Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Honda FCV Sedan Teased Ahead Of 2015 Tokyo Motor Show

Honda FCV
Honda FCV

After showing two concept vehicles over the course of two years, Honda will unveil its hydrogen fuel-cell production car at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show a month from now. The first teaser image of the Honda FCV shows a car somewhat influenced by the 2013 FCEV concept, and the FCV concept followup that debuted in Tokyo last year. The production model has a more conventional shape than either of the concepts, and a front fascia that seems to borrow elements from the 2016 Civic and Accord.

Certain elements from the FCV concept--including the fender vents and the scoops in the rear doors--are still present as well, but toned down. Still, it appears Honda is taking a similar approach to rival Toyota and its 2016 Mirai, using expressive styling to advertise the hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain.

Note that the name FCV is only a placeholder. The car's actual name will be revealed during Tokyo Motor Show press days.
Honda FCV Concept
Honda FCV Concept
Honda says the car's fuel-cell powertrain so compact that it fits entirely under the hood.
The sedan will have seating for five, and an estimated range of 700 kilometers (434 miles), Honda says.
However, that's as measured on the more-optimistic Japanese testing cycle. Expect it to drop a bit on the U.S. EPA cycle.

Still, it's possible that the Honda fuel-cell sedan will be the second zero-emission vehicle officially rated at more than 300 miles of range in the U.S. The 2016 Toyota Mirai fuel-cell sedan is rated at 312 miles of range by the EPA. Like the Mirai, Honda says the Japanese-specification version of its hydrogen car will also be able to serve as a backup power source for houses during power outages.
Honda FCEV concept
Honda FCEV concept
Honda did not offer any other details, although it does promise an "exhilarating" driving experience, thanks to "high-output motors." The company previously said that the FCV will go on sale in Japan in March 2016, and arrive in the U.S. sometime after that.

Sales may be limited to California, an approach taken by Toyota and Hyundai--with its Tucson FuelCell--because the Golden State is currently the only one with substantial hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

Press days for the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show begin October 28. Watch this space for more details on the Honda FCV.

Tesla Model X: The New Safest SUV?

The Tesla Motors [NSDQ: TSLA] Model X SUV has been revealed in production form; and while the packaging and performance of this new electric SUV are mostly as expected, there were plenty of surprises.
One of the surprises was how well the trick double-hinged falcon doors are designed—with a very narrow spread as they open, plus sensors that adjust the arc of the doors to available height. Another was that the Model X can tow 5,000 pounds, while carrying seven people and luggage.

But the one that CEO Elon Musk spent nearly the first half of the Model X presentation outlining wassafety. The Model X, he said, is the first SUV that’s five-star in every category.
Musk summed that in the federal tests, those stars correlate directly to the probability of injury in a particular set of conditions.
For frontal crashes, the lack of an engine block allows engineers to have a longer distance for the crumple zone.
The Model X also achieves perfect five-star results, he said; and its side pole test also has about half the intrusion of the next closest SUV model.
Also because of the low-set battery pack and resulting extremely low center of mass, it has half the rollover propensity of any SUV or minivan.

The Model X certainly isn't alone in its top-tier ratings. The Tesla Model S sedan already earns a top five-star federal safety score—both overall, and in the frontal, side, and side pole tests, as well as in rollover, ofcourse.

Environmental safety as well as occupant safety
But safety does take other forms, and Musk then couldn’t resist a little jab to other current events.
“Recent events have illustrated the importance of air safety,” he said, clearly alluding to Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” emissions-cheating scandal, then introducing a true HEPA air filtration system for the Model X, including three layers of activated carbon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Home EVSE From ChargePoint Now On Amazon

