This Benier cartoon appeared in the Daily Mirror in Sydney on 11 October 1977:
The little panel at the bottom right of the cartoon reads: "Recharge meters for electric cars could be in Sydney within five years, the Lord Mayor, Alderman Leo Port said yesterday." 34 years later, in 2011, it appears this may now become a reality.
Article in the The Saturday Age Drive:
Amadou Ba Ndiaye's electric-powered three-wheeler concept.
BMW has only just revealed a concept version of its tiny i3 electric city car and, already, aspiring car designers are guessing at what a smaller model - perhaps called an i1 - may look like.
Senegal-born industrial designer Amadou Ba Ndiaye has created an electric-powered three-wheeler that he says combines the riding enjoyment of a motorcycle with the safety of a car - much like BMW's own CLEVER concept from 2006.
Where the German brand's two-seat study vehicle was configured like a trike, with two wheels at the rear and one at the front, Ba Ndiaye envisages a reverse layout.
His sketches also pay homage to BMW's quirky Isetta micro car from the mid-1950s - one of the most successful and influential city cars.
But where BMW's Italian-flavoured micro had its steering wheel and instrument panel swing out with the single door, the i1's doors appear to open in a scissor configuration, Lamborghini-style.
With a lightweight carbon-fibre chassis, the single seater is theoretically powered by three small electric motors located within each wheel.
A hydraulic system works like a knuckle by automatically tilting the wheels depending on vehicle speed. Ba Ndiaye says this converges BMW's knowledge of automobiles and motorcycles.
The hub-less wheels look pretty cool, too.
Article in RoyalAuto:
Apart from a universal bout of ‘range anxiety’, Victorians who’ve been let loose with all-electric cars say there’s a lot to love about them.
You may have seen – but probably not heard – one of the whisper-quiet Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars on Victorian roads in recent months.
Fourteen Victorian families have been testing the zero-emission i-MiEVs, as part of the Victorian Electric Vehicle Trial that’s been organised by the State Government.
The trial will run for three years and eventually 180 households will have each spent up to three months living with the cars, to see how they fit in with their lifestyles, and how they’ve had to adjust to having the vehicle as part of their routine.
To make sure Victoria is ready for the electric car when these vehicles eventually become mainstream, the trial drivers’ experiences and opinions will be analysed by the experts. This includes RACV, which has been involved since the outset in organising for members to be involved in the trial, being a partner in the trial evaluation and in the long-run helping to ensure Victoria has the right support infrastructure for electric cars.
We’ve quizzed a few testers halfway through their trial experience. Most would see themselves as ‘enviro-considerate’, so have they connected with an electric car?
Things might be a bit tight when telecommunications engineer Dan Edwards, his wife Lela and children Liam, 4, and Alisha, 1, pile into their i-MiEV. But Dan has fallen in love with the zippiness and “fantastic pick-up” of this “neat little car”.
“It only does about 80km (in range) but the speed and pick-up are fantastic. It’s an easy car to drive. We have a 2007 Prius hybrid, so we’re in that green range anyway. The Prius is better as far as distance is concerned. You suffer a bit of anxiety when you drive this one and you need to go 80km or so. But that’s a minor thing.”
Dan lives in St Helena, near Greensborough, and has a daily round-trip to the city of about 52km. “So you can only do a small side trip before you’re done.”
A couple of times Dan has come close to running out of charge. “The little turtle the icon that indicates low charge popped up on the dash ... but it kept going, so it had a little in reserve.”
The i-MiEV has made Dan more conscious of driving economically. “You can put your foot to the floor and you don’t realise how much juice you’re using until you see the meter drop down.”
Would Dan consider buying one? “It’s probably going to get there one day but for the moment the Prius hybrid is fantastic. It gets 10 times the distance out of a single tank and my calculations are that it’s as economical as this little beast.”
Car enthusiast Milton Chan, owner of a sleek BMW M3, says turning up to work in what he believed would be a glorified beach buggy was a challenge.
