Monday, August 31, 2009

Tesla Motor Company Scoops Up Two New Execs

The Sleek and Stylish Tesla Roadster

Tesla has hired an Audi Sales Executive and You Tube's Communications Head in an effort to strengthen its position in the marketplace. Time will tell if the new hires prove fruitful.

From Automotive News:

A former Audi sales executive and YouTube's communications head are both joining Tesla Motors, the start-up California automaker said today.

John Walker, most recently Audi's general manager of sales operations, has become Tesla's vice president for North American sales, effective immediately, Tesla said today in a statement. Ricardo Reyes, global communications and public affairs head at Google's online video arm, will become Tesla's vice president for communications in mid-September.

Walker, 46, has also worked in Audi's sales operations in Australia and Canada. Before joining Audi, Walker worked for General Motors and BMW.

Reyes, 35, spent 10 years working in public policy and communications in Washington, D.C., before working for YouTube. His clients included automotive suppliers, and he spent three years as an adviser to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

Tesla is moving its headquarters from San Carlos, Calif., to nearby Palo Alto. Renovations at its new building will start in the fall. Both locations are in San Francisco's suburbs.

Tesla received a $465 million U.S. Department of Energy loan in June to renovate another building to use to build its Model S electric sedan. The company said it became profitable in July.

The start-up company said in January it is supplying battery packs and chargers to Daimler's electric Smart minicar, due for a U.S. launch in 2010.

Tesla also said Jon Sobel will join Tesla Motors as general counsel and board secretary, starting in late September.

Sobel, 45, is currently group president for media of SourceForge, an open source and social media company, Tesla said. Sobel also spent six years as a top executive at Internet search pioneer Yahoo, where he was senior vice president, general counsel, board secretary and a member of the company's executive committee, Tesla said.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Introducing The BMW Vision Concept Plug-In Vehicle

Here is a rather lengthy press release from BMW announcing their interest in plug-in alternate energy vehicles. As we have said in the past, the more the merrier as concerns the production of alternate energy vehicles. Bring 'em on.



The latest BMW Concept Car for the EfficientDynamics philosophy.

Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, 29 August 2009, 6pm Eastern… For decades, BMW has made the reduction of emissions and fuel consumption a key part of its product development strategy, just as enhancements to the dynamic ability of each BMW have been a lasting, sustained brand value. BMW’s EfficientDynamics engineering philosophy – the pursuit of an enhanced, athletic driving experience while simultaneously lowering the consumption and emissions of each vehicle – resulted in the most dramatic drop in fleet consumption of any automaker from 1990 through 2005, according to an Environmental Defense study.

Now, the BMW Vision concept car clearly demonstrates that the EfficientDynamics objectives are fully compatible when applied to a sports car. Conceived as a 2+2-seater with plug-in full-hybrid technology, this unique car combines the performance of a BMW M vehicle with a standard of fuel efficiency and emission management that exceeds even the current levels achieved by the latest small cars. This outstanding result is made possible by the combination of BMW ActiveHybrid components with an extremely economical combustion engine, and outstanding aerodynamic qualities.

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics is the result of a “clean-sheet” development process to ensure that the correct achievements were made in the areas of efficiency, driving pleasure, technology, and emotional design. BMW Vision EfficientDynamics is the most comprehensive implementation of the EfficientDynamics philosophy seen so far. The powertrain provides a top speed limited electronically to 155 mph, with acceleration to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. Average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle is 3.76 liters/100 kilometers, equal to 62.6 mpg, and the CO2 emission rating is 99 grams per kilometer. CO2 emission management is even more outstanding when driving in the all-electric mode after charging the battery from a plug-in source: Taking all emissions in the generation of electricity into account, as prescribed by the EU formula, the car’s emission rating is just 50 grams per kilometer.

Through this unique balance of driving pleasure and fuel efficiency, the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car clearly demonstrates the potential of BMW ActiveHybrid technology, which makes its world debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show in the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 and BMW ActiveHybrid 7 production models.

The power and performance are made possible by combining a fuel-efficient 3-cylinder turbodiesel with one electric motor on each axle. The intelligent combination of these units, together with precisely controlled energy management, simultaneously enhances the dynamic performance and the efficiency of the car. Overall system output is 356 horsepower, and peak torque is 590 lb-ft. The special arrangement of the two motors and diesel engine allows all-wheel drive when driving in all-electric mode. The result is minimum power loss and a harmonious transmission of the power available under all conditions.

In its design, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics for the first time conveys the dynamic look of a BMW sports car to a hybrid vehicle. Developed with decades of experience in Motorsport, the body of this unique sports car is a result of intelligent lightweight technology and aerodynamic efficiency. In the design of the interior, the focus was likewise on both the fascinating driving experience and, in particular, on transparent, hands-on technology and maximum reduction of weight.

Turbodiesel engine with unprecedented specific output.

The combustion engine is a cutting-edge turbodiesel featured for the first time in the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car. Displacing 1.5 liters on three cylinders, the engine consistently follows the downsizing principle of using a relatively small engine combined with a turbocharger to reduce fuel consumption.

Through its compact dimensions, the 3-cylinder fits conveniently in front of the rear axle like in an agile mid-engine sports car, despite the two seats at the rear. Fuel is injected by the latest generation of High Precision Direct Injection, and the turbocharger features variable intake geometry for maximum efficiency. Engine output is 163 hp with peak torque of 214 lb-ft.

The specific output of 109 hp per liter sets a new benchmark in diesel technology. The power delivered by the turbodiesel is conveyed to the rear axle by means of a double-clutch transmission (DCT). This advanced transmission technology, which already offers a particularly dynamic driving experience in BMW’s M3 and Z4 Roadster, allows the driver to shift gears without the slightest interruption of power. BMW Vision EfficientDynamics features a newly-developed version of BMW’s DCT with six speeds for maximum efficiency and flexibility.

Two electric motors for full-hybrid drive.

The combustion engine is supplemented by two electric motors. Consistently applying the BMW ActiveHybrid philosophy, development engineers followed the principle of “Best of Hybrid,” choosing the optimum combination of a hybrid synchronous motor on the front axle and a full-hybrid system at the rear.

In this concept, the driver benefits from the efficiency of the electric motors over a far wider speed range than with a conventional hybrid car. The rear axle comes with a second-generation full-hybrid system corresponding to the technology in the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 production model. The compact electric motor positioned between the diesel engine and the DCT outputs a consistent 33 horsepower and is able to reach a peak of up to 51 hp. Maximum torque for the rear electric motor is 214 lb-ft, the power, either supporting the diesel engine or in all-electric motoring. When coasting or applying the brakes, the electric motor acts as a generator and feeds electric power to the lithium-polymer battery in the car. The electric energy developed in this way is therefore captured without any additional consumption of fuel through the principle of Brake Energy Regeneration. Energy wasted on the brakes of a conventional car is thus saved within the new power system for subsequent use in driving the car.

A second electric motor acts on the front axle. This engine, a hybrid synchronous motor, offers continuous output of 80 horsepower and peak torque of 162 lb-ft. Extra power of 112 horsepower is available for a period of up to 30 seconds, and, for a 10-second “burst,” the electric motor is able to develop 139 horsepower. The power is transmitted through a 2-stage, single-speed reduction gearbox.

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics is able to run completely under electric power, with the power of the turbodiesel engine alone, or through an infinite combination of the three power sources. Depending on driving conditions, the two electric motors may be used both for accelerating and for regenerating energy when applying the brakes and while coasting. This principle ensures efficient energy management, with the charge status of the lithium-polymer battery constantly remaining within the optimum range. When accelerating, the electric motors help to boost the car for even greater performance, ensuring immediate response and a significant reduction in fuel consumption. For a short time, such as in passing maneuvers, the cumulative maximum output of all three engines increases to 356 hp, with maximum torque generated by the three engines reaching 590 lb-ft.

