Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Dec 05

Nikola Motors Debuts Hydrogen-Electric Semi-Truck


By Larry E. Hall


Last Thursday Nikola Motors took the wraps off its prototype Nikola One hydrogen-powered electric semi-truck at its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Since appearing out of nowhere last June – and soon claiming 7,300 pre-orders before a running prototype was shown – the startup company’s technology has captured the public’s attention with its potential to radically improve emissions, efficiency, and continues to look promising.

Nikola CEO Trevor Milton said the heavy duty Class 8 truck would travel 800 to 1,200 miles while carrying a full load of 65,000 pounds without stopping at a hydrogen fueling station, where refill time is just 15 minutes.


The Nikola One semi employs a fully electric drivetrain powered by high-density rechargeable lithium batteries that energy is merged with primary electric energy supplied on-the-go by a hydrogen fuel cell that provides juice for the electric motors while keeping the batteries charged.

According to Milton, the truck runs off both the 350-kWh battery and the fuel cell as a parallel hybrid with the fuel cell providing most of the power to eliminate cycles on batteries. The batteries are in place to assist whenever the truck needs more power.

If the fuel cell is turned off, the batteries can be used to drive the vehicle up to around 200 miles.

“We get about .58 miles per kWh,” said Milton, “so about 200 miles [would be the range in battery only mode] if you went a full discharge.”

The company is not naming the chemistry of its batteries because this would reveal the manufacturer, Milton said. This will likely be disclosed later once the partnership between Nicola and the battery maker is announced.

Each driven wheel has an electric motor that provides a combined output of 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 pounds-feet of torque, which Milton said can power a fully-loaded truck up an 8-percent grade at 60 mph.

For short-haul trucking companies, Nikola Two without a sleeper was shown on a screen.

Nikola confused folks in August when it pivoted abruptly from a range-extender hybrid truck that used turbines fueled by natural gas to its current hydrogen fuel technology.

SEE ALSO: Nikola One Series Hybrid Truck Takes Aim At Diesel’s Dominance

Milton said Nikola decided to “filter out and eliminate any orders from other countries” outside the U.S. and Canada so it could focus on the hydrogen-electric truck. The company will only produce the hybrid truck after the hydrogen-powered trucks hit the market.

At last night’s event, Nikola announced that Miami-based Ryder Systems, with more than 800 service locations, will be its exclusive provider for sales distribution and service nationwide.


To support the Nikola One trucks, Milton said it will have a network of hydrogen fueling stations across the country. The first construction of 56 locations will start in January 2018, and eventually grow to more than 300 stations.

As for the supply of hydrogen fuel for the stations, that will come from solar hydrogen farms owned by Nikola.

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

In June, Nikola announced that it had received 7,000 pre-orders for the hybrid truck. Last night the company said the number has grown to 8,000 and that 99 percent of the orders were for the hydrogen model representing more than $3 billion in sales.

The Nikola One will be road-ready by 2019 Milton said, and the company will announce the location of its new manufacturing plant in the first half of 2017.

Nikola Motor isn’t the only company that has plans to develop hydrogen fuel cell heavy duty vehicles.


Last week Toyota said it is considering using that technology to develop a heavy-duty fuel cell truck, and has formed a special team in the U.S. to work on a fuel cell electric powertrain for Class 8 trucks.

The Japanese automaker announced last month that will begin selling fuel cell buses next year.

Perhaps the race for fuel cell big rig trucks has started.

This article appears also art


Dec 02

Chevy Volt Has Best Sales Month in Over Three Years



The Volt could very well have its best sales year on record if it repeats the performance it saw in November.

A total 2,531 sales were several hundred more than any month this year, and the best on record for more than three years for the extended-range EV which launched as a second generation car October 2015.

Total year to date sales of 21,048 units put it in range of narrowly topping peak sales years of 2012 (23,461 units), and 2013 (23,094 units).

For the past several months the Volt has tracked within a couple hundred units of the 2,000 unit mark. Last month it sold 2,191, and so November’s 2,531 sales – while a small uptick by conventional car sales standards – means the first full year for generation two is in a race against the best years for generation one.

To beat gen one’s best year by just one unit, Chevrolet needs 2,414 Volt sales in December. To exceed 2012’s best year by one unit, and achieve the Volt model’s second-best year on record, Chevrolet needs to sell 2,046 units in December.

Given December tends to be a strong month for plug-in sales because it is closest to the tax reporting season for federal credits to be received, odds are reasonable it could top 2012’s all-time record.

