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Sticker Shock: EPA to Revise Window Labels
Sep03

Sticker Shock: EPA to Revise Window Labels

By Charles Krome

Remember when the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) was passed back in 2007? Me neither. But it turns out that EISA calls for the EPA to come up with revised window stickers for the 2012 model year, with the goal being to make it easier for customers to sort out the fuel-efficiency and emissions performance of new vehicles.

The redesigned stickers will still provide the traditional EPA fuel-economy ratings as well as information about greenhouse gas emissions, other air pollutants and annual fuel costs, and, again, the goal is to end up with a sticker that can “help consumers make easy and well-informed comparisons between vehicles.”

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Adventures in Branding: Kia EcoDynamics
Aug31

Adventures in Branding: Kia EcoDynamics

By Charles Krome

Back in March of 2009, Kia execs announced plans for the automaker’s future green-focused products, and that included a tried-but-true industry tactic: Kia would differentiate its most fuel-efficient products, and those featuring new fuel-saving technologies, by sticking a new badge on them. The badging wouldn’t represent the birth of a new automotive brand—at least not in the standard sense of the term—but be more of a separate trim level.

At least that was my take.

But a recent news report from Wards.com puts a whole different spin on things, and it’s one that shows a surprising disconnect between Kia and U.S. buyers.

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What Would Big Brother Drive?
Aug28

What Would Big Brother Drive?

By Charles Krome

This column is dedicated to Techshake reader Mark in AZ.

Have you ever seen a truck like the one in the accompanying picture? Because if so, you can be pretty sure it’s seen you—a lot of you.

What looks like a mild-mannered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is actually an AS&E Z Backscatter Van. Or, as the cool kids call it, a ZBV. It’s essentially one of those airport x-ray imaging things on wheels. Neat, huh?

American Science & Engineering, the company that builds the ZBV, describes it as “a low-cost, extremely maneuverable screening system built into a commercially available delivery van.” I didn’t see a spec sheet on the AS&E website, but it appears that standard content includes, “patented Z Backscatter technology, which reveals contraband that transmission X-rays miss—such as explosives and plastic weapons—and provides photo-like imaging for rapid analysis. The ZBV is also capable of identifying low levels of radioactivity from both gamma rays and neutrons with optional Radioactive Threat Detection (RTD) technology.” In other words, “The ZBV is ideal for counterterrorism applications, as it can detect dirty bombs and nuclear WMD, in addition to conventional explosives.”

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Hey, There’s a Cool Car: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396
Aug26

Hey, There’s a Cool Car: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396

By Charles Krome

Life sure is funny sometimes. Today, for example, I was driving on home and caught a glimpse of a beautiful first-generation Chevrolet Camaro SS on a trailer, right there on my street. My first thought was that it must be a Woodward Dream Cruiser extending his/her stay in beautiful suburban Detroit. But when I knocked on the door to ask about taking pictures, I found out differently: It turns out one of my neighbors happens to be a car restorer specializing in muscle cars. And it also turned out that this wasn’t just a first-gen SS—I’d hit the jackpot: It was a 1969 rocking the big-time 396 V8.

Dean had originally restored this classic for a customer about 10 years ago, and had bought it back from the guy just two hours before I stopped by—that’s what you call good timing.

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Look Out F-150: Mahindra Pickups Earn EPA Certification
Aug23

Look Out F-150: Mahindra Pickups Earn EPA Certification

By Charles Krome

Well, it appears that the Ford F-150, the best-selling truck in the U.S. since Jimmy Carter was in the Whitehouse, will be getting some interesting competition in the near-term future: Indian OEM Mahindra & Mahindra has finally received EPA certification to sell its pickups here in America.  As we’ve reported several times, most recently here and here, this process has been a long time in coming, to the point that Mahindra’s exclusive US importer sued the parent company.

Mahindra & Mahindra Limited is the automotive arm of a massive Indian business conglomerate, but its roots are about as red, white and blue as you get. The company began life building Jeeps for the Indian market after World War II, leveraging a deal with the folks at Willys, and eventually became sort of a modern-day International Harvester, only more successful. A lot more successful.

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