The Truth About Cars » range-extender http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 26 May 2015 20:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » range-extender http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender aka i3 REx (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018290 Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender
Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last drove the Jaguar XKR-S have I received as many questions while parked at the gas pump, or visited a gas pump so frequently, but I digress. In a nutshell, the i3 is technically a hybrid or an EV depending on the version you get.

 

BEVx

The “hybrid” i3 isn’t the kind of hybrid you’re used to, this is an all-new classification of car defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a “Battery Electric Vehicle with Range eXtender” or BEVx. BEVx is the key to understanding why the i3 operates the way that it does and why the Euro version operates differently.

California has decided (for better or worse) that some 22% of cars sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2025. While that sounds straightforward, nothing cooked up by the government and lobbyists can ever be easy. Rather than an actual percentage of cars sold, CARB created a credit system where an alphabet soup of classifications (PZEV, AT-PZEV, TZEV, etc) get partial credits and true ZEVs can get multiple credits. Into this complicated world came the unicorn that is the BEVx. Despite having a gasoline burning engine, BEVxs get the same credits as a vehicle with the same range and no dinosaur-burner. The distinction is important and critical. If the BEVx requirements are met, the i3 gets the same 2.5 credits as the i3 EV, if not it would get a fractional credit just like a regular Prius. The requirements are: the fossil fuel range must be less or equal to the EV range, EV range but be at least 80 miles, the battery must deplete to a low level before the generator kicks in and may not be charged above that level. In addition the fossil fuel generator or APU must meet CA’s SULEV emissions standards and have a long battery warranty. There’s one important catch: the carpool stickers. While BMW gets to have the i3 REx treated like an EV for credits, i3 REx owners are treated like hybrid owners for the carpool sticker program. The EV model gets the coveted (and unlimited) white carpool lane stickers, while the REx gets the same quantity-limited green stickers as the Chevy Volt. If CA follows course, the green sticker program will eventually sunset like the yellow-sticker hybrid program did in 2011.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

The i3 is about more than just ZEV credits, it’s about putting new materials and processes into production for real drivers to experience with some funky modern style tossed in for good measure. In some ways the i3 is a return to body-on-frame construction, you see this is not a 100% carbon fiber car as some have incorrectly said.

The i3 is composed of two distinct parts. On the bottom is the drive module which is an aluminum chassis that holds the drivetrain, suspension, battery and crash structures. Connected to the drive module is the “life module” which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP. While obviously a little heavier than a car made entirely out of CFRP, the aluminum crash structure is more easily repaired in the event of a minor collision. The result is an EV that tips the scales about a cupcake shy of a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission (2,634 pounds). Adding the range extender adds just 330 more. That’s about 370lbs lighter than the already impressive 3,000 pound (approximate) curb weight of VW’s new eGolf.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

Up front the i3 gets a familiar BMW roundel and a blue interpretation of the signature kidney grill. What’s different about the i3 is that the kidney isn’t used for cooling, even in the range extending version. The biggest departures from BMW norms however are the headlamps which lack the “angel eye” rings BMW has been known for and the high beams that are placed lower in the facia. (No, those are not fog lamps.) Regardless of the trim or paint color you choose, the hood, lower valance, side trim and rear hatch will always be black.

The side view generated the most head turns due to the undulating greenhouse and “pinched” look to the rear windows. I didn’t find the look unattractive, but it does reduce rearward visibility in what is ostensibly a practical city car. Out back the hatch is composed of two sheets of glass, one for the rear windscreen and the other forms the “body” of the hatch and actually covers the tail lamp modules creating a very sleek look. Turn the steering wheel and passers-by will immediately forget about the pinched greenhouse and focus on the tires. Yes, they are as skinny as they look, but the proportion is the real key to the “bicycle wheel” look as one passenger called it. Our tester was shod with 155/70R19 tires up front and 175/70R19 in back. For reference a Toyota Sienna uses a T155 tire as a spare. Thinking critically, there have been plenty of cars with tires this narrow, but I can’t think of a single one where the width combined with a nearly flat wheel that was 19 or 20 inches across.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

