Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Sep 19

’40′ miles AER, 235 mpg, does this sound familiar … from Renault?


GM was once told not to advertise 230 mpg but the headlines now for a Renault concept that may lead to a production Nissan PHEV are boldly proclaiming nearly the same number.

As it is, Nissan is suffering with battery production issues while a plug-in hybrid could be announced not long after Volt Gen 2 is finally seen.


Renault’s Eolab plug-in hybrid could net 282 mpg on the Euro cycle and in the U.S. it reportedly might achieve 235 mpg under more stringent EPA tests.

A prototype of the four-passenger car has been driven by Top Gear, they say it works basically as advertised, but for now, the concept is to be displayed in the automaker’s home country in October.

We’ve seen crazy hyped-up mpg figures before, but one of the more compelling possibilities with Renault’s Eolab is this one was built under mandate to develop affordable solutions, and they are planning to put aspects of it into production cars by 2018.

In Europe the 2,100-pound (955 kg) car is reported to be a future variant to the small Renault Clio by 2018 “for well under £20,000,” ($32,750) says the UK’s Top Gear, and in the U.S. Green Car Reports suggests this may be part of the future plans for a Nissan plug-in hybrid.

Unlike VW’s over $100,000 XL1 2-seater, which made headlines hay with uber-high mpg often insufficiently explained, Renault’s exercise in light-weighting, aerodynamics, and efficient powertrain uses more existing tech and may benefit the common person more.


Core stats for the subcompact concept’s powertrain include a 76-horsepower 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine sourced from a Twingo, a 67-horsepower (50-kw), 150 pounds-feet torque “axial flux discoid” electric motor. The volume and weight of the transmission-motor unit is on par with that of a normal five-speed gearbox, and powered by a modestly sized 6.7-kwh li-ion battery.

On the easier-to-ace EU cycle, it can run 37 miles on battery alone, and reach up to 75 mph. The car is designed to look sporty, and kind of is, however it is no hot hatch. Rather, this one’s all about max efficiency.

But to be clear, ultra-high mpg scores we regularly read rely heavily on being nursed through mileage tests with a zero-gas-consumption, zero emissions electric motor sparing the gasoline usage. By the same token, you could say a Nissan Leaf gets 1,000,000 mpg – or infinite “miles per gallon.”


A PHEV’s amazing advertising mpg only lasts as long as the plug-in battery lasts, then, regular hybrid mode nets less stratospheric results, but actually, the Eolab is still frugal.

After driving a working prototype, Top Gear reported the Eolab on gasoline alone might be able to get close to 80-90 mpg or so, far above the Renault Clio which in Europe reportedly nets 60-mpg-plus.

“Even if it’s never plugged in, it would go half as far again on each litre of fuel as that regular Clio,” wrote Top Gear.

For now, the 2,100-pound (955 kg) Eolab is indeed expected to be a future variant to the small Renault Clio by 2018 said Top Gear, and in the U.S. Green Car Reports suggests this may be part of future Renault-Nissan Alliance plans for a U.S. Nissan product.

Nissan naturally has said nothing official, but known is it’s heavily invested in battery production, sustainable transport, and increasingly cross-pollinating among its global products.

Green Car Reports cites an interview with former Nissan product head Andy Palmer saying larger Nissan plug-in hybrids are in the works by end of 2015.


But for now, says Top Gear, the existing concept’s body is a nonstarter as it’s built of composites, ultra-high-strength steels and magnesium. Today’s car factories would face a “nightmare” trying to build it, and body shop repair would be also daunting.

But, just as VW has considered trickling down some aspects of its XL1 – like the powertrain to an Up! – so is Renault but maybe on a broader scale.

SEE ALSO: Chevy Volt Gets 230 MPG City EPA Rating

Nearly all the ideas in Eolab says Renault will be production-possible by 2020, and many of them much sooner, said Top Gear.

“The car was built in response to a French Government challenge to both Renault and PSA to demonstrate ideas for cars for the end of the decade that are affordable and mass-produced and can do 2.0litres/100km (141mpg),” said Top Gear.

