Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Jun 27

GM Providing Fuel Cell Technology to Navy for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles

 

What depths are people willing to sink to in order to prove hydrogen fuel cell technology?

By Jon LeSage

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General Motors will be teaming up with the U.S. Navy to develop hydrogen-powered unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs). Fuel-cell UUVs have the capacity to operate independently 70 days at a time, and would replace more limited battery-drive systems currently in use in so-called UUVs, according to Navy officials.

“If you want long endurance you really need fuel cells,” said Karen Swider-Lyons, head of the Alternative Energy Section at the Naval Research Laboratory.

In November, GM signed a multi-year contract with the U.S. Army to build and demonstrate an all-terrain vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cell reconnaissance vehicle is being built for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. GM said that the demonstration will show the unique advantages its fuel cell technology can offer in an all-terrain tactical application.

The Navy has had UUVs in operation for year, but they’ve typically been about the size of a submarine’s torpedo. The military would like to make them larger with more features and functions and the ability to operate independently for longer periods of time.

SEE ALSO: GM Expands Fuel Cell Vehicle Program With New Collaboration

Fuel-cell “stacks” can be scaled up or down in size to fit into different sized vehicles, whether they operate on the road or under the water. The stack combines hydrogen gas with oxygen to create a stream of current that can operate an electric motor driving an automobile’s wheels, or an underwater vehicle’s propeller. They’re far more energy dense than batteries, and are known for being durable and flexible enough to provide power for both an underwater propulsion system and the electronic systems crammed into a UUV.

“Our in-water experiments with an integrated prototype show that fuel cells can be game changers for autonomous underwater systems,” said Frank Herr, department head for the Navy’s Ocean Battlespace Sensing research unit, in a statement.

While Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda are committed to bringing fuel-cell technology to passenger vehicles, GM continues to lag behind. GM has been testing hydrogen technology in a fleet of prototypes like this Chevy Equinox, and plans to bring out a fuel-cell vehicle by the end of decade.

The UUVs are still in the prototype phase, and it’s not yet clear when GM’s fuel cell system will be going out to sea. The fuel-cell technology is actually ready to go, Swider-Lyons said. Developing the necessary autonomous control systems is the more serious technical challenge.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Jun 24

Volkswagen Embraces EVs So You’ll Forget Dieselgate

 

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Volkswagen Group is sorry about the emissions cheating it foisted on 11 million car buyers the last seven years or more. It’s so sorry in fact that it says it will introduce on average three battery electric vehicles annually for the next 10 years.

Better than bread and circuses for plug-in fans, these 30 all-new BEVs will be in addition to plug-in hybrids. For many observers, those are the standout points of what is actually “the biggest change process in the company’s history,” as the storied German automaker described sweeping changes to reposition itself through 2025.

Audi Urban Concept. Like all automakers, VW Group has sought to dazzle people with EVs before, but now it says it wants to start prolifically making real production models at a rate that could dwarf Tesla, and who knows how many other major competitors?

Audi Urban Concept. Like all automakers, VW Group has sought to dazzle people with EVs before, but now it says it wants to start prolifically making real production models at a rate that could dwarf Tesla, and who knows how many other major competitors?

“Volkswagen has always enriched the lives of millions of people all over the world with its brands and products. Our aspiration is to continue that success story and play a leading role in shaping auto-mobility for future generations, too,” said CEO Matthias Müller during the presentation of the new strategic direction in Wolfsburg. “This will require us – following the serious setback as a result of the diesel issue – to learn from mistakes made, rectify shortcomings and establish a corporate culture that is open, value-driven and rooted in integrity.”

The vision for how VW will reimagine itself ushered in by Müller is officially titled “Together – Strategy 2025.” It cuts costs for a leaner operation while dedicating double-digit billions toward things like mobility solutions, going ostensibly gonzo for EVs, requiring batteries amounting to “150 gigawatt-hours, a huge procurement undertaking.”

SEE ALSO: What’s So Bad About the Extra NOx VWs Emitted?

