Vol. IV No. 30 - Saturday July 23 - July 29, 2005
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German GP this weekend


This week is the German GP held at Hockenheim, not Nurburgring, which was the venue for the European GP last May. It was opened in 1939, 15 miles from Heidelberg, and was used for German national car and motorcycle racing. In 1965/6 it was uprated to a design by John Hugenholz because one end was lost when an autobahn was built. The resulting circuit 4.206 miles long remained blindingly quick for most of its length, with a slow section in the ‘stadium’ (i.e. grandstand) area, similar in concept to the GP course at Indianapolis.

Hockenheim achieved notoriety in 1968 when, at one of the first major races held at the circuit, Jim Clark was killed in a Formula Two race following presumed tyre failure. His actual death was caused, however, by the fact that his car was able to leave the circuit and hit a tree.

While the Nurburgring was being made safe, Hockenheim staged the 1970 German GP with a layout made slower by the construction of three chicanes. It was not a popular choice of venue but, following Lauda’s accident at the Nurburgring in 1976, Hockenheim became the home of the German GP apart from 1985 when the new ‘Nurburgring’ had the race.

Although young Alonso in the Renault is still at the head of the table, there are eight rounds to go - that’s 80 points up for grabs, so the championship is still wide open. The points score going into this German GP stand at:

1 F Alonso (Spa) 77
2 K Raikkonen (Fin) 51
3 M Schumacher (Ger) 43
4= J Trulli (Ita) 31
4= R Barrichello (Bra) 31
6 JP Montoya (Col) 26
7= N Heidfeld (Ger) 25
7= G Fisichella (Ita) 25
9 R Schumacher (Ger) 23
10 M Webber (Aus) 22
11 D Coulthard (GB) 17
12 J Button (GB) 9
13 F Massa (Bra) 7
14= A Wurz (Aut) 6
14= T Monteiro (Por) 6
14= J Villeneuve (Can) 6
17 N Karthikeyan (Ind) 5
18= C Klien (Aut) 4
18= P de la Rosa (Spa) 4
18= C Albers (Hol) 4
21 P Friesacher (Aut) 3
22 V Liuzzi (Ita) 1
Constructor Standings
1 Renault 102
2 McLaren 87
3 Ferrari 74
4 Toyota 54
5 BMW-Williams 47
6 Red Bull 22
7 Sauber 13
8 Jordan 11
9 BAR 9
10 Minardi
The race will begin (I believe) at 7 p.m. our time on Sunday July 24 (but the final check is yours!).

Thermochromic paints and the ideal getaway car

Paints that change colour through temperature are called Thermochromic, while those that change colour with sunlight are called Photochromic paints. One of the first groups to use the fact that temperature could change the colour of certain paints was the Formula 1 racing industry. If you can estimate the colour change temperature with a reasonable accuracy, then it would be possible to have a visual warning system to indicate an overheating situation. The application of this technology would be suitable for radiator caps, brake calipers or anything where the moment it hits a certain temperature it pre-warns operators of the overheating situation.

Now the University of Rhode Island chemists have come up with a paint additive that is thermochromic. Chemists Brett Lucht and Bill Euler and chemical engineer Otto Gregory have created a polymer-based pigment that can be added to paint and plastics. The pigment-enhanced paint can be made to change from red to yellow when the painted item reaches 50 to 60 degrees C in 10 degree increments.

Although still early, Euler and Lucht estimate that adding the pigment would only increase the cost of the paint by 20 to 30 percent.

Now all these above should not be confused with Phase change thermometers that are familiar to many people in industry and commerce. They are found in forms like temperature labels or temperature stickers having a central white or yellowish dot that turns black when the temperature value printed on the label is exceeded. These are also single use devices. Again these were pioneered in the auto racing industry, where the switched on engineers could quickly see the temperatures in and out of radiators and oil coolers for example. Of course this is now done electronically, but there was a time before microprocessors took over the world!

But there are even more applications colour change paint. Paint that heats your home and changes colour with the seasons has been developed by Chinese scientists. The coating, developed at Tongji University in Shanghai, absorbs heat from the sun when the temperature outdoors drops below 20 degrees C. On summer days the paint automatically reflects sunlight to keep a building cool.

Yiping Ma, one of the inventors, reports that the coating could increase the temperature by about 4 degrees C in winter and decrease it by about 8 degrees C in summer. The active part of the paint is a heat-sensitive pigment called crystal violet lactone. This produces a variety of hues, including red, green and blue, at close to room temperature. Imagine, your neighbours could look out their windows and use your house as a thermometer!

