The Truth About Cars » Electric vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Electric vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/electric-vehicles/ Junkyard Find: 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Electric Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-chevrolet-sprint-electric-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-chevrolet-sprint-electric-sport/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788522 12 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNow that it’s possible to buy electric cars that actually do what cars are supposed to do, we mustn’t forget the very lengthy era— say 1970 to just a few years ago— during which all manner of optimistic-yet-doomed companies converted various econoboxes into lead-acid-battery-based EVs. Every once in a while, I’ll spot the remains of such an EV at a junkyard; we saw a junked EVolve Electrics 1995 Geo Metro EV conversion last year, and now a different Denver yard has given us this ’88 Sprint “Electric Sport.”
06 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sprint aka Cultus wasn’t a bad choice for an electric vehicle, being lightweight and cheap.
01 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinElectric motors are worth money, either as working motors or as sources of valuable scrap copper, so the one in this car is long gone.
18 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe remnants of the battery tray may be seen in the rear cargo area.
17 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomeone grabbed the no-doubt-modified instrument cluster, too.
07 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBonus points to anyone who can track down the company that built the Electric Sport Sprint!

01 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Tesla Hires Renault-Nissan Communications Director http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-hires-renault-nissan-communications-director/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-hires-renault-nissan-communications-director/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:35:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770985 tesla-model-s-10

In preparation to enter the Chinese market while battling state governments of direct sales, Tesla has hired Renault-Nissan communications director Simon Sproule to the role of vice president of communications and marketing for the EV automaker.

Bloomberg reports Sproule’s experience gained from stints with Microsoft, Jaguar, Ford and Renault-Nissan may be of benefit to Tesla, according to AutoTrends Inc. principal Joe Phillippi:

In many respects he’s got the perfect background. He’s been on the tech side, he’s been on the international auto side and he works for a CEO with peripatetic qualities who runs more than one company.

Sproule will be responsible for marketing Tesla to Europe and China — who aim to increase sales of its Model S 55 percent through exports to the two markets this year — while aiding in the fight with various state regulators over direct sales to customers, including this week’s blow-up between the automaker and New Jersey.

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Plus ça Charge: 1916 Woods Dual Power, An Early Gas/Electric Hybrid of Surprising Sophistication http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/plus-ca-charge-1916-woods-dual-power-an-early-gaselectric-hybrid-of-surprising-sophistication/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/plus-ca-charge-1916-woods-dual-power-an-early-gaselectric-hybrid-of-surprising-sophistication/#comments Sat, 22 Feb 2014 17:10:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743553 IMG_0002

Full photo gallery here.

Reading Alex Dykes’ review of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, I was reminded of something by Alex’s description of the Accord’s drivetrain layout. Unlike the Toyota and Ford parallel hybrid systems (similar in function but arrived at independently), or the Chevy Volt’s Voltec drivetrain (a different spin, no pun intended, on the same basic idea that allows the Volt to operate mostly in pure electric or serial hybrid modes), which all connect electric motors and a gasoline engine to a planetary gearset, the Accord now uses an inline serial/parallel hybrid system, a concept that actually goes back a century to the Woods Dual Power automobile.

Directly connected to the engine’s output shaft of the 2014 Accord Hybrid is a motor/generator whose own output shaft is in turn connected to an electronically controlled clutch. Behind the clutch is another electric motor that drives the wheels without the use of a transmission. At low to moderate speeds, when it’s not operating on battery power alone, the Accord operates as a straight serial hybrid, like a diesel-electric locomotive. The engine drives the generator, which powers the second electric motor and there is no physical connection between the engine and the driven wheels. At higher speeds, the clutch engages and the combustion engine and motor/generator start contributing mechanical power to the system via the armature shaft of the primary drive motor. The new Accord Hybrid’s drivetrain layout reminded me of a car built almost a century ago, the 1916 Woods Dual Power. I sent Alex a link to a post I’d written about the Woods car last year for Hemmings, and when he agreed that the systems were similar I thought I’d share a description of the Woods hybrid with our readers here at TTAC. In the year or so since that was published I’ve learned more about the Woods company’s history, so this is a good opportunity to update that information.

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Clinton Edgar Woods, it could be said, wrote the book on electric cars, literally. Okay, so he published it in 1900 and there wasn’t as much to write about then as there is more than a 110 years later, but Woods was indeed an electric vehicle pioneer. The MIT graduate started his first electric car company, American Electric, in 1896, which two years later merged with the Indiana Bicycle company to become Waverly, a company that produced electric automobiles until 1916. In 1897, Woods started a new company under his own name in Chicago, producing five models of electric cars but the company was not profitable. A group of financiers including Chicago’s Samuel Insull, who founded Commonwealth Edison, and New Yorker August Belmont, along with a syndicate of Canadian Standard Oil investors, staged a takeover of Woods’ company to use as a vehicle to challenge the taxicab monopoly of the Electric Vehicle Company. They bought Woods’ patents and recapitalized the company at a value of $10 million, calling it the Woods Motor Vehicle Company, keeping Clinton Woods on as a consulting engineer.

1906 WOODS Elec b4

Later advertising would claim that they were the first company to sell an electric automobile. Perhaps the oil interests were hedging their energy bets but in any case they were hoping to be able to use Woods’ expertise. However, after a 1901 reorganization Woods left the firm, apparently to become a car dealer.

1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 23

Over the course of about two decades, the company would go on to sell about 13,500 passenger and commercial vehicles, including electric cars, gasoline powered cars and gasoline/electric hybrids. Long before the federal government encouraged the development of EVs, Woods was selling electric trucks to the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 24

That production figure would probably make Woods Motor one of the most successful electric car companies before the modern era. The last car they sold, the Woods Dual Power, may not have been a commercial success but it was a remarkably sophisticated machine whose features are echoed in many modern hybrids besides the obvious similarities in layout with the latest Accord Hybrid.

1910 WOODS Elec 7 p 18

By 1915, two developments sounded the death knell for the early EV industry. First, in 1912 Cadillac introduced Charles Kettering’s electric self starter, making it possible for large numbers of women (who didn’t have the upper body strength to hand crankstart a car) to drive. Women drivers were an important, perhaps primary, market for the early electric car industry. Secondly, Henry Ford moved production of the Model T to his new Highland Park plant and in 1913 started using a moving assembly line, producing over 300,000 cars that year, significantly driving down the manufacturing cost and retail price of gasoline powered automobiles. Compared to Ford, the growing General Motors, and Studebaker, makers of electric cars and trucks were boutique manufacturers, they simply couldn’t compete with volume manufacturing.

Woods had made electric cars and they had made gasoline cars. To stay in business the company decided to make a car that used both power sources. While a technically clever idea with some marketing potential, a small volume car company making a novel car that involved the cost of both an electric drivetrain and a gasoline engine just as Mssrs. Ford and Durant were making conventional automobiles even cheaper may not have been the best strategic business move, but had they not gone with the hybrid you wouldn’t be reading this, then, would you?

The drivetrain of the 1916 Woods Dual Power was the brainchild of another inventor named Roland S. Fend. Though there are differences, the Woods production cars were based on a patent of Fend’s that was assigned to the company. Fend was an acknowledged expert on EVs in his day, also consulting for early EV maker Baker, Rauch & Lang

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Advertised as “a self-charging, non-stalling, two-power car with unlimited mileage [range], adequate speed, and greatest economy,” the Dual Power was said to have the advantages of both gas and electric power, with the disadvantages of neither. It was faster than most other electric cars, it was easier to operate than gasoline cars, it had no clutch or gear selectors, and it didn’t necessarily need a charging station. The Dual Power even had a great logo, though in an age when some still called automobiles horseless carriages, it surprisingly used a team of two identical horses to represent the two different power sources. It’s a fantastic period logo, but it’s still a little odd.

woodsdualpowerlogo

The concept behind the Dual Power hybrid was that gasoline powered cars, in order to have reserve power for passing or hill climbing, had to be equipped with engines that are bigger and more powerful than needed in regular driving. Electric cars needed to carry around heavy extra batteries for reserve power. Fend’s idea was that the combination of a less powerful gasoline engine and an electric drive with a smaller motor and fewer batteries would be a greater whole than the sum of its parts. Each power source could propel the car at low to moderate speeds, while they could be combined when more power was needed.

The Dual Power has a 14 horsepower, 68.7 cubic inch L-head four cylinder engine supplied by Continental. It was connected to a compound-wound electric motor. Woods Motor called it a dynamotor, what we would call a motor/generator. DC compound motors have both series and parallel (also known as shunt) windings, providing adequate starting torque while still allowing accurate speed control. It was made by General Electric and rated at 48 volts at 60 amps (~6 horsepower). The electric motor was connected to the output shaft of the engine with an electromagnetic clutch manufactured by Cutler-Hammer. A battery pack made of purpose built lead acid cells supplied by Exide was rated at 115 amp-hours at a five hour discharge rate. It was about half of the size and weight of the battery packs used by conventional EVs then. The output shaft of the electric motor was connected to a driveshaft running to the back axle. While Fend’s patent shows gearboxes in the power chain before and after the electric motor, the Woods Dual Power had no transmission. The layout in Fend’s patent with gearing before and after the electric motor is similar to GM’s recently aborted 2-Mode hybrid. It also didn’t have an Entz magnetic transmission, as used in the Owens Magnetic car from the same era, even though Wikipedia says it did. That error may be attributable to the fact that the Owens Magnetic is better known than the Woods Dual Power because well known car collector Jay Leno owns an Owens Magnetic.

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There are three and a half Woods Dual Powers known to exist. The half car, coincidentally is a Woods body mounted to the chassis of another early alternative energy vehicle, a Stanley Steamer (though in the early days, electricity and gasoline were actually alternatives to steam engines). One complete Woods car, the subject of a preservation project, is owned by a Los Angeles county museum and is on loan, displayed at the Petersen Museum. Another, said to be restored and in operating condition, is owned by the  Louwman Museum in the Netherlands. The Woods Dual Power photographed here is in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum, in original, unrestored condition, with just 11,085 miles on the odometer, though the car is not currently operational.

When it was operational, how did the Woods Dual Power work? With the clutch engaged, the combustion engine would drive the car, with torque passing directly through he electric motor’s armature shaft. With the clutch disengaged and the engine not running, the electric motor powers the car.  That much was clear.

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Finding out exactly how the Woods Dual Power worked, though, was a bit of a task. To begin with, with only three existing Woods powertrains, it’s not like you can find an expert on the marque at any big car show. It’s not a 1969 Camaro, or even an Isetta. Fortunately, I was able to find a sales brochure (PDF), a period guide to automotive electrical equipment for car enthusiasts, and some old trade journals that explained how the Dual Power worked and how it was operated.

Matt Anderson, the transportation curator of the Ford Museum, graciously gave me access to their car, a 1916 Woods Dual Power Model 44, for these photos. It has simple controls: a steering wheel mounted with long and short control levers, one for each of the powerplants, a brake pedal on the floorboard, and a backup pedal below where the driver sits. The dashboard contains a Stewart Warner “magnetic type” speedometer/odometer/trip meter along with a combination ammeter and charge indicator.

