Thomson ReutersTo match feature ELECTRICCARS/By Norihiko Shirouzu and Ben Klayman
BEIJING/DETROIT (Reuters) – Chinese auto parts producer Wanxiang Group, which bought stylish electric car pioneer Fisker Automotive from bankruptcy, is accelerating the relaunch of Fisker’s Karma hybrid luxury car by using a design from the company’s last year of production, people close to the companies said.
Wanxiang aims to reintroduce by next year Fisker’s electric cars, which enjoyed a cult following for their streamlined design among early fans including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber before the company’s demise in 2013.
The “new” Karma that California-based Fisker, acquired by Wanxiang earlier this year, is rushing to finish is based largely on the 2012 model, said the people, who asked not to be identified. Wanxiang’s top U.S. executive said in February the Karma would be reintroduced within a year.
“It will have to be nearly identical to the 2012 model, or it would need to go through (safety) testing and certification again,” a person close to Fisker’s suppliers said. “I don’t think they want to put a lot of engineering into it either, as well as probably use up some of the old parts that are in inventory.”
Co-founded by Danish designer Henrik Fisker in 2007, Fisker had a mission to build a beautiful, “green” car that could rival exclusive European brands like Maserati and Aston Martin.
The company was an early rival of Tesla Motors Inc but their fortunes went in opposite directions. A series of missteps and recalls led to disappointing sales for Fisker and eventually the company’s bankruptcy filing. Wanxiang acquired Fisker’s assets for $149.2 million in a U.S. bankruptcy auction in February.
OLD SUPPLIERS ANGRY
In Wanxiang’s effort to revive the brand, the timeline could be at risk. Some of Fisker’s old suppliers, which the Chinese company has contacted, remain angry because of losses suffered due to Fisker’s failure, the sources said.
“They lost money and had dedicated facilities that were severely underutilized,” a second person with knowledge of the matter said. “Many scrapped their tools or took them out of their facilities.”
Fisker does not plan to simply reintroduce the 2012 Karma, a source close to Fisker said. “Not 100 percent identical,” the person said. “The new Karma will be different in many key areas. It will have noticeable upgrades.” He declined to provide details.
Using the 2012 Karma design could present problems given it has older features and technologies. “You’re not buying something that’s considered ‘state of the art’ necessarily,” the supplier source said. “It’s a big hurdle to overcome.”
A Wanxiang spokesman in China declined to comment on Thursday. People at Fisker’s Costa Mesa, California, headquarters, where about 90 people work, said on Thursday they were not authorized to speak to the media.
A third source said Fisker has the necessary funding thanks to Wanxiang’s backing. The source close to Fisker said the company was hiring people in the United States but declined to provide further details.
However, several sources were skeptical Fisker can meet the timeline laid out in February by Pin Ni, the head of Wanxiang’s U.S. unit. The source close to Fisker said the automaker needs to resolve issues related to suppliers and production location. He declined to elaborate but said Fisker was “not there yet.”
Ni told Reuters in February that Fisker planned to restart Karma production in Finland, where Valmet Automotive previously built the cars under contract, and start selling them again in the United States and Europe. The supplier source said Finland remains the starting point for production.
Once sales gained steam, Ni said Fisker could quickly commence U.S. production.
Ni also has said Wanxiang wants Fisker to complete the development of a second model called the Atlantic, a mid-size gasoline-electric hybrid sedan meant to be a more affordable “volume model” under Fisker’s previous management. A red version of the car was on display in the lobby of the U.S. headquarters outside Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Karma, a hybrid-electric vehicle equipped with a small gasoline engine that kicks in when its on-board battery is depleted, previously had a starting price of around $100,000.
About 1,800 Karma cars were sold, far short of initial projections of 11,000.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom in Costa Mesa, California, Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Additional reporting by Deepa Seetharaman in San Francisco and Sam Shen in Shanghai; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2014. Follow Reuters on Twitter.
Aesthetically, there is a lot to consider when analyzing a car’s design. Most people probably focus on a car’s grill or the profile or sculpting.
