By on June 14, 2016

Nikola One from Nikola Motors, Image: Nikola Motors

Is this big rig the real life? Or is it just fantasy?

Nikola Motors, the company that recently sprouted out of the proverbial ether to announce a $350,000+ turbine-electric-powered Class 8 truck, claims it’s taken in $2.3 billion in pre-orders. Say what now?

That, the air in Mexico is thick with pollution, Nissan is bridging the gap to hydrogen with a corny solution, and BMW has solved the leasing bubble …  after the break!

For $1,500, you can jump in line with 7,000 other people waiting for this truck

Holy moly. Either Nikola Motors has struck gold with its 18-wheeled high-tech marvel, or it’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

According to Jalopnik’s Andrew Collins, Nikola Motors has taken in some $10,500,000 in cash on pre-orders for its Nikola One Class 8 hauler. That represents 7,000 pre-order holders, with a potential of $2.3 billion in sales.

When Collins pressed Nikola Motors founder Trevor Milton if the truck exists in reality, this is what he had to say:

“The truck does exist and is in final assembly,” he said in the email. “It will be unveiled later this year for the first 5,000 reservation holders, the press and media.” Now we’re hearing the reveal will indeed be December, 2016.

So, in December we will either see a production truck, or some Faradayian flight of fancy to placate those who don’t like asking tough questions.

Mexico City celebrates ‘Shanghai Days’

After years of progress on air pollution, Mexico City is now “shrouded in a gray-yellow murk,” reports the New York Times. The issue is so bad that government officials are coming up with ways to keep between 20 and 40 percent of cars off the road. As expected, road users are not happy, and they don’t think the driving restrictions are helping.

From NYT:

Every day, roughly 20 percent of the region’s cars are grounded. Ozone and particulates have climbed so high that the environment commission has declared eight pollution emergencies since March, imposing special rules that include taking 40 percent of the cars off the road.

But drivers waiting at an emissions inspections station recently said that they were taking all the heat.

“Keeping cars at home does not resolve absolutely anything,” said Óscar Rojas Ayala, 50, a criminal defense lawyer who uses his 2009 Mitsubishi sport utility vehicle to visit his clients in the city’s far-flung jails. “They should prove it.”

“This is all just a business for the government to make more money,” said Armando Cortés de la Rosa, 58, who does not live in the city but needs an inspection sticker to visit relatives. “You take two million cars off the road and the pollution has continued.”

“What’s the strategy?” asked Elsa Pliego, 46. Some antipollution measures just create more traffic, she argued, like the bike lanes that herd cars into single file. “Today they do one thing. Tomorrow another.”

The problem stems from recent governments not making pollution part of the agenda, say researchers, and Mexicans not complaining about what they can’t see.

BMW solves its leasing bubble crisis

The bubble exists. Thanks to a high rate of leasing over the last few years, many vehicles are forecast to return to dealerships in 2016. BMW, the queen of “lease, don’t own” brands, has a solution: sell lease returns to non-BMW dealers.

From Automotive News:

The captive’s BMWGroupDirect.com is now accessible to non-BMW franchised dealers as well as independent used-only dealers who have valid AuctionACCESS accounts. AuctionACCESS allows dealers to buy used vehicles online and is accepted at over 250 auctions in North America, according to its website.

If there were a lease-return 3 Series sitting next to an ATS in a Cadillac dealer lot, what would you buy?

Nissan’s new e-bio fuel cells could help get us to a hydrogen future via ethanol

The Japanes automakers are split between what will fuel our collective mobility in the future. Nissan and Mitsubishi are betting on battery electric vehicles while Toyota and Honda think hydrogen fuel cells are the answer.

It seems Nissan might be changing its tune ever so slightly. EVs are more viable right now mainly because the infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles does not exist. The automaker plans to bridge the gap with a new ethanol fuel cell technology, which converts the corn-based fuel to hydrogen on-board before again converting it to electricity to drive the wheels.

From Automotive News:

But the biggest difference is that Nissan’s system generates its hydrogen inside the car. It does so through an additional step handled by a component called the reformer.

The reformer transforms ethanol in the fuel tank into hydrogen, which is then fed into in the fuel stack. In a traditional hydrogen fuel cell car, there is no reformer. The car’s fuel tank carries pressurized hydrogen pumped directly from a fueling station.

Cool technology, for sure, but what does that mean for Nissan’s battery-electric future?

[Image: Nikola Motors]

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82 Comments on “News Round-up: Nikola Motors Mirage, Mexico City Experiencing Shanghai Noon, and Nissan Gets Corny with Fuel Cells...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    I called Carbon Motors for the failure it turned out to be (a $50,000 BMW-powered police car? Seriously?) and this seems to be no more credible.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      It’s credible insofar as it’s an adaptation of a locomotive’s diesel-electric powertrain. Not sure if the company is credible, or if there are any significant efficiency gains to be made by going that route.

