Ads for Cars you Can't Buy

Recently car companies have taken to advertising cars they don't sell.  Like this one for the BMW Hydrogen 7,

or this one for the Honda FCX Clarity, and lastly this one for the Chevy Volt. 

When I first saw these ads I was outraged.  None of these products can be purchased, and they could be nothing more than empty promises.  However, after reflecting on these ads, I concluded that they could actually improve things for fuel efficient vehicles.  Read on for why.

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Chevy Volt: GM's new electric car


GM might actually bring back the electric car with the Chevy Volt. The Volt features a lithium battery that gives the car a 40 mile range, more than most people drive in a day. The car can then be plugged in and fully recharges in about 6 and a half hours. But, what really makes the car unique is the small on-board internal combustion engine which can recharge the battery as you drive. By utilizing this additional engine, driving range between fill-ups could be as much as 640 miles. Quite frankly, I'm really impressed with the Volt, I think GM, or perhaps I should say BobLutz , got it right. However, I am surprised by the aggressive appearance of the Volt. The big wheels and angular look makes it look like a modern muscle car, it actually looks a lot like the newCamero. In some ways that approach seems totally wrong, given how hybrids are distinguished by their cute and aerodynamic design. But that might be the point, after all people who are really into energy efficiency will probably buy the car no matter what it looks like ( insight). But for the people who were turned off by the somewhat toy-look appearance of many fuel efficient vehicles, the Volt might just what they're looking for. Again, I think GM got it right.

Environmental Impact of NASCAR


Several months ago I heard an interesting piece on NPR about a new study concluding that Hollywood was among biggest polluters in LA. Which makes sense, as building elaborate sets and shooting in remote locations is going to consume a lot of materials and energy. However, after listening to the story I couldn't help but wonder about the environmental impact of another form of popular American entertainment: NASCAR. While I feel as though I'm doing my part by minimizing my driving, it all seems trivial when NASCAR runs about 35 races a season, each with about 50 cars, getting about 5 miles per gallon, for 500 or so miles. That's about 1 million miles at 5 mpg, not even counting practices. This probably won't happen anytime soon, but NASCAR teams should be able to earn points by increasing their fuel efficiency. Such a move would be a great thing not only for the environment but for the progress and perception of fuel efficient vehicles.

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GM, Bring back the Electric Car


Since seeing Who Killed the Electric Car?, a film that focused on the demise of GM's electric car, the EV-1, I've been left with one single question: Why doesn't GM just bring it back? GM is on the verge of their 100 year anniversary, and I'm sure they're hoping to be around another 100 years. Do they honestly think in the next 100 years they'll never release an electric car? I'd be shocked if there isn't another GM electric car in the next 15 yeas. They should just bring back the EV-1 and get it over with. After all reviving an innovative product that inspired some of the most astonishing customer loyalty imaginable could be exactly what the company needs.

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LoveCraft Bio-Fuels: veggie fuel kickassery


LoveCraft Bio-Fuels, based in LA, converts diesel cars to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO), straight vegetable oil (SVO), or bio-diesel. LoveCraft is founded by Brian Friedman, who invented and patented the devices used in the conversion. What makes a LoveCraft conversion so unique is that it uses the existing fuel tank; most conversions require a second tank to be installed for the biofuel. LoveCraft has converted about 900 cars, and continues to convert about 4-5 a day. While they focus on older Mercedes, they've also done VW Bettles, Ford PowerStrokes, and probably a lot more. After the conversion the cars can run on WVO from restaurants. This works out well for the restaurants too, as they'd normally pay about $1/gallon to have the waste cooking oil hauled away. In fact, Friedman reports that now many of his customers are restaurant owners. LoveCraft has(?) recently opened a biofuel refueling station, for those who don't want to deal with collecting and filtering WVO themselves.

Tesla Roadster


Tesla Motors, based in San Carlos, California, is hell-bent on destroying every misconception about electric cars, and their Tesla Roadster does just that. It was designed by talent borrowed from Lotus, it goes 0-60 mph in about 4 seconds, and can travel up to 250 miles on a single charge. Did I mention it looks frickin' sweet? Anyways, it costs around $100,000, which is actually reasonable for a car with this kind of performance. In fact they're already sold out for the 2007 model year, and are taking reservations for the 2008 model. The Telsa Roadster is also whisper quiet, can be charged at home using the included charging device, or on the road using a standard outlet. The company plans to work their way down the car "food-chain" and release a sports sedan next.

Wired Magazine has a great article on the car and the company.

Jay Leno's Bio-Diesel Supercar: the Eco Jet


Recently Jay Leno unveiled his top secret Eco Jet supercar. It features a turbine jet engine that runs on 100% bio-diesel, and a "cruelty free" interior. It was created in collaboration with GM's design team, which explains is similarity to the Cadillac Cien, and a team of Leno's engineers. Unfortunately, while the Eco Jet is designed to be drive it isn't headed for production anytime soon, still it's an excellent demonstration of what's possible with enough cash, expertise, and enthusiasm. While there aren't a lot of specs available (like 0-60 time, or mpg) it does boast an impressive 650 horsepower. The fuel uses is 100% bio-diesel which is made from refined vegetable oils, so it's not quite as eco-friendly as straight vegetable oil (SVO) or waste vegetable oil (WVO), but it's better than bio-diesel blends which combine the bio-diesel and conventional diesel. And, oh yeah, it was all assembled in California.

Lost of links to videos, pictures and more info after the jump.

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Is the next Detroit in California?


Seems like the next hotspot for automotive innovation might be just a few thousand miles west of Detroit. Specifically there's Tesla Motors making an electric roadster that goes 0-60 in about 4 seconds, Lovecraft Bio-Fuels converting diesel Mercedes to run on waste vegetable oil, and Jay Leno's EcoJet making a supercar that runs on bio-diesel (yes that Jay Leno). This probably is the best evidence that when high gas prices and smog become unacceptable, people actually start to make things happen. More on each of these amazing automotive savants shortly.

Volvo Multi-Fuel: 5 Fuels, 1 Car, All Wagon


Volvo has created a prototype vehicle that runs on 5 different fuels; hythane (10% hydrogen and 90% methane), biomethane, natural gas (CNG), bioethanol E85 (85% bioethanol and 15% petrol) and petrol. Volvo's press release has a great quote from the project leader, Mats Morén:

The idea is to make use of the fuels that are produced locally, says Mats Morén. This means that less fuel needs to be transported between continents, and you can fill up the car on the fuel that is available wherever you are.

Wow, that's a refreshingly good idea. Read on for more info, and links to pictures.

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