To operate the Dual Power, first an ignition switch on the steering column is turned on. The sources say that it’s a locking switch though the example at the Henry Ford Museum doesn’t use a key. That switch closes electrical connections in both the combustion engine’s ignition circuit and part of the circuit for the main solenoid that’s between the traction batteries and the electric motor. For safety, all high-voltage switching was done with solenoids. The longer of the two levers on the steering wheel is moved forward. That completes the main solenoid circuit, allowing electricity to power the motor, getting the car moving. Moving the lever farther forward changes the position on a shunt field control rheostat near the motor under the floorboard and as the field resistance on the motor changes, the speed increases. Moving the lever back towards its idle position decreases speed.

Once the Woods Dual Power was moving, the gasoline engine could be engaged at any time. Electric drive was generally used up to about 15 MPH. If more power was needed, just moving the shorter lever on the steering wheel to a forward position would start up the gasoline engine. That lever controlled the throttle on the carburetor. Also, moving it off the stop activated a circuit that engaged the magnetic clutch between the engine and the motor. Electricity to activate the clutch was provided either by the battery or by the motor/generator when the car was running on gasoline power.

Since the ignition circuit on the Dual Power is activated when the car is first switched on, with the relatively powerful electric traction motor already rapidly spinning, the engine on the Woods Dual Power was claimed to fire up immediately as soon as the clutch was engaged, faster than with the much weaker electric starters on conventional cars of the day. I suppose this feature would be comparable in some ways to a modern stop-start system, starting the engine when needed and shutting it off when the car was standing still. The company also claimed that the Dual Power could not be stalled. Whenever the combustion engine was driving the car, the electric motor was already spinning at engine speed even if it wasn’t energized. If the engine started to stall, power could be sent to the electric motor to assist the engine by just moving the control lever forward.

The best selling electric cars then were made by Detroit Electric and had a top speed of 20 miles per hour. With both control levers all the way forward, the Woods Dual Power had a top speed of 35 MPH, a significant improvement.

Once the car was moving forward, the gasoline engine had enough power and torque to keep it going at moderate speeds and the control lever for the electric part of the hybrid could be adjusted so that the electric motor was no longer driving the car. In those conditions, the “dynamotor” was generating more current than it was drawing, so the Woods Dual Power could theoretically recharge its own batteries while it traveled. In that aspect, the Woods Dual Power is like the extended range Chevy Volt.

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Once the gasoline engine was running, the electrical system could be charged or discharged “at will” at any speed between 10 MPH and about 30 MPH, or at least that’s what the company claimed. Keeping the batteries moderately charged by the gasoline engine also extended battery life by preventing the gassing and sulphating caused by overcharging or fully depleting the charge. One could say that this was an early version of battery conditioning, an important feature of most modern electric vehicles.

Another feature of modern EVs that the Dual Power had was regenerative braking, what the company called “dynamic braking”. To slow the car, the driver would return the electric control lever to its original position, allowing the motor/generator to generate electricity and slow the car as the motor was spun by the car’s forward motion. If engine braking was needed or desired, the driver throttled back the engine with its control lever but kept the clutch engaged, then returned the engine control to it’s stop, disengaging the clutch and shutting off the engine as the car came to a full stop.

Regenerative braking was advertised as working above 6 miles per hour. To come to a complete stop the car’s mechanical brakes were activated with a foot pedal. An interesting safety feature of the car was that if the driver didn’t want to use the hand controls to slow the car, or more importantly if they didn’t have time, the brake pedal could be used by itself instead. In addition to activating the mechanical brakes, the floor pedal also closed the gasoline throttle, disengaged the clutch, and returned the field control rheostat to its minimum position, initiating regenerative braking. According to one source, the foot pedal could also be used to control the speed of the motor when operating on electricity. As with other early electric cars, advertising for the Woods Dual Power emphasized how women would find it easy to operate.

Since there was no transmission, to go backwards, the polarity of the power to the direct current electric motor was flipped so the motor spun backwards. There was also an interlock device that would not allow the operation of the reverse pedal unless the brake pedal was fully depressed. Stepping on the reversing pedal also disengages the magnetic clutch, allowing the gasoline engine to continue to run while the Dual Power is reversing.

1916 WOODS Elec 8 31 p 364

In a recent post I asked, if General Motors’ 2-Mode hybrid system for pickups and SUVs worked so well at saving fuel, how did it fail at the market, discontinued in the next product cycle? Well, just like the 2-Mode vehicles, the Woods Dual Power was relatively expensive, $2,650 in 1916 dollars. While much cheaper than the $9,000 Owens Magnetic, in 1916 you could buy almost four Ford Model Ts for the price of one Woods Dual Power. The Woods hybrid returned gas mileage that would be remarkable today, a reported 48 MPG, but economy generally has never been a big selling point with people who can afford expensive cars.

Another reason why it didn’t succeed was that the Dual Power was not as smooth, nor as reliable as advertised. For the 1917 model year, there was some reengineering in response to customer dissatisfaction, including using a larger, 95 cubic inch engine from Continental. Though faster than other electrics, the Dual Power could easily be overtaken by the far less expensive Model T, which could cruise at 40 mph, 45 if the driver was brave or stupid.

Maybe an even bigger engine or a more powerful electric drive would have made the Woods Dual Power more competitive with conventional cars. Being superior to electric cars at a time when the first generation of EVs were already in decline as the technology of gasoline engines improved and the cost of gasoline powered cars declined was not good enough. Though they planned to make between 650 and 750 Dual Power cars a year, a fraction of that number was made and Woods Motor Vehicle Company went out of business two years after introducing the hybrid.

1916 WOODS Elec 8 31 p 365

Still, the Woods Dual Power had features associated with modern hybrids and extended range hybrids like regenerative braking, stop-start, charging on the fly, and battery conditioning. It was an elegant, well thought out design whose simple operating controls belied the complexity of the electrical components, solenoids and mechanical linkages that actually operated and coordinated the machinery, gas and electric. While it may not have been superior to the conventional automobiles of the era, the Woods Dual Power’s hybrid drive system in fact did work. That Woods Motor Vehicle Co. was able to get it to do so 100 years ago, using solenoids and mechanical linkages rather than digital computer controls, was an impressive technical achievement and worthy of inclusion in a world class car museum like The Henry Ford. In that recent post about another hybrid system, the 2-Mode transmission now abandoned by its inventor, General Motors, and GM’s partners in developing the technology, Daimler, Chrysler and BMW, I said that you never know, sometime in the next century the 2-Mode system might return on passenger vehicles (the Allison truck and bus transmission the 2-Mode is based upon has been a commercial success). Perhaps 100 years from now, someone will introduce some kind of transportation device and an older person will ask a similar question as I did, “Doesn’t that operate a lot like the Accord hybrid?” and someone even older will chime in, “Or the Woods Dual Power.”

In the 1980s, General Motors tried saving fuel through cylinder deactivation. It was a pretty high tech thing and and befitting as such, GM introduced it on a Cadillac engine called the V8-6-4. Today, cylinder deactivation is commonplace across the industry and it works pretty much seamlessly. Back then, control and actuation devices weren’t so good. Cadillac buyers ended up with rather rough running engines, something that badly damaged the brand for decades, though the V8-6-4 was available for just one model year. Old ideas are indeed sometimes a bit early for their times and worth a second look when materials science and technology improve.

I’d be intrigued what would happen if someone made a modern replica of the Dual Power drivetrain. The Accord Hybrid is similar, no doubt, but it also includes a second electric motor that normally operates as a generator. The Woods car has only one motor/generator. It would be interesting to see how something directly analogous to the Woods Dual Power would work. Maybe use one of the turbocharged 3 cylinder liter motors that are proliferating in the automotive world, connected via a clutch to something smaller than the traction motor in the Tesla Model S, with a correspondingly smaller and lighter lithium-ion battery pack. Control it with a computer just like modern hybrids are controlled so you just have to step on the gas and brake pedals, not fiddle with steering wheel mounted controls, and so the batteries are maintained in a healthy state of charge without the driver’s attention needed. It might not be as quick as a Model S, but I bet it could move a compact or midsize car around safely in traffic, maybe even smartly. It would be interesting to see how it would stack up in terms of fuel and electricity consumption and range with modern hybrid designs.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

1916 WOODS Elec 8 31 p 364 1916 WOODS Elec 8 31 p 365 1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 23 1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 24 1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 27 1906 WOODS Elec b4 1910 WOODS Elec 7 p 18 woodsdualpowerlogo 2579442558_5d24d52959_b diagram dualpowerdrivetrain electric_vehicle_advertising_1900s IMG_0002 IMG_0007 IMG_0010 IMG_0011 IMG_0015_l IMG_0017 IMG_0018-1-_r IMG_0019_l IMG_0026 IMG_0027 IMG_0028 IMG_0029 IMG_0030 IMG_0032 patents phantom planview woods1910

 

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Capsule Review: 2014 Tesla Model S P85+ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-tesla-model-s-p85/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-tesla-model-s-p85/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734233
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Electric vehicles tend to get a pass from many reviewers, who are content to overlook major faults in favor of a great drivetrain. Years back, I did a review of the Nissan Leaf for EcoModder, an eco-enthusiasts site dedicated to fuel-friendly modifications and electric vehicle (EV) projects. In retrospect, I was far more impressed with the fact that it was just an electric car than the car itself. A Leaf is still a rebodied Nissan Versa with illusions of green responsibility. It’s neat, but it’s not that outstanding if you look at it simply as another car.

But that’s a lot of what Tesla has been about, waves of hype and media attention. Personally, I kept a fair amount of distance from the Tesla news and drama. Part of me simply doesn’t care, I am only really curious in the car that comes out of the debacle. And the car happens to be a genuinely good one. The styling is dead sexy, this car has fantastic lines in the glowing “Tesla Red Multi Coat” paint (there’s no sexy name for the color, sadly).

The brakes are mean stompers, aided by the regen braking in the rear. Though very heavy, you almost never feel the weight; it’s too low in the chassis to make itself known in all but the tightest corners. The interior is comfortable, with great visibility. The overall ergonomics are the polarizing aspect inside, with Tesla making a giant leap of faith by forcing a giant touch screen on Model S buyers, but it was hard to find fault with it.

Even though it’s been described again and against, the driving experience – devoid of gasoline, piston-actuated thrust, and multigear transmissions, is startling in how it delivers a near-silent freight train of torque from the rear wheels. What most publications can’t tell you is how you have to alter your own sensory perceptions when driving this car at speed.

We all have a method for gauging velocity without looking at the speedometer. Driving by feel – that is, the sights, sounds, and tactile feedback – is something that even the most marginally interested driver has developed. The more keen among us have an inner monologue based on all of these inputs. For instance,  practically any other road car, you see the “25 MPH” sign in yellow, ratchet down into the right gear for that corner and listen to the engine note fall, feel the chassis bite and the tires dig in to the pavement, and you know you’ve hit the right velocity for this corner.