Müller ducked questions about a previously rumored battery factory the company is said to be mulling that could cost $11 billion euros, and be 2-3 times bigger than Tesla’s Gigafactory, but the EVs – including some on dedicated platforms – are coming, says Volkswagen.

“The company estimates that such vehicles could then account for around a quarter of the global passenger car market,” said the company in a statement. “The Volkswagen Group forecasts that its own BEV [battery electric vehicle] sales will be between two and three million units in 2025, equivalent to some 20 to 25 percent of the total unit sales expected at that time.”

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With Volkswagen Group’s new storyline, some pundits wasted little time saying Tesla should be careful what it wishes for, as the German global giant awakens with electric vision.

Last year Tesla’s BEV sales were just below 52,000. It has projected ambitiously exploding that to 500,000 as soon as 2018, and maybe even to one million by 2020, Elon Musk has ventured to suggest.

Tesla's initial plans, and why the "gigafactory" is called that, was for up to 50 GWhr per year in pack production by 2020. VW says in 2025, its needs will be triple that.

Tesla’s initial plans, and why the “Gigafactory” is called that, was for up to 50 GWhr per year in pack production by 2020. VW says in 2025, its needs will be triple that.

None of this tarnishes Tesla’s popular appeal – and likely enhances it – as it anticipates its Model 3 along with over 400,000 intenders who’ve signed up for that storyline. But while Tesla stands out among the perceptibly slow-moving major automakers at the moment, Volkswagen is now also proclaiming its buildup to 2025 and beyond.

And, instead of one model in the works for the ”masses,” VW Group will have variants up and down the price ladder. Among its 12 brands, these include VW, Audi, Porsche, which we hear more of, and potentially also overseas brands Skoda, SEAT, and maybe eventually even Lamborghini, Bentley, and, could it be? Bugatti? We’ll see how it all plays out.

But that is one storyline, and you can flavor your own spin as facts converge with rhetoric.

For his part, Müller did not name Tesla as a provocateur, but rather said in his German announcement the handwriting is on the regulatory wall.

“Regulations will make conventional fuel engines more and more expensive,” he said according to Forbes, and “EV technology is bound to be getting cheaper and cheaper. When those two lines cross …”

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You know the rest of the story, and in fact so does any automaker who wishes to be competitive in the rapidly changing global market.

In reality also, while Volkswagen has declared enough future battery electric product to make a General Motors electrified vehicle marketer wince, all the major automakers – even the Japanese – have plans for electrification.

VW Milano Taxi. Another concept shown back in 2010.

VW Milano Taxi. Another concept shown back in 2010.

Some, including upscale Germans, Hyundai/Kia, and the domestics also have teased plans but there can be a conflict of interest in announcing too much good stuff coming when a maker needs to sell goods on hand.

Just look at Nissan, now saying nothing about the next Leaf while sales whither on the vine.

But Volkswagen is in a bind, and seeks to turn over a new Leaf ostensibly faster than Nissan.

For the proud autocratic company, those pesky profit-sapping concerns after lying about TDI emissions do remain, so it announced an aggressive makeover. It has not abandoned diesels, will keep making them, but presumably plans are to come clean – really, this time – and make them emission complaint. And even if you personally don’t want one, or are someone who’s said you’ll never buy another VW, others will buy them.

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Other realities VW is banking on as it plays from a position of financial strength having sold 10 million vehicles last year include talk of steering its corporate culture, thus its internal and external image are expected to change.

Thanks to profits flowing from existing gas and diesel vehicles, VW Group projects its vision will let it continue with operating return on sales of 7 to 8 percent and return on capital employed in the automotive division of more than 15 percent by 2025.

About those EVs

In the U.S., only a few vehicles are known to be coming, and several more have been at least speculated to be possible.

These include the VW BUDD-e (top photo) projected for 2020, the Audi R8 e-tron, and Q6 crossover which is intended to go against the Tesla Model X in 2018. Sports car fans are also aware of the Porsche Mission-E which is another Tesla competitor, says Porsche, built as a super sedan, and racetrack capable.