      My understanding is that turbines can be small/light, or they can be efficient, but they can’t be both. The way to make them efficient is through secondary heat/energy recovery, which takes-up a lot of space. That’s OK in a fixed power plant, but not in a mobile one.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        Yes,
        Combined cycle natural gas fired electric plants are about 50% thermally efficient. This is due to the secondary heat recovery from the exhaust of the primary gas turbine. The waste heat is used to generate steam and drive a second set of turbine generators.
        This technology does not scale down to the size needed for a class 8 truck let alone anything smaller.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        So what are the odds that a company that nobody’s ever heard of before yesterday has enough cash to start building a completely unproven truck and that it has 7,000 orders? Here’s a hint: $10.5 million isn’t anywhere near enough to even think about beginning this kind of a project. Maybe it’s a Class 8 Dale.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          For your prototype, you can save a lot of money by starting with a well-used, worn-out chassis and build from there. Eliminate the engine, transmission and driveshaft and you’ve got room to work without having to start from scratch. Ten million could easily be enough for a prototype that looks reasonably good and still give you money to start the company. You’d have to IPO pretty quickly though, once the prototype proves its abilities.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Trucks need a service network in place and operational before fleet buyers will even consider buying the first unit. It is a chicken/egg problem: customers won’t buy your product without a service network in place, but you can’t set up a service network without customers.

      Billions of dollars in pre-orders for unsupported vaporware? I call BS.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Trucks need a service network in place and operational before fleet buyers will even consider buying the first unit. It is a chicken/egg problem: customers won’t buy your product without a service network in place, but you can’t set up a service network without customers.”

        Tell that to Tesla. They managed it. Though I do agree the Nikola report is a bit ‘too good to be true,’ if you know what I mean.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Tesla doesn’t sell OTR trucks. trucking companies and owner/operators have different expectations than a bunch of tech geeks willing to punt on an unknown. Trucks are bought for the purpose of making money, if they’re not moving with a trailer attached, they’re not making any money.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Tesla doesn’t sell OTR trucks.”
            No, they don’t. They sell OTR cars that some people insist CAN’T go OTR despite the fact that they’ve been doing cross-country trips for four years now.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Vulpine,

            you have a remarkable ability to respond to everything *except* the point I was making.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            And you, Jim, have a remarkable ability to ignore the points I’m making in response to your points. I fully understand what you’re saying, but you’re coming across as insisting something is impossible when it very clearly is NOT impossible. Merely unlikely instead. The fact that this article about the Nikola One even exists shows that somebody sees a turbine-electric truck as a way to improve OTR economy is not necessarily impossible and there is a lot of real-world experience in other related fields to demonstrate that fact. But until someone actually tries, we simply don’t know how well it will work. We can’t rely on 50-year-old data (the Chrysler Turbine car or the even older turbine truck mentioned elsewhere in this forum) when the technology of those engines has changed so much and even electric motor design has advanced to the point that multiple motors on a car is not only feasible but MORE efficient than a single, larger motor.

            The concept as it stands is not impossible. What is unlikely at the moment is that the Nikola One itself will probably never see the light of day. BUT, the Nikola One may trigger some other Class 8 OEM to give it a try or even a new startup progressing in a more traditional manner. Remember, EVERYTHING you’re arguing about against the Nikola One was used as an argument against Tesla and in come cases still are being used against Tesla despite it’s obvious success at creating a truly roadworthy BEV.

  • avatar

    Electric TRUCKS are the final frontier.

    I want to buy in on whatever IPO I can get.

    Made some DAMN GOOD MONEY FROM TE$LA.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      And electric airplanes, which are just beginning:

      http://www.solarimpulse.com/

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      electric drive makes less sense for long haul trucks than you might think. States have maximum gross weight limits for trucks, and all of that battery and electric drive hardware detracts from the amount of cargo the truck can haul. Plus, in many cases generator/motor series drive is less efficient than a mechanical transmission. hybrid/electric makes a lot more sense for delivery/city trucks and buses. Driving long distances at steady speeds with an inefficient turbine powering the truck and maintaining battery charge seems more like a case of “the more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

      (and don’t bring up locomotives. they’re series diesel/electric for different reasons.)

      • 0 avatar

        Liberals will get rid of weight ratings – in favor of reduced/eliminating CO2 emissions (at that point anyway).

