Sunday, April 24, 2016

Canadian Teams Look to Go the Distance at Shell Eco-marathon Americas

Photo Credit: Royal Dutch Shell plc 

There is always something to learn in this world. With every decade, the automobile has been both a product of our lessons and sometimes a teacher for what we personally expect from transportation. In 2016, the study into maximizing the amount of distance we can travel on a tank of gasoline continues to encourage revelations in life's classroom. This weekend between April 22nd and April 24th, Detroit operates as a school lab for young, technical explorers to test the lengths that could be travelled while expelling the least amount of energy.

A total of 128 teams made up of over 1,000 students have arrived in Detroit, Michigan this weekend to maximize the efficiency of a modern self-propelled vehicle. Small gasoline and diesel engines, battery-powered electric motors, as well as vehicles utilizing compressed natural gas, ethanol and hydrogen will be tested in the 10th annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Coinciding with Earth day weekend, the object of the competition among young engineers and designers is to achieve the highest fuel economy possible. In previous Shell Eco-marathon Americas events, the mileage potential has amounted to almost 100 times more than a conventional passenger car.

Almost 100 teams are competing in the 2016 event with several reams contributing multiple entries. While the resounding amount of entries are from teams of United States high schools and universities (including Penn State University, Purdue University of Indiana, Louisiana Tech University and North Carolina's Duke University), the entire North American and South American continents are well-represented this weekend. Six teams arrive in Detroit from Brazil while the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Ecuador are also being supported by entries at the 2016 Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Other than the United States, the nation contributing the most entries to the education-oriented fuel economy challenge has come from Canada. A total of 17 teams representing 13 university/college campuses and one from a high school are wearing the red and white across the border.

For the 2016 Shell Eco-marathon Americas, the following Canadian institutions are being represented:

·    Concordia University: Competing in the gasoline-powered Prototype category as Concordia SAE Racing with the Concordia Supermileage.

·    Dalhousie University: The Nova Scotia university is fielding Prototype class 'The Stig' under the Sexton Supermilers team banner.  

·    École de technologie Supérieure: Under the team name Evolution Supermileage, the Montreal, Quebec-based Evo VI is a participant in the Prototype category. 

·    Lambton College: The Notbmal Prototype category is fielded the team Control Freaks from Sarnia, Ontario

·    Mohawk College: Batttery-electric power propels the Mohawk Supermileage Team entry called the Hamilton Volta.

·    Northern Collegiate: The lone high school entry from Canada, Sarnia, Ontario's Team Northern is involved in the Prototype class competing with the gasoline-powered ROVER. 

·    Queen’s University: Queen's University is competing with two teams in 2016. Queen's Eco-Vehicle Team is running a gasoline-powered Prototype called Miles and Queen's Fuel Cell Team is competing with Alan, a hydrogen-powered machine. 

·    Université de Sherbrooke: The Sherbrooke, Quebec Beyond team has entered the 2016 Shell Eco-marathon Americas with a battery-powered vehicle called La Fendeuse.

·    Universite Laval: Laval entrants for 2016 arrive  with a strong linage. In 2013, a team from the university travelled 3,587 miles per gallon in an effort that still stands as a record. Alérion Supermileage is fielding the CT 2.0 Prototype class vehicle this year.

·    University of Alberta: One of two Canadian universities entered in the UrbanConcept group, the University of Alberta EcoCar Team is running a hydrogen-fuelled machine. The name of the vehicle is Alice.

·    University of British Columbia: Competing in the UrbanConcept and the Prototype classes for 2016, the two teams of University of British Columbia are called UBC Supermileage Team and UBC Supermileage Team (Prototype). The UrbanConcept car is the Zoticus while the university's gasoline-powered Mark X represents the Prototype effort.
·    University of Ottawa: The Supermileage uOttawa team is running a gasoline-powered Prototype category entry called Jaws II.

·    University of Toronto: Defending a 2015 victory when an entry achieved a 3,421 mile per gallon fuel economy run, the University of Toronto has two teams. University of Toronto Supermileage is competing with a gasoline-powered UT4 while the University of Toronto Supermileage V2.0 is fielding the electric UT5.

·    University of Waterloo: The battery-electric Javelin 2 is a Prototype class car entered by UWEMC.

Against what is certain to be some innovative and resourceful efforts, the Canadian teams is certain to be facing tough competition. With past success as well as the dedication from the teams this year, we should be proud as a nation for the outcome of their achievements following the 2016 Shell Eco-marathon Americas.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Transport Canada Calls Attention to Power Steering Related Failure Potential on Select Dodge and Chrysler Vehicles

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

On Wednesday, April 20th, Transport Canada has informed the public as well as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of a safety issue the organization has identified on certain Dodge and Chrysler vehicles.