But for a lot of folks, the tailpipes have an allure all their own.
Here are what Cars.com editors consider the 10 best examples of exquisite exhausts on the market today.
1. 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder
The “top pipes” of the new 918 Porsche Spyder aren’t what sparked us to create this list, but they certainly earn the top spot without much debate. Unlike most tailpipes, these are mounted directly above the supercar’s engine (and behind your ears). Porsche says the design keeps hot gasses away from the engine by using the shortest possible route. That may be true, but the wow factor is off the charts, too.
2. 2015 Dodge Viper
In the lexicon of exhaust pipes there are probably none more unusual than those that pipe out hot emissions to the side of the car. The redesigned Dodge Viper has ‘em, though, and it is the subtlety of these side pipes on such an otherwise audacious sports car — no matter what color — that really stirs our hearts.
3. 2015 Lexus RC F
There are a few cars on this list with quad pipes, but Lexus gets a few extra nods because of the offset layout of the four on the all-new RC F coupe. They’re not as exotic as the center-mounted tri-pipes of the LFA supercar from the Japanese luxury automaker, but for a somewhat attainable sports coupe, they’re pretty spectacular.
4. 2015 Nissan Nismo GT-R
The shiny quad pipes on the perfectly dangerous-looking GT-R are worthy of this list on their own, but when Nissan gives the Nismo treatment to a car, it’s usually something unique. Instead of four separate circles, the duo on each side is contained in single, split oval. This exudes more of a “race car” look to the Nismo versus a street-car look to the GT-R. If you’re getting a GT-R, though, you really can’t go wrong.
5. 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
The first Alfa Romeo to be sold in the U.S. in decades is an elegant sports coupe that exudes European flair. The same can be said for the dual tailpipes on either side of its slickly styled rear lower bumper. The pipes have two concentric circles, a look common in automotive fashion years ago but one that you rarely see today.
6. 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
There are quad pipes and there are center-mounted pipes, but the redesigned Corvette Stingray has the best of both worlds: center-mounted quad pipes. Whether you get the basic Corvette or the new Z06 version with its extra oomph, you still get these four pipes all lined up in a row right below those two famous flags.
7. 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
This list focuses on how tailpipes look, and to tell you the truth, the pair on the ridiculously powerful Challenger Hellcat don’t really scream 707 horsepower. That is, until you rev the engine. Perhaps they speak to the potential for this to be a sleeper. Dressed in gray or black paint, no one will know what is hiding under the hood. And no one will be able to tell when sitting behind you at a stoplight either. Until the light turns green.
8. 2014 Jaguar F-Type R V-8
When Jaguar decided to evoke the past for its new F-Type coupe and convertible, it did a masterful job of incorporating modern styling into an iconic look. Its exhaust is no exception, especially on the V-8-powered models, which focus two straight pipes on either side of the rear of the car. It’s another vintage touch that offsets the rather futuristic design.
9. 2015 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Who fails to love a center-mounted exhaust pipe? The Cars.com editors voted for the Veloster’s affordable version over the new Mini Cooper S Hardtop, which also sports one. If you want to make an affordable sporty car stand out, this is the way to do it.
10. 2014 Ram 1500
Ram made huge leaps forward when it redesigned the workhorse 1500 pickup truck a few years ago. It’s a better truck all around, but the company went above and beyond with the tailpipes. The nicely plated, round twin pipes are well done on their own but what Ram did to really set the 1500 apart was design a curved lower lip in the chrome bumper so the pipes nestle against it. Who knew a truck could be so … elegant?
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears and Stephen Pham; Porsche and Nissan manufacturer images
A celluloid baddie is doing his job. His weapon is an ear-splitting growl. He sounds as if a 3,000-watt amplifier has been surgically stitched into him.
Another goes about being the bad guy, silently. He looks the part. With a withering stare, flaring nostrils and twitching lips.
Who do you think is more effective?
