Thursday, June 29, 2017

ChargePoint Making Big Moves In Electric Vehicle Charging In US And Europe

ChargePoint, one of the largest electric vehicle charging networks in the world, has made two significant moves this week that will see its network grow even larger. In the US, the company is taking over management of the GE electric vehicle charging network, which consists of 1,800 commercial and 8,000 residential chargers. ChargePoint will maintain GE’s existing software and commercial charging spots, helping to make the change to ChargePoint as easy and seamless as possible for existing clients and drivers.

ChargePoint electric vehicle charging network

ChargePoint In North America

Existing GE customers will have access to the ChargePoint app to locate available chargers, track their usage, and schedule charging sessions. “A reliable and consistent charging experience is crucial for fostering EV adoption and these are the key elements that ChargePoint has integrated into our business model for more than a decade,” said Pasquale Romano, CEO and president of ChargePoint.
“We are excited to expand our network with the acquisition of GE’s network and have worked closely with the GE team to ensure a seamless transition for customers and drivers. We are growing globally and are the best equipped to bring former GE customers and drivers into the ChargePoint family.”With its comprehensive lineup of electric vehicle charging products, ChargePoint is able to serve customers wherever they go, whether at work, at home, or while travelling. It is laying the foundation for a future where electric mobility is convenient for anyone wherever they go.

ChargePoint In Europe

In Europe, ChargePoint has obtained an additional $43 million in funding that will be utilized to further accelerate development of its electric vehicle charging network on the Continent. Its European expansion will be made in partnership with  Siemens, the German technology company. The new funds will add to the previous funding round of $82 million led by Daimler. Once completed, the ChargePoint network in Europe will offer a full range of charging solutions for passenger cars, electric buses, and electric trucks throughout the region.
“ChargePoint is committed to laying a foundation for the future of mobility and this latest investment by Siemens Energy Management will further catapult our vision of creating the most ubiquitous and easy-to-use charging network Europe has ever seen,” says Romano. “Investment and partnerships with technology leaders like Siemens will enable our team to accelerate the expansion in Europe and encourage EV adoption in the region. Growing support from influential industry players and investors demonstrates widespread confidence in our business model and product and service portfolio.”
ChargePoint currently has more than 35,900 charging spots globally. More than 7,000 companies have already partnered with ChargePoint and hundreds of thousands of drivers have chosen the ChargePoint network to meet their charging needs. With expansions now planned in both North  America and  Europe, it is well on its way to becoming the preeminent electric vehicle charging network in the world and is well positioned to be a leader of the coming electric vehicle revolution.
Source: ChargePoint

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Audi Claims 100 Euro Per Kilowatt Hour Battery Cost

When the Audi e-tron quattro arrives in 2018, its battery cost for the all electric SUV may cost as little as €100 per kilowatt-hour. That’s according to Dr. Peter Martens, who was named the company’s head of research and development last month. Speaking to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Martens was asked why Audi decided to make its first electric car a relatively large sport utility vehicle.
Audi e-tron quattro battery cost
“We opted for a top-down strategy, because most buyers will be found there today in this segment. Currently, a kilowatt hour costs about 100 euros, depending on the model.” That certainly makes sense, given that such vehicles are the most popular vehicle style in most major markets around the world today. “Only when we come well below that price, will E-mobility in volume segments be interesting,” Martens added.
Audi e-tron Sportback
Last week, Audi announced that it will put its e-tron quattro Sportback (someone at Audi really needs to take a class in capitalization) into production in 2019. The Sportback is a sleeker, more stylish version of the SUV specifically aimed for folks who want little to no utility included in their sport utility vehicles.
It is a continuation of a new fad in the automobile industry to build large vehicles that can carry a basketball team inside — together with a whole lot of basketballs — but look like swoopy coupes instead of a boxy box on wheels.
Both cars will be nearly identical under the skin and both will have a 95 kWh battery. If Martens is correct, that battery should cost Audi about $10,000 per vehicle. Martens told AMUS that Audi expects to make a profit on the new cars but not as much as it does on its traditional offerings.
Bear in mind that the cost of battery cells is one thing. Putting them together into a battery pack with sophisticated cooling and battery management systems in place can raise the total cost considerably.
Despite the happy talk from Martens, workers at the company are less than thrilled with senior management at Audi. A report by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag last week claims an internal memo is being circulated that is sharply critical of CEO Rupert Stadler. In it, Stadler and the board are slammed for not adequately preparing the company for the future, citing “disastrous” indecision at key junctures in the recent past.
Elon Musk has been begging mainstream manufacturers to make “compelling” electric cars for years. Beginning in 2018, several companies, including Audi, will start marketing the cars they think will meet Musk’s challenge. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
Source: Inside EVs

