Tag Archive | "EV"

Panasonic Provide Spark For Tesla

As the relentless march towards alternative automotive fuels continues, it has been announced that Panasonic and Tesla Motors, have signed an agreement that lays out their cooperation on the construction of a large-scale battery manufacturing plant in the USA, to be known, rather unimaginatively, as the Gigafactory.

Inside The Gigafactory

According to the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities. Panasonic will manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells and invest in the associated equipment, machinery, and other manufacturing tools based on their mutual approval. A network of supplier partners is planned to produce the required precursor materials.

t1 Panasonic Provide Spark For TeslaTesla will take the cells and other components to assemble battery modules and packs. To meet the projected demand for cells, Tesla will continue to purchase battery cells produced in Panasonic’s factories in Japan.

The Gigafactory is being created to enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long-range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles. The Gigafactory will be managed by Tesla with Panasonic joining as the principal partner responsible for lithium-ion battery cells and occupying approximately half of the planned manufacturing space; key suppliers combined with Tesla’s module and pack assembly will comprise the other half of this fully integrated industrial complex.

The Electric Future

The Gigafactory is meant to represent a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized. Not only does the Gigafactory enable capacity needed for the Model 3 Tesla but it sets the path for a dramatic reduction in the cost of energy storage across a broad range of applications. Economies of scale, in other words.

Cost reductions will be achieved through optimized manufacturing processes previously unobtainable in battery cell and pack production. Further price reductions are achieved by manufacturing cells that have been optimized for electric vehicle design, both in size and function and also by co-locating suppliers on-site to eliminate packaging, transportation and duty costs along with other ancillary expenses. Anything that brings down the cost of EV’s in the medium to long term has got to be a good thing.

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Electric Car Gets Green Grant

Nothing unusual about that you would think, but what happens if that car is for sale on the millionaire’s aisle at the car supermarket? That’s right; courtesy of BMW and it’s new i8 sports car, buyers can avail themselves of this opportunity.

Drivers who proffer the required one hundred thousand pounds will qualify for the five thousand pound green grant refund. This is because the car can run on battery power.

The new BMW i8 is a part electric, part petrol engine hybrid sports car. With both power sources combined the car delivers 357bhp and 420 of your actual torques. Utilising this power the i8 will get to the magical 62mph mark in just 4.4 seconds which is, you’ll agree, pretty quick. Driven carefully, it is possible to drive 22 miles on electric power only before the petrol engine clicks in. For some, this would mean that a local daily commute is well within the capacity of this vehicle, especially with on-site charging being available at the workplace.

B11 Electric Car Gets Green GrantThe top speed is 155 mph and, as the car only emit’s a 49g/km of the nasty stuff, is free of road tax. In it, you will also be able to thwart Boris’s congestion charge police up in the big city. Thus it is possible for wealthy sporting motorists – the people who can afford it the most – to avoid paying the same taxes as the rest of us. Ironic, no?

The BMW i8 is a great looking car. It is broad and low and has dihedral doors that swing out and up like the wings of a flying insect. BMW insist that, in other ways, the car is ‘sustainable’ and recycled materials are used but they are being a bit disingenuous, we suspect. Still, you can’t blame them – they are in the business of selling new cars.

So if the buyers can afford to purchase this supercar then why not. The Government is set to top up the grant funding so this perk for rich drivers is still on the table. It goes without saying that in petty little Britain there are some voices calling for this practice to be stopped for buyers of the more exclusive cars.

But that’s just sour grapes, isn’t it? It is legal and above board and you can’t blame the car company for wanting to satisfy its clientele. Obviously, the scheme was originally intended for small cars; the idea being to get motorists out of higher polluting vehicles. The fact is however that this hybrid fit’s the stated criteria.

So why not treat yourself to a BMW i8. Sure, it costs just shy of £100k but remember; you get five grand of that back and you are helping to reduce pollution. It’s win-win.

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BMW Start To Plug Their New i3

The media are abuzz about the impending release of BMW’s new four-seater hatchback EV – the i3. After the government’s £5k grant it should cost around the twenty five thousand mark which competes well with other premium brand electric cars.