Lithium-polymer battery for electrical energy.

The energy cells featured in BMW Vision EfficientDynamics are housed in a chassis element running from front to rear through the middle of the car. The front unit is the lithium-polymer complex, an ongoing development of the lithium-ion battery. Overall, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics comes with a total of 98 lithium-polymer cells, each offering a capacity of 30 amp/hours and developing continuous output of 600 Amps at a voltage of 3.7 V. For a period of 30 seconds, each cell is even able to develop maximum output of 1,200 Amps.

Serial arrangement of the lithium-polymer cells serves to generate nominal voltage of 364 volts, the gross storage capacity of the battery is 10.8 kW/h. With an unusually high discharge capacity of 80 percent, the battery delivers 8.6 kW/h for driving the car. This superior performance comes on overall weight of the entire energy storage system of just 187 lb. A further advantage is that through their optimum dimensions tailored to the specific qualities and features of the car, the lithium-polymer cells, together with the operating strategy chosen with a concept of “forward looking” energy management, reduces the thermal load acting on the battery to such an extent that there is no need for active cooling.

Plug-in solution: convenient charging of the electric power system from a conventional power socket.

Brake Energy Regeneration captures electric power generated while driving without additional fuel consumption, which is subsequently used to supply power to the electric motors and on-board network. A further option is to connect the lithium-polymer cells to a conventional power socket for a simple and efficient charge process, using a plug-in connector in the front-right wing of the car. Connected to a standard EU power outlet (220 V, 16 Amps), the system requires a maximum of 2 ½ hours to fully charge the lithium-polymer cells. And wherever a power source with higher voltage and amperage (380 V, 32 Amps) is available, the charge time is an even shorter 44 minutes.

In addition to electrical energy storage, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics comes with a conventional fuel tank at the rear end of the central chassis tunnel, offering a capacity of 6.6 gallons. Running on diesel fuel alone, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics is able to cover a distance of approximately 400 miles with its combustion engine. Benefitting from an extra range of up to 31 miles in the all-electric mode, the car offers an overall range of approximately 431 miles. As a result, this unique concept car offers all the requirements for using energy with maximum efficiency and at the same time experiencing the dynamic performance typical of BMW without any restriction of everyday driving qualities.

Performance, fuel efficiency and emission management opening new dimensions in hybrid technology.

The power delivered by the two electric motors and single diesel 3-cylinder engine gives the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept a level of performance superior to anything provided so far by a hybrid vehicle. Acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h, for example, comes in just 4.8 seconds and the car could exceed its electronically-limited 155 mph top speed.

At the same time fuel efficiency and emission management now reach a standard only achieved, if at all, by far less powerful small cars conceived for city traffic and short distances. Applying the criteria of the EU test cycle, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics offers average fuel consumption equal to 62.6 mpg. CO2 emissions, in turn, are 99 grams per kilometer. These consumption and emission figures are measured on a consistent internal power balance, meaning that the batteries and storage media for electrical energy maintain the same charge level throughout the entire test cycle (with the same level at the beginning and end) and are charged while driving only by the car’s on-board systems.

As a plug-in hybrid, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics is able to cover the entire drive cycle for measuring fuel consumption also with its combustion engine completely switched off. Then, to subsequently charge the lithium-polymer cells to the same status as when setting off, all the driver has to do is connect the car to an external power grid. To determine the consumption of electric power, the only requirement is to compare the charge level of the battery before and after the test cycle. Applying this measurement process, the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car consumes 17.5 kW/h per 100 kilometers, equal to a CO2 emission rating of just 50 grams per kilometer in the EU test cycle.

To determine the total volume of CO2 emissions when driving in the all-electric mode, new legal standards for measuring the level of fuel consumption are currently being prepared for hybrid and electric cars with a plug-in power supply. Applying this calculation method, the CO2 emission ratings generated by BMW Vision EfficientDynamics are reduced further to just one-third of the original figure of 99 grams per kilometer. Clearly, this significant reduction of emissions opens up a new dimension in BMW’s EfficientDynamics development strategy in this unique concept car.

Aerodynamic qualities reflecting BMW’s Motorsport experience.

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics also takes a new approach in its design and streamlining, the body and the interior clearly expressing the unique combination of supreme efficiency and the sporting performance of the brand. Following BMW’s design language, this concept car visualizes both highly efficient aerodynamics and intelligent lightweight construction.

In its design, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics differs from the usual low-emission car concepts. The principle of “form follows function” is not just for the overall look of the car, but embraces each and every detail. Measuring 48.8″ in height and boasting a sweeping, arch-like roofline, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics offers the slender silhouette of a classic Gran Turismo. With the combustion engine fitted in front of the rear axle, the designers have succeeded in giving the car a very low front end, with the flow of air being further smoothened by active louvers in front of the radiator, which close completely when the need for cooling air is low. This efficient function follows in the footsteps of the active air flap control already used as a feature of BMW EfficientDynamics in some of BMW’s current production models. As a further highlight, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics guides air smoothly and exactly as required into the car through an active air intake at the front.

Numerous details in the design of the body are based on the know-how BMW has gained in Motorsport, a number of body elements serving as air deflectors and guide vanes. Designed as ducts, for example, the A-pillars serve to channel the flow of air in the same way as the rear lights with their wing profile. The floor of the car is fully covered from front to rear and from one side to the other, thus maintaining a smooth surface to avoid any air swirl liable to increase fuel consumption. Slender openings around the front air dam guide the air flowing specifically into two closed ducts leading inside the front air dam to the wheel arches where the air comes out again through a very slim aperture at high speed, flowing just next to the outer wheel flanks. This air jet rests on the front wheels like a curtain and is therefore referred to most appropriately as the “air curtain.” It provides a highly stabilizing effect.

Overall vehicle concept for a drag coefficient of just 0.22.

To further optimize the aerodynamic qualities of the entire vehicle and keep rolling resistance to a minimum, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics comes with tires and wheels of quite unusual size on a sports car. The tires measure 195/55, while large 21-inch wheels provide a contact surface on the road otherwise offered only by a much wider tire. In combination with the sophisticated axle geometry, this ensures agile driving behavior.

The extra-large wheel covers extending over part of the tire flanks add to the unique, very different look of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics from the side. The blade profile integrated in the wheels serves furthermore to reduce the negative effect of the turning wheels on the overall aerodynamics of the car. In all, these features optimizing the aerodynamic qualities of the car give the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car a very low drag factor (CX) of just 0.22.

Technological look as a strong impression of intelligent lightweight construction.

In both exterior and interior design, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics stands out clearly as a strong spearhead in technology. Many components of the vehicle are presented in full view expressing the “transparent” character of the car as a powerful visual feature of lightweight technology. The chassis and suspension of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics are made completely of aluminum; the roof and the outer skin on the doors are made almost completely of a special polycarbonate glass automatically darkening as a function of the light shining on the car.

Measuring 181.1″ in length, 74.8″ in width and 48.8″ in height, this unique concept car offers ample space for up to four passengers and their luggage. Thanks to the consistent lightweight construction strategy applied on the car, curb weight is 3,076 lb, with the center of gravity remaining very low. In its power-to-weight ratio, the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car is far superior to all other hybrid cars, achieving the same standard as extremely dynamic sports cars with a conventional combustion engine.

Carrying a maximum payload of 981 lb, this unique 2+2-seater is fully suited for everyday traffic. Luggage capacity of 5.3 cu ft, in turn, allows the driver and passengers to conveniently take along two golf bags. And to meet additional loading requirements the backrests of the two rear seats may be tilted down individually to provide extra storage space.

