The Prius’ New Bigger (much younger) Brother is in Town!

Just the other day, I was trying to convince my dad to put the truck up on eBay, forget the  Kia Optima, and look into the Prius v.  I repeatedly told him that the Prius was a studly “man-car.”  So, just to show him that maybe trucks aren’t as cool as they seem on the surface, the Prius v has a spot on my blog.  Forever.  I was hoping to tell him that the “v” isn’t a Roman numeral, but actually the first letter of a word starting with “v.”  I was hoping (along with other writers) that the “v” stood for vigilantvicious, voyager, or vivacious , or some cool big word like that.  But, no.  It HAS to stand for versatility.  But, while we’re on this topic, why not forget the word versatility for a while, and think of it as virtuous.  Let’s talk about it’s virtues, shall we?

In 2003, the second generation of the Prius came out.  There were enough armies of doubters to fight WWIII to the death.  And then some.  I think they doubted it because it seemed to deliver the impossible: comfort, safety, well equipped, cheap price, and 50-mpg.  The critics could not be dissuaded from their beliefs that: the batteries would leave owners stranded in cold weather.  The battery replacements would cost a fortune, and the discarded battery packs would end up in landfills, leaching toxic materials that would send HAZMAT running for the next 5,000 years.  Some grumped that the technology was too complex.  Statisticians argued with economists about Toyota selling it at a loss.  Detroit said it was homely and slow.  Sucks for all those grumpies.  All right, I’ll let them have that last one…

But, now, all of those people must sit at home and stew in their epic wrongness.  Nine years later, the Prius, in it’s third generation, is the best-selling hybrid in the world, let alone one of the best-selling cars IN the world.  Toyota has sold more than two MILLION Prii (the plural of Prius!  It’s even true!) globally.  more than half of those sales are in the U.S.  According to Toyota, only 3% of all the Prii sold since 2003 aren’t on the road (mostly because of accidents…).  The “far-too-complex-technology” gag hasn’t been made fun of by South Park yet (at least, not that I’m aware of…), but Saturday Night Live “talked” about it.  That technology, Hybrid Synergy Drive, has proven to be more reliable than the old Dodge Slant Sixes.  The nickel-metal hydride batteries have outlasted even the most optimistic estimates by a few years.  Besides, when the cars are torn apart, the battery packs are 100% recycled for all of their valuable metals.

As Dan Neil of the Wall Street Journal said, “To this day, if you want a five-passenger, five-door car under $30,000 that gets 50 mpg or more and doesn’t require a plug, your shopping list is one car long.”  Through almost any pair of eyes, the Prius is one of the most significant automobiles in the long history of the automobile.

To make customers (namely Americans) happier, Toyota is basically making the Prius a brand of it’s own, adding the Prius v station wagon (close to it, so I’ll call it a station wagon [sorry Volvo and VW!]) first, and the Prius v will soon be followed by the Prius c; a smaller, five-door “coupe.”  Someday in the near future, Toyota hopes to have and sell more Prii variants than the very popular Corolla and Camry.  What’s after the Prius c, Toyota, a Prius f, a Ferrari competitor (if so, I’ll be customer number 1!…)?

Behind the relatively spacious second-row seat (which is almost as large as a 2012 Chrysler 300’s rear seat), there is a max cargo space of 34.3 cubic feet behind the 60/40 seats.  When you fold down the seats, it increases to 67.3 cubic feet, which is almost exactly the amount that a VW Jetta Sportwagen has (with it’s seats folded down, of course).  So, flamethrower holders rejoice!  Why not buy a Jetta Sportwagen TDI diesel, which costs about the same as a Prius v (about $25,000 before options come in), is immeasurably more fun to drive, and a bladder-busting range of almost 600 miles.  Just thinking about it makes my bladder feel like a water balloon…The Prius v has a couple of good defenses that those Germans forgot to add: amazing rear-seat access, especially for child seats; an amazing in-cabin infotainment system (which is basically the available Internet enabled Entune infotainment system); and better in-city fuel economy, which may be the sort of driving you do.  The EPA says that the Prius v averages 44 mpg in the city, which makes the VW drivers pale, with their noisy diesels only returning 30 mpg in the city.  Haha!  FYI, the v’s combined highway/city mpg is 8 mpg lower than the “normal” Prius hatchback’s 50 mpg, at 42 mpg.  That’s because of  extra aerodynamics drag and 232 extra pounds of flab (without driver or any human stuff in it).

The now quite-familiar Prii gas-electric drivetrain is under the hood, but the CVT’s (continuously variable transmission) gearing has been made lower to help compensate for the extra weight when you start.  Call 0-60 mph about 11 seconds.  The normal Prius does it in about 9 seconds.  Also, the Prius v struggles a bit going up hills, or starting from a stoplight or stop sign (so, cut those moms and dads some slack!).

