Archive for the ‘cars’ category

What I learned on my summer vacation — thanks to an 11 YO boy…

August 22, 2011

…obsessed with Top Gear:

This factoid, for one thing, retailed somewhere on the long journey north and east of Mt. Diablo into the uninhabited quadrant of California:

“Daddy:  did you know that the Zonda R has got a V-12 engine and weighs less than a Ford Fiesta?”

“Why no, son.  I did not.”

But, good father that I hope to be, come the return to sporadic internet service, I did a little research and came up with something to show my son.  Sadly, though, it  may be the most perfect expression of the pron aesthetic I’ve ever seen, all desire, all objects, and that driving, relentless beat:

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And yes,  I know that gazillion dollar non-or-barely-street-legal-cars are mere distractions from the chaos of our times — but as a bonus, check out the single craziest bit of flying my (admittedly non-pilot) eyes can recall seeing.*  The pilot here seems to be someone for whom juggling six knives while balancing a cyanide tablet on clenched teeth does not sufficiently engage:

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How about that dipsy-doo over the runway? Pray to FSM that this flyer never chooses a second career in an Alitalia cockpit.  I don’t want to be approaching Rome when the boredom gets to him…

More serious (aka depressing) blogging to come.  But for now, consider this a wretched excess open thread.

*And I saw the head test pilot for British Aerospace show off the Harrier at the Farnborough Airshow right after the Falklands War.  He could make that little plane do all kinds of tricks — but this Italian guy so far out-crazies him that it just ain’t funny.  (For an example of just how weird the Harrier could be, check out this clip from a later Farnborough display.)

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A bit of brain candy whilst waiting to post after admissions heck…Russian Tank/Personal Transport Edition

February 16, 2010

Via Automotto, this.

I want one.

(h/t Gizmodo)

Dog Bites Man Dept: Jonah Goldberg — Dumbest Man Alive?

June 3, 2009

Ex Isaac Chotiner via John Cole I learn that the black hole of stupid formed when Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg coalesced in a distortion of spacetime so strongly warped that not one particle of authentic fact could escape.  

Of particular note, this quote by Goldberg:

GOLDBERG: …I’m not calling Barack Obama a Hitler and I’m not calling him Nazis and all the rest. But, you know, in fascism, we saw the people’s car. We call it the Volkswagen, where the state said what we’re going to do is we’re going to take over the auto industry, government and business and unions are going to get together and we’re going to create cars to fill a political need rather than a market need and give people these cars.

I know that it is pointless to accumulate actual data from the world to deal with Goldberg’s Titanic-meet-iceberg ignorance, but just in case you want to read up on the truly astonishing history of Volkswagen and the Beetle, this Wikipedia article is a well sourced and entertaining place to start.

Among the “political points” made in the early gestation of that car was an attention to the design of a car that would be cheap to operate (its designer:  Ferdinand Porsche) and a save-to-buy scheme that served as a transport-to-the-masses catalyst that can be seen as an analogue to Henry Ford’s decision to pay his workers enough to afford the cars they built.

And I suppose that in the face of the deep well of stupid that is Goldberg/Beck, it is useless to note that Porshe had begun to design the Volkswagen in 1931, before Hitler rose to power, and that the car he finally developed  enjoyed a production run from 1938 – 2003.  That’s 65 years, if you’re counting.  About 23 million of them were sold.  My favorite Volkswagen performance statistic is the one from the famous track Nürburgring, at which a diesel powered Beetle in the fifties achieved a 0-60 time of one minute.  Smokin’ (literally, no doubt).

All this, not to invert Godwinism, but to note that of all the aspects of Hitler’s rule to focus on, the notion that jump-starting a major industry in a depression enormously more severe in Germany than the US is yet another instance of evil incarnate, is — how to put this gently — a gaping, smoking crater of dumb.  Not to mention picking on one of the top five or so industrial success stories of the 20th century as an example of what not-to-do.  

I can’t get the words to express the totality of dumb here.  I just can’t.  Wittgenstein time again, I guess: Whereof I cannot speak, therof  I must be silent.

(Oh — and one more thing (sorry Ludwig):  Not to be snarky or nuthin, but I wonder if it has ever crossed the mind of this defender of capitalism, Jonah Goldberg what he would do if he were not a loony-right legacy welfare queen?  Just askin’)

Image:  Flickr User Versatile Aure“Art car,” decorated Volkswagen “Beetle”, New Orleans. Photo taken during Mardi Gras 2007.  Used under a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

And on the other hand (Easterbrook edition)

September 9, 2008

Update: See Shiv’s comment below for an alternate view of the wisdom, or lack thereof, in Easterbrook’s argument.  I think he has a point — though the notion that simply good design could do a lot to reduce oil consumption even absent significant technological change seems to me to be valid.

Below, I excoriate sportswriter and sometime pundit Gregg Easterbrooks’ willed no-nothing stance on the LCH startup.

Here, I acknowledge his wisdom, further down in the same column that earned my ire.  Talking about fuel economy, US policy and the amazing foolishness of the current horsepower race on the American roads, he concludes

Federal legislation to regulate the horsepower of passenger vehicles, perhaps by establishing a power-to-weight standard, would reduce petroleum consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions, lower U.S. oil imports, strengthen the dollar, and take some of the road-rage stress out of driving. So what are we waiting for?

He’s right, and the rest of his analysis is on the mark. So skip the physics nonesense, ignore the football stuff, (nothing much happened last weekend anyway), and scroll down to just past the half way mark if you want to get the whole of the argument.

Image:  Start of the 1915 Indianapolis 500, published in the New York Times, June 13, 1915.  Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Updates on the 100 mpg car front

July 28, 2008

Way, way back when there was a Republican fight for the nomination, Mike Huckabee made a little splash by calling for a one billion dollar prize to encourage the production of a generally available care capable of 100 mpg.

