Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Cremation ceremonies for the Toyota Prius

In an interesting press release from Toyota, the company outlined the cremation for the new Prius. Long before the first new Prius reached the showroom, Toyota had plans in place to ensure that when the car reaches the end of its useful life it can be disposed of in an environmentally responsible fashion.
When its driving duties are done, more than 85 percent of new Prius’s can be recycled and more than 95 percent of its materials can be recovered in a process that only accounts for a tiny proportion (approximately two percent) of its full lifecycle CO2 emissions.
Special attention has been paid to the efficient recycling of new Prius’s high voltage nickel-metalhydride battery with a new process that allows 95 percent of the battery components to be recovered for re-use with near-zero emissions.
At the vehicle’s end-of-life, the battery is removed at an authorized Prius service centre. Toyota has appointed authorized waste management companies in each country where the car is sold, which are responsible for transporting the batteries to one of three European Final Treatment Companies (FTCs): SNAP, Accurec and Umicore.
The recovery process begins with the removal of the battery’s outer casing, which itself can be re-used in steel making processes. All the wires and electronic parts are sent to a specialist recovery company, while the power cells themselves are recycled using an induction-based vacuum thermal system.
This is an evolution of the traditional waste heat treatment process, but it consumes less energy, is almost emissions-free and is highly secure. The cells are put into a sealed container from which all air is removed, significantly reducing internal pressure. The container is then heated to 800 C. When the temperature reaches 400 C all organic materials break down into a mixture of oil and water, which is sent on to a licensed water treatment company for processing. The power cells are then exposed to hydrogen, which helps break the oxides down into metals.
What is left after the process is a highly concentrated nickel alloy which can be re-used as a raw material in the production of new batteries. All the other metallic elements recovered can be used in the manufacture of stainless or other specialist steels.
Of course, that came from Europe. Toyota hasn’t seen our recyclers here in action. Within 24 hours of being dumped, there would be nothing left. Guaranteed!

Autotrivia Quiz

Cooper 500’s photo by Simon Panton

Last week I wrote about an engine that was used to garner several world speed records. It was a 24 liter 12 cylinder engine, with the cylinders arranged in three banks of four, known as a ‘broad arrow’ configuration. I wanted to know the engine, the car it was in, and the driver. The answer was the Napier Lion aero engine that was put in the Napier-Railton Special driven by John Cobb. From 1933 to 1937 it set many records, including the 24 hour record at over 150 mph (240 kph in the new money).
By the way, in answer to the quiz question a couple of weeks ago, Simon Panton in the UK sent in his wonderful pic of two Cooper 500’s showing the Fiat transverse leaf suspension. Note the mirrors mounted on the spring!
And so to this week. Let’s remember the ‘muscle car’ era of the mid-60’s. What was the most powerful American muscle car in those days? This refers to stock vehicles, off the showroom floor, not ones that have been modified after-market.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Hang on tight!
For the thrill of a lifetime, how about going pillion on the back of a Ducati Desmosedici? Note the static “handlebars” for the koala bear on behind! Mind you, some of us have ridden behind with a Bangkok taxi motorcycle rider at the front. And you don’t get a set of leathers, you don’t get your own handlebars, but you do get a plastic helmet!
I don’t know if any of you caught the young presenter from Eurosport who did a lap behind a good rider and got off the bike totally shattered, unable to speak or move. Hilarious!

Two seater Ducati racer

The future? Here now from Mercedes-Benz
The concept of safety in motor cars has been steadily evolving. In 1974 Mercedes-Benz showed what a car would be like with airbags, head restraints and seat belt tensioners. You will find these on any run of the mill family car these days.
So what does Mercedes-Benz predict for us now? Their new experimental vehicle, the ESF2009 is their latest concept car, and one focused entirely on road safety, with brand new innovations, looked at here.
Braking Bag. When the car’s sensors detect an unavoidable, imminent collision, the braking bag is deployed. This is a huge airbag with a high-friction coating that pops out between the axles of the car and under it, and acts as a massive braking contact patch to produce a huge decelerative force that tyres alone can’t match. The braking bag doubles the G force in stopping power, resulting in vastly superior braking performance.
Pre-Safe inflatable metal structures. These are metal shields that only come out in the pre-crash situation and reinforces various areas of the car.
Partial Main Beam intelligent headlights and spotlights. The headlamps are made up of 100 individually controlled LEDs. An infrared camera recognizes oncoming traffic and then dims only the LEDs that are reflected directly at that vehicle. The result is that, while you’re not blinding the oncoming driver, the rest of the road is fully illuminated.
Passengers banging their heads together in a crash can be fatal, but Mercedes attempts to solve this issue in the ESF2009 with an inter-seat airbag system that inflates soft barriers between passengers as the crash happens, isolating each person from the rest and cushioning the movement of all bodies in the car post-impact.
Another feature is the Belt-Bag inflating seatbelt. Seatbelts have already saved countless lives, and they remain the primary source of protection in collisions, particularly to backseat passengers who don’t often get an airbag. The Belt-Bag unfolds as it inflates, almost doubling its surface contact with the wearer to distribute its restraining force across a wider section of the body, as well as contributing an air cushioning effect.
There are many other features in this Mercedes-Benz ESF2009, including sensors to work out just how much air should go in the airbag, depending upon the height and weight of the passengers, interactive car to car transmission so that when your car detects a hazard, it then warns other cars in the area, air chambers in the seats to push the passengers away from the crumple zones and even a ‘kid cam’ in the roof that lets the driver see just what the children are up to!
Undoubtedly you will see the concepts in the ESF2009 making their presence in the vehicles in the next decade. With the road toll being so high in this country, perhaps Mercedes-Benz could design a cocoon to wrap around motorcycle riders when they come off, wearing no helmet (as usual).