AAA mobile chargers tackle EV range anxiety

AAA today announced roadside assistance for electric vehicles, addressing an industry-wide concern over the limited range of all-electric cars.

The motor club unveiled its AAA Roadside Assistance service for EVs at the Plug-In 2011 electric vehicle conference, saying that six metropolitan areas will each pilot-test a truck starting this summer. The intent is to give drivers a limited amount of drive time to get them out of a jam and to a charging station, according to AAA.

Juice on the go: AAAs mobile charger for EV batteries will provide between 3 and 15 miles of driving range.

Juice on the go: AAA’s mobile charger for EV batteries will provide between 3 and 15 miles of driving range.


The mobile chargers will be Level 2 and Level 3 chargers, which means they operate faster than a normal household outlet. Ten to 15 minutes of charge time will give between 3 to 15 miles of driving range, according to AAA.

AAA is experimenting with different technologies to see which best address the problem of depleted
car batteries in different areas. One truck shown at the conference has a removable lithium ion battery pack, while other roadside assistance trucks will have generators that run on liquid fuels.

Because it has seen strong demand for EV roadside charging, AAA expects to roll out the service across the country after the initial pilot program. The first regions, which have invested in a public charging station infrastructure, are Seattle; the San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Knoxville, Tenn.; the Tampa Bay Area; and Portland, Ore.

“While these six areas are part of the initial pilot program, we’ve had tremendous interest from AAA clubs across the country to offer this service to their members, and we anticipate expanding the program to additional areas in the months following initial deployment,” said John Nielsen, AAA director of auto repair, buying services, and
consumer information.

There have been roadside assistance programs introduced in other countries already, but AAA said this is the first to be available in North America. For prospective EV drivers, public charging stations and roadside assistance programs are part of the infrastructure that can make electric cars more convenient and attractive. The Nissan Leaf, which runs on battery power alone, has a driving range of about 80 to 100 miles depending on conditions.

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Pad & Quill’s Contega case for iPad 2 reviewed


Finding an appropriate case or cover for an
iPad is a matter of personal taste. Some prefer the thin vinyl Smart Covers offered by Apple, which provide minimal protection, but also add minimal weight and heft. On the other end of the spectrum is the Pad Quill line of cases, which are unapologetically large and solid.

It’s especially pleasing to see a product so clearly evolve over the course of a few short generations. We liked earlier Pad Quill iPad cases, but with reservations. The original was just too heavy and thick, especially compared with the still-new original iPad, which was thinner and lighter than any
tablet we’d seen to date. But this latest version of the Pad Quill iPad case, the Contega for iPad 2, is the best yet, and the first we’ve used continuously on an iPad for weeks on end without feeling the need to swap it out for something else.

Read the full review of the Pad Quill Contega here.

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App TV: 2011 Internet services on TVs compared

Editors’ note: The chart doesn’t list every streaming-media service available on each makers TVs; for the sake of simplicity, we chose those we considered most important.

Today, many TVs are able to connect directly to the Internet. A few of them include QWERTY keyboard remotes and actual Web browsers, but most lack these PC-like extras. Instead they’re designed around a “walled garden” of apps like Facebook, Picasa, and casual games; streaming services like Netflix and Pandora; and an interface meant to be browsed using one thumb and a standard TV remote. Increasingly, they also offer app stores with paid and free apps as well as, in one case so far, actual shopping.

Of course a lot of other devices, especially Blu-ray players and dedicated boxes like Apple TV and Roku, also offer apps and streaming. The advantage of these boxes compared with a TV is cost: you can add them to an existing TV without having to upgrade, and if they become obsolete, the replacement cost is a lot lower. If you’re interested in one of these devices, check out Blu-ray player streaming-media services compared or the Guide to Internet TV: Hardware.

But if you’re buying a new TV and want built-in services without having to connect an extra box, you may be interested in how the various walled gardens stack up. We’ve reviewed a few this year, with more to come, the chart above contains a quick-and-dirty look, arranged in order of which ones we like best so far. All include Netflix and the differences accumulate from there.

