Best of the Web: Solo EV video

As a follow up to yesterdays post about innovative electric cars here’s a video test drive of the Solo mentioned on the post.


Early Electric Cars

Today we will be looking into early electrical cars, generally designed for one person such as The Solo and similar. Why didn’t these cars go mainstream and why did people at the time prefer gas vehicles? Things do change but why were these cars so ahead of their time?

The Solo was made by ElectraMeccanica based in Vancouver, Canada. It was built for just one person. The sales pitch was simple, why drive with empty seats. The advantage of this is to cheaper to build and retails at a comparatively reduced price.

Technically it is a motorbike rather than a car as it has three wheels (why cars can’t be called cars unless they have four wheels is not clear). Many three wheeled vehicles have the one wheel at the front, but the Solo has the one wheel at the rear of the vehicle.

Although the modern idea of electric cars is to save energy and riding around in an electric car by yourself may fly in the face of modern idealists but ElectraMeccanica had a decent idea. According to the Census Bureau90% of Americans drive alone, so why not get the saving on both the purchase an operation of your commuter vehicle.

It’s unclear why people seem to prefer to drive a car designed for three or more passengers rather than single cars, maybe people want to keep seats in reserve, or they feel claustrophobic in a tiny car. Or maybe a 3 wheeled electric car is somewhat geeky? Hard to say.

Other single person vehicles include the Bond Bug and the Corbin Sparrow.

Let’s take these one by one.

The Bond Bug is a Reliant car whose color makes it resemble an orange wedge of cheese, or a German Bubble car. It doesn’t so much have a door as a compartment which opens up.

The Corbin Sparrow has three models, the Jellybean, the Hatchback and Pizza Butt. Sparrows featured in the Austin Powers movies because they look so novel. They were manufactured in Ohio with the byline “NmG” – No more Gas.

They were plans for the company to go beyond a single electric car and into creating a Duo in 2009 running on lithium ion batteries but plans were shelved, likely because everyone suddenly jumped onto the electric car bandwagon and it’s hard to compete with major manufacturers when they join your little niche.

Okay, so they’re tiny, but why did all these makers decide to go electric?

These cars were so small that they couldn’t be gas propelled or hybrid, they had to be electric. It’s not just being kind to the environment, they have to run on electric propulsion. They weighed more than a bike so they needed more power, but they were too small for safe gas tank.

Then and Now

There was never a mass production of electric vehicles until 2010 and there were plenty of automakers that tried their hand at it. Enough so it could be said there wasn’t a market for it.

It’s taken a government grant to the consumer to drive sales which could fall off quickly for two reasons. 1st if the cars are actually inferior, which they don’t have to be, but they might be. And 2nd, because they aren’t really saving the environment.

After all 64% of the electric grid is still based around fossil fuels such as coal and gas. Those supporting ecological issues would prefer this to be lower, but it all comes down to cost.

Still things are changing, there is a noticeable increase in cars run off wall sockets and battery packs, though they aren’t as revolutionary in appearance as the Solo, Bond Bug or Corbin Sparrow.

So, we solute the pioneers of the electric car, even if they couldn’t stand the competition once the government bribed people to buy on a large scale. If electric cars are going to corner the market we’ll need the major manufacturers to supply the demand. It’s sad for the smaller companies though who probably only wanted to carve out a niche.

Electric Pickups

The Kicker has covered Rivian a few times, but they’re not the only E-Truck coming.

The electric truck is a fairly new on the scene and suddenly so many companies added it to next years offering that it could make your eyes water. Players like Tesla are giving the bigger fish a run for their money, to mix metaphors a bit. It is still possible that designs will change before they finally reach the market.

An electric pickup is advantageous when compared to a diesel engine in that it is drastically more compact. Nor does the vehicle require a transmission or multiple gears so this saved space may be applied to other uses.

Atlis’s XT does seem like an electrified version of a conventional pickup with conventional proportions, but it still has some extra features. There’s a choice of cab sizes and whether you have single or dual rear wheels. It has an electric motor per wheel rather than one per axle (apparently the norm) and goes from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds. These cars are shrouded in mystery, even where they are being manufactured.

General Motors have come up with the GMC Hummer. The debut date was May 20, 2020 and goes from 0-60 in 3 seconds. It was created in the Detroit plant, however, there’s yet to be any announcement on the price though there are rumors on a 80,000 price tag.

