Media post: Why so few Diesels?

Today’s diesel powered cars are a far cry from the noisy, smoke-belching vehicles of years ago. Today’s diesels are cleaner, quieter and offer superior fuel mileage. So why are there so few in the US? In Europe, some 50% of the passenger cars on the road are diesel, in the US, about 4%. That’s right, just 4%, why? Polls reveal that Americans just aren’t as comfortable with diesel-engined passenger cars and some say it has to do with Oldsmobile. Here’s the story:

In order to meet new American emissions regulations in the mid-1970s, executives at General Motor’s Oldsmobile Division decided to engineer a new diesel engine for passenger car use. The reason was simple, diesels were not subject to the same Federal emissions requirements as gasoline engines and this helped them meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) requirements of the time. The rush to build a V8-based diesel was on within GM.

The first Olds diesel vehicles hit the dealer’s lots in 1978 and immediately there were problems – the engines ran poorly and failed quickly. Ask any car buff and they will tell you that the problem was that GM engineers “used GM’s standard 350 block engine with few modifications”. Historians say this isn’t true. The service techs at Car City West Used Cars know the story well and tell us the trouble came from the cylinder heads alone.

Diesel engines have higher compression ratios than gasoline engines do and this puts higher stresses on engine head bolts. This usually means engineers use more head bolts and stronger ones. But, in order to keep the tooling simple, the engineers at Oldsmobile maintained the same 10-bolt pattern and head bolts as the older gasoline engines.  This proved to be a disaster.

Even though improvements were eventually made in the headbolts and head design, it was too late and this caused a massive class-action lawsuit against Oldsmobile. In fact, the Oldsmobile diesel debacle was so bad that it spurred lawmakers in many states to draft early lemon laws.

Today we may be seeing the result of this: an American consumer who is suspicious of “American-built Diesels” and perhaps diesels in general. This, of course, is a shame because there are quite a few excellent diesels on the market, in particular the Cummins diesels that have been installed in Chrysler products for quite a few years now.

Media post: Why Don’t Americans Like Diesel Cars?

GM_Olds'_Diesel_logo_on_a_Buick

Today’s diesel powered cars are a far cry from the noisy, smoke-belching vehicles of years ago. Today’s diesels are cleaner and quieter; so why are there so few in the US? In Europe, some 50% of the passenger cars on the road are diesel, in the US, about 4%. Polls reveal that Americans just aren’t comfortable with diesel engines and some say it has to do with a diesel engine made by Oldsmobile in the 1970s. Here’s the story:

In the mid-1970s, the US federal government issued a set of very restrictive emission regulations. In order to meet these new regs, executives at General Motors decided to engineer a new diesel engine for passenger car use. The reason was simple, diesels were not subject to the same federal emissions requirements. The job was handed over to the Oldsmobile division and the rush to build a V8-based diesel was on.

The first Olds diesel cars hit the dealer’s lots in 1978 and immediately there were problems – the engines failed quickly. Ask any automotive enthusiast and they will tell you that the problem was that GM engineers “used GM’s standard 350 block designed for gasoline cars.” However, this isn’t true. The service techs at CDJR Mopar Parts know the story well and tell us the trouble came from the cylinder heads alone. Here’s what happened:

Diesel engines have higher compression ratios than gasoline engines do and this puts higher stresses on cylinder heads and engine head bolts. This usually means engineers usually use more head bolts and stronger ones than they do on gasoline engines. But, in order to keep the tooling simple, the engineers at Oldsmobile maintained the same 10-bolt pattern and head bolts as the older 350 gasoline engines.  This proved to be a disaster because the bolts and heads failed during use.

Even though improvements were eventually made in the headbolts and head design, it was too late and this caused a massive class-action lawsuit against Oldsmobile. In fact, as the story goes, the Oldsmobile diesel debacle was so bad that it spurred lawmakers in many states to draft the first “lemon laws.”

So, today we may be seeing the result of this: an American consumer who is suspicious of “American-built Diesels” and perhaps diesels in general. This, of course, is a shame because there are quite a few excellent diesels on the market, in particular the Cummins diesels that have been installed in Chrysler products for quite a few years now.

