You are reading the article Inside The Crazy Us$6 Billion Plan To Turn Wind Into Gasoline updated in December 2023 on the website Moimoishop.com. We hope that the information we have shared is helpful to you. If you find the content interesting and meaningful, please share it with your friends and continue to follow and support us for the latest updates. Suggested January 2024 Inside The Crazy Us$6 Billion Plan To Turn Wind Into GasolineFormer LNG exec Meg Gentle says it’s serious, and some smart money, including from Porsche and Baker Hughes, agrees with her.
Meg Gentle, executive director at HIF Global, is back in her mega project comfort zone. JAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES
Near the southernmost tip of Chilean Patagonia, on the wind-buffeted Straits of Magellan, the Haru Oni eFuels Pilot Plant sits at the foot of a wind turbine. The plant produces greener gasoline. It starts by taking wind power to run electrolyzer machines, which separate the hydrogen out of water. The hydrogen is then joined with recycled carbon dioxide, in reactions that generate synthetic hydrocarbons — indistinguishable from fossil-derived gasoline.
To be sure, carbon dioxide still comes out the back of any car running off this manufactured fuel, but it’s a start. Porsche AG, an investor, is excited about the prospect of marketing this chemically identical “efuel” (the e is for electricity) to drivers who want both internal combustion and a cleaner climate conscience. It plans to get maximum publicity per gallon, by first using it to gas up its racing teams.
Why build a novel green fuels plant in remote Patagonia? First off, the strong winds created when Antarctica’s cold air meets the warm air from the Pacific. Turbines there can achieve 75% operating efficiency versus an average of 45% for Texas wind farms. Second, the main shareholder of HIF Global, Santiago, Chile-based AME, already develops vast Atacama Desert solar farms, and is looking to erect thousands of wind turbines in Patagonia. That would be enough to make billions of gallons of fuel a year and turn Chile into the unlikely exporter of millions of gallons a year of greener gasoline made from Patagonia winds — the same ones that 500 years ago blew Magellan’s ships through the strait that bears his name.
But Patagonia is not logistically the easiest place to build, which is why HIF aims to construct its first world-scale plant in Texas–near its chemical plants and refineries. Meg Gentle, HIF’s executive director, was captivated by the concept when she heard about it in 2023 from chairman Cesar Norton. Gentle, 48, had just gotten out of the liquefied natural gas business, having served 15 years at pioneering LNG exporter Cheniere Energy followed by four years as CEO of rival LNG developer Tellurian Energy.
Gentle left Tellurian in late 2023, intending to take it easier and run her family investment office, Gemstone Investments, for a while. She agreed to put some money behind HIF (which stands for Highly Innovative Fuels). “I started as an investor. Soon it was ‘Meg can you help us’ with this or that.” Her job for the last two years has been planning and permitting and contracting for a $6 billion plant in Matagorda County, Texas that will make 200 million gallons of greener fuels a year — equivalent to taking the emissions of 400,000 cars off the road.
Gentle feels back in her element. At Cheniere she had raised $40 billion in capital to build a half dozen plants in Texas and Louisiana that now chill and export some 7 billion cubic feet of gas per day — 60% of U.S. LNG exports, and 5% of total domestic supply. She’s not intimidated by cost or complexity. “So many elements of what we are tying together are exactly the same as LNG.”
Bechtel came up with that $6 billion estimate during front-end-engineering. Even if costs go higher, Gentle doesn’t think HIF will have trouble rounding up sufficient capital to get it built. It’s an irony of the green wave — the world needs to make such enormous investments in low carbon infrastructure that megaprojects might be easier to finance than small ones.
“Demand for these projects is boundless,” says Andrew Ellenbogen, managing director at private equity shop EIG, “and will be much better addressed by projects of this size.” EIG, with $24 billion under management, first invested in HIF’s parent company in 2023 to build solar farms and gas-fired generation in Chile.
Near Patagonia’s wind-buffeted Straits of Magellan, the Haru Oni eFuels Pilot Plant makes gas good enough for Porsche. COURTESY HIF GLOBAL
Ellenbogen has such faith in the potential of efuels “to address hard to abate emissions” that EIG was in even before last year’s passage of the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, with its $500 billion or so in green subsidies, including the potential for developers to generate tax credits on qualified green programs that can reach as high as 60% of capital invested. “The impact of the credits is huge,” says Ellenbogen, but it’s gravy on top. “We would invest with or without them.”
