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.

Teens and Driving
31. August 2016

According to Chevrolet, this past month in the U.S., more than 360,000 teens became eligible for a restricted driver’s license. Which, of course, means, 360,000 more opportunities for Chevy.

Because Chevy knows that for the next few years of those teen’s lives their parents are going to have more than a slight influence on the driving opportunities, the division commissioned a survey by Harris Poll to see what parents are concerned with vis-à-vis their teens, and the results may be somewhat surprising.

The number-one concern is “Driving Without Adult Supervision.” That came in at 55%.

Teen Driver Technology Overspeed Warning

Slow down!

Coming in third (52%) and fourth (49%) are “Drug and Alcohol Use” and “Sexual Activity.”

Second (53%) is “Academic Performance,” which, arguably, is effected by number three and number four.

Given this concern with unsupervised teen driving, Chevy has developed technology that can at least make it a bit less nerve-wracking for parents. As a parent of teens and director of marketing for Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers, Steve Majoros, puts it, “while we can’t control a teen’s behavior when they are in a car without a parent, Chevrolet’s Teen Driver Technology can remind them to buckle up and avoid speeding, while our other available active safety features can help to alert them in certain situations when they’re making less-than-perfect driving decisions.”

The Teen Driver tech includes such features as muting the audio of the radio or device paired with the vehicle if the front seat occupants haven’t buckled up and provides audible and visible warnings if a preset speed is exceeded.

(In addition to which, there is an in-vehicle report card that is generated that includes distance driven, maximum speed, and, tellingly, overspeed warnings, stability control events, antilock braking events, and wide-open throttle events. Mom and Dad may not be there, but they’ll know what happened.)

Other available active safety tech includes lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, front and rear park assist, side blind zone alert, forward collision alert, and much more.

On behalf of teens, though, I should point out that those available safety technologies are as critically useful to many of those drivers who are chronologically adults.

Auto Scores High in Satisfaction Index
30. August 2016

Although the auto industry gets more than its share of knocks, it seems, there is some good news for the industry. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) that was released last week shows that customer satisfaction—based on 3,776 customer surveys collected in the second quarter of 2016—is up by 3.8% for the auto industry overall to 82 on the 100-point ACSI scale.

2017 Lincoln MKZ

2017 Lincoln MKZ

Before looking at how some of the automotive companies did, it might be worth knowing how other industries faired.

“Televisions & Video Players” tie auto at 82. But while people seem to love their cell phones, they’re down at 79. Admittedly, there’s not a lot of distance between the two, but phones are fourth, not first.

Banks and breweries both score 76. And oddly, gas stations and hospitals tie at 75. (I don’t know about you, but I hope that when I need a hospital it will be better than that place I visited this morning where the guy in line in front of me stocked up on beef jerky and smokeless tobacco.)

At the bottom, just ahead of Subscription Television Service at 65, is Internet Service Providers, at 64.

That 82 for auto looks pretty darn good.

Looked at from a brand basis, Lincoln comes in first at 87, with Honda in second place at 86. Then there are Toyota and BMW at 85, and Lexus, GMC, Subaru and Infiniti, all at 85.

Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder, pointed out, that mass-market brands are perceived to be performing so well that luxury brands are under pressure: “If there is little difference, why pay more?” he rhetorically asks, adding, “Exclusivity may not be enough.”

Which is perhaps not so good for those building luxury vehicles, but great news for those who may not be able to afford the premium brands.

However, as for those internet providers. . . .

Electrically Improving Powertrains
29. August 2016

 

The good news about downsized powertrains is that they can provide greatly improved fuel efficiency compared to larger engines. The not-so-good news for many drivers of cars with these smaller engines under the hood is that they can lack performance.

One of the means by which this performance deficit is addressed is through the deployment of turbochargers. But as those familiar with driving some turbocharged vehicles know, there can be an annoying turbo lag.

image

According to Matti Vint, director of Powertrain R&D at Valeo in North America, they’ve developed the means by which this lag can be addressed. They’ve developed an electric supercharger that can be comparatively easily integrated with an existing engine architecture and can greatly improve the performance of turbocharged engines because the electric supercharger doesn’t operate on exhaust gases but is powered by an electric motor. Using switch reluctance, the electric supercharger has a lag on the order of 250 milliseconds—and having had the opportunity to drive a Lincoln MKZ Valeo development vehicle equipped with an electric supercharger, I can report that the lag is imperceptible.

