• Ray Magliozzi, right, of NPR's 'Car Talk,' listens to MIT students and staff on Sept. 19. Magliozzi and his brother, Tom, who are alumni of MIT, toured the campus to see up-and-coming energy technologies being developed at the school. From left are sophomores Mike Roberts and Rachel Roberts of the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team, and MIT staff member Brenda Richard.

    Photo / Patrick Gillooly

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  • Tom Magliozzi, of NPR's 'Car Talk,' converses with students at a roundtable discussion on alternative-energy vehicles.

    Photo / Patrick Gillooly

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Click and Clack glimpse cars of the future

NPR's Magliozzi brothers in 'chock-full' tour of MIT

The star mechanics of NPR's "Car Talk" got a sneak preview at MIT this week of the kinds of innovative cars and automotive technologies that their listeners might be calling in about in years to come.

"I'm encouraged that so much is going on here, as you'd expect from MIT," said Ray Magliozzi '72, after he and his brother Tom '58 -- better known on their radio program as Click and Clack -- received a tour Friday of various MIT projects aimed at future alternative vehicles. They also heard presentations from five student groups working on such projects.

"It was a chock-full day -- I felt like I was a student again," Ray said after hearing presentations from MIT professors Robert Armstrong, deputy director of the MIT Energy Initiative, Yang Shao-Horn of the Electrochemical Energy Laboratory, and Gerbrand Ceder of materials science and engineering, as well as from student leaders of the Energy Club, the Solar Electric Vehicle Team, the Electric Vehicle Team, the Vehicle Design Summit, and Biodiesel@MIT.

"Car Talk," produced in Cambridge, has been on the air for 31 years, the Magliozzis said, and now attracts between 10,000 and 15,000 calls every week from listeners asking for advice about their car problems. While originally the focus was on the cars themselves, increasingly "the show has become about people's relationship with their cars," Ray said. Noting the importance of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, he said "our goal is to have people drive a lot less."

"It's pretty stupid that we're making cars that get 20 miles to the gallon," Tom said. But if today's high gas prices continue, "it won't take that long" for that to change.

Ray, who with his brother delivered the 1999 Commencement address at MIT, said that he was impressed by the work the students are doing on developing alternative cars. He told them that "the responsibility of saving the planet is in your hands." There are dire consequences from the way we currently get and use fuel for vehicles, he said. "Save us!"

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 24, 2008 (download PDF).

Topics: Electrical engineering and electronics, Energy, Mechanical engineering, Solar



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