So it makes sense that the HIF project is already a who’s who of big names itching to live up to green promises. Porsche has put $100 million into HIF Global. Baker Hughes, another investor, took part in a $260 million equity infusion in 2023. Addressing the biggest foreseeable bottleneck, Gentle already has hundreds of electrolyzers reserved from Siemens. The Patagonia plant tapped ExxonMobil for its methanol-to-gasoline technology. “Figuring out who are your partners and how you are building those blocks together is probably my most valuable lesson across the entire journey of Cheniere and Tellurian,” says Gentle.
Naturally, there’s an element of betting on the come here. Making a gallon of this fuel requires about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. Technology to capture carbon dioxide right out of the air started getting headlines five years ago, but is still expensive, at about $250 a ton.
Baker Hughes last year acquired startup Mosaic Materials in order to speed development of its carbon dioxide-trapping metal-organic frameworks– like air filters engineered at the molecular level to grab carbon dioxide out of the air. According to Alessandro Bresciani, a senior vice president at Baker Hughes, the materials “capture CO2 at ambient conditions and require relatively low energy to release the CO2,” making for a lower cost of ownership.
Cool stuff, but Gentle says costs need to get closer to $100 a ton (before generous federal tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act). So initially, they’ll use other sources of recycled CO2, says CEO Cesar Norton. Baker Hughes declined to share any projection on how many years of iterations it will take to get to that price point.
Gentle and the HIF team picked the site in Matagorda County, Texas for easy access to their most important ingredient: electricity. The plant will have a continuous 24/7 electricity demand of 2,000 megawatts, enough to power about a million homes. Good thing they are located along a high voltage transmission corridor that was overbuilt in anticipation of an unrealized expansion of the South Texas nuclear power plant.
Securing dedicated supplies of renewable electricity is vitally important if projects like this are to actually reduce emissions rather than increase them, says Cy McGeady, an associate fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. At issue is a trifecta of concerns known as “time matching, additionality and deliverability.” In short, you don’t want to run your electrolyzers when the wind stops blowing because then your electricity is more likely coming from fossil fuel generators. And you don’t want to use existing renewable energy projects to power electrolyzers, because then you’re cannibalizing someone else’s low-carbon energy supply. As for deliverability, “You can’t build a wind farm in Nebraska for your plant in Texas,” says McGeady. Right now the Treasury Department is determining what rules developers will have to follow if they want to access the full lineup of tax credits. Stricter rules would add a lot of costs and slow rollout. Which is why McGeady cautions, “economics are wildly speculative until we get guidance from Treasury.”
To make sure HIF’s share of wind power gets put on the grid, Gentle says they will need to buy the output of wind farms with 5,000 megawatts of peak capacity (recall the wind only blows 45% of the time). That will require the dedicated electric output of 1,000 turbines that stand 500 feet tall. All that to make replacement fuel for just 400,000 cars, when the U.S. has 276 million vehicles on the road. Does it make sense to go to all this trouble to extend the internal combustion era? “It’s worth the effort because with the efuel you can operate the existing car fleet on a CO2 neutral base,” says Porsche spokesman Hermann-Josef Stappen.
Gentle (an alum of James Madison University and a Rice University MBA, who earlier worked at Anadarko Petroleum) figures that it will start off costing about $5 a gallon to make efuel–about twice as much as regular gasoline. That’s pricey, though the fuel will fetch a low-carbon premium. How much? A minimum of 30 cents a gallon considering recent California carbon dioxide cap-and-trade prices of about $30 per metric ton (2,200 lbs). In addition to gasoline, HIF plans to sell a large portion of Matagorda’s initial output as shipping fuel, to fleet owners struggling to satisfy stringent new international rules on emissions. Future plants will make jet fuel, she says.