It may be only mildly instructive for now, but Top Gear came away favorably impressed with the working PHEV it drove – and noted the Eolab heading to Paris will be a non-functioning concept showpiece. Reports have said the Eolab concept’s coefficient of drag is 0.235, but Top Gear reports even lower 0.227 for the car it sampled, and significantly, it’s enjoyable to drive.

The prototype feels kind of sporty, top speed is 100 mph, and 0-60 takes 9.0 seconds. Electric range in commuter oriented “weekday” mode is “40 miles” and the engine kicks on at 75 mph.

“It always moves away electrically. It’s silent, smooth, responsive and as clean-feeling as EVs always are,” wrote Top Gear. “Then the petrol engine starts at about 25 mph. Because you’re already rolling, it chugs to life unobtrusively. Whatever you do with the accelerator, it stays running as long as you don’t drop below that speed.”

The transmission has no clutch, and only three gears. One gear is engine driven, the other two by the e-motor and they are used in various combinations, said Top Gear.

“This means the car can effectively change gear between four ‘gears’ (not just three) with the engine running, and the engineers say it should feel as smooth as a double-clutch,” reported Top Gear. “At the moment it doesn’t – there’s a notable pause, like an early single-clutch flappy-paddle.”

The takeaway is this work-in-progress has promise.

“It can be chucked into bends without a care, and finds about as much grip as a decent supermini, despite the skinny aero tyres,” wrote Top Gear. “Again, that’s its lightness paying off. It rolls a bit but you feel quite racy sat down low. The power steering feels unnatural going gently but actually gets livelier when you’re cornering hard, so the fundamentals are right.”

The brake pedal needs work and still feels grabby for the computer-controlled regen system with no mechanical link between pedal and calipers, but the “ride is supple and the body feels impressively tight and rigid.”

Most importantly, “Renault insists most of the innovations won’t be too costly,” and it’s a good looking design that “drives like a normal car.”

But if the U.S. EPA is targeting low 40 mpg on the sticker by 2025, will this be an overachiever if core aspects of it show up in Nissan guise?


That’s open to conjecture, but more certain is Renault is developing the Eolab’s technologies for Europe where they are at least as adamant, if not more, about reducing CO2 and improving mileage.

Americans can only hope we get some of the company’s latest developments sooner, rather than later, and who knows? We just may.

Top Gear, Green Car Reports.


Sep 18

New Volt will have powertrain performance that’s better in every way


The next gen (presumably 2016) Volt will “hit it out of the park” in the sales arena, and “be better in every way,” says GM’s Powertrain Executive Director, Larry Nitz.

But if you watch the Autoline After Hours video, you will see they are talking about powertrain performance, so if you could think of other things on your ideal wish list, you’ll have to hold off.


For example, if “better in every way” means five seater to you, or more rear legroom, or a different genset, or lower price, or SS model, those were not expressed or implied as far as we see – so these are still up in the air.

But regarding the heart of the Volt, its unique EREV powertrain, Nitz said they’ve crunched voluntary submission of Onstar data from close to two-thirds of U.S. Volt drivers, or around 50,000 people.

The goal, said Nitz, was to learn how customers are driving and charging their Volts, and exceed parameters next time around with the replacement.

Data contemplated by GM includes about 65 percent of Volt driving is in pure EV mode, and about 82 percent of the energy comes from the plug.

As for charging, Nitz said 60 percent of Volt drivers use 110 volts and the Volt is on average at home half of a 24-hour day, which is plenty of time and no level 2 needed.

He said also 81 percent of “trips” involve no engine start at all – a meaningful thing especially to California.

The U.S. Department of energy actually got that last tidbit about trips, and so was able to check other cars. Plug-in Priii, Ford Energis and, PHEVs in general only had 10 percent no engine start on trips.

Takeaway: by comparison, the Volt’s powertrain is still in a class of one (not counting ELR), and now they want to improve it!

Nitz was asked about making this a better seller, and politely faced with how GM missed early expectations.

Talk came up about people still not comprehending the car, and the easy solution for that is put prospective owners in cars and let them try it, Nitz said.

Apparently there’s nothing like experiencing the Volt to make the light bulb go off.

He says a few other things, and you can see for yourself. The Volt talk begins around 15 minutes, and goes well into the 20s.

As for sales, GM thinks it has learned from data crunched, and will present a product that will win more converts.

