Wired did a cool article recently about advanced car technology. They said it was about stuff from NASA, but that was just a small part of it. The gallery for the article was much more interesting than the article itself.
Here are some of the high points:
- Digital Valves
- Sturman Industries of Woodland Park, Colorado has a system where there’s no cam in the engine, and the valves are controlled digitally. This allows the fuel flow to be far more precise, which leads to dramatic increases in efficiency. They built an inline-6 diesel motor and put it in a modified International and drove it to the top of Pike’s Peak without shutting it off, which is very stressful on any engine.
- Lightning Car
- The Lightning Car Company made the car pictured above, The Lightning Car. It’s electric of course, but they did some cool stuff with it. Instead of one motor pushing the entire car, each wheel has its own motor. This is great for traction control, as well as getting rid of all the complexity of a drive shaft and axles. It allows for the batteries to be stored where an engine would have been, and still have plenty of boot and bonnet space (it’s British). Most interestingly to me however, is the fact that they use the motors for braking as well as acceleration. Normal cars lose a tremendous amount of energy to heat while breaking. The Lightning uses its motors as generators when braking, and transfers that energy back to the batteries as electricity. Clever.
- Other Electric Motors
- PML Flightlink is a company that makes electric motors similar to the ones used in the Lightning. As a demo of what their motors can do, they converted a Mini to use an electric motor on each wheel. Before this, the only electric Minis were the ones specially built to run in the subways in The Italian Job. PML’s mini can do 0-60 in 4 seconds, and go 200 miles on a charge. Additionally, it has a small gasoline engine, so you can recharge the batteries with it in a pinch.
- The Tango
- The Tango was made by a guy that noticed how many commuters traveled alone in a car built for 4. So he made a narrow car that seats two, front and back. It can park in the same amount of space as a Honda Goldwing. At first I wondered about stability, but all the batteries are below the axles, so it’s almost impossible to tip it over. Extremely cool. Their web site is poorly engineered, so I’ll like directly to their gallery from here.
- The Tesla
- I almost didn’t include this one in my post because it’s been around a while, but The Tesla car is extremely cool, for all that it’s crazy expensive.