The Lordstown Endurance takes its name from a city in Ohio. The factory creating the Endurance was purchased from General Motors and is planned to produce the first pickup of many this year. Having one motor per wheel helps control the torque, similar to the XT above. The workers who used to be in General Motors could be repositioned.

Bolinger Motors could have a disadvantage when weighed up against its rivals in that it has been in operation for a relatively short time. It started in New York and has now moved and is based in Detroit, where similar companies are based. Both the B1 and B2 have a door to the bed section, differentiating from similar designs. The door also allows items which are longer than the bed itself to fit in the vehicle.

Both vehicles have features you might expect in similar pickups such as 4 wheel drive and can operate both on-road and off-road. It is well worth watching Bolinger to see what they come up with next.

The Tesla Cybertruck has a controversial design involving a number of strong angles and the cab pushed forwards. It can run on 500 miles per charge, only it isn’t clear from their reports how long a charge is. There is also a lack of paint options with the only color being a steel gray.

The Cybertruck isn’t technically a pickup as it hasn’t a bed, the area behind the cab where items are stored. Despite this it can tow 7,500lbs of weight. The lower priced Cybertrucks won’t be manufactured until 2021 and the tri-motor in 2022.

Maybe it’s some sort of prejudice that only the sporty type of vehicle has used electric motors. But with these upcoming vehicles many companies are making up for lost time.

The Minimal Car Which Could Get Anywhere.

There are huge number of public spaces in European towns, especially in Italy, tight areas where it would be hard for sedans to navigate. Whether the roads are too rough, or the area is designated to pedestrians, it is not a place for normal cars. Added to this are car-free islands where there is no way to transport anything substantial to the place.

Is there a Motorized Vehicle Solution?

This is where you need some kind of minimalist car. What is a minimalist car? Well there are a few examples already in existence, and if the market demands it, perhaps they will design more.

In Slovenia, for instance, where the elderly and the infirm are moved about by Ljubjani or slow-moving taxis. But there are hundreds of such regions from the Spandau of Berlin to the Renaissance Quarter of Seville. There must be a market here for mini vehicles?

Such was the concept that Giorgetto Guigiaro hoped to innovate. One of the chief designers of Italdesign, he had created a number of specialist cars like the famous Delorean. Giorgetto was ahead of his time, thinking up concepts like ride-sharing long before others created it. Could he create a car that narrowed everything down to the basic essentials, for use in these urban enclaves where other cars cannot go?

A New Approach to A New Type of Car

In terms of car design, Italdesign does a little of everything, including creating prototypes for automobiles and design validation. At least according to their website. It’s not clear how validation differs from testing, maybe it’s about getting from a prototype to a product that can enter the market.

Guigiaro planned to get a minimalist car to market by 1992, but there’s little point in researching a new vehicle unless you plan for some kind of success. Previous attempts at minimalist cars, like the Sinclair C5, had a toy car look and feel. These cars embraced their identity as novelty cars and therefore had no mass marketability.

The car that Guigiaro came up with was the Biga, one of the first electric cars. This type of car looks more like a small van than a car and it has been built to save space.

Which parts did the vehicle need and what could be left out?

To look at the Biga from the outside you might find it hard to believe it is possible for this tiny a vehicle to transport four people. The way round this is to only to have the driver’s seat where it usually is. The other three seats are at 90° from the driver’s seat and access is only available through a back door. If each seat had its own door this would take up needless space.

You might have thought that the Biga was made of fiberglass, but it was actually made of a lightweight steel. The overall effect is a cube on wheels. Like a number of compact cars since, the Biga can be parked at right angles to the sidewalk (where the law permits), this allows you to easily fit three Biga’s in the length of two normal parking spots.

Not all cars can be Cadiallacs, there are hundreds of vehicles that aren’t there for the mass market. It’s hard to find accurate sales of the Biga. It would be difficult to judge those numbers in context if you found them. The reason is that the Biga is a cross between a novelty car and a mass market production vehicle—more in the category of a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle, only most off-road vehicles are still able to serve as a daily driver in a pinch. The Biga is the type of car which encourages creative thought and solves a problem, rather than one that makes a huge impression. So it makes a splash in its own way.

Trump’s War on Clean Cars?

