French Students Invent Car That Runs for 2,000 Miles on a Single Liter of Fuel

Photo: Microjoule La Joliverie/Facebook

The Microjoule is an extremely fuel efficient car that can travel over 2,000 miles on just a single liter of fuel. That sounds ridiculously unbelievable, but it’s true. The carbon fiber vehicle is built to accommodate just one person at a time, lying down, which is a weird way to travel, but who cares, when it covers a 200-mile journey for just 20 cents?

The Microjoule is the brainchild of a group of French students at the La Joliverie College in Nantes, western France. They built the superlight vehicle (35 kg) as a part of the 2003 Shell European Eco-Marathon Contest to find the world’s most fuel efficient vehicle. Needless to say, they won, beating 200 other teams competing in the event.

The judges at the contest tested the car on a track in Rotterdam, the Netherlands – they calculated that the car could do 2,072 miles (that’s 3,300 kilometers) per liter of fuel or 9,400 miles per gallon. Which means that driving the Microjoule once around the world would only cost about $26.

One of the students who worked on the project, said: “The car has an internal combustion engine and runs on ordinary fuel. It weighs 35 kg and is made entirely of carbon fibre. It offers very low rolling resistance and air resistance, and a very, very low drag coefficient. For example, when you spin the wheels, they will turn for several miles without ever stopping.”

The car, shaped like a water droplet, has a nose area of 3.3 sq. foot for better aerodynamics. It can run on both petrol and ethanol, and the minimum weight of the driver has to be 50 kg. The high fuel efficiency is a result of its low rolling resistance and the low drag coefficient.

The other cars that were entered into the competition were not very far behind the Microjoule in terms of fuel efficiency. For instance, students from the Hogeschool van Amsterdam also set a circuit record of 266 miles per kilowatt hour with their invention, called H2A. A team from Louis Delage college in Cognac, south west France, won in the Urban Concept category, with a car that achieved over 450 kilometers per liter.

via Oddity Central

Categories: auto

Hazards of Driving in the Rain with Cruise Control


An automobile’s cruise control is a valuable piece of technology. Along with saving gas, the benefit of cruise control is its ability to prevent a driver from exceeding the speed limit. A driver who sets the cruise control at the posted speed limit can pass police officers and cruise through radar sites without having to worry about whether or not they are speeding. Cruise control can save drivers a lot of money in gas and speeding tickets but cruise control can have a down side too. Someone who relies on cruise control too much may find themselves on”auto-pilot” and neglect to pay full attention to their driving. A driver still needs to devote full attention to the road and have a “seat-of-the-pants” feel for their vehicle. This is especially true when driving in the rain.

Rain presents two distinct dangers to a driver; both with essentially the same end result. After a dry spell of any period, accumulated oil, grease, and dirt on the road can create extremely slippery conditions. The roads are most dangerous just after it starts to rain when a light sheen of water is standing on the road. The oil, grease etc. rise up in a layer on top of the water creating conditions similar to ice on the road. It creates such a problem during the summer thunderstorm period in the southeast that it is referred to as “Florida ice.” After a period of heavy rain, the oil and grease will wash off the road and the slippery conditions diminish.

Heavy rain however creates a separate and equally dangerous situation. When water stands on the road, it can become deep enough that the tires can’t squeeze the water through the tread fast enough. When this happens, the tires can actually rise up on top of the water and ride across the water like water skis creating a condition known as “hydroplaning.” Hydroplaning can start at speeds as low as 35 mph and becomes especially dangerous at speeds above 55 mph. The higher the speed, the greater the chance of hydroplaning.

In either situation, the first step a driver should take to counteract skidding is to take his/her foot off the gas pedal in order to slow the car’s speed. Unless you have anti-lock brakes, you shouldn’t apply the brakes until you have the car under control and the speed is reduced. Applying the brakes in a car without anti-lock brakes only adds to the problem. Grasp the steering wheel in both hands, steer toward the direction of the skid and then steer to keep your car centered in your lane.

This is where cruise control presents a problem. Cruise control will want to keep your vehicle going at a constant speed and speed only adds to the problem. Cruise control is disabled when you step on the brakes but that is exactly what you don’t want to do in a skidding situation unless your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes. The safest thing to do when it starts to rain is to disengage the cruise control and lower your speed. Driving in the rain really requires heightened awareness and that seat-of-the-pants feel for the car. Save your cruise control for fair weather.

via The National Safety Commission

Categories: auto, security

Car Care Tips for Spring

April 29, 2014 Leave a comment


1. Read the Directions

Don’t be a hero. When it comes to your car’s paint and interior, put your pride aside and read the label. No matter what product you plan on using to help shed your car’s winter grime, it’s absolutely crucial you follow the instructions and use it the right way. While this may sound like common sense, it bears mentioning because incorrect use of certain products can actually do more harm than good.