With the Model S, your only option is through the tires, trying to sense speed with the increasing tire noise. And it’s not a bad thing, because the rest of the driving experience is so unique. Torque, 450 foot pounds of it, is always there. Always. A gasoline engine has to receive your input, open the throttle blades, pull air into the cylinders with fuel, squishbangblow, then transmit that power to the transmission… driveshaft… differential… axles... and you then still have to wait for the engine to hit its powerband. The Tesla bypasses everything and just throws down massive amounts of torque straight to the wheels. Up to its gearing-limited 130 mph top speed, it only begins to lose thrust as it approaches the aerodynamic drag of triple digit speeds.

Thanks to the low center of gravity, the Model S conceals its substantial mass quite well. The only time you get to feel the weight in action is in the tightest of corners, when the chassis’s neutral disposition gives way to mild understeer. The steering ratio is surprisingly quick, with decent road feel. Our P85+ came equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires that offered monumental amounts of grip.

The Model S’ stability control system also deserves a fair amount of credit for not being too intrusive while effectively managing the gratuitous amount of power put down the by EV drivetrain. Most stability systems will hunker a car back down into line,  heavily braking wheels strategically to pull the car back in line. The Tesla system simply feels like it guides the car with an invisible hand. It’s able to adjust torque output with exemplary speed and precision. Expeienced drivers will find it relatively easy to walk up to, but not exceed, the limit of the rear wheels on corner exit. Traction control can be turned off (and exploited pretty easily in the dirt), but stability control cannot.

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Of course, it’s possible to find fault with the car. As someone who had a GameBoy by age five and grew up in the tech-era, I like the large touch screen for most things. And most of the Tesla buyers are from the same era, though a few years older and a few times wealthier. These are buyers who like tech, and it brings a wealth of new options with what you can do with a car’s control systems. But, at times it’s picky and finicky when you attempt to control chassis options.

The ride height is adjustable, but it would mysteriously lock out “low” when parked for photos. While setting the car up for a photo shoot, took five minutes of fiddling to get the running lights and accent to stay on with the driver’s door shut. While auto-on headlights handle daily use just fine, a simple headlight switch would be very welcome. Other operations, like HVAC, nav, and radio all work very well. After an hour or so, I could easily adjust HVAC controls as easily as my own car.

In one of the car’s more overlooked quirks, the Model S offers almost no internal storage. There’s door pockets and a glove box, but that’s it. It lacks a center console, and there’s a large and open shelf along the front floor board to the dash, but no cubby holes to keep things organized. Though Tesla was smart enough to fit Michelin Pilot Sport tires, this car REALLY needs better seats. That attention needed at the throttle is hard to summon when you have to use your right knee against the center stack to brace yourself. There is not enough bolster for how capable the car is.

One other thing I couldn’t help but notice was the size of the panel gaps, particularly around the hood. Not many outlets have mentioned this detail, but it’s one that I expect buyers in this price bracket to be cognizant of this if they’re coming from a BMW or Lexus.

But, Tesla is incrementally updating these with new features. And that’s something that really impresses me about the ownership experience. Elon Musk and Tesla genuinely cares about this car and its owners. They listen, they adjust, they accept criticism and do right. Not only does the Model S represent a new frontier for the automotive world , but it also represents a change in the mentality an automaker has towards the satisfaction of its customers. The Model S’ firmware is regularly updated, refining the car every time.

But as it sits, the Tesla Model S represents the best realization of the electric car that we’ve had in a production car. There’s no green illusion: no tree infographics, no ZERO EMISSIONS sticker package. It’s a car that happens to be electric, not just an electric car. And it’s damn good.

Photos: Phillip Thomas

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Chicago 2014: Kia Soul EV Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-kia-soul-ev-debuts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-kia-soul-ev-debuts/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 16:10:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735049 kia-soul-ev

 

While sister brand Hyundai has yet to offer an EV, Kia will step up to the plate and offer an electric version of the Soul, with a range between 80-100 miles via a 27 kWh battery pack. The Soul EV puts out 109 hp and  210 lb-ft of torque, relatively tame figures for an EV. Level 1 and Level 2 fast charging is supported, with provisions for DC fast charging and even conventional outlet charging, which can take as much as 24 hours. On the other hand, charging via a 50 kWh charger can provide 80 percent juice in as little as half an hour. Notably, the battery pack lies flat, so you only have to give up 5 cubic feet of cargo room and a 3.1 inches of leg room to attain a zero-emissions Soul.

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Cops Nab Electric Leaf Owner Before He Can Ride Free On Your Nickel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/cops-nab-electric-leaf-owner-before-he-can-ride-free-on-your-nickel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/cops-nab-electric-leaf-owner-before-he-can-ride-free-on-your-nickel/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:56:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=671122 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The owner of a Nissan Leaf was arrested in Georgia last week for stealing 5 cents worth of electricity after he plugged his car into the exterior outlet at a local middle school while his son was playing tennis.

 

According to Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, 11 Alive, the car had only been plugged in for a few minutes when a police officer arrived and informed the man that he was committing theft and directed him to unplug the car. Later, after verifying the school had not given the man permission to use the outlet, the officer pursued an arrest warrant. The man was arrested by two deputies who appeared at his home 11 days later and spent more than 15 hours in the DeKalb County Jail before making bail.

Advocates of electric vehicles will decry this as police over reach and argue that amount of energy involved was negligible. The police, on the other hand, have taken a tough, no nonsense approach and, in their opinion, theft is theft no matter how little was stolen. I’m left asking is this what our society has come to? What kind of dumbass figures that he can charge his car for free wherever he stops? On the other hand, what kind of cop is petty enough to chase a guy down for a nickel? I wonder, would the cops have rolled in on this guy if he had “stolen” water from the drinking fountain at the side of the school to fill a leaky radiator? Clearly, the only ones who are going to win this battle will be the lawyers.

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Tokyo Motor Show: Are The Japanese Really Back? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/tokyo-motor-show-are-the-japanese-really-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/tokyo-motor-show-are-the-japanese-really-back/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 15:30:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=663562

Three of the world’s most important auto shows began last week. Since my invitations to the various press events must have been lost in the mail I, like virtually everyone else in the world, followed them over the internet. I’m OK with that, really. I hate fighting the crowds and by the time a show closes high resolution photos of the most important cars are always all over the world-wide-web, anyhow. With the photos are the journalists’ impressions. Some are good and some are bad, but they all make me think. For example, there’s this article from the Top Gear website on the Tokyo motor show that asserts, on the strength of the cars at this year’s show, “Japan is back.” Hold on – Really?

To be sure there were some important and exciting cars at this year’s Tokyo motor show. Honda showed us a new NSX and the S660 sport compact that compares favorably to the Beat kei class sports car that Honda produced back in the last century. Nissan showed us the amazing three-seat, electric “Bladeglider,” a hotted up Nismo GTR and the retro themed IDx. Toyota’s performance car offerings came in the form of the Lexus RC and a convertible FT86. While Toyota ripped the top off of their Toybaru twin, Subaru went the opposite route and gave baby some back with their Cross Sport. So far as I could glean, that was about it for cars intended to stir the hearts and minds of enthusiasts. That would have made for a pretty small show though, so augmenting the really interesting stuff were was a whole slew of hybrid/electric/gas, etc SUVs, sedans and city cars intended to appeal to the masses.

Click here to view the embedded video.

From my perspective what we got are some new toys of the uber rich, two small cars that my all-American ass won’t fit into, a couple of modifications on a car I probably won’t buy anyhow and one wanna-be-retro Nissan that might actually have some possibilities if they don’t screw it up with a powertrain that serious enthusiast wouldn’t want. The emphasis on products with hybrid or alternative energy powertrains and other technical innovations says some good things about state of Japanese industry and the many different body styles on display indicates that the Japanese have noted the success of Korean cars’ design language and are finally looking somewhere other than Mercedes for inspiration, too. Good news for sure, but does any of it mean Japan is back?

For me, the glory days of Japanese cars happened roughly between 1985 and 1995. The cars of that era had good, solid lines and, while the designs weren’t daring, they did have their own unique sense of style. There was technical innovation too and it came wrapped up in practical packages. Real performance was offered across all the price ranges and the variety of new cars was enormous. There was something there for everyone and if you could not afford a Twin Turbo Supra or a Turbo 300ZX, you could, at the very least, take home on of the good looking down-market alternatives: the AE86 Twin-Cam Corolla or the 200SX Turbo. Today, that wide aray of choices is no longer a part of Japan Inc.’s current line-up.

I’m not sure why that is, but in the process of writing this article it suddenly hit me that the cars on display at this year’s Tokyo motor show says something about how our society has become ever more divided over the past couple of decades. It doesn’t take an economist to point out that the rich have gotten richer and the rest of us poorer. The market reflects that reality. The rich get supercars, those of us in the middle get family trucksters and the odd toy while the unwashed masses receive battery powered practicality. The choices are gone and fun is being increasingly reserved for those who can afford it. It wasn’t that ay 20 years ago and the sad truth is that Japan isn’t anywhere close to being back. But then, none of us are, are we?

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Elon Musk Buys 007 Submarine, Will Attempt To Make It Functional http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-buys-007-submarine-will-attempt-to-make-it-functional/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-buys-007-submarine-will-attempt-to-make-it-functional/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 13:42:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=626753 800px-TSWLM-LotusEsprit

Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark of our times, has quite the extensive résumé: Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors; billionaire investor of projects and businesses such as SolarCity and the preservation of Nikola Tesla’s lab; inventor of the Hyperloop rapid mass transit concept; 007 cosplayer…

Yes, you read that right: Musk is a huge fan of the man who loves his martinis shaken and his women to have double entendre naming schemes. So much so, in fact, that he now has one of Bond’s most awesome vehicles ever conceived.

In a double exclusive with our friends over at Jalopnik, the secret buyer of the Lotus Esprit Mk I-cum-submarine from the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” was Musk himself, who paid nearly $900,000 for the privilege of owning one of the most famous vehicles in the history of film, beating out another bidder in a duel worthy of a Bond film (or so we would hope). The star car — or, rather, the star submarine — was originally lost in storage limbo, then discovered, spruced up, and put up for auction by Canadian auction house RM Auctions in early September of this year.

Alas, Musk was a bit disappointed that all the Esprit did was look pretty and float, but since this is Musk we’re talking about (via Tesla’s PR department)…

It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.

If his SpaceX can successfully dock with the International Space Station, and his Tesla can make EVs cool (the first was based off the Lotus Elise, no less), then Musk can make this impossible dream possible. We look forward to seeing his car arrive at San Diego Comic Con 2014 via Pacific Beach in all of its glory.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Still Not Ready For The Rental Counter: EV Rentals Fail To Thrive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=624593 Tesla_Supercharging_in_Gilroy

Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range based on the number of (gasoline and diesel) fuel stops along the way.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Enterprise Head of Sustainability Lee Broughton note that while customers were “keen” to give electric power a go, range anxiety led many a renter to return the car for one where they know the infrastructure is there to meet. On average, a renter will spend almost two days with an electric-only car versus a week with a conventional road warrior. Currently, the St. Louis-based rental car business has 300 electric cars in their overall fleet, all Nissan Leafs. The figure is down 40 percent from the target of 500 of the cars set by Enterprise back in 2010.

