Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Asterio vs AUDI's eTron and VW's BlueSport

If you are looking for the Asterio Roadster website, try this link.

Although I wouldn't buy an electric car... and definitely would never ever buy an electric Sports car.
And Diesel.. well no thanks!
The market, however, does... and so, they are comming!
I decided to take a good look on the Asterio's competition.

So let's meet our contestants:
1st - Asterio Roadster

2nd - VW BlueSport

3rd - AUDI e-Tron

Now lets just brainstorm on this:

1st - The design
They all look like brothers! The BlueSport looks less Audi than the Asterio... but they do share lines!
This is a clearly intelligent move from Asterio. Different enough to notice, but not enough to fall out of the "audi buyer" target... or maybe this design has an even deeper commercial purpose.

2nd - TheChassis
Here, and considering the fact that the Asterio's generis is F1, It's the CLEAR winner. No doubts. It's however not a beater because of some very very clever tricks audi just didn't let go... until now.
The BlueSports and ETron will probably share the same chassis platform (it's not clear to me as the drive train is so much different.. but the VAG modularity concepts should come through).
Asterio offers a MR solution for each and every engine.
VW offers MR for the BlueSport.
AUDI offers a AWD very clever Torque Vectoring solution... the Asterio might be in trouble here. I'm sure that nothing beats the steering feedback purity and on the limit handling that the Asterio provides with this kind of chassis, but the handling of grip cornering and over the grip limit recovery of the Audi might me something that's completely new and ultimately better.
The torque vectoring solution is an EXTREME solution to what the Nissan GTR active differentials are. Each wheel will put the necessary power to the ground depending on how you need it and how the pavement / chassis can apply-it. Being electrical however, it will have instant and maximum torque (this might just be pure dynamite). It should corner like on rails... and this is a real problem... Jeremy Clarkson's neck didn't handle the immense G's the GTR produced around the race track... how will it DIGEST this Torque Vectoring... better stay away from this one Jezza!

3rd - The Engines
Here the Asterio has a good positioning. You can buy an electric Asterio, 2 different Diesel Asterios and a very very impressive V8 11.000rpm Asterio.
VAG however is not entirely sleeping. The VW BlueSports is the Diesel offer and the Audi ETron the Electrical one... as for the TRUE sports models, well the VAG group offers the R8 but the price scale will probably just make people shift to the much better chassis suited Asterio.

Now on the Diesel front-end, Asterio Offers the 2.2 IL4 500nm and the 3.0 V6 700nm torque ... against what seems to be a unique offer of a 2.0 IL4 350nm from VW. Seems like the Asteiro has it fully covered and with a huge comfort margin.

On the Electric front-end, Asterio does have a problem. Audi is offering the Etron with 680nm electric engines... 680nm EACH... and since it's a 4 wheel car.. you have 4 engines! That's a combined 2720nm! Better start thinking of titanium roads and tungsten tires cause this thing will melt rubber and deform the tarmac. The Asterio is offering a very modest 440nm single engine driving the rear wheels.

4rth - The price Tags
The Asterio is offering the electric option at around 40k (admitting a 5k benefit on the Portuguese market for electrical vehicles)
The Asterio Diesels will come around 55k and 80k
The VW BlueSport will cost around the same price as an S2000 so target around 50k in the Portuguese market. Ok... 5K cheaper, but with 150nm less of torque. And being a Diesel... torque matters!
The Audi... hummmm ... 150k usd... so you better target around 170 to 180k euro in portugal! That's 4 times the Asterio's price... but again.. it's more that 4 times the engines too :)

The Asterio is FAR better as a Diesel offering
The Asterio is much more affordable as an electric offering, but not even close dynamical (under grip limit).
The Asterio is a much better choice as a petrol offering (PERSONAL opinion completely BIASED toward my engine definitions)... but this is a different league.. for a different discussion.