2. A thorough wash

Whether you use just soap and water or a dedicated car cleaner, the key here is to be thorough. Let no panel, nook, or cranny go unnoticed, as all of that salt and dirt has surely found its way into your wheel wells and undercarriage. A high-pressure hose is another useful tool for this step.

You should be using two buckets—one for lathering up your sponge or microfiber towel and another for wringing out all of the filth. With just one bucket for both purposes, you’ll only end up scouring the same dirt back into your paint. Once finished, dry the body with a microfiber cloth if there’s one around, rather than a cotton towel.

3. Don’t forget wheels and tires

Pick up a bottle of wheel-and-tire cleaner for the best results. Before you start, make sure you know what metal the wheels are made of. There are dedicated products for aluminum, chrome, and steel, but using the wrong one could be abrasive to your wheels. With the right cleaner, go to work on the wheels and tires while making sure to stay clear from the brake calipers and rotors, which could react unfavorably to the solution. When in doubt, always use the least aggressive product to avoid stains or damage. Dry with a cotton towel.

4. Clay bar for smoothness

Applying white clay, lubricant, and a little pressure will do wonders for your car’s exterior. The texture of the clay will help rub off all of the rough particles which have bonded to your paint, and the final result feels showroom-smooth. You can also use it on glass, which will help rain repellents like Rain-X last longer.

Tear the clay bar into halves or thirds and select a piece to knead out flat. Apply a detailing spray like Meguiar’s Quik Detailer to the surface of the car, and rub the clay side to side. You shouldn’t feel much resistance from the car’s surface—if you do, spray more detailer. When you see that brown or black grime covering the clay bar, do not flip it over to use the other side. Instead fold it in half so there is only white clay on either side, and knead it out flat again. If you run out of white clay on your piece, move on to the next. If at any point you drop the clay bar, immediately discard it. Rubbing potentially abrasive materials back into the paint is something best to avoid.

5. Compound for your finish

Modern compound is made for clear coat paint, and isn’t as gritty and abrasive as it was 25 years ago. It can still make a big difference for the life of your paint, though. Use a dedicated foam applicator and, either by hand or with a dual-action polisher, rub the product into each panel one at a time. Make sure to wipe the surface off with a clean microfiber towel as you go, because the compound can cause damage to the paint if it dries.

6. Polish and Glaze

These products will do the most good for serious show-car enthusiasts, for that extra bit of gloss and sheen. The application process is very similar to that of the compound. It works especially well on black cars, and is a great way to protect your paint for the long term.

7. Waxing

Waxing gives you the best quality of protection for your car over time, so a good wax will mean you don’t have to repeat the process as often in the future. The best advice for applying wax is to use thin and even coats—more is not better, because only so much wax can bond to the car’s surface. In fact, it’s just a waste of wax.

8. Interior: use a dry brush

Pull all of your mats out, and find a dry brush to use on the carpeting. Use the brush to fluff the carpet fibers and follow your work with a vacuum, ideally with an attachment for hard-to-reach places. The same is true for your car’s cloth seats. A casual once-over isn’t going to do the job here, so make sure you take the time to really cover the entire interior surface. Smaller brushes and attachments will prove especially useful for cleaning air vents, which can collect large amounts of dust and dirt.

9. Lather on that leather cleaner

There are plenty of leather cleaner products out there, but see if you can find one that’s made for leather car interiors and seats. Apply the leather cleaner according to the directions and wipe it down with a cotton towel. When your friend’s car is cracking and peeling inside, you’ll be grateful you took the time to enrich your car’s hide.

10. Have fun!

While these steps do take time and care, it shouldn’t be difficult or arduous. There’s a certain satisfaction and enjoyment we can all get from taking care of our cars, not to mention the money you’ll save by doing it yourself. With a little elbow grease, you and your car can enjoy motoring season feeling like a million bucks.

via Meguiar’s Top 10 Car Care Tips for Spring

Categories: auto

Record Players For Cars Seemed Like A Good Idea In 1956

April 21, 2014 Leave a comment


The history of consumer goods is littered with brilliant ideas that weren’t quite ready for public consumption yet. In the ’50s, if you wanted to listen to some music in your vehicle, your choices were listening to the radio or forcing your family members to sing. Until the invention of the Highway Hi-Fi in-car record player changed all that. Or could have, if it had caught on with the public.