The electric vehicle (EV) charging network firm ChargePoint has released its first home charging station product — the ChargePoint Home — on Amazon.
The new home EV charging station is available for order on Amazon with a retail price between $499 and $749, depending on the specific specs chosen.
ChargePoint Home
“Customers choose our stations for their reliability, connectivity and convenience. Now, EV drivers can access the power of ChargePoint from their own home,” stated ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano. “The future of our homes, our cars and our lifestyles will be smarter and more connected because of products like ChargePoint Home. This station is unlike any other on the market, and it will change the way people think about driving, home charging and smart energy management.”
Other features of the new charging station are: the ability to control operation of the station via a smartphone app; the ability to integrate the station’s operations with Nest products (energy use and cost tracking); tailored recommendations (based on the utility company used) concerning when to charge; and access to the ChargePoint network.
As one can probably guess, the higher-priced versions of the EV charging station are higher powered than the lower options. Individual configurations can be determined here (redirection to purchase options at Amazon follows on completion).
Here’s a basic overview of the options available:
  • ChargePoint Home 12 EV Charger Bundle: 16 Amp Hardwire Station with 12′ cord: $499
  • ChargePoint Home 12 EV Charger Bundle: 16 Amp Plug Station with 12′ cord: $549
  • ChargePoint Home 25 EV Charger Bundle: 32 Amp Hardwire Station with 18′ cord: $649
  • ChargePoint Home 25 EV Charger Bundle: 32 Amp Plug Station with 18′ cord: $699
ChargePoint Home 25 EV Charger Bundle: 32 Amp Hardwire Station with 25′ cord: $699
  • ChargePoint Home 25 EV Charger Bundle: 32 Amp Plug Station with 25′ cord: $749

Artega Electric Sports Car — 0-60 MPH in 3.6 Seconds

Amongst the many other cars revealed at the recent IAA motor show in Frankfurt, Germany, was the Artega “Scalo” electric sports car.
The innards of the new EV model are made up mostly of two Voltabox electric motors, together generating around 402 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque — though a short burst of extra power is available, allowing an increase up to 516 horsepower. Reportedly, the Scalo will a drive from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 96.5 km/h) in just 3.6 seconds.
The model will play home to a 37 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack, allowing for a reported range of up to 402 kilometers. As one can see, the model certainly has a notable look to it. No doubt, eyes will be turned.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Icon A5 Is The Tesla Of Airplanes

Icon A5 flying car
A fully loaded Tesla Model S will cost you close to $150,000. For about $50,000 more, you could have yourself something truly unique, the Icon A5 — an airplane that can land on the water or the ground and then slip neatly into your garage, right next to that shiny new Tesla.
Icon is the innovative manufacturer behind the A5, a carbon fiber aircraft that weighs just 1,000 pounds and has a range of 450 miles on 20 gallons of gas with a 45-minute reserve. It has retractable landing gear and a 34.8-foot wingspan. It is powered by a 100 horsepower Rotax 912 engine. The two seater has a top speed of 110 mph and can reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The best part is, the Icon A5 is so simple to fly, an ordinary person can learn in just 20 hours — half the time required for a typical single engine aircraft. Icon hopes to capitalize on new FAA rules making ‘sport planes’ less regulated, and sports pilot licenses easier to obtain. Icon says it wants to “democratize” aviation the same way that brands like Apple, BMW, or Oakley have done.
FAA officials issued an airworthiness certificate for the plane earlier this year, giving it the go-ahead for commercial production. A production model of the A5 was tested this week on New York’s Hudson river, according to a report in the Daily Mail. The A5 will come with an optional ballistic parachute that brings the entire airplane gently to the ground in case of an emergency.
What is it like to fly? “It’s extremely graceful on the water and in the air, offers exceptional control harmony and visibility, is a joy to fly — and would not stall and spin no matter how much I provoked it,” wrote AOPA editor Dave Hirschman. “The feeling of putting the A5 into a bank is like the smooth cabernets and sauvignons of the Napa Valley where our flight tests are taking place. The control harmony reminds me of a DeHavilland Chipmunk or a T-38. Think it and the airplane obeys,” added Plane and Pilot’s Marc Lee. High praise, indeed.
The company says it has booked 1,500 orders for the A5. Expected delivery time is 3 years. Better get your order in fast if you want to be the first on your block to own one.