        They truly are that stupid.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Turbine/electric truck propulsion has been around since at least 1964 when Ford rolled out a prototype that looked like it was from The Jetsons. Google Ford Turbine Semi; very cool. In theory, great idea; in execution, not so much. Horrible fuel efficiency, lots of heat and noise, and reliability issues. All of these problems are poison to truck buyers who operate on razor thin margins and hold efficiency and reliability at a premium.

          Ever since truck makers have dabbled with the idea of turbine power and the problems have not changed.

          Hybrids have a different problem: the batteries would have to be so big that the truck effectively becomes a rolling battery with a little freight behind it. The efficiencies just are not there.

          Don’t forget that big truck makers, huge fleet buyers, and governments around the globe want to cut truck emissions and decrease fuel use. Lots of engineers are racking up billion dollar tabs on all sorts of ideas. It’s not like a common propulsion system never occurred to any of them.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Turbine technology has changed a lot since 1964, Toad. Even single-engine planes are running turbo-prop engines today.

            I would suggest also that you consider what one or two of Tesla’s 95kWh battery packs would do on a truck where the turbine works to keep them charged. The batteries are there to provide the start-up oomph to move the load and boost the turbine on grades. I think the efficiencies would be better than you believe.

            Not saying the Nikola One is a real rig, only that the concept is valid enough to demand a new prototype to see how it will perform in real-world conditions.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No the batteries for a Hybrid truck just like a hybrid car don’t have to be that big or that heavy. I’ve driven a DuraStar hybrid as a rental truck, and the battery pack hanging under the truck was about the size of a large fuel tank. I have no idea how heavy it was but it was still a small fraction of the truck’s 25,999lb GVW.

            Unfortunately the one time I got it I only had to go a few miles so we turned it in w/o refilling the fuel tank so no chance to see how it compared to the Freightshakers that they usually give me.

            It was somewhat funny as that was one of the weeks that we needed 2 trucks and the other guy ran out and grabbed the 1st one they brought around which was one of the typical Freightshakers and as he rolled out of sight the Durastar came around the corner and I was quite happy to see it.

            I told the lady who was taking the pictures how happy I was to get an International and she said yeah a lot of customers prefer the International, yet Ryder doesn’t by many of them.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “No the batteries for a Hybrid truck just like a hybrid car don’t have to be that big or that heavy.”
            — You’re right, they don’t have to be. But the hybrids you’re talking about are notably smaller, a Class 6 or 7 is my guess. A Class 8 needs to get 40 tons moving while the one you describe is only 12.5 tons, which means massive torque that a tiny fuel-tank-sized battery may not hold enough charge to even get up to highway speed, forcing it to fall back on the “prime mover” sooner and as such burning more fuel than necessary. Tesla’s battery packs supposedly run around 900# each and offer 95kWh for their largest one. Two of these might be all that’s needed and would approximately balance the weight of a diesel engine, coolant system, transmission and driveshaft. Two more might make it a bit heavier but could reduce the working load on the turbine such that the turbine only needs to feed the batteries and, unlike railroad locomotives, never take on the direct load of driving the motors. And turbines are economical at a steady speed. The typical airliner cruises at roughly 60% throttle or a little less for best economy while maintaining speed and altitude. In the event of a Class 8 truck, this means most of its driving will have the engine running at a maintenance level while a long grade demanding more power would still have roughly 40% more power available to handle the load.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Electric drive makes more sense than you know, Jim. Railroads and deepwater ships use electric drives almost exclusively today because of the torque such motors provide.

        Yes, I do agree that it could affect the load capacity of such a truck however, though being a true hybrid of turbine for high output generation and electric to drive all wheels with a reasonably large battery to help absorb the load of long or steep grades AND regenerative braking to control the descent the efficiency could be significantly better than diesel alone or railroad-style diesel-electric. Without a practical test of the system, we can’t know for sure, however. Will the truck use gearing to help control the torque going to the road? Unlikely outside of a single step-down gear between motor and axle. I’d say not too different from Tesla Motors today. Then again, that means more torque at lower speeds and sufficient torque to handle almost any grade at highway speeds, at least until the battery runs low, at which point the truck would be dependent on the turbine for power. Downgrade would see relatively rapid recharging due to regenerative braking of the 40-ton vehicle plus the turbine for both downhill recharging and maintaining charge on the flat. The potential is great–if this truck really exists.

        Can it work? Yes. Does it exist? Honestly, I don’t think so. This report seems too sudden and too close to a supposed working prototype to be legitimate.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Electric drive makes more sense than you know, Jim. Railroads and deepwater ships use electric drives almost exclusively today because of the torque such motors provide.”

