On the Volkswagen I.D.

You know, I really don’t want to drive anymore.  I used to love it,  as a teenager drag racing my hunk of junk hand-me-down Saab like it was a souped up ’69 Mustang, I had a lot of fun behind the wheel.  But now that I’m older, I really just want to get from point B to point A, safely, quickly, with the least amount of distractions.  With the introduction of ride sharing services like Uber, autonomous drive technology, and better public transit in many places, driving is sort of becoming a pastime, rather than a necessity.  I never thought I would say this, but I’m all for it.  I would love to just plop down in my car, check the news, prepare for work, learn a new language, and boom, be at point B, without looking up from my iPhone.

American drivers spend an average of more than 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year, according to a new survey. -AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Let’s get out my calculator here.  That is about 48 minutes a day that we spend concentrating, worrying, stressing, and reacting to whatever the road throws our way.  I never really noticed how much I don’t want to be driving until one day I was chauffeuring my wife and father in law, in my father in law’s car, through a busy, foreign super metropolis.

Which bring me to the Volkwagon I.D., VW’s first foray into the electric vehicle market.  The car has an expected release date in 2020 and has specs that seem pretty optimistic right now.  It will be an affordable all-electric hatchback priced at about $30,000.  The range, 375 miles per charge, is truly astounding at that price point. The I.D. has a 168 HP electric motor which is pretty strong for the small hatchback that it is and the instant torque that electric motors are capable of.  The I.D. will be equipped with hardware for autonomous driving called I.D. pilot mode.  But VW says the full-autopilot feature won’t be completely ready until 2025.

The I.D. represents that fact that major manufacturers are starting to take innovative  automotive seriously.  So it is great to hear that VW has finally loosened it’s grip on the diesel passenger car, and is making an effort to participate in the all-electric drive market. But something tells me that they might be late to the autonomous drive market by 2025, with many major players like Uber, Hyundai, Tesla and more already putting autonomous vehicles on asphalt.

The Volkswagen I.D. is an exciting prospect as and affordable everyday electric driver with autonomous capability.  Let’s hope it won’t be too late for VW to take advantage of of revolutionary transportation technology will be moving very fast before 2025.

On the Renault TREZOR Electric GT

I guess we can call this the “jewelry box” car.  That is the term that the Renault spokesman used to explain how the supercar opens up for the driver to hop in.

You can check out the 2016 Paris Motor Show reveal here:

I have a couple of qualms about the “jewelry box” style entry. First, if you were to get in a minor fender bender, that might affect this very large door that must move extremely precisely to function properly.  Second, unless you are just some well-practiced  good old boy who prefers jumping into your getaway car through your driverside window, getting into your TREZOR is awkward, unclean (shoes on the seat), and maybe downright impossible for the less limber driving enthusiast.

Because of these issues, I can almost guarantee the most distinguishing feature about this car, the “door”, will probably not come to fruition in the production model of this concept.  However, the overall design is very nice and the specs are encouraging.  The Trezor was derived from Renault’s Formula E team (e.dams) with racing aspirations.  The Trezor has 350 HP and a peak torque of 280 NM, which propels the coupe to 100 kph in under 4 seconds.  The Trezor will also include automatic drive that will be activated by pulling the wheel outward to make it widescreen style.

Not too much is known about the specifics of the drivetrain, but evidently the Trezor is rear-wheel drive with the battery and luggage compartment in the front.

This video has some nice design sketches that can answer some questions about the setup and inspiration of the vehicle.
A lot of people are excited about this unique addition into the electric supercar foray.  With it’s Renault Formula E pedigree, the Trezor Electric GT could be the most capable track tested electric car yet.

A New Fisker Vehicle Coming in 2017

This week, Henrik Fisker announced the formation of a new company, Fisker Inc., which will feature a luxury electric vehicle with a record breaking 400-plus mile electric range.  Fisker Inc. will include a battery division called Fisker Nanotech, a partnership with California based scientists and innovators.  They intend to use graphene technology to reduce battery recharge time and costs, while extending range and lifespan.

The original Fisker Karma was unveiled in 2008 and production began in 2011.  The car certainly was beautiful and seen as a rival at the time to Tesla Motors’ Roadster.  The Karma engine was mated with a generator to make it a range extended electric hybrid, otherwise known as a serial hybrid.  Meaning, much like Cheverolet’s Volt, the Karma was propelled by an electric drivetrain, but a GM motor would kick in to extend the range.  There was also a rooftop solar panel installed that could basically  power the accessories within the car, but did not do much in the way of extending the vehicle’s driving range.

Despite winning many awards and garnering a lot of optimism about electric vehicles, the Karma fell victim to a series of unfortunate events.  On April 14, 2008, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Fisker, claiming Henrik Fisker stole Tesla’s Model S hybrid technology.

The Karma was also involved in a slew of fire incidents ala the Samsung Note 7. 16 Karmas caught on fire during Hurricane Sandy while they were completely submerged in seawater.

