Edward Niedermeyer's EV Roundup

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
edward niedermeyers ev roundup

For nearly a century, powertrains and vehicle design have followed a largely evolutionary development path, slowly improving on one basic concept. But rising fuel prices for our inherited automotive paradigm point to radical changes ahead. Hybrids have already established a beachhead for the coming revolution. Like the dot-com boom just a decade ago, the EV gold rush is on. From pure vaporware to Hail-Mary-mobiles to groundbreaking machines that threaten real world practicality and affordability, there's lots to learn from and laugh at in the post-combustion world.

With so much to be depressed about (the death of affordable gas, the new Knight Rider TV series, etc.), you gotta laff, mate. And that's where Volt Nation comes in. Your online headquarters for (GM) Volt-o-mania, gm-volt.com recently covered the breaking news that Bob Lutz didn't actually say the Volt would cost $48k. When pressed, Lutz tells gm-volt.com's Lyle Dennis “(The price) keeps going up. Every time you ask, Lyle, it goes up again.” Lutz also calls the battery “a big unknown”– a fact which doesn't prevent one commenter from declaring that the unborn Volt “could change the world economy.” Another gushes “I vote that we quit asking price. If it’s right, then I’ll buy one or two.” Enjoy the love-fest, but remember: reality is just a hyperlink away.

The antidote to clueless cheer leading, greencarcongress.com is the place for hard-core EV (electric vehicle) and alt-energy nuts to geek out. The site offers a smorgasbord of super-wonky details and discussion of new developments such as a new $10k plug-in conversion kit for the Prius and the possibility of a renewable, organic electrode material for lithium-ion batteries. No detail goes unnoticed– from ZF's development of " hydraulic impulse oil storage element that can be integrated in the new generation of its 8-speed automatic transmissions to better support start-stop microhybrid systems," to the latest hybrid sales numbers.

Evworld.com brings us news of a plugless plug-in hybrid Skoda Fabia developed by the UK's Motor Industry Research Association. The retrofit is said to "eliminate the primary limitation of the 'plug-in hybrid' concept." Sadly, this isn't a cure for high prices and overly complex technology. Nope, this e-doo-hickey simply allows you to lug your batteries to a power source to charge them up, so on-street parkers can still rock a plug-in. Hmmm, sounds like an extension cord might have been cheaper.

Let's take a moment now to dispel the notion that EVs are all overly-complex yet boring city boxes. Sometimes they're slightly-complex yet impractical sports cars. Case in point, the Dutch firm Evisol threw a Siemens engine and some lithium polymer batteries into a Lotus Seven replica. Blijdschap! The Thorr was born. Like Tesla (after several epic fails), Evisol left the gearbox out, figuring the (up to) 450nm of torque at zero rpm would suffice to haul the 1600 lb Thorr to speed while still returning a 125 miles range. Too bad Evisol can't tell us what it will cost, when it will be available or the final performance. Still, it's a good blueprint for a sweet shadetree EV project car.

For a snapshot of the EV companies with the best [s]PR departments[/s] products, Dvice.com has a list of the Top 10 World-Changing Electric Cars. Ignore the hyperbolic headline, and the inclusion of such oddities as the cartoonish Venturi "Eclectic Car" (pictured) and the Baker Electric Vehicle, which went out of production in 1915, and you have a snapshot of some of the products coming down the EV pipeline. Whether cars like the Fisker Karma even make it to production is still a question, and the Aptera Typ1 is unlikely to change anything outside of Southern California, but hey… the future has to come sometime, right?

Still not convinced that EVs have a future in the US? The optimistically-named solveclimate.com covers a Deutsche Bank study which might just change your mind. The German beancounters went over the numbers for Project Better Place's charging station and car-leasing business model. They were impressed to say the least. PBP's plans to market EV's like cell phones with set-mileage service plans could reduce the cost of driving to as little as seven cents per mile, compared to an average of 15 – 20 cents per mile currently available in the US. PBP proves that EV technology isn't enough on its own. Someone has to overcome their cost downsides.

Finally, the no-longer-presented-by-Acura Jalopnik takes us inside a Chinese factory which builds counterfeit Smart ForTwos. The ripoff rides might not be EVs, but they offer an insight into the conditions in which ultra-cheap EVs like Zap's Xebra are built. Just in case you thought your EV was, y'know… saving the planet.

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2 of 40 comments
  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on May 07, 2008

    Hey guys, go take a look at www.homepower.com Folks doing solar stuff today.

  • Metricmind1 Metricmind1 on Jun 18, 2009

    People, The 272hp Thorr Electric car does not exist! EVISOL is really a fraudulent company still listing this on their web site. There is no product this company has, only luring in investors. I have few of never functioning power inverters supposedly installed in Thorr. The one on the photo/video runs on lead acid trial pack and uses Siemens off-shelf drive, which is *not* EVISOL's product. Don't be fooled. Check out this and spread the news. http://www.metricmind.com/audi/evisol.htm Thanks!

  • Probert I have used both level one and level 2 charging at my house. I use this for local needs. I have a fairly regular 350 mile round trip. I charge after about 125 miles one way, at a level 3 at a KIA dealer. I could do it in a straight shot, but this leaves me plenty of reserve if I need it in the city.I charge at the same place on the way out, adding about 40%, and I'm home free.A number of chargers have opened since I got the Niro 2 years ago, so I have a fair amount of flexibility on this route. I have used EA chargers on the route, and also a handy, and friendly Harley dealer charger.
  • Dan65708323 I think Ford it going to go under. They can't lose 3 billion ever year for years. All their EV's are on stop sales. Good luck Ford.
  • Kcflyer LC 500
  • Kcflyer Sure, we lose money on each one, but we will make it up on volume :)
  • VoGhost You want to hear something mind blowing? Ford last year lost $34K on every BEV it sold. Tesla made $10K per vehicle sold. So stop telling me that once the legacy ICE automakers get into the EV market that they'll wipe the floor with Tesla. My stock is making way too much money to take you seriously.