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Can This Be The Future? Solar-powered Glass Roads

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I for one don’t think that solar-powered glass roads will be the future of driving, at least not in this century. Scott Brusaw is an engineer from Idaho and with the interest and aid from General Electric and the federal government; he has been refining his own concept of the road of the future which in my opinion sounds too futuristic. He believes that super-strong glass and solar cells embedded below the top layers would be able to serve as both energy and a nexus of travel.

The sun will energize the solar cells and the energy will be transmitted to power street signs, roadside businesses and nearby homes. For snowy areas, the gathered energy would be able to melt the snow and ice from the roadway.

He said that the people responsible for developing glass have the capability to make a very strong material so that durability and traction would not be a problem. With new technology and ideas there are a couple of issues. In this situation we are talking about the costs. Scott Brusaw estimates that laying down this futuristic super-glass roadway would cost a whopping $4.4 million per mile. The good thing is that the road would be able to recuperate the money and possibly generate a greater return. However, let’s face it, the initial cost is immense.

Brusaw is very ambitious and he will try to prove his idea by teaming up with a nationwide chain to revamp existing parking lots. These lots could be heated and also over a recharging station for electric cars.

The Man in the White Suit by Ben Collins

Four months ago racer Ben Collins outed himself as the skill behind the Stig’s driving talent. Despite this loss in Top Gear’s cast, the show continued its natural course like nothing happened and it still is just as popular as before, perhaps even more. If you were wondering what is Collins doing in the present you should know that he is now working for the rival United Kingdom car show, which is Fifth Gear. In addition, he recently launched a book – “The Man in the White Suit” where you will be able to read a lot of his interesting memoires, from his stint as an army reservist to his exciting trials on the most popular race circuits in the world.

In the book you will find a couple of interesting paragraphs about his time as a professional stunt driver for blockbuster movies like National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets and The Quantum of Solace. There are some exciting behind-the-scenes details which review the most intense driving shots of those movies.

With a price tag of only $17.79, “The Man in the White Suit” is a pretty interesting book about Ben Collins, the ex-Stig as most of you know him. He shares juicy details about his life in the army reserves, racing all over Europe and his life at Top Gear.

I for one don’t understand why BBC and Top Gear where so angry about the launch of this book. Ben Collins didn’t dish out any dirt or info behind the scenes of the show. On the contrary, he bragged about how cool the show was. Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture but I can’t understand what harm this book could cause to Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and the rest of the crew over at Top Gear.

CEC Announces 3 Special Edition Lexus LFAs

Lexus LFA

If you don’t think that the Lexus LFA is cool enough, you will be glad to hear that CEC has a announced a partnership with Lexus North America to create a special tuning program for the already awesome Lexus LFA. The Los Angeles-based tuner will make only three cars, all of them will feature a bundle of enhancements created specifically for each lucky buyer of the LFA. Sherif Yassa, who is the Vice President of CEC, said that “we believe these three CEC Tuner Edition LFAs will be the most expensive and rarest of all the LFA supercars.”

Lexus LFA

Due to the fact that the Lexus LFA is already a car that benefited from a lot of technical innovations, Claus Ettensberger said that “it would be crazy to try and improve it from a performance or engineering standpoint.” Despite this affirmation made by the founder of CEC, the tuner already upgraded the V10 4.8-liter of the LFA, adding 10 hp and lowering the shift times to .15 of a second.

Lexus LFA

The car you see in these pictures is not one of the three uber-special ones. This is however a LFA with some very cool lightweight forged rims. I for one am really curios to see how will these three cars look like and what the price tag will be.

Renault Starts Making Its Own Tires

We all know that most of the car manufacturers outsource a wide variety of components to OEM suppliers. The parts range from a small screw to the entire car itself in some cases, contracting the entire assembly process to outside bidders. While some car producers make more or less of their parts in-house, one of these components has always been outsourced – we are talking here about tires.

Every rule must have an exception and it seems that Renault will be the exception in this case. The French automaker will start making its own tires but surprisingly, the rubbers will not be installed on new cars as they are marketed to existing Renault owners as replacement tires.

Dubbed the Motrio line, these tires were designed to maintain minimal road noise and optimal performance while keeping the manufacturing costs down to a minimum. I for one don’t think that Renault is actually making these tires; most likely these rubbers will be made by one of the existing tire companies to Renault’s specifications and under their license.

Of course, the French manufacturer is still advertising this decision as an industry first and we have to believe the. I am curios to find out if this decision will implemented at Renault’s sister company Nissan.

