These solar roadways create renewable energy

Transcript: Solar roadways. Sun absorbing solar panels for the roads create renewable energy. Solar Roadways is an Idaho based company. Its modular solar panels can be walked on or driven on. They are a formulated tempered glass that can withstand the weight of a semi-truck. With a surface similar to that of asphalt. LED lights create lines and signage without the need for paint. Internal heating elements help the panels repel snow and ice. Solar Roadways says there is the potential for application on highways, and the tech could also be used to charge electric vehicles. The company is currently working on solar driveways and parking lots.


Justice swoops down from on high, snatches truck blocking EV chargers

It’s hard to understand what the driver of an internal combustion vehicle is thinking when he — and maybe it’s sexist, but let’s assume this is the work of a he — purposely blocks access to an EV charger. Like, what, you’re angry that EVs exist? You’re angry that they take up space? It’s a primo spot, so you’re angry about them taking up that particular space? Because your rig (this maneuver, called ICEing, is often done by truck owners) is a tight fit for many parking spaces, are you mad an accommodation gets made for EVs but not for you? What is it about a particular powertrain that brings out the jerk in you? 

The appropriate German word might be Arschloch (look it up). And the appropriate antidote is towing. But this Ford Raptor owner in Berlin got an extra special treatment from the tow truck driver, in which his Raptor was hoisted out of the spot by crane before it was dragged off by flatbed to an impound lot. Apparently the tow trucks over there have this cherry-picking ability and can pluck an offender out of a tight spot.

That’s about all we know of the incident, which happened over the weekend and was spotted by Ford Authority. And that’s about all we need to know, other than to take it as a reminder: Don’t be this way, people. Mostly, the photo of the Raptor being spirited away is kind of fun and was worth sharing. 


Elon Musk says Tesla’s first European production plant will be in Berlin

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Tuesday the electric-car maker is going to build a new vehicle factory as well as an engineering and design center in the German capital, Berlin.

Dubbing the plant “Giga Berlin” in reference to the existing Gigafactories in Nevada and New York, Musk detailed on Twitter that it “will build batteries, powertrains and vehicles, starting with Model Y.” Earlier in the day at an awards ceremony in Germany, he said the factory will be near the new Berlin airport.

Musk had said in June last year that Germany was a frontrunner for its first factory in Europe. Tesla has an engineering firm in Pruem, Germany, that specializes in automated manufacturing systems for battery-making plants.

In October, Reuters reported that the automaker is aiming to start production for its factory in China amid uncertainties around orders, labor and suppliers.

The automaker reported a profit in its third quarter in late October, surprising investors who doubted about Tesla’s profitability and its ability to compete with larger global rivals.


Junkyard Gem: 1988 Audi 80 Quattro

Audi sales in North America collapsed in the years following the 1986 “Unintended Acceleration” fiasco involving automatic-transmission-equipped Audi 5000s, even for the completely unrelated Audi 4000. By 1988, the too-close-to-the-5000 4000’s name had been replaced with European-style 80 and 90 badging (the latter being the more luxurious version of the B3 Audi 80); the 80/90 Quattro offered the all-wheel-drive sure-footedness of the Toyota Camry All-Trac or Ford Tempo 4WD, plus German-style handling and styling. Here’s a very solid, low-mile ’88 that I spotted in a Denver-area yard a few weeks ago.

Now that’s a low odometer reading for a 31-year-old car in the crusher’s waiting room.

No rust whatsoever, no big dents, no scrapes, no missing trim. I haven’t seen a B3 Audi 80 or VW Passat that looks this nice, on the street or otherwise, for at least 15 years.

Inside, the seat cloth shows some easily-cleaned smudges. No rips, no dangling headliner, no evidence of the sort of rabid-doberman-versus-weed-whacker interior damage that I find in most junkyard cars this age. How does a car this nice end up getting thrown away?