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Those are all well and good for upper demographics, but do little to move the dial on the mass market.

Thus far in the U.S. Volkswagen has only one limited-market product, the converted e-Golf which this year has sold 1,225 units through June. In Europe its e-Up! is also a popular choice, but not likely to come to the U.S. because it’s so small.

To get the ball rolling, a skateboard type chassis such as is used by Tesla, Chevrolet and Opel (Bolt, Ampera-e), and Nissan and BMW is planned.

Aside from the grand plans, Volkswagen did not name dates and names for all of its future EVs. It will realistically be a work in progress because, like every other automaker, VW Group contends with supply, costs, marketing issues, and so forth.

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What products it may green light, say, in 2021, may not yet be a gleam in its eye right now in 2016, as battery costs come down, technology improves, the market grows, and other things unaccounted for inevitably happen.

From the murky viewpoint of mid 2016, therefore, what may be coming can be spoken of, but only as conjecture, not actual predications.

According to Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum, reasoned projections can be made based on public statements by VW, and known product and plans.

The carmaker has also adopted its MEB platform from its high volume modular MQB platform which aside from the skateboard chassis, can also be used for plug-in hybrids or converted EVs.

California cool. Wolfsburg has fond memories of the good old says in SoCal.

California cool. Wolfsburg has fond memories of the good old says in SoCal.

One possibility is a large Audi crossover, probably to be called the Q8, and this may be either a pure EV or plug-in hybrid.

Another could be a BMW i3 competitor, an all-electric version of the A2 – though there is no gas powered A2 yet in production. This could go to production as soon as 2018.

Volkswagen has also teased its new take on its old classic with the Bulli microbus, which may be a long shot, but could be built as soon as 2017 in Puebla, Mexico.

From Porsche, in consideration is a battery electric sedan called the Pajun. This vehicle could likely be better looking and a bit smaller than the Panamera and could come in 2018 or 2019, based on the MSB rear-wheel-drive platform.

In sum, Volkswagen is looking at EVs from as small as its tiny overseas Polo to its large Phaeton luxury sedan. Baum thinks neither is likely to come to the U.S., but along with a fuel cell vehicle or two, Volkswagen’s planners are working on electric cars.

Sky’s the Limit

In response to a reporter’s question about who will be in charge of ensuring the plan is implemented, Müller did not have an answer ready.

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Volkswagen’s rank and file are used to hearing clichés and rhetoric. Sometimes management means it, and plans push forward, sometimes things change.

In this case, the company has made very bullish pronouncements, so eyes will be on how reality meets those goals in coming years.

The “Strategy 2025” announced by the new CEO was also a symbolic rite of passage for him to make his mark on the heels of the last CEO Martin Winterkorn’s “Strategy 2018.” That strategy was to become the global market leader and in qualified terms it met those goals.

This too was emphasized by Müller, who knows someone better ride herd on this new initiative, even if much more has yet to be disclosed.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Jun 23

Get Your Solar Road Kicks on Route 66

 

What I want to know is what is traction like in the wet and in the dry? Can a motorcycle lean over as far, or can it or a car stop as quickly on this glass as it can on asphalt? Even in the wet? Will this stuff get polished by wheels and road dirt, or more gritty? What will time do to traction?

By Larry E. Hall

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You can still get your kicks on U.S. Highway Route 66, at least on some parts of it.

And, the historic highway, (also known as the Mother Road, the Main Street of America or the Will Rogers Highway) could one day inspire someone to call it the Solar Highway, if a pilot project pans out.

According to the Kansas City Star, Missouri’s Department of Transportation is working toward paving a section of the famous route with energy-generating photovoltaic solar pavers that in the future could look like the rendering above.

The department says that the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway, Missouri will get the first such panels on a public right of way in the U.S., helping to pave the way to the roadways of tomorrow.

“If their version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves,” said Tom Blair, leader of the department’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative to the Star of panels developed by Sand Point, Idaho based Solar Roadways.