I wouldn’t call the Prius v a Ferrari or Maserati in terms of driving pleasure.  It’s basically just an EKG flatline in terms of driving pleasure.  It’s not meant to be speedy, agile, or anything related to going fast.  But, it does get around town and the highway with enough vibe for an officer of the law to give a hello.  But, there is one cool trick that very few cars nowadays have.  It’s a piece of programming that can sense undulations and random oscillations in the road surface and due to our processing speeds, the traction motor’s torque output imperceptibly pulses.  That’s kind of cool, isn’t it?  I think it is pretty cool, especially for the rough roads of Sonoma County.

Dan Neil of the WSJ basically took care of my closing paragraph.  “I don’t care how iron-headed you like to think you are – it’s your problem.  If you can’t acknowledge the pure genius of the Toyota Prius, you just don’t like cars, engineering, or technology.  This thing is, in its way, simply amazing.  True, the Prius is not for everybody.  But, with the v, the c, and whatever other letters are coming our way, it’s getting there.” Once we run out of alphabet letters, let’s brace ourselves for the Egyptian hieroglyphs that’ll be coming our way.  After all, Toyota did say that there would be more variants than the Corolla and Camry.  I’m guessing that Toyota meant Corolla and Camry variants combined.  Besides, that number is at least 35…

Here’s some more info on the Prius v, dad…

What’s A Replicar?

You’ve probably got some sort of idea on what a replicar is; as it combines two words, replica and car, and the word “replicar” was invented.

A replicar is an car with modern mechanical parts, but has special body work.  This special body work is usually made of fiberglass, and is designed to resemble one of the great cars from years past.  Some cars which inspire replicars range from Auburn speedsters and Mercedes-Benz roadsters of the 1930s to Porsche speedsters of the 1950s to the most popular, the Shelby Cobra roadster of the 1960s.  Also, the Excalibur cars of the 1970s and 1980s are replicars.  Here’s a picture of a replicar (just in case you don’t believe me…).

2008 Carlisle Import - Kit/Replicar Nationals

I Just Can’t Seem to Stop Talking About Michelin!

Hi there, my injuries and whatever else that I had are pretty much gone, so hi!  Shall we get down to business and learn so more about Michelin? Sorry, I didn’t quite hear that! I thought you were ready…

In 1905, Michelin opened up it’s first official branch of business, Michelin Tyres, Ltd, in London, England.  Michelin also opened it’s first plant outside of France, in Turin, Italy.  This was just a baby-step compared to what Michelin has done over the past 100 years…

In 1907, Edouard travelled across the Atlantic for the first time, to open a plant in Milltown, New Jersey.  The plant remained in operation until 1931.  Three years later, Edouard published the first Michelin Road Map.  Just three years later (I’m beginning to notice a pattern here!), Michelin invented the detachable spare wheel (and tire), so I guess you can thank one of the world’s largest tire companies for inventing the spare wheel and tire.

In 1914, just weeks before WWI was declared, Edouard Michelin offered aircraft building services to the French government.  The first 100 planes were given free of charge to France; the rest were sold.  The total of planes that Michelin built during 1914, a whopping 1,884 units.  Two years later, Edouard got an idea into his head.  The idea was that there was a runway, very much like a concrete road, that could be used for planes to take off and land on.  Yet another useful invention.  Six days later, the world’s first concrete runway was built.

In 1923, the first low-pressure tire, the Michelin “Comfort” was invented.  It could go up to 15,000 kilometers without air needing to be added.  In 1925, Michelin bought 22,230 acres in Dautieng, Indochina, and 13,600 acres in Thuan Loi, Indochina to operate it’s own rubber plantations.

Three years later, in 1928, Edouard Michelin appointed his son, Ettienne Michelin vice-president of Michelin.  In 1929, Ettienne invented the “Micheline” railcar and the first train tire.  The following year, Edouard filed a patent for a tire with a built-in tube; the ancestor to the tubeless tire.  In 1930, Ettienne filed a patent for a tire with a built-in tube. This was the ancestor to the tubeless tire.  Just two years later, the Supercomfort tire was invented and it had a lifespan of 30,000 kilometers.  In 1933, the Bella Vista factory was built in Argentina to produce the Supercomfort tire.

In 1934, the Michelin “Stop!” tire introduced skid strips to the world.  Skid strips were strips built into the tire that helped the tire find traction on slippery roads.  The tire turned out to be a huge success.  in 1935, Michelin bought almost 95% of Citroën Motor Car Company.  Pierre Michelin (Edouard’s younger son) became CEO of Citroën, and appointed Pierre Boulanger vice president of Citroën.  Citroën also built the first prototype of what we now know as the Citroën 2CV.  Also, the Michelin run-flat tire was invented.  Today, many cars have run-flat tires for safety, as they can go for many thousands of miles with a leak and not endanger the driver and passengers in any way.

