Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Feb 25

Volt fleet to cross 400 million EV miles today


The running tally of Chevrolet Volt miles kept by GM shows cumulative electric only miles are enough to walk the Great Wall of China 30,000 times.


Or, in simpler terms, it’s over 399,700 as of 11:30 p.m. EST Feb. 24 and when I checked 24 hours ago, it was somewhere close to half a million less or thereabouts.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11

Assuming the same rate today (2/25) the EV mile count should be ticking along nicely towards four hundred million miles.

UPDATE: This assumes also GM’s Web site is accurate. Presently at 10:50 a.m., if you refresh the page the supposed running count re-starts at 399,714,060. That’s right. You can watch the purported real-time data run up but if you refresh, it starts again at a lower count …

As you can see by screenshots taken around the same time, documented total miles are over 639.6 million and gallons of gasoline saved are over 20.7 million.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.1

(Oh also, the EPA says the Volt gets 38 miles all-electric range, not 28 miles, in case some of you were beginning to think I forgot that. I was out video shooting all day and could not edit yesterday’s article.)

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.a

Source: Chevrolet

Link of interest: Voltstats

Thanks to: kdawg who mentioned the EV miles milestone the other day in comments.


Feb 24

Plug-in Golf GTE offers ’31 miles’ AER, and dual clutch transmission


Note- Even the stragglers are doing stuff that looks potentially competitive with GM – or more possibly, Ford.

This will for now be more a concern for Chevrolet of Europe, Opel and Vauxhall, but here is a PHEV intended as more FTD (fun-to-drive).


Not to be confused with Volkswagen’s “GTI,” the German automaker gave early billing ahead of the Geneva motor show last week of its Euro-market GTE plug-in hybrid.

It’s a “GT” – like the “GTI” or ”GTD” hatchbacks – but with an “E” standing for “electric” – and this adds one more variant to the automaker’s nomenclature, but with similar sporty intentions.

Some of the GTE’s reported specs – like 31 miles all-electric range – appear to be knocking on the back door of the 38 miles the U.S. EPA says the Chevy Volt can do.

And the GTE’s combined rated fuel economy of “157 mpg” appears to knock that metric out of the park by around 50 percent more than the EPA’s “MPGe” figure for the Volt – but then these generous numbers come courtesy of the European NEDC cycle.


According to Volkswagen of America’s Mark Gillies, the Euro cycle assumes the consumer will recharge the battery at 100 kilometers (62 miles) and the EPA does nothing of the sort.

This plus different simulated driving helps explain seemingly exaggerated performance in Europe – the plug-in hybrid gets to use more battery power than allowed by the feds.

And at this juncture these are all moot points for would-be American buyers.

Gillies said the Golf GTE is a European car for now, and while Volkswagen’s American colleagues were just discussing Friday how much Americans would want the GTE or not, the U.S. is not slated to get it.

“There are no plans at the moment for it to be sold here,” said Gillies.

And even if it were, the Volt – designed in 2010 – is still the class leader among plug-in gas-electric cars with 38 miles EPA rated range.

But the Golf looks competitive in other ways, and promises more zip, and possibly also handling dynamics.

While the Europeans measure fuel economy and emissions differently, the GTE’s 0-62 mph (100 kph) time of 7.2 seconds is respectable, and last we heard, one “second” on the clock in Europe is the same duration as one second in America.


This is quicker than the Volt’s perhaps nine seconds.

But being an ostensible eco car powertrain placed in an ostensible hot(ter) hatchback body, the GTE is another variation that some consumers will no doubt welcome.

Its all-electric capability should make it perhaps a bit above or on par in electric range with the next-best-to-Volt plug-in variants, the Ford Fusion and C-Max Energi siblings which get 21 miles on the EPA cycle.

And the sporty chassis performance in the Golf GTE’s semi-hot-hatch configuration promises a different blend of ultimate gas-free economy with fun-to-drive aspects courtesy of “two engines” as the Volkswagen media statement officially puts it.

