Tag Archives: Auto

Shopper Chopper: A V8 shopping cart for Nascar drivers

Shopper Chopper

Paging Dale Earnhardt Jr., your shopping cart is ready.

Shopper Chopper

Some things were never meant to go together, but that hasn’t stopped some insane mechanics from fitting a honking V8 engine to a shopping cart to create the Shopper Chopper hot rod.

Admittedly, this isn’t just a stock shopping cart stolen from the grocery store parking lot. It’s custom built to accommodate a height of more than 9 feet and a length of more than 12 feet. You could fit a lot of cereal boxes and Doritos into this monster, but it’s already fitted with seating capacity for six people.

What is likely the world’s fastest shopping cart features a 350 CID small block Chevy engine and a 3-speed transmission. The whole thing weighs 2,950 pounds. An array of 500 LED lights makes it glow at night.

The Shopper Chopper was originally built for a local parade, but soon took on a life of its own. It’s now available for fundraisers and corporate events anywhere in the continental U.S.

Personally, I would like to see Costco invest in a fleet of these. It would make shopping for those massive bags of dog food and 20-packs of canned goods so much more fun.

Shopper Chopper at night

The fact that it glows only makes it better.

Shopper Chopper

(Via Neatorama)

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Tesla announces Supercharger network

Tesla Supercharger

Tesla is building a network of fast charging stations only usable by the Model S.


In the early days of the internal combustion engine, gas stations were generally spaced a tank apart, or the distance the average
car could go on a single tank. History is repeating itself with Tesla’s announcement it would build a network of fast charging stations on major traffic corridors around the U.S.

The first six stations have already gone up in the California towns of Folsom, Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon Ranch, Los Angeles, and Barstow. The placement seems designed to support road trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe, and from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Tesla calls its new charging stations Superchargers. The 90 kilowatt output of the chargers will restore 180 miles to a Tesla Model S battery pack in about 30 minutes. These chargers are equivalent to the SAE specification for a DC Level 2 charger. The SAE is working a specification for a DC Level 3 charger that could more than double the output of Tesla’s Superchargers.

Controversially, Tesla has made its Superchargers proprietary, only usable by its Model S, and of that vehicle, only those equipped with the two highest range battery packs. However, Model S owners will enjoy free charging at the Supercharger stations.

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Efficient concept cars frontload Paris Motor Show

The 2012 Paris Motor Show opens this weekend, and ahead of the show we have seen numerous previews of concept
cars using hybrid and electric powertrains. CO2 reduction is a huge issue in Europe, and automakers are showing off their latest research into vehicles that can give people the transportation options to which they have become accustomed, yet meet new emissions specifications. The win-win for Europeans is that these vehicles get much improved fuel economy in a regions with notoriously high gasoline prices.

Here are jus a few of the cars we expect to see during the 2012 Paris Motor Show.

BMW Concept Active Tourer

BMW Concept Active Tourer

BMW may be known for high-powered sport cars, but the company is actively working on new efficiency concepts. In Paris, it will show a car that could be mistaken for a Toyota Matrix from its body style. And unlike its current cars, the Active Tourer is front wheel drive. A mere three pistons pump in its 1.5-liter engine, but a twin scroll turbo adds power. However, it is the plug-in hybrid electric system that would make this car practical for the road.

Nissan Terra SUV

Nissan Terra SUV concept

Imagine the Nissan Juke with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain and an
iPad for the instrument cluster. That is the Terra SUV concept. Nissan revisits the idea of using hydrogen to generate electricity through a fuel cell stack, drive technology that has not received as much attention as it used to. Nissan says it has engineered a fuel cell stack much less expensive than previously iterations, and would build a hydrogen-powered car today if the infrastructure was in place.

Smart ForStars

Smart ForStars concept

Smart cars look quirky rather than handsome, but this new concept, which Smart calls a Sport Utility Coupe, changes that perception. The curvy little car uses an electric drive system which Smart has been developing in its production cars. As a good concept feature, the ForStars integrates an
iPhone with its dashboard (but will it support Lightning?). And for the hat trick, check out the LCD projector in back.

Lexus LF-CC

Lexus LF-CC concept

The Lexus IS has been around in its current form for quite a few years, and Lexus ditched its SC model. The LF-CC could either be an IS update or a whole new coupe model for Lexus. It uses an attractive design based on Lexus’ L-Finesse design language. Under the hood is an example of a practical hybrid powertrain very similar to those that Lexus uses today. An electric drive system complements a 2.5-liter direct injection engine, making combined horsepower of over 200.