In 1940, Michelin took the name of Michelin Rubber Manufacturing, Ltd.  Five years later, the Clermont-Ferrand plant, bombed by Allied bombers in 1944, was rebuilt and modernized.  The following year, Michelin invented the radial tire.  Edouard Michelin (then almost 80) had filed one of his last patents on June 4, 1946.  Two years later, the Citroën 2CV was introduced at the Paris Auto Show.  Even though it took three years to iron out the kinks, Edouard Michelin had invented something amazing, the radial tire.  It was marketed under the name Michelin “X.”

In 1959, Michelin invented the first radial tire for earthmoving equipment (if you don’t believe me, call up the local equipment rental store and ask what type of tires they use on their largest equipment).  In 1965, the first Michelin tire testing center, the Ladoux was opened just a few minutes north of the Clermont-Ferrand plant.  Just three years later, the first Michelin Green Guide was published for a North American location; New York City.

in 1974, Michelin sold all its shares in Citroën to Peugeot.  Three years later, two new testing centers opened: one in Laurens, South Carolina, the other in Almeria, Spain.  Just two years later, Michelin was the main sponsor for Ferrari in the 1979 Formula One World Championship.  Ferrari won.

1981- Michelin invented the Michelin Air X, the first radial tire for aircraft.  This meant that aircraft no longer needed to have solid rubber tires, which meant that the aircraft could lose up to 200 pounds.  The following year, Michelin opened a new plant in Waterville, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The plant produces the Michelin Air X tire.  In 1990, Michelin bought the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company, North America (Uniroyal Australia had been bought in 1980).  This ensured Michelin’s future in North America.

In 1991, Francois Michelin appointed his son, Édouard Michelin II co-managing partner.  Just four years later, Michelin saw a new plant open in Manila, Philippines.  Also, the Space Shuttle landed on Michelin tires the same year.

In 1998, Bibendum (the Michelin Man) celebrated his 100th birthday.  In honor of that, Michelin started the Challenge Bibendum.  Challenge Bibendum is an online global clean vehicle and sustainable mobility forum.  The following year, Michelin developed and started producing the Delta Radial performance motorcycle tire, which rivals Michelin’s finest modern-day racing tires in technology.

In 2003, Michelin developed the XeoBib; the first agricultural tire to run at a constant low pressure.  Seven years later, in 2010, Michelin was inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame, because of it’s 11 years of undisputed supremacy in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).  The same year, in honor of Michelin’s first road map being published, Michelin came out with an interactive DVD road map that is almost as interactive as using SiRi on a brand-new iPhone 4S.

Today, Michelin sponsors three racing teams, sponsors tires for the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup,  has 23,000 authorized retail stores around the world, and employs well over 100,000 people.

From Bad to Worse

In the ongoing saga of this writer’s health, the editorial staff wishes it to be known that he has been recalled for major factory repairs. As soon as all repairs have been made, he will return for active use.

From: The Editorial Staff

Michelin Tires (Part 1)

The history of Michelin Tyres, Ltd can be traced back to 1829, with the marriage of Edouard Daubree and Elizabeth Pugh Parker.  Elizabeth was the niece of the man who found rubber in benzene.  She introduced rubber into the French Auvergne region, where she made play balls for children.  She started making them by hand, then by a machine that her husband invented.  A few years later, in 1832, Edouard Daubree and his cousin Aristide Barbier started a rubber factory in the small town of Clermont-Ferrand, France.  They made such things as: farm machinery, rubber balls, gaskets, valves, and tubing.  Thirty-one years later, they named the company Barbier Daubree & Co.  The same year, it was changed to E.Daubree & Co.  In 1867, J.G. Bideau, a local lawyer, invested in the company (which was then run by Ernest Daubree, who had taken over the business).  Since Bideau then owned almost 65% of the company, it was changed to J.G. Bideau & Co.

In 1889, two brothers, Edouard and Andre Michelin co-manage the company, and the                                      name was changed to Michelin & Co.  By this time, the plant was employing 52 people, and was producing about 200,000 rubber balls a year.  Two years later, a cyclist arrived at the plant, in need of supplies to repair the Dunlop tires on his bicycle.  After three hours of hard labor, the tire was off, and was patched.  The next morning, Edouard tested out the repaired tire in the factory courtyard.  After only a few laps around the courtyard, the tire failed again.  However, Edouard was enthusiastic about pneumatic tires, so he started experimenting with the idea.  A couple of months later, he took out his first patent.  We can thank Edouard for the pneumatic tire – its comfortable and long lasting ride.

