Archive for the ‘General’ Category


May 30

Is GM Preparing to Introduce an Affordable PHEV?


By Bill Rollins

Over the past seven years or so, GM has introduced numerous vehicles with varying amounts of electrification, from the all-electric Chevy Bolt, to the mild hybrids like the Buick LaCrosse eAssist. Other vehicles include the Spark, EREV Chevy Volt and ELR, and the PHEV Cadillac CT6.

But there has always been a compromise between the degree of electrification and product cost. We know that the Chevy Bolt is a major achievement, an EV with 238 miles of range, yet at an affordable price. So can similar strides be made with PHEV options?

Despite what the EPA may say, we all know that the Volt is not a PHEV, but an EV with a backup plan (EREV). Some Volt owners have literally driven 10’s of thousands of miles without using any gasoline. So as they say on the VoltStats website, “How can it be a hybrid if it doesn’t use any gas?”

So the only real PHEV that GM has in its stable is the PHEV CT6. For most of us, a car that costs more than $75,000 is not what we would call “affordable”. So how would GM solve the problem of high cost that is associated with the implementation of electric drive in a PHEV?

I believe that we may see GM’s cost effective solution in the near future. Recently, a couple of small news items from GM have aroused my curiosity. These items, although seemingly insignificant, point to the possibility that GM will introduce a moderately priced PHEV option in 2018, that being the Buick LaCrosse Hybrid.

In 2012, Buick introduced the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist technology. This was a mild hybrid system with a motor/generator (MG) mounted on the ICE that was driven by a larger and more robust accessory drive belt. This system was also known as the Belt Alternator Start or BAS system, as both the engine starter and alternator are replaced by the MG. More information on this vehicle can be found at the Buick website.

The general layout for this 2012 hybrid is shown below.

Photo Courtesy of Buick.

The MG in the eAssist LaCrosse was liquid-cooled and could provide up to 11.2 kW of motive power and 15 kW of regen.

Photo Courtesy of Buick

This Buick Hybrid utilized a small battery pack with cylindrical cells manufactured by Hitachi.

Photo Courtesy of Buick.

This battery pack was placed in the trunk of the LaCrosse.

Photo Courtesy of Buick.

Recently, Buick released their order book for the 2018 LaCrosse, and from this information it is noted that a Hybrid model is now available.

(Note: Select Buick, Print Book, LaCrosse, and print model, this provides a PDF of the ordering guide)

Now most of us would expect GM to provide the same hybrid system that is in the 2017 Chevy Malibu, the one which is also in the Chinese version of the LaCrosse. This production hybrid system includes a 1.8L, 4-cylinder engine combined with modified Gen 2 Volt transmission. It also includes a 1.5 kWh battery pack with 80 prismatic cells made by Hitachi.

However, if we look at the bottom of page 10 in the LaCrosse ordering guide, we see several new items, including a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, a six-speed transmission, and a parallel hybrid electric propulsion system. This seems eerily familiar, like the eAssist system of 2012. Are we getting just a mild hybrid in the American version of the LaCrosse, while the Chinese get the full blown hybrid similar to the Malibu? Sounds like a rip-off!

So I did some further investigation, and found that the 2018 LaCrosse does indeed have the Belt Alternator Start hybrid system. It can be seen on page 10 of this document, in the VIN code.

The optional engine is listed as LHN – ENGINE GAS, 4 CYL, 2.5L, L4, SIDI, DOHC, VVT, BAS, GEN 3, ALUM. Note the BAS designation in the engine description (Belt Alternator Start).

So now I am hopping mad, because the US version of the Buick LaCrosse doesn’t get the full blown hybrid like the Chinese model, but only the “mild” BAS hybrid system like we have seen in the past.

But as I look at the ordering information for this BAS Buick, I notice an interesting comment. This is noticed under RPO code HP5, the Hybrid Propulsion System. The power is noted as 20 kW Continuous.

Now as we know, the basic hybrid system typically is taking and delivering energy to a small battery pack as it accelerates, decelerates, climbs, and descends. The term “continuous” is not commonly used, as the power supply is ever changing. Usually the terminology used is “rated” power (or, up to 15 hp, as noted in the MG picture shown previously).