Freed from the usual front-engine, rear-drive layout of every other BMW, the Germans decided to reinvent the cabin. Because the drive module under the cabin houses the majority of the crash structure, the CFRP body was built without a structural pillar between the front and rear seats. The suicide door design means that getting in and out of the rear seat is surprisingly easy, as long as you haven’t parked too close to another vehicle. Without the transmission tunnel the HVAC system was pushed as far forward as possible allowing the driver and front passenger’s footwell to become merged. (There are just two floor-mats, one up front and one in back.)

The doors aren’t the only unusual thing about the i3’s interior, the design is decidedly Euro-funky. From the steering column mounted shifter to the “floating” iDrive display and glove box on the “top” of the dash rather than the front, the i3 designers went out of their way to think out of the box. The concept-car like theme doesn’t stop at shapes, the materials are a little unusual as well. The upholstery in our model was a wool/recycled-plastic blend fabric and the dashboard and door panels are made from a bioplastic reinforced with kneaf fibers (a kind of jute.) Front seat comfort proved excellent despite lacking adjustable lumbar support. The rear of the i3 was surprisingly accommodating, able to handle six-foot tall folks without issue. Because the dash is so shallow, a rear facing child seat can be positioned behind that six-foot person without issue. As with other small EVs on the market, the i3 is a strict four-seater. My only disappointment inside was the small LCD instrument cluster (shown below) which is notably smaller than the i3’s own infotainment/navigation LCD.

Under the hood of the i3 you’ll find a small storage area (also called a “frunk”) that houses the tire inflater and the 120V EVSE cable. The i3’s frunk is not watertight like you’ll find in the Tesla Model S, so don’t put your tax paperwork inside on your way to the IRS audit in the rain. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats comes in at 11.8 cubes, about the same as your average subcompact hatch. Getting the i3 sans range extender won’t increase your cargo capacity as the area where the range extender fits remains off limits from your luggage.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

Being a rear wheel drive electric car, the i3’s motor is located under the cargo floor in the back. With 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, the i3 is one of the more powerful EVs on the market. The light curb weight and gearing in the single-speed transmission allow a 6.5 second sprint to 60 in the EV and 7.0 in the REx. Powering all the fun is a 22kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack in the “drive module” coupled to a 7.4kW charger capable of charging the car completely in just over 2.5 hours on AC. Should you need more electrons faster, you can opt for the new SAE DC-Fast-Charge connector capable of getting you from zero to 80% in under 30 minutes. 18.8kWh sounds much smaller than the  37kWh Tesla battery in the Mercedes B-class, but the i3 is much more efficient putting their range figures just 5 miles apart at 80-100 miles for the EV and 70-90 for the REx.

Next to the motor is the optional range extender. It’s a 34 peak horsepower 0.65L 2-cylinder engine derived from one of BMW’s motorcycle powerplants. Permanently to a generator, it can supply power to the motor, or charge the battery until it hits about 6%. The 1.9 US gallon gas tank is capable of powering the small engine for an additional 70-80 miles depending on your driving style. There is no mechanical connection at all between the engine and the wheels. Think of the battery as a ballast tank, you can pull 170 HP out whenever you want, but the supply refilling the ballast flows at a maximum of 34. This means that it is entirely possible to drain the battery and have just 34 HP left to motivate your car.

