Tuesday, May 8, 2007

10 Tips for saving fuel

The more fuel your car uses, the more it impacts on the environment. Following these 10 tips will reduce your fuel costs, air pollution and fuel economy.Step 1. Accelerate gently Avoid high revs. Automatic transmissions will shift up more quickly and smoothly if you ease back slightly on the accelerator once the car is moving. To maintain low revs in manual cars, you should change up through the gears as soon as the car is comfortable with the next higher gear. Don't rev the car unnecessarily.Step 2. Flow smoothly with the traffic Be aware of traffic conditions ahead so you can anticipate the next stop and avoid unnecessary acceleration and braking. Driving a good distance from the car in front means you can see what is happening ahead and you don't have to brake every time they do. As well as saving fuel, smoother driving is safer. Step 3. Avoid excessive speeds High speeds result in high fuel consumption. Where it is safe to do so, cruising slightly below the speed limit will save you fuel. Travelling at 60km/h instead of 75km/h can reduce fuel consumption by minimum 2%. Step 4. Avoid lengthy idling Turn off your engine when stopped for an extended period and not in traffic. By having the engine switched off, even for a short period, you will save more fuel than is lost from the burst of fuel involved in restarting the engine. The net increased wear and tear from this practice is negligible. Most cars do not need to be 'warmed up' prior to driving off. After starting the engine, move off as soon as it is safe to. Step 5. Avoid congested traffic and driving more than necessary The best way to reduce fuel consumption is to reduce the amount of driving you do. Consider combining trips, car pooling or using other modes of transport. Replacing short trips with walking or cycling is particularly good as cars are least efficient and most polluting when the engine is cold at the start of trips. Stop-start driving is very fuel inefficient, so plan your travel to avoid driving in congested traffic. Step 6. Keep your car well maintained If your vehicle is running correctly, it will use less fuel and be more reliable. Have it serviced in accordance with the owner's manual (usually every six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first) and regularly check oil, coolant and other fluid levels. Watch out for any changes in the way the car handles or sounds as these changes could indicate a problem that needs fixing. A smoky exhaust means the engine needs checking. Keep a record of your fuel consumption as increasing fuel consumption can also be a sign of a problem. Step 7. Keep tyres properly inflated Inflate your vehicle's tyres to the higher end of the manufacturer's recommended range of tyre pressures and make sure your wheels are properly aligned. Looking after your tyres will not only reduce your fuel consumption it will also extend tyre life and improve handling. Step 8. Use the air conditioner sparingly Air conditioners can increase fuel consumption by between 5 and 10%, particularly on very hot days. However, at higher speeds, use of air conditioning is better for fuel consumption than an open window. Leaking air conditioner gases can contribute to the greenhouse problem. To keep the air conditioner operating properly and avoid leaks, you may need to use it regularly throughout the year for a short period as well as having it regularly serviced. Check the owner's manual. Step 9. Minimise wind resistance Remove roof racks and other attachments when they are not being used. Additional parts on the exterior of a vehicle such as roof racks or sun visors, or having the window open when travelling at higher speeds, increases wind resistance and fuel consumption. Step 10. Remove unnecessary weight from the car Remove unnecessary items from the boot. The more weight a vehicle carries the more fuel it uses, particularly in urban driving.