So let’s examine why this term “continuous” is significant. In this new HP5 hybrid system, the generator can draw 20 kW of power on a continuous basis (maybe even more on a short term basis). Let’s examine this system as if it were coupled with a battery pack from the 2017 Malibu Hybrid. The Malibu’s battery pack has 80 prismatic cells, supplied by Hitachi, and has a total energy of 1.5 kWh, but its usable energy is only 0.45 kWh. This hybrid battery pack is designed to be power dense, not energy dense.

So if you are climbing up a long hill, and your power demand is 20 kW, and, your battery is at its highest state of charge, then it will take 0.45/20 = 0.0225 hours or about 1 minute and 20 seconds to fully withdraw all of the battery’s usable energy.

Somehow, 1 minute and 20 seconds doesn’t fit my definition of “continuous”.

However, if this new Buick is designed as a PHEV, then a continuous draw of 20 kW would be more readily understood. On level ground in ideal conditions, my Gen 2 Volt will travel at 50 mph and only need a nominal 10 kW. It would seem reasonable that the LaCrosse could likely travel at this same speed, and while needing more than 10 KW, it probably doesn’t need as much as 20 kW. So could this mean that the new Buick LaCrosse HP5 hybrid is a plug-in? Maybe.

So as I looked for other supporting information, I discovered that last year, in California, GM sold 500 Chevy trucks and 200 GMC trucks with a new hybrid system. This link provides more information.

Here is an interesting quote from the article: “This new generation of eAssist is also more modular than the previous system, meaning it could be more easily used in front-wheel or rear-wheel drive drivetrain configurations and it’s capable of using more or fewer cells, based on power needs for each vehicle application.”

And here is a review on this limited series hybrid system. It is rated for only 10 kW, and has a small battery pack similar to the Malibu (same Hitachi cells), but with only 24 cells in lieu of the Malibu’s 80. The good news – it only adds about $500 to the cost of the truck!

So for $500, you get the MG, a liquid-cooled inverter, the battery pack, and all the interconnections, controls, instrumentation, etc. At least the cost is reasonable, even though the increase in fuel mileage seems modest. This following video is also informative.

So it seems that GM is testing the waters with this limited series BAS option for trucks. To me, this seems like a test for a more production-intent BAS hybrid system. So let’s examine some of the available information on this option. The following document provides a quick overview of this hybrid pickup truck system.

But looking at this document left me a little confused. Note that the system voltage is 86 volts. The older 2012 eAssist used 115 V! This just seemed counter intuitive. Lower voltage equates to higher currents and higher losses for the same power demand. Why would GM lower the voltage? Is there really a significant cost reduction for the lower voltage?
But then I reflected on plug-in implications. For smaller battery packs, which will likely be the norm in PHEV’s, it may be common for most people to just charge using standard 120 VAC outlets. But what would it take for 120 VAC to be rectified to a DC voltage that could charge the older 115 volt battery pack?

I then realized that It would likely require a transformer to first boost the 120 VAC to a higher voltage, so that after it was rectified it would provide >115 VDC. So by reducing the battery pack voltage to 86 VDC, our normal household power here in the US could provide ~108 VDC without the need to boost the voltage prior to rectification. See more at this link.

(Full Wave Rectification)

So in essence, our wall outlets are providing sinusoidal voltage wave forms that go to a peak of 170 volts and to a low of -170 volts (all at 60 cycles per second). The 120 VAC is the root mean square (RMS) voltage. To get maximum charging, a full-wave rectification system is needed, and its voltage would be nominally 170*0.637 or 108 VDC. So it is readily understood why the former 115 VDC battery configuration would not work with this simple charging configuration (voltage boost would be required). Thus, I believe this is the reason GM has reduced the battery voltage on this new eAssist system, because they intend to use the system in conjunction with plug-in battery packs, and this lower voltage keeps the charging system simple and cost effective.

So if I am correct, and the lower EAssist Voltage, combined with the “continuous” MG rating means we will see a PHEV Buick LaCrosse Hybrid for the 2018 model year, what will the battery pack be? Will it use cells from the Bolt EV? Will it use cells from the Volt/CT6? Could it use cells from the Malibu?

Since this system is designed with low capital cost in mind, my belief is that the liquid-cooled cells from the Bolt EV and Volt/CT6 are not the answer. The air-cooled cell configuration, as seen in the new Malibu Hybrid, seems to make the most sense. Besides, if the entire eAssist system used on the full size GM trucks; MG, inverter, battery pack, etc. only costs $500, how much do the 24 cells in the battery pack cost? They would have to be pretty reasonably priced.

