Chevrolet’s Spark Electric battery-powered mini car is being presented to a European audience for the first time at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.
The car will be sold in select European markets as of 2014.
Chevrolet anticipates the Spark EV will set a benchmark in performance for an urban city electric car; the Spark EV is powered by the most advanced electric motor and battery system General Motors has ever built.
“The Spark EV is a fun-to-drive zero-emission city car with intelligent connectivity. We believe it will resonate particularly in some of Europe’s most technologically advanced markets,” says Susan Docherty, president and managing director of Chevrolet and Cadillac Europe. “Just like Volt, this nimble battery-powered vehicle is a proof point for Chevrolet’s ingenuity in delivering smart mobility solutions.”
The heart of the Spark EV’s propulsion system is its GM-designed permanent magnet electric motor. It delivers more than 130 horsepower (100 kilowatt) and will enable 0-60 mph acceleration in under 8.5 seconds.
The Spark EV will be equipped with a lithium-ion battery system of more than 20 kilowatt-hour that operates with the help of an active liquid cooling and heating system. The battery pack has been engineered to enable both regular alternate current (AC) and direct current (DC) fast charging.
Chevrolet said DC fast charging will allow the car to recharge up to 80 percent of its capacity in approximately 20 minutes. Moreover, the battery system is capable of handling multiple DC fast charges daily. AC recharging requires between 6 and 8 hours, using a 230V outlet.
A charging extension is standard.
According to Chevrolet, the Spark EV was designed to look edgy and expressive. Among the most prominent aspects of its stylish interior is a column-mounted instrument cluster that features one of two large seven-inch full-color LCD screens. The other display is located in the center stack and serves as the interface for infotainment, cabin climate controls and energy-efficiency data.
The Spark EV will come with the Chevrolet MyLink connected radio technology as standard, which allows users to connect compatible smartphones to the radio with its high resolution touch screen. Chevrolet said MyLink will support a number of select apps which will allow users to navigate using their smartphone, and listen to radio stations around the world through the internet. A rear-view camera will provide assistance when the car is in reverse.
In addition, MyLink users who own a compatible iPhone (4S and higher) running iOS6 will be able to utilise Siri to perform a number of tasks while they keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Even with the Geneva Motor Show now underway, it’s kind of a slow E-REV news day – at least for the kinds of practical cars Volt fans normally like to read about. Oh, there are some interesting cars, like Subaru’s Viziv diesel plug-in hybrid concept, VW’s XL1, and perhaps a few others, but today we’ll look at something a little off beat.
Or is that in the limelight? Guess it depends on your focus, and more people would point a limelight on these than many a more frugal and sensible car, and so goes human nature.
This should answer why supercars are relevant. One can argue they’re really not, but in a sense they are because they show it does not matter what critics say about electrification efforts more near and dear to your direct interests. The big picture is hybrids and plug-in hybrids – which the extended-range electric Volt is generally considered one of, in fact it’s the world’s best selling – are on their way.
If the purveyors of ultimate automotive objects of desire are any indicator of the direction the market is going, you need doubt no longer if you ever did. This week car crazies are marveling over just-introduced high-horsepower hybrid supercars by Ferrari and McLaren. Porsche also has its pending 918 Spyder plug-in, and word has it that it’s a matter of time before Lamborghini adds a hybrid powertrain to its supercars, although it has just been reported a plug-in hybrid SUV called the Lamborghini Urus is now a reality.
True, such cars are limited production, their EV portion is relatively miniscule, and they are still gas guzzlers when on the boil. And true also, unless you are a well-connected multimillionaire you will never get one, but they are the top of the automotive food chain, and do a great job of creating positive impressions on the masses who might otherwise remain clueless for even longer than they have so far that hybrids are any cooler than a Prius.
Now, it is no longer the Prius fans and their ilk who alone are leading the charge toward gas-plus-electric powertrains. No longer can anyone say plug-in electrified cars are the exclusive province of environmentalists or energy security hawks. Variations of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid are proving to be the motive power of choice for the world’s most elite cars to squeak past emissions laws, and all this – not to mention racing efforts as well – can only help the rest of us in due time.
Another top-tier supercar maker is further validating the plug-in hybrid concept by augmenting its successor to its ultimate speed machine with an electric motor.
McLaren’s P1, the follow-up to its iconic F1 Supercar – a gas-powered model Tesla CEO Elon Musk once owned and was inspired by – will not be all-electric, but will benefit from a potent electric boost.
Not that it actually needs it, given its twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 derived from McLaren’s MP4-12C already produces 727 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque, the P1 will nonetheless get 176 horsepower and 192-pound-feet of torque of additional electrified assistance.
The proprietary 212-pound electric motor made in-house by McLaren Electronics therefore adds more power than a Toyota Prius has altogether yielding a combined total of 903 horsepower and 664 pound-feet torque. The engine block will be cast to accept this motor whose batteries will be charged by the engine but able to be recharged by an external plug-in charger as well.
McLaren is the latest of the European elites to go hybrid in light of pressing emissions laws, concerns for the environment, and due to the inherent benefits of electric motors.
Other makers include Ferrari and Porsche which also are building cost-is-no-object ultimate speed machines based on hybrid technology.
McLaren observes its motor ensures “instantaneous throttle response through the rev range, more akin to a naturally aspirated engine.”
Also, environmental boasting rights never before possible with purely turbocharged or supercharged solutions include potentially low or zero emissions during sedate driving. The vehicle is capable of traveling up to six miles (10 km) under all-electric power.
Of this, McLaren said “emissions of less than 200g/km on the combined cycle are reduced to zero in full electric drive mode.”
The car will also make use of Formula 1-derived Drag Reduction System (DRS) and Instant Power Assist System (IPAS) technologies which reduce the trim angle by 23 percent on the large and functional rear spoiler. The net effect, says McLaren, will be to cut aerodynamic drag and “offer an increase in straight-line speed and an instant boost of power. “
Hybrid power is becoming a supercar requirement. After McLaren and its P1, Ferrari comes out with its LaFerrari.