At first when Gentle left the LNG business, amid stalled progress on Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG project, she says she was looking to invest in hydrogen-based fuels, but soon determined the challenges of transporting raw hydrogen would prove overwhelming. For instance, to put natural gas into a tanker ship for export requires chilling it down to -260 degrees into a liquid. “Being in the LNG business, when I learned that in order to move hydrogen on a vessel it has to be even colder, near absolute zero, I immediately knew that that is not going to happen” because the extra costs and difficulty containing such a small molecule would make it impractical. “The boil off is much higher than LNG. As with anything you have to keep un-atmospherically cold, you have to be reliquefying it or you’re losing it.” That drew her to so-called hydrogen carriers, like ammonia (NH3) or synthetics like efuels which are far easier to transport.
While developing the Matagorda site, HIF Global is also working on one in Tasmania, which will source carbon dioxide from the forest products industry. They’ll add more plants in Patagonia as they build out wind turbines, says Norton, who started his career working at a power station in Buenos Aires and over two decades has been a leader in building out natural gas, wind and solar in South America. Norton envisions tens of billions of dollars invested in southern Chile to capture its “strong and constant winds” as the primary raw material for green products. He calls it the “Power-to-X” paradigm.
Gentle envisions hundreds of billions invested in the technology over the coming decades, with HIF Global aiming for a dozen projects that could remove the emissions impact of 5 million cars. Why not? — that much has been invested in North American LNG projects over the past decade. And even a $6 billion plant making the equivalent of 14,000 barrels per day is a drop in the bucket of the 100 million barrels per day worldwide petroleum market (and once complete would be a tasty acquisition for a big oil company).
“This is a solution now, today, already,” she says. “If you’re trying to deploy large amounts of capital you can’t do it $20 million at a time. You have to have scale.”
This story was first published on chúng tôi and all figures are in USD.
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NexDock wants to turn smartphones, tablets into laptops
Smartphones and tablets these days, especially the high-end ones, are almost capable of doing anything our computers can, save for a few quirks of the OS and apps they run. But their real limitation isn’t exactly the software but the form they come in. Smartphones are great to use on one hand but are terrible with larger content and input. Tablets have a bigger screen space but keyboard input leaves a lot to be desired. Accessories that address these do exist, but in separate pieces. Enter NexDock, practically a portable display attached to a keyboard masquerading and acting as a laptop, with your smartphone or tablet as the brain.
Although not the first ones, Microsoft’s Continuum and Ubuntu’s Convergence have definitely sparked, or even reignited, the imagination of many. The idea of using your poweful smartphone as the heart and brains of a PC experience definitely has some appeal, but even the Continuum falls slightly short when it comes mobility. You will need a bigger display, keyboard, and mouse to make it happen, but those three might not always be at hand on the go, especially not separately.
NexDock combines all three into one, laptop-like setup. It is primarily an external 14-inch display with HDMI input slapped together with a laptop-sized keyboard and touchpad, powered by its own 10,000 mAh battery pack inside. It was primarily designed to be a portable setup for the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, taking Continuum wherever you go. However, it isn’t limited to that at all.
It can be an always on the go display for an HDMI PC stick like those from Intel or Lenovo. It can serve as the display for a Chromecast or Miracast, opening it up even to Android devices that don’t have video out capabilities. It can even become a second monitor for a laptop, though that one is a bit of a stretch. With its own large battery, it can power many of these devices (except the laptop). Whether it can serve as a phone or tablet charger as well isn’t explicitly stated.
While the idea has merit, the actual implementation might dismay some. That large 14.1-inch screen has a barely passable 1366×768 resolution and uses TN panel technology. It also weight about 1.49 kg and is 20 mm thick, making it just as thick and heavy as a laptop but without any of the benefits of an actual laptop. Given that this is pretty much a $99 to $149 working prototype of an idea, that might be forgivable on the first try, but not if NexDock is meant to be a commercial product.
The biggest hitch for those who are enamored by the idea is that it isn’t even a finished product at all. They are currently on Indeigogo looking for $300,000 in (fixed) funding. So far, they haven’t even reached a q uarter of that but they still have a month to go. In fact, the 250 early bird slots, each costing $79, are all gone already. Pre-order shipping is scheduled for June this year.