Despite the overall lack of demand in this emerging rental market due to lack of infrastructure and larger-capacity batteries for extended range, competitor Hertz added the Tesla S to its Dream Cars lineup in September for their customer base in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The daily rate to feel like Elon Musk is $500; Enterprise offers the S in their Exotic Car Collection for $300 to $500 in the same locations, with three currently in the lineup available. The Leaf offered by Enterprise goes for $55 to $140 a day depending on location.

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Just What Assets Does Fisker Have to Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/just-what-assets-does-fisker-have-to-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/just-what-assets-does-fisker-have-to-buy/#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2013 13:30:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=621809 The Fisker Karma's battery pack and drivetrain, supplied by Quantum Technologies

The Fisker Karma’s battery pack and drivetrain, supplied by Quantum Technologies

The Department of Energy today is auctioning off the paper for the $192 million it loaned to Fisker Automotive as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. An obvious question is why would anyone want to buy that debt? Many of the press reports about the sale say that by purchasing the debt, a buyer could ultimately gain control of Fisker’s assets including intellectual property, like the extended range hybrid drivetrain and controls thereof. While Fisker may indeed have assets with some value, I’m not sure that anyone’s going to spend at least $30 million, the minimum bid required by the DoE, to be able to duplicate the Fisker Karma’s drivetrain.

I can understand why Bob Lutz, either participating or not with Wanxiang, would want access to the Karma’s design as he’s apparently had no problem selling every LS9 powered Destino, based on the Karma, that he and his business partners have been able to build. Henrik Fisker is a talented designer so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Fisker Karma survives the Fisker car company. The Karma could become a latter day Graham-Paige Hollywood or Nate Altman era Avanti II. For their part, Wanxiang might prefer that Fisker stays intact and resumes production. Wanxiang already bought battery maker A123, which supplied the Karma, so they have an interest in keeping the startup automaker alive.

Quantum Aggressor, which features a hybrid drivetrain

Quantum Aggressor, which features a hybrid drivetrain

It’s conceivably possible that if Fisker owned something novel in the way of electric drivetrains or control systems for EVs and hybrids, that might be a way of acquiring the latest EV or hybrid tech on the cheap.  Control systems for hybrids are not inexpensive to develop. Seamlessly integrating gasoline engines and electric motors is not easy. At the recent Toyota Hybrid World Tour, the point was made that software was the most expensive part of the Prius’ development. For pure electric vehicles, motor control, regenerative systems and battery management all require complex software to operate properly. To save money on EV development, Toyota itself has a partnership with Tesla, who provide motors and battery packs for the electric version of the RAV4. Still, I have to wonder if Fisker Automotive owns any EV or hybrid technology that’s worth risking $30 million. That’s because Fisker doesn’t own the technology behind the Karma’s drivetrain.

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Quantum Aggressor’s “Q Force” drivetrain, note the similarities to the Karma’s “Q-Drive”

Fisker itself doesn’t own much in the way of EV or hybrid technology. Fisker’s “Q-Drive” serial hybrid drivetrain was developed and exclusively supplied by Fisker partner Quantum Technologies. As a matter of fact, Fisker Automotive came into being as the result of a chance meeting at a Range Rover dealership between Henrik Fisker and Quantum Technologies CEO Alan Niedzwiecki, which led to a lunch for the two men in early 2007. General Motors had just announced the concept for the Chevy Volt, which for the most part operates as a serial hybrid, electric drive plus a range extending on-board gasoline engine to drive a generator to power the electric motors. Quantum had developed a similar drivetrain for the U.S. military. When Henrik Fisker told Niedzwiecki of his plans to design gasoline cars built in China, the Quantum CEO said, “Why don’t you design a car around my drivetrain?” Fisker responded by saying “Let’s start a company!”

Quantum was the exclusive supplier of the Karma’s drivetrain, which uses a GM sourced Ecotec four cylinder gasoline engine to power the car’s generator. A Quantum affiliate also supplied Fisker with the photovoltaic roof on the Karma, that kept the parked car ventilated on sunny days and theoretically could extend range on sunny days by a few miles.

As a result of all of this, it’s unlikely that anyone could put the Karma back into production without the active cooperation of Quantum. It’s also unlikely that anyone is going to risk $30 million to have access to technology that another company owns and controls.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Toyota City’s “Ha:Mo” – The Harmonious Mobility Network http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/toyota-citys-hamo-the-harmonious-mobility-network/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/toyota-citys-hamo-the-harmonious-mobility-network/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 15:33:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=621401 Click here to view the embedded video.

Earlier this week, as I was looking for photos to illustrate my Vision of the Future, I stumbled across a photo of the Toyota i-Road, a three wheel electric vehicle that tilts its way through corners in the same was a scooter or motorcycle might. The i-Road debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2012 and despite what I am sure must have been a great deal of attention at the time, I had never heard of the vehicle. As I read more about it I found information about the Toyota “Ha:Mo urban transport system” that is currently undergoing trials in Toyota city and was stunned to find that, with a few notable exceptions, the program bears a striking resemblance to the future I had laid out in my previous article. The future, it seems, is already here. Too bad it is going to fall flat on its face…

Ha:Mo, which is Japanese shorthand for “Harmonious Mobility Network” is Toyota’s vision for the future of transportation; a combination of public and private transportation that relies upon public transportation, shared electric vehicles and a computer network that relays traffic information directly to drivers in real time. The crux of the Ha:Mo system is a Zip Car like system that allows you to check out a vehicle at your starting point and then drop it off at a station near your destination. Toyota appears to be serious about making the idea work and the company is dramatically expanding the program by increasing the number of electric assisted bicycles already available at Ha:Mo rental stations and by opening and additional 17 new sites close the city’s main train stations. Their website states that vehicles can be rented for just 200 yen for the first ten minutes of use and for 20 yen per minute thereafter. Sounds promising, right?

As a guy who has kicked around Japan a lot in my life, including an exchange trip to Toyota city where I lived with a local family for several weeks, I am left wondering how this can actually work. Efficient, effective public transportation is already plentiful in Japan and most Japanese cities are already built around it. Look at a satellite image of Japan and you will quickly note that most train lines are surrounded by a sea of houses. The population drops dramatically as you move away from the rail lines and people who live further out commute to the train stations by bus, bicycle or scooter. Almost every train station, large and small, offers some sort of secure bicycle and scooter parking for a modest fee and so it seems silly to me that someone would rent a vehicle for their commute when they either don’t need one or are already using their own.

Visitors to a Japanese city who need to travel outside of the downtown core will generally use the subway, be met by friends or take a taxi. Taxis in Japan are not cheap, but they are safe, convenient and clean and almost always have drivers who have extensive knowledge of the local area. I rode in a lot of taxis while I was in Japan and my average fare was about 1200 yen, usually 580 for pick up and some slight charge per fraction of a kilometer, and for my money I got a worry free ride, the chance to look out the window and door to door service. When you account for the fact that there is no tipping in Japan it’s a real bargain.

My conclusion then is that Ha:Mo will fail in Japan because the country already has an effective public transportation system. It is, I think, also doomed to fail in the United States for the exact opposite reason. Most cities offer no effective public transportation system and, the way things are going, never will. Seattle is a great example. Seattlites have been clamoring for a light rail system for just about as long as I can remember. There have been numerous schemes put forward, millions of tax dollars have been expended for planning and today they only have a link between the SeaTac airport and downtown to show for all their efforts. Sure, people can drive over to the main rail links and ride the full-size Sounder commuter trains into downtown, but as long as I have to drive my ass into Everett I might as well stay warm and happy and drive the rest of the way to Seattle. Having the ability to rent an electric bicycle or scooter isn’t going to make the experience any better.

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If I can figure out that Ha:Mo is dead before it starts, it seems like the pros at Toyota who actually do this sort of thing for a living should have reached the same conclusion the first time it came up in a meeting. Why they failed to kill it remains a mystery to me. Despite my experience in-country, I can’t claim to have any special understanding of the Japanese mind but I do know that Japanese industry is replete with projects like this. It is one of those odd peculiarities of the Japanese, they are always looking for the next latest, greatest thing and their companies aren’t afraid to use real money to back a long shot. For now, Ha:Mo lives. The only question that remains is whether or not I can get my ass back to Toyota city and score a ride in an i-Road before they pull them off the rental lots.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Grandpa Ronnie Visits The Battery Show and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/grandpa-ronnie-visits-the-battery-show-and-electric-hybrid-vehicle-technology-expo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/grandpa-ronnie-visits-the-battery-show-and-electric-hybrid-vehicle-technology-expo/#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 11:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=523921 IMG_0002

When a major EV and battery expo takes place at the same time as EV charging station maker Ecotality files for bankruptcy, it’s a good question as to how much of the EV and hybrid vehicle industry is truly sustainable and how much exists solely to chase government incentives, but there is no question that it’s a substantial industry, even if, according to the most optimistic forecasts, cars and trucks with electric drive will never make up more than a fraction of annual sales.

Over 300 battery vendors and tier 1 and tier 2 vendors to the battery and EV industries had displays this week at The Battery Show and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo, held just outside of Detroit in Novi. To be honest, there wasn’t really much news generated at the combined shows, which were pretty much trade shows with booths from companies eager to do business. A lot like the SAE World Congress, I came home with more logo inscribed pens than with breaking news.

As most of the vendors were involved with selling motors, wiring, insulating films, welding systems, powder pulverizers, battery management systems and other components, equipment and processes that go into making hybrid or electric vehicles, there were only a handful of actual cars and trucks at the event, one of them being a medium speed electric vehicle (top speed: 60 kmh / 36 mph) called the ZD, from the Shandong Xindayang Electric Vehicle Co. Ltd. of Huangyan, China, part of the XDY group.

It comes with a 10.8 kw/h battery, and a DC motor rated at 6 kw continuous, 18 kw maximum, which work out to about 8 and 24 horsepower respectively. It has 82 Newton meters of torque, ~60 ft lbs. It’s decently equipped, as you can see at their charmingly Chinglishy web site. Their representative told me that the ZD isn’t for sale yet in the United States but the company has a dedicated website for potential distributors.

779ff1be-3759-4272-a585-c737191f80f5My daughter-in-law is finishing up nursing school and had clinicals to do, so I was assigned the very pleasant task of babysitting my grandson, Aryeh Leib, named after my late father, Leonard. Aryeh has gone to a bunch of car shows and car events with me and he’s usually pretty cool about riding around in his stroller. That leaves my hands free for shooting photos and video.

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Aryeh is a very cute child. Don’t take my word for it.Forget yellow Lamborghinis. As babe magnets, PMY Gallardos must surely pale beside toddlers. IMG_0007a_l

Still, a 16 month old child has a limited amount of patience and by the time I came across the booth with the little white ZD electric car, Aryeh was beginning to fuss. I wanted to take some photographs of the EV but he really didn’t want to stay in the stroller, so I let him play in the little hatchback, much to the amusement of the nice, albeit English impaired, Chinese lady staffing the booth.