But let’s look at the Li-Ion products from Hitachi.

Note that GM has used the Hitachi 4.4 Ah cylindrical batteries in their 2012 eAssist battery packs. Since then, they have used their 5.3 Ah Prismatic cells in the Malibu battery pack, as seen in the rendering below. GM seems to have partnered with Hitachi for the air-cooled battery packs that have been utilized with GM’s hybrid offerings.

Therefore, it seems logical that the GM/Hitachi relationship would continue for the lower cost BAS product line.

But since we only can have 24 cells in series (provides the 86 VDC), what if we package four (4) groups of 24 (96 cells total) in a battery pack. However, in lieu of the 5.3 Ah prismatic cells found in the Malibu Hybrid, we utilize the more energy dense 28 Ah cells shown at the bottom of the Hitachi webpage. Note that I can find references back to 2009, stating that these cells are in development. Maybe by now they have been thoroughly tested in the GM Battery Lab, and are ready for implementation.

If that is the case, the batteries as shown each have a capacity of about 0.1 kWh total energy. Thus, the aforementioned configuration would be a 9.6 kWh battery pack (total energy). If the energy window were about 75%, then the usable energy would be approximately 7.2 kWh, or about half that of a Gen 2 Volt.

For packaging, we could have four rows of 24 cells, with 2 rows in series (2 cells front to back, similar to Malibu battery pack). However, the second half of the battery could be mounted on top of the first. This still allows for cooling air flow to pass over just two cells in series as it does in the Malibu pack. I estimate the dimensions for this battery pack to be about 35” long, 16” wide, and 11” high (excludes connections, circuit boards, etc.). The weight of the cells would be about 69 kg or 152 lbs. The total pack would likely weigh in at a nominal 220 lbs or 100 kg. It would have a fan to pull cooling air through the housing and over the cells in the battery pack.

First, let’s consider the performance. With 20 kW continuous power available (and maybe more on an intermittent basis), the 2018 Buick LaCrosse Hybrid could drive electrically for about 25 miles at lower speeds and power demands. After that, it may not be quite as good as its full hybrid cousin the Malibu, but it could still potentially get EPA ratings in charge sustaining mode in the low 40’s. The 0 to 60 times probably won’t be as good as the V6, but they will probably be reasonable (7 to 8 seconds). Note that the base FWD LaCrosse only weighs about 50 pounds more than the Gen 2 Volt.
From the ordering guide, this hybrid option can be had with any of the three upper trim levels (Preferred, Essence, and Premium), but not on the AWD model.

Now how would this affect the cost? First, we are trading the V6 engine for an I-4. There should be some savings associated with that. Also, we are trading the new 9-speed automatic for the 6-speed automatic. This should provide more savings.

Now we add this new eAssist package with the MG, inverter, battery pack, and other miscellaneous components. It seems that the real question would be the cost of the battery pack, as the other hybrid components, while larger than those in the pickup truck package, but are probably only incrementally more than the pickup version. So, we could potentially see an upgrade in the Buick LaCrosse from ICE-driven to PHEV that could be in the neighborhood of $2000!

So imagine if Buick (GM) could pull this off! We could have a premium luxury car with all the comforts; power seats with memory, heads up display, true 5 passenger seating with copious legroom, and one of the quietest cabins in the industry. A spacious PHEV luxury car with world class efficiency and comfort, but yet at an affordable price!

Here’s to hoping.


May 29

Tesla Model 3 Specs Unveiled In Leaked Product Sheet


By Sam McEachern

Specifications for the upcoming Tesla Model 3 sedan have been unveiled through a leaked product sheet from an apparent inside source.

The product sheet (below), which was posted on Model 3 Owners Club forum, compares the Model 3’s performance parameters and features with those of the Model S. The base Model 3’s range will sit at 215 miles (compared to 249 miles for the entry-level Model S 75) and it will sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds (compared to 5.0 seconds flat in the Model S 75).

The Model 3’s dimensions were also made public in the product sheet, with the length measuring 184.8 inches and the total cargo volume sitting at 14 cubic feet – counting both the rear trunk and front “frunk.”

