Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Aug 09

Faraday Future Poaches General Motors’ Electric Propulsion Chief

 

By Larry E. Hall

FARADAY-Screen-Shot--668x409

Faraday Future’s hiring spree now includes Peter Savagian, the general director of General Motors’ electric propulsion drive team, and a former chief engineer of GM’s EV1 battery-electric program in the 1990s.

The California electric car start up has had success in recruiting top executives, engineers, designers and technicians from a wide scope of auto manufacturers.

Savagian announced his move to Faraday Future on LinkedIn, which was discovered by Electrek this past weekend.

On his LinkedIn profile, he lists himself as Faraday’s vice president for engineering and says he will “lead engineering operations for powertrain, battery and related high voltage systems.”

Savagian will be joining several of his former EV1 colleagues, including Silva Hiti, Young Mok Doo and Steven Schulz, who are working on Faraday’s power electronics.

The four of them also all worked for the Hughes Aircraft Company, which developed power electronics for the EV1 program, prior to joining GM.

SEE ALSO: Does Faraday Have a Future?

Former hires by Faraday Future include top people from BMW, FiatChrysler, Ford, Tesla and Toyota.

Currently, Faraday is designing and engineering a lineup of battery-electric vehicles, the first of which is expected sometime in 2018.

Until that happens, Faraday Future has a logo, offices in Hawthorne, CA, a factory that is under construction in Nevada and a concept car named the FFZero1 (above photo).

The concept, introduced at January’s Consumer Electronic Show, is a single-seat racecar built on an adaptable modular platform that will underpin the company’s future production vehicles.

Electrek

 

Aug 08

2019 Chevrolet Corvette Could Be Mid-Engined With Plug-in Hybrid Option

 

By Jon LeSage

2017-Chevrolet-Corvette-Grand-Sport-668x409

The next-generation Chevrolet Corvette could break tradition with a mid-engine layout and plug-in hybrid option as well.

According to sources interviewed by The Detroit News – including former “Father of the Volt” Bob Lutz – the eighth-generation C8 ‘Vette, codenamed “Emperor,” could be unveiled in 2018 prior to arriving at dealers for the 2019 model year.

None of this is official, as Chevy media reps merely said they do not speak of future product, but others with reportedly close ties have said the car is definitely in the works.

One “former GM employee with knowledge of the project” told The Detroit News the project is being pushed through by GM’s Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.

“It’s happening. Mark Reuss wants it,” said the source. “It’s the worst-kept secret in town.”

For his part Lutz suggested the possibility of the plug-in option. The former General Motors product czar and vice chairman speculated that one of the reasons the C8 is in a longer-than-typical development period is indeed to add a plug-in powertrain.

Lutz predicts “10- to 15-mile plug-in electric capability,” which would come from a small lithium-ion battery pack no larger than 5 kilowatt hours plus electric motor added to the traditional small-block pushrod V8. He also predicts the plug-in hybrid Corvette will have 50 mpg city in EPA testing.

If the mid-engine layout actually does come to pass, despite plug-in fans’ sensibility, this change in engine layout will be seen as bigger news, and arguably the most profound design change in the Corvette’s history since 1953.

Aside from the The Detroit News, several other publications have also speculated that the next Corvette will drop the front-engine layout. Mid-engine Corvette concept cars have been shown by GM going back to the 1960s, but were never brought to production as consumer models.

Lutz suggested that engineering a plug-in hybrid powertrain could enable another first for the Corvette – all-wheel drive. He speculated that it could be enabled by an electric motor mounted to the front axle, augmenting the Corvette’s traditional rear-wheel drive.

The idea of a hybrid or plug-in hybrid Corvette has been talked about before. In 2013, then-GM president Reuss called a hybrid Corvette a “very attractive idea” for competing with other high-performance models on the market, and he’s said also he would like to be involved with such a project.