Battery Flow

Sounds like the Volt you say? Yes and no. The Volt is more of a plug-in hybrid with some software tweaks and the i3 is a range extending EV. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but some of this comes down to the way GM decided to market the Volt when it launched. The Volt’s transaxle and 2-motor/generator system is actually much closer to the Ford/Toyota hybrid design than anything else on the market. Because of that design it can operate as an EV, as a serial hybrid or as a parallel hybrid. Interestingly enough however, maximum performance happens in gas-burning mode, just like the plug-in Prius and plug-in Ford Energi products. With the i3 however, performance is always the same (unless the battery is totally dead.) Also in the Volt you can opt to “reserve” your EV capacity for later, and that isn’t allowed in US bound i3 models (you can in Europe) in order to get that coveted BEVx classification.

Technically speaking, it is possible for any hybrid (i3 included) to enter a “limp mode” where the battery is depleted and all you have left is the gasoline engine. The difference is what you have left when this happens. The i3 has far less oomph in this situation than even the 80 HP Volt, 98 HP Prius or 141 HP in the Fusion/C-Max Energi.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

The i3’s steering is precise and quick with just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 10% smaller than a MINI Cooper at 32-feet. Due to the combination of a fast steering ratio, narrow tires, electric steering assist and the incredibly light curb weight, the i3 can feel twitchy on the road, responding immediately to the slightest steering input. That feeling combined with low rolling resistance tires (that squeal long before they give up grip) make the i3 feel less capable than it actually is. Once you get used to the feeling however, it turns out to be the best handling non-Tesla EV currently made. Is that a low bar? Perhaps, but the i3 leaps over it.

BMW’s “one pedal concept” is the fly in the ointment. Here’s the theory: if you drive like a responsible citizen, you just use the accelerator pedal. Press on the pedal and the car goes.  Lift and the car brakes. Lift completely and the i3 engages maximum regenerative braking (brake lights on) and takes you to a complete stop. As long as the road is fairly level, the i3 will remain stopped until you press the go-pedal once more. On paper it sounds novel, in practice it annoyed me and made my leg ache. The reason is that in order to coast you either shift to neutral or hover your foot in the right position. If the i3 could adjust the “foot-off” regen, I’d be happy. Driving the i3 back to back with VW’s new eGolf didn’t make the one-pedal any better because the VW allows you to adjust the regen from zero to maximum in four steps easily and intuitively.

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

The i3 EV’s wider rear tires mean that despite being RWD and almost perfectly balanced you get predictable understeer as the road starts to curve. You can induce some oversteer if you’re aggressive on the throttle, but BMW’s stability control nanny cannot be disabled and the intervention is early and aggressive. Toss in the range extender’s 300+ pounds and understeer is a more frequent companion. You can still get the REx a little tail happy if you try however. The i3 will never be a lurid tail happy track car like an M235i, but the fact that any oversteer is possible in an EV is a rare feat since nearly everything else on the market is front heavy and front wheel drive. Put simply the BMW i3 is the best driving and best handling EV this side of the Model S.

Now let’s talk range extender again. After hearing the complaints about the i3’s “limp” mode when you’re left with just 34 ponies, I tried to make it happen to see what the fuss was about. I hopped in the car with the battery at 6% and started off to work. Climbing from 700ft to 2,200ft worked out just fine at 45-50 MPH on a winding mountain road, going down from 2,200 to sea level at 60 MPH was uneventful as well. I hopped on CA-85 and set the cruise control to 65 since the rumor mill told me the top speed would max out at 65ish with the battery dead. 15 miles later my battery was still very much alive so I kicked it up a notch to 75 and switched over to Interstate 280 where rolling hills would tax the battery further. 20 miles later the range extender was humming like a dirt bike in my blind spot but I wasn’t slowing down. I decided drastic measures were needed. I kicked the i3 up another notch to [intentionally left blank] MPH and watched as the battery gauge ran to zero. Finally. Except it wasn’t that exciting. It didn’t feel like I hit the brakes, it simply felt like someone had backed off the throttle. It took me around 1.5 miles to drop from [intentionally left blank] MPH to 55 MPH which was more than enough time for me to put my tail between my legs and move four lanes to the right.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

Hitting the “34 HP barrier” as I started to call it proved a little easier at closer-to-legal speeds when hill climbing, and the effects were a little more drastic. On a winding road where driving a car hard involves heavy braking before corners and full throttle exits, the i3 ran out of steam after 4 miles. The i3 then spent the next 8 miles with the go-pedal on the floor at speeds ranging from 37 to 50 MPH.