Now, a campaign car blares out its agenda. Its sound system is piercing, causing cracks in concrete columns. As if that’s not bad enough, the message is reinforced through loud words stuck across the car’s body.
In contrast, another car just shows up and delivers the message. No sounds. No painted words. The machine is the message.
And now, which’s more effective?
Campaigns often ride on cars. And many of these car-driven campaigns don’t do much for the listener’s heart. Of course, they reach his head. They give him a migraine, I mean. They’re as atrociously loud as the poorly-etched villain. Often, just as tautological. And just as ineffective. Therefore, it’s always refreshing when cars of the latter kind come along. They tell a story, silently, aesthetically and more powerfully.
Over the decades, brands have been silently promoted through cars designed to resemble them. An interesting example is the hotdog-shaped wienermobiles in the United States. Designed with small cars and huge trucks, these metal hotdogs come in many sizes. Small. Medium. Large. Just like the hotdogs they promote. Together, they are believed to have done food major Oscar Mayer enviable good. They have also become icons of representational car design.
A more familiar example of this genre of automobile designing — for urban Indians, that is — could be the Red Bull campaign cars that carry giant-sized Red Bull cans on their backs.
Not just commercial, but social campaigns also gain steam from such automobile designs. An example is the two yellow buses employed by the Lion’s Blood Bank. They are crafted to resemble strolling lions. They prowl around Chennai looking for blood donors. Many years ago, I walked into the waiting jaws of one of these buses, struck by its leonine look.
“With permission from the traffic police, these buses are parked in public spaces. Curiosity leads people into them. Many of them donate blood. On an average, 750 units are collected every month through these two buses,” says P.G. Sundarrajan, chairman, Lions Blood Bank.
The smaller bus — more precisely, ‘the cub’ — was launched to enable the mobile blood bank to access narrow stretches in neighbourhoods.
At times, representational automobile design is just a statement of art. There is no cause beyond art. A striking illustration is the annual parade of artfully and aesthetically prepared cars in Houston. Closer home, we have Sudhakar Yadav from Hyderabad. With his team from Sudha Cars Museum, he puts in a memorable appearance every time a special occasion rolls into sight.
For one Women’s Day, he designed functional machines right out of a ladies’ handbag. For instance, a compact ran on a low-powered engine. So did a stiletto and a handbag. “These vehicles are powered by 60cc engines,” says Sudhakar.
On one Children’s Day, similarly low-powered machines came straight out of a school kid’s pencil box. Kids went on a merry drive in a sharpener, a pen and a pencil.
On World AIDS Day too, he designed a vehicle, promoting safe sex. No marks for guessing what the machine looked like.
These machines are operated in a controlled environment.
Summing up, social good is precious. Art is precious. Brand building is precious. Besides these, there is something equally precious. Happiness. And these spread it, in generous amounts.
Not just people. These vehicles must themselves be happy. Listen to their engines. Between their customary notes, they must be humming a merry tune.
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By Tim Pollard
First Official Pictures
18 September 2014 08:00
The new Volvo XC90 was shown in August 2014 – and now a month later the Swedes have shown the new XC90 R-Design. Think of it as the SUV thatâ€™s popped down the gym at lunchtime and come back in a tracksuit.
R-Design is a trim level in Volvo parlance and it wonâ€™t come as a surprise to you to hear that the XC90 R-Design follows the format of other more sporting Volvos.
You get a bodykit and a smattering of extra kit in your R-Design package, which starts production in May 2015. Expect the first right-hand drive UK cars in July.
What do I get on my Volvo XC90 R-Design?
Youâ€™ll spot the gently sporting XC90 by its bodykit first; this is merely a cosmetic upgrade, with no mechanical tinkering. The grille and deeper front spoiler are new at the front, while the roof rails and door mirror caps are matt silver.
Look closely and youâ€™ll spot the silk-effect metal window surround while the twin exhaust pipes are integrated into the rear valance.
Naturally, it rides on whopping 20-inch alloy wheels to give the big-rimmed look so beloved of buyers trading up to sporty trims (and damn the ride quality). Itâ€™s rare that we champion such models as the best choice.