SEE ALSO: Electric Corvette Sets 205-MPH Speed Record

In reimagining the Corvette to this degree, it would also stand to take the already competent supercar-on-a-relative-budget further into bona fide supercar territory. The mid-engine layout is prized for balance, and cars like the Ferrari 488 and Ford GT would be considered competitors.

As for the plug-in part of the equation, elite brands have shown their own electrification projects, if not also production models. Porsche has its 918 Spyder, McLaren has its P1, Ferrari has its hybrid LaFerrari, and the list goes on of brands adding or planning to add batteries to monster engines and track-worthy road chassis.

Speculation surrounding spy photos of the supposed mid-engine Corvette in testing have further been that development could see its way into a Cadillac halo vehicle as well.

No word was given however on a pure battery electric ‘Vette that might compete against a future follow-up to a Tesla Roadster.

So far, electric versions of the Corvette have been built by do-it-yourselfers, with one notable example being the all-electric Genovation Extreme Electric Car (GXE). This vehicle ran at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to a record speed of 205.6 mph.

Whether GM ever goes this way with its fabled sports car is to be determined, but meanwhile eyes will be on whether more news comes about a mid-engined Corvette with plug-in option.

The Detroit News, via Green Car Reports

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 05

Nissan Takes Wraps Off of World’s First Solid-Oxide Fuel-Cell Car

 

Here’s something a little different.

By Tim Healey

Nissan_e_Bio_Fuel_Cell_Prototype_Vehicle_10

Nissan has come out with the world’s first solid-oxide fuel-cell prototype car.

The light-commercial vehicle based on the e-NV200 runs on bio-ethanol electric power. That means it can use multiple fuels, such as ethanol and natural gas.

SEE ALSO: Nissan Trying Out Bio-Ethanol for Electricity and Hydrogen Powered Cars

“The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for regional energy production,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a press release. “All the while supporting the existing infrastructure. In the future, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell will become even more user-friendly. Ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels. Without the need to create new infrastructure, it has great potential to drive market growth.”

Nissan_e_Bio_Fuel_Cell_Prototype_Vehicle_studio_01-668x376

SEE ALSO: Nissan Finds a Way to Broadcast EV Driver’s Emotions

Nissan is working on building zero-emission cars, and this fuel-cell prototype is part of that effort. In this case, the vehicle can run on 100 percent ethanol, which charges a 24-kWh battery, and Nissan promises a cruising range of more than 600 kilometers, or about 372 miles. In addition to ethanol, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell can also run on ethanol-blended water.

The e-Bio Fuel Cell generates electricity by using the solid-oxide fuel-cell, with the bio-ethanol stored in the vehicle’s tank providing the fuel source. The e-Bio Fuel-Cell uses hydrogen transformed from the fuel through a reformer as well as atmospheric oxygen, with the following electric and chemical reaction producing the electricity that’s used to power the prototype.

GM also had a use for the non-electric NV in rebadging the Chevy Express in 2013. Speculation was one day GM might also use the electrified version. Might it yet?

GM also had a use for the non-electric NV200 in rebadging the Chevy Express in 2013. Speculation was one day GM might also use the electrified version. Might it yet? Might it also like a solid-oxide FC type as well? GM is committed to FCV research with Honda already. Just food for thought …

Nissan will be conducting tests on public roads in Brazil. The e-Bio Fuel-Cell is promised to be carbon-neutral (meaning that any carbon dioxide emitted is offset by the process of growing the crops that are used to create the fuel) while also running silent like a battery electric vehicle with the cruising range of a standard gasoline-engined vehicle.

Bio-ethanol fuels are mainly sourced either from corn or sugarcane.  Because these sources are plentiful and ethanol-blended water has a low combustion point, Nissan said it won’t be hard to introduce this fuel to the market and its existing infrastructure.

The base vehicle for the prototype is the Nissan e-NV200, with a 30-liter tank capacity. The solid-oxide fuel-cell has an output of 5 kW.