Emotional design through sculptural shapes and layering technology.

Reflecting the innovative drive concept of this unique car, the design of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics likewise takes a new approach in combining functional progress with a most powerful emotional impact.

This has been achieved through the close cooperation of BMW’s Design and Technical Development Divisions starting at an early point and continuing consistently throughout the entire development process. The result is a brand-new vehicle architecture with the drive components as well as the body and interior elements perfectly coordinated and matched to one another with maximum flexibility and individual style.

A fully integrated design philosophy also provided new options in using harmonized design principles connecting the exterior and the interior and providing an interacting effect between the two areas.

Sculptural design language giving BMW Vision EfficientDynamics a fully harmonized, complete look ensures the proportions typical of a BMW sports car. The front, side, rear and roof areas, for example, flow smoothly into one another. Dynamically contoured surfaces and shapes, in turn, create highly attractive light and shade effects accentuating the light and sporting character of the car in an emotional manner.

Layering technology developed by the BMW Group Design Division acts as the fundamental guideline in designing the exterior and interior. Applied for the first time in exterior design, this technology layers one surface on top of the other, creating very smooth seams and joints to reduce the number of components and, accordingly, the weight of the car. As a result, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics meets the most demanding aerodynamic requirements without using any additional body elements, simply through the structure of the surfaces optimized for a smooth flow of air.

Interior: innovative lightweight construction and unprecedented orientation to the driver.

In the design of the interior, innovative layering technology provides an unprecedented symbiosis of function and stylish shapes intentionally reduced to a minimum, consistently implementing and visualizing the lightweight principle also inside the car.

Specific components such as the central air vent not only serving to enhance motoring comfort but also acting as part of the cockpit, perform several functions in one. This multi-functionality is then presented visibly within the car, the use of particularly sophisticated materials providing a highly attractive combination of innovation in technology and quality clear to the eye and the touch of the surface.

This interaction of lightweight construction and individual well-being also comes out clearly in the design of the controls and switches, with a leather band, for example, running round the aluminum gear selector lever on the center console. Materials combining lightweight technology and all the qualities required are also to be admired all round the cockpit of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics, giving the car an unusually generous feeling of space for a 2+2-seater. The body-contoured seats, for example, are made up of a kevlar shell, a backbone structure, and seat padding with personalized fillings. Clearly, this combination alone ensures comfort at a minimum weight. The driver’s and front passenger’s seats are connected firmly to the center console to form a joint interior “landscape”, while the rear seats anchored on the floor would appear to be hovering in space. Natural materials and light colors on the seat upholstery and all interior linings underline the light, sophisticated and sustainability-oriented atmosphere within the passenger compartment.

The instrument panel is deliberately padded only where technical components have to be appropriately covered, thus making an important contribution to passenger safety in the event of a collision. The instrument cluster played a fundamental role right from the start in the design process, serving as the starting point for all surfaces within the interior and thus creating a particularly powerful rendition of that driver orientation typical of BMW.

Innovative light technology: providing clear signals to the outside and offering soothing ambient illumination inside in a unique symbiosis.

LED lights at both the front and rear end of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics provide an innovative combination of the symbols typical of the brand and clear design language oriented towards trendsetting technology. The distinctive look of the dual round headlights characteristic of a BMW is emphasized in particular by the use of LED technology. The rear lights are integrated also in their function into the design of the entire rear section, forming part of the rear air deflector and thus merging completely into the rear contour.

Extremely flat and compact, the rear lights are made up of innovative LED units forming a smooth and consistent red surface when not in use. Only when used do the respective light chambers take on the appropriate color such as yellow on the direction indicators. This innovative light technology also provides an intense symbiosis of the exterior and interior, again promoting and further refining the driving experience.

This is also why the ambient illumination of the interior comes with new features and qualities, the light sources within the passenger compartment being fed from the positioning lights at the side, the rear lights and the brake lights, thus changing the atmosphere created by the lights within the car as a function of driving conditions.

The optical impression conveyed by BMW Vision EfficientDynamics also results in other areas from the symbiosis of the exterior and interior, eliminating the conventional barriers between the two. The lines within the interior, for example, continue on to the innovative design of the engine compartment lid, while in its shape the third brake light positioned higher up on the car follows the structure of the glass roof and tapers to the outside where the roofline moves down gently to the rear.

Overhead doors for convenient access to all seats.

The doors on BMW Vision EfficientDynamics open up like bird’s wings, turning on pivots in the front roof column at the level of the side direction indicators. Since the car has no B-pillars, the large door cutouts ensure convenient entry also to the rear seats. The pivots on the doors also provide the base for the exterior mirrors, thus forming an ideal combination of function and aesthetic design. The structure of the doors is also characterized by several layers of materials on top of one another and the optical and functional symbiosis of the interior and exterior this technology is able to offer. Made up of three layers, the overall structure comprises the outer glass surface, an interim load-bearing layer, and the interior cover with its particularly smooth shapes and fl owing forms clearly visible to the passengers, layering technology again, therefore, opening up new perspectives.

The large glass surfaces extending far down on the body also provide a strong optical impression of the low seating position close to the road. And at the same time a stable sidebar ensures the body stiffness and crash safety naturally required on every vehicle. Flowing to the inside at its central point, this safety element also serves as an armrest. This interplay of the three layers also helping to minimize the weight of the car continues on the trim bar running along the door and extending out of the armrest, finally flowing into the outer door opener on its path from inside to outside.

Clear focus on the essential: 3-dimensional Head-Up Display.

Layering technology is also used on the displays in the instrument cluster and in the Head-Up Display developed to an even higher standard on BMW’s new concept car. The Display now creates a powerful impression of three dimensions, at the same time providing the option to present various signals more in the front or more in the background, depending on their relevance and current driving conditions.

The Head-Up Display projects information important to the driver on to the windscreen. Indeed, innovative presentation technology even allows the superimposed presentation of several views in three dimensions, keeping, the gauge graphics visible in the background while the latest information on route guidance or warning signals from BMW Night Vision, for example, are shown in the foreground.

The sequence in which such signals appear depends on the driving mode chosen by the driver, the display technology, again depending on the driver’s personal preference, enhancing a particularly sporting, a more comfort oriented, or an efficiency-based style of motoring. Through its design alone, the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept car clearly shows that highly efficient individual mobility may by all means be presented in emotional style. BMW already offers models in all vehicle segments which, compared with the competition, ensure the lowest level of fuel consumption and emissions combined with superior power and performance.

And now BMW Vision EfficientDynamics confirms BMW’s commitment to offer a perfect combination in future of unique driving pleasure and optimum qualities in the responsible use of natural resources.

In the design process the need for sustainable management is borne out most clearly by the GINA (Geometry and Functions in N-fold Augmentation) concept developed by the BMW Group. In this case maximum creative freedom sets the foundation for innovative solutions challenging the conventional and meeting the requirements of the future. This makes the GINA principle particularly well-suited for developing visions for the future reflecting both the wish for emotional style and individual character as well as the quest for sustainable management and efficiency. From the dimensions of its wheels through the design of the rear lights and all the way to the configuration of the cockpit, BMW Vision EfficientDynamics therefore boasts a number of details both outside and inside which, going far beyond conventional solutions, open up a new approach to maximum efficiency and that Dynamic ability typical of BMW.

Forward-looking energy management adjusting to individual requirements.

With the individual system components on board BMW Vision EfficientDynamics being networked with one another, conditions are perfect for implementing a forward-looking system of energy management using information gathered by the sensors of the driver assistance units fitted in the car. Data provided, for example, by the rain sensor or Active Cruise Control with its Stop & Go function as well as by the navigation system, and subsequently evaluated by the central control unit, offers an overview of current and upcoming driving conditions. Then, evaluating such data, the on-board computer is able to forecast driving conditions on the stretch of road immediately ahead, such calculations serving to prepare the car for upcoming requirements and make efficient use of the energy available through optimum operation of all systems.