          *facepalm*

          they use electric drive primarily because they can’t practically use a mechanical transmission. Locomotives, in particular, need to get so much mass moving *and* reach a high enough speed that it would be impossible to design a mechanical transmission with enough ratio spread, robustness, and reliability. plus, if you have control over the power sent to the electric motors, you can “soft start” on take-off to reduce electrical/thermal stress on the hardware.

          when your choice is between “do it in a slightly less efficient manner” and “don’t do it at all,” the decision is obvious.

          put it another way- everyone expected the Volt to be a pure series hybrid. But GM found it was more efficient/economical in certain situations for the gas engine to be able to drive the wheels mechanically instead of going through the generator/motor conversions.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Also a mechanical gearbox would be enormous, that is why the electric drive.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “put it another way- everyone expected the Volt to be a pure series hybrid. But GM found it was more efficient/economical in certain situations for the gas engine to be able to drive the wheels mechanically instead of going through the generator/motor conversions.”

            I’ve always considered the Volt an over-engineered piece of junk because of it, too. They wasted too much time and money trying to design a purpose-built three-cylinder engine for it, then chose almost the smallest off-the shelf engine that was grossly underpowered AND installed a battery pack too small to effective use AND chose to have the engine start far too much down the battery charge to maintain a functional charge at a certain level of use. I suggest you research how well accepted that “mechanical drive” was when the Volt inevitably had to fall back onto it.

            I also suggest you do a little research on railroad use of electric drives as in the first prototype test against a steam locomotive had it yank the drawbar right off the tender. The second try put a boxcar between them and the electric this time flat broke the car in two. (Both events occurred because a steam-engine driver was at the controls, against the instructions of the designer.) Subsequent examples clearly demonstrated that the electric was far stronger than a steam engine of “equivalent” horsepower, both from a standing start and a rolling start. There’s a reason why most European railroads, both passenger and freight, run ‘under the wires’. I would also note that the Virginian Railroad built and operated some of the most powerful electric locomotives ever built for ‘under the wire’ use, pulling loaded strings of coal cars out of mountain valleys to a central yard where they then used steam to take them downhill to seaports. http://www.greatdecals.com/VGNEL1NS.htm
            Other data is available through Wikipedia and other railroad sites.

            But I disagree with using a transmission when an electric motor can operate up to a reasonable safe speed in a truck. The Tesla electric car can achieve 120mph without gearing while a truck would logically be limited to 70-80mph for safety, especially since Nikola claims the truck would carry six motors and not a mere one or two with one on each axle. The drain on the battery would be its biggest issue but the turbine engine, if large enough, could maintain battery capacity on the flat and supplement the battery on a grade at least until the battery ran dry. If strong enough, the turbine could then maintain a slower, but hopefully still respectable speed to finish the climb. A turbine also would be less affected by higher altitudes than a diesel.

            Could a multi-speed transmission help? Maybe, but clearly it’s not needed.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            ” I suggest you research how well accepted that “mechanical drive” was when the Volt inevitably had to fall back onto it.”

            I was around when they disclosed that. the only people complaining were the obsessive geeks who felt “betrayed” that the car wasn’t a pure series drive. The people who actually bought Volts didn’t give a s**t.

            “But I disagree with using a transmission when an electric motor can operate up to a reasonable safe speed in a truck. The Tesla electric car can achieve 120mph without gearing ”

            yeah but the Tesla doesn’t have a fuel-burning engine providing its power. for a series hybrid, using an ICE to spin a generator, then using the generated electricity to power a motor, you have losses at each step. large diesel engines are already pretty darn efficient, especially since they’re continually operated at high load. A truck isn’t moving so much mass to make a mechanical transmission impractical. replacing a relatively efficient diesel engine/mechanical drive with a (LOL) turbine, enormous battery, electric motor, and (expensive) high-power electronics is silly.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Go look at the Accord Hybrid which gets better MPG than any other car in its class and it operates as a series hybrid most of the time. Yes when you get above a certain speed the engine drives the wheels directly because it is slightly more efficient but that is because it is a direct coupling between the starter/generator and the traction motor generator without any of the inherent losses of a typical transmission.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          The most efficient ships (container, bulk, tanker) still use mechanical drive. It is more efficient and more reliable than electric drive. Ships that require high levels of maneuverability, smoothness, or are spending taxpayers money for fuel are more likely to use diesel/electric.

          In trucks mechanical drivetrains are still more efficient and reliable than diesel or turbine electric. Modern diesels are very efficient, and a mechanical transmission is simple, effective, and lightweight. Consider that a modern truck transmission and axle set is expected to handle at least 1650 ft/lbs of torque under warranty for 750,000 miles; that’s durable.