Nissan press release.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 04

Tesla Q2 Earnings Report Falls Short As It Otherwise Shoots For the Stars

 

TSLA_SCTY

Wildly ambitious Tesla promises very favorable long-term numbers but its second quarter earnings report released today had figures that did not meet analysts’ expectations.

The company is not yet profitable, is not expected to be at this stage of burning cash to build and unify its businesses of vehicles, solar power and energy storage, but losses reported of $1.06 per share were worse than a projection of 52 cents.

Including expenses, the loss was $2.09 per share, and the same poll by Thomson Reuters that set the 52-cent estimate had figured Tesla would lose 94 cents per share under that metric.

Losses of $293 million for the second quarter were 59-percent greater compared to the second quarter one year prior. Revenue was up 32 percent at $1.3 billion. Thomson Reuters had estimated Tesla would take in $1.6 billion in revenues, and Tesla said this it did do, after adjusting for certain costs.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Throws a Gigaparty

Vehicles delivered in Q2 tallied to 14,402, shy of a 17,000-unit target, and about 30 units more than it had said in an adjusted forecast in July. This year assuming 50,000 more units it says it is on track for, it may hit the low end of its total-year guidance of 80,000-90,000.

But as noted, Tesla has been busy. The earnings news comes the week after its grand opening of the Nevada Gigafactory battery plant, and this Monday it announced a planned acquisition of SolarCity for $2.6 billion.

4GF-e14700813794291

The company is accelerating its global footprint in terms of retail space, service space, charging networks, and its Master Plan, Part Deux announced last month lays it all out.

High on the priority list is to begin production as soon as later next year of the $35,000 and up Model 3 – which may average around $42,000 with options, according to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk. More than 400,000 people have placed deposits to reserve the Model 3.

The company is also at work on long-term plans to fill out a product assortment that would include a crossover, van, pickup truck, bus and semi, among other vehicular options from small to large.

Tesla has always been controversial to one degree or another and has been a focus of options strategy players while those invested long have argued the case for its ultimate success.

Analysts and others of late are publishing more frontally challenging pieces with varying degrees of politeness assessing Musk’s ambitions to reinvent the transportation industry.

The overview on its investors page sets the tone for the boilerplate Tesla party line:

We believe that more than 100 years after the invention of the internal combustion engine, incumbent automobile manufacturers are at a crossroads and face significant industry-wide challenges. The reliance on the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine as the principal automobile powertrain technology has raised environmental concerns, created dependence among industrialized and developing nations on oil largely imported from foreign nations and exposed consumers to volatile fuel prices. In addition, we believe the legacy investments made by incumbent automobile manufacturers in manufacturing and technology related to the internal combustion engine have to date inhibited rapid innovation in alternative fuel powertrain technologies. We believe these challenges offer a historic opportunity for companies with innovative electric powertrain technologies and that are unencumbered with legacy investments in the internal combustion engine to lead the next technological era of the automotive industry.

 

In its favor for Q2, despite raised eyebrows here and there, Tesla touted accomplishments including the completion of the Model 3 design phase, increased margins on Model S and Model X, and consistent production of nearly 2,000 vehicles per week.

Never shy to shape the ongoing narrative of the Tesla Story, last week Musk tweeted a vote of confidence published making a case for Tesla's "fruitful synergies."

Never shy to shape the ongoing narrative of the Tesla Story, last week Musk tweeted a vote of confidence published making a case for Tesla’s “fruitful synergies.”


It says these and other developments including the SolarCity merger keep the case viable that the glass is half full for fulfilling its goals, not half empty.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Executive Says Other Automakers’ Electric Cars Are ‘Little More Than Appliances’

Tesla’s explanation of last quarter’s numbers can also be seen in its Q2 2016 update letter.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 03

Volt has best monthly sales this year in July; up 83 percent YOY

 

mm_gal_item_c2_3.img_resize.img_stage._0

The Chevy Volt notched above recent months’ around-1,900-unit sales level to 2,406 units in July, its best month this year and 83.2 percent better than July 2015’s 1,313 units.

