High-Tech Problem Solvers

Lamborghini to become first automobile manufacturer to study carbon fiber in space

Lamborghini has partnered with Houston Methodist Research Institute to study the effects of space on carbon fiber.

Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

A partnership between Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute will send carbon fiber composite materials into space for experimentation then return them to Earth for study.

No earlier than November 2, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the material will be launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Its destination is the International Space Station.

Lamborghini International Space Station technology research Houston Lamborghini hopes to use the results of the study to impact product development here on Earth.Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

The launch is part of a testing campaign sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory and overseen by the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Its aim is to analyze the response of five different composite materials produced by Lamborghini to the extreme stresses induced by the space environment. The results could have numerous real world impacts, including applications in future automobiles, prosthetic implants, and subcutaneous devices.

The five samples of composite materials include a 3D-printed continuous-fiber composite, which Lamborghini says makes it possible to combine the extreme flexibility of "additive manufacturing" with high-level mechanical performance, a strength equal to that of a good quality aluminum for structural uses. This particular material is very important in the biomedical field.

The materials will be aboard the ISS for six months, during which time they will be subjected to extreme thermal excursion cycles ranging from -40 degrees to 200 degrees centigrade. They will also experience high levels of ultraviolet radiation, gamma rays, and the flow of atomic oxygen caused by ionization.

Lamborghini International Space Station technology research Houston After the mission is complete, the samples will be brought back to Earth for additional study.Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

Post-mission, the materials will be returned to Earth and undergo joint testing by Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute in an effort to qualify degradation in terms of chemical, physical, and mechanical properties.

Lamborghini currently uses composite materials throughout its lineup, with carbon fiber playing an instrumental role in the company's entire product range. The company is providing its expertise and materials free of charge for the study.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is here.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After years of development, test mules, and spy shots, Ford has finally pulled the wraps off its long-awaited Mach E all-electric crossover. Set to go on sale in late 2020 and early 2021, the Mach-E made its debut in Los Angeles just days before the 2019 L.A. Auto Show. Here's a quick look at everything you need to know.

There will be five variants (and lots of numbers).

Select: Available in early 2021, this base model will start at $43,895 (all prices exclude $1,100 destination and any state or federal tax incentives). The Select will come with rear-wheel-drive and 230 miles of range, while the AWD will have 210 miles of range. Both versions will have 255 horsepower; RWD will have 306 pound-feet of torque and AWD will have 417 pound-feet of torque. It's worth noting that this is the only Mach E variant that will not allow for 150kW DC fast-charging so beware if fast-charging is your jam.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The rear of the Mustang Mach-E has some of the design hallmarks of the Mustang coupe.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Premium: This second-tier version will be available in late 2020 and will start at $50,600. It will come in standard range or extended range as well as RWD or AWD. Standard range will have 230 miles of range in RWD guise; 210 miles in AWD. Extended range will have 300 miles of range in RWD, 270 miles in AWD. Standard-range models will have 255 horsepower, extended-range RWD will have 282 horsepower and extended-range AWD will have 332 horsepower.

California Route 1: This trim level is essentially the Premium Extended Range RWD plus some added options, so its number line up: 300 miles of range and 282 pound-feet of torque. It will start at $52,400 when it goes on sale in early 2021.

First Edition: This limited-edition model starts at $59,900 and will be available in late 2020 (order soon). It features similar specs as the Premium Extended Range AWD: 270 miles of range and 332 horsepower. It also adds a variety of interior and exterior trim upgrades and limited availability to the mix.

GT: It's the big daddy of the Mustang coupe lineup (excluding Shelby versions) so it's the big daddy here. For $60,500 buyers get AWD, 235 miles of range and a healthy 459 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque, good for 0-60 runs in the mid-three-second range. This version adds the requisite 20-inch forged wheels, Brembo brakes, an adaptive Magnaride suspension, and exterior trim upgrades.

Gobs of tech will be standard.