Demonic possession is an optional extra

Andrew Frankel
There is a vital piece of equipment missing from this £79,540 Porsche 911 GT3, and without it I’m not sure the car is safe to use on the public highway.
It’s a hand that pops out of the steering wheel the moment you start driving like an idiot, and slaps you sharply across the face. It wouldn’t cost any more than traction control to engineer and, believe me, it would be a far more effective safety feature.
I’m trying to put my finger on exactly what it is about the GT3 that makes little red horns break through your scalp every time your backside hits its rock-hard bucket seat, but driving it slowly just doesn’t seem to be possible.
It’s not just its raw power; every Ferrari made today is substantially more powerful than this, yet I don’t feel the smallest desire to drive them fast in less than ideal conditions. But I couldn’t resist the temptation the GT3 put my way, despite weather that made the roads more suitable for a powerboat than a fast car.
I think I may have the answer. What makes the GT3 unique among Porsches and extremely rare among all cars is its ability to double your pulse rate. You might believe the same could be said of all cars bearing the shield of Stuttgart, but sadly this isn’t so.
You only have to look at the way most Porsches are driven to know that driving has nothing to do with it: they are bought because their owners believe a Porsche will make their friends and colleagues think more highly of them.
But these people would never buy a GT3 anyway, not when they could have a 911 Targa 4S with a nice big sunroof and comfortably safe four-wheel drive for similar money. They would hate the GT3 for its stiff ride and thin seats, its bloodhound propensity for following road cambers, and its truly challenging wet-weather handling. And if they ever had it demonstrated to them what it could really do on the right road (or, preferably, track), they’d probably wet the road themselves.
This is because the GT3 is a thinly disguised racing car. Its origins are so rooted in the track that Porsche will supply your GT3 ready to race with a roll cage, a six-point race harness, a battery master switch and a fire extinguisher for no cost other than the deletion of two thorax bags and the door bins. Then, at least in theory, there would be nothing to stop you slapping some numbers on the side and entering it in any race for which it was eligible.
What’s particularly interesting is that while most racing cars are horrid to drive on the road, this one’s reasonably well behaved, at least until you push it harder than it cares to go. I drove it in heavy rain on part-flooded roads, and despite it wearing Michelins that appeared to have more in common with the slicks on Fernando Alonso’s Formula One car than anything you’d connect with road use, it was easy to contain — until I turned off the traction control.
Then, the entertainment on offer was of the decidedly adult variety. It’s not that it will throw you off the road with no warning, but if the tail does start to slide wide on a sodden surface, you’d better be ready. If you’re not quick and accurate with your correction, you will be riding home in a recovery truck with a somewhat dented ego.
I elected not to push my luck: this is the only functioning GT3 that Porsche has at its disposal, and the idea of ringing up the chap who’d booked it next and telling a Mr J Clarkson that he can collect the car from a hedge somewhere outside Swindon just didn’t appeal to me.
Besides, the GT3 is just as enjoyable to drive in a straight line as it is through the bends.
Because it is extremely light — absurdly, it weighs a smidgeon under 40kg more than a Peugeot 207 GT hot hatch — and because the 3.6 litre 415bhp engine sits right over the back wheels, it explodes away from rest, even in the wettest conditions. Despite a slow and frankly disappointing gearchange, it still needs a mere 4.3sec to hit 62mph, and the same amount of time again to take you to the very threshold of 100mph. If you’re interested, it will carry you on to a stirring 193mph.
More impressive still is the quality of its performance. The engine is the greatest one used in any Porsche today, including that in the more powerful, but softer, road-oriented Turbo. It’s engaging and responsive below 4000rpm, whereupon the exhaust note appears to drop an octave and double in volume — which is all the warning you get before you’re slammed violently into the backrest of your seat.
With shorter, closer gearing its acceleration would be even more visceral, but even with the ratios as they are, the first time you change gear at 8400rpm the memory of it will live with you for ever.
It is just as well that the GT3 is such an uncompromising sports car, because it would make a useless tourer. Not only have the rear seats been removed to save weight, but it has a 90-litre fuel tank instead of the usual 64-litre item — just in case you want to do some serious long-distance racing in it. This means its boot is little more than half the size of a Fiat Panda’s.
And those of you thinking that £79,540 doesn’t sound like so much to pay for a landmark Porsche, remember that the base-model GT3 is pared to the bone. If it were my GT3 I’d also want carbon-ceramic brake discs (£5,800), carbon-fibre seats (£3,130) and navigation (£1,921), which would bring the total to a painful £90,391. And that’s being restrained.
But I reckon it would be worth it. In this world, where reality is less valued than perception, it’s a rare treat to find a truly honest car. If it looks like a hard-driving, sharp-focus, no-prisoners kind of car, that’s because it is precisely that.
Put it this way: there isn’t another Porsche on sale that I’ve driven and would rather have. But then again, I am only partly unhinged. For those who are complete strangers to common sense, there’s always the even more extreme GT3 RS. This model is lighter to the tune of 20kg, quicker to 62mph by 0.1sec, and some £14,740 more expensive.
Sitting here, it’s hard to see the point of it, but then I’ve not yet driven the car. I’ll let you know next year.

