A second Fisker Karma has been reported by Jalopnik to have caught fire and burned yesterday. The owner returned with his groceries to find the car in flames in a Woodside, California parking lot. Interestingly, he first called Fisker who advised him, wisely, to call 911. Back in May, after a Karma started a house fire in Texas, engineer John Bereisa said that the proximate cause of that fire was likely heat, the result of tight engine packaging. The ultimate cause, he suggested, was the hybrid vehicle’s weight, which Bereisa said necessitated a larger, more powerful combustion engine to power the car’s generator that charges the batteries for extended range use. Bereisa is one of the world’s experts on building electric and hybrid cars. Read More >
Category: Alternative Energy
The excitement about battery electric vehicles seems to die down amidst disappointing uptake. Range, weight and cost are in the way. At the same time, dormant interest in fuel cell vehicles is being rekindled. A month ago, we had a new look at the technology from the perspective of the Toyota/BMW linkup. Today, The Nikkei [sub] takes a broader view and says that carmakers are in the final lap of the fuel cell race. Let’s have a look at the contestants and where they stand.
Your humble author is TTAC’s resident cycling enthusiast, as shown in the eminently regrettable photo above which can best be titled “35-Year-Old Man Takes Mountain Bike To Skatepark For No Good Reason.” When I was younger, I had unveiled contempt for people who drove somewhere when they could ride. Three knee surgeries and a child later, I’m not so sure. Still, cycling is gaining momentum across Europe in precisely the same way that the economy isn’t. The public-bicycle scheme in Paris, Velib, now profitably shares 23,000 public bicycles across a subscriber network of 225,000 people — and the electric-auto-sharing service which has been operating for over half a year now looks to be headed for similar success. The implications regarding private and public property raised by both services are worth discussing.
In 1896, when he was still the chief operating engineer of Detroit’s Edison Illuminating Company, and not yet famous as a car maker, Henry Ford was invited to accompany his boss to a banquet in New York, honoring their big boss, Thomas Edison.
The intensified alliance between Toyota and BMW shines a new light on a technology that has been discussed for decades, but that never quite made it: Hydrogen fuel cells. BMW will get access to Toyota’s fuel cell technologies. This most likely spells the end of the fuel cell cooperation between BMW and GM. Let’s take another look. Read More >
A hitherto unknown Chinese business man who leads a shadowy “consortium” buys the assets of Saab. The media eats it up. Dalong “Kai Johan” Jiang takes the microphone and says what everybody wants to hear: “Electric cars powered by green electricity is the future and electric cars will be built in Trollhättan.” Jiang says there is a huge market for these made-in-Trollhättan EVs, waiting in China.
Nobody dares to say that it does not make sense at all. We say it. Read More >
The investigation into a Texas house fire that apparently started in a 2 month old Fisker Karma continues, with an EV expert weighing in with his opinion that the packaging of the combustion engine that drives the Fisker’s generator was likely the cause of the fire, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration saying it is looking into the incident, and the car’s owner and his attorneys firing back after Fisker initially implied there might be fraud or foul play.
In my post about mercury arc rectifiers used to charge early electric vehicles, I alluded to the competition between gasoline, electricity and steam in the early days of the automobile. Reader Ryoku75 asked “What happened to steam-driven cars?” It’s my task to cover the oddball engine desk here at TTAC and we will be having a report on new engine technologies on display at the SAE World Congress soon enough once I clear some work from my day job off the to-do list, but to answer Ryoku75′s question, it just so happens that there is timely news about steam power. They weren’t at the SAE congress this year, but in recent years a startup called Cyclone Power has displayed their “Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion” engine at the engineers’ convention. If Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion engine is a bit of a mouthful, try “steam engine”.
If you want to see the future of the electric car, you have to go back a hundred years. In 1900, over a quarter of all new automobiles ran on battery. City cars? Around a third of the buggies of Chicago, Boston, and New York City were electric. They were decimated by cars running on smelly and flammable gasoline, because people wanted to drive fast and long distances. Hundred years later, little has changed. Ten to 20 years from now, something might change. Read More >
Compressed natural gas may cost the equivalent of $1.89 per gallon of gasoline, but retrofitting your GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado will cost you $11,000 – and GM still think it will save you money.
The autoblogosphere is buzzing with news of an explosion in an electric vehicle battery testing facility at General Motors’ Tech Center in Warren, outside of Detroit. This isn’t the first time that the Tech Center has been the site of an explosion involving alternative energy. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the domestic automakers have invested many millions of dollars trying to develop alternatives to gasoline power over much of the second half of the 20th century. Almost 50 years before Toyota introduced the hybrid Prius and Honda started making the FCV hydrogen fuel cell powered car, General Motors was working on cars and trucks powered by fuel cells or batteries. Not all of that R&D proceeded without incident. Read More >
More details have been released about the explosion at a GM Tech Center battery lab yesterday that left one person hospitalized with chemical burns and a possible concussion. In a statement, GM said that while an “experimental battery” was undergoing “extreme testing”, gases were released from the battery cells. Something in the lab then ignited the gases and the subsequent explosion was severe enough to cause structural damage, blowing out windows and forcing open fortified doors. The battery itself was left intact. The Detroit News, according to an unnamed source, reports that prototype lithium-ion battery was made by A123, and that explosion happened during “intensive tests designed to make it fail”. The Warren, Michigan fire commissioner said that the lab was designed with safety in mind so damage was confined to the one laboratory. Though some of the 80 workers in the building were sent home for the day after the explosion, others continued to work. The 63,000 sq ft Global Battery Systems Lab has 176 test cells as well as 49 thermal chambers, where GM tests both production and prototype batteries. A HAZMAT team was dispatched to the facility, as were OSHA and MIOSHA inspectors, because of the injuries.
GM stressed that the incident was not related to the Chevrolet Volt or any other production vehicle. Since the electric version of the Chevy Spark won’t go into production until next year, the battery involved in the explosion might be a developmental version of the batteries A123 will be supplying for that project. It also might be a completely experimental prototype.
You heard it yourself. When Obama is out of office, he’ll buy a Chevrolet Volt and drive it himself. The Secret Service, which famously wouldn’t let Obama drive the Volt down the Hamtramck assembly line, generally protects the President for up to 10 years after they leave office – we’d assume that the “no driving” clause applies here. So Obama’s Volt may sit for a long time – hopefully it won’t brick.
Meanwhile, the DoE’s projection of 120,000 Volts produced in 2012 (let alone sold to consumers) still looks a little optimistic. GM just restarted production of the car a few days ago. Their sales target of 45,000 in 2012 has been abandoned after coming 2,300 units short of their 10,000 unit goal in 2011. GM now says that they will adjust “supply to meet demand”.