By comparison, the Model S is 196 inches long and carries a cargo volume of 30 cubic feet. The Model S can also carry seven passengers if the rear-facing jump seats are used, whereas the Model 3 will be limited to just five persons max.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model 3 Caught Road Testing – Video

The Model 3 won’t be as customizable as the Model S, either. On the other hand, the Model S is available in over 1,500 possible configurations between its various powertrains, different interior and exterior colors and optional extras, the Model 3 will be offered in less than 100 variants. Additionally, the Model 3 won’t get any “Premiuim Features,” which on the Model S consist of auto-presenting door handles, a HEPA cabin filter and Tesla’s Smart Air Suspension system.

Further differentiating the two is the availability of free unlimited charging on the Model S and the lack thereof for the Model 3. This is a less important factor, however, seeing as the only way to get free unlimited charging on the Model S from now on will be to receive a referral code from pre-existing Model S owners.

Initial production is reportedly due in July, but a long line of people means delay in receipt of a new Model 3 for new orders.

Otherwise, new Model 3s ordered now are is expected to arrive sometime in the middle of next year. Musk said the company plans on producing more simplified versions of the vehicle initially, before introducing more model variants and options as production goes on.



May 26

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review – Video


Chevrolet’s 238-mile range Bolt EV is a major leap forward among mass-appeal electric cars and for now arguably the best.

Why? Several reasons that add up to a nicely designed vehicle that does what it’s supposed to, while being enjoyable to motor around in, and boasting amazing efficiency as well.

As the first EV with over 200 miles range priced in the 30s – a few dollars under $30,000 with a $7,500 federal tax credit – it is General Motors’ badge of corporate technological pride. Until now, you’d have to have spent twice as much if you wanted the range the eco car from Chevrolet now provides.

Of course the Bolt won’t be utterly unique for long, as Tesla’s sleek 215-or-more range Model 3 is due in July and to be priced from $35,000, Tesla has said, plus likely destination fee. Also, Nissan’s next Leaf is to be unveiled in September, it’s to be a more-similar competitor to the Bolt, and others in this range-for-dollar metric are on the next 2-3 year horizon.

But today you can order a Bolt EV which began sales in Oregon and California last October, is rolling out across the country as we speak, and to be nationally available by summer. It won’t have to be an option-packed version stickering a few thousand higher than base, as the Model 3 is expected to initially be with its long line of reservation holders, and the Bowtie-brand car is a solid contender in its own right.

In talking up the collaboration between General Motors and South Korea’s LG Chem and LG Electronics which contributed 11 major components to the Michigan-built EV, engineers have displayed confidence that the car is well executed.

A strict budget did necessitate strategic cost-cutting, and the long-term reliability record is something we’ll have to wait and see on, but if the durability of the 2011-2017 Chevy Volt is any indicator, odds are favorable that the Bolt will be as good as its initial impressions.

Quick Long Range Runner

It all starts with the drivetrain, as that’s basically what the purpose-built EV is centered around. Almost all details impress, beginning with the 60-kWh heated and liquid-cooled battery.

This 960-pound (435 kg) pack is integrated as a strength-increasing structural member in the floor, as GM utilized a “skateboard” chassis style that other EVs do also – and which GM developed for fuel cell prototypes in the early 2000s, but never used until now.

The Bolt EV weighs a rather portly 3,580 pounds, has an OK .308 cd, and a very high 119 “MPGe” energy efficiency measure. The net result is it runs 20 miles farther on the EPA combined cycle than a more aerodynamic but heavier and larger Tesla Model S 60.

GM had already broached upon the formula of quick front-wheel-drive electric cars by way of the limited market and now discontinued Spark EV, and that formula was carried forward to the Bolt with 200 horsepower (150 kW) and 266 pounds-feet of torque. Characteristic of electric motors, the torque is “instant” and available from 0 rpm.

Not your granddad’s old Chevy.

This much power enables 0-30 mph in 2.9 seconds, 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, top speed of 92 mph (was also listed by GM at 91 as mentioned in the video) and that translates to not boring, especially next to a 10-second Nissan Leaf – or Toyota Prius hybrid or Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

The Bolt’s 238-miles combined range – 255 city, 217 highway – means one may not have to charge it daily. Naturally, charging a less than completely drained battery takes less than official times for a depleted one, and realistically owners can be back on the road in a few hours from home level 2 (240 volt) charging.

