New means of production could give moral boost to ethanol

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Ethanol may be touted as a more eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, but it’s not without its own drawbacks…as we here at ausauto have been banging on about for yonks. Most importantly, the corn or other plants required as feedstock often take up field space that could otherwise be put to use growing food crops. Also, as with other plants, the feedstock crops require large amounts of water and fertilizer. Now, however, scientists at Stanford University have devised a method of producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas.

The technology was developed by assistant professor of chemistry Matthew Kanan and graduate student Christina Li. Whereas plant-based ethanol is obtained through a fermentation process, their technique involves taking water saturated with carbon monoxide gas, and placing it in an electrochemical cell at room temperature.

Like other fuel cells, theirs has two electrodes (an anode and a cathode) that an electrical current flows between. In the case of a hydrogen fuel cell, the application of that current would convert ordinary water contained within the cell into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas. By using a cathode made of oxide-derived copper, however, Kanan and Li were able to reduce the carbon monoxide in their water into ethanol and acetate.

While a cathode made from conventional copper could do the same thing to a limited extent, it would only have been about one tenth as efficient.

“Conventional copper electrodes consist of individual nanoparticles that just sit on top of each other, oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries, explained Matthew.

“That structure allows it to use up to 57% of the electrical current for producing the ethanol and acetate, which according to Stanford, is quite impressive.

What would be more impressive is if the electricity used in the process could be obtained from renewable sources, and if the carbon monoxide could be derived from something ‘greener’ than the current source, fossil fuels.

The researchers are working toward both of these goals, along with making the process more efficient. They’re also looking at using the technology to produce fuels other than ethanol.

A paper on the research was published last week in the journal Nature.

Source: Stanford University

Biggles gives thumbs up to all noise and no signal aviation design theme Mercedes-AMG GT

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A new AMG high-performance automobile is said to be all set for its world premiere later this year, according to the latest press release from Mercedes-Benz that unfortunately is all noise and no signal.

‘Breath-taking design and supreme agility’, ‘fascinating, dynamic and versatile’, ‘turning the dream into reality’…all that sort of rubbish…’the sensual purity of a superlative driving machine’…and so it drones on and on…Thank goodness the technos have a lot more talent and imagination than the marketing flacks or Merc would be turning out billy carts!

Alas, there’s no technical details, but you can bet on it that bits and pieces of other models such as a 577-583bhp 6.3-litre V8 and a Speedshift seven-speed sports transmission will be in the mix.

There is a the shot (above) of the ‘aviation design theme’ interior with its emphasis on width “creating an impression of a powerful wing”- whatever the hell that means – four central spotlight-style vents and “controls which are arranged like eight cylinders in a V layout”.

Untitled-2And to round it all off: “Designed to set the driver’s and front passenger’s pulses racing even before the car moves off, it provides an enticing intimation of the superlative dynamic performance that can be expected of the new GT when its AMG V8 is brought to life…”

Pure Hollywood..Now that’s more like it!

 

Aussie Ute drivers looking to compete at the XGames

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V8 Ute driver, Craig ‘Thirsty’ Dontas, is in Los Angeles, visiting the Long Beach GP scoping out the American Version of the V8 Ute Series…but with a twist…he want a couple of spots for Aussie V8 racers in the Stadium Super Trucks series at the XGames.

The long-time V8 Ute racer has already met up with key organisers of the event including former Nascar and Indy 500 competitor Robby Gordon, the founder of the Stadium Super Trucks.

“Robby loves the Utes, but reckons we need a few jumps to spice up the event, yet the interest in Aussie racing is really high in the states.

“It’s great that the American crew know what we do.

Craig also caught up with Chris Hecht, the communications manager of the Series who issued an open invitation to any Australian that wanted come over and give it a go.

V8 Ute category manager Craig Denyer, believes that there is a lot of interest in light truck racing at the moment, which is very timely considering the proposed new evolUTEion V8 Ute platform in 2016.

“It would be great to think that there might be an opportunity for Aussie and American racers to cross over and race in both countries.”

‘Critical mass remarketing’: A phrase that will get brand dealers’ eye balls spinning

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The press releases announcing yet another record month for sales have been coming in thick and fast over the past few years for both Mercedes-Benz and BMW, especially here in Australia.

But, as with everything else, in life there is always a down side, which is usually either ignored or denied by auto executives. So the admission that Mercedes-Benz USA expects its dealership network to be overwhelmed by a tsunami of off-lease vehicles, forcing the brand to sell those vehicles through non-Mercedes dealers, has been greeted with a mixture of surprise and alarm.