The issue affecting Chrysler 200, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger and Dodge Journey manufactured collectively between 2007 and 2016 relates to a power steering return hose. An investigation in response to over 100 consumer complaints by Transport Canada uncovered there is a potential the hose can fail causing the loss of power steering as well as a risk of fire. Chrysler Sebring/200 and Dodge Avenger vehicles related to the investigation were produced from 2007 to the 2013 model year. Affected Dodge Journey crossover vehicles have been produced since 2009 spanning up to the current 2016 models.

The information provided by Transport Canada on the vehicles of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are part of a new tool in the arsenal of the government safety and regulatory body. Starting in 2015, the Minister of Transport has gained the authority to inform affected Canadians as well as instruct the manufacturer to pursue greater efforts in addressing safety issues. An action demonstrating a more proactive effort by Transport Canada, similar notification has been issued relating to Nissan and Toyota since the beginning of this year. Nissan's notice related to a 2014 recall on the X-Trail sport utility vehicle while the release of a potential safety issue relating to Toyota's RAV4 second-row seating was promptly acted upon by the manufacturer.

On the day of the announcement, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have yet to issue a response to the discovered power steering hose safety issue. "Manufactures should know that we have high standards for Canadian vehicles, and we expect them to live up to these standards at all times." said Minister of Transport Marc Garneau who reminds that an option exists to force a recall if absolutely necessary to protect Canadians.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

AZRA Pledges Big Electric Plans for Canadian Motoring

Photo Credit: Renault

With an electrified future of automobiles depending upon the quick reaction of current car builders, there seems to be some credence to believe a window of opportunity could exist for smaller start-up operations becoming a major player. The leading supporting argument to a newcomer company unbound by its past internal combustion vehicle development hitting it big is Tesla Motors. While Canada's immediate future doesn't consist of a home-grown, mass-produced Ludicrous Mode-infused electric car, AZRA Canada does look to launch a smaller-scale Tesla Motors-style business from Quebec. The electric vehicle strategy for AZRA Canada revolves around a two-prong attack.

The first component to AZRA Canada's business is supplying an electric vehicle to the marketplace. Passing through a major regulatory stage last month, AZRA Canada's all-electric product, the Renault Twizy, cleared the approval step with Transport Canada. The Twizy set to roam on Canadian roads will function at speeds up to 40 km/h. The limited speed allows the car to fit within the low-speed vehicle. The Renault Twizy electric car will be available through a leasing plan costing $99 per month including registration and insurance. Uni-Select (the parent company behind the Bumper to Bumper brand and Auto Parts Plus) has agreed to maintain the electric vehicle in Canada.

Serving as the second part of AZRA Canada's electric vehicle is going to involve proliferating the available charging options. Plans from AZRA targets the creation of 2,000 additional charging stations. With each one of these aluminum-constructed electric charging station capable of replenishing up to four vehicles at a time, a total of 8,000 more power points. These new EV charging stations will offer power charges between 7 and 50 kW. At the high-end, it should be possible to considerably recharge a battery in less than 30 minutes. The expansion of their electric charging network is slated to occur over an 18-month period.

The 2,000 charging stations will be installed on private property such as office buildings and shopping centres. AZRA will provide the electric car charging station installation free-of-charge. At the moment, according to the AZRA charging map app, many of the company's stations are situated within the area around Montreal and Quebec City. This electric charging station expansion plan will have a drastic effect on the Canadian EV charging map in total. According to the CAA, only 1,858 EV charging stations currently exist in Canada. 

Citing a mission to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted through transportation, AZRA's President and CEO Jean-Francois Carriere said, "We are proud to be investing in transport electrification because it is the way of the future to reduce our environmental footprint."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Roger Penske and Chevrolet Camaro SS Receive Pace Honours for 2016 Indy 500

Bret Kelley/IMS for Chevrolet

The 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 set in little more than a month from now is already taking shape with the announcement of the ceremonial pace car drive. A person well-known for celebrating in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's victory lane is presented with a special duty of starting the 500-mile classic. Set to take the wheel of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS pace car is IndyCar superstar team owner Roger Penske.

Despite never competing at the Brickyard as a driver (what was a relatively short but noteworthy career behind the wheel), Roger Penske's name is attached to some of the most significant records at the speedway. Impressively the winning car owner for 16 of the previous 99 runnings of the Indianapolis 500, the first victory for a Penske-owned car was in 1972 driven by Mark Donohue. The 16 wins for the car owner have come with 11 drivers including Rick Mears, Al Unser and Al Unser Jr as well as Emerson Fittipaldi. Penske is the also the reigning winning car owner thanks to a masterful drive by Juan-Pablo Montoya in the 2015 Indianapolis 500.

