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.

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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?

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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

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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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The 2019 Car Awards

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It’s been a strange year for cars. They might even need image boost. The car industry might do well to hire an image consultant. These awards could focus on greener vehicles and ditch the gas guzzlers, but the truth is the gas guzzlers will remain popular for some years to come. So The Kicker will focus our awards on a wider spectrum of vehicles (small cars, electric and hybrids, and more.)  It’s award opening time once more.

The best-selling car of 2019 was again the Ford F series pickup but what is new is the runner up—Dodge Ram Pickup. 3.7% of all car sales in the US were this specific car. The Dodge massively overhauled its Ram pickup look, which they describe as “rugged” and “premium.” Perhaps they’ve overhauled their sales and marketing efforts as well, because they have closed the gap with Ford. But it seems like the Ford F series pickup will be the winner next year as well, it’s almost a done deal.

The best-selling small car of 2019 is the Volkswagen GTI, according to Usnews.com. It is described as having playful handling and sufficiently spacious for a number of family members and their cargo. It has a user-friendly infotainment system. It might be described as a combination between the VW and GTi worlds?

The most surprising car of 2018 is the BMW X7. BMW are best known for small cars of an athletic type whereas this car is more of an SUV. It’s a huge monster of a car but is easy to handle thanks to responsive steering.

The most powerful Sedan of 2019 is the Dodge Charger, as with last year we rely on the Kelley Blue Book for our information. There is a wide range of models, colors and engines so you can take your pick on what is right for you. But the distinct trim is noticeable and thematically consistent.

The best-selling electric car of 2019 is another BMW model, the BMW5. It seems to be getting technology and prestige into a compact space. Added to this are driver aids and the Apple CarPlay smartphone. Wifi is included in the premium package. (This is also according to the Kelley Blue Book.)

For the best-selling hybrid, the winner this year is the Honda Insight. The style of the new Insight has gone from a hatchback to a more sedan look. The greatest selling point is its fuel economy, whether you are using electric or gas power. This car performed excellently on a special test track as well as on back roads, according Edmonds website. Sounds like interesting work to us, where do you sign up?

The special prize goes to Tax Rebates on Electric Vehicles, though it’s a bit of a wooden spoon. When in effect in the US it successfully pushed people into taking the leap to all electric. At the moment Tesla is the biggest winner of tax rebates, especially in India, where Tesla looks to be the number one supplier to one of the biggest markets and the country plans to be all-electric by 2030. China plans to have 9% of its cars electric thanks to fuel subsidies. A Cleaner Vehicle Grant began in the UK in April.

Once again, thanks for attending the awards.

Can the Solar Car Take Off?

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Credit Lightyear

Op-Ed by P. Wimsett

In a recent Wired article, the point was made that solar powered cars are a bit of a romantic fantasy. You can’t be rid of trips to the charger (or petrol pumps). There is just a limit to amount of energy you can get from the Sun.

The use of solar power roofs (such as those introduced by Hyandai, for instance) seem like an obvious idea, but for now it’s just this season’s fad? They can help the battery, but you don’t as yet get enough juice from the sun to power an electric car for as much use as an average driver needs.

Toyota is claiming 1.15 horsepower from their car-mounted panels, which is all very well and good, but when the amount needed is 122 horsepower…1.15 (less than 1%) feels like a drop in the ocean. The only alternative is to park your car in the son for a week or two between uses.

Sex Appeal

Another problem is that you need to streamline the car to put solar panels on it. There is how a car should look, and there is what the car buyer expects an electric vehicle to look like—and then there’s having to radically modify the design to accommodate solar panels. Some of these designs achieve an eccentric look and despite a certain novelty the design doesn’t improve the car in any other way, like safety, comfort, durability and so on.

Looking at the sales copy for the solar car, “Lightyear One,” what comes through is their mission to create clean mobility. The allude to the idea that they believe a solar car really work as efficiently as a normal car, while also reducing emissions, but it’s not long on any other the other benefits a normal car add includes.

According to the same add copy it doesn’t follow convention, but “only the Laws of Physics.” Except:

  1. The law of physics aren’t a convention or cultural construct
  2. A car that succeeds at physics but fails at transportation isn’t a car.

The brochure sounds good but just won’t sell. Thus, solar cars are marketed to the militant environmentalist and virtually no one else.

We can give them the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe the advertisement is meant to indicate that they started from scratch?

The heart of the Lightyear “solution” can be summed up in two words–bigger battery packs. Unfortunately, it’s still hard to get a good result. Lightyear One boasts a range between 500 and 800 kilometres, which isn’t that far at all. Consumers are right to be skeptical.Lightyear_One-01@2x

As well as solar power the Lightyear One has been designed to operate aerodynamically, which makes it use less energy. Perhaps that helps to compensate for all the weight of those extra batteries.

There must be a great deal of common sense applied when you create a new car and the designers should remember this. To be successful the car must be eco-friendly AND user friendly.

The argument is this, consumer tastes must change (read lower your expectations). At least for the short run, consumers want green products, but we don’t want them changed in any major way.

You can applause-worthy their ideals Lightyear has fallen a bit short of the dream product—an “off-grid” vehicle—and for the time being consumer sentiment is clear; novelty is great but takes a back seat to utility. When a solar generator makes a more sizable contribution to how the car runs it will be an adequate selling point.

What’s News: Lego takes on Tesla cybertruck?

Cybertruck-Legotruck

Lego seems to have been inspired by recent events to bring its own vision fo the truck of the future to the world – behold this bold design statement in all its glory. Clearly, Lego is having a go at Elon Musk and the Tesla Cybertruck that he unveiled last week – which was… divisive in its reception, to say the least.

Original Story

What’s News: Tesla truck prototype pushed out to Nov.

  • Tesla‘s pickup truck will likely be unveiled in November, CEO Elon Musk said Monday.
  • That’s later than previously expected arrival times for the truck, which Musk has talked about for years.
  • Musk previously said a prototype “might” be here by 2019, but that full production would follow the Model Y, which has yet to be built

Original story