In American English, it actually has only one “engine” – a 1.4-liter, 148-horsepower TSI turbocharged gas burner merged with a 101-horsepower electric motor.

Total system horsepower is rated at 201, and torque is 258 pounds-feet — and yes this is correct that the sum of the two add up to less than the total, as the motor and gas engine hit their peaks at different points.

The gas engine and architecture is at least similar to that of the Jetta Hybrid’s, but the Jetta gets only a 27-horsepower electric motor and smaller battery with no plug-in capability.

The GTE’s electric motor receives power from an 8.8 kwh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery – around half the size of the Volt’s 16.5-kwh battery, but unknown is how much of the total nominal kilowatt-hours VW’s engineers use.


The charge port is concealed behind the VW logo in the radiator grille.

The battery weighs about eight percent of the GTE’s 3,360-pound curb weight or 265 pounds, making it on the lighter side as plug-in cars with similar capabilities go.

Power for the GTE is routed through a six-speed DSG automatic transmission that VW says was developed specifically for hybrid vehicles.

Top speed is the 135 mph and all told, Volkswagen has a torquey powertrain planted into the familiar chassis and body of its latest generation Golf now built on the modular “MQB “ platform.

This flexible platform enables five powertrains, including gas, diesel, CNG, hybrid, and electric.

“This modular technology platform, initially introduced with the current Golf in 2012, is synonymous with an automotive revolution because Volkswagen engineers have created the prerequisites for a high-volume model, such as the Golf, to accept all drive types,” says VW of TSI (including GTI), TDI (including GTD), TGI (powered by CNG), e-Golf, and Golf GTE.

The rest of the car borrows heavily from the Golf family members with a few variations to set it apart, including info displays to monitor electrified performance.

Volkswagen has not stated a price or launch date even in Europe, Gillies said.


That the U.S. will eventually get a plug-in hybrid of some sort is a near certainty, he said, as internally they’ve been talking about PHEVs for the over three years he’s been on staff.

“I would say we’re looking at plug in hybrid options,” he said without committing to what these might be.

Whether this be a Jetta version, or a Golf or some other is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile the U.S. will be getting an all-electric powertrain in the new Golf later this year.

Volkswagen is late to the electrification game, but has made strong statements, including plans for being the top global automaker in just a few years.

Electrification is part of the master plan, so stay tuned.


Feb 21

The Updated List: Volt Awards and Accolades


OK, you asked for it, and I attempted to get it — an updated U.S. list of Volt awards, not counting exported versions.

As I say in the article, if I missed any, please let me know. Have a great weekend everyone.


Since much hoopla – and greater transparency from its maker – surrounded the Chevrolet Volt during its development and December 2010 launch, the “extended-range electric” car has generated seemingly outsized responses ranging from love to hate.

To chase down all the rabbit trails discussing why this is would require a book, but short of that, we thought we’d post with minimal commentary a list of awards garnered by the car others have written is “junk” from a bailed-out maker, etc.

Teardowns of the Volt by independent third-party engineers have revealed redundant engineering in some places where GM did not want to see the quasi-experimental first-generation car fail – and create yet more backlash for the under-the-spotlight automaker.

In other words, suggestions that it is “overbuilt,” while contested by some, in cases may have some merit regarding its powertrain.

Published articles alleging a scandalous lack of profitability for the Volt have pointed an accusing finger at the Obama administration which smiled on GM, and its plug-in car.

If these are even true, could it be the flip side is buyers of the now-$35,000 and highly subsidized car get a decent deal for their money?


Not to turn a blind eye to the critics, the Volt does have tight rear seat quarters, and room only for four. It requires premium gas – when gas is being used – and just OK 37 mpg combined rating.

It is not a lame duck now, but some see it on the verge as plenty of rumors have escaped GM executives’ lips about a second-generation Volt.

As it is, three years after its launch, no other plug-in hybrid offers near its 38 miles EPA rated range, and after all the flak the car has received, whether deserved or not, it retains a loyal fan base. For its first two consecutive production years of 2011 and 2012 it topped Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction list.

