All posts in Auto Design

Lighter, Stronger, Safer: New Metal Trends in the Automotive Industry

steel car

For years, steel was undoubtedly one of the most popular metals used in the automotive industry. In 2014, trends in steel usage showed that automakers relied heavily on sheet metal companies.

According to estimates that were released by the World Steel Association, about 12% of steel sheet metal consumption was in the automotive sector. Unfortunately, demands for more efficient vehicles creates the need for the use of different metals. This has led to a change in the most recent metal trends in the automotive industry.

Steel Market Share Is Falling as Fuel Efficiency Becomes a Focus

Gasoline consumption per vehicle has declined in the recent years, however, the number of vehicles on the road is still increasing. In fact, even with fuel-efficient improvements in vehicles, gas consumption was at a record high in 2016 in the United States.

The gas that is consumed, the more harm it is doing to the environment. Since pollution and conservation are getting attention, new initiatives are being rolled out by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has recently announced that there will be a push for emissions reduction. Newer cars produced after 2025 are expected to get 54.4 miles to the gallon to comply with regulations.

The only way for automakers to release vehicles that come even close to the fuel efficiency targets that will be passed over the coming years is to use lighter weight materials like aluminum and plastic. The use of the lightweight aluminum alternatives has helped automakers design more efficient cars, but this has started to eat at the steel market share.

Safer Alternative in Collisions

Steel was often used as an alloy in the production of auto body parts because it is believed that the metals were less likely to crumble when involved in a collision. Steel is a great metal, but there are safer alternatives that can be used in the automotive sector.

Alternative metals that are able to absorb kinetic energy in a crash to reduce the incidence of injury for vehicle occupants. Some of these alternatives are other materials like aluminum and other alternatives are made of composite plastics. Each are being tested in crash tests through the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Aluminum is light in weight and extremely durable. This is a major reason why it’s estimated that aluminum usage in the production of vehicles is expected to go up by 20 percent between 2015 and 2025. The only major drawback is that aluminum is much more expensive. This leaves companies that produce steel and other sheet metals looking for a happy medium between lightweight durability and pricing.

4 Famous Vehicles from Pop Culture and the Tech behind Them

Some cars need no introduction. They have become such an important part of culture through television and films that their images are instantly recognizable. Fans enjoy watching famous vehicles onscreen, but the end result is the product of long hours by talented set designers and prop makers. From the streets of Gotham to the streams of time, these four iconic vehicles wouldn’t have been possible without hard work and innovation.

Delorean Time Machine

The famous vehicle’s flux capacitor and Mr. Fusion energy reactor might not really take drivers back in time, but Doc Brown’s amazing invention was built around a real car, the DeLorean DMC-12. Fewer than 9,000 models were ever produced by the DeLorean Motor Company, and five of them were used in the Back to the Future films. The DeLorean’s wacky gull-wing doors made it the perfect base for a homemade time machine. Film designers tacked on extras like a fake nuclear reactor and vents. They also added panels of lights and buttons in the car’s interior for a time machine glow.

James Bond’s Aston Martin Db5

7’s most iconic ride, the DB5 began life as a higher powered version of Aston’s Martin’s earlier DB4 model. Special effects maven John Stears outfitted a prototype of the DB5 with bells and whistles for the film Goldfinger in 1964 and instantly created a movie icon. The car was equipped with $33,000 worth of modifications, including fake machine guns mounted on the front bumper.

Other gadgets were decidedly more low tech. During one chase scene, a crew member hid in the trunk of the car and directed smoke out of a small hole to mimic an automatic smoke screen. The design team used a second stunt car for the famous scene where the Bond villain is unceremoniously ejected through the roof. The car was so popular that it went on to make an appearance in seven other films in the Bond franchise.


Iconic 1980s TV show Knight Rider wouldn’t have been the same without David Hasselhoff’s trusty computer sidekick, K.I.T.T. who piloted the Knight 2000, the original self-driving automobile. The car was built around the body of that staple of 80s cool, a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Show creator Glen Larson decided he liked the body style of the new Trans Am and determined it would be perfect for his new series.