Even in areas where charging is not plentiful, the Bolt has so much range that home charging is enough for regional traveling without undue stress that you’ll run out of charge.

That said, level 1 (120-volt) adds a paltry four miles range per hour, requiring 60 hours for a full refill. Level 2 via the 7.2-kW onboard charger adds about 25 miles range per hour, or a complete charge in just over nine hours.

Bolt EV battery system. Even in areas where charging is not plentiful, the Bolt has so much range that home charging is enough for regional running without undue stress that you’ll run out of charge.

A $750 optional port enables public level 3 DC fast charging which adds 90 miles range in 30 minutes to the pack at a peak charge rate of around 50 kilowatts.

Critics have asked why GM would not offer quicker charging like Tesla does which can more than double this rate. Engineers dance around this question, but it may have to do with balancing all desired attributes in the LG chemistry and maximizing life.

Avoids the Nerd Look

Designed in South Korea, the Bolt EV makes good use of the flat platform afforded by the battery in floor chassis.

Swooping compound shapes in the flanks, 17-inch wheels, a somewhat hawk-like front visage and shapely high-visibility tail-lights round out the package.

The profile with rear-sloping roofline is becoming popular, and GM calls the over-sized hatchback a “compact crossover” while it’s classified by the EPA as a small wagon.

Very short overhangs maximize occupant and cargo space on a 102.4-inch wheelbase, and are reminiscent of a BMW i3, but the Bolt appears less quirky and more “mainstream.”

The Chevy however weighs 700-800 pounds more than the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic all-electric BMW, which may be a more sophisticated car in several respects, but not in the range for dollar department, as it’s only rated 114 miles with a 94 Ah battery.

Meanwhile, the inside of the Bolt does its best to maximize available space, and GM pulled a move akin to Dr. Who’s TARDIS for a vehicle that’s subcompact on the outside and midsized on the inside.

Its 95 cubic feet passenger volume plus 16.9 cubic feet cargo volume is within the EPA’s 110-119 cubic feet “midsized” scope. If it were classified as a sedan as the Leaf is, it would be midsized.

This is enabled by details like carved out seatbacks, but mainly thanks to the flat floor which let the designers optimize the five-seater to be roomier than the Chevrolet Volt. In fact, its 95 cubic feet total volume is a nominally above Tesla’s large-class 94-cubic feet volume Model S and Model X, though some of this is due to the Bolt’s high ceiling. Also, due to arcane rules from the 1970s, the EPA does not count the Tesla’s front trunk called a “frunk” toward available cargo volume.

Style-wise, the Bolt is airy, and non-confining, with plenty of leg and head room up front, good space in the back although the high-up rear bench seat has only adequate headroom for folks over 6 feet, 0 inches.

While cost-savings on plastic materials is evident, the look is contemporary, and made to feel more upscale and techno-feeling with an 8-inch main instrument cluster accompanied by a 10.2-inch infotainment screen. Advanced cruise control is not however available, and would be welcome on future model years.

Included is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, plus OnStar 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot. Navigation is by OnStar turn by turn or your connected smartphone, and plenty of other data is shown, including charging and energy usage. At night a blue LED strip adorning the dash along with strategically lit buttons add to an inviting futuristic feel.

The 16.9 cubic-feet cargo volume with rear 60/40 bench seat back up is respectable, and Chevrolet notes it edges out the Honda Fit (16.6 cubic feet) and the BMW i3 (15.1 cubic feet).

A stow-able false floor in back comes out and can be conveniently lowered or tucked in another position providing space to stash things, though there is no spare to replace a self-sealing 215/50-17 Michelin Energy Saver tire. In our Premier trim model, a Bose subwoofer and amplifier occupied the cavity where a space-saver spare might have gone.

The floor is not perfectly flat with seat folded down, but there’s enough cargo room to potentially lie a bicycle or other largish objects thanks to the tall ceiling.

The Premier comes with rails for an accessory bike rack. At least two brands of rear hitches are now available for adding a rear rack as well.

Safety wise, the Bolt has 10 air bags and the chassis itself is strong, being comprised of seven types of steel strategically placed plus aluminum for the door, front quarter panel, and hood skins.