Hyundai Becomes World’s 4th Largest Automaker

Last week Ford revealed that they managed to sell 5,313,000 cars worldwide “to wholesale” (out of the door), which is 447,000 units more or 9.19% in comparison to 2009. With Volvo out of the picture, the growth was in fact 771,000 units. Although the automaker managed to sell a lot of cars in the US and Asia, they didn’t do so well in Europe. Ford is not doing just as well as Hyundai is doing in China, the most expansive market at the moment.

According to the data published by TTAC, the Hyundai Motor Group (consisting of Hyundai and Kia) sold 5,744,018 cars in 2010, allowing the company to take the number 4th position, thus overtaking Ford.

If you haven’t read our article last week, here are the top 5 automakers in 2010:

1.       Toyota Group – 8,557,351 units;

2.       General Motors Group – 8,389,769 units;

3.       Volkswagen Group – 7,140,000 units;

4.       Hyundai Motor Group – 5,744,018 units;

5.       Ford – 5,313,000 units.

Ford had held the 3rd position up until 2006 when the automaker was overtaken by Volkswagen. In 2005 Hyundai-Kia were in 9th place. During 2006 and 2008, the Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia reported separately and in 2009 they joined forces again, grabbing the 4th spot. It really is amazing how long Hyundai has come when we think about the fact that 10 years ago, the automaker was a popular target… of ridicule.

Smart ForTwo+2 Spied

Smart ForTwo+2

I complained last week that we haven’t heard anything lately from Smart. Well, we still don’t know anything official from the German automaker, but this spy photo of the ForTwo+2 will start some rumors, it already did. We all knew that Smart was developing a bigger variant of the popular ForTwo which should be launched later this year, but we haven’t seen any leaked photos, up until now. Although this is a 1:4 scale and the image is a little bit blurry, we can still understand what the design of the ForTwo + 2 will be like.

The front fascia of this “tiny bigger” model has been reworked entirely and now features newly shaped and narrower headlights along with an open-mouth grille. The one you see in this spy photo comes in a 4-door body style with two additional seats and rear-hinged doors which will allow a more convenient access in the back. According to some sources, these doors might not make it in the final production model – we’ll have to wait and see.

Without any doubt, the soon-to-be-released Smart ForTwo+2 is a larger, wheelbase-extended configuration of the ForTwo, but the upcoming generation of the ForTwo will also be larger in comparison with the outgoing model, both in width and length. It will still remain a RWD / rear-engined car as before.

Taking into consideration the fact that Daimler and Renault-Nissan have teamed up to share small car power trains, the upcoming Smart generation might get a new transmission as well as a bunch of engines from the Franco-Japanese automaker alliance.

The 2011 Smart ForTwo will make its public appearance in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Photo: AutoExpress.com

Due To Popular Demand, Volt Market Will Be Expanded In 2011

It seems that Chevrolet has plans of introducing their Volt model in all 50 states by the end of this year. The U.S. president of Chevrolet Marketing, Rick Scheidt said that “this is the right thing to do for our customers and our dealers who are seeing increased traffic onto their showroom floors.”

Up until now, the Volt has been delivered to clients living in the Washington D.C. area, New York, Texas, New Jersey, California and Connecticut. Pretty soon, Chevrolet will start shipping the car in Michigan. Starting with the third quarter of this year, the Volt will be available to the citizens living in: Oregon, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

As we previously mentioned in earlier posts, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt comes with a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that outputs 149 hp (151 PS / 111 kW) and 273 lb-ft (368 Nm) of torque. These figures allow the car to reach 60 mph in less than 9 seconds, onto a top speed of 100 mph.

The Volt is capable of running on electric mode for 35 miles and with the conventional 1.4-liter petrol engine it can do 344 miles.

Recently, General Motors withdrew their loan application from the United States Department of Energy. The $14.4 billion would have been used by the automaker to start making more fuel efficient cars, but GM said that finances have improved last year and they won’t need that loan after all.

Here are some of the most important awards won by the Volt:

a)      2011 North American Car of the Year;

b)      Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year;

c)      Green Car Journal 2011 Green Car of the Year;

d)      Car and Driver 10 Best for 2011;

e)      Ward’s AutoWorld 10 Best Engines for 2011;

f)       AUTOMOBILE Magazine 2011 Automobile of the Year;

g)     2010 Breakthrough Technology, by Popular Mechanics.

Ferrari 458 Vs Ford F-150 – Who Won ?

No, this isn’t a race between a Ferrari 458 and a Ford F-150, it would have been irrelevant. The lucky/sad owner of this Ferrari 458 managed to drive his new red beauty only 500 miles until he crashed it. After waiting from 12-18 months to get the car, he will have to wait more to fix his 458. It seems that the car belongs to the CEO of I-Pathology and the accident took place in Brandon, Florida.

