The Truth About Cars » EVs 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 Jul 2014 10:00:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » EVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Daimler, BMW Collaborate On Wireless Charging http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/daimler-bmw-collaborate-on-wireless-charging/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/daimler-bmw-collaborate-on-wireless-charging/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866826 Mercedes S 500 PHEV

Daimler and BMW just announced a collaboration to help speed up development for wireless charging of both EVs and PHEVs, with the former’s Mercedes S500 PHEV as the test subject.

Autoblog Green reports the system in question will use coils in both the vehicle and charging platform, the latter installed in a garage floor or other stationary point. The system will charge an EV or PHEV at a rate of 3.6 kW, with an efficiency rating of 90 percent.

As for the guinea pig, the S500 PHEV will come with 436 horsepower and around 480 lb-ft of torque between its twin-turbo V6 and hybrid powertrain. In turn, the sedan can travel up to 20 miles on electric-only power, and net the chauffeur 84 mpg on the way to and from his employer’s private resort. The S500 PHEV is due in showrooms this September.

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Kato: EVs Need Nobel Prize-Quality Battery Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kato-evs-need-nobel-prize-quality-battery-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kato-evs-need-nobel-prize-quality-battery-technology/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861553 Mitsuhisa Kato + Toyota FCV

Toyota’s global R&D head Mitsuhisa Kato has little regard for the current crop of EVs, proclaiming the technology to make them viable in his eyes has yet to be invented.

Automotive News reports that although his team will still do R&D work on EVs, Kato believes there are few customers seeking a vehicle with short cruising ranges:

The cruising distance is so short for EVs, and the charging time is so long. At the current level of technology, somebody needs to invent a Nobel Prize-winning type battery.

He added that while EVs could be brought to parity with ICE vehicles, doing so using current technology would establish “a vicious circle” over costs and charging times.

Toyota itself is moving away from EVs into hydrogen with the upcoming 2015 FCV; the outgoing RAV4 EV and eQ will be gone from the global lineup by the time the FCV arrives in January of next year.

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Renault, LG Chem Sign MOU To Develop Long-Range Battery Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/renault-lg-chem-sign-mou-to-develop-long-range-battery-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/renault-lg-chem-sign-mou-to-develop-long-range-battery-technology/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=833473 Renault LG Signing Ceremony

With most EVs getting around 100 miles on a single charge from their battery packs, such vehicles are more suited for the downtown core than a trip to the mountains. However, Renault and LG Chem are looking toward boosting range toward Tesla-like levels, together.

Autoblog Green reports Renault’s CCO Thierry Bolloré and LG Chem’s battery chief Kwon Young-soo signed a memorandum of understanding to develop battery range technology through the use of the latter company’s high-energy-density batteries. LG makes the batteries for EVs and PHEVs, including the Chevrolet Volt, and will supply packs to 20 automakers in 2015, double the business it does currently.

Meanwhile, Renault may use the results of its joint-venture with LG Chem to improve the range — and therefore, potential sales — of its Twingo and other Z.E. EVs. The Twingo was recently shelved in part to less-than-expected demand for the city car, with no word on when the EV will go back on sale.

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Senate Committee Approves Move To Bar Hybrids From Further Solo HOV Access http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/senate-committee-approves-move-to-bar-hybrids-from-further-solo-hov-access/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/senate-committee-approves-move-to-bar-hybrids-from-further-solo-hov-access/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828642 Prius Capitol Hill - Picture courtesy Flickr.com

Hybrid owners may soon need a co-pilot and a couple of backseat drivers to use HOV lanes, as the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a six-year highway spending bill with an amendment that would redefine for states what vehicles can and cannot use such lanes for solo driving.

The Detroit News reports Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma sponsored the approved amendment, which would continue to allow EVs, PHEVs, CNG vehicles and hydrogen vehicles to use HOV lanes with a only the driver inside, but would prohibit states from allowing hybrids to use such lanes in new access programs. That said, most states have already ended single-occupant hybrid access.

In the meantime, California — which phased out hybrid access in 2011 — has run out of access permits for PHEVs, hitting its 40,000 cap earlier this year. The state’s legislators have introduced legislation that would boost the total cap to 85,000, with the permits set to expire on New Year’s Day 2019. EV owners will still have solo HOV access, as there is no cap set for those permits.

Speaking of EVs, another amendment in the spending bill would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to “develop a plan and map of a potential national network of electric vehicle corridors and recharging infrastructure” in collaboration with the automotive industry and outside parties according to its sponsor, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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Beijing 2014: Daimler and BYD Introduce Denza EV With 300KM Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2014-beijing-auto-show-daimler-and-byd-introduce-denza-ev-with-300km-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2014-beijing-auto-show-daimler-and-byd-introduce-denza-ev-with-300km-range/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:41:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806674 DENZA_at_Auto_China_2012_11 (1)

The first fruits of Daimler and BYD’s Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co. joint venture is on display at the Beijing auto show this week. The partnership intends to blend BYD’s latest battery technology with more than a century of manufacturing experience at the maker of Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Schedule to launch on the Chinese market in September of this year, the Denza is a five passenger car with a 115 hp (86 kW) electric motor that has a top speed of 93 mph and a range of up to 186 miles (300 km). Produced at a factory in Shenzhen, the Denza was jointly designed in China, reflecting the Chinese government’s policy requiring foreign automakers to establish joint technical centers in China and to share technology with their Chinese partners.

