Archive for the ‘General’ Category


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.


Sep 11

Formula E to start this Saturday


Just so you can have time to adjust your rabbit ears on your television in time, I thought I’d mention the all-electric auto racing series is about to begin.

It’s as much activism in disguise and being spec-class, Formula E promises closer racing. Lap times are not astonishing by ICE standards but the competition and color and being all-electric should make it interesting.


By Mark Atkinson

After only two years since it was first announced, the FIA’s all-electric Formula E racing series is ready to make its public debut.

The opening round is set to kick off this Saturday, September 13, in Beijing, China. This will be followed by nine more races held in Malaysia, Uruguay, Argentina, the United States, Monaco, Germany and finishing at the end of June 2015 in London, England.

While other forms of auto racing — most notably top-end endurance series — have embraced things like hybrid systems and turbo-diesel engines, Formula E is the first to be purely electric. FIA President Jean Todt says it “…will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share FIA’s values for clean energy, mobility and sustainability.”

Because of the aggressive schedule from introduction to competition, all 10 teams and their 20 drivers will use identical open-wheel race cars designed by Spark-Renault, with collaboration from other racing heavyweights like Dallara, Michelin, Hewland, McLaren and Williams.

SEE ALSO: FIA Formula-E: amping up the excitement for EVs

We already know each driver will be using two cars per hour-long race — drivers will swap from one to the other during a mandated pit-stop — which was a decision made by the FIA in the name of safety. Neither battery swapping nor fast charging are developed enough to do it with acceptable margins, or at least not yet.

“Technology takes time to develop, just look at the evolution from ‘brick’ phones to smartphones and desktop computers to tablets,” explained Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E. “In the same way, we believe electric cars need time to evolve, and we’re just at the beginning of the electric-racing era — this is very exciting. At present, our batteries last 25-30 minutes, but as technology improves — our goal will be to run the entire race with one car and one battery.”

The series has come up with some interesting ideas on how to spice up the racing. While racers will have access to the car’s full 200 kw (270 horsepower) during qualifying sessions, the series will limit that to 150 kw (200 horses) once the race starts to ensure everyone has a chance to finish… But, fans can vote for their favorite drivers ahead of the race, and the top-three will earn a one-time five-second boost, which when triggered gives 180 kw (240 horsepower).

“We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities,” Agag said.

SEE ALSO: Why Formula E Car-Swapping Isn’t Unique

Starting in the second season, Formula E will open up development to the teams, and allow them to build their own racers that fit within the FIA’s rule guidelines, much like Formula 1 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

There’s a strong American effort in the series. The Monte Carlo-based Venturi team has support from actor Leonardo di Caprio, and two other teams — Dragon Racing, owed by Jay Penske, and Andretti Autosport — have huge ties to open-wheel racing. And the U.S. is the only country to get two races, one on each coast; first in Miami in March, then in Long Beach, California in April.

Television coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1 in the United States, and you can check local outlets for broadcast times.


Sep 10

8 amazing stats about Tesla’s Gigafactory


With apologies to Noel, I threw this together after a little research. Can you add to the list (I bet some of you can). Or, do you disbelieve it? The factory is not in Missouri. It was not asked. It’s in a state known for taking chances.

How will this affect GM, and the Volt, assuming Tesla comes even close to Elon’s wildest dreams? (Don’t you wish you knew what the OEMs were really thinking now?) …


If you haven’t noticed, Tesla is on an ambitious quest to prove the time of the EV is now. Or, with its Gigafactory battery plant proposed for outside Reno, Nevada, one might also say the time of the mass-produced EV is soon.

To highlight some of the salient points about this monumental undertaking, we’ve compiled a brief list of statistics based on Tesla’s forward-looking statements focused around the year 2020.

While others are wondering whether Tesla can pull it off, the company has defied critics to date, and so, this is the plan, and we’ll give it full benefit of the doubt.

Rendering shown earlier this year.

Rendering shown earlier this year.


Momentous Assumptions Pending

1. The Gigafactory will be gigantic. At an estimated 10 million square feet, with 6,500 employees, and occupying 500-1,000 acres, it will be one of the world’s largest factories. By comparison, the current largest building in the world by volume at 472 million cubic feet (13.3 million cubic meters) is the Boeing Everett Factory. This 30,000-employee facility in Everett, Washington has 4.3 million square feet of usable floor space, and is situated on 98.3 acres.

2. The Gigafactory is well named. Producing up to 50 gigawatt hours of lithium-ion battery packs per year by 2020, it will be the world’s largest battery factory. This output is greater than was the world’s li-ion battery production in 2013.

3. The Gigafactory will be an overachiever. By 2020, and 500,000 electric cars annually, Tesla will produce more EVs in one year than the world has yet produced since 2008. That’s when Tesla’s Roadsters kicked off the modern era and were produced through to 2012 with under 2,500 units built. In fact, total global consumption of all plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) only crossed the half-million mark in July 2014. Tesla wants to be selling this many of only BEVs every year in just six years from now.

Recent rendering shown with Nevada location announcement.

Recent rendering shown with Nevada location announcement.


4. The Gigafactory will be sustainable. Not only will its products be environmentally friendly, so will the facility, as plans are to power it exclusively by solar, wind, and geothermal energy. It’s believed the plant will also be tied to the grid, and have ability to store energy in its own-produced energy storage systems, or Tesla could possibly sell surplus electricity back to the local utility.

5. The Gigafactory will be a market changer. Plans are to singlehandedly drive down cost per kilowatt-hour of li-ion batteries by at least 30 percent. Actually, this estimate is for 2017, at the beginning of the ramp-up period for the entry level Model III. Presumably costs could drop further. This stands to make production financially feasible for Tesla to sell the cars starting in the $30,000s and it could also make it more affordable for other automakers to produce their own electrified vehicles.


6. The Gigafactory will be one giant goad. It stands to be the single most effective spur to the fledgling EV industry assuming it can sell volumes of its cars as planned. If it shows it can be done, it will create a large market. Others will follow.

7. Tesla stands to save lots of gasoline. Specifically, one half-million gas-free electric cars could save around 192 million gallons of gasoline per year. By the time 2020 rolls around, the U.S. EPA estimates under CAFE rules window sticker will average 31.3 mpg combined. Assuming 12,000 miles driven per year you get 383.3 gallons saved per gas-free car. Multiplied by 500,000 cars, you get 191,693,291 gallons saved per year. Or, reduced to just 10,000 miles annually, you still have close to 160 million gallons; and if you wish, averaged to only 8,000 miles driven, it’s almost 128 million gallons.


8. Tesla will be a significant global manufacturing force. Realistically, its somewhere around 30,000 cars more or less it ought to sell this year makes Tesla a niche player. Assuming synergies work close to plan, by 2020 Tesla stands to be globally selling more pure electric cars per year than Jaguar Land-Rover sells cars, period. At a half-million Teslas per year, this is more than the 425,000 vehicles the British luxury brand sold last year. We mention JLR only because its numbers are close, not to pick on it. The point is half a million EVs per year is a big deal.