What Happens To Tesla When The Sleeping Auto Giants Awake?

The history of automotive production is littered with the fallen badges of car companies that shone brightly but fell by the wayside in the face of competition from the industry’s giants. Whether you pine for an AMC, a Studebaker, or a Saab, it’s a Ford or a Honda you’ll be driving in 2019.

In the world of electric cars it has been a slightly different story. Though the big names have dipped a toe in the water they have been usurped by a genuinely disruptive contender. If you drive an electric car in 2019 it won’t be that Ford or Honda, it could be a Nissan, but by far the dominant name in EV right now is Tesla.

Motor vehicles are standing at the brink of a generational shift from internal combustion to electric drive. Will Tesla become the giant it hopes, or will history repeat itself?

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Volkswagen Tools Turned To The Space Age

The Volkswagen Beetle, and yes the bus and the sexiest car ever made, are cars meant for the people. You can pull the engine out with a strong friend, and you can fix anything in an old Volkswagen. VW realized this, because in the 1950s and ’60s, they came up with plans for tools designed to tear apart an old VW, and these tools were meant to be manufactured in a local shop. That really turns that right to repair on its head, doesn’t it?

While working on his van, [Justin Miller] came across a reference to one of these tools meant to be made at home. The VW 681 is a seal puller, designed to be manufactured out of bar stock. It’s an old design, but now we have interesting tools like 3D printers and parametric CAD programs. Instead of making one of these DIY seal pullers with a grinder, [Justin] brought this tool from the space age into the modern age. He took the design, modelled it in OpenSCAD, and printed it out.

The VW reference book that lists this tool is Workshop Equipment for Local Manufacture, and for this seal puller, it gives perfectly dimensioned drawings  that are easily modelled with a few lines of code. The only real trouble is filing down the pointy bit of the puller, but a bit of boolean operations fixed that problem. After 15 minutes of printing and a few hours finding the right documentation and writing fifteen lines of code, [justin] had a plastic VW 681 in his hands. Yes, it was probably a waste of time as a regular seal puller could have done the job, but it’s an excellent example of what can happen when manufacturers support their local repairman.

Model Car Indicates Door Is Ajar

The amount of technology in modern cars is truly staggering. Heated seats, keyless entry, and arrays of helpful cameras are all becoming increasingly common in all but the cheapest of models. [mathisox] drives a slightly older Volkswagen van, which has been converted into a camper. Unfortunately, it lacks a proper door ajar display. Nevermind that, though – there’s a charming solution to this problem.

Rather than stick to the automotive standard of boring indicator lights and low-resolution LCD displays, [mathisox] took a more analogous approach. A small model car matching his van was sourced and quickly gutted for the project. It was then fitted with servos to open and close the doors and rear hatch. The servos are controlled by an Arduino Nano, which reads the door switches in the vehicle and actuates the appropriate parts on the model.

With the model car stuck prominently on the dashboard, it serves as a clear visual indicator of the current status of the vehicle’s doors. It’s far less intrusive than those old Chryslers which repeatedly insisted that a door is a jar.

[Thanks to Raffael for the tip!]

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Spice Up Your Shop With A VW Pickup Wall Decoration

Seeing a half car is always a disconcerting experience. Especially when that half car is about 14 feet up in the air. [PanasonicModelRC6015] — We’ll call him [RC6015] for short — has gone and mounted 1/2 (actually more like 1/4) of a VW Rabbit Caddy pickup MK1 up on his shop wall.

The caddy started life as a regular 1983 VW pickup. Unfortunately, the years had not been kind to it. The body panels were in good shape, but there were serious rust problems in the floors, strut towers, rockers, and control arm mounts. According to [RC6015], this is beyond “weld on few replacement panels”, though he’s been heavily questioned on it in his Reddit thread.