I can think of two reasons. First, it might have some mechanical problem that would cost a lot to fix; perhaps it sat for a decade and then the finicky CIS fuel-injection system got clogged up with varnish. Second, Audi aficionados around here can have their pick of much quicker turbocharged A4s from the current century, available at very reasonable prices. As far as I know, not much of an American enthusiast following exists for the 1988-1992 Audi 80/90.

Compared to a turbo A4, power numbers for these cars don’t raise any eyebrows today: 130 horses from a naturally-aspirated 2.3-liter straight-five engine. That was not shabby for a 2,948-pound all-wheel-drive sedan in the late 1980s, but Audi spent the subsequent decade adding more and more power to its cars.

You’re more likely to find a manual transmission in one of these cars than in, say, a U.S.-market BMW of the same era, but most of the ones I find have the two-pedal rig. This car must have been fun to hoon around a snow-covered parking lot. Soon it will be shredded and reborn as refrigerators and warehouse shelving.

Here’s a dealership promo film, showing off the 80/90 in a way Toyota never would have done with the Camry All-Trac.


2020 Mazda CX-5 adds torque to the turbo engine, gets more expensive


The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is getting a little more desirable in the new model year. It’s also slightly more expensive.

Most of the benefits are realized with the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine gets a small boost in torque, going from 310 pound-feet to 320 pound-feet. Horsepower stays the same at 250 horses, and the max power is still made using 93 octane fuel. We saw a similar torque gain in the 2020 CX-9. Mazda says it also added a new “Engine Harmonics Enhancer” that “tunes to the engine with a much more refined and powerful sound.” We’re guessing the turbocharged engine is going to sound just a hair better in 2020.

When equipped with the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, the CX-5 also gets an off-road traction assist feature. Similar to the CX-9’s system, Mazda says “when the diagonal wheels lose traction, off-road traction assist will stop reducing the engine torque and increase the brake force on the wheels without traction.” 

Mazda says all CX-5s will also take advantage of improved NVH, making the CX-5 feel a bit more premium and isolated from the road. Every CX-5 will also be equipped with Mazda’s suite of i-Activsense safety features as standard in 2020, as well. This means adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are both standard features now.

As Mazda tries its best to move into the premium space, it’s changed all the fonts on the badging and displays on the car. Although, Mazda neglected to include any photos of the new look, so we’ll wait to judge on that front.

The premium look and feel comes with a slightly higher price than 2019. A base Sport is $740 more expensive than last year, coming in at $26,135 after the $1,045 destination charge. The most luxurious Signature trim is just a touch more expensive than last year (by $165) at $38,100.

What Mazda hasn’t included in its 2020 rundown is the Skyactiv-D diesel option. We’ve reached out to Mazda to see if we can determine its fate in 2020 and will update this story upon hearing back. Update: Mazda responded to our request for comment. Since the 2019 diesel variant was on a different release schedule than the rest of the 2019 CX-5 lineup, the company isn’t talking 2020 diesel yet. The company is treating it as a “future product,” therefore it’s not commenting on it.

 We can only speculate as to what that means for the diesel CX-5, so we’ll wait on official information from Mazda whenever it may come.

The 2020 CX-5 is set to enter dealers sometime this fall.


2021 Kia Optima revealed in K5 form for South Korea

Less than a week after teaser drawings were released, the 2021 Kia Optima midsize sedan has been revealed in the form of the South Korean-market K5. The overall design matches the renderings closely, giving the car a more aggressive look, but it is still clearly an Optima. The company hasn’t revealed the car’s interior and mechanical specs, though.

The front of the new Optima is more blunt with a grille that leans forward almost like that of a Dodge Charger. The headlights blend into the grille, and it has parts that trail off into the fenders. The grille has a three-dimensional mesh that Kia says was inspired by the rough texture of shark skin.

The sides of the car feature modest curves to give it a muscular look. The greenhouse has a similar shape to that of the current car, with fastback rear pillars and tall rear quarter windows. Chrome bars trace the roof rails to the base of the rear pillars like on the current car, but now they meet in a curve around the top of the trunk lid. At the back is the most significant departure from the current car, a full-width taillight bar.