Chevy Bolt Outguns Volkswagen GTI In Drag Race

The Volkswagen Golf GTI was one of the first “hot hatchback” cars way back in the 80’s, when it was known in America as the Rabbit. Now in its 8th generation, the Golf GTI has been massaged and polished into a gem of a car that now features a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine that enthusiasts would have killed for back when the GTI was first created. But how does it fare against the Chevy Bolt, General Motors’ first mass produced all electric car (not counting the ill fated EV1, of course)?
Chevy Bolt drag race
The Fast Lane Car pitted the two against each other on a straight section of road to find out. No fancy drag strip with electronic timing and Christmas tree starting lights. No one foot roll out. Nothing except some straight asphalt with a few potholes, two cars, two drivers, and a few cameras.
The Golf GTI is able to scoot to 60 mph in about 6 seconds. The Chevy Bolt is maybe an eyelash slower. But the variable in all acceleration contests is the driver. It’s the age old conundrum that has made 4,657 Tesla versus the world drag race videos possible. In an electric car, maximum torque is available at zero rpm. Press the right pedal and go. No revving the engine. No finding just the right clutch release point. No waiting for the power to arrive as the turbo spools up.
So how did the Bolt do against one of the perennial favorites in the performance small car field? Very nicely, thank you very much. It took two out of three races against the GTI and the race it lost was only by a whisker.
The message is that electric cars are just as quick as their gasoline powered cousins, so there is no reason to think driving electric means being consigned to life in the slow lane.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Connected And Autonomous Car Security Subject Of Congressional Concern

Everybody and their brother is salivating at the thought of connected and autonomous car technology. The cars of tomorrow will communicate with each other and with transportation infrastructure to speed drivers quickly and safely from place to place. They will create new business opportunities as people give up owning private cars and participate in ride sharing and ride hailing services instead.
Autonomous car survey AAA

Reduced Congestion

In theory, congestion in cities could be slashed by up to 90% because one fully utilized autonomous car does the work of ten traditional cars. People will be able to turn commuting time into productive time once they no longer need to keep eyes on the road. (Even though we know 98% of them will use that extra time to take selfies or play solitaire on their digital devices.) Injuries and fatalities from motor vehicle collisions will be significantly reduced because self driving cars simply won’t get into road accidents in the first place (we hope).
Car makers like Tesla paint a portrait of an autonomous car future transportation that positively glows with promise. It reminds one of the Steely Dan song about the wonders that would flow from the first International Geophysical Year. “What a beautiful world this will be. What a glorious time to be free.”

Cyber Security Is An Illusion

Are there any holes in this scenario of wonderment? Yes, in fact there are. Cyber security, as we learned during the last election, is fraught with danger. Even apart from international intrigue, hackers are routinely able to break into the data systems of large banks and retailers and cart off millions of customer records. Identity theft is big business. And computers, despite their many virtues, sometimes fail.
“Once a vehicle connects to the Internet, it is hackable,” says Yoni Heilbronn, chief marketing officer for Argus Cyber Security in Israel. “A vehicle has multiple penetration vectors, with 100 million lines of software code and an average of 10,000 known software bugs in it when it rolls out of Detroit or Stuttgart.” Hardly comforting words, are they.

