Long Live Electric

Could Tesla and its competitors overthrow the reign of gas-powered cars?

Carl Turnley gas powered engines


Sometimes we see the end of an era coming from far, far away. New technologies can overtake the old, and after some adjustment periods, the former are slowly phased out. The creation of DVD signaled the slow end of the VHS and cell phones have slowly but surely been taking the place of home phones. Other times, in stark contrast, technologies new and old co-exist. The invention of Blu-Ray discs has yet to destroy the DVD market, and smaller, simple technological upgrades like electric toothbrushes have yet to assert dominance in the teeth cleaning market.

But, then again, electric toothbrushes and DVDs don’t have quite the impact–on an environmental, economic or social level, to name a few–that transportation does.

So which category will the eventual phasing out of gas-powered cars fall into? A complete takeover, relegating gas-powered cars to the likes of VHS that you or your parents own, collecting dust in a garage somewhere, or a coexistence that embodies the “to each his own” mentality?

At this point, the answer is unclear–perhaps masked in the exhaust from the some 260 million vehicles on the road in the US right now.

Fossil fuels are demonstrably harmful to the environment. The fluids and emissions from a traditional gas-powered car directly affects the ozone, air quality and the environment as a whole. With humans taking a stronger stance on environmental issues and sustainability recently, the pressing need to find alternative fuel sources is being investigated more fervently than ever. Electric cars could, in theory, be the answer to the question of how we can continue to power ourselves globally in a more sustainable manner.

They’re also a finite resource. They will, inevitably, run out at some point, forcing the hand of gas-powered vehicle creators to convert to electric or find another means of powering their cars.

The drawbacks to electric cars at this moment are fairly obvious. The price points are out of the range of most moderate spenders, let alone those looking for a car that will get them to and from work every day–a need that can currently be fulfilled for $5,000. A second drawback is not in buying the cars themselves, but in actually charging them. Charging stations, which Tesla has maintained will be free for life, are few and far between. Charging your car at home understandably drives up your electric bill quite a bit.

But, as with almost all new technologies, price inevitably comes down with time. Economy models will, undoubtedly be built, and more competition will mean lower prices for the consumer. Some even claim that Tesla could be beat in the relatively near future, which opens the door for lower costs and more efficient models as the technology progresses.

It’s entirely possible that gas-powered cars could be a marvel–a collectors item of sorts. Something that your grandchildren or great-great-great-grandchildren will pull their friends into the garage to show them that, yes, it’s true, he does have one of those collector’s items. For now, gas-powered cars are here to stay–but before long our reliance on fossil fuels could take a step back, and electric could be the transportation dominating our streets.

Why Millions Love IndyCar, and Why You Should Too

IndyCar isn’t Formula 1. It isn’t NASCAR. It’s not just left turns. The winners aren’t so forecasted that you can turn off your TV before the last lap is done.

IndyCar is exhilarating, it’s engaging, it’s on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement and it’s rising in popularity once again. While there’s still a certain stigma that comes with being a racing fan, I implore that you give IndyCar racing a chance before you cast it aside as another drop in the pool of “it’s just driving, it’s not a sport and I’m not a NASCAR fan.”


It’s not NASCAR

People often confuse the two, but NASCAR and IndyCar racing are absolutely different in more than one way. The cars are different. The drivers are different. The strategy is immensely different. The two are both racing sports, but watching them side by side points to two very different types of races.

IndyCar is not a “contact” race so to speak–the lighter cars and different bodies mean that crashes can be more devastating and evasive maneuvers become more important. IndyCar also avoids falling into the “it’s just turning left over and over and over again” pit. While there are certainly oval tracks in IndyCar racing (the Indy 500, for instance), there are also street tracks that involve twists and turns you won’t see in NASCAR.