The Prancing Horse’s new exclusive model made its world debut yesterday at the Geneva International Motor Show. It will be known as LaFerrari and will combine the brand’s well known V12 to electric motors.
“We chose to call this model LaFerrari,” declared Ferrari’s President, Luca di Montezemolo, “because it is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence. Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving. Aimed at our collectors, this is a truly extraordinary car which encompasses advanced solutions that, in the future, will find their way onto the rest of the range, and it represents the benchmark for the entire automotive industry. LaFerrari is the finest expression of our company’s unique, unparalleled engineering and design know-how, including that acquired in Formula 1.”
Ferrari said during the launch that the development of a limited-series special like the LaFerrari represents an opportunity to experiment with all the technological solutions that will later filter down onto the production cars. Of particular significance in this context is the introduction of the hybrid system which makes full use of the Scuderia Ferrari’s F1 KERS know-how.
The hybrid technology used, known as HY-KERS, represents, according to Ferrari, the perfect combination of maximum performance and lower emissions. The LaFerrari in fact emits just 330 g/km of CO2 but without resorting to electric-only drive which would not fit the mission of this model.
The HY-KERS system is, however, designed so that in future applications a car can be driven using exclusively electric power for a few miles and, during development testing, a full-electric version of LaFerrari achieved just 220 g/km of CO2 emissions on the combined cycle.
The LaFerrari is equipped with dynamic controls that are integrated for the first time ever on a Ferrari road car with active aerodynamics and the HY-KERS system.
The hybrid supercar’s chassis features no less than four different types of carbon-fiber, all hand-laminated and autoclave-cured in the racing department using the same design and production methods as the Formula 1 car. This helped Ferrari optimize the design: various functions were integrated (e.g. seats and battery compartment) into the chassis to improve torsional rigidity (+27 percent) and beam stiffness (+22 percent) while cutting weight.
The LaFerrari is the first car in Ferrari history to be powered by the HY-KERS system. The ICE is a 6262 cc V12 that produces 800 horsepower and revs to a maximum of 9,250 rpm, a record for an engine of this displacement.
The engine also features a very high 13.5:1 compression ratio and a high specific output equal to 128 horsepower per liter. The engine is coupled with a 120 kilowatt (163 horsepower) electric motor, giving it a combined power output of 963 horsepower.
The high torque levels available at low revs from the electric motor allowed the engineers to optimize the internal combustion engine’s performance at higher revs, thus providing a constant supply of exceptional power throughout the rev range.
The hybrid system is composed of two electric motors developed in collaboration with Magneti Marelli – one powering the driven wheels and the second the ancillaries – and a battery pack attached to the floor of the chassis consisting of cells that are assembled in the Scuderia Ferrari department where the KERS for the F138 is also made.
The Scuderia’s expertise allowed considerable savings in weight and size of the individual components and the batteries weigh 60 kilograms (132 pounds).
The batteries are charged in different ways: under braking (even hard braking with the ABS active) and every time the V12 produces more torque than required, such as in cornering. In the latter instance, rather than the power being sent to the wheels, the excess torque is converted to energy and stored in the batteries.
The electric motor is coupled with the F1 dual-clutch gearbox to the benefit of optimal weight distribution, but also to help boost energy efficiency as torque is instantly available to the wheels and, vice versa, from the wheels to the electric motor in recharging.
Ferrari said proprietary algorithms deliver optimal integration of the electric motor and V12 for instantaneous response. In cornering, for instance, the HY-KERS keeps the V12’s revs high to guarantee better acceleration on exit.
The LaFerrari’s Brembo braking system is also integrated with the hybrid system, and incorporates several new features, including new lightweight calipers designed to guarantee correct cooling and carbon-ceramic material (CCM) discs featuring a new composition.
The car’s performance potential called for a special tire set-up, with 265/30 R 19 Pirelli P-Zeros on the front and 345/30 R 20s on the rear.
As expected, performance levels are high: 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in less than 3 seconds and 0-200 km/h (124 mph) in under 7 seconds.
The LeFerrari will be particularly exclusive, with only 499 units to be built.
Elite Electric Cars
Has anyone noticed Tesla sold nearly as many Model S units last month as Chevy sold of its Volt? In February HybridCars.com estimated on its February Sales Dashboard that roughly 1,400 or more of these cars were delivered to a line of waiting customers. They cost upwards of $80,000 for the 85-kwh versions, and GM sold 1,626 units last month of the Volt.
But how many people there are who would want to spend five or ten times more for an EV is certainly a question. And again, these no doubt will NOT be solutions for the masses, but they do raise eyebrows – and heart rates – just the same.
Chreos EV Boasts Unbelievable Range, Recharge Time and Performance
The vehicle is said to make a Tesla Model S look anemic by comparison, and promises to run 0-60 mph in less than 2.9 seconds, to 120 in under 6 seconds, and deliver a 621-mile range while weighing a couple hundred pounds shy of 5,000 pounds.
Its electric powertrain boasts four motors, one for each wheel, with 640 horsepower and with reported torque that would compete with a freight train in a pulling contest – 3,244 pound feet from zero rpm.
What’s more, the car recharges normally by plugging into an outlet, but also by way of its “Silex Hypercharge” technology, which crams in not mere kilowatts, but kilovolts, yielding recharge times of its presumably massive battery pack in less than 10 minutes.
It is positioned as a luxury cruiser with blingy boulevard styling, suicide doors, and special cooling vents that intelligently open and close as needed to cool the battery taking in massive current upon recharging, and closing once back on the road.
“Chreos is a spacious vehicle that will pamper with luxury its four passengers. Built entirely of carbon fibre, and integrating the most advanced materials and technologies, Chreos is a car that places itself with other models in the high-end market,” says a press release.
The company writes the car will “be able to cruise comfortably at an electronically limited 300km/h.”
