Tag: Electric Cars

Why Electric Vehicles are Awesome

March 31, 2015 lacarguy Green Articles, Volkswagen, Volkswagen Santa Monica Tags: , , , ,

Electric vehicles are slowly becoming more popular and are sold to more people each year. Even with more people beginning to own EV’s there are still so many more that don’t know about most of the benefits that these vehicles come with. There’s a reason that so many people are picking up EV’s today, and why so many more will begin to in the near future, and it’s not just to save money on fuel. Electric vehicles are fun to drive, and much more affordable than gasoline vehicles are over the long term. When you consider all the benefits that cars like the VW e-Golf and Nissan Leaf have to offer they make sense to get.

volkswagen egolf

Easier to Maintain

One of the biggest benefits of an all-electric vehicle is that it’s easy to maintain compared to a gasoline-powered one. EV’s have far fewer moving parts and they are less likely to fail or have costly repairs. This means you can do more of the maintenance on your own, and enjoy driving a vehicle that doesn’t have to be worked on all the time. Over time the lack of maintenance will help you save a great deal of time and money.

Save on Fuel Costs

I know, I know gas prices dropped down recently, but even at $2.00 a gallon, or whatever the price is near you, EV drivers are likely still saving on fuel costs. This is because electricity is cheaper than gasoline. When the prices eventually creep backup (and they will!) EV owners will really be reaping the benefits. At 15,000 miles a year it’s likely that an EV driver would save at least $1,000 a year and that figure goes up quite a bit of gas prices increase again.

A Calm and Soothing Ride

Electric vehicles are surprisingly quiet, and that’s not a bad thing. Some car enthusiasts will miss the rumble of a gasoline engine, but I didn’ the first time I took an EV out. Mostly I was amazed at how quiet the ride is, and I kept wondering if the vehicle was on at all. EV’s also smell better than gasoline engines and you don’t have the harmful fumes to worry about breathing in while driving around.

They are a Blast to Drive

Even without all the other benefits it would make sense to pick up an electric vehicle because they are so much fun to drive. If you haven’t experienced one yet you’re missing out and you don’t know the true value of an electric vehicle. Automakers love to go on and on about all the money that buyers will save, or about how the cars are good for the environment, but they never focus on how much fun the cars are to drive.

Electric vehicles accelerate so uniformly and so immediately that it’s like controlling a jet on the road. You step down on the thruster and blast off from a standstill to high speeds nearly instantly. With 100 percent of the torque available right away even small engines feel potent and ready to strike. If you’ve always wanted an electric vehicle for the other benefits, but haven’t had the motivation to go through with the purchase, get yourself to a dealership and test drive one of these cars. Once you realize how fun they are you won’t have any trouble getting the motivation to make the purchase anymore. That’s how good electric vehicles are, and how confident I am in their capabilities.

With all the federal and state incentives, and battery prices dropping each year it makes sense to pick up an electric vehicle if you do a lot of local driving. Whether you get a car, truck or SUV. Your new EV will make driving more enjoyable and save you a bit of cash as well.

 

Ten Electric Cars Coming in 2012

January 3, 2012 lacarguy HybridCars.com Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

By HybridCars.com

The year 2011 was a landmark year for EVs. We witnessed regional launches of the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt. These two plug-in cars were the start of a new era for electrified personal transportation. The current American car auto fleet, however, is enormous—and two models alone cannot create change on a large scale.

During 2012, these two plug-in cars will have—depending how you look at it—either competition in the marketplace or help in the movement to electrify transportation

This coopetition includes the Ford Focus Electric, the much-anticipated Tesla Model S, and others. Pike Research predicts that more than 250,000 plug-in vehicles will be sold globally in 2012. Regardless of whether or not this prediction comes true, 2012 will bring more choices in vehicle style, brand, size, performance, and price, for cars with cords.

Here is HybridCars.com Top 10 countdown of plug-in cars to look forward to in 2012:

10. LEAF and Volt (Expanded Markets): First on my list is expanding availability of the two cars that kick-started the new era of plug-in vehicles. General Motors rolled out the Volt in four stages during 2011, making it available nationwide at the end of the year. Canada and the UK can expect to see Volts in 2012. The LEAF began shipping to the UK, Japan, and some US states in 2011. Nissan says the LEAF will be available in all 50 US states by March of 2012.

9. Smart ForTwo Electric Drive: Daimler reports that it will launch its third-generation Smart ForTwo Electric Drive to 30 markets around the world in September of 2012. This is a three-month delay for the two-seater initially planned for June 2012. Daimler claims the delay is due to quality control issues at the battery supplier Li-Tec.

8. Honda Fit EV: The Fit EV is scheduled for release in Oregon and parts of California next summer. Only a few hundred cars are expected to reach US shores during 2012, with 1,100 scheduled for production during the next three years.

