Archive for the ‘electric vehicle’ Category

Continental rethinks the wheel—and the brake—for electric cars

August 25th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Continental)

When it comes to making a car slow down, for the last few decades pretty much every car on the road has used the same idea: a brake disc mounted to the axle with calipers that press high-friction pads onto the disc’s surface, slowing its rotation. It’s a tried-and-tested formula, one that car makers adopted from the aerospace industry as a better solution than the venerable drum brake. But the boffins at Continental (the tire company) have been rethinking the standard way of doing things, specifically in the context of small and medium-size electric vehicles. Enter the New Wheel Concept.

The focus on EVs is logical, since in their case deceleration is often achieved via regenerative braking using the electric motor instead—at least on the driven wheels. Obviously, EVs can’t ditch the conventional brake, there needs to be redundant system for situations when regenerative braking isn’t possible like when the battery is full and can’t accept more energy. A consequence of using regenerative braking is that the friction brakes get much less use than in a conventional car, so they tend to last a lot longer. But there is a downside: a buildup of rust that can impair their performance when you need to use them, according to Continental. (This is only an issue with cast iron brakes, but we’re not aware of many hybrids that use carbon ceramic discs outside of the hypercar crowd.)

“In EVs, it’s crucial that the driver expends as little energy as possible on the friction brake,” said Paul Linhoff, Head of Brake Pre-Development in the Chassis & Safety Business Unit at Continental. “During a deceleration, the momentum of the vehicle is converted into electricity in the generator to increase the vehicle’s range. That’s why the driver continues to operate the brake pedal—but it certainly doesn’t mean that the wheel brakes are active too.”

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The Lucid Air could be Tesla’s most credible rival—as long as it gets funding

August 2nd, 2017

Lucid Motors

Of the electric vehicle startups that are attempting to match Tesla’s formula for success, Lucid Motors remains the one to most quietly impress us. Compared to the elegant-but-conventional Tesla Model S and the Homer-like Faraday Future FF91, Lucid’s Air is a refreshing take on what a car designer can do starting with a clean sheet of paper and no internal combustion engine powertrain to worry about.

From the outside, the Lucid Air is about the same size as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class—a fitting target given the Air’s intended price starts at $60,000. But clever packaging means the interior is as voluminous as an S-Class, something shown to good effect by the (optional) reclining rear seats. The car’s exterior styling is also refreshingly different. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, given its designer; before working at Lucid, Derek Jenkins was also responsible for the latest generation of Mazda Miata and Audi’s innovative A2.

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Electric vehicle hopeful has been reneging on factories it hasn’t yet built

August 1st, 2017

Enlarge / Faraday’s FF91 design is somewhat derivative, echoing the Jaguar F-Pace and evoking a latter-day Saab SUV, had the company not died before designing its own proper one.
(credit: Jim Resnick)

In early 2016, electric vehicle company Faraday Future celebrated a deal with the state of Nevada—in exchange for building a $1 billion factory that would eventually employ up to 4,500 people, the company would get $335 million in tax cuts from the state.

Later that year, Faraday Future negotiated another deal on a former Navy shipyard in Vallejo, California. There, the electric vehicle company would build a second factory and a “customer experience center.”

Now, neither of those two projects is happening as planned. In March, Faraday Future said it would not move forward with the Vallejo site and told investors that it would be cutting its billion-dollar Nevada site down considerably, from a three-million-square-foot facility to a 650,000-square-foot facility. Earlier this month, the Le Eco-backed startup said it wouldn’t be building on the Nevada site at all, opting to put a base at a smaller site in either California or Nevada. It will, however, hold the property it bought at the site for “long-term vehicle manufacturing,” according to the Nevada Independent.