That’s 186 mph comfortable all-electric cruising being touted for a car we’ve only seen glossy computer generated images of so far.
Do you believe it? Skepticism predictably abounds among writers, including Autoblog Green from which we which first came across the Youtube video that’s had over 30,000 views since posting Feb. 14.
But wait, there’s more.
“The above might seem a lot, but it is still the tip of the iceberg with regards to innovation of this car,” writes Chreos, a project from Silex Power. “Over the following weeks we will introduce gradually all the novelties, gadgetry and technologies that make Chreos stand out from everything there is now on the market or is being proposed at present. Come back regularly for updates, or follow us on your favourite social medium.”
The company is fishing for people to join its Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media sites, so go ahead and sign up, if you’re interested.
It’s pretty clear the company knows full well the effect it is making. It is deliberate. Calculated.
“After just 5 days from its release, Chreos has gained international attention for its looks and style, but understandably, it has been at the centre of debates regarding its performance figures,” wrote the company from its Tech page.
Citing trade secrets, the company says it is still premature to show its hand too much, but at the same time, it must know it has promised an over the top car, and said it will release more info in coming “weeks.”
Actually, its press release also promises an “expected” follow-up on Monday April, 29. The company will then show “the interiors and some of the technologies behind Chreos.”
It’s a bit ambiguous therefore whether the company means it will release more info in the next few “weeks” or not for a couple months or more.
It would be great if this car sees daylight. We shall see whether this happens now that it has grabbed the spotlight with superlatives packed on top of superlatives.
AMG Coupe Electric Drive To Be World’s Fastest Production Electric Car
With the rapid ascent of the Tesla Model S to highly desired fast-and-sleek car status, and promises from major automakers as well as startups, Mercedes-Benz is poised to take center stage with its AMG Coupe Electric Drive.
Said to be the world’s most powerful and fastest series production electric car available, the spec sheet for the half-million-dollar, all-wheel-drive super sports car does back it up.
A 0-62 mph time of 3.9 seconds is said to be possible thanks to 740 electric horsepower (552kw), and 738 pound feet of torque. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, and range is the same number.
“The SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive is redefining standards for cars with electric drive systems. As the most powerful gullwing model ever, it also epitomizes the enduring innovative flair of Mercedes-AMG,” said Ola Källenius, chairman of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “Our vision of the most dynamic electric vehicle has become a reality and enables AMG customers to enjoy a whole new dimension of exclusive driving experience. With the help of our colleagues at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth, we are bringing fascinating high tech from the world of Formula 1 to the road.”
The vehicle employs a Formula 1 style KERS system, and offers three-hour charging at home for its 60-kwh, 400-volt battery with a specially installed charger.
Naturally, this will be a choice of one or the other – range or top speed, but not both at the same time.
Also compelling for high-performance fans is the vehicle uses four individual 13,000-rpm motors for each of its four wheels. These are not hub mounted units, as the unsprung weight was deemed unacceptable.
Rather, they are inboard, and have individual transmission units for each, so corner-enhancing ability from torque vectoring ought to put this sports car a further notch up the speed potential ladder. To handle the massive power up front, the traditional suspension was scrapped, and a Formula 1 style horizontal pushrod setup was used along with burly front axles.
To further enhance visceral feedback, the AMG EV makes use of “SLS eSound” which pipes in noises deemed suitable for the various phases of operation from startup, to running, to fast driving, etc.
“The occupants can enjoy a tailored sound pattern to suit each driving situation: incredibly dynamic when accelerating, subdued and restrained when cruising and intuitively comprehensible during recuperation phases – i.e. when the driver decelerates using the steering-wheel shift paddles and energy is being recovered,” says Daimler. “Using, in the main, authentic yet denaturalized real noises that cause the driver to make a subconscious association is of great benefit here as they do not sound artificial, as is usually the case with synthetic noises.”
The car uses much carbon fiber to offset the portly 1,200 pound battery pack. The motors, by the way, weigh only around 100 pounds each so while the fuel supply – the battery – is much more than for a conventional internal combustion car, the motors and transmissions weigh less.
We’ve seen reports the pre-production car had a curb weight of 4,609 pounds (2,095 kg), which is a couple hundred less than the 85-kwh Tesla Model S. It is also over 1,000 pounds more than a similarly quick but much faster in top-speed Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
The e-car is a stunning example of emissions-free driving for those who have enough money to spend on a car that could just as well buy them a nice house in the suburbs.
Pricing and launch date are yet to be announced, but recent projections were around $538,000 plus the price for the fast charger.
Some of the first people in line buying Teslas do have the disposable income to consider paying more for this M-B EV, if that was what they wanted to do. But it’s likely to remain a niche product, that at least will show electric cars have enormous potential.
Now, if only electric creations even close to this cool could be priced much closer what people of more modest means could afford.
It was a story of frustration about an under-performing, unloved white Volt versus a hot red one that seemed to leave its sibling by the roadside. I am happy to report that my conclusion is that you can drive an unloved Volt back to health. While some of my results end up being anecdotal, I am confident that I started with anemia and ended up with vigor.
I am not the commuter; my wife is. Her drive is 20 miles round trip, four days per week. The roads she drives on vary between neighborhood streets at 30 mph and urban corridors where the speed limits are 45 mph. There are a few stop signs and about a dozen traffic lights along the way. And as part of the comparison, she did some 70 mph Interstate miles to see how that affected things. Since the engineers at GM seemed to be looking for answers as much as the folks here in the forum, we did our best to ascertain how one compared to the other. The problem between the two Volts stems from their history before we got them, as well as their usage (or lack of) afterward.