In Search Of The Goldilocks Solution

The Senate Commerce Committee is holding hearings about this issue as it considers legislation that would establish connected and autonomous car standards. The auto industry is urging Congress to act so there is one uniform set of rules that apply nationwide. Having to deal with 50 sets of rules in 50 different states would delay the process dramatically. But they don’t want Congress to make the rules too burdensome, either.
“We think the best way to realize your objective is to have a dynamic approach,” Mitch Bainwol, president of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, told the Commerce Committee. “Our fear is that standards would become obsolete very quickly.” There is some truth to that. Regulations tend to lock down the process to a particular date and time. Once rules are in place, they are hard to change as new innovations emerge. Older readers may remember it took the federal government about 40 years to overturn the mandate that all cars sold in America have sealed beam headlights.

Self Regulation = No Regulation

But there is another side of the coin, according to Senator Ed Markey. “History shows that with airbags and with seat belts, unless there’s a mandate it’s just not [happening]. Unfortunately, the industry moves slowly. The best players move voluntarily, the worst players don’t. And the worst players are the ones that cause all the damage out on the highways. You can’t just leave it up to any one manufacturer to do it,” Markey added. “You need to have every one of the players accepting that as a responsibility. Otherwise the streets won’t be safer. These vehicles will be hacked.”
It’s not all about automotive safety. Connected cars will store a lot of personal information onboard about their owners — credit card information, e-mail and contact list data, and social media passwords no name just a few. “We should not have to choose between being connected and being protected,” said Senator Markey. He added that federal standards should be dynamic and constantly upgraded.

Greed Is Not So Good After All

Legislation is expected to be filed later this year that will establish the ground rules going forward. Some will moan about government regulations always gumming up the works, increasing the cost of doing business and limiting job growth. But leaving it to corporations to self regulate hasn’t worked out too well in the past. From Enron to Lehmann Brothers, the age old curse of greed has overcome good intentions every time.
Source: Automotive News

Elaphe In Wheel Motors Power BMW X6 Test Vehicle

Ever noticed how once you hear of something new, suddenly you hear about it everywhere you go? Just a few days ago, we did a story about the Michelin Vision 3D printed wheel. One person commented that it would be ideal if it had an electric motor embedded into it. Yesterday, we got an e-mail from Luka Ambrozic, an engineer who is also a spokesperson for Elaphe Motors, a Slovenian company that is doing pioneering work with in wheel motors.

Elaphe in wheel motors

Elaphe Distributed Propulsion System

The are several important features about what Elaphe calls is distributed propulsion system. First, the in wheel motors are compatible with standard disc brakes and require no modifications to the axle hubs or bearings.  That’s a huge advantage. Second, they offer true all wheel drive capability. Thanks to sophisticated electronics, each wheel can get precisely the amount of power and torque it needs and no more.
With all due respect to Elon Musk and his battalions of outstanding engineers, a Tesla with dual motors has four wheel drive, not all wheel drive. That’s a small but important distinction. Four separate electric motors allow for torque vectoring, a snazzy new buzz phrase that means each wheel can operate independently from the other three.

More Power, More Torque

Elaphe has fitted a BMW X6 with what it calls its electric in wheel motors and tested it against a conventionally powered X6. The car equipped with in wheel motors was faster than the original — both forward and backward! Watch the video for proof of its prowess. The dramatic music makes it highly entertaining.

Ambrozic says, “We completely transformed the car. We took out everything that had to do with the inefficiencies of the internal combustion engine and central architecture and replaced it with electrical components, plus added a battery.
“But what makes this car special is the way the vehicle is driven. It uses 4 high torque direct drive electric motors, mounted completely inside the rims, built around a standard disc brake and bearing. It’s just incredible what innovative in-wheel technology can do.” The European Union has given Elaphe Motors a €1 million grant to develop the technology and find industrial partners.

