01-30-10 - Cars

.. I know, it's getting old, I promise it's almost over. The web posting anyway, not my agonizing.

Last time I lamented how the beautiful ATTS technology in the Prelude seemed to have died out. Not so! In fact it appears to be almost identical to the Quaife Differential which is in the Ford Focus RS, which is responsible for it being such a fantastic handling FWD car (except that it seems they goofed a bit and didn't get it quite as right, or the Focus's much higher torque is just harder to control). (all that mechanical technicalia about struts and diffs is fascinating but gibberish to me).

Sadly we don't get the Ford Focus RS here. Or the Scirocco GTI. Or the VW Golf R. Or the Civic Type R. Basically car companies see America and think "there's a load of fat gits who only buy rubbish cars, no need to sell any good ones there".

One of the annoying things about buying something like Porsche is that they are severely price-inflated and quality-deflated by the devoted van boys who grew up dreaming of having one and will pay outrageous sums for a shitty product just because of the brand and the image. I on the other hand, just want a car that feels good and actually would really rather not have the brand, but I have to pay for it anyway.

It sucks when you are trying to pick something based on merit and find that the best thing is this brand which causes you to overpay. It happens all the time in clothes; I just want the jeans that look good and fit well, I would hapily buy Sears brand jeans if they were good, but I wind up buying Diesel or Seven for All Mankind or whatever the fucking thing is now just because it's the only one that's actually a decent quality product - but then I'm paying a 50% markup for the damn brand which I don't care about at all. (and in fact I try to hide the label as much as possible because it's embarassing)

I think the new hatchbacks are fucking fabulous. Unless you are buying a super high end sports car, there is absolutely no reason to buy anything but a hatchback. They are way more practical, and you sacrifice very little in weight or handling. The only possible reason to buy a sedan over a hatch these days is for vanity. And it's stupid vanity, it's trying to look boring and fit in to some old fashioned idea of what looks good which makes you totally uncool. I don't love the long hatches like the BMW 1 hatch or the Mini, a key part of the advantage is having a tiny wheel base, which makes them so nifty and fun to drive and easily parkable.

I was thinking how much I hate all the new turbo engines for their lags, and it occured to me that of course the obvious thing to do would be to have some kind of supercharger that took care of your boost before the exhaust pressure was sufficient, and then you switch to turbos after that. Of course this has been done, see for example the VW Twincharger ; the newer solution is Variable Vane Turbos ; BTW these come from the stonkeringly good Autozine Technical School ; my god that web site is good.

Today I was parallel parking my shitty rental car and of course bumping it against the cars on each side and thinking to myself how not fun that would be in a fancy car. I would much rather park a tiny thing like a Golf GTI and hell, I'd like a rubber ring all around the car like a bumper car. So anyway, for random amusement, I present some parking-related youtubes : how to repo parallel parked cars , french car bumping , FWD torque steer parallel parking


Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

Re: turbo lag

Or you can decouple the boost from the RPMs altogether using an electric motor:


cbloom said...

Yeah, that was one of my ideas. I figured you could also do it mechanically with a flywheel that spins up on braking and then spins the turbo before the exhaust takes over.

It definitely seems like the trend is to have a turbo in every car in the future because it helps fuel efficiency. We should start seeing some fancy low-lag or no-lag turbos I imagine.

slyid said...

Low-lag = small turbo
Big power increase = big turbo

Your pick. If you want both, take an engine which has both :)

cbloom said...

Yeah the new BMW twin turbos are very good, but even the small turbo still has a lot of lag. It needs something to fill in the gap when you're taking off from a stop.

Or use the rally method of keeping the engine at 4k rpm minimum all the time and make the clutches stronger so you don't blow up your car.

And obviously the continuously variable geometry turbos replaces the old method of fixed size twin turbos.

Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

DC motors give you lots of torque at low-RPMs, so in that sense they are very good adjuncts to internal combustion engines. If you have some kind of clever continuously variable transmission, then the engine doesn't need to have a big power band, so maybe turbos aren't so bad. Maybe, your engine is one big turbo (aka turbine engine):


I don't think this is generally useful for most automobiles, since I don't think turbines scale down very efficiently.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

A 30KW turbine is definitely small enough for normal cars -- e.g. the gasoline engine in the Chevy Volt is supposedly 53KW.

cbloom said...

Lots of interesting stuff about turbines for cars here :


and of course it was already done in a GM EV1

Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

Interesting, they use the turbine to generate electricity rather than drive the wheels. That probably makes more sense.

But does this mean that you could add afterburners to such hybrid vehicles? Think about the ricing opportunities! I know an engineer at Pratt & Whitney who designs augmenters (aka afterburners) for the F100 and F119 engines..

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Wikipedia says an afterburner adds fuel to the exhaust after the main combustion chamber, in order to get extra thrust, but that it's not very fuel efficient.

It doesn't sound applicable to a series hybrid, but a bank of supercapacitors could be the electrical equivalent of afterburners, if battery draw is the limiting factor.

Or, were you thinking just point the turbine exhaust out the back and light it up?

cbloom said...

Holy shit microturbines are tiny :


why can't we just have microturbine-hybrid electric cars right now?

Plug-in electrics don't really work yet because the amount of heavy batteries required.

Traditional hybrids are shit because you have a whole 'nother heavy engine.

I guess the question is can the microturbine make power fast enough to charge battery during driving. Apparently turbines are also good at direct driving the engine at high RPM, so the DC motor could just take care of the stop and go and then turbine takes over at speed.

Fascinating possibilities for transport in the next 20 years I think.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

You could hire someone to replace the drive train of your Prelude with a turbine/electric hybrid...

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Ooh, this guy makes nice looking Porsche EV conversions: http://coolgreencar.net/

The FAQ explains their hybrid options.

Aaron said...

How about ?!?!!? 160hp hybrid flywheel booster thingy

cbloom said...

Holy shit, that is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. I am a fucking genius at inventing technologies I don't really understand long after someone else has already developed them.

old rants