Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Eagle Carrie EV Can’t Decide If Its A Ferrari Or Porsche

China’s auto industry is going through rapid growth, with dozens of companies, partnerships, and joint ventures all vying to be the next Ford or Toyota. Some of these companies, like BYD, have come up with their own bland-but-unique looks, but others are content to rip off the looks of other companies or, even worse, mix and match designs in the worst way.
The Eagle Carrie EV is perhaps one of the best/worst examples of China’s clone car industry, looking like a Ferrari FF halfway through a transition into a Porsche Cayman, as TechVehi notes. Eagle even copied Porsche’s unique script, something sure to draw the ire of Stuttgart’s lawyers. You can’t blame Eagle EV though, as the company has more experience making golf carts and low-speed electric vehicles than anything resembling a Ferrari or Porsche.
Is it any wonder their designers felt the need to flatter two of Europe’s finest automakers? They’re not the first to do it either, as a Bugatti-looking electric supercar rolled out at the Shanghai Auto Show last week too. And lets not forget about the Aoxin Ibis Tesla Model S knockoff that made waves a few months ago.
In defense of this Chinese upstart, Eagle claims that without the battery pack, the Carrie EV weighs just 800 kgs/1763 lbs, and can go about 260 km/160 miles per charge. Eagle claims a the two in-wheel electric motors can produce 442 lb-ft of torque, sending the lightweight electric copycat from 0 to 62 MPH in about 4.8 seconds.

Then again, that means taking the word of a company that clearly doesn’t know the definition of intellectual property or copyright law.

Tesla Battery Systems Already Power 11 Walmart Stores

The worst kept secret in the world is that Tesla storage battery will be revealed officially on April 30. What isn’t widely known is that the company has been quietly testing its batteries in more than 300 homes and many business for several years, according to Fortune.
In fact, Tesla storage batteries already power eleven Walmart stores around the country, reports Bloomberg. Food processing company Cargill is also reportedly testing the Tesla storage battery. Schools and wineries are on Elon Musk’s list of places to use the new technology as well. The knowledge gained from all that testing will go into making production versions of the Tesla storage battery as efficient and trouble free as possible.
Storage batteries can be used anywhere electric power is needed. They can take over in the event of a power outage to keep homes and business running as usual. They can be recharged at night when electric rates are lowest and used to provide power during the day when rates are at their peak. They can be recharged from the electric grid, from onsite generators, from solar panels or wind turbines.
The secret to any battery storage system is the inverter. Electricity coming in from the pole is in the form of alternating current. But batteries, solar panels and wind turbines operate on direct current. An inverter converts AC to DC and vice versa so everything in the system works seamlessly together.
Jeffery Evanson, Tesla’s head of investor relations head  told Business Insider recently that the announcement expected on Thursday would be about a “Tesla home battery and a very large utility scale battery.” Utility scale batteries allow electric companies to even out the demand curve for power, which will save them money.
It costs electric companies a lot of money to ramp up their electricity output to meet the surge in demand that occurs every day when people get home from work, crank up the AC, turn on the computer and fire up the stove. Using batteries will allow utilities to meet that demand in a more cost effective way, saving them money and allowing them to avoid raising the rates they charge for electricity.

Just whispering the word “Tesla” can make a stock analyst swoon. Andrea James, an analyst with Dougherty & Co, told Bloomberg, “Tesla’s energy storage business could be worth as much as $70 to Tesla’s stock.” If you believe that, you should be on the phone to your broker as soon as you finish this story.

Plug In Hybrid Hummers Set To Take On Antarctica

A group of intrepid polar explorers who call themselves Zero South are preparing to make the first trip to the South Pole without burning one drop of fossil fuel says Green Car Reports. The group will use a pair of plug-in hybrid Hummers with 3.2 liter diesel engines for the 1200 mile journey. The engines will burn only bio-diesel on the way down and back. The Hummers also have an electric motor front and rear, and a 24 kWh battery pack that powers the motors and can be recharged by the diesel engines. The batteries are heavily insulated to protect them from the -60 degree Fahrenheit temperatures expected along the way.
Both Hummers have been fitted with treads from Mattracks to give them the sure footed grip they will need to traverse the frozen wastes of Antarctica. Their suspensions have been heavily reinforced to withstand the rigors of the trip across uncharted territory. One of the Hummers will also tow a modified Airstream trailer — dubbed the Snowstream — which will  provide shelter for the explorers along the way and while conducting their research at the South Pole.
The choice of the Hummer H1 as the basis for the expedition vehicles was not random. The Hummers’ wide stance will aid stability over uneven terrain. But there is a bit of “intentional irony”  as well.
The normal Hummer H1 has just about the largest carbon footprint of any wheeled vehicle on the planet except, perhaps, for your average Peterbilt. By converting the Hummers to run entirely on electricity and bio-diesel, the team is making a very deliberate statement about their respect for the environment. “We shall draft a symbol of military defense for the front lines of environmental defense,” expedition organizer Nick Baggarly has declared.
 Naturally in this world of the selfie and non-stop marketing, the Zero South team expects to videotape the entire adventure. A 10 part television series and a full length feature movie are planned, both based on those videos.