Media post: Powered by hydrogen

Toyota Mirai USA October 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comToyota Mirai 

In late 2015, Toyota began selling its hydrogen-powered Mirais cars in California. This marks the first time that hydrogen-powered vehicles were sold in the US. And others are on the way. Chrysler recently announced its hydrogen-powered ecoVoyager four door sedan. The ecoVoyager uses a 45 kw fuel cell stack and 268 hp (200 kw) electric motor to deliver the vehicle 300 miles before refueling.

Most people think that hydrogen cars burn hydrogen in an internal combustion engine. That is incorrect. Miracle Dodge Chrysler Jeep explained to us that the best way to think of hydrogen-powered vehicle is that it is an electric vehicle (EV) that is capable of making its own electricity. So, like an EV, the propulsion is provided by an electric motor. The main difference is that a battery powers the engine in a traditional EV, whereas a device called a “fuel cell” generates the electricity to power the motor in a hydrogen vehicle.

The way fuel cells generate electricity is by fusing pressurized hydrogen stored in ultra-beefy on-board tanks with oxygen from the outside air. During this process, the fuel cell creates electricity that is used to power the motor. Water vapor is also created and is released as a waste product.

Hydrogen powered cars do have battery packs, like hybrids and EVs do, but the batteries are much smaller because they are only used when the motor demands extra current such as when passing. Interestingly, the primary way the battery pack is refueled is by regenerative braking, which means the battery is charged by the electricity created when the brakes are applied.

California was the first state to openly embrace the possibility of hydrogen-powered transportation and started building infrastructure (filling stations) several years ago. So far, there are 51 hydrogen stations throughout California that are either already open or are slated to open soon. Other states that are building refueling stations, in addition, are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. You can find hydrogen filling stations by consulting a map supplied by the US Department of Energy.

Just for reference, there are 12,131 electric EV charging stations in the United States today so the hydrogen community has a little catching up to do in terms of infrastructure.  The sales of hydrogen-powered cars like the Mirais and ecoVoyager are a classic “chicken or egg” paradigm. People will be unlikely to buy the cars if hydrogen filling stations aren’t nearby. So the push for filling infrastructure is a key factor in adoption. As you might imagine, the car manufacturers are actively involved in the creation of the filling station infrastructure.

At the present time, the Toyota Mirais retails for $57,500 and each one comes with 3 years of complementary fuel. However, there’s good news for potential buyers – there are many sales incentives currently available for buyers. At the time of this writing, the State of California is offering a $5000 rebate incentive on all hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and there is an $8000 federal tax credit for qualified buyers, in addition.   To calculate the total “Net” cost of a hydrogen car would involve factoring the 3 years of complementary fuel into the equation.

Media post: Chrysler’s ecoVoyager Hydrogen Car

Chrysler ecoVoyager

In 2008 Chrysler announced its hydrogen-powered ecoVoyager four door sedan. The ecoVoyager uses a 45 kw fuel cell stack and 268 hp electric motor to deliver the vehicle 300 miles before refueling. According to Chrysler, the ecoVoyager is able to travel the first 40 miles on purely electric power via it’s 16 kw lithium-ion battery pack before needing an assist from the fuel cell stack and hydrogen tanks.

Most people think that hydrogen cars burn hydrogen in an internal combustion engine. It doesn’t work that way. Susquehanna Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Wrightsville, PA explained to us that the best way to think of hydrogen-powered vehicle is that it is an electric vehicle (EV) that is capable of making its own electricity. So, like an EV, the propulsion is provided by an electric motor. The main difference is that a device called a “fuel cell” generates the electricity to power the motor in a hydrogen vehicle.

The way fuel cells generate electricity is by fusing pressurized hydrogen stored in ultra-beefy on-board tanks with oxygen from the outside air. During this process, the fuel cell chemically creates the current that is used to power the propulsion motor. And as for emissions, water vapor is created and is released into the air as a waste product.

It is important to note that most hydrogen powered cars do have battery packs, like hybrids and EVs do. However, the batteries are much smaller because they are only used when the motor demands extra current such as during times of acceleration. Interestingly, this “booster” battery pack is refueled is purely by regenerative braking, which means the battery is charged by the electricity created when the vehicles brakes are applied.

California was the first state to openly embrace the possibility of hydrogen-powered transportation and started building infrastructure (filling stations) several years ago. So far, there are a hundred or so hydrogen stations throughout California that are either already open or are opening soon. Other states that are building refueling stations, too. You can find hydrogen filling station list by consulting a map supplied by the US Department of Energy.

