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LA Auto Show – Pictures and News

November 26, 2007

I finally made it out to the LA Auto Show. GM and Ford had pretty much taken over half of their respective exhibition halls. Chevy was playing up its hybrid/hydrogen/electric effort FULL FORCE. There were fuel cell cars, hybrid cars, bronzed models of hybrid tranmissions, and lots of flashy plasma TV displays playing “Gas Friendly to Gas Free” propaganda ad nauseum.

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The Volt concept was on an altar right at the front of the section, where two very attractive young ladies were giving enthusiastic lectures to convention-goers. I talked with them in person after the presentations, and learned some new things. Most significantly, “Melanie” explained that there was a “Quick Charge” function being planned, whereby the ICE could spin at “higher rpm” to fully recharge the battery with “18-20 minutes”, and using “3/4 gallons of gasoline” in the process (that’s ~53mpg at the end of the exercise). At first, they didn’t explicitly say whether this could also be done off the power grid, but they later hypothesized that it “was certainly possible”, given that the batteries could absorb so much energy so rapidly.

One could easily argue against an ICE-based quick charge, given that it might cause the engine to deviate outside its ideal efficiency range. But for now I’ll just wait and see what happens. If rapid-charge algorithms are being planned PERIOD, then that’s good news in of itself. It would certainly be harsher on the batteries, but would definitely help people avoid gasoline use more often.

 Update 11/28/07- Video interview with Denise Gray makes another hint at faster charging options.

Elsewhere was the new Malibu. This car looks a LOT better (lighter and sleeker) in person than it does in photos. There was also an E85-capable Corvette. There were two-mode hybrids from both Chevy and Dodge, and Volkswagon had a surprisingly large display dedicated to high temperature fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. They also had a nice display for next-generation clean diesel technology. The Germans seem to do diesels better than anyone else, and I hope to see more of this technology in the future, especially with range-extenders and commercial vehicles.

The Nissan GTR was the obligate automotive porn for the south hall. It’s an amazing-looking, purpose-built super car. I was interested to learn that it has a coefficient of drag of 0.27, which is only 0.02 above a Honda Insight! So there’s proof that aerodynamic vehicles don’t have to look as ugly as a PRius.

Speaking of which, Yokohama had two interesting exhibits – one of which was a Tesla Roadster (!) fitted with speciality tires. In person, this car is VERY small – then again, it IS based on a Lotus. The battery takes up the vast majority of the space behind the seats, although there is a small space for a few golf clubs.

The other Yokohama exhibit was a Prius modified with special tires and enchanced aerodyamics – such as a greatly reduced front grill area, and rear wheel covers, a la the EV1 and Insight.

The Volvo ReCharge concept was on display. Not a lot of technical detail, but the car itself is rather shapely and handsome, having been based on the new C70. I grew up driving Volvos, so I hope they follow through with this. The limiting factors seem to be PMLFlightlink’s expensive-ass motors and slow production schedule. That plus the lithium polymer batteries – I hope they don’t even touch the Kokam LiPos that PML used in the concept. Those things faired miserably in cold weather duty when they powered New York city electric taxis.

Porsche’s parallel hybrid technology was on display, as was the Lohner Porsche hybrid.

A few more pictures of my visit below:

Inside of a two mode hybrid transmissionCamaro ConvertibleCamaroHonda/Acura 4wd systems have carbon fiber driveshafts apparentlyVW is surprisingly bullish on lithium ionVW High Temperature Fuel Cell

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