Yet Milton is impressed with the i-MiEV. “I was pretty surprised how good it is as a runaround car. It’s not a driver’s car – but that’s not what it’s for.”
Equally happy is wife Amy. “It’s like any other car; it gets you from A to B, probably with a superior ride because it’s just so quiet and smooth.
“Until you drive it, you don’t realise how noisy ordinary cars are. In this car even the radio sounds better.” Like other testers, their major qualm is lack of range. Amy’s big moment of trepidation came driving from their Kew home to Donvale and back, with only half the bars showing on the battery meter. “It was very nerve-wracking. When I got off the freeway I had no bars showing and I was thinking, ‘Okay, at least the drive home is downhill, the car might just roll all the way.”
Yet Amy and Milton both say they would consider buying an electric, when prices come down and its range is improved.
For mother-of-two Jayne Sullivan of East Brighton, the i-MiEV is a winner for school drop-offs and pick-ups. “I love it. It’s really, really light and smooth to drive and very quiet and easy to park.”
Jayne already drives green – she owns a Honda Civic hybrid – and she sees the i-MiEV as the ideal everyday car, so long as there’s another car for “holidays and things”.
“In a way the electric car is nicer and easier to drive because it’s just so light. The Civic is more comfortable inside, while the electric is quite basic.”
Minor annoyances are a gearstick that doesn’t light up at night and the heavy drain the heater puts on the battery. Jayne charges her i-MiEV about three times a week. “I probably don’t need to do it as much but I feel it’s better to be safer than sorry.” She calculates it costs her $7.18 a week to run compared with $12.50 a week for her hybrid. Apart from becoming a “green” celebrity in supermarket carparks (“people are always coming up to me and wanting to talk and ask questions”), psychiatrist Edward Theologis loves the i-MiEV’s “sounds of silence”.
Edward rates the zero-emissions i-MiEV a definite city winner yet still opts for his Citroen for longer trips, preferring not to test out the manufacturer’s claims of up to 160km on a full charge.
When the range improves and prices fall, Edward thinks he’ll buy an electric.
Coldstream share trader Kurt van Wijck needed no encouragement to take part in the trial; he’s already plugged into the future with a DIY electric car, a converted 1985 Holden Barina that he claims gets him to city and back for about $1.50.
Electric cars, he says, are “fun, alternative and incredibly cheap” – and this one ranks even higher than his own, because it’s more comfortable and “drives like a modern car”.
Kurt’s own electric car whines at low speeds, so one of the few downsides of the i-MiEV for him is occasionally startling pedestrians in carparks who don’t hear it coming. And he queries the manufacturer’s claim that a full charge gives up to 160km of travel. A careful driver, the best Kurt has managed is 142km.
“I find it reassuring now to know I’m not using petrol because I find it inexpressibly stupid that we power cars with petrol.”
Kurt ranks the i-MiEV as ideal for city drivers. “It’s got physical limitations.
Unless battery systems improve dramatically, which is unlikely for a while, it’s not a car for country people.” Applications for the next 60 places in the electric car trial in 2012 will open later this year. Details on how to apply will be in the December edition of RoyalAuto.more electric cars
At least 130 different electric vehicle models will be available around the world in 2012, according to a 2010 Deutsche Bank report, and a handful of these will be on Australian roads. Besides the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, these are what we’ll see soon.Nissan LEAF. An all-electric 5dr hatch with an official range of 117km, according to the EPA in the US. Charging time is eight hours. It’s currently being trialled in Victoria.
Article in the The Saturday Age Drive:
Croatia has become a holiday hot spot for its myriad islands and warm Adriatic waters but it has never been known as an automotive powerhouse - perhaps until now.
Rimac Automobili is a start-up electric-supercar company with big ambitions. Its stunning ''Concept-One'' two-seater coupe is designed to compete with Audi's E-Tron, BMW's i8 plug-in hybrid, Mercedes-Benz's SLS AMG E-Cell and other zero-emission supercars from Porsche, Fisker and Tesla.