Read more about how the different TV makers’ App suites compare.

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Coming to America: Ford’s 3-cylinder Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

I’s logical: Ford’s Fiesta gets a three-cylinder engine.


Ford will bring a three-cylinder Fiesta to America. All it took was a little deductive reasoning to figure that out. Various Ford executives have dropped hints — or pointedly not ruled it out as U.S. gasoline prices rose toward $4 a gallon this year.

And Ford has developed a new 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine dripping with Ford’s EcoBoost fuel-sipping technology: turbocharging, variable-valve timing, offset crankshaft and other goodies.

So here’s the logic for a U.S. three-banger Fiesta:

— Production of the 1.0-liter engine starts in Europe in the spring of 2012.

— The three-cylinder engine will be offered in the United States, Ford powertrain executive Greg Johnson said last week.

— Ford says it fits only in its three global small
cars: The Ka, Figo and Fiesta.

— Ford will not sell the Ka or Figo in the United States. The Ka, made at Fiat’s Tychy, Poland, plant, is too small; and the India-built Figo is a Fiesta derivative aimed at developing markets.

No word on timing. Ford hasn’t rated the 1.0-liter’s output. But Johnson said Ford’s new turbo designs are approaching 120-hp per liter.

The output of the U.S. Fiesta’s current 1.6-liter four: 120 hp.

(Source: Automotive News)

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Jet pack fails Fox news broadcast

Perhaps nothing even remotely associated with Rupert Murdoch could possibly be funny this weekend. Perhaps nothing even remotely associated with Rupert Murdoch could go right either.

But sometimes, when things go wrong, they can actually be amusing. So here (thank you so much, Gizmodo) is a Fox 5 News morning broadcast from the water in San Diego.

The producers clearly had a great idea. They had their presenter at the San Diego Yacht and Boat Show standing next to a man with a revolutionary aqua jet pack.

They were going to start the show by having Aqua Jet Pack Man take off. So very cute. And then.

Well, and then the JetLev R200 jet pack proved to need a little more rehearsal.

Or, more likely, it was the operator who wasn’t quite ready to push the right button when the producer told him he was live.

Whatever the reason, there is something so very charming about the way that John, the man with pack, plummets straight into the water, almost taking the very fine and brave Fox 5 presenter with him.

I defy anyone who can still see and feel their feet not to lose a little equilibrium at the beginning of this video. Clearly, the JetLev R200 is a fine, fun machine that many will enjoy on future summer vacations. Indeed, the San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker enjoyed one a few days ago in Saint-Tropez.

But he’s merely a point guard, not someone who has to open what is, no doubt, San Diego’s finest morning news show.

And no, I don’t believe you can remotely hack an aqua jet pack.

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Turbine Batmobile blows your mind (and ears)

Putsch Batmobile

One Batmobile to rule them all.

Putsch Racing)

Going all the way back to the original red-highlighted Batmobile on up to Christian Bale’s modern and aggressive Tumbler, Batman has always had the coolest, most powerful

Casey Putsch at Putsch Racing took the inspiration for his personal Batmobile from the 1989 Michael Keaton film version. He calls it the world’s only real Batmobile. He makes that claim based on a very powerful and loud argument: a turbine engine.

That’s right. Let’s linger on that a moment. This car has a military-spec Boeing turbine engine culled from a drone helicopter. Turn up your speakers and watch the video below to get an idea of what it sounds like.

Putsch Batmobile turbine

That’s one fine turbine. (Click to enlarge.)

Putsch Racing)

According to Putsch Racing, the Batmobile took five months to build and is made with military surplus and racing car parts. Putsch rebuilt the engine himself.

The Batmobile debuted in June at the Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati, where it racked up quite a few honors. Not surprisingly, it also took home the “People’s Choice” award. It’s hard to beat a Batmobile with a helicopter engine for sheer cool factor.

You might think a car like this is destined to collect dust in an automobile museum or be carried around on a flat-bed trailer.

Nobody in their right mind would let a beast like that out on the street, would they? Oh yes, they would. This bad boy is completely street-legal.

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