By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
A quick look at some new ideas and technologies; sooner or later you’ll have to deal with these. Maybe.
Solar glass: New Energy Technologies, Inc., has announced development of what they’re calling Solar Window prototypes. The technology uses ultra thin, see-through solar cells to generate electricity when exposed to light. The cells are connected by a grid of almost invisible wires.
The company says its present work is targeted at building applications, it’s no stretch at all to foresee the product appearing in sunroofs and fixed glass on vehicles. The generated power would contribute to the battery pack on a hybrid or all-electric vehicle.
Charging for charging: In all the hoopla about developing and installing charging stations for electric vehicles, one matter remained unmentioned in the public news releases: while the first ones are free now, users will eventually be charged for hooking up. The question was how to charge them.
In most states, only licensed utilities can sell electricity. Thus, a private company such as a mall couldn’t legally charge an EV driver for connecting. Now, some states are moving to change those laws to encourage installation of charging points. Colorado recently adopted rules allowing private businesses to purchase a re-seller’s license specifically allowing them to sell charging at vehicle connection points. Other states are known to be looking at similar legislation as well.
Anticipated charges of about $1 per hour were mentioned, but nothing compels a business to charge for power — some may choose to offer free charging as an enticement to their customers.
More ethanol: The U.S. EPA has approved E15 for sale to customers at gas stations. The blend increases the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline to 15 percent. The present E10, required in some areas, will remain available.
This decision is controversial, and EPA has approved the fuel only for vehicles made since 2001. Earlier products may not have fuel system components which will withstand the additional alcohol.
The move had been opposed by several vehicle makers and strongly opposed by makers of small engines for lawn equipment and gas powered tools. Objections hinge on two main points.
Alcohol is an efficient cleaner and solvent, and there are fears that fuel filters and small passages will become clogged as dirt and crud is dislodged and brought through the system. Some also fear for the coatings inside fuel tanks. As well, alcohol absorbs water very efficiently and makers fear that components will rust as the fuel with water sits in the system.
Sale of E15 is now permitted but is not required. Industry observers have noted that both individual state laws and concern about product liability may restrict or delay the fuel’s appearance but some suppliers and vendors are already gearing up
The heat may be on: Although they’ve been available in Europe for years, electrically heated windshields don’t appear on U.S. cars. We still do it with hot defroster air—hard to get quickly on a cold day—but others use a variety of electric methods for near instant results.
Many OEMs seem dead set against any sort of fine wires in the front glass for either aesthetics or safety so that limits many of the options from the start. Another drawback is the sheer size of the front glass; any electric system for it will require a lot of power to heat sufficiently.
European companies may be building a solution that can work here, at least for some light vehicles. Many windshields already incorporate a silver coating as an anti-sunshine component. By applying electricity to the coating, it can be made to heat up and melt frost and ice. Variations on the idea are being used by Ford of Europe, Renault, Peugeot, and Audi among others.
One drawback is that speedy heating requires some serious amperage to be delivered, and some makers are considering using a 42-volt circuit to do the job. That’s a bit of a trick on a nominal 12-volt system but one easily done if the car has high-voltage battery packs and other systems already using 42 volts. Don’t be surprised if this idea shows up first on battery and all-electric vehicles.
He said it: In this era of on-board connectivity, BlueTooth, and GPS tracking it was refreshing to read another view. Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volvo, recently quoted a company study showing that three quarters of Volvo owners didn’t understand most of what their cars could do.
“Our cars are too complicated or the consumer,” he said. Our intention is to have an intuitive car that lets the driver actually feel like he’s in command.”
And one technology you won’t see any more: Mazda built its last rotary engine on June 22. The company has decided to focus its development money elsewhere, and the “Renesis” engine, based on the original Wankel, will whirr in new products no more.
Last seen in the company’s RX-8, the rotary engine was noted for having very compact size and light weight as well as its ability to rev to almost-silly RPM levels. Unfortunately, it will also be remembered for its high fuel consumption, its thirst for oil and giving its engineers fits when bringing it into emission compliance.
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