Continuum and Convergence might indeed be pointing at a bold new direction for personal computing, and NexDock might have stumbled on a bright idea on how to help push that forward and maybe even profit from it. But they always say that idea is cheap and NexDock’s execution will be what will set it apart from dreamers.
Assuming you’ve passed the first challenge of letting your client know that you or your agency are fully capable of working with their web designer/agency, the path to creating an SEO friendly website lies in the ability to bake SEO into the design process.
Here are 6 steps to make that process as easy, enjoyable, and productive as possible when working with the designer who will ultimately create structural and navigational elements of the client’s website. It’s important to be involved in the design process from the start, as I’m sure you’ve got valuable nuggets to impart, right from the wireframe stage that sets the tone for the site architecture.
The Kick Off Phone Call – The purpose of this call is to affirm your role as a supportive entity that complements the web designer’s work. The call with the client and his/her web designer will help set deadlines, process, and types of communication between the project’s stakeholders.
Setup A Wiki or Similar Collaboration Resource – Email isn’t necessarily the best way to manage a project, and it’s often much better to establish a central resource for sharing information, wireframes, checklisted SEO recommendations, and similar files. It’s important to keep the access open to the client if they wish to see how SEO is being integrated into the design process.
Schedule Regular Phone Calls – Email is great to get communication in and out fast, but not necessarily when you want anything actionable to happen. You can’t file a scheduled phone call away, and it forces both the SEO and web designer to focus project milestones so that deadlines are met.
Explain Your Recommendations – While some might think it’s not worth the extra time and effort in educating the web designer, I’ve found that putting some rationale in your recommendations can speed up the work flow. Baking SEO into the design process asks the designer to make changes into their existing work habits, and change isn’t always easy to accept.
Review The Implementation – Don’t expect 100% of your SEO recommendations to be implemented. There are many reasons why they might not be implemented, ranging from time involvement, to the web developer not putting importance to any given recommendation such as relative versus absolute internal links. There’s often a trade-off to be had between design and SEO, but it’s important to be in control of what those trade-off’s are.
Close The Loop & Celebrate – There’s a fair bit of rinse and repeat in the phone-call, wiki, implementation, and review process, but at the end of the day you can be happy because your client is. Life is a learning process, and I’ve learnt more tricks of the trade in web design from the agencies I’ve worked with, as I’m sure they’ve learnt about SEO too from me.
Dev Basu is a regular contributor to Search Engine Journal. He owns Powered by Search, a full service internet marketing agency located in Toronto, Canada; and blogs about online marketing for small businesses, search marketing, and all matters in local seo and social media. Catch up with him at his blog, twitter, or connect on Linkedin.
Do you have an old smartphone or tablet that’s just lying around the house with no purpose? As long as it has a functioning camera, you can turn it into a home security camera. This is perfect for monitoring the inside of your home, office, garage or any other building.What you’ll need
To create your home security system, you’ll need the following:
A Camera. For the best results, I’d recommend using an old smartphone or tablet that you can set up as a dedicated security camera.
A Viewer. This is the device where you’ll monitor the feed from your security camera. For the best results, use the smartphone you are actively using.Installing the Alfred Home Security Camera mobile app
To start, install the Alfred app on your old smartphone or tablet. Alfred is cross-platform, so you can install it on any compatible Android or iOS device:
1. Install the Alfred mobile app (available for Android and iOS) on the device you want to use as your camera.
2. Launch the Alfred application. You’ll be prompted to create an account, so tap “Sign Up” and follow the onscreen instructions.
3. Once you’re logged into your account, tap the “Viewer/Camera” item in the toolbar and select “Camera.”
4. When prompted to set up this device as a camera, tap “OK.”
5. Alfred will now request permission to record video and take pictures and permission to record audio. If you’re okay with these requests, tap “Allow.”
Congratulations, your old, unwanted smartphone or tablet is now a fully-functioning security camera!How to set up your security camera
You can now position your old device so that it’s pointing at the area you want to monitor. This step can take some trial and error, imagination, and potentially also some duct tape or other fixtures!
To get the best results, you should generally:
Place your camera device around one to two meters away from the object(s) you want to monitor.
Avoid pointing your device at reflective surfaces, such as windows and mirrors, as this can result in false motion detection alerts and may also interfere with the picture quality.
