Tire Pressure Monitoring

One very cool automotive technology that will save gas is tire pressure monitoring, which will be a requirement on all 2009 vehicles sold in the U.S. A significant percentage of vehicles operate with under-inflated tires that not only rob fuel economy but also represent a safety hazard.

Here’s how the better systems work, a self powered sensor and radio transmitter, like the one pictured below, is installed in each tire. The range on these things is pretty short, no more than a couple of feet, so a receiver is installed in each wheel well of the vehicle. The on board computer processes the signals, measuring tire pressure and temperature (warm tires increase tire pressure by about 5 PSI), alerting the driver when pressure drops below a configured threshold.

Some systems are employing a passive technology utilizing magnetic coupling, which removes the possibility of battery failure from the equation. Lastly, there are some unreliable systems that simply measure wheel speed, calculating tire diameter and triangulating on a pressure reading.

This is just one more example of a technology solution available today that can increase fleet fuel economy.

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Diesel Power Wins Again

Audi continued their domination of the ALMS yesterday in winning their second Le Mans in a diesel powered race car. Car geeks will also be interested to learn that Aston Martin defeated the mighty Corvettes to break GM’s ownership of the GT1 class.

On a related note, I was talking to a guy at Mercedes Benz a few weeks ago and he said that Daimler/Audi/VW have further developed the Bluetec diesel to be Tier II Bin 5 compliant, meaning that it will be a 50 state vehicle at last. A Bluetec E class and GL420 (with 290 hp, 24 mpg) will be available in the 2008 model year, meaning later this year.

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AT&T to Offer Semi-Clothed DSL

It’s not yet full naked DSL because customers will still have to subscribe to local phone service and that’s at least $20 a month (if not more when taxes kick in?). In six months, and not a day sooner I am positive, AT&T will offer a full naked DSL package for around $20 a month.

Let’s face it, AT&T is doing this because they have to and not because they are committed to it. The 768kbps download speed is less than the upload connection on the broadband connection at my house, and based on my personal experiences with VOIP I would caution anyone considering it to not try it on this DSL connection.

My prediction is that AT&T will dump this plan and push as many customers into their triple play option the day the FCC looks away. Consumers won’t get relief from predatory telco practices until we get real competition in the marketplace. I keep holding out hope for Wimax (Clearwire being in the lead) but my patience is strained with each passing day.

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Magnetic Coupling to Deliver Wireless Power

Now this is something that I have been wanting for a long time, cordless power delivery.

It sounds complicated, but the result demonstrated by the American team this month was a dramatic success. Using two coils of copper, the team transmitted power 7ft through the air to a light bulb, which lit up instantly.

The implications for this are significant, beyond the convenience of not having to plug in to power up. Electrical wiring requires pure unalloyed copper and consumes about 25% of all the copper mined annually, whereas most non-wire copper applications, e.g. plating operations, utilize a high degree of recycled copper, in some cases 100% recycled. For reasons I am not educated on the electrical products industry does not use recycled copper (even though purity could be achieved through an electrolysis process).

Our current known supply of mineable copper is expected to run out around 2050 based on current consumption of 18 million tons annually, which means that barring new discoveries or mining in space (which seems unlikely given the logistics of getting the copper back to earth) we will have to reduce our dependence on copper by using less of it and using more of what we have already mined.

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