The tentative plan is to pave the test area with the rugged solar panels, which will generate power that could be later sold to the grid, creating a self-perpetuating fund for future roads.

SEE ALSO: Could Solar Roadways Be The Answer We’ve Been Waiting For?

The hexagonal panels are made of specifically formulated tempered glass, which can support the weight of semi-trucks, and has a tractional surface equivalent to asphalt.

Each panel covers an area of about 4.39 square feet and produce 48 watts of electricity.

Embedded heating elements in the panels prevent snow and ice accumulation, providing a safer surface for both drivers and pedestrians.

Rather than using paint, LED lights are programmed to show lane markings, direction markings and driver warnings, and can be seen in the daylight.

A bonus for electric car owners is the electricity generated can power roadside charging stations and, when the technology becomes available, cordless inductive charging while driving.

It was not revealed how large an area would be paved with the panels, but the transportation department expects the panels to be fully installed and operational by the end of the year.

The department is launching their own crowdfunding campaign to support their energy experiment and get the most out of the project.

Curbed

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Jun 22

Nikola One is the closest thing yet to a Chevy Volt style semi

 

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If Nikola Motor Company’s plans come to pass, its Nikola One series hybrid electric truck threatens to do to trucking what Tesla’s Model S has done within the auto industry.

Among a list of touted benefits, the natural-gas turbine powered rig could attack one of the biggest sore spots in the global transportation picture with 2-3 times better mpg than today’s diesels and “near zero” emissions.

The implications are huge as every gallon saved for fuel guzzlers amounts to more total fuel conserved than when saving one gallon for an already efficient vehicle, and Nikola is going into a market where a competitive truck can annually burn 117,000 gallons of diesel.

There’s been talk of CNG and of turbines before, but Nikola touts a comprehensive strategy by wealthy natural gas advocates – primarily CEO and founder Trevor Milton – to merge with electrification to challenge diesel’s dominance.

“We are privately held and funded by wealthy groups and individuals including some family officers and VC groups. At this time, that is all we are willing to disclose,” said Milton in response to questions by HybridCars.com. “No government grants or assistance have been used to this point. This may change, but we have fully funded this internally with no help from state or federal monies.”

Not just a clean energy startup, Utah-based Nikola (pronounced Neek-oh-la) also owns natural gas wells, and thus its own fuel supply. With this, it aims to establish a network starting with 55 multi-bay stations around the country with discounted or subsidized fuel – ostensibly “free” for the first 25,000 customers to make a no brainer value proposition.

Stations are at a radius of 500 miles. "Over time, Nikola anticipates having hundreds of stations across the country," says the company. "We have seven wells and are working on acquiring more and more every month to cover each section of the USA," added Milton. "This is how we get the cost of the fuel down so low “*Free” as we call it. We are completely vertically integrated from 'Well to Wheel.'” The truck is to be built at an undisclosed location in Utah.

Stations are at a radius of 500 miles. “Over time, Nikola anticipates having hundreds of stations across the country,” says the company. “We have seven wells and are working on acquiring more and more every month to cover each section of the USA,” added Milton. “This is how we get the cost of the fuel down so low “*Free” as we call it. We are completely vertically integrated from ‘Well to Wheel.’” The truck is to be built at an undisclosed location in Utah.

Last week upon announcing 7,000 intenders having plunked down $1,500 apiece to pre-order a vehicle that may be 3-4 years away from production, the company set the industry on notice.

“We believe we will pass the current market leaders like Daimler, PACCAR, Volvo and Navistar in sales orders within the next 12-24 months,” said Milton in a press statement. “Just imagine the orders that will come in once we begin taking dealer applications. We have shown other OEMs and their shareholders why they should be nervous about Nikola Motor Company.”

Notable is fleet buyers tend to make decisions based on total ownership cost, not only acquisition cost (price). Milton said orders have come from “all over the USA,” including from major fleets. While a place in line has relatively low barrier to entry, the company believes it will have about 10-20 percent drop off from its orders.