New Automotive Design Possibilities

The possibilities for the automobile industry created by in wheel motors are enormous. Putting the power of a car in the wheels themselves opens up many new and innovative packaging solutions for people and cargo. Even though cars will always need a significant crash structure out ahead of the passenger compartment (at least until self driving technology eliminates collisions), eliminating bulky electric motors will open up many new design solutions.

Better Handling, Too

One thing we don’t know is how adding the mass of the in wheel motors affects the ride and handling characteristics of a vehicle. But the company offers this hint: “With an improved center of gravity and exceptional weight distribution, this large SUV (the BMW X6) is able to reach 1.08 lateral g’s of acceleration during cornering, putting it alongside the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Porsche 911 GT3 RS and McLaren 650 S Spider.”
That certainly sounds promising. We would be happy to send a Gas2 representative (I am available, btw) on a trip to Slovenia to find out first hand what driving the electrified X6 is like and report on our findings.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Alta Says Its Electric Motorcycle Battery Has Highest Energy Density

The Alta Redshift MX electric motorcycle is designed to compete successfully against the best off-road bikes in the world. To do that, it needs a great battery that is both powerful and light in weight. Even though it begins with the same 18650 lithium ion battery cells as Tesla uses in its Model S and Model X cars, it packages them in a way that is unique to Alta. The result is an electric motorcylcle battery with higher energy density than virtually any other battery in a production vehicle.

Alta electric motorcycle battery
“We’re right around 180 Wh/kg, which is about 20-30% higher than the current Tesla Model S. We believe the Model 3 will probably be on par with where we are today, although they haven’t announced numbers yet, so we can’t calculate it,” says Rob Sweney, Alta’s director of advanced powertrains.

The Secret Sauce

Battery cells are battery cells. It’s how you put them together that makes the difference. Alta builds its own electric motorcycle battery pack and thermal management system with help from two companies you have probably never heard of. Kevin Kim, Alta’s head mechanical engineer, explains. “Unfortunately we can’t disclose too many details about the interconnect system because it’s proprietary. I will say that the system allows us to very effectively cool the battery using passive (air-cooled) methods, with no need for liquid cooling. We describe it as being passively air-cooled, and it helps keep the weight down significantly.
“Passive cooling means that the thermal conductivity of the materials that surround the cells is very important. After some testing, we found that a two-part polyurethane from Wevo-Chemie (a German company that specializes in casting, bonding, and sealing resin solutions) had the highest thermal performance, so it became a critical component in our system as an adhesive.”
The bonding agent has to be strong, light, and provide a high degree of electrical insulation. “For any battery pack, you have to balance the need to take away heat from the system while dealing with the high voltage electrical challenge,” says Kim. “Usually things that are good at conducting heat are also good at conducting electricity.
“Optimizing for those two goals is a fundamental challenge of any battery pack design, so this implementation with the Wevo-Chemie material is part of our solution to improve that tradeoff, because it conducts heat extremely well and at the same time has a high dielectric strength – so it’s also electrically insulating.” It helps that the bonding agent also has a bit of give to it. That helps the pack stay together under the rigors of off-road riding.

Getting The Sauce Where It’s Needed

Once Alta found the bonding agent it wanted, the problem became how to use it in its electric motorcycle manufacturing process. For that, the company turned to Scheugenpflug, another German specialist. The Wevo-Chemie material has to be mixed precisely with a catalyst just at the time of use. The main ingredient is about the same consistency as peanut butter. The catalyst is thin like water. Scheugenpflug was the only company that had ever built a machine that could mix the two together successfully on a production line.
Christian Geier, general manager at Scheugenpflug USA explains. “When an adhesive contains a lot of filler material, in this case inorganic fillers, it can increase the complexity of the production equipment. For instance, the inorganic fillers can be incredibly abrasive and quickly wear out dispensing machine components. Depending on the material, each system is designed based on the needed application.”