But let us return to the auto industry, do we have colour change paint for cars? We are all familiar with the ‘pearlescent’ paints that change tint when viewed at different angles in the sunlight, but I mean a car that you can drive to work as a yellow sedan but come home as a snazzy red four door! The answer is again a yes.

There is a company called Trippin’ Paint, run by a Texan trio - Clint, Chris and Dan Gallo which has made a car paint that changes colour according to the ambient temperature.

Trippin’ Paint claims it is the world’s first temperature activated colour changing automotive paint system. It is not pearlescent paint, but one that can literally turn from black to white or red to yellow.

The stimulus for the research was alcohol induced. “We were sitting on the beach drinking margaritas out of glasses that change colour when we drank and thought how cool it would be to move down here and become beach bums. Then we began brainstorming over our margaritas about how we could make a paint that changed colours for cars, and that was what started it all,” said Dan Gallo.

Trippin’ Paint system uses a coating of non-reactive base paint and a non-reactive clear coating to protect the colour changing paint from harmful agents such as solvents and UV radiation. The only thing you have to do is use a UV-blocking Trippin’ Clear coat, and a UV-blocking urethane clear coat of your choice to protect the paint. “You can have it change at any temperature you want in the range, but the best temperature gradient is between 6-32 C,” said Dan Gallo.

The paint costs about USD 1800 for enough paint to cover a medium-sized car. It is available in five colours. Black Pearl changes to pearl white, Candy Cane starts off as dark-apple red and turns to a bright candy apple green while Black Gold goes from a black gold with metal flakes to a gold metallic. Rising Sun changes from red to yellow while Purple Rain changes from a rich purple to a light blue. The future is here now it seems, and it is certainly colourful.

Now what the police and licensing authorities are going to do about this, I am not sure. I foresee problems. “What colour was the car that hit you?” “Well it was a kinda candy apple red.” “Yes, but the defendant’s car is candy apple green. Case dismissed!”

In the energy crisis, is natural gas the way to go?

Mercedes Benz showed the E 200 NGT saloon at the Bangkok International Motor Show this year. This car was a dual-fuel drive, using both CNG (compressed natural gas) and gasoline fuels. In the boot area were four CNG bottles holding 107 litres, as well as the standard fuel tank, and amazingly there was still enough space for luggage. In CNG mode, the level of CO2 emissions is reduced by 20 percent over the gasoline values. It is also a most economical vehicle, taking 6.1 kg of CNG to travel 100 km (or in petrol mode 9 litres of 95 octane gasoline), and with the relative prices of the two fuels, the E 200 NGT will cost you around 48 baht per 100 km in CNG mode, compared to around 200 baht in gasoline mode. There are currently 26 CNG stations in Bangkok, but only two in the provinces, though the Thai Petroleum Authority claims it will be increasing the number of provincial stations soon. So you can save money with the E 200 NGT, provided you have enough money to buy it in the first place!

At this stage, perhaps a brief recap of what natural gas is, as a fuel, is in order. CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is expected to help automakers meet the California Air Resources Board’s mandates for Low Emission Vehicles and Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles. Because there are abundant supplies of natural gas in North America, using natural gas to replace gasoline also helps reduce America’s dependency on foreign petroleum. Interestingly, there are natural gas areas throughout ASEAN as well, so this can be very relevant here too.

The cost of equipping a light-duty vehicle to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) can range from about US$2,000 up to about $6,000, depending on the vehicle and number of cylinders to store the fuel. Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline, and the relatively stable price of the fuel has made it attractive to fleets as well as private owners.

CNG makes much sense. The modifications to the engine are relatively slight, and taking the Benz E 200 NGT as the example, the supercharged ‘Twinpulse’ engine was modified by the addition of injector nozzles on the underside of the intake manifold. A pressure regulator with sensor and electromagnetic shut-off valve is fitted near the engine to regulate the supply of natural gas and maintain the required system pressure at a constant level. E 200 NGT the most powerful saloon with a dual-fuel drive unit currently in production.

With the escalating fuel costs, CNG might be worth looking at.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I asked who made the first Jeeps, and what engine did they have? The correct answer was Bantam, makers of the American Austin 7. The engines were by Continental, so all those who went for Willys and Ford can remain chastened. In fact, the others only got to make them on Army contracts because Bantam’s output was not enough for the American Army requirements.

And so to this week. In 1918, there were only two makes of cars built in America with right hand drive. What were they?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!