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Recharging times are stated as 7 hours with conventional mains voltage and less than an hour with high speed chargers. The lithium ion phosphate battery pack is rated at 47.5 kWh and apparently in response to some Teslas catching fire, Denza publicity stresses how the battery pack is located underneath the body for safety and that it will automatically disconnect and quickly discharge safely in the event of an accident. Since the average driver in China travels 50 to 80 kilometers a day, with a 300 km range, most customers will only have to recharge a couple of times a week.

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One feature that I look forward to see if it makes it to production is the fact that the show car has suicide doors in the back and no B-pillar.

The Denza will have a starting price of RMB 369,000, about $60K at current rates, though there are subsidies from the Chinese national and local governments that reduce that price by about 1/3. In addition to those subsidies, the Denza will benefit by being exempted from many of the policies that Chinese cities have implemented to reduce congestion and pollution. Owners will be able to get a license plate in Beijing without participating in the mandatory lottery, and Shanghai and Shenzhen wave registration fees for Denza owners’ plates.

DENZA_at_Auto_China_2012_11 (1) denza02 BYDDenzaVoorkant-630x350 ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? denza-logo_100386966_m denza03 ]]>
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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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Fewer Than 4,000 Green Calif. HOV Stickers Remain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:56:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776521 2012-Chevrolet-Volt-HOV-052_610x407

For potential California PHEV owners, time may soon run out to obtain the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California Environmental Protection Agency for HOV lane use, as only 3,770 of the 40,000 stickers remain available.

Inside EVs reports a huge spike in applications for the green stickers since the start of 2013, with 12,000 issued last year, and 8,000 more since January. This is in contrast to 2012, when around 500 stickers per month were issued in the first seven months of the year.

The stickers, meant for AT PZEVs such as the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt, will likely be gone by the time BMW brings the i3 extended-range model to the United States this summer, and in spite of the automaker’s best efforts, only the pure-electric i3 will be eligible for the White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued to as many approved EVs, fuel-cell- and CNG-powered vehicles — like the Tesla Model S, Ram 2500 and Honda FCX Clarity — as can be registered.

Both green and white HOV stickers are set to expire New Year’s Day 2019, extended from the same date in 2015.

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Does Dan Akerson Know GM’s 200 Mile Range Battery is Vaporware? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/does-dan-akerson-know-gms-200-mile-range-battery-is-vaporware/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/does-dan-akerson-know-gms-200-mile-range-battery-is-vaporware/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685642 Envia-400whk-battery_1

The hagiographic article by Bloomberg/Business Week on outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson did exactly what Selim Bingol and the other PR honchos in the RenCen towers wanted it to do. With other news agencies and blogs amplifying the puffery and pulling quotes, the article got GM and Akerson a lot of good press. One of the quotes that got pulled the most was Akerson’s reference to a “moon shot” project giving GM’s next generation extended range electric vehicle a 200 mile range on battery power, based on breakthroughs in battery technology. It may be more of a moon shot than Akerson let on, since GM has cancelled its contract with that battery’s likely supplier, accusing it of “material misrepresentation”.

In the Business Week article, it says:

Although GM has hinted that it’s working on a next generation of electric vehicle, Akerson says it’s aiming for a compact car that can go 200 miles on a charge and carry a generator, too. While it will be similar to the Volt, engineers are working on generators that could run on gas, diesel, or natural gas. The increased electric range is coming, in part, from advances in battery chemistry. GM is planning to bring the model out in 2016, for about $30,000, according to a person familiar with the idea who asked not to be named because the plans aren’t public. It’s a project that the company doesn’t want to say much about but signifies how it’s been trying to move past inventing things to putting inventions into showrooms. “We want it to be a moon shot so we can surprise the competition,” Akerson says.

That part about the company not wanting to say much about the project and citing an unnamed source is rather cute in the context of a high profile article that was based on weeks of exclusive insider access given to the Business Week writers. What’s also kind of curious is that GM’s “200 mile battery” was not really news, so citing an unnamed source seemed superfluous. In September, at an event at GM’s Tech Center battery lab, GM’s vice president of global product programs, Doug Parks told the Wall Street Journal that the company was developing a next generation electric vehicle that has a 200 mile range and would cost about $30,000, though the cost of the batteries today would make meeting that price point impossible. Last March, Akerson himself told an energy conference about the project. “There will be breakthroughs in battery technology, they’re on the horizon,” Akerson told a session at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference which was broadcast on CNBC.com. “We’re actually developing a car today which is really anathema to the way the auto industry works: We’re running a dual play on the technology to see which one will succeed. One will result in” a 100-mile range, “the other will be a 200-mile range.”

Just like his comments in the recent Business Week article, Akerson’s remarks last spring about a 200 mile battery sparked a flurry of news reports about a potential GM EV with such a range. Many of those reports speculated that the battery in question was a lithium ion cell being developed by Envia, a battery startup claiming to use a special cathode and unique silicon carbon nanocomposite anode to produce a battery with a remarkable energy density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram. The level of energy density would indeed make a 200 mile range EV possible. The speculation was founded on the fact that in 2011 General Motors had invested $17 million through its GM Ventures arm to take an equity stake in Envia, resulting in GM Ventures president and GM chief technology officer Jon Lauckner having a seat on the Envia board. In late 2012 the automaker and Envia signed a contract for the battery company to start supplying GM in 2016. Because of the long lead time and validation needed in the auto industry, the contract had very tight deadlines, needing a final design for the battery by 2014.