First mooted in 2011, it is now in pre-production and should, all being well, be available to buy from November. In size, think of a funky, modern Mercedes B Class and you won’t go far wrong. New construction techniques mean the i3 does away with the B-pillars which means the doors open coach style.

This doesn’t detract from passenger protection however as the predominantly carbon fibre body is especially structured for class-leading impact protection. This is possible because the motor is situated low down within the rear axle allowing tons of room up front for structural integrity.

For an EV, the car is apparently light and is said to produce some 168bhp which, according to the mathematicians, equates to a power/weight ratio of 141bhp per tonne. That’s not much less than a Mini Cooper S! Torque is even better at 184lb ft (ten more than the Cooper S) and is instant. Put your foot down and go.

The 0-62 time is a nifty 7.2 seconds although top speed is limited to 93mph which is probably enough anyway unless you want to charge it every hour. The motor is automatically limited to just over 11,000 revs which helps protect battery charge and hence range.i3 BMW Start To Plug Their New i3

The i3 seems to have a high driving position and tall tyres, which, combined with the fairly long wheelbase hints at a comfortable ride. The interior looks pleasingly modern and uncluttered. Of interest to some potential buyers is that there will be a range-extender model. A two-cylinder 650cc petrol engine (out of a scooter, incidentally) is coupled to a nine gallon tank and acts purely as a generator to generate electricity when the batteries are getting low. No doubt there’ll be a slight CO² penalty.

This is a great idea because it opens up a version of this car to buyers who know they might just need a little more distance than the EV’s summer estimate of a one hundred mile range (winter is estimated at around 80).

That, as ever, is the as yet insoluble problem and is the reason that we are not all driving EVs at the moment. For many drivers, especially in the towns and cities, 100 miles is probably more than enough from day to day but the range extender will, for others, bring a bit of peace of mind, even if it is never used. Still, the BMW i3 takes the concept of electric vehicles another big step forward and is to be welcomed.

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Power To The People

Once the potential of oil was fully exploited as a fuel source the world started drilling for the black stuff as if there was an endless supply. Now it looks like there isn’t and whilst we search for an alternative to petrol we are, metaphorically speaking, holding the world like a nearly empty ketchup bottle and shaking it over the plate to eke out the last few drops.

In the meantime, in sheds around the planet, very clever people are reviewing and testing all the other options open to us to keep cars on the road. Electric cars are our first option but range anxiety seems insoluble just now and batteries will eventually fail. Thus hybrids came into being where electricity is assisted by or generated by an regular engine. Better, but still no cigar.

So we look at hydrogen. Fill pressurised bottles with gaseous hydrogen, feed it into a fuel cell and by the miracle that is science it will be converted into electricity that powers the car. Provided the infrastructure can be set up to ensure the gas is available where and when we need it they could well be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. Already working examples are appearing on our roads but there is a long way to go.

And it doesn’t stop there. Aston Martin recently successfully raced a Rapide at the Nürburgring 24 Hour event, the engine of which was set up to run directly from hydrogen, augmented by petrol when the gas ran out. In normal use it would be possible to replenish the gas before petrol would be needed.

And, again, it doesn’t stop there. What about liquid nitrogen? Forgotten that hadn’t you? Nitrogen is cooled to minus 196C then heated in the cylinder and fed into a regular engine which forces the piston down and off you go. Or how about compressed air? Tata Motors has built a weird looking vehicle that stores air compressed to 300 bar. As the air is released it powers an hydraulic motor. Clever, but a dubious choice as lots of power is needed to compress the free stuff.

Taking this a step further, a hybrid/air car has been made that recovers energy as it slows down and that energy is used to compress air into a  cylinder. At low speeds the air is released to drive the vehicle. Peugeot/Citroen will sell a version of this from 2016.

So a huge amount of work and effort is being expended in alternative sources of power to replace the petrol/diesel option. Some ideas are feasible, some are doubtful. One thing’s for sure though – one of them has simply got to work and possibly within the next twenty years.

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Renault Zoe Sets A New Benchmark

In general the arrival of electric cars has been greeted with a sort of bored ambivalence. Certainly, some folk believe that they are the answer to the world’s climate problems and have gone out and bought one. These people probably live in Islington and wear a lot of designer black.

