Hyundai jumped onto the electric car band wagon last week with the unveiling of the BlueOn.
South Korean president Lee Myung-bak took the first one for a spin, which was appropriate as his government had instructed and supported the country's largest auto maker's efforts to catch up with Japanese companies in the electric car field.
Demonstrating the closeness of government to the car industry, the launch took place at Lee's official residence, known as the Blue House, with a pack of cabinet ministers and government officials looking on.
While the BlueOn is all-electric, it is built on the platform of Hyundai's gasoline-powered i10 hatchback compact. Hyundai says it plans to deliver 30 of them to various South Korean government organizations this fall and will manufacture 2,500 in 2012.
Mitsubishi already manufactures the iMiEV electric car, while Nissan will begin mass production of its Leaf electric vehicle this coming year. Hyundai has displayed a talent for first copying Japanese cars and then equalling or surpassing them in quality and reliability over the years.
The death of do-it-yourself
A THIRD EYE FOR DRIVERS
Any top safety engineer from a major car company will tell you they could build a car that drives itself today - but they're wary of governments, consumers and especially litigation lawyers. However, piece by piece, more technology is coming into new cars that at least help with the driving without eliminating it.
Soon you'll be able to walk into the auto parts store and pick up a gizmo that will watch the road for you.
It's a little off-the-shelf digital camera that sits behind your windshield and gives you a loud warning if you're about to hit a pedestrian or another vehicle. It's from a Dutch company called Mobileye, which has been selling vision-based collision prevention systems for several years to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
The Mobileye C2-270 has a camera that constantly monitors the road in front of the vehicle. It's connected to a display unit in front of the driver. If the camera spots a danger in the way, the display will flash and a loud warning will sound up to 2.7 seconds before impact - apparently enough time for the driver to avoid a collision. It can identify pedestrians or bicycles or motorcycles and loudly warn the driver.
Mobileye technology has been used in high-priced vehicles from BMW, Volvo, Buick and Cadillac. Soon you might be able to pick it up at Wal-Mart or some such. No prices announced yet.
THE ART OF RECYCLING
Last week I was at a "business briefing" at BMW Canada and the most interesting thing I learned is that the company president's wife has made a sculpture out of old Globe and Mails.
Having "green" in its title, this column certainly endorses reusing and recycling. Recycling newspapers has proven to be a bonanza for toilet paper manufacturers, but how do you actually re-use a newspaper apart from wrapping fish in it? I am pleased to report that several old Green Highway columns are integral to the construction of an alibrije that will soon be on display in the Hugo Boss store on Bloor Street.
In fact, this Mexican folk art sculpture by Kerstin Jung is made entirely of old Globe and Mails. Why? "It's the only newspaper we have delivered to the house," the sculptor explained.
Jung, who is an industrial engineer, grew up in Mexico where alebrijes are popular as fantastical creatures made of papier mache. She engineered a few of her own and actually began a small business.
"We lived in China for three years and I began making pinatas, which are somewhat similar. It was interesting - a German girl selling Mexican art to Chinese buyers."
Of note in this particular alebrije is that the stylish suit and white shirt are not painted on but assembled of the coloured bits of Canada's National Newspaper. "It was very difficult finding enough white space," said the artist, reflecting the propensity of its columnists for blathering on too long.