It Ain’t Rocket Science

Advances in battery technology are happening everywhere around the world. Recently, the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems in Dresden announced a new system for packing more battery cells into less space. The result is a battery that fits in the same space as a conventional battery but can double the effective range of an electric car. Building a battery with high energy density isn’t rocket science, but it’s close.

Other Applications

According to Business Insider, Alta CEO Marc Fenigstein has plans to use its proprietary battery technology to build batteries for other companies. “The technology, the architecture, and the capabilities that we built as a company in introducing the Redshift have very, very broad applicability across lightweight vehicles,” Fenigstein said. “Really nobody in the market can build a drivetrain for a small vehicle that is as compact, robust, or economical as ours is for a given range and power.”
Source: Charged EVs

2018 Nissan LEAF — More Stylish And With ProPilot Technology

In a popularity contest between Tesla the Tesla Model 3 and the Nissan LEAF, the LEAF would finish third. By all accounts (several Gas2 readers own them and speak highly of them) the Nissan LEAF is a great car, but it looks like it was styled back in the 90’s. The Model 3 is world class in appearance. The LEAF has also struggled with limited range for most of its life.
2018 Nissan LEAF
2018 Nissan LEAF. Credit: AutoGuide
The 2018 Nissan LEAF is about to change all that. It will feature a new body that if not exactly earth shattering in design at least looks more mainstream than its predecessor. And it will be available with ProPilot, Nissan’s answer to Telsa’s Autopilot. To be fair, ProPilot is not as sophisticated as Autopilot yet, but Nissan is easing its way forward while Tesla is racing to batter down all the barriers to full autonomy.
At the outset, ProPilot will automatically control steering, acceleration, and braking within a given lane on the highway. It won’t change lanes on its own or guide the car onto a connecting freeway. It won’t be able to handle city traffic. But it’s a start and it’s more than most other manufacturers are offering in their cars today. Look for it soon on other cars in the Nissan model lineup.  Watch the video to learn more.
In coming years, ProPilot will get smarter. Gareth Dunsmore, director of electric vehicles at Nissan Europe says: “The ultimate embodiment of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the new Nissan LEAF will be the most advanced, accessible EV on the market, today. Adding ground-breaking ProPILOT technology to the new Nissan LEAF will prove invaluable in unlocking many of the benefits of electric vehicles, creating less congested, cleaner cities for future generations.”
The next generation LEAF will have one feature everyone will be happy about — more range. It is rumored the new car will be able to travel up to 200 miles on a single battery charge. That’s more then twice as far as the original when it first hit the market 6 years ago. Look for it in showrooms this fall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Kia Tops 2017 JD Power Initial Quality Ratings, Tesla Opts Out

After tabulating responses from more than 80,000 new car buyers, JD Power has announced the winners of its 2017 Initial Quality awards. For the second year in a row, Kia came out on top of all the manufacturers who sell cars in the US market. Kia’s corporate cousin, Genesis, came in second. Surprisingly, Hyundai, the parent company of both Kia and Genesis finished down in 8th place. JD Power Initial quality 2017 Kia

“Our back-to-back chart-topping … performances reconfirm Kia’s status as today’s world-class automaker and reflect the exacting standards and craftsmanship our team members instill into every car, crossover and SUV Kia builds,” said Michael Sprague, chief operating officer of Kia Motors America.
When Kia first entered the American market 20 years ago, the quality of its cars was abysmal, but the company dedicated itself to making improvements and that effort has paid off for the company. Consumers place a lot of weight on such surveys and the recent high ratings have helped boost sales in the US. GM. Ford, and Chrysler all saw their ratings in the initial quality survey improve as well.
JD Power says, “An increasing number of consumer-reported problems sounds warning bells for automakers and suppliers,” the study said. Customers complain frequently about voice recognition systems that don’t actually recognize voices and Bluetooth connectivity that fails. Collision avoidance and lane departure systems also come in for a fair amount of criticism. Years ago, people used to complain about leaky sunroofs or trim pieces falling off. Now, dissatisfaction with elements of the digital world head the list of annoyances. Overall, initial quality numbers rose 8% over last year for the industry as a whole.
“The Initial Quality Study continues to demonstrate the critical importance of automakers responding to consumer feedback regarding vehicle quality,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Any automaker that stands still will quickly start to fall behind. For consumers, the great news is that significant improvements are occurring in all model segments, meaning that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a quality vehicle.”