Inside the Volvo XC90 R-Design cabin
More gripping Contour sports seats are fitted inside, thereâ€™s a perforated leather steering wheel and gearknob and R-Design branding is blunderbussed around.
Itâ€™s telling that Volvo has whipped out the R-Design pack so early in the XC90â€™s life. Proof, if it were needed, that customer upgrade packages are an important profit centre nowadays; punters want to stand out and will happily pay handsomely for the privilege.
Itâ€™s a tactic thatâ€™s worked for BMW (M Sport), Audi (S Line) and Mercedes-Benz (AMG trimline). Now Volvoâ€™s liberally offering on its range of hatchbacks and SUVs, too.
Read our review of the last Volvo XC90 R-Design here.
One day, in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to walk into a car dealership, choose a design — including the number of seats — and have a 3D printed car by the end of the day.
This is Jay Rogers’ vision. Rogers is the CEO of Local Motors, the company that just built the world’s first 3D printed car known as the Strati. The electric, pint-sized two-seater was officially unveiled last week at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, Illinois.
“Telsa made the electric drive train famous, we’re changing the whole car,” Rogers told Mashable, clearly still relishing his community-based design and his company’s moment in the 3D manufacturing sun.
According to Ford Motors, most cars have somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 parts. The Strati has just 49, including its 3D printed body (the largest part), plus more traditional components like the motor, wheels, seats and windshield. While many 3D printed car models exist, there haven’t been any other drivable ones that we could find.
The original design for Strati, which means “layers” in Italian, did not bubble up directly from Local Motors. Rather, the company — similar to the inventions company Quirky — encourages members to share vehicle design ideas, which the community then works to perfect and productize. The finished products are then sold online and in retail stores by Local Motors.
Local Motors launched a project 18 months ago that sought to simplify the car design and manufacturing process through Direct Digital Manufacturing. When it put out the call for workable 3D printed car designs, it received more than 200 submissions, ultimately choosing a design by Michele Anoe, who is based in Italy.
Rogers said Anoe’s design stood out because it fit perfectly with Local Motors’ desired production technique, combining 3D printing and a subtractive machining.
Yet even with the design in hand, Local Motors spent the better part of a year finding a company that could print the first car. The eventual production partner, Oak Ridge Labs, found a company with the base of a large laser printer, which they retrofitted with a 3D extruder. The second half of the 3D production process took place in a separate Thermwood Corp. manufacturing routing machine, which refined the overall look of the car.
Printing the car took roughly 44 hours, and milling it to perfection took another full day. Local Motors then built the Strati over the course of four days at the IMTS.
“We probably could have done it in two days or less,” Rogers said — but they stretched it out for the show.
Printed in carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic or ABS, the finished Strati can drive at speeds up to 40 mph and can travel 120 miles on a single charge. It’s fine for a neighborhood jaunt, but is not yet allowed on highways. Rogers said there are plans to test the car extensively before selling it to customers or putting it on the freeway.
Auto manufacturers like Ford have been using 3D printing techniques for decades, but according to a company spokesperson, currently only uses the process for prototyping. (So far, there haven’t been any 3D printed parts in Ford vehicles.) Thus, the concept of building a vehicle almost entirely through the 3D printing process is likely intriguing to traditional car makers like Ford.
Although the Strati is just as expensive as a full-sized sedan, Rogers does not envision it as a luxury item. Instead, he believes it will be an affordable and highly customizable option that could be widely available by 2016 for between $18,000 and $34,000.
“It will be positioned like a car for the masses, or many different cars for the masses,” Rogers said.
Bonus: What Is 3D Printing and How Does It Work?
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Several groups worked together to build a driveable 3-D printed car during the six-day International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.
In a press release, Chandler, Ariz.-based Local Motors called the 3-D printed Strati a first-of-its-kind concept car. Local Motors worked with the Association for Manufacturing Technology, Cincinnati Incorporated and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to 3-D print and rapidly assemble the car during the Sept. 8-13 event.