Just for reference, there are 12,312 electric EV charging stations in the United States today so the hydrogen community has a little catching up to do in terms of infrastructure.  The sales of hydrogen-powered cars like the ecoVoyager are a classic “chicken or egg” paradigm. People will be unlikely to buy the cars if hydrogen filling stations aren’t nearby. So the push for filling infrastructure is a key factor in adoption. As you might imagine, the car manufacturers are actively involved in the creation of the filling station infrastructure.

At the present time, there isn’t a price established for the ecoVoyager but when they do go on sale, there will likely be a large number of incentives. For example, at the time of this writing, the State of California is offering a $5000 rebate incentive on all hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and there is an $8000 federal tax credit for qualified buyers, in addition.

Media post: Two Important Checks for Buying a Used Car

Used car. Picture courtesy thevra.co.uk

Buying a used car comes with many advantages – using depreciation to your advantage and getting a better deal being the main one. But when you’re buying used it makes it harder to know exactly what you’re getting. This post gives you some tips and pointers to help you wise up to the tricks dodgy sellers use when selling used cars.

Clocking

Clocking is the word used to describe the way dodgy dealers disguise the true mileage of a used car, making it appear to have been driven fewer miles so they can extort more money out of you. So how can you avoid finding yourself in this predicament and shelling out more for a tired out motor?

Check the vehicle inside and out for signs of wear

Check areas like the front of the bonnet for high-speed stone chips (indicative of heavy motorway driving), worn pedals, wheel and upholstery. If the mileage looks low, but the wear and tear indicates otherwise, this is a warning sign.

Check MOT history and service records

This should be willingly given and easily available from your dealer if they’re trustworthy. You can even contact garages for the recorded mileage at the time they had the car in.

Penalties do exist in the UK to stop this from happening as regulations state that a seller must disclose the fact that the mileage has been altered. The European Parliament bans firms that wind back the clock on vehicles. So make sure you choose a reputable dealership like Shelbourne Motors, for instance. The Sale of goods Act 1979 stipulates that when you deceive or misrepresent a customer about a product or service for a monetary gain, it is in fact a crime. Despite this – people still try their luck.

How can you tell if the vehicle is stolen?

Make sure your chosen car has the V5C document. This registration document shows the registered owners, past and present – not the person in possession of the vehicle, so you can directly contact them if you have any questions about the servicing, mileage or modifications for example. Watch out for the following:

  • Watch out for missing V5C documents
  • Make sure the V5C is legitimate, valid with no spelling mistakes or missing watermarks.
  • Ensure the details like name and address match that of the person selling the car – request that you check their ID for this – driver’s license or passport.
  • Check the identification details on the car match that on the V5C document with no alteration.

These are a couple of the main ways you can make sure the car you’re looking to buy is legitimate

Media post: Insuring Your Classic: Why It Pays to Own a Vintage Motor

1958 Buick Limited. Picture courtesy americanclassiccar.com.au

There is something really special about classic cars. They possess an indefinable charisma that transcends the ages, the purr of their antique engines proving enough to send many grown men into shivers of ecstasy. With their gleaming paintwork, vintage aesthetic, and timeless elegance, it’s little wonder that those who own them adore them. That’s why it’s so important to take proper care of them. From weekly waxes to luxurious garages, dust sheets, and devotion, it’s essential to treat your vintage drive to the very best, and choosing the right insurance for it is a great place to start…

How to Insure a Classic Car

For those blessed enough to own a vintage motor, two insurance options present themselves: insuring as a ‘classic’, or insuring for ‘everyday use’. The former policies are often highly competitive, and companies like A-Plan pride themselves on offering premiums that you’ll love. The downside is that these may impose limitations, making them ill-suited to those who don’t just drive for pleasure.

Classic Specific Cover

‘Everyday use’ policies for classic cars are much the same as those for other vehicles, but specialist cover varies in some quite marked ways, and many enthusiasts are quick to sing its praises. This is largely down to the highly competitive cover that’s available. With coverage for many popular models starting at around £100 for the year, you can save an awful lot of money by choosing your policy with care.

Laid-up Cover

For those who would like to reduce their costs even further, laid-up cover is available for when your car is off the road. With many enthusiasts choosing to lock their beloved classic away in a warm, dry garage during the wet winter months, you’ll find that this practice can prove very beneficial to your wallet, cutting costs to as little as £45 per year.

