BRAKING NEWS: Drive commute times longer than ever

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:

Drive commutes hit an all-time high

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which keeps track of this sort of thing, the average one-way commute for a driver in 2018 was 27.1 minutes. Over the course of the year, that averages out to nine days spent stuck in a car, driving to or from work.

By comparison, data collected back in 1980 shows that the average commute was only about 22 minutes. That might not seem like a huge difference, but these are average times for the entire U.S. population, a population that has grown by millions over the intervening decades.

What’s more concerning is that, in 1980, it was considerably more difficult to work from home. Theoretically, in 2018, it should be easier than ever for people to avoid driving a car to work by using car-sharing, transit apps, or just working from home a couple of days per week.

And yet the research shows that we’re still stuck in the gas-brake-honk of driving drudgery. Given the amount of attention that climate change has been given this election season, perhaps one simple solution is to promote working from home.

Businesses could tout it as a greening of their office workforce, there would be fewer cars on the road (which shortens the commute of those who have to be physically present), and there are all kinds of other benefits to workers. For instance, you don’t even have to wear pants. Um, if my editor is reading this part, I totally wrote this while wearing pants.

A Lamborghini sedan? That’s electric?!

Speaking with Autocar magazine this month, Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali hinted that the timing was perhaps right for the addition of a fourth model into the Lamborghini product lineup. Currently, Lamborghini sells the Huracan, which is fun and expensive, the Aventador, which is flashy and expensive, and the Urus, which looks like a fancy Pontiac Aztek. And is expensive.

The fourth model is very likely to be a four-door sedan, something along the lines of the Estoque concept. It could also be more of a 2+2 GT car, something to compete with the likes of the Ferrari GTC4Lusso, an extremely rapid grand tourer named by someone who fell asleep on their keyboard.

In case you didn’t already know, Lamborghini is owned by the Volkswagen Group, which also owns Porsche and Audi. That means that they’ve got access to the underpinnings for the Taycan EV, and an upcoming Audi GT model planned for around 2023. Lamborghini already uses the Audi R8 and Audi Q8 chassis to underpin the Huracan and the Urus, respectively.

An electric Lamborghini is a bit of an odd duck, really. Lambos are all about conspicuous consumption, whereas EVs are supposed to at least attempt to be sustainable. Perhaps this new sedan will simply have to make its case with wildly outlandish styling. As long as it doesn’t look like a Pontiac.

Dodge lead designer: take off your yellow splitter protectors

When shipped from the factory in Brampton, Ont., most Dodge Challengers and Chargers come with yellow plastic attached to the lower portion of the front bumper. This plastic is embossed with “to be removed by dealer,” and is intended only as a temporary measure to protect against scuffs and paint damage.

But for some reason, many Dodge owners have embraced the yellow splitter protector as a badge of honour. In fact, you can even go on eBay right now, and buy yourself a set to stick on  your battered old Challenger.

This doesn’t make any sense, but to each their own. In a way, it’s a bit like the thing where people leave the shiny sticker on their baseball caps to show how new it is. There’s also a similar car-culture thing in South Korea, of all places, where most people leave the blue foam door protectors from shipping in place.

However, in an interview with Canadian journalist Brian Makse, Dodge and SRT chief designer Mark Trostle has stepped in with a plea.

“I wish they would take them off,” he said, indicating that the yellow guards were never part of the original sketch.

Man builds son a Lamborghini

Some years ago, there was an anti-piracy ad that said something along the lines of, “You wouldn’t download a car would you? Downloading music is stealing too.” Um. I’d download a car if I could.

And, in fact, that’s what one Colorado-based dad did. Sterling Backus is a physicist at a laser-fibre-optics firm in Boulder, and is obviously a hands-on type of scientist. When his 11-year-old son showed him a Lamborghini Aventador in the videogame Forza, Backus decided to take on a large project. They were going to build one.

Kit-car Lamborghinis have been a thing forever, and usually they’re fibreglass monstrosities that look nothing like the real thing. However, thanks to the age of 3D printing, Backus was able to build something pretty impressive. He welded up a steel frame as the skeleton of the car, and installed a Chevrolet LS V-8 so the car would actually be able to move under its own power. Then he got to downloading.

Thanks to a commercially available 3D printer, at a cost of just $900, Backus was able to 3D print an entire car, piece by piece. In order to make sure the plastic would hold up under the heat of operation, he then coated the parts in a mixture of carbon-fibre and epoxy, a process he learned by watching YouTube videos.

The whole thing cost about $20,000, and looks pretty convincing. It’s not quite enough to fool anyone at the local cars and coffee, but it’s evidence that technology is capable of changing what’s possible. You just have to dive in and start building.

Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to mcaleer.nsnews@gmail.com.

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