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Tesla might have real competition soon—meet the Lucid Air

March 23rd, 2017

Jonathan Gitlin

It’s still surprising that Tesla has had the high-end electric car market to itself for all these years. The Model S has existed for nearly five years, and even today, potential rivals remain in the prototype stages. Porsche is going ahead with the Mission E. Faraday Future has the FF91 under development, and then there’s Lucid. Formerly known as Atieva, it’s backed by the same Chinese billionaire as Faraday Future, and this week the company brought a prototype of its first model to Washington, DC, for us to check out.

Small on the outside, big on the inside

With its concept car looks and a pearlescent coat of paint, the Lucid Air certainly drew people’s attention as it sat parked outside of one of the US Senate buildings. The first thing that strikes you is the car’s relative compactness. Lucid CTO (and former Model S chief engineer) Peter Rawlinson explained that the goal was to be a similar size to the Mercedes-Benz E Class on the outside but with S Class-beating space on the inside.

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Chevrolet’s Bolt makes its ride-sharing debut in Los Angeles with Maven

February 16th, 2017

Enlarge

Everybody who’s anybody in the car industry is getting down with mobility, and General Motors is no exception. GM has invested heavily in Lyft and it also has Maven, an in-house mobility brand that offers car-sharing in 17 cities across the US and Canada. Today, Maven and the City of Los Angeles announced they’re collaborating to make over 100 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles available in the city.

The EVs will be available for people to drive themselves, and they’ll also be accessible to Lyft drivers through the Lyft Express Drive program (which offers weekly rentals of GM vehicles for using with the service).

“Maven is a smart, seamless and flexible mobility platform providing sharing solutions that meet the different needs of unique communities,” said Julia Steyn, Vice President of General Motors Urban Mobility and Maven. “Starting with Los Angeles, Maven will focus on collaborating with cities and municipalities to co-create smart transportation solutions that enhance mobility, create jobs and ease parking and congestion.”

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Posted in car sharing, Cars Technica, Chevrolet Bolt, electric vehicle, lyft, MAVEN, ride-sharing | Comments (0)

Ars poll: Have you considered buying an electric vehicle?

February 11th, 2017

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Earlier this week, Ars published a story about a consulting firm’s report on how to get more customers to buy electric vehicles (EVs). The survey asked several thousand people in the US, Germany, Norway, and China if they’d considered buying an electric vehicle. From the results, the firm estimated that approximately 30 percent of potential car buyers in the US had considered purchasing an electric vehicle, but only three percent had actually made the plunge.

So this weekend we put it to you, Ars readers. Have you considered an electric vehicle? If you have and decided not to buy one, what made you stick with a gas-burning choice? As always, if your reason is not represented in the poll, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Have you ever considered buying an electric vehicle?

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Posted in Cars Technica, electric vehicle, poll | Comments (0)

Is Elon Musk serious about the Tesla Semi?

August 2nd, 2016

Out of all of Elon Musk’s recent “Master Plan Part Deux,” the part that really caught our eye was a short paragraph about a Tesla semi. Much of the rest—solar, autonomous driving, ride-sharing—wasn’t exactly unforeseen. But the idea of a heavy duty Tesla electric vehicle took us by surprise and left us scratching our heads. Tesla isn’t the only company going after this market; Wrightspeed, Proterra, and BYD are already building heavy duty urban electric vehicles, and Mercedes-Benz is about to enter the fray. The Nikola Motor Company (no connection to Tesla Motors) already has 7,000 orders for a zero-emission heavy duty freight hauler that won’t be revealed until December. To find out if our confusion over the Tesla Semi is unwarranted, we spoke to some of the big players in the heavy duty EV market.

Even though heavy duty vehicles only account for about eight percent of US carbon emissions (light duty vehicles make up roughly 20 percent), Wrightspeed CEO Ian Wright says electrifying that sector makes more economic sense. In fact, Wright doesn’t think the economics work in favor of electric passenger vehicles. “A Nissan Leaf is twice the price of a Versa and you only save $800 a year,” he told Ars, “that’s a 20-year payback time.”