With the car revealed in South Korea, it probably won’t be long before we see the American-market car revealed. Under the skin will probably be the same powertrains as those in the new Hyundai Sonata. That means a choice of either a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 191 horsepower or a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 180 horsepower. Both will be coupled to an eight-speed automatic. Expect hybrid variants and possibly a more powerful turbo 2.0-liter engine coming down the road.


This CO2 inflator can top off your bike tires in seconds

Transcript: Inflate your flat bike tire in seconds. The CO2 Inflator is a compact tool that can help you out in a pinch. It uses CO2 cartridges to fully inflate a flat tire in just seconds. The aluminium alloy valve takes a 16-gram thread CO2 cartridge. CO2 gas will dissipate from rubber over time so this tool is best used as an emergency solution. Deflate the CO2 from your tires then re-inflate with air when possible. The quick and easy CO2 Inflator is currently $19.98 and it can be purchased here. 

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2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel First Drive Review | You asked for it …

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah – Driving the 2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel through the sparkle-aired splendor of Zion National Park is bound to produce cognitive dissonance. Volkswagen’s fateful emissions scandal might have made diesel a dirty word – literally and figuratively – but here in pristine, southwestern Utah, Fiat Chrysler executives swear that their diesels are different: Legitimately clean enough to meet U.S. pollution rules, no cheating VW software or corporate conspiracies required.

Having not packed a mobile laboratory to sample and sniff the Jeep’s tailpipe emissions — though academic lab researchers will get to that soon enough — we’ll have to take their word for it. Some reassurance is provided by the 5.1-gallon tank of Diesel Emissions Fluid (or DEF) that’s visible below the Jeep’s rear bumper, surrounded by its own skid plate to ward off blows during off-road maneuvers. That’s enough smog-fighting fluid to last roughly 10,000 miles, prior to a refill via a nozzle adjacent to the diesel fuel filler.

Jeep fans who’ve been clamoring for a diesel option will likely focus on the Wrangler’s larger, 18.3-gallon fuel tank (versus 17.5 gallons in gasoline models), and the advantages contained therein: All-day driving range to go with a solid jump in highway fuel economy, beefy torque and diesel durability.

During a bright-and-early outdoors presentation near Zion — just days from the park’s 100th anniversary — a row of handsome, candy-colored Wranglers await our test. Jeep executives promise the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 will return a highway driving range beyond 500 miles, besting the Wrangler Unlimited’s current best of 452 with the turbo inline-four or 430 with the standard V6. Overlanders are bound to appreciate the increase.

EPA fuel economy numbers weren’t yet available (Jeep expects them any day now), but that 500 miles sounds more-than-doable. Once underway, the Wrangler shows 32 to 34 mpg, with as little effort as it takes to match the highway speed limits. That’s a commendable new high in mileage for any Wrangler, with its brick-like aerodynamics and off-road-spec tires. An educated guess suggests the Wrangler EcoDiesel will secure an official rating of 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, with the EPA underestimating its real-world mileage, as it does with many newer diesels. Applying that 29 mpg figure, consuming 17.5 gallons of the Wrangler’s available 18.3 would equate to 508 miles of range, which again computes with that potential EPA reading.

Still, even that conservative figure represents a considerable improvement versus the Wrangler Unlimited with the efficient optional 2.0-liter turbo four, which earns an official EPA estimate of 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The standard 3.6-liter gas V6 returns an official estimate of 19 mpg city and 22 highway with the optional eight-speed automatic. The standard six-speed manual is effectively 1 mpg worse. Note that the EcoDiesel is only available with the four-door Wrangler Unlimited.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon interior

Even if real-world fuel economy does in fact beat the eventual official specs, the performance does not: The on-paper promise of 260 horsepower and, especially, a robust 442 pound-feet of torque from the Italian-built 3.0-liter V6 is belied somewhat by leisurely acceleration and noticeable turbo lag when you squeeze the accelerator. Don’t forget that the EcoDiesel is also the heaviest Wrangler, with as much as 4,862 pounds punishing the scales in Rubicon trim. Depending on trim level, that’s between 330 to 487 pounds more than comparable gasoline models. A pokey 0-60 mph run in the 9-second range seems likely, well off the sub-7-second pace of either the turbo four or gas V6 versions.

