Popular Mechanics June 2018

Discover the latest in technology, engineering, and tools with Popular Mechanics. Plus, get essential advice on your home and car, useful DIY ideas, in-depth explanations on how things work, and more!

United States
10 Issues

in this issue

3 min
father’s day

OUR FLIGHT WAS AT 8:30 P.M. We—me, my older son, and his friend—had just spent three days thoroughly enjoying Universal Orlando’s theme parks, and we had a day to kill before flying home. As it turned out, SpaceX was scheduled to launch one of its amazing reused Falcon rockets from Cape Canaveral at 4:30 that afternoon, carrying supplies to the International Space Station. That would give us four hours to see the launch, get in the car, drive through post-launch rush-hour traffic to the airport, return the car, ride the shuttle to the terminal, check in, get through security, and board the plane. Almost perfect. We would be cutting it close. I paced around a parking lot outside a sandwich shop in Titusville, Florida. I tortured the traffic apps on my phone,…

1 min

YOUR BOOKSHELF IF YOU FIND yourself flipping to our home improvement and project pages every issue, you’ll love our new book, How to Fix Anything. It’s full of our best tips, from quick fixes, like dealing with stripped screw holes and patching drywall, to more involved projects like stopping a toilet leak and replacing a fuel line. Available now wherever books are sold. THE PODCAST On the Most Useful Podcast Ever, we just purchased a brand-new soundboard. The problem is, we don’t fully know how to use it yet. In an ironic episode, we’ll teach you how to start your own podcast, with expert advice from a sound engineer and our own tips from the past three years of recording. What equipment do you need, and how do you make it sound good?…

1 min
large photo of the month

The strongest magnetic materials, rare-earth elements, are crucial to cutting-edge electronics, including military applications like missile guidance systems. But the U.S. doesn’t produce any rare-earth elements—and the main global supplier is China. In a trade war, China could shut down exports. So scientists at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory are working to improve magnets made with alnico, a family of iron alloys. When the magnetic rods of this Halbach array align the alnico fibers before they’re pressed and heated into a solid block, the resulting magnet is more powerful.…

5 min
japan’s electric competitor

SPECS Base price $30,875 Charging speed 90 miles in 30 minutes 2019 option 200-plus-mile battery The Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt get all the attention, but the Nissan Leaf is the world’s best-selling electric car so far, with more than 300,000 built. Completely redesigned for 2018, the new Leaf boasts stats that were unthinkable back in 2010, when the original car debuted as a 2011 model. The headline number is range, EPA-rated at 151 miles, more than double the original’s 73. The 40-kilowatt-hour battery sitting under the floor has the same physical dimensions as before, but packs 67 percent higher energy density. And the base price dropped almost $3,000, too. These are the kind of trend lines that validate everyone (say, me) who responded to the initial wave of EV criticism with “Just…

1 min
the car is your personal power plant

All electric cars convert power from AC to DC to charge themselves up. The Leaf, however, can intelligently go from DC back to AC. That means you can power an entire house with one. You can store the energy collected from your solar panels. Or you could charge the Leaf at night, when grid electricity might be cheaper, and run your house off its batteries during the day. Nissan is still figuring out how this will work safely with U.S. power grids. But in Japan, Leafs are already being used this way—part transportation, part generator.…

1 min
charger wars

CHAdeMO •USED BY: Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota •NUMBER IN U.S.: 1,780 •NOTE: Not a single one in Wyoming, Montana, or North or South Dakota. J1772 Combo •USED BY: BMW, GM, Ford, Volkswagen, Jaguar, and Honda •NUMBER IN U.S.: 1,249 •NOTE: Like CHAdeMO, there’s a charger desert in the West. Supercharger •USED BY: Tesla •NUMBER IN U.S.: 391 •NOTE: Distributed to allow cross-country travel, but you’re out of luck in North Dakota. Porsche Fast-Charger •USED BY: Porsche (Mission E) •NUMBER IN U.S.: 189 •NOTE: Slated for introduction next year, the Mission E will push 800 volts (250 miles in 20 minutes) through combo chargers at Porsche dealerships.…