A new all-time record would be a stretch however, as 2,400-plus sales is a lot for the Volt – with the exception of November’s outlying 2,531, thus far from impossible.

Much more likely is it can at least make 2,046 units needed to beat 2013’s record.

We shall see in one month.


Dec 01

Will the Chevy Bolt Really Be a $9,000 Loser For Each Car Sold?


By Jon LeSage


General Motors will be losing a lot of money for every Chevrolet Bolt that it starts selling before the end of this year, according to an opinion piece.

Bloomberg published today a feature claiming GM will lose up to $9,000 for each Bolt that it manufactures and sells.

“Sounds crazy, but the damage makes perfect business sense under the no pain, no gain policy driving the electric-vehicle boom in the U.S.,” according to writers David Welch and John Lippert.

Welch and Lippert blame California and its strict zero-emission and clean air rules for driving up the cost. That will extend out to nine other states that have adopted California’s ZEV policies.

“Most are destined to be loaded with red ink for their makers, but they’ll be great deals for consumers as companies unload them to meet their targets,” according to Welch and Lippert.

The hurdles to clear California’s strict rules may get higher, according to the commentary. Gov. Jerry Brown had signed a law ordering greenhouse-gas emissions be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. To clear that benchmark, all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or fuel-cell cars may have to compromise 40 percent of sales, up from about three percent now, according to California Air Resources Board staff projections.

That will never happen, according to Eric Noble, president of the CarLab, a consulting company in Orange, Calif.

“The idea that automakers will sell 40 percent of their vehicles at a loss in California is ludicrous,” Noble said.

Noble thinks that most electric cars lose at least $10,000 per sale.

The commentary also cites Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, who said in 2014 that the company was losing $14,000 per sale for the Fiat 500e electric car.

That may be affected by extremely cheap lease deals, with the FCA offering a monthly lease-rate as low as $69. Nissan had advertised lease deals for the Leaf at as low as $149.

The $9,000 loss per Bolt sold stated in the commentary comes from a few assumptions. The Bolt’s per-sale loss of about $8,000 to $9,000 is an estimate based on a sticker price of $37,500, according to a person familiar with the matter. Enough of these ZEVs need to be sold so that GM “can go to town on other vehicles, including pickups and SUVS, which is where the big money is.”

Taking it further, the authors did their own math. Taking GM’s figure of 219,962 total vehicles sold in California during 2015, the automaker will need to sell 14 percent of the total as ZEVs, coming out to 30,794.

“That would mean finding buyers for 7,698 Bolts, earning four credits for each, or 10,082 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids or a combination of the two,” according to the authors.

The only hope that GM would have is selling enough Bolts and Leafs for meet California ZEV mandates, and then building up a surplus of credits to sell to competitors, according to the commentary.

Tesla’s has been able to tap into these ZEV credits. In the third quarter, Tesla earned $139 million selling excess credits. The biggest buyer in the 11 months ending in August was Fiat Chrysler; GM purchased the smallest amount.

Tim Mahoney, Chevrolet’s chief marketing officer, said that the Bolt goes beyond compliance and represents an opportunity to reach car buyers who might be lost. Mahoney thinks the Bolt will lure younger, technologically savvy buyers car shoppers who probably wouldn’t have considered Chevrolet, he said.

“It’s a statement about what we can do for the Chevy brand,” Mahoney said.

The Bolt’s 238-mile range is expected to be a strong competitive advantage. The Nissan Leaf can go 107 miles on a single charge, and the Fiat 500e can go just 85. GM will also have an edge over Tesla’s Model 3, which won’t come out until late next year. GM also plans to sell the Bolt in China and Europe.

The $9,000 loss per Bolt sold is likely to be highly overstated, with GM planning on manufacturing the all-electric car at relatively high numbers. The Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan where the Bolt is being produced has the capacity to build up to 90,000 Bolts a year, according to Reuters.

The cost of the battery is expected to be competitive for the Bolt, and future generations of the battery technology should get even better and cheaper.

SEE ALSO:  Bob Lutz Said Electrified Vehicles Can Be Big Money Losers

Former GM vice chair Bob Lutz said late last year that capital-strained auto industry is making unprofitable cars to satisfy regulators, and he’d be “surprised and shocked” if the 2017 Chevy Bolt is profitable.

“I no longer have access to General Motors figures, but I would be surprised and shocked if the 200-mile electric Bolt is going to make money,” said Lutz at an Automotive News roundtable discussion held in August 2015. “You look at the cost per kilowatt hour of batteries and the number of kilowatt hours they have got in there and then you look at the selling price. It’s just not going to work.”