 There’s just-right passing power from both 30-50 mph and 50-70 mph, aided by a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission (no manual is available) that keeps the engine in its narrow sweet spot, between roughly 1,200 and 3,000 rpm. But at no point will you or your passengers be saying “Wow!” over the grunt on tap. OK, maybe when you’re storming over a sand dune in a higher gear than you’d ever manage in gasoline models, but that’s about it. Towing capacity is unchanged as well, matching the 3,500-pound trailer rating of four-door gasoline models.

Yet FCA’s Gen3 diesel does itself proud when it comes to smooth operation, including its barely detectable diesel click-clack at idle. The engine, which is already available in the Ram 1500 and will be added as an option to next year’s Gladiator, is lavishly redesigned versus the Gen2 diesel that Jeep briefly offered on the Grand Cherokee. The graphite-iron, 60-degree engine block weighs 15 fewer pounds, and the head, intake ports and lower-friction turbocharger are all new components. A low-pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation system (or EGR) no longer steals energy from the turbocharger to do its thing, and there’s added vibration damping in the lower oil sump. A new automatic stop/start system reduces fuel consumption and emissions at idle, though its restarts are on the ragged side. Compared to the engine’s use in the Ram, the Jeep version’s alternator moves higher on the engine to allow deep-water fording.

It wouldn’t be a Wrangler drive without some hardcore off-roading, in some cases with tops off (or folded) and doors removed, an inimitable part of the Jeep’s charm. Jeep obliges with a detour to Sand Hollow State Park, and its public-access trails that host everything from pickup trucks to side-by-sides. With the tires aired down to about 20 psi, the torture test begins through deep, red-desert sand. Hired spotters guide us through some wicked, highly technical rock obstacles that challenge every bit of the Jeep’s ground clearance (a maximum 10.8 inches for Rubicon models) and capabilities. Those include a sway-bar disconnect that allows 30% more suspension articulation, and axle lockers front-and-rear that come in handy on half-blind climbs up daunting inclines and over sand-dusted boulders. Following a muscular tug of the secondary shift lever to access low range, the diesel’s crawl ratio of 70:1 is also unmatched among Wrangler models. 

The daylong drive further underlined the all-around greatness of the JL-generation Wrangler that debuted in 2018, including its major advances in handling, a strong and rattle-free chassis, and a smartly designed interior. Switching to the more luxurious Sahara model — in a handsome, slate shade of paint called “Sting-Gray” — we head onto the pavement and set course for Zion’s spectacular Canyon Overlook Trail, which is intended for hikers, not off-roaders. The equally splendid drive route takes me up Zion’s renowned switchbacks and through the 1.1-mile tunnel bored through mountain rock, the epic engineering feats that opened the once-impenetrable canyon to cars and tourism 100 years ago. Even on foot, Native Americans and settlers alike had a hell of a time accessing the canyon in bygone days, for themselves or for livestock. Following a hike, and with the moon rising over Zion’s majestic formations, I rock the Jeep down the switchbacks at speeds that would have befuddled any previous-generation Wrangler or sent it plummeting over those sheer cliffs. Sure, your average crossover SUV rides and handles better, but none of them can touch the Jeep’s 4×4 talents. 

Jeep has seemingly reasonable expectations for EcoDiesel sales, figuring that at least 10 percent of Wrangler buyers will opt for one. The engine is available on every Wrangler trim level — Sport, Sahara and trail-busting Rubicon — but again, only in four-door Unlimited guise. No real loss there, since four-door Unlimiteds are now responsible for between 80% and 90% of Wrangler sales, according to Jeep brand chief Jim Morrison.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Sahara interior

My own hunch is that the EcoDiesel’s biggest obstacle won’t be found off-road, but on the sticker. This fourth-generation Wrangler JL has evolved into a relatively expensive SUV, especially in high-level trims, and the diesel option makes it more so. The Wrangler EcoDiesel starts from $39,290 in base Sport trim, including the $1,495 destination charge. That’s a $4,000 surcharge above a Sport trim with the 3.6-liter V6 and an automatic, and $4,500 more than the same model with the 2.0-liter turbo four. One leather-wrapped Sahara model I drove stickered for $56,750; a loaded EcoDiesel in Rubicon trim brushes $60,000.