It’s also the top-selling plug-in gas-electric car in America with somewhere over 57,000 delivered.

This is a drop in the bucket compared to mainstream sellers, but then the whole plug-in industry is in a nascent stage with resistance, and a well-documented phenomenon that many consumers simply do not comprehend what the Volt can do.

Undoubtedly, much more could be said – for and against the Volt – but we said we’d keep this brief.

Following, straight from Chevrolet’s Michelle Malcho, is a list of all known awards and acknowledgments given to the Volt.


Far more awards were in 2010/2011, with fewer after that. Just last week, Strategic Vision found the Volt to be the “most loved” in the “Mid-Size Alternative Powertrain (APT) Car” classification.

How it named a compact car winner of this distinction is not clear, but we’re noting it just the same.

You may notice the list is pretty long, and we’re wondering if the Volt is the most-awarded car in recent history?

Nor does the list include a raft of awards and accolades bestowed on the European Chevrolet Volt, or the sibling Opel Ampera, Vauxhall Ampera, or Holden Volt.

Aside from that, do you see any U.S. awards missing? It could be we did miss some, and can update the list if needed.

The List

o The Detroit News invites 100 readers at NAIAS to select their favorite vehicles in a variety of categories: Chevrolet Volt named Most Earth Friendly for being the greenest vehicle at the show (1/15/10)
o Named “Best of Show” at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show – Best Green Vehicle (25 percent of vote)
o The Volt makes the 2011 North American Car of the Year Short List.
o Popular Mechanics October issues names Chevy Volt a 2010 Breakthrough Technology Winner
o Popular Mechanics also salutes the Volt as a “Brilliant Idea”
o Popular Mechanics names Volt on list of top ten vehicles for 2011 (11/11/10).
o Chevrolet Volt Named Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year (11/16/10)
o Automobile Magazine recognized Chevrolet Volt as its 2011 Car of the Year on its Facebook page (11/16/10)
o Volt Named Automobile Magazine 2011 Automobile of the Year (11/17/10), and Technology of the Year award
o Chevy Volt Named 2011 Green Car of the Year – Green Car Journal (11/19/10)
o Car and Driver editors named the Chevrolet Volt and the Cadillac CTS to their annual 10Best list. (11/23/10)
• Ward’s 10 Best Engines – 1.4L I-4 EREV – Chevrolet Volt nominated
o Popular Science – 2010 Best of What’s New (Dec. issue) – 2011 Chevrolet Volt
o Chevrolet Game-Changer Award which, announced by the US Renewable Energy Association (11/30/10).
o The propulsion system on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is among the winners of the automotive industry’s “Ten Best Engines” for 2011 in North America as determined by Ward’s AutoWorld magazine (12/7/10).
o General Motors received a Golden Spike Award from the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries for its effort to bring one of the first modern, mainstream electric vehicles to market with the launch of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt (12/10/10).
o Bloomberg’s Auto Columnist Jason H. Harper releases ‘Best of List’ and names Chevrolet Volt as ‘Green Car of the Year’ and ‘Best Car of the Year,’ overall (12/16/10). In his second annual ‘Best Of’ list, this is the first time that a single car has taken two spots, and writes that, “The Volt is the right car for right now.”
o Detroit Free Press named Chevrolet Volt ‘Car of the Year’ (12/30/10)
o Chevrolet Volt received the Electric Car of the Year Award from China Auto News and (12/30/10)
o Volt makes Kelley Blue Book’s ‘Freshman Car Class” 10 New Names for 2011’ List (1/3/11)
o Volt named Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show (1/10/11).
o Eddie Alterman, editor and chief of Car and Driver magazine visited Detroit Hamtramck Assembly and presented the Chevrolet Volt with the 2011 Car and Driver 10Best Awards (1/21/11)
o MotorWeek recognized the Chevrolet Volt with the “Best of the Year” 2011 Driver’s Choice Award and recognized as the best overall for “Best Eco-Friendly”(2/11/11)
o Chevrolet Volt receives the ‘Fuel Sippers’ award in the Budget and Green category for the Car and Driver Editors’ Choice 2011 Awards (2/25/11)
o Chevrolet Volt was awarded ‘Best Value for Inaugural Eco Category’ by Vincentric’s Best Value in America (3/4/11)
o Chevrolet Volt awarded Top Safety Pick by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)– achieving “good” scores in four types of crash tests (4/2011)
o Chevrolet Volt named 2011 World Green Car at the New York Auto International Auto (4/2011)
o Chevrolet Volt Wins Gold Medal in 2011 Edison Awards part of the”2011 Best New Product in Transportation – Remote Driving Aids Segment (4/2011)
o 2011 Chevrolet Volt – Kelley Blue Book’s Top 10 Green Cars of 2011 (4/2011)
o Chevrolet Volt 4-door hatch awarded Kiplinger’s Personal Finance – Worth a Look (3/7/2012)
o 2012 Chevrolet Volt named one of the Best Green Cars of 2012 by Kelley Blue Book. (4/17/2012)
o 2012 Chevrolet Volt named one of the Top 10 Cars that Reignite the American Dream (7/13/2012)
o The Chevrolet Volt is the winner of the 2013 Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy Award for the new electric category. (10/11/12)
o Winner of Kelley Blue Book – 2012 Best Resale Value for an Electric Car
o Winner of Kelley Blue Book – 2012 Total Cost of Ownership for an Electric Car
o The Chevrolet Volt achieved The Car Book’s 2013 BEST BETS distinction in the 33rd edition of America’s first consumer car buying guide. (2/1/2013)
o – Top 5 Consumer Favorite – Best Hybrid (2013)
o Award recipient of J.D. Power’s 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study (Segment Award, Compact Car) (02/12/2014)
o U.S News & World Report: 2014 Chevy Volt is Best Upscale Midsize Car For the Money (2/12/2014)