When running on the range extender, I averaged 60-65 miles before I refilled the tiny tank which came out to somewhere around 38 MPG. The number surprised some, but personally it sounds about right because the energy losses in a serial hybrid can be high (up to 20% if you believe Toyota and Honda). What did surprise me is just how livable the i3 REx was. Despite BMW constantly saying that the REx wasn’t designed to be driven like a hybrid, over 300 miles of never charging I never had a problem driving the car just like I’d drive a Prius, only stopping more often for fuel. Way more often. The i3 REx can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles stopping every 60 miles for gas, I’m not sure I’d do that, but it is nice to know I could.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

Starting at $42,400 in EV form and $46,250 for the REx model, the i3 has the same kind of sticker shock as all EVs. However if you qualify for the maximum incentives the i3 REx comes down to a more reasonable $36,250 which is a little less than a 2015 328i. That slots the i3 between the rabble and the Tesla and more or less the same as the Mercedes B-Class, the only real i3 competition. In this narrow category the i3 is an easy win. It is slightly more fun to drive than the B-Class, a hair faster, considerably more efficient, has the ability to DC fast charge and the range extender will allow gasoline operation if required. The i3 is funky and complicated and BMW’s 320i is probably a better car no matter how you slice it, but none of that changes the fact the i3 is probably one of the most important cars of our time. Not because the i3 is a volume produced carbon fiber car, but because we are likely to see may more “BEVx” category “range extending” vehicles in our future (for more unicorn credits) and this is now the benchmark.

 BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and 1.9 gallons of gasoline for this review.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender 19 inch wheel 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender BMW logo 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior . 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior1 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-002 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-003 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-005 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-006 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-0011 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Glove Compartment 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Hatch and Tail Lamp 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Quarter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats Folded 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Refueling 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Column 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Wheel.CR2

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Mazda2 RE May Appear Soon, But Only In Select Markets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mazda2-re-may-appear-soon-but-only-in-select-markets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mazda2-re-may-appear-soon-but-only-in-select-markets/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863249 The oft-rumored Mazda2 RE PHEV, powered by a range-extending rotary engine, may soon become reality, appearing sometime after the next-gen hatch debuts in showrooms between October and the new year. Motoring.com.au reports the PHEV won’t be making its global debut with the rest of the new Mazda2 family in August, nor will it likely appear […]

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The oft-rumored Mazda2 RE PHEV, powered by a range-extending rotary engine, may soon become reality, appearing sometime after the next-gen hatch debuts in showrooms between October and the new year.

Motoring.com.au reports the PHEV won’t be making its global debut with the rest of the new Mazda2 family in August, nor will it likely appear in showrooms where government support is lacking, according to Mazda Australia Managing Director Martin Benders:

The only markets in which you can justify bringing something like that out, to get at least a reasonable amount of volume to justify setting it up as a saleable model, are ones where there’s government support for those types of models.

Benders adds that the current crop of Skyactiv engines do a better job of reducing CO2 emissions and boosting fuel economy than the more expensive PHEV technology, with subsidies and sales quotas hindering the case for hybrids in countries where the support isn’t there. However, Benders doesn’t believe government money should be used to promote the technology, preferring the market to decide what lives and what dies.

As for the new-gen Mazda2, which will take its cue from the Kodo design language found in vehicles like the Mazda3 and Mazda6, power will be supplied by a 1.5-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine and a matching turbo diesel; the latter will likely not make it to the United States when the new compact arrives next year.

