Exhaust Notes

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Diesel bike converted to run on biofuel made from bacon grease for Hormel promo.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 15, 2014 11:21AM

Bacon-fueled bike. Photo by Hormel.When biodiesel was all the rage a few years ago, it was a running joke that you could get behind a car powered by cooking oil scavenged from the deep fryer at a local fast food joint and get a whiff of French fries. In the last few weeks if you were driving between Minnesota and California, you may have been passed by a motorcycle with an exhaust that smelled like fried bacon.

Hormel, the brand synonymous with packaged meat products, created a motorcycle fueled by bacon grease and sponsored a road trip from the company’s headquarters in Austin, Minnesota, to San Diego. The destination: the Hormel Black Label Bacon Fest that takes place over the last week of August.

But as any road-tripper knows, the real destination is the journey. Or in this case, the chance for Hormel to promote one of its premier products through a series of videos that document a "Driven by Bacon" publicity stunt.


Report looks at what to do with the EV batteries that are predicted to pile up.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 15, 2014 8:16AM

Checy Spark EV battery. Photo by G<.Driving an electric vehicle is considered good for the environment since it doesn’t use gas and causes zero tailpipe emissions. But one question that EV naysayers ask -- and nags at the owners of these green vehicles -- is what happens to the battery pack when the car comes to the end of its life.

While the number of lithium-ion battery packs used by EVs is dwarfed by the prevalence of traditional (and highly toxic) lead-acid 12-volt car batteries, a recent report predicts that there will be between 1.3 million and 6.7 million used EV batteries in 20 years. Lead-acid batteries are currently one of the most recycled consumer products for environmental as well as economic reasons. But there isn’t a large-scale recycling program in place for EV batteries, except via individual automakers. 

The report by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University in California looked solely at the recycled value of EV batteries, which doesn’t appear promising from a business standpoint. But EV batteries could have a second life and further help the environment in the process.


Video shows driver climbing into the back seat as car barrels down the autobahn.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 13, 2014 2:00PM

Image courtesy of YouTubeThe thought of self-driving cars operating on public roads scares some people, although they have no problem hopping on a passenger jet that will be on autopilot for most of the flight. They may also be startled to learn there are already several vehicles that can practically drive themselves on the highway, thanks to driver assistance features such as lane-centering and adaptive cruise control.

But they should be frightened to see what a careless daredevil driver did in an Infiniti Q50. The anonymous driver, who made a video to show off his stupid stunt, tried out the car's self-driving features while cruising on the German autobahn by not only taking his hands off the wheel, but also by climbing in the back seat.


Silverstone Auctions to offer restored Rangie that has been hiding in plain sight for years.

By AutoWeek Aug 13, 2014 5:44AM

The original Range Rover is a modern classic so far ahead of its time when it was first introduced, it took automotive historians a while to recognize its importance. Next month, Silverstone Auctions will be selling an example of the first-generation Range Rover from the first year of production.

If that weren't enough, it'll be the first Range Rover off the line. That's right, you read that correctly: the very first production Range Rover with chassis number 33500001A is going up for auction.

This example is said to have been completed on Dec. 17, 1969, being the first full-production example that followed a group of 28 preproduction cas disguised during testing badged as "VELARs." The car with chassis number 33500001A and engine number 35500001 was first registered in January of 1970, a full five months before the Range Rover went into "wide release." Silverstone states that this example was first owned by Michael Forlong, the producer of the two Range Rover promotion films: "A car for all reasons" and "Sahara South."


Researchers test in-dash alerts telling drivers to stop or yield only when other cars are present.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 12, 2014 2:17PM

Photo by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Most motorists have seen drivers ignore a traffic sign and fail to stop or yield — and have probably been guilty of it themselves. But what would happen if those traffic signs didn’t exist and were replaced with electronic signs and warnings via an in-dash screen? And the warnings would only be shown if another vehicle was present at an intersection?

That’s what researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute want to find out in an experiment that relies on technology rather than metal signs. The research is designed to not only provide safe traffic flow, but also save time and fuel for drivers and cut down on emissions caused by cars stopping or slowing for no reason.

"The idea is there would be no physical stop or yield signs on the side of the road, but they would be inside the vehicle," Alexandria Noble, the Virginia Tech master's student leading the research project, told Phsy.org. And it’s more than just an idea since Noble and VTTI conducted real-world trials with vehicles and drivers to test the concept.


J.D. Power exec says carmakers need to go back to basics before adding features.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 11, 2014 11:47AM

Honda AccordAnyone who has ever used a car’s voice recognition (VR) system knows how frustratingly inconsistent the technology can be.

While it works well in some vehicles, VR often struggles to perform even simple tasks such as calling a contact in the address book of a connected Bluetooth phone and finding a navigation destination. So it's no wonder when you ask for the nearest gas station, the system may reply (from a real-world example), “Find a Chinese restaurant.”

Kristin Kolodge, a director at J.D. Power and Associates, has some advice for automakers on how to fix the problem: Don’t add new VR features until you can first get the basic ones working well. Her position well-founded by J.D. Power’s annual Initial Quality Study, which at looks at problems and annoyances owners report on new cars in the first 90 days.


New sports car reportedly called Z35.

By AutoWeek Aug 11, 2014 11:34AM

The next-generation Nissan Z car will exhibit some wild changes from the current model. Things reportedly on the menu include a new name -- Z35 -- along with targa and T-top roof options and an engine from Mercedes.

Motoring.com.au talked to its sources at Nissan who said the Z car has traditionally been aimed at the U.S. and Japan, but that the next one will be a global sports car. It will target German contenders like the Porsche Boxster and Audi TT, and the convertible will have a retractable folding hard top, as opposed to today’s cloth top. The source also said the company is mulling both targa and T-top roofs.


Automaker has recalled more than 29 million cars a total of 65 times this year.

By Exhaust Notes Aug 11, 2014 10:25AM
General Motors is recalling more than 461,000 cars in North America to fix ignition switches, seat belts and various problems, the automaker said on late Friday.

The latest recalls bring GM's yearly total to 65 recall campaigns and roughly 29.1 million cars.

On 2002-2004 Saturn Vue SUVs, the ignition key can be removed when the car is not switched off, which of course is a major problem. GM said it knew of at least two crashes and one injury related to the switch. Dealers will replace the switch and keys "if necessary"; they won't replace the faulty switches by default. A total of 202,115 cars in the U.S. are affected. 


  • Cliff Atiyeh

    Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
    In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)

  • Doug Newcomb

    Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
    In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V

  • James Tate

    James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
    In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5

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