The $375,000 truck costs twice what a conventional turbo diesel semi tractor does, but is being promoted as so frugal in operating and maintenance costs, that it can net out to zero, or at least well worth it, versus traditional competitors. At the same time it is faster, quieter, more spacious, and so far no one has been able to see much downside, if any.

SEE ALSO: Wrightspeed Combines Gas Turbine And Batteries For Big Fuel Savings

It is “beyond too good to be true,” as a customer testimonial puts it, and while much yet needs to be proven, Milton said Nikola is on its way to its bold agenda. Presently, the company is in a $300 million A round of funding and this too is going to plan.

“We are doing very well. It should be wrapped up by December,“ said Milton of the fundraising, adding the company will meet its future financial goals. “We will ensure we have plenty of cash on hand to execute our business plan at all times.”

Disruptor

The Nikola One is a class 8 vehicle meaning it has an 80,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating. A working prototype is due December, 2, 2016, Milton anticipates production within three-four years, and its specifications sheet reads like a fantasy wish list for tech geeks and environmentalists.

With emissions several times better than a diesel semi, and 2-3 times better mpg than a 6 mpg traditional diesel rig, it might be the closest concept yet to something that could be approved of by both T. Boone Pickens and Elon Musk.

“Nikola believes in clean burning natural gas and hopes to transfer America off of diesel as soon as possible,” says the company.

The 80,000-rpm turbine such as helicopters use but tailored for this application is actually able to run on a number of fuels. It will use only CNG in the U.S. while other markets will get options.

Images are all computer generated. The working prototype is to be revealed Dec. 2, 2016. One of the FAQs on the company’s site asks: “Why do you say you get 15-20MPG while posting 100 gallons of fuel stopping every 1,200 miles?” Answer: “Not all natural gas onboard is useable. It is a gaseous fuel so you are not able to use all of it. We also had to provide worst case scenario numbers. We anticipate much higher MPG but have to post worst case, which in this case is still amazing.” Alternately, the Nikola One can travel around 100-200 miles on battery alone, depending on the size of the load.

Images are all computer generated. The working prototype is to be revealed Dec. 2, 2016. Nikola estimates a fully loaded 80,000-pound Nikola One will average 15 mpg per gallon depending upon load and conditions – better than an average full size pickup truck pulling an average trailer. One of the FAQs on the company’s site asks: “Why do you say you get 15-20MPG while posting 100 gallons of fuel stopping every 1,200 miles?” Answer: “Not all natural gas onboard is useable. It is a gaseous fuel so you are not able to use all of it. We also had to provide worst case scenario numbers. We anticipate much higher MPG but have to post worst case, which in this case is still amazing.” Alternately, the Nikola One can travel around 100-200 miles on battery alone, depending on the size of the load.

“In some countries they do not have available CNG, so we will allow them to order with diesel or other fuels,” said Milton. “It does not affect the powertrain or performance at all.”

Turbines are known to be extremely clean without exotic “after treatment” technologies. A diesel needs a catalytic converter, urea injection, ultra low sulfur diesel, and advanced engine controls to scrub the exhaust, but lower decibel turbines – such as Wrightspeed is also developing – can even get away with a conventional muffler.

While holding back whether all that is true for its specific turbine, Nikola’s in-house built unit is advertised as generating 400 kW of energy to charge the 320-kWh battery assembly that’s 3.5 times bigger than what comes in the most powerful Tesla Model S. It is also assembled in-house Tesla style from 32,000 18,650 cells.

The truck operates as a series hybrid, which is to say drive is all electric. It has six in-wheel 800-volt AC traction motors and in principle works along the lines of a diesel locomotive. The generator is just there to charge the battery, not unlike a Chevy Volt’s engine, and the powertrain output is 2,000 horsepower, 3,700 pounds-feet of torque, compared to a conventional diesel truck’s 500 horses and 1,675 pounds-feet.

A 15-inch touchscreen controls most functions. It displays and controls a variety of vehicle dynamics including battery levels, range, wheel torque, cabin controls, navigation and vehicle data.