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Mercedes-Benz Offers “Range ” For B-Class EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mercedes-benz-offers-range-for-b-class-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mercedes-benz-offers-range-for-b-class-ev/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851857 Mercedes-Benz is offering a range extender option for the new all-electric B-Class, but it’s not what the name suggests. The Mercedes-Benz “temporary range extender” is “A suite of options to further increase your driving range includes added insulation of the doors and roof for to increase climate-control efficiency, along with an electrically heated windshield and […]

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Mercedes-Benz is offering a range extender option for the new all-electric B-Class, but it’s not what the name suggests.

The Mercedes-Benz “temporary range extender” is

“A suite of options to further increase your driving range includes added insulation of the doors and roof for to increase climate-control efficiency, along with an electrically heated windshield and a range-extending charge function. By pressing a button on the console prior to charging, the maximum charge level for battery will increased for the next charge cycle. The higher-capacity charge can provide up to 17 additional miles of range…Electric heating of the windshield glass offers quick defogging of the windshield, even on very cold or humid days. Its energy-efficient operation also helps to extend your driving range compared to using the climate control to clear the windshield.”

While the option package is a novel way to maximize available battery capacity, it’s a bit of a misnomer, given that “range extender” is usually given to mean an on-board internal combustion engine that helps increase the driving range of an electric vehicle.

 

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BMW Partnering With Kymco For i3 Range Extender http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/bmw-partnering-with-kymco-for-i3-range-extender/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/bmw-partnering-with-kymco-for-i3-range-extender/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 17:58:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481736 The gasoline range-extender that will be optional in BMW’s i3 electric car will be built by Kymco, a Taiwanese firm that is best known for its scooters. BMW and Kymco have worked together in the past, with Kymco building engines for the BMW G450X dirt bike. The two-cylinder motor was designed in Germany but built […]

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The gasoline range-extender that will be optional in BMW’s i3 electric car will be built by Kymco, a Taiwanese firm that is best known for its scooters.

BMW and Kymco have worked together in the past, with Kymco building engines for the BMW G450X dirt bike. The two-cylinder motor was designed in Germany but built by Kymco’s Taiwan factory – and the i3 will likely have a similar arrangement, given the familiarity between the firms. The parallel-twin will apparently be given extensively changes for the i3, especially given that the requirements for a motorcycle engine and a range extender being run at a constant load are very different.

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BMW: The Ultimate Range Anxiety Cure? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/bmw-the-ultimate-range-anxiety-cure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/bmw-the-ultimate-range-anxiety-cure/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 19:22:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479017 The Tesla vs. New York Times controversy has finally left the news cycle, forgotten in less time than it takes a Model S to juice up at a Supercharger station.  Meanwhile, BMW is ready to introduce its new range of “i” vehicles, which will conveniently dodge the whole question of range anxiety. Select European outlets were invited […]

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The Tesla vs. New York Times controversy has finally left the news cycle, forgotten in less time than it takes a Model S to juice up at a Supercharger station.  Meanwhile, BMW is ready to introduce its new range of “i” vehicles, which will conveniently dodge the whole question of range anxiety.

Select European outlets were invited for ride-alongs in BMW’s new i3 city car and i8 supercar. The impressions gleaned from ride-alongs are generally next to worthless, but the technology being used by BMW is worth examining. Rather than a pure EV, BMW will be adopting a three-pronged approach – a pure EV, a range extender and a plug-in hybrid.

The i3, a small hatchback meant for urban driving, will adopt the BMW ActiveE’s drivetrain, with an electric motor mounted in the rear, making 168 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Maximum range is said to be 140 miles, though 80-100 miles is a more realistic figure according to BMW. The i3 will be slightly bigger than a Mini Cooper, but will weigh just 2750 lbs and git 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. And unlike the Mini, it’s rear-drive.