Where Are The Numbers For Tesla?

Missing from the survey numbers is any information about Tesla. That’s because Tesla declines to share data with JD Power. According to Automotive News, California law allows manufacturers to opt in or opt out of such sharing. Tesla has chosen to opt out, the only company to do so. “I don’t know that they’re hiding anything. They just don’t want to participate,” says Dave Sargent. “They don’t want to play this game. We’re hoping they will come to the party because we’re increasingly getting this question.”
This spring, JD Power did a special report entitled “Tesla: Beyond the Hype.” Based on extensive personal interviews with Tesla owners, JD Power researchers found that owners had many areas of concern but those issues did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm for their cars. They love them anyway, regardless of any faults.
Source: USA Today

Imbalance Between Demand For Trucks, SUVs, and Sedans Leads To Layoffs In Auto Industry

Sales of sedans continue to plummet in the US as customers opt for more and more light trucks and SUVs. Through the first five months of this year, sales of sedans fell 11 percent and truck sales rose 4.7 percent. That means manufacturers in the auto industry are slashing the number of sedans produced and increasing truck and SUV production, leading to layoffs at the factories where those sedans are made.
auto industry sedan sales
Ford just made a corporate decision to stop building its Focus small sedan in America and shift production to China by 2019. The workers who built the Focus will transition to building SUVs instead.
Workers at GM’s Lordstown factory are feeling the pain. Lordstown is where the slow selling Chevy Cruze. Those falling sales caused the company to cancel the third shift on January 20 — the day Donald Trump was inaugurated. “This is about economics, not what Trump says,” said Robert Morales, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 which represents workers at GM’s Lordstown stamping plant. “Even if Trump went out and bought 10,000 Cruzes a month, he wouldn’t get the third shift back here.”
The auto industry has been responsible for much of America’s productivity gains for the past several years. Mark Muro, of the Brookings Institution, has pulled together information that shows the industry was responsible for most of new US manufacturing jobs in 2015 and 2016.
In the first quarter of 2017, the auto industry accounted for only 2 percent of the 45,000 manufacturing jobs created. “There’s no argument with the idea that auto has been pulling the manufacturing sled up the mountain for the last three or four years,” Muro said. “If you take auto out, you’re left with a very tepid outlook indeed.” The Federal Reserve last week said factory output fell 0.4 percent in May, caused in part by a 2 percent drop in motor vehicles and parts production.
GM will close the Lordstown factory for 5 weeks this summer — three more than usual — in order to reduce dealer inventories of the Chevy Cruze. Some workers may transition to GM’s SUV assembly plant in Arlington, Texas but that means uprooting families, pulling kids out of school, and selling homes — decisions not taken lightly.
At Lordstown, the union and workers are trying to raise their game. The factory recently won an award for local innovation for developing a new part that helps the Chevy Cruze run better. When GM goes looking for factories to build new products, they hope their initiative will help swing new work their way. “We’re working hard to make the best product we can,” said Glenn Johnson, president of UAW Local 1112 at Lordstown, “so we can raise our hands and say to GM ‘look at what we can do.”
The solution is higher gas prices, but with the price of crude oil down and looking to go lower, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. If Congress had any leadership capability at all, it would simply raise the federal gasoline tax to $1.00 a gallon, let the chips fall where they may. $2 dollar a gallon gasoline is just ludicrous if the US has any realistic intention of addressing carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Little chance of that actually happening, though.
Source: Reuters via Autoblog

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tesla Close To Announcing New Factory In Shanghai