A few years later, in 1895, the Eclair, built by Andre Michelin, entered the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race, did not win, but was a milestone in automobile history – it was the first car to use pneumatic tires!  The following year, Edouard and Andre were at the Universal and Colonial Exposition in Lyon, when Edouard saw a stack of tires, which prompted him to say “Give it arms and legs, and it could be a man!”  Soon afterwards, Andre and Edouard Michelin had the French cartoonist, O’Galop draw a figure of tires with the Latin line “nunc esl bibendum”, which means “it’s time to drink!”  Andre also added the now infamous slogan “Michelin tyres drink obstables!”  To this day, Bibendum (also called the Michelin Man) has been an iconic symbol in the automotive world.

Edouard had to travel a lot on behalf of the company.  Most likely, he spent a great deal of his time in flea-bag hotels and eating in unappealing restaurants.  So, he decided to create a travel guide.  In 1900, the first Michelin Guide was published.  Within the first month of sales, more than 35,000 copies had been sold.  On the front cover, Andre Michelin’s famous words “This guide is born with the century, and will last as long as the century does.”  Michelin Guides are called by some “the traveller’s Bible.”  The Michelin Green Guides are oriented towards longer trips.  They include:  Historical background, art and architecture, cultural insights, as well as food and hotel information.  The Michelin Red Guides are oriented towards shorter trips, and they include:  Food and hotel information.  The Red Guide was published in 1900, and is often called the Red Guide, due to its distinctive red cover.  Michelin Must See Guides are oriented towards nature, and are often used for weekend getaways, and camping trips.  Overall, Michelin Guides are a nice additions to a trip.  Plus, almost 30 million copies of the Red Guide have been published.  Over 88 million copies of Michelin Green Guides, Red Guides, and Must See Guides have been published, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to get a new one…

For those wanting to look at Michelin’s website, here it is:

Stay tuned for ‘Part 2’, which will include the remaining aspect of Michelin’s extensive history, as well as their criteria for their tire development, and definitions (like, what IS a pneumatic tire?).

I Smell a Rat…

You are probably thinking of the pesky mammal that squeaks, eats any food that you left out, and is a general annoyance.  I’m thinking of the rat motors, built by Chevy in the 1960’s.  The rat motor was Chevy’s big-block V-8.  They were offered in 396 ci, 402 ci, 427 ci, and 454 ci regular production engines.  There were also the special aluminum-block 427 ci, 430 ci, 465 ci, 495 ci, and 510 ci rats, built especially for race cars.  Built in factories, they were genetically engineered rats (or at least mechanically engineered!)  Now for the interesting part…  The name was coined by drag racers and tire-smoking teenagers (NOT me), who called it the rat because it was an outsized companion to the small block “mouse” engines, and the rat’s ability to scare the Chrysler Hemi “elephant” motors. Trivia moment:  The Chrysler Hemi was called “the elephant” because it was so heavy!  So, inevitably, the Chevy rat has gone down in history without many of the nicknames it deserves.

How a Car Engine Works

Ever pop the hood of your car and wonder what’s going on?  In today’s post let’s learn about your car’s engine.

Currently, the fastest way to high performance and fuel efficiency is to use the internal combustion engine.  The combustion (explosion) occurs inside the engine, and the energy is used to propel the vehicle forward.  The internal combustion engine has many forms, such as, diesels, gas turbine, two-stroke and Hemi engines are all part of the family.

On the other hand, there is an external combustion engine. In an external combustion engine, the energy (fuel) is burned outside the engine.  This energy propels the vehicle forward.  The best example of this would be a steam engine on an old-fashioned car or train.

Most cars use the four-stroke combustion cycle.  This converts gasoline to movement.  The four strokes are:

1. Intake stroke.  The piston is at the top and moves downward.  When it is halfway down, the intake valve opens and fuel and air come in and mix in the cylinder.

2. Compression stroke. Compression (or squishing) of the fuel/air mixture by the piston.  The molecules are being crushed as the piston moves up in the cylinder.  All the valves are closed.

3. Combustion stroke.  Here comes the job of the spark plug.  The spark plug emits a spark (sent from the distributor via the electrical system) and ignites the fuel (air/gas mixture).  The resulting explosion drives the piston down.

4. Exhaust stroke. When the piston is at the bottom of it’s up/down stroke, then the exhaust valve opens and as the piston moves up, it pushes the waste gasses (CO 2 and NO 2) out the exhaust system and polluting our beautiful atmosphere.  Now the vales are all closed.  Trivia: NO 2 is nitrous oxide and is used for giving race cars a quick boost of speed.  Mostly used for dragsters.

Now the cylinder is ready to repeat the intake stroke and start all over again.  Diesel engines are different because they don’t have spark plugs.  I’ll explain that another time, so stay tuned!