Two other fire incidents involving Karmas are detailed in Wikipedia:

A Fisker Karma was involved in a home fire that also burned two other cars in Fort Bend County, Texas in May 2012. The chief fire investigator said the Karma was the origin of the fire that spread to the house, but the exact cause is still unknown. The plug-in electric car was not plugged in at the time the fire started and it was reported that the Karma’s battery was intact. The carmaker released a public statement saying that there was uncertainty and conflicting reports surrounding the event. Fisker Automotive also stated that the battery pack “does not appear to have been a contributing factor in this incident.”[71] The NHTSA is conducting a field inquiry of the incident, and is working with insurance adjusters and Fisker to determine the fire’s cause.[72]

A second fire incident took place in August 2012 when a Karma caught fire while stopped at a parking lot in Woodside, California.[73][74] According to Fisker engineers, the area of origin for the fire was determined to be outside the engine compartment, as the fire was located at the driver’s side front corner of the car. The evidence suggested that the ignition source was not the lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or unique exhaust routing.[75] The investigation conducted by Fisker engineers and an independent fire expert concluded that the cause of the fire was a low temperature cooling fan located at the left front of the Karma, forward of the wheel. An internal fault caused the fan to fail, overheat and started a slow-burning fire. Fisker announced a recall to repair the faulty cooling fan unit.[65][76]

In 2013, Fisker’s bad luck continued when guitar hero, Carlos Santana, managed to hit a tree with his Karma after he fell asleep at the wheel. The Fisker Karma’s reputation had been irrevocably tarnished and now these amazing cars can be purchased at highly discounted prices on eBay.

Here’s hoping Fisker Inc. can renew the old rivalry with Tesla and get more people excited about innovative electric cars.



The Genovation GXE is the World’s Fastest Street Legal Electric Vehicle

And by fastest, we mean the top speed of the GXE is faster than any other electric car you can put on the road.  The folks over at Genovation gutted a 2006 Corvette ZO6 and dropped two, huge, in-line electric motors to give the all electric drivetrain 600 horsepower and 570 ft/lbs of torque.  It’s called a “dual stack” electric motor, with two motors on the same driveshaft. They recently took the super modified Vette for a spin at Kennedy Space center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in hopes of pushing their own land speed record to the max.  They succeeded in blowing past their previous world record of 186.8 mph to the new top speed of 205.6 mph.  The company plans to sell these modified Corvettes with about a 100 mile range for over $330,000.  A little steep, but maybe they can lower the price point in future projects, much like Tesla Motors did.

Genovation isn’t just a bunch of guys into modding and drag racing, but they have a large scale goal is to reduce our dependence on oil by investing in plug-in electric vehicles and hybrid technology.  Not only that, but the Maryland based company intends to use parts made of sustainable materials such  tires made from natural rubber infused with small amounts of orange peel oil, a byproduct of the beverage industry, for example.

We are studying the possibility of using composite materials made from natural, non-toxic and renewable products, such as soy-based resins rather than petrochemical resins and natural fibers made from basalt (derived from volcanic rock), jute, bamboo and burlap for trim pieces and body panels. Customers will have the option to order seat fabric made from wool. -Genovation’s About Us Page

Hopefully, Genovation will continue to push the limits of the electric automobile industry for the benefit of all involved and interested.

Here is a basic overview of their company and history:

The Story of Genovation Cars from Genovation Cars on Vimeo.

Official Tesla Model 3 Announcement Video

Tesla plans to begin making deliveries of the Tesla Model 3 by late 2017. The Model 3 combines real world range, performance, safety and spaciousness into a premium sedan. This will be Tesla’s most affordable car yet. The Model 3 achieves 215 miles of range per charge while starting at only $35,000 before incentives and regional electric vehicle tax deductions. Model 3 is designed to attain the highest safety ratings in every category. The Model 3 will also include automated drive technology, standard. By now, over 400,000 people have payed the $1,000 reservation fee. There is obviously strong demand for this stylish plug-in, fully electric vehicle from a brand known for bringing cutting edge technology to drivers demanding more from automakers. This may be Elon Musk’s most ground breaking model, an entry into the middle class consumer car market.  Let’s hope Tesla can supply the demand.

From Tesla Motors:
Model 3 is the next logical step of Tesla’s “secret master plan” and mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Like every Tesla, Model 3 is engineered to combine range, performance, safety and utility. Smart design maximizes interior space, to comfortably fit 5 adults and all of their gear. Tesla makes fast cars, Model 3 is no exception. The high efficiency electric motor provides zero to 60 mph acceleration in less than six seconds. And when equipped with electric all-wheel drive, Model 3 provides safe and dependable traction in all conditions.

Designed with safety as a priority, Model 3 should be the safest car in its class once testing completes. This, combined with over 200 miles of range while starting at $35,000 before incentives, makes Model 3 an extraordinary mid-size sedan.

Model 3 will begin production in late 2017, ramping Tesla vehicle production to 500,000 vehicles per year.

CarbonCounter.com has a great app where you can compare prices and carbon emissions

You’ve gotta check this out! The folks over at MIT have crunched the numbers and found overwhelming support that not only do electric vehicles emit less pollution over their lifespans, but many are also cheaper after tax rebates. The results are surprisingly obvious. If you need help understanding, the points to the left on the chart are cars that cost less (initial price, maintenance, and fuel), and points that are lower on the chart have less lifecycle emissions (production, tailpipe, electricity generation, ett.). So don’t worry, these MIT guys have factored in all of the assumptions to make your choice easier. You can also customize the app by changing variables such as the cost and sources of electricity and gasoline prices. This is a fascinating app and I hope they keep it updated for future makes and models. Electric vehicles are orangish yellow.

Carboncounter was created by Marco Miotti, Geoffrey J. Supran, and Jessika E. Trancik at the MIT Trancik Lab, based on reference [1], and programmed by Marco Miotti using AngularJS and D3.

Costs are given in 2014 USD. Vehicle specifications were obtained from manufacturer websites and cars.com, and are based on 2014 models (except for the Toyota Mirai, Chevrolet Bolt, and Tesla Model 3). Emissions were calculated based on the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model, developed by Argonne National Laboratory. Fuel economies reflect the official EPA ratings, which are based on a standardized test procedure specified by U.S. federal law.

Details on the calculation of costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and emission targets can be found in the Supporting Information of reference [1].

[1]: M. Miotti, G.J. Supran, E.J. Kim, J.E. Trancik, Environmental Science & Technology, 2016.