The automaker also will likely allow further tidbits of info to escape to the press before January in Detroit. It obviously does not want to spoil the surprise, but if it can create anticipation and excitement and cultivate enthusiasm in advance, we think it may try that.

What do you think? Do you know any people who would like to have more details about the Volt before next year?

(And by the way, if anyone sees any, can you please e-mail it to me, and I’ll write it up ASAP. Thanks!)

This story came from a tipster to InsideEVs. We found it first on Autoblog. Ultimately, the news originated on Autoline After Hours.

Note the video was posted Aug. 29 and it was not re-posted for two weeks, which means there may be other Volt news floating out there now or later that is not immediately disseminated …


Sep 17

GM Spiffs Canadian ELR sales; LG Chem’s Holland plant hires for new Volt production


Free Charging Station With ELR: Extended To Canada

By Phillippe Crowe

To help lure-in possible buyers, Cadillac Canada is offering a complimentary 240-volt home charging station and installation to early buyers of the 2014 ELR electrified luxury coupe.


“The ELR’s blend of leading technology with provocative design and fun-to-drive performance is set to bring new buyers to Cadillac and to electrification itself,” said Uwe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer, Global Cadillac. “Professional installation of the fastest home-charging unit is a natural way to mark the introduction of the ELR to the luxury market.”

This offer mirrors the one already in place in the U.S. where Cadillac offers a free 240 volt Bosch charging station to the first 1,000 retail customers. This deal includes installation, up to a maximum of $3,000 for the charging station/installation combination.

Cadillac Canada did not publicly state in its press release how many early buyers would be eligible to receive this complimentary charging station.

The ELR shares most of its electrification technology with the Chevrolet Volt, known as the Voltec powertrain.

As with all Cadillac models in Canada, the ELR comes standard with Cadillac Shield, a comprehensive suite of owner benefits including Remote Vehicle Diagnostics, a Premium Care Maintenance program and 24/7 roadside assistance. In Canada, the ELR also comes with an extended battery and propulsion warranty of eight years or 160,000 km, whichever comes first, and a four-year or 80,000 km, whichever comes first, bumper-to-bumper limited warranty.

The brand added only specially trained and certified Cadillac dealers sell and service the ELR. Backing up the dealership experience, prospective customers and buyers of the ELR can take advantage of their own Cadillac ELR Ambassador.

LG Chem Hiring 40 workers

LG Chem says it wants to hire 40 high-tech positions to meet company growth at its Holland, Mich. plant. These jobs range from maintenance workers to engineers and the new hires are in part to prepare for the release of the new Chevy Volt, said an LG Chem spokesperson.


According to WZZM 13, a local ABC affiliate the move is a positive portent for a factory that in 2012 saw furloughs for 200 workers due to insufficient demand for batteries.

“It’s great news to hear LG Chem getting ready to make some new hires,” said Tim Vagle, finance director for the city of Holland. “I was definitely involved in the process of them coming to Holland.”

In the U.S., some ELR dealers have been offering cheaper leases, down to $499 per month instead of the official $699 per month GM lease.

“I don’t have the crystal ball for sure, but I would say that if they are considering adding 25% to their workforce — that’s a pretty good statement they are having good success,” Vagle said.

LG Chem is hiring through a job fair from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Double Tree Hotel in Holland. It hopes to have these new employes on the job by the end of the year.



Sep 16

BMW i8 makes a nice drift car, Formula E finds out


Is BMW’s i8 the most potent plug-in car now available short of exotic super cars? The Model S P85+ is quicker to 60 but the featherweight-by-comparison BMW looks better balanced.

Two of them were also chosen as the safety car for Formula E, and the 3,300-pound car (plus gear and two passengers) looks like fun. Frankly, if any of you did not like the 4,700-pound-plus Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, BMW builds on that design thesis and does it better.


If anyone still wonders whether BMW’s 357-horsepower i8 plug-in hybrid has the high-performance goods, Formula E put on a video promo showing the car being pitched sideways and spun around at speed.

The $137,000 BMW is equipped with FIA-required safety car gear but otherwise mainly stock. It doesn’t look too easy to flip, and China Racing’s Nelson Piquet, Jr. masterfully throws the car into aggressive tire-smoking drifts.