Nevertheless these cars sell; just not in the numbers that were maybe expected. Range anxiety is the principal issue, that and the price of them – government grant notwithstanding – for what you get. Well now the naysayer’s are going to have to eat their words. Renault have announced the Zoe and do you what? It’s a very good five door car.

We’ll come to the range issue later because it hasn’t gone away. First of all though, the car itself. It is a good looking supermini. If the onlooker didn’t know any better they would not realise that it is an EV. That’s it in the main picture.zoe b Renault Zoe Sets A New Benchmark

Inside, it is well finished with clean uncluttered lines; the dash being mercifully free of the many knobs and buttons festooning today’s cars. There is an excellent screen which, on the range-topping Dynamique Intens, incorporates a very acceptable reversing camera plus all the usual functions expected.

Although prices start at under £14k at base the versions that you would actually want to buy are rather more, so it is still not a cheap car; but given the new technology the price isn’t too OTT. The seats are supportive and comfortable. Even with a six-foot driver there is still knee room for a similarly sized rear passenger. Despite the compact size of the car this is good design which even leaves ample room for a perfectly acceptable boot space. Renault even come to your house and fit a charging point FOC and the car incorporates a ‘chameleon charger’ for go anywhere power connectivity.

This car drives really well with good acceleration and, obviously, virtually silent operation. A useful addition is the subtle engine-like growling noise the car makes at speeds below 20mph. This is sufficient to alert any dozy pedestrians who are not watching where they are going. Above twenty and the tyre noise will provide enough warning.

Range. There’s not much change here. Renault reckon up to about 130 miles is achievable but in the real world it is more likely to be about 90 miles. In winter, this figure will drop as the car uses more juice for ancillaries like lights and heaters. The Zoe does however harvest power KERS style from braking and offers an innovative heat pump that generates heat or cooling for less use of battery power.

Finally, the most contentious point. Renault will only lease the battery to an owner. The minimum cost is £70 per month. For the sort of mileage that owners of EV’s are likely to do that is probably at least the same amount of money that a frugal diesel will need for a month of driving, but without range anxiety. On the other hand, battery life is one less thing to worry about as owners will know that an exchange deal covers the life of the car.

So – a very good electric car that aids charging anywhere there’s a point and which has new ways of harvesting power. The range issue remains for drivers who have to go any meaningful distance but this is the EV against which all others will now be judged.

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Tesla Take A Trip

Although sales of electric cars continue to tick over, they are not exactly setting the world on fire. This is largely because of the well-known range issue. Clearly, the motor manufacturers don’t give up that easily and research and development presumably continues unabated as they seek solutions.

This hasn’t stopped Tesla from making sure its customer base in the USA is well catered for. As time has gone on the company has been quietly establishing a network of Supercharger points. Supercharging enables Tesla Model S drivers to travel long distances, for free and indefinitely. Right now the network covers California and Nevada in the West and the Washington DC to the Boston area in the East.

Since going live in October last year Tesla reckon that an estimated one million miles of happy eco-friendly travel have been driven by Tesla owners. The Superchargers effectively enable city to city travel. The driver can motor for about three hours then stop at the dedicated points, take a half hour break from driving and enjoy coffee and a snack whilst his car is rapid-charged. Then it’s back on the road and best of all – it’s completely free and will be for the life of his or her ownership of the car. That’s customer service.

Now there is to be an accelerated roll-out of stations and Tesla owners can expect there to be a tripling of halts by the end of June, including many more in California and at other destinations around the whole of the Northern Continent. The scale is ambitious. It is expected that within six months the Tesla Supercharger Network will connect most of the metro areas in the USA and Canada. They say that it will ultimately be possible to travel from LA to NYC stopping only at Tesla points without spending any money at all on fuel.

Improving the network is one thing but the Tesla Company are not stopping there. They are also working to improve the technology behind the charging system to dramatically reduce charging times for the Model-S. Early trials have achieved a fifty percent cut from the early original times. The new technology is testing right now and should be available to customers this Summer meaning a twenty minute charge equating to up to three hours of driving.

They say that what happens in America eventually makes its way over here in due course. Well, there isn’t much sign of a workable charging network appearing any time soon so just remember what they’ve achieved over there when you next fill up with liquid gold at an immense cost.