So I'm very happy with this project. Good Job

People's biased opinions on car brands. Lack of knowledge, ignorance or plain stupidity?

Yesterday, I participated in a Facebook conversation that caught fire very easily.
After a cool down I decided to try and understand how and why should one of the participants have such a biased opinion when he clearly had no knowledge foundations to support his claims.
The "he's just a kid" justifications immediately popped in my mind (and by that I'm not targeting age, but rather behaviour)... I'm still convinced that I was right about this case...but latter I decided to think a little more about that issue and I realized that more mature people are also BIASED like hell... and so I had to try to explain this instead of just starting the distribution of "I'm an absolute ass" sticker on peoples foreheads. I came up with a theory that I post here... expecting some commenting.

Now evidently you have people that bias just to chock others (and I reckon to be like that more often that I should... but people that know me understands a certain amount of comedy in my biased caustic comments). I'm talking about Jeremy Clarkson for instance, and in the other extreme "Captain Slow"... the mean in the TopGear show is "The Hamster". These guys are biased because they have a strong opinion and have to run a show that must be both entertaining and amusing.

But what about the rest of the world. Well, most people just don't have enough knowledge to understand... so they glue their hearts to a brand and stick with it no matter how stupid it's creations are.

It's however important that most people understand that MONEY talks... and it talks pretty loud in the Automotive industry.

Most BIG manufacturers produce dull products (in the pure motor sports and adrenalized opinion). But they do so because they have a huge infrastructure to maintain and can't afford to lose sales... sales that are made by people that really don't know anything about cars. So, evidently, and putting safety & quality improvements apart, they build what YOU buy... and if you have little or no knowledge about cars you will buy a dull product and be extremely happy with it.

Then you have some of these manufacturers that have a racing pedigree and continue to build some very impressive products.. but still in small production (compared to the rest of the line) and always in a compromised design. The Peugeot RCZ for instance. This car comes from the same people that created the brilliant 205GTI! But back on the RCZ, not the best chassis, but not that bad either, a fun little engine, but SHOULD do much much better. Still, its a product that will make more sells due to it's design then anything else... so, evidently, considering that the buyers no nothing about what they are buying except that it's beautiful, they fine-tuned the chassis toward a dull but very-safe-to-the-bad-driver UNDER-STEER behaviour. But don't get fooled about these facts, with small simple changes this car is a real performer... and it does reflect Peugeot's racing heritage.. but in metropolitan era.
Sure it's not half the car a 206gti was... but again, today's drivers are not ever near a quarter of what they were back then and politicians and environmentalists have quadrupled since that time!

And then comes the small manufacturers than have the freedom to create whatever they want because they have a small structure to maintain... And even these, went entering a competitive market have to compromise (see my other article about the brilliant little ASTERIO ROADSTER).

In between the Big with a racing heritage and the small, you can place most FORMER sports car producers... But these didn't resist the market squeeze that brilliantly and most got brought by the big groups. Some (if not all) as a way to "buy" racing pedigree that they didn't have... for example VW buying Audi, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

Now for the market... the humans buying the cars. Look around you and and try to place the people you know in the following drawers:
1 - knows about cars
2 - knows what they need on a car and looks at it as a transportation tool
3 - has no idea but likes cars
4 - doesn't give a damn and has cars... because

These drawers should be filled according to these division rules:
1 - A VERY HARD TO FIND 1 maybe 2%
2 - 20 to 30%
3 - 20 to 30%
4 - 38 to 59%

Now It's a little easier to understand why the market is getting duller by the minute. Most drivers on the road don't know how to drive, don't care about it.. an this attitude is a reflection of how they buy a car.
So big manufacturers have to follow this trends in order to survive. This is also the major reason for so much safety improvements in cars and weight resulting from it.
It's a really disappointing fact of this industry, Active Safety is being sacrificed in order to improve Passive Safety. It's a nonsense evolutionary factor that describes today's car industry... car are becoming big metal condoms. You have worse handling because of all that extra weight... and eventually you might crash... but if you do, airbags will pop out from every panel and the car's structure will deform completely but progressively and safe your sorry ass.
Me on the other hand... I rather have a car that can go around bends and avoid the crash :S maybe I'm too old fashioned.

