Nerd’s Eye View: LA Auto Show 2014: Part 1 – Street Cars and Show Stuffings

Nerd’s Eye View: LA Auto Show 2014: Part 1 – Street Cars and Show Stuffings

by Khiem Dinh

Khiem Dinh is an engineer for Honeywell Turbo Technologies at the time of this writing.  All statements and opinions expressed by Khiem Dinh are solely those of Khiem Dinh and not reflective of Honeywell Turbo Technologies.

So it’s the LA Auto Show. Cool stuff is there. Some famous people show up. I eat a lot. Oh, and I take blurry pictures as I’m distracted by food and beverages and too much caffeine. And my camera battery died. I have to say, I was particularly impressed with one German make this year for their cars and another Asian make for their booth during the Media Days.

BMW was not the German make I was impressed with as they didn’t have much in the way of new content. But while I was there, I did check out the i8 and M3/M4 cars. I did not eat any of their food for some reason I cannot recall at the moment (lack of sleep is bad for you).

 

So the i8 carves out its spot in the car hybrid/efficiency/sporty realm as being pretty fast for a very efficient vehicle; the other extremes are the insanely fast hyper cars (Porsche 918/McLaren P1/Ferrari LaFerrari) and really slow Prius. Enabling the i8 to be pretty fast and very efficient is a 3-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine. Of course, that engine needs a coolant system for which there is a radiator mounted up front. It has this well-designed ducted hood vent arrangement for which I can hypothesize two benefits. This ducted design allows for easy airflow through and out the radiator. In a typical design, the air goes through the radiator and then has to work its way through the engine bay and out the bottom. Needless to say, the engine, hoses, belts, subframes, and all manner of things in the engine bay prevent the easy exit of air and therefore create flow resistance. With this ducted setup in the i8, the air has virtually no resistance which I believe would allow for a smaller radiator. A smaller radiator also means less coolant, so weight is saved on two fronts. Lighter weight = better for fuel efficiency of course. The other benefit of this configuration is aero related. Having the air vent out the hood should reduce frontend lift and I think there will also be a reduction in drag resulting in better fuel efficiency.
With the door open, you can see some of the bare carbon fiber. If you didn’t know, BMW went all-in on carbon fiber building a plant in the state of Washington to manufacture the carbon fiber at high volume and low cost. Part of that strategy, and the choice of Washington as the location, was to tap the renewable hydroelectric power available in the state as manufacturing carbon fiber is energy intensive with the energy cost being a large part of the cost in making carbon fiber. Anyway, you can see the carbon fiber in the side sills and b-pillar.
The top of my leg is basically even with the top of the side sill meaning you drop into the car. Yes, getting in and out of this thing rivals ingress/egress of a Lotus Exige. I was joking with some guys that skirts are a non-option for the ladies who ride in or drive the i8. Well, being LA, I suppose that depends on the type of lady we’re talking about.
This is what’s called the ‘back seat’. It’s not much more than a pad for your butt and one for you upper body. Remember, minimizing weight is everything in both efficiency and performance.

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