon landing, passengers will dance away their jet lag at the Grand Matchmaking Ball at Auckland’s SkyCity Grand hotel. The whole package starts at $780 per person.

Register on the website and you can look for love in categories that include American boyfriend, Canadian girlfriend, Kiwi friend, and, our favorite, “business contact. The airline says 75 people have signed up. They’re about evenly split between North Americans and Kiwis. Men and women are also equally represented. Air New Zealand hopes passengers will be in a romantic mood just thinking about their destination.

The Grid, Our Cars and the Net: One Idea to Link Them All – Wired interviews Zip Car founder, Robin Chase

May 8, 2009 at 4:13 pm

(Source: Wired)


Top photo: Flickr / Phil Hawksworth.

Editor’s note: Robin Chase thinks a lot about transportation and the internet, and how to link them. She connected them when she founded Zipcar, and she wants to do it again by making our electric grid and our cars smarter. Time magazine recently named her one of the 100 most influential people of the year. David Weinberger sat down with Chase to discuss her idea.

Robin Chase considers the future of electricity, the future of cars and the internet three terms in a single equation, even if most of us don’t yet realize they’re on the same chalkboard. Solve the equation correctly, she says, and we create a greener future where innovation thrives. Get it wrong, and our grandchildren will curse our names.

Chase thinks big, and she’s got the cred to back it up. She created an improbable network of automobiles called Zipcar. Getting it off the ground required not only buying a fleet of cars, but convincing cities to dedicate precious parking spaces to them. It was a crazy idea, and it worked. Zipcar now has 6,000 cars and 250,000 users in 50 towns.

Now she’s moving on to the bigger challenge of integrating a smart grid with our cars – and then everything else. The kicker is how they come together. You can sum it up as a Tweet: The intelligent network we need for electricity can also turn cars into nodes. Interoperability is a multiplier. Get it right!

Chase starts by explaining the smart grid. There’s broad consensus that our electrical system should do more than carry electricity. It should carry information. That would allow a more intelligent, and efficient, use of power.

“Our electric infrastructure is designed for the rare peak of usage,” Chase says. “That’s expensive and wasteful.”

Changing that requires a smart grid. What we have is a dumb one. We ask for electricity and the grid provides it, no questions asked. A smart grid asks questions and answers them. It makes the meter on your wall a sensor that links you to a network that knows how much power you’re using, when you’re using it and how to reduce your energy needs – and costs.

Such a system will grow more important as we become energy producers, not just consumers. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will return power to the grid. Rooftop solar panels and backyard wind turbines will, at times, produce more energy than we can store. A smart grid generates what we need and lets us use what we generate. That’s why the Obama Administration allocated $4.5 billion in the stimulus bill for smart grid R&D.

This pleases Chase, but it also makes her nervous. The smart grid must be an information network, but we have a tradition of getting such things wrong. Chase is among those trying to convince the government that the safest and most robust network will use open internet protocols and standards. For once the government seems inclined to listen.

Chase switches gears to talk about how cars fit into the equation. She sees automobiles as just another network device, one that, like the smart grid, should be open and net-based.

“Cars are network nodes,” she says. “They have GPS and Bluetooth and toll-both transponders, and we’re all on our cell phones and lots of cars have OnStar support services.”

That’s five networks. Automakers and academics will bring us more. They’re working on smart cars that will communicate with us, with one another and with the road. How will those cars connect to the network? That’s the third part of Chase’s equation: Mesh networking.

In a typical Wi-Fi network, there’s one router and a relatively small number of devices using it as a gateway to the internet. In a mesh network, every device is also a router. Bring in a new mesh device and it automatically links to any other mesh devices within radio range. It is an example of what internet architect David Reed calls “cooperative gain” – the more devices, the more bandwidth across the network. Chase offers an analogy to explain it.

“Wi-Fi is like a bridge that connects the highways on either side of the stream,” she says. “You build it wide enough to handle the maximum traffic you expect. If too much comes, it gets congested. When not enough arrives, you’ve got excess capacity. Mesh takes a different approach: Each person who wants to cross throws in a flat rock that’s above the water line. The more people who do that, the more ways there are to get across the river.”


“Today in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers and tanks and airplanes are running around using mesh networks,” said Chase. “It works, it’s secure, it’s robust. If a node or device disappears, the network just reroutes the data.”

And, perhaps most important, it’s in motion. That’s what allows Chase’s plural visions to go singular. Build a smart electrical grid that uses Internet protocols and puts a mesh network device in every structure that has an electric meter. Sweep out the half dozen networks in our cars and replace them with an open, Internet-based platform. Add a mesh router. A nationwide mesh cloud will form, linking vehicles that can connect with one another and with the rest of the network. It’s cooperative gain gone national, gone mobile, gone open.

