Hybrid truck may power to world record

Hybrid vehicle technology has come a long way since over the last few years – from the eco-friendly engineering of the Toyota Prius to the development of the Ford Fusion, and now a giant beast by the name of 'Mean Green'.

This impressive vehicle has been designed with one goal in mind, to smash the record as the world's fastest hybrid truck. There can't be many people who would argue against the merits of a machine which can produce 6,800 rpm of torque and reach speeds in excess of 160mph.

The firmest believer in the capabilities of the Volvo-manufactured Mean Green is undoubtedly the experienced Scandinavian trucker Boije Overbrink. As one of the biggest names in truck racing he is relishing the opportunity to speed around the track in his new favourite vehicle.

In a discussion of the challenge ahead he said that the truck is “like a champagne cork, but without the sound effects. For the first couple of seconds the truck just makes a slight whistle until the diesel engine which runs on renewable liquid rosin diesel, starts delivering with an explosive force.”

It is expected that the competing hybrid manufacturers will have their scouts out in force to watch the performance of the monster truck at the Wendover Airport in Utah on the 27th April.

Photo © tonylanciabeta via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Childhood dreams made real

Did you ever pick up yours or a playmate’s toy car as a youngster and think how wonderful it would be to have it full-sized?

Well, now that you’re in the adult world, having a full-sized vehicle isn’t such a far flung fantasy but some other childhood dreams are.

A team of aviation experts and designers decided to make one of the come true by building a giant paper airplane – and ‘throwing’ it too.

As the world’s biggest paper plane at 45 foot long with a wingspan of 24ft – it took more than a school-boy’s hand to propel this creation into the air.

It had to be lifted to an altitude of 4,000ft by a helicopter before being launched, but it managed to glide at 98mph over Arizona for around six seconds before coming back down to the ground.

The whole project was organised by the Pima Air and Space Museum to “inspire America's youth and spark a passion for aviation and engineering in the next generation”, and it seems it was very pleased with the way things went.

A spokesperson stated, “For several shining moments, our huge, beautiful, silly, hubristic 45-foot paper airplane soared.”

The museum’s executive director was also very happy after witnessing the event, saying, “The arresting visual of the paper airplane in flight rekindled the childhood creativity in all of us.”

Personally I’d like them to build a full-sized cardboard-box castle now…and perhaps if someone has time to make an adult-sized sofa-cushion and duvet cave, I certainly wouldn’t complain.

Photo © antjeverena via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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To tint or not to tint?

With summer coming up, many drivers might think that getting the windows tinted in their car would be a really good idea, but, if you get it wrong, there can be severe consequences.

Under UK vehicle laws, there are certain windows on a vehicle which must adhere to tinting limitations.

For the windscreen, 75 percent of light must get through and for the front windows, on both sides, 70 percent of light must get through to the inside of the car.

Directgov advises that most modern cars have some degree of tint already incorporated into the glass fitted during manufacture and if you add a further tint this is likely to result in breaching legal light requirements.

The police can stop any vehicle they believe has window tints which are too dark and they use special equipment at the roadside to measure light travelling through the window glass.

Failure to meet the legal requirements can result in the tints being removed on the spot (if they have been retro-applied using film) or a prohibition notice which will stop you from using the vehicle until the correct tint is restored.

There is also a chance that you may be fined or issued with a court summons.

So, our advice is, leave the window tints alone.

Image © J. Chris Vaughan via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence



Road aerobics

When you first started driving a car you might have been told by your instructor that you were steering wrong and that you should use a "push and pull" method instead of crossing your hands over each other to execute turns.

Well imagine having to learn to steer all over again!

Thanks to Honda's concept vehicle the EV-STER ‐ reportedly going into production in the next three years or so – you may well have to.

The car doesn't have a steering wheel, instead it has handlebar-like levers which are pushed towards the dashboard or pulled towards the driver to manoeuvre the vehicle.

Not only might it be quite difficult to learn how to control the vehicle, once you've got the hand of it it's not meant to make your life easier!

A Honda spokesperson states, "The car keeps the driver alert, because it is very sensitive to movement. Your whole body is kept moving.

"In fact it is a mini cross-trainer."

Oh, great! That's just what we needed – a car which strains us physically while we try to keep mentally focused on the road ahead for our own and other people's safety.

Photo © TheChargingPoint via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence



Camouflage doesn’t always work

Imagine this – you are a very wealthy Italian playboy and your family is well-known and followed about by paparazzi.