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Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view on cars at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Nissan to Start Selling California ZEV Credits, Joining Tesla http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nissan-to-start-selling-california-zev-credits-joining-tesla/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nissan-to-start-selling-california-zev-credits-joining-tesla/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 19:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=503305 Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 9.43.17 AM

Tesla recently released financial figures that the company says demonstrate profitability. According to Automotive News, analysts have pointed out that some of Tesla’s revenue comes not from selling cars but rather by selling zero-emission credits to other car companies that want to do business under California’s clean-air regulations. If they want to sell cars in California, companies have to comply by either producing ZEVs or by obtaining credits from companies that make those vehicles. Now Nissan Motor Co, whose Leaf is the best selling electric car of all time, has joined Tesla in selling those credits. Tesla was able to sell those credits because they only make electric vehicles. Makers of conventional cars and trucks buy the credits to theoretically offset the pollution caused by those cars. Since Tesla has no such conventionally polluting cars to offset, they can sell their credits. Nissan executive VP Andy Palmer told reporters earlier this week that at this point Nissan has sold enough Leafs to cover its own needs to comply with the California Air Resources Board‘s rules and will now start selling surplus credits to other automakers. “We’ve got carbon credits to sell, and we’re selling them — California ZEV credits.” No details were forthcoming on time, price or to whom Nissan will sell their credits.

In the first half of 2013, Tesla brought in $119 million, or 12 percent of its revenue, from ZEV credit sales. Each Tesla Model S accrues as many as seven ZEV credits for the EV startup. Each Leaf sold in California and the other states that participate in CARB’s program, earns 3 credits. CARB has no say in how much a company can charge for the credits and their customers do not have to be disclosed.

“While Nissan has been approached by other automakers regarding emission-credit transactions, these discussions and the outcome of any transactions is held in strict confidence by all involved parties,” David Reuter, a spokesman Nissan, said.

Since the end of 2010 when it went on sale, Nissan has sold about 75,000 leafs around the world, with California being one of its biggest markets, and it expects to sell at least 20,000 in the U.S. this year, about double what it sold in 2012.

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Chief Engineer: Next Gen Prius Will Get Better Gas Mileage, Cost Less http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/chief-engineer-next-gen-prius-will-get-better-gas-mileage-cost-less/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/chief-engineer-next-gen-prius-will-get-better-gas-mileage-cost-less/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 10:23:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502089 toyotahybridpresser

Toyota’s Satoshi Ogiso and Bob Carter address the global media gathered in Ypsilanti for Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour press event

The chief engineer for Toyota’s Prius program, Satoshi Ogiso, who is also managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp, gave some hints about the next generation of Toyota’s highest profile hybrid car at a presentation held as part of Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour, a press event that gathered together all of Toyota’s hybrid cars sold around the world for the first time in one place, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, not far from Toyota’s large R&D center in Ann Arbor.

Ogiso, who oversees product planning and chassis engineering for Toyota, said that while the company continues to work on fuel cell cars and expects to be selling 10,000 or more fuel cell cars a year by the 2020s, Toyota is committed to the concept of hybrid cars that combine electric motors and combustion engines. Due to refinements in Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the next Prius will get “”significantly better fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter weight and lower cost, Ogiso said.

“The performance of this next generation of powertrains will reflect significant advances in battery, electric motor and gas engine technologies,” the Toyota engineer said. He also said that while hybrid components will get smaller, the footprint and interior dimensions of the Prius will remain the same.

Comparing a 10% gain in fuel economy to sprinter Usain Bolt taking a second off his world record in the 100 meter dash, Osigo said that Toyota is aiming at 55 mpg for the next Prius, compared to 50 mpg for the current model. In response to a question about when that next Prius will arrive in showrooms, Osigo gave the standard ‘can’t comment on future product plans’ response but then pointed out that the first three iterations of Toyota’s flagship hybrid were spaced six years apart, hinting strongly that the new Prius will be launched in 2015.

That car’s traction batteries will have a higher energy density, and its electric motor, though smaller, will put out more power. Toyota is also aiming for a thermal efficiency of 40% for the gasoline fired combustion engine, which would be the world’s most efficient.

Future models of the Prius may also feature a wireless charging system that Toyota will being testing next year.

Ogiso said that the next Prius will be the first Toyota to use the company’s New Global Architecture platform and it will have a lower center of gravity and better structural rigidity.

Ogiso also addressed other alternative energy developments at Toyota, including hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors. While Toyota is already planning production fuel cell cars within the next decade, supercapacitors, which are used in Toyota’s TS030 LeMans racer, also on display at the event, are not yet ready for use in a street car.

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Tesla Faces Trademark Issues With “Model E” In U.S. and “Tesla” in China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/tesla-faces-trademark-issues-with-model-e-in-u-s-and-tesla-in-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/tesla-faces-trademark-issues-with-model-e-in-u-s-and-tesla-in-china/#comments Fri, 23 Aug 2013 20:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500626 chinesetesla

Chinese businessman Zhan Baosheng’s “Tesla” web site

Tesla Motors faces trademark issues in the United States and China as it tries to expand its lineup of cars and countries where it is sold. According applications found at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s web site, on August 5th, Tesla filed three trademark applications for use of the name “Model E” in three categories, “automobiles and structural parts therefore,” automobile maintenance and repair services, and apparel. With merchandise sales being an important part of car marketing today, additional filings to cover apparel and similar logoed items are standard practice. Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted at a Model E in an interview with Jalopnik, “There will definitely be more models after the S and X. Maybe an E :).”

Tesla may run into problems using Model E, though. Thirteen years ago, Ford Motor Company sued a company called the Model E Corp, claiming that it would cause confusion with Ford’s trademark on the name Model T. That case in a Michigan court was dismissed for lack of standing. Records at the USPTO show that Ford subsequently cancelled or abandoned applications for a trademark on Model E. Initially, when the news broke about Tesla’s applications, a Ford spokesman said that the Dearborn automaker would likely not challenge Tesla’s use. However, a later statement from Ford said that the company will review Tesla’s application and have no further comment on the matter at this time.

Tesla is also having difficulty entering the Chinese car market because a local Chinese businessman already secured rights to use the name Tesla in the world’s largest car market. Tesla Motors had hoped to open a company owned showroom in Beijing by the beginning of 2014, but that plan has now been delayed while they work out the intellectual property issue. The Tesla showroom has posters of the Model S, but no brand signs. A Tokyo-based Tesla representative said that the company had begun taking reservations for the Model S in China.

The “Tesla” trademark was registered in China to a Guangdong businessman named Zhan Baosheng in 2006, according to a trademark agency representing him, in both English and Chinese characters. Zhan also owns the teslamotors.com.cn domain name (and similar domain names) where he appears to promoting his own electric cars. Not only is he using the Tesla name and a Chinese-language slogan ‘Te Si La, Live For Electricity’, he’s also using the T shaped Tesla logo. Experts familiar with Chinese trademark issues say that Tesla may have no other choice than pay Zhan for the use of the name. According to published reports, the EV maker offered him $326,000, but Baosheng is holding out for $32 million. Last year Apple Inc. paid $60 million for the Chinese rights to the name iPad. As a backup plan Tesla has registered the name Tuosule, which phonetically reproduces their brand name.

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Tesla S Sets NHTSA Crash Testing Score Record, Goes to Eleven (Well, 5.4 Stars to be Exact), Breaks Roof Testing Machine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/tesla-s-sets-nhtsa-crash-testing-score-record-goes-to-eleven-well-5-4-stars-to-be-exact-breaks-roof-testing-machine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/tesla-s-sets-nhtsa-crash-testing-score-record-goes-to-eleven-well-5-4-stars-to-be-exact-breaks-roof-testing-machine/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 19:35:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500168 model-s-five-star-safety-rating

Chart courtesy of Tesla Motors

While General Motors is thumping its chest because the new fullsize pickups from Chevrolet and GMC are the first to earn an overall 5 star crash test rating since the standards were upgraded two years ago, Tesla is trumpeting the NHTSA crash testing results for their Model S, saying that the luxury EV achieved the best safety rating ever of any car tested by the highway safety agency. Not only did the Model S earn an overall five-star rating, but the Model S earned 5 stars in every testing category. While 5 is the maximum rating that NHTSA publishes, manufacturers are provided with the overall Vehicle Safety Score, whose scale goes higher, and Teslas says that the Model S’ VSS was 5.4 stars, the highest ever achieved.

The EV company says that score is the best of any recorded by every car sold in the United States, a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. It also is better than all SUV and minivans as well. The company attributes the high scores in part to a more effective front crush zone made possible by the fact that there is no engine up front in the Tesla, which is driven by a fairly compact electric motor mounted near the rear axle. Another feature that the company claims makes the Tesla safer is a double bumper installed on cars ordered with an optional third row seat for children. Side impact performance, significantly better than the five star rated Volvo S60, is attributed to multiple aluminum extrusions nested in the Model S’ side rails.

The Model S performed particularly well in the rollover test because the location of the vehicle’s traction battery under the passenger compartment results in a very low center of gravity. During normal testing the Model S could not be made to roll over so the test had to be modified. The results indicate that the Model S will protect its passengers from rollover risk about 50% better than other top rated vehicles.

Should the Model S be made to roll over, the roof should protect the occupants well. During roof crush testing, the Model S broke the testing machine after withstanding more than 4 times the force of gravity. Tesla attributes that high performance to B pillar reinforcements attached with aerospace graded fasteners.

In announcing the results, Tesla said that while their initial testing showed that the Model S would achieve the 5 star rating when tested in standard locations, they verified that even if the car was tested at its weakest points, it would still earn the maximum rating. No doubt because fire safety has been an issue that was raised with the Chevy Volt and the Fisker Karma, Tesla’s press release on the Model S crash results also stressed that the car’s lithium-ion battery experienced no fires before, during or after NHTSA testing. The “after” was a reference to a fire that broke out in a Chevy Volt three weeks after it was crash tested by NHTSA in a fully charged condition.

Tesla also said that they are unaware of any fatalities that have happened in real world collisions involving either the Model S or the Tesla Roadster.

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Production of 2014 Chevy Volts Begins, Along With a $5,000 Price Cut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/production-of-2014-chevy-volts-begins-along-with-a-5000-price-cut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/production-of-2014-chevy-volts-begins-along-with-a-5000-price-cut/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 16:06:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498417 voltparade_r

General Motors announced that the 2014 edition of the Chevy Volt will start rolling off the assembly line at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant today. They also announced that when those new Volts arrive at dealers in a few weeks they’ll be $5,000 cheaper than the 2013 model. The move is in response to price cuts and lease deals on competitors’ EVs. After Nissan cut the price of the Leaf by $6,400 in January, its sales are up 300% from last year for the first half of 2013, just barely outselling the Volt. In July, Ford lowered the price of the Focus Electric by $4,000 and the recently launched Fiat 500e and Chevrolet Spark EV are offering $199/month leases.