The series was able to acquire a group of Trans Ams when an auto transport trailer crashed and lightly damaged 32 brand new Trans Ams. While this could have been avoided by using a more reliable auto transport company, like Dependable Auto Shippers Inc., it ended up giving Larson more than enough cars to use on Knight Rider. Visual effects designer Michael Scheffe added a red scanner to the front bumper of the car based on the design for Cylons from Battlestar Gallactica, another one of Larson’s shows. He also filled the car’s interior with light-up electronics for a high-tech feel.


Unlike many other fictional rides, the original Batmobile used in the iconic 1960s series was not based on a commercially available vehicle. Designer George Barris instead used the hand-built 1955 Lincoln Futura, a concept vehicle.

Barris was running on a tight deadline of 15 days and he raced to add extra features to the car. He painted it black with red-orange trim and altered the car tailfins to mimic the look of a bat’s wings. He then installed a steel safety roll bar with pulsating lights over the passenger and driver’s seats. To complete the superhero design, Barris added a large afterburner on to the rear end of the car.

Whether they’re being driven back in time or racing to defeat criminals, these iconic rides have captured the imagination of audiences everywhere. By combining technical know-how with automobile engineering, designers and special effects teams have created the world’s most recognizable characters on wheels.

Self-Driving Cars: What Can We Expect?

Talk about self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles (AV), is nothing new. Depending on where you live, you’ve probably seen a few Google AVs driving around your neighborhood. While major auto manufacturers have a goal to get AVs on the road by 2020, it may be awhile before you can experience one.

Don’t know much about AVs or want to know the projected time in regards to self-driving cars? We’ll get you up-to-date about the cars of the future.

Why Choose Self-Driving Cars?

After over 100 years of driving the vehicles we know and love today, why make the switch to self-driving cars? One of the major pushes to put AVs on the road is to eliminate accidents and increase roadway safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 90 percent of car accidents are caused by human error. While road conditions and mechanical issues are at fault from time to time, drivers have become too hurried, too distracted, and too reckless.

Can self-driving cars really make our roads safer? Yes, as long as they are consistently better drivers than the average human driver.

Safety Features and the “Brain” of AVs

Self-driving cars will have the same safety features, such crash avoidance, and lane departure warnings, that are already present in some newer standard vehicles. In the cars we drive, currently, these features are supplemental and require human drivers to have full control.

In self-driving cars, these features must work flawlessly and without any interruption. Thanks to constant connectivity, the sensors that are always “reading” the environment, and the software installed to collect data and help make AVs better drivers, an AV will be safer.

Some Things to Consider

Despite the promising future of safer roadways, there are many things to sort out and think about before a mass release of self-driving cars. Will the technology behind AVs be secure? Who will be held liable in an accident with a self-driving car? Will the same laws apply to AVs?

Considering the cars we drive today, and laws surrounding them, it may take years to figure out legal issues regarding AVs.

When Will We Own Self-Driving Cars?

While there’s a very good chance that we will continue to see a slow increase of self-driving cars on our roads by 2020, you probably won’t own a self-driving car until 30 or 40 years from now. Why? First of all, the cost of an AV costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The sensor, one of the most components, can cost over $80,000 leaving the average cost of the AV around $250,000.

Since self-driving cars will need to be safer and smarter than today’s drivers, AVs must be able to handle any kind of roadway scenario, and it will take some time to get it right. Self-driving cars are and will be, without a doubt, a luxury and novelty (especially in the beginning), but if you’re like a majority of car owners, your top priority should always be safety.

Need A New Ride? 4 Hot Features Sure To Make You Drool

It seems like just about every car these days has some sort of new technology. We’ve all heard about back-up cameras, automatic trunks, and blind spot alerts. Don’t get me wrong, these are all great features to have on your next car, but these aren’t the hot features that will really set your car apart and make your neighbor jealous of your ride. When you get a new car, from somewhere like Jack Burford Chevrolet, you want to make sure to get the best car for you with all of the hottest new features. Here are a few great new features to look into for your new car.