Mitsubishi Evo To Return As “King of EVs”

For a few years in the early 2000s, the import car scene was turned on its head by the arrival of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, a turbocharged all-wheel drive rally machine that made mincemeat of rivals on and off the road. But the Lancer Evo as we knew it is gone for good, though Mitsubishi has (again) hinted that its legendary performance car will return as the “king” of electric vehicles.
Mitsubishi President and COO Tetsuro Aikawa told Autocar: “In the future, we would like to launch such a vehicle with Evo characteristics. In Japanese, when you pronounce ‘Oh’ [in Evo], it means ‘king’. So we would like to launch this type of car, featuring EV and PHEV technology, which is the ultimate of its kind. ‘EV’ for electric vehicle, ‘O’ for king – Evo.”
But the next-gent Evo won’t be a compact sedan as with previous generations, but rather a new small crossover influenced by the XR-PHEV II concept. The model will likely be called the ASX, according to rumors, though the production model will get all-wheel drive like previous Evos, rather than just front-wheel drive like the XR concept. Mitsubishi will draw on its experience with its all-electric Pikes Peak race cars, though that doesn’t mean it will be purely all-electric, or that it’s coming anytime soon. It will, however, be “light and fast”, though whether it ever gets built depends on other factors.
“To develop these kind of vehicles, we have to sell a lot of the base models, so we can cover the research and development costs,” said Aikawa. It is also worth noting that Mitsu has been hinting at a plug-in Evo for years now, so this really seems more like a matter of when, rather than if. Sales of the Outlander PHEV SUV have been robust enough to lift the company out of its self-imposed doldrums, the Japanese automaker is looking to plug-in technology and SUVs/crossovers for profitability going forward.
It’s starting to look like Mitsubishi could end up a major player in vehicle electrification after an embarrassingly slow start (looking at you, i-MiEV).
Fanboys will no doubt be butthurt, but I welcome a new plug-in performance car to rival the dominant Tesla P85D.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tiny 40-Year-Old Electric Car Now As Fast As Tesla Roadster

1975 Enfield E8000 ECC "Flux Capacitor," by Flickr user Mark Skinner (Used under CC License)
1975 Enfield E8000 ECC "Flux Capacitor," by Flickr user Mark Skinner (Used under CC License)

The era of the modern electric car essentially began in December 2010 with the launch of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt.
But there were many electric cars before that, from both established manufacturers and small upstart firms.
One of those small independent companies was the U.K.'s Enfield Automotive, although its electric cars are largely forgotten today.

Just 120 Enfield E8000 ECC models were built, and the tiny electric car (its wheelbase is just 68 inches) doesn't look like it could a candle to modern machinery.
Unless, that is, an owner gets creative.
Meet "Flux Capacitor," a heavily-modified 1975 Enfield that can run the quarter mile as fast as a 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport--as a loving writeup in Transport Evolveddescribes.
1975 Enfield E8000 ECC
1975 Enfield E8000 ECC

At first glance, the two-seat E8000 ECC doesn't seem to have the makings of a drag racer.
The "ECC" stands for 'Electric City Car," and with just 6 horsepower in stock form, it's certainly not a car one would want to take on a highway.
As sold new, the car's top speed was 40 mph, while range was estimated at somewhere between 35 and 55 miles.
Yet in this Enfield, current owner Jonny Smith--one of the hosts of the British car show Fifth Gear--somehow aw the makings of a hot rod.
He put together a team of builders to design and install a 1,003-horsepower electric powertrain in the tiny car--which weighs just 1,945 pounds in race trim.
A pair of electric motors are fed by a custom lithium-ion battery pack, while a heavily-modified Ford rear axle and 14-inch rear tires help put that power to the ground.
1975 Enfield E8000 ECC
1975 Enfield E8000 ECC
Flux Capacitor's best quarter-mile run so far is a 12.56-second pass at just over 101 mph.
However, that was made with the powertrain output limited to 1,400 amps--meaning the car was only using about 70 percent of its capability.
That leaves some room for improvement, and Smith already has a target in sight.