The final tie.
People BIAS toward a brand because they really feel lost in this ever changing and trendy world, know little about cars and have very little culture about the automotive industry. If you have little knowledge, you follow design and specs... and automotive designers know this and tend to create lines that will keep you satisfied.

Most people in this country work their entire life to buy a Mercedes because every ass likes Mercedes and state poorly unsupported comments like "the star of the road", because they like the design, the comfort and think that they are in a safe inside one of these because of all the airbags and electronic gizmos and tones of metal. Most do this ignoring the fact that a benz is an (autobahn car) ... it's a well made decision to buy such a thing if you drive long distances and need a comfy, safe-in-a-straight-line car that, in a high speed crash would put it's weight's inertia into the crash and use other vehicles as an extra crumple zone (eventually killing other people in the process).
The truth is that most of these people then drive the car in mountain roads, and suffer the results of that huge living-room-on-wheels and all it's weight moving on top of a soft comfy suspension...and feel sea-sick in no time... and if they push hard, the lack of active safety will come on as an issue and eventually they could get surprised by the good old inertia laws (the same ones that could also kill people in other cars if having to deal with all that weight you are displacing)... and need all that passive safety that contributed to all that excess weight that made them crash.

My suggestion:
learn how to drive, learn physics and mechanics...and racing history... and then choose the cars you LIKE and that make sense to you and your needs, but on a knowledge base.

I'm mostly an anti Mercedes person (mostly because I feel they are building better and better cars, so I'm trying not to BIAS as much), but has I can fully criticize an A class creation (and apparently I was very very spot on from the first sketch... being proved right with that catastrophic test failure and the later A class model being redesigned towards the audi A3 shape!!!) I can also say that I absolutely love the original gull wing! I admit my BIASing but I can explain it. I don't like ferraris and hate most V engines, but the Italia's engine is just something else... and I happily admit that I love it!

I'm also a pro-VOLVO person and recon that anything beyond the S40 and C70 is too heavy and ultimately dangerous to drive... and believe-me.. I know Volvos. I wouldn't want to be inside a car that crashed an XC90... I think that you have trucks out there that are a softer option to be crashed by...believe-me.
I'm also a Old Honda lover, I have one! And I'm the first to crucify Honda with it's recent ECO-Mania stupidification... I can state that the ONLY good Honda on sale today it's the FCX clarity... this is from the company that gave you the CTR, ITR, NSX, CRX, ATR, Prelude and S2K!

Stop being biased JUST BECAUSE... and start opening your eyes... good cars are being harder and harder to find. Learn to find them, or suffer the consequence of living in a prius / insight, grey, dull, world!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The ASTERIO Roadster Part2

If you are looking for the Asterio Roadster website, try this link.

Hi everyone.
Just came back from Autodromo do Estoril for the first ASTERIO Roadster presentation
I'll follow my report as I would like to read-it.
1- The company
Asterio automotive S.A. will  provide engineering and consulting services as a company in the automotive industry. It also has a brand called the Asterio Roadster. This will produce a small volume  production roadster car (1000 units/year max). The team behind all this is composed by a Portuguese entrepreneur and automotive fan Ricardo Baeta, two british engineers (Mike Rawlings with over 40 year of automotive industry experience in projects of lot's of sports and gt cars, another with over 20 years experience in building formula 1 and indy chassis), a designer, a production manager and a marketing director.
My initial thoughts:
The Lotus business approach and with British engineering with lotus and F1 experience... this might just be the BEST Portuguese project so far.