A few months later, in October 2015, GM revealed it pays LG Chem, its collaborative partner developing the Bolt, just $145 per kilowatt-hour for battery cells. GM has said it will be profitable, and Lutz did admit that he’s not privy to those details any more.

The authors of the Bloomberg piece did acknowledge the Bolt and other electric cars can become profitable under certain conditions:

“Of course, the industry might figure out how to make ZEVs into money makers, once the charging-station infrastructure is built out and as battery costs fall. Global demand seems sure to rise, with major economies, including China, having recognized climate change as a threat and tailpipe-emissions from gas-powered autos as a chief contributor.”



Nov 30

European Electric Carmakers Announce Major Ultra-Fast Charging Network


Notable is GM is not involved …


If things go to plan for a pervasive ultra-fast charging network in Europe, by 2020 automakers will make publically recharging electric cars as convenient as a fuel station stop.

That’s the takeaway from an ambitious collaboration announced today by BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche.

As they anticipate a profound ramp up in plug-in electric cars starting now, the major automakers say they are investing in an initial 400 ultra-fast charging 350-kW sites along critical highways.

SEE ALSO: Europe Is Awakening From Diesel-Induced Sleep to Chase New Electric (Car) Dreams

“By 2020, consumers should have access to thousands of high-powered charging points,” said Ford on behalf of fellow collaborators in outlining the undertaking.

While estimated recharge times were not given – and ultimately will depend on how large a battery needs to be filled – the up-to 350 kW charge standard is significantly above anything now in service, including Tesla Superchargers.

 Tesla cars cannot presently use CCS chargers. They can use CHAdeMO chargers via an adapter that Tesla sells for $450 in the U.S. That adapter is limited by specification to CHAdeMO's existing 125A specification (really 62.5 kW but sometimes called 50 kW) specification.

Tesla cars cannot presently use CCS fast chargers. They can use CHAdeMO chargers via an adapter that Tesla sells for $450 in the U.S. That adapter is limited by specification to CHAdeMO’s existing 125A specification (really 62.5 kW but sometimes called 50 kW) specification.

Indeed, the planned faster network using a competing charge standard, while not stated by the collaborators, appears to be a direct response to Tesla’s Supercharger network, Tesla has also announced aggressive EV expansion plans and recently said it plans a new joint Gigafactory battery plant and car assembly plant in Europe.

On that note, the collaborators have agreed to use the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard, with the aim of being as inclusive – not exclusive – of as many EV makers as possible, assuming they also design cars compatible with this standard.

At the Paris Motor Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche introduced its new EQ brand. The move parallels ongoing initiatives by VW Group and BMW.

At the Paris Motor Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche introduced its new EQ brand. The move parallels ongoing initiatives by VW Group and BMW.

The automakers, who will be equal partners in the collaboration, say their next-generation battery electric vehicles will be optimized to take advantage of the quick fill, and they invite other automakers to join in.

“Vehicles engineered to accept the full power of the charge stations can recharge brand-independently in a fraction of the time of today’s battery electric vehicles,” said Ford on behalf of the collaborating manufacturers. “The network is intended to serve all Combined Charging System-equipped vehicles to facilitate battery electric vehicle adoption in Europe.

Unstated is exactly how much money all this will cost.

“The automobile manufacturers intend to make substantial investments to create the network, underscoring each company’s belief in the future of electric mobility,” said Ford.

Otherwise, the chief executives of the different brands all gave their take on why they are doing it, led off with BMW which has its i-brand represented by the i3 and i8.


“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move toward electric mobility,” said Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG. “The BMW Group has initiated numerous public charging infrastructure projects over the last years. The joint project is another major milestone clearly demonstrating that competitors are combining forces to ramp up e-mobility.”

BMW was one of the companies who in October said it wants 15-25 percent of its sales coming from plug-in electrified cars. While it got an early head start on electrification, it’s caught criticism for being slow to develop new i-series models faster.

Today’s news indicates it has not at all lost the vision, which in turn is shared by rival Daimler AG which in October announced its EQ brand, and plans for 15-25 percent of all sales to be plug-in by 2025.

Generation EQ.

Generation EQ.

“The breakthrough of e-mobility requires two things: convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure. With our new brand EQ, we are launching our electric product offensive: by 2025, our portfolio will include more than 10 fully electric passenger cars. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The availability of high-power stations allows long-distance e-mobility for the first time and will convince more and more customers to opt for an electric vehicle.”

Audi e-tron Quattro.

Audi e-tron Quattro.