Rumors of a new Tesla factory in Shanghai, China, have been flying around the internet for months. And just as quickly as they popped up, Tesla batted them away, saying they were just speculation, there was nothing official, it was looking at several locations in China, it had made no decision yet, and things of that nature.
Tesla China plans
Now, according to Bloomberg, an official announcement will come as soon as next week. Unnamed sources say the company has reached an agreement with the city of Shanghai to construct a new factory in the Lingang development zone. Under Chinese law, Tesla will be required to enter into a joint venture with a local Chinese company in order to get permission to build a factory there. The Silicon Valley–based company is anxious to avoid the 25% import duty it currently pays to bring its cars into China.
The reports so far do not reveal who Tesla’s partner might be. Nor do they indicate whether another battery factory will be constructed either at the manufacturing site or at a separate location in the country. Elon Musk said recently that Tesla is considering up to 12 new battery factories in various locations around the world in coming years.
With the Chinese government apparently sticking to its plan requiring all automakers to sell enough “new energy vehicles” to garner credits equal to 8% of total sales starting in 2018, the Chinese market for electric cars, which already dwarfs other electric car markets, could get that much bigger. It’s a business opportunity that Tesla cannot afford to miss. The Chinese new car market is also the largest in the world, with more than 23 million new vehicles sold annually.
Tencent Holdings, China’s biggest internet company, purchased a 5% share in Tesla earlier this year. Having support from such a high-profile Chinese company has to be good news for Tesla in a country where up to 200 companies have expressed interest in building electric cars.

Chevy Bolt Is IIHS Top Safety Pick

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the Chevrolet Bolt a 2017 Top Safety Pick rating. It is the first all electric car to claim that distinction. Bear in mind that the IIHS is a private organization and should not be confused with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), a government agency that awarded its highest rating to the Tesla Model X last week. The NHTSA website says the Chevy Bolt has not yet been rated.
Chevy Bolt crash test
The Bolt received good ratings in all five IIHS crashworthiness tests — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. The Chevy Bolt also has an optional front crash prevention system otherwise known as automatic emergency braking. That system is tested at speeds of 12 miles per hour and 25 miles per hour. IIHS gave it a superior rating. To qualify for a Top Safety Pick award, the system must receive either an advanced or superior rating.
The only quibble the IIHS had with the Bolt was its headlights, which it rated poor. It says they do a fine job of lighting the road ahead but produce too much glare for oncoming drivers. Sounds more like an adjustment problem rather than a structural issue.
Chevrolet is making the Bolt available nationwide about a month sooner than originally planned. Dealers across America are now accepting orders, which Chevrolet says will lead to cars being delivered to dealers in all 50 states by late August. Chevrolet has also begun a national advertising campaign for the Bolt. Full page ads in the Washington Post and the New York Times appeared for the first time last Sunday.
Chevrolet says its advertising campaign will be carefully targeted to reach people who are likely Bolt owners. Darin Gesse, marketing director for the Chevy Volt and Chevy Bolt told the press last year that customers for both cars “are not typical Chevy customers” because they arrive at showrooms well informed about the cars because of the research they have done online beforehand. Digital and social media campaigns are more likely than television ads. “our customers don’t really watch television,” Gesse said.
Chevrolet says it has video taped sales people who are successful at selling electric cars and using those videos to train others. Selling cars that run on electrons instead of molecules requires a more consultative process than many sales people are used to. Complaints about clueless dealers and sales personnel have been common among electric car shoppers for years. Chevrolet has little direct control over how its franchise dealers operate, but is trying to address those complaints through education.

