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.

Breaking Away—Electrically
23. September 2016

One of the things that is becoming more important to several automobile manufacturers is discovering alternatives to the norm, not only in creating advanced powertrains and autonomous technology, but as regards alternatives to straight-up cars and trucks.

Like bicycles.

Notably, French vehicle manufacturer Peugeot produced its first folding bike in. . .1892. (It was designed by Captain Henri Gerard for the French army.)

Peugeot is launching its first electrically assisted folding bike, the eF01. It joins a lineup of more than 10 models of electrical bicycles that the company has had on the market since 2009.

Peugeot1

According to Neil Simpson, lead designer at the Peugeot Design Lab, "The eF01 benefits from optimized ergonomics. When folded, the bikes two wheels are perfectly aligned allowing the user to effortlessly walk with the bike using the handle built into the frame. The eF01 possesses a patented memory system for the saddle which means the perfect saddle height can be quickly achieved every time."

The bike weighs 17 kg (37.5 pounds), can hit 20 km/h 12 mph) and its lithium-ion battery provides a range of up to 30 km (18.6 miles).

The eF01 can be recharged in about two hours from a 12-volt outlet. Peugeot has configured its 5008 model SUV with what it calls the “Dockstation,” especially designed to store and charge the eF01 in the rear cargo area.

It can be folded in less than 10 seconds.

Peugeot2

For those who are looking for something in a faster, more traditional bike, Peugeot is also launching the eU01s, which uses a Bosch Performance Line electric motor that propels the bike to a top speed of 45 km/h (28 mph).

The eU01s can be fitted with either a 400- or 500-Wh lithium-ion battery, which provides a range of 75 or 95 km (46.6 or 59 mph), respectively.

Peugeot3

An optional feature for the eUO1s is the Bosch Nyon system, which is a compact computer that has a 4.3-inch screen providing everything from help in setting up the pedal assistance profile to navigation.

Wonder what Captain Gerard would have thought about all this?

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
22. September 2016

The Honda Accord is simply a really, really good car. (Yes, that’s not precisely a technical automotive description nor is it a highly sophisticated assessment, but when you get right down to it, normal people are in the market for midsize sedans like the Accord, and they are likely to be interested in the comparative levels of goodness of a car more than knowing about the 0 to 60 time or the way that it feels when carving through a curve.)

We’ve already talked about it with another powertrain. So pretty much what is said there stands here.

But this is the Accord Hybrid.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

And while I could go on and on about the clever powertrain that Honda engineers have devised (e.g., there is a four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle two-liter engine that works with two AC synchronous permanent magnet motors and through an electronic continuously variable transmission), but it seems to me that hybrid technology becomes successful when it is transparent to the customer.

I would argue that most people—again, those who are looking for a midsize sedan because they have kids or the like something large without having to clamber into a truck—probably don’t know what they have under the hoods of their cars, and if they do know whether they have a four- or six-cylinder engine, they don’t have the foggiest notion of the horsepower. Sure, there are exceptions. And there are people who buy Hemis. But for the average customer and the average car. . .

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

So what someone needs to know about the Accord Hybrid is that (1) it has the sort of power that you’d expect from a midsize sedan (one of the things that the Honda people have done is provide a bit of oomph in the form of sportiness when you get on the accelerator, but I think that it largely mitigated by the performance at really slow speeds, which feels sort of lagging) and (2) you get really, really good fuel efficiency from the car (as in getting about 50 mpg without really trying—though that’s not the official number).

Now because this powertrain is more expensive than that found in other Accords, and because some people think that you can’t possibly want to spend extra money on a hybrid because gas is so cheap, there are some differences between this car and its brethren, like a special aluminum hood that you won’t recognize as an aluminum hood unless you carry a magnet with you and apply it to exterior body panels, and unique alloy wheels and blue highlighted LED headlights, both of which are discernable.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

Also standard in the Acord Hybrid is the “Honda Sensing” suite, which includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), all of which are good for safety and comfort.

Here’s what I think is the big difference between, say, an Accord EX-L (the high-end version with an I4, which I choose because it gets better fuel efficiency than the two higher grades with a V6) and the Hybrid is the trunk space for the Accord Hybrid is more than two cubic feet smaller—13.5 cu. ft. vs. 15.8 cu. ft. You’ve got to put those extra batteries somewhere.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

So here’s the thing: you weigh your cargo needs versus your fueling frequency preferences. (Or maybe you are actually considering the overall environment and have concluded that burning less gas is simply a good thing to do, yet you want (a) a sizable vehicle and (b) a boatload of amenities, so. . . .)

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC, four cylinder

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 143 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 129 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor

Total system horsepower: 212 @ 6,200 rpm

Transmission: electronic continuously variable

Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 194.1 in.

Width 72.8 in.

Height: 57.5 in.

Passenger volume: 100.8-cu. ft.

Curb weight: 3,536 lb.

EPA: 49/47/48 mpg (city/highway/combined)

With Great Material Come Great Seats
21. September 2016

Automobile seats for the past several years have pretty much resembled. . .automobile seats. Yes, there have been a multitude of fabric changes, particularly lots of leather. And it is almost as though the whole notion of hand-stitching—or at least machine stitching that appears to have been done by hand—is one of the biggest breakthroughs in interiors, even though one could argue that it is the sort of thing that one could find in 19th-century stagecoaches.

LexusSeat1

Although it is a concept, the seat that Lexus is going to be showing at the 2016 Paris Motor Show is anything but a “classic” design.

The “Kinetic Seat Concept” not only resembles a spider web (we’ll forego the Peter Parker references), but it is made of a material developed by a Swedish firm in Stockholm, Spiber Technologies, which is located at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. They’re using recombinant DNA to make synthetic spider silk (according to the company, “To produce spider silk protein recombinantly, we selected only a portion of the gene sequence that spiders use to make spidroins. We call this the mini-spidroin. The selected gene sequence was then cloned into E. coli bacteria,” which is more than we want to know, especially the last bit).

LexusSeat2

Back to the seat. The design (not the styling) is executed such that the net not only fits the shape of the occupant’s body, but because the center of the backrest is located at shoulder blade height, the head is stabilized such that there are high levels of support.

Not surprisingly, the seat is lighter than conventional models. Not only does mass reduction lead to using less fuel, but unlike traditional seats that use various foams and plastics, there are no petroleum-derived materials used for the Kinetic Seat Concept.

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.

GTCII

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

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.

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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.

Elio1

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.

Elio2

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:




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