ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Levant Power Corp., a Woburn, Massachusetts technology company spun off from MIT, have announced what they call the first fully active suspension system that includes a regenerative function that recovers energy from the motion of the suspension. The system is branded GenShock. Active suspensions are not new, General Motors experimented with an actively suspended ZR-1 Corvette when the automaker owned Lotus, which had worked with active suspensions before the technology was banned in Formula One. Going back even farther, there were the hydropneumatic Citroens and the last true Packards’ “torsion level” suspension. With road cars the goal in using such a system would be to combine good ride with good handling, soft sometimes and stiff sometimes, depending on the driving circumstances. Early tries at developing what chassis engineers call a “high bandwidth active suspension”, capable of dealing with those varying circumstances, have run into cost, complexity and power consumption issues. The GenShock system is claimed to be affordable, simple to integrate in existing suspension designs, and not only have modest power consumption but also be able to recover energy from the suspension.
Category: Alternative Energy
Though it has been criticized by those who oppose government financing of business, in part because of the failure of Fisker, one of the recipients of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, the DoE has announced that it will resume marketing the ATVM to industry and possible applicants. About 60% of the $25 billion that Congress allocated to the program still remains. No loans have been made since 2011.
“With no sunset date and more than $15 billion in remaining authority, the program plans to conduct an active outreach campaign to educate industry associations and potential applicants about the substantial remaining funds available and the application process in general,” a Dept. of Energy spokeswoman said. Read More >
Back in April, the revived-after-eight-decades Detroit Electric brand held a big event for the press and local dignitaries in the lobby of Detroit’s magnificent Fisher Building. They announced that the company would be doing final assembly on their battery powered Lotus-based sports car, the SP:01, in a Detroit area facility and that their headquarters would be in the historic building that Albert Kahn designed for the Fisher brothers, of car body making fame. They said that an assembly facility location would be chosen in Wayne County, that initial production would begin by the end of the summer and that they hoped to have their headquarters offices set up as soon as the Fisher Bldg suite was renovated. Joining politicians and Detroit Electric executives at the press conference was one of the building owners. Now come news that the company has not finalized a lease or purchase agreement on its chosen manufacturing site in Plymouth and a visit by TTAC to the 18th floor of the Fisher Building revealed empty offices with no sign of renovations or any activity at all since April. Read More >
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.
Defying analysts’ predictions that Tesla Motors would report a quarterly loss of $0.17 a share, the EV startup instead announced that it had a second quarter profit, after adjustments, of 20 cents a share, according to non-GAAP principles. On the news, Tesla stock went up 13% in after hours trading.
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 Electrification Coalition (EC), a trade association of companies involved in the business of electric vehicle,s released a report last week prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers touting strong sales of plug in electric vehicles for the first 2 1/2 years that they’be been on the market in the U.S.. Reportedly consumers are embracing PEVs much faster than they started buying hybrids when those first went on sale more than a decade ago. The report particularly noted the success of the Tesla Model S, saying that single model had an 8.4% share of the entire U.S. luxury market for the first six months of 2013. Read More >
Starting with the 2014 model year, for the first time Ford will be offering F-150 buyers the option of running on compressed natural gas or liquid propane gas in addition to gasoline. When you order the F-150 with the 3.7 liter V6 engine, the factory will install a CNG/LPG prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings. The actual conversions would be done by six CNG/LPG conversion companies that have been certified by Ford as “qualified vehicle modifiers”. As long as the conversion is done by one of those six firms, Ford will honor all factory warranties on the engine. Depending on the size of the fuel tank that’s installed, the cost of the conversions will be between $8,000 and $11,000 a vehicle, but running on gas can be significantly cheaper than running on gasoline or diesel, and the cost of the conversion can be more than paid back over the life of the vehicle.