          Diesel/electric drive has some applications that make sense, but trucks has not proven to be one of them.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mexico and China could use an EPA, I have to admit.

    They’re reliving the American urban experience, circa 1930-80.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Jobs and real growth? Superpower status? “American” dream?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Eventually they’re going to run into the same issues we did circa 1970 or so:

        1) As their standard of living moves up, their workers will become accustomed to higher wages, and other countries will be more than happy to undercut them. Freaky thought when it comes to China, but, yes, there are numerous underdeveloped countries all over the world that would be happy to pay workers half what Chinese workers get for no-skill jobs.

        2) Their citizens will get tired of breathing in poisoned air. Thus, more regulations. The main difference is that in China, corporate miscreants can end up taking their final ride in a mobile execution van for doing something like what BP did in 2010.

        Their ride will slow down too. Bet on it. And eventually, their lower classes will want a larger piece of the pie, but with their politics, they won’t be able to vote that into place, as was the case here. In China, the big bad gummint really is big and bad, and 25 years ago, was rolling tanks against protesters. The potential for social unrest in China is INCREDIBLE and based on their population alone, it could be on a scale no one’s ever seen.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          You are so right. The potential social unrest in China is what keeps the Com Party elites up at night & funding their money transfers to Canada. They realize that they have to avoid the inevitable meltdown & continue their family by outsourcing their progeny to a place they won’t get lynched.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          China has embraced “free market” capitalism and benefits from not having to deal with “free society” encumbrances (social, health,spiritual responsibilities to each other).
          Tiananmen Square protests/massacre has been marketed in the West as the squashing of democratic freedom but those protests were just as much about the harm done to the common working man by deregulation and embracing unfettered capitalism.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Did Nikola Tesla have a *middle* name? I’ve got a mind to start a car company.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Call it Edison if you want to make money.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “Call it Edison if you want to make money.”

        I couldn’t stomach that. Tesla may have been crazy, but Edison was a real d-bag.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “I couldn’t stomach that. Tesla may have been crazy, but Edison was a real d-bag.”

          More so than most historians want to believe. Edison and Tesla were arch enemies when it came to electricity. Tesla was proven correct more often than not, though I understand there are some interesting new studies with DC power transmission over long distances that claim higher efficiency today.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            DC power transmission suffers less capacitive losses than AC. It’s only recently we’ve had the high-power semiconductors to be able to step DC up and down. AC transformers are conceptually simple, but useless for DC.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “DC power transmission suffers less capacitive losses than AC.”

            If you’d said “inductive” you would have been more accurate. Otherwise, what you say is true.

            However, the DC system I’ve been reading about appears to have NO return path outside of Earth or Air, which is somewhat puzzling yet may play into Tesla’s own concept of so-called “wireless” power. After all, Lightning is DC energy and Nikola Tesla worked hard to find a way to harness lightning for human use.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            capacitive losses affect long distance transmission lines, especially buried/underwater cable. the inductive losses are in the transformers themselves.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “capacitive losses affect long distance transmission lines, especially buried/underwater cable. the inductive losses are in the transformers themselves.”

            Ever drive under those high-tension wires running cross country with your radio tuned to AM? There’s a very distinct buzz you hear because of inductance. Those aren’t transformers. Yes, transformers do use inductance to convert voltage or isolate a circuit but AC itself does generate inductance simply by its existence. With DC there would be no inductance but capacitance still exists as the parallel lines would build a certain level of charge between them even if one is completely isolated at both ends. That charge would remain until something acted to release it; typically by shorting the two lines together physically or through a resistive load. Today’s rechargeable batteries are nothing but high-capacity capacitors with no ability to generate a charge on their own the way alkaline, lead-acid and other single-use batteries do.

            Even if you remove the feed lines to a capacitor, it holds that charge until it either leaks away (depending on the quality of the electrolyte) or is discharged. Inductors on the other hand, begin to lose their charge as soon as the feed is removed, neutralizing itself typically within seconds as the magnetic field collapses. The rate of this collapse is determined by the inductance of the coil and the conductivity of the wire itself. Inductance and capacitance are exact opposites, where one stores a charge by moving electricity and the other stores a charge by generating magnetism. Radio and television as we used to know them are due to magnetism as they use a single-pole conductor to radiate magnetism into the air. Even if our programming is now digital, it still rides on an AC carrier wave to your car, cell phone, tablet or any other non-cable-connected device.