Op-Ed by Paul W

At this point where this is far less traffic on the road, it is good time to revisit what Trump said on electric cars.

You might think of some states as “truck-friendly” and some like California as “truck-unfriendly.”

During Obama’s presidency certain standards involving fuel efficiency were greatly increased. In economic terms this hits America where it hurts. Despite Trump’s protest, no state has supported a revocation.

The idea of the Clean Cars 4 All program was to replace a old polluting car and replace it with one with zero emissions or close to it. It was previously known as the Enhanced Flat Modernisation Plus-Up Program which is not exactly catchy. It worked with similar programs to reduce greenhouse gases.

One of these proposed plans was to replace a polluting car with an electric bike though presumably with a financial incentive. While this might fly in California where the weather is agreeable it’s not likely to work on a national level. It’s just possible that they were commuting from home and a bike was a suitable replacement, but it might just lead you to wonder if they missed the car after a few weeks.

Although it seems that California is creating ambitious and unreachable standards to remove carbon dioxide from the air but it’s not a new thing as far as the state is concerned. Is President Trump really at war with these new standards?

As to the question of President Trumps lobbying over fuel economy, there are two possible motives:
1) Either he is protecting Big Business (as some people contend). Or…
2) He’s allowing the buyers to decide for themselves what type of car they want to buy.

If the first is true, then why is big auto battling for higher fuel economy standards?

You would have thought the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers who represent the interests of General Motors, Toyota, Ford and others in America would have taken a stand on this but they might just be seeing where the winds are blowing.

Maybe the car companies did want the rules to relax so that cars do not keep becoming fuel efficient every few years, but they’ve been pretty disapproving of Trump’s concession to keep the standard at 29 miles per gallon until 2015, that seems to go too far even for automakers.

A recession, if it happens, will complicate things. American car makers will start fighting for a fuel economy standard they can produce without losing their dominance on trucks and larger cars—like they did in the 11970s. The consumer may show more interest in fuel efficient cars even if it means being cramped in their small accommodations. It’s hard to tell if that would swing the popularity of the standards one way or the other.

What was known as the final action was released last November which was a compromise between Trump’s proposals and Obama’s laws. It may be difficult to keep everyone happy. They still aren’t about zero emissions but about slowing down the rate that cars pollute. It won’t make the city air clear overnight though, but any change is a good thing.

If the market is left to decide, one could argue that a tax incentive simply a way to level the playing field—since E-Cars are more expensive to produce in the short term. On the other hand, do we really have a bead on what the market wants when we spend tax dollars trying to sway their decisions.

It may essentially come down to whether the general public wish to pay the extra for these type of vehicles. And as said above, people are a bit edgy about travelling in general right now.

Regardless of President Trump’s motives should he lose the election things could change. It would be up to the new President to put their plans in place. Could they follow Obama era thinking or will they continue to let citizens decide the type of vehicle they want to buy and roll the dice with the environment?

This may be academic though because there may not even be an election this year.

Hybrid Cars – Out of Favor?

Op-Ed by Wimsett and Bunch

Hybrid cars were advertised as the future and many car companies including Toyota, Lexus and Kia seem to be targeting the potential Hybrid buyers. But how green are Hybrids?

The problem seems to come to down CO2. Because of the extra battery weight they actually produce more CO2 than a gas or diesel car of the same engine size. The solution to this must surely be further research; after all, you can’t have a hybrid car or an electric car without some kind of battery. But some countries think otherwise.

The UK plans to stop the production of not only gas and diesel cars but also hybrids by 2035. They also seem to want to get rid of vans, which might be a bit tricky if you are running a delivery business for instance. You can’t just deliver in a normal car. And caravans are important to the tourism industry; it would be damaging to do without them, especially in North America where you need to do a great amount of traveling to get anywhere.

This coming ban is only be a UK thing as, so far, there is no update on what the USA or the EU plans on doing. As for Asia, Africa and South Africa it will be unlikely that these countries will ban any kind of vehicle for the foreseeable future, as they are routinely excluded from strict environmental regulations.

The problem with coming up with a date such as 2035 is that ultimately it is what it is, a date. There is no real incentive to stop car companies creating hybrids or indeed any car that pollutes. In order to make all cars electric at this point there must be a huge amount of investment and education of the public.