You’re driving down the motorway in your garish camouflage-pattered Ferrari 458, looking at everyone else’s mediocre vehicles with a pitying look as you fly past, when suddenly you roll to a standstill because your car has run out of fuel.

Embarrassing? Wait – it doesn’t end there!

Due to your notoriety as one of Italy’s richest men and your family connections to car manufacturer Fiat, people driving past recognise you and start taking photos on their phones and tweeting about your misfortune.

Furthermore, you and your fancy vehicle have to be saved from the roadside by a pick-up truck.

This all recently happened to Lapo Elkann, grandson of the founder of Fiat, despite there apparently being a petrol station around every 20 miles down that particular stretch of highway.

I bet he’ll pay more attention to his fuel gauge from now on!

Photo © fry_theonly via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Your car as your doctor? What a quacky idea?

The cars of the future… Autonomous? Perhaps. Wheel-less? Perhaps. Carbon neutral? Perhaps? A replacement for your doctor? Surely you’ve finally cracked, perhaps you need to see your doctor?

But no, we’re not going completely potty. The truth is that the cars of the future are likely to benefit our health in numerous ways.

Take Ford, for example, which is developing an in-car breath analysis system for people with diabetes, which will be able warn drivers of when their blood sugar is low and they need an insulin top-up.

Or what about the other Ford technology currently in development – a system that will warn allergy sufferers when there are high numbers of pollens or allergens in the air.

Further down the line, such technologies could have a huge impact on the UK car insurance market. Perhaps it is not unrealistic to imagine a scenario where people currently thought of as too high risk to qualify for cover – those with epilepsy, narcoclepsy or heart problems, for example – might be able to drive again because of warning systems built into vehicle systems.

Image © elias_daniel via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Hard times bring expensive tastes

In my opinion, there’s something about times of economic hardship that makes us all long for quality.

Take the Second World War for example, during that time my grandparents had less than they’d ever had at any time before then, yet, even now, I’m wearing a good pair of well looked after brogues that once belonged to my grandfather, while my sister’s most beloved garment is the beautiful coat that my grandmother wore when she was in the Wrens.

I guess not having a lot of financial means makes us truly value things that last – things that are enduring.

This fact would perhaps explain why, despite endless talk of credit crunches, tough times, recessions and depressions, sales of prestige cars such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi are on the rise.

Whether or not these vehicles are of better and more enduring quality than Vauxhalls, Fords, Toyotas and their like is beside the point – maybe its just that we want security, which would explain why more and more car insurance companies are being asked to provide cheap quotes for luxury and prestige models.

Image © swanksalot via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Three-piece disaster waiting to happen

Nissan Micras are useful little cars, used and well-loved by many motorists in the UK.

However, they are not the ideal transport when you have a three-piece suite to move from A to B.

One driver thought they’d try anyway though, and was spotted by another road user near Exeter on the A30 with a settee and an armchair on his car’s roof, and another armchair in the boot.

There was no roof rack, and the items were only held down with some lengths of string and the passenger’s left hand.

It seems that the motorist was well aware of the inadequate job he’d made of securing the furniture to his vehicle, since he was only travelling at 30mph on the 70mph stretch of highway.

The whole affair could have resulted in a very serious accident and the head of Devon and Cornwall police’s traffic department has stated that they will be making contact with the driver.

He said, “Drivers who decide to use entirely unsuitable vehicles to carry large loads present a danger to other road users.

“The load may be tied on to the vehicle but the vehicle itself is entirely inappropriate for carrying such large pieces of furniture.”

So, the next time you’re going to carry large items of furniture on a small car – don’t – hire a van instead.

Photo © rileyroxx via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Baffling double yellows

Hopefully we’re all aware that double yellow lines mean motorists can’t park or wait on that part of the road at any time.

However it seems that Oxfordshire County Council may not be so clear on the meaning of these common road markings.

In Headington, new double yellow lines have been painted on Bickerton Road. They stretch straight across the road parallel to a speed bump.

Residents are naturally completely baffled.

“What I would take from it is you cannot park in the middle of the road. But I cannot understand what the council is doing. It must be some sort of mistake,” said one local.

The lines, which are part of a £500,000 road safety scheme to make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists, may have been painted onto the tarmac in good faith but are unfortunately pretty useless.

That is unless there’s a driver out there stupid enough to park horizontally across the middle of a road…

We’re hoping there isn’t.

Photo © dumbledad via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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