            Your telephone, however, was DC-coupled, putting an AC signal on a DC voltage to recreate voice and early modem data. I expect most wired internet and television programming through cable do it this way now, though the AC is pulse modulation rather than amplitude modulation. It’s why our cable boxes had to be changed a few years back and old TVs can no longer accept modern broadcast programming.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I believe his middle name was “Wadd”.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Nissan can sell their electric cars in Mexico City, and solve their air pollution problem… two birds with one stone!
    And Nikola trucks can transport the electric Nissans to the dealerships, with a buy-10-Nissans-get-one-lease-return-BMW-free deal.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “Mexico City celebrates Shanghai Days” At least it’s not Paris Days, involving mostly dirty, pre emissions diesels, the worst kind of gagging, choking, eye watering, smog/pollution.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      That city has always had huge pollution problems – it’s surrounded by mountains. Nothing new. But as it develops, and more car traffic is introduced, it’s going to get worse. Plus, would Mexico be able to effectively regulate things? Good question.

      Maybe the solution is to move El Chapo to Mexico City so he can grease the right palms.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Not Diesels, now Gas and Diesel have been banned

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Simply banning pre emissions, dirty diesels *only*, would solve most of the problem. Sadly France pushed/subsidized diesels and can’t really tell owners of diesel cars, “Oops, never mind folks, you’re out of luck, dumb suckers…”

        That would be bad. But it must be done, for healthcare reasons alone.

  • avatar
    chris724

    I think the turbine electric truck thing is snake oil. They will not beat the efficiency of a Diesel engine driving the wheels directly. A hybrid semi is not that bad of an idea, since they have so much mass. But the turbine generator thing is a bad idea. All those depositors will get ripped off.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Does a hybrid even really make sense? Hybrids add efficiency when you’re frequently stopping and accelerating again. Semis mostly get on the highway and cruise at 70 MPH.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        hybrids make sense for city/delivery trucks, where they do a lot more stop and go driving. Navistar has (or had) a couple of HEV models of their medium-duty trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Hybrids also increase highway efficiency on hills in mountainous areas. I’ve driven a Prius in mountainous areas and watched the status display. The electric motor did kick in on the climbs and the regen recovered some energy on the downhill sections.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          While correct as far as it goes, mcs, the battery pack in most hybrids don’t offer enough power to handle a long or steep grade for more than a few moments. The Volt is an exception as may be any plug-in hybrid with more than about 5 miles of battery-only range, but most hybrids simply don’t offer enough range to handle a slope like Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee or I-70 through the Rocky Mountains. There are many other such examples too, both east and west in the US alone. A non-plug-in Prius is pretty much forced to use more fuel on such grades despite their battery because of this.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Union Pacific had a small fleet of turbine-electric locomotives in the late-40s/early 50s. They did offer an advantage of massive horsepower and reasonable cost for fuel over steam and diesel-electric… except for one thing, turbines were expensive to maintain. I believe one or two of those trainsets still exist as museum pieces.

      The turbine has the advantage of using almost anything flammable as fuel and obviously are quite efficient as seen by the thousands of commercial jetliners in the air at any one time. Of course, the new engines use a much smaller turbine turning a much larger fan to get the thrust offered today. I would note that the US Navy (and possibly other countries as well) tend to use turbines to power their ships when they’re not running nuclear and almost all run on electric drive. It is more efficient.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaMaximaCulpa

        For smaller ships it’s quite common to have a couple of smaller diesels for maneuvering and other low speed or high endurance operations as well as turbines. In that case the turbines are mostly used for their small size and weight compared to output and coupled to conventional drives. On larger ships diesel electric or turbine electric propulsion are sometimes used, but I’d say that a conventional diesel with shaft is by far the most common propulsion system in navy ships around the globe.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          How many modern destroyers and frigates are conventionally powered? How many are turbine powered?

          • 0 avatar
            MeaMaximaCulpa

            You’re right that most modern large – by international standards – warships are powered by some combination including a turbine. On the other hand most small warships and support ships are powered by conventional diesels. Most countries doesn’t even have large warships so on balance I’d say that the diesel are most common by sheer numbers of installed units and some combination of turbines the most common on larger and modern warships. What I’m saying basically is that your right.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Depends on what you describe as a “small warship”, MeaMax. The new Combat Littoral Ships are turbine powered, as are destroyers. I believe even some Coast Guard cutters are turbine-driven as well. Ships that need speed are the ones that tend to get turbines.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        Not an expert but I served on Navy Diesel Electric submarines for years. Big advantage is the capability to run the diesel or turbine at a constant speed. The batteries and drive motors vary but the power originator runs at it’s most efficient speed on a regular basis. Btw a cruise ship I went on had a hydraulic motor/turbine turning the shaft for the same reason. Vary the hydraulic motor and torque from zero rpm. Make the power originator (steam/diesel/nat gas etc) runs at the most efficient speed.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Turbines are NOT “efficient,” at least not compared to most piston ICE engines. for a given amount of output horsepower, a gas turbine will consume more fuel.

        plus, turbines are HORRIFICALLY inefficient at anything less than full load. their compressors are non-linear; as the engine runs at slower speed the compressor is less effective and the engine’s pressure ratio drops. since (like the static compression ratio of a piston engine) a higher pressure ratio improves efficiency, running a turbine at part load leads to horrendous fuel consumption.