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New Cars, A Concept – And A Gearbox

Not so long ago Motor Blogger detailed the FIAT 500’s bigger brother, the 500L and assumed that was it, for now at least. Not so, apparently, because the larger car has clearly been at the steroids and morphed into the 500XL – a seven seat leviathan that is now production ready. There it is in the picture.

The car maintains the family resemblance from nose to C-pillar but the rear overhang is longer and rear quarter lights bigger. Like its siblings, it’s a good looking car. No details have been revealed yet although the 500XL will probably offer the same engine line-up as the 500L. We’ll see it officially at the Frankfurt Show in September with order books opening shortly thereafter. The name is possibly up for changing so as not to confuse buyers with 500X, a crossover version due next year.

Rolls Royce have confirmed that there will be a convertible Wraith within the next couple of years but they have, they insist, no plans for an SUV type vehicle. What is likely though is that the ageing Phantom may well be replaced by a new model although the time scale is vague. More than three years away allegedly. What is interesting though is that it is likely to be a plug-in hybrid. Who’d have thought it? RR can clearly see that hybrid is the way to go, particularly as restrictions in city centres may well require an electric only option at some future time.

Ford have revealed a new concept in the form of the Fiesta eWheelDrive utilising in-wheel hub electric motors. Right now it is just a test bed but is an intriguing prospect if it should come to fruition. The two motors are in the back wheels. Right now the batteries are under the bonnet but the plan is to house them under the floor in later versions.

By configuring the layout in this way the space under the bonnet becomes superfluous. The thinking is that the car can be the same size as a two-seater whilst continuing to seat four. The concept, it is hoped, will lead to improvements in urban mobility and parking through the production of smaller, more agile vehicles. If that wasn’t enough, the steering design could allow for moving sideways into parking spaces.

The only issue that we can see is that dreaded word ‘urban’. When are car companies going to realise that not everybody lives in the city. Before getting too clever with the technology how about developing an electric vehicle that will suit the needs of country folk too?

Finally, Volkswagen are in the process of developing a ten-speed gearbox and the question is often asked as to why. How many gears are enough? In fact there are very good reasons for eight, nine or even ten gears. More gears give engineers more spread to work with. First gear can be shorter for improved acceleration from rest while the higher gears can improve fuel economy. This greater spread means that smaller, more economical engines can be used in bigger vehicles. Clearly an auto ’box will be essential.

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ME.WE: Toyota’s Eco-Car.

If, as an animal lover, you keep a Panda as a pet then you should steer clear of this new Toyota – should it ever make it in into production. In line with current thinking, this new concept car from the Japanese giant has been christened with a silly name. It is made, at least in part, with bamboo.

This is the latest in an increasingly long line of cars that care for the environment. Now, we don’t want to bamboozle (heh) you with a load of eco-babble about rain forests and future human challenges; suffice it to say that this is Toyota’s idea of how we can all own cars in a world without petrol.

The name ME.WE is supposed to express the company’s concern for your personal well-being (ME) and that of others (WE). It might be well meaning but it’s all a tad sickly isn’t it? Still their heart’s in the right place: – this car is, as you would expect, electric and uses the same in-wheel motors as the I-ROAD, Toyota’s city-trike concept. The batteries are under the floor as they are in the iQ. Building in this way means that all the available space can be used for passengers and luggage. See image.

Toyota see this concept as being adaptable to most lifestyle choices. It responds, so they say, to people’s behaviour and expectations. Truly a people’s car then, because it allegedly surmounts social status. The company state that “the concept should propose an alternative synthesis based on personal choices”. Terrific, but will somebody please explain what ‘alternative synthesis’ is.

Still, enough levity. This is the shape of things to come. Get over it. The purpose is clearly to demonstrate that a perfectly serviceable car can be made using the lightest of materials – in this case polypropylene panels built around a tubular aluminium frame – knocking off twenty percent of the weight of the average supermini. The body panels are 100% recyclable.