But the most interesting aspect of the i3 is the range extender option. Unlike the plug-in hybrid option on the i8 supercar (which uses a three-cylinder turbocharged engine and an electric motor to power the wheels), the range extender in the i3 is strictly used to help maintain the battery’s charge if it falls below a predetermined level. It does not power the drive wheels under any circumstances. The 650cc parallel-twin could help increase the i3’s range to as much as 200 miles according to BMW, though specifics were scant.

As much as pure EV enthusiasts may scoff at the idea of any carbon-emitting technology sullying the zero-emissions dream, range extender technology could become prominent as a means of expanding the viability of electric vehicles. Small motorcycle engines (like the i3) and even rotary engines are being floated as possible solutions, while other more radical possibilities are being researched right now. Serenergy, a Danish firm, makes a fuel cell system based on methanol that could be adopted for this purpose. While methanol fell out of vogue in the 90s, the prospect of creating it from sources like solid waste has helped revive interest in methanol as a biofuel. On a broader scale, range extenders could alleviate one of the main psychological deterrents to EV adoption – the fear of running out of juice, rendering you totally stranded – by offering a reliable fail-safe in case of battery depletion. And if it’s a rear engine, rear drive compact, all the better for those of us who still enjoy the act of driving.

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Mazda Boss Reveals More About Rotary Range Extender http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/mazda-boss-reveals-more-about-rotary-range-extender/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/mazda-boss-reveals-more-about-rotary-range-extender/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2012 17:01:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458209 The rotary engine and Mazda have had a tumultuus, on-and-off relationship that rivals an Old Hollywood marriage. Market conditions and government regulations have made mass production of the rotary a constant challenge, and the death of the Mazda RX-8 looked like the final nail in the Wankel’s coffin. It turns out that Mazda is not only reviving […]

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The rotary engine and Mazda have had a tumultuus, on-and-off relationship that rivals an Old Hollywood marriage. Market conditions and government regulations have made mass production of the rotary a constant challenge, and the death of the Mazda RX-8 looked like the final nail in the Wankel’s coffin.

It turns out that Mazda is not only reviving the rotary, but the rumors of its use as a range extender have been confirmed by Mazda head Takashi Yamanouchi, who spoke briefly at the Moscow Auto Show regarding its future.

Yamanouchi revealed that the next-generation rotary car would be a plug-in vehicle that would only be available for lease in Japan. Regarding the rotary’s use, Yamanouchi said

“The rotary has very good dynamic performance, but if you accelerate and brake a lot there are efficiency disadvantages. The range extender overcomes that. We can keep it spinning at it’s most efficient 2000rpm while also taking advantage of it’s size.”

Better a range-extending rotary than no rotary at all, right?

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Geo Storm EV Mule, The Chevrolet Volt’s Baby Daddy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/geo-storm-ev-mule-the-chevrolet-volts-baby-daddy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/geo-storm-ev-mule-the-chevrolet-volts-baby-daddy/#comments Thu, 31 May 2012 15:23:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447010 While on the Infiniti JX launch event, I met a gentleman who now works with Nissan. He had a number of interesting stories about his tenure at GM, and what it was like to work on the EV1 program, as well as the technology that he swears was the forerunner to the Chevrolet Volt. According […]

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While on the Infiniti JX launch event, I met a gentleman who now works with Nissan. He had a number of interesting stories about his tenure at GM, and what it was like to work on the EV1 program, as well as the technology that he swears was the forerunner to the Chevrolet Volt.

According to him, GM engineers in 1991 needed a way to keep the batteries in their GM Storm EV mules charged. A crude range extender was fashioned out of a Honda generator, which would kick in when the batteries dropped below a certain point.

The Storm mules were gutted and filled with batteries and a generator and driven around during development. He swears that, with the number of EV1 and Impact (the original GM EV) people left kicking around for the Volt’s development, the range extender idea must have lived on in someone’s mind for a very long time, until it came time to put it in operation.