With Piquet – who finished 8th at Formula E’s inaugural race on Saturday – at the wheel, the pretense was a kind-of-odd Q&A session Formula E’s promoters staged with their major benefactor Qualcomm.

Here engineers responsible for EV tech were asked questions meant to call attention to Qualcomm as Piquet did his best to make their answering questions difficult.

Piquet looks really composed, and either makes a mild smile, or otherwise stays calm as the Qualcomm engineers react to the violent drive.

Formula E’s major sponsor makes several automotive technologies, including wireless charging now being used by the series’ two i8 safety cars, but an inadvertent benefit is we get to see the i8 being abused.

The filming sequence was shot at Donington Park on August 20 at the Tarmac Lake/Heritage Loop area of the site which is used for off-race circuit events such as this.

Of course other cars could be driven in the same manner, and we already knew the BMW was a capable performance vehicle, but consider this one more proof.

But how about Tesla? One’s a BEV, the other a PHEV. From an electrification standpoint, Tesla has obvious appeal. For enthusiast drivers, which is more desirable?

Some mainstreamers would probably say the Bimmer. We won’t ask Motor Trend however. It would even pick an ICE M-B S550 over the Model S.

More convincing for the i8, however, may be Chris Harris …


Sep 15

Inaugural Formula E ‘ePrix’ Won by Di Grassi after leaders crash out


I am working on a story about how the Formula E series stands to positively benefit EVs and electrification. Maybe a list format, short and sweet.

Can any of you help me with bullet points of positive outcomes/benefits for that list?

Does anyone think Formula E could inadvertently not help electrification?


As expected, the world’s first zero-emissions auto racing series began in Beijing Saturday, but unexpected was Audi Sport ABT’s Lucas di Grassi gaining the Formula E ePrix win after two leaders crashed out.

The drama took place at the last turn of the last lap of the 25-lap race around a 2.14-mile (3.44 km) circuit which saw race leader Nicolas Prost touch wheels with Nick Heidfeld who lost control, hit a wall, and landed upside down.

As the video shows, Prost, driving the e.dams-Renault and the fastest qualifier and leader for most of the race moved left as drafting Heidfeld tried to swoop around him.

“I thought it was going to be a very big crash as well,” said Heidfeld after the race which had an estimated 75,000 attendance. “Once I hit the kerb it felt like I was in the air forever. I closed my eyes and waited for the impact and then I thought ‘Oh that was lucky!’ I have a small pain in my calf but apart from that I’m perfectly fine.”

After Heidfeld crawled out unscathed, the drivers verbally clashed with Prost accusing Heidfeld of attempting a “suicide move” according to the BBC, but later, after seeing the video, Prost accepted responsibility for making Heidfeld crash.

“I feel very bad about the incident… I understand that I am responsible,” Prost wrote on Twitter. “I just did not see him. I feel very bad,” Prost said. “The most important thing is that my friend Nick Heidfield is OK, sorry again Nick, you know I would never do something like this.”

Prost was handed a 10-place grid penalty for the next race scheduled November 22 at Putrajaya for “causing an avoidable collision.”

Default Winner

Meanwhile DiGrassi swept by to the win followed by Franck Monatgny of Andretti Autosport three-seconds behind, and third place was taken by DiGrassi’s teammate Daniel Abt but his place was forfeited because he was penalized for using 28.2 kilowatt-hours of 28 available from his battery pack.


Third place in the official standings was thus given to Sam Bird of Virgin Racing.

Katherine Legge – one of two women drivers – and Jaime Alguersuari were also penalized for being over the energy budget.

Other incidents included Mahindra driver Bruno Senna’s having to bow out on the opening lap after breaking his left-front suspension when he was squeezed between the two Amlin Aguri cars.

Also, e.dams-Renault’s Sebastien Buemi did not fiinsh after dropping out on lap 19.

Unique Race Series

Formula E stands out not only as a zero-carbon series – which by the way helped justify its being run at the Olympic Park in Beijing where air quality is a pivotal issue – but it’s unique in several aspects.

For one, it’s a spec-class race, at least its first year, with identically prepared Spark-Renault SRT_01E cars.


