Meet the Rubbernecks

thefamilycar-Rubbernecks-Wyatt

Story and art copyright by Dean Adams Curtis

Young Wyatt Rubberneck is in his family’s car kitchen cooking up his formula for vehicles that reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

The Rubberneck family is traveling on the Lincoln Highway, one of America’s roadways that were almost forgotten after the interstate highway system was built. They are traveling in their hand-built EV mobile home.

His mother Jo, short for Joanne, was the first to bring up the idea of the family making their own electric vehicle. She was an electrical engineering professor at the local college near their home in Ohio. Wyatt immediately jumped at the idea.

So did Wyatt’s father No, short for Nolan, who was a mechanical engineering professor at the same local college, which is also the same place where No and Jo first met while students.

Wyatt proposed they simply use laptop batteries, like Tesla’s Elon Musk had done when he first designed his Model S. It was pretty complicated, and if it wasn’t for Wyatt’s brainy sister Sandy creating a battery management system, their EV may not have rolled.

Once they managed to get their electric vehicle chassis to power itself up and down their driveway, Wyatt and his father began framing the mobile home in lightweight honeycombed recycled aluminum. It was Wyatt’s idea to make it look like a house.

It was his father No’s idea to check with BMW for any carbon fiber they might have that didn’t pass their quality inspection at their Washington State carbon fiber factory that bakes sprayed carbon onto gauze bandage-like ribbon. BMW sent a roll.

Together, the entire Rubberneck family carefully wrapped the honeycombed recycled aluminum frame of their skeletal mobile home with the carbon fiber. It wasn’t long before they were painting their mobile home to look like a little house on wheels.

And soon afterward, the Rubberneck family dog Mocha, named after the color of his mother Jo’s coffee with cream, jumped into the backseat of the EV mobile home and barked something that sounded to the Rubbernecks like the words “Road trip.”

Amazingly, the Rubberneck family’s reclusive cat Tiger, climbed up to a perch in the small second story of the new EV mobile home and meowed something that also sounded to the Rubbernecks like the words “Road trip.”

A family meeting followed, at which it was decided by all, due to the low speed that their EV was able to roll (top speed 25 miles per hour, but with 750 miles of battery range) to travel only on the forgotten back roads and byways of America.

Jo and Sandy roofed the EV mobile home with high yield solar cells and early in the summer of 2015 the Rubberneck family got rolling, slowly.

With the EV’s Internet connection, brainpower, scrounged sensors and GPS, Sandy Rubberneck helped her brother Wyatt create an autonomous driving system. Though their father No still insisted on driving, the system still prevented many accidents.

As their travel along America’s nearly forgotten highways progressed, the Rubbernecks became correspondents for several websites, writing blogs from the EV mobile home for thefamilycar.com, then greenfamilycar.com, and also for greeninterstate.com.

After traveling the old Lincoln Highway through Oklahoma, where Wyatt cooked up for his family a spaghetti feast on the kitchen’s electric range with magnetic no-skid surface around the burners, the Rubbernecks decided on the next leg of their trip.

STAY TUNED FOR: The Rubbernecks Roll on Historic Route 12

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October 4, 2015 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

2015 Ford F-150 bridges the gap between luxury and utility

By Carguy Keith Turner

No matter who you are or where you live – in the mountains, countryside or urban areas – you always have the need to haul something or carry a load from here to there.

That’s why pickup trucks have consistently been the No. 1 selling vehicle in the nation year after year. Whether gas prices are up or down, there has always been a huge demand for trucks among Americans. This year, with declining fuel prices and new, highly efficient trucks hitting the market, it’s no surprise the 2015 has been called by many as “The Year of the Truck.”