Even if you want to have the (current) inconvenience of owning an electric car you are still facing a waiting list to receive one. No car holds its value and because an electric version of a specific brand is more expensive than the gas/diesel alternative a number of families will not be able to afford it. Because electric cars are relatively new to the market it is difficult to get one second hand. EBay comes up with a mere seven results for an electric car, but 2,060 results for a gas car. So it’s no wonder those looking for a used car tend not to be buying electric.

It is not just the car industry, the fashion industry and the plane industry create great pressures on the environment and one may not move without the other. The ultimate tool in the government toolbox is taxing behaviour they believe harmful—which it is very unpopular right now.

The date of 2035 is ambitious, but it is doable? We can only wait and see. Will capitalism bend a knee to environmentalism? Perhaps, yes, but it’ll probably be after the people creating environmental solutions stop creating expensive solutions that are as bad as not taking any action at all.

What’s News: GM to spend $2 billion

GM will spend $2.2 billion to build electric and autonomous vehicles at Detroit plant

Original story Link 

Last week, GM-subsidiary Cruise unveiled the Origin, its first self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals. At the time, the company’s CEO Dan Ammann promised to reveal production details in the days to come. Well, today’s the day, with GM announcing plans to spend $2.2 billion to retrofit its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for the production of autonomous and electric vehicles.

In addition to the Origin, the facility will also produce all-electric SUVs and pickup trucks. The automaker plans to release 20 electric nameplates by 2023, the first of which will be an electric truck slated to go into production in 2021. This will be followed “soon after” by the Cruise Origin, a shared, electric, self-driving vehicle unveiled in San Francisco last week. Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first “fully-dedicated” electric vehicle assembly plant, the company said. (The news was first reported by The Detroit News last week.)

Car Power – Used for the House?


One of the problems with an electric car is the cost of building up the right amount of power. With home electricity sky-rocketing people might wish they could run their house off the car’s battery in a pinch, but that cannot be done just yet.

For a second let’s suspend the fact that you buy your car so you can drive it, not run the battery dead powering your house.

When power is shut down, nothing in the house will work. And there are hundred reasons for a power outage: wild fires, seasonal winds and so on. So there is a market for alternatives.

The technical name for such power is a bi-directional battery, one that works with two objectives in mind. It gives the customer more choice, but it does ramp the prices up.

There is enough electricity in a car to power a house but getting it out is the problem. The difficulty is that houses are so plugged into the grid that it becomes the default setting; creating any generator that would power the house outside the main system would present a difficulty.

The power company would treat a power line as a cut, even if the house is simply switched over to battery for a time, and someone would try and repair it. It seems overzealous but the reality is that generators are set to kick in when the grid is down, so the houses aren’t built to toggle back and forth from grid to local generation.

There’s a problem with the current too. The battery is DC powered and the grid is AC powered, so you need a way to convert this (also known as inverting this). Some nerd needs to come up with a way for a car to discharge its power to act as a battery back up to a house in an emergency.

In recent years we’ve seen people go to their car to charge their cell phones when the grid is down. Why isn’t this possible on a slightly larger scale? Why couldn’t your hybrid act as a whole house generator?

There’s an access conflict too. Only a certain number of people can access the electricity grid and any new rules need to be regulated fairly. There are laws on the books that say if your home generation system, think solar panels on the roof, generate more power than your home is using, that the local PUD must buy the excess from you. So it’s possible to sell back power.

So for emergencies it might be a nice option and there are number of players who are looking at the concept. The people at Nissan are looking at developing a project in Copenhagen and there is an office in Chile actually pulling power from a car to conduct business. It’s just doing it on a large scale which is the headache.

Enter the experimental Den Do Drive House by Mitsubishi. The company’s goal is to create a more efficient electric ecosystem, where power can be generated locally when possible and off grid when not, then stored in a house battery or the cars battery as needed. So there would be times when the car would be feeding power back to the house to avoid buying grid power. Why? Well the grid gets its energy from a number of different sources. Some more cost effective and some which are deemed “renewable.” The cost per KW hour varies because power is sourced in response to demand.

The local power company currently negotiates rate in bulk and then resells the power to users at a consistent price, but in the bulk market electricity is bought and sold based on demand and availability. In the past, availability was steady from sources like nuclear power or coal plants, and seasonal from dams. However, wind power varies continuously and unpredictably. The thing most users don’t understand is that there is no giant battery out there storing up wind energy for the times the wind isn’t blowing. Why not? Because the laws of physics prevent such a device from working.

