Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept Under the Magnifying Glass

Ford allowed its C-Max Solar Energi concept to be placed under the magnifying glass, literally.


On May 29, 2014, the Blue Oval manufacturer held a media luncheon and Q&A session at their Irvine Showroom to showcase the Ford C-Max Solar Energi concept vehicle and discuss the “future of electrification.”

First, let me point out that Ford is very upfront about this being a concept in the strongest definition of the word. This is no pre-production mockup to tease what may be showing up on next year’s auto show circuit, merely a design exercise to see what could be done to push today’s technology into tomorrow, albeit a somewhat distant tomorrow. That’s not to say that the C-Max Solar Energi concept isn’t a functional vehicle. It is still a fully functional Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. It just as the extra benefit of having a solar panel array on its roof to aid in charging.

Not terribly exciting technology. Solar panels are nothing new, and we know that in limited arrays they are great for low voltage applications, and given enough acreage, have been successfully used by utility companies to fortify the grid. The problem is, there isn’t that much acreage available on the body of a car, so solar panels alone don’t offer much in the way of a charge for an electric vehicle—about 3 miles worth of driving in the C-Max Solar Energi depending on how much sunshine is available in your area on a clear day. Not a practical solution for the average commuter and Ford knows it. The real design study behind the C-Max Solar Energi concept and the problem Ford is trying to solve is how to improve the efficiency of harnessing that sunshine into a useful amount of energy. Here’s where the Solar Energi concept literally gets put under the magnifying glass.

 IMG_4446Ever used a magnifying glass to burn ants when you were a kid? That same intense dose of supercharged sunshine that sent those little six-legged picnic bandits to the great anthill in the sky is being used to improve the intensity of the sun hitting those solar panels adorning the C-Max roofline. To achieve this, engineers have designed a carport type structure with a roof that is basically a large magnifying glass, Ford calls it the “concentrator.” The same concept is used in solar farms where parabolic mirrors reflect the sun’s rays from every point on the surface of the mirror into a collector at the focal point. These mirrors, however, track the position of the sun and adjust accordingly to maximize the available sunlight. A similar system for a home carport would be cost prohibitive so how do you make sure you are getting the maximum benefit of the sun without repositioning the magnifying glass? Move the car.

Why install additional electric motors into a carport roof when there is already an electric motor installed in your car? This is exactly what Ford did to adjust for the position of the sun as it made its way across the sky. Configuring the concentrator in an east-west direction, the C-Max Solar Energi starts out on the west side of the car port to catch the sun’s rays as they angle in from the east. As the sun rises, the C-Max Solar Energi literally inches its way westward an inch at a time until it arrives on the east side of the concentrator as the sun sinks in the west. Clever.

Of course, there are still other variables in this scenario. The sun doesn’t follow the same path across the sky, varying its path across the sky toward the north during summer in the northern hemisphere and winding south during the winter, so the concentrator would need to correct its angle for this as well. And what about a vehicle that automatically repositions itself? Sure it only moves an inch at a time, but it’s a silent inch. I can’t tell you how many of the neighbor’s cats nine lives have been spent narrowly escaping from underneath a tire where it was enjoying the shade and a little respite from the summer sun. Without the warning of an exhaust note, there’s no cue for Mr. Whiskers to scamper. I imagine it would be pretty horrible if he was partially pinned as the vehicle inched over his paw or tail and with no one around to hear his cries, had the life squeezed out of the remaining parts of his body one inch at a time. Ew. And I don’t even like cats.

Those problems aside, what is intriguing about all of this is imagining being able to own and drive a vehicle off the grid. No fueling up, no plugging in, just free energy from the sun. Now take this same technology and meld it with a car an enthusiast could appreciate, something along the lines of the electric Tesla Roadster, or the hybrid Porsche 917 Spyder. Or how about adding it to a luxury car like the Cadillac ELR or a Lexus hybrid SUV. For day to day commutes, vehicles could be emission free, only relying on fuel for longer road trips or rainy days. I’m excited, and hope others will see what Ford has accomplished and pitch in to take this technology to the next level. Cars would no longer be the poster child of eco irresponsibility, and there would once again be room for those who prefer performance and luxury over gadgets and fuel economy, and that’s a world I’d gladly welcome… with or without Mr. Whiskers.