Prior to this, a best month in recent history was August 2014, in which 2,511 were sold. Helping things along, among a host of other reasons, said automotive analyst Alan Baum, was a 20-percent off MSRP incentive for leftover 2016 models in the early days of July.

As the first plug-in electrified vehicle to receive a complete redesign, the new Volt struggled early in the year to match volumes in its best years of 2012 and 2013, but has picked up steam since March and its latest month, July, is within the realm of its better months on record.

The years 2012 and 2013 saw year-end totals within a few hundred units of each other in the 23,000-unit range. Year to date, with five months left to go, the Volt has sold 12,214 units.

If it averages just over 2,000 units per month for five more months, it could tie its peak years. Or is there room to go higher?

Notable also is 12,214 sales thus far is enough to make the Volt the second-best selling PEV in the U.S. behind the Tesla Model S.

Other cars doing well include the Ford Fusion Energi, which as of June was tracking about 2,600 units behind the Volt, having experienced a 133 percent gain that month.

As expected, the all-electric Nissan Leaf, awaiting a second generation revision but traditionally compared to the Volt having launched the same month, lags even further behind, with 1,063 sales.

We will have a complete sales report once we have all numbers in and checked with the July 2016 sales Dashboard.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 02

Tesla Throws a Gigaparty

 

By Jeff Nisewanger

Gigagrandopening

Last Friday, hundreds of Tesla vehicle owners and their invited guests celebrated the official opening of the company’s first Gigafactory battery plant in the Nevada desert.

The new facility at the edge of the town of Sparks, east of Reno, will build Tesla’s future battery cells and packs for all of its products. In addition to the gargantuan building itself, Tesla plans to aggressively increase vehicle production by more than ten times over the next few years from just under 52,000 units sold worldwide last year.

Guided Tour And Happy Hour

Party attendees toured key areas of the initial battery cell manufacturing lines that are still under construction and also walked through the area where stationary energy storage products are already being assembled.

An open bar, good food, air conditioned tents, and test rides in the existing S and X car models kept attendees happy while waiting. A single Model 3 design mockup car was available for viewing. Halfway through the evening, CEO Elon Musk and CTO J. B. Straubel took the stage away from a rock band and talked about the new factory and its role in Tesla’s future plans.

2-GF

The Gigafactory is being constructed in phases as separate adjacent buildings that will later be joined together. Three of these buildings are mostly complete although some interior walls and features are still being finished while equipment is being installed. A fourth building exists as a structural skeleton but is not yet fully enclosed. Tour shuttles drove through its hollow interior ground floor.

Facts And Figures

Tesla says the existing buildings cover about 800,000 square feet or about the size of 14 NFL football fields. When the entire factory is finished by 2020, it will be about seven-times as large and will cover about 5.8 million square feet. The existing floor space is said to be 1.9 million square feet. Some areas are on two tall floors and others include mezzanine partial floors. Eventually, the factory floor space will grow to around 10-million square feet when it is completed.

Musk said the new Gigafactory will be the world’s largest building by footprint and the second largest by interior volume. Tesla’s hill-covered land at the site had to be flattened for the new factory by moving nearly three million cubic yards of dirt, according to one tour guide.

 J.B. Straubel (left) and Elon Musk give a presentation on the Gigafactory to the assembled invitees.

J.B. Straubel (left) and Elon Musk give a presentation on the Gigafactory to the assembled invitees.

The original target was to produce 35 gigawatt-hours of cells for use in building as many as 500,000 cars at the company’s Fremont, California assembly plant upon the Gigafactory’s completion in 2020. An additional 15 gigawatt-hours of cells were to be imported and used in stationary energy storage products. Tesla officials now say they will be able to build that many cells in 2018 by speeding construction and by improving the interior arrangement of the manufacturing equipment.