        Turbines have the advantage of high power *density* (power-to-weight ratio.) You can get 5,000 horsepower out of a turboshaft that weighs as much as a 500 horsepower big block Chevy engine. But they make that great horsepower by burning a ton of fuel and generating a s**tload of gas flow for the turbine to extract energy from.

        power density, scaling, and reliability are why they’re the most common aircraft engine. You try designing a piston engine which can push something the size of the A380 at Mach 0.8.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Power density. Is not a Class 8 truck smaller than a railroad locomotive and yet still needs 500-800hp to haul heavy loads over mountains? 40 years ago a trucker was happy to have a 350 hp engine in their truck; now they’re pushing twice that with turbocharging and still get slowed down by mountain grades because the trucks get loaded to ever heavier levels. If states didn’t limit trucks to 80K pounds gross (including vehicle and load) we’d see them even heavier in the same way railroads now pull 4000-ton trains around at a mile long or longer. A true turbine engine in a truck would definitely offer a better power-to-weight ratio than an even bigger cast-iron block (or even turbocharged diesel, though that would be better than nothing.) The electric drive is the advantage. How to get electricity to the drive is the question and it needs to be something strong enough to be the sole electric supply once the battery runs out.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            you’re spouting loads of nonsense.

            “A true turbine engine in a truck would definitely offer a better power-to-weight ratio than an even bigger cast-iron block (or even turbocharged diesel, though that would be better than nothing.)”

            what do you mean, “even a turbocharged diesel?” Every single heavy truck engine out there is turbocharged.

            but that’s irrelevant. a gas turbine would guzzle fuel more prodigiously than an equivalently powerful turbodiesel. especially in part-load operation, turbines are so thirsty they’d way more than wipe out any savings due to lower weight. That’s why the Chrysler Turbine Car experiment was dropped; the 125 horsepower turbine (with regenerators to make it more efficient!) got way worse fuel economy than the much more powerful gas engines of the day. Like I’ve said repeatedly, part-load operation of gas turbines is murder on their efficiency thanks to the drop in pressure ratio.

            “The electric drive is the advantage.”

            Bull. when you have an ICE as a powerplant, electric drive only has an advantage when you can’t practically use a mechanical transmission. It’s hilarious how you want to pair a fuel-guzzling turbine with the conversion losses of a generator-motor drivetrain.

            if you’re obsessed with putting some sort of electric drive in trucks (and it seems as though you are) then you’d be way better off using a smaller, higher speed diesel engine than a turbine.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “you’re spouting loads of nonsense.”
            — You’re choosing not to understand.

            “what do you mean, “even a turbocharged diesel?” Every single heavy truck engine out there is turbocharged.”
            — Did I say otherwise? But they weren’t always turbocharged. Again, commercial drivers in Class 8 used to be happy they had 350 horses. Newer engines offer significantly more BECAUSE of the turbochargers.

            “but that’s irrelevant. a gas turbine would guzzle fuel more prodigiously than and equivalently powered turbodiesel. especially in part-load operation, turbines are so thirsty they’d way more than wipe out any savings due to lower weight.”
            — What makes you so sure? We’re talking about hauling around 40 tons, not 4,000 tons or 40,000 tons. A pretty small turbine could handle the job and if it’s only charging a battery then it could operate at its most efficient speed while using the least-expensive available fuel.

            “Bull. when you have an ICE as a powerplant, electric drive only has an advantage when you can’t practically use a mechanical transmission. It’s hilarious how you want to pair a fuel-guzzling turbine with the conversion losses of a generator-motor drivetrain.”
            — Explain to me again how a train can get 400 ton-miles per gallon?

            “if you’re obsessed with putting some sort of electric drive in trucks (and it seems as though you are) then you’d be way better off using a smaller, higher speed diesel engine than a turbine.”
            Why? A small, high-speed diesel will only produce maybe 300 horses and may not offer enough generator output to out-pace a long grade. A turbine such as used in a Blackhawk helicopter produces over 900 shaft horsepower each and tops out at very nearly 2000 shaft horsepower at take-off load. A turbine half the size would easily meet a Class 8’s demands.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Should name themselves ” Shonky Inc” reminds me of the Companies that come up with a new form of internal combustion engine.

