So it turns all those hybrid car owners who turn their environmentally conscious noses up have an unexpected caveat to their green-ness--their cars are sucking up rare earth metals at a disturbing rate.
Rare earth elements take up 17 slots on the periodic table, and are named not for their overall scarcity (they're actually quite common in trace elements throughout the Earth's core) but for the relatively uncommon minerals in which they were originally found; few rare earth elements exist in pure elemental form naturally.
My primary means of getting around town is a 1979 Land Rover that has been fitted out with a 2005 300 TDI engine. You may have seen me walking this morning with my head down. Yes, I walked 30 minutes for a cup of coffee. I enjoy walking, but it is hard to build a house without a truck.
My Land Rover doesn't have one temp gauge; it has two. I look at both and compare them and wonder why one is higher. None of the gauges are correct, so it really matters very little. That was till yesterday, when I found myself at 65 mph with my head out the window, the cabin filled with white smoke, and a serious panic on. I managed to find the shoulder, and bailed out, thinking the rig was on fire.
The wind tunnel is an invaluable tool for designing cars that can slice through the air with a minimum of drag. But a team of researchers in the UK are gleaning new aerodynamic insight from a more revealing medium: soap bubbles. Engineers at automotive research consultancy Mira rigged a system of motion-tracking cameras to track the movement of tiny, helium-filled soap bubbles as they swirl around a subject vehicle, capturing its airflow profile in more detail than a wind tunnel ever could.
Just like its counterparts at Honda and GM who've announced they'll produce hydrogen fuel-cell cars, Mercedes-Benz hopes the whole "if you build it" thing doesn't just apply to Shoeless Joe Jackson. Mercedes announced today the company will build a hydrogen-fueled version of its European B-Class hatchback called the F-Cell for the US and Europe. It'll arrive by early 2010, far ahead of the massive hydrogen infrastructure the company acknowledges will be required for wide adoption of such cars.
BMW's new experimental vehicle may get 63 miles on a gallon of diesel and can travel 31 miles in all-electric mode, but it also scores in the performance realm -- with a zero-to-60-mph time in the de rigueur modern sports-car range of under five seconds.
Fans of progressive auto design will likely cock an eye at its posturing curves and layered surfaces, but the big story is the Vision's plug-in hybrid drive system, which pairs two electric motors with a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder turbodiesel engine, together producing 356 horsepower.
An electric Humvee may still sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to environmentalists, but the company developing a plug-in Hummer H3e claims its green version can get 100 mpg on average. And what's a little boasting without taking a shot at the competition?
Ask anyone who's ever talked back to their GPS navigation system: Product developers are pretty good at using technology to humanize inanimate objects. But how would you like it if your car responded to your presence -- lighting up with delight or panting like a pet dog? What if, more helpfully, it recognized your touch on the steering wheel, and queued up your favorite MP3s and set your seating position just the way you liked it?
This morning, at California's Edwards Air Force Base, a British steam car put the kettle to the metal and broke the oldest-standing land speed record. Driver Charles Burnett III piloted the car to speeds of 136 mph and 151 mph during two separate runs.
British engineers celebrated a triumph that comes after days of setbacks and 10 years of development. Attempts to break the record last week had faltered when the steam car's turbine became stuck, although the car had unofficially broken the record during test runs.
Tesla's new teaser photos may be the first ones showing the new Model S sedan in mid-flog, but don't expect to catch one along the coast highway just yet. Tesla says the first deliveries of the $57,400 all-electric sedan (with a $7,500 government rebate check in hand, the price will drop just below 50 large) will commence in 2011. The company says they've already taken more than 1,000 pre-orders, along with deposits of $5,000 a pop. Here's to you, early adopters.
The Gumpert Apollo Speed may be uglier than a naked mole rat (please, don't Google the rat, trust me), but it's also ridiculously fast. So fast, indeed, that the Apollo this week set the fastest lap time of any production car around German's legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife. Why does that matter? It proves some people will never stop manipulating physics for purposes of speed, no matter how much time others spend on fuel efficiency. Twenty-six-year-old racing driver Florian Gruber did the lap in 7:11.57, taking a 10-second bite out of the Dodge Viper's record of 7:22.1.