The first buildings and battery manufacturing lines are being built according to the original layout plans but the next building phase will follow a redesign developed jointly between Tesla and Panasonic that will have battery equipment lines with twice the area but four-times the output. By increasing space efficiency of battery manufacturing in the factory, Tesla says the factory will now be able to build up to 150 gigawatt-hours of cells at completion in 2020. Although estimates vary, Musk said total global lithium-ion cell production in 2014 was about 30 gigawatt-hours.

The Gigafactory is projected to cost at least $5 billion by the time it is complete. Panasonic will reportedly contribute at least $1.6 billion of that amount. On Friday, Panasonic disclosed that it will raise nearly $3.9 billion by issuing corporate bonds and said much of it would go towards their share of the cost.

The battery plans go together with planned improvements to the assembly factory in Fremont to raise its output in 2020 from an original target of 500,000 vehicles to as many as one million in spite of increasing battery pack sizes in individual cars.

4GF

Musk said he initially expects about two-thirds of the factory’s cells will be used in vehicle battery packs and the remaining third will go into stationary storage products. He also said he eventually expects at least one battery Gigafactory and vehicle assembly plant to be integrated together in both Europe and Asia.

Among other items, Musk said plans for a future version of the company’s original Roadster all-electric sports car are on hold until after it focuses on delivering the less expensive Model 3 sedan and a follow-on crossover utility car built on the same platform. The future Roadster update will also take a backseat to recently disclosed vehicle plans such as a minibus people-mover based on the Model X platform and plans for future trucks.

Factory Tour

Temperatures reached around 100 degrees F in the afternoon but dropped somewhat as a summer lightening and dust storm moved through and temporarily halted tours. Multiple tour groups of around 20 each were led by pairs of full-time Tesla employees. Photos had been prohibited in many areas of the factory when shown to journalists earlier in the week but were allowed during the factory party tours. Existing Tesla owners won invitations through a lottery and owners who helped sell cars through a referral program were given special perks.

A long oven is used to bake the wet cathode paste onto a continuous sheet of aluminum foil. It runs along the entire back wall of the room and is partially covered in plastic sheeting on the left side. Another oven like it will be added to this room before production begins.

A long oven is used to bake the wet cathode paste onto a continuous sheet of aluminum foil. It runs along the entire back wall of the room and is partially covered in plastic sheeting on the left side. Another oven like it will be added to this room before production begins.

The tour groups were led through factory rooms that will be used to precisely mix and apply a solvent-containing battery cell cathode paste in a continuous process to a thin sheet of aluminum which is then baked in a huge room-sized oven. The solvent evaporates in the heat and is recovered from the oven in a closed-loop process that is not vented to the atmosphere. Recovered solvent is reused to make more cells. Tesla engineers gave a brief presentation to each tour group and said they were able to work with Panasonic to reduce planned energy consumption in the electric oven and solvent recovery system by 80 percent versus ovens used at other Panasonic plants.

The entire factory is intended to be self-sustaining and will be powered entirely from rooftop solar panels and other renewable power sources such as wind. The factory will use Tesla’s stationary storage packs to balance the load and provide continuous power during factory production. Tesla has reportedly said the factory will have no natural gas line connection or diesel generators but will be connected to two different electrical grid lines largely for backup purposes.

A giant roll of aluminum foil with thin baked-on cathode paste layers on each side would be held by the red hubs on this proprietary Panasonic hydraulic press. The pressure rollers themselves are hidden from view by a black plastic tarp. The cathode foil fed through the press is evenly flattened to about half its original thickness.

A giant roll of aluminum foil with thin baked-on cathode paste layers on each side would be held by the red hubs on this proprietary Panasonic hydraulic press. The pressure rollers themselves are hidden from view by a black plastic tarp. The cathode foil fed through the press is evenly flattened to about half its original thickness.

At a later point in the tour, visitors were shown where the dried cathode rolls are pressed to a consistent thickness. Another large automated warehousing room is used to store tens of millions of completed cells while they age for an undisclosed period of time. Proprietary equipment from Panasonic in some of the rooms was covered by plastic sheeting to guard trade secrets.