I begged him to grant me an interview, or at least let me quote him, but he wouldn’t indulge me. I was left wondering about the early days of the program, until I stumbled upon this article in the January 1992 edition of Motor Trend. The big difference here is that GM has ditched the range extender and worked out a proper 220V charging system (apparently that was an obstacle in the early days).  Note that the EV1 charging paddle is absent here, and it seems to use a very-1990s flashing LED charge port, similar to the L.A. Gear running shoes that were found to have mercury in them.

Since there seems to be a fair amount of Storm love on TTAC these days, it’s worth recognizing the irony of a largely forgotten car paving the way for perhaps the biggest automotive lightning rod since the Edsel.

You can see the full-size scan in the gallery below

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail stormmule ev1-paddle-2

 

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A Look At The Homebrew Toyota RAV4 EVs Already Out There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/a-look-at-the-homebrew-toyota-rav4-evs-already-out-there/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/a-look-at-the-homebrew-toyota-rav4-evs-already-out-there/#comments Thu, 10 May 2012 15:52:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443786 Despite Toyota’s announcement of a new generation of RAV4 EV, mostly for CARB compliance, it seems that RAV4 EV production has never really stopped – at least not on a one-off basis. Brian Driggs of Gearbox Magazine went looking through EVAlbum’s catalog of enthusiast-created RAV4 EV conversions. Some of them look identical to a standard […]

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Despite Toyota’s announcement of a new generation of RAV4 EV, mostly for CARB compliance, it seems that RAV4 EV production has never really stopped – at least not on a one-off basis.

Brian Driggs of Gearbox Magazine went looking through EVAlbum’s catalog of enthusiast-created RAV4 EV conversions. Some of them look identical to a standard RAV4, while others are more intricate. Witness the RAV4 EV, that appears to be a Toyota original. The big difference is that this photo, apparently dated in 2001, shows the RAV4 EV towing a trailer. Within the trailer is a Kawasaki 500cc parallel-twin motorcycle engine that powers an A/C generator. Range extender anyone? Yes, it’s a little crude, but also somewhat ingenious.

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Consumer Reports Fisker Karma Breaks In Driveway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/consumer-reports-fisker-karma-breaks-in-driveway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/consumer-reports-fisker-karma-breaks-in-driveway/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 20:56:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434397 Consumer Reports recently bought a Fisker Karma, which ended up breaking down in the driveway of their vehicle testing facility. The car didn’t quite “brick”, but it was rendered immobile, and had to be towed away on a flatbed. We’ll be keeping an eye on what transpires. Maybe it will re-start once Fisker’s DoE loans […]

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Consumer Reports recently bought a Fisker Karma, which ended up breaking down in the driveway of their vehicle testing facility.

The car didn’t quite “brick”, but it was rendered immobile, and had to be towed away on a flatbed. We’ll be keeping an eye on what transpires. Maybe it will re-start once Fisker’s DoE loans get re-instated.

According to CR, the Karma lasted a mere 180 miles before dying. CR says that they will continue testing the car and that the defect won’t affect reliability scores, which are based on owner feedback.

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Audi To Unveil A1 e-tron Concept With Wankel Range Extender http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/audi-to-unveil-a1-e-tron-concept-with-wankel-range-extender/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/audi-to-unveil-a1-e-tron-concept-with-wankel-range-extender/#comments Mon, 01 Mar 2010 23:49:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=347112 The Wankel rotary engine returns to its native land at last. Since the NSU Ro 80 went out of production in 1977, Mazda has been the keeper of the flame. But Audi has announced that it will show an A1 e-tron concept at the Geneva show this week, and the pug-in will feature a single-rotor […]

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The Wankel rotary engine returns to its native land at last. Since the NSU Ro 80 went out of production in 1977, Mazda has been the keeper of the flame. But Audi has announced that it will show an A1 e-tron concept at the Geneva show this week, and the pug-in will feature a single-rotor Wankel range extender (gen set). Rotaries and micro-turbines have often been suggested as the ultimate range extenders due to their compact size and low weight.

