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New Lightweight Concept vehicle uses aluminum, ultra-high-strength steel, magnesium and carbon fiber to shed pounds.

By Douglas Newcomb Jun 4, 2014 9:05AM

Ford Lightweight Concept vehicle. Photo by Ford.To squeeze every mile from a tank of gas, engines are not only getting more fuel efficient, but vehicles are also becoming more lightweight. Even the upcoming 2015 Ford F-150 is shedding pounds thanks to an aluminum body.


Now Ford is looking to what it calls “light-weighting” to further reduce mass and save gas by focusing on individual components, and has unveiled a concept vehicle based on the Fusion sedan that uses advanced materials. Ford’s new Lightweight Concept vehicle employs aluminum, ultra-high-strength steel, magnesium and carbon fiber in what Ford called “a holistic approach” to reduce weight in powertrain, chassis and body components and even interior features such as seats.

 

But while lighter-weight vehicle components can save fuel and therefore money at the pump, for now they’re more costly to add to a car.

 

Feature of car’s Performance Data Recorder locks storage compartments, disables the radio and videos joy rides.

By Douglas Newcomb 6 hours ago

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Valet Mode. Photo by Chevrolet.It’s a typical question in the minds of many car owners -- and especially those with high-performance cars -- when they hand the keys to a parking valet: What will they do with my car that I won’t know or see?


You have some clues if you get back in your car and the radio station has been changed and the stereo is cranked or there’s extra miles on the odometer. But you don't always know if they’ve pilfered items from storage compartments or took your car for a joy ride.


Now owners of 2015 Chevrolet Corvettes can keep their cars safe and also capture most of what happens with the Valet Mode that’s part of the optional Performance Data Recorder. It not only locks the car’s storage compartments and disables the radio, but also records video, audio and vehicle data even while the owner is away from the vehicle.


“Think of it as a baby monitor for your car,” Harlan Charles, Corvette product manager, said in a statement. “Anyone who has felt apprehension about handing over their keys will appreciate the peace of mind of knowing exactly what happened while their baby was out of sight.”

 

VW’s super Golf is faster than a GTI -- but is it more fun?

By James_Tate 6 hours ago

You’ve probably seen the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R in photos by now, which means you know it looks a heck of a lot like the 2015  Golf GTI. There are a few visual tweaks here and there, granted, but does the Golf R bring something like 10 grand more goodness than the GTI?


Volkswagen hasn’t announced pricing, but the previous R was around $35,000 and the GTI starts at around $10,000 less than that. See, the GTI is a hell of a good car by any standard, and as you may have expected, the Golf R and the GTI share a lot in common -- even the engine is a couple ticks short of the same.

 

The Golf R makes substantially more power thanks to a larger turbocharger, different pistons and a revised cylinder head design, and unlike any other Golf, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. There are a few styling cues that set it apart from the GTI both inside and out, but it hardly feels like a completely different car when you swing the door open and plop buttocks in the seat. The shift action is shorter and more positive, and there are blue things smattered about, like the gauge needles and the ambient lighting. There are gigantic quad exhaust pipes, a lot like those that can be found on Audi thundercars (I already miss the center-exit system of the previous R).

 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes first steps toward mandating V2V technology on new vehicles.

By Douglas Newcomb Tue 1:59 PM

Image by NHTSAFollowing a yearlong, 3,000-car trial of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking the first steps toward mandating the crash-prevention technology on new vehicles.


NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation have released a proposal and extensive research report on V2V technology that includes analysis of the yearlong field trial in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and other findings in the areas of technical feasibility, safety benefits, privacy, security and estimates on costs.


NHTSA said it would issue another report this month before DOT officials "begin working on a regulatory proposal" to be issued before President Obama leaves office in just over two years. NHTSA is also seeking public input on its research “to support the Department’s regulatory work to eventually require V2V devices in new light vehicles.”

 

Automaker’s 'hacker princess' heads to Def Con to hire 20 to 30 security researchers

By Douglas Newcomb Tue 8:38 AM

Tesla Model S. Photo by Tesla.As cars become more connected and potentially leave their electronics exposed to hackers, Tesla is using the time-honored "if you can't beat them, join them" approach to battle the threat. Or, more specifically, have them join you. That’s why the cutting-edge electric vehicle automaker was at the recent Def Con security conference in Las Vegas to recruit hackers.


The annual event is where the world’s top network security experts and good-guy “white hat” hackers gather to network, discuss the latest security flaws and devise ways to keep malicious “black hat” hackers at bay. It was also the site of the release of a much-publicized list of the top 20 most hackable vehicles by a team of security researchers.


Tesla felt it was fertile ground for recruiting people to help to keep its cars from being compromised, especially after white hat hackers at the SyScan 360 security conference in China last month revealed that they were able to bypass the security protocols of a Tesla Model S to remotely operate the door locks, sound the horn and open the sunroof.

 

Ultra-high-end S-class gains a foot in length.

By AutoWeek Tue 7:31 AM




Maybach is on its way back -- though as an ultra-high-end trim level for the new S-Class sedan rather than a stand-alone marque. And this clip of what appears to be a Maybach sedan testing on the Nürburgring, courtesy of the dedicated ’Ring videographers at TouriClips, shows just how close to reality this Bentley Mulsanne competitor really is.


Based on what we can see in the video, the car will look more or less like our early rendering -- except the additional length (about a foot) seems to sit behind the rear doors in the area covered by black camouflage. The result is a more elegant roofline than we guessed at, but the overall proportions are more or less spot-on.


Unlike the Maybach 57 and 62, which were based on the architecture of the Mercedes-Benz W140 -- a sturdy platform, but one that the S-class had already replaced by the time the Maybachs went into production -- this new luxe sedan will share its underpinnings with the current W222 S-class.

 

To no surprise, '90s-era Accords and Civics were the most stolen cars, along with domestic pickups

By Clifford Atiyeh Sun 7:01 PM
It's not easy to steal a new car. Anti-theft key codes, engine immobilzers and satellite tracking systems with the ability to slow or shut down a stolen vehicle are widely available -- and they work. So it's no surprise that year after year, the most stolen cars on American roads are early to mid-'90s Honda Accords and Civics.

According to the latest theft data reported by law enforcement and compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit insurance organization, most of the stolen cars reported to police in 2013 were hot-selling models built before 2000. Final numbers have yet to be announced by the FBI, but the NICB expects a 3.2-percent drop in thefts versus 2012, at under 700,000 cars. That would be a record low not seen since 1967 and a 50-percent drop since a high of 1.66 million cars were stolen in 1991.

On average, a car is stolen every 45 seconds and equates to $4 billion in losses each year. Here are the 217,151 cars (of the roughly 700,000 in total) that popped up enough to make the NICB top 10 list of most stolen models.  

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

By Douglas Newcomb Fri 11:21 AM

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 Fri 8:16 AM

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.

 

Contributors

  • 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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