We owned a 2008 Prius and it was that car that started this process. The mileage was great. I loved cruising around at low speeds on electricity – but that made me want more. I started to read about people who were converting their Priuses into plug ins. Investigation into this concept led me to the Volt, and then to this forum, long before the car went into production. I waited and planned and we ordered a fresh, off the line 2012 red Volt that was delivered to us in December 2011. My wife fell in love with the Volt before we even owned it, as a test drive in October 2011 made her feel like it wrapped around her like a glove. The only car she had ever truly loved was her 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora, which I cajoled her into giving up for the Prius. With the Volt, she was back to enjoying the driving experience that her Aurora had given her – and she could no longer hold that Prius over my head. There was much rejoicing.
After we owned the Volt for a couple months, analysis of plug in vehicle announcements and our current inventory made us decide to ditch one of our hybrid SUVs and acquire a second Volt. So the fun began. Our dealer, Stingray Chevrolet, found us a good deal on a Volt that had sat on a dealer’s lot in Texas for a number of months. We drove it home in March of 2012, but its VIN showed it to predate our red one. It was identical in absolutely every way, except its exterior color, which was white. Even its interior
scheme was the same. Note that when inside the Volt, the only way you can see its exterior color is to look at the side mirrors for a small glimpse. No matter, my wife knew her red one was faster.
In any case, the red one got driven 20 miles daily, and plugged in each evening. The white one got used occasionally. Since the red one was our first choice, it got driven to our daughter’s residence 100 miles away, while the white one sat in the garage. Our dual residence living situation, with a NY home, meant that the red one got even more driving up there in NY, while the white one got used when my wife would return to Florida (to generate some income during our seasonal situation). The red one became my hunting vehicle, getting full discharges each time I took it out. It got driven on a 3,000 mile round trip between the two homes. By its first anniversary it had 14,000 miles on it, while the white one had 3,000.
Thanks to the phone app, and my ADHD, I noted the white Volt’s performance from afar. My first alarm came when my wife drove it to the airport in Fort Myers and got less than 30 miles on a charge. We blamed her speed. However, her commuting left her feeling that the white one just wasn’t cutting it. She thought it was her driving style, or air conditioning, or summer heat, or whatever. She blamed herself- not the car. Spending the summer with the red one up in NY, I remained aloof and was shocked upon my return in December. My mileage estimations kept coming up lower. I couldn’t get even 10 kwh of production from it, whereas the red Volt ALWAYS produced over 10 kwh. I struggled just to get to 40 miles on a charge (and never making it), whereas the red one ALWAYS achieved over 40 miles. The straw that broke the camel’s back came when I journeyed to my daughter’s place in Plant City (the home of Stingray Chevrolet, where both Volts were purchased). I drive a straight route, on back country roads. Traffic is never an issue. I had noted that with the cruise control set to 62 mph, the red Volt would get me 40 miles to a charge. At 52 mph, I would get 45 miles to a charge. So I drove the white one at 52 mph. Both on the way up, and back, I got 37 miles to a charge- a 20 percent shortcoming. Temperatures were moderate (this is Florida, where the average high and record high can be just a few degrees apart). Once the gas engine kicked in, both cars were getting me about 40 mpg. It wasn’t the engine, the alignment or the driver; it had to be the battery.
While I have referred directly to the (lack of) mileage in my discussion here, my first conclusion was that the white Volt had sat idle and unloved, baking in the Texas heat. I envisioned all manner of crusty, nasty things building up inside those cells. I took it to Stingray, expecting that there would be some magic diagnostic that would tell me my battery needed replacement. The GM engineers told Stingray personnel to start driving it to battery exhaustion. Justin, the Service Manager, took it home at night. He has his own Volt, which he apparently drives much faster than mine. He drove it as his own and noted underperformance. He altered routes and noted underperformance. Nothing earth shattering, but not meeting up to what he was used to. I kept watching the mobile app after each of his drives. Then he had another service person drive it sloooowllllyyyy around country back roads, and that person did the same with another Volt. The white Volt was coming up short, but not by much. But my mobile app told me the white Volt was doing better after each drive. Not surprisingly, when I took that same trip back home, that had previously given me 37 miles, I got 40 miles. Better, but not up to what the red one could do.
I was tasked by GM engineers to drive both red and white Volts to battery exhaustion before recharging, comparing the two vehicles. I came up with the best scenario I could- to have my wife drive two round trips (41 miles) to work and I would finish up until gas started burning. The results below show readings after those two round trips, and then what was displayed when the ICE kicked in. My wife valiantly avoided using anything but bare minimum fan for climate control.
1/15 White 41 miles traveled, 11 miles left estimated, 22 percent charge
remaining, 8.2 kwh used
1/16 White 49.6 miles at ICE start, 10.3 kwh used
1/17 Red 41 miles traveled, 14 miles left estimated, 26 percent charge remaining,
7.8 kwh used
1/18 Red 52.4 miles at ICE start, 10.4 kwh used
1/24 White 41 miles traveled, 4 miles left estimated, 7 percent charge remaining
1/24 White 44.2 miles at ICE start, 9.8 kwh used
1/29 White 41 miles traveled, 9 miles left estimated, 19 percent charge remaining
2/4 White 48.4 miles at ICE start, 10.2 kwh used
2/5 Red 42 miles traveled, 6 miles left estimated, 13 percent charge remaining,
8.8 kwh used
2/6 Red 49.2 miles at ICE start, 10.1 kwh used
2/7 White 43 miles traveled, 6 miles left estimated, 12 percent charge remaining,
9.0 kwh used
2/10 White 48.8 miles at ICE start, 10.3 kwh used
For the last two weeks of comparison, the route was altered to include 70
mph Interstate driving for several miles on the return home leg of the
commute, on each day (cruise control was used). This resulted in no
electric miles left after the two round trips.
2/12 Red 46.5 miles at ICE start, 10.3 kwh used
2/14 White 41 miles at ICE start, 10.3 kwh used
2/19 Red 38.7 miles at ICE start, 10.0 kwh used
2/21 White 46.6 miles at ICE start, 10.5 kwh used
Note that the Interstate driving comparisons involved some chilly temperatures (for FL anyway- in the 40s); since both vehicles managed to achieve two full round trips without the ICE kicking in (2/12, 2/21 had no bars left and either 0 or 1 miles estimated), I’d say we achieved comparable results.
