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The Rocket Truck

October 19, 2006
The Rocket Truck

October 20, 2006 Orion Propulsion President Tim Pickens, worked for several small aerospace start-ups before launching his own company. Along the way he was the lead propulsion developer for Burt Rutan on the X-PRIZE-winning SpaceShipOne at Scaled Composites, and he has worked on engine programs ranging from 100lbf to 50,000lbf thrust (a regeneratively-cooled rocket motor for NASA on the Fastrac Block II engine program). He also was a Project Engineer leading the design and construction of a prototype Space Shuttle Main Engine combustion chamber utilizing advanced aerospace materials and manufacturing processes. We could go on, but you get the picture. He knows his stuff, so it’s particularly interesting to see what Senior Propellant Specialist Pickens built when he decided to employ his expertise to build a 2750 lb thrust nitrous-oxide rocket-propelled truck. The engine is controlled by a hand-held gaming controller and dash-mounted LCD screens allow the pilot and co-pilot, (passenger) to watch the engine and add to the thrill of the ride. A video of the engine he is using firing up is available here. The truck will be on display this weekend at the X PRIZE Cup  Read More

The gorgeous Audi open-top TT

October 20, 2006 The new Audi open-top TT sports car will go on sale next month with first delivery dates in November 2007, and judging from the spec announced this week, the queue will be long … very long. The fully automatic ‘hands-free’ roof operation on the sister car to the world’s most beautiful car comes with improved sound insulation and the Advanced Audi Space Frame construction blends 58% aluminium and 42% steel (Coupe 69% / 31%) for outstanding weight distribution, excellent torsional rigidity and a kerb weight of just 1,295kg, the TT Roadster 3.2 quattro will sell for UKP 31,535 OTR. There’s a retractable spoiler to maintain downforce and maximise stability at speed but the real killer-app contained within these sleek lines is the futuristic magnetic ride system. The sophisticated dampers are filled with magnetorheological fluid containing minute magnetic particles that are influenced by an electromagnetic field. By applying a voltage to the system’s electromagnets, the viscosity of the fluid is altered by the affected magnetic particles, increasing resistance to damper movement to iron out pitch and roll when necessary, and reducing resistance when ride comfort takes precedence.  Read More

Fiat Adventure Concept Car changes colour

October 19, 2006 Not a great deal of information has been released in English about the newly revealed Fiat Adventure Crossover Concept Car shown at the Sao Paolo Autoshow to celebrate Fiat’s 30th anniversary in Brazil. Designed by Centro Estilo Fiat do Brasil, the Concept Car Adventure is powered by a 167 bhp five-cylinder 2.4 litre engine from the Fiat Stilo Abarth. The two-seater Adventure is painted in color-changing paint and accordingly varies in appearance from yellow to red.  Read More

Wild thing – the Hummer GT

October 18, 2006 The HUMMER GT from is certainly an eyecatcher, whether it’s at a standstill with its gullwing doors ajar, rolling at walking pace on its giant 30-inch seven league boots or exercising its 556 bhp supercharged engine hurtling the GT along the nearest autobahn at 225 km/h. The cockpit of the car is like the pilot’s console in the low flying aircraft it so very nearly is. There’s everything from color-coded instruments and a multimedia system including a navigation system, DVD player, TV receiver and two LCD-screens which are integrated in the dashboard and a specially designed roof console. It’s the high tech hamburger with THE LOT – for you, EUR133,900 (US$168,000).  Read More

i Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle (i MiEV)

October 12, 2006 Mitsubishi will display a new research vehicle, the Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle (MiEV) at the 22nd International Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Symposium & Expo (EVS-22) in Yokohama later this month. The next-generation "i MiEV" electric vehicle will be used for joint research programmes with power companies that will conduct field tests, gather data and evaluate the commercial viability of the vehicle. Based on MMC's "i" mini-car, it is powered by a compact and lightweight motor and high-energy density lithium-ion batteries which replace the i's rear-midship combustion engine and surprisingly few modifications were required in the conversion. Unlike previous Mitsubishi elevctric vehicles, the I MiEV uses a single 47 kW motor to drive both rear wheels instead of four in-wheel electric motors. The car has a top speed of 130 km/h  Read More

