The Gadgets Page

August 10, 2009

The VW Bug Vs. Bus

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I love this old advertisement comparing the old Volkswagen bug to the bus.

Click to see full size

It reads:

That’s about the size of it.

That special paint job is to make it perfectly clear that our Station Wagon is only nine inches longer than our Sedan. Yet it carries almost 1 ton of anything you like. [About twice as much as you can get into wagons that are 4 feet longer.]

Or eight solid citizens with luggage.

Or countless kids with kids stuff.

The things you never think about are worth thinking about, too. You never worry about freezing or boiling; the rear engine is air-cooled. You can expect about 24 miles per gallon and about 30,000 miles on your tires. And you can forget about going out of style next year; next year’s model will look the same.

The most expensive VW Station Wagon costs $2,655. It comes in red and white or grey and white or green and white.

And you won’t ever have to go around painting sedans on it to show how small it is. Just Park.

Right now, I really wish a company would adopt the Volkswagen company model. The cars are the same every year for decades, allowing me to fix my 2009 car as easily as the 2020 car. They brag about their gas mileage, small size and practicality, not their luxury, massive size or status symbol.

I froze and boiled in my old VW bug. It failed me on numerous occasions, dropping parts on the road as easily as birds drop feathers. I was grateful to have a new car when I finally stopped driving my old beetle, but it was a twenty year old car by then. I want a car company like Volkswagen used to be, because the new VW isn’t like it at all.

Advert via: vintage_ads:

Update 08-14-09: Here is another VW Bus ad that was good.

Box Yourself In

June 15, 2009

Mission One Electric Motorcycle

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Green Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Yves Behar was the designer who brought us the OLPC, the Leaf lamp and the Jawbone headset. He has now teamed up with Forrest North to create the Mission One motorcycle. It’s a good looking electric motorcycle that can go up to 150 mph with twice the range of any other electric motorcycle. The following video shows them introducing it at the TED conference this year.

Here are the stats on the Mission One:

Max Speed: 150 mph
Distance on a single charge: 150 miles
Regenerative braking: The batteries are charged when you use the brake.
Charging Time: 2.5 hours when using a 220 volt plug. 8 hours when using a 110 volt plug (standard home plug).
Sales Price: $68,995

Mission One electric motorcycle

Their advertising says that it has zero emissions, but there is a little something I learned in science class in seventh grade: There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. That motorcycle is charged by electricity. If you get all your electricity from solar, wind, hydro-electric or geo-thermal power, then, YES, there ARE zero emissions. If however, your local electrical plant uses natural gas or coal (which is more than half the electricity generated in the U.S.), then there ARE emissions. They are coming from the electrical plant in your area. This is true of ALL electric vehicles that claim to have zero emissions.

With a price tag of $68,995, you could afford to buy three or four Honda motorcycles or MANY electric scooters. Unless you need to drive 150 miles to work every day, the Mission One is an expensive way to show everyone how green you are.

April 28, 2009

PostSecret: Texting While Driving

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

This postcard from PostSecret made me cringe with guilt.

Click to go to PostSecret

It reads:

I rear-ended an unregistered, unlicensed, illegal immigrant.

He went to jail because I was texting and driving.

I’ve texted while driving twice and each time I thought what I was doing was so important that I needed to do it. I was wrong.

There is NO text or phone call as important as staying ALIVE. The writer of the postcard could have just as easily killed the person he hit or someone in his own car. There is a gadget available that can stop you from calling or texting while driving. It’s called Key 2 Safe Driving.

Here’s a video showing how is works:

Trying to use this to monitor your teenagers is ludicrous. Within five minutes, your teen would figure out a way to disable the Bluetooth receiver on his phone so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the problem. The only answer in this case is self-control. Not answering your phone while you’re driving is the only way to ensure that you won’t kill someone or yourself by talking on the phone while driving.

PostSecret‘s beneficiary is the National Hopeline Network. It is a 24-hour hotline (1 (800) SUICIDE) for anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is considering it.

Via: Key 2 Safe Driving Service Turns Off Your Phone While You Drive | cell phone, text message, digital life | geeksugar – Technology & Gadgets

April 27, 2009

Steampunk Segway

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Click to see full size: Steampunk SegwayA friend of mine referred me to this Steampunk version of a Segway. He’s calling it the Legway:

A self balancing, human powered, steampunk styled, Segway. All you need is a brave self balancing human. This is the ultimate green vehicle for all you eco conscious steampunkers. Is that an oxymoron? I made this out of mostly found materials. This was my first steampunk styled build. Any good suggestions on making it look better will be incorporated as long as the materials are cheap and easy to find. I have been calling it the Legway in reference to the propulsion method. Yes, I know about those Lego self balancers of the same name.

Here is a video of it in action:

I know that using this gadget is MORE difficult than walking or running the same speed, but it looks so very AWESOME! I begged Mike to make me one for our Halloween party, but he said that I wasn’t allowed to ride it around the house.

I guess I’ll just have to admire it from afar.