By Vernon Heywood

Google Self Driving Car, Ready or Not

Google Self Driving Car
Are you ready to be driven in Google’s self driving car?

Today the Google Self Driving Car Project posted a video called “First Drive,” showing a small group of people who are among the first people outside of Google to experience a car that drives itself. What was rolled out of the trailer looked something along the lines of a cross between a Fiat 500 and a Smart For Two with a blender mounted on top, and prompted one participant to exclaim, “Isn’t that cute?” As any car aficionado will tell you, cute is not the adjective we hope to hear when describing the physical representation of our psycho-mechanical lust. But let’s face it, without a steering wheel, Google’s automated car wasn’t designed for us.

So who is it designed for? Commuters. Admit it, rush hour is not the place for driving enthusiasts. Bumper to bumper traffic, just gets the blood pressure up, not the oil pressure. Imagine a commute where you could finalize a work presentation, type up your morning blog post, enjoy a video chat with your kids, or snooze! I’ve commuted by train and see the Google Self Driving car as another mode of transportation offering everything that commuting by train offers, only better. The Google automated car would remove the problem of how to get to and from the train station on either end of the commute by taking you from your home directly to your office, restaurant or shopping center without having to wait to transfer to a bus, catch a cab, or another train. Your commute time would improve, and the time spent commuting could be more productive (or restful) without having to transfer or wait for connections.

As much as I hate to admit it, traffic would probably improve as well. It’s highly unlikely the Googlemobile is going to weave in and out of traffic cutting people off and causing a chain reaction of brake lights behind it just to gain half a car length over its previous position. A group of cars all moving at the same pace will move more efficiently than a group of cars all moving and different speeds, so once again there will be less honking, and a lot less braking to compensate for the oil and water mixture of the overzealous and overly timid drivers begrudgingly sharing the road today. It sounds Utopian, and that’s what scares me.

Never mind the fact that I like to drive, and prefer to be in charge of my own destiny, not having a machine make those decisions for me. Machines break, computers crash, software has bugs, and networks get hacked. The last place I want to be is in or on a highway near one of these cars when these things start to go wrong. We could isolate them to their own roads, but then they are no better than a glorified commuter train. No, to make them worthwhile, they have to have the same road access and function as a car. And perhaps that’s the answer. Instead of removing the steering wheel, perhaps these cars should offer their self-driving feature as an option instead. This would allow for human over ride if things did start to go buggy, and aid in getting the car off the road. After all, how do you steer a car with no steering wheel if it has to be pushed?

There is a lot of potential here, though, and kudos to Google for advancing the technology this far. But there are a lot of questions left to be answered before you’ll get me into one. I’m not ready to relinquish my driver’s seat to a machine just yet. So, I’ll take the wheel, thank you, along with my manual transmission, and hold onto them myself, at least until you pry them from my cold dead fingers.

By Vernon Heywood

Watch Your Assets: Keeping Relevant in the Work Place

The company you work for is nothing without your assets, and neither are you. It’s your assets—your skills—that got you the position in the first place. Whoever made the hiring decision saw how they could utilize your assets to achieve the company’s goals. But those skills that got you hired may not be enough to keep you employed.  If you don’t maintain your assets to be as sharp as possible; keeping abreast of changes in your industry, monitoring the competition, and polishing your marketability, they will become dull and of little use to your employer and you’ll find yourself either discarded or being replaced with a newer more up to date model.