Engineers started out by 3-D printing the car using a process called Broad Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM).
Local Motors said it held a six-week challenge and received more than 200 entries from 30 different countries before chosing the Strati as the winning design. Michele Anoe of Italy submitted the Strati design, which calls for the car’s body to be 3-D printed in a single piece — an approximate 44-hour process.
The 3-D printed car is made from ABS plastic that has been infused with carbon fiber. Local Motors said it believes it is the first company to ever attempt to print both the body and chassis components of a vehicle together, although others have built cars before using a 3-D printing process.
On September 11, 1972, crowds lined up for hours to be the first passengers aboard the sleek and high-tech trains of the new San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system. In the lead-up to the opening, newspapers had envisioned a gleaming future for train travel in America. One wire report asked readers to imagine “traveling 30 miles in 20 minutes, relaxing in a soft lounge chair, reading a newspaper during the smooth ride.” One headline announced “Transit System for Space Age.” The new BART trains lived up to that visionary billing: the spaceship silver, the hexagonal shape of the cars, and the plush aqua interiors had a sci-fi sort of feel, like this was the kind of train that would someday whisk you across cities on the moon.
A full 42 years later, those same exact train cars are still on the tracks, and they don’t feel so futuristic anymore. A lot more people are riding BART today than during the system’s early years. Average weekday ridership is now about 400,000, up from just over 100,000 in the late 1970s. And though the 1972-vintage trains have undergone remodeling and the system has been augmented with a few dozen newer trains, the overall state of BART trains is old, crusty, and cramped. “We have old cars,” says Aaron Weinstein, the agency’s chief marketing officer. “Our fleet is one of the oldest in the nation.”
There have been considerable advances in the technologies used to make train cars over the last four decades—from seats that are easier to clean to communications systems that can display information dynamically to lighter structural materials that reduce energy demands. Train operators around the world understand these changes, and periodically update their systems with newer models of train cars or better signage systems. Washington D.C.’s Metro system will be integrating brand new train cars to its system next summer that feature floors that are easier to clean and handrails that reduce clogging around doors. Chicago’s CTA will begin adding 800 new cars to its fleet in 2019 with designs that remove unpopular center-facing seats.
Nearly half a century after the system’s launch, BART will get its own long-awaited makeover. The so-called “Fleet of the Future” plan will put between 775 and 1,000 new BART cars on the tracks between 2017 and 2023, at a cost between $2.5 billion and $3.3 billion. But the overhaul is more of a full reimagining than a cosmetic touchup—from the big-picture look of the car itself to the minutiae of floor patterning and handrail grips. BART used the chance to rethink how the trains look on the outside and feel on the inside, how they accommodate the crowds of today and the near future, and how they subtly control rush-hour crowds and all those bicycles. The designers behind this project are focusing on the many minor details that together make a train ride either smooth or crowded or terrible or great.
In other words, BART asked what the redesign can do not only for its train cars but for the system as a whole. It’s industrial design mixed with interior design, plus a splash of social engineering. And with the right touch, BART might even be able to hold on to that futuristic feel for another 40 years.
• • • • •
The process of designing the Fleet of the Future began in 2009. Initially it was less about design than data. BART looked at various rider data and surveys that it regularly collects to begin figuring out what the system and its riders needed and wanted from a new train.
Weinstein says the agency surveyed how riders felt about the existing cars. They asked riders to email ideas for improving the cars, and to send pictures of elements they liked from other transit systems around the world. They conducted “seat labs” in stations to let riders test out different seat spacing arrangements—a matter of inches and centimeters that determines, to a large degree, the entire spatial design of the car interior. They even shipped in loaner seats from metro systems in Boston, Washington, and Los Angeles to give BART riders the feel of different seat designs.