Via: Twitter / Jason Alderman: @lauramoncur @mgm Steampun …

April 3, 2009

Tesla Roadster

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Matthew Strebe @ 8:00 am

The Tesla Roadster pure electric vehicle is more gadget than car, so when I got the chance to drive one, I figured I better write about it. I have a client who pre-ordered a Tesla Roadster years ago, and was the first person in San Diego to take delivery of it. I drove it the next day.

Tesla Roadster by LauraMoncur from Flickr

The Tesla is a beautiful car—it’s the same size and shape as the now-familiar Lotus Elise and built to look like a 70’s era pure roadster. I unfortunately am far too tall to drive roadsters. At 6’5, there are many that I can’t even close the door on (Mazda Miata) and even in the largest (Mercedes-Benz SL500) I’m too squeezed to be comfortable. My daily driver is a four-seat ragtop for that reason; it’s the closest thing to a roadster I’m able to drive comfortably.

Climbing into the Tesla is a chore for that reason, although I am able to close the door and drive the vehicle. If you’re 6’ or taller, drive this car before you put your name on the list. The windshield crossbar was just above my eye height, and I had to look over it to see stoplights. I would not have been able to drive the car with the top on.

Tesla Roadster by LauraMoncur from Flickr

The fit and finish of the Tesla’s interior does not compare to any modern car in terms of quality—even the least expensive cars on the market in the U.S. are better built. The seats are fine, but the center console wobbled when I tried to leverage myself on it so much that I thought I’d break it, and the door rattled when I shut it. To say that I was not impressed with it is an understatement—the interior is clearly an afterthought, and seems transported from a 1971 Porsche 911 intact. Their car starts with a fairly typical integrated smart-key, but that’s the only sign of technology in the cockpit.

Tesla Roadster by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Starting is as eerie as any hybrid—you put the key in, turn the car on, and the dash lights come up. Nothing else happens. The transmission has three positions: R-N-D and that’s all it needs. Park is the same as neutral; there is no actual freewheeling position because the engine is always engaged on the power train.

Pulling out of a parallel parking spot is also reminiscent of a 1971 Porsche 911 due to the lack of power steering. I had a bit of a tough time of it, made more awkward by the fact that my knee took up the space between the door and the steering wheel so I couldn’t torque the wheel around properly. Moving the wheels at a stop is a chore.

Tesla Roadster by LauraMoncur from Flickr

That same lack of power steering is quickly forgiven at speeds above 3mph however, as it translates into a crisp and precise rack-and-pinion steering that you find only on true roadsters these days. The car handles exceptionally well because of it and it clearly has excellent weight distribution.

The lack of fit and finish is forgiven the first time you press the accelerator. The car puts you back in your seat so fast and accelerates so quickly that it makes the normal engine wind-up time in a gas-engine vehicle seem like turbo lag—There is absolutely no delay between depressing the accelerator and actually accelerating. It’s like a motorcycle above 6000rpm: Power is on tap instantly. There’s no shifting because the car has a one-speed transmission, and no skill required. Just drop the hammer and the car goes. It’s like driving the world’s fastest golf cart.

Driving is also eerie. You hear a distant-sounding electronic spool-up sound like a fan or perhaps wheel bearings, and road noise. That’s it. There is no engine noise or other car noise whatsoever.

The car does 0-60 in less than four seconds, making it the fastest car I’ve ever driven and comparable to my motorcycle in terms of acceleration. On the freeway it’s the most fun you’ll have in anything with four wheels. Breaking is just as crisp and precise, and acceleration remains on-tap. It has made me a believer in the performance potential of electric motors. They will kill internal combustion direct-drive cars as soon as inexpensive battery or fuel cell technology becomes available.

Tesla Roadster by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Charging takes about four and a half hours at 240VAC, and in San Diego a special meter had to be installed at my client’s home to take advantage of a night rate discount that SDG&E provides for charging electric cars. A full charge costs about $10 here, but your price will vary dramatically depending upon what you pay for electricity. The car can be charged at 120VAC but expect that to take about eight hours. A full charge nets about 250 miles according to my client, but they had not yet depleted the battery.

Overall, it’s a fun toy if you’ve got $100,000 to burn and perhaps a good daily commuter, but certainly not the only car you could own unless you’re single, short, and never go more than 120 miles from your charging station.

We’ve written about the Tesla Roadster before:

You can visit Telsa’s website here:

March 30, 2009

Wi Fi Internet Access In Your Car Courtesy of Cadillac

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Cadillac Wi Fi InternetThe news that Cadillac is including a feature to allow you to have Wi Fi Internet access in your car at all times for only 30 bucks a month makes me happy and angry at the same time.

Cadillac has announced the availability of an in-car wireless Internet option on its CTS sport sedan beginning in April. The new option will be called Cadillac WiFi by Autonet and be dealer-installed. The device itself will have an MSRP of $499, and the service will cost $29 per month.