But the Concept-One has some serious performance figures to rival these competitors. How does 800kW of power, a staggering 3800Nm of torque, a 0-100km/h time of just 2.8 seconds and a self-governed top speed of305km/h sound? Oh, and a 600-kilometre driving range between charges.
These are the official figures the Zagreb-based company claims, courtesy of four electric motors to power each wheel and what it calls an ''all-wheel torque vectoring system'' that varies the amount of torque sent to any wheel for maximum traction.
Ten 92kWh lithium phosphate batteries are positioned throughout the car for optimum weight distribution, while the sleek body is made from carbon fibre for an impressive kerb weight of just 1650 kilograms, or a bit less than a Holden Commodore Omega sedan.
Recharging times are not mentioned but the car's charging point is on the front three-quarter panel.
The chief executive of Rimac Automobili, Mate Rimac, started the business in 2009 after developing the company's first ''mule'' car, an electrified E30 BMW M3 that produces more than 400kW.
''Our first car evolved in a short period of time into a project that didn't give a final result - instead, it was a start, the start of the world's first electric hypercar, the Concept -One,'' Rimac says.
''We started with a blank sheet of paper. The idea was to create an exceptional supercar with a new propulsion concept.''
The company says the production version of the Concept-One - its first model - will be limited to 88 units, with deliveries beginning in 2013.
The following article was from Automobile Mag – USA:By Jack Rix
When BMW embraces a new technology, you know it's going to do it right. The mere mention of turbocharged M car, just ten years ago, would have had fans of fast BMWs choking on their bratwurst, but the new M5 gets forced induction, and is looking like the finest car yet to wear the blue and red badge.
Electric cars however, are a different kettle of fish. We all know battery technology needs to progress, and quickly, but what manufacturers are really interested in is how potential customers are likely to use them, and what limitations they present.
That's why the ActiveE, an all-electric version of the 1-series coupe, picks up precisely where the MINI E left off. Just over 1,000 examples will be built in Germany, with 700 of those destined for US shores from the beginning of next year. The deal is simple, customers can apply to lease the cars from BMW for 24 months, costing $600 a month with a mileage cap of 31,000 miles, and their collective experiences will help to shape battery-powered BMW's of the future.
More specifically, the guinea pigs who lease an AcitveE will help to iron out any bugs in the system before the company's first purpose-built electric car, the i3 supermini, goes on sale in 2013. We spoke to an engineer who told us the electric motor and batteries used here are identical to the ones that will grace the i3, the only difference being it will need fewer of them. Thanks to its groundbreaking aluminum and carbon-fiber construction, the i3 will still travel 100 miles on a charge, but weigh around 2,750 lbs instead of 3,970 lbs for the ActiveE.
Surprisingly, the biggest complaint from users of the now defunct MINI E wasn't its limited range; it was the fact that it had batteries where the rear seats once were, which damaged its practicality. You'll see that the ActiveE keeps all four seats. In fact, the only giveaway that it's anything other than a standard 1-series is a bulge in the hood to accommodate a stack of batteries, a lack of tail pipes and trunk space reduced from 13.0 to 7.0 cu-ft. Still enough for two golf bags, BMW says.
The interior, too, is traditional BMW fare. Look closer and there's blue stitching on the leather seats and a revised instrument cluster, that displays remaining charge and the instantaneous energy being used - what's remarkable is how normal the whole thing looks and feels. But it's what you can't see that make the difference here.
Batteries are stuffed under the bonnet, the floor pan and where the fuel tank would usually be, while the electronic control unit and motor itself are mounted directly to the rear axle. That's a lot to cram in, but engineers have managed to maintain a near 50:50 front-rear weight distribution - crucial if it's to handle like a BMW should.
Slot the key in, hold the brake, push the starter button and it definitely doesn't sound like a BMW should. Only the instrument panel bursting to life lets you know that it's ready to go. Squeeze the throttle and you creep silently and smoothly away from a standstill. Lift off the throttle at the first junction and you'll inevitably come to a jerky stop, somewhere short of where you intended. The retardation forces from the brake energy regeneration are firm to say the least. BMW claims that used to its fullest potential it can boost your range by up to 20 percent, and that's easy to believe.