The cars – which can be power limited during the race – make about 270 peak horsepower, weigh an estimated 1,720 pounds (780kg) and are shifted through five-speed paddle shift gearboxes. Zero-to-sixty is under 3 seconds, and top speed is about 137 mph (220 kph).

The sound they make is 80 decibels, a lot less than a conventional race car, but a unique sound signature that may in time become associated with high performance racing.

Otherwise, the cars are sanctioned by the FIA like F1 cars are, but just as Formula E is about promoting sustainability, strategy involves managing finite energy and resources.

The allocation of tires is only 10 per car per race weekend, compared to 52 tires for a Formula 1 car.

SEE ALSO: Formula E’s Electric Race Car Revealed

Notable is these are not the most gumball sticky tires, but instead, rather large-diameter 18-inch Michelins specially designed for dry and wet conditions, and to last the entire race.

Also unique, and being called by some a “gimmick” is FanBoost which lets fans vote via social media for their favorite driver to gain 20 percent more horsepower for five seconds during the race. This seemingly small boost can put a driver over the top, but some traditionalists question the merit of essentially using a popularity contest to sway a competition’s results.

Donington Test Day 3

After all, the racing in other ways is conspired to be brutally even-handed enabling the best driver – not so much the best funded driver – to win.

How so? Observers have suggested Formula E is a more-fair test of driver and car as the vehicles are on paper evenly matched. In contrast, better funded teams or those with better engineering for their cars built under FIA rules, may make it a battle between cars as well as a competition between drivers.

As it was, Bruno Senna, Lucas di Grassi and Katherine Legge were voted to receive the five seconds of extra power.

SEE ALSO: Renault Confirmed As Technical Partner Of Formula E

Unconventional also – though not unprecedented – are the car swaps. The race promoters have said they cannot work around battery swaps at this point, and charging is estimated at 50 minutes, an unacceptably glacial amount of time for a pit stop.

So drivers for now head into the pits after 25-30 minutes to switch cars. So far we have not seen any reports that an “identical” car may actually run slightly better or not, but in principle, it’s at least certain a lone car is not asked to run start to finish.

Formula E does arguably make it more about the driver – though that FanBoost idea additing a popularity contest aspect in it is questionable.

Source: Formula E.

Source: Formula E.

Speaking of which, for a new race series, some big names have been attracted including major sponsor Qualcomm, Renault, Michelin and DHL.

Drivers and team owners include celebrities from traditional auto racing or family members – such as Bruno Senna is the nephew of Ayrton Senna, three-time F1 champion, and driver Nicolas Prost – the one who should have won – is son of Alain Prost, F1 driver and co-founder of the e.dams-Renault team.

Also Leonardo DiCaprio is backing the Venturi team and a cofounder. The actor who was one of the first Fisker owners, is doing it for his major interest in the environment, and that spirit, by the way, is infused in most of the particpants at various levels.

Formula E will likely go through more teething issues besides the unexpected crash, but industry watchers are hoping it will add prestige to electrified transportation, and lend trickle-down tech and lessons learned as well.

The whole televised race event.

Reports have been saying Formula E is the “first” electric racing series, but we have been careful to qualify this is a first “auto” race series.

The notion of an electric-only series was first seen in the motorcycle world with the more of a run-what-you-brung TTXGP series that probably would have benefitted if it had been spec class as well – there was a huge disparity between first to last place.

With TTXGP the idea is also to promote electric vehicles, albeit with a focus on the two-wheeled variety. The first TTXGP race was held in May 2010 at Infineon Raceway in California, and yours truly was there for that.

Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to Beijing. Maybe next time.


Sep 12

Global Warming is ‘nonsense’ says former NASA scientist


No sooner than we heard the U.S. may have 100-250 years worth of recoverable oil than we hear a growing list of scientists say climate change is a theory without merit.

As we know, the Father of the Chevy Volt, Bob Lutz called global warming a crock of soup (after it’s passed through the human body), but more pungeant words have been emitted by people who know more about the subject.


These, according to citing UK reports include the “Green Guru” James Lovelock, and Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and former NASA scientist Professor Les Woodcock.

The Brietbart report centered on the words of Woodcock who has a respectable resume. He has authored 70 academic papers for various scientific journals, has a PhD from the University of London, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a recipient of a Max Planck Society Visiting Fellowship, and a founding editor the journal Molecular Simulation.

