Formula E–Debuts

Olympic Park in Beijing China hosted the first of a series of races of this spec race.  It is the FIA’s attempt to create a Formula One type of racing experience but using all electric powered race cars.

Like the Indy series they all use the same chassis.  They do use 18” wheels.  The cars are all pretty much the same.  Within the constraints of electric power a single team car cannot complete a race so there is a mandatory car swap.

The cars consume so much electricity recharging that their impact on the city’s electrical grid is significant.

The fact that this is a series designed to replace the current Formula 1 is a bit disquieting.  The changes that have taken place in F1 have started moving the cars toward a spec-style formula which is putting off the fan base in a big way.

The Beijing race resulted in a crash and several yawns from the crowd of spectators.  I doubt that they will have much enthusiasm for attending another F-E race any time soon.

But there is another formula out there that should get a great deal of focus.

Its known as Formula Student and in the video above is the TU Delft car that wowed them at the Silverstone event with their performance and design innovation.

Notice the hub-less wheel design.  There are electric motors on all four corners. It has a one-stage planetary transmission resulting in a 50% weight saving over their last year’s design.  The wheels are 2kg lighter per corner.

The chassis was designed as a carbon fiber sandwich with an aluminum honeycomb center section. It weighs as much as a case of beer and is 3kg lighter than the previous chassis.

The whole electronic system was redesigned and uses their own battery management system.  Components were kept as close to each other as possible to reduce wiring and its associated interference. That reduced the number of wires per battery package from 40 to two.  Electrical energy is stored in an accumulator made of lithium polymer cells that are extremely lightweight.  If they had used batteries that are found in a normal car the weight would be 200kg instead of the 40kg it actually weighs.  It is extremely efficient with a 6.4kWh output.  With the regenerative braking they get 30% of their total power.

Instead of constraining Formula E with so many limits why don’t they open up the formula to creativity that you find these universities thriving in.  Their technology is not shrouded in secrecy either.  They just know that every year is a starting point for the next year’s worth of innovation.

And isn’t that what race fans are really looking for?

Posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Electric Cars, Racing | 1 Comment

Formula One–Please un-confuse me

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I have been a long-time fan of Formula 1.  I lived through the sixties with the no-seatbelt and drivers surrounded by fuel tank era.  I lived through the seventies with the wobbly wings attached directly to the suspension and the early aerodynamic experiments.  The eighties with their side-skirts and zero suspension travel times.  The nineties with the 1000+ horsepower qualifying engines.  Its always been more than a little crazy since it has always tried to be on the edge of the technology envelope.  But the regulations of late as well as the ones that are proposed (and likely) for the 2015 season have gotten to be just a bit wacky.

I mean standing starts after a safety car yellow?  Come on, most of the really bad stuff occurs at the initial standing start.  All the drivers are looking for an opportunity to gain positions and it will be even worse after a safety car period.  What is the FIA trying to do?  Instigate complete carnage?

I certainly welcomed the rationality of limiting the number of engines used during a season.  The days when engines would be cranked up just for qualifying and then swapped out for a race-day motor got just a little silly.  Certainly unrealistic from a budget standpoint, but to go to a limit of four engines (power units) per driver per season is asking a bit much out of a power plant that is run on the edge.  I don’t think that we want race strategies to be based on how many penalties have been accrued.  With this year only half way through, five drivers are on their forth engine and one is on his fifth (and last).  Sixteen drivers are on their third engine.  Resorting to a sixth power unit means a ten spot penalty.  But, if you qualify so low that you can’t be put back ten places the remainder are penalized the next race.  Other power components carry a five position penalty for exceeding 5 units.  With potential gearbox changes on top of power units you might need a refresher in calculus to figure out the post-qualifying grid.

Next year’s regulations continue to impose severe limits on aerodynamic testing.  Teams can only use one wind tunnel for the entire season and the time drops from 80 hours to 65 hours a week.  Wind-on time goes from 30 hours to 25 hours per week.  Using computers (CFD) to model will be cut back on power from 30 to 25 teraflops.  Track testing is also being limited.