I ridiculed Mike here and here. Mostly because (a) the billion bucks was such a wildly disproportionate reward, given the X-prize being offered for the same basic goal seemed to think that ten million would do the trick, and, at least as important, at least one production vehicle on the verge of release, the Tesla roadster, could already lay claim to the milestone. (Latest news — as of a couple of weeks ago, 12 production vehicles had been completed, with the assembly line cranking away at a blistering four vehicles a week.)

But the what I want to highlight here is the power of 4 buck a gallon gas to concentrate the mass market manufacturer’s mind.

Most immediately, it looks like the GM Volt is real as of 2010 — though at a higher price than originally proposed, 40K instead of around 30K. It will have an MPG equivalent of 150 mpg running on its electric motor, which will drop if the range-extending gasoline engine gets called into use. GM also has a Saturn Vue plug-in SUV project in the works. Toyota is working on its plug in response, with a current, very short range claim of 99.9 mpg.

But what caught my eye today was this report from the Green Car Congress, showcasing the British Motor Show’s latest offerings of cool to cute electric, energy efficient cars.

The headliner? The four-seconds-to-60/10 minutes to recharge Lightning GT. 300 large, I’m afraid, so this is another pure fantasy. But taken all in all, and never forgetting the 350 mpg personal transportation available in the form of this electric scooter, it looks like the use of market mechanisms to control green house gas emissions is, pace the McCain campaign’s whispered walk-back on the issue, is working just as the econ 1 textbooks tell you it should.

Image:  Lightning GT, Lightning Car Company photo.

Eric Roston Wins!: Judge Someone by Their Enemies, Dept.

July 4, 2008

Eric Roston, author of the new and invaluable The Carbon Age, has done well, very well, in a two step sequence.

Step one: receive an intelligent and positive cite in Time Magazine for his book on the singular importance and dangers of element number 6. If you want to understand the basics and real significance of climate change, read Eric’s book.

Step two: Rush Limbaugh goes ballistic at the notion that capitalism might work.

For some reason, perhaps because he has shifted his substance abuse from prescription narcotics to petroleum, Rush seems to hate the free market that has driven oil prices up — and hence, as every ec. 101 textbook will tell you — has shifted behavior among energy consumers. He would rather, as Eric writes in his brutally funny response to Rush, support the vicious, dictatorial states and sponsors of terrorism that own so much of the world’s oil than see his fellow Americans reduced to riding bicycles or taking the bus.

This tempest in a teapot (dome?) illustrates a point this blog tries to make over and over again. It pays to be able to do the numbers. We all know that price changes alter consumer choices. We know that oil in particular and energy in general is traded in a global market. We know, or should, about the concept of peak oil . We can reason our way to the likely impact that increased demand and slowing then reversing production increases will have on our energy mix, our economy, and the wealth of nations. Rush can play a farcical King Canute as long as he wants, but he can no more hold back the flow of numbers, of the hard fact of supply and demand than the old Dane could restrain the tide.

The oddity in all this — or perhaps the revealing detail, is that Rush’s rhetoric is his usual song to the common man. But, as we learn here, there is a simpler reason to explain his howls of pain and rage at the thought of 4 buck a gallon gas that has nothing to do with any notional common touch. The old deaf (recovering, we hope) drug addict drives himself around in a Maybach 57S — no doubt a truly wonderful automobile. It must hurt, however, even for a man as rich as Limbaugh, to fill the tank of a $450,000 behemoth that scores 10 miles to the gallon in the city.

I’m sorry — but I somehow don’t see Eric Roston as the effete elitist out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans here. But then, I don’t see how a tax dodging Senator with seven homes, $200,000+ monthly credit card spending, a growing domestic staff, and a married-into inherited fortune worth more than 100 million behind him is somehow more of a regular guy than that other Senator who rose out of a broken home through education and talent to the realms of upper-middle class comfort. Just me, I guess.

In any event: Good job, Eric! By the quality (sic) of your enemies may we recognize your worth.

Image: Johannes Christiaan Schotel, “Low Tide in a Bay with a Moored Vessel and Fishing Boats,” Early nineteenth century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Really Stupid Ideas: Hillary update.

April 24, 2008

Matthew Yglesias has a more subtle take on Hillary’s “me too” on McCain’s gas tax holiday folly.

He points out that Obama’s principled rejection of the obviously stupid idea is correct on the merits, but bad politics in an arena where the religion of tax cuts still holds sway.

His close reading of Hillary’s apparent support for McCain’s environmentally and economically foolish proposal  suggests that she does not in fact have any desire to see such silliness turned into law.  Rather, he points out that she includes a careful, devastating qualifier in her support:  that the holiday should only be enacted if the money thus lost to the Highway Trust Fund could be made up.  As she (and everyone else) have suggested no way the funds could be magicked from some other source, this amounts to a rejection of a proposal she can get the credit for supporting.

I buy that. I even buy Matt’s view that this is the smart politics.

But at the same time, Clinton is still giving McCain cover:  the underlying fact of the matter is that a gas tax holiday is incompatible with a commitment to take climate change seriously.

To simply ignore the ignorable (as this proposal is, at least for the upcoming summer) allows the ongoing national self delusion to persist.  If we truly think that global experiments with atmospheric change are a bad idea, then we have, among much else, to burn less gas.

When Clinton says “sure — as long as we’re fiscally responsible” — she keeps climate change where it has been for the last eight years:  off the table.  Just imagine, now, the counterfactual:  suppose Clinton had said that she supported the gas tax holiday — as long as we came up with an offset for the carbon thus released.

One can dream.

Image:  William Hogarth, from his series “Humours of an Election,” 1754-5.  The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Source:  Wikimedia Commons