The upscale Premier we drove has a rear camera mirror and a 360-degree Surround Vision system gives a bird’s eye view by stitching multiple camera images together. This system is handy for perfectly fitting within the lines at a parking lot, but the front and rear cameras have noticeably lower resolution than the side cameras that are located in the bottom of the side view mirrors. This leads to an oddly blocky overall look on the surround view image where these lower and higher resolution cameras are stitched together.

The Bolt has a camera in back that lets the mirror double as a rear-view monitor that can stay on while driving. It takes an adjustment in focal length, and some people with glasses may find it difficult to adjust vision to it.

Other features optional on the LT, and standard on the Premier are Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Park Assist and Cross-Traffic Alert. Also in place as part of a $1,000 option on the Premier car driven was GM’s Forward Collision Alert, Lane-Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and a Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking plus Front Pedestrian Braking.

Driving On Electric Avenue

Engaging the one-speed transmission via Chevrolet’s first shift and park-by-wire shifter is a simple action that lets the car set out in quiet motion accompanied by a requisite space-shippy sound at low speeds to alert pedestrians. This is typically only heard outside, or with windows down.

Acceleration is good enough that you may find yourself demonstrating to family and friends the zip-power of a car that’s quicker than what’s normally associated with sensible eco models.

The Bolt EV is actually just 0.3 seconds slower to 60 mph than a 2016 Ford Focus ST, an ostensible “hot hatch,” and some EV fans have wanted to call the Bolt a “hot hatch” as well.

You’re free to call it what you want, but a full-on hot hatch has a performance-tuned suspension, sticky tires for maximum lateral acceleration, big brakes, and can usually turn respectable lap times at a closed circuit course.

With its regenerative braking sparing greater abuse on the binders, Chevrolet equipped modest 11-inch vented front and 10-inch solid rear rotors that may not need pad changes but infrequently, and otherwise Chevrolet is not calling it a hot hatch.

In any case, the Bolt otherwise is entertaining with instant torque that kicks if the accelerator is mashed. It’s lots of fun, really, and tire chirp has been permitted by the engineers who set the parameters for the StabilTrak traction control. Rounding corners, the low center of gravity car corners flat enough, and with poise enough to invite pushing the limits. Depressing the accelerator harder would allow an aggressive driver to make the front tires sing further toward its understeer bias and ultimate traction loss.

Stickier tires would of course help the sporting experience, and the Bolt saves cost with a torsion beam rear axle mated to the MacPherson strut front suspension, but it handles respectably. Of it, Chevrolet is bold enough to say it gives “a delightful driving experience that’s more akin to a compact sports sedan than a small utilitarian crossover.”

Yeah, that’s relatively accurate, we’d say.

But this is about energy efficiency, you say? Right you are. The motor is up to 97-percent efficient at optimum operating speeds, and the Bolt makes a Prius look like an energy hog by comparison

Also, the effect of feeding juice back to the battery via regenerative braking is just neat.

The Bolt’s algorithms adjust estimated range based on how one drives. After a full charge, it indicated 256 miles range, with a high range estimate of 302, and low of 209.

Drive mode (“D”) allows normal “creep” from a stop, and coasting on the go. The Low “L” mode is aggressive, and allows what Chevrolet terms “one-pedal driving.” It’s not adjustable, but slows the car by reversing the motor torque and sending up to 70 kW of juice back to the battery. One can alternately back pull the shifter from D to L as needed, or use the paddle, or both.

Low will bring the car to a complete stop and hold it. Contrary to another report that said the Bolt uses its friction brakes to come to a complete stop, media representative Fred Liguori said it instead uses motor torque to finish the job and hold the car in place. When on a hill, it will engage the electric parking brake after an extended period of time or when slowly crawling on a downhill road.

Although there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, the Bolt’s nifty and flexible regen capacity does remind you of “free” or “found” or actually recovered energy. Actually, the most efficient driving involves minimizing both friction braking and employing regen braking since regenerating and later reusing power is typically only around 60 percent efficient. As it is, the car can regain miles of range on the fly, and one pedal driving positively changes the whole experience.

On a 9.3-mile trip, the Bolt indicated 3 miles of used range thanks to strategic use of the L drive mode, and extra regenerated energy from the left-side regen paddle as first seen on the Cadillac ELR, and 2016 Chevy Volt.

On other trips, it was novel seeing miles indicated range increase instead of only decrease as with an internal combustion vehicle.

The EV For You?

