auto news

The 2010 Honda Insight Hybrid Car

Honda’s new hybrid teaches you how to save gas (check out the video!)

From the US PopSci team

Aggressive driving -- lead-footed acceleration, speeding, excessive braking -- can slash highway fuel economy by 33 percent, according to estimates. Honda's Insight hybrid, arriving in the US in April, softens the effects of wasteful driving and tells you when you're indulging in bad habits.

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The 2009 International Motorcycle Show

Art director Matthew Cokeley leaves the warm PopSci offices to check out the next wave of bikes

Motorcycles are the epitome of the phrase "form follows function." And nowhere is that more evident than at the 2009 International Motorcycle Show. Kicking off this morning at the Jacob Javits center on Manhattan's west side, Popular Science braved the blistering cold to see what's new and what's next.

Here is a sampling.

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Chemical-Powered Cars Square Off

A hydrogen fuel cell powers the winner of the 10th annual Chem-e-Car race

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Plug In Your Prius

A number of companies want to help you convert your hybrid

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that Toyota is planning to sell a plug-in Prius that will greatly improve the car's already impressive fuel efficiency. Will I be able to convert my older (2006) Prius to make it a plug-in hybrid vehicle? -- Albert D. Rich, Kamuela, Hawaii

Toyota is readying a limited run of a plug-in Prius, which can average 100 miles per gallon, for use in government and commercial fleets starting in 2009. Toyota will monitor how these cars, which will have high-efficiency lithium-ion batteries that haven't been fully tested yet, will hold up under everyday use.

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Driving In Their Genes

A new study looks at the careers of NASCAR dads and their NASCAR offspring. And what of V8 Supercars?

Does the "N" in NASCAR stand for nepotism? Research published earlier this year in the Journal of Sports Economics investigates the last 30 years of racing to determine whether a family name has provided a free ride. The data shows that sons of NASCAR drivers do not have significantly longer careers than competitors without a family link, given the same level of performance (so Dale Jr. haters, pipe down).

So the answer is that there's no nepotism? Not so fast. Second brothers do have a significantly longer career than their performance warrants. Fathers also perform better than sons (Dale Jr. haters, we hear you). While first brothers perform better than second brothers. But don't think having a son doesn't affect the father. Fathers with a son competing have a significantly shorter career than their performance would warrant. Tell that to Richard Petty.

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The Gas Bug

Full story inside the November issue of Popular Science, out now!

E. coli has earned a nasty reputation for upsetting stomachs and killing people. But now scientists at LS9, a start-up in South San Francisco, are putting the bad bug to good use, genetically engineering it to excrete biodiesel. The fuel "burns just like diesel," says Greg Pal, the senior director at LS9 [see Breeding the Oil Bug, about the rise of microbial biofuels].

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Power Struggle

Full story inside Popular Science, out now!

The battery that will power the Chevrolet Volt weighs approximately 400 pounds and, stood on end, reaches a height of six feet. The $16,000-plus, T-shaped monolith contains 300 individual three-volt lithium-ion cells, bundled together in groups of three, then wired in series and kept from overheating by an elaborate liquid cooling mechanism.

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Steaming Down the Road

Full story inside this issue of Popular Science, out now!

Ten years of toil for a ride lasting less than two minutes -- that's the trade a team of Britain's finest engineers, mechanics and speed junkies have made for a chance to break the century-old speed record for a steam-powered vehicle. Using propane to turn 10 gallons of water a minute into superheated steam, they expect their 25-foot-long Steam Car to top out at 275kph, shattering the record by more than 60kph.

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Riding in the Rain: Peugeot HYmotion3 Compressor Concept

Peugeot looks toward a future of fuel-efficient, all-weather scooters replacing cars for short, urban jaunts

Quick, name a car with three-wheel drive. Okay, trick question; this isn't quite a car, but Peugeot's idea of a fuel-efficient all-weather runabout. The HYmotion3 Compressor Concept foresees a hybrid vehicle in more ways than one: part gasoline-, part electric-powered; part car, part scooter. The French automaker says it offers the stability of a trike with the protection of a safety cell similar to that which supports occupants of a Smart car.

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A More Efficient Hybrid

Reusing exhaust makes for a cleaner, more capable engine

One of the first things Eric Mattessich discovered in engineering school was that the typical internal combustion engine blows about 70 percent of the energy it creates straight out of the tailpipe in the form of heat. So, he wondered, could he adapt the kind of heat-recapturing mechanisms used to make powerplants more efficient to work on hybrid cars? “The technology has been around since the 1900s,” he points out. “It’s just that no one has put it into such a small package before.”

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