Original Source: TimesOnline

Monday, May 7, 2007

BMW M5 Touring

By Andrew Frankel
When cars come to me for testing I always try to go to the same stretch of road. It’s quiet, you can see for miles in every direction, and the sinuous turns ask searching questions of any car I aim along it. Perhaps predictably this new BMW M5 Touring, tuned by the company’s legendary M division and with a 5 litre V10 engine, coped impressively. I revelled in the howl of its motor, the grip of its vast tyres and the speed of its paddle-operated gearshifts.
Reaching the end a very happy and rather impressed boy, I looked in the mirror and saw two large brown eyes gazing back at me. Yes, I’d gone down one of the best roads in the UK at what you might call a purposeful clip with a labrador in the boot.
I would make two points to mitigate the bitch in the back. First, Lola has gone fast since her earliest days and, judging by the black missile that streaks into any boot I open, is far from traumatised by her experiences.
Second, the M5 Touring may look like an estate from the outside but that’s not how it feels from within. Name another with a seven-speed paddleshift manual gearbox, an engine that revs to 8250rpm and a button on the steering wheel that will up the output of the motor from 400bhp to a truly frightening 507bhp. It even has a launch control system that is conceptually no different from that used by Nick Heidfeld to fire his BMW Formula One car off the starting grid on Sunday afternoons. Take the speed limiter off and the car is capable of 200mph. For an estate that is verging on the ludicrous.
But the really telling point is that on that particular occasion I had not been planning to test the car at all. In fact I was on my way to the beach. Hence the hound . . . and the children, wife, boogie boards, picnic and all the other family paraphernalia that happened to be on board at the time.
If you look at the motoring press, you’ll be reading a lot about this car in the coming weeks. You’ll find out exactly how fast it will go in a straight line and round a corner, but I wonder how much you’ll discover about how well it slips into everyday family life. With a body born to serve, but the heart of a racing car and the soul of a true maniac, the personality of the M5 Touring is not so much split as splintered.
Of course in Europe they’re used to all this. BMW made an estate version of the M5 saloon more than a decade ago but omitted to offer it for sale in the UK. Which, like most things that are desirable but prohibited, meant a cult sprang up around it. Among motoring hacks it became known as the best car you’d never driven. Finally I did get to slip behind the wheel of one, only once and only briefly, but it was enough to convince me at the time that, in the real world, it was the greatest car you could buy.
The same cannot be said for its descendant. The appeal of the old M5 Touring was the fact that, if you took the badges off (which was a no-cost option), the car looked hardly different from a 520i Touring which had the pulling power of an arthritic ant. The new M5 Touring has many talents, but subtlety is not among them: its body is a riot of wings, chins, spoilers and skirts.
And while it is outstandingly capable when driven as its deranged creators intended, the opportunities to do so safely are not exactly around every corner on these isles. And the rest of the time the car is not without its issues.
The ride, for instance, is firm enough to put you on permanent pothole alert. I don’t offer this as criticism, for if it were more softly sprung you would inevitably lose some of its fabulous high-speed precision. But if you are thinking about spending the best part of £70,000 it is something to bear in mind.
You need also to come to terms with the gearbox. This is another example of race-car engineering finding its way onto the public road and reminding you why race cars are kept on racetracks. As you drive, you can select any one of 11 settings for this gearbox – six in manual mode, five in automatic – which vary the speed and response of the gearshift according to your requirements. The problem is, unless you’re driving with your trousers on fire, none of them is very satisfactory.
There is nothing that would improve the M5 Touring more than the fitment of an ordinary six-speed manual gearbox.
Apart, perhaps, from a larger fuel tank. Drive the M5 quickly and 10mpg is a very real possibility. Cruise along the motorway at the same speed as everyone else and you’ll still need to plan a fuel stop into every major journey. Most users won’t put more than 250 miles between service stations, which, were this my car, would infuriate me.
And rear seats that fold flat. You’d think that providing a flat loading area was a fairly basic provision for an estate car, but not this one, nor any other 5-series Touring. The rear seats do fold forward but come to rest at a slight angle, making the loading of long and heavy items more difficult than in many smaller, cheaper and, in every other way, less well engineered estates. A small point, perhaps, but a significant one.
Also, it’s not that capacious. Not only do key rivals like the Audi S6 Avant and Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG estate have bigger boots with the seats up or down, but so do rather more everyday machines such as the humble Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra.
Even so, I don’t feel inclined to dismiss the M5 Touring for these shortcomings. Flawed it may be, but there is still no other estate with the sense of occasion this car commands. It seems strange to set an alarm for 5am just so you can drive an estate car on deserted roads – but that’s what I found myself doing with this BMW. The point is, and with apologies to Longfellow, when it is good, it is really quite good, but when it is bad, it is brilliant.

Hydrogen Fuel for Bikes and Cars

A hydrogen-powered bike sounds like a Cub Scout project from the 23rd century, but there's a good chance such a vehicle will hit the roads later this year in Canada or China.
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies is readying an electric bike that gets its energy from a hydrogen fuel cell rather than a rechargeable battery, according to Taras Wankewycz, co-founder and vice president of Horizon. The company is talking with government officials in both countries to get these bikes out in 2007, he added.
"About 10 million electric bikes in China get sold every year and the lead acid batteries get discarded all the time," Wankewycz said.
The company is also trying to prime interest for hydrogen-powered fishing boats, mini-cars, golf caddies and toys.
Rather than try to develop hydrogen cars, Horizon is attempting to keep the idea of hydrogen power alive by showing how fuel cells can power smaller items.
Horizon's H-racer, a hydrogen-powered remote-controlled car for hobbyists, for instance, comes with a solar panel that harvests electricity that gets utilized to split water to create hydrogen.
"The reason it works is that people can refill it," Wankewycz said. "We think big but we start small. We want to see the larger applications but we are realistic about when they are going to hit."

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