Chase’s mesh vision draws some skepticism. Some say it won’t scale up. The fact it’s is being used in places like Afghanistan and Vienna indicates it could. Others say moving vehicles may not be able to hook into and out of mesh networks quickly enough. Chase argues it’s already possible to do so in less than a second, and that time will only come down. But even if every car and every electric meter were meshed, there’s still a lot of highway out there that wouldn’t be served, right? Chase has an answer for that, too.

Click here to read the entire article.

Video report from London: Wired takes you inside the underbelly of London’s Tube

April 30, 2009 at 10:25 am

(Source: Wired)

Scoopful of GM News – Bankruptcy, Churning Board Members, Sales Dreams, Volt Reality, Vehicle Recall, etc..

April 14, 2009 at 6:48 pm

(Source: Jalopnik, Wired, Autoblog, Detroit News)

GM chair fears deal can’t be reached: Kent Kresa, interim chairman of General Motors Corp., is not optimistic money-saving concessions can be reached with bondholders and the United Auto Workers to avoid bankruptcy before a June 1 deadline. “I’m hopeful we can get there,” Kresa told The Detroit News today. “Everybody understands we would be in a much better situation if we can resolve this among all the players without going through bankruptcy.” GM is trying to restructure about $28 billion in unsecured debt held by GM’s bondholders and $20 billion in obligations to the United Auto Workers. The federal government also may agree to swap some of its $13.4 billion in General Motors Corp. debt for new equity in the company in a move to help boost GM’s balance sheet.

GM chairman looking to turn over half of board of trustees by June? According to the Detroit Free Press, General Motors interim chairman, Kent Kresa, has been asked by president Obama’s administration to replenish the automaker’s board with fresh blood. Kresa said that while the board did achieve “historic things” recently, like renegotiating the UAW pay scale, he also said that the board didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the downturn. 

 GM Says Volt Won’t ‘Pay the Rent’ : General Motors won’t make money on its electric car for quite awhile. That’s to be expected, and it should be supported. The Obama administration doesn’t understand that.


GM Looks To Double Sales In China By 2012 [Carpocalypse]: GM looking to double sales in China by 2012. Good luck with that. [Reuters]

GM recalling 1.4 million passenger cars over potential engine fires:  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just announced a major recall covering nearly 1.5 million General Motors passenger cars from the late 90’s and early 2000s. The recall affects various Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac models equipped with normally aspirated versions of GM’s much-utilized 3800 3.8-liter V6…Autoblog –


GM, Task Force preparing for “surgical” bankruptcy: According to a lengthy report by the New York Times, the Treasury Department is directing General Motors to begin work on a bankruptcy filing by June 1. Based on sources close to the talks who were unable to officially discuss the process, the report outlines the “fast ‘surgical’ bankruptcy” of the automaker if GM is unable to reach an agreeme…

GM‘s new offer for bondholders may contain no cash, just equity: GM, Earnings/FinancialsGM’s most recent offer to its bondholders offered a little bit of cash and a little bit of equity. GM CEO Fritz Henderson’s example was that a holder of $1,000 in bonds would end up with $333 and a some equity. After conferring with the Auto Task Force, however, that offer was deemed excessive in light of GM‘s situation so…

Park, Charge, Go Green! Solar Carport Gives Plug-Ins a Charge

April 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

(Source: Wired)


One of the great criticisms of electric vehicles is the power they rely on often comes from fossil fuels, leading critics to question how “green” they are. A British firm has a solution for that — a carport topped with photovoltaic cells that can charge an EV.

Specialty glass and plastic manufacturer Romag says the PowerPark is just the thing for parking lots where electric vehicles may one day compete for spots to plug in. The first PowerPark was installed at the company’s headquarters, and Romag says additional installations are planned around the United Kingdom.

So far, the cost of installation and materials varies based on volume and location, but Webster said that the canopies could be purchased singly or in groups. Pricing “should be competitive with other forms of BIPV.” That’s Building Integrated Photovoltaics, for those of you who are really off the grid.


Each PowerPark canopy is rated at 1.5 kilowatt peak, a measure of a photovoltaic system’s peak output. Even in misty, foggy Northern England, the company estimates each parking space could generate about 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The canopies are linked to the electric grid so energy “can be generated for use in the associated buildings when cars are not being charged,” Webster said. “No electricity is wasted.”

It’s got a distinctive shape that advertises itself and just might end up the most attractive piece of engineering in a Walmart parking lot. It could even help to drive sales, as customers might linger a little longer in the store waiting for their Tesla to charge.