While I have to incorporate some anecdotal results before I had side by side
comparison from these numbers, I would say:
1) Not using your Volt often enough and/or fully exhausting its battery seems to yield a Volt battery that does not live up to full expectations.
2) You can restore your Volt’s battery performance by returning it to a pattern of frequent usage with full discharge/recharge cycles.
The data above seems to paint a picture of the red Volt slightly edging its white sibling. The advantage finally becomes null with the last highway trip. There are more exhaustive studies possible, but when you continue to drive vehicles in identical fashion, it makes things like shopping trips after work impossible. After several weeks of such efforts, my wife, as you might suspect, had had enough. I had purposefully alternated vehicle operations to try and average out ambient temperature variations, but I guess I was surprised that temperature effects were more noticeable than anticipated. I was expecting our moderate Florida temperatures to show 70s and 80s in lock step, but that was not the case. The Volts did better when the afternoon temperatures were in the 80s. As my wife was avoiding climate control, the Volts showed their comfort zone to be a bit warmer than ours.
I suspect that many early Volt adopters are using the car to its fullest extent and probably not experiencing what we did with our white Volt. Regardless, I would say that if your Volt usage results in only partial discharges, you should occasionally drive until the ICE kicks in. As I know GM engineers were initially involved in evaluating the white Volt, I am hoping they will examine this issue further and give us more guidance on how often we should strive for full discharges under both intermittent and completely active conditions. I am happy to see my white Volt back up to where I think it should have been all along and it is nice to know that the best medicine for an under-performing Volt battery is to get it back out on the road and use it to its fullest extent.
Since New York Times reporter John M. Broder wrote his account last week describing a $101,000 Tesla Model S leaving him stranded in the cold, a virtual skirmish of insinuation and accusation has continued between the Times and Tesla.
Yesterday, Tesla issued what it said would be its final word with a bullet list of points it says were culled from data logs taken from the test car Broder drove. The company says these prove his story cannot be true.
As we noted on Tuesday, Elon Musk said the data logs the company keeps on all journalistic test drives show Broder’s story is “a fake.”
Yesterday, Tesla drew parallels between Broder’s alleged editorial hijacking and lessons learned at the hands of British auto show Top Gear in which they staged a run-out-of-juice scene of a Tesla Roadster.
“While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story,” wrote Tesla in a blog post bylined by Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO. He was speaking of Top Gear, but then said the same was basically true of Broder.
“The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running,” wrote Musk.
Allowing that in other times during the past week Musk has attempted to show himself as diplomatic as possible, in blunt terms one could say the automaker is calling the New York Times reporter a liar.
Broder’s story, which he has maintained is absolutely factual, was juicy in its details that added up to fodder in support of the usual messages we hear EV critics make.
The trip he contemplated from Washington to Boston was to test the Model S and its Supercharger fast-charging stations.
He did it in the dead of winter, when true enough, electric vehicles do experience diminished charge holding capacity and range, but the 85-kwh Model S was capable of making the trip – according to Tesla, not Broder.
Broder said the car – subsidized by $465 million in taxpayer loans and costing triple an average new car that could have made it – let him down. This, Broder said as he chronicled his adventure from his influential New York Times platform toward the Model S’ alleged failure.
“As I crossed into New Jersey some 15 miles later, I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating,” he wrote of when he began to sense things might be going wrong.
“I began following Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic,” he wrote.
Broder and his juice-less S. Photo courtesy NY Times.
“All the while, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white,” he said of an experience that would immediately turn off anyone contemplating making the plunge into an electric vehicle.
“If this is Tesla’s vision of long-distance travel in America’s future, I thought, and the solution to what the company calls the ‘road trip problem,’ it needs some work,” wrote Broder.
Then while documenting his real world trip that ended by being towed to a charger on a flatbed, he noted with irony the glowing words of former Energy Secretary Steven Chu that implicitly sounded like hype. He noted the money spent by the American government on behalf of its citizens. He noted how expensive the Model S is.
Following that first story, and Musk’s initial responses, the New York Times has gone on record essentially implying it is Musk who may be lying. Broder also blogged a defense of Musk’s rebuttals, and the Times has also posted a story saying it was not sorry its negative report “sunk” Tesla’s stock – at least for the days following this drama.
“Let’s answer these assertions in turn. My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it,” wrote Broder in his own defense, and then proceeded to account for issues for which Musk had publicly cried foul.
Fake or Not?
Below we’ll present bullet points given by Tesla’s CEO written in a Tesla blog post yesterday and Broder’s responses follow. Actually the entire point / counterpoint section was taken from Broder’s rebuttal which quoted Musk verbatim right down the line from Musk’s blog post.
We’ll add the points Musk asserts could be considered very damaging to Broder’s story and credibility if they are indeed shown to be true. Where this saga will end, remains to be seen, but we’re just laying it out with links also in this post for you to follow.
In his lengthy rebuttal, Broder explained the timing and trip had been proposed by Tesla, he was qualified to do the job, and his position would suggest no bias or axe to grind.
“Since 2009, I have been the Washington bureau reporter responsible for coverage of energy, environment and climate change,” wrote Broder yesterday. “I have written numerous articles about the auto industry and several vehicle reviews for the Automobiles pages. (In my 16 years at The Times I have served as White House correspondent, Washington editor, Los Angeles bureau chief and a political correspondent.)”
What’s more, Broder asserts Tesla handed him the car without full explanation of the charging network and some of the car’s features and peculiarities.
So, sticking to his story that this was a good faith report, he continued to chronicle his side that three hours into the trip, he made the first of around one dozen phone calls to Tesla seeking guidance.
Here is the point / counterpoint with bullets by Musk and responses from Broder:
• “As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.”