Toyota Prius All-Wheel-Drive Option Leaked

Toyota Prius all wheel drive system leaked
It’s impossible to keep a secret any more. In the age of the cell phone camera and the internet, all information wants to be free. Thanks to folks at the Indian Autos blog, photos of an internal Toyota staff manual have found their way online. They show that there will be a Prius all-wheel-drive option when the fourth-generation car goes into production, but they don’t say when that option will be available or which markets it’s coming to.
The best guess is that a second electric motor will be added at the rear of the car. With electricity, all you need is a cable to put a motor wherever you need one — no clunky driveshafts or differentials needed. Since the Prius is pretty much an electric car anyway, installing an extra motor is probably less of a challenge than programming the control software to manage it.
What the leaked photos do make clear is that the new Prius in standard trim will go 40 kilometers on a liter of fuel (in the Japanese test cycle), while the all-wheel-drive version will “only” go 35 kilometers on the same liter of fuel. That suggests two things — the AWD system is in operation at all times rather than on demand and the Prius with AWD will get about the same gas mileage as the current car. The new Prius without AWD is said to be about 10% more fuel efficient than the previous model.
Toyota Prius all wheel drive system leaked

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tesla Model X Falcon-Wing Door Opening & Closing - VIDEO

Some spy shooters recently landed a gold mine while at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California — they caught the Tesla Model X on camera with one of its falcon-wing doors opening and closing!! Sort of surprising that no one caught one before now, but just a few days before the official unveiling, it’s the perfect way to cap several months of fun spy shots and videos.
Here’s the video (published yesterday), which was shared on the Tesla Motors Club forum by the brother of the driver (and brother-in-law of the “videographer”):
The commentary is pretty funny. And regarding the “ghetto” extra push needed to shut the falcon-wing door, I think it’s safe to say that’s an idiosyncrasy of the mule and won’t be how things roll in the production vehicles.
I will give my own 2¢ on what we just saw, though: the opening and closing of the doors is subtler than I expected. I think that’s a big win and will make the car seem super slick to many on-lookers. That is going to be a demand pull — people will want that super cool feature.
There’s plenty of debate about whether the extra effort and delays to get the falcon-wing doors right were worth it. I think you’ve got to be crazy or smoking crack to think they weren’t. These doors will catch so many eyes. Once you’ve got people’s attention, “Yeah, it is quicker than almost every car ever mass produced but seats 7… comfortably. Wanna drive it for a minute?” Cha-ching!
This is a beautiful car and the falcon-wing-doors are the halo feature. And best of all for many buyers: they will make ingress/egress much easier, and make loading mini humans and cargo into the back seats much easier. Brilliant.
Sir Elon Musk gets a lot of praise for plenty of brilliant ideas and wise moves on the chess board of the auto industry, but I think this is one that stands out. Ironic that so many people criticize him for it. I can’t really put myself in that thought process well enough to “get it,” I guess.
3 days till the official unveiling and initial deliveries. Who’s getting excited?!

Tesla Model X Gets Its Numbers From EPA

The long-awaited Tesla Model X is almost here, and we’ve got another sign that it’s ready to roll. Aside from getting its HOV-lane sticker and EV rebate eligibility from California, the X is also now listed on the US EPA’s website, which shows its official “fuel economy,” range, passenger and cargo space, and other specs. There are just two versions of the Model X listed so far, the P90D X and the 90D X. It’s not clear yet if Tesla will offer Model X SUVs with smaller (or larger) battery packs, but it’s presumed the company will — perhaps just after production ramps up a bit.
I took some screenshots comparing the Tesla Model X P90D and Tesla Model X 90D for your viewing pleasure (you’re welcome) and for easier reference here. Check ’em out:
Tesla Model X fuel economyTesla Model X Specs