He wants to beat the Tesla Model S P85D, which means achieving quarter-mile times in the 11-second range.
A tiny 1970s city car beating a modern, high-tech luxury sedan?

Now that would be something to see.

China Tells Automakers To Build Electric Cars – Or Else!

China is the world’s largest and fastest growing car market. Every car maker in the world wants a piece of the action but first they have to please the Chinese government. According to Bloomberg, when it comes to letting foreign manufactures build factories in the country, China says build electric cars – or else! China wants a 28% improvement in average fuel economy by 2020. The only way manufacturers can meet that target is with plug in hybrid or electric cars. It also wants 5,000,000 “new energy” vehicles on Chinese roads by then. That’s about 4.5 million more than there are today.
Toyota in particular has had harsh words for electric cars recently. Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, told reporters at a test drive event recently that electric cars will damage the electrical grid. “If you were to charge a car in 12 minutes for a range of 500 km (310 miles), for example, you’re probably using up electricity required to power 1,000 houses. That totally goes against the need to stabilise electricity use on the grid. He went on to say, “I don’t think such cars will become popular.”
That is not the message the Chinese government wants to hear but it may be the truth. Sales of electric cars in China have been well below expectations, despite substantial government incentives. For instance, in many Chinese cities, a person cannot obtain a license plate for a new car automatically. New registrations are limited and decided by lotteries. But anyone who buys an EV gets to register and drive it immediately. That’s a huge advantage if you want a car now, but Chinese buyers are still buying EVs in modest numbers.
Much of that has to do with a limited infrastructure for charging electric and plug in cars. Not having enough SuperCharger locations has put a big dent in the sales of the Tesla Model S in China. Even though Tesla thinks it has done a good job building chargers in China, buyers disagree, forcing Tesla to devote a lot of time and money to fix the problem. Hiroji Onishi, Toyota’s chief executive officer for the China region, said on April 21 that because President Xi Jinping is accelerating the EV push, “we believe infrastructure including charging stations will be developed quite rapidly.”
Somewhat reluctantly, Toyota will roll out the Leahead and Ranz all-electric brands with its China partners Guangzhou Automobile Group and FAW Group starting this year. The models will make China the only market where Toyota sells EVs. At the recent Shanghai Auto Show, the Toyota stand featured a Prius hybrid in the center. The two joint venture all electric cars were relegated to a spot in the background.
“It is the cost of entry of being here,” says James Chao, managing director of IHS Automotive in Shanghai, says of the joint-venture electric vehicles. “A lot of it is kind of for show, and they just want to please the government.” Adds Ashvin Chotai, managing director of researcher Intelligence Automotive Asia, “They’ll do some token launches and token sales, but I’m not expecting any waves. This is just a distraction, an unwanted headache.”

Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV Priced For US, Starts At $68,100

The all new, updated Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV will go on sale in America in the fall. The entry level model, called the Mometum, is priced at $68,100. The sportier R-Design model lists for $70,000. There is a destination fee of $995 added to the price of both models.
Volvo is now owned by Chinese manufacturer Geely, which has supervised the first full redesign of the popular XC90 since 2002. The top of the line Volvo SUV is offered in Europe with either a gasoline or diesel engine. Buyers can also order the advanced plug in hybrid version of the car. That powertrain, which Volvo calls its “Twin Engine” system, pumps out a respectable 390 horsepower from a 4 cylinder engine, an electric motor between the engine and the transmission, and a second electric motor powering the rear wheels. Using only the 80 hp rear motor, the XC90 can travel about 25 miles on electric power alone.
The gasoline engine is unique among production engines at the moment because it features not only a turbocharger but also an electric supercharger. A turbo operates best at higher engine speeds, which means it can take several seconds before it begins supplying boost to the engine. An electric supercharger spins up to speed in less than half a second, so it begins providing boost immediately when the car needs it most — such as moving forward from a dead stop. When engine revs rise, the supercharger shuts off and the turbo takes over. Thanks to modern electronics, this all happens seamlessly so the driver and passengers are never aware of the transition. All they feel is a rush of acceleration. Look for other manufacturers to use electric superchargers soon.
The diesel engine will not be offered in the US model and it may take a while before American buyers can get their hands on the PHEV version of the XC90. Demand for the plug in drivetrain has far exceeded Volvo’s expectations. They thought about 5% of buyers would go the plug in route, butdemand in Europe has been four times that. As a result, the PHEV XC90 is on back order well into 2016. That’s a problem Volvo is happy to have.
When the new XC90 T8 PHEV finally gets here, it will be facing stiff competition from the BMW X5 xDrive 40e and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e, both of which are scheduled to go on sale in the US this fall. Maybe the long rumored Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will arrive sometime this decade. Or at least by the next one for sure.
The marketplace is hungry for plug in hybrid SUV’s. But a fully optioned Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV will cost $80,000 or more and the offerings from BMW and Mercedes are not likely to cost much less. Is the market that hungry?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Chevy Bolt Name Is Here To Stay