This includes a 15.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system (ala Tesla) that will run Ford's Next-Generation Sync operating system and will feature over-the-air updates (also ala Tesla). Drivers will have the option of using their smartphone as a key; the Mach E will detect phones paired via its bluetooth system and unlock and adjust settings to that driver's preference.

The Mach E Premium and GT models also come pre-hardwired with a driver-monitoring system, which Ford will activate at a later date to provide a hands-free driving system. The system uses an infrared camera mounted on top of the steering column to watch the driver's attentiveness.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The interior is sparse in design but full of high-tech features.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Three drive modes are included.

Here's another Tesla-inspired feature: three drive modes that alter the nature of the Mach E's performance. 'Whisper,' 'Engage' and 'Unbridled' will each allow increasingly aggressive performance and handling features. Not unlike Tesla's well-documented Ludicrous mode. Fun fact: the 'Unbridled' mode in the Mach E was originally to be called 'Stampede' and one of the test-mules we rode in on a media briefing in LA last week still had this setting name. Within each drive mode, numerous elements of the Mach E will be configurable, including regen levels for one-foot driving, if drivers so choose.

Yes, there's a Frunk.

Would it be an EV without one? But Ford says theirs is better since it has a drain plug at the bottom; apparently owners of other EVs told Ford researchers that they often found themselves wanting this.

Room for everyone.

The Mach E seats five adults comfortably, with plenty of legroom and headroom for the six-footers out there (we know since we've sat inside). This, despite the sloping, coupe-like profile of the crossover. Most models also come with a fixed panoramic glass roof that does wonders for opening up the cabin.

Chevrolet has started a campaign urging people to sign a Change.org petition showing support for the Suburban to be named "National Vehicle of Texas."

Image courtesy of Chevrolet

In 1986, Texas Monthly declared the Chevrolet Suburban the "National Car of Texas," saying that it was, "the most Texas vehicle there is… It's big, it's strong, it's fun, it doesn't put on airs, but it doesn't keep you from putting on a few." In the time since, the Suburban has undergone many iterations, but still maintains its original focus as being a capable people-hauler.

A new Change.org petition started by Chevrolet seeks to bring attention to the Suburban and gain support to name the vehicle the "National Vehicle of Texas." Why not the State Vehicle of Texas? That designation was given to the chuckwagon in 2005.

"Honestly, the petition is not intended to result in any official proclamations," Monte Doran, Manager, Chevrolet Truck Communications said. "Instead, the petition is a way to celebrate the long-lasting connection between Texans and the Suburban." This year, the Suburban nameplate turns 85 years old.

According to Chevrolet, more Suburbans are sold in Texas than in the lower 25 states combined. Five of the top 10 Suburban dealerships in the country are in Texas.

"Suburbans are a familiar sight in the parking lot of the Argyle Club in San Antonio, which is not surprising since it's hard to drive a block in surrounding Alamo Heights without seeing one," said Doran. "At the end of a school day in North Dallas, Suburbans are lined up outside Hockaday and St. Mark's. On weekday mornings Memorial Drive in Houston is a processional of Suburbans hauling children to private schools."

They're not just for families. "Around the Capitol in Austin, Suburbans are so popular with the influence-peddling crowd that they are known as lobby wagons. A single lobbyist can take as many as eight legislators to lunch, while tinted windows all around … ensure the anonymity of his passengers."

Suburbans translate into life beyond the city and suburbs in Texas. You can find them on boat ramps, on rugged ranch roads, hunting and fishing locations, and camping areas. "Last year when the hunting season opened at the venerable St. Charles Bay hunting club in Rockport, there were 12 vehicles in the parking lot and every one of them was a Suburban," Doran (rightly) bragged.

Every Suburban sold in the world is built in Arlington at Arlington Assembly Plant.

The next-generation of the Suburban will be revealed on December 10 along side the redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe. Both SUVs will be 2021 models.