92 MPGe (37 kWh/100 miles) and 89 MPGe (38 kWh/100 miles) — pretty wicked efficiency for an SUV that seats 7 and is quicker than almost every sports car ever produced, eh? Of course, that was expected, since the X is an electric vehicle, but it’s still very much worth highlighting.
Perhaps of more interest to soon-to-be owners and potential owners is range. As we noted the other day, the rated range of the Model X P90D recently rose to 150 miles (from 140 miles) in the design studio that only Signature X reservation holders invited to configure their cars are able to see. That might have simply changed at the last minute when the EPA rating was finalized. For the Tesla Model X 90D, range is predictably a bit better, sitting at 257 miles. Naturally, the range can vary a great deal based on how you drive the vehicle and external factors such as temperature.
Interestingly, from the “Specs” tab, the EPA says the Model X is not a “gas guzzler.” It also indicates passenger and cargo/luggage volume (separately), electric motor and battery size, and expected charging times. As I explained in my “Electric Car Charging 101″ piece, most electric cars have a 6.6 kW onboard charger, and a few have a 3.3 kW onboard charger, while the Model S has a 10 kW onboard charger or, if the buyer pays for the extra option, a 20 kW onboard dual charger. The X seems to have the same. To put that in terms that matter for the average human, here’s the point:
  • a 3.3 kW onboard charger allows an electric car to add ~11 miles of driving range in an hour at 240V;
  • a 6.6 kW onboard charger allows an electric car to add ~22 miles of driving range in an hour at 240V;
  • a 10 kW onboard charger allows an electric car to add ~29 miles of driving range in an hour at 240V;
  • a 20 kW onboard dual charger allows an electric car to add ~58 miles of driving range in an hour at 240V.
Yet another big benefit to Tesla vehicles.

The Reasonably Priced 200-Mile Electric Car May Exist Soon.

Does it seem like there is an announcement about a game-changing new battery technology every hour these days? Cella Energy in England says it has a system that will make a reasonably priced 200-mile electric car possible. It will be able to travel without ever recharging, theoretically. Instead, all a driver needs to do is drop a small hydrogen pellet into a hopper and motor on for another 200 miles. No wires, no plugs, no hoses, and no fuss. Sound a bit fanciful? Let’s take a closer look.
Cella employs just 20 people at its headquarters in Oxfordshire and has a laboratory at the NASA Space Centre in Florida. Using funding from the British government, it is already using this hydrogen pellet fuel cell system to triple the amount of time an Aerial Unmanned Vehicles (AUV) can stay airborne. It has a contract with the Israeli Defence Forces to supply the special batteries for use with medium-sized surveillance drones.
How would Cella’s technology work in automobiles? In an interview with the Sunday Express last week, Prof Stephen Bennington, Cella’s managing director, said: “We make a solid-state gas generator that provides clean hydrogen which you can feed into a small pure fuel cell and drop in as a battery replacement. That has huge implications.”
Cella Energy fuel cell systemThe energy is created when a hydrogen pellet – which can be the size of a marble – is heated up to 120 degrees. An electric control system then creates a continuous flow of hydrogen which is filtered into a fuel cell. The system is a third the weight of a lithium-ion battery, and the smallest batteries weigh a mere 1 kilogram.
Prof Bennington, who is also a professor of nanotechnology, says: “And, of course, this technology will finally give electric cars the range they need to be practical. Hydrogen fuel cells would allow an electric car to reach a range of, say, 210 miles which would mean you could take a proper trip to visit relatives in a reasonably priced electric car just by replacing the battery.”
We colonials may have a bit of cognitive dissonance as we try to wrap our heads around the idea that a fuel cell can also be called a battery, but keep in mind we are talking about England here, a land where a convertible is a drophead coupe, where you put your luggage in the boot, and where shock absorbers are called dampers.
The principal advantage of the Cella Energy system is that the hydrogen to run the fuel cell is contained in a small pellet that is chemically stable. No high-pressure storage tanks are needed; no volatile hydrogen gas needs to be stored on board. The pellets can be kept in the glove compartment, aka glove box, until needed.
Whether there is a future for the Cella Energy system for automotive transportation remains to be seen. We know little about how the company actually goes about making those hydrogen pellets, but this is something we will definitely keep our eye on.