Source: Electric Cars Report         Photo credit: Green Car Report

Sunday, June 18, 2017

China’s CHJ Automotive Plans $7,900 Ultra Compact Electric Car

What Elon Musk and Tesla are doing for electric cars at the high end of the market, Chinese company CHJ Automotive plans to do for the low end. Co-founder Kevin Shen says the company plans to introduce an ultra compact electric car starting at around $7,800 in 2018. The company is working together with Clem, a French ride sharing service, to test the cars in Paris.
CHJ ultra compact electric car
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of strolling the Champs Elysee on a soft summer night, traffic in Paris is insane. Nobody in their right mind would drive there if they didn’t have to. The same is true in many parts of the world, from Amsterdam to Beijing.
A headline on CNBC calls the company a “Tesla rival” but that is not accurate. No self respecting Tesla owner would be caught driving one of these electric microcars. But Teslas are not appropriate for use in many parts of the world, as Shen explains.
“In China, there are 340 million people (who) daily commute with e-scooters, but there is a strong demand for them to upgrade to something. But we cannot imagine all off them driving cars, so we want to give them something else, which is an ultra-compact car.”
Shen is not worried that so few electric cars are currently sold in China. New government regulations will push that number higher very soon. With more than 25 million new cars sold every year in China, “There is a very big market for everybody,” says Shen. It is no coincidence that Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has said his company is working on an electric car for the Chinese market that will sell for less than $8,000.
The as yet unnamed car will be about 1 meter wide and 2.5 meters long. Shen says it will have a swappable battery and utilize Google’s Android Auto operation system. It plans to offer the car in Europe as well as China, but only as a ride sharing vehicle on the Continent.
Is the ultra compact car something we are likely to see in America? That seems unlikely. Being shorter and narrower than a Smart Car, the CHJ offering may be seem as “diminutive” rather than “ultra compact.” In a sea of pickup trucks and SUVs, it might seem too risky to drive on public streets.
But that size disadvantage may make it ideal for places like Mumbai, Tokyo, and any one of China’s 110 cities with a population of more than 1 million. That’s where a tiny, low performance electric car may be just the ticket for navigating a thicket of urban congestion and parking woes.
Source: CNBC

Friday, June 16, 2017

Texas EV Rebate Law Slaps Tesla Again, Musk Courts India

The Texas legislature wrapped up its latest session by passing a law renewing a $2,500 rebate for Texans who purchase a qualifying low or zero emissions car. The program began in 2013 as part of the state’s Emissions Reduction Program and applied to electric cars, fuel cell cars, and cars powered by compressed natural gas.
tesla store texas
The rebate was done away with by the legislature in 2015 but now it is back. There’s just one kicker — the program is administered by franchise car dealers in the Lone Star state. Since Texas law prohibits Tesla from selling cars directly to customers within the state, the rebate will not apply to Tesla.
Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, tells Green Car Reports the 2017 legislative session was “a pretty lousy session for the environment. The Legislature further weakened local and citizen rights to fight pollution, a win for the big polluters who fund their campaigns, but a clear loss for public health and the environment.”

Tesla Cozying Up To India

It is common knowledge that Tesla is looking to build more factories and some of them will be built in foreign countries. Elon Musk has said recently his company will be building up to 6 million cars a year soon. The Fremont factory is very near maximum capacity now with little room for  expansion.
India is projected to be the third largest automobile market soon and its government has announced it plans to restrict new car sales to only electric cars by 2030. Since Tesla manufacturers only electric cars, the allure of building and selling cars in India is obvious.
But before investing in a new factory, Musk would like to test the waters in India first to see if his products appeal to Indian consumers. And he would like a little help from the government to do that.
@jasveer10 In discussions with the government of India requesting temporary relief on import penalties/restrictions until a local factory is built
“They want to start selling the vehicles to understand the market in India,” Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, tells Quartz. “From a niche play, they want to get into the mass market.”
And why would India relax its import tariffs for one company and not others? Because Tesla’s corporate philosophy aligns perfectly with the goals of the national government and a Tesla factory would add plenty of new jobs for the citizens of the country.

If Elon feels comfortable tweeting that discussions with the government are in progress, it can be assumed they are going well. When it comes to prognosticating about where a future Tesla factory will be built, it is probably safe to put India in the “Highly Likely” category.