car tuning

25 Mar 2008

Biofuels good bad or ugly?

Biofuel has been hailed by many as the answer to our dependence on oil. A bio fuel is one which can be produced from biological matter. The theory is that the fuel crop grows and absorbs Co2 and then it is processed, turned into fuel and burnt in our engines.

Biodiesel is popular with some people starting to produce their own bio-diesel at home with kits. The nearest you can get to petrol is ethanol which is a form of alcohol but a petrol engine needs extensive modification to reliably use ethanol. The latest thinking is that a small percentage of our petrol can harmlessly contain ethanol and this will reduce oil dependence by 10-20% a year for the average motorist.

The downsides though which are some what ignored.

  1. Damage to engines. Ethanol engines are different to petrol one due in part to the corrosive nature of ethanol within an engine. Even a watered down mix will potentially cause damage to an engine, research is currently being conducted into this assertion but the early indicators are not good. Ethanol is also hydroscopic meaning it absorbs water easily so it will mean the average driver without a permenantly full tank will have fuel and water pumping into his engine.
  2. Ethanol is difficult to produce and requires a great deal of energy for the distillation/filtration and processing. We seem to be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  3. Ethanol produces less energy per equivalent volume of petrol. This means that our fuel consumption/gas mileage is reduced and we end up burning a greater volume of fuel.
  4. Modern diesel engines are not happy to run on unprocessed vegetable oil and again there is an energy overhead in the conversion/manufacturing process.
  5. Crop space is taken up producing fuel crops instead of food crops. This could impact on farming and food production. Where new land is ploughed and used the trapped Co2 in that virgin land is now released into the enviroment.

We clearly need more research into bio-fuels and their future impact before we start switching over to use them. Bio Fuel can only ever be a partial solution to the problem. Our consumer led lifestyles have more impact on Co2 than even a high mileage drivers car emissions. The UK are potential going to introduce compulsory introduction of bio/mineral fuel blends at all pumps. This has already been a policy in the USA and already lobbyists are calling for a reversal of this misguided attempt to save the environment.

14 Mar 2008

The future of tuning?

The new Nissan GTR is certainly turning some heads. It would appear that the gadgets and wizardry that make the car work can perform magic.

We are talking supreme levels of traction and power throughout the rev range. Despite it gargantuan size it handles like a car half its weight. The Nissan R&D boys have turned out something special. The car at is stands is a very complete package. However there is a down side for the car tuner.

To produce such amazing power levels the car has been hardwired to resist tuning. The GTR contains one of the most anti tuning and aftermarket modification defence array we have ever seen. This step was taken to placate the Japanese authorities that the car would not become a 1000bhp monster like the previous incarnations of the Skyline in the hands of Japans premier tuners.

The main ECU is pretty damn hard to open and reprogram due to encryption. Further to this the car has accelerometers and GPS receivers and it is able to work out if the car is faster than it was designed to be. So too much acceleration, faster cornering or sharper braking all trigger the "anti mod" warning, invalidating your warranty at best and at worst the car will start to protest.

This is only the surface, try fitting larger wheels and you again hit the anti tuning defense grid. The speed is also restricted unless the GPS pinpoints your location to a Nissan Recognised track so the car will actually police your speed limit depending on where you are.

I'm sure that many tuners will find ways around all of this and I can't wait to see what extra power and performance can be extracted from this monster. I know the guys at TorqueCars are keenly watching and waiting for updates. This does show the car makers attitude to car customisation and personalisation and it is certainly a worrying trend in automotive design.

6 Mar 2008

Hitting a pheasant - not very pleasant.

Driving along the motorway the other day I noticed an abnormally large number of pheasant corpses lining the road side. To be honest I didn't really pay too much attention - its just one of those things you notice when something happens.

At cruising speed there is not a lot you can do when something decides to take a Kamikaze run at you. I saw a Pheasant sitting in the central reservation, he seemed to have happily negotiated a busy carriageway of oncoming cars and I imagine his Pheasant friends were egging him on to go the whole way.

It then looked up at me and when it decided was the most optimum moment for a Lemming like run it went for it. Although I jammed on the brakes I sadly hit the bird killing it outright.

Then you start to analyse what happened after the event. It was a bird that I hit. Hang on a minute birds are meant to fly? What was up with this pheasant and I assume all of the other pheasants lining the roadside? Was it some kind of suicide pact? Was it a lemming copycat flock of pheasants? I guess I will never know but I have a cracked number plate and small dent to remind me of this brave little bird that went for it.

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