I’m happy because technology has grown from cars like this before. The earliest mobile phones were car phones before battery life was stable enough to last. The idea that EVERY car will come equipped with Wi Fi makes me very hopeful.

Then again, it makes me angry. I wouldn’t need to have Wi Fi in my car if my stupid cellphone had the capability to share its Internet connectivity with my laptop. Why do they expect me to pay an extra 30 bucks a month just to do what my cellphone should be able to do already?!

Cadillac has a SMALL window to provide this in-car wireless option. Soon we will have a constant stream of connectivity and Autonet will seem as silly as car phones do today.

December 17, 2008

Park A Dream On Your Bedroom Wall

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I found this advertisement from General Motors in Seventeen Magazine back in 1984.

Click to see full size

The ad reads:

The Future of Transportation is Here

Park A Dream On Your Bedroom Wall

This concept car was designed and built for the future by General Motors. You can’t see it on the highways yet (the actual concept car can be seen at EPCOT CENTER), but you can see it every single day in your own room. For this full color poster…

Why they advertised so regularly in a teen girls fashion magazine, I’ll never know. The irony of the whole thing is their catch phrase if it were only finished correctly:

Park a dream on your bedroom wall, because you’ll never be able to park it in your future.

I’m still waiting for this car, GM. Maybe THAT’S why you guys need a government bailout…

November 13, 2008

141-MPG Scooter from Piaggio

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 7:43 am

MP3 Hybrid Scooter from PiaggioWired Magazine has a great article about the MP3 Hybrid Scooter from Piaggio.

The electric motor powers the MP3 Hybrid at low speeds and provides the gasoline engine with additional oomph when you open ‘er up — boosting acceleration by as much as 85 percent, the company says. The scooter can run in full electric or in one of three hybrid modes designed to maximize performance, maximize fuel economy or recharge the batteries quickly. Piaggio says the MP3 hybrid goes 60 kilometers on a liter of gas, which works out to about 141 mpg.

With three wheels for stability, freeway speeds and 141 mpg, this sounds like a great commuter bike, but only if you live in areas without weather. In Salt Lake City, this scooter would only be useful for about four months out of the year.

August 2, 2008

io9 Has Five Reasons You Don’t Have a Personal Jet Pack Yet

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Bell Rocket BeltThe excellent Ed Grabianowski at io9 has the five reasons you don’t have a personal jet pack yet: Mad Engineering: Five Reasons You Don’t Have a Personal Jet Pack Yet

  • Humans are not designed to fly

  • Thrust burns a lot of fuel

  • They are dangerous

  • Rockets and jets are really, really loud

For me, the most important one was the last one:

  • Inefficiency: There’s really no point in flying one person around. Pretty much any practical use you can come up with for a jet pack can be done with a lower tech, cheaper and more efficient solution. This is the main reason the other problems haven’t been overcome by awesome engineers yet — beyond looking cool and flying around, we don’t really need jet packs.

Here is a video from The History Channel about the Bell Rocket Belt and its place in history:

In the end, I realize that I won’t ever have that flying car I always wanted (and was PROMISED) since childhood. I have the option of taking all my nourishment from a dehydrated food tablet like George Jetson did, but his flying car is still out of my reach.

June 30, 2008

The Hummer H3 Kicks Butt on Kane Creek Trail

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 9:48 am

When Mike and I went with Stacey and Dan on Kane Creek Trail in Moab last May, we had no idea how difficult the trail they were taking us was. I filmed the hardest parts of the trail:

Click Here To See The Video

Download this video for your iPod

My favorite highlights are:

  • At the 3:38 minute mark, the dirt bike riders watch Dan drive up the trail and say, “It’s nice to see someone use a Hummer for what it’s for!”

  • At the 6:55 minute mark, the Hummer is right on the edge of the drop off and is balanced on two wheels. Dan and Stacey get past the hard part and make it look easy!

  • At the 13:57 minute mark, you can see some dirt bike riders make it up the hill. I used to think that dirt bikes would be easier than off-roading with the Hummer until I saw how tired these guys were.

  • At the 18:45 minute mark, there is a photo of a Jeep that didn’t make it through the trail and went over the edge. Unable to retrieve it, the owners have left it to rot in the ravine.

  • At the 18:57 minute mark, we are in the Hummer at the point where the Jeep went over the edge. It’s easy for the Hummer, but we laugh about it uncomfortably.

  • At the 20:03 minute mark, Stacey asks us if we’re ready to do the Lionsback Trail. I unequivocally answer, “No, no, actually, this is our final, final trip.” Of course, two months later, I’m excited about it again and want to go on Lionsback!

  • At the 24:00 minute mark, we are at the watering hole with lots of other people. Dirt bikes, quad-runners and Jeeps have only gone this far and stopped. The driver of the Jeep mentioned to us that he didn’t know it was possible to go any further. I guess you need a Hummer to get past that point.

I was exhausted and tired from hiking alongside the Hummer up the trail, but I’m so glad I got such good video of the trip. It’s a memory that will last forever.

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