Should the high-performance central computer establish, for example, that the driver is about to take the motorway, the power used for running the cooling system is reduced for a certain period in advance, on the assumption that the short increase in coolant temperature resulting from such an energy-saving measure will quickly be set off by the higher speed of the car on the motorway. Another example of such pre-conditioning is the regeneration of energy from the air conditioning, from Electronic Power Steering and the Brake Assistant.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How Hard Will it Be To Purchase a Chevy Volt in 2010? 2011?

GM has been bailed out so much lately that it beggars description. Before bankruptcy, during and now with the stimulus package. Money has been earmarked for GM to make available hundreds of Volts to fleet and individual customers, but when will the cars be available?

Frank Weber was asked this very question on the gm-volt website. Let's have a peek.


Recently the DOE announced a $30 million grant for GM to use to release a test fleet of 500 Chevy Volts to consumers, and 125 to commercial entities. GM has not officially indicated their specific plans about this keeping it rather coy.

I had the chance to briefly ask Volt executive Frank Weber about it.

He said the grant, “means when we do our development activities with charging infrastructure activities and vehicles and provide test data that we will make available to the DOE, they can learn from the vehicle to understand how the vehicles operate.”

Asked specifically if these cars would be distributed prior to November 2010, he said “it is part of rolling it out for Nov 2010.”

Pressing for more specifics as to whether it would before or after November 2010 he said “its (both) coming to November 2010 and after November 2010.”

Understanding that to mean some cars would be released prior to November 2010, and undeterred, I asked specifically “Will consumers get into those cars before Nov 2010?” At that point Weber looked at me wryly, smiled, and said nothing.

You can take that anyway you want, but don’t say I didn’t try.

Some sources are suggesting that the Volt production run for 2010 will be extremely limited anyway. According to Automotive News, “GM plans to build only 200 to 400 cars in November and December 2010, as 2011 models.”

They also report GM will build just 10,000 copies during the entire year of 2011.

It is also clear GM will limit roullout geographically.

So no matter how you cut it, assuming you can afford it, getting an early Volt won’t be easy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Range Extended Hummer Travels 50 miles in All-Electric Mode

Here is a heartwarming story, to be sure. I mean, isn't this what all we all want, namely to have our cake and eat it too? The Raser Hummer H3 PHEV has demonstrated its all electric capabilities, meeting design expectations.

So there, you can own a Hummer without the guilt!

From Green Car Congress:

A recent preliminary road test of the Raser Hummer H3E, an H3 converted with a range-extended electric powertrain (earlier post), demonstrated more than 50 miles of all-electric range.

Battery range of this innovative vehicle was more than sufficient to exceed our performance target of 40 miles in all-electric mode. In fact the H3E drove over 50 miles using only approximately 60% of the battery pack. This initial test indicates that the vehicle should easily achieve over 100 miles per gallon in typical local daily driving. The positive results from this test indicate that we can downsize our battery pack, reducing cost and weight of the vehicle, and still achieve the 40 mile all-electric range needed for optimized typical driving.

—Jim Spellman, Raser Vice President of Business Development

The electric Hummer H3E is a plug-in electric vehicle powered by Raser’s proprietary E-REV (extended range electric vehicle) powertrain. Propulsion comes from a 200 kW Raser Symetron traction motor mated to a 4–speed automatic transmission. A 100 kW Rase Symetron generator, driven by a GM Ecotec 2.0L SIDI turbocharged engine provides electrical power. A liquid-cooled, 41 kWh lithium-ion battery pack operates at 700V and provides the energy storage.

The course used for the test included a combination of city and highway driving with an average speed of 45 mph and with speeds up to 60 mph.

It’s important to note that Raser’s electric Hummer H3E can achieve similar results to the Chevy Volt. The main difference is that our electric powertrain can be used in larger vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks. In fact, if we were to employ the method we believe was used recently by GM to estimate city fuel economy for the Volt [earlier post], the electric Hummer H3E could achieve more than 190 mpg in city driving using about 70% of the battery pack.

—Jim Spellman

Raser plans to conduct additional testing to demonstrate the vehicle’s estimated total range of up to 400 miles using the on-board range extender.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tesla S May Sport a Monster Battery Pack

The Breathtaking Tesla Model S

You gotta love Tesla Motor Company. They are simply not bound by the paradigm du jour, but rather are free thinking, shedding the constraints of conventional motor vehicle thinking. Indeed, Tesla inspired Bob Lutz, GM exec at large, to prod GM to build the Chevy Volt. Lutz claimed indignance at Tesla's audacity in bringing to market a mass-produced all-electric vehicle.

Now Tesla has even more audacious claims. A battery pack that delivers a 300 mile range. Wow, Where does that leave the hand-wringing range anxiety sirens?


Tesla Motors says its all-electric Model S sport sedan will join the Roadster in late 2011 and be sold initially with battery packs offering 165 and 230 miles of range.

But Tesla has also said that the $57,400 base-price car (which is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit) would have a third option a year after launch: a battery pack that will give it an impressive range of 300 miles between charges. But just how big would that pack have to be?

In an interview, J.B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, said that the size of the pack has not been finalized. But, he said, a range of 85 to 95 kilowatt-hours is possible. “We hesitate to print a number,” Mr. Straubel said. “It would be the biggest pack on the market, and we’re designing and building it ourselves.”

Mr. Straubel seems unfazed by the prospects of building — to size, weight and cost — an unprecedented battery pack. “Saying it can’t be done is like saying there’s never been a gas tank that big,” he said. The pack is within “technical reality,” given the experimental high-density cells Tesla is now working with, Mr. Straubel explained, adding that these cells could, with today’s technology, give the Roadster a range of 280 to 300 miles. “When we announced the Roadster, the skeptics said we would never get over 200 miles,” he said. The Roadster has an official range of 244 miles.

Needless to say, there are some skeptics about the 300-mile battery pack, at least with today’s technology. Dick DeVogelaere is the vehicle chief engineer for Magna International on the Ford battery car project, scheduled for 2011 production. “It would take a pickup truck to haul that battery around,” he said. “It would probably weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds, maybe 1,200.”

Mr. DeVogelaere also predicted that the cost would be three times that of a standard pack. “It’s all about mass,” he said. “If Tesla has a way to make it very light, maybe they can get there. But they would need some major breakthroughs — it would be difficult based on existing technology.”

Also expressing some doubts is Paul Wilbur, president and chief executive of Aptera, which is building a three-wheeled aerodynamic electric car for release later this year (initially in California only). “That’s a whopper pack,” he said. “Ours is about 20 kilowatt-hours. Even if a pack like that was 50 cents a watt-hour, it would be a $45,000 battery, and unbelievably expensive and unbelievably heavy — maybe 1,800 pounds.” He also said it would have very long recharge times even with 220-volt service.

But Mr. Wilbur said that a technical breakthrough could “throw everything I just said out the window,” and he cited a new $100 million factory General Electric is building in upstate New York to make sodium-nickel-chloride batteries (initially for locomotives and other heavy-duty applications) with what Mr. Wilbur said is “higher energy density than anything in the lithium family.”

Charles Gassenheimer, chairman and chief executive of battery maker Ener1, said that if Tesla continued to use its small, laptop-size battery cells, some 12,000 would be required for an 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The Roadster uses fewer than 7,000.

Mr. Straubel declined to put a price on the forthcoming battery pack, but he said, “It will definitely not be some off-the-wall price, not $100,000. It will be in line with overall vehicle pricing.” In a Design News article last month Mr. Straubel said he thinks the cost can be reduced to $300 a kilowatt-hour, putting the pack “in the ballpark” of $18,000.

