Sunday, January 16, 2022

GRAPHENE GOES COMMERCIAL by John Crawford

Back in June 2014 I posted a story which I believed represented huge potential for the production of solid-state batteries, using a new development of a substance called Graphene.

 

From my early research I immediately recognised the benefits from using Graphene in a host of devices, initially in screens for mobile phones, computers and TVs.


However, a huge step forward has occurred in the USA and has been reported this week by GoAutoNews. Here is the story:

 

Nevada-based Nanotech Energy has taken out the prized Innovation Award at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for its innovative graphene-based non-flammable battery technology.

 

The company’s Graphene-Organolyte batteries can be tailored to fit any shape or size and can be used to power Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), consumer electronics, and a variety of other electrified devices.



Claimed to potentially revolutionize electric vehicles, batteries made using this technology are said to be more stable in extreme temperatures or when punctured or deformed.


Nanotech Energy claims its graphene battery can retain more than 80% of its rated capacity of 1400 charging cycles and can be recharged 18 times faster than any other battery currently on the market.

 

If, and there’s always an ‘if’, this technology can be scaled up cost-effectively it could be some sort of silver bullet for the advancement in the takeup of BEVs.

 


JOHN CRAWFORD            Source


 


Friday, January 14, 2022

SO MUCH MORE SIXTEEN by John Crawford

The kernel of the Cadillac Sixteen story was created by me, with a chance photo I snapped on the Concept Lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2003 (right). 

 


The car was being shown for the first time in California and had attracted huge interest. As I walked past, an attendant opened one side of the centre-hinged hood, so I snapped off just one shot of the huge and very impressive engine.



It blew me away, but secretly I thought “I’ll bet it’s a dummy engine, no-one would really build a ‘running’ sixteen-cylinder engine – especially GM.”

 

How wrong I was. Whilst searching for inspiration for a fresh Blog post I came across that 2003 photo in a ‘Miscellaneous’ folder, and beginning right there the Cadillac Sixteen car and engine has turned into something of a saga for me, and this is my paen to a ridiculous, audacious, mind-blowing and sophisticated example of American automotive engineering and design at its finest.

 

However, it’s much more of a story about people, rather than cold metal parts being assembled by skilled artisans.

 

You won’t be surprised to know that GM’s Chairman at the time, Bob Lutz, was the driving force behind the Sixteen project, aided and abetted by Design VP Wayne Cherry.

The plan was to convince GM that this grand old brand should be on a pedestal, wearing the crown as GM’s ultimate showcase for high-value design and engineering.

 

And remember, Cadillac has form here. Back in the 1930s it produced America’s only V16 engine, which was offered from 1930 through to 1938.



Let’s start with vehicle design. The exterior was penned by Brian Smith (left), and interior by Eric Clough (right) – two very experienced designers, carefully inspired and motivated by Wayne Cherry.


From a design perspective the Sixteen appeared right in the middle of Cadillac’s pursuit of the ‘Art & Science’ theme which debuted in 1999.


Not only was the focus a car ‘big enough’ to properly encapsulate the huge engine, but also to capture a set of proportions which may have the effect of slightly ‘minimising’ the impact of such a huge car.

 

Both designers scored some major brownie points with their tasks. Brian Smith produced a rakish, low slung and imposing shape; whilst Eric Clough produced not only a tasteful and beautifully-finished interior, with a sophisticated and understated blend of materials, but also a completely unique ‘dial set’ for the instrument panel, including a one-off Bulgari clock.



But it’s under the hood where the audacity of the Sixteen program really impresses. Make no mistake, 13.6L capacity; 16 cylinders; a 38” inch long crankshaft; 1000hp, plus a massive torque figure of 1000 lb ft is a very bold statement.


But get this. The engine program resulted in TWO engines being produced – just in case something catastrophic occurred when testing the original prototype.

 

Let’s start with the basics. Yes, the underlying architecture starts with GM’s small block V8 (below), which is a cam-in-block design. This provides the basic dimensions of the behemoth, plus all the ancilliaries.