You know, records: those large, flat vinyl discs susceptible to scratches and prone to skipping that people used for playing music for much of the 20th century. In a world without consumer magnetic tape players, how else were you going to transport music into vehicles? Multiple companies thought that turntables for the car were fantastic and commercially viable ideas. They were not. Consumer Reports unearthed this bit of semi-forgotten tune-blasting history from the late ’50s and early ’60s.

The first in-car record system was the Highway Hi-Fi, available on some Chrysler vehicles beginning in 1956. The system cost the equivalent of about $1,700 in 2014 dollars, and could only use proprietary 7″ records when the system debuted. It came with a handy selection of records: Broadway musicals, radio drama selections, and pop tunes. You could order additional records from Columbia and a later version of the system accepted standard 45 RPM records.

After the demise of the Highway Hi-Fi, RCA introduced a similar, cheaper system. Naturally, the predecessors of our tune-testing colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports tested it to find out whether it was worth buying. The in-car Victrola cost only $410 in today’s dollars–not cheap, but not ridiculous, either. It held 14 records, which was good for a few hours of music or talk if you bought extended-play 45 RPM discs and wanted to listen to everything in the player. (A 45 RPM record is one of those 7-inch discs that holds maybe one song on each side.)

A competing system from Norelco only held one standard 45, so the driver would have to swap out the disc or maybe hit “repeat” after every song. Also, testers noted that the turntable ran fast, resulting in quicker, higher-pitched music than was intended.

Give your car stereo’s cassette, CD, or integrated digital infotainment system an affectionate pat the next time you get in your car. Their innovative ancestors weren’t marketplace successes, but driving a car with only a radio is now almost unthinkable.

via Consumerist

Categories: auto, history

A Visual History Of Car Customization

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
Categories: auto, history

Connected Cars

March 24, 2014 Leave a comment

As smart, connected cars become the new normal, critics and security watchdogs are closely monitoring developments with security and privacy concerns in mind.

Smarter Does Not Mean More Secure

Before smart cars, drivers merely had to worry about driving safely, following the rules of the road and maintaining their vehicle.

Smart vehicle owners today have a host of other issues to consider. Specifically, that means IT security. Automotive companies are competing for our business, just like social media sites, and they will continue to look for ways to set their vehicles apart for consumers.

Enter the connected car.

First introduced in luxury vehicles, these cars offer features that make driving more enjoyable and more convenient, too. Most provide Bluetooth connectivity, GPS dash display and LTE abilities.

And that’s just the beginning. Yet all buyers should remind themselves that smart cars and the convenience such tech offers does not equal safety.

Drivers’ Privacy

While auto companies are engineering full steam ahead, politicians in the U.S. are paying increasing attention to smart car security and privacy issues.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to protect drivers’ privacy. He praised the boost in safety that some of the newer technology in vehicles bring. But he also noted that companies are collecting “reams” of data on drivers — potentially in keeping tabs on where you go and even making plans to sell that information. Schumer said:

New technologies being embedded in cars should only be used to make us safer, not as a way to intrude on the privacy of hundreds of millions of drivers without their permission. Cars are smarter than they have ever been, and they will only continue to get smarter as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

Car makers are tapping smartphone technology to spruce up low-cost mini-cars. They’re trying to get an edge in a market that has grown to account for almost 10 percent of new car sales in austerity-scarred Europe.

The Opel Adam Rocks, Peugeot 108, Citroen C1 and Toyota Aygo, which all debuted at the Geneva Auto Show on March 4, are available with large multimedia screens that display music libraries or navigation maps as stored on a smartphone.

Such features have already proved to be a big draw for consumers in upmarket models, and are now being added to a new breed of urban runabouts pitched at younger, tech-savvy drivers.

Apple has entered the game as well. It recently unveiled CarPlay, a hands-free technology for car drivers, which will make its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles.

CarPlay will make it simpler for drivers to make calls, read maps and listen to their music libraries by using swipe gestures or voice activation, much in the way they are used to doing with an Apple iPhone. Android, via large manufactures like Samsung and LG, are entering the car biz, too.



Categories: auto


February 14, 2014 Leave a comment


It’s hard to picture what today’s teenagers will wax nostalgic about 30 years from now when they reminisce about their first car. (It still required gasoline, perhaps?) Who knows how automobiles will change in the future; what we do know is how different they are today from 30 or more years ago. If you fondly remember being surrounded by two or three tons of solid Detroit steel with a whip antenna on the front from which you could tie a raccoon tail or adorn with an orange Union 76 ball, and enough leg room that you didn’t suffer from phlebitis on long road trips, then you might also miss a few of these.