Vint thinks that the combination of the turbo and supercharger is a potent approach to powertrains that provide both performance and efficiency.

Although the electric supercharger can operate with either a 12- or 48-volt architecture, Vint sees that by going to the 48-volt system there can be manifold advantages realized. Valeo has developed a 48-volt belt-starter generator that not only permits conventional stop-start capability, but also coasting: hit highway speed, lift from the accelerator, and within a few seconds the engine will shut off but immediately restart when a pedal is engaged. In addition to which, it provides the means by which regenerative braking energy can be put to good use (e.g., operating the electric supercharger, for example), so there are improvements that can be gained in fuel efficiency and in CO2 reduction.

Vint talks about all of this and more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with John McElroy, Dave Zoia of WardsAuto and me.

After Vint leaves the set we are joined by David Welch of Bloomberg BusinessWeek and discuss a variety of subjects including Tesla’s new 100-kWh battery (order a P90D Ludicrous and get the energy pack for $10,000 more), the announcement from Delphi and Mobileye that they’re developing a packaged autonomous system for OEMs, the ascent of Hyundai and Kia, and much more.

And you can see it all here.

Fast Trucks
26. August 2016

One more thing about things that go really fast.

Turns out that the Volvo Trucks’ Iron Knight is the world’s fastest truck—and note that this is a big truck, 4.5 metric tons, not a light-duty pickup.

The specially built truck was driven by Boije Ovebrink at the “Skellefteå Drive Center,” a former airfield outside Skellefteå in northern Sweden. (Remember: Volvo Trucks is still a Swedish company; the Volvo that makes cars is part of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.)

IronKnight

While the truck was specifically engineered for the tasks, its transmission is stock and the D13 engine started out that way, but was modified so that it produces 2,400 hp and 6,000 Nm of torque.

Of the gearbox, Claes Nilsson, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks, said that the land-speed record-setting performance in both 500- and 1,000-meter runs “shows that our I-Shift Dual Clutch transmission has enormous potential and that it does not let you down under extreme conditions. The fact that the world record-breaker uses the very same gearbox that is found in our series-built FH trucks is something that we’re really proud of.”

For the 1,000 meter run from a standing start Ovebrink piloted The Iron Knight to an average speed of 169 km/h (105 mph) and a time of 21.29 seconds. The 500-meter run hit 131.29 km/h (81.6 mph) and 13.71 seconds.

Goodyear developed special tires for the truck, though they based them on their latest generation of truck tire carcasses. “With so much power and torque, ensuring that 4.5 tonnes of truck sticks to the track at speeds of up to nearly 280 km/h is a real challenge for the tires, “said Laurent Colantonio, Director Tire Technology Commercial of Goodyear Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Among other records, Volvo Trucks also holds the records for hybrid trucks: the Mean Green, which combines an 1,800-hp diesel engine and a 300-hp electric motor, holds the 500- and 1,000-meter standing start records (115.3 km/h [71.6 mph] and 152.2 km/h [94.6 mph], respectively) as well as the 1,000 meter flying start, at 236.6 km/h (147 mph).

No, we don’t quite understand it, either.

How Fast Can a Motorcycle Go?
25. August 2016

While we’ve noted that the Bloodhound SSC is being prepared to run for a land speed record, it is worth noting that Triumph Motorcycles has announced that next month it plans to run for a record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Yes, a motorcycle.

So what do you think the world record is right now?

Remember: a motorcycle.

The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme-certified record is held by the TOP 1 Ack Attack, a “streamliner” bike that was built by Mike Akatiff, owner of Ack Technologies, a motorcycle that is powered by two 1,299-cc Suzuki Hayabusa engines that are running a single Garrett turbocharger.

Top speed over the 11-mile course: 376.8 mph.

Yes, a motorcycle.

376.8 mph.

Triumph

The bike that will make the challenge is the Triumph Infor Rocket Streamliner.

The Triumph, which will be piloted (which is certainly an accurate word in this case) by Guy Martin, features carbon Kevlar monocoque construction with two turbocharged Triumph Rocket III engines producing a combined 1,000 bhp @ 9,000 rpm. It runs methanol. The motorcycle is 25.5 feet long, 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall.

In recent testing, the bike hit 274.2 mph, which gives Triumph confidence that it has the potential to beat the Ack Attack.

All they need to do is get an additional 102.7 mph and they’ll be all set.

(I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d even want to go 102.7 mph on a motorcycle, streamlined Kevlar packaging or not.)

 




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