Of course, making twice the engine from one is not a new idea. Recently, Aston Martin created its original V12, by marrying two Ford Duratec V6s together; Bentley made its W12 by binding together two narrow angle 15 degree VW V6s; The VW Passat W8 was two VR4s, and the famous Bugatti W16 was two narrow angle V8s (based on the VR6) one-behind-the-other.

 

There was the challenge of not just fitting it into the engine bay, but Brian Smith also had to design jewellery to adorn the massive powerplant, like tappet covers, accommodating sleek exhaust manifolding, and integrating the ‘working’ parts under the centre-hinged hood panels.

 

Okay, so under the hood we need a giant, cast crankcase, a huge crankshaft and camshaft, two huge cylinder heads plus scavenge pumps and a special, cast dry sump.



But, what I find really exciting, interesting and praiseworthy is that GM turned to local suppliers in Michigan for the bulk of the work, calling in engine specialists Katech, Dearborn Crankshaft and LSM Systems Engineering. Both the crank and camshaft were machined from billet steel, and the cylinder heads were machined in-house at Katech. Line boring the Mains was undertaken by Schwartz Machine.

 

Tom Stephens
European specialists were called on for a couple of big jobs. The block was cast by Becker CCC; the eight-stage dry sump cast by ACTech GmBH, and torsional stiffness studies and calculations for the crank were done by Ricardo in the UK.


However, the program was led by GM veteran powertrain engineer, Tom Stephens, heading a team of specialists from GM-HPVO.

 

Once all the parts were finished they were all returned to Katech for the final assembly and first start-up. It was an extraordinary project of much complexity, but GM wanted to show the Cadillac Sixteen at the 2003 North American International Motor Show in Detroit in early January, so the entire program from start to finish had to be completed in an ambitious seven months! Remember this also included making a complete, second, running engine!



Okay, so the Sixteen never became the ‘halo’ car it was intended to be, and whilst many lessons were learned, from an engineering and design standpoint, there was nothing specific that carried over to future Cadillac projects, but what this project did do, was to highlight the resources, and competencies still alive and kicking within GM.

 

What was the Cadillac Sixteen, powered by the XV16? Was it a crazy dream car; a vanity project; a folly, or a fruitless way to expend millions of GM dollars on an exotic fantasy machine?

 

I don’t think any of that matters. The fact is the project was conceived, created and carried out by a GM team that was dedicated to showing off their talents – and what ‘could be’ for Cadillac. Sadly, neither the GM Board nor the Cadillac marketing team took any notice.



Although it didn’t go into production, the Cadillac Sixteen was featured in two full-length movies; two computer games and a TV show.

It was also tested by TOP GEAR’s James May, who was so impressed, he said “GM should make this car, it’s a blinder!”

To all of the team working under the leadership of Bob Lutz, Tom Stephens, Wayne Cherry, Brian Smith and Eric Clough, you did a great job!

 

Imagine floating this idea today?


Thanks to the GM Archive for many of the photos in this story.

 

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Saturday, January 8, 2022

CADILLAC - STANDARD OF THE WORLD? by John Crawford

Could this be true? Yes, and Cadillac displayed this attention to quality and durability shortly after its founding in August 1902.

The first Cadillac, designed by Henry Leland (right), and using his own single cylinder engine, left the factory on October 17, 1902. It was a mechanical masterpiece, a precision work of engineering built to unprecedented tolerances. 

Leland had perfected his inclination for thousandths-of-an-inch accuracy working in the late 19th century firearms industry. He had started as a machinist with the Colt’s Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. It was there that he honed his skills for the mass production of interchangeable parts, and learned assembly line manufacturing.

 

Cadillac became the best built automobile in America, and in 1908 the company was awarded the coveted British Dewar Trophy for Engineering Excellence.


The Dewar Trophy was a cup donated in the early years of the twentieth century by Sir Thomas R. Dewar, M.P. (a member of the parliament of the United Kingdom).


It was to be awarded each year by the Royal Automobile Club (R. A .C.) of the United Kingdom "to the motor car which should successfully complete the most meritorious performance or test furthering the interests and advancement of the [automobile] industry".

