This weeks Economist is a must read for anyone interested in the transition to Electric Vehicles, Battery Technology and Peak oil.
The cover and lead article related to the demise of the internal combustion engine or ICE. See Economist. The more detailed briefing (subscription required) covers battery technology in detail and focus of next post.
“HUMAN inventiveness…has still not found a mechanical process to replace horses as the propulsion for vehicles,” lamented Le Petit Journal, a French newspaper, in December 1893. Its answer was to organise the Paris-Rouen race for horseless carriages, held the following July. The 102 entrants included vehicles powered by steam, petrol, electricity, compressed air and hydraulics. Only 21 qualified for the 126km (78-mile) race, which attracted huge crowds. The clear winner was the internal combustion engine. Over the next century it would go on to power industry and change the world.
But its days are numbered. Rapid gains in battery technology favour electric motors instead.
The Chevy Bolt has a range of 383km; Tesla fans recently drove a Model S more than 1,000km on a single charge. UBS, a bank, reckons the “total cost of ownership” of an electric car will reach parity with a petrol one next year—albeit at a loss to its manufacturer. It optimistically predicts electric vehicles will make up 14% of global car sales by 2025, up from 1% today. Others have more modest forecasts, but are hurriedly revising them upwards as batteries get cheaper and better—the cost per kilowatt-hour has fallen from $1,000 in 2010 to $130-200 today.
electrification has thrown the car industry into turmoil. Its best brands are founded on their engineering heritage—especially in Germany. Compared with existing vehicles, electric cars are much simpler and have fewer parts; they are more like computers on wheels. That means they need fewer people to assemble them and fewer subsidiary systems from specialist suppliers. Car workers at factories that do not make electric cars are worried that they could be for the chop. With less to go wrong, the market for maintenance and spare parts will shrink. While today’s carmakers grapple with their costly legacy of old factories and swollen workforces, new entrants will be unencumbered. Premium brands may be able to stand out through styling and handling, but low-margin, mass-market carmakers will have to compete chiefly on cost.
Meanwhile, a scramble for lithium is under way. The price of lithium carbonate has risen from $4,000 a tonne in 2011 to more than $14,000. Demand for cobalt and rare-earth elements for electric motors is also soaring. Lithium is used not just to power cars: utilities want giant batteries to store energy when demand is slack and release it as it peaks. Will all this make lithium-rich Chile the new Saudi Arabia? Not exactly, because electric cars do not consume it; old lithium-ion batteries from cars can be reused in power grids, and then recycled.
The internal combustion engine has had a good run—and could still dominate shipping and aviation for decades to come. But on land electric motors will soon offer freedom and convenience more cheaply and cleanly. As the switch to electric cars reverses the trend in the rich world towards falling electricity consumption, policymakers will need to help, by ensuring that there is enough generating capacity—in spite of many countries’ broken system of regulation. They may need to be the midwives to new rules and standards for public recharging stations, and the recycling of batteries, rare-earth motors and other components in “urban mines”. And they will have to cope with the turmoil as old factory jobs disappear.
Driverless electric cars in the 21st century are likely to improve the world in profound and unexpected ways, just as vehicles powered by internal combustion engines did in the 20th. But it will be a bumpy road. Buckle up.
Yes we are mentioned in a BBC article published jusst before Christams on the BBC Autos page.
Featured as Last-Minute gifts for green-minded drivers. See BBC website.
Eco-friendly cars that swap petrol for plugs are becoming increasingly popular. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2015, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in use across the globe reached over 1.26 million. And 13 million charging stations, which will accommodate that growing number of EVs, are projected to be in place by 2020.
The holidays are here, but here are some last-minute ideas for the EV lover in your life, from the cousin who only commutes via e-bicycle, or your friend who refuses to sit behind a steering wheel to spew exhaust into the air.
Electric car charging cables
This Surrey-based company, Cables for Charging, will supply charging cables for any EV user you know, whether they drive an electric BMW, Nissan, Mistubishi, or Audi. The site provides a guide for choosing which charging cable is best for your type of car, and they ship to anywhere in the UK or Europe. £120 to £140
Tip of the hat to Jim Barber for the headsup.
Charging an EV like the Nissan Leaf is easy.
See this short video of plugging a Leaf into a Public Type 2 Charging Post at Sainsbury’s.