A typical green car analysis might clinically ask whether the Bolt EV “makes sense” by trying its best imitation of dispassionate, logical Mr. Spock to rationalize the bottom line, justify the car’s existence, and ultimately lead toward a thumbs up or down.

Questions including fuel costs, greenhouse gas emissions (none at tailpipe, variable “upstream” depending on where you plug in), and other ownership costs come into play.

Assuming a $7,500 federal credit plus potential state incentives – or attractive lease as many prefer this route for emerging-tech cars – the Bolt can make bottom-line sense, but is that fully fair, or true to how people really choose cars?

At the entry level, consumers often buy on price. As sticker numbers escalate, factors like looks, drive performance, and ultimately a sum package adding to how a car makes one feel come into play. If that were not true, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Audi, BMW and others would be in big trouble.

The Bolt is not an upscale luxury car, or a high-performance track star, but it blends in enough of those elements on top of the most range for dollar EV anyone can buy anywhere at this present writing.

Factually speaking if there ever were a market case for a car like the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV, Ford Focus Electric, etc., the Bolt builds on that formula in a huge way.

Its good utility, smart from-the-ground-up design, and fun factor are icing on the cake making it more than just an ultimate ecologically sound means of transportation, while still arguably being that.

With its 238-miles range, the Bolt EV takes the idea of going electric far closer toward mainstream viability than any electric car to date.


May 25

Electric Vehicle Costs May Be On Par With Standard Vehicles By 2018


By Sam McEachern

The costs of purchasing and running an electric vehicle may shrink to become even with the cost of running a standard internal combustion vehicle by as early as next year.

According to research conducted by Swiss investment bank UBS, an increase in consumer demand for electric vehicles could have a significant effect on the costs associated with them. The firm recently raised its estimates for EV market share by 50 percent to 14 percent by 2025 – equivalent to 14.2 million vehicles worldwide. It also raised its 2021 projection from 2.5 million cars annually to 3.1 million.

UBS also found that an EV powertrain is actually $4,600 cheaper to produce than it had initially calculated and that there is strong potential to further reduce costs as they become more popular. Once cost of ownership parity is achieved, which factors in both the purchasing price of a vehicle and running costs, this will attract more customers to hybrids and EVs and create “an inflection point for demand,” the UBS report said. If EVs and hybrids make up a large portion of the market share, cost reduction will become much easier.

SEE ALSO: ‘Mobility’ Could Be $5 Trillion Industry in 10 Years but the Costs Projected To Be High

But while the cost of an electric car and an ICE car in Europe will be even by 2018, manufacturers will still be hard pressed to make money on them. What UBS refers to as a “true cost parity”, meaning manufacturers make at least a 5-percent profit margin on the vehicle, won’t be achieved by major automakers until 2023 at the earliest. According to a UBS estimate, Chevrolet currently loses an estimated $7,400 on every Bolt EV it sells and UBS projects it to make a 5-percent margin on the vehicle by 2025. The Tesla Model 3 is projected to lose $2,800 in its $35,000 base form, but will become profitable once equipped to cost $41,000 and over.

Once automakers do achieve true cost parity, EVs could mean big business. Their simpler design in relation to ICE vehicles has the potential to make them more profitable and easier to mass produce – though a major market shift such as that is still a long way out.



May 24

Chevy Bolt EV Can Charge at 55 kW


By Jeff Nisewanger

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is capable of charging up to 20-percent faster than it does on today’s DC chargers, according to initial results in a newly published report from a Canadian research institute.

The Bolt’s peak charging rate has been the subject of some speculation. General Motors spokespeople have generally said the Chevrolet Bolt EV and its European equivalent, the Opel Ampera-e, are limited to charging at “50 kW.”

Meanwhile, the owners manual says “when using a DC charging station with at least 80 kW of available power, it will take approximately 30 minutes to recharge from a depleted battery to an estimated 145 km (90 mi) of driving range.”

Today’s DC fast chargers capable of supporting a charging current of 100 amps or 125 amps are typically referred to as being “50 kW” because they support up to a maximum charging voltage of 400 to 500 volts. Actual car battery packs are usually designed to use somewhat lower voltages closer to 350 to 400 volts and so actual charging power is normally somewhat less than 50 kilowatts.