These skills go beyond those you use on a day to day basis to achieve your employers goals, they also include the well-honed implements you used to land that job. These assets are just as important to keep sharp and polished as the rest of the items in your toolbox. Your contacts, networks, associations, and social profiles such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter among others, are just as important to keep up to date. You should be sharing items in your social networks that demonstrate you are an authority in your field, and networking with other influencers and professionals in your industry. At no time should you ever put these tools on the shelf to devote all your efforts to your employer’s task before you.

Over the last year or so, that’s exactly what I did. I had withdrawn from my online social presence as work became more and more demanding. My Facebook page became a scrolling haven for regurgitated memes, my Twitter account a dwindling record of places I checked into less and less frequently as the shared check-ins from FourSquare fell by the wayside, and Google+ was just a catch basin for posts that could be shared across all three networks. But duty called, and I answered, ready willing and able to do whatever needed to be done, for the company that I was sure would take care of me as well as those as dedicated as I was, took care of it. My mistake.

Go ahead. Laugh. I’m laughing at myself.

Sure, I had been burned before, but I was naive enough to believe this company was different. They touted their own version of the Boy Scout Law, you know, “trustworthy, loyal, helpful…” But this company promised integrity as well. Upon hearing upper management talk about integrity in company meetings it was hard to believe they weren’t sincere, so like a runaway teen in a religious cult, I not only swallowed the Kool-Aid, but I helped mix it as well.

However, I am not here to bad mouth this or any other company. The fault here lies with me, not with them. Their loyalty is to their shareholders and the bottom line. It’s business, period. What I am here to tell you, is that like your employer, you need to watch your bottom line as well, if not better, than they watch theirs.

What you need to remember is that these tools, all of the assets you provide for your employer, are yours! Not the product they create of course, but the tools used to create the product. They are only on loan to your employer for as long as they feel the need to rent them, but like any rental item, the upkeep of those tools lies with the owner, not the renter. The benefit of performing this regular maintenance will serve you two-fold: Not only will you continually prove your value to your employer, but you will also be showing your peers outside the company what a valuable commodity you are, and perhaps improving your bottom line before your company improves theirs by securing a more lucrative job offer.

Don’t become irrelevant in your job, or in your networks. Keep your tools sharp and in good working order. Watch your assets. In doing so they will be ready when it is time to loan them to the next renter, and more valuable. Stay current and stay relevant. There will be other renters looking for the latest and the greatest, and there is nothing wrong with raising the rent when it’s time to sign the new lease.

Joy Ride in the Sierras

Mustang Xing... Double Yellows and Other Lines
Mustang Xing… Double Yellows and Other Lines

When the demands of our hectic everyday lives become too much, a road trip through the Sierras can be just the release needed to unwind and re-center. On a recent trip to Sequoia National Park we came upon some tourists who were looking to do just that.

As the distance between the front of our vehicle and the rear of their’s rapidly shrunk, it soon became apparent that they had lost themselves on the General’s Highway, the main road that travels through the park and on into Kings Canyon.  They were two gentlemen driving a yellow convertible Mustang, who were meandering all over the road… I’ve seen picnic baskets with less weaving.  So we settled into a nice 30 mph pace on the 45 mph twisty two-lane road without passing lanes and began speculating as to where they were from. The car was obviously a rental, and they had luggage, not camping gear, piled in the rear seat.

We had narrowed the occupants down to Europeans who had previously driven nothing larger than a vintage Fiat 500, and to them the Mustang must have been as bloated and cumbersome as an Excursion is to the typical mid-size sedan owner which explained their inability to keep the vehicle on the non-head-on collision side of the double yellow line. We also surmised that they lived in the city and had never seen a mountain road, because the Mustang could obtain speeds of near 50 mph in wide open straight-a-ways. Unfortunately these are few and far between and our happy-go-lucky tourists were much more likely to be travleing at 15 mph on even the widest of turns.

But there was something else starnge. It seemed to take two of them to manage the gear shift. Each took turns leaning toward the center and reaching across and with each motion, the car would veer even further to the left or the right. Odd. Especially since this was obviously an automatic.