Wright goes on:

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Posted in Cars Technica, electric vehicle, heavy duty vehicle, Mercedes-Benz, Nikola, Proterra, Tesla, Wrightspeed | Comments (0)

BMW boosts i3 battery capacity by 50 percent—and it’s retrofitable

May 2nd, 2016

(credit: BMW)

When we reviewed the BMW i3 back in 2014, the little rear-wheel drive city car left us quite impressed. However, the i3 has always had a couple of flaws in comparison with other electric vehicles out there; it costs too much and the range isn’t very good, even if you go for the optional two-cylinder range-extending engine. It appears BMW has decided to address the latter issue, because from this summer the i3 will now come with a 33kWh battery in place of the current 22kWh unit.

Battery technology—and the amount of kilowatt-hours a dollar buys—keeps getting better each year. Certainly it improves measurably over the lifespan of a car, and the fact that BMW has seen this and bumped the battery spec for the i3 is a promising sign for the industry. That probably sounds like we’re damning with faint praise, but technology now moves too rapidly for OEMs to stick their old cycles of refreshing cars every four years. If BMW wants to sell any i3s once the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 start shipping, a range boost is the bare minimum it needs to do.

The new battery is 50 percent bigger, so more than 100 miles (160km) should be possible on a full charge. The gas tank for the range extender engine will also grow by 25 percent; expect to stop for gas every 75 miles if you try road-tripping. These range tweaks should help boost the i3’s appeal, but before long the Bolt and Model 3 are going to make people expect 200+ miles from their EV as a bare minimum.

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Posted in battery, BMW, BMW i3, Cars Technica, electric vehicle, EV | Comments (0)

Volkswagen e-Golfs stall due to battery software problem, recall announced

March 28th, 2016

Right now, VW only has a single electric vehicle, the e-Golf. Expect that to change. (credit: Volkswagen)

Volkswagen will recall the 5,561 e-Golf electric vehicles that it’s sold in the US since November 2014 due to a battery software problem, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) said today. Customers will have to bring their cars to dealerships to get a software update.

According to an NTHSA report (PDF), the e-Golf’s battery management software is at risk of stalling the car if the system detects a power surge. Specifically, the administration writes, “Oversensitive diagnostics for the high-voltage battery management system may falsely detect an electrical surge resulting in the vehicle’s electric drive motor shutting down unexpectedly.” The NTHSA report noted that power steering, anti-lock brakes, lights, and airbags on the e-Golf were unaffected by the high-voltage battery glitch because they’re powered by a separate 12V battery system.

The recall was initiated by Volkswagen, rather than a US regulator, and the fix for the problem involves a software update made at a Volkswagen dealer. Mark Gillies, Volkswagen spokesperson, confirmed to Ars that “the software reflash is very simple to enact at the dealership.”

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Posted in Cars Technica, e-Golf, electric vehicle, Volkswagen | Comments (0)

Ever wanted an electric VW Beetle? Zelectric Motors has you covered

February 17th, 2016

Was your first car a Volkswagen Beetle? Do you pine after it while simultaneously wanting something a little more environmentally friendly than the old, air-cooled, flat four engine? Good news! Zelectric Motors in San Diego is here to save the day. The company is in the business of restoring old VW Beetles, Microbuses, Karmann Ghias, and Things, updating them with fully electric powertrains.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing in the car world. Car makers will happily dust off an old classic and use it as the base for a concept car, safe in the knowledge that it will grab headlines and the attention of potential customers with fond memories of the originals. Volkswagen is particularly good at this tactic, selling thousands upon thousands of modern Beetles that call back to the rear-engined classic.

But modern interpretations aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so there’s a growing industry of companies ready to update your beloved classic for you. Porschephiles can spend big bucks with Magnus or Singer, Jaguar E-type fanatics have Eagle, and you can now even buy a brand new Delorean DMC. But if your taste runs to the original people’s car, you need to speak to Zelectric.

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Posted in Cars Technica, electric vehicle, Volkswagen | Comments (0)