The base MSRP on the 2014 Volt’s Monroney label will read $34,995, plus $810 to get it from the factory to the dealer. After applying the $7,500 federal tax credit, that puts the effective price of the Volt at $27,495, about what a nicely equipped Chevy Cruze would cost. One of the criticisms of the Volt has been that it’s expensive compared to the Cruze, with which the Volt shares a platform.

So far this year, Volt sales are up 9% to 11,463.

GM said that it has made “great strides” in reducing the manufacturing cost of the Volt, though no dollar figures were released. GM execs have said that the 2nd generation Volt, scheduled to go on sale in 2015, will cost them between $5,000 and $10,000 a unit less to build than the current model.

Apparently one reason for the current price cut is how people now use the internet to shop for cars. The lower MSRP is expected help the Volt show up in consumers’ search results. “Before, if you were going to price-shop a hybrid or a plug-in, the Volt didn’t even show up because of price point,” GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho said.

Though the recent price cuts have raised the sale of EVs and PEVs, they’re still a small fraction of the market. Total U.S. sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids were 41,447 units for the first six months of the year. Chrysler sold more Darts that that figure, and the Dart isn’t exactly moving up the sales charts in its segment.

Chevy dealers were already discounting the Volts they had in stock and GM itself is offering rebates of $4,000 on 2013 Volts and $5,000 on the 2012 models still in stock, so the price cut is not going to have much of a real world effect on transaction prices. Truecar.com reports that the average transaction price on the Volts that were s0ld was $38,578, with a total average incentive per car at $10,489. The dealer part of those incentives are essentially subsidized by a GM bonus program for dealers who hit company determined sales objectives.

 

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Increased Sales Prompt Ford to Double MKZ Hybrid Production to 40% of Total for 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/increased-sales-prompt-ford-to-double-mkz-hybrid-production-to-40-of-total-for-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/increased-sales-prompt-ford-to-double-mkz-hybrid-production-to-40-of-total-for-2014/#comments Thu, 18 Jul 2013 18:39:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495686 All-New 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

When the Lincoln MKZ was introduced, Ford Motor Co. took the unusual step of pricing the MKZ Hybrid the same as the non-hybrid version of the car, $35,925. Assuming that would mean a good take rate for the Hybrid, Ford production planners for the 2013 model year set the mix at 20% for the gas-electric MKZ. The take rate turned out to be so good that for 2014, 40% of MKZs made will be hybrids. That’s what Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of global product development, said at the automaker’s Dearborn campus on Tuesday. Hybrid sales in the U.S. market overall are up 18.3% for the first six months of this year, compared to 2012, and Ford has been benefiting from that surge. Ford’s share of the hybrid and EV market is now close to 16%, a huge improvement of 12% over last year. The C-Max, Fusion and MKZ hybrids have given the company a strong presence in the hybrid market. Ford attributes part of it’s overall U.S. market share increase of almost 1% over 2012 to electrified vehicle growth. For the first six months of 2013, Lincoln sold 3,090 MKZ Hybrid models, an average of 515 cars a month, but now that production delays that hampered the revised MKZ’s launch have apparently been overcome, for the 2nd quarter sales exceeded 715 units each month, closely matching the current build rate at Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico assembly plant.

Source: The Detroit News

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Tesla Confirms Battery Swap For Model S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/tesla-confirms-battery-swap-for-model-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/tesla-confirms-battery-swap-for-model-s/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 17:13:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492564 batteryswapTesla’s long-rumored battery swap technology will get its first reveal Thursday night, according to a Tweet from Elon Musk himself.

The Tesla battery swap project has been in the works for some time, with the Model S apparently having the capability for battery-swapping from the get-go. There are a few issues that come into question here; what kind of technology will be used to help swap a 1,200 pound battery in under 5 minutes? What level of automation will be used? How does this conflict (or complement) with the whole Supercharger network? We’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

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Want To Know What’s Wrong With Fisker? Here Are Two Reports http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/want-to-know-whats-wrong-with-fisker-here-are-two-reports/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/want-to-know-whats-wrong-with-fisker-here-are-two-reports/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 12:14:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492370

 

Fisker is at its last gasp. After burning through $1.4 billion, “the company is out of cash,” writes Reuters, “for months, key investors have been footing the car maker’s day-to-day expenses to keep it alive in diminished form.” Reuters has an in-depth report on what went wrong at Fisker. Reuters also has the one sentence version:

 

“Executives simply couldn’t orchestrate the complex dance that leads from a design sketch to the production and sale of a profitable car.”

 

Read the Reuters in-depth report by their Detroit reporters Deepa Seetharaman and Paul Lienert.

 

And if you want to know how Fisker even bungled a rescue by China’s Geely, a deal cut by Joel Ewanick, working as a consultant, then Reuters has another report for you. Read how Ewanick already had convinced Geely Chairman Li Shufu to put $250 million into Fisker, which would also have provided Geely with U.S. production for Volvo and Geely as part of the bargain. Read how wires were crossed with another team scouring China for money.

Should you ever think of putting money into a startup carmaker, read these reports first.

 

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Seven (EV death and resurrection) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-seven/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-seven/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 22:05:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490939 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-004

It was the end of the line for the orange creamsicle Fiat 500e dubbed Zippy Zappy. She and I covered some 675 miles together during our seven-say odyssey (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click over to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you.) As I ended my afternoon commute by rolling silently through my forest, I looked down at the power gauge. 33% left. It had been a hot day so I had the A/C on, cruise control set to 74 MPH and Toby Keith was blaring on the radio. My range anxiety was gone. But had some EV mystique been lost in the process?

When the LEAF floated down to the forest floor for the first time in early 2011 it truly was the start of something new. Where this 21st century EV adventure will take us is anyone’s guess, but the LEAF represented the first viable electric car in nearly 100 years and single-handedly boosted EV sales in America to the highest numbers since 1914. Yes, I am discounting the EV1, the original RAV4 EV, Honda EV Plus and the S-10 EV. Why? Well, being horrible cars doesn’t help their case, and aside from that, put together they totaled around 3,000 over eight model years. Talk about dismal sales. Oh wait, most of them weren’t sold, they were leased as “experimental research vehicles.” Before we end our EV week, we need to talk about the 1990s EV blip.

Who killed the EV in 1999? Nobody. Sorry Chris Paine and the other conspiracy theorists, the EV was stillborn at the end of the 20th century and all the zapping from MagneCharge paddles couldn’t get that dog to hunt. (Oh how I love mixing metaphors.) What was the real issue? Let’s start at the beginning.

ev12.jpg

The EV1 was dreadfully ugly. Ugly cars don’t sell well. The EV1 was also a two-seat coupé. Two-seaters don’t fly off showroom floors. Toss in shopping cart like handling when the market clamored for go-kart manners, limited range, ginormous/expensive home charging stations, and lead-acid batteries that have a limited lifetime and you had a car no sane shopper would want to own. So GM leased them for $399-$549 a month ($576-$793 in 2013 dollars). The Gen II EV1 (why didn’t they call it an EV2?) landed in 1999 with NiMH batteries. GM traded the lead battery weaknesses for higher energy density (30% more capacity for the same weight) and a different set of problems. NiMH batteries were all the rage in the 90s—our Motorola cell phones and “luggable” laptops used them—but they “self-discharge” far more rapidly than other battery types and are more fickle about charging temperatures. Because of the nature of NiMH packs a beefier cooling system was needed to keep them happy while charging. Charge times doubled from 4 hours to 8 hours at 240V and the 120V “opportunity” charger had to be abandoned since the car’s new battery cooling system consumed nearly 1,000 watts meaning you could run the cooling, or charge. Not both. Toss in huge losses on every car sold, no desire to extend losses by making out of warranty parts and GM killed the endeavor 1,117 cars later. Thank God. Who killed the EV1? Who cares? It was a mercy killing and I believe in euthanasia.

How about the RAV4 EV? 0-60 in 18 seconds, a top speed of 78MPH, limited range and a steep $42,000 price tag ($60,680 in 2013 dollars = ouch). Following the death of the EV1 program, GM sold their battery division which held key NiMH patents used by automotive battery makers. Regardless of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Chevron ownership of patents and the closing of the large battery division, so few EVs were being made we can never be sure about the motivation for stopping production. Does it matter? Probably not since the market for a slow, heavy compact 2WD trucklet that cost more than twice the base price of a gasoline version was limited to say the least. In addition, the home charger for the EV1 and RAV4 cost $2,500 in 1996 ($3,611 adjusted for inflation), lease payments were steeper than a Cadillac, and gasoline cost $0.99 a gallon. Which would you have picked? The fact that any of these cars got off the ground in the first place is a testament to two things: 1. California’s legislative powers can move mountains. 2. There’s an ass for every seat.

2013 Fiat 500e Charging from ChargePoint J1772 Charging Station, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

What does that have to do with my week in Zippy Zappy? I’m amazed how far we’ve come in just 16 years. Battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds thanks to the boom of portable widgets in the last 10 years. Batteries aren’t just more energy dense, they are more durable, safer and have faster charge/discharge rates. These improvements allow EVs  to be made that don’t weigh substantially more than a regular car, can handle like a regular car, look like a regular car and drive like a regular car. Thanks to other improvements we have lower charging times and smaller connectors. We also have 240V home charging stations that cost $450, one eighth the cost of the EV1′s funky paddle system and use up 1/20th the physical space.

Much of what was learned in the EV programs at the end of last century has been applied, not just to modern EVs from Zippy Zappy to the Model S, but to hybrid cars and normal cars alike. Hybrid cars accounted for 3.4% of new vehicle sales last month and 6.5% of new car sales. (Pure EVs? 0.54% of new car sales in May.) Those hybrids have built on EV lessons, from battery-powered climate control systems to aerodynamic improvements and power management systems. The next big thing (if you listen to some people) will be fuel cell vehicles which will build further on the EV lessons learned. Fuel cells are exciting in many ways but they need batteries because fuel cells work best when delivering a constant flow of power. The cells depend on the “ballast” ability of a battery to supply peak loads like going up hill or accelerating rapidly.

The Leaf battery pack

The more I drive EVs, the more the veil has descended. EVs are wrapped up in green clothing, range anxiety, conspiracy theories and more, but at their heart, they are just a regular car with a cord and a small fuel tank. If (and when) people begin to see EVs for what they are (and what they aren’t) I think we’ll see more of them on the roads. They won’t keep minke whales from being hunted down on Whale Wars. With our current power generation make up they are unlikely to have much of an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. But as long as they fulfill the promise of reduced overall emissions and low operating costs, they will have a home with commuters looking for silent running. Next time I need a new car, an EV will certainly be on my list. Where on the list? Good question.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

 Day 6

]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-seven/feed/ 87 Living With an EV for a Week – Day Six (Don’t honk at me, I’m saving the planet) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-six-dont-honk-at-me-im-saving-the-planet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-six-dont-honk-at-me-im-saving-the-planet/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:07:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490709 Rainy forest, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day six brought a typical Northern California morning: it was 41 degrees, foggy and raining in my forest. But because I was driving an electric vehicle, a squirrel greeted me at the doorstep to thank me for saving his home and a group of hummingbirds dried my charging cable with their tiny wings so I wouldn’t electrocute myself as I unplugged. Then I woke up. But it was still 41. And foggy. And raining.