They’re Risking Their Bodies for This Sport

Almost every mainstream sport in United States culture are in some way dangerous to its athletes. NFL players are faced with concussion issues later in life, just to name one of a number of health issues that plague the athletes in other sports. In IndyCar, a wrong turn, a split-second missed decision or a mistake by your opponents could mean an explosive and potentially deadly crash. The athletes in control of the cars that speed around turns at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour are risking life and limb for a sport that they love; seeing that kind of passion for something you care about makes watching them race even more inviting.

They’re Athletes With Incredible Skill

Do you watch baseball? What about football, soccer, hockey, basketball or golf? If you watch any other sport but scoff at the idea of IndyCar drivers being athletes and IndyCar not qualifying as a “sport,” you might want to reconsider.

The reason to watch IndyCar are the same reasons that you’d watch virtually any other sport in existence: the competition, the strategy, the competitors and the thrill of seeing the absolute best in the business compete on the highest stage available.

The racers you’re watching take these turns are the best of the best, they’re the only ones in the world capable of doing what they do at such a level. Seeing 30 of them do it at once, on the same track, each vying for that first place finish are competitors at heart. If you’re watching football, you’re watching it for the competition, you’re watching it in hopes that your favorite team will band together and ultimately come out on top. The same can be said for IndyCar–the team being the driver and the group of mechanics that work together to complete a race.

There’s More Strategy Than You May Think

And the strategy is a whole other ballgame, so to speak. Unlike in NASCAR and Formula 1, IndyCar features considerably more passing, more breaking, more sharp turns and, generally speaking, more strategy. Racers have to know when to make turns, when to ease up on the gas and when to execute the passes that you don’t see much of in F1 racing. And the finishes are almost always neck and neck, coming down to the wire to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

If you were unsure about IndyCar racing before, give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.


Can We Trust Autopilot?

Carl Turnley Autopilot


With a starting price for a new Model S hovering somewhere around $90,000 before taxes and after rebates and discounts, the dream of owning a car with built-in autopilot may only become a reality for some if the dream of hitting the lottery comes to fruition shortly beforehand. Tesla’s line of fully-electric automobiles comes with a hefty price tag and, more recently, some degree of danger, if you’re inclined to believe some reports.


In recent months, Tesla and its creator Elon Musk have come under fire for a rash of autopilot-related car accidents that many are quick to blame on the electric car maker.  


First came reports out of California that a Tesla Model X set to autopilot accelerated by its own volition, crashing into the side of a building. Luckily, no one suffered serious injuries in the crash. The driver, who was attempting to pull into a parking space at the time, blamed the autopilot feature for accelerating as she pulled into the spot, sending her SUV hurtling forward. Upon examining the autopilot logs, Tesla claimed that the feedback was consistent with user error–ie. The driver accelerated on her own behalf, not the autopilot. As of last update, neither party acknowledged fault for the accident, with Tesla maintaining its findings that the autopilot was not the cause of the crash.


In March, Google’s self-driving cars suffered their first accident that was not blamed on other drivers by the tech giant. Though no one was hurt, the collision between the self-driving car and a bus did mark a historic first, as Google admitted that its car was at fault for the small roadside collision.


More recently, results of autopilot being engaged during car accidents took a grim turn, as a driver was killed when his Tesla Model S hit collided with the side of a tractor trailer. Initial reports indicate that the breaks did not engage, nor did the driver attempt to engage them himself, before the wreck.


Unfortunately, these likely won’t be the last instances of autopilot-related car accidents. The fact remains that even with autopilot, no car is perfect. Quite a large amount of time and an equally unimaginable budget goes into developing the technology that is still imperfect and, according to Musk and Tesla Motors, is still in its beta stage.


The use of the phrase beta stage points to an incomplete and imperfect piece of software, according to Musk. Drivers are asked that, while autopilot is engaged, they remain fully aware and with their hands on the wheel, prepared to take control at any time. These precautions are put into place during the beta test to ensure drivers’ safety on the roads while the autopilot feature continues to improve its ability.