The company’s remarketing manager in the US, Stephen Nicholson, told delegates at a recent automotive conference that at some point the ‘Silver Star’ was going to have something like 200,000 units coming back.

“Mercedes’ off-lease numbers are going to get pretty big down the road as we’ve been leasing at 40, 50, 60% for a long time.”

Mercedes dealers have first dibs on off-lease units but the company already sells a lot of units to non-Mercedes-Benz dealers and that proportion logically would increase as overall volumes increase.

“Further engagement with non-Mercedes-Benz dealers is a way to have the appropriate number of eyeballs on the vehicles. Matching the demand with the volume is everyone’s struggle. We already have 365 dealers. We have no plans to add 365 more,” he added.

Tom Webb, chief economist for Manheim Consulting, told the conference that the increase in off-lease volume industry-wide means several brands would need additional remarketing channels, including new-car dealers who sell other brands and independent used-car dealers.

So watch out for what could become the big buzz phrase in the auto industry, “critical mass remarketing.” Which means either selling return-lease vehicle through ‘other-brand’ dealerships-perhaps ‘owned or influenced’ by the original manufacturer-or, despite Stephens statement to the contrary, an increased get the e number of brand dealers.

As they say: “watch this space”…and keep an ear out for ‘critical mass remarketing’.

Show&Shine brings extra bling to Melbourne truck show

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The addition of a Show&Shine competition to the Melbourne International Truck, Trailer & Equipment Show seems to have been a success in attracting, in the words of Australian Custom Trucks magazines’ Chris Smith, a wide array of both customised working trucks and some magnificent project trucks that genuinely got the crowds excited.

Hosted by Australian Custom Trucks and Bling’d Up Trucks magazines, the Show&Shine also attracted some important sponsors, who chipped in close to $5000 and prizes which included an aluminum fifth wheel valued at over $3000 from SAF-Holland.

For Justin and Loretta Clein the long drive from Chinchilla in Queensland must have seemed worth the effort when their 1987 V8 Mack Superliner 2, The Thunder Rolls, won the ‘best in show’ award and took home the valuable wheel.

The Best Buffed Beast award was a 2011 Kenworth Big Cab K200, Monkey and the Bear, which saw owner Sean Craig receive a truck polishing kit valued at $540 from Kentweld. Laurie Read’s International Load Star, Big ZZZ, which according to Chris, looked seriously cool and highly customised, won the Best Custom Truck category, sponsored by A&I Autogroup.

The Best Paint Work award was won by Kutchel Contractors for its 2012 Western Star 4900, which also won the Best Over 10 category for its 1954 Ford C.O.E, De-stress Express, with the prize for the best interior going to Andrea Crawford’s 2010 Peterbilt 388 Miss Liberty Bells. The all-important Peoples’ Choice award went to Anthony Latorre’s K200, Mean Green Machine.

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Images Vanessa Smith-Courtesy Australian Custom Trucks.

BAP public listing could shake up auto retail industry

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The announcement that Burson Auto Parts is to list on the Australian Securities Exchange as Burson Group Limited could be the start of a major shakeout in the retail auto sector.

Burson Auto Parts has achieved extraordinary growth over the past decade and has a target of 175 stores, which would still leave it something of a minor player when compared to Repco’s 400-odd outlets.

But according to Burson Auto Parts CEO Darryl Abotomey, by becoming a public company, Burson Auto Parts gains the ability to significantly increase its national footprint.

Conversely, it also puts the company in play for a takeover. It’s been rumoured that interests, said to be associated with Westfarmers, have been sniffing around the automotive industry for something that could add a bit of scale to its Tyremaster brand. It’s even been suggested that BAP knocked back a ‘trade sale’ in favour of a public float. We shall never know, of course.

One of the drawbacks to the takeover scenario is that Burson Auto Parts has built its success on having a strong trade customer focus, which in turn imposes some limits on future growth. However, if there were a takeover, it’s not difficult to see a broadening of that focus along similar lines to Westfarmers/Bunnings’ philosophy of combining a strong trade focus within a consumer retail mix.

Repco was far too slow in realising that it’s big opportunity for future growth lay in the hardware industry and was soundly beaten to the punch by Westfarmers. It remains to be seen if the old enemy now has plans to attack the Big R on its own patch.

Bentley moving ‘iron horse’ luxury sector into the 1990′s

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When the likes of Bentley announce a plug-in hybrid, then I suppose it’s time to take the technology more seriously. On the other hand, it could be said that old man Bentley has awakened from his slumber and is all set to roar into the 1990s..… the first Prius went on sale in 1997!

Either way, Bentley’s first plug-in hybrid model is set to be in the form of an SUV available in 2017. As the first luxury brand to present a plug-in hybrid – which tells you something about the so-called ‘luxury brands’ – Bentley is said to be leading the way in bringing new powertrain choice to the luxury automotive sector.