If you’re just checking in, catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you.

Because I got up on time and I didn’t drive the orange Fiat 500e (Zippy Zappy) much on Sunday, I was greeted by a full charge. Via the smartphone app I commanded cabin heat since I had become soft and given into the temptation that is a warm cabin earlier in the week. Doing causes the cabin heater to turn on at a low-level to heat the cabin. It puts out as much heat as a regular-old space heater: not much. Given enough time it will get the cabin to a normal temperature. If your battery is already fully charged, using this feature will preserve range because you won’t use battery power to bring the interior bits up to temperature. This is not only in the name of battery life, but efficiency as well. It is more efficient to suck off the 120V/240V charging teat than to charge the battery and discharge it. Everything about the modern crop of EVs is designed around efficiency, even the sporty Model S. Increase efficiency and you reduce emissions.

Say what? How can you reduce emissions on a “zero emissions” vehicle? You thought EV equals zero emissions? Au contraire! Where do you think the power comes from? We’re all adults. We know by now the ATM doesn’t “make” money, and what powers our appliances has to be made somewhere. If that somewhere is in the United States, then on average half of it (49.6%) comes from coal. Average is an important thing to keep in mind, power sources vary wildly from zip code to zip code. If you’re in New York, rejoice because you have the cleanest power in the country as long as you’re in the camp that thinks nuclear power is clean. While not quite as squeaky clean as NY, California, the “Pacific Northwest” and New England are the cleanest places to power up your ride. If you live in Colorado or one of the other square states, your EV is a novelty coal-powered car. (Some portions of Colorado are nearly 75% coal.) Brings a new meaning to “clean coal” doesn’t it? In those coal heavy states, depending on which study you believe, driving a Nissan Leaf (one of the most efficient EVs) will produce similar greenhouse gas emissions to a 30MPG car. Ouch. If you live in Denver and drive an EV, you are making the forest sprites weep. Indeed, even the ginormous Toyota Avalon Hybrid (below) is 20% cleaner than your electric anything in The Centennial State. (And cheaper as well.)

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

 

What about the rest of us? Well, it is comforting to know that 32% of EVs are being sold in California with Florida at 6.6%, Washington 5.7%, Texas 4.3%, New York 3.5% (so much for those liberal Yankees being into left-wing propulsion and Texans loving oil.) Ohio, Illinois and North Caroline all come in at 3.1% with the other states trailing. That’s not surprising when you consider CA accounts for 11.1% of US car sales with others falling roughly in line: TX 9.6, FL 7.1, NY 5, IL 3.6. The stand out is the environmentally conscious Washington, third in EV sales but eighth in overall vehicle sales. If you want to check out where your power comes from, just click on over to the DOE’s nifty website. Or, for the reader’s digest MPG conversion, there is a very nifty map created by The Union of Concerned Scientists. The map below shows you the equivalent MPGs you would have to get in a gasoline car to be as clean as an EV that averages 0.34 kWh/mile. Zippy Zappy has been averaging only 0.25 kWh/mile, so adjust your figures accordingly. That model S? 0.38 kWh/mile.

Power MPG map, Picture Courtesy of www.ucsusa.org

The trouble with these numbers (aside from the fact that they are confusing) is: there is more going on than just greenhouse emissions. We have nitrous oxide (known as NOx because it refers to both NO and NO2) to think of. Upon closer inspection that seems to be a non issue because the average vehicle emits .001438 lbs of NOx per mile and a LEAF in Colorado (consuming 74% coal electricity, the worst in the USA) only puts out 0.0000096 lbs. Cross that one off your list. What about particulates? The claim is most forms of power generation produce less than the same energy in a gasoline vehicle. But what about the intangibles? How do you feel about hydro power and the effects on fish populations? Wind power and birds? Nuclear power and the insane people who think it’s going to make them grow 5 eyeballs? Think Solar power is your answer? If you charge at home off-peak (after 6pm for most of us) you’re in the dwindling return part of the day for solar in the summer, and in the dark in the winter. That means you may have put clean solar power into the grid, but at night you’re sucking down nuclear power and the other forms of generation that provide constant forms of output. (That’s as opposed to gas and others that can ramp up production quickly to meet spikes in demand.)

One must also consider the extraneous factors involved in the EV game. Recycling of the lithium-ion battery packs on the scale required is a current unknown. How about that EV charging station at home? How long will it last? How much of an environmental impact is buying an EV and not investing that money into home improvements to cut your utility expenses? How about buying local products and produce, etc.? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I think they need to be resolved in my mind before I can say without a doubt that driving an EV is saving the planet.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

But on the other hand, does saving the planet have to be your EV goal? Is driving an EV because it reduces certain expenses and is exciting  technology enough? How about if your employer subsidises your EV charging in an attempt to be green? (Plenty do.) How about that HOV lane access? How about those crazy-cheap lease deals? I’m seriously considering an EV as my family’s next car purchase, but it has more to do with the financial and “time away from home” incentives than purely altruistic environmental concerns. Looking at that map above, if you feel truly inspired to protect the environment, then some of you will have to skip the EV holy grail and drive a 50+ MPG Prius C. Slowly.

My time with Zippy Zappy is drawing to an end. Tomorrow she will go back from whence she came to be primped and charged for the next journalist. With one final drive ahead of me in the morning, I oscillated between driving ZZ like I stole her and like the future of every forest creature depended on my frugality. I suspect I’m not alone with my personal struggles on the EV front. On the one hand an EV is an enormous gadget, perhaps the ultimate gadget. On the other, EVs don’t make a sound financial argument in terms of “saving” anything. The steep purchase price washes out much of the supposed savings vs a Prius. Being no closer to a conclusion, I plugged ZZ in one last time and noted my state of charge was 33% with an estimated time of completion 16 hours hence.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Five http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-five/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-five/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 22:55:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490683 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day five in our week-long look at living with an EV started once again with a full battery. If you’re just checking in, catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you. Since I’m still afflicted with religion, and because the Episcopal denomination despises change, my Sundays have taken me to the same church, the same building and the same pew for over 33 years. It also means driving 22 miles each way because finding something closer would involve change.

This aversion to change isn’t unique to my religious sect, it’s practically an American virtue. The real impediment to EV proliferation isn’t the range, economy, economics, or availability, it’s change. The average American commutes less than 6 miles in each direction a day. Even with a lunch break where you head home and back to work again we’re talking 24 miles. If you consider the adage of 12,000 miles a year (according to the US census) that expands to a still-manageable 33 miles a day. If we look at the ownership demographics by household, 9.1% of us don’t have any cars, 33.8% of us own one car per household leaving the 57.1% majority owning 2 or more cars. Indeed the “average” household owns 2.8 cars. While I’m of the firm opinion that EV’s can’t fit everyone’s needs, they can satisfy 90-95% of our needs and could easily be that second or third car in the garage. But that would require a change in how we look at transportation.

Right now the car is a freedom device. We know that if we wanted to, we could hop our car/truck/SUV and drive from California to New York. It doesn’t matter to us that we never do, we know we could if we wanted to. The car is more than just transportation, it’s liberty and adventure on wheels. Part of what allows this freedom is the near instant fuelling ability and the range of around 300+ miles. Whenever there is a car that strays from this norm, we point it out. We praise a car if it gets 500 miles of range and damn it to failure if it manages “only” 200. This is part of the reason cited for the slow development of natural gas infrastructure, Americans can’t stomach a 5 minute fill-up every day let alone a multi-hour charge.

It's a plug. (courtesy bornandbreded.files.wordpress.com)

That fallacy is further fuelled in some respects by the EV makers by not including a home charging station in the car’s price tag. (Advertising them like a “normal” car doesn’t help either.) Speaking with EV owners, many of them started out thinking they could live with the 120V plug that came with the car only to end up spending around $2,000 to get a home charging station later. That penalty has dropped rapidly and 240V EVSEs are down to around $450 but they are still overlooked by many. By having one of these stations, your EV would always leave home charged. Even if you had a late night of partying and rolled in a 3AM, the average EV would be completely full by 7AM for you to head into work with a hangover. That helps range anxiety, but doesn’t address the fact you have 100 miles of “freedom” per charge.

I am not one of the bunch that thinks Tesla’s Supercharger network is the answer to this problem. Yes it will allow you to get your Tesla from San Francisco to New York, but based on 30-35 minute charges every 200 miles the trip would take you an additional 8 hours. 8 hours isn’t a huge deal when you’re going across the country, but many still see it as a limitation. I think the answer is that other car you have in your garage. I think it’s lovely that there is a group of environmentalists out there that have a purely EV garage, but I don’t think that’s palatable to most of us. I also don’t agree with the legislation that allows EVs in HOV lanes, but since the law exists I tell people looking for a second car or a commuter car that they can’t overlook the value of that sticker. When I had the Honda Civic Natural Gas for a week, I saved 35 minutes of commute time a day and didn’t have to take as many “shortcuts” to avoid traffic. The savings to my sanity and the increased time at home have to be factored into your decision as well.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

As the briefest drive yet in Zippy Zappy came to an end I started to realize that if I was willing to give up the sense of freedom that comes with a gasoline powered car, it would be possible to integrate an EV into my life. Maybe that thought would have occurred to me earlier if EVs were advertised with a commuter car or second car angle. I’d be interested to hear from our readers about their daily commutes, average numbers of miles and exactly how often you deviate from the norm.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 6

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Four (can we get a charging standard please?) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-four-can-we-get-a-charging-standard-please/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-four-can-we-get-a-charging-standard-please/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 19:18:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490456 2014 Fiat 500e Under The Hood, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

If you’re just now reading this series, here’s what’s going on. Because reviews of electric vehicles (my own included) seem to be 1/4 review and 3/4 whining about EV related issues, I decided to divorce the review from the “EV experience” and post daily about driving a car with an 80-95 mile range. You can catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 before coming back to the saga. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Day three ended with my battery at 15% because I drove the orange creamsicle Fiat we have named “Zippy Zappy” over 175 miles. I don’t have a 240V charging cable at home so the car told me it would be 24 hours until the car was charged at 120V. Good thing day four was a Saturday.I woke up and debated whether I should shirk my weekend chores and head to the beach. After all, I had discovered the beach was equipped with a 240V station. No dice, I looked up the station online and it was occupied, probably because charging is free in Capitola By The Sea. Looking at the ChargePoint station map it’s obvious to see how the landscape has changed in a year. The SF Bay Area now has 781 public charging stations on the ChargePoint network,  172 on the Blink network, 23 DC “Fast Charge” stations that deliver 90 kW (nearly 14x faster than the onboard charger in Zippy Zappy or the 2014 LEAF). Of course Fiat hasn’t signed onto the CHAdeMO bandwagon yet leaving the LEAF and iMiEV the only cars capable of sucking down electrons at such a speed. No, I haven’t forgotten about Tesla, we’ll talk about that later.

