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Reporter’s Notebook: Eco-Oops?

Ward’s writers pass along the buzz at this week’s SAE World Congress in Detroit.

Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

Them’s Fighting Words

Tom Stricker, Toyota’s Washington director-environmental technology and regulatory affairs, nearly jumps out of his shoes when fellow panelist David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests auto makers should be accountable for how power is generated for their future electric vehicles.

“Are you saying auto companies should be held responsible for electricity generation?” he asks after Friedman says Washington should consider vehicles and fuels as “one system” when establishing new energy policies.

Stricker says he agrees future regulations aimed at reducing oil dependency and greenhouse-gas emissions should take into account the entire well-to-wheel benefits/cost equation.

“But I don’t think we can alter how we assign responsibility,” he says.

Got Wheels?

Honda draws a crowd at the World Congress here with a demonstration of its latest concept in personal mobile technology.

The self-balancing unicycle-like device, called the U3-X, is lightweight and portable. About the size of a boom box when folded up, it measures 25.6 ins. (65.0 cm) tall, 15.4 (31.5 cm) front to back and is 0.6 ins. (1.6 cm) thick. It weighs just 22 lb. (10 kg) and has a collapsible seat and footrests.

Power comes from a lithium-ion battery that provides about one hour of operating time and a maximum speed of 4 mph (6 km/h). The device can support riders up to 200 lbs. (90 kg).

Although it appears to have a single wheel, the Segway-like U3-X has what Honda calls its “Electrical Omni Traction Drive System” that allows the device to move forward or back and side to side as the rider leans slightly in each direction.

The drive system was derived from the one used for Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot.

Getting off and on appears a breeze, as the still-experimental U3-X remains upright and balanced as it awaits the rider.

A Honda promotional film shows the U3-X being ridden by people touring a museum – striking a blow in the fight against obesity.


Ford clearly has pegged a significant part of its powertrain strategy on EcoBoost gasoline direct-injection turbocharging as a path to downsized engines, without compromising performance.

The 365-hp 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 now powers several Ford and Lincoln brand vehicles and won a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award in January for its application in the Taurus SHO sport sedan. A 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cyl. also is planned for the ’11 new Ford Edge and Explorer and likely the ’12 Focus.

But apparently under consideration is an 8-cyl. EcoBoost engine, according to a slide included in a PowerPoint presentation here shown by Barb Samardzich, Ford’s vice president-powertrain engineering. She spoke on a “Near-Term Powertrain Solutions” panel at the SAE International World Congress.

The slide identifies four EcoBoost engines, including the 8-cyl., as well as the 2.0L and V-6 EcoBoost already in production or slated for the near future.

The slide suggests a V-8 EcoBoost could be capable of more than 550 lb.-ft. (746 Nm) of torque, making it a possible contender for heavy-duty pickup applications. The slide also mentions 3-cyl. and 4-cyl. EcoBoost engines smaller than the confirmed 2.0L I-4.

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