Mr. Straubel pointed out that Tesla has more than three years to make the 300-mile pack a reality. He said battery technology is improving roughly 8 percent a year, and energy density has doubled in the last 10 years. He predicted that a “rich improvement trend” is on the horizon in the coming decades, and that by 2015, he expected the pack capable of getting the Model S to 300 miles “will look like three-year-old technology.” The cutting edge for automotive battery packs then, he said, will be 350-370 miles of range.

General Motors To Remove GM Logo From Vehicles

Here is an interesting tidbit for today. General Motors Co. is dropping the GM logo on its cars and trucks.

The badge is a small silver square with the blue "GM" embossed on it. It's usually on the lower edge of the front fenders.

"With the focus really turning towards our four core brands, the feeling was let's gradually get away from the GM logo," GM spokesman Pat Morrissey says.

Does this really accomplish anything in the mind of a consumer? Or is General Motors really saying, "We know that the GM brand really representes failure and want to disassociate ourselves accordingly".

Monday, August 24, 2009

Take A Test Drive in GM's Plug-In Two Mode Hybrid Vehicle

This car was supposed to be released as a Saturn Vue in 2009, then in 2010, then as a Buick when Saturn was sold and now it is uncertain since the Buick model was axed. Maybe it will become a Chevy or GMC?

The concept is fairly lame and EV mode is limited to 10 miles traveling less than 40 mph. The driver in this video, Lyle Dennis, states that accelerating above 25 mph causes the engine to kick on. Hard to tell what GM is trying to accomplish with this technology.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Study Validates Li Ion Battery Endurance in PHEV Application

Thus study is great news for the upcoming OEM PHEV auto offerings. One of the biggest concerns in using the Li Ion battery technology in electric vehicles is their endurance and longevity. Testimony of this concern is the Chevy Volt itself, which utilizes a battery pack twice the size needed in order to guarantee long life, in the form of 10 years and 100,000 miles. Unfortunately, this causes the cost of the battery pack to be twice that which is needed and will make car buyers reticent when purchasing the vehicle.

This is a great read for you technophiles out there.

From Green Car Congress:

Degradation as a function of (a) capacity (Ah) processed by cell or (b) energy (Wh) at different DoD. Different DoD did not have a large impact on capacity fade. Source: Peterson et al. (CEIC-09-02) Click to enlarge.

A new draft working paper published by the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center concluded that a PHEV pack comprising lithium iron phosphate cells would incur little capacity loss from combining vehicle-to-grid (V2G) activities with regular driving. Statistical analyses indicated that rapid battery cycling incurred when driving degraded the cells more than slower, vehicle-to-grid galvanostatic cycling.

Scott Peterson, Jay Apt, and Jay Whitacre found that the percent capacity lost in the cells (they used A123Systems 26650 M1 cells, which are used in the Hymotion PHEV conversion packs) per normalized Wh or Ah processed is quite low: -6.0x10-3 % for driving support and -2.70x10-3 % for V2G support. These values show that several thousand driving/V2G driving days incur substantially less than 10% capacity loss regardless of the amount of V2G support used, they concluded.

However, in a companion draft working paper assessing the economics of V2G for consumers, they also concluded that, if the measured battery degradation is applied, the maximum annual profit for a PHEV owner to engage in V2G (~$10-$120) would likely prove insufficient to encourage use of the battery pack for grid electricity storage and later off-vehicle use.

Test current profile used to simulate driving day for cells showing all trips. The times after trips 3 and 4 when V2G discharge was simulated are indicated. Source: Peterson et al. (CEIC-09-02) Click to enlarge.

Performance. The quantify the capacity degradation of the pack, the authors derived a nominal urban driving/V2G power profile and correlated battery test regime by combing several common data sets. To determine the quantity and rate of energy transferred to and from a battery during driving conditions, they used a simple physics model that computed the energy needed to propel a typical vehicle through the trip profile.

To calculate the power vs. time battery duty cycle needed to achieve this velocity/acceleration profile, the vehicle was assumed to have the physical characteristics of a 2008 Toyota Camry. The efficiency of power transfer from regenerative braking to batteries was assumed to be 40%, the efficiency from battery to wheels was assumed to be 80%. The battery pack energy capacity was assumed to be 16 kWh. An 800 watt constant load was added to account for the power needed for all activities unrelated to movement such as heater, air conditioner, radio, lights and other accessories.

Among their findings were that the cell depth of discharge (DoD) does not does not have nearly as great an effect on lifetime as previously reported values for other battery chemistries.

This result implies that a LiFePO4/graphite–based PHEV battery pack with properly matched cells can be cycled though a very broad state of charge range without incurring any significant increase in capacity loss as a function of Ah or Wh processed. In principle, a PHEV can utilize a smaller battery and use a greater proportion of the battery, however doing so might make discharge rate and associated ohmic heating more of an issue.

...the cycle DoD and relative fraction of low-rate galvanostatic cycling vs. acceleration/regenerative braking current pulses are not important even over thousands of driving days. Rather, it is the integrated number of lithium ions that have been intercalated/de-intercalated into the electrodes, regardless of the DoD at which these events occur.

—Peterson et al. (CEIC-09-02)

Economic model. In the companion working paper, the authors examined the potential economic implications of using plug-in vehicle batteries to store grid electricity generated at off-peak hours for off-vehicle use during peak hours. They used hourly electricity prices in three US cities to arrive at daily profit values, while the economic losses associated with battery degradation were calculated based on data from the first study.

For a 16 kWh vehicle battery pack, the maximum annual profit with perfect market information and no battery degradation cost ranged from ~$140 to $250 in the three cities. If the measured battery degradation is applied, however, the maximum annual profit (if battery pack replacement costs fall to $5,000 for a 16 kWh battery) decreases to ~$10-$120. It appears unlikely that these profits alone will provide sufficient incentive to the vehicle owner to use the battery pack for electricity storage and later off-vehicle use.

—Peterson et al. (CEIC-09-03)

They also estimated grid net social welfare benefits from avoiding the construction and use of peaking generators that may accrue to the owner, and found that these are similar in magnitude to the energy arbitrage profit.

...the vehicle owner might be able to avoid ~$200 of peaking costs. In states with traditional regulated electricity, the public utility commission might elect to avoid paying the utility to install and run a peaker, instead giving some of the avoided cost to V2G owners. In restructured states, the ISO/RTO may pay an aggregator to provide V2G power instead of paying a generator a capacity payment; the aggregator would then pay some of their revenue to the vehicle owner. In the absence of such incentives, it is unlikely that large-scale grid energy storage in PHEVs will be attractive to a large number of vehicle owners.

—Peterson et al. (CEIC-09-03)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

BYD Steps Up Introduction in US to Earlier Date

We really like the F6DM and F3DM offered by the BYD auto group and would like to see these plug in hybrids introduced in the US. Until they get here, we will get to see BYD's all electric vehicle, the e6. Unfortunately, the cars will be available in limited numbers, in a pre-determined location (read: California) and to limited customers. Oh well, we have to start somewhere, eh?

From Green Car Congress:

BYD Auto, the Chinese automaker part-owned by a Warren Buffett company, plans to introduce a limited number of its e6 electric crossovers in the US next year, according to BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. BYD had showcased the e6 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January. (Earlier post.)
The e6 at NAIAS in January. Click to enlarge.

Wang said the company will use proceeds from a new share issue to finance the US introduction, as well as for another production line for its lithium iron phosphate batteries in China.

Wang said BYD will select a specific region in the US and target a few hundred e6s at government agencies, utilities and perhaps celebrities. BYD plans a similar entry strategy in Europe in 2011 or later.