After some brain recalibration, though, it becomes huge fun to play around with. You'll find yourself barely using the brakes - but instead coming off the throttle early, letting the motor flip from power supplier to power generator, and coasting neatly to a standstill.
A torque output of 184 lb-ft might sound meager, but (as I'm sure you've heard a thousand times) that's available from zero rpm, so it gets smartly away from the line. Keep it pinned and you'll cover 0-62mph in nine seconds and keep going until you hit the limited top speed of 90mph. I tried just that, and the way it delivers the power - perfectly linear and without any interruptions for gearchanges - is thrilling and alien in equal measure.
Find some bends and there's more good news. OK, a car measuring 172-inches in length and weighing the best part of 4,000lb is always going to have a tough time disguising its weight, but the effects are less pronounced than you might think. The steering, although heavily assisted, still offers feedback while the car feels beautifully planted mid-corner - a by-product of its extremely low center of gravity.
Parked, the ActiveE is a fair bit slower. A full charge from a standard 110V socket will take anywhere between 16 and 20 hours - but BMW will install a 240V, 32A wall box at your house which slashes that to five hours. Perhaps more usefully for the life of a busy professional, a 25 mile charge can be accomplished in just an hour.
All this bodes extremely well for the i3. If all goes to plan it will shed a third of the ActiveE's weight, and gain all the handling benefits and reduced charging time that go with that, while simultaneously offering more interior space. By taking its time and doing things right, BMW is about to prove the electric car does have a place in the premium market.2013 BMW ActiveE
The following article was in The Age (Drive.com.au) newspaper:
French brand takes the conventional sedan and gives it an electric make-over with the convenience of battery exchange.
Two new cars point to the future of motoring. Drive gets behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Up and the Renault Fluence ZE.
A debate is raging in the automotive industry. To plug in, or not to plug in – that is the question. Around the world, car makers are busy working out how the industry can survive as oil reserves dwindle.
Almost all are intensively investigating electric propulsion on the one hand, while also trying to slash the fuel use of conventional cars on the other.
Whether it’s “urban-focused” city vehicles that aim to move the masses in compact comfort, or plug-in passenger cars with batteries that can be swapped like gas bottles at the service station, the automotive industry is attempting to cover every base as it prepares to face a resource-constrained future.
Drive has tested two very different takes on the automotive future. Renault’s Fluence Z.E. (Zero Emission) is a medium-sized electric-powered sedan that looks and feels like a regular three-box family car; meanwhile, Volkswagen’s new Up micro car is a four-seater hatchback with a frugal three-cylinder petrol engine.
The Up is designed with the daily commute in mind but with the ability to hit the freeway without any anxiety.
The Fluence Z.E., on the other hand, has a claimed average electric range of 185 kilometres. That means buyers will, effectively, be confined to the suburbs, unless their longer-distance drive route includes a battery-swap station along the way.
Renault says the Fluence Z.E. will offer a car that’s useful for day-to-day driving. It is based on an existing petrol-powered sedan but switches the combustion engine for an electric motor and a switchable battery pack.Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest 95 per cent of drivers typically don’t exceed 120 kilometres in a day. Most cars spend between 20 hours and 22 hours parked, time that can be used for charging.
It’s a relatively similar story for urban commuters elsewhere in the world. That’s why brands including Nissan and Renault predict plug-in cars will make up 10 per cent of cars on the road by 2020.
In Australia, Renault plans to offer the Fluence Z.E. with a unique battery-leasing model that will work much like a mobile phone subscription. Buyers of the car won’t pay for the batteries that power it, cutting about $15,000 from the price and eliminating resale anxiety about the battery pack’s limited lifespan (about eight to 10 years).
The batteries will remain the property of electric car infrastructure company Better Place, which also supplies the charging points.
The plan, details of which are yet to be announced, is expected to be similar to one now offered in Denmark. Fluence Z.E. buyers there pay a one-off €1000 ($1330) set-up fee that includes a home recharging unit and unlimited access to charging points and battery switch stations throughout the country.
