Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Audi going to full LED lighting on the R8 for just $5,600

In the ongoing effort to improve fuel efficiency on vehicles, automakers are looking for ways to reduce parasitic losses that absorb power from the engine rather than sending it to the drive wheels. That means replacing constant drive hydraulic steering assist systems with on-demand electric equivalents and just generally trying to cut the power requirements for all accessory systems. One area that draws power is the lighting system. Cutting the power requirements for headlights is a tricky problem since performance needs to be maintained for safety reasons. One of the best new technologies for lighting is LEDs. Last year Lexus launched LED low beam headlamps on the LS600h and now Audi is taking the next step with the R8 sports car.

Audi has just added a new full LED light option that includes high and low beams, turn signals and daytime running lights. The cluster contains 54 LEDs that never wear out, provide better lighting performance and use less power. There is just one problem, as usual with new technology: it's expensive. Audi is charging a €3,590 ($5,600 U.S.) premium for the full LED system. Eventually the price will come down, hopefully sooner rather than later and on a car like the R8 it probably won't make much difference to the mileage. Nonetheless all of these little things add up and help. Going forward as we move to electrified cars, reducing the electrical power draw will be even more critical. By the middle of the next decade when we have significant numbers of electric cars coming to our roads we will probably start seeing LED lighting going mainstream. Details from Audi after the break.

Spotted in the wild: 1968 Lamborghini Islero

For a car fan it's always cool to be wandering around somewhere and stumble across an extremely rare automobile. That's especially when it's out on the road in a most unlikely of locales. My wife and I took a little road trip this weekend in the new Saab Turbo X (you'll be hearing more about that soon!) to Yellow Springs, Ohio. For those unfamiliar with Yellow Springs, it's a small town northeast of Dayton that is home to Antioch College and Dave Chappelle. As we were walking to get some dinner, I noticed a very red coupe with an extraordinarily long hood. It looked vaguely familiar, but I knew I had never seen one in the metal before. I grabbed my camera and started shooting away. It turns out the car was a GT known as the Lamborghini Islero. Isleros were built in 1968 and 69 following the end of the 400GT run and preceding the Jarama. Unfortunately for Lamborghini, the rather sedately-styled Islero didn't have the flash of the gorgeous Miura that debuted in 1969 and it never sold in large numbers. According to Lamborghini, only 225 were built including 70 "S" models in 1969 with slight body changes and a more luxurious interior. The Islero was propelled by Lamborghini's 4.0L 350hp V12. If the owner of this car sees this post please get in touch and share the story of your car.

Hole in One this weekend earns LPGA golfer one of first Aspen Hybrids

Last summer Ichiro Suzuki was selected as the MVP of the baseball All-Star game and got the keys to one of the first Chevy Tahoe Two-Mode Hybrids. At the time, those SUVs were still more than six months away from production. This year, Chrysler is getting ready to launch their own full-size hybrid SUVs and they may be awarding one of the early production Aspen Hybrids to a women golfer at the Ginn Tribute LPGA tournament this weekend. If any of the 144 golfers, including Annika Sorenstarn, shoot a hole-in-one during the tournament they will get one of the first Aspens.

The Aspen and its twin Dodge Durango hybrid don't go on sale until this fall but they are set up very much like the corresponding GM hybrids. The same two-mode hybrid transmission is paired up with a large V8, in Chrysler's case the 5.7L HEMI. The HEMI is also equipped with cylinder deactivation allowing it to run on either four or eight cylinders. The nickel metal hydride battery pack is installed below the second row seat. While GM is offering their hybrids with either rear or all wheel drive, Chrysler is only planning to offer the Aspen/Durango with the latter configuration. The Chrysler press release is after the jump.

eBay Find of the Day: 1923 Model T powered by Harley V-Twin

ubiquitous Model T has seen its fair share of modifications over the
years. Often powered by an engine other than what was originally
designed for the large engine bay, countless variations of the hot rod
theme have made Henry Ford's original mass-market vehicle a highly
desirable machine to customize. Today, we've stumbled across an
entirely new way to power the T, and it's just too cool not to share.
Behind the custom spiderweb grille of this 1923 Ford Model T
is a 1200cc V-Twin engine taken from the frame rails of a
Harley-Davidson Sportster. Considering how little this vehicle is
likely to weigh, the air-cooled twin cylinder mill with Screaming Eagle
mods is probably plenty powerful to get the vehicle out of its own way.
The owner used quite a few HD cues in the overall design and as many
original parts from the donor bike as was possible. Note the dual rear
shocks suspending the rear axle -- those are from the Sportster, as
well as the foot pegs which now see duty as the gas and brake pedals.
Nice work.

Officially, official: Ford to build Fiesta in Cuautitlán, Mexico, US gets hatch!

has finally made it official: the upcoming Fiesta for the North
American market will be built at the company's assembly plant in
Cuautitlán, Mexico. Job 1 for Ford's new B-class car will be coming up
in early 2010. The plant near Mexico City currently builds F-Series
pickups for the Mexican market and will be re-tooled starting later
this year after production of the current generation trucks winds down.
Once the revamp of the factory is complete, it will supply Fiestas for
all North American markets. As part of the announcement, Ford also
confirmed that U.S. customers will also get three body flavors of the
Fiesta to choose from. In addition to the originally planned four-door
sedan, we will indeed get both the three- and five-door hatchbacks. No
word yet on which powertrains we'll get for the Fiesta.

also announced that the Chihuahua Engine Plant that builds four
cylinder engines right now will add a new line to produce diesels for
the light and medium duty trucks. This would be the 4.4L diesel V8 that
is being added to the F-Series lineup next year.

Audi R10 TDI using biofuel for the first time

In the world of alternative power, not all fuels are created equal.
This fact is true with ethanol, where the alcohol can be made using
fairly inefficient processes, some of which involve corn, or using more
advanced cellulosic methods which do not use a foodstock. Diesel too
can come from either petroleum or from non-dino sources. You're
probably aware that Audi has been assaulting various race tracks using
its advanced diesel powered race cars, specifically its two-time Le
Mans-winning R10 TDI,
which has so far been running on what is known as gas-to-liquid (GTL)
diesel fuel. With the 24 Hours of Le Mans just around the corner, Audi
and Shell, the fuel provider for Audi's race team, have announced that
the team will be blending a small amount of biomass-to-liquid (BTL)
fuel into its secret mixture. Shell's BTL fuel is made from materials
such as wood chips and will make its on-track debut on Sunday, June 1,
as Audi's R10 TDI begins its official Le Mans testing.