Some have called for a ban on the testing of autopilot driving during Tesla’s beta stage, claiming that it’s dangerous to both drivers and others on the road. However, the only way the beta testing will truly improve is from regular use. The issue of autopilot causing accidents shouldn’t be an issue if the proper precautions are taken and rules are followed to ensure safety.

Maserati’s Quattroporte Gets A Brand New Update

The Quattroporte is Maserati’s flagship sedan, and last year’s model was in need of some changes. Maserati has finally made some updates to the model, making it more applicable to the 21st century.

Carl Turnley - Maserati LogoThe new Quattroporte has more chrome on the grille, and matte black on every other part of the car. It is beautiful and sleek, but the most interesting changes are more functional than aesthetic. The new Quattroporte has a new infotainment system, as well as a suite of active safety features.

You may be wondering what was wrong with last year’s model that made this update so crucial? While the 2015 Quattroporte S Q4 performed well, hitting 60 mph in less than five seconds, it wasn’t ideal for high traffic. The navi system’s maps were difficult to interpret and sometimes incorrect. The infotainment system was frustrating to use. The 2015 model was also insufficient in the way of safety. It did not have safety features like lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. These features were offered on cars one-third of its price.

You can expect these safety issues in some sports cars, but not a flagship sedan like the Quattroporte. The Quattroporte competes with models like the Mercedes S-Class, the Audi A8, and the BMW 7 Series. All three of these models offer better amenities. Buyers may like the style and performance of an Italian luxury car, but they’re also looking for the best of modern automotive technology. With a starting price of $106,900 and subpar technology, the Quattroporte clearly needed an update.

Maserati was smart to add a number of safety features to the Quattroporte. Among these features are lane departure and forward collision warning, automatic braking, a surround view camera, and adaptive cruise control. These features make driving the Quattroporte safer and easier. The infotainment system, which is built around an 8.4-inch touchscreen, is just as impressive. It runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It will be much easier to use than the infotainment system in the previous model.

Maserati has worked hard to give the drivers and passengers of the Quattroporte a safer and more enjoyable experience.


It’s Almost Here! Honda NSX to Debut at Goodwood Festival of Speed in June

In a month, the Goodwood Festival of Speed will be underway. This time around, Jenson Button will be getting behind the wheel of the new Honda NSX, which is making it’s second generation debut after the first was discontinued back in 2005. Glynn Williams of Business Car Manager predicts that the NSX will soon be the envy of high rolling car-collectors, joining the ranks of the coveted Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8, and McLaren 540C. Honda’s latest offering has similar performance specs to these classics, and is offered at about the same price.carl-turnley-Detroit_NAIAS_2015_2016_Acura_NSX

The Honda NSX is actually made in the USA (Ohio, to be exact), by a small team of 100 people. With 573 horsepower and top speeds of 191 miles/hour, the vehicle can sprint from 0-62 in under three seconds. Even though the car’s top competitors have higher top speeds, the NSX holds an advantage with its impressive acceleration, thanks to three electric motors. The car also features four different driving modes that can affect everything from the motor to the engine noise level.

Car enthusiasts have long waited for the return of the NSX, and given what we know so far it won’t be a let down.

Honda vs. Chevy

The 100th edition of the Indy 500 is fast approaching, and two teams are already embroiled in some serious beef. In the events leading up to the big day, Chevrolet has dominated the last three, leaving no victories for Honda. To make it worse, Chevy swept the podium on the qualifying stage, and only two Honda drivers placed in the top 11. And with IndyCar’s biggest event knocking, the hopes that Honda will win it are nothing short of slim.

Honda is not taking kindly to some of Chevrolet's racing tactics.

Honda is not taking kindly to some of Chevrolet’s racing tactics.

So what happened? It comes down to this: Honda is blaming the IndyCar establishment for giving Chevy an unfair advantage; Chevrolet is taking it in stride, arguing that Honda should have been better prepared. Since 2012, Chevy has won two Indy 500’s, and Honda has won the other two. The pair of manufacturers has always been competitive, but some recent events have taken their rivalry to new heights.