This Is Why People Have Been Buying Electric Cars

Following up on the slew of EV survey results I’ve been sharing, this article focuses on the question of why people buy electric cars. However, I think it’s very important to remember that the data presented are from early “pioneer” buyers. Their primary reasons for buying EVs are not the same as what will stimulate mass-market buyers to buy EVs. Still, it is interesting to look at what is driving this initial ~1% of buyers.
Why People Buy EVs 3Why People Buy EVs 2Why People Buy EVs 1
Well, that’s pretty clear — the big attractions area:
  1. Save money on fuel.
  2. Protect the environment (aka, our health and well-being).
  3. Fun/excitement.
  4. HOV lane access (California) and avoidance of congestion charges (UK).
As we all know, it’s a relatively small percentage of the population that makes purchase decisions in good part based on environmental matters. However, many profess concern for the environment, and if given the choice between two products that are comparable in all ways except one is better for the environment, will choose the greener option. How much this will factor into future EV purchases, it’s really hard to know, but I think it will trail off as far as its role in the adoption of electric cars.
Saving money should become a more powerful driver as battery costs — and thus electric car costs — come down (which is basically a given), and as oil prices presumably rise.
The fun and convenience of driving electric cars are often identified as huge benefits once people own them, so I think these will become more potent stimulators of EV adoption as the market grows and word of mouth increases.
Of course, a lot more municipalities could help push EV adoption forward and clean up their air by implementing congestion charges and/or HOV lanes and exempting/including (respectively) electric vehicles. In fact, if many of the world’s large cities implement such things, they could greatly boost the electric vehicle market.
It will be interesting to see what such surveys find in 5 years and again in 10 years.
Again, these charts come from a recent UK study (h/t Herman Trabish). And, if you haven’t yet helped us better understand the EV market by answering our quick 7-question EV survey, please do so! You can also still complete our longer EV owner/lessee survey or wannabe EV owner/lessee survey.

Myth Busting Time: Electric Cars Do Indeed Work As Primary Cars

Pulling more fun charts from a recent UK study (h/t Herman Trabish) as well as a chart from our recent EV owner & lessee survey, I wanted to spend a few minutes busting the myth that “electric cars don’t work as primary cars” — and the even more ridiculous one, that you can’t get by owning/leasing only an electric car. The latter point is so ridiculous (especially to someone who has lived car-free for 11+ years) that I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it, but the first chart below is from our survey, which showed that about 21% (192) of the 920 respondents had only one car… meaning they had only an electric car.
EV Primary Car 3
Moving on to the issue of an EV being a “primary car” or not, one big issue here is subjectivity of language — what is a “primary car,” exactly? I’ll leave that to you to decide or discuss, but I’m taking it to mean the car you drive the most. As you may remember, a Consumer Reports dude who loves the Tesla Model S and led the crew that ranked the Tesla Model S P85D the best car it had ever tested commented in an interview that the car didn’t work as a “primary car.” Ridiculous. Shocking. Completely untrue.
When looking at the results below, remember that the Model S has far more range than most EVs, and can use the convenient and widely spread Tesla Supercharger network.
EV Primary Car 2
In this simple chart, you can see that a whopping 82% of surveyed British EV owners/lessees who have more than one car use their EV as their main car. I would consider a “main car” to be a “primary car.” Anyway, though, these cars are not tag-alongs that sit in the garage half the time. These cars are the cars their owners are primarily driving.
EV Primary Car 1
We see a very similar story in Norway. 81% of EV households in Norway with multiple cars use their electric cars every day. Only 6% of those households use a gasoline- or diesel-powered car every day. If you add up everyday usage and usage 3–5 days a week, you get 97% for the EVs and 21% for the gasmobiles. Um, case closed.
By the way, here’s a reminder: If you haven’t answered our quick 7-question EV survey yet, please do so! You can also still complete our longer EV owner/lessee survey or wannabe EV owner/lessee survey.