They will have access to a range of services, including smartphone apps and computer programs that allow them to plan their trips, and the Fluence Z.E. will feature a satnav system developed specifically for the car. Users will also pay a monthly levy based on how many kilometres they travel and all electricity used from charge points, including the home ‘‘wall box’’.
Volkswagen offers a more low-tech but no-less-important solution with the Up.
With a conventional petrol-powered three-cylinder engine driving its front wheels, a chunky three-door hatchback body and the choice of a manual or automatic five-speed gearbox, the Up doesn’t immediately scream ‘‘game changer’’.
But to drive it is to understand it is a small car that is more than the sum of its parts. In terms of performance, quietness, ride quality, interior roominess and overall refinement, it is a vast step forward in the sub-light car class.
Volkswagen Australia promises a starting price of less than $15,000 when the Up arrives here towards the end of next year. It has made room in the VW range by discontinuing the three-door version of the slightly larger Polo Trendline, which was priced at $16,690 (plus costs).
Volkswagen spokesman Karl Gehling says the time is right for the company to bring the smaller Up to Australia. ‘‘The Australian market has tipped more towards downsizing and we see an opportunity to take advantage of that trend,’’ he says.
‘‘In particular, because of the Up’s interior packaging and available space, we think it will be very well received.’’
However, just how the cheapest Up will be specified is not clear. Features such as standard airconditioning, power windows, electronic stability control and four airbags are a given.
But Volkswagen hasn’t yet shown its cards on whether the Up will be powered by the 44kW or 55kW version of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder or if the five-door version – due for European launch in December next year – will be part of the range at launch.
Low fuel use is expected of a car its size and the Up presents a beautiful set of figures. The 44kW version achieves a claimed 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres and emits 105g/km of CO2, dropping to 4.2L/100km and 97g/km in the miserly BlueMotion version fitted with low-rolling-resistance tyres and a stop-start system for city driving.
Another version of the Up, powered by compressed natural gas and fitted with the BlueMotion package, goes even better, delivering 2.9L/100km and 79g/km of CO2 – but it won’t be offered in Australia. There are no plans for an LPG Up.
While Up owners won’t have to change the habits of a lifetime – apart from not going to the petrol station as often – adopters of Renault’s electric vehicle will need to make adjustments.
The head of external relations for Better Place Australia, Alison Terry, says customers of its electric vehicles, including buyers of the Fluence Z.E., will need to change the way they think about getting from A to B.
‘‘People will have to learn a very different way of driving,’’ Terry says. ‘‘We’ve had more than a hundred years of combustion engines and filling your car up once or twice a week but this is different.’’
She says electric cars can offer a better value proposition than conventional petrol cars, particularly as petrol prices rise in the future. ‘‘At the moment, if you’re spending $80 a week on petrol, you will be better off,’’ she says.
That’s based on electric cars requiring less maintenance as they have fewer moving parts – there’s no need for oil, fuel and air filter changes. The cost of ownership is about 20 per cent lower than a conventional car.
Terry says there will be three main types of adopters: the ‘‘inner-city greenies ... probably from Balmain or Brunswick’’, who would consider buying an electric car – no matter what the cost – to ‘‘do their bit for the environment’’.
Then there are the outer-suburban ‘‘Commodore or Falcon’’ families that spend about $100 on petrol a week, whom she says ‘‘are the people who will gain the most’’ because of the lower cost of ownership. Finally, fleet buyers will make up most sales as a means of reducing their carbon impact and to save money.
The chief executive of Better Place Denmark, Johnny Hansen, believes the cost of fuel is going to continue to rise and electric cars are a way for buyers to steer away from paying more at the pump.
‘‘None of us have any expectations of prices of diesel or gasoline going down; we expect it to go up,’’ Hansen says, suggesting a forecast growth in demand from countries such as India and China will push prices higher around the world.