Presently, he’s Emeritus Professor of Chemical Thermodynamics at the University of Manchester, so he knows a thing or two about the scientific method.

And, more tamely, but probably more credibly than Bob Lutz, he called global warming “nonsense,” and the theory of man-made climate change “an unsubstantiated hypothesis.”

And before we forget, former Green Guru James Lovelock, earlier this month said climate scientists “just guess,” and no one really knows what’s happening regarding apparent climate shifts.

Also, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Judith Curry said she was “duped into supporting the IPCC” and added “If the IPCC is dogma, then count me in as a heretic.”

Coming back to Les Woodcock, the former NASA scientist has been widely quoted and pulling no punches.

Brietbart said Woodcock was quoted by the Yorkshire Evening Post as saying:

“The term ‘climate change’ is meaningless. The Earth’s climate has been changing since time immemorial, that is since the Earth was formed 1,000 million years ago. The theory of ‘man-made climate change’ is an unsubstantiated hypothesis [about] our climate [which says it] has been adversely affected by the burning of fossil fuels in the last 100 years, causing the average temperature on the earth’s surface to increase very slightly but with disastrous environmental consequences.

“The theory is that the CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuel is the ‘greenhouse gas’ causes ‘global warming’ – in fact, water is a much more powerful greenhouse gas and there is 20 time more of it in our atmosphere (around one per cent of the atmosphere) whereas CO2 is only 0.04 per cent.
“There is no reproducible scientific evidence CO2 has significantly increased in the last 100 years.”

And, he said:

“Even the term ‘global warming’ does not mean anything unless you give it a time scale. The temperature of the earth has been going up and down for millions of years, if there are extremes, it’s nothing to do with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it’s not permanent and it’s not caused by us. Global warming is nonsense.”

When asked about major floods in the UK last winter as a result of global warming, Woodcock dismissed this as “anecdotal” and invald as scientific proof.

“Events can happen with frequencies on all time scales in the physics of a chaotic system such as the weather. Any point on lowland can flood up to a certain level on all time scales from one month to millions of years and it’s completely unpredictable beyond around five days.”

But what about the fact the most extreme weather “since records began” is being recorded?
“The reason records seem to be being frequently broken is simply because we only started keeping them about 100 years ago. There will always be some record broken somewhere when we have another natural fluctuation in weather.

“It’s absolutely stupid to blame floods on climate change, as I read the Prime Minister did recently. I don’t blame the politicians in this case, however, I blame his so-called scientific advisors.”

Brietbart also noted Woodcock was asked about most of the world’s scientists, political leaders and people in general who are committed to the theory of global warming. To this, Woodcock replied:

“This is not the way science works. If you tell me that you have a theory there is a teapot in orbit between the earth and the moon, it’s not up to me to prove it does not exist, it’s up to you to provide the reproducible scientific evidence for your theory. “Such evidence for the man-made climate change theory has not been forthcoming.”

Brietbart noted also he said missing evidence hasn’t prevented “a whole green industry building up, however. At the behest of that industry, governments have been passing ever more regulations that make life more difficult and expensive.”

And, Woodcock said:

“…the damage to our economy the climate change lobby is now costing us is infinitely more destructive to the livelihoods of our grand-children. Indeed, we grand-parents are finding it increasingly expensive just to keep warm as a consequence of the idiotic decisions our politicians have taken in recent years about the green production of electricity.”

So there you have it. The usual reaction will be to seek to discredit the speaker. He does have an apparently good resume, though we’ve not looked too deeply.

Nor is he the only one who thinks like he does, apparently.

Bob Lutz pushed for the Volt because he saw a business case, and wanted to beat the Prius, he has said.

“Basically, it was born out of my frustration at the deification of Toyota, because of the Prius. All the senior executives of Toyota were about to be officially anointed as saints,” said Lutz to SF Gate in 2011.

That case stills exist, but motives for electrification including desire for energy independence, and now concerns over climate change are being questioned.

What do you make of this? Is there any merit to Professor Woodcock’s assertions? You can say what you wish, but his challenge is to name your proof that can lead to a conclusion, not an intuitive leap based on apparent evidence.