Gas2 Week in Review, May 7: Electric Pickups, Turbochargers, Another Hybrid Ad, and More
Electric pickups that have a rugged appeal and carbon fiber body panels? Turbochargers that use electric boosters to make internal combustion engines more efficient?
Yes, ways to harness electric power were definitely the most popular stories this week on Gas2. But how could flying pigs connect with electric-powered transportation? Well, the Chrysler Pacifica has gotten some significant media marketing time of late, with a clever commercial designed to appeal to families yet without explicitly saying that the vehicle needs to be plugged in periodically.
Red light traffic tickets also charged up our readers this week upon learning that a decades-old formula for timing at intersections may be contributing to rather than reducing hazards and causing some drivers to be caught moving during a red light. And the electrifying Formula 1 race from Russia was a race to the Finnish (pun intended), with Valtteri Bottas able to hold off the challenge of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the final laps. Here are those stories and more on our “Gas2 Week in Review.”
Ohio’s Workhorse has revealed its W-15 electric pickup truck. With rugged good looks and composite and carbon fiber body panels that are designed to resist dents, dings, and corrosion, the W-15 has a stainless steel ladder type chassis for strength and durability, 30″ of impact absorbing front crush space, automatic braking, and a lane departure warning system. As if those features aren’t convincing enough, the W-15 has a range extender gasoline engine that can achieve 80 miles on battery power alone and the range extender can provide another 300 miles after it kicks in. And it has two electric motors — on in front and one in back — for true all wheel drive capability. The W-15 is rated 75 MPGe by the EPA and gets 32 mpg city/28 highway when the range extender engine is operating. Can any other full size all wheel drive pickups even begin to compete with those numbers?
Borg Warner has introduced what it calls its e-booster, a compact electric supercharger, that has the capacity to improve fuel economy by 10 percent with no loss of performance. Compound turbochargers are vital in the quest to make internal combustion engines more efficient. They improve conventional turbocharging by providing boost immediately upon throttle pressure and before the turbo spools up. So, instead of “turbo lag,” in which exhaust flow is less with low engine speeds and delays occur while the turbo works to spin fast enough, compound turbocharging systems deliver nearly instantaneous power at slow speeds and lots of extra power at higher engine speeds. The e-booster needs up to 6 kilowatts of power — more than a traditional 12 volt system can supply. But a 48 volt electrical system can supply the extra zip and even power up other vehicle systems like electric steering, electric brake boosters, heated seats, and electric water pumps.
Chrysler’s new commercial features a family driving in a new Pacifica Hybrid minivan while a flock of flying pigs soars overhead. Interestingly, the ad never once mentions that the featured vehicle is a plug-in hybrid. Instead, it focuses attention on the 84 MPGe fuel economy rating and 33 mile range on battery power alone, acknowledging mainstream drivers’ concerns about cars with plugs while also educating the public about models with unconventional powertrains. The commercial highlights the Pacifica’s forward collision warning system and its UConnect Theater rear seat entertainment system. The unconventional minivan is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, which makes its price competitive with a mid-level conventional Pacifica. Check out the cute way that the ad emphasizes how unusual a plug-in hybrid minivan is in the last three seconds.
Three General Motors physicists in the 1960’s developed a traffic light timing system that is still in use today. Their original data analysis looked to manage limit, road surface, and human reaction time to create appropriate traffic light color sequencing. The resulting equation gives traffic controllers a window of time before a yellow light should turn red, usually in the three to five second range. Up until quite recently, the Institute for Transportation Engineers (ITE) has recommended this formula as part of its National Traffic Signal Report Card, which points to five areas that need to be considered when creating well-integrated traffic signals: proactive management, coordinated signal systems, individualized intersections, detection systems, and maintenance. However, a 2014 research report suggests that the yellow light zone may be the most dangerous of them all and needs traffic light retiming to add in, at the very least, a necessary exception of extra time for right turns.
Valtteri Bottas, new to the Mercedes team this year, was able to hold off the threat from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and win his first F1 race. Bottas’ teammate and consummate winner, Lewis Hamilton, never seemed to find the right combination of tire balance and grip over the weekend and relinquished his usual starring Mercedes role. Bottas joins a long history of winning F1 Finns, including Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakinnen, Heikki Kovalainen, and, of course, current F1 Ferrari driver Kimi Raikonnen. The usually recalcitrant Finn thanked the team and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, commented that it took him a long time to achieve his first victory. “Quite a while eh?!? 81 races.”