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.
30. September 2016
When you think of the forthcoming LA Auto Show and Los Angeles in general, you may think of (1) very expensive, very large vehicles being piloted by very egotistical stars and (2) very jammed freeways full of the aforementioned, as well as numerous other vehicles of a less ostentatious variety.
What you probably don’t think of is a foldable electric scooter that has a top speed of 15 mph and a weight of 35 pounds.
That said, it is worth noting that URB-E, from URBAN626, a Pasadena-based company that actually machines components for its line of electric scooters in its SoCal facility, has been named one of the top 10 startups by AutoMobility LA*.
Clearly the vehicle is built for a multimodal transportation system, for the last mile or portion thereof.
It features a 250-Watt brushless electric motor and a 36-Volt lithium-battery pack that provides a range of up to 20 miles on a charge. Recharge time is 4 hours.
In unfolded form the scooter measures 34 inches long, 19.5 inches wide, and 35 inches high. When folded it is 17 inches long, 37 inches high and 19.5 inches wide.
From a structural point of view the URB-E scooter is as sophisticated as any vehicle rolling down Santa Monica Boulevard, as it combines aircraft-grade aluminum and carbon fiber.
Congratulations to the people who produce the URB-E.
*This should not be confused with Automobility ‘16, which we are hosting in Dearborn on October 13, which you can learn about—and register for—here.
Mercedes Pairs Hydrogen with Plug-in
29. September 2016
While there is increasing attention—thanks, largely, to Tesla in general and the forthcoming introduction, by General Motors, of the Chevrolet Bolt EV—to electric vehicles powered by, well, electricity, there is another type of EV out there that may gain some ground: electric vehicles powered by hydrogen.
Toyota has its Mirai on the road right now. So is the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is supposed to be launching in the U.S. this year.
And Mercedes will be bringing out the GLC F-CELL in 2017. In Europe, that is.
What’s interesting about the GLC F-Cell is that it is also a plug-in vehicle. It features a 9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged from a household outlet and is said to provide a full-electric range (on the electricity) of 50 km on the NEDC drive cycle (which is different than the EPA cycle in the U.S.).
Of course, then there is the fuel cell. This has been designed so that it can be housed in the engine compartment of the GLC. Not only is it compact, but the fuel cell stack uses 90 percent less platinum in its stack so that the cost of the system is not as Tiffany-oriented as it otherwise might be. The stack was developed with Ford in Vancouver, Canada, as part of the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation joint venture.
There are two Type 4 carbon-fiber reinforced tanks that were developed by Daimler’s NuCellSys along with Hexagon Composites, which is the tanks’ supplier. The tanks are built into the floor of the crossover and hold about 4 kg of hydrogen at 700 bar. Refueling can be performed in about three minutes.
The range of the GLC-F-CELL is on the order of 510 km.
Cybersecurity on Wheels
28. September 2016
According to IHS Automotive there are on the order of 112-million vehicles on the road today that are “connected,” that is, “have a connection through the internet, though telematics, an onboard modem or a paired device in the vehicle, such as a mobile phone or other device.”
With that last bit about the mobile phone being paired with the car, it is surprising that the number of connected vehicles isn’t greater.
It seems that it is impossible to go through a month without a non-trivial recall occurring, generally one predicated on something mechanical not quite working as it is supposed to, such as a latch or a spring or something similarly simple.
Given the multitude of parts that go into making up a light vehicle, that shouldn’t be entirely surprising.
Clearly, vehicle manufacturers have their hands full.
Which brings us to a whole new issue that they have to contend with.
“Cybersecurity will be one of the toughest challenges that the auto industry will face in the next decade or two,” according to Colin Bird, senior analyst, connected car consumer insights and software, apps and services (SAS) for IHS Markit.
And while the trouble with the springs and latches and whatnot are simply errors of manufacturing and/or assembly, this new challenge has new causes. Bird notes that telematics and modems in cars “make connected cars an attractive target to cyber criminals, terrorists and nation states.”
Criminals, terrorists and nation states.
That said, IHS Automotive has determined that the global market for automotive cybersecurity is going to explode to $759-million in 2023.
The organization, which has written a study on the subject, “Automotive Cybersecurity and Connected Car,” says there will be two approaches. One is for on-board security software programs. Given that there are as many as 60 ECUs in a single vehicle, this means a lot of programs per car. IHS Automotive reckons that in 2016 the spending on cybersecurity software for vehicles is $11-million. It anticipates that growing to $37-million by 2023, representing some 150-million software programs.
The other approach is cybersecurity cloud services. The research firm figures that by 2023 25 percent of the vehicles sold will use these cloud services, which represents revenue on the order of $389-million.
The connectivity of cars and trucks is only going to accelerate in the next few years.
If you want to learn more about it, then I shamelessly recommend that you attend a one-day conference, “Automobility ’16: Reimagining Transportation,” which we are organizing along with our sister publication AutoBeat Daily. It is being held on October 13 in Dearborn, Michigan, and you can find all of the details right here.