Cutting the truck down was easy – a reciprocating saw did most of the work. The VW has a unibody design, so there was still some frame there to hold things together. A 2×12 board then was then bolted from the front of the truck to the rear. This made everything stable and provided a solid mounting point. A second 2×12 was lag bolted to several studs on the wall. Then it was just a matter of lifting the truck into position and bolting the two boards together. We’re guessing the [RC6015]’s wall has solid wood studs. Don’t try hanging a 500 lb truck from the wall if you’ve only got thin metal studs behind your sheetrock.

Just in case you’re wondering, the Panasonic Model RC-6015 is a vintage flip display alarm clock, the same one Marty used in Back to the Future.

If a truck on the wall is a bit much for your shop, check out this wall mounted weather display.

Solar Powered Camper Is A Magic Bus Indeed

There’s no doubt that Volkswagen’s offerings in the 1960s and early 1970s were the hippie cars of choice, with the most desirable models being from the Type 2 line, better known as the Microbus. And what could be even hippier than
converting a 1973 VW Microbus into a solar-electric camper?

For [Brett Belan] and his wife [Kira], their electric vehicle is about quality time with the family. And they’ll have plenty of time, given that it doesn’t exactly ooze performance like a Tesla. Then again, a Tesla would have a hard time toting the enormous 1.2 kW PV panel on its roof like this camper can, and would look even sillier with the panel jacked up to maximize its solar aspect. [Brett] uses the space created by the angled array to create extra sleeping space like the Westfalia, a pop-top VW camper. The PV array charges a bank of twelve lead-acid golf cart batteries which power an AC motor through a 500-amp controller. Interior amenities include a kitchenette, dining table, and seating that cost as much as the van before conversion. There’s no word on interior heat, but honestly, that never was VW’s strong suit — we speak from bitter, frostbitten experience here.

As for being practical transportation, that just depends on your definition of practical. Everything about this build says “labor of love,” and it’s hard to fault that. It’s also hard to fault [Brett]’s choice of platform; after all, vintage VWs are the most hackable of cars.

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Audi Engineer Exposes Cheat Order

In an interesting turn of events last week in a German court, evidence has materialized that engineers were ordered to cheat emissions testing when developing automotive parts.

Last Tuesday, Ulrich Weiß brought forward a document that alleges Audi Board of Director members were involved in ordering a cheat for diesel emissions. Weiß was the head of engine development for Audi, suspended in November of 2015 but continued to draw more than half a million dollars in salary before being fired after prior to last week’s court testimony.

Volkswagen Group is the parent company of Audi and this all seems to have happened while the VW diesel emissions testing scandal we’ve covered since 2015 was beginning to come to light. Weiß testified that he was asked to design a method of getting around strict emissions standards in Hong Kong even though Audi knew their diesel engines weren’t capable of doing so legitimately.

According to Weiß, he asked for a signed order. When he received that order he instructed his team to resist following it. We have not seen a copy of the letter, but the German tabloid newspaper Bild reports that the letter claims approval by four Audi board members and was signed by the head of powertrain development at the company.

Hackaday was unable to locate any other sources reporting on the letter other than the Bild article we have linked to (also the source used in the Forbes article above). Sources such as Die Welt reference only “internal papers”. If you know of other reporting on the topic please leave a comment about it below.

 

VW Engineer Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy

[James Liang], an engineer at Volkswagen for 33 years, plead guilty today to conspiracy. He was an engineer involved in delivering Diesel vehicles to market which could detect an emissions test scenario and perform differently from normal operation in order to pass US emission standards.

A year ago we talked about the Ethics in Engineering surrounding this issue. At the time we wondered why any engineer would go along with a plan to defraud customers. We may get an answer to this after all. [Mr. Liang] will cooperate with authorities as the VW probe continues.

According to information in the indictment, none of this happened by mistake (as we suspected). There was a team responsible for developing a mode that would detect a test and pass inspection after the company discovered the engine could not otherwise pass. It’s not hard to see the motivation behind this — think of the sunk cost in developing an engine design. The team responsible for cheating the tests went so far as to push software updates in 2014 which made the cheat better, and lying about the existence of these software “features” when questioned by authorities (again, according to the indictment).