Feb 20

Tesla had a good Q4, a good last year, projects more good to come


Tesla Motors says it is on a roll, and the “disruptive” automaker is very bullish having posted strong financials yesterday.

It had nothing to say, not surprisingly, about a meeting with Apple’s acquisitions guy which has been in the rumor mill of late. Instead it gave disclosures about a strong past, present, and future projected.


The company’s fourth quarter and full-year 2013 financial news was received as overwhelmingly positive.

Disclosure that Tesla delivered a record 6,892 Model S sedans last quarter was not actually news, as that was revealed last month in Detroit, but it did put icing on the earnings cake.

Sales for the year amounted to 22,477 cars. This yielded $2.5 billion in sales on a non-GAAP basis or over $2 billion on a GAAP basis. The company also slightly exceeded its projection of 25 percent gross profit margin with 25.2 percent on a non-GAAP basis, or 25.8 percent on a GAAP basis.

“It is important to note that the differences between GAAP and non-GAAP are primarily due to lease accounting for our resale value guarantee (RVG) and employee stock based compensation as a result of the increase in our stock price last year,” said Tesla in its shareholder letter.

The company reported a net income of $46 million and beat Wall Street’s expectations by 10 cents with 33 cents earnings per share on a non-GAAP basis. On a GAAP basis, earnings per share was 13 cents, with a loss of $16 million.

Tesla’s TSLA stock today had closed down by 4.94 percent at $193.64. Presently at 8:30 Eastern time, after hours traders have bid it up to $218.09, up $25.45 per share, or 12.63 percent.


Other news of significance is the Model X, delayed already in order to focus on international Model S roll out, will be delayed a bit longer beyond most-recently projected late 2014 first deliveries.

“We expect to have production design Model X prototypes on the road by end of year and begin volume deliveries to customers in the spring of 2015,” said Tesla in its shareholder letter.

During a conference call, Elon Musk called Model X demand “very high” despite “zero” marketing.