At simultaneous events in London, Beijing and New York City, BMW publicly unveiled a new 3. It’s not the latest version of it’s segment defining 3 Series luxury sports sedan, though, it’s the i3, the first electric car from the Bavarian automaker. Comparing the auto industry to the rapid changes in century old telephone industry brought about by the cellphone, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said from New York, “The car industry has waited well over a century for its own revolution. Today the wait is over. What the mobile phone did for communication, electric mobility will do for individual mobility.” The i3 is intended to address two issues close to today’s consumers, particularly young consumers about to reach peak earning years, sustainability and connectivity. Reithofer predicted, “We are at the starting-blocks of a new era — the era of sustainable mobility.” He promised that the i3 and other EVs will will do for individual mobility what the mobile phone has done for personal communication. BMW has trademarked i0 through i9, and it is expected that eventually BMW will sell a full line of electrically powered cars. The i8 sports car, concepts of which have been shown in both coupe and roadster formats, will go on sale late next year. Read More >
Two years ago, Ford and Toyota agreed to perform a feasibility study on the two companies working together to develop a hybrid drivetrain for rear wheel drive pickups and SUVs. Apparently, working together wasn’t going to be feasible because Ford and Toyota have both issued statements announcing the end of the tie-up. Ford said that the Dearborn automaker will be developing their own hybrid system for RWD and said that the completely new hybrid architecture will be available by 2020. Read More >
Yesterday, we ran a News Blog post relating the LA Times report that the Petersen Museum was selling off 1/3rd of its collection to focus on motorcycles and French cars from the Art Deco period. Now, the museum has responded with vigorous denials, saying that the newspaper was wrong about what is really planned for the facility. Following our publication of that post, the Petersen’s PR rep reached out to TTAC, offering to share information that they say is more accurate. She called the LA Times story “a pretty big misrepresentation” and supplied us with prepared talking points (below) on the vehicle sales, the museum renovations and a response to the LAT article. In an interview with Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky, museum director Terry Karges said that the Times’ headline, ”Petersen Automotive Museum Takes A Major Detour” was “absolutely incorrect.” Karges, who is in the motorcycle business and used to race bikes, denied that his own personal interest in motorbikes, or museum Chairman Peter Mullin’s interest in French classics will affect the collection at the Petersen. Read More >
Though development versions of the Porsche 918 hybrid supercar have been spotted testing in Colorado, California and other locations, and though we’ve seen concept and track versions, until now Porsche has not given the production car its official public debut. Last weekend, with the eyes of the car enthusiast world aimed at the event, Porsche couldn’t have picked a better location or event for that debut, racing the 918 up the hillclimb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Fortunately, a British car blogger named Tim aka Shmee, who does great video work with cars, had cameras stationed along Lord March’s famous driveway to record the new debutante’s coming out party.
One drawback to cars that run on batteries is that over time and multiple charge/discharge cycles, batteries will lose capacity. Individual cells start to fail to meet specifications and when enough cells go bad, it’s time for another battery pack. Since capacity is directly related to range and since battery packs are expensive to replace, how quickly batteries deteriorate is an important factor in the overall cost and practicality of EVs.
While Damon Lavrinc at Wired’s Autopia makes the observation that the revived Detroit Electric company seems to be following the Tesla playbook, launching their company with a car based on an electrified small Lotus, Detroit Electric CEO Albert Lam insists that his team is using a different business model than Tesla and that they have learned from other EV startups’ mistakes. Lam also said there was no comparison between Detroit Electric and Fisker, which appears to be headed to bankruptcy soon, having just furloughed all but 50 employees. Detroit Electric says they are following the model of Apple (on Lam’s CV along with a stints at Lotus and Sun Microsystems) focusing on design and engineering with much of everything else contracted out. Lam pointed out, at a press conference following the reveal of the SP:01 sports car, that buying and equipping a factory to build an original platform, as Tesla is doing, or even contracting out assembly of an original platform, as Fisker has tried to do, both require up front investments of hundreds of millions, perhaps a billion dollars or more, requiring quick success and substantial early sales just to break even. Read More >