 

On Saturday, 29 February 1908, three Model Ks from the 1907 Cadillac production were released from the stock of the Anglo-American Motorcar Company, the UK agent for Cadillac automobiles, at the Heddon Street showroom in London (these were engines Nos. 23391, 24111 and 24118).



The three cars, all registered in London under the numbers A2EO, A3EO and A4EO, were driven 25 miles to the Brooklands race track at Weybridge.



There, the cars completed ten laps of the track, or roughly 30 miles, before being locked away until Monday, 2 March 1908, when they were released and disassembled completely, using only wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and pliers.

 

Each car was reduced to a pile of 721 component parts, which were then scrambled into one heap by the RAC. Eighty-nine parts requiring extreme accuracy were withdrawn from the heap, locked away at the Brooklands club house and replaced with new parts from Anglo-American's showroom stock.

 

The parts were then sorted into three piles, each with all the parts needed to assemble a car. A mechanic - Mr. E. O. Young - reassembled the first two cars with the help of his assistant - Mr. M. M. Gardner. Sometimes they had to work ankle-deep in water, using only wrenches and screwdrivers.

 

The third car was re-assembled by Thursday morning, 12 March. With the painted parts on the original cars not being identical in colour or style, the reassembled cars were mismatched in appearance, gaining the nickname "harlequin cars".

 

By 2 p.m. on Friday 13 March, the three cars had completed the mandatory 500-mile run with singular regularity.  Only one point was lost owing to a broken cotter pin on the ignition lever (promptly replaced from stock).

 

During the event, it was reported that one of the sheds where the parts were stored became partly flooded during a heavy storm, and some parts became rusted. Only oily rags could be used to remove all traces of the immersion.

 

On completion of the test, one of the cars was locked away until the start of the 2000-mile reliability trials in June 1908.  It won the R.A.C. Trophy for its class.  Parts interchangeability had been publicly demonstrated and intensively field-tested.

 

From 1909 Cadillac adapted the badge on its cars to read ‘Cadillac – Standard of The World’ – a boast which Cadillac could appropriately lay claim to, based on winning The Dewar Trophy. In fact, Cadillac won The Dewar Trophy a second time, in 1912, for its development of the electric starter motor and electric lights.


General Motors owned a brand which could rightly claim to be America's answer to the Rolls-Royce, but since the mid-60s, GM has frittered away the status and image of the Cadillac brand, lumping it in with its assortment of other brands - Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick.



Rather than set the brand on a pedestal as its 'hero' marque, Cadillac was forced to fight for funding and investment along with its lesser siblings.


Despite heroic attempts to revive Cadillac's formidable reputation it remains 'just one of the brands' - although GM stalwarts like Mark Reuss, Michael Simcoe and Bob Lutz have played a huge part in attempting its reformation to a position of greatness.


Cadillac's latest achievement ordains a 'new order' in its product offerings - the impressive Lyriq EV.



Be sure to read my next feature on the background and engineering excellence represented by the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen. It's a concept which should have been taken more seriously by the suits at GM.


John Crawford

 (Source - Wikipedia)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

THE YEAR AHEAD by John Crawford

One thing I can confidently say as we enter 2022, the Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) boom will NOT take place this coming year. Certainly not in Australia. Yes, sales will probably spike, but it will not be a boom year!

 

It’s not here, it won’t arrive in 2022, and it will be some time before the global motoring public is ready to take the huge leap from the dependability of completing their many journeys with ICE-powered cars. Also, remember BEVs today are fantasy vehicles, and ego-driven due to the huge cost of exotic BEVs versus ICE cars.



This leaves carmakers forced to continue production of lower-cost ICE cars, whilst still being forced to invest billions in BEVs.

 As for the BEV industry howling for government, and other subsidies to boost BEV sales, that’s just the carmakers and the vested interests combining to try and cover their huge cash investments in a technology which is NOT a silver bullet to curbing automotive emissions.

 

Especially in countries where the grid gets its base load from coal-fired power stations – you’re just swapping one form of pollution for another. Oh, and don’t forget that early BEV adopters will also have to cope with queuing for recharges.