7. Mitsubishi i: The updated Mitsubishi i-MiEV has been shipping in Japan and the UK for several months. The town of Normal Illinois received hundreds of i’s in 2011 as part of a test program and publicity campaign. The first regularly ordered i was delivered to an owner in Hawaii in December 2011. The national-wide US rollout is scheduled for July 2012. The i is a nice addition to the available EV portfolio because at $29,125 (before state and federal incentives) it is one of the most affordable highway-capable EVs.

6. Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: With the “Prius Goes Plural” campaign, Toyota has added the Prius V, Prius C, and (relevant to this topic) the Plug-in Prius (PIP). The Prius has a loyal following among green drivers. PIP will be the Prius with the highest MPG rating in the Prius family. This will make it the car of choice for many Prius fans, even with its price premium over the standard model. PIP will be available in 15 states in spring 2012 with nationwide availability in 2013.

5. Ford Focus Electric: Ford initially announced that these were going to start shipping in December 2011. One or two may go out the door, but any real volume won’t happen until Spring 2012. I am looking forward to seeing the EPA rated range and price information. This is the first pure EV of this era from one of the Big 3. It will be a bellwether.

4. Fisker Karma: First promised in 2009, Karma reservation holders have been repeatedly delayed. And with each delay the price ratcheted up, from an initial $80,000 price tag now to $106,000 (as of Dec. 13, 2011). There were a few token deliveries in 2011, including handing key-fobs to Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore and Colin Powell. 2012 should be the year for mere mortals, although you will need six figures of cash to make it happen.

3. Toyota RAV 4 EV (Redux): This vehicle is a joint effort between Toyota and Tesla. The original RAV 4 EV was a favorite among the millennium era EVs. It is scheduled for sale in mid-2012. Initially sales will be limited to California.

2. Ford C-Max Energi: The Ford C-Max Energi is a plug-in hybrid version of the Ford C-Max wagon (or compact multi-purpose vehicle, or MPV, as it is referred to in the UK). The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is planned for launch in North America in 2012, and Europe in 2013.

1. Tesla Model S: This is the car I am most looking forward to driving. Tesla followed the tech development model with an alpha and beta phases in 2011 and production samples are now on the road. Tesla plans to build and sell 6,500 units in 2012. However, unless you are already a reservation holder, you are out of luck because 6,500 people have already put down $5,000 each to get a place in line to buy one. Deliveries are expected to start mid-2012.

There are other plug-in cars—from smaller and less proven companies—that could make it to market in 2012, most notably the Coda Electric Sedan. But Coda, as well as BYD, Zap, Zenn, and Wheego—are dark horses in the emerging market. Of course, the only thing that would be truly surprising in this tumultuous nascent industry would be a year with no surprises.

Electric Car Charging Goes Wireless

December 15, 2011 lacarguy HybridCars.com Tags: , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

By Jim Motavalli HybridCars.com

Inductive EV charging—look, ma, no wires!—is gaining momentum, with Daimler testing concepts for the new battery version of the B-Class Mercedes and Nissan actively contemplating making it an option on the 2014 LEAF. Wireless charging leader Evatran will sell wireless kits for the LEAF and Chevy Volt next year, and it’s even hooking up with Sears Home Services to bring its Plugless Power to the masses.

The basic technology is familiar from wireless phone charging and the electric toothbrush. There are a few basic obstacles to creating larger versions for cars: high cost; the 10 percent average energy loss today when transferring power from a floor-mounted transmitter to a car-based receiver; and a start-from-scratch regulatory climate. But there’s no question that wireless charging, which creates a magnetic field to pass an electric charge from one coil to another, is on the ascendancy. It certainly addresses anxiety over having to learn a new way to fill your car up with energy—all you have to do is park, and these automated systems will do the rest for you.

Technology on the Move

It’s far too early to tell if wireless technology will eventually triumph over the wall-mounted home charging system, and no automakers have formally adopted it. “All we have done is shown this technology,” says Nissan’s Steve Oldham. “We haven’t confirmed anything. The stuff that is out there is speculation.” But Popular Mechanics claims that wireless will be an add-on for the luxury Infiniti version of the LEAF in 2014. The Rolls-Royce 102 EX Phantom, which I recently test drove in New York, is also set up to use a wireless charger from HaloIPT.

In the system that Nissan demonstrated, drivers simply align their vehicle over an inductive charging mat. A dashboard-based navigation system uses sensors to guide the rear wheels into place. The touchscreen hosts buttons to start and stop a charging session.

In Alignment

Daimler has teamed up with Conductix-Wampfler on plug-free charging for the Mercedes E-Cell. According to Conductix, one big hurdle is the need for exact alignment between the charger and the vehicle. The signal can travel only six inches or so, so the driver is likely to need an automatic parking system to ensure a good lock-in.

Major auto supplier Delphi and wireless leader WiTricity have their own system under development, using technology invented at MIT. Randy Sumner, a spokesman for Delphi Packard Electrical/Electronic Architecture, told me that automakers have shown considerable interest in wireless charging, which could accompany the second-generation EVs coming out in the 2014-2015 time frame.

Priced Like Navigation?