After GM pulled back the curtain on the Chevy Bolt, its 200-mile electric car concept, one of the first questions a suit asked me was “What do you think of the name?” I shrugged if I’m being honest. It’s better than the meaningless alpha-numeric nomenclature plaguing many luxury car brands, but it doesn’t have the same panache that “Mustang”, “Corvette”, or even “Volt” have. It feels a bit…silly. Since then, GM has confirmed it will build the Bolt, but waffled on whether or not it would stick with the name.
As it turns out, GM is sticking with the Chevy Bolt name, the automaker confirmed to The Detroit News. As far as new car names go, considering the limited options, it’s not all that bad.
“Since unveiling the Bolt EV three months ago, the name has quickly become associated with Chevrolet,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Therefore, we will use the name when the vehicle goes into production. The Bolt EV is a significant statement of Chevrolet’s commitment to electrification and the name suits this game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity.”
Choosing Bolt is an obvious attempt to link the new electric car with the semi-successful Volt plug-in hybrid. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it makes me think GM is really trying to distance itself from its first foray into electric cars, the EV1. One name I thought would have gone well with the rest of the Chevy naming nomenclature would have been Current, though I think Chevy Amp has a nice ring to it too.
GM has made its decision after conferring with car dealers and focus groups, saying the association with the Volt resonates well with consumers. It’s really not an awful name, and if GM can deliver a 200-mile EV for $37,500 (before tax credits) in the next couple of years, I could care less what they call it.
Just let me buy it, or else I might have to turn to Ford or Tesla t oget my electric fix.

First Look At The Tesla Model S 70D - VIDEO

The Tesla Model S 70D is one tasty crumpet. Gone is the original Model S 60. For only $5,000 more, the base model Tesla now has a 70 kWh battery, 240 miles of range and dual motors, giving it all wheel drive capability. Tesla is going to be able to sell every one of these beauties it can build. I confess that when I first read about this, I said to myself, “Now that’s a Tesla I would like to own.”
Up to that point, the 60 kWh models were a little to drab and the 85 kWh models a little to outrageous. Do I really need a car that has an “Insane” mode? I don’t intend to take my next car to the drag strip and I don’t care much about winning the stoplight grand prix anymore. But a well built sedan with ample power, good range and all wheel drive? Yeah, I’m interested, Elon. Let’s talk.
The Model S 70D base model includes free electricity at Tesla SuperCharger locations. That was an extra cost option on the old Model S 60. It sends 309 horsepower down to the pavement, which is enough to move the car from rest to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds. That’s enough to satisfy my needs. But it’s the all wheel drive capability that really floats my boat. For those of us who live in states where snow flakes sometimes fly, that’s a very attractive feature.
Watch the video above for a deeper look into how the new Model S 70D performs in real world driving out on the open road.