The totally redesigned F-150 made the biggest news in 2015 with an all-aluminum cab and box that cuts 700 pounds off the total weight, while still retaining its strength thanks to high-strength materials throughout. The new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine not only provides better fuel efficiency, but a turbo that offers sports car-like acceleration. Safety features include a lane-keeping system that detects drifting and gently nudges the truck back to the center of the lane. (Base MSRP: $26,330 / 17-23 mpg).
— TheFamilyCar.com

October 4, 2015 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Audi, Honda, and Toyota have hydrogen fuel cell vehicle concept vehicles now, with production starting in 2015

A7h140005__midHydrogen vehicles have been predicted as the next big sustainable mobility innovation for almost 20 years.

Now it looks like auto makers are intent on making hydrogen vehicles an option for us all. But when?

The Audi A7 h-tron concept vehicle which debuted at the 2014 LA Auto Show, put down Audi’s marker on this technology, which will finally begin emerging in earnest from research centers in 2015. In the A7 h-tron, Audi has combined two great propulsion options in one vehicle, creating a plug-in electric combined with a hydrogen fuel cell power supply.

Below Audi’s Board Member for Technical Development details what the A7 h-tron has going for it inside.



Above you can take a look at Toyota’s hydrogen vehicle.

The Audi A7 hydrogen plug-in EV concept was announced a day after Toyota announced major upcoming investments in hydrogen vehicles, including a California hydrogen vehicle infrastructure commitment.

Toyota chose not to highlight their hydrogen vehicle plans at the LA show, but they did at give everyone a look at their intentions at the 2014 Computer Electronics Show, shown in the video above.

Honda FCEV Clarity for 2015

honda-fcev-concept-2013-los-angeles-auto-show_100447353_lWe’ve been covering the evolving hydrogen vehicle story, for example at the 2013 LA auto show. In the video to the right of this paragraph we spoke with Honda representative Jessica Fini about the Honda hydrogen concept vehicle, their FCEV, which they announced would be available in 2015.

So, it seems we have just a year more to wait, as more hydrogen vehicle fueling stations are built in California, Oregon, and Washington states, creating a “hydrogen highway” that will be ready by the time the 2015 LA Auto Show opens and Audi, Honda, and Toyota, plus presumably other manufacturers, will have production vehicles available for purchase by residents of the western U.S. states.

November 23, 2014 at 2:40 am Leave a comment

U.S. Air Force Base on Leafs

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sargent Rey Sedantes of the 61st Civil Engineering and Logistics Squadron at Los Angeles Air Force Base receives instruction on how to operate a bidirectional electric vehicle charging station during a training demo in El Segundo, California.

Air Force Base on Leafs

What it means about what’s ahead

By Dean Adams Curtis

For a look at what’s ahead for electric vehicle (EV) and renewable-energy-equipped living, it is helpful to look at what the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines are up to.

The service branches of the U.S. Department of Defense are under legislative mandate and executive order to electrify as much of their non-tactical vehicle fleets as is economically feasible. The U.S. Air Force has approximately 200,000 vehicles. In this story we focus on forty of them.

On overcast November 14, 2014, the USAF announced an example of what’s ahead for a brighter future for us all, a demonstration smart grid at the Los Angeles Air Force Base (LAAFB) including 40 electric vehicles, such as Nissan Leafs and Phoenix electric buses. As cool as the project is, it’s what isn’t seen that’s revolutionary. Inside is what’s ahead for you, being demonstrated now by the Air Force at the home of the Space and Missile Systems Command.

40LeafBiDirectionalChargingFleet

This fleet of Leafs has something your run of the freeway fast lane Leaf currently does not have. The cars feature bi-directional charging software Nissan North America has equipped them with.

So what’s coming up for you, based upon what is already being shown in action at the space base?

The word bidirectional is key to the most important concept. These vehicles don’t just charge up from the grid, they can also send electrons from their onboard batteries back through the charging stations and into, that’s right INTO, the electric grid.

Why is this so important? And why would you want to discharge your EV’s battery anyway?

It means you can sell your excess electrons, if you choose to do so. Once you’ve used all you need to of the electrons stored in your EV’s battery for your daily travels, as well as for your residential needs, you may well decide that, for the right price, you’d be interested in selling spare electrons that your residential renewal energy resources have generated.