Avoid pointing your camera at moving objects such as fans or objects that show movement such as TV and laptop screens.
Once your device is in position, you should avoid pressing the “Power” or “Home” buttons, as this may put the device into sleep mode or close the Alfred app entirely. Instead, allow the screen to dim and then turn off naturally.Monitor your home from any location
Next, install Alfred on the smartphone or tablet you’re using as your Viewer:
1. Install and launch the Alfred mobile app on your Viewer device.
2. Log into your Alfred account. Make sure it’s the same account you’re using on your Camera device!
3. Alfred will now request various permissions; grant these permissions to proceed to the next screen.
4. Tap the item in the Alfred menu bar and then select “Viewer.”
Once Alfred detects more than one device using the same account, it should link those devices automatically. Whenever you want to view the live feed from your Camera, simply launch the Alfred app on your Viewer, and the feed should appear automatically.Add motion detection to your home security system
By enabling Alfred’s motion detection, you’ll receive a push notification on your Viewer every time movement is detected:
1. Launch the Alfred app on the device you’re using as your Viewer.
2. Find the camera where you want to set up motion detection.
3. In the upper-left corner of the Camera feed, tap the little cog icon.
4. Find the “Motion Detection” slider and push it into the “On” position.
5. While you’re in the Settings, you may also want to change the sensitivity of the motion detection by tapping “Sensitivity” and then choosing from the available options: “High,” “Medium” or “Low.”
Now every time movement is detected, you’ll receive a push notification on the smartphone or tablet you’re using as your Viewer. You can then launch the Alfred app and see exactly what’s happening in real time.Accessing and storing Alfred’s security videos
Whenever it detects motion, Alfred will automatically record everything that’s happening and upload the clip to the cloud for safekeeping.
To review all of Alfred’s recordings:
1. On your Viewer, launch the Alfred application.
3. You’ll now be taken to Alfred’s “Events Book.” To play any clip from your “Events Book,” give it a tap. If you want to save a clip, then tap the dotted icon in the clip’s upper-right corner and select “Save to Moments.” Alternatively, you can delete a clip by tapping the “Trash” icon.Access your security camera from any Internet-enabled device
Don’t have your Viewer at hand? You can drop in on your security feed from any web browser.
1. Head over to the Alfred website and sign in to your account.
2. Select the “Camera” tab.
3. Select the camera that you want to view.
4. You can now view this feed on your laptop or computer.
If you have an old smartphone around, we have shown you a way to repurpose it and use it as a security camera. You can also use it as a dashcam or a smart speaker. If that is not enough, find out more ways to reuse your old Android phone.
Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Derbyshire, UK. When she isn’t obsessing over all things tech, she enjoys researching her family tree, and spending far too much time with her house rabbits.
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Spain, Italy, and the UK are becoming major players fostering the growth of the robotics market in Europe
The robotics market in Europe is estimated to grow from US$10.1 billion in 2023 to US$20.0 billion in 2023 at a CAGR of 9.2% during the forecast period. Europe starts from a strong position in robotics, having 32% of current world markets. Industrial robotics has around one-third of the world market, while in the smaller professional service robot market European manufacturers produce 63% of the non-military robots. Europe is a leader in the robotics market for field robotics, logistics, and construction. The usage of robotics in this market is varied and is also used in professional cleaning. The military application of robotics is high in the professional use of service robotics. In defense, both manned and unmanned types of robots are used. In unmanned use, drones are very common. The use of drones has increased in the battlegrounds for a few years. They are being used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and have helped the soldiers on the ground and sitting far away to plan their next move. The German market is one of the big markets for robotics and is estimated to grow more in the period to come. Other markets like Spain, Italy, and the UK will also grow to become major players in the robotics market in the years to come.