The car’s display screen said the car was shutting down, and it did. The car did not have enough power to move, or even enough to release the electrically operated parking brake. The tow truck driver was on the phone with Tesla’s New York service manager, Adam Williams, for 15 or 20 minutes as he was trying to move the car onto a flatbed truck.
• “The final leg of his trip was 61 miles and yet he disconnected the charge cable when the range display stated 32 miles. He did so expressly against the advice of Tesla personnel and in obvious violation of common sense.”
The Tesla personnel whom I consulted over the phone – Ms. Ra and Mr. Merendino – told me to leave it connected for an hour, and after that the lost range would be restored. I did not ignore their advice.
• “In his article, Broder claims that ‘the car fell short of its projected range on the final leg.’ Then he bizarrely states that the screen showed ‘Est. remaining range: 32 miles’ and the car traveled ‘51 miles’ contradicting his own statement (see images below). The car actually did an admirable job exceeding its projected range. Had he not insisted on doing a nonstop 61-mile trip while staring at a screen that estimated half that range, all would have been well. He constructed a no-win scenario for any vehicle, electric or gasoline.”
The phrase “the car fell short of its projected range” appeared in a caption with an accompanying map; it was not in the article. What that referred to (and admittedly could have been more precise) was that the car fell short of the projected range, 90 miles, that it showed when I parked it overnight at a hotel in Groton, Conn.
Tesla is correct that the car did exceed the projected range of 32 miles when I left Norwich, as I was driving slowly, and it gave me hope that the Tesla employee I’d consulted was correct that the mileage lost overnight was being restored. It wasn’t enough, however, to get to Milford.
• “On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.”
If there was a public charging station nearby, no one made me aware of it. The Tesla person with whom I was in contact located on the Internet a public charging station in East Haven, Conn., and that is the one I was trying to reach when the car stalled in Branford, about five miles shy of East Haven.
• “Cruise control was never set to 54 m.p.h. as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 m.p.h. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 m.p.h. to 81 m.p.h. for a majority of the trip, and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.”
I drove normally (at the speed limit or with prevailing traffic) when I thought it was prudent to do so. I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters. Tesla’s data suggests I was doing slightly more than 50 over a stretch where the speed limit was 65. The traffic was heavy in that part of Connecticut, so cruise control was not usable, and I tried to keep the speed at 50 or below without impeding traffic.
Certainly, and as Tesla’s logs clearly show, much of my driving was at or well below the 65 m.p.h. speed limit, with only a single momentary spike above 80. Most drivers are aware that cars can speed up, even sometimes when cruise control is engaged, on downhill stretches.
• “At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.”
I raised and lowered the cabin heat in an effort to strike a balance between saving energy and staying somewhat comfortable. (It was 30 degrees outside when I began the trip, and the temperature plunged that night to 10 degrees.) Tesla jumped to the conclusion that I claimed to have lowered the cabin temperature “at 182 miles,” but I never wrote that. The data clearly indicates that I sharply lowered the temperature setting – twice – a little over 200 miles into the trip. After the battery was charged I tried to warm the cabin.
• “The charge time on his second stop was 47 minutes, going from —5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of E.P.A. Rated Range, not 58 minutes as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.”
According to my notes, I plugged into the Milford Supercharger at 5:45 p.m. and disconnected at 6:43 p.m. The range reading was 185 miles.
Photo by John M. Broder/NY Times.
• “For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?”
I stopped at 72 percent because I had replenished more than enough energy for the miles I intended to drive the next day before fully recharging on my way back to New York. In Norwich, I charged for an hour on the lower-power charger, expressly on the instructions of Tesla personnel, to get enough range to reach the Supercharger station in Milford.
• “The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broder’s trip. When he first reached our Milford, Conn., Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.”
I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.
The stop in Manhattan was planned from the beginning and known to Tesla personnel all along. According to Google Maps, taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan (instead of crossing at the George Washington Bridge) and driving up the West Side Highway added only two miles to the overall distance from Newark, Del., to Milford, Conn.
Neither I nor the Model S ever visited “downtown Manhattan.”
• “When I first heard about what could at best be described as irregularities in Broder’s behavior during the test drive, I called to apologize for any inconvenience that he may have suffered and sought to put my concerns to rest, hoping that he had simply made honest mistakes. That was not the case.”
Mr. Musk not only apologized, he said the charging stations should be 60 miles closer together and offered me a second test drive when additional stations were built.
After lobbing potentially painful and costly words from East to West and back, the drama has done a great job of stoking ire and passions – or disgust and disinterest – among those who have paid attention – or tuned it out.
It is clear electric vehicles have to prove themselves and are being weighed in the court of public opinion – not especially known for its jurisprudence or clarity.
Undeniable is EVs are subsidized, do cost more on average, if not a lot more, than gas counterparts. They also take longer to refuel, and there are fewer chargers publicly available to do so.
Those facts are part of the backdrop in a pointed dispute between two opinion makers – the New York Times, and Tesla’s rock star of a CEO, Elon Musk.
People on the sidelines have been offering comments siding with one or the other, while others more wisely say “show me the data.”
Tesla has now given the data, says it has nothing more to say, so now what?
However this spat turns out, more certain is that if the EV will make it, it will make it on its merits, and bad news in itself, while always seeming fresh and dramatic at the moment, is really part of a sad state of affairs we have today.
And, we could add, people do love a good fight, so this surely feeds the need for those so inclined.
The Times has now refuted the refutation of Elon Musk, and in the end, whenever that is, we hope after the fear, uncertainty, accusations, and doubt, the truth will prevail.
Some days the Volt-specific news we might be able to find and post here is unfortunately limited.
Today is not one of those days!
In fact, just for fun, I’ll fold in three stories as it’s kind of novel to have GM EREV-related stories from the U.S, Australia and UK.
US News: Love your new Volt or get your money back
Were you thinking about buying a Volt or another economical car in Chevrolet’s line-up but were not quite sure whether you’d have buyer’s remorse later?