“If you’re going fishing,” he said, “it’s like the fish are jumping in the boat.”

As for the “Gen 3” mid-priced car Musk is looking at 2016-17 and this is dependent upon the pending “Giga” battery factory.

“Very shortly, we will be ready to share more information about the Tesla Gigafactory,” said Musk in the shareholder letter. “This will allow us to achieve a major reduction in the cost of our battery packs and accelerate the pace of battery innovation. Working in partnership with our suppliers, we plan to integrate precursor material, cell, module and pack production into one facility. With this facility, we feel highly confident of being able to create a compelling and affordable electric car in approximately three years.”


Other positive Model S news is it was named the highest-rated car for consumer satisfaction by Consumer Reports.

“Our efforts were validated in November by Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction survey, which gave Model S a score of 99 out of 100, the highest satisfaction score of any car in the world,” wrote Tesla. “The next highest score was 95.”

As an extra perk for new Model S owners, effective Jan. 1, the company is providing free data connectivity and Internet radio for four years.

“To be fair to all, in rare cases a customer may be charged for extreme data use,” it said.

Expanding and Growing

But perhaps the bigger news is that the growth is projected to keep coming. The company is calling for an over 55 percent increase in 2014 Model S sales over 2013, or 35,000 units.

Tesla projects profits also to increase to 28 percent without counting potential ZEV credit sales.

Its expanding Supercharger network is credited in part for consumer acceptance.

What’s more, growth in Europe andf Asia are expected to be more significant.


“Towards the end of the year, we expect sales in those regions combined to be almost twice that of North America,” said Tesla.

And on top of its new for global expansion is China where Tesla has priced the car the same as in the U.S. plus unavoidable taxes, customs duties and transport costs.

“The first Model S deliveries to China are scheduled for this spring,” said the company. “We plan to make substantial investments in China this year as we add new stores, service centers and a Supercharger network. Already, the Beijing store is our largest and most active retail location in the world.”

For more info on the past year’s results, and projections for the year ahead, you can read Tesla’s entire shareholder letter.

But beyond the near term past and future are potent declarations Tesla uses in describing itself in a unique moment in history.

Very telling is that it says it is not just competitive with traditional automakers, it suggests it is positioned ahead of traditionally entrenched automakers as it ushers in the “next technological era of the automotive industry.”

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.

Tesla Motors uses proprietary technology, world-class design and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to create a new generation of highway capable electric vehicles. We utilize an innovative distribution model based on Company-owned sales and service centers. This approach allows us to maintain the highest levels of customer experience and benefit from short customer feedback loops to ensure our customer needs are fulfilled. We believe our operational infrastructure provides us with a competitive advantage compared to traditional automobile manufacturers.


Feb 19

Bob Lutz appointed chairman of VIA Motors


The “father of the Chevy Volt,” as VIA Motors reminds us, was also just appointed as its chairman of the board.

And while Bob Lutz may be the patriarch of our favorite plug-in car, VIA has him quoted  as saying the world’s first extended-range pickup is “the right end of the business to electrify.”



“VIA is fortunate to have the experience of one of the industry’s foremost executives leading our board,” said John Weber, VIA Motors, CEO. “Mr. Lutz brings with him a passion for the evolution of the automobile, and decades of experience from his tenure in top executive positions at each of the world’s leading auto companies.”

Lutz is taking the place of chairman Carl Berg who is retiring, and who VIA recognizes as having “served with distinction” since 2009 when VIA was launched.

“I believe VIA is electrifying the right end of the business and is implementing a very sound business strategy,” said Lutz. “If we are going to see mainstream adoption of electric vehicles, the technology must deliver a good return on investment to the largest segment of the auto business, namely trucks, vans & SUVs. That’s why I am so confident in VIA and I’m pleased to serve as chairman.”

Lutz, was born February 12, 1932, and served as a U.S. Marine Corps Naval aviator from 1954-59.