In 2015, the sport began to allow aerodynamic body kits. Eager to beat out the competition, Chevy jumped at the opportunity… but there was a problem. Several drivers went airborne during the Indy 500 practice runs, and the unofficial take was that Chevrolet’s design caused the malfunctions. What happened next is the crux of the rift. IndyCar changed the rules on pole day, allowing the Chevy cars to stay on the track. Honda saw the changes as being favorable only to Chevy; the organization bowed to the expectations of a manufacturer, not vice versa. What happened next was somewhat unpredictable in hindsight— Chevy grabbed the top four spots in last year’s Indy 500.

Michael Andretti, the owner of Team Honda, is voicing his disappointment because he feels that “two classes” of car are being allowed to compete. Not only that, but the gulf will also take away from the potential for an awesome show.

What do you think?

Roborace, Where Intelligence Meets Technology

Sports constantly evolve with technology. Instant replay, for instance, has been introduced to sports to review close plays. In tennis, line judges have the technology to review hotly contested calls in the most intense moments of the match. Even as medicine and sports science advance, the events become safer as the rules change to protect players— for instance, the NFL banning all chop blocks.

But what happens when technology changes the game so dramatically that it creates what amounts to a new sport altogether? Just look at RoboRace.

RoboRace, which is a partnership between investment fund Kinetic and electric racing organization Formula-E, hopes to bring autonomous vehicles to the race track The races would transfer the skill of the individual driver and pit crew to a team of engineers. Those teams would get the same vehicle machinery, but they would have to create their own algorithm to dictate how it behaves in a race.

With the organic human element taken out of the sport, would hundreds of fans pack raceways to see a race autonomous vehicles that only respond to a unique algorithm?

Ars Technica’s Jonathan M. Gitlin raises the point that this non-human element provides a unique opportunity. With essentially no need to be tethered to safety regulations— remember, there are no humans in these cars— the tracks themselves could be more experimental; the speeds could reach new highs. Or, as Gitlin puts it, the races could resemble the “wackier end of the Hot Wheels spectrum.”

The reaction is sure to be mixed, but what a conversation to have.

McLaren’s MP4-X

The trajectory of sports is defined by a battle between traditionalists and futurists. There’s those who remember the sport from their halcyon days of earlier fandom, and those who acknowledge that because society is constantly advancing, our new technologies should apply to even our athletic pastimes.

futuristic racing car

The MP4-X in all its majesty.

We’ve seen it with football and concussions, for example. But the gridiron isn’t the only place where this question is being asked— it’s made it’s way to auto-racing, too.

Now, I don’t know all the answers, but McLaren is positioning itself at the vanguard of racing development for the next generation. A lot of times, when we think fuel efficiency or safety, we think of cars that aren’t sleek or fun or even fast. But the British auto manufacturer is looking to change that with its newest concept car, the MP4-X.

It was recently profiled in Maxim, which notes that it looks like “a fighter jet with wheels”. The new vehicle is not only engineered to contend, but to be safe as well.

All while incorporating cutting edge developments in automotive technology.

Take, for instance, the battery. It’s pretty heavy, and weighs down the car. By its nature, it is antithetical to the sleek and nimble associations with F1. McLaren is currently working to change this by outfitting their car with the ability to be wirelessly charged as it zips around the track. And as if that weren’t enough, McLaren is proposing to add solar power cells onto the hood for an added boost.

On the safety front, they’ve made the decision to do away with the traditional open cockpit. While this is sacrilege to many F1 enthusiasts, they argue that today we know better, and shouldn’t resist an advancement in safety. This hits home for some, considering that the Indycar and F1 worlds were rocked by two deaths just this year.

It’s still a concept, true. But if this is just one part of the future of racing, I can be alone in wanting to see the rest.

Honda’s Revival

It’s not unusual for a car to resurrect an old model for a new era. Dodge did it most notably in the mid-2000s with new incarnations of 70’s throwbacks including the Magnum, Charger, and Challenger. In 2005, Ford pulled it off when they channeled their 1960’s vibe for the new look Mustang.