Taking a strategy out of the playbook of retailers of less-high-priced consumer goods, beginning yesterday through Sept. 4, Chevrolet says it is offering a “Love it or return it” money back guaranty.
The deal actually applies to all 2012 or 2013 Chevrolets, but yesterday Chevrolet spokesperson Afaf Farah said it definitely includes the Volt.
According to Farah, the offer is a repeat of a similar company wide program GM ran in 2009, and is being offered again in light of Chevrolet having a number of new and improved models, and the company wants to woo buyers back to the brand with a bold offer that shows it really has confidence in its lineup.
You can read the fine print here, but in short, if you buy an eligible vehicle, and hold onto it from at least 31 up to 60 days, drive fewer than 4,000 miles, and decide the vehicle is really not for you, then no worries.
Chevrolet will take the vehicle back for the full actual selling price plus the sales tax you paid – but you will forfeit registration fee, title fee, or municipal and other miscellaneous fees as applicable.
The “Buyback Price” will be fully disclosed prior to taking delivery, and the intent is to avoid unwanted surprises – so, while there are terms and conditions, there will be no haggling, a restocking fee, or other penalties if you decide not to keep your 31-60-day-old Chevy.
Other caveats include this does not apply to leasing, but purchases only, and if you return it, it must be through the same participating dealer. Also the vehicle must not have incurred damage or non-warranted repairs in excess of $300, regardless of whether such damage has been repaired. And furthermore, it must not have been subject to any liens or other security interests other than a lien for the original financing used to purchase it.
OK, but it still sounds like a pretty liberal deal. And someone might ask, what happens if some person tries to game the system? In other words, could this deal become like a relatively minimal cost 31-60 day rental if someone was willing to put out the upfront costs and go through the trouble of buying the car?
The short answer is, yes. But Farah said the last time GM did this, it had around a 1-percent return rate while seeing an incremental increase in sales.
So, not unlike an offer at a bookstore that lets you read the whole book then return it for money back, Chevrolet is taking the chance that most people won’t take the option out, and it will sell more vehicles.
What do you think? Is this a good offer? Is it good enough to make you buy that now-discounted Volt you were thinking about in light of 2013 models being just around the corner?
News from Oz: Better Place and Holden team up on charging
We more often hear of Better Place as offering EV battery switching stations for Renaults, but yesterday for the Volt in Australia, Holden announced Better Place would be its “preferred partner for renewable energy and faster charging.”
For those of you less familiar, the “long range Holden Volt” is the Australian re-badged version of the Chevy Volt.
Holden says Better Place will enable effectively reduced emissions by making available a number of membership packages for Volt customers.
Central in this is a “Charging Spot” recharger unit and ability to purchase renewable energy or 100-percent government certified renewable energy certificates.
Ordinarily plugging into 240-volt, 10-amp house current in Australia is said to require a bit less than six hours for a full recharge. With the Better Place unit pushing 15 amps from a dedicated line, time is said to be decreased to under four hours.
While offered to consumers, Holden Energy and Environment Director, Richard Marshall noted the Better Place option is likely to be especially popular with fleets wanting to run their Volts predominantly on the initial battery charge.
For its part, Better Place said the partnership gives Volt motorists a complete recharging solution for their electric driving.
“The partnership between Better Place and Holden means Volt drivers can choose an all-inclusive service that delivers complete peace of mind and makes driving an electric car easy, convenient and reliable,” said Better Place Head of Strategy and Marketing, Ben Keneally. “We look after everything a Volt driver needs – including installing personal charging spots at home or work, delivering shorter charging times, and providing ongoing management, maintenance, and 24-hour customer care.”
Better Place will also install a Volt Charge Spot at the limited number of Volt dealers for demonstration purposes when the 2013 Volt is released in a fully optioned single specification level at $59,990 Australian dollars ($61,118 USD) – plus dealer delivery, road registration and associated taxes – in the fourth quarter of this year.
This morning Holden spokesperson Andrea Matthews said also that charger pricing is still pending.
“Better Place have not yet announced pricing for the charger but it will vary as there will be a number of different membership packages available,” she said, answering also a question about projected numbers. “We won’t speculate on sales volume of any of our vehicle lines but our expectation is that this will be a niche model for us.”
Matthews said also she appreciated your checking in to see what Holden is doing – so feel free to keep clicking the links …
“By the way, I also look after the Holden blog and we’ve seen some good traffic from your site in the past week,” she said, “so thanks!”
News from Europe: UK man trades Leaf for Volt over range anxiety
By Huw Evans
In the United Kingdom, Dan Green (not his real name), decided, after 18 months of ownership that his Nissan Leaf was too stressful and so opted to trade it in for the British version of the Chevy Volt, a Vauxhall Ampera.
Asked why, Green cited the fact that he was tired of running out of charge, which doubled journey times and significantly increased his stress levels since he often worried if he would make it to his destination.
Part of the reason for his decision stems from the fact that in Green’s eyes, development of an EV infrastructure simply hasn’t been rapid enough to support the sales of the cars themselves, which means that the prospect of running out of range was a major concern.
“Although the tow truck drivers were friendly,” Green said, “being taken away on a flatbed truck turns a 1.5 hour journey into a 3.5 hour one. That’s okay if you’re on your own, but it doesn’t impress your passengers and doesn’t help the cause of electric cars.”
He also said that on busy motorways (freeways) or during rush hour, driving slower to maximize range endurance was also particularly stressful, not only irritating other motorists but also proving quite dangerous, especially considering that many drivers travel at speeds of 75-85 mph on motorways in the UK.
As a result, he decided enough was enough and went to a Vauxhall dealer to trade the Leaf in on a new Ampera. “They gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said, no doubt aided by the fact Green paid in cash, giving him extra bargaining power.