Really, unless you’re the buy-and-hold type — willing to see that diesel running strong after 200,000 miles or more — the fuel savings and driving range don’t quite justify the premium on a Wrangler that can already blow a budget if you’re not careful. (A long list of pricey options includes the Sky One-Touch Power Top at $3,995). Don’t forget that diesel fuel currently costs 15 percent more on average than gasoline, at $3 per gallon versus $2.60, blunting much of this Wrangler’s mileage advantage. Of course, prices can be about the same in some places, such as on the West Coast, but the fact remains the chances of saving money is slim given the hefty premium.

Diesel fanatics and overlanders may still crave this Jeep, of course, and the model’s resale value should be strong. But it still seems like a good idea to apply some strong-arming torque to Jeep salespeople to keep the monthly payment in check.  


This transforming drone can take on the sky, the ocean, or the open road

Transcript: A transforming drone. Airblock by Makeblock is a modular drone. Designed to teach kids the fundamentals of programming, design, aerodynamics, and logic and critical thinking. The single core master module comes with 6 magnetically-attachable power modules. It comes as a flying drone out of the box that you control with your smartphone. But you can build several crafts with the components like a car, hovercraft, and much more. Airblock is crash-friendly making it a good starter drone. The programmable drone from Airblock can be purchased right here for $79.99. 

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Maserati ends GranTurismo production with one-off Zèda model


MODENA, Italy — Maserati celebrated the end of the GranTurismo’s 12-year production run by building a one-off example called Zèda, which is the name of the letter Z in the Modenese dialect. The Italian firm unveiled the milestone car in the historic Modena, Italy, factory it’s preparing to re-tool for a new addition to its range due out in early 2020.

The Zèda is not the last GranTurismo off the production line; Autoblog visited the Modena factory minutes before the car’s unveiling and spotted the last dozen or so cars behind it, but a company spokesperson explained all of the unfinished models have already been spoken for. The commemorative coupe is the last GranTurismo that hasn’t been sold yet. It stands out from the roughly 40,000 examples made since the model broke cover during the 2007 Geneva Motor Show with an eye-catching paint job that starts with a deep blue applied to the front part of the car and ends with a light satin finish. The rear almost looks like bare metal in person. Edition-specific emblems on the front fenders add a finishing touch to the look. 

There are no changes under the hood. The Zèda is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 engine developed with input from former sister company Ferrari and tuned to deliver 460 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 383 pound-feet of torque at 4,740 rpm. The eight-cylinder spins the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that can be left in drive or shifted manually using paddles.

Maserati hasn’t decided what it will do with the GranTurismo Zèda yet. It might keep the car in its private collection, or it could sell it to a collector. Either way, the coupe will remain a one-of-a-kind example, one that marks the start of a new era for the 105-year old Italian automaker. The plant that currently builds the GranTurismo (and the Alfa Romeo 4C, which is also being phased out) will begin manufacturing a sports car that Maserati will unveil during the 2020 Geneva auto show. It’s expected to arrive as a two-seater that will draw inspiration from the Alfieri concept introduced during the 2014 edition of the event. It will be a sharper, more driver-focused model than the GranTurismo, which is a grand tourer by definition. Its rivals will include the Porsche 911 and the Jaguar F-Type.

Maserati also re-affirmed its commitment to releasing a next-generation GranTurismo (which will again spawn a convertible named GranCabrio), and announced production of both models will shift to Turin, Italy. Technical details haven’t been publicly announced yet, but Maserati pointed out the next-gen Gran-badged models will be its first series-produced electric cars. The hardtop will arrive in 2021, so likely in time for the 2022 model year, and the convertible will follow about a year later.