Ford Developing Carbon Fiber Body

No matter who wins the presidential race in November, he will have to deal with the same “malarkey” surrounding fuel prices. Hybrid and electric vehicles can offer relief from the pump, but aren’t in the price range of many buyers. Another way to save on fuel is to lighten the car as a whole, something that Ford is taking a serious look at with carbon fiber research.

Carbon fiber is close to the strength of steel, while being much lighter. To this point, the only reason auto manufacturers haven’t begun using the material (except for a piece here and there, and in luxury vehicles) is the cost. Ford’s European Research Center has been working with Hightech.NRW, a German research firm, on developing economical production practices to produce carbon fiber auto parts. Continue reading

U.S. Department of Transportation Test Drives “Smart” Cars

I suspect most of you out there are old enough to remember Knight Rider. Even as a kid, I never expected a real car to act like Kitt, but figured some of the elements of its design would eventually become science-fact (hands-free communication, GPS, on-board computer). Navigation aside, I don’t really want a car that can talk to me. It’d probably just complain.

It might not ask you about your feelings, but the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) is experimenting with “smart” cars that can communicate with other vehicles and with drivers. As part of a $25 million year-long pilot project, the DOT has equipped 3,000 vehicles with data recorders and wireless technology. The pilot program will take place aroundAnn Arbor, MI, and will study how and if the technology can increase vehicle safety.

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“Sponge-Like” Material Could Boost Hydrogen Fuel Cell Performance

Hydrogen fuel cells may very well power the electric vehicles of the future, but right now hydrogen power has some inherent limitations. The technology is expensive, and the hydrogen in these systems has to be compressed at high pressures; current systems lose a significant amount of energy quickly, and the high pressure can lead to unsafe conditions.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are investigating alternative storage methods for hydrogen-powered fuel cells by synthesizing novel materials with high hydrogen adsorption capacities. By improving storage capacity, the batteries could achieve longer charges, which would be a boon for hydrogen-powered electric vehicle designs. Continue reading

Acoustic Mirror Testing Quiets Ford Designs

Cabin noise in a new car can be jarring. Most new vehicles provide a pretty quiet ride, but even miniscule leaks can greatly increase the volume levels inside a car.

Engineers at Ford recently used an elliptical acoustic mirror to help reduce noise in the Ford Escape, and make changes to the vehicle’s shape early in the design phase. These mirrors look a bit like a satellite dish with an attached microphone, and can be used to measure noises on the surface of the vehicle and in the airflow; Ford used them to locate areas where noise penetrated the interior of the vehicle. Continue reading

Ford Plans to Take Cars to the Cloud

Those of us who grew up watching The Jetsons have long been asking the question: Where are the flying cars? While the multicopter is in prototype, it still doesn’t look like we’re going to be flying cars around any time soon, but based on the technology Ford Motor Company recently showed off in its Evos concept car, they may at least be heading to the cloud.

The Evos (which made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show over the summer) is an electric hybrid with gull-wing doors (like the old DeLorean) that is connected to the Internet and could be capable of enabling all sorts of useful new applications thanks to a combination of wireless connectivity and cloud computing services. It also incorporates drivetrain improvements and physical design tweaks that will slowly work their way into mainstream Ford designs over the next few years.

The car could access traffic and weather information, along with a copy of your work calendar in order to map out an efficient driving route, and even determine when you should wake up, then send a message to your alarm clock. It can automatically program your radio to play whatever you were listening to inside house or on your computer before you leave home. It can even send messages to the control systems in your house to turn down the thermostat or close the garage door. Continue reading


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