In brief, his role as an executive and car guy to be reckoned with started in 1963 when he joined GM and served through ’71. From 1971-74, he worked for BMW, Ford from 1974-86, Chrysler from ’86 to ’98, from 1998-2002 was CEO of Exide, and from 2001-2010 he was at GM.

Having been with VIA since 2011, you might say Lutz, 82, has had an extended-range career.


Feb 18

Wrightspeed’s microturbine REV Promises Huge Fuel Savings


What do a super car, a garbage truck, and the Chevy Volt have in common?

As for a truck and super car, the answer, says Ian Wright, founder and CEO of San Jose-based Wrightspeed, is “both need lots of power.”

Series hybrid
As for the Volt, Wright’s company is using its Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) powertrain that is a pure series hybrid to power trucks and a pending car. And instead of an ICE, a tiny gas turbine takes its place –– and no, this is not just experimental, they’re open for business and predict profits next year.

The other thing a truck and super car have in common is that “lots of power” normally requires lots of fuel, but Wrightspeed’s technology promises major power and fuel savings.

How much power? As one example, the super car being developed sans publicity by an undisclosed European manufacturer will be an all-wheel-drive wonder with Wrightspeed’s 1000-horsepower system sure to make a Tesla Model S look heavy and slow.

How much is “huge” fuel savings? Wrightspeed just sold its first batch of plug-in truck powertrains that the company says could save as much as 27-times the fuel of a 100 mpg car.

How much fuel savings? Wrightspeed just sold its first batch of plug-in truck powertrains that the company says could save as much as 20-times the fuel of a 100 mpg car.

We’ll have more on that shortly, but the principle behind high-tech trucks targeting all sorts of industries besides waste haulers, is one you may have heard of before.

Rather than making an already fuel-efficient passenger car more efficient through hybridization or full electrification, giving such electrification treatment to a big, heavy, fuel-thirsty truck stands to save much more fuel.


You may also have heard of Ian Wright before. The native New Zealander worked for Tesla in the days before the Roadster, and broke away to focus on his own designs.

An early project was his X1, a retrofitted all-electric car built into the Ariel Atom’s chassis. This rear-wheel drive – not for sale – car does 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, and shows its tail lights on a race track to the Tesla Roadster with ease.

But Wrightspeed, while still looking at fun machines, thinks it’s more fun to make a profit, and this it is intent on doing by targeting vehicle operators with the most money to gain by increasing fuel efficiency.

The Route

The name of Wrightspeed’s proprietary truck technology is “Route” and it also has a “Route HD” for heavier duty applications.

More than just garbage trucks, Wrightspeed is catering to the class 3 to class 6 commercial market consisting of 11,000 GVWR to 26,000 GVWR. Its customers are anyone and everyone operating commercial fleets, including companies “like Cintas, UPS, Waste Management, Brinks, Frito Lay, etc.”

The number of trucks in this class range on American roads is estimated at 2.2 million, and Wright said his company delivers only its retro-fittable powertrain, leaving the things like building the chassis, body and other details to others.

Wrightspeed is also now looking at powertrains for class 7 and 8. Class 7 is 26,001 GVWR to 33,000 GVWR. Class 8 is 33,001 to 80,000 pound GVW, and includes tractor trailers.

“The refuse trucks we are working on are 54,000 pounds GVW, he said.

Regarding the class 3-6 trucks, these are often used in daily commercial routes — thus the name – and burn through hundreds, if not thousands of gallons of fuel annually, which means high operation costs.

As an example the Isuzu NPR, which holds 70 percent of the world’s cab-forward market, averages on a metro cycle about 12 mpg with traditional diesel engine.

Retrofitted with the Wrightspeed system, it was measured at 44 mpg – a bit more than a Toyota Camry Hybrid’s highway EPA figure, and a 300-percent improvement.

But this truck is more sophisticated than a parallel hybrid like Toyota makes – in fact it is more like a Chevy Volt but transcends that level too.

The Route system’s generator, instead of a gas or diesel internal combustion engine, is a Capstone microturbine – as alluded to above with the Supercar which uses some of the same components.