  • avatar
    chris724

    OTOH, I think the Nissan fuel cell is more interesting. Hydrogen fuel cells will never go anywhere, since Hydrogen is such a lousy energy carrier. Ethanol would be much more convenient, although you’re just throwing away the Carbon portion. I wonder how it compares in efficiency to an Ethanol powered IC engine driving a generator? The “no moving parts” argument for fuel cells doesn’t carry much weight. What is the KWh per gallon of Ethanol? That’s what I’d like to know.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Ethanol has a slightly lower energy density than gasoline. Hence the slightly worse fuel economy on E10 or E15, and the significantly reduced economy on E85.

      Ultimately this makes sense, since you lower the energy of a hydrocarbon by oxidizing one of the C-H bonds and replacing it with a lower energy, more polar C-O bond.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “If there were a lease-return 3 Series sitting next to an ATS in a Cadillac dealer lot, what would you buy?”

    The ATS. Has anyone actually looked at a three-year-old 3-series? I have. The thing is junk inside.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    “If there were a lease-return 3 Series sitting next to an ATS in a Cadillac dealer lot, what would you buy?”

    Neither. I would avoid the lot like the plague unless I saw a Tesla sitting between them.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I worked on natural gas fueled reformers 10 years ago. At that time, the only potentially viable mass market was for home use in Japan. Even with the high price of electricity in Japan vs NA, the economics of a reformer coupled to a fuel cell only worked if the waste heat from the reformer was used to heat domestic hot water. The technology worked, the market didn’t develop.
    Mobile reformer/fuel cells are even more costly and complex.
    There are fuel cell technologies that convert hydrocarbons diretly into electricity, but they operate at high temps and are not amenable to the rapid changes in power output needed in mobile applications.
    I don’t see wide-spread use of hydrogen PEM fuel cells until the problem of storing hydrogen gas at relatively low pressures is solved. Having a few lbs of gaseous H2 in your garage at 6000 psig is not a recipe for safety.

  • avatar
    truecarhipsterdouche

    “If there were a lease-return 3 Series sitting next to an ATS in a Cadillac dealer lot, what would you buy?”

    The CPO Honda Accord Touring V6 at the Honda Dealer that’s a few hundred feet down the road from the said Caddy dealer.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Nigeria Motors are taking deposits on hot air powered trucks. And their deposit is only $1000. It’s a steal!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Subject,

      Prince Nakbijomo of Nigerian Special Prefecture has authorised such a formal invitation for the company to produce as many as 1,000M of their humidity-power automobiles. Using the highest technological advantageousness as provided by a clean utility structure and many hectares of building advancement allowances and forward capitalisation, the company will be a great success.

      All the Prince has encouraged of the workforce is to do the best of labour, the best of technologicality, and the best of quality of enforcement for the customers of the Western Countries who are benefitted from the Nigerian Advancement Prefecture and Production Institution Engagement (NAPPIE).

      Your deposit of 1000,USD is assuredly to further the greater goals of this Motors Organisation, and will be best used to its extent.

      Cordiality:

      Dajombe Ngowosia Gwenebe, ESQ
      Nigerian Prefecture Accounts and Personal Publicity Reporting Associate, MBA
      025.222.7854.5143 xtd.25

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    So the truck exists and comes out in a few months, but all anybody has ever seen of it are computer renderings.

    Uh huh.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    The DF suffers from corruption (people greasing the inspectors’ pockets). Drive along the periferico and it won’t take long to figure that sh1t out.

    cash is king in the DF. Drugs, violence, even the f*cking pollution all stem from corruption.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I could have sworn that five or ten years back I read that researchers had fingered the main cause of pollution in Mexico City: it wasn’t even all the Vochos (though they didn’t help), it was leaks related to fuel tanks mounted to buildings. Apparently the geology isn’t stable enough for piped-in natural gas and so tanks are used instead? Am I halluci-remembering or is this really a thing?

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    WalMart paid to develop exactly such a truck for experimental evaluation:

    http://corporate.walmart.com/_news_/news-archive/2014/03/26/walmart-debuts-futuristic-truck

    So, not vaporware in the sense that such a thing can be and has been built.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Good to see that, HotPotato; I’d forgotten that announcement. This might even have been the trigger for Nikola to start their work. If so, we have an interesting future ahead for the trucking industry.

      Problem is, this Nikola thing came seemingly out of the blue with almost no fanfare. Claiming they’ll have a working prototype by the end of this year seems a stretch, especially when they’re also claiming so many pre-orders without even a hint of the project leaking from one of those supposed buyers.

      So while I love the concept, I still have to question the reality.

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