The Nissan Leaf uses a TYpe 1 on board connection. The Pod Point charging system offers a standard Type 2 connection. The cable required is thus a Type 1 – TYpe 2 Charging Cable. This leaf has a standard 16 Amp charger and. This will function with both a 16 Amp or a 32 Amp cable but will only draw 16 Amp from ther supply. In this case we are using a 16 Amp Type 1 – Type 2 cable. EV-CHC007.
Apple’s in-car infotainment system has been a long time coming. After it was announced at the company’s annual WWDC conference in June last year, “iOS in the Car” flew under the radar, only to undergo a rebrand and launch publicly this week as : CarPlay. Sharing part of its name with the company’s AirPlay media-streaming protocol, CarPlay combines all of the iPhone’s most important features and mirrors them inside the car, allowing car owners to call, text, navigate and listen to music (and more) using touch- or Siri-based voice inputs.
The new in-car interface is compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo models unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show. Engadget were lucky enough to get a hand on demo in a sweet Ferrari.
From Endgatet: Compatible with the iPhone 5 and up, CarPlay is “loaded” into the Ferrari’s built-in navigation system by way of a Lightning adapter located underneath the armrest. Wireless connections are coming, at least from Volvo, but our test was limited to traditional cables. Once it’s connected, Ferrari will continue to utilize its own infotainment system, but users can load CarPlay by hitting a dedicated dashboard button, allowing all touch and voice inputs to be diverted to your iPhone. This loads the CarPlay dashboard, which features a familiar array of icons and services you’ll recognize from your iPhone. From here, it’s a case of using the touchscreen or calling upon Siri to load each of the services — the latter of which can be summoned with the Siri Eyes Free button located on the reverse of the steering wheel. The first thing we noticed is how speedy everything is. Apps load quickly, and Siri’s contextual algorithms hastily recognized our voice commands and responded appropriately. Apple has also implemented safety features to ensure services do not draw your attention away from the road and push forward its “hands-free” theme. For example, when we sent or received a message from a contact, Siri would only read the message back to us and we never once got the chance to see its contents. An Apple representative was able to talk us through each CarPlay feature, so do make sure you check out our in-depth hands-on video above to get a better idea of what Apple and its car maker buddies are aiming for.
A recent government survey done by Brake in conjunction with the DVLA and auto insurer RSA showed 26% of drivers had not had their vision tested in the past two years. Additionally, the survey reveals 9% of drivers who need glasses or lenses do not always wear them when driving.
RSA also says research indicates that not having good vision while driving accounts for over 2,900 road casualties a year. Having and wearing prescription glasses when driving is as important as taking care of your car, especially for the driving enthusiast. When you’re one with the road, clear eyesight is a top priority. While there’s no one size fits all prescription, a good optician makes sure your eyes are ready for the road. The right prescription maximises your vision for precision timing around those rolling hills, smooth curves and sharp turns. If you value your ability to drive without restriction, get your eyes checked. Not having clear vision is against the law.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) states that drivers must be able to meet an appropriate eye standard, which includes reading a numbered plate from at least 20 metres away. Don’t meet the guidelines? Your insurance is invalid and you are driving illegally. Be careful with tinted shades or glasses too. The law includes the provision that you cannot wear them at night or in poor light due to dark lenses affecting your vision.
For day driving, The AA recommends having prescription sunglasses as a viable option for seeing the sights – clearly. It’s important to get your eyes checked every year to make sure your vision is in tip-top condition. You want to be able to see everything up close and personal when you attend those petrol head events, and you’ll need to drive to get there. Glasses take the strain off your eyes, especially if you’re driving for long periods of time. Take care of your vision like you take care of your interest in cars and driving. Keep yourself in the driver’s seat – it’s no fun in the back. With the right prescription, you’ll always be road ready.
Tesla UK test drive day
The UK is one of the last major markets to get the Tesla. I guess it’s because it must be a pain and an engineering cost to switch the car to Right Hand Drive. The UK is a large car market and currently the only European market showing any signs of life.
The company is now starting to show the Model S. This weekend Tesla held its first public event to drive the Model S on the UK roads. It was an invitation only affair with pre-booked driving slots held at a hotel near Windsor, close to the Tesla UK office.
They had 5 Model S cars to drive. All left hand drive and from various part of Europe. In the hotel room was a rolling chassis and a white car together with a couple of iMacs where you could browse the Tesla site and place an order. Groups were allocated a two-hour slot to play with the car, speak to the Tesla folk and take a test drive around a set course with an on-board Tesla Co-Pilot. The course was only about 10 miles on length and covered mostly small UK roads with one short stretch on dual carriageway. But before we headed to the road we were subjected to pretty lame presentation about the company and plans. This was a great opportunity to present the company and products. However it was rather dull and poorly presented. An opportunity missed.