However, the fact is that by the time Akerson, Parks and Bloomberg’s unnamed source went public with the 200 mile battery project, GM already had doubts about the Envia battery and was in the process of canceling the contract. In an extensive investigative article on the Quartz website, Steve LeVine outlines the history of Envia, how it touted the breakthrough performance of its battery design, based on research at the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Arpa-E program, though it had never manufactured any batteries. GM embraced the company, signing a multi-million dollar contract as well as investing in the company only to find their potential supplier unable to meet deadlines specified in the contract. It turns out that their battery’s outstanding performance only lasted for the first few charge/discharge cycles and then fell off, continuing to decline.

Levine shows that by March of 2013, right around the time that Akerson started touting the 200 mile battery, at their first quarterly meeting specified in the supply contract, GM expressed concern that their own testing showed the Envia battery not meeting claimed performance specs. Envia asked for patience saying that the tight deadlines in the contract weren’t giving them enough time to properly develop the battery. By July, GM’s representative was accusing Envia’s founder, Sujeet Kumar, of making “material misrepresentations during contract negotiations”. GM could not reproduce the Arpa-E results and the automaker was not happy that Envia had claimed a proprietary anode composition when in fact “the anode material is not Envia’s.” GM gave Envia “a failed grade for this quarter.”

In early August, Envia received the following in a letter from General Motors:

Envia has failed to move the project forward or replicate the results on a timetable that could conceivably support the vehicle development process. In fact, Envia was unable even to replicate prior reported test results even when utilizing the third-party anode that had purportedly been utilized in the Arpa-E test battery.

The letter continued that GM was “well within its rights to terminate the December 2012 agreement.” By late August, the contract was cancelled. Envia is currently mired in litigation with former CEO Atul Kapadia, who negotiated the contract with GM, over his firing and with Kapur’s previous employer over intellectual property issues related to battery technology.

While all of this was going on, GM was still talking about a 200 mile battery. To be fair, Akerson did say they were working on two tracks, with more than one battery supplier, and LeVine points out that it’s not likely that GM would have committed to the idea of a 200 mile range EV without having additional battery suppliers under consideration. Still Akerson’s most recent comments to Business Week seem odd in light of the backstory on Envia, almost as though he’s been out of the loop. Akerson’s subordinates recognized Envia’s shortcomings fairly early on, while he continued to reference the project as though there were no problems.

For more information on the topic, Steve LeVine examines the chemistry and physics of Envia’s battery chemistry here, and Gigaom’s Katie Fehrenbacher does her usual thorough job looking at the litigation that surrounds the company here.

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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EVs Too Pricey For Most Consumers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/evs-too-pricey-for-most-consumers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/evs-too-pricey-for-most-consumers/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:20:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668634 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Based upon a survey of 1,084 conducted by Boulder, Colo. firm Navigant Research, it would appear most won’t be in the market for EVs anytime soon due to the price of admission being too rich for their blood… for any EV.

According the survey, 71 percent plan to spend less than $25,000 on their next car with 43 percent of the 71 aiming for under $20,000; thus, the only EV or plug-in available within their range (after price cuts and credits) is the 2013 Nissan Leaf at $22,150.

Aside from price, familiarity is another obstacle for EV and plug-in adoption rates. The most familiar to the masses? The Chevrolet Volt, though only 6 percent are intimately familiar with the $26,685 (after credits) plug-in. However, the survey said that 67 percent of consumers loved the idea of hybrids, while 61 percent also loved the idea of EVs.

Finally, 40 percent of the populace sampled would be interested in charging stations in the vein of Tesla’s Supercharger, so long as they paid next to nothing (if at all) for the privilege; only 16 percent surveyed would pay more than $2 for a 15-minute recharge.

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Tokyo Motor Show 2013: Nissan BladeGlider To Go Into Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/tokyo-motor-show-2013-nissan-bladeglider-to-go-into-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/tokyo-motor-show-2013-nissan-bladeglider-to-go-into-production/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 05:47:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=657146 nissan-bladeglider-01

The radical, DeltaWing based Nissan BladeGlider electric car concept revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show will go into production within three years, according to Nissan’s engineering chief Andy Palmer. Nissan executives also confirmed that a test mule of the RWD electrically powered three seater is already functional and that Ben Bowlby, who originated the DeltaWing concept, is involved in the BladeGlider project.

Nissan sees the BladeGlider as an affordable sports car for young people. “When I was growing up the principle was that young people wanted a sports car and their parents hated the idea of them – the problem with all of today’s sports cars is that they are actually owned by parents,” said Palmer. “We are exploring ways of getting back to a sports car that is affordable, challenging and appealing for young people.”

The production version will be toned down considerably, with Nissan styling head Shiro Nakamura calling the BladeGlider “an extreme interpretation” of the concept. The delta shaped open roadster’s body is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic and it has a centrally located driver’s seat, flanked by two passenger seats behind. The narrow front end is good for aero while the underbody creates downforce. Electric in-wheel motors, a first for a production EV if it does make it to mass assembly, are powered by lithium ion batteries positioned low and rearward. The BladeGlider has a 30:70 front:rear weight distribution.