To whom? To your utility, to your neighbors, to whomever wants them. Your utility, instead of meeting demand for electrons by using coal, gas, or nuclear, all of which have the benefit of being constant, can utilize more renewables, which are not constant, by buying what electrons they need to keep the power level consistent. Are40LeafBiDirectionalChargingFleet-Charging you willing to sell?

Look at it this way, in your current/future domicile you do/will generate power from renewable sources, mainly solar and wind. The same if you’re in a condo association or a coop building sharing renewable energy resources that are highly variable, as the Sun goes behind clouds, rises and sets. Up and down goes the number of electrons that solar cells generate.

That’s why batteries come in handy. You will need a battery energy storage system (BESS) to store the electrons generated by highly variable residential renewable energy resources.

And where is the best BESS in your future casa going to be stashed?

In your electric vehicle.

Your future home will have a smart microgrid. The Air Force space base has a smart grid, so shouldn’t we all? Yes. What’s so smart about a smart grid anyway? Imagine every electricity using device in your residence having a built in Wi-Fi phone. Each electrical device is able to dial back, or to dial up its power usage, on demand. Once they’re connected to your EV BESS and BESS’s partner DRAS, a demand response automation system, you’re set to be in control of and empowered by your electrical power more than you already are.

40LeafBiDirectionalChargingFleetBehindChargersAnd you’re also set to augment your income via your residence renewable energy resources and profit from your energy conservation by having more electrons to sell back to the grid. You set the price at which you’re willing to sell, and how much power you’re willing to sell, then go on with your day and let your DRAS and other software take care of the transaction if someone decides to buy.

Looking forward to making money by buying your EV and installing renewable power? Here are a few nuts and bolts. The vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capable vehicles at the LAAFB participate in the fast response California Independent System Operator (CAISO) markets. Every 4 seconds the DRAS receives secure CAISO instructions and forwards, them using the Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR) protocol, to EV charging-discharging software and hardware. LAAFBv2gChargerThe LAAFB is utilizing Bosch Software Innovations’ eMobility Solution fleet management software suite for their charging-discharging (bi-directional charging).

Bigger still, the LAAFB is one of five V2G project locations of a larger U.S. Department of Defense V2G project, which also includes Joint Base and Army installations. The Air Force plans to expand the V2G demonstration next to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. The service will also continue to look for additional capabilities, such as utilizing used batteries as a form of on-base energy storage.

Knowing that in the future, if you decide to, you will be able to utilize used EV batteries in your residential battery rack, while they still have 50 to 80% of their capacity to store electrons, is a great awareness to counter concern about buying an EV due to worry about the lifespan of their batteries.

And finishing up with the U.S. Department of Defense V2G project, the second phase involves approximately 500 medium duty EV trucks at six military bases, including L.A., and a third phase will expand the EV fleet to approximately 1,500 vehicles. The entire program will include V2G activity.

40LeafBiDirectionalChargerCU

November 16, 2014 at 4:10 am Leave a comment

2014 Nissan NV200 – Cargo van with families in mind

The 2014 Nissan NV200 is a compact cargo van designed to add a new, family-sized dimension to the Nissan commercial vehicle lineup. More than 4 1/2 feet shorter in length and 2 1/2 feet lower in height than the Nissan NV 2500/3500 High Roof Cargo Van, the new NV200 is designed to be the “right size” for a growing number of small business owners and fleet operators wanting smaller, more efficient work vans. It is also ideal for drivers who are accustomed to driving passenger vehicles, thanks to the NV200’s cargo size optimization and interior versatility.

– The Family Car, August 29, 2014

August 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

Honda sweeps Best Family Cars for sedan and minivan

2014 Honda Odyssey

The newly redesigned Honda Odyssey is a hit with families.