However, despite his new found motoring freedom, thanks to the Ampera’s onboard gasoline generator, Green does say there are some things he misses about the Leaf, namely its onboard CarWings telematics and satellite navigation system. “I really hate the satellite navigation in the Ampera,” he says, though “now I don’t have to worry about plugging in any more,” [getting 250 miles per gallon equivalent] is simply a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience.
Pennsylvania-based clean energy firm Momentum Dynamics said yesterday it will launch its wireless electrified vehicle fast-charging system to fleets this year, to consumers within two years, then as an original equipment feature by mid-decade.
The company’s magnetic induction-based system significantly outperforms level-2 chargers, costs far less than level-3 chargers, works automatically, in any weather and was on display this week at the Commercial Vehicle Megatrends USA 2012 conference in Dearborn, Mich.
In an interview yesterday with Momentum Dynamics’ founder and CEO, Andy Daga, I learned the U.S. Department of Energy as well as other state agencies concerned with green energy have endorsed the system and grant funding has amounted to $1.1 million total to date.
As you might imagine, the system is designed for any plug-in vehicle, and Daga said the company is actively engaged with beginning several fleet pilot programs around the country with delivery companies like FedEx and UPS, shuttle services, and others.
If all goes as planned, the inductive charger could be introduced for consumer aftermarket purchase possibly as soon as 2013.
The system simply works and is convenient, and Daga said it renders plugs obsolete to the point that he’s in talks with four automotive OEMs so far. If things bode well, he said we could see Momentum Dynamics systems installed as original equipment in certain vehicles by model year 2015 – though he made clear Chevrolet was not one of the companies he is yet partnered with.
The way the system operates is not unlike the magnetic inductive charging used with wireless devices that are laid on an inductive pad, or even an electric toothbrush sitting on a stand on your bathroom sink, Daga said. The difference is the energy needed to recharge a vehicle can be on orders of magnitude higher – around 10,000 watts – albeit still without fear of electric shock to a person or pet, or damaging the grid’s local power transformer.
As installed on the Volt, the system can recharge through an air gap between the pad on the floor and a receptor installed between the front wheels under the Volt’s chassis – and despite all that power, Daga said the vehicle’s metal underside does not increase in temperature.
The company is still working out details however – such as how to properly remove an effective bottleneck in respective onboard chargers that slows down recharge times. The Volt’s 3.3-kw charger limits charge times to the speed of a standard level 2 charger for now.
Daga said the company is actively working with OE engineers to update hardware and software, and has been told the Volt’s battery can easily handle input power of 10 kw, though for now it’s limited to 3.3 kw, and the next benchmark will be upgrading to 7.2 kw prior to arriving at 10 kw.
Once Momentum Dynamics successfully modifies the Volt’s T18 Battery Control Module to 10 kw, speed for a full recharge to the Volt’s 16-kwh battery will be a blazing one hour. This is one-third the approximately three hours it would take via a 240-volt level 2 charger, or one-tenth the 10 hours via 120-volt house power.
Maybe fast charging doesn’t matter to some of you Volt owners content to charge overnight, but you Tesla Model Model S or even Nissan Leaf buyers may be rightfully getting more curious …
If you want to know a bit more, the Momentum Dynamics system utilizes two matched coils working as a set – one being a transmitter connected to the electrical grid and located on or in the pavement, and the other being a receiver installed in the vehicle.
The transmitting coil is tuned to create an alternating magnetic field of a specified frequency. The receiving coil is also tuned to this frequency, and as the transmitter is energized, the receiving coil has a current induced within it, even though the two coils are not in contact with each other and separated by up to two feet.
Daga said a driver needs only park close to on-target, and is guided by audible chirps in the vehicle that help position it within an acceptable distance, so it does not take special talent to park the car in order to charge.
The blue mat in the photo is just one application, and as alluded to above, the system can be embedded in pavement, and in the works also are a series of embedded pads set in a row that could charge slowly moving, semi-parked taxis waiting at a curb for passengers, for example.
The company is eager to prove the system works in municipal and commercial settings for stationary or near-stationary vehicles, but time could come when moving vehicles could also take advantage of it.
If you happened to see reports of this yesterday quoting MLive.com that said it exceeded Level 3 performance, that was a mistake I was told, though it will cost a whole lot less than a $70,000-plus DC fast charger, Daga said, so in that sense it “outperforms.”
Daga also said he never said the system works for cars skimming past at 40 mph, as others reported, but hinted that is not an impossibility.
The system is enabled to recognize a specific vehicle signaling it via a transponder, and an account would be assigned like a turnpike EZ Pass for billing purposes, Daga said.
While it’s too soon to commit to actual pricing, Daga estimated first-generation aftermarket consumer pads could cost perhaps $5,000-$6,000, with in-ground designs intended to be flush with a driveway surface or garage floor costing perhaps a couple thousand more before installation costs.
Commercial applications such as those intended for electric Enterprise shuttle buses at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif., would be about $10,000 before installation costs.
Consumers would also have to pay perhaps $500 – or more if battery management upgrades are also involved to speed up charge times – for the receiver that would be attached under their vehicle, and as a factory installed option later this decade, it would be less, he said. Naturally, any vehicle that normally plugs in, such as a Nissan Leaf, Tesla, Ford Focus Electric, and of course, Volt or others could make use of the system.
If used proactively, the company says its system also stands to potentially extend a vehicle’s battery life by avoiding full discharging. It also potentially counters the threat of theft or vandalism that could be a concern to EVs using ordinary plugs for recharging.
Momentum Dynamics designed and manufactures the components in the U.S. – and Daga said it intends to remain a U.S. manufacturer, and not outsource.
Although dedicated to American production, Daga also said he has his finger in the wind to determine political winds sweeping across the country, and hinted at what we all know that the plug-in industry is influenced by sentiment and perceptions.
We know also that others are working on similar technology, and while SAE and CHAdeMO proffer proprietary plug standards, the solution some have felt is inevitable is wireless charging such as that with which Motion Dynamics hopes to make a name.