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After months of teasing, Nissan officially pulled the wraps of the ZEOD RC. The Zero Emissions On Demand Race Car will occupy Garage 56 at the 24 Hours of LeMans in June of next year. This weekend it is expected to hit the track at round 6 of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship, October 18-20 at Japan’s Fuji International Speedway.
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One of our readers, Noble713, commenting on a news items about the BMW i3, asked if TTAC could provide more coverage on BMW’s carbon fiber productions methods. The i3 EV, and upcoming i8, are built upon CFRP structures. Weight is the enemy of electric vehicles. The more weight you can take out of the actual structure of the car, the more battery cells you can carry for more power and better range, hence BMW turning to carbon fiber. It turns out that BMW has released a series of videos (bilingual, wait for the English) on that very topic. Their CFRP production uses materials made by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between the BMW and SGL groups and the effort spans the globe. SGL has expertise in carbon fiber and in 2011 BMW took a 15% stake in the company. Read More >
With demand for its i3 EV surpassing BMW’s expectations, the company’s chief financial officer, Friedrich Eichiner, told Bloomberg that the company is considering increasing production of the electric car. Though retail deliveries will not start until next month, over 8,000 orders have been booked so far. Originally, BMW hoped to sell about 10,000 i3s in 2014, but if demand stays high, the company “will adjust capacity according to demand,” Eichiner said at an Amsterdam press conference yesterday. “If demand holds, which is what it’s looking like, we will soon have to invest more.” Read More >
EV charging system maker Ecotality has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors, saying that it wants to sell its assets in an auction. The Associated Press is reporting that Ecotality might be forced to sell or file for bankruptcy after the U.S. government suspended payments as part of the Department of Energy EV Project. Ecotality, based in San Francisco, makes charging and power-storage systems for electric vehicles under the Blink and Minit Charger. It also makes charging stations for Nissan’s Leaf brands, and provides testing services for government agencies, auto makers and utilities. The company now says that it would prefer to sell its assets through a court approved bankruptcy auction.
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Analyzing data from Polk, Melissa Burden of the Detroit News reports that more than 35% of all new electric vehicle sales in the United States through June of this year have been in registered in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan regions and that a majority of EVs are being sold in just five cities. Joining LA and San Francisco on the list where EVs are popular are the Seattle, Atlanta and New York City areas.
EV market share in California climbed from 0.4% to 1.1% year to date, with over 9,700 deliveries. “A lot of the manufacturers have targeted California for the launch of their electric vehicle product,” said Brian Maas, president of the California auto dealers’ association, said. “Our consumers are cutting-edge and early adopters in this area.” Read More >
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.
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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 >
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.
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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.
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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.
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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. Automotive News reports that interested can spec a F-150 with the 3.7 liter V6 engine, and then receive a factory-installed 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.
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The honeymoon is now officially over. 2011 Ford Motor Co. photo.
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 >