For the ninth time in the life of the Camaro nameplate, the car has been selected as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500. A sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro SS hardtop will be handled by Roger Penske for the opening parade laps. With the 2016 edition of the race, five of the six generations of the Chevrolet Camaro will have been represented as a pace car at Indy (only one left out is the second-generation model sold from 1970 to 1981). The 2016 Indy 500 will also be the 15th consecutive time the Chevrolet brand is slated to lead the 33 race starters to green.

The Abalone White 2016 Camaro SS pace vehicle commemorates the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as well as the 50th anniversary for the introduction of the Chevrolet pony car. Billed as a 2017 special edition, the Chevrolet Camaro SS pace car is powered by a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine. Special badging and black center striping of the Chevrolet Camaro 50th Anniversary Edition is accompanied by a 20-inch wheels  body-color front splitter, orange brake calipers and unique seating with orange stitching. The 50th Anniversary Edition Camaro will be available to the public in coupe and convertible body styles.

The 100th Indianapolis 500 will be held on May 29th of 2016.

Monday, April 11, 2016

App Review: Real Racing 3 With BMW Generations Challenge Content

In recent months, an app that has received a fair bit of usage through my limited free time is Real Racing 3. An amusing race game experience for a tablet or smartphone, the game has provided some wonderfully rendered digital representations of popular race tracks and automobiles. The list of race cars available on the app currently amounts to 146 spanning the gamut of classes and categories.

Real Racing 3's gaming action is also an ever-expanding virtual world. During Daytona Speedweeks, an expanded collection of NASCAR experiences were added to the game. Real Racing 3 also provides a frequent assortment of limited-time challenges allowing users of opportunity to win game currency and even vehicles by accomplishing races on a scale. For April, a Generations Challenge had added a pair of BMWs to the Real Racing 3 platform.

Representing an era where car manufacturers competed in auto racing with specially-prepped, limited-production factory vehicles, the BMW 3.0 CSL have now been added as a new playable vehicle on Real Racing 3. The real-life version of the BMW 3.0 CSL debuted on the race track in 1972 as a lightweight version of the previous 3.0 CS. The race cars were able to boast weight-savings thanks to thinner sheetmetal body shell and the use of aluminum for door, hood and trunk panels. Removal of trim pieces and other components deemed non-essential for racing was also employed on the BMW 3.0 CSL. The 3.0 CSL's aerodynamic bodywork resulted in the vehicle being called "the Batmobile".

The reign of the this vehicle was iconic for BMW. During its competitive racing years, the BMW 3.0 CSL would be driven to divisional European Touring Car Championships in six seasons from 1973 to 1979. Two Le Mans class victories and a 1975 IMSA GT Championship were also attributed to the vehicle before it was retired.

Needing only a tablet, Real Racing 3 will introduce many of us to the beauty of the BMW 3.0 CSL. I recommend that you complete the Generation Challenge. With a minimal expense of in-game currency, the classic BMW 3.0 CSL is practically gifted to you in the first two levels of competition.

Joining the BMW 3.0 CSL in the Real Racing 3 game is a digital recreation of the modern recreation of the 1970s car. Talking about the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R, the concept car was introduced in 2015 as a celebration to BMW's 40th anniversary of officially operating in North America. Heavily based on the original race car, you can notice the resemblance with the large rear spoiler. The BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R uses 21st century engineering to revisit the lightweight construction measures. This time, a carbon fiber roll cage is integrated into the vehicle. Other details of the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R includes laser lighting, 21-inch alloy wheels and a minimalist interior.

Unlike the 1970s version of the vehicle, winning the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R is a trickier undertaking. I'm currently trapped within the third level due to expensive in-game currency needed to upgrade the vehicle to win upcoming stages. Time and time again, this becomes the real problem with Real Racing 3. Sometimes, the upgrade or the cars are simply too costly. Of course, like almost every free game app, Real Racing 3 offers the opportunity to in-game credits with real money. So, as I'm writing this review, the 3.0 CSL Hommage R untouchable for me.