Inside the e6. Click to enlarge.

In January at NAIAS, BYD said that it was BYD planning four motor combinations for the e6, which can offer all-wheel drive with front and rear motors: 75 kW; 75 kW + 40 kW; 160 kW; and 160 kW + 40 kW. Electric power consumption will be less than 18 kWh/100km (290 Wh/mile). BYD says that the e6 has a range of more than 400 km (249 miles).

In China, the e6 uses a 220V, 10A charge.

Honda Announces Foray Into the Electric Car Market - Finally

The Honda Insight Hybrid Vehicle

These are great times we live in as far as the revolution of the automobile is concerned. Honda Motor Company is announcing an electric car in 2015 after years of stubbornly resisting. They have been singularly focused on fuel cells to this point, even though that technology is a seeming dead end.

Honda will reportedly unveil a prototype of the minicar-sized EV at the Tokyo Motor Show in October.

Of the big Japanese automakers, Toyota and Honda have so far focused on hybrid vehicles. But tougher environmental regulations in the US state of California will likely require major carmakers that sell a certain number of vehicles in that megamarket to increase sales of zero-emission vehicles.

Nissan is concentrating on electric cars, and it plans to introduce them in 2010. Toyota, meanwhile, intends to launch electric cars around 2012. As for Honda, it started selling vehicles powered by fuel cells last summer, a technology that would meet California’s requirement because it does not emit any exhaust. But sales of such cars have been limited by their high prices, prompting Honda to decide to develop electric cars.

Source: Nikkei

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toyota Sits On Sidelines During Race to Electrify Automobile

This is the big story of the day. While many manufacturers rush their version of an electric vehicle to market, Toyota sits on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs. GM is doing the same thing as the Volt is a plug-in and not a true EV.

Toyota is the most baffling company of all. The only company to offer a pure EV to the public for sale is now reticent to repeat their success. Why? The Toyota RAV 4 EV may be one of the greatest EV's ever built. Hundreds of them are still on the road and going strong, yet Toyota claims the batteries aren't ready, the technology is not there, blah, blah, blah. Hogwash. They could restart the RAV 4 EV production line again with little effort and get right back into the mix. Instead, Mitsubishi, BMW, Nissan, Ford and Chrysler are leaving them in the dust.

From the website:

Despite Toyota's image as the world’s greenest automaker, the company that brought us the Prius — totem of the environmentally conscious — has fallen behind in the race for the all-electric car.

Mitsubishi Motors started leasing its all-electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, in June. Next year, Nissan Motor is set to release its electric car, the Leaf. But Toyota does not plan to introduce an all-electric car until 2012. Instead, later this year, it plans to introduce a plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid, and only a few hundred initially.

“Why is Toyota waiting on electric cars?” asked Tadashi Tateuchi, a former race car designer turned electric-car evangelist.

Electric technology could help determine winners and losers in the auto industry of the future, but Toyota has been highly skeptical of electrical vehicles.

“The time is not here,” Masatami Takimoto, Toyota’s executive vice president, said during a factory tour this year.

Electric cars “face many challenges,” he said, adding that “to commercialize pure E.V.’s, we need a battery that far exceeds the current technology.”

If Toyota is right, its competitors will have spent billions on a technology that will be slow to take off.

But if electric cars win drivers over, Toyota’s rivals could take the lead.

“In a world where vehicles run on electrons rather than hydrocarbons, the automakers will have to reinvent their businesses,” Russell Hensley, an analyst at the consulting company McKinsey, told clients in a recent report.

But that world is not here yet. And Toyota, which started developing hybrids in the early 1990s, did not make a profit on the cars until 2001, said Takeshi Uchiyamada, the chief engineer of the first-generation Prius.

Toyota would like to profit all it can from the current technology before shifting to a new one, analysts say, especially because the company is facing a second down year after a loss last year of about $4.4 billion.

“At first, electric cars will all be small, making profit margins small also,” said Maho Inoue, an automobile analyst at the Daiwa Institute of Research, a research group in Tokyo.

Toyota executives rattle off reasons to be skeptical of electric cars: They do not travel far enough on a charge; their batteries are expensive and not reliable; the electrical infrastructure is not in place to recharge them.

Executives also say that Toyota’s reputation for reliability could be tarnished if the company forged ahead with an unproven technology.

It remains unclear how soon there will be a mass market for expensive cars with limited range, Toyota says.

Even when electric cars are sold widely, the company says, they will be suitable only for short trips and serve a decidedly niche market.

Toyota is instead building on its hybrid technology, bringing out a plug-in, gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle later this year that runs a short distance on batteries before the hybrid system kicks in.

But electric-car enthusiasts say Toyota is being unnecessarily cautious, ignoring technological breakthroughs that would allow it to develop electric cars more quickly. Advances in batteries, as well as in the strong magnets needed for drive motors, have made electric vehicles viable, automotive analysts say. Technology is also being developed that will drastically cut down charging times.

“There’s a potential for electric cars to be easier and cheaper to make than conventional cars, because their structure is simpler and they use fewer parts,” said Hiroshi Shimizu, a professor of environment and information studies at Keio University in Tokyo.

Moreover, he said, battery production technology is no more complicated than that of semiconductors, which are already mass produced.

“Toyota could launch an electric car tomorrow if it wanted to,” Mr. Tateuchi, the former race car engineer, said. Regretting his gas-guzzling creations, he founded the Japan E.V. Club 15 years ago to urge automakers to produce zero-emission cars.

“Toyota tells people the age of electric cars is not yet here,” he said. “That’s not true.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

GM Kills Yet Another Electric Vehicle

The recently announced Buick Crossover plug-in hybrid vehicle has been mercilessly sacrificed. This particular vehicle barely made it to the drawing board before being relegated to file 13. GM claims the plug-in hybrid technology that was originally intended for a Saturn Vue will yet rise from the ashes into another vehicle, but discerning observers will wait for the proof in the pudding.

While trumping up the claims of a new and improved GM, we are reminded of "The Who" lyrics, "Meet the new boss....same as the old boss" (From Won't Get Fooled Again).

Tom Stephens, GM Vice Chairman had this to say on the GM FastLane Blog:

The Buick crossover we showed received consistent feedback from large parts of all the audiences that it didn’t fit the premium characteristics that customers have come to expect from Buick.

We were all struck by the consistency of the criticism of the compact crossover. And what we decided to do in response is a good example of the essence of the new General Motors… acting quickly, and boldly, and listening to feedback from customers, employees, dealers, media and just about anyone else with an opinion.

Last Friday, reaction to the Buick crossover was discussed at the meeting of our Executive Committee, the newly formed group that steers product decisions, and it was decided that if it didn’t belong, it didn’t belong. Buick crossover canceled. Fritz Henderson, Bob Lutz and I and the rest of the committee decided to take swift action to prevent a potential underperformer from reaching the marketplace. And we decided that the important plug-in hybrid technology would be applied to another vehicle, at no delay, that we’ll discuss in the very near future.

What gives me pause is how quickly we made a decision and carried it out. In the past this would have been a several-month process involving meeting after meeting of the APB, ASB, and various other acronyms, and also many “offline” follow-up discussions before a decision was reached and enacted. This happened in one day.

Toyota Claims Improvement Upon Lithium Ion Batteries

As we have stated in the past, it is amazing to see the seemingly daily headlines that proclaim the next great technological advancement as concerns alternate energy vehicles. Apparently, Toyota is working on a breakthrough technology that could result in a ten-fold increase in Lithium ion battery storage capacity.

Instead of the Chevy Volt only having a range of 40 miles, it would have a 400 mile range with an equivalent weight battery pack. Couple this battery pack with a capacitor such as the EESTOR variety and this would obviate the need for gasoline whatsoever, regardless of the distance traveled.