Confirming something that many families have already discovered, Parents Magazine and Edmunds.com just announced that the Honda Odyssey and Honda Accord have been named Best Family Cars for 2014.

Here’s the news release:

The 2014 Honda Accord (www.automobiles.honda.com/Accord) and 2014 Odyssey minivan (www.automobiles.honda.com/Odyssey) have both been named to the 10 Best Family Cars list compiled by the experts at Parents magazine and Edmunds.com. The two family-friendly Honda vehicles – each earning the highest possible rating of TOP SAFETY PICK+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) – were selected out of hundreds of models for excelling in the key areas of safety, convenience features, performance and value.

“The Accord and Odyssey lead their segments in the areas that matter most to the family buyer – safety ratings, fuel efficiency, value and innovative features,” said Jeff Conrad, Honda division senior vice president and general manager. “As the top vehicles in their segments in sales to individual buyers, we know families appreciate the hard work we’ve put into making these vehicles value and performance leaders.”

The Accord features sophisticated styling, fuel-efficient powertrains and advanced technology features like the available LaneWatch display and a standard multi-view rearview camera.

The Accord features sophisticated styling, fuel-efficient powertrains and advanced technology features like the available LaneWatch display and a standard multi-view rearview camera.

The Accord was recognized as one of the top sedans for families by Parents magazine and Edmunds.com for the second straight year. The Accord features sophisticated styling, fuel-efficient powertrains and advanced technology features like the available LaneWatch™ display and a standard multi-view rearview camera. With safety a top shopping consideration for families, the Accord shined by earning the highest possible rating of  TOP SAFETY PICK+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and nabbing the best possible rating from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) testing with a 5 Star Overall Vehicle Score.1

The Odyssey was also recognized as one of the best minivans for families on the 10 Best Family Cars annual list. As the top-selling minivan to individual retail car buyers in the U.S.2, the Odyssey continues to lead its class in the areas that families look for when selecting a vehicle like fuel efficiency, safety, interior spaciousness and driving experience. The Odyssey was the only minivan to earn the highest possible rating of IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+3, and the Odyssey has earned the best possible overall safety rating from NHTSA with a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score1. Additionally, the Odyssey is rated at a remarkable 28 mpg4 highway, the highest EPA fuel economy rating of any eight-passenger minivan.

For more information about Parents magazine and Edmunds.com’s list of the 10 Best Family Cars for 2014, please visitwww.parents.com and www.edmunds.com. The full list will be featured in the July 2014 issue of Parents magazine.

1Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (www.SaferCar.gov). Model tested with standard side airbags (SABs).
2Based on IHS Automotive, Polk new-vehicle retail registration data through the end of December 2013.
3The Odyssey was the only minivan to qualify as a 2014 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ as of March 1, 2014 and the Odyssey has earned the best possible overall safety rating from NHTSA with a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score.
4Based on 2014 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.

June 4, 2014 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

Audi A3 targets families with high tech luxury at an affordable price

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For 2015, Audi is introducing a premium compact sedan that is fully appointed with luxury items, top-notch technology and a style that will turn heads wherever it rides.

The new Audi A3 offers the latest in progressive technology without compromising on luxury, design or performance. With a base price of just under $30,000, the new Audi sedan will attempt to lure those who aspire to luxury level status without having to shell out executive-level payments.

With an exterior design that boldy defines the athletic ability of the sedan, the A3 features a high-tech in-vehicle environment, including read-aloud Facebook and Twitter alerts, access to thousands of internet broadcasts stations, RSS news feeds and much more.

The A3’s new navigation system uses a fist-ever 4G LTE platform provided by AT&T to connect the driver to Google Earth for online traffic information. There’s even a nifty service that will guide you to a location based on a picture that you download into the vehicle’s navigation system.

The wraparound dash, three-dimensional instrument panel and available LED interior lighting package provides passengers with a feeling of luxury and sophistication normally found in sedans with much higher starting prices.

http://www.audiusa.com/models/audi-a3-sedan

March 17, 2014 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

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