It’s called “micro,” because it’s relatively tiny, but this is a gas turbine, the basis for an aircraft’s jet engine. Unlike a jet, it doesn’t make thrust by accelerating air out of the exhaust. Instead, more like a helicopter engine – or as a generator as is the actual case – it turns an output shaft.

The microturbine can run on CNG, diesel, landfill gas, or other fuels. It idles at 25,000 rpm, and Wright says, normally operates at its peak-efficient speed of 96,000 rpm.

There is only one moving part, no cooling system needed, and the emissions are 10-times better than mandated by the California Air Resources Board for this class of vehicle –– and it does it with no after treatment technologies.

That is, it needs no catalytic converter, no particulate filter, no urea injection, The system does not even have a muffler, and operates at an acceptable 65 dB sound level at a 10 meter’s distance.

The conventional-looking vertical exhaust pipe might make one suspect the truck has a diesel under the hood, but it’s more akin to a small jet engine, and makes a “wooshing” sound that passersby often cannot quite pinpoint, Wright says.

Powering the truck’s wheels is 1,100 pounds-feet of torque operating through a two-speed GTD – Geared Traction Drive.

Wright says the traction power from two GTDs is 300 kw (402.31 horsepower) and the microturbine replenishes the batteries after a 30-mile or so trip with 30-kw (40.23 horsepower) output operating purely as a generator for the Nanophosphate battery pack.

All of Wrightspeed’s motors, inverters, thermal systems, and battery packs are its own in-house intellectual property.

The battery acts as a “big buffer” he says and unlike a Chevy Volt whose 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas generator merely sustains charge, the range-extended pure series hybrid Wrightspeed powertrain recharges the battery.

It takes around 40 minutes, and the driver can leave it running while the truck is parked, or shut it off.

Once the batteries are charged, the microturbine shuts off regardless, as its job is only to supply electricity to what otherwise operates like a battery electric vehicle.

The vehicle also utilizes very aggressive regenerative braking that feeds as much as 400 horsepower reverse torque.

“The wheel torque can be as high as 5,000 pounds-feet per wheel,” says Wright, and “Yes, it can stop the truck on an incline without using the brakes!”

Wright says operators soon get used to it, and wind up liking it, and it too feeds sizable power back to the batteries.

All told, the system allows for all-day range, and drivers never have to pull over and plug in, unless they want to. When not in service, or as an alternative, the Route systems do allow plugging in.

The battery size in some NPR prototypes was 26 kwh, and Wrightspeed has already had its system tested by undisclosed clients. It has just made its first sale of powertrains with 39-kwh batteries, and this company too is off the record, Wright says.

Wrightspeed is working on a larger pack as well, he says, but the powertrain is essentially right-sized to the application.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Battery range depends on the truck’s weight and how it is driven. Wrightspeed’s packs are smaller than the up-to 85-kwh pack in a Tesla Model S, but that 1,200-pound pack represents more expense.

Wrightspeed’s approach is different. Some fuel is burned, but the savings for a truck that may get single-digit mpg adds up significantly, and this sweet spot is where Wrightspeed hopes its business proposition pencils out.

Wrightspeed is unlike Tesla – and unlike light-duty truck retrofitter VIA Motors – in a few ways.

It is focusing on some the heaviest consumers of fuel who have the most to gain by slashing fuel bills and projected payback is three to five years depending on usage.

Wrightspeed only sells powertrains, so it does not have to learn the intricacies of building the chassis and body.

It does not have plans for now to build turn-key vehicles, as its area of specialization is the powertrain, and really, the main value added.

Fleet operators are accustomed to replacing whole powertrains, and these could easily cost $30,000-$40,000. It’s when an otherwise roadworthy truck needs a new powertrain that swapping in a Wrightspeed Route system could make the strongest business proposition, says the company.

Coming back to how a big heavy truck can save more fuel than a 100 mpg urban car, the answer is based on average usage cycles for the respective vehicles.

