Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Downsizing

Since introducing the Rally Fighter and its pedigree as a both desert racer, and a pavement pounder that will use diesel technology, I constantly get the question as to why we aren't using a V10 or V8 engine. One main reason is the weight of such diesel powerplants which is astronomical compared to their smaller sibling, the V6 diesel. As you can see from last night's post and the information on the Rally Fighter Vehicle Build section of the website which gives further details on the subject, there is a growing trend in engine production:

Downsizing the displacement, but maintaining (and in some cases increasing) the performance.

Coincidentally, I read this market study in the SEMA eNews today confirming this fact. Take a look at the charts from the article for consumer trends over the last couple years. I think we're on the right track.



Monday, December 15, 2008

Plan B - Engine Selection

Here's the latest on the search for alternate engines as post on the Rally Fighter "Vehicle Build" section of the LM website as posted by Dave:

With any good business you do your best to ensure that you have a back up plan particularly for anything deemed critically necessary to operate. You back up computer data, sometimes you store physical prototypes or even separate parts of the business even as far apart as being in different parts of the world. Who knows what may occur...wars, fires, etc.?

Basically, you should protect your business. In the case of motors, Local Motors will not produce them, yet it is clearly a critical part of the vehicle. So what if supply is limited, costs drastically jump, or something much more efficient comes along? We want to have the ability to change motors, and change quickly, so we need a back up, and we need to reduce what physically would need to be re-engineered to do it. Therefore we need to do our best to anticipate and engineer around what they may be.

The photos here show some of the potential motors that we want to be able to fit into the Rally Fighter Chassis without major modification. From top to bottom, not in any particular choice order Ford Duratec 35, Cadillac 2.9L Diesel, BMW 3.0L Diesel, Cadillac 4.5L Diesel, Mercedes 3.0L Diesel.

Cadillac 2.9L Diesel

See the links above for Dave's further comments on some of our thoughts and potential choices.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sounds Nice, But....

....will the promises become reality?

The promises I speak of are those of GM, and how they plan to turn things around with the Bailout money. In a post I read today, they also apologize for letting the people of the United States down with lackluster design and less than stellar quality. Any self respecting car aficionado, or even someone who doesn't necessarily have a passion for cars, but an eye for detail could have said these issues have been allowed to continue for years beyond their welcome. I'm still amazed at how things have come to this state, when it seems obvious to me and many people like me that the US automakers have been going about business all wrong for far too long. To people like us, it seems so easy to design and engineer a car that people want, and do it so that it doesn't only look good, but it's manufactured to be reliable and perform well in its class.

But as Jay mentioned in a previous blog post, maybe the Big Three haven't been listening to their devout followers all this time, whether it came from their dealer networks or their internet networks - the user forums.

I don't know if it's possible the "old dogs" in Detroit to learn the new tricks (delivering game changing vehicles that people want to buy and delivering unparalleled customer service of those vehicles) that companies like LM consider to be job #1.

Time will tell.

Here is a sample of the GM list of promises:

• producing automobiles you want to buy and are excited to own
• leading the reinvention of the automobile based on promising new technology
• focusing on our core brands to consistently deliver on their promises
• streamlining our dealer network to ensure the best sales and service
• ensuring sacrifices are shared by all GM stakeholders
• meeting appropriate standards for executive pay and corporate governance
• working with our unions to quickly realize competitive wages and benefits
• reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil
• protecting our environment
• paying you back the entire loan with appropriate oversight and returns

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bailout? What for?

Once again proving that she's a maven in keeping a finger on the pulse of the automotive community and what the buzz is within it, Ari sent me a link to a recent webpost on xconomy.com today. The article deals with the upswing in VC interest in automotive startups focusing on how a lot of investment has been made in companies that are looking to improve energy efficiency of conventional vehicles, rather than the development of one-off vehicles costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several of the companies mentioned we have already been following and/or have visited including A123 Systems, Achates Power and Geo2 Technologies.

The article also makes note of something that Ari, Jay and I have mentioned several times in our blogs, whether it be the Life, Vision, or Engineering blogs respectively:

Agility

The agility to recognize what the multitude of startup companies in our field are accomplishing and quickly and effectively incorporate those technologies that fit our ethos, as well as that of our customers. This is why it is so important to stay on top of all the innovations that are being made on a daily basis within our field, and never turn a blind eye to any technology that could be a fit for the Rally Fighter, or even for several designs down the road that we haven't yet begun to so little as create a sketch on a napkin for. To repeat myself, this is something that the large auto manufacturers have an inability to do, and is a huge reason for the proposed "Bailout", as referenced by one industry professional in the article,

"Bill Klehm, CEO of Fallbrook Technologies, a San Diego startup which itself has raised some $25 million to help it develop a gearless transmission, says he laughs when he hears Detroit auto executives fret about competing against China's low-cost manufacturing. "Nobody should be worried that the Chinese are coming," Klehm says. "But the U.S. automakers should be concerned that the U.S. entrepreneurs are coming."

He also goes on to state,

"Companies and small businesses that operate delivery fleets are searching for ways they can retrofit their trucks and vans to reduce fuel costs, which were acutely painful when gasoline was more than $4 a gallon, Klehm says. At Wal-Mart, for example, Klehm says a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy is worth $52 million. 'Ford is talking about improving the fuel economy of next year's lineup,' he says. 'Fleet operators need solutions today. They don't need promises for the next year.'"

The Rally Fighter (and any of the other vehicles we will roll out) is far from "conventional" in it's design, but could be an excellent platform for many of the technologies mentioned in this article, positioning us as the market leader in several categories within the green movement. Certainly the coolest looking and best performing vehicle, I think. Therefore, expect to hear more from us on companies such as those mentioned in the article.