Just as they seemed to finally get the shifting situated, and picked up the pace to a respectable rate, we approached a section of one-lane road that was controlled by a signal which would alternate between east and westbound traffic. While we waited for the eastbound traffic to clear the driver hopped out of the Mustang and began talking very loudly in a foreign language, which I still say was European, as he began to adjust his loose fitting shorts… and wipe his shirt… and then wash his hands… and legs… and… ew. That wasn’t a gear shift the passenger was shifting was it?

Look fellas, the Sierras is a great place to get  release, but that’s not what we had in mind. We appreciate the tourism dollars, but save the peep show for the hotel room, and leave the “joy riding” back in your home country.

Suddenly texting while driving doesn’t seem quite so bad. Someone wanna pass him a wet wipe?


Undocumented Speeders on the Rise

Suzuki SX4
Suzuki SX4 Sport Hatch – a car recently involved in an undocumented speeder sting by CHP.

There’s a growing number of people who are being treated unfairly by the unjust laws in our country and action should be taken immediately to give them amnesty rather than persecute these poor souls any further. The plight of undocumented speeders on the highways and byways of this great nation are many. They take to the road seeking a better life than the clogged commuter lanes and congested freeways they have to commute upon in their homeland, and only speed on open roads because it is so prohibitively expensive and difficult to qualify for a racing license in order to speed legally.

Undocumented speeders, the politically correct term for illegal speeders, just want better commute times so they can spend more quality time with their families and get to work on time to avoid losing precious pay to hourly wages.  They come from generations of undocumented speeders, some going back to before the automobile was invented and they actually raced horses through the dusty, boardwalk-sided dirt streets of the old west. Because those streets were raced upon by their ancestors, they have every right to continue to speed illegally on the streets of America today.

It would be a simple act of congress to reform the process for becoming a legal racer in the United States. An amnesty plan to forgive all those speeding tickets received thus far, a racing license to make all the undocumented speeders legal, and of course free race tracks and cars should be issued to every community. In addition, special classes on speeding should be taught in schools to help explain the adversity that undocumented speeders have had to overcome. But conservatives and opponents to speeding claim that in doing so, these speeders would take away jobs from NASCAR, F-1 and NHRA drivers to name a few.

Meanwhile, on the mean streets of the U.S., law enforcement officers have taken to racial profiling, pulling over and stopping vehicles driven by people who appear to be of race descent, even if they were not speeding at the time and have never been under suspicion of being racial before. With budget cuts in states like California, speed traps are becoming ever more common as the stewards of the empty state coffers see an increase in shaking down undocumented speeders as a  means of increasing state revenues.

It’s a sad day when for generations your family has sped on these lands, and the current inhabitants prohibit you from doing the same as your fathers, and their fathers before them. Please write to your congressman and ask for the persecution of undocumented speeders to stop. Amnesty and your tax dollars to make speeding legal is a much more humane way of dealing with the issue rather than burdening these poor helpless speeders with traffic fines and the threat of losing their driving visas. We’re a better nation than this. We welcome the tired, the poor, the hungry… and even the speeders.

God bless America.

Freeway Liberation Day

Happy Freeway Liberation Day!

Yesterday, as thousands of Southern California high school and college seniors walked the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance,” and set off to celebrate their new found freedom (enjoy it while you can, the summers are only going to get shorter from here out!), they set into motion the machinations for an even more noteworthy occasion,  “Freeway Liberation Day.”

Yes, today was the day that all those know-it-all “adultlescents” are too hungover or stayed up too late to wake up early and jam the roads of So. Cal. with their “I can text and drive, those accidents only happen to other people” attitudes and various other forms of mobile and audio distractions that populate their cars. Speeds of 70 mph were achieved on some of the most congested freeways across the southland including the infamously notorious CA-91. It was a great day to be late for work, because odds are you could make up the time. I did.