BART looked at demographics, too, says Weinstein. The agency considered how population growth rates would affect the demand for trains, and how the aging Baby Boomer population would affect the need for seats designed for seniors and people with disabilities. It also considered BART’s scattered geography. The system serves as both an urban metro system and a regional commuter system, which can result in a dramatic difference between its weekday riders and its largely leisure- or tourism-based weekend riders. Meeting the needs of these various groups requires a good understanding of how each group uses the system.
So when BART contracted BMW Group DesignworksUSA in March 2011 to create the conceptual design for the new train cars, the agency first handed over all its ridership data, surveys, and observations. Weinstein says the data-rich approach is critical to making sure the new designs will actually benefit the people who use BART.
“We’re planning on ordering up to a thousand of these cars,” he says. “We can’t really afford to be wrong.”
• • • • •
BMW Group DesignworksUSA, you might rightly guess, designs a lot of BMWs. Though a subsidiary of BMW, DesignworksUSA spends half of its time on projects for other clients. It’s designed a computer mouse for gamers, lawn mowers for John Deere, and a mega-yacht for a mega-millionaire, among other things. Much of the work centers around transportation of one sort or another, and much is on display in its offices 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in Newbury Park, the kind of exurb built for corporate offices.
When I visited the DesignworksUSA studio in late July, creative director Johannes Lampela offered an example of the level of detail given to design projects such as the new BART cars. He showed me thematic collections of swatches of materials—fabrics, carpeting, metals, plastics—all of which were intended to represent a specific feeling or place or lifestyle. One was breezy, one was more mechanical, another was earthy, and another somehow conjured the feel of a nightclub with $18 cocktails. These were the initial composites from which an overall design aesthetic is based.
Though color schemes and tones of plastic and floor coverings are all important elements of train design, the guiding element is the seating arrangement. Lampela ran through the three design concepts he and his team created for BART. They were essentially those swatch palettes exploded out into every nook of a train car: a seat-heavy version named Commuter Comfort; a more open and airy version named Social Interaction; and a colorful car with customizable elements called Reflecting the Community. When BART showed the three options to riders, most preferred the Social Interaction design. Lampela agreed this flexible arrangement is well-suited to BART’s wide variety of riders.
“We’ve created a central area that is more social, more lounge-like, and then we have more typical commuter seats in the back, so this allows for the longest distance commuters that enter the train first to sit in the more comfortable seats,” he says. As the train fills, more people will sit in the L-shaped seats in the center of the car, and eventually stand in the empty space between them. Colors on the floor of the train distinguish the leg space of someone sitting in a seat from the standing area for another rider. Lampela said these subtle differences can play a big role in guiding how riders position themselves. “We can start directing traffic differently,” he says.
The design encourages more people to load into the center of the car, where there’s more room for standing. Because BART expects its ridership to continue to grow, packing in more people is a priority. To make that easier, BMW Group DesignworksUSA designed a third door in the middle of the car. The design directs riders with bicycles to enter at the center doors, where there’s more room and new bike racks, while wheelchair users are directed to use the doors at the ends of the car. The doors themselves are an innovation. Similar to the sliding door of a minivan, the new doors slide together and pull back in when they close, creating suction with the car and reducing the amount of ambient noise inside the moving train.
The designers also paid close attention to the way riders choose and use seats. During a research ride at rush-hour, designers observed the two rows of bench-style seats on the current BART cars and noticed that aisle and window passengers tend to lean away from each other. “Those kinds of observations led us to make the side-by-side seats in the new cars more separate,” says Lampela. They added a narrow strip of plastic material between the seats, creating a small but visual separation. “Even something very thin that separates seats gives more social comfort.”
Even after riders voted on their favorite concept, the DesignworksUSA design faced additional scrutiny. Weinstein says riders were surveyed on the final concept, and they offered thoughts on nearly every aspect of the design, including the exterior appearance, the floor, the digital screens, lighting, handrails and stanchions, the color scheme, and, of course, the bike rack. All this feedback helped to revise the concept. But a concept is not a train.