Click here to access the Google Play store to view the Real Racing 3 app. Maybe you might have better perseverance to win the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kyle Busch Establishes Himself Top NASCAR Cowboy With Texas Win

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images

The Toyota Camrys prepared by Joe Gibbs Racing were the toast of Texas for much of the Duck Commander 500 on Saturday night. In a race where three of the four Joe Gibbs owned cars and the associated Furniture Row Racing #78 car led for all but 15 of 334 laps, the one who triumphed at the end only truly showed his hand late on the fast Fort Worth, Texas track.

The 500-mile race at the Texas Motor Speedway started after a roughly two-hour delay. Leading the field to green, the Stanley-sponsored Toyota wheeled by Carl Edwards led 57 of the first 57 laps of the race. On lap 59, Edward’s main adversary for the night emerged in the form of the black #78 Toyota Camry. Martin Truex Jr started 3rd in the field and kept his Furniture Row Racing car in the top-5 for almost the entire race. Thanks to a long green flag running from lap 34 to 136 (totalling more than half the race’s scheduled distance), Truex Jr held the lead for an impressive 63 consecutive circuits under that period of the Duck Commander 500. Edwards and Truex Jr battled almost exclusively for three quarters of the race distance as the drivers frequently jockeyed each other for the lead.

The most laps led by a non-Toyota competitor at Texas Motor Speedway was conducted in a single stint by Roush Fenway Racing car Trevor Bayne. Rolling the dice on a daring but unorthodox strategy where the #6 Ford Fusion of Bayne stayed out several laps after a pit cycle for all the frontrunners on lap 260, the car was consistently more than two seconds slower on older tires compared to then second-place Martin Truex Jr. In 12 laps, the #78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota caught and easily passed the #6 car. Truex Jr would lead a race-topping 141 laps at Texas.

Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

While the 1.5-mile surface of Texas Motor Speedway provided more than enough room for passing, much of the Duck Commander 500 was decided on pit road. As almost every Sprint Cup team has dedicated themselves to attaching only four lug nuts instead of five to the wheel bub (remembering last year NASCAR announced they were no longer policing lug nut fastenings during pit stops), pit stop times for changing four tires has dipped around 11 seconds at a huge risk. A loose wheel at high speeds on the tri-oval track quickly endangers a driver if the vehicle cannot return to the pits safely. While no accidents resulted, the 334-lap race saw a slew of drivers and crews suffering the consequences of the time-savings on pit stops including one of night’s biggest contenders.

Two major casualties of a loose wheel during the Duck Commander 500 were Matt Kenseth and most significantly Carl Edwards. Both driving for Joe Gibbs Racing teams, Edwards would lead the second-most laps in the race while Kenseth’s #20 Toyota was also a steady top-5 runner. After starting on the pole for the Saturday night race, Carl Edwards fought back to finish 7th in the #19 Stanley Toyota. Matt Kenseth was involved in a late-race multi-vehicle wreck but still soldiered onto a 11th place result.

Pit road mishaps for the night were not limited to the Joe Gibbs Racing bunch under high pressure circumstances. Costing the Stewart-Haas Racing team #4 Chevrolet SS a potential top-5, two mistakes happened in one pit stop. First driver Kevin Harvick was caught speeding on pit road and second was an error where a tire left the control of the crew. Forced to the rear of the field, Harvick struggled home in 10th place but still gained ground from a 22nd place starting spot. Hendrick Motorsports also encountered moments of unease topped by a brief second the left rear corner of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s #88 Nationwide Chevrolet was on fire. Started when a flying lug nut ignited fuel, the flames died down quickly when Earnhardt Jr was at speed while a small fire in the pit stall was extinguished by the crew.

Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

As the top position of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Duck Commander 500 was now under the control of Martin Truex Jr, a series of cautions in the late stage of the event threw the once-dominating car off balance. Two cautions occurring after just a handful of laps including a major accident started in a fight for position between Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. Dillon’s #3 Chevrolet slid loose out of turn 2 for an incident where 13 cars received varying amounts of damage. When the pits opened, Martin Truex Jr’s fate was decided when he didn’t stop for tires. Saying in post-race he actually received a late call from crew chief Cole Pearn to stop but could not safety enter pit road from the track, the #78 Toyota would fall prey to vultures on fresh tires. On the lap 302 restart, Truex Jr was quickly passed by the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota of Kyle Busch. While the #78 car was displaced to a sixth-place finishing result, Busch went on to claim has second NASCAR Sprint Cup race win of the season.

The 36th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win for Kyle Busch saw the #18 Toyota emerge from a 15th place starting spot and some uncertainty up to the midpoint of the race. Leading 34 laps during the night in total, all but one of those circuits was in the final green flag run of the Duck Commander 500. Kyle Busch’s second consecutive Sprint Cup victory, the reigning champion has also taken wins in the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series in the past two weekends. The #18 car’s sponsor Interstate Batteries was also honoured with a win in their company’s home state.