“I’ve driven the prototype, and it is unlike anything I have sampled before,” said Palmer. “This is the car that takes advantage of all the packaging benefits of an electric powertrain. All that weight and the set-up of the front racks means that the car is incredibly pointy, but the rear track and downforce mean that you can catch the oversteer with amazing ease.”

Palmer confirmed the car will make production, slotting in below the 370Z in Nissan’s lineup and in price.

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Never Say Never: Hydrogen, Diesel En Vogue Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/never-say-never-hydrogen-diesel-en-vogue-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/never-say-never-hydrogen-diesel-en-vogue-again/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:44:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=654082 Honda FCX Clarity

Remember this piece from the Honda Summer 2008 Hydrogen Collection? It was supposed to point the way to future of green fuel technology before the Tesla brought plug-in sex appeal down the ramp with their Roadster and, later on, the S, as well as the trend of compliance EVs from Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Kia.

But with sales of plug-in hybrids advancing far slower than originally expected regulators are taking another look at alternative ZEV powertrains.

Back in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama set a goal for 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, going so far as to place a $5 billion bet on Tesla and Fisker among other automakers. Since then, only 95,000 units have managed to leave the showroom for the open road, with sales of over 500,000 predicted for 2015 by West Bloomfield, Mich.-based Baum & Associates analyst Alan Baum. With the current administration downplaying their role in the EV market, President Obama is awarding $4 million to aid in the development of fuel cell technology and storage for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Leading the charge toward the hydrogen future is California. Aside from passing a measure to provide 100 hydrogen fueling stations as part of their clean technology vision, the state’s legislature has fine-tuned the Zero-Emission Credit formula to better benefit hydrogen vehicle producers — such as Honda and General Motors, who announced a partnership to develop their respective technologies back in July — while drawing down power from Tesla to as much as 40 percent by 2015 for each S sold.

Back in D.C., Audi is putting the pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to change their mileage formula for the showroom window sticker, and to level the playing field in taxation between diesel and gasoline. The reasoning, according to Audi of American president Scott Keogh, is that the current formula favors gasoline power on the assumption that most driving is done in the city; diesel it at its most efficient on the highway, and is one-third more efficient than gasoline in otherwise equal conveyances according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The diesels used today are cleaner as a result of the advent of ultra-low sulfur fuel and tailpipe exhaust treatment.

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Peter DeLorenzo: Sources Say Tesla Batteries Not Sufficiently Protected http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/peter-delorenzo-sources-say-tesla-batteries-not-sufficiently-protected/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/peter-delorenzo-sources-say-tesla-batteries-not-sufficiently-protected/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 10:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=638721 Tesla-ModelS-platform

Reports from unnamed sources critical of competitors are not the most reliable, but Pete DeLorenzo says according to his sources within the auto industry a design shortcoming is the reason why the batteries in two Tesla Model S cars have recently started fires following collisions. Presumably DeLorenzo’s source or sources are within General Motors because they compare the way the battery pack is housed in Tesla to the way the Chevy Volt does it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stressed how his company protects the battery pack with 1/4″ thick armor plating underneath the car, but DeLorenzo’s source says that is essentially a band-aid solution to the fact that the battery pack itself has only a single protective shield, compared to the three layers of wrapping that the Volt’s battery pack has.

From DeLorenzo’s Autoextremist site:

What I’ve found out about the Tesla is this: There is a reason for fires upon impact with the Model S and it has nothing to do with the batteries themselves but how the batteries are – or are not, as the case may be – protected in the vehicle.

We all know Elon is a genius and that Tesla is the miracle of the new automotive world, but the fact remains that the miracle workers at Tesla skipped a step. It’s something that GM – you know, that tired old rust-belt auto company from a bygone era – learned while developing the Volt. The GM engineering team zeroed in on a critical area of concern with the Volt’s batteries when it came to protecting them upon impact, something like, “Gee, if someone were to really crash one of these things there could be a problem with the batteries, so, we better do something about it.” So the GM development team triple-wrapped the Volt battery pack to reduce the chance of “piercing” during accidents.

And guess what? The “piercing” of the batteries is exactly what caused the two post-crash fires in the Model S. Why? The Tesla development team chose to single-wrap the Tesla batteries, thus leaving the batteries less protected and more exposed during incidents, which is a giant heaping, steaming bowl of Not Good, when it comes right down to it.

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Tesla Leads Sellers of CARB ZEV Credits, Chrysler Biggest Buyer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-leads-sellers-of-carb-zev-credits-chrysler-biggest-buyer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-leads-sellers-of-carb-zev-credits-chrysler-biggest-buyer/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 16:19:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=626801 CARB-transfers-out-550x385

According to data released by the California Air Resources Board, CARB, Tesla Motors was the top seller of the zero-emission vehicle credits that regulatory board requires car makers to have if they want to sell cars in that state. Toyota was the top seller of hybrid-car credits.

Tesla sold 1,311.52 ZEV credits from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30 this year. Suzuki Motor Corp., the next biggest seller, transferred about 41 credits. Though Suzuki no longer sells cars in the United States, they still have credits accumulated from prior sales. Toyota transferred 507.5 plug in zero emission vehicle credits generated by its Prius hybrid. General Motors Co. acquired the same number as Toyota sold, so presumably GM bought them from its Japanese rival.

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Buyers of CARB ZEV credits.

Automakers, if they want to sell cars and light trucks in California, must sell EVs or other zero emissions vehicles in proportion to their market share in the state.  The goal is to have a million and a half ZEVs on California roads by the year 2025. If companies generate more credits than their sales require, CARB allows those credits to be sold. Each Tesla Model S earns the company as many as 7 ZEV credits, the maximum issued by California.