2 -The concept
A lightweight Sports chassis with a racing-to-road development approach.
The chassis design will allow several motorization options. This is very important to my point of view. It might just enable the company to produce a REAL project with some COSMETIC engines that the market buys.
My thoughts:
Nice... Racing first... than de-tuning to road homologation is THE way to build a sports car. Sounds good.
The modular chassis design does mean a lot... and even with a bad engine, you can always swap it. The lotus Elise was an excellent car... but a small K20A swap will make it a God, this could just be the case.

3-The chassis

My thoughts:
It's a semi-monocoque chassis built in steel-aluminum... sounds good.
The semi part uses a conventional double wishbone design, the front suspension has a push-rod type suspension and unfortunately the rear one can't because of the engine... but the front is the most important part on this equation. The Aluminum monocoque structure is F1 style built in aluminum extruded panels, rebited and glued with an honeycomb type sandwich. It's light and the design is very very F1ish and modular enough to change for instance.. the engine. Smart, logical.. GOOD! I'm all for this design an after talking to the engineer responsible for it, I'm extremely happy with the aims and targets he had before starting to sketch it.
The weight distribution is around 65% rear biased, but don't get fooled. This is an MR platform... not a 911 like RR. Being light... and taking the example of the engine seen in this demonstration (a 2.2 TD pulling 225bhp on a 500nm torque curve), reeving the engine and dumping the clutch will produce little over a 3 second time from not to 100km/h, instead of massive wheel spin (the V6 option will do 3seconds). The credit were goes entirely to the chassis... not the engine (evidently, being diesel....it's not the best point on the car). During that clutch dumping the car will squat and just go, as the suspension compresses and forces more grip into the rear wheels, the lightness of this package will make it JUST go before you break grip.

4 - The engine.
Asterio plans to introduce 4 engine packages to go along with this chassis (having minor mods like wheel size, brake size and suspension settings):
1 - Electron - fully electric package with 120Bhp 440nm 990Kg
2 - Tork 500 - 2.2 Turbo Diesel with 225Bhp 500nm 790Kg
3 - Tork 700 - V6 BiTurboDiesel with 350Bhp 700nm 890Kg
4 - V8 Edição Especial F1 Revival - 400Bhp 320nm 750Kg 11000rpm competition sourced V8

My thoughts:
1 - don't quite believe in it. Even after talking with the 2 British Engineers, and believe-me, it will have some UNIQUE features ... it's not my idea of how a sports car should be and how the future GREEN car should be too... But I will get back to this in a new post after mailing my opinion back to Ricardo Baeta.
2 - Diesel is not for the track. This was a disappointment for me as a pure sports car lover.
3 - Diesel is not for the track and a V6 Diesel is for the family saloon.
4 - NOW YOU'RE TALKING... and this makes the entire project make sense. This must have been the initial idea... and the rest it just cosmetics for the public's blinded view of how a car really is... Don't miss understand-me, In this green madness we live these days, every manufacturer is a rookie, so if you want to enter a competitive, mature market without no history to back your image up... you have to catch a new trend.. .This is by far the most important part on the justifications of the first 3 engine options. Still and very honestly, I wouldn't wan't them, and would immediately make the swap for a Honda engine. I don't like most V engines... but producing 400bhp from 3.5 liters makes well over my 100bhp/liter minimum requirement.
It's very clear to me that Asterio is making a MARKET move with diesel engines. For a non-expert-but-sports-car-lover, the torque of the diesel will seem immense; the international market will think ?! WTF?! but pulling 3s times from 0-100km/h will give-it a try; and the stupidly dieseled Portuguese market will think yummy!
Of course that I seriously doubt they will enter races with engines that have power surges lasting for no longer than 1500rpm... and the V8 will rule championships as it should.

5 - The design
Some pictures:

My thoughts:
I like it... but the front looks like a morph between the (now dead) s2000 replacement and an audi R8... and the rear is the result of a Lamborghini rapped by the very same R8 that rapped the s2000 for the front. But I like it!
And, again, if makes perfect sense. The Audi brand is very successful with it's design trend... why not follow the same trend? Especially if you are entering a competitive market and can't afford to loose a great chassis because of some body panels showing just how independent your design styling is.