CNET’s coverage of the 2012 Paris Motor Show kicks off Thursday. Click here to read more.

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Lowrider symphony: Hot hopping-car orchestra performs

Cutlass from lowrider symphony

This Cutlass, nicknamed Orange Juice, took a hopping solo.

Amanda Kooser/CNET)

Take a lowrider
car club. Add a couple of artists. Throw in some wireless audio technology. Do some choreography. Practice for four months. Roll it all out in a parking lot in Albuquerque, N.M. Congratulations, you’ve just created a lowrider symphony.

Lowrider Line 6 wireless systems

Wireless audio systems in each car synchronized the music.

Amanda Kooser/CNET)

Officially called “Symphony 505,” a reference to one of New Mexico’s two area codes, the performance piece took place during ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness, a collection of art, science, and technology events with an international conference.

I caught the event on a warm New Mexico Sunday evening. It was equal parts baffling and fascinating. The cars moved about the parking lot, sometimes following each other, sometimes making their own purposeful paths.

Music eked out from the sound systems, controlled by a remote DJ. Synchronized horn honking and revved engines became a part of the performance. It all finally came together at the end when the cars circled up together and the beats poured out of straining speakers, a singer adding live vocals to the mix.

This orchestra of autos was a collaboration between the Down Low Car Club and artists Christopher Marianetti and Mary Margaret Moore. Lowrider culture is woven into the fabric of New Mexico, but I’ve never seen it presented quite like this before.

The balletic movements and ear-shaking finale all received plenty of appreciation from the crowd, but the biggest reaction was saved for a classic lowrider move: the hop. An orange 1983 Cutlass took a rhythmic solo in the middle of the show, bouncing up and down with the help of a remote control. When you’re bouncing that high, you can’t really safely have a rider inside. It hopped so hard, sparks flew out the back end.

Check out highlights (hopping included) from the performance below.

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Telenav Scout now compatible with Android, Ford Sync AppLink

Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

Part of the buzz surrounding Telenav’s Scout — the rebranding and reimagining of its Navigator app — at CES 2012 centered on the announcement that the app would boast compatibility with Ford’s Sync AppLink sometime “later this year.” The GPS software developer also hinted that an
Android version of the app was in the works. “Later this year” arrives today, as Telenav has announced and launched Scout for Android 1.2 with its new
Car Connect premium functionality.

Scout for Android is similar in scope to the iPhone version of the app. Upon launch, you are presented with a My Dashboard screen that shows commute time estimates for preset home and work addresses, destination search shortcuts, and weather. After choosing a destination from the My Places search or My Favorites list, you get turn-by-turn directions with spoken instructions. You can also access many of the app’s functions using simple voice commands such as “Drive Home.”

Scout’s My Dashboard screen contains many useful shortcuts.

Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

Many of Scout’s functions can be controlled via voice command.

Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

You can also access premium features such as Premium Traffic data, Red Light Camera and Speed Trap alerts, and Lane Assist, which displays a graphic indicating which lanes are valid for the chosen route when approaching freeway exchanges. The premium level offers access to a feature called Car Connect, which allows you to Connect Scout to Ford Sync AppLink to take advantage of the in-car display and speakers on select Ford vehicles to get turn-by-turn directions.

The Android version of Scout gains compatibility with AppLink before the
iPhone version, which isn’t yet compatible with AppLink. However, Telenav tells us that an update for the iOS version of Scout is in the works.

Scout for Android is a free download from Google Play and is compatible with Verizon, Sprint, and ATT phones. We were told by Telenav that the T-Mobile variant of the app is going through certification now and should be available in a few weeks. Premium features, including the Car Connect compatibility with Ford Sync AppLink, are free for a 30-day trial, after which you can unlock them via an in-app subscription of $24.99 per year or $4.99 per month.

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2013 Ford Fusion fun facts

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 47 mpg in city and highway testing.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Ahead of the 2013 Fusion’s on sale date, Ford hosted events in five cities around the country, giving journalists an up-close look at the new
car. In San Francisco, Ford had the new Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion 1.6-liter EcoBoost on hand, along with Chief Technical Officer Paul Mascarenas to explain some of the new technologies in the model.