Japanese Maglev Train Goes Record 374 MPH

A Japanese maglev train set a world speed record last week, reaching a top speed of 374 MPH. The experimental magnetic levitation train set a world record when it reached a top speed of 361 miles per hour back in 2003, and it broke that record at 366 mph two weeks ago.
But then last week, it broke the record again, travelling at an astonishing 374 mph. At that rate, it could make the trip from Tokyo to Nagoya, which normally takes 5 hours by car, in a mere 40 minutes. But don’t buy your tickets yet. The first maglev trains are not expected to enter regular service until 2027.
A maglev train rides along a specially constructed rail line. An electric field allows it to ride about 4 inches off the ground. Since there are no wheels touching the tracks, friction is greatly reduced, which allows the maglev train to go faster than any conventional train. While it might seem that most of the power the train uses would be needed to keep it hovering just off the ground, in fact the majority of power is used to overcome aerodynamic drag.
That drag could be substantially reduced it the maglev train ran inside a vacuum tube, which is precisely the idea behind Elon Musk’s visionary Hyperloop concept. While that system would not operate in a complete vacuum, it would still remove most of the air from inside the tube, allowing maglev trains inside to hit speeds of 800 mph or more. That’s fast enough to make the trip from New York to Los Angeles in just over 4 hours. It would also put some airlines out of business. A Chinese company thinks it can make a train that can travel 1800 mph using vacuum tube technology, but don’t hold your breath for that one.
The fastest maglev train currently in commercial service connects Shanghai to the local airport. It makes the 18 mile trip in 8 minutes at speeds up to 250 mph. Other low speed maglev trains are in use or proposed in many parts of Asia, where moving large numbers of people quickly is a priority. One such train built in Japan for the 2005 World Expo carried over 10,000,000 passengers in just 3 months time.
In America, the Amtrak Acela is capable of traveling 150 mph but the poorly maintained tracks in the Northeast Corridor limit it to as little as 50 mph along some sections. Texas is interested in constructing a new rail line for a high speed “Bullet Train” to connect Houston and Dallas.
High speed trains are an appealing alternative to air travel. China is thinking about building a rail link from Beijing to San Francisco that would transport passengers in comfort from one city to the other in 2 days time. And they probably won’t charge extra for your luggage, either!
One consideration, of course, is how much energy will these trains of the future consume and where will it come from? If the electricity is supplied by dirty, coal fired facilities, the advantage of speed may be offset by negative environmental considerations. But what if the got their electricity from solar power? Another key question is, how much will they cost to build? And can fares be kept low enough to attract people who normally fly to consider going by train instead? These are questions that have no answers at present.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Audi Q6 Electric 'SUV Coupe' Arrives In 2018 Or 2019: CEO

Purported Audi Q6 electric crossover teaser image. Image via Autocar.
Purported Audi Q6 electric crossover teaser image. Image via Autocar.

It's now clear that we'll see a slew of all-electric luxury vehicles with ranges of 200 miles or more from German makers Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz starting in 2017 or 2018.
What's less clear is whether those vehicles will be developed as electric cars from the ground up or whether they'll be adapted versions of gasoline models.

The current BMW i3 electric car has no gasoline-only counterpart, for example, so it's an example of the former--but the Volkswagen e-Golf is all but indistinguishable from gasoline and diesel Golfs.

One of those German luxury electric cars seems likely to share much of its understructure, if not its body shell, with gasoline models.
According to Britain's Auto Express, the upcoming Audi A6 electric "SUV coupe" will be "sexy and sporty"--and arrive in 2018 or 2019.
Audi Q7 e-tron
Audi Q7 e-tron

Audi confirmed production of the Q6 electric car at its annual meeting last month, releasing a teaser sketch that indeed showed a low, sleek coupe-like hatchback with large wheels.
Then Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told Auto Express at the Shanghai Auto Show that the Q6 would have at least 500 km (310 miles) of range, calling that distance "a must."

Stadler was likely quoting range numbers from the European test cycle, so the rated range of the Audi Q6 on the U.S. EPA cycle might come in at more like 250 miles.
Still, that's within range of the Tesla Model S, whose most recent entry-level 70D model is rated at 240 miles.
2015 Tesla Model S 70D, Apr 2015 [photo: David Noland]
2015 Tesla Model S 70D, Apr 2015 [photo: David Noland]
Stadler also suggested that the Q6 would arrive in 2018 or 2019, which he called the right time for launch when anticipated DC quick-charging infrastructure (using the CCS protocol adopted by all German and U.S. makers) would be ready.
But industry insiders doubt that Audi will go to the expense that BMW has in developing a unique platform or "architecture" for the Q6, which will be a low-volume vehicle for the automaker.

Instead, it will likely be adapted from the company's new SUV platforms--whether the Q5 mid-size or the Q7 large SUV that was unveiled in February.
It would thus follow the model of the Audi R8 e-tron, which is adapted from the second-generation R8 two-seat sport coupe.
Audi R8 e-tron
Audi R8 e-tron
Mercedes-Benz is rumored to be developing its own platform--codenamed "EcoLuxe"--for future electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
But so far Audi's parent, the VW Group, appears to be sticking with adaptations of existing vehicles and platforms to economize on development costs.