Cell Production Plans

Tesla employees said all of the initial battery production would be used for Model 3 battery packs. Battery cells used for stationary energy storage have a somewhat different internal design and those cell lines will be constructed and brought online later. Some equipment at the factory is also dual purpose and can be adapted for making either kind of cell giving Tesla production flexibility as the market for both types of cells evolves.

Initial battery cell production is scheduled to begin in about 6 months at the end of this year once the necessary equipment is completely installed and tested. Those cells will initially be used to be make Model 3 battery packs for engineering development use and testing. The goal is to be ready for volume production as early as July, 2017 although company officials acknowledge that actual production may begin later in the year.

This structure in the cell aging room holds plastic pallets filled with newly made cylinder cells. The pallets are stored and retrieved robotically.

This structure in the cell aging room holds plastic pallets filled with newly made cylinder cells. The pallets are stored and retrieved robotically.

Soon after initial cell production begins, waste material from manufacturing will be used to start testing battery recycling techniques at the factory. Eventually, Tesla plans to fully recycle the battery cells recovered from vehicle packs at the end of their useful life. Tesla employees said the raw materials can be recovered and reused for new cells at less than the expected cost of new raw materials. Raw materials are said to constitute a large part of the cost of making cells.

New Battery Cell Form Factor

Both the vehicle and future stationary storage cells are being made in a somewhat larger physical cell size than Tesla has previously imported from Panasonic in Japan. The previous size, known as 18650, was originally used for laptop computers and was widely available from multiple manufacturers when Tesla first designed its Roadster sports car and later it’s Model S sedan and Model X SUV.

For the Model 3 and the new Nevada factory, Tesla and Panasonic revisited the assumptions behind that cell size and decided that a 21700 size would provide a more optimal balance of energy density and other factors. The first two digits are the cell width in millimeters and the last three digits are the cell length in tenths of millimeters. Samsung has recently announced plans to use the same size to power electrically assisted bicycles. Internally, Tesla is said to refer to the new cells as “21-70.”

The top cover has been removed from this stationary storage battery tray to reveal the cells within it and the battery management circuit board.

The top cover has been removed from this stationary storage battery tray to reveal the cells within it and the battery management circuit board.

Since initially produced cells will go to the Model 3, the Model S and X along with the stationary energy storage products will continue to use imported 18650 cells until they are switched to the new form factor. Tesla has reportedly already designed prototype S and X battery packs which can use the new slightly taller cells while preserving the exterior size of the pack for compatibility although employees at the plant could not confirm that story.

Dust shower.

Dust shower.

The rooms in the new factory will be carefully cleaned of dust before factory operations begin later this year, and workers will need to walk through “dust showers” that use compressed air through an array of nozzles to blow potential contaminants from their uniforms.

Today about 1000 construction and other employees are working at the factory site and about 70 percent of them are hired from within Nevada. At its peak in 2020, Musk said the factory may employ as many as 10,000 which is up from the original estimate of 6,500.

Tesla presently has two stationary energy storage products sold under the Tesla Energy brand. The smaller Powerwall has a rated capacity of 6.4 kilowatt-hours of storage and can be mounted on an interior or exterior wall. The cabinet sized Powerpack has a rated capacity of around 100 kilowatt-hours. Inside each Powerwall is a single liquid-cooled flat tray holding cylindrical 18650 battery cells important from Panasonic in Japan. For simplicity of manufacturing, the Powerpack contains 16 of these same trays stacked in an electrical utility cabinet. In the future, Tesla plans to switch to using the new larger cells which will be made in the Nevada factory.

An assembly line employee prepares to move a Powerpack filled with battery trays.

An assembly line employee prepares to move a Powerpack filled with battery trays.


Visitors touring the stationary storage production line saw a mix of robots and workers assembling the battery trays and then packaging them into the final cabinets. Finished products packed for shipping to early customers were stored on the floor and in warehouse-style racks nearby.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

Gallery photos courtesy Mark Z.