SmartCODEC image compression for automotive apps

October 9, 2006 There is an increasing need to use multiple video channels in automobiles, such as for video images from multiple surveillance (rear vision, backing and parking cameras), navigation system images and video for passengers watching on rear-seat monitors. Analog signals have been used thus far but require a separate cable to be wired for each channel, a process that has become complicated as the number of channels has increased. This has resulted in demand for a technology capable of multiplex transmission of images on a single in-vehicle LAN. Fujitsu has developed image compression specifically for automotive use with a compression rate of one-third (1/3), and a compression-decompression time of just 2 to 3 milliseconds that enables compression and multiplex transmission of images to inside the vehicle, such as images from multiple automotive cameras located externally on the vehicle. This not only makes for a safer car, but a cheaper car as it will reduce the amount of cable required within a vehicle.  Read More

Siemens VDO control centre for vehicle fleets

October 9, 2006 The vice-like grip of increasingly competitive pressure is forcing every aspect of business to become as efficient as possible and one area where there is plenty of fat to be pared away with new technologies is in the operation of automotive and trucking fleets. To help fleet operators increase efficiency, Siemens VDO recently unveiled its new Vehicle Control Center (VCC) at the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2006 show in Hanover, Germany. This forward-looking hardware and software platform bundles numerous functions inside the truck and networks them externally, opening up many possibilities. With new services such as truck-specific navigation, innovative remote vehicle diagnostics and intelligent fleet management solutions, fleets can optimize operation of their vehicles. On the other side, commercial vehicle manufacturers can meet their customers’ needs easier and therefore gain a competitive advantage. In addition, they can integrate new functions into future generations of vehicles more quickly, more simply and more economically. Siemens VDO’s VCC will be ready for series production by the end of the decade.  Read More

Volkswagen Atacama 4WD van concept

October 7, 2006 Ooooh, we really like this one - VW has revealed a striking off-road vehicle based on the recently-launched Crafter van. Named Atacama, after the desert in South America, the four-wheel drive concept is the product of the Volkswagen Design Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany, and shows further potential for the Crafter in the leisure and fun segment. ’could become a limited production vehicle. VW Sales Manager, Harald Schomburg, is very enthusiastic and is seeking customer feedback. "If it is positive", says Schomberg, "we will build a series of up to 100 vehicles." So there you have it folks - email your local distributor if you think this is a good idea.  Read More

Four channel, multi-camera, automotive Digital Video Recorders

October 4, 2006 As digital imaging becomes cheaper to implement, one wonders to just what extent we’ll see security video systems deployed around our homes and that other piece of costly travelling real estate, the automobile. When we saw this new 4-channel DVD quality mobile digital video recording system we weren’t thinking about its intended market of police cars, public transportation, and school buses, but where we might get to a decade from now when video systems might well become an integral part of every automobile. Apart from being readily available to assist with parking and reversing (analog rear vision mirrors don’t zoom), they could also verify insurance claims, sense nearby cars and people and alert the driver, and bear faultless testimony to any accidents. Who knows, as digital storage becomes a legitimate part of the automobile's entertainment armoury, we may eventually find multiple camera systems keeping records of every business-related trip.  Read More

Caparo completes build of first T1 prototype

October 3, 2006 We’ve been writing about the Caparo T1 since it was first announced in April of this year as a 500bhp, 500 kilogram road car with the cornering ability of a Le Mans prototype and one of the fastest 0-60mph times of any roadgoing car in the world (2.5 seconds). We wrote about its debut at the prestigeous Monaco Top Marques Show, it’s appearance at Goodwood Festival of Speed and we’re now pleased to bring the first piccies of the lightweight tandem two-seater’s first running prototype and the news that the order book for the first year's supply, which begins in March 2007, is already half gone. The car’s creators – design director Ben Scott-Geddes and engineering director Graham Halstead – climbed into the high performance two-seater last week to start the engine and complete the first trial run.  Read More

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