A 15-inch touchscreen controls most functions. It displays and controls a variety of vehicle dynamics including battery levels, range, wheel torque, cabin controls, navigation and vehicle data.

Instead of a multi-speed transmission with clutch pedal, there is just an accelerator and a brake for the two-speed automatic transmission with direct drive and low-noise gears.

This combined with the quieter turbine lets the 6X6 all wheel drive powertrain hum along on a unique independent suspension while the driver enjoys views in the cab forward seat from a panoramic windshield inside the cab.

A plug for battery charging is included, along with 50-kW DC charging, but the company says its generator is cleaner than any wall outlet so no one needs to plug in, while the electric powertrain goes 800-1,200 miles between fills to its CNG tanks. The plug otherwise is a convenience, such as to keep the battery topped off.

Its traction motors both push and pull and even do fancy things like computer-enabled torque vectoring for greater safety and control.

While no “Ludicrous” mode is available, acceleration is twice as quick as a conventional semi, says Nikola, at 0-60 in 30 seconds, instead of one minute. Braking conversely, takes half the distance, or less than 150 feet versus 300 feet via regenerative brakes and also included are redundant DOT-compliant air brakes.

By ditching the giant turbo diesel, even factoring in the 3,000-4,000 pound battery assembly, the vehicle weighs 2,000 pounds less than an average competitor meaning it can haul that much more freight.

Torque vectoring allows control of each wheel independently through drive-by-wire. "By communicating with the motors up to 30 times a second, the speed of each wheel can be adjusted while cornering, maneuvering, accelerating and braking - making it safer for drivers.," says the company.

Torque vectoring allows control of each wheel independently through drive-by-wire. “By communicating with the motors up to 30 times a second, the speed of each wheel can be adjusted while cornering, maneuvering, accelerating and braking – making it safer for drivers.,” says the company.

“Every pound after max load may be worth as much as $.50. By saving up to 2,000 lbs, owners could earn approximately $1,000 in extra revenue from every load, every day,” says the company.

Where the real savings comes in is in fuel costs and maintenance, says the company.

“An average diesel burns over $400,000 in fuel and racks up over $100,000 in maintenance costs over 1,000,000 miles,” says the company of about a 5-7 year average time span. “These costs are eliminated with the Nikola One lease.”

Because the cab is larger with engine deleted, the real estate is devoted to creature comfort. With motor-home like amenities include a large sleeper cab with mid-side entry, two full-size beds, 42-inch 4k curved screen TV, wifi and 4G LTE Internet, AC power outlets, full-size fridge and freezer, computer desk, and more.

1) Front Radiator Assembly; 2) Nikola Motor Gearbox / Steering Front End; 3) Power Electronics; 4) Battery Storage System; 5) Chiller and Air Tanks; 6) Turbine; 7) Natural Gas Fuel System; 8) Rear Motor Gearbox Housing and Independent Suspension; 9) 5th Wheel.

1) Front Radiator Assembly; 2) Nikola Motor Gearbox / Steering Front End; 3) Power Electronics; 4) Battery Storage System; 5) Chiller and Air Tanks; 6) Turbine; 7) Natural Gas Fuel System; 8) Rear Motor Gearbox Housing and Independent Suspension; 9) 5th Wheel.

Couple this with the fact that this is anywhere from nicely equipped to a luxury truck, and this could become the new lifestyle statement, and standard making those Peterbuilt and Kenworth and Mack drivers also want in on the new age.

What’s not to like?

Shadows of Doubt

In contacting engineers, a major competitor, and others knowledgeable in the industry, skeptical voices who wished not to be quoted did say so far turbines and natural gas have not been successful to the degree Nikola is suggesting it is about to demonstrate.

One challenge that Nikola faces is developing its own turbine, while bypassing off the shelf manufacturers. It is not using a Wrightspeed unit, though has only positive things to say about that California company.

Another questionable assertion is Nikola’s value proposition statements assume diesel engines are only 20-percent thermally efficient, and Milton contradicted assertions that the SAE says they can be up to 43-percent efficient.