And not to be forgotten is the VW Group, which intends 30 battery electric cars spread among its 13 brands by 2025, and said this year it wants 20-25 percent of sales coming from plug0in cars by 2025.

Brands Americans know, aside from VW, are Porsche and Audi.

“We intend to create a network that allows our customers on long-distance trips to use a coffee break for recharging,” said Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of AUDI AG. “Reliable, fast charging services are a key factor for drivers to choose an electric vehicle. With this cooperation, we want to boost broader market adoption of e-mobility and speed up the shift toward emission-free driving.”

The one U.S. based carmaker doing business in Europe that’s collaborating in the charging network initiative, Ford, says it too is on board, as it otherwise reinvents itself into a mobility company.

“A reliable, ultra-fast charging infrastructure is important for mass consumer adoption and has the potential to transform the possibilities for electric driving,” said Mark Fields, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “Ford is committed to developing vehicles and technologies that make people’s lives better, and this charging network will make it easier and more practical for consumers across Europe to own electrified vehicles.”

“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” said Oliver Blume, chairman of the executive board of Porsche AG. “Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As an automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles, but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”

“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” said Oliver Blume, chairman of the executive board of Porsche AG. “Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As an automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles, but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”

The carmakers call the initiative an “unprecedented collaboration” but more will need to be seen. Plans are to get started in 2017 and appear to add substance to the push to make EVs mainstream.

Behind it all are of course regulations forcing automakers to clean up their fleets. The Paris Accord on climate change in 2015 also saw 195 nations agree that the world faces a deadline to slow the rate of global temperature increase.

These forces backed by threat to the ecosystems and environments of the world are the lever that appears to be moving formerly reluctant players to embrace electrification.

These are truly unique times in the history of motorized transportation.


Nov 29

Mazda, Subaru and Toyota Coming Around To Electric Cars


Note — Pretty soon everyone will have plug-in cars.

By Jon LeSage

The days of building “compliance cars” in small numbers to look good in strict markets like California may be over for Japanese automakers and their peers.

Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota, which had resisted manufacturing all-electric vehicles for years, are now ready to enter the game. Regulatory pressure is increasing in key global markets and competitors are starting embrace the technology in a big way.

“The overall industry is now shifting its electrification focus toward EVs,” said Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, the company manufacturing Subaru cars. “We are in the age where we cannot just go on launching EVs only as regulation compliance cars.”

Mazda will launch its EV in 2019, and Subaru’s will follow in 2021. Toyota recently announced it will launch an “in-house venture company” next month to start developing battery-powered eco-cars in a speedy, innovative way. That giant automaker still favors hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but like its smaller Japanese competitors, sees the regulatory and competitive climate tipping in favor of EVs.

Japanese competitor Honda seems to be going in that direction. The company said it will be rolling out an electric version of the Clarity and that more EVs are likely to follow. A few years ago, Honda launched an all-electric version of the Fit subcompact, but production and sales volumes have dwindled away.

Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota, haven’t yet released any real details on what their electric cars will look like, or how their battery packs and electric motors will be designed. The per-charge range will also have to be addressed, they said. These future EVs may be small cars, sedans, SUVs, or other vehicle classes as other automakers release concept vehicle across the gamut. Executives at the three companies have said that these electric rollouts will respond to what Automotive News describes as “an immutable trend buffeting all makes, large and small.”

Neither Mazda nor Subaru currently sells an EV. Mazda has been experimenting with a small fleet of electric Mazda2 subcompacts operating around its headquarters in Hiroshima.

Unlike Toyota, Mazda and Subaru are neophytes in hybrid technology. Subaru has a hybrid version of its Crosstrek crossover, but it falls short on fuel economy and will be pulled from its U.S. lineup. Mazda offers a hybrid version of the Mazda3 in Japan. That car uses a gasoline-electric system designed and engineered by Toyota.

SEE ALSO:  Mazda Finally Bringing Electrified and Diesel Cars to US

Mazda and Subaru say their EVs will be built in-house, but they do acknowledge their need for tapping into outside resources. Subaru will source batteries and the electric motor from outside. Mazda says it may work with partner Toyota to jointly develop some of the necessary technologies.

Both companies have strong alliances already in place with Toyota. Toyota owns a capital stake in Fuji Heavy Industries, which manufactures Subaru’s cars, and last year Toyota signed a broad-ranging alliance deal with Mazda.

According to a Japanese press report, Toyota will set up a team to develop EVs that can travel more than 186 miles on a single charge. The automaker will sell these cars in Japan and other markets that promote EVs, including California and China.