In addition to those stations there another 980 private 240V chargers in the Bay Area that are part of PlugShare, a deal where you let random EV people charge at your home using your juice. Last time I had a LEAF, I decided to use a PlugShare station, so I looked one up and followed the directions. I texted the guy who was sharing his station and he told me to just drive up and plug my car into his station in his driveway. I was so blown away by thig I interviewed him. He told me he thought of PlugShare as”EV random acts of kindness.” How sweet. Let me ask you all a question to put this in perspective. How many of you would sign up for “GasShare.com” a place where you keep a 5-gallon gasoline can in your driveway so you can share it with your fellow neighbors? Anyone? I suspect that as EVs become more popular and the charge rate increases fewer people will be willing to let strangers park in their driveway and suck down $10 worth of electricity.

2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging connector, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

About that Tesla. The charging standard situation  is like a VHS/Betamax battle with only one player on the Beta side: Tesla. I do understand the logic with the new charging connector, it is without a doubt superior into the J1772 that every other EV and plug-in hybrid uses. It is also better than the CHAdeMO DC charging plugs on Mitsubishi and Nissan EVs. Finally it’s way, way more attractive than that funky SAE combo connector the society is pushing.

How is Tesla’s cord better? First off the connector is smaller. I’m not convinced this is a big deal since every car has a fuel door and so far nobody has  told me they hated their fuel door because it was too big. But the electrical side of the connector? Tesla rocks. J1772 started out with a 30A max draw, later amended to 80A in 2009 (although I have yet to see an 80A capable station). If your car supports J1772 AC charging and CHAdeMO quick charging, you have the ginormous connector above shown above ( on the left of the J1772 connector). It’s HUGE. Now we really do have a size problem because  you can’t hide the two of them together behind a normal fuel door. Tesla went another way and (we can only guess at some of this because they haven’t shared their charging standard with anyone) and combined the AC and DC charging onto the same pins. (You can see the Tesla connector below.)Even though the Tesla connector is smaller it’s just as beefy with a Model S drawing 80A if you buy the 20kW charging option. That’s over 330% faster than a LEAF, Focus EV or Fiat 500e. The only problem being that your home needs to support that and my home has only a 100A service so I would have to choose between charging my car and using the oven. If that’s not fast enough you can stop by a Tesla “Supercharger” station and suck down power at 100kW (400 volts at 250 amps) 10kW faster than CHAdeMO.

The problem with this charging superiority is that it’s exclusive to Tesla. With the adapter that comes with every Tesla model S, you can use the 1,933 J1772 charging stations in the Bay Area, but you can’t share your home station with a LEAF driver. If you’re a multi EV family with a Model S and a 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV (powered by Tesla ironically), you will need to either use a J1772 station and deal with the slower charge in your Tesla or have two stations at home. (You know, aside from the fact that you’re going to be nearly maxing out your 200A service.) More vexing than that is DC quick charging your Tesla. Yes, I freely admit CHAdeMO is an enormous chunky plug, but there are already 23 CHAdeMO stations in the Bay, 28 in Tennessee, 18 in Portland, 6 in Seattle, 19 in Phoenix and several in Southern California. (Not to mention hundreds in Japan.) Right now there are only eight Tesla Supercharger stations in the USA growing to some 50+ stations by the end of the year. Great. But as of now you can’t charge your Tesla from the existing CHAdeMO stations and you can’t charge your CHAdeMO car from a Tesla station. If we cared about the EV landscape and wanted EVs to succeed, we need to use the same connector. How would it go down if Honda came up with a new Accord and used an all-new and all-sexy fuel filler neck that was incompatible with anything but a Honda gas station unless you used a funnel? A comparison to Apple is usually drawn here, but even Apple has always used industry standard NEMA power cords.

socket4, Image from blog.widodh.nl

This this is all about Tesla vs Nissan? Think again. There is so much indecision in the industry over what charging standard to support that most manufacturers do nothing, which is probably worse. That means you can’t fast charge your RAV4 EV, a car that really needs it, or your Focus, 500e, Fit EV, Mini e, A3, Active e, iQ EV, fortwo, Spark EV, or Transit Connect Electric. What do the car companies say? “We are waiting for a standard to emerge.” Funny, I’d call the hundreds of DC stations already installed in America a standard that has emerged.

After 15 hours of charging, the wee Fiat was ready for a trip to civilization as we had a party to attend. We pre-planned and carpooled with some friends so we could leave Zippy Zappy plugged into their garage outlet for a few hours. There was zero range anxiety this time with an 84% charge. The EV Fiat proved amusing to drive quickly on the winding mountain roads we traversed. EVs add a fair amount of weight to any conversion like this, but because the battery pack is positioned low in the vehicle, it improves the centre of gravity and weight balance when compared to the gasoline 500. Four hours of partying later, the 500e was a minor celebrity with all manner of people wanting to see it/sit in it/ride in it. Even though you see EVs driving around all over the place in N. CA, they still have a novelty factor that makes people interested. Saturday was a slow day with only 49 miles going on the Fiat and an estimated time to a full charge when we rolled in of 9 hours even at 120V.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Three (and why MPGe is stupid) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-three-and-why-mpge-is-stupid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-three-and-why-mpge-is-stupid/#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 21:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490098  

Fiat 500e LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day three dawned with a nearly full battery, the exact level seemed unimportant to me. Perhaps it’s the Range Anxiety patch I ordered online for three easy payments of $9.99, or my new-found confidence in tripping across EV stations. Either way I decided bold action was required. I set the climate control to 68 and headed up the hill.

How far would by battery get me today? That’s a good question. Since trip computers aren’t intelligent, they can’t make adjustments for terrain like we can. For instance, I know that the freeway without traffic that’s flat the whole way is the efficient route while the possibly shorter mountain road is going to consume more energy. There’s a problem with Zippy Zappy however, she doesn’t display “fuel economy” in terms of the fuel that’s actually being used, instead the silly display shows you how many Miles Per Gallon equivalent you’re getting. MPGe is stupid.

My apologies for calling the Fiat 500e the most efficient EV available, I was misinformed and I must fall on my sword. The Scion iQ EV is the most efficient EV with a combined rating of 121 MPGe. There’s that MPGe thing gain. Everyone say it with me: EVs don’t drink gasoline. What would be helpful to me as I’m driving down the road is how much energy it takes to move my car one mile, just like a normal car. What I want is mi/kWh. The LEAF and s few other EVs give you this information, but there is no standard and with the EPA heading off in the weeds with MPGe it’s only complicating things. If you bought electricity in MPGe it would be different, but we don’t.

C-MAX Energi

The reason MPGe exists must be to confuse everyone, and confuse it does. I have seen Chevy Volts advertised as 98 “MPG” (without the e), and when people look at the window stickers of EVs, they ask, “but I thought it was electric?” Starting with the 2012 model year cars needed to display a standard way of communicating efficiency to the customer. Because the EPA gets wrapped up in their own red tape easily, they decided that the American public was too stupid to think in terms of mi/kWh or kWh/100 miles. So what they did was they sat down and calculated how much energy burning one gallon of gasoline would produce. The answer was 116,090 BTU or 34.02 kWh per US gallon. Then for some reason the EPA picked 33.7 for the official exchange rate. That’s lovely, but again I ask: where exactly do I buy electricity in MPGes? Nowhere, that’s where.

We can take something away from this MPGe nonsense however, it is obvious how inefficient internal combustion engines are. If one gallon is equal to 34.02kWh, ZZ’s 24kWh battery pack “holds” around 7/10ths of a gallon of “gallon equivalent” and will transport you 80-95 miles. If something running on real gasoline was that efficient, that  20 gallon gas tank would get you from California to Florida on one tank.

With some range experience under my belt I decided to set the cruise control to 74, climate control set to 68 and zipped to work like I was driving any other car. The only thing to report is I got the same scornful looks from the LEAF drivers as I did in any gasoline car as I passed them in the pack of commuters eager to get to work on time. There’s just one thing, ZZ has a top speed of 88 MPH instead of the 130 you can do in the Abarth or the 120 in the regular $15,995 500 Pop. Despite having a stout 111 HP and 147 lb-ft of twist, the A/C motor under the hood of the little Fiat can only spin so fast. The same goes for gasoline engines of course, but they have multi-speed transmissions and torque converters, that all reduces efficiency. Instead the “single” speed transmission in most EVs is nothing more than a reduction gear and a differential. Need to go in reverse? Just spin the motor backwards. Since motors deliver excellent torque at near zero RPM, there’s no need for an efficiency robbing torque converter. There are compromises when picking that reduction gear ratio and the Fiat engineers favored efficiency, hence the 88 MPH max speed. The Tesla Model S uses a motor that can spin faster (it’s a more expensive car so it can have a more precision motor) and since it competes with the Germans in the luxury market, a 130MPH top speed was required. I’m not sure how fast that Tesla’s motor spins at 130 but it’s bound to be singing.

Charging Port, J1772, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When I arrived, my newly discovered charging station was once again available, so I plugged in and sucked up $7.84 worth of electrons (16 kWh) in two and a half hours. My battery was full before lunch time. For lunch I jammed three passengers in the wee Fiat, depleted my battery by 10% by engaging in EV shenanigans (instant torque makes for entertaining one-wheel-peel) and figured I’d top off the battery the slow way with the free 120V juice from the office. Except I forgot to actually plug the car in. My bad. I discovered my error when I went to unplug ZZ from her umbilical. Never mind, 90% is enough to return home and then some, so I cranked the A/C (it was 89 degrees) and took I-280 home as a happy medium between the flat and efficient US-101 with bad traffic and the traffic-free but decidedly inefficient Highway 35.

When I got home I had 33% of my battery left and I was informed that we were to go and visit my cousin-in-law. No problem, a quick numbers game in my head said that 33% plus a 20 minute stop at the 240V charger at the grocery store on the way (had to get some wine anyway) and mooching off their power with the 120V cord once we arrived would leave us with battery to spare. Unfortunately when we got to the store my “Plug Rage” reared its ugly head once more. I had 30% of my battery left (thanks to the 11 miles to the store being mostly down-hill) and there sucking off the only electric teat in the lot was a Ford C-Max Energi. I was incensed, she didn’t need the power as much as I needed it. Didn’t she know there was a gas station around the corner? Here she is sucking down the electrons I needed to get home when she could just burn some gasoline and we could all get home. We started the errand running and I kept a watchful eye on the ChargePoint app (it really needs a feature to notify you when a station becomes available now that 99% of stations on the map can no longer be reserved). My waiting was rewarded and I got a 25 minute charge. After a 3-hour dinner party and 3.1 kWh courtesy of my cuz, we made it back up the hill with the car flashing, beeping, whining and whimpering that it had 14% of its battery remaining. This made us ask: what happens when you run out? I wasn’t brave enough to find out.

Day three ended proving that thanks to ZZ’s 6.6kW charger you can put over 175 miles on your 500e in a day without too much stress. Charge at home, charge before lunch, charge after lunch, charge at the grocery store. By thinking of your EV as a 1990s cell phone where you were always hunting for a charge, you’ll be fine. Just ask me. Sadly we will have to wait 21 hours for day four to dawn because I don’t own a Level 2 charger.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 4

Day 5

 Day 6

Day 7

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