A city car, says Wrightspeed, averages 12 mph for 12 hours per week equaling 7,500 miles per year. Assuming it got 100 mpg, it would use 75 gallons of fuel annually. Compared to a 40-mpg hybrid, which would use 188 gallons annually, the 100 mpg urban commuter would save 113 gallons per year.

“However, the Route can get trucks 44 mpg (cost equivalent) at an average of 30,000 miles per year at, that’s 700 gallons,” says Wrightspeed. “When the Route replaces an 8 mpg conventional powertrain that burns 3,750 gallons annually, the fuel savings is 3,050 gallons. That’s 27 times more fuel saved.”

This is not fuzzy math, but it is an ideal scenario.

Obviously if you drive more than 7,500 miles per year in your car, or drive slower or faster that will change the equation, and obviously Wright is comparing a truck driving 30,000 miles versus the car’s one-quarter that annual distance.

But even if they both drove the same distance annually, the truck stands to save several times more fuel, and this is why Wrightspeed is in business.

The Circuit


As for automotive applications, Wrightspeed says it sees taxis as its best use for the fuel-saving and emission-slashing plug-in series hybrid technology, but it is now working with a supercar manufacturer using Wrightspeed’s “Circuit” derivation of its REV powertrain.

As far as we’re told, no publicity has been garnered for the car with four 250-horsepower motors – one inboard at each wheel – and the microturbine and related hardware, but this is not the Rimac car we’ve seen from Croatia, but a “real OEM” is making it.

Will we one day see a car roll out of a secret garage bay with two and a half times the power of a Tesla Model S combined with significantly lower curb weight?

True, it will be a series hybrid like Fisker might have wanted to build if its engineering was up to it, and the company had survived, but instead of a clunky gas engine and mediocre mileage, it could make the Batmobile look run of the mill – and sound like it.

Wright said the company has just patented the system that enables torque vectoring, stability control, traction control and ABS.

Whether it will run toe-to-toe or faster than a McLaren P1 or Porsche 918 Spyder remains to be seen, but this will have more power, and Wright says, unprecedented four-wheel control to make even ordinary drivers perform like heroes.

The software, which Wright says was just patented, dynamically controls each of the four wheels independently. If the car is driven hard into a corner, it controls slip angle, torque speed, and can even apply reverse torque to, say, the inboard wheels or as necessary.

A brain does the thinking in microseconds and does what no ordinary car could do.

The less than complimentary term for such tech is “nannies” but all the supercar makers are going this way to keep their high-paying patrons on the road, and pointed forward when they romp out and play in cars with too much power for an average driver.

Of course, says Wright, if you dive into a 15 mph corner at 100 mph, the car “won’t prevent suicide” and even the laws of physics – while seemingly stretched with each tire monitored and manipulated – will take over if the absolutely ham-fisted insist.



How much does the Route or Circuit retrofit cost?

“Yeah, we don’t publish that, sorry,” said Wright, but, “Customers are happy.”

Wrightspeed set up shop in San Jose and was welcomed in an April 7, 2011 ceremony presided over by the city’s mayor, California Energy Commission vice chair, and others from the “cleantech” community.

Since 2010 to present, it raised $16.5 million in private venture capital investments, and has also received $1.2 million previously from the California Energy Commission, and has received $5.7 million more for Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing, as part of the agency’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP).

The company is hiring, and says the government money is based not just on environmental and fuel conservation goals, but for its economic potential as well.

The grant, says the company, “will indirectly catalyze hundreds of California jobs, through suppliers and the end users of the Route, whose fuel costs will be significantly reduced, ultimately leading to a better hiring climate.”

Still getting up to speed, Wrightspeed projects profits in 2015, and says marketing head, Maya Giannini, things are going “great.”

“We have customers clamoring for our stuff, our technology works very well,” she says, “better than our competitors’ and we have identified a market that burns a lot of fuel per vehicle per year, which means real ROI for our customers.”