Although we can’t tell you who was responsible for this accident, some sources say that the driver of the Ferrari tried to pass illegally across a double yellow line to get into a turning lane when he “met’ the Ford F-150.

Once the investigation is over we will be able to provide more information about who was responsible for this accident. The good thing is that nobody was injured in this incident. My guess is that from the position of both cars, the fault belongs to the owner of the pickup truck but I’m curious what will the police investigators decide.

After we’ve seen a bunch of Ferraris burned last year, it seems that 2011 will be the year for accidents – hopefully not.

Aston Martin One-77 Spotted In Monaco

Aston Martin One-77

One of the 77 units of the gorgeous Aston Martin One-77 was spotted on the streets of Monaco last week. This limited edition model was seen parked outside the Hotel de Paris which is right in the center of Monte Carlo. This solid black One-77 comes with a massive V12 7.3-liter engine that churns 750 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in a production car. The power unit is linked to an all-new 6-speed transmission that is controlled with column-mounted paddles located behind the steering wheel.

The robotized sequential manual gearbox is an entire new generation of the company’s familiar automatic and promises to offer shift times comparable to a dual clutch unit. The Aston Martin One-77 does the 0-62 mph sprint in 3.5 seconds, onto a remarkable top speed of 220 mph.

Aston Martin One-77

Aston Martin will make all of the cars this year and despite the fact that it has a starting price of $1, 87 million (not including taxes), last month only 17 cars were left, the others were already preordered. It goes to show that any limited model is successful when we are talking about an Aston Martin, regardless of the price tag.

A Blind Man Drove A Car At Daytona International Speedway

Who says that if a person is blind he cannot enjoy life anymore? Driving a car is for some people one of the most enjoyable moments. Mark Riccobono is one of them. Although he is legally blind, with the help of tactile technology, Mark became the first blind man in the world who drove around the track at the famous Daytona International Speedway.

The National Federation for the Blind issued a very interesting challenge that I for one didn’t thought that it could be possible, to come up with a method to allow a blind man drive. They got a reply from Virginia Tech who were able to create a system that includes the use of some sophisticated gloves that offer tactile feedback for the driver to read his surroundings.

Behind the wheel of a custom-equipped Ford Escape Hybrid, Riccobono drove around the Daytona Speedway for several rounds, making history.

Despite the fact that this technology is not fully developed at the moment yet, the National Federation of the Blind is hoping that one day this very promising technology would become efficient enough so that it will be able to change public perceptions (I highly doubt that). In addition, there are slim chances that the lawmakers will allow this technology to be used in real-life conditions, but let’s hope that the technology will advance so much that laws will change and blind people will be able to safely drive a car.

Ayrton Senna Documentary Recieves Positive Feedback

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Ayrton Senna died 17 years ago and he is still very well remembered and considered by many as the greatest Formula One driver of all time. I was too little when he raced in F1 and I only managed to see a couple of his races. All I can say is that I think he was the most ambitious driver in the history of F1. His rivalry with Prost is unmatched and the races they had together were unbelievable.

At the 2011 Sundace Film Festival a documentary about his life was shown and was met with critical acclaim. The work of executive producer Manish Pandey and British director Asif Kapaida, tells the story of one of the most famous F1 racers through valuable archive footage. This means that the documentary consists of exciting overtaking maneuvers, incredible crashes and great racing sequences that this competition has ever seen.

According to L.A. Times, the “Senna” documentary not only shows his competitive personality, but also his spiritual side. Manish Pandey told the Sundace audience that he already showed the documentary to Ron Dennis, who is the current chairman at McLaren Automotive and the ex-boss of the highly-acclaimed McLaren Formula One racing team. After seeing “Senna”, Ron Dennis cried for about 10 minutes and after that he spent the next two hours talking about the F1 legend – Ayrton Senna.

The Brazilian pilot managed to win three F1 championships and 33 races overall. He died in a crash at the age of 34 at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

2011 Porsche Panamera 4S Middle East Exclusive Edition

2011 Porsche Panamera 4S Middle East Exclusive Edition

I am certainly starting to like the Qatar Motor Show as many automakers from all over the world come here and present some interesting special editions of their most popular models. At the beginning of this week we’ve seen VW roll out two special editions of their Touareg model; Lamborghini launched the Gallardo LP 560-4 Bicolore while Bentley introduced the Arabia Continental Flying Spur.