From Automotive News:

Toyota Motor Corp. has developed a new technology that may dramatically boost the storage capacity of lithium ion batteries and thus open the door to more practical electric vehicles.

The advance -- the fabrication of single crystals of lithium cobalt oxide -- grew out of joint research with Japan's Tohoku University, Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said.

The new technology is a step toward creating a more powerful battery, but Nolasco declined to estimate the potential increase in a battery's storage capacity or an electric vehicle's range.

Japan's Nikkei business newspaper said the technique eventually would allow lithium ion batteries to store 10 times the energy of current ones. The development would roughly translate into a 10-fold increase in driving range, the newspaper said. The greater storage capacity could also enable Toyota to reduce the size, weight and possibly the cost of the battery pack.

Lithium ion batteries are seen as key to the mass marketing of electric vehicles because they are lighter and more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries now used in hybrid cars.

Yet Toyota has largely steered clear of electric vehicles, arguing that the current generation of lithium ion batteries is still too weak to provide a sufficient range for all-electric drivetrains.

The cathodes of Toyota's current lithium ion batteries are typically made from a polycrystalline form of lithium cobalt oxide that connected with grains of graphite, the Nikkei said.

By using a single crystal form, however, Toyota can use less graphite and create more room for the storage of the lithium ions that create the electrical charge.

The newspaper said it will take another decade to develop a cathode that contains no graphite and that version should be able to store 10 times today's electrical charge.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An Explanation of the Chevy Volt Generator Mode

Here is an interesting interview with GM executive Tony Posawatz as concerns the Chevy Volt operating in generator mode.


When the generator goes on will it come on gradually?
We’re still playing with it. The initial transition we like very much, it is almost imperceptible. We want to tune it and exercise it more for production readiness, but we have an algorithm of software that feathers it in so that its almost imperceptible.

To many people it is imperceptible, to those that are a little bit more tuned in…Frank (Weber) says its not quite perfect, he wants it so that no one can hear it.

That transition isn’t handled in most hybrids that well, particularly when you stop at a light an the engine shuts off and you get that shudder. We have this benchmark we set, that we’re going to blow them away.

By the way, our motor is so much bigger than theirs, the power output of the electric motor, that effectively is the starter. We’re in the point of tuning it and it’s a very very complicated tuning exercise if you want to make it perfect.

It’s a balance equation. Here lies the challenge. You will get some feedback from the car about its environment, or the road load. You’re demanding so much power from the car, and you will get some feedback. That’s one input that you have to be able to respond to to deliver the right amount of power. The other aspect that we have to play with is this area of OK when I respond to it, the engine generator will run in different modes or RPMs. How do I transition from mode to mode, a timing issue, do I smooth it, do I try to react immediately to that response? If I act immediately to that response how will customers receive that? such as a wild of swing of RPMs?

There’s the responding to the car’s demands based on the loads number one, then there’s the affect on the customer, we want that to be really pleasant. The transition to charge sustaining, we’ve got that down, it’s the operating in the very different modes we’ve got to figure out. The next leg is making sure the engine is running the most efficiently that it can.

Generators are typically run at a sweet spot that’s very efficient. We could do that. The question is, does the amount of output of power that results from that manage or balance with what the car needs?…hmm how do you do that? That’s another reason we have this battery buffer reserve.

How often do you turn the engine off and on is another question. These are the factors that have to be balanced.

People ask why can’t you show it to me? Because we want it just right.

This requires a lot software. The other interesting challenge is the regulatory issues. Theoretically you could run the engine enough to build a surplus of energy. The regulatory guys are not going to let us do that, it’s a five legged stool.

Is the EPA sitting on a committee while you engineer the car?
This is more CARB than it is EPA. EPA is interested from the perspective that they need to understand how to label it. CARB really doesn’t want you to burn fuel if you don’t have to.

The message on charge sustaining mode is we’ve got a good beat on it, its the four or five things that have to be balanced together and the team needs time to work.

Will the engine rev higher when you step on the accelerator?
Yes, but the question is, if I have a little battery reserve at that time, do I turn the engine on right away to follow that or is it a smoothing function?

Also lets say you just went up a monster hill and the engine feathered up a little to support you and you get to the top of the hill and hit a light. Should the engine keep on running to allow you to recover or do you turn off the engine because the customer expects it too because they’re stopped at a light?

Technically are these difficult challenges? No. Its hard development work balancing the calibration of a lot of software.

Could GM Finally Have A Buyer For SAAB?

General Motors Co. reached a deal Tuesday to sell its money-losing Swedish subsidiary Saab to Koenigsegg Group AB.

The companies signed a stock purchase agreement that would give the group 100 percent of Saab's shares, GM Europe said in a statement.

Koenigsegg Group is a consortium of private investors that includes Koenigsegg Automotive AB, a tiny Swedish maker of $1 million supercars.

"This contract is an important step in the journey to a potential deal," GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said in the statement. "We will continue to work with all parties to define the final details and ensure a fast closure."

The agreement comes after weeks of uncertainty concerning the level of support for the bid from Koenigsegg's backers, after a preliminary deal for the sale was struck in June.

Figuring out the finances

The Swedish government is negotiating with Koenigsegg on a possible guarantee for a loan to Saab from the European Investment Bank.

Forster said that the deal is contingent on this funding being arranged.

Sweden's industry ministry said several steps remained to be taken before a transaction could be concluded.

"The Koenigsegg Group will inject more private capital, negotiate loans with the European Investment Bank and agree with the Swedish National Debt Office on the terms for possible state loan guarantees," Joran Hagglund, industry ministry state secretary, said in a statement.

Swedish daily business newspaper Dagens Industri reported today that Koenigsegg Chairman Augie Fabela said 3 billion Swedish crowns ($413.6 million) of financing were still required in addition to the EIB loan.

Different timetables

Koenigsegg spokeswoman Halldora von Koenigsegg told Reuters today that the firm expected to close the deal within about a month, while GM said it saw the deal closing by the end of the year.

As part of the proposal, GM and Saab will continue to share technology and services for a set time period. GM did not say how long the two companies would work together. GM and Saab will use license and service agreements to manager their future relationship.

In the GM Europe statement, Koenigsegg Group CEO Christian von Koenigsegg said his company plans to "transform Saab into a stand-alone vibrant entrepreneurial company and make it 'sustainable' by making it profitable."

Source: Automotive News

Monday, August 17, 2009

Daihatsu Contemplates Electric Mini-Vehicles

Daihatsu Motor Co. is considering producing electric mini-vehicles if it can obtain proper batteries.

“It is not efficient for us to manufacture batteries on our own. If we can procure good batteries, then we may install them in our minivehicles,” Minoura told reporters. “It all depends on the battery quality.”

Asked if the automaker plans to make hybrid cars, the president said: “We cannot equip our current minivehicles with hybrid components. It would only add to the weight and would not be eco-friendly as a whole.”

Daihatsu is Toyota’s mini-car specialist.

Source: Nikkei

Fisker Karma PHEV Makes Debut at Laguna Seca

What a sexy car. The Fisker Karma is truly a great looking ride and boasts a healthy green factor. The first 50 miles are driven gas free and then the on-board generator kicks in to provide another 250 miles of range.

Fisker plans to have these available for consumption in the middle of next year.

From Motor Trend:

Most of the cars at the annual Historic Automobile Races this weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, enter the track with bellowing, crackling exhaust notes and the heady aroma of spent high-octane gasoline, so it was quite a revelation - and a welcome refrain - to see Fisker's eerily silent Karma sedan prototype glide silently out of its holding tent and onto the legendary race circuit at the turn five track entrance. Emitting neither pop, gurgle, nor shriek, the Karma zoomed up the hill towards Laguna Seca's famous "Corkscrew" steep downhill left-right combination corner, and continued on for a full lap of the race track as legions of died-in-the-wool car guys (including Jay Leno) looked on. The lap marked the public driving debut of a car that had its fair share of skeptics. Still, a brief post-lap conversation with company founder Henrik Fisker revealed that the car is still on track for a May 2010 showroom launch.