Companies listed by CARB as buying ZEV credits over the past 12 months were Chrysler Group LLC, GM; Honda Motor Co.; Jaguar Land Rover; Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru; and Volkswagen AG. CARB does not keep track of specific trades or prices, saying the goal is for all automakers covered under California law are compliant.

Some indication of the pricing can be found in company financial reports. Tesla reported that 12% of it’s revenue in the first six months of 2013 came from ZEV credit sales amounting to $119 million. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company’s ZEV credit sales will decline in the second half of the year.

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Tesla Stock Gets Double Whammy From Analyst Downgrade and Model S Fire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-stock-gets-double-whammy-from-analyst-downgrade-and-model-s-fire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-stock-gets-double-whammy-from-analyst-downgrade-and-model-s-fire/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=600089
The price of Tesla Motors stock took a double hit this week as an influential analyst downgraded the company’s investment potential almost simultaneously with the viral spread of a Model S electric car burning in Washington state after running over metal debris in the road. On Wednesday morning, the Robert W. Baird company changed its rating on shares of Tesla from “Outperform” to “Neutral”. Around the same time Wednesday, Jalopnik posted a cellphone video of the burning Model S. As the video spread throughout the online automotive community and Baird analyst Ben Kallo’s report spread through the financial community, Tesla stock prices declined all day on Wednesday, finally finishing down 12.05 at $180.95 on volume that was higher than average for the stock.

The Baird report said that Tesla stock had peaked in value and that changes in the investment structure of the EV startup made the stock less attractive to investors. Kallo’s report said, “Although we continue to be bullish on TSLA’s long-term prospects, we think the stock appreciation reflects its technological leadership and several milestones that could contain execution risk. We would look to become more constructive on execution related pullbacks or significant advances in battery technology.” With the stock’s 470% gains and the end of the year approaching, institutional investors may have taken the report as a signal to secure their gains and cash out. Another report on Tesla from Bank of America said that pension funds and other large investors were exiting Tesla. CNN reported that small investors were buying those shares, a move seen by analysts as negative.

Regardless of the stock fluctuations and a drop in market value of approximately $3 billion analysts say that Tesla should still have no problems securing financing for current operations and for the development of the Model X crossover and the mass market EV that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised. Still, as a maker of only electric powered cars, Tesla is far more exposed in the event of problems with EVs than those established car companies that are exploring electrically powered cars and trucks.

Tesla cars have been driven for a combined 113 million miles, according to the company, and the Washington state fire was the first case of a Tesla battery pack burning, which puts the rate of burning Teslas at 1/10th the rate of fires in conventional gasoline or diesel powered cars. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks catch fire one way or another every year in the U.S. with little attention, isolated fires involving cars such as the Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma, and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and the lithium ion batteries used in the new Boeing Dreamliner have drawn considerable interest and possibly created a marketing obstacle for electric cars. Those few EV fires followed recalls by Apple for far more numerous fires involving the lithium ion batteries used in laptop computers. Though the most successful of the EVs and hybrids, the Toyota Prius, uses nickel-metal hydride battery cells, the automobile industry has been moving to lithium-ion, as used in the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Ford C-Max. Li-ion batteries have better energy density and discharge characteristics. The are also lighter than NiMH batteries

After releasing his valuation report and the video of the fire going viral, Ben Kallo considered the impact of the fire. “Tesla’s a very controversial stock and this will give fodder for the bears. They’ll say this is going to slow down sales.” While short term the fire may hurt Model S sales, Kallo and other analysts still expect that Tesla will see strong demand going forward.

On their part, Tesla officials said that the battery and the car worked as designed, keeping the fire under control and allowing the driver time to pull over and safely exit the vehicle. “The fire was caused by the direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack,” Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean said. “Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle,” she added. Panasonic Corp., which makes the Model S’ batteries, declined to comment.

While Tesla insisted that the burning Model S worked as designed, Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, said that there has to be a “design issue” with the Model S if an object striking the bottom of the car could lead to a battery fire.

Tesla’s battery pack uses standard form factor lithium-ion battery cells similar to those used in laptop computers. As a result, the combined battery pack takes up most of the underside of the Model S. By comparison, EVs from established car companies use custom sized battery cells so the finished battery packs can be packaged more compactly as in the T-shaped battery pack located in the middle of the Chevy Volt.

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China Renews Subsidies For EVs and PHEVs But Not Conventional Gas-Electric Hybrids http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/china-renews-subsidies-for-evs-and-phevs-but-not-conventional-gas-electric-hybrids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/china-renews-subsidies-for-evs-and-phevs-but-not-conventional-gas-electric-hybrids/#comments Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:26:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=526073 China-EV-Sales

China has renewed government subsidies for three more years for private buyers of electric vehicles and plugin hybrids, but contrary to some observers’ predictions, incentives for the purchasers of conventional gasoline-electric hybrids have not been renewed. Reuters reports that the national government in Beijing said that it would provide up to 60,000 yuan ($9,800) towards the purchase of an all-electric vehicle and as much as 35,000 yuan for each “near all-electric” plug-in vehicle. The purpose is ostensibly to reduce air pollution but the policy is also expected to benefit Chinese car makers like BYD.