Porsche decided to take their turn and launched the 2011 Panamera 4S Middle East Exclusive Edition. By “exclusive” it means that it will only be available in the Middle East and the German automaker will only roll out 66 units of this beauty. According to some sources, this won’t be one of those cars that you can simply purchase by going down to the dealership. With other words, most of these units will be sold to some wealthy and important people in the region.

2011 Porsche Panamera 4S Middle East Exclusive Edition

Regarding the exterior look of this limited series, nothing has really changed in comparison to the standard model, except for the commemorative plaque by the door. The front fascia remained the same, with its powerful contoured air intakes that replace the traditional radiator grille. The car’s wheel arches bring a slender shape that emphasizes the 911 “landscape” which can be found in a lot of the cars from Porsche made in the last 50 years.

In the back you will notice those muscular and imposing shoulders over the wheels with a swooping roofline, very Porsche-ish. For this special and limited edition, the guys over at Porsche decided to paint the car in a clean white pattern, dubbed Carrera White Metallic. Inside the cabin you will find the exquisite Carrera Red leather that complements the exterior look.

2011 Porsche Panamera 4S Middle East Exclusive Edition

The car will benefit from the same engine that can be found in the standard model. It means that it will be powered by a V8 4.8-liter that cranks up about 400 hp and is linked to the company’s PDK gearbox. For this limited series, the German engineers decided to install the Sport Chrono Plus Package as well as the PTM – Porsche Traction Management system with active 4WD. With these hardware specifications, the 2011 Porsche Panamera 4S Middle East Exclusive Edition is able to do the 0-62 mph sprint in 4.8 seconds, onto a top speed of 175 mph.

The company didn’t announced any pricing information about this special edition, but taking into consideration that the regular version has a base price of around $94,700, this Middle East Edition should be a little bit more expensive, probably well over $100,000.

Veilside 1993 Toyota Supra 4509 GTR

Veilside 1993 Toyota Supra 4509 GTR

Veilside is a Japanese tuning company that in its history came up with some great cars based on some legendary domestic models. This year they went to the Tokyo Auto Salon and presented their latest project, dubbed 4509 GTR Supra.

The car you see in these pictures is based on the 4th generation of the legendary Toyota Supra that was the king of the streets back in the 90s. As you can see, this car doesn’t look very much like the original model due to the many changes brought by Veilside. It has a very interesting look, despite the fact that it has some traces that resemble with a couple of European cars. The guys didn’t bring only exterior changes to the car, they also upgraded the engine, and we’ll talk about them a little bit later.

Veilside 1993 Toyota Supra 4509 GTR

This Toyota Supra used by the tuners at Veilside was manufactured back in ’93, but it has been completely reworked. Some of the most important upgrades brought to it include the use of fiberglass and carbon fiber on some panels and a specially built grille that was made out of polyurethane and Croissone emblems.

The car now rides on 20-inch black alloys in the front and 22-inch rims in the back. The wheels are covered in Bridgestone Potenza tires that measure 255/30R20 in the front and 295/25R22 out in the back.

Veilside 1993 Toyota Supra 4509 GTR

Inside the cabin, the Veilside 1993 Toyota Supra 4509 GTR got some new sports seats that have been upholstered in leather and diamond quilted Alcantara. The original speed meter was replaced with a unit made by the tuning company. The car also got an upgraded instrument panel and a new sports steering wheel.

Veilside 1993 Toyota Supra 4509 GTR

Under the hood, the engine received some important modifications. We are talking about a twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder power unit that now features an HKS turbo kit along with an intercooler. These modifications allow the engine to output 680 hp @ 6,250 rpm and 594.5 lb-ft of torque. In addition, the car now features a new racing clutch, a sports suspension, new braking system and a custom-made sports exhaust system.

2011 Mach7 Motorsports Falcon

2011 Mach7 Motorsports Falcon

America has to offer a couple of supercars that can rival the European rivals. Some of these cars include the the Saleen S7 and the SSC Ultimate Aero, both of them pretty cool cars. However, in Europe you have a lot more options to choose from, including the epic Bugatti Veyron. Mach7 Motorsports is trying to bring another American player in this competition with the launch of their latest model, dubbed Mach77 Falcon.

Presented at this year’s Detroit Motor Show, Mach7 Motorsports, led by its founders Jeff and Carl Lemke, said that the Mach77 Falcon will get the green light for production pretty soon, after doing some finishing touches and taking a couple of performance tests.

The automaker is planning on making only 15 units annually, with seven of them being built at the same time and in 6-month intervals. When it will enter the production model stage, the Mach77 Falcon will cost approximately $200,000 which is more affordable than the aforementioned SSC Ultimate Aero and the Saleen C7.