Crossing the line 3.904 seconds after Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr had a roller coaster-like race. Starting the race after qualifying in 16th place, Earnhardt Jr and his Hendrick Motorsports #88 team made their way into the top-3 by the first quarter of the event’s distance. However, a poorly-timed pit stop performed ahead of a lap 212 caution (caused when Josh Wise’s #30 car hit the wall) sent the Nationwide-sponsored Chevrolet SS deep into the field. Recovering to the lead lap, Dale Earnhardt Jr and his team spent the last third of Texas Motor Speedway race coming back through the field. The runner-up position is NASCAR Most Popular Driver’s three top-five of the 2016 season.

Starting on the front row, 3rd place finishing #22 car of Joey Logano is the only Ford that in the top-10 final results after the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Along with second place, Hendrick Motorsports cars were also found in the fourth and fifth place spot at the end of the race. Jimmie Johnson overcame front end damage suffered in an early lap pit road collision with Kyle Busch to capture 4th in the final running order. Chase Elliott came across the line at Texas in 5th after a tricky start for the rookie. Detecting a transmission problem before the Duck Commander 500’s start on the #24 Chevrolet SS, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports team changed the gearbox accepting a forfeiture of a fourth place starting spot. Starting in the rear, the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Chase Elliott surged forward and even led a lap at Texas.

The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to short track competition next week in their spring visit to the Bristol Motor Speedway. The Food City 500 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon on April 17th.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Presented To The World, The Entry-Level Electric Tesla Model 3

Photo Credit: Tesla Motors

In 2003, major auto makers in the world were not even close to considering an electric car for the general market. As a matter of fact, that automotive era was marked as the time where a large group of the small publicly available electric car population was extinguished with General Motors repossessing and destroying their fleet of EV1s. It was this time where a small business called Tesla Motors was established. Launching first a roadster, the company ambitiously committed to a luxury sedan called the Tesla Model S. Critics ate crow as the car became a runaway success for the electric car revolution. As Tesla Motors most recently attracted fanfare with the delayed but still highly-desired Model X electric crossover, the popularly of the car company became immediately apparent. how the cultural icon could serve the world well with a high-volume production vehicle. On the late day of March, the official first presentation of Tesla Model 3 gave us the vision of what could become a product that could potentially reshape the way a generation will see the automobile.

Tesla Motors' Elon Musk introduced a crowd of electric car fanatics and the world via webcast to the Model 3 as the latest step in their image of the new automotive future coming as soon as late 2017. Billed as a model built to conform to a $35,000 US base price tag ahead of any possible tax credits or incentives, the Tesla Model 3 low price will not forsake the ideals that the all-electric vehicle makers have adopted. The fourth vehicle that will be sold by Tesla Motors, the Model 3 borrows styling DNA from both the Model S and Model X. The smaller size of the Tesla Model 3 is emphasized by the fastback-like rear end. Another notable feature is the single contoured piece of glass that runs from the windshield to the rear window. Front and rear storage spaces are present in the new vehicle. Cargo dimensions have been stated to surpass anything offered by a gasoline-powered car of an equal size.

The cabin is designed for ample room for five adults. Musk said this was accomplished by moving the front section of the passenger compartment forward allowing greater legroom for both rows of occupants. Auto Pilot hardware and safety features will come standard on the new car.

With many details of the Tesla Model 3 still being finalized, performance properties have been provided within estimates by Musk. A range at least 215 miles (346 kilometers) has been referenced with the Model 3. The Tesla Model 3 will be built as production at the world's largest lithium-ion battery production plant (so-called Gigafactory 1) is set for operations. 0 to 100 kilometers per hour acceleration times of under 6 seconds is also mentioned for the electric car. Elon Musk wetted appetites with word higher performance versions of the Tesla Model 3 is likely.

Expected for release in late 2017, the Tesla Model 3 will spring the all-electric auto company into completely new territory in the general automobile sector. While the brand has enjoyed immense sales with the Model S, the Model 3's price tag is going to commit a much larger driving population to Tesla. Tesla Motors have already registered 115,000 in a matter of a day before the entry-level electric car was even unveiled. Because their line-up is all-electric, oil changes and other general service issues are not the same for Tesla. However, the Model 3 may present the fast-growing auto company with a major challenge for how to manage a population of a targeted 500,000 vehicles per year. With roughly a year and a half before the first Model 3s hit the streets, it will be, by all accounts, interesting how Tesla Motors readies itself as a major volume player in the automotive sector.