The revised subsidy program renews a three-year program that expired at the end of 2012. The key difference is the addition of hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles, which will be eligible for up to a half million yuan government rebates, about $80,000. Rebates that large would likely go towards transit buses, not private automobiles.

Some analysts say that if China is to meet it’s stated national goal of having a half million hybrids and EVs on the road by 2015 and 5 million by 2020 it will probably have to announce a separate subsidy program for gas-electric hybrids. Only 27,800 alternative energy vehicles were registered in China by the end of last year, 4/5ths of which were buses, according to the state owned and managed Xinhua news agency.

A joint statement issued by China’s Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the incentives are aimed at “accelerating the development of new-energy vehicles, promoting energy saving and reducing air pollution.”

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Court Order May Finally Get Chicago EV Charging Network Fully Operational http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/court-order-may-finally-get-chicago-ev-charging-network-fully-operational/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/court-order-may-finally-get-chicago-ev-charging-network-fully-operational/#comments Thu, 26 Sep 2013 11:30:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=528593 W1siZiIsImltYWdlcy9jYXJjaGFyZ2VfM19pLUFCTi0wOTI5MjAxMS5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXJlc2l6ZSA3NzB4NDAwXl4gLWdyYXZpdHkgQ2VudGVyIC1jcm9wIDc3MHg0MDArMCswIC1zdHJpcCArcmVwYWdlIl1d

After a ruling in federal court, a Chicago area electric vehicle charging network may finally become completely operational. The quick charging stations were installed under a $1.9 million federal grant, but two contractors who installed them for the network’s original owner, 350Green, had been locked in a legal battle over ownership of the system.

The court ruled that the charging stations be turned over to JNS power, an Arlington Heights based electric contractor which had installed about 40% of the stations. The other contractor, Car Charging Group, based in Florida, said that it would appeal the ruling. 350Green had made deals with both companies earlier this year to take over the charging stations. The city of Chicago had terminated it agreement with 350Green last April when allegations surfaced that the company fraudulently submitted evidence of payments made to contractors that were not in fact paid. In July, the company’s officers were the subject of a FBI search.

Of 219 charging stations scheduled to be installed under the program, 51 remain uninstalled. Those stations that were installed have been abandoned while the legal battle over who owns them has continued. Some work, some don’t, and some are the subject of contractor liens. Some stations that work, can’t be used because you can’t buy one of the cards needed to use them.

JNS said that it will be moving the project forward as soon as possible. An attorney for JNS said, “Our client is obviously satisfied with the court’s decision and the expedited nature by which the court rendered its decision. JNS is looking forward to getting this federally funded city project back on track to provide an efficient network of car charging stations to the entire Chicago metropolitan area.”

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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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Saab 9-3 Back in Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=523065 Saab re-starts production

After years of rumors and speculations of the will they/won’t they variety, a brand-new Saab 9-3 has – finally! – managed to roll down the assembly line! Don’t be fooled by the fact that this new Saab looks just like the 2009 models the company was building when it was spun off from GM’s bankruptcy, however. This car features all-new components designed by Saab engineers and manufactured in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Saab, now owned by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company, promised its new cars would reach production in 18 months. That was in September of 2012, so they’re about 6 month ahead of schedule. That on-track message puts NEVS-owned Saab in a decidedly different league than faux car-makers like Detroit Electric and Elio Motors, who’ve spent more time justifying delays than they have building cars. Don’t take my word for that, though, check out the well-appointed assembly line and experienced Saab assembly workers in the photo gallery, below, and start getting excited.

Saab’s back, baby! All we need now is a new Saab 900 revival and we’ll really be in business!

 

saab saab_3 saab_2 New Saab 9-3

Sources | Photos: Saabs United, via WorldCarFans; Originally posted to Gas 2.

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Hybrids and EVs Experience Strong Regional Growth, 35% of EVs Are Sold in California http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/hybrids-and-evs-experience-strong-regional-growth-35-of-evs-are-sold-in-california/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/hybrids-and-evs-experience-strong-regional-growth-35-of-evs-are-sold-in-california/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 11:30:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=508449 024

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.”

Polk attributed EV’s success in the Golden State to its residents’ reputation for being environmentally friendly. Also, EVs are permitted to use carpool lanes in the state and they are eligible for state incentives on top of the federal tax credit for hybrid and electric cars. California also has more of an infrastructure for charging electric cars. About 1,400 of the 6,440 U.S. charging stations are in California, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Nissan reports that San Francisco and Los Angeles are also their top two markets, but that it is seeing growth in other regions, mentioning Honolulu, Nashville (the Leaf is assembled in Tennessee), St. Louis, Chicago, Denver and Dallas as among the top 15 markets for the Leaf.

Another factor for EV’s apparent popularity in California is that some automakers only sell their EVs there, like the Fiat 500e. The 2014 Spark EV from Chevolet is only sold in California and Oregon. GM gives charging infrastructure, a reputation for being early adopters, financial and carpool incentives and the mandate of selling a certain number of zero-emission vehicles as reasons for focusing on those states.

California’s zero-emission vehicle regulations mandate penalties for car makers unless 15.4% of the cars they sell in the state by 2025 are powered by electric, hybrid or fuel cells. Oregon laws in this regard follow California’s lead. Honda’s Fit EV is available for lease only in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode Island, states with mandates, favorable incentives, or a charging infrastructure. The Ford Focus EV is sold nationwide, but almost half of its sales in 2013 are in California, with Washington also doing well.