The “e-tron” will become a moniker for all electrified Audis, promises Audi chief Rupert Stalder to the German magazine Focus, “just like Quattro has become synonymous for four-wheel drive.”

Audi is claiming a 31 mile range in EV mode, before the rotary begins to spin juice. Rotaries are generally less efficient than piston engines, but the trade-off for weight and power density may make it worthwhile. According to Green Car Congress,  the A1 e-tron will only have an additional 124 miles running on its single rotor Wankel range extender.  Must be a mighty small fuel tank, or is the rotary really that thirsty?

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Volt Birth Watch 174: Enough With The Prius Comparisons! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/volt-birth-watch-174-enough-with-the-prius-comparisons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/volt-birth-watch-174-enough-with-the-prius-comparisons/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2009 22:55:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336941 As we saw in the last VBW, the Volt’s range-extender still needs some software work. But efforts to to keep the gas engine from acting like a thrashing, disembodied dervish will have to balance the desire for smooth operation and maximum efficiency.  And it’s looking like efficiency in charge sustaining (CS) mode won’t match the […]

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Is anyone else seeing GM's business plans in this chart? (courtesy:gm-volt.com)

As we saw in the last VBW, the Volt’s range-extender still needs some software work. But efforts to to keep the gas engine from acting like a thrashing, disembodied dervish will have to balance the desire for smooth operation and maximum efficiency.  And it’s looking like efficiency in charge sustaining (CS) mode won’t match the hybrid standard-setters. Volt chief powertrain engineer Alex Cattelan breaks the news gently to the true believers at GM-volt.com

You’ve got to understand that all of the decisions that we’ve made around this product are made because its an EV. That is the first and foremost thing that it needs to be. So because it is an EV some of the decisions that we’ve made around engine operation will be different than what Toyota makes in its parallel hybrid. For them they are always operating in hybrid mode so they need to optimize everything for engine operation.

In our case we’re optimizing everything for EV operation and the secondary is certainly going to be better than conventional vehicles, but were not necessarily totally optimizing the system for charge sustaining mode because we don’t want to compromise electric vehicle mode.

Cattelan goes on to describe the sophistication of the Volt’s constantly-updating efficiency software, sourced from the abortive Two-Mode hybrid system. And as the chart above shows, the plan for charge-sustaining mode is an interesting one. Essentially, it involves keeping the battery state of charge between 30 and 35 percent, once the 40 miles of (estimated) EV range is tapped. Which is a fine idea as long as the engine on-off improves. Otherwise, drivers might just find themselves nervously counting down the five percent charge range before the 1.4 liter range extender thrashes to life again. Hoping for an answer to that question, Gm-volt notes “I’ve driven the 2-mode and notice you can see the switched in mode of operation without feeling it in the car.” Cattelan’s response reveals the trade-off that’s in play:

Which is the goal, you don’t want you to feel it in the car, we don’t want the customer to know these transitions are taking place, but we need to be able to enable them for efficiency.

Later, when Cattelan has explained the efficiency benefits of having a range-extending engine that’s independent of the drive axle, Gm-volt pushes again on the charge sustaining-mode efficiency question, saying “It seems to me then you should make CS mode even more efficient then in a car where the engine always has to turn the axle?” Cattelan’s answer once again downplays the notion, saying

Right and it is more efficient than a conventional vehicle because they do have to have that engine coupled. Again were optimizing some of those efficiency point puts we are really doing is focusing on the optimization of the EV. There are trade offs because we absolutely consider this product an EV by nature.

It’s not a hybrid! We’re focusing on EV mode! More efficient than a “conventional vehicle” in CS mode! Which means, what, 35 MPG? As Paul Niedermeyer explained some 18 months ago, the Volt is going to have a hell of a time beating the Prius on a mass-market basis. Which is what happens when you come up with the marketing line (“40 miles without burning a drop of gasoline”) before you develop the car.

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