Yes, according to Fisker, you will be able to buy the swoopy plug-in hybrid sport-luxury sedan you see in these photos around the middle of next year. Fisker noted that the car is currently scheduled for official U.S. government crash testing in the coming weeks, though official EPA fuel economy ratings may still be a while off. And what might that rating be? For now, Henrik Fisker is content to say that the Karma will be capable of "well over 100 mpg." But in light of the EPA's recent rating of 230 mpg for the upcoming Chevy Volt, Fisker believes that a rating of up to 140 mpg may be possible. It all depends on whether a new standard for EPA testing of plug-in hybrid vehicles comes into play before the Karma is subjected to the procedure.

Still, Henrik Fisker is to the point when the goals for his designer hybrid are discussed.

"We're not out to break any records," Fisker told us in Monterey. "We're building a sexy, good-looking car that you can drive every day like your 7 Series [BMW] or your CLS [Mercedes-Benz]."

After returning from the track, the Fisker Karma drew quite a crowd in Laguna Seca's infield, with Henrik lingering to chat with curious bystanders about the attention-getting sedan. That sedan, of course, features a lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors that produce a combined total of 408 hp and a breathtaking 959 lb-ft of torque. Much like the Chevrolet Volt, the Karma also features an internal combustion engine that serves only as a generator of sorts, to charge the electric motors' batteries. In fact, the engine is even GM-sourced - it's a 260-hp 2.0L Ecotec unit.

Of course, the Karma has plenty of mass to propel. It's a large, heavy, luxury-oriented sedan, and while Henrik doesn't have an exact curb weight figured yet, he does admit that it will weigh in over 5000 lbs. While that may make the Karma sound bloated, keep in mind that 40% of the vehicle weight, according to Fisker, is in the drivetrain. Electric batteries are still not as small or lightweight as is ideal for automotive use. Henrik told us that within just three years, we could see batteries with comparable performance to those currently installed in the Karma prototype, but at one-third the weight. Such advancements could mean great things for the Karma's future, although Fisker claims even now, the Karma should be capable of 5.8-sec. 0 to 60 mph sprints and a 125-mph top speed - all while being able to travel up to 50 miles on electric power alone, and 300 miles while using the gasoline engine to charge the batteries. With that sort of electric range, Henrik guesses that there are would-be Karma drivers out there that would need to fill the gas tank just once per year.

Are you one of them? Let us know what you think of the Fisker Karma in the comments section below. And be sure to tell us if a Fisker Karma would be your daily driver of choice if you were in the market for a new luxury-sports sedan.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ford Motor Company Delineates Pathway To Success For the Electrication of Automobiles

The Ford Motor Company outlined its path to the successful integration of electric vehicles into the overall fleet. Some of the points we wholeheartedly agree with and some are simply not necessary.

Good points:
- Have a common battery pack that can be used by all OEM's, which brings production numbers much higher and lowers cost dramatically.
- Use of policies and government grants / incentives for purchasing EV's.
- Adoption into the various fleets used by government and private sector

Not so good points:
- Charging Infrastucture, which is already there and can be built up later.
- Vehicle to home and vehicle to grid technologies, which is just a farce as this also represents unnecessary expenditures and are not a precursor to getting the cars on the road.

From Green Car Congress:

Noting that “once you plug the vehicle into the wall, success becomes a team sport”, Mike Tinskey, manager of Ford’s sustainability activities focused on electric vehicles and infrastructure, outlined what Ford sees as enablers for electrification (“controllable success factors”), during a presentation at the Plug-in 2009 conference in Long Beach this past week.

Prior to his current position, Tinskey led Ford’s product planning and product management activities for hybrids and for developing and implementing the electric vehicle strategy announced last January (earlier post). During his talk, he suggested that migrating to some battery commonality would be a huge win for the industry simply because it would support a more rapid achievement of the higher production volumes required to bring prices down.

We as OEMs are currently on a path to design, sell and service all unique battery packs. It’s easy to identify the problem. As you have unique packs and cells, it creates a challenge and an obstacle to having secondary ownership, to having some unique receipt models, service costs, and the list goes on and on.

The biggest issue with batteries now is not necessarily the technology, it’s the volume. If the battery manufacturers could get north of 100,000 packs, annually, prices come down drastically. One path forward is that we all collectively focus our initial volumes on common packs. That’s easier said than done. I don’t want to paint a picture that this is something we can get solved tomorrow. But we definitely have this in mind as a long-term goal. Right now we’re just making sure we get the product right, it’s a quality product, and it works.

But if we could get movement to migrating to some commonality, overall that would be a huge win for the industry.

—Mike Tinskey

Ford’s product approach to electrification. Currently, Ford has four full hybrids on the market. For the mid-term (2011-2020), Ford will increase its use of hybrid technology, and introduce plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV) on the market. For the long-term (2020-2030), Tinskey said, Ford will focus on volume expansion of hybrid technologies, continue to leverage PHEVs and BEVs, and introduced fuel cell vehicles. There is also an accompanying long-term focus on clean electricity and hydrogen for fueling.

We look at powertrains as powerpacks, and we view emerging technologies as powerpacks also. We've taken the approach that the vehicle can be a global platform&madsh;and you can really enjoy some economies of scale from that—and then you can take these powerpacks and react to local market conditions, and put those powerpacks in as appropriate as the markets develop.

Where the markets develop, we can react very quickly and introduced a BEV, or plug-in, or diesel, or EcoBoost fairly rapidly.

—Mike Tinskey

Ford chose to develop many of its electrified products on its global C platform—a high-volume platform that sells millions every year.

Specifically on the BEV side, Ford has announced two vehicles: the electric Transit Connect light commercial van in 2010, and the battery electric Focus in 2011 (using new styling and with a new model). Both of these are C-platform applications. Ford will introduce a plug-in hybrid version with its next generation hybrid vehicles in 2012.

Third-party (i.e., not Ford’s) global market projections for electric vehicles range from a bottom-scraping 0.14% (about 100,000 units) to 3-4% (approaching 2.5 million units) of the market by 2020. After 11 years, hybrids have a 0.8% share globally. Click to enlarge.

Citing the wide variance in industry projections—ranging from the extremely conservative to the wildly optimistic—Tinskey noted that the large degree of uncertainty contributed to Ford’s adoption of its current electrification strategy which is designed to optimize flexibility and response time.

Market enablers for electrification. In addition to battery commonality, Ford sees other success factors contributing to successful electrification as:

  1. The charging infrastructure. Ford sees home charging as the segment where the most frequent charging will occur, followed by fleet depot charging, charge at work, and then public charging, in that order. For the next four years or so, he sees no major charging infrastructure. Standards are critical for success here. Tinskey also noted that fast charging present challenges on vehicles, due to the sizing of onboard electronics.
  2. Supporting policies.
  3. Utilities, vehicle-to-home (V2H), and vehicle-to-grid (V2G). Ford is a little bearish on the concept of V2G at this point, he said. “Let’s figure out V2H—then we can figure everything else out.” Key for success here is working with utilities and emerging standards for messaging and communications between the vehicle and the grid and utility.
  4. Utility partnership and renewable power generation.
  5. Alternative business models (e.g., Better Place) and alliances.
  6. Government incentives and grants.
  7. Secondary uses for the battery pack (this is linked to the commonality issue, as repackaging common formats would reduce cost and make sales less convoluted.
  8. Demonstrations and early fleet sales.