The car in the hotel room was definitely the center of attention as people climbed in and out of it. The main comments seemed to be about the size and space. The car is large when compared to most UK cars on the road. The interior space is massive, especially the rear seats that feel very comfortable and airy. This is backed up the front and rear trunks or as the Brits say bonnet and boot. The brochure claims a storage space of 150 in the front and 1640 in the rear that totals over three times the storage of a BMW 5 Series.
The mega control screen was the other key point of interaction. You can do anything with it. All the basics like Sat Nav, radio, climate but also drag the roof open, set the driver’s seat position into memory with a name. The displays for the power usage and range calculations were especially neat and informative. Unlike most hybrids with their graphics showing energy into and out of the pack, the Tessa just showed power used over the last 5, 15 or 30 miles and calculates the expected remaining range based on the most recent driving data.
Behind the wheel
The car drives superbly the ride being especially impressive. Our red car had 21’ wheels fitted with low profile tires. I think the co-pilot said that it was the sportiest of the options. The performance was astonishing, the car just powered away with total ease. We reached no more than 70 MPH and only then for a dozen or so seconds but it reached that speed in a mighty short time. We drove to the event in my Porsche 911 and the Tesla’s performance was far more dramatic than the Porsche. The other big difference was the lack of noise. The car is super quiet and this makes it a relaxing vehicle to drive and be driven in.
Tesla are now taking orders for UK cars. However the price and specs are not fixed yet. So you can place a £4,000 deposit now and in a few months, most likely early 2014, be told the UK price. Your deposit is fully refundable. At that point you will be able to configure your car and have a good idea of when it will arrive.
People that I spoke with seemed impressed with the car. Not knowing the final price will put some people off from pulling the trigger but we have a pretty good idea of the comparisons from other European countries. One Tesla rep mentioned that they registered 650 Model S in Norway in September and this represented the largest of any model, even the best-selling VW Golf.
With petrol and diesel pushing £1.32 per litre, remember that’s equivalent to just under £6.00 per gallon we pay a small fortune for fuel. With a UK average of 10,000 miles per car and say 40 MPG that’s equal to 250 gallons or 1,136 litre of petrol. At today’s price that’s £1,500 just on petrol before you include the road tax and other costs.
Of course the big cost in motoring is the depreciation of the car and the finance of the purchase. The running costs are important of course as they have to be met every month.
On offer we have a 60Kwh, 85 Kwh and an 85 KWh performance models. All have 8 year battery warranty. The larger packs offer a 300 mile range and the 65Kwh a 230 mile range.
Model S Specifications
|60 KWh||85 KWh||85 KWh Performance|
|Range||230 miles||300 miles||300 miles|
|0 – 60||5.9 seconds||5.4 seconds||4.2 seconds|
|Top Speed||120 mph||125 mph||130 mph|
|Power||302 hp||362 hp||416 hp|
|Torque||317 lb-ft||325 lb-ft||443 lb-ft|
Even the 60 KWh offers impressive performance.
Let’s compare with a BMW 5
|Model||S 60 KWh||525d Luxury Saloon|
|Top speed||120 mph||152 mph|
|0-60||5.9 seconds||7.0 seconds|
|Length||4970 mm||4907 mm|
|Width||2187 mm||2102 mm|
|Height||1445 mm||1464 mm|
The standard specifications on the Tesla are mainly options on the BMW. Heated seats, fancy stereo, tire pressure monitoring, Bluetooth, Climate Control, Keyless entry, Cruise, backup camera and of course 17″ touch screen control system.
Top Gear hack Paul Horrell reviews a pre-production BMW i3 and likes it.
One day, the idea of cars driven by electric motors will become routine. After all, diesels were once a novelty, and so were turbos. We’ve just had a drive in a BMW i3 – visually disguised, but the real thing in the way it behaves – and it feels so incredibly natural that you rapidly fall for the idea that electric drive should be an idea that nobody questions.
After all, if you were on the ground floor and wanted to get to the 21st, would you want a lift powered by petrol? One that changed up a gear as it passed the 14th floor, and changed down again on the 19th? Nope, for smooth and silent movement, electricity is the way to go.