Agreed Value

Special classic car cover can save vintage enthusiasts a lot of money in the long-run, but it’s important to choose your policy with care if you want your efforts to pay off. This means paying attention to the ‘agreed value’ that you and your insurer settle on. Although higher value cars may well cost more to insure, this will add mere pounds to your policy, and will ultimately ensure that all of your potential costs are properly covered before any repairs or replacements are needed. Take care of your classic car today by choosing the perfect cover, and give your bank balance a welcome boost along the way.

BSCB featured in the Special Annual Edition of L’Automobile Magazine

TLVM 2015(Click to enlarge) 

BSCB is now in its 4th year of collaboration with best-selling French monthly L’Automobile Magazine, with tighter links being woven each year. Every year L’Automobile Magazine publishes the bible “Toutes les Voitures du Monde” (All the cars in the world), a catalogue listing, describing and analysing every single nameplate sold across the planet. This Special Edition, in French, is available to purchase in all French-speaking regions of the world including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, New Caledonia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion, Mauritius, French Guiana.

For the 2016-2017 edition, BSCB has upped its involvement, which now includes:

– A full page feature at p.12 of the magazine detailing the best-sellers in the Top 10 markets in the world including a mention of BSCB

– All commentary and photos for the “Tour du Monde” (Around the World) section of the magazine from p.335 to p.355

– BSCB’s expertise coverage of the Chinese car market has been put to good use with all commentary for the Chinese brands selected among the largest brands in the world: BYD, Changan, Chery, Dongfeng, Geely, Great Wall, Haval and SAIC

– All commentary for the Japanese models not sold in France including Daihatsu, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota

Media post: Maybe 12 volts isn’t enough anymore

1954 Cadillac cadillac sixty-two1954 Cadillac Sixty Two

In the early part of the 1900s, cars all had 6 volt systems. Back then a 6 volt system was perfectly capable of powering the starter, lights and other accessories that the cars and trucks of the time had in them. Things changed in the 1950s, though.

In the 1950s, Detroit started the power accessory revolution. Things like power windows, power seats, power antennas, radios, air conditioning and other accessories all started to appear. Unfortunately, this caused a problem for engineers who were taxed with the task of designing an electrical system that could power all these accessories.

The solution came from General Motors who in 1954 offered a 12 volt system in their Cadillac Series 62 models. The rest of the American car industry quickly followed suit and soon every passenger car and truck made had a 12 volt electrical system. The results were significant. Ken Garff Used in West Valley City, UT tells us that vehicles with 12 volt systems started faster and multiple accessories, like the radio and AC could be used at the same time.

As the number of automotive gadgets climbs, however, the industry is wondering what to do. Today’s cars offer a buffet of new electronic technology and car engines themselves, which traditionally used little electrical power, now have lots of electrically powered components.

So, wouldn’t a simple solution be to just beef up the existing 12 Volt system? Let’s do a little math and see how it all adds up. Take all the power consumed by all the electrical accessories in a new car-the power windows, the defroster, the heated seats-and the total will probably be between some 1.5 and 2.0 kilowatts. To supply 2.0 kilowatts of power, a standard alternator must be capable of churning out more than 140 amps. Not a problem, especially with the new water-cooled designs. But size up a 14-volt alternator to feed the 3.0 kilowatts of power expected in cars built later this decade, and you’re looking at 200 amps. This is an entirely different matter because wiring that is capable of carrying 200 amps is extremely thick and expensive.

So to drop the cable and alternator size issues, one simply needs to increase the voltage of the system. The number being thrown around currently is 36 volts. 36 volt systems would be just about right to power the complex demands of today’s automobiles and provide plenty of reserve for the future.

That being said, the car companies are hesitant to switch to 36 volts. There are some downsides. Electrical components will corrode more quickly and potential arcing are two major reliability issues. Plus, many devices in an automobile just prefer fewer volts. Light-bulb filaments, for example, grow too long and flimsy if designed to handle more than 12 volts and smaller, low-amp electric motors must be wound with special extra-thin wire that increases cost.

So, today we have a wait-and-see thing going on. Several manufacturers are experimenting with 36 volt systems but none have decided to go into production yet.

Media post: Towing a Trailer

Ram Trailer

If you’ve never towed a trailer before then this guide is for you. First, don’t be afraid of towing. You’ve probably heard some horror stories about trailer accidents but, honestly, they are rare. Furthermore, if you do some homework (such as reading this guide), you will probably never have an incident. Here’s checklist of what you need to know.