“There is currently a $.50 per gallon federal credit to the station owner (Nikola), so Nikola is able to build that into the price of the truck when purchased and can then realize those savings and give customers the pre-purchased fuel for the first 1,000,000 miles,” says the company’s website. Does this mean Nikola pads the price of the truck, then says fuel is “free” (but really is not?) Milton’s answer: “The fuel is included in the price of the truck. We pre-build $50,000 into the lease and then offset it with $50,000 of fuel credits. It is free in the sense that we use the federal credit to cover the $.50 per gallon cost that is built into the truck. That is why we used an * in the *Free statement. It is very well defined that this is what we are doing and chose to let everyone see how we did it.”

“There is currently a $.50 per gallon federal credit to the station owner (Nikola), so Nikola is able to build that into the price of the truck when purchased and can then realize those savings and give customers the pre-purchased fuel for the first 1,000,000 miles,” says the company’s website. Does this mean Nikola pads the price of the truck, then says fuel is “free” (but really is not?) Milton’s answer: “The fuel is included in the price of the truck. We pre-build $50,000 into the lease and then offset it with $50,000 of fuel credits. It is free in the sense that we use the federal credit to cover the $.50 per gallon cost that is built into the truck. That is why we used an * in the *Free statement. It is very well defined that this is what we are doing and chose to let everyone see how we did it.”

“It depends on how advanced the diesel is. Cost goes up with efficiencies,” said Milton. “Our turbine is about one-quarter the weight of a diesel and outputs more energy more efficiently. There are many ways you can compare and to what engines. Compared to the large class 8 trucks, they are around 20 percent from our history of analysis. Some are greater, but most are not.”

According to the U.S Department of Energy, commercial diesel vehicle engines are 42 percent efficient. And, said Ezra Finkin, 
director, Policy and External Relations for the Diesel Technology Forum, things are getting better for diesels.

“That number is estimated to rise slightly due to the Phase 1 fuel economy rules. The DoE Super Truck program successfully tested diesel engines that demonstrated 50 percent thermal efficiency,” he said noting thermal efficiency as high as 55 percent is being sought.

That turbines offer advantages is uncontested, however Nikola must overcome technical hurdles to make turbines that will go the one-million-plus miles in a truck promising lower maintenance than a diesel.

“That is part of validation and testing. All are steps that are required to build a truck that will last,” observed Milton. “We are validating every part of the truck for over 2 million miles, not just the turbine. These are normal steps, yet costly. Just part of the process.”

Milton added their turbine is a proprietary design, but denied requests for detailed specifications saying more will be shown Dec. 2, when it is unveiled.

Luxury Truck’s Future

Reports floating out there that the vehicle will be autonomous and able to platoon with up to five vehicles following in close formation are being called rumors and speculation, and not verified by the company.

Milton said the company does now have dealers, but is taking it slow until it’s sure its program has been set up. Meanwhile he said the idea has sparked significant interest.

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“Dealers in all 48 lower states have reached out to us,” he said.

For the remaining five months and a few days until a global unveiling, the company is drumming interest in its luxurious truck that’s so nice, people may enjoy its home away from home accommodations as much as driving it.

By deleting the engine, a fair amount of space was opened up and creature comforts are at the top of the priority list.

“We hope to make it very nice inside. Much like a motorhome,” said Milton. “Driver comfort is on the top of our list and regular trucks cannot accommodate that like we can – due to cab size.”

More can be learned at the company website, and we’ll let you know when there’s more to report.

 

Jun 21

BYD Tang Hybrid SUV Has More Power Than a Corvette

 

By Larry E. Hall

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In the U.S., Chinese automaker BYD (Build Your Dreams) is better known for counterfeit car designs, and Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway $230 million investment to buy a 10 percent stake in the company.

In China, BYD is known for its cheap compact cars, trendy SUVs and insanely fast hybrids.

The fastest is called the Tang, the name of China’s most prosperous dynasty.