Carmakers, seeing ICE emissions getting tougher and tougher turned to what seems like a simple solution – make our customers buy BEVs! Simple as that. And, keep this in mind, once, and if, there’s widespread take-up of BEVs, it will wreak havoc in the established automotive after market.

 

Think about the impact on accessory makers which support ICE cars; the service industry which totally relies on servicing and maintaining ICE cars as the bread’n’butter of their business; and more importantly the need to restructure how governments collect revenue from BEV owners, because fuel taxes will disappear.



You can also forget about the urban myth that states that BEVs are environmentally-friendly. Not so. The carbon footprint of a BEV is far, far higher (in a cradle-to-the-grave comparison) to ICE cars.

 

I couldn't resist this. Here's a photo of a goose charging an EV.
In Australia, I think, so far, the conservative federal government is resisting handing out subsidies by the taxpayer for relatively precious few to own a BEV. The Labor (Socialist) opposition, which of course is simply desperate to get into power, will promise the earth (and more) just to be popular among the city elites and the greens.

 

When you examine ALL the agendas behind the push for BEVs, they are just like clouds of mist – you can see right through them, depending on which one you’re examining.

 

The day when EVERYTHING mobile will be powered just by batteries fed by spurious power generation simply will not happen.


Believe it or not, I am not a EV denier. I just want governments, industry et al to consider ALL the alternatives.


It may be batteries for small cars, hybrids for larger cars and fuel cells for buses and trucks.

 

It’s a bit like the environmentalists' daydreams that wind and solar can provide base load power for the whole country.


Not only is it unlikely to happen, it will never happen.


The solutions for base load power generation are much more complicated than being in the sunshine, feeling the wind in your hair.

 

Oh, sorry. I was daydreaming of powering along in my own Bentley Continental GT Speed ICE convertible with the roof down.



I’m going to be brave, and say that I could probably write this editorial at the end of 2022, just as easily as I can write it now. 

However, for the sake of being fair-minded here's a look at where personal mobility could be headed.


JOHN CRAWFORD

Thursday, December 23, 2021

GETTING TO THE GRITTI NITTI by John Crawford

As the possibilities of further global travel diminish, I am looking back over memorable experiences in exotic locations, and perhaps one of the most memorable was test driving the new Bentley Continental Flying Spur saloon in, of all places, Venezia, in 2005.

 

Exactly how do you sample a car in the city of canals you ask? Quite simple, you take a vaporetto to the ‘Motoscafo’ at Venice airport, and there in the parking lot is a line-up of Continental Flying Spurs. From there, it’s up into the foothills of the Italian Alps for a day’s challenging driving.



Taking off from RAF Brize Norton, home of the Queen’s Flight, it’s just under two hours before we are flying over the French and Italian Alps, and about to land at Venice’s Marco Polo airport.

 

Stepping off the chartered Dornier 328, we take to the vaporetti for a scenic ride along the Canale Grande to the famous Gritti Hotel. The Palazzo Pisani Gritti was built in the 16th century and became a hotel in 1895 – and is now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection.

Now, usually, as I am ‘staff’ I often get assigned a room either under the stairs, at the back of the building, or in some cheap motel three kilometres away – but this time I was lucky to score, not a room, but a salon on the second floor, looking out on the Canale Grande from my room.


Of course, the media group which I am hosting doesn’t get to stay long in this combination of sumptuous comfort and fading luxury (usually just one night), but this time the next pickup by the chartered jet is delayed a day due to bad weather in Frankfurt, so we get another night at The Gritti. The price the journalists have to pay is yet another serious lunch with Bentley executives, spelling out the glories of the Flying Spur and what it will do for Bentley.

 

Here’s a shot of two of my best media mates, Howard Walker (L) and Paul Eisenstein (R) with the then Board Director for Sales & Marketing Adrian Hallmark.


Coincidentally, after a stellar career in various global divisions of the Volkswagen Group, he has returned to Crewe as Chairman of the Bentley Board – and a better choice to lead Bentley I could not have imagined.