Overall: GOOD JOB and congrats... but loose that diesel stuff and make it a petrol screamer PLEASE (4pot Honda sourced and revving over 10.000rpm preferably)!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Freedom is one step closer

As Jay Leno so eloquently said "the fcx clarity is important because, as the car set the horse free, this will set our cars free", the Honda FCX CLARITY is a "car" that works on Hydrogen. It produces 0 Co emissions and water from it's gas pipe.
The problem with this are:
1 - Liquid Hydrogen is expensive do produce
2 - Liquid Hydrogen is dangerous to store in a car
WATER, however isn't... and Japan’s FUKAI Environmental Research Institute has announced a new technology for obtaining hydrogen that it claims is less expensive and more efficient than anything that’s been tried so far.
The full article can be read here, but in short, they are producing hydrogen  in ways that are targeted to transform your car's gas tank into a water tank.
People that read my blogs tend to think that I have a profound hate on green cars.... but that's not the case.
I hate stupidity, and a hybrid car that doesn't go and has more impact on the environment is PLAIN STUPID.
I also hate the fact that the best engines ever invented are being taken out of production by laws that are even worse than the Stupidity that supports them... and to this I call the GREEN MADNESS DISEASE.

This, however is a totally different case. a Hydrogen Fuel cell car or house will have 0 co emissions... 0 Either direct or indirect. If you take this into comparison to a hybrid running on gas or a fully electrical being charged by the power grid, there is a clear advantage. Now think of all that process involved into producing car batteries and recycle them in the end... and now consider the impact of it's weight in the car's movement.

If you take 1 minute to think about this you will recon:
1 - The full process of building, recycling and using a hybrid or electrical car will generate more pollution and co than a normal car.
2 - The laws that kill the best cars are twisted. You should plant more trees with the taxes payed by our cars and that would even things... instead we tear down trees and increase tax and stupid emission laws.
3 - If you like cars and you think of buying one today.... chance are that you are already considering buying a second hand car from the time when they were interesting, instead of dull-green people carriers of today.

This process will enable the projects like the Honda Clarity to be a reality. The globalization of this reality will render our TRUE cars free... and that means that our sports cars will probably be less "runt down" by those absurd laws.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The ASTERIO Roadster first preview

If you are looking for the Asterio Roadster website, try this link.

I've noticed an increase  in pageviews over this article.... but not the second part of it with all the good news.. so check it out here

Hi Everyone,
I was saving this one for later, but then I decided that since nothing existed on the web about this vehicle (at least Google doesn't have a clue)... maybe I could write something.

Today, I feel a little like Jeremy Clarkson.

A good friend of mine is involved in the consortium to build the Portuguese Sports Car.
As we know each other for a long time now, and he values my knowledge about cars, he invited-me for the 1st presentation of this car due to happen this week.
I'm not yet disclosing data about what I know, because I don't yet know how much is to disclose... and since he is a very good friend, I'm being over zealous about this event and the car surrounding it (I would never put a friend in a bad position).
So, all I can say is that apparently Portugal built a prototype Sports car that is already running and under testing. Depending on the disclosure level entrusted to every attendee, I'll eventually continue this post... or include a "sorry, can't comment".

Independently, since this is the first post I could find about this issue, people visiting this blog SHOULD consider registering to be able to receive warnings on updates and new articles (and discuss the subjects).

I've noticed an increase  in pageviews over this article.... but not the second part of it with all the good news.. so check it out here

Statitics are just a tool... and like a weapon, you can use-it the good or the wrong way.

