Gary S. Vasilash
Gary S. Vasilash is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) magazine, a publication established in 1997 by Gardner Publications with the cooperation of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He is responsible for the editorial management and direction of the monthly magazine. Vasilash continues to write a monthly column for AD&P and contributes several stories to each issue.
Vasilash has more than 20 years of experience writing about the automotive industry, best practices and new technologies. His work has appeared in a variety of venues, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Lightworks, a journal of contemporary art. He has made numerous presentations at a variety of venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) to the Center for Constructive alternatives at Hillsdale College.
Prior to his present position, Vasilash was editor-in-chief of both Automotive Production and Production magazines—predecessors to AD&P. He joined Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gardner Publications in 1987 as executive editor of Production magazine.
Prior to that, Vasilash had editorial positions with the Rockford Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a member of the Automotive Press Association.
48-volt Is On Its Way
20. September 2016
If you have any question about the almost certain inevitability of 48-volt electrical architecture in vehicles to facilitate the creation of mild hybrids for fuel economy and the utilization of electric superchargers for improved performance, then the number of companies that are pursuing these technologies ought to be an answer.
For example, Continental, Schaeffler Automotive and Ford have developed the GTC II, the successor to the Gasoline Technology Car that was introduced at the Vienna Motor Symposium in 2014. GTC I, a Ford Focus, showed a 17 percent improvement in fuel efficiency on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).
GTC II, which features a 48-volt system and a hybrid architecture that integrates an electric motor between the Ford three-cylinder, one-liter engine and the transmission (a manual but which has an electronic clutch so even non-manual-capable drivers can drive the car without grinding the gears to shards of metal), improves on the efficiency of the GTC I fuel economy by 13 percent.
According to Kregg Wiggins, senior vice president, Powertrain Division, North America at Continental, “The second generation Gasoline Technology Car demonstrates the huge potential of a mild hybrid when the 48 volt electrical system, the internal combustion engine and the operating strategies are optimized holistically as a complete system.”
Although it doesn’t have an electric supercharger, it does use a Conti turbocharger with a radial-axial turbine that’s been adapted for this application, particularly providing fast response at low engine speeds (i.e., little lag).
MAHLE Powertrain has taken a VW Golf GTi and transformed its powertrain from the standard 2.0-liter engine to a 1.2-liter and made some other modifications, as well. Said Mike Bassett, chief engineer for R&D at MAHLE Powertrain, “This new power unit harnesses leading-edge 48V eSupercharger technology coupled with an innovative belt integrated starter generator [BISG] to deliver high performance combined with fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.”
The 48-volt architecture uses a three-cell, advanced lead acid battery pack and a pair of DC/DC converters, which are used to maintain the state of charge of the 12-volt battery.
As this is a GTi, it is about performance. However, it is also about reducing CO2 emissions, as this is a development coming out of the U.K. So the modified vehicle reduces CO2 by 22 percent—but whereas the original engine provides 100 kW/liter, this ups it to 160 kW/liter. And the electric supercharger not only doesn’t exhibit turbo lag, but it also maintains good torque at as low as 1,000 rpm.
And regular readers will recall that we recently talked to Matti Vint, director of Powertrain R&D at Valeo North America on “Autoline After Hours” about the company’s work on 48-volt systems and eSuperchargers.
The 48-volt change is coming. Of that there can be little doubt.
Engineering the Elio
19. September 2016
Elio Motors is something of a brash company. After all, here is an outfit that is developing an all-new motor vehicle—one that has three wheels (two in the front, one in the rear), a three-cylinder engine (0.9-liter; 55 hp, 55 lb-ft) and two seats (not side-by-side, but tandem, with one in front, one in back)—that is intended to have an MSRP on the order of $7,300 and that will be built in a former GM factory in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Mind you, this isn’t some sort of tiny toy, as it has an overall length of 160.5 inches, a front wheel track of 66.8 inches and an overall height of 54.2 inches.
And even though gas is cheap right now, the fact that they’re looking at providing 84 mpg is something that is difficult to overlook.
Jeff Johnston is the vice president of Engineering at Elio Motors. He’s spent more than 30 years in the auto industry, including stints at companies including TRW Automotive and Autoliv, which means he knows more than a little something about automotive safety. Although the Elio isn’t being certified as an automobile, but a motorcycle, safety is a conservable consideration for the vehicle.
Johnston describes what’s behind the development and engineering of the vehicle on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” where I am joined by Lindsay Brooke of Automotive Engineering International magazine and Chris Paukert of Roadshow by CNET.
Lindsay, Chris and I then talk about other recent developments, including why Google Self-Driving Cars isn’t happy with language in bills passed by the Michigan Senate, Uber’s self-driving Ford Fusions on the streets of Pittsburgh, self-driving Ford Fusions driving in Dearborn (not on public streets, but a simulation thereof), the potential of additive manufacturing in the auto industry, the Chevy Bolt’s remarkable 238 mpg, and a whole lot more.
And you can see it all right here:
The Auto Crisis Revisited
16. September 2016
For some in this industry—and plenty of those who used to be in this industry—2008 and 2009 were dark years. And what many remember but probably more have forgotten, Delphi Corp. filed for bankruptcy in 2005, 11 years after it was established, having been spun out of General Motors, four years before both GM and Chrysler filed.
In 2010 journalist Paul Ingrassia published Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster, which dissects the factors—including both labor and management—that led the once great companies to a place that no one—people within the industry or people who just looked forward to buying a new Chevy every few years—could have begun to imagine.
Yet there it was.