So hat’s off to the Class of 2011, and thanks for a wonderful Freeway Liberation Day! Join me in thanking a few of the class valedictorians:

You in the Nissan Sentra… the one who’s going 60 mph in the fast lane because you’re too busy talking on your handheld device while semis in the right lane pass you until the guy behind you tries to get around you and then you speed up. Yeah, that’s not gonna create tensions and the potential for an accident. Didn’t miss you. Happy graduation!

Blonde bimbo in the VW Beetle? So happy not to have to try and navigate around you as you put on your eyeliner this morning. Glad you weren’t here today! Happy graduation!

Oh, and Honda Nation boys? What a peaceful commute at even 70 mph to not hear your lame-ass fart can exhaust as you have to floor it to weave in and around each and every semi in an effort to get to class on time, yet never seem to gain enough ground to get out of earshot with your “please say excuse me” sounding exhaust. So nice not to hear you! Happy graduation!

Corolla S drivers, one and all: I know you know better than me because I admit it, I no longer know it all, but that S doesn’t mean shit… or maybe it does? Thanks for staying the Hell out of the fast lane for once, no you cannot keep up with the flow of traffic in that car despite the S. Wish you weren’t here! Ooh! Wish granted! Happy graduation!

Yes, there are many others, and I invite you to leave well wishes for your favorites in the comments section below. I hope your Freeway Liberation Day was just as happy as mine was. Unfortunately, like every holiday, I will have to pay the price tonight on the commute home as the class of 2011 once again take to the freeways to embark on another evening of partying and begin the process of mucking up the roads once more–only this time, with parchments that they believe confirm that they really do know it all.

God help us.

Flagging Google For No Flag On Flag Day

Baby Waving the Flag that Google Won't
Baby Waving the Flag that Google Won’t

I’m a former Boy Scout, a Cub Scout Leader, a writer, a photographer, and an SEO analyst, but before all of that, I’m an American. The first thing I did this morning when I arrived at work was to update my profile picture on Facebook to one of my son as an infant waving the Stars and Stripes. I think it’s the least we can do when we have men and women over seas risking their lives in honor of that same symbol of freedom. Apparently that’s too much to ask of Google.

While the search engine giant can create special “doodles” for Pac-Man, Charlie Chaplin, Martha Graham (I had to look her up to even see who she was), and can even make way to fly the Russian and Philippine flag, it seems creating a special doodle for Flag Day isn’t worthy of Google’s attention as the business as usual logo adorned the search giants page today.

I recommend letting the folks at Google know how you feel about their over sight (or was it an intentional dissing of our symbol of freedom?). Below, find the address and phone number where you can reach Google. Take a moment to send a note or at least make a call, and please pass this along to everyone else who thinks the U.S. Flag has just as much right to adorn the Google home page as the Russian and Philippine flag does.

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: +1 650-253-0000
Fax: +1 650-253-0001


An Even More Inappropriate Display of Mr. Weiner

ef090-anthonyweiner-facts-glenn-beckI realize this is a bit late to the party, but with Anthony Weiner and his penis perpetually popping up in inappropriate places I have to share. Well…that and the fact that a broken plug-in kept me from posting this here earlier.

When Anthony Weiner’s penis exploded to the forefront of pop culture it spread faster than Britney Spears legs getting out of a car. The difference, of course, is unlike Mr. Weiner, Britney didn’t aim her junk at anyone in particular. So, while her exposure was certainly inappropriate, Mr. Weiner’s was much more inappropriate because it was obvious he only wanted one person… at a time, anyway… to admire his namesake, not the whole world. So rather than a random flashing, his intent was directed and malicious.

Also remember one of the first rules of childhood staring competitions: “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”  Britney didn’t take a picture, but Mr. Weiner did, so he obviously wanted it to last longer. I wonder if anyone has asked his wife if that’s the only way it will?

Regardless, Mr. Weiner initially denied sending the picture saying his account was hacked, but later admitted that it was indeed his Mr. Weiner, as more women came out of the “wood” work complaining about his “junk” mail. And once again Mr. Weiner was popping up all over the place inappropriately now with the hashtag #weinergate. But this is still not as inappropriate as the place where Mr. Weiner most recently popped up, and this time it was through no fault of his own.