Still, better late than never, as they say and according to Bentley Motors’ Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, by the end of the decade, at least 90% of the company’s production will be plug-in hybrid and he’s “proud to be pioneering these developments in the luxury sector.”

How you can ‘pioneer’ something that’s been on the market for nearly two decades is a bit of stretch, but then this is the Iron Horse ‘luxury sector’ as opposed to the Prancing Horse ‘luxury sector’.

Bentley hybrids will be capable of driving at least 50km on electric power alone, allowing for emissions-free city driving and will offer a power increase of up to 25% with a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions.

At the showboat end, copper is used as an exterior and interior styling element to highlight the car’s electrical veins. It includes copper details to the headlamps, radiator shell bezel, brake calipers, feature line details, badges, inserts to veneers, fascias, switch bezels and instruments.

The Bentley Hybrid Concept will make its public debut at Beijing International Automotive Exhibition on 20th April.

1937 Delahaye Roadster still breaking records

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Around a dozen times a year, RM Auctions draws classic car enthusiasts from around the globe to examine, gawk at and bid for rare automotive gems. Last month’s auction at Amelia Island, Florida, certainly turned up its fair share of stunning vehicles, with over US$35 million splashed on 91 cars and motorcycles spanning almost a century of production. Join Gizmag as we cast our eye over some of the highlights from the sale.

Notable sales from the auction included a still running 1901 De Dion-Bouton that fetched $115,500, while a 1986 Lamborghini Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole, one of only 13 carbureted examples imported to the US, went for $319,000. The value of these cars pales in comparison to the $6.6 million paid for a 1937 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster – a record price for the Amelia Island weekend.

But the collection wasn’t just limited to cars built for the open road. A 1928 Bugatti Type 37A Grand Prix went for $962,500, while a 1914 Indian Hendee Special, believed to be the first motorcycle equipped with an electric starter, was sold for $126,500.

All of the vehicles embody accomplished craftsmanship, either through recent restorations or engineering that was ahead of its time. But don’t take our word for it, click through to the gallery of our picks from the event to see the vehicles for yourself.

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Source: RM Auctions

Discover Concept a ‘stunning vision’

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Land Rover has released a teaser video and image of its new Discover Vision Concept ahead of the 2014 New York International Auto Show, promising that “pioneering technology from Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Research will be previewed for the first time,” in the new vehicle, which also showcases the design and technology direction for a new family of SUVs under the Land Rover badge.

Land Rover isn’t giving much away about the Vision Concept with the image and video showing the partial outline of a sleeker version of what is definitely a Discovery profile with a softer bonnet and a new take on the distinctive stepped roof. Inside, we also got glimpses of three rows of seats with a sliding second row, and a minimalist console dominated by a selector dial.

Yawn…Yawn…Wake me tomorrow when we get to Discover the ‘stunning’ Vision Concept, which won’t look a bit like the image above, at the opening of the exhibition….

 

 

Fuchs launch new fluids for transmissions and axles

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Fuchs Lubricants has released a couple of new synthetic fuel economy gear fluids under the Titan Sintopoid brand. FE SAE 75W-85 is for use in rear wheel drive passenger and light commercial vehicles differentials and working in conjunction with FE rated gearbox oils, is claimed to give greater fuel economy benefits through increased efficiency.

The new oil carries API GL-5 specification with approvals for ZF TE-ML 18 and MB- 235.7 and is being recommended for Alfa Romeo, BMW, Lancia, VW TL 521 45-X (G 052 145 A1) and VW TL 521 90 (G 052 190 A2/G 055 190 A2). Along with the listed recommendations, the approvals listed are valid for some current Mercedes Benz models and Holden VF Commodore.

Titan Sintofluid FE SAE 75W carries API GL-4 specification coupled with recommendations for VW TL 521 71 (G 052 171 A1/A2), TL 521 78 (G 052 178 A2), TL 525 12 (G 052 512 A2), TL 726 (G 052 726 A2/G 055 726 A2/G 070 726 A2) and is also suitable for the new dry clutch double clutch gearboxes on many VW vehicles.

FE SAE 75W is said to be a perfect sister product to Titan DCTF, which is recommended with wet clutch double clutch types such as BMW Drivelogic Seven-Speed, Chrysler Powershift Six-Speed, Citroen DCS Six-Speed, Ford Powershift Six-Speed, Mitsubishi TC-SST Six-Speed, Peugeot DCS Six-Speed, Renault EDC Six-Speed, Volvo Powershift Six-Speed and Volkswagen Six-Speed FWD.