It’s a monstrous plug-in hybrid sport utility with a combined output of 505 horsepower and a massive 605 pounds-feet of torque.

In comparison, Chevrolet’s Corvette Stingray Z51 puts out 460 horsepower with a torque rating of 465 pounds feet.

The Corvette needs a big, gas-gulping 6.2-lier V8 engine to make that output; the Tang needs only a diminutive 2.0-liter four banger and two electric motors.

Also, Tang’s 0 to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds tops Porsche’s Cayenne SUV with a Sport Chrono option run of 5.1 seconds.

SEE MORE: BYD Seeking Brand Recognition As Tesla Grabs Attention

The Tang’s drivetrain consists of a turbocharged 205 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors; each rated at 150 horsepower and 147 foot-pounds of torque.

One motor is mounted in front, the other motor in back, allowing for four-wheel drive operation. Output is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission.

BYD’s marketing slant for the Tang is ”542 Technology.” The five stands for acceleration under five seconds, the four stands for four-wheel drive, and the two stands is for fuel consumption of 2 liters per 100 kilometers.

Priced from $38,200 to $42,500 including China’s green-car subsidies, the big plug-in hybrid SUV is luxuriously appointed with high features such as a large touch screen and an infotainment system with a television function.

There’s even a built-in air purifier to clean the dirty Chinese air.

The Tang is not only BYD’s best-selling vehicle, it also tops China’s sales chart.

Maybe that’s because the 18-kilowatt hour lithium ion phosphate battery can also be used for other things than just the vehicle; like an electric BBQ, microwave oven, or a popcorn-making machine as demonstrated at the Shanghai Motor Show.

Forbes

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Jun 20

Nikola Motor Bags $2.3 Billion in Pre-orders For Electrified Semi Truck

 

We’ll have a follow-up on this …

By Larry E. Hall

nikola_one-668x409

Perhaps there’s some magic when applying famous electrical engineer Nikola Tesla’s name to an electrified vehicle.

Salt Lake City-based startup, Nikola Motor, said in a press release it received 7,000 pre-orders last month for its Class 8 electric truck.

That translates to $10.5 million in reservation funds, and $2.3 billion in sales if all of the reservations go through.

Called “Nikola One,” the company says its electrified truck, which features a natural gas turbine range extender engine, is 10 to 15 years ahead of any other truck manufacturer in fuel efficiencies and emissions.

“We are the only OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to have a near zero emission truck and still outperform diesel trucks running at 80,000 pounds,” said Trevor Milton, founder and CEO.

To back up the company’s claims, on paper, the specifications are impressive.

The futuristic big-rig features a 2,000 horsepower turbine engine that sends power to a 320-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

The truck’s battery never requires recharging because the turbine will charge it as the vehicle drives.

Six electric motors, one on each wheel, propel the semi.

The tractor features 3,700 pounds-feet of torque, and a range of 1,200 miles with a 150-gallon natural gas tank.

In addition to natural gas, the turbine engine can be configured to run on diesel or gasoline fuel.

SEE ALSO: Wrightspeed Combines Gas Turbine And Batteries For Big Fuel Savings

Beyond the powertrains’s technology, the Nikola One offers the trucking industry’s first-ever independent suspension, along with torque vectoring for better ride and handling.

The truck will retail for $375,000, which is nearly double the price for a standard diesel semi-trailer. A leasing program costs $4,000 to $5,000 per month, depending on which truck configuration and options.

Nikola Motor is offering the first 5,000 customers who put down $1,500 to reserve a truck 100,000 gallons of free natural gas.

The free fuel offsets the monthly lease payments.

The above photo is a 3-D rendering, but a working prototype of the semi-truck will be revealed in Salt Lake City on December 2, 2016.

In order to make the prototype a reality, Nikola Motor will need a ton of money. The company says that it has completed a seed round of investing, and it is working on a series A round worth $300 million to be completed by December.

Hopefully, the company can meet production schedules, unlike that other electric vehicle maker that also uses Nicola Tesla’s name.

Nikola Motor Company

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.