27. September 2016
When you think of the Volkswagen Beetle, chances are you remember the classic Doyle Dane Bernbach ads from the 1960s or the little flower vase on the instrument panel of the New Beetle.
Chances are you don’t think of a Bug going 205.122 mph.
Yet that’s what Preston Lerner, a contributing editor to Automobile Magazine, did recently at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Volkswagen Beetle LSR is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder TSI gasoline engine—an engine that you can get at your local VW dealer. . .except that this one was specially modified by THR Manufacturing.
It was kitted out with new turbochargers, pistons, camshafts, connecting rods, and head modifications.
And that Beetle on the lot doesn’t produce 543 horsepower and 421 pound-feet of torque. You have to be satisfied with the 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of the stock Beetle R-Line coupe.
But your daily commute probably isn’t over salt flats, either.
On the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox
26. September 2016
To say that the Equinox crossover is important to Chevrolet is to vastly understate the case.
The compact CUV arrived on the scene in model year 2005 with a standard 185-hp, 3.4-liter V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Then there was a second generation in 2010, this time with two powertrains available: the standard 182-hp 2.4-liter four and a 264-hp, 3.0-liter V6. Both had six-speed automatics.
While the vehicle had a midcycle refresh for 2016, the rest of the industry started producing compact crossovers to meet the market’s growing appetite for the vehicles. Many of these vehicles left the Equinox credible, but not incredible.
Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America and Global Chevrolet brand chief, at the reveal of the 2018 Equinox (held, not coincidentally, on the autumnal equinox) points out that back in 2004, the compact SUV and CUV sales in the U.S. were on the order of 7 percent of the market. That has soared to some 18 percent.
In the context of Chevy, the Equinox is the number-two best-selling vehicle in the entire lineup.
The top-selling Chevy from January through August 2016 is the Silverado pickup, at 380,176 units.
The Equinox comes in with 158,475.
One of the things that Chevy has been doing under the direction of John Cafaro, executive director, Chevrolet Global Design, is redoing the vehicles in the lineup.
Two notable examples are the 2016 Malibu and the Volt.
Again through August, Malibu sales of 148,868 vehicles represents a 14.4 percent increase versus the same period in 2015.
Volt sales of 14,295 units are up a whopping 71.9 percent.
And while Equinox’s 158,475 bests both of those cars (and it should be recognized that those are both sedans, a segment that is weakening in light of the utility vehicles’ growth), that number is off 17.7 percent.
So for model year 2018—which means, in this case, “coming next Spring”—Chevy has put the Equinox on a new platform with new sheet metal, new interior and new—and interesting—powertrain options.
Well consider: all three of the fours are turbocharged.
And for another, one of the three is a 136-hp, turbodiesel that provides 236 lb-ft of torque.
Note how Messrs. Batey and Cafaro have “global” in their titles? Well, it so happens that in Europe there happens to be the opportunity to order an Opel Astra or Insignia with a 1.6-liter “whisper diesel.” Yes, the technology for the diesel that will be available in the U.S. in the Equinox sometime next year after the launch has that engine under the hood. (Why “whisper diesel”? Because it is quiet, so quiet that GM Vauxhall posted a YouTube video on that subject.)
The standard engine is a 170-hp 1.5-liter. It, like the turbodiesel, is fitted to a six-speed automatic, the Hydra-Matic 6T40 for it, and the 6T45 for the turbodiesel.
Then there is the third engine, a 252-hp, 2.0-liter engine. It is mated to a Hydra-Matic 9T50—and that “9” stands for “9,” as in being a nine-speed automatic.
There is another interesting number related to the 2018 Equinox: 183.1. That’s the overall length in inches. It is interesting because the current generation has an overall length of 187 in. Yes, the 2018 Equinox is more compact than its predecessor (something that we’ve seen GMC do with the Acadia crossover). However, the vehicle is said not to stint on passenger volume as a result (however, the cargo area behind the second row suffers some, going from 31.5-ft3 in the 2016 model to 29.9 in the new one). Maximum cargo space for the 2018 is 63.5-ft3.
The reduction in size has led to a reduction in mass: the base curb weight for a FWD vehicle with a 1.5-liter engine is 3,327 lb. The base curb weight for a 2016 Equinox—FWD with a 2.4-liter—is 3,777 lb.
As regards the styling, which was performed in the GM Design Studio in Warren, Michigan, Cafaro says, “There’s a lot of Malibu in the vehicle.” This is not a case where they’ve taken a sedan and simply provided greater ground clearance, but, he explains, “This is taking the Malibu passion and design execution into the crossover segment. They are two companions in the showroom.”
He adds, “We have a lot of design equity built up in it”—the Equinox cumulative sales top two-million—“so it is a balance how far you reach and have the look and feel of an Equinox.”
According to Cafaro, in the studio they have an “Equinox team—just like the Corvette team.”
While some might argue that that is a bit of an exaggeration, clearly Cafaro and his colleagues went at the crossover with the zeal that is characteristic of things like the Malibu and Volt—and as previously pointed out, both of those cars are going in the right direction sales-wise.
And one more thing: they had to think globally, as the 2018 Equinox is eventually going to be available in 115 markets around the world.