Sales of EVs in general are up this year. Tesla reports over 10,000 Model S cars sold through July, and Nissan Leaf sales are up 230% year to year over the same period, with 11,703 Leafs sold.

Hybrids and EVs are expected jointly take about a 4% market share this year, up form 3.4% in 2012. Price cuts and cheap leases on vehicles like the Leaf and Chevy Volt have spurred interest in battery powered and hybrid cars. Like the battery powered vehicles, demand for hybrids is localized with a third of new hybrids being registered in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, according to Polk. The Toyota Prius is California’s best selling vehicle so far in 2013, and hybrids have a 7% market share in the state.

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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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Politically Connected EV Startup GreenTech Automotive Subject of SEC Investigation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/politically-connected-ev-startup-greentech-automotive-subject-of-sec-investigation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/politically-connected-ev-startup-greentech-automotive-subject-of-sec-investigation/#comments Sat, 03 Aug 2013 22:02:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498056 NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

Electric car startup GreenTech Automotive, which set up a factory in Horn Lake, Mississippi to manufacturer their low speed neighborhood EV called MyCar, is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the way it solicited foreign investors. GreenTech Automotive was co-founded by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe resigned as chairman of GreenTech in late 2012 when he started his campaign.

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According to the Washington Post, the SEC subpoenaed documents relating to GreenTech and Gulf Coast Funds Management, a sister company that shares a McLean, Virginia address with GreenTech. Gulf Coast Funds is run by Anthony Rodham, whose sister, is former U.S. senator and secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Commission is looking into allegations that the company guaranteed returns to foreign investors that GreenTech sought out by using the federal EB-5 program that will grant foreigners visas to the United States if they invest half a million dollars or more to create jobs in this country. GreenTech has a strategic partnership with China’s JAC Motors.

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SEC officials declined comment and a spokesman for McAuliffe’s campaign said he “has no knowledge of any investigation.” GreenTech and Gulf Coast representatives confirmed the subpoenas and said the companies would cooperate with the SEC investigation. The investigation came to light when internal Department of Homeland Security documents and emails were obtained by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a critic of the EB-5 visas. Some of the documents raised the possibility of “fraud”.

McAuliffe originally said he would build a factory “right in the heart of Virginia,” but after getting incentives from state and local governments in Mississippi, GreenTech located their factory in Horn Lake. Republican Gov. Haley Barbour attended the July 2012 ribbon cutting ceremony, along with McAuliffe’s close friend, former president Bill Clinton.

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When he was still with the company, McAuliffe said last that GreenTech could build 10,000 cars in 2013 and that the factory would be hundreds of people at their Mississippi factory. Actual production has been much smaller, as has hiring. GreenTech won’t release any production figures but Autoblog reported that 2012 production would be closer to 1% of that figure vehicles, 110 vehicles earmarked for Denmark.

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One former employee at the Horn Lake plant told the NBC affiliate in Richmond, Virginia that it was all for show. “They would take everybody and put them out on the line and we would stand over the car with tools in our hand and look like we were doing something to the car, but we wasn’t doing anything.” A company spokesman denied that and described the activities there as “a training build”. A neighbor recently said that the plant is quiet and that nobody he knew who applied there had gotten jobs.

Memphis, Tennessee’s WMC-TV Action News 5 (auto start video) says they’ve found no evidence of significant car production at the Mississippi facility. GreenTech allowed WMC-TV cameras in the factory but wouldn’t let them close to the production line.

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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 Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-two/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 22:52:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490093 2014 Fiat 500e, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Because of my RA (Range Anxiety), I drove Zippy Zappy gently on day 1, plugged the EV in immediately upon arriving at home and nixed my impromptu drive to the beach. (I haven’t named a car since I was 12 but the garish orange hue and pill-box proportions have made the name stick.) Thanks to my prudence (or was it fear?) I awoke to a 90% charge. According to Fiat’s computer, that was good for an 87 mile journey, plenty for my 52 mile one-way commute. Of course, it was after I started climbing up the mountain pass that separates my home from civilization that I asked “how am I going to charge today?”

You see, [for me] planning is something you do after you meet a problem, then you back-date the plan so you can claim you were prepared all along. As a result, I decided to turn off the heater in the car to save mileage, after all it was “only” 43 outside. The heater is thing most people don’t think about when it comes to EVs. In your gasoline car, you use the heater all you want and don’t run the A/C to save gas because heat is a “waste” product of combustion engines. EVs turn this logic on its head. Since there’s very little heat happening under the hood they have to use resistive heating elements to heat the cabin. According to Toyota, heat pumps would be more efficient but they cost way more and add a great deal of complexity and weight. Running the A/C in the little Fiat consumed about 1.5kW of power while the heater on medium sucked down nearly 8kW. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I decided the heated seat wasn’t cutting it and I needed to be more realistic so I set the climate control to 68. Let the future be damned!

Once on the freeway I realized my RA had returned. I decided to set the cruise control to a decidedly pokey 59 MPH, a speed that even tractor trailers don’t stoop to in California (even though their speed-limit is 55). At this speed I was able to commune with other EV drivers on the highway  (the ones I normally fly by in the left lane.) When I drove a BMW Active E, I got waves and thumbs up from the LEAF drivers. I decided to try the same in Zippy Zappy but the lack of decals announcing the Fiat’s electrification caused confusion in the LEAF drivers and just made them swerve wildly thinking I was some crazy person out to get them. My bad.