Gas prices went up. The availability of credit (thanks, let’s not forget, to the banking crisis) dried up.
In 2007 16.1-million light vehicles were sold in the U.S. In 2009 10.4-million light vehicles were sold in the U.S.
Crash Course, indeed.
Bill Burke was born in Pontiac, Michigan. Didier Pietri was born and raised in Paris. Pietri recalls, “I grew up with a love for American cars, the ‘Belles Américaines.’ They were a rare sighting and so spectacular. Each time I was lucky enough to spot a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado or a 1965 Ford Mustang in the streets of Paris, I was completely mesmerized by their curves and shiny chrome. I imagined the world they came from and the process used to create these symbols of American power and ingenuity.”
And then Pietri and his colleague Burke, like the rest of us, saw the power and ingenuity of the American auto industry show up in front of Congressional committees, hats in hands, asking for something that would get them through the next day, week, month. . . .
Not a pretty sight. Not Belles Américaines by a long shot.
They are both in the entertainment industry. They optioned Ingrassia’s book. Then set about—over three years, over 75 hours of filming interviews—to create a documentary film, Live Another Day.
They talked to key players on President Obama’s Task Force on the Auto Industry, Steve Rattner, Ron Bloom and Harry Wilson.
To former Chrysler head Bob Nardelli and to Sergio Marchionne, the man who heads what was once known as Chrysler (now FCA).
Yes, even Jay Leno
To Steve Miller who had to take Delphi into Chapter 11, a man who has a resume in this industry like few others—but one who might trump it, also in the film, Bob Lutz.
There are people from the financial industry. And even my colleagues, Michelle Krebs of Cox Automotive, and Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press.
And many others.
In some regards it is painful to watch. In many regards it is illuminating to watch. In all regards it is a documentary that transcends an examination of the auto industry, as it is a picture of what some might argue has become a post-industrial age.
Making cars isn’t like writing code. It is complicated. Expensive. Capital-intense. Globally competitive. And the damn thing better kick over in the morning, every morning.
But we still need them. And as new entrants begin to come into this industry, they need to learn the lessons that have been hard learned over the history of this industry—and particularly the last decade.
The movie opens today across the country. You can find the theaters here.
Lambo Contest for Design
15. September 2016
As Automobili Lamborghini gets ready to launch the Urus SUV in a couple of years, it has decided that it would create some attraction for the town of Sant’Agata Bolognese, where the company is headquartered, by having an international architectural contest to create two works that will be situated in roundabouts leading into town.
The contest is called “Lamborghini Road Monument.”
It is being held in partnership with Young Architects Competitions, and sponsored by the Emilia-Romagna Region, the Metropolitan City of Bologna, the municipality of Sant’Agata Bolognese, the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna and Unindustria Bologna.
The architectural objects are to interpret “the Lamborghini philosophy”: “visionary, cutting edge and stylistically pure.”
While the “young” part might give some people pause, there needs to be one person on the submitting team under age 35.
According to the rules, the objects will be placed on foundation plinths measuring 6 x 6 meters at the base; the plinths are to be located in the center of the roundabouts.
For obvious reasons (remember: traffic circles), “The installation cannot be hanging, resting or be connected to any structural element outside the foundation plinth or outside the roundabout.” A bit of sculpture in the traffic would probably not be propitious.
What’s more, the installations cannot “include swimming pools.”
And each must cost no more than 45,000 € to construct.
Lambo is quite serious about this endeavor, because the two winning teams will not only see their installation either at the roundabout at SP255 and Via Malmenago or SP255 and Via Pettarella, but win 12,000 €. And they also get a subscription to Casabella, an architectural magazine. Scoff, but for those of us who work for magazines, that’s the real prize.
(You can get full details on the Lamborghini design competition here.)
A Lot of Gas
14. September 2016
Although you could probably park the world’s entire fleet of hydrogen-fueled cars in a Walmart parking lot and have plenty of room left over for a number of RVs, Information Trends, a market research firm, says that by 2032—16 years from now—the cumulative number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on a global basis will be in excess of 20-million.
That’s a cumulative number, meaning it combines all that have been sold between now and then.
What’s more, a report that Information Trends has done on the subject, “Global Market for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles,” has it that in 2032 over five-million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be sold. Which means that between now and then there will be a total of 15 million sold.
Which, going back to our first sentence, means that things are going to have to get cranked up in the next 15 years rather aggressively.
Consider this: We contacted Hyundai, which is offering its Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle in California since June 2014, appropriately upgraded as the model years have progressed.
The vehicle is available in northern and southern California, which happens to be where the hydrogen fueling infrastructure is being built out.
The Tucson Fuel Cell by any measure is a heck of a bargain. With a $2,999 down payment, the vehicle leases (36 months) for $499 per month.
Included is unlimited FREE hydrogen refueling.
In addition to which there’s At Your Service Valet Maintenance, which means that if something needs servicing, the vehicle is picked up by a dealer and another vehicle is left in its place.
The Tucson Fuel Cell has a driving range of 265 miles, so this is not a vehicle that requires any sort of compromise.
Yet for all of that, as of last week they’d delivered, cumulatively 128 Tucson Fuel Cell crossovers since mid-2014.
Toyota offers the Mirai fuel cell vehicle. Honda will be bringing out its fuel cell Clarity later this year in the U.S. market.
Admittedly, the Information Trends number is (1) in the future and (2) for the world.
But the U.S. market is, and will likely continue to be, the second-largest market for light vehicles in the world, so there surely needs to be a whole lot of hydrogen vehicles between now and then.