‘‘In Denmark, the total roll-out of the Better Place project is €100 million – that’s comparable to four days of gasoline in this country. So is that big infrastructure? Is that a big investment?’’
Unlike Australia, Denmark already has significant government-backed incentives in place for green cars such as the Fluence Z.E. Like all electric cars, it attracts no registration tax, whereas conventional cars attract fees of up to 180 per cent of the purchase price.
That means a Chevrolet Cruze (similar to the Holden version) costs 375,000 kroner ($67,000), whereas the similarly sized electric Renault is available for just 205,000 kroner.
In Australia, no incentives are in place for electric vehicles, so petrol cars remain vastly more affordable in most cases. But unlike mainstream electric competitors such as Mitsubishi’s $48,800 (plus costs) i-MiEV and Nissan’s circa-$60,000 Leaf, the larger Renault has been confirmed to start ‘‘in the high $30,000s’’ with ‘‘a high level of specification’’.
Volkswagen’s new baby will be even cheaper – less than half the price – but is far from nasty.
At 3540 millimetres long, the Up is more than half a metre shorter than the Polo light car. Yet with a wheelbase of 2420 millimetres, it packs plenty of interior space. The two rear seats have ample headroom and just enough space for longer legs, and the boot will take plenty of shopping bags or even a suitcase or two.
Performance from the 44kW version of the three-cylinder engine is more than adequate when accelerating through the gears, despite Volkswagen’s claim of an extremely modest 0-100km/h time of 14.4 seconds.
Tall gearing means there’s not much pulling power in fifth gear (the engine barely ticks over at 2600 rpm at 100km/h) but the viceless manual gearshift ensures swapping cogs is more a pleasure than a chore.
An optional automatic transmission – an automated version of the five-speed manual with a single clutch, rather than VW’s usual dual-clutch arrangement – will also be offered but none were available to drive at the launch.
The 55kW Up adds more sparkle to the driving experience. In either version, the main impression is the engine is quiet even when revved hard, so any preconceptions of this being a downmarket buzz-box are banished quickly.
Softish suspension that delivers a comfortable but controlled ride, quality switchgear and high levels of fit and finish add to the impression of a car lacking in size, not substance.
Still, plenty of hard plastics are on the dashboard and the steering column is tilt adjustable only. There’s no central bin between the front seats, either, but they are about the only negatives in what is an open, light and airy cabin.
Beauty is always a subjective concept but the program director for the Fluence Z.E., Nicolas Remise, says the fact the Renault doesn’t have the quirky styling of some electric competitors is an advantage.
‘‘We’re doing nearly normal cars because we’re targeting really high volumes,’’ Remise says.
‘‘The Renault model is to achieve the same retail price as for the internal combustion-engined equivalent car.’’
Renault’s strategy takes into account that most European nations – unlike Australia – have incentives in place for electric vehicles. Remise says buyers who can’t get any government assistance will have to bear the brunt of the purchase price but he hopes high demand will drive a drop in production cost and enable companies to lower upfront purchase costs.
‘‘We believe we have a business model that is probably more successful than selling the customer everything [including the battery pack],’’ he says.
Drive’s first experience of the Fluence Z.E. indicates Renault could be on to something. It turns a conventional sedan into something slightly more unconventional but without any significant compromise for most day-to-day commuters (see breakout).
A spokeswoman for Renault Australia, Emily Ambrosy, says the French brand and Better Place are committed to working together in Australia.
‘‘Fluence is the first project: we’ve announced it together, we’re working together, we’re working on roll-out together and we’re committed that customers will have the infrastructure to back up their electric cars, because you need to in order to make it a practical solution,’’ she says.
Some European nations have other incentives to encourage electric-car ownership, such as free parking and congestion toll exemptions.
The business development manager for electric vehicles at Renault, Thomas Orsini, says these perks are valuable in drawing buyers to alternative modes of transport such as electric vehicles.
‘‘Things like bus-lane exemptions have a huge psychological impact,’’ Orsini says. ‘‘People think they have an advantage and they like that.’’
