techshake

New Study Explores Hearing Damage From Open-Top Motoring

By Chris Haak

Do you drive a convertible or know someone who drives one regularly?  If so, there may be a lot of “what did you says” and “I didn’t catch that” uttered during the course of most conversations, according to a study published in the Journal of Laryngology & Otology on the noise exposure levels in several different convertible models.  (Download a PDF of the full five-page article .)

The authors of the study tested five different convertibles at speeds of 55, 65, and 75 miles per hour with the convertible tops both open and closed, and measured the noise levels from the passenger seat between 8 and 10 times from the driver’s left ear position.  When the tops were open, all windows were also opened, and when the tops were closed, all windows were closed.

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Techshake’s Most Popular Articles of 2010

By Chris Haak

After each year, we like to look at the traffic numbers for Techshake to determine which articles were the most popular with readers, in terms of pageviews.  Incidentally, thank you very much for making this one of Techshake’s best years ever, in terms of traffic, exposure, and growth!

We published over 400 articles, including over 70 new-vehicle reviews, First Drives, and Quick Drive pieces, hundreds of news items and dozens of editorials and commentary pieces.  We’ve covered many, many angles of cars and the car business, and we’re ready to do even more of it in 2011.  But first, the most popular posts during 2010 in terms of pageviews:

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The Return of the Biodiesel Plug-in Hybrid Turbine-Driven 1959 Lincoln Continental Convertible
Jan04

The Return of the Biodiesel Plug-in Hybrid Turbine-Driven 1959 Lincoln Continental Convertible

By Charles Krome

One of the more unique vehicles to visit the SEMA show in the fall of 2010 was a certain American-made product capable of 50 miles of all-electric driving and a further 350 miles of travel when powered by its onboard generator. The car put out zero tailpipe emissions using pure electricity, of course, and even when relying on its generator, the net result was about 40 percent fewer emissions than a Toyota Prius. The generator offered another bonus, too: When used to recharge the car, it was responsible for 48 percent fewer emissions than would be produced if the vehicle were plugged into the U.S. power grid—although that’s an option here, too. Oh, and when it is plugged in, any extra electricity could be fed back into the grid, too.

A secret Chevrolet Volt variant? Nope. A reincarnated vehicle from Chrysler’s ENVI project? Hardly. Some under-the-radar effort from Ford? Not exactly. It was none other than Neil Young’s LincVolt, a 1959 Lincoln Continental outfitted with a high-tech powertrain featuring a UQM 150-kW turbine motor, a bio-diesel “microturbine” generator from Capstone and 850 lbs. worth of lithium-iron phosphate batteries.

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Fiat May Increase Chrysler Stake Above 50%, But Won’t Merge Operations

By Chris Haak

Fiat and Chrysler CEO (though not Fiat/Chrysler CEO) Sergio Marchionne told reporters in Milan, on the sidelines of an event to celebrate the split of Fiat into two pieces, that if Chrysler launched its expected IPO around the middle of this year, Fiat could ultimately increase its stake in the smallest US-based automaker up to 51 percent prior to the IPO.  Currently, Fiat owns 20 percent of Chrysler Group LLC.

Fiat will receive 15 percent more of Chrysler (to 35 percent total) if the company meets certain operational benchmarks, which include making a small engine in the US (which it’s doing for the Mexico-built Fiat 500), meets sales objectives outside North America, and sells a domestically made car in the US that gets over 40 miles per gallon.  If Fiat repays government loans from Canada and the US before 2013, the company has the option to buy another 16 percent of Chrysler, which would bring the total potential ownership stake up to 51 percent.

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First Drive: 2011 Mitsubishi i-MiEV (JDM Spec)
Jan02

First Drive: 2011 Mitsubishi i-MiEV (JDM Spec)

By Chris Haak

The conventional wisdom is that green cars such as hybrids and EVs have to look like something a little different from the standard three-box sedan if they hope to enjoy sales success. Accordingly, it explains why the Prius outsells the Camry Hybrid.

Well, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV certainly fits the bill of looking different. Technically, I suppose that it’s a one-box car, though in reality, it is far more ovoid and organically shaped to call it a box. It’s smaller than nearly everything on the road today, and will certainly attract attention wherever it goes.  Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive an i-MiEV (Japan spec, right hand drive) at a media event, and I found the car to be a curious blend of the normal and abnormal as I tallied a few miles in the little EV.

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Product Review:  100W Black & Decker Portable Electronics Charger
Dec29

Product Review: 100W Black & Decker Portable Electronics Charger

By Chris Haak

Those of us who spend a decent portion of our lives on the road – I personally drive about 300 miles per week, and spend at least 10 or 12 of my waking hours behind the wheel every week – have come to depend on the portable electronic devices that entertain us or keep us connected to friends, loved ones, and associates.  I firmly believe that the future state of in-vehicle entertainment will center on what the user brings with him or her into the car – you won’t need to listen to broadcast radio, but will instead connect your media player.

But what happens when those players run out of power?  An increasing number of cars offer USB jacks, and most cars have a 12-volt DC power outlet (which was once-upon-a-time called a cigarette lighter socket), but not everything can charge with a USB cable (a laptop, for instance), not every device is available with a car charger (again, laptops), and sometimes you may not want to fork over the money for multiple car chargers when they are likely to only be used occasionally.  For instance, I have a car charger for my iPhone, but typically do not transfer it from my own car into press cars, because my phone typically has over half of its charge remaining at the end of the workday, and I have wall chargers for it at home at in the office.

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Review:  2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Dec28

Review: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS

By Charles Krome

I guess I must have been a better person this year than I thought, because Chevy Claus stopped by just before Christmas to loan me a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS, along with a full tank of gas, for a week of holiday hot-rodding.

As most people know, the SS is currently at the top of the Camaro range, and I suppose “mine” was at the top of the top: It packed the LS3 V8, mated to a Tremec six-speed manual, which meant I had 426 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque on tap; you get a mere 400 of the former and 410 of the latter with the L99/six-speed auto combination.

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NAIAS Preview:  Toyota Prius Family
Dec27

NAIAS Preview: Toyota Prius Family

By Charles Krome

After 10 years and nearly a million units sold in the U.S., the Toyota Prius is finally getting a sibling. In fact, it’s getting a whole family. The approaching North American International Auto Show in Detroit will see the introduction of an MPV version of the Prius, a plug-in hybrid model and a separate Prius concept vehicle of some sort. This will be a long overdue expansion of the Prius brand that could help Toyota recapture some of its mojo here in the U.S.—at least if fuel prices start to rise.

The MPV strikes me as a particularly interesting proposition, coming as it does when minivans in general are seeing renewed interest in the marketplace and mini-minivans, like the Ford C-MAX, are just about to hit the mainstream. Plus, both of those kinds of vehicles are typically used for extended stop-start driving routines, as parents drop off kids here, pick them up there and run to the grocery store in between. In other words, exactly the sort of driving situations in which hybrids are supposed to excel.

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