At first sampling then, this is a compelling electric car. It’s not the first on the market, but BMW has put some original thinking into almost every part of its design and engineering. It drives sweetly, is distinctively designed, and has the reassuring range-extender option if you are anxious about running flat.
That said, BMW reckons nearly all i3 buyers will use it as a second car so won’t be doing long journeys, and it’s optimised to make them efficient and fun.
You can read the full review at Top Gear:
Thanks to AutoCAR for playing with and penning a decent review, for once.
They enjoy the Tesla S and an Aston Martin Rapide S as a comparison.
It’s primarily a Model S review. In summary, the reviewer is blown away (his words) and concludes that the Aston seems ‘really, really old fashioned’ in comparison. And, of course, the S easily bests the Rapide in a straight line comparison. Beyond the accolades it’s a nicely produced review and there doesn’t seem to be an agenda.
The reviewer also notes that for about the same range, the S costs about £4.5 per charge versus about £120 in fuel for the Rapide. Wow.
Well worth a watch.
The Ampera arrived care of Vauxhall with just over 45 miles of electric power in the battery pack on a press car that has covered close to 20,000 miles. Considering its use by fellow hacks it was in perfect condition looking clean and sharp in the sunshine.
So what is the Ampera?
The Vauxhall is basically the same as the US Chevy Volt branded as a Vauxhall for UK sales, as an Opel Ampera for European sales and a Holden Volt in Australia. All are the same GM car with some exterior modifications for local markets. Confusingly in the UK the Ampera is £4,000 more than the Volt.
The Volt was launched in the US in late 2010 and GM have shipped over 45,000 units since then making it the largest EV supplier in the US. Thought given Tesla’s recent sales numbers that title will be short-lived.
The car combines an Electric motor and battery pack with what GM call a range extender or what we call an Engine. The purpose of the engine is primarily to drive a generator to charge the batteries. This is clever stuff. But it is even cleverer than just that, if the car needs more power the engine will also be called on to drive the wheels via a mechanical clutch. Of course the car recovers power from regenerative braking system. All in all that’s a lot of technology to pack into a mid-sized car. GM have done a fine job in this aspect.
The GM team who delivered the Ampera seemed less impressed and regarded it as just another car to loan out. They offered a DVD and glossy fact sheet.
The best part of the car is how it drives: It is always smooth and purposeful on the road. The performance is rapid enough for everyday events and the car delivers the performance in an almost silent way. After years of driving in petrol or diesel car you are so accustomed to acceleration equalling noise from the engine. In the Ampera this does not happen. The car just increases in speed with no audio increase. Just the digital speed dial increasing.
I was expecting other road users to notice or enquire about the car. Not once was I looked at or question. This is in sharp contrast to driving a Sparrow, where the extreme visual impact was accompanied by constant point, stares and photographs. A quick Strarbucks became a half hour event as a minimum. Not so in the rather dull looking Ampera. It looks different from other cars with a deep nose but otherwise it’s pretty bland on the eye. There are no fancy EV graphics or images. No car of the year sticker. Nothing to announce it.
The engine and battery management is faultless with the transition totally seamless and a non-event. The dashboard gives you a range gauge with both battery and fuel distances till empty. When the battery range goes to zero the engine cuts in and the only real difference a low speeds is a change on the dashboard. At higher speeds you can hear the engine performing work to both charge the pack and drive the wheels.
Inside the car is surprisingly spacious with generous seats front and back and instrument panel that provides sufficient information in a reasonable clear way. The test car had keyless entry, Bluetooth phone connection, GPS, rear facing camera and a few other goodies. The worst component was the integrated heating, map, navigation display panel. During our test we never managed to master the controls and the whole device was let done by the nasty touch push buttons. They had a small button that seemed to work by touch rather than push, but most likely was push. They did not have good feel or hand.
Charging was easy – Just plug the connector into a standard 240 volt outlet and the car gave a short beep and a green light illuminates on the dashboard and the instrument panel gives a time when the pack will be charged. As with most EV ‘s this is quite a long time. Expect a full charge to take 6 hours or so. We never put petrol in the tank as most of our journeys were short enough to complete on the 52 mile EV range.
- 16.5 KWh Lithium-ion Battery Pack
- One 111 KWh motor
- One 55 KWh motor
- 1.4 L petrol engine 4 cylinder
- EV Range 52 miles
- UK Retail price start at £30,000 including the £5,000 EV Plug-In government grant