• • • • •
In 2012, BART contracted the train manufacturer Bombardier to handle the transition from conceptual design to physical train. Bombardier believes a train design must promote safety, offer comfort, and remain within the confines of the client budget—in that order. Given that rubric, conceptual designs don’t always translate perfectly into a manufacturable train.
Daniel Deschenes, an industrial designer at Bombardier who supervised the bid and the start of the BART project, says it’s common for small design details to get tweaked during the manufacturing phase. Whether it’s the foam used for cushions or the protective material on the back side of the seats, many little changes are made, often due to cost constraints. The manufacturer also has to pay attention to things like the weight and quantity of the materials being used, like stanchions and handrails. “The weight you add you carry each and every day for 30 or 40 years,” he says. “That’s a lot of energy.”
Though most of the changes to BART’s design were small in scale, some bigger ideas from the conceptual phase didn’t pencil out. One design idea included a rim of light around the front face of lead train cars that could change based on the route—yellow for the Pittsburgh/Bay Point line, for instance, or orange for the line connecting Richmond and Fremont. It was a good usability concept, says Deschenes, but the price point for the light technology was just too high. “The technology wasn’t there yet, so we had to remove that feature.”
The evolution of train design is somewhat slow, especially compared to an industry like personal automobiles, says Deschenes. That means new technologies and products—from light rims to train-length digital displays to curved screens—can be hard to implement. “The non-recurring cost is really a different story in our industry than, for example, the car industry, where you can spread it over two million units,” he says. “We can’t do that.”
Even the all-important seat layout is up for review in BART’s cars. Though Deschenes says this part of the design is usually set in stone by the time a train project nears prototyping, Bombardier had to adjust the placement of wheelchair space so it removed only two seats rather than three. “Revenue seats,” as they’re known, are important to transportation authorities, so Deschenes and his crew made it work. The BART design is getting close to final and the project is edging its way toward production, but even after more than five years of ideas and designs and adjustments, more changes are practically guaranteed by the time the first cars start rolling.
• • • • •
In April, Bombardier built out a full-scale half-car model for BART to show off to its customers. The sample car made the rounds to different stations throughout the Bay Area for riders to see, enter, and try out. Though this seems as close to a final product as you can get, it’s actually just another step in the long process of surveying the public about the design.
Weinstein says the agency continued to collect feedback from people about the design at these events, especially from wheelchair users and bicycle riders. The placement of the floor-to-ceiling stanchions in the center area between the doors came under fire from wheelchair users, who found them difficult to maneuver around. Bicyclists worried that the proposed three-bike rack might not provide enough space. Weinstein estimates that nearly 35,000 people have provided feedback or survey results during the five-year design process. And the process continues.
“As much as you stare at a set of specifications or a rendering for hours on end, you don’t always see everything,” he says. “And now we’ve had tens of thousands of eyeballs on our work, and people see things that we don’t see, or have different needs than we have in our use cases.”
At its June meeting, BART board members voted to approve some last-minute changes to the proposed design. Bombardier is scheduled to deliver 10 pilot train cars in the summer of 2015 for testing. As a result of the recent concerns over wheelchairs and bicycles, two different internal layouts will be manufactured—one with the poles moved two more inches off center to create more room for wheelchairs, and another with both poles and bike racks removed to create larger open spaces. BART is expected to test these pilot cars in revenue service in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Ultimately, the first 100 new trains are expected to arrive and begin service in 2017, with the remaining cars—for a total of up to 1,000—to be delivered on a rolling basis through 2023. Exactly how these trains will look is almost finalized, but the back-and-forth design and manufacturing process may continue right up until the first new BART cars arrive. Which is probably for the best. The BART riders of the 2050s are depending on the right decisions being made today.
PORTLAND (AP) — NASCAR driver Austin Theriault’s car is sporting a Maine-themed paint job in the blue and white colors of the state’s flagship university.
The Fort Kent native’s car, unveiled Friday, features a lobster and a lighthouse on the driver’s side, and a moose, trees and blueberries on the other. The blue and white colors are those of the University of Maine Black Bears.
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