The NSX is back with a fury.

The NSX is back with a fury.

But one auto manufacturer that did not execute this revival was Honda. In fact, they did the opposite, discontinuing several street favorites. Over the last decade, it’s name slowly slipped into conversations of starter cars. The old-reliable, but nothing definitively excellent for auto enthusiasts. But once they abandoned ship on the NSX in 2005 and the S2000 at the end of the decade, Honda became a codeword for “pedestrian”. Not they’re bad cars, but they just weren’t at the top of the mind in the discussion for top of the line street performance.

However, most of that last paragraph was written in the past tense. That’s because Honda is looking to change its fortunes in that department with the release of three formidable autos.

The first is the new look NSX, resurrected from its mid-2000s grave. Released under the Acura brand, this scorcher has confirmed speeds of 191 mph, and possesses a whopping 500+ horsepower. It boasts three different motors, an li-ion battery, and allows the driver to select a different mode to meet any condition they may encounter.

The Honda S660 is new to the fleet, and cousin to the S2000.

The Honda S660 is new to the fleet, and cousin to the S2000.

The S2000, another beloved vehicle, is slated for a re-release, as well, in 2017.

There’s also a new model in the works, the Honda: S660. And unlike the botched release and promotion of the CR-Z, this mini-roadster has well exceeded demand— it’s sold out. The only unexpected snag is that 80% of buyers are over 40 years of age. Compare that with S2000 sales, when 20% of buyers were 40 years or older. The demographics have completely flipped. Honda hoped younger consumers would bite for the S660, but the low demand in that demographic has been chalked up to the fact that many young drivers may not have the income required for a car of that caliber. But perhaps the younger crowd that grew up admiring the S2000 has aged,

and is looking to recapture some of that magic for themselves.

But wait, there’s more! Honda is reportedly in the works for production of a brand-new vehicle ready to fit the demands of the 21st-century. It’s dispelled rumors of a hybrid sports car, as it is a fully electric vehicle. It’s going to be powered by four electric motors, one at each wheel, for the ultimate all-wheel drive experience.

Here’s to Honda dispelling the assumptions that environmentally conscious vehicles can’t be vicious on the street.



Over at Petrolicious I bumped into a post that took a look at one of the more fascinating styles of racing automobiles: engine passengers. Obviously, we’re not talking about engine riding shotgun, and the reality is that it can be a bit hard to imagine for those who do have not seen one. So let’s take a look at some of the cars they’ve shared with the readers.

italian dalmonar car turning the corner

That’s the Nardi Bisiluro Damolnar. As you can see, the engine is fitted not under the hood, but in a section of the body that runs parallel to the driver’s side. Debuting in 1955, this particular vehicle was built with one thing in mind: endurance. Enrico Nardi wanted his car to compete with the best at the legendary Le Mans endurance race. One of the most important aspects of the dream vehicle was the emphasis on aerodynamics. This compact speedster actually required the driver to put their legs through the steering wheel, and the brake system was a work of genius in its own right. But while hopes were high, it ultimately did not finish due to suspension and weight problems— it met its end when it was blown off the track while being lapped. However, you’ve got to respect the ingenuity in the design.

While the Damolnar turned heads in its day, it certainly wasn’t the first vehicle to have that unique body design. That credit goes to 1951’s TARF II. The car was nicknamed “the twin torpedo”, and primarily competed in low-drag speed races. And speedy it was! It won a competition with an officially recorded rate of 185 mph, although it’s maximum speed was almost 200mph! Lucky for us, there has been video of this bad boy in action.

These cars aren’t only relics of the past. Honda is actually tinkering with a similar concept with their two cars aptly named Project 2 and Project 4. It’s pushing around 215 horsepower and weighs under 900 pounds. Again, this thing is a concept, so don’t expect to see it on the track anytime soon. But at least we know it’s out there.