2011 Mach7 Motorsports Falcon

Outside, the car benefits from a carbon fiber body to keep the curb weight down to a minimum. There are a couple of touches of high-grade materials that will still be noticeable to the naked eye, especially at the rear fascia, side sills, the replaceable splitter and canopy structure. If you open the car’s impressive clamshell hood as well as the deck lid on the back, you will also spot carbon fiber in the vehicle’s inner structure, engine bay coverings and wheel wells. The resin-infused carbon fiber panels were built in-house by Mach7 Motorsports and are light, crack-resistant and corrosion-proof.

On top of the car’s carbon fiber package, the impressive Falcon benefits from a very strong and lightweight hydro-formed chassis which was combined with aluminum parts that ensures the vehicle’s sturdiness and strength.

The car also benefits from a targa roof panel and it rides on 20-inch rims, covered by Michelin 275.35 tires in the front and 335/30 high-performance rubber out in the back.

2011 Mach7 Motorsports Falcon

Inside the cabin, you will find the two impressive Venzano racing seats that are covered in leather, leather / chrome steering wheel along with a bunch of other goodies like the Bose sound system, a built-in iPod dock, Bluetooth support and Garmin navigation system.

2011 Mach7 Motorsports Falcon

The most important aspects of the car can be found in its performance levels. The entry-level model will be fitted with a Corvette V8 6.2-liter LS3 that outputs about 500 ponies. Also available is an upgraded engine option that will be available with either an LS7 or LS9 supercharged power unit which will increase the total horsepower to 640. According to the estimate tests made, the LS3-powered Falcon will do the 0-62 mph sprint in less than four seconds, onto a top speed of over 200 mph.

2011 Mach7 Motorsports Falcon

Being an American car, it will rival with the SSC Ultimate Aero and the Saleen S7 which we talked about earlier. However, the Ultimate Aero I and II are a little bit out of the Falcon’s league which means that the S7 will be the most important competitor. Looking at the performance figures, the two models have just about the same number as the Saleen S7 is also powered by a V8 that churns 550 hp. In addition, the S7 is also available with an engine upgrade that allows it to produce somewhere around 640 hp.

Fiat 500 Gets 38 MPG HWY Rating

2012 Fiat 500

The US-spec Fiat 500 got a 38 mpg on the highway EPA rating, making the car rank near the top of the non-hybrid small vehicle mpg standings, although it hasn’t reached the 40 mpg milestone. This mileage is available with the 5-speed manual transmission which will allow the 500 to do 30 mpg in the city and 33 mpg combined. These figures put the tiny Fiat 500 along with the Mini, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Elantra, Honda Fit and the Ford Fiesta.

2012 Fiat 500

According to Fiat, they think that most of the 500s sold will be with a 6-speed automatic gearbox, which allows the car to do 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined. The production for the cars fitted with a manual gearbox started at the beginning of 2011 in Mexico, at Fiat’s factory in Toluca, where they also plan to make the Dodge Journey-based Freemont crossover. At the beginning of this week they started making the automatic transmission versions and about 130 of the designated Fiat dealers are starting to receive cars for marketing purposes which they’ll show to potential buyers. The automatic 500 will be available in larger volumes starting with this March.

Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America, said that approximately 130 dealerships will be opened until late-March while the rest of the dealers will open their doors by year-end.

2012 Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 which is known by the Italians as the Cinquecento is available in three trim levels. The entry-level model dubbed Pop has a base price of $15,995. The Sport version costs $17,995 while the top-of-the-range model will set you back $19,995 with the destination fee included. According to Fiat, they believe that the Sport version will be the most popular among customers.

In order to make the 500 more appealing to the US market, they added the aforementioned automatic gearbox to boost sales. In addition, the North American-spec version rides more smoothly and is quieter in comparison to its European sibling. This extra quietness was possible thanks to the extra sound insulation in the 500’s body structure and powertrain, including here a large plastic engine cover which you won’t find in the European version.

2012 Fiat 500

The ride quality of this small Fiat was boosted with the help of a new, beefed up rear axle, which according to the Italian automaker is 300% stiffer than the European-spec model. The most important difference between the two models is the 1.4-litre FIRE power unit which is fitted with the company’s Multiair system. According to the automaker, this system which is capable of regulating the intake valves in order to guarantee maximum fuel efficiency and hp under most conditions, will improve fuel economy and power by 10% in comparison with the same engine that doesn’t have the Multiair system.

This US-spec engine is manufactured at Chrysler’s factory, located in Dundee, Mich. The power unit outputs 101 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 98 lb.-ft @ 4,000 rpm. The Fiat 500 benefits from a 4-year / 50,000 miles warranty.

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