Built-in Vacuum

This is the cup holder of the 21st century. It’s a feature that most parents don’t even know they need. Think about all the soccer snacks, fast food wrappers, and dirty shoes that are sure to make a mess in the back of even the most careful parent’s new car. The days of rushing home and dragging the vacuum out to the car are over. This vacuum is conveniently already in your car and ready to clean up any mess life may throw your way. The Honda Odyssey is the first van to have this convenient feature, but I’m sure more cars will start including vacuums in the near future.

Hands-Free of the Future

Everyone knows that it’s a huge mistake to use your phone while you’re driving. However, most car manufacturers have realized that you often need to see information from your phone while you’re driving. Luckily, now-a-days there are things like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both of these offerings let Android and iPhone users see their phone screen right in the dashboard of their car. This is a much safer way to have access to all that smartphone information while driving.

Auto-pilot for Parking

There isn’t a situation much more stressful than trying to parallel park on a busy street while lots of traffic is piling up behind you. That’s why the automatic parking feature on many new cars is so genius! It takes out all the guesswork and automatically parks using a series of sensors and cameras. This can definitely help make the most difficult parking a breeze.

360-Degree View

While it’s true that many cars today have backup cameras to help you see directly behind you, a true drool-worthy feature to have on a new car is the ability to see everywhere. The new 360-degree view camera systems allow drivers to park with confidence and see hidden obstacles by providing a birds-eye view from above the car. This is the perfect feature for anyone who needs to park in tight situations.

Hopefully the features listed above will whet your appetite and give you some inspiration as you are searching for your next new car. These features are useful, practical and will hopefully help you determine which new car has the features you need the most.

The Differences in Automobile Fuel Options

Whenever you pull up to a gas station to fill up, you might ask yourself, is there really a difference between the fuel options at the pump? The answer is a resounding yes. That is the reason auto manufacturers make a distinction about the type of fuel to put in specific vehicles. High performance cars require a certain amount of combustion for appropriate handling. Here is a quick look at fuel content, grades, and brands on the market.

Fuel Content

Several chemical compounds make up the content of all automobile fuels. There are five categories the EPA allows for use in vehicles. They also regulate and monitor programs in concert with other government agencies on state and local levels. This includes specific limits of each component regardless of the blend. The top two categories include sulfur and hydrocarbons such as benzene, acrolein, formaldehyde, naphthalene, and 1,3-butadiene.

Reformulated gas or RFG and Reid Vapor Pressure or RVP are used to ensure cleaner burns and better performance during the summer season. Winter is another time of year that requires special additives to mitigate the dangerous toxin carbon monoxide. This is the last category called winter oxygenates. There is also a new alternative used with each compound known as ethanol. The amount ranges from 5 to 15 percent of this renewable energy component across all fuel types.

Different Grades of Automobile Fuel

There is a difference between the three different fuel options at the pump. According to engineers at MIT’s School of Engineering, car performance dictates the type of fuel to purchase. Each fuel offers similar thermal energy releases to power vehicles. However, higher engine compression ratios respond better with the power generated by premium unleaded gas.

The science states these engines operate at higher pressures with hotter temperatures. In addition, new design factors with electronic components are capable of converting thermal energy more efficiently than those without them. If your car knocks, use higher octane gas of at least mid-grade and up to prevent this regardless of your car’s make. For heavier machinery, you might want to contact an expert at a place like TractorTool about your options.


There are several leading gas brands every consumer has frequented. Some drivers have preferences of one over another, citing various reasons such as better mileage. The major companies, including BP and Exxon/Mobil, claim their additives can bolster performance while keeping engines cleaner. This would make sense, because car owners have been adding engine performance products for decades. With each fill-up, take a moment to review what is actually in the fuel as well as the octane levels. It is a good idea to check for the amount of ethanol content as well. As a reminder, some brands start their mid-grade at 89 while others begin with 90.

Ground level ozone is the biggest culprit to unhealthy air caused by all gasoline or fossil fuels used by cars. This has been an important catalyst for emissions and government regulations. Since they are watching these critical issues, drivers simply need to listen for engine knocks to decide about the octane to buy. A caveat is to follow the manufacturers recommendation at all times.