Wireless chargers have definitely gotten smaller and more efficient. Dave Schatz of WiTricity told me he expects consumer systems to eventually cost no more than car-based GPS navigation. Evatran’s Plugless Power floor-based unit is now the size of a small hubcap, with up to 97 percent efficiency between the charger and the car. It’s also more forgiving of poor alignment. Evatran is testing the system on a fleet of a dozen Chevy Volts. But it’s still far too expensive, at $5,000 for an all-in system in 2012.

The General Electric wall-mount WattStation is now available at Amazon.com for $1,099 (none used yet), so Evatran’s Sears play makes sense. According to co-founder Rebecca Hough, Evatran will make its wireless hardware kit (for the Volt and LEAF) available in 2012 for approximately $2,500, with installation (unpriced so far) extra. The basic installation is for people who are lucky enough to have dedicated 240-volt lines in their garages; the standard install includes that line.

Some regulatory and safety issues have yet to be worked out. Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) are set to introduce standards for wireless in the second quarter of next year (fast for SAE), and waiting for that has hindered plans for commercial and public wireless charging. Obviously, you’d want this at Starbucks and the big-box stores, but companies aren’t likely to go ahead without the standards in place.

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) issues standards for the strengths of magnetic fields, and Hough says that Evatran has no trouble meeting them. She also says that wireless will incorporate many of the safety provisions built into SAE’s J1772 standard, including safety interconnects and shutoffs.

By the way, claims for inductive charging are somewhat confusing, because there’s a difference between the efficiency measured charger-to-car and the overall system. Evatran boasts an only three percent communications loss, but the overall system is currently at 91 percent. Company engineers think that 93 or 94 percent system efficiency is doable relatively soon, but going beyond 95 percent is a long-term prospect. Would we be happy with a gas station that spilled five percent of the gas on the ground?

John Gartner, a senior analyst at Pike Research, says that widespread will take years to roll out. “It’s of interest to most top automakers, many of which have internal programs in development. The consumer market is still years away. There’s still no common SAE standard, and you don’t want vehicles tied to charging docks, and the cost ($500 per car) is too steep to include on vehicles that aren’t going to use it all of the time. The technologies are all pretty different, so unlike cabled charging, some companies would be left out of any standard that is eventually passed. Qualcomm surprisingly is going after the market in a big way with its recent acquisition of HaloIPT.”

Still, wireless is probably here to stay, but it will take time to develop. “Pike Research sees the market growing slowly from 2013 ($26 million globally) to $233 million globally by 2017,” Gartner said. “Fleets that can share charging docks are the mostly likely early adopters.”

The bottom line here is that inductive charging, which appeared to be abandoned from the last generation of EVs, is now looking more and more practical as a long-term solution. Even if wireless does eventually triumph, however, wired charging is still likely to dominate the early EV years simply because the units will be in place and working. But there’s no reason they can’t happily co-exist.

Volkswagen Settles On Standard Electric Car Battery, From China

November 29, 2011 lacarguy Electric Vehicles, Green Articles, Volkswagen Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

By Alysha Webb

Volkswagen will use the same battery module design for all its electric vehicles globally across all its brands according to Dr. Tobias Giebel, head of the Volkswagen Research Lab in Shanghai. Those battery modules and the battery cells in them are likely to be sourced from China, he said.

Volkswagen's electric cars, like the upcoming e-Up, will likely use battery cells and modules sourced from China

“You have to be focused beyond the cell level. That is the only way,” said Giebel at the EV Battery Forum Asia 2011 in Shanghai. The Forum took place on November 7 – 9, 2011.

Volkswagen’s Giebel was optimistic about Chinese battery makers’ capacity to one day build low-cost, high-quality vehicle batteries. In an interview with PluginCars.com, Giebel said Volkswagen is working with local battery manufacturers in China to produce a product that meets Volkswagen’s global standards. “We believe the future of battery cell sourcing is in China,” he said. Today, China’s lithium-ion battery makers are focused on consumer technology, said Giebel. Its automotive-grade batteries are not up to the high-level vehicle traction battery manufacturers in Korea or Japan, he said.

But Volkswagen is working closely with about 20 of China’s more than 100 battery producers, and is already seeing improvement. “We think in a couple of years we will have really strong suppliers in fully domestic companies,” said Giebel. When they are, Volkswagen will use the same source for its Asia, Europe, and the United States operations, he said.

That could mean a significant amount of business because Volkswagen will use a standard module for all electric vehicles across all its brands. That means all hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric, battery electric, and fuel cell vehicles produced under the Volkswagen Group’s 10 nameplates, which include Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi, Seat, Bentley, Porsche, Scania, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Volkswagen commercial vehicles.

“The module shape and number of cells will be the same,” said Giebel. “The module is not part of any international norm. It is a company internal standard.” Inside the module, Volkswagen might adapt the connection between the cells to vary the number of parallel and serial cells, said Giebel. The module is a company internal standard, he added.

Volkswagen’s current parallel hybrid models, including the Touareg SUV, have a different technology, but the company will use the standard module concept first on battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric models, said Giebel. “The extension to parallel hybrid (HEV) will be decided later,” he said.