There are no publicly accessible DC fast chargers capable of over 125 amps today in North America although products from manufacturers like ChargePoint and others are expected to become available for installation later this year.

The new report, by the Innovative Vehicle Institute near Montreal, says the Bolt EV can likely charge at up to 55 kilowatts at a current of up to 150A when plugged into future higher-powered chargers.

When pressed during an interview earlier this year the Bolt’s Product Manager at Chevrolet, Darin Gesse, stated the car would support a peak current of “about 150A” and a peak charging power of “a little over 50 kW”. Those statements closely match the results found in the new report.

According to the new study as well as anecdotal reports from Bolt owners, the car’s charging current can begin higher but abruptly tapers down to near 100 amps when the battery charge reaches about 53 percent full, drops again to around 60 amps at near 68 percent full, and again to near 40 amps at around 85 percent full.

The researchers worked with the Canadian DC charger manufacturer Elmec to modify an existing 125 amp model for testing purposes. When plugged into a Bolt EV, the modified charger falsely claimed to support 250 amp charging in order to see what current the car would request to charge at.

For their initial round of testing on the modified charger, they started a charging session when the Bolt’s battery was 40 percent full and the Bolt then requested 150 amps.

A lithium-ion battery pack’s voltage naturally rises as it gains charge. When charging at 150 amps, the Bolt’s pack would likely begin charging at a rate of about 50 kilowatts when near empty and then gradually rise until reaching about 55 kilowatts before starting to taper down when the pack reaches just over half full as it does today. At today’s chargers the power typically starts near 42 kilowatts and rises to 46 kilowatts when charging initially at 125 amps.

These peak battery charging rates only apply when the Bolt’s battery cells are 68F or warmer. The battery management system slows the charge rate to protect the lithium-ion battery cells as temperatures get colder.

Since the test only performed a simulated 150 amp charge and the charge began at only at 40 state of charge it is possible that actual peak charge rates could turn out to be higher or lower.


May 23

Consultant Says EV Recharge Times Could Drive Plug-in Hybrid Sales


By Tim Healey

Will overwhelmed infrastructure lead to doubled or tripled recharge times for EVs?

And will that drive sales of plug-in hybrids, given their increased powertrain flexibility, including the ability to switch to internal-combustion engine power?

One consultant says yes, that’s what will happen.

SEE ALSO: VW Reveals Nationwide EV Charging Plans

Nicholas Meilhan, a Paris-based consultant for Frost and Sullivan, posits that consumers will prefer plug-in hybrids over EVs, because in his view, the charging infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with EV sales.

In addition, drivers want to be able to take long trips, so they might turn to plug-in hybrids in order to have the ability to make a weekend drive to visit family or friends. Meanwhile, these same drivers might see an EV as more of a city car.

SEE ALSO: ChargePoint Unveils 400-kW DC Fast Charger

“Most drivers leaving for a long-distance weekend or holiday trip run the risk of their trips taking double or triple the time for a diesel or gasoline internal combustion engine vehicle. A battery electric car with ‘fast’ electric charge (50 kW) is approximately 25-times slower to fill than a vehicle with conventional fuel. Gasoline or diesel drivers will take five minutes to take on board what it will take two hours for a battery electric car as they will get six-times less energy in 20 minutes – the equivalent of 100 kilometers compared with 600 kilometers (62 miles versus 372 miles),” Meilhan said.

Meilhan also said there won’t be enough of the faster, more-expensive chargers, and will lead to charging delays. Frustrated drivers will instead turn their preferences to plug-in hybrids.

A ChargePoint executive clapped back, suggesting that longer charge times (a best-case of 40 minutes to recharge versus five minutes to fill with gas or diesel, according to Meilhan) won’t be a problem for consumers.

“ChargePoint, now having data from nearly 25 million charging sessions, envisions that charging needs will divide into two categories – around 80 percent of charging will take place in home and work, while another 20 percent will be at public sites like parking lots, street-side or fast charging stations,” Simon Lonsdale, vice president of business development for ChargePoint, told Forbes. ChargePoint just sold 200 rapid-charge systems to a British company called InstaVolt.

“Fast charging is for the rare occasions when drivers travel longer distances. Charging for the overwhelming majority of the time will be where drivers are, at home, work, or around time as they are doing something else,” he added.

Meilhan also pointed out that driving at highway speeds reduces EV range by up to 60 percent.


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