Enter the Mitsubishi Dendo Drive House. If entire developments were to each have local generation and local storage of power, its possible for rate payers to share in the hourly rate swing of power costs and using their smart home, sort of game the system to minimize their liability. It would pay for itself over a number of decades. It just isn’t a short term solution to cheaper electricity bills. The installation of the house will all be done by Mitsubishi and is cost inhibitive unless some sort of government grant enters the scene.

So the while the Dendo Drive house may be a long-shot, only practical in a true energy crisis, a bidirectional switch with local house battery storage could come in handy when the grid goes down. It could let your keep the lights on in your home for a few hours…until your gas tank runs dry.


A New Decade of Cars


Jag XJ

It’s difficult at the start of a new decade to see what exactly the selling patterns and trends might be going forward. The apparent answer from marketers can be seen in cars like the Mustang Mach-E and the BMW i4. Although manufacturers obviously research into what makes a car popular, they will ultimately only know how the public feels when they walk into a show room (or tiptoe through a website.

But what do the next batch of cars say about what automakers guess will be the trends?

Apparently in developing a 2021 Mach-E, Ford sees their future as trying to get the best of both their sports car past and their SUV present. Reinforcing this is Ford’s all-electric Mustang, no doubt designed for people nostalgic about the original vehicles. As they say in the video below, if you want to drag race after you drop the kids at soccer, this is the car for you.

Jaguar is planning a XJ for 2021 which will be a type of sedan. As something of a departure they are marketing it as all-electric and the ability to charge itself as a fast rate.

The plans for Mercedes Benz seem a bit more, shall we say pedestrian? Well, how else could you describe an entry level Merc? Despite this they seem to be in favor of keeping the same amount of luxury in the C-class if reducing the price. They also have additional touchscreens in the vehicle.

For 2022 BMW is looking into creating an electric car in the style of sedan with similarities to the Tesla. It shouldn’t be regarded as that suspicious that the BMW 3 series will be outflanked by the M3 and M4 which have an inline-six engine (this is an engine with all its cylinders along a common crankshaft in a straight line).

Another make which seems to be going the way of an SUV is the Chevrolet. The Tahoe will see a change in the styling in the front and the back suspension will make it drive more like a car than a pickup.

One name you might not associate with SUVs is Ferrari, but this may change in 2022 which currently has the working name of “Purosangue”. though it’s difficult to tell you much more than that.

What you might not have heard of yet is an e-tron. An e-tron is a range of sports vehicles made by Audi in the style of an SUV and those in the know reckon they will be big in 2021. The big selling point will be “self-determined mobility” (i.e. using the technology to make the driving experience easier.)

The Kicker has been showing you Rivian for quite a while, BUT if you have been hiding under a rock, but it turns out this is the type of brand both Amazon and Ford are banking on. The idea is to start with a basic shape and adapt it to different electric vehicles. There are plans for a pickup to be on sale for late 2020, as an alternative to the Cybertruck by Tesla.

Due to their recent emission scandal many experts assumed that VW would move to selling electric vehicles but that hasn’t happened, though there are plans for something called an ID Crozz in 2020. This is also believed to be a competitor to the Tesla.

At the moment it’s hard to see definite trends, but the smart money would bet on Electric and SUV.

What’s News: Sony E-car?

Will we get the chance to drive the EV in Gran Turismo Sport?

We usually associate the Sony brand with the Walkman music player, the Vaio laptops, Bravia TVs or the PlayStation gaming console. While the tech giant does have a bunch of new products to show at CES this year from its typical area of expertise, the Tokyo-based company is also displaying something only very few expected – a car. It’s called the Vision-S and takes the shape of a sleek EV with a highly advanced autonomous driving system and a design that might make you think of a mashup between a Porsche Taycan and a Lucid Air.

Created primarily to showcase what Sony can bring to the table in terms of automotive technologies, the showcar has been developed in collaboration with big names such as Nvidia, Continental, Bosch, ZF, and Qualcomm. The zero-emissions sedan is equipped with no fewer than 33 sensors to detect people and objects not just outside of the car, but also inside that modern four-seat cabin with individual rear seats and giant glass roof.

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