Today at an abnormal Lisbon morning traffic... I saw one of those stupid traffic statistics.
Why abnormal? I was able to drive normally.. It was almost unreal! In a tunnel, 2 cars away from me, a truck was over taking... I clutched the engine, revved it to 8000... and a miracle happened the truck moved. Then the rest of the road was almost clear... but when it wasn't, people changed lane on my approach. This was just sweet. I managed to do home-to-work in under 20 minutes and without insulting people. This should have been filmed so that anyone can understand that respecting others leads to efficiency. Everyone made it's way into Lisbon, without accidents and much happier.

But back to the point, the stupid statistic:
"Drive carefully, during 2009, 316 people were injured in crosswallks inside Lisbon".

Now this is a bad statistic... it's too close to 1 person per day.
Is it the driver's fault? Sure... since it's a crosswalk, it's the driver's fault period. But should the driver alone take the blame for it? No.
Inside Lisbon (and across the country), and I dare you to visit the examples bellow, crosswalks are drawn in the worse possible places: intersections and roundabouts.
The driver approaching a roundabout, has to cope with breaking/accelerating it's car towards a road of incoming traffic of at least 1 direction (mostly 2 and sometimes 3 to 5!). He stops, looks and while he accelerates his car and turns in (accelerating will be important to avoid accidents) he still has to be ready to brake because some idiot at city-hall decided to draw a crosswalk exactly were he should be under heavy acceleration.
The same goes for roundabouts... the law (we call it the taxi driver's law) says you can drive all day long in the roundabout in the same lane, full throttle and don't give a damn about others cause if you are not changing lane, it's your right to do so. Taxi drivers, when approaching an overhaul will do so until they crash an then the victim will pay the repair (including the overhaul parts, pre-settled with the garage). Now normal people know that you should count lanes and exits and start from the inside and change progressively to the exit. During this risk maneuver, you have to dose acceleration and breaking and side mirror and most times take a pick over your right shoulder... and then you have a crosswalk!
Seriously, considering all this stupidity and lack of common sense, the statistics is VERY VERY GOOD!



These are small examples, unfortunately, much more exist.
Now... are the drivers to blame 100%?

---------------------------------> Second Edit <-----------------------------------

Today, exactly 1,5 days after writing this article, I became a victim of this twisted system.
Turning left, with a FULL GREEN LIGHT, following a "Laguna", some idiot that isn't worth the oxygen that he breathes, decided to go across a crosswalk (having a red light stamped all over his idiot face). The laguna (consuming all the visible area of my windshield) accelerated and then suddenly braked hard.
The S2000 is not made for slow starts (it has a recognized hick up if you start it slow) so I was starting to accelerate when that big ass laguna light up... I was doomed! I did brake... a little.. and then bumped into the laguna.

UNFORTUNATELY not even hard enough to make it go over the moron that started everything in the first place.... result? I'm the one paying for a fucking idiot's error and he walks clean because he was on a crosswalk placed in the worse possible place.
I'm now considering the possibility of passing this very same spot during the night and spray black ink all over that stupid crosswalk.... as many times as I can remember.

BOY I HATE TO BE RIGHT ALL THE TIME!.... and for those of you chocked with my words... let me make it quite clear: YES I do wish than the laguna had been projected hard enough to run him over... don't quite care about the outcome... killed or badly injured, he would have learned a lesson and made my money at least worth the joy of some "morality revenge". Being part of a system, one HAS to respect the basic rules of that system, and I've seen plenty drivers loose their license for passing red light (rightly, I should add)... but I've never once seen a cop fine a person walking a red light.

TWISTED and it just brings out the very worse and rough thoughts in me.
Having apologized to the lady in front, that was apologizing back for accelerating and then braking hard, I immediately told her that she had the law on her side... and that if only she had set the foot of her pedal and let the inertia do justice, we would have a guy going to the hospital and being identified by the police.
I would testify to protect her (proving that she stopped before hitting him) and he would have to pay for all the damage plus hospitalization (I would send the lawyer after that idiot's ass).
But since she avoided the collision with him... I'm the only part to blame!