1. Bench Seats

The last American production model car to offer a bench seat in the front, the Chevy Impala, will cease doing so after this year. Back before seat belts were even included in cars—much less mandatory to wear—three passengers could fit comfortably in the front of most cars, or four if one was a child or a skinny relative. Many sly males took advantage of the seat design while driving with a female companion; a quick, unexpected sharp turn made with his right arm resting on the seat back sent the lady sliding right into his embrace.

2. Tailfins

Tailfins were the brainchild of General Motors design chief Harley Earl. The first fins appeared on the 1948 Cadillac, inspired by the WWII Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane. By the late 1950s, most folks had shrugged off the war and were fixated instead on all things space-age. Tailfins grew to enormous proportions, giving cars a futuristic look.

3. Ashtrays

Ashtrays were commonly found in the dashboard (along with an electric lighter), mounted on the back of the front seat, and in the armrests on opposite sides of the back seat. Even if you weren’t a smoker, the tray in the dash was handy for storing coins, and the rear ones were handy receptacles for candy wrappers and discarded chewing gum. If you want an ashtray in your new car, ask for the Smoker’s Package.

4. Spacious Trunks

Back in the good old days you could easily fit a week’s worth of groceries, the spare tire, and a Mafia snitch in the trunk and still have room for that old TV set with the blown picture tube you’ve been meaning to take to the repair shop. Today (unless you’re buying a minivan), you’re lucky to get 20 cubic feet of space (2013 Ford Taurus) in your sedan. According to measurements in an issue of Popular Mechanics, the 1961 models of the Buick Special (25.5 cubic feet), Chrysler Newport (33 cubic feet), DeSoto (32.8 cubic feet), and Ford Galaxie (30.5 cubic feet) all had bigger trunk space. (Special thanks to our friends at PopMech for digging up these numbers for us!)

5. Full-Size Spare Tire

The advantage with a full-size spare was that you could put it on, stow the flat tire in your trunk, and go on your merry way with no particular urgency to get it repaired (unlike today’s donuts, which are designed to be used for limited distances at speeds under 50 miles per hour). The disadvantage was that sometimes you went on your merry way for many months … until one day you got another puncture, only to discover that the tire in your trunk was just as flat as the one on the axle.

6. Floor-Mounted Dimmer Switch

Maybe my reflexes are dulling as I grow older, but I have a hard time figuring out where the switch for the high beams among all the levers and buttons on today’s vehicles. In the old days, it was a button in the general vicinity left of the brake pedal, so even in an unfamiliar car all you had to do was tap around with your toe a few times to find it.

7. Vent Windows

Vent or “wing” windows were popular in the pre-air conditioning era of automotive manufacturing. But they were convenient for many purposes that are still valid today. For example, on those days when it’s temperate enough to open windows rather than run the A/C, the vent windows allowed air to circulate freely without blowing street grime in your face and messing your hair. Smokers also appreciated being able to flick their ashes out the “no-draft” without the fear of them flying back inside the vehicle.

8. Horn Rings

Horn rings were originally considered a safety feature as well as a convenience device. Previously, the driver had to completely remove one hand from the steering wheel to depress the button in the center to honk the horn. The horn ring was designed so that both hands could remain on the wheel and just a stretch of a finger or thumb would be able to beep a warning sound. As driver side airbags started entering the market, horn activation was relocated to a button in the steering wheel spokes.

9. Audible Turn Signals

How many fewer drivers would drive for miles and miles with their turn signal flashing if the indicators still made an audible noise as they blinked? In the old days, the sound was more of a tinka-tinka high-pitched tone, but even this late ’90s audible click might keep a few folks from appearing to be making their way around the world to the left.

10. “Suicide” Doors

Rear-hinged doors got their macabre name in the pre-seat belt era; if such a door wasn’t closed tight while the car was in motion, the road wind would fling it wide open and the passenger would most likely be tossed to the pavement. But they were popular for quite a while up until the 1960s because of the convenience—there was no pillar separating the front and back seats when both side doors were opened, so there was plenty of room to daintily climb inside (especially in a time when women regularly wore dresses and high heels).

11. Control Knobs

Texting and driving is certainly dangerous, but what about having to read a touch-screen or take your eyes from the road to find the tiny button that controls your defroster/radio station/air conditioning? How much easier it used to be with nice, solid knobs and levers that you either pulled, pushed, slid or twirled, and which were always pretty much in the same place in every car? You could keep your eyes on the road and somehow your right hand instinctively knew which knob was the radio volume and how far to slide the lever to get more heat.

Via Mental Floss

Categories: auto, history