Where I am most appalled is while posting to a Facebook discussion about Mr. Weiner’s weiner, Facebook asked both myslef and the person who’s page I was posting to, if we wanted to “like” Mr. Weiner.

Really Facebook? A man who is on the verge of being labeled a sex offender and you offer him up as someone to like? Classy.

Of all the solicitations that Mr. Weiner is accused of engaging in, I find Facebook’s solicitation of Anthony Weiner the most inappropriate.  Facebook, like the representative from New York, we wish you’d keep your Mr. Weiner to yourself.

Bad Plug-in, BAD! Google Analytics 3 codes for WordPress

Sorry, been down trying to determine the cause of an error that was occurring on the site preventing me form uploading photos. The culprit was the “Google Analytics 3 codes for WordPress,” plug-in, don’t use it until they update it for the latest version of WordPress. When I updated to the newst version of WordPress last week, this bad boy wreaked havoc with my site, but we’re better now…uh… well, not having that issue anymore anyway. I’ll be back with snarky comments tomorrow about Anthony Weiner, Facebook and the Mitsubishi i-Miev.

Google +1: Let Your Friends Pick Your Search Results?

Google +1
Google launches +1 June 2, 2011

I hated high school… well… not so much the school as the whole social dynamic and the class hierarchy that accompanied it. Being ranked and classified when we should be defined by our individuality, is not a concept I’ve ever been comfortable with. I’m a person, not a jock, brain or druggie. But of all the clicks in high school, the ones who perpetuated them the most were the jocks, because they were the muscle, and they could.

You know who I’m talking about, the idiots with the hyperactive gland problems that earned them a spot on the football team and therefore a right to terrorize their fellow classmates. Yeah, I’m talking about you Jeff Moore–the big bully who’d cause smaller and usually more interesting people to disappear into the shadows to avoid your wrath.

Like King Kong who they so effectively emulate, these bullies were seldom, if ever,  brighter, or as articulate as the undersized and underclassmen they intimidated, yet they stood out from the crowd by simple virtue of being able to beat on their chest and bellow louder than anyone else around them. Yeah, that’s about what sums up a good chunk of what it took to be popular in high school.

Here we are 30 years later, and while the arena may have changed, the dynamics look like they are not about to. This time around, high school is the internet and it’s starting to look like the new school bully may be Google. Tomorrow, Google will launch +1, allowing users to “like” pages and in theory define your future searches based on what’s “popular.”

The problem with this is, just as your campus King Kong was popular for all the wrong reasons, judging by what passes for entertainment on television these days, the public will have a chance to once again get it all wrong when it comes to choosing what we should find in our search engines, just as they’ve mucked up our choice of television shows. Can’t say I’m looking forward to having my search experienced mucked up with reality TV shows and American Idol references.

We’ve all had to search to the the to fifth page and beyond because we couldn’t find what we’re looking for, what happens when the popular vote places even more of those misguided search results we don’t want ahead of the results we do?

Certainly, at times I may be interested to see what my friends like relative to the search, but I also like to mine a few of those web gems from the bowels of the internet myself and be the first to share them.

As long as Google allows us to search without a little help from our friends, +1 could be a fun new way to interact with our friends socially on the net. But if it becomes the standard for determining which results are best suited for our searches, then Google becomes no better than a bullying King Kong on the internet, forcing those not as powerful into the dark recesses of the web and casting it’s ill begotten light on crap we could care less about just because some of our less intelligent friends find it amusing.

And that’s the real difference–a lot of us grew up and don’t run in social packs and welcome friends from all walks of life, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they say–or search for. I’m an individual and I treat my friends as such and I expect the same from my search results, to be individualized, not the product of a popularity contest.

You’d think a bunch of computer nerds would remember just how fun popularity contests were in high school and would know better.

Writer, Photographer, SEO Consultant