The robotics market in Europe is estimated to grow from US$10.1 billion in 2023 to US$20.0 billion in 2023 at a CAGR of 9.2% during the forecast period. Europe starts from a strong position in robotics, having 32% of current world markets. Industrial robotics has around one-third of the world market, while in the smaller professional service robot market European manufacturers produce 63% of the non-military robots. Europe is a leader in the robotics market for field robotics, logistics, and construction. The usage of robotics in this market is varied and is also used in professional cleaning. The military application of robotics is high in the professional use of service robotics. In defense, both manned and unmanned types of robots are used. In unmanned use, drones are very common. The use of drones has increased in the battlegrounds for a few years. They are being used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and have helped the soldiers on the ground and sitting far away to plan their next move. The German market is one of the big markets for robotics and is estimated to grow more in the period to come. Other markets like Spain, Italy, and the UK will also grow to become major players in the robotics market in the years to come. A rise in the need for automation and safety in organizations and the availability of affordable, energy-efficient robots drive the growth of the global robotics market. In addition, an increase in labour and energy costs and an upsurge in the usage of robotics technology in different industry verticals fuel the growth of the market. However, the high initial cost of robots and lack of awareness among SMEs hamper the growth of the market. On the contrary, a surge in the adoption of robotics technology in emerging economies and an increase in use in diverse applications are the factors expected to provide lucrative opportunities for the growth of the market.
I fought off the idea of purchasing a minivan for years, but with the arrival of our second child I couldn’t put it off any longer. My two primary criteria seemed pretty straightforward initially, but turned out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated: it had to look halfway decent, and it needed at least somewhat decent handling and performance.
I didn’t expect Camaro or FRS performance level – I’m not oblivious to the laws of physics – and my baseline expectations were accordingly low. In fact, my perception of owning a minivan was driving something that’s sluggish, bordering on what you’d expect from a tank (only without the useful cannon on top).
So, we checked out the Sienna SE, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town and Country, and Nissan Quest. Back in 2013, Kia hadn’t introduced their souped-up, tech-endowed Sedona yet, so it wasn’t an option. Immediately I was drawn to the Sienna SE, thinking that the SE moniker might provide me with at least some of the performance I was seeking, or at the very least the sportier trimmings. At this point, I crossed everything off the list except for the Sienna SE and the Odyssey.
It turned out, though, that “SE” doesn’t stand for “superlatively equipped.” While the Sienna SE had a slightly modified suspension setup and sportier trimmings, it lacked many of the luxury amenities we wanted such as leather/heated seats, navigation, and a child-distracting DVD/Blu-Ray system with a rear-seat display. Keep in mind that this was back in 2013: a lot the standard features available today were still expensive options back then.
In fact, to add those options to the SE was taking the Toyota to a hefty $50k, no small amount for a minivan. At the end of the day, with all things being equal, a fully-loaded Odyssey V6 came in with a much better deal from Honda. I can remember cursing at the automakers, asking why there wasn’t an option for parents like myself: something where we could have both a performance-tuned minivan married with a comfortable living room experience.
Without my knowledge, around the same time I was making my purchasing decision, Dan Gardner must’ve heard my cry to the minivan God – and promptly had a lengthy chat with Toyota, working with the company and its chief engineer on just what such a beast could look like.
The concept is brilliantly simple: a sporty minivan that doesn’t just look good but drives as fiercely as the styling promises. This concept must’ve made sense to Toyota management, too, because a deal was immediately struck and, at the last SEMA in 2023, the Sienna R-Tuned was unveiled. Although a concept, it’s also symbolic of a shift in brand perception, in line with company president and CEO Akio Toyoda’s vision that Toyota move away from cars that people – that’s you, me, and the rest of the world – have to drive, and move towards cars that people want to drive.
What does “Real Performance” in a Sienna actually mean? According to Dan, it comes down to three key factors.
First, the Sienna R-Tuned has to retain as much of the original Sienna as possible. That means using the same powertrain and tuning – but not outright switching – the suspension to compensate for the overall reduction in weight. It had to retain the Entune infotainment system, the air conditioning, and the useful oversized glovebox and other interior storage: what makes the Sienna family-practical.
In essence, it couldn’t be a Sienna body on top of a custom framed, motor swapped, transmission transplanted, turbocharged, supercharged, Franken-minivan with purpose-built suspension. In fact, the R-Tuned is based on a Sienna SE, and its sibling the S-Tuned is based on an AWD Sienna, both fully loaded retail vehicles bought from Toyota dealerships in Long Beach and Cerritos respectively.