The floor is made from bamboo, as are all the horizontal surfaces in the cabin. The ME.WE is said to be easy to keep clean with just a simple wash – no expensive waxes required. So, easy to use, cheap to run, a choice of two or four wheel drive, simple to clean and kind to the environment; what’s not to like? Nothing, apart from the daft name. If it does come to market then, as a second car at least, it could do well. And if you don’t like it, feed it to the Panda. Now that’s recycling.

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UP! Goes Electric

The Volkswagen Up! is one of the best city cars money can buy. In typical VW fashion it offers a good level of refinement and an interior of very high quality for this price sector. Surprisingly roomy, the acceleration from the 1.0L engine is not going to pin you back in your seat but the car still delivers a lively drive around town and holds its own on the motorway.

Now, not being a company to rest on its laurels, VW have announced the arrival of an electric version that will be formally introduced to us at this Autumn’s Frankfurt Motor Show. It is called the e-Up! Leaving aside for a moment that this expression is a form of cheery greeting in the North of England, it should be more of the same but with the economy and climate friendliness associated with electric cars.

The range seems impressive when stated in kilometres – 150 – but when translated into proper English is 93 miles 361.99 yards. This is about normal for an EV so no major advances there. Never mind – this car will have the dependability we have come to expect from Volkswagen and will suit users who need a decent urban run-around that can carry four people. Usefully, it can be charged to eighty percent capacity in just a half hour.

Pretty much noiseless as you’d expect, power comes from a 60kW motor. Maximum torque is a sturdy 210Nm available from the first touch of the accelerator. The lithium-ion battery is under the floor and this must help handling and composure on the road. Charging is taken care of by a connection craftily hidden behind the ‘fuel-filler’ flap, and in a standard common to other manufacturers buyers can specify the Combined Charging System option which supports both AC and DC charging which enables a ‘fill-up’ at most stations regardless of the power source or charging rates. That’s worth having.

The body has been ‘aerodynamically optimised’ and features the now obligatory LED daylight running lights in the front bumper. The style is further embellished with a nice set of 15” alloys. The e-Up! will have its own special logos and grey/blue interior trim with leather and chrome accents.

The Up! Is a great car designed perfectly for the job. Comfort, economy and style in a package that can be parked on a postage stamp. The electric version is sure to catch on with town and city folk for whom range isn’t an issue. It has to be said – things are looking Up!

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The Alternative To Electric Cars?

On and off over the last one hundred years automobile manufacturers have tried to produce a viable electric car without commercial success. Thanks to the latest technology their attempts in the last few years have been reasonably good but, as far as the majority of the buying public are concerned despite all the hype, not nearly good enough for the reasons we all know. Word is that a couple of Japanese car makers have acknowledged the fact that EV’s are still not truly ready and may never be in the foreseeable future.

In the quest to turn away from fossil fuels attention seems to be turning to what the industry hope may be The Next Big Thing, and that is hydrogen power. Immediately the climate change lobby and other vested interests (in and out of government) have become excited without taking into account the scientific fact that hydrogen is volatile and difficult to store. Imagine trying to establish the infrastructure needed countrywide to fuel all the cars! Rush towards this technology too soon and sales could go through the roof – literally.

The lack of range, the lack of charging points and the time taken to charge an electric vehicle are not lost on the public. So much so that in the USA where they expected a massive take-up, the Obama administration has backed off from its over-ambitious EV targets. For now, it seems likely that the industry will concentrate on the much more sensible alternative of petrol/electric hybrids which overcome the shortcomings of purely electric cars.

Nevertheless companies like Nissan and Toyota are still intending to pursue fuel-cell technology which they hope will become the new green breakthrough. Cars that convert hydrogen to electricity. The stakes are high on this issue. Whomsoever comes up with a viable alternate fuel stand to make a mega-fortune but it has got to be a risky and costly enterprise.

It is not expected – considering the investment – that car companies will abandon electric vehicles altogether as a niche market does exist. It took six years for Toyota’s Prius to really establish itself in the USA but in 2012 they sold well over three hundred thousand hybrids in America and some 1.2 million worldwide.

One thing that is certain is that manufacturers have got to find some answer to the increasingly stringent regulations being set by governments for future years. If not electric cars then maybe fuel-cell vehicles are the alternative. They are certainly being talked up in certain quarters but a realistic car must still be a long way off. Or will it all prove to be a load of hot air?

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