Make sure your car the right size

First, make sure your vehicle is rated for towing the trailer load you wish. You need to find two numbers: 1) The gross trailer weight (GTW), which is the combined weight of the trailer and the load on it
2) The maximum tongue weight for your vehicle to determine the class of hitch you’ll need.

Get the right hitch

Get the appropriate class of hitch for your load installed. Generally, you’ll get a hitch receiver installed that you can use for different size trailer hitches. Ken Garff of West Valley, UT recommends that you use a class 3 or higher hitch.

Class 1: 2000 pounds GTW/200 pounds tongue weight
Class 2: 3500 pounds GTW/350 pounds tongue weight
Class 3: 5000 pounds GTW/500 pounds tongue weight
Class 4: 7500 pounds GTW/750 pounds tongue weight
Class 5: 10,000 pounds GTW/1000 pounds tongue weight

Get the right-sized ball

The larger the ball, the more weight it can carry. Basically, the ball of the hitch will come in one of three sizes:

1 7⁄8 inch (4.8 cm)
2 inch (5.1 cm)
2 5⁄16 inch (5.9 cm)

Attach the trailer

Use the tongue jack to raise the trailer and align it with the ball. Make sure that the hitch lock is unlocked before lowering the trailer onto the ball and securing the tongue. After you lower the hitch, lock it securely. Cross the safety chains to the hooks near the vehicle hitch or the vehicle frame, making sure there is enough slack in the chains but not so much that they drag on the ground.

Attach the lights

Attach the lights with the wiring harness. Generally, these employ a simple one-way connection that makes it easy to hook up the lights to the harness.

Secure your load

Tie down everything that could potentially fly off the trailer. Depending on the load you’re hauling, you might need to use a tarp to secure loose objects in boats or refuse trailers, since you’re responsible for anything that flies out and causes damage.

When underway, stop occasionally and check things.

Stop frequently and check everything. Make sure your cross chains aren’t dragging on the road, make sure your load is securely fastened down in the trailer. It make be a good idea, especially if night is falling to check to see if all your running lights and turn signals are working.

Media post: The latest on Airless Tires

aireless-tires

When Scotsman Robert Thomson invented the pneumatic tire a century and a half ago, a rubber doughnut inflated with air was only one of several ideas he proposed. It seemed like a good idea but he was concerned about how one would keep the air contained within this new type of tire. Other designs he had involved filling his proposed tire with sponges, springs and even horsehair. The object of all of this, of course, was to have a tire that absorbed shocks and thus provided a comfortable ride regardless of what the road conditions are. Even though the pneumatic tire had yet to be perfected, research was being put into tires that weren’t inflated by air.

Airless tires on the Moon

Despite over 100 years of success with pneumatic tires, the concept of an airless tire appeared once again, but this time on the Moon. Yup, in the 1970s NASA’s Lunar Rover was outfitted with four 9-by-32-inch tires consisting of steel-mesh toroids attached to aluminum hubs. The treads were made of V-shaped titanium which undoubtedly were considered the best type of tread for driving around on moon dust.

Back on Earth, the Tweel was developed

Back on earth, the concept of an airless tire became a serious concept once again when Michelin designed the “Tweel” in 2005. The Tweel consists of a thin rubber tread band reinforced by a composite-plastic belt and supported by dozens of V-shaped polyurethane spokes. Introductory claims versus conventional pneumatic radials were impressive. Studies showed that they were capable of two to three times the tread life and five-times-better lateral stiffness. Frankly, the Tweel seemed like the answer to every handling engineer’s dreams.

Holt Fiat of Fort Worth, TX explains that Bridgestone presented an airless tire concept at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. Mimicking the Tweel, the airless Bridgestone consists of a thin rubber tread supported by flexible thermoplastic spokes and a rigid aluminum hub. Inner and outer spokes run in opposite directions to provide vertical compliance without twisting. Bridgestone claims that high-speed noise and vibration are not concerns.

Airless tires are still years away

Despite plenty of R&D, nonpneumatic tires are realistically a decade away. Beyond their performance, two things will propel them toward acceptance: Tire companies must address the recycling of such tires and, of course, expense. The new wheels must be cost competitive with the old technology or the industry will likely stay with what is standard and familiar.