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  • SEMA News

    Posted on November 8th, 2009 ninarussin

    Automotive aftermarket show features accessories for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    Yakima Rack-and-Roll trailer

    Yakima Rack-and-Roll trailer

    SEMA is the Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association: the biggest organization of aftermarket equipment suppliers in the world. Once a year, members gather in Las Vegas for a trade show of overwhelming proportions.

    How big is it? According to a colleague, the 2007 SEMA show had twenty-six miles of exhibits, filling all three halls in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

    While the current show is slightly smaller, it’s still an impressive display. In addition to the exhibition halls, hot rods and customs fill the open air spaces in front of the convention center. Despite the fact that admission is limited to industry members, attendance is huge. By mid-day, it’s hard to find space to walk down the aisles.

    Among the thousands of participants are all the major manufacturers of roof racks, camping supplies, navigation systems, specialty suspensions, tires, and towing equipment. Following are a few of this year‘s highlights.

    Roof and hitch racks

    Yakima‘s new Rack and Roll trailers are an ergonomic alternative to roof racks. There are two models: a 66-inch wide rack that weighs about 130 pounds empty, and a slightly heavier 78-inch wide rack that can hold up to eight bicycles.

    The racks are made of aluminum to minimize weight. I was able to lift the 66-inch rack with ease, and pull it using the carrying handle. Shock absorbers give the racks up to four inches of wheel travel. The smaller rack tows up to 250 pounds; the larger rack tows 300 pounds.

    The wheels and tongue on both models are removable for easy storage. The frame can mount to a garage wall.

    Pricing for the 66-inch rack starts at $2149; $2299 for the 78-inch rack.

    Yakima’s new Highlite hitch rack weighs 13 pounds and holds two bicycles. Pricing starts at $299. A three bike hitch rack starts at $329.

    Thule’s new Raceway Strap rack has cables that lock the bikes to the rack and the rack to the vehicle to give users an extra measure of security. The new rack fits both children’s and adult-sized bicycles, and holds two-to-three bikes.

    Thule Aero Foot

    Thule Aero Foot

    Thule has also redesigned its traverse foot to fit aero-type car roofs. The aero foot kit is available as a two or four-pack and is designed for vehicles without a factory rack or rain gutters. The traverse foot fits into the door jamb and locks into place using a seatbelt type mechanism. Installation takes about 15 minutes.

    Green batteries

    Batteries present one of the biggest recycling challenges for the car industry, due to their short life span and toxic chemicals. Braille, a battery manufacturer based in Florida, is marketing a new line of green batteries that give car owners an environmentally-friendly alternative. There are two models: a lead-acid version and a much pricier lithium ion model.

    Pricing for the lead-acid batteries starts at $129. The batteries have a carbon fiber shell, that is easier to recycle and more heat resistant that traditional battery casings. Inside, perforated plates are soaked with the lead-acid solution, as opposed to conventional batteries, in which the lead-acid floats loose. The Braille batteries weigh as little as six pounds, and are about one-third the size of their competitors. They are made from recycled lead, plastic and electrolyte. Life expectancy is about five years.

    The lithium-ion batteries use similar technology to computer batteries. The 12-volt battery weighs under eight pounds, and can last up to seven years. When one of the lithium cells in the battery goes bad, the manufacturer removes it and puts in a new cell, minimizing waste. Pricing for the lithium-ion batteries starts at $2500.

    Tango: the car that can lane share

    Tango Micro-Car

    Tango Micro-Car

    Rick Woodbury is an entrepreneur who got tired of idling in traffic between his home in Hermosa Beach and his job in Beverly Hills, California. Having been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, he wanted to create a vehicle as safe as a car, but narrow enough to lane share as motorcycles in southern California are allowed to do.

    His solution is the Tango, a two-person car that’s slightly narrower than a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. The car runs on either lead-acid or lithium ion batteries. Driving range is 40-to-60 miles with the lead acid batteries, or over 150 miles with lithium ion batteries. The Tango can legally lane share in California and other states with similar laws.

    While the Tango looks as if it will tip over in a strong crosswind, it’s actually quite stable, since the heavy battery pack keeps the center of gravity close to the ground. The Tango is as long as the Smart car, and has as much room between the steering wheel and sides of the car as conventional cars have between the steering wheel and left door.

    Power comes from two electric motors and two direct-drive gearboxes. The Tango accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in under four seconds, and has a top speed of 135 miles-per-hour.

    A FIA certified roll cage protects occupants in the event of a collision. Both custom bucket seats are fitted with aircraft pilot four-point harnesses. Pricing for the Tango begins at $150,000.

    Eezi-Awn roof tent

    Eezi-Awn makes tents that mount to the roof and/or the side of a sport-utility vehicle. By using the car as part of the tent structure, the manufacturer eliminates the need for heavy, bulky poles. All of the tents are made from four-season ripstop cotton canvas, have stainless steel hinges and heavy-duty aluminum hardware.

    The roof tent measures 96” x 54” x 51” when open. The tent weighs 121 pounds, and deploys and stows in five minutes. The manufacturer has updated the design to include larger side windows and interior pockets than the former model. Cost is $1750.

    Green tires

    Tire Rack Motorsports Event

    Tire Rack Motorsports Event

    The Tire Rack with headquarters in South Bend, Indiana is the nation’s largest online tire retailer. According to vice president, Matt Edmonds, the new trend in tire design is towards products that reduce fuel consumption, and are made with environmentally-friendly materials.

    The Pirelli Scorpion Verde is a performance tire for sport and cross-utility vehicles made from oil-free compounds and fewer raw materials than traditional treads. Thinner inner-liners take weight out of the tires, which translates to better fuel economy for the driver.

    The low rolling resistance design also extends gas mileage. An optimized tread pattern reduces road noise. .

    According to Edmonds, the big wheel craze is on the decline. Buyers are more concerned with value than style, focusing on maintenance-related components rather than enhancing performance. The Tire Rack has maintained its volume of sales for tires, but has seen a drop in the market for performance suspension components.

    “People are keeping their cars longer,” said Edmonds. “We saw a drop in mileage when gas prices peaked, but overall mileage is up again. People who were putting off maintenance, including tire replacement, realized that they can’t wait any longer.”

    For more information on Pirelli’s new green tires, winter tires and accessories, visit the Tire Rack web site.

     

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