Fuel efficiency

The Fusion Hybrid earned an EPA rating of 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway, making it the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan, according to Ford. This car uses a 1.4 kilowatt lithium-ion battery and electric motor to assist its 2-liter gasoline engine.

During a brief drive in San Francisco, the car operated like a full hybrid, turning off the engine when braking to a stop. The SmartGauge, an LCD in the instrument cluster showing efficiency information, indicated regenerative braking. At the start of the drive, the Fusion Hybrid’s battery was nearly depleted, so the engine remained on while driving. It was barely audible, and added very little vibration to the car. By the end of the drive, the SmartGauge display indicated the battery was up to half full.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

The Fusion Hybrid felt a little heavier and slower than the EcoBoost model, but not by much. The total output from the hybrid system is rated at 188 horsepower.

The non-hybrid Fusion with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine achieves 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway in EPA testing. This engine uses direct injection and a turbocharger to maximize efficiency. However, the car also has an idle-stop feature, shutting the engine down at stop lights and other stopped traffic situations. The EPA testing does not take into account idle-stop.

Driving this Fusion in San Francisco, the idle-stop feature was noticeable, as the engine shut down at stops, then fired up again when we lifted off the brake pedal. Being a small engine, it started up easily. However, there was a minor pause, a beat, for the engine to start up, meaning we could not get on the gas immediately after lifting the brake. Otherwise, the car operated very smoothly, and was almost too easy to drive.

The EcoBoost engine produces 178 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, plenty for a midsize sedan. Ford offers it with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Ford will also offer a 2-liter EcoBoost Fusion, with 240 horsepower and all-wheel-drive.

Later, there will also be a plug-in hybrid version of the Fusion, called the Energi. Ford expects it to earn better than 100 mpg equivalent in EPA testing. Using a more robust lithium-ion battery pack than the Fusion Hybrid, it will go 20 miles in pure electric mode.


Ford Chief Engineer for hybrid vehicles Chuck Gray, who was also on hand during the event, noted that of the 48 million nickel metal hydride battery cells it used in its previous hybrid car battery packs, only 6 had failed, and those in the first generation of Ford’s hybrid system. The new Fusion Hybrid will use a lithium-ion battery pack made up of 76 cells.

Instead of petroleum-based foam, Ford uses a soy-based foam for its seats for many of its models, including the new Fusion. The Fusion Hybrid also uses seat coverings made from recycled plastic bottles. Ford also uses recycled plastic automotive battery casings to manufacture its wheel well linings.

Electronic driver assistance

Ford boasts that the new Fusion will have far more available driver assistance features than any of its competitors. Even among luxury vehicles, the Fusion offers more driver assistance features than most. Ford points out, for example, that the Tesla Model S only offers a rear view camera, where the Fusion can be optioned with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, collision warning, blind spot monitor, and automatic parking.

The 2013 Fusion uses cameras, radar, and sonar sensors to help drivers avoid collisions and enable convenience features.

The collision warning feature lights up a warning icon and sounds a tone when the forward-looking radar calculates a collision with a car or object in front of the Fusion. Similarly, the blind spot monitor lights up an icon in the side mirrors when a car is in the next lane to the Fusion.

For automatic parallel parking, the Fusion can identify a space in which it can fit, then steer while the driver works the brake.


The Fusion can be had with either MyFord or MyFord Touch. The MyFord Touch system is similar to what we have seen in other Ford models, such as the 2012 Focus Electric. However, Ford made some interface adjustments, such as restoring a tuning dial for the radio and putting the seat heater switches on the center stack. Those functions had been relegated to the touch screen. The Fusion Hybrid also gets the SmartGauge display in its instrument cluster, which shows a variety of energy-efficiency information.

The MyFord system offers fewer features than MyFord Touch, so will likely be on lower trim models. It has a single LCD in the instrument cluster, and a 4.2-inch LCD on the center stack. The instrument cluster display shows trip information, while the center display shows phone and stereo information. Sync is included with both infotainment systems, offering voice command over connected phones and MP3 players.

Sync AppLink will now include integration with TeleNav’s Scout app in Fusion’s with the MyFord infotainment system. In these cars, drivers will be able to select a destination with the Scout app, and get turn-by-turn directions on the car’s center LCD.

Ford says the new Fusion models will begin hitting dealer showrooms this fall.

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