2014 Fiat 500e Charging Illegally, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

55 miles later (I decided to take the flattest and shortest route) I arrived at work where I discovered my RA was unjustified. I had 45% of my battery left. Charge time at 120V was 12 hours and 45 minutes. Electrical codes in the USA limit the 120V EVSE plugs to about 12A which isn’t very fast. Logically 8 hours at 120V would be more than enough to get me back home, but since I work in an area that has only street parking, things had to get creative. Extension cord plugged into the outlet in the hall (the breaker that wouldn’t trip), down the hall, through my office, out the window, across the lawn, over the sidewalk and into the street. I don’t recommend trying this in San Francisco, I’m sure an ADA compliance mob would stone you to death. (If you are meter maid in the Bay Area, I deny all knowledge of the picture above. It was someone else.)

After a few hours, I bothered to look into charging stations. After all, I did sign up for a ChargePoint account a while back. Low and behold there was a charging station just around the corner charging $0.49/kWh. Looking at the map it’s obvious what a year has done to the EV landscape, there are easily three times the number of public EV charging stations in the Bay Area than there were a year ago. Because I’m selfish, what mattered was there were now EV stations near ME.

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

I’ll digress for a moment. People call the thing on the curb with the cord and plug a “charging station” but that is something of a naming error. All modern EVs have on-board chargers. That thing that you connect to your car is an over glorified “smart” extension cord. The purpose of the “charging station” is to tell the car what kind of power is available (120/240 V) how much current the car is allowed to draw and to provide some safety mechanisms to protect the person plugging in. All the magic is happening *in* the car. As parts are getting cheaper and more widely available, faster chargers are being integrated into EVs. The first LEAF’s 3.3kW charger took 9 hours to fill the battery at 240V, barely 2.5x faster than at 120V. A year later most EVs use a 6.6kW charger that completes the task in 1/6th the time. Good news for me. Since I’m supposed to be getting more exercise I drove a few blocks, plugged in and walked back. Two hours later I had for the first time in my life, a full EV battery and I have a picture to prove it.

Drive Route With Topo

Feeling like an ePrisoner eLiberated from their eBondage, I renewed my pledge to test drive Zippy Zappy like any other car. That meant taking Highway 35 home. If you aren’t familiar with the Bay Area, the coastal mountain range separates the population from the sea. At some point a brilliant highway engineer decided to put one of the most scenic highways in the state along the ridge of the range. The trip (shown above with an elevation profile) takes me from sea level to 3,157 ft, then down to about 400 ft with plenty of ups, downs, sweeping curves and corkscrews. If you haven’t driven it and live nearby, shame on you.

About the time I reached that first 2,000+ foot blip on the left of the graph, I had a mild panic attack. ZZ said I wouldn’t reach my destination. Had I bitten off more than she could chew? No, because the software in the car is only using your past record for future range. By climbing rapidly, it assumed the next 40 miles would be on a similar incline. Don’t blame the software. Blame me. The driver is in control so I had to take my (limited) experience into account. I decided not to bail (and charge in Palo Alto). I pressed onwards. (But I set the cruise control to 50.) In the process I snapped some cool photos.

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

 

My faith was rewarded as I neared CA Highway 17 with a battery still 40% charged. I decided to throw caution to the wind and visit downtown Los Gatos. The EV gods smiled upon my diversion and without looking for one, I stumbled upon a brace of EV chargers. One was occupied by a decidedly non-EV BMW 760iL, which I briefly considered putting a door ding in “accidentally” as I got out.  One expensive carrot cake and a 1.8kWh charge later I headed home.

Since I didn’t make it to the beach yesterday, I decided today would be the day. Thanks to my nifty iPhone app from ChargePoint I found that there was an EV station operated by the City of Capitola By The Sea just two blocks from my favorite beach dive restaurant. A quick numbers game in my head told me that 2 hours would not only power me back up the hill to home, but also put me in a better charge situation. There was just one problem. OK, two. The EV station had one broken charge cord and some douche in a LEAF had occupied the other for 2 hours over the parking limit and counting. What would you have done?

Columb ChargePoint Station, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I sat in the car and contemplated my options. 1 unplug him and plug myself in (not on his dime, the sessions stop when you unplug). 2 leave him a nasty note and hunt for another station. 3 wait him out. I waited for 20 minutes at which point he had been over his 4 hour parking limit (clearly signed) by almost 3 hours (according to the charging station). I thought: lave a note explaining why I had unplugged his ride so that he (or maybe she) wouldn’t retaliate by unplugging me when they returned. No pen. I took the high road and moved on to an EV station 7 blocks away.

After a stroll along the beach and dinner, we walked by the LEAF (still plugged in) and left him a more tactfully-worded note than I had planned. I reminded the driver that the spot clearly said “4 hour limit” and that there are other EV drivers out on the road that need to charge. I may or may not have indicated that I would unplug his shiny red LEAF with “NOGAAS” license plate should I see it there for 4 hours again. Or maybe not. Is this the start of “plug rage” perhaps??

Upon returning to ZZ, something else crossed my mind. This EV station is new, and like others is no longer in a prime parking area. Instead they jammed it at the back of the parking lot. Preferential EV treatment may be starting to end as early as it started.

EVs in the mist, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day two and 155 miles ended with a 68% charge.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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