Back to the driving phase. We depart Marco Polo airport east via Autostrada heading for Pordenone, then a little loop up around Spilimbergo, to a coffee stop in Pordenone.


Then a great drive along SR 251, with a stop for lunch in Longarone. We then headed south on the A27 Autostrada, bypassing Conegliano and Treviso to return to the comfort of the Gritti for another night.



We strolled off for dinner at a tiny restaurant called San Marco, on Calle dei Fabbri – just a stone’s throw from Piazza San Marco.



This restaurant is attached to a comfortable little three star hotel, but the chef had been in residence 22 years and the food was always fabulous, and cheap! No need for five-star dining two nights in a row, much nicer with simple regional dishes served by the chef himself, directly from the kitchen.

 

Scooting around the base of Dolomites in a Bentley; two nights at the famed Gritti Palace Hotel; then a smooth chartered flight back to Heathrow and home to Detroit. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days in Italy!

 

The first thing I did back in the office was to dash of a note of compliments to my mate, Raoul Pires, who designed the exteriors for the Continental GT, and the Flying Spur, telling him how much the American journalists enjoyed the car. That put a smile on his face.




 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Thursday, December 16, 2021

CADILLAC CT5-V 'BLACKWING' by Damien Reid

Ever wondered what the next HSV Holden Commodore would have been like had Australia retained local manufacturing? How about a $200,000 executive saloon with Lamborghini Huracan levels of performance?



The new Cadillac CT5-V BlackWing is the spiritual successor to the HSV GTSR W1 with an updated version of the 474kW, 6.2-litre supercharged V8, LS9 engine used in the Holden mated to a Hydra-Matic 10-speed auto. A Tremac six-speed manual is also available that let’s you flat change up the gears and includes auto-blip for down-changes.

 

The LS9 engine has evolved into the LT4 engine used here with direct injection, cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing to push power up to 492kW at 6500rpm with 893Nm of torque from 3600rpm.

 

GM says it tops out at 320kmh and reach 100 kmh in 3.4 seconds and put that into perspective, Lamborghini’s 2019-era Huracan LP610-4 also does 3.4 seconds to 100kmh and runs out of puff at 323kmh.




Interior is as good as a BMW M5 or Mercedes E63 AMG, its natural competitors.

Our test car, included optional heated and ventilated 18-way power adjustable leather sports seats in one-piece carbon-fibre shells; a 12-inch digital instrument binnacle including a tyre pressure monitor; G-Force, launch control and boost meter depending on whether it’s in Tour, Sport or Track modes.

 

On a private airstrip, 100kmh passed in 4.1 seconds, 200kmh was in 8.2 seconds  and it dropped into eighth gear at 283kmh with two cogs to go before I backed out at 291kmh, 1190rpm short of the redline so that 320kmh is achievable.



Sadly, this is Cadillac’s last big-engined push before going full EV starting with the 2022 Lyriq, but for me, as an ex-pat Aussie, this is what should’ve been the final send off for V8 Aussie muscle cars had it worn a HSV badge and Holden body.


Damien Reid


Notes from the Editor:


I'm thrilled that the final Cadillac ICE sedan is a high performance competitor to Euro muscle cars, and its integrity in all aspects of its creation, configuration and presence has been maintained and enhanced.


I've been an avid fan of these more compact, high performance Cadillacs since my four day trial of an STS-V back in 2005, and my amicable contact with Cadillac's then Head of Engineering, Dave Leone (below).

That car was a great building block for Cadillac, which went on produce the ATS-V, winning the North American International Auto Show Car-of-the-Year in 2013.


Soon-to-be GM Chairman Mary Barra; Product chief Mark Reuss and Cadillac's Dave Leone celebrating the COTY trophy for the Cadillac ATS in 2013.

I believe the CT5-V could have found a lot of buyers in Australia with the demise of the 'hot' Holden Commodores. Cadillac has confirmed the CT5-V's motorsport credentials already, with a considerable amount of track testing of CT4 and CT5 in early 2020.


One will never know if the potent CT5-V could even been considered as a race car? I think it's got the chops.



John Crawford