Facing California’s zero-emission vehicle mandate is behind the planning for these companies. Mazda Motor Corp. CEO Masamichi Kogai said his company will start with introducing its EV specifically to meet California’s ZEV mandate. But beyond that, the next EV will be a global offering, he said.

Mazda sees EV technology being deployed mostly in small cars, while plug-in hybrid systems tend to go to mid- to larger-size vehicles, Kogai said.

Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda’s global r&d chief, referenced the company’s strategy to that used in the BMW i3, which offers both battery-powered EV and range-extender versions.

“Just as with BMW’s i3, our idea is that we offer a simple EV model and an EV equipped with a range extender. So, customers can choose either of them,” he said.

Subaru also sees EVs as a long-term play, CEO Yoshinaga said. Plug-in hybrids will be the popular transition technology into the mid-2020s, after which all-electric vehicles should be the dominant electrified system, he said.

“Research firms say the PHEV market will be bigger for the time being, but the EV market will be on the increase in the future, and we agree with that projection,” Yoshinaga said. “Looking at the recent technology trend, I’d think EVs would be the mainstream.”

Automotive News,


Nov 28

1,341-HP ‘World’s Fastest’ EV Sits Atop NextEV’s Tesla-Fighting NIO Brand



In a lavish ceremony at the Saatchi Gallery in London last Monday, Shanghai-based NextEV announced the NIO brand of electric cars it hopes will soon enough compete against Tesla, and while it was at it, dazzled attendees with its NIO EP9 electric hypercar.

Regarding cars ordinary people may buy, NIO says it will let customers rediscover a “joyful lifestyle” with vehicles delivering superior performance and “a new benchmark for aesthetic design and unique user experiences.”

You may recall NextEV, which has 250 employees in San Jose, in October opened another office for hundreds of engineers to work.

The company was approved by California to begin testing autonomous vehicles, and has about 500 engineers at work on its first mass produced electric car due for global debut in 2017.

Otherwise images of future cars the rest of us can buy were not presented, but the company does have an eye on producing such ASAP.

Meanwhile, NIO, with major backing by Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, established more credibility with its EP9 that is literally smashing – course records that is.

Of note is its Oct. 12 lap in just 7:05.12 around the Nürburgring Nordschliefe which soundly beat the previous 7:22 EV record. It also smashed the EV record at France’s Circuit Paul Ricard recording a time of 1m 52.78s, eclipsing the previous record of 2m 40s.


Yes, it’s faster than a Tesla – the company is calling it the “world’s fastest electric car” – and with a Nürburgring lap just 8 seconds behind a Porsche 918 Spyder, that’s a fair statement.

It ought to be faster than a Tesla however, as only six are being made, investors all snapped them up, and if a price were affixed, it would sell for $1.2 million – actual price paid undisclosed – but otherwise it costs enough to buy nine Tesla P100Ds.

What’s so special about this EV?

It has four inboard motors and four individual gearboxes serving up 1-MegaWatt of power, equivalent to 1,341 horsepower.

Acceleration from 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) takes 2.7 seconds, 0-124 mph (0-200 km/h) takes 7.1 seconds, quarter mile is 10.1 seconds, and top speed is 195 mph (313 km/h).


With an interchangeable battery system, the EP9 is also designed to be charged in 45 minutes and has an advertised range of 265 miles (427 kilometers).

More than a straight-line speedster, this one is meant to go extra fast around the twisties – up to 3G cornering force claimed for the carbon cockpit and chassis which “embodies a new approach to performance vehicle design.”

Aerodynamic tricks and strong structurally rigidity are responsible for what would otherwise defy ordinary cars’ cornering ability no matter how sticky their tires.


How much downforce? At 149 mph (240 km/h), the EP9 is credited with 5,395 pounds (24,000 Newtons) of force pushing the vehicle into the tarmac. That means the EP9 could theoretically drive upside down inside a tunnel as this exceeds the car’s 3,825-pound (1,735 kg) weight.

“Today we launched our electric supercar that broke the record at the Nordschliefe. The NIO EP9 was born to push limits and is the first stage of automotive production for NIO,” said NextEV Founder and Chairman, William Li. “It is a statement of our vision and technical and manufacturing capabilities. It is a best-in-class product that showcases what is possible with electric vehicles. We believe that when the car ownership experience exceeds expectations, electric vehicles will become the natural choice for everyone, leading to a more sustainable tomorrow. And with that, our vision of a blue sky will come true.”

Meanwhile, aside from this fantasy car come to life, the company says stay tuned for something you may be able to buy in the next few years, assuming things go to plan.