Well, this week’s Links article is likely to prove a bit on the spicy side, thanks in no small part to the Chinese balloon that spent the better part of the week meandering across the United States. Putting aside the politics of the whole thing — which we’ll admit is hard to do, given the state of the world today — there are some interesting technical aspects to this story, which the popular press has predictably ignored. Like the size of this thing — it’s enormous. This is not even remotely on the same scale as the hundreds of radiosonde-carrying balloons sent aloft every day, at least if the back-of-the-envelope math thoughtfully sent to us by [Dr_T] holds up. If the “the size of three buses” description given in most media reports is accurate, that means a diameter of about 40 meters, for a volume of 33,500 cubic meters. If it’s filled with helium — a pretty safe bet — that makes its lifting capacity something like three metric tons. So maybe it was a good idea to wait until it was off the Carolinas to shoot it down.
Recreating The “Stuck Throttle” Problem On A Toyota
A few years ago, Toyota was in the news for a major safety issue with a number of their passenger vehicles. Seemingly at random, certain cars were accelerating without concern for driver input, causing many crashes and at least 37 confirmed deaths. They issued recalls both for the floor mats which were reported to have slid forward to jam the accelerator pedal, but this didn’t explain all of these crashes. There was another recall for stuck throttles, which [Colin O’Flynn] demonstrates a possible cause for on his test bench.
While most passenger vehicles older than about 15-20 years controlled the throttle with a cable connected directly from the throttle body to the accelerator pedal, most manufacturers have switched to a fly-by-wire system which takes sensor input from the accelerator pedal and sends that position information to the vehicle’s computer which in turn adjusts the throttle position. This might be slightly cheaper to manufacture, but introduces a much larger number of failure modes to a critical system. Continue reading “Recreating The “Stuck Throttle” Problem On A Toyota”
The State Of Play In Solid State Batteries
Electric vehicles are slowly but surely snatching market share from their combustion-engined forbearers. However, range and charging speed remain major sticking points for customers, and are a prime selling point for any modern EV. Battery technology is front and center when it comes to improving these numbers.
Solid-state batteries could mark a step-change in performance in these areas, and the race to get them to market is starting to heat up. Let’s take a look at the current state of play.
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New Cars Will Nickel-and-Dime You – It’s Automotive As A Service
Every few years, someone pushing a startup to investors comes up with an acronym or buzzword which rapidly becomes the new hotness in those circles. One of the most pernicious is “as a Service,” which takes regular things and finds a way to charge you a regular fee to use them.
Automotive companies just absolutely loved the sound of this, and the industry is rapidly moving to implement subscription services across the board. Even if there’s hardware in your car for a given feature, you might find you now need to pay a monthly fee to use it. Let’s explore how this came about, and talk about which cars are affected. You might be surprised to find yours already on the list.
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Pandemic Chip Shortages Are Shutting Down Automotive Production
Once upon a time, the automobile was a mostly mechanical beast, but no longer. Advanced electronics have weaved their way into the modern car, from engine to infotainment and climate control to the buttons now sprinkled throughout the passenger cabin. The gains in amenity and efficiency can’t be sniffed at, but it leaves manufacturers reliant on semiconductor suppliers to get cars out the door. Over the past year, it’s become much more complicated — with many automakers having to slow production in the face of integrated circuit shortages that can be traced back to Spring of 2020. Continue reading “Pandemic Chip Shortages Are Shutting Down Automotive Production”
Using Super-Efficient Solar Cells To Keep Your Electric Car’s Battery Topped Up
Who hasn’t thought of sticking a couple of solar panels onto an electric car’s roof to keep its battery at 100% charge while it’s parked out in the sun? While usually deemed impossible due to the large number and weight of PV solar cells required to get the necessary amount of energy, this hasn’t kept Toyota’s engineers from covering one of their Prius cars with 34+% efficient solar cells.
Some may remember the solar roof option which Toyota previously offered years ago. That system produced a mere 50 W and was only used for things like running the AC fans, indirectly extending the battery charge. In 2016 Toyota brought back this system, in a much improved version. This upped the power output to 180 W, allowing it to power all secondary electronics in the Prius, even allowing it to add a few extra kilometers (roughly 6.1 km/day) to the Prius’ range if one were so inclined.
This newest prototype pretty much goes for broke, reminding us of the cars used in the World Solar Challenge, such as the Dutch Stella and Stella Lux positive-energy solar cars by the team at the University of Eindhoven. Who coincidentally have done a spin-off, setting up a company to produce the Lightyear One, which at least on paper sounds amazing, and potentially may never have to plug it in.
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Wireless Charger Truck Mod Keeps Juice Flowing On The Move
Wireless charging is great tech, but its relative novelty means it may not be everywhere you want it. When one of those places is your vehicle, well, you make like [Braxen McConnell] and crack it open to install a wireless charger!
After dismantling the centre console, [McConnell] had to make a few cuts behind the scenes to make room for the wireless charger — as well as cutting down the charger itself. He also took apart the charger and flipped the board and charging coil around inside its case; the reason for this is the closer the coil is to the phone, the better. The charger will already be hidden behind the plastic of the centre console, so it’s no good to be fighting through the extra distance of the charger’s internals. The charger was mounted with double-sided tape, since it’s relatively light and won’t be knocked about.
[McConnell] tapped into the accessory circuit on his truck so it would only be drawing current when the truck is on — nobody likes coming back to a dead battery! Power comes from a cigarette outlet connected to a USB car charger, which then powers the wireless charger — it’s a little hacky, but it works! Once the wireless charger is plugged in and the centre console is reinstalled, [McConnell] was set! Check out the build video after the break.
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