by Dr. Iain Corness
“Hear” comes the e-cars!
Electric SLS Mercedes
The H&S wallahs are clambering on to the e-bandwagon
already, claiming that the forthcoming electric vehicles will be dangerous,
because pedestrians will not hear them approaching.
Getting ready for the legislation is Delphi who announced
that they will start supplying low-cost “sound generators” to an unnamed
European car maker - probably GM off-shoot Opel, which will soon start
selling European market versions of the Chevrolet Volt electric car.
Delphi said the sound generators were “designed to comply
with legislation expected to mandate minimal sound for both hybrid and
electric vehicles. Industry analysts predict hybrid and electric vehicle
warning sounds, already covered by guidelines in Japan, will be required in
North America and Europe in the near future,” the company said in a press
According to Delphi, the system has enough flexibility in
its frequency range to “reproduce melodies that represent the identity of
individual vehicle manufacturers.” So I presume that a top of the line
hybrid Mercedes will get a booming Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony - “Dit, Dit,
Dit, Dah” and an electric Camaro will get the sound track from Bonnie and
Clyde … the mind boggles.
Electric milk carts have been in use in the UK for
decades. I wonder how many unsuspecting morning joggers have been mown down
by the milk machines? I will take a guess at zero.
While automakers are trying to produce the quietest cars,
here are the H&S lot trying to make them noisy again. Any vehicle, even
rolling along with the engine turned off, makes an audible sound from the
loaded tyre tread on the bitumen. Do we need more noise pollution?
A bad attack of wind?
The Wind Explorer has just set some sort of a record by
crossing Australia in something akin to a kite-board on wheels.
A TV host and an engineer from Germany have completed an
almost 5,000 km journey in their Wind Explorer, which is a lightweight electric
vehicle powered by the wind - not only through electricity-generating wind
turbines but also using kites.
The 18 day trip by Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer set three
world records - the first time a continent has been crossed be a wind-powered
vehicle, the longest overall distance covered by an exclusively wind-powered
land vehicle, and the longest distance covered by such a vehicle in 36 hours.
Wind Explorer is a prototype electric vehicle, and the secret
of its success is in the light weight. The entire vehicle, including the battery
pack weighs only 200 kg.
The construction is of an aluminium frame covered by a
carbon-fiber sandwich material and the vehicle runs on bicycle tyres.
The battery is an 8kWh lithium-ion pack that was recharged
every night using a portable wind turbine on the top of a six meter high
telescopic bamboo mast - but they did use the domestic electric grid on nights
with no wind.
On January 26 of this year, Wind Explorer left Albany, on the
southern coast of Western Australia. For the first 800 km, the vehicle was
powered entirely by electric power.
Once they got to the Nullarbor (“no trees”) Plain the
intrepid pair were able to take advantage of the strong winds to use kites to
drag the vehicle along, as is done with kite-boarding. The passenger held on to
the large steerable kite similar to a parasail. Apparently it was not easy, but
they did manage to cover several hundreds of kilometers crossing the desert.
The trip took the Wind Explorer through the states of Western
Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, arriving in Sydney on
February 14. On the trip the vehicle reached speeds of 80 km/h. The best daily
distance covered was 493 km.
The journey was not without drama and punctures, including
blowing two motors, but I suppose, like climbing Mt. Everest, they can say they
have done it. They believe that they have proved that the technology is already
available to produce self-sufficient and environmentally sound transport;
however, they did not prove whether it was at all practical.
What makes for a car nut?
My wife asked me the other day, “How long have you been crazy
about cars?” I thought about it for a while and had to admit that I have been a
car nut for my entire life. Well, as soon as I got out of the pram, if nothing
Singer 9 Le
My first memories of my father were of him driving a Singer 9
Le Mans he had bought immediately after the war. Flat cap, pipe clenched between
the teeth, looking like a poor relation of the pre-war Bentley Boys. The Singer
had huge headlights with chrome wire stone guards. It was in British Racing
Green, complete with twin spare wheels mounted on the rear slab petrol tank. Dad
claimed it was one of the actual Le Mans team cars, but I doubt it. Dad was
known to exaggerate a tad.
I loved that car, even though I was only five years old. It
smelled like a racing car and made noises like a racing car and I was devastated
when Dad sold it. However, looking back, it would be hard to imagine a car less
practical for a family. It was also very difficult to get petrol of a reasonable
octane in the north of Scotland at that time and keeping the twin carburetors in
synch was beyond the Corness Senior’s back yard expertise. Looking back again, I
am sure that all that was really wrong was worn butterfly spindles, but my
father was not able to rise to the technical engineering level needed. And at
five years of age, all I did was get in the way, but I did polish those
monstrous headlights to perfection!
The next family car was a Morris Minor. No, not one of the
Issigonis 1950’s Minors (Sir Alec Issigonis did design other cars before the
Mini’s) but a 1933 Morris Minor, complete with one spare wheel on the tail and a
central accelerator pedal. Yes, a trifle un-nerving for those used to having the
brake pedal in the middle, but that was the car I started to learn to drive in
at age 10. Surreptitiously, I might add. It was also the car I had my first
accident in when my father lost it on the icy roads one night and we went
through a hedge and I banged my head on the windscreen. Seat belts? They had not
been invented in 1933 and still were unthought-of of in 1951. Morris Minor used
to suffer with clutch slip after oil would come through the leather rear oil
seal on the crankshaft and contaminate the clutch lining. There was an
inspection hole on the top of the bell housing and we used to pour petrol
through it all over the clutch. It worked for a while, but eventually it needed
a new clutch and my father sold it to a wreckers yard in Edinburgh. I wanted to
keep the external radiator cap, but Dad would not allow me to do that, saying we
had sold the entire car to the wrecking yard. I cried all the way home. Some
parts of me never forgave him. Dad has been dead for over 30 years, but it still
Since then, I have personally owned over 100 cars. Many
turned out to be collectors items - but never while I owned them. There’s no
justice in this world, but I have to admit, I love my cars.
Thailand Auto Industry on a surge
The vehicle production figures for Thailand in 2010 showed a
very strong growth of just under 40 percent, year on year, with total numbers of
domestic sales over 750,000 units.
The export production figures were also very buoyant with the
various Free Trade Agreements helping boost the export production close to
900,000 units for the year.
With Ford and GM both expanding their presence in Thailand,
and new cars such as the Fords Focus and Fiesta and GM’s Cruze coming on stream,
the local auto industry looks very strong. It seems that the domestic political
upheaval had no apparent effects on the auto industry, and neither did some
niggling union problems.
This all augurs well for the Bangkok International Motor
Show, which will be held at the Impact Muang Thong Thani for the first time,
having outgrown the available space at the BITEC venue.
The 32nd Bangkok International Motor Show will be held for 14
days from March 23 (Wednesday) to April 6 (Wednesday). Public days will be from
Saturday, March 26 until April 6, and this year the Motor Show will be held at
Challenger Hall (Impact Muang Thong Thani), Bangkok.
The show is more than just new cars, but is a comprehensive
one that includes passenger cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle
bodies, parts, machinery and tools.
Last week I mentioned that a particular car company began
making cars in 1904 in the South London area (UK). They used a six cylinder
engine of their own design from 1921 right through to the 1950’s and ended up as
one of the most lusted after and iconic sports cars. Zero to 100 km/h in around
4.6 seconds was possible. What was the car company? Of course, it was AC, and
the top of the line was the 7 liter (AC) Shelby Cobra.
So to this week. And to try and thwart the ‘googlers’, what
is this car? I want make, model and year!
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email viacars @gmail.com. Good luck!