On race weekends hours worked by team members will also be reduced which probably means larger teams so that the more work can get done in the allotted times.  Kind of like letting nine women make a baby in one month.  We might also see the end of heated tire covers unless they hold off until the move to 18” wheels and tires.

None of these things address what is really wrong with Formula One.  The isolation of the fan base.  Unless you are a retired rock star, or current actor, or have more money than most South American countries you can’t get anywhere meaningful at a race venue. 

With America’s open wheeled racing, the Indy series, you can spend $100 on a pass so that you can enter the garage area at Indianapolis Speedway.  The fans can actually connect with the teams and drivers there.  Its time to let the fans mingle with the races.  Get the trucks and trailers out of the area and let the fans see what is going on.  I mean really see what is going on.  All the secrecy that goes on is almost a joke.  After all, with all the people from media and other sources with their video gear and cameras – well, putting up a screen so the fans can’t see into the garage seems a little ridiculous.

Even Vettel appears to be sick of the current formula.  Technicalities limit innovation to the degree that not only are the fans not having much fun, but even the drivers are wondering what the point is.  Speaking of points – who had the nutty idea of doubling point on the last race of the season?

Posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Cars, Engines, F1, Modifying Cars, Racing, Road Racing, Sports Cars | 4 Comments

Tommy Kendall–TransAm–He’s Back!!

Posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Cars, Great Drivers, Life and Cars, Racing, Road Racing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cars That You Find on the Side of the Road

I always enjoy the little surprises that pop up on the side of the road while you are traveling from point A to point B.

If you aren’t careful you can go by them and miss what could be a wonderful trip down memory lane.

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It looks to be a 1962 or 1963 VW bug.  The fact that its swing axles were popped up with positive camber says that the engine had been removed.  Probably for a rebuild or a replacement.  Many years ago I had a 1962 that was an absolute blast to drive around in.

There were a couple of other classics that didn’t look like they would be on the road any time soon.

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Ahh, cars.  What memories.  Sigh.

Posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Cars, Life and Cars, Road Trips | 2 Comments

A Village Car Show

It was a beautiful morning and the village I was in was celebrating the summer day with road races (for runners) and a parade with antique cars as part of the menagerie.

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They gathered at the village museum arriving in ones and twos.  

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The first to arrive was a bit of a rat rod based on a Ford Model A.

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It was very creative an sported the badges of many of the popular sources of aftermarket performance parts of the early hot rod era.

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Another Model A soon showed up.

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These painted wheels became part of the Model A color scheme after owners started painting their wheels on their own.  Like many options on todays cars they originated from the creativity of car owners that wanted a bit of individuality in their rides.

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Rumble seats and pin striping accented these roadsters.

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Two more pulled up.  These two owners were part of the Model A Ford Club of Cape Cod.

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The wheels were all painted an accent color.

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But there weren’t just Model A’s…

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Car people gathered and had a fine time chatting about cars. 

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Later, at one in the afternoon, when many more had gathered, the parade was kicked off and the residents of the village enjoyed a glimpse back into the history of the motor car.

Posted in Automobiles, Car Shows, Car Stuff, Cars, Life and Cars, Road Trips | 2 Comments

The Bouncing Speedo

As you may know my daily driver is a 1992 Toyota Pickup truck.  Pickup is capitalized because that was the model name that Toyota gave its mini-truck. 

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This red truck started its life as the most basic (cheap) truck that Toyota offered in the US that year.  It came with a 2.4 liter four cylinder engine (the 22RE) and had no power steering.  The only reason it has air-conditioning is that it was originally sold in Louisiana.

It didn’t have a day/night mirror in the interior.  That would have driven the cost up.  Nor did it have a right hand outside mirror or a sliding glass rear window.  The instrument cluster was dominated by the speedometer, with only “idiot” lights to let you know the status of any of the other aspects of the running condition of the vehicle. 