Second, this couldn’t be a foregone conclusion. The team shouldn’t know the outcome before they started, Dan explained to me: they picked a benchmark and then built the best minivan they could to try to meet it.
They didn’t pick an easy target, either. The first goal was to take on a V6 Camaro, but it soon became apparent that the super-aggressive R-Tuned could have even beefier cars in its sights, potentially even the 2023 Camaro 6.2-liter V8. As a result, the team decided to raise the benchmark even higher, to coax more speed out of the minivan.
Third, and finally, the R-Tuned had to be “the real deal”: its performance couldn’t just be on paper, but delivered out in the real world, and measurable. That’s where I and a couple of other press came in, handed a stopwatch and radar gun to track the performance of both Sienna and Camaro, and then turned out onto the track to see that the driver in each was not holding back.
That would be crazy enough; what took it to another level was that Toyota decided that the Sienna S-Tuned’s unveiling should take place at an intimate media drive event at the Streets of Willow racetrack, and with us at the wheel. Toyota gave a few of us the uber-rare opportunity to push them to the the best of our ability, before riding shotgun while “pro-drivers” wiped us around the track at proper racing speed.
Instrumented up, and with us on the sidelines watching with the speed gun, the Sienna R-Tuned took on some of the leading sports cars available today, including the 2023 Camaro 6.2-liter V8. With renowned racing champion Craig Stanton at the wheel, it certainly wasn’t slow – consistently hitting 1m 27 to 1m 28 lap times, in fact – but it was only when I went Camaro chasing in the minivan that the extent of the tuners’ work became evident.
I was lucky enough to have Dan Gardner himself take me out for a pro drive on the track, while Stanton baited us in the Camaro V8. Now, that muscle car is no slouch, and when driven by Craig – who won the Grand-Am Koni Challenge championship in 2004 in the GS class, followed by the Grand-Am Rolex Series championship in 2005 in the GT class – it’s a formidable target. Nonetheless, at no point did Dan give Craig an opportunity to speed away and, at times, I felt like the Sienna R-Tuned was rushing towards the Camaro’s rear at the speed of light.
With a surgeon’s precision, Dan’s racing lines were precisely carved out and every turn in and out was well executed. At speeds well over 100 mph – or what sure felt like it at times – at no point cutting into tight turns did I feel that the R-Tuned wasn’t up to the job. It’s frankly a remarkable accomplishment Dan and Toyota were able to plan, execute, and deliver a minivan capable of taking on a 426 horsepower Camaro SS without embarrassing itself.
Then it was my turn to take the wheel. On the track I actually forgot I was driving a minivan, speeding through the twists and turns, slamming hard on the brakes moments before cornering into the apex, and then slamming just as hard on the throttle easing out of a tight turn.
It’s true that the Camaro out-performs the Sienna R-Tuned when it comes to raw horsepower but, on the track, agility and maneuverability are just as vital for winning a race. Pair that with a substantial weight loss of around 800-pounds, along with custom tuned suspension and the other additional modifications, and the R-Tuned is a sharp tool in the right hands of a pro-driver.
Speaking of sharp, at the end of the day I got a hot lap driven by the big man himself – Dan Garner, the man behind the championship-winning performance shop DG-Spec. There would be no R-Tuned without Dan, and he knows this minivan inside out. On the track, the R-Tuned is razor sharp, cutting through the racing line like nobody’s business.
Speeding 100+ miles per hour towards an early apex is no problem: the brakes work great. Sharp, late apex, done with ease. This is possible thanks to the fine tuning the team did to every aspect of the minivan, including better vehicle handling, more effective braking, and of course more power from the engine. After my drive with Dan and my own laps around Streets of Willow Spring, I’m left convinced that there’s little that this stock 3.5-liter V6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission – albeit highly tuned for racing purposes – can’t accomplish.
“When we produced the Sienna SE, we started moving in the direction of more sportiness beyond what you would find in a family hauler,” Andrew Lund, chief engineer for the Sienna at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan said of the project. “With the Sienna R-Tuned, we wanted to see if we could create a vehicle that would push the limits even farther. We definitely proved that it’s possible.”
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