It didn’t even have a rear bumper, as four women who have rear-ended the truck have come to find out (hence its nick name of “Chick Magnet”).  It was a very basic pickup truck.

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Being the kind of owner that I am I could not live without adding some modifications of value to my little red daily driver.  Over time I installed a digital clock, a right side mirror, a day/night mirror, a sliding glass rear window, a meaningful radio and speakers and an instrument cluster from a 4 Runner.

Since the truck is a manual five speed it just didn’t make sense for it not to have a tachometer and it was not hard to find a used cluster from its big brother the 4 Runner that would work, fit, and provide a great deal more information such as oil pressure, voltage, coolant temperature, and the all-important tach.

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These upgrades worked just fine through the years as other restorations took place.  I had the bench seat reupholstered, rebuilt the suspension with new ball joints and tie-rod ends, then installed a set of Bilstein shocks all around.  Eventually the engine was replaced with a 2.6 liter stroker from the folks at L. C. Engineering as well as their stainless steel headers and exhaust system.

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Over time there were some odd behaviors coming from the instrument cluster and the speedometer in particular. 

Driving along there would be time when the speedometer would not seem to work at all.  The needle would be at its resting peg at zero and then, after a mile or two, it would jump up and resume its usefulness.  Very odd.

The problem did not seem to be predictable either.  Sometimes the speedometer would function just fine right from the get go and other times it would stay asleep for a few miles.  Eventually I was able to cure the problem, but not because I had a brilliant flash of insight.

I had decided to enhance the grounds between the engine block and the chassis.  I thought that it might improve the engine’s smoothness and performance, which it did.  It also made the intermittent speedometer act normal.  My grounds went from the negative terminal of the battery to the intake manifold and from the valve cover to the firewall.  These were 4 gauge and 8 gauge wires with serious terminal lugs. 

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The cure for the lazy speedometer was a nice surprise and the engine did run smoother and with a bit more power.

Over time another gremlin with the speedometer showed up.  As I drove around and would put on the turn signal the needle would dive to zero and recover.  Now this was really bizarre.  I immediately suspected the turn signal switch and scoured eBay for a reasonably priced replacement. 

Lucky me, I came across a NOS (new, old stock) replacement.  It was a good price and included free shipping.  Upon receipt there was an added bonus.  It had intermittent wiper control built in.  It was a perfect swap for the original and I now had another cool feature added to the red pickup.

Still, the needle on the speedometer would do a dive when I used the turn signals.  Not every time mind you, but most times.  Talk about frustration.

It was time to head to the local Toyota dealership and pick up a new flasher for the turn signal.  The flasher is actually a relay that clicks on and off when energized by the turn signal switch.  It is not easy to get to either.

I had to remove the bottom of the dashboard, and feel my way to the flasher.  It is mounted to a tab on the tube that supports the dash.  It not only flashes the turn signals it emits a clicking sound that it transmits through the hollow tube so that you are reminded that your signals are flashing.

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The old flasher consisted of a timed relay and a socket that actually rotate the relay contacts so that the logic was reversed.  In this photo you can see the flasher and the intermediate connector.

The new flasher dispensed with the logic changer and plugged right in to the white connector.  I put the dash back together and headed out onto the road. 

Every time I used the turn signal I braced myself for a diving needle, but it never appeared.  Voilà!  Problem solved.

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I love happy endings.

Posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Care and Feeding, Cars, Life and Cars, Modifying Cars, Servicing Cars | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Indy Car: aero kits testing

When the DW12 was announced and being tested aero kits were going to be a part of it from day one.  That proved to blow team’s budgets so the kits were not part of the series until this year.

Racer.com has an interesting write-up on the changes and their aerodynamic outcome and part of that included a photo of the new floor design.  If you take a close look at their photo you will notice that it is the Ed Carpenter Fuzzy Vodka car.  Now take a look at the driver’s name:

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