One of the biggest criticisms of electric cars is the fact that, for Australia at least, most electricity production is ‘‘dirty’’, derived from burning brown coal. However, Renault and Better Place say the plug-in cars they offer will not be powered by unclean sources.
The managing director of Renault Australia, Justin Hocevar, says the Fluence Z.E. will ‘‘tick all the boxes for a wide variety of car users’’.
‘‘Our aim with the Fluence Z.E. is to take away as many of the remaining excuses as to why you can’t switch to renewable energy [and] zero emissions for your mobility needs,’’ Hocevar says.
It is the first mass-produced car with the ability to swap one battery for another. Renault says it will produce more cars in the future with the same technology, including the Zoe city car – a vehicle for which the company has very high hopes.
Remise says the car will be a ‘‘blockbuster’’ in sales volumes, a sentiment echoed by Hansen of Better Place. ‘‘There’s no doubt the Zoe will be the No.1-selling car in [Denmark]. No doubt,’’ Hansen says.
Volkswagen is also upbeat about the Up’s future and after a first drive on the streets of Rome, it’s clear anyone expecting pain in downsizing to a car this small will be in for a pleasant surprise.
Just as the Golf and Polo deliver excellent driving experiences for a little more money than cars within their size bracket, the Up goes beyond expectations. To drive, it’s a thoroughly together – even entertaining – little car.
Which type of car will win the hearts and minds of consumers? An overall victor will be unlikely – not within the next decade, anyway – as brands leave no stones unturned and no technology unprobed in their search for increasing efficiency.Coming soon
The Renault Fluence Z.E. and the Volkswagen Up are the tip of a fuel-efficiency iceberg. Amultitude of zero-emissions, hybrid and ultra-efficient city cars are either already being sold elsewhere or known to be in the final stages of development. Some may arrive here within the next five years. Here’s a look at what else is around.Electric Vehicles
Article in UK Independent:
In the second of three test drives, Niall and Natalie find that the 100 per cent electric Nissan LEAF is a fun and practical alternative way of motoring
When IT manager Niall Scott and wife, Natalie, took delivery of the new Nissan LEAF, they had a few reservations. “I was expecting something strange and futuristic-looking, and then this stylish car pulls up outside,” says solicitor Natalie.
“That’s when I realised that this was going to be different.”
With two small children (Lilia, aged four, and Evelise, two) the Scotts need a car that’s spacious, practical and good on the open road. “A lot of my family live locally,” says Natalie, “so at weekends we often head off for the day to visit my cousin in Burnley, my auntie or my father.”
“That’s about a 70-mile round trip from where we live in Manchester,” says Niall, “but the Nissan LEAF has a range of 109 miles, so we knew we’d have plenty of juice. Obviously, if you drive around with the heating on full blast, the battery will drain a lot quicker, but there’s a dashboard display that tells you how many miles you’ve got left, so you know when to recharge.”
Niall adds: “It is important to plan your journey but, as a family, we’re used to that. Plus, the Nissan LEAF’s built-in sat-nav system shows you just where your nearest charging points are, so you know what your options are.”
There are more than 700 easy-to-use public charging points scattered around the UK, most of which are free to use. On their trip to Burnley, Niall and Natalie used the POD Point, where you simply swipe your card, pull down the hatch and plug the car in.
“Out on the open road it performed better than our family saloon,” says Niall. “The acceleration was really smooth and responsive. And the more you use it, the more you get to know how your driving style affects the battery life.”
Aside from visiting relatives, the Scotts used the Nissan LEAF for all their essential journeys, including the weekly food shop, trips to the Trafford centre and the school run.
“I picked the kids up in it every day,” says Niall. “They loved it. They called it the ‘spaceship’, because of the cool lights on the dashboard.”
As well as impressing the youngest members of the Scott clan, Niall found the Nissan LEAF’s on-board technology especially useful when it came to parking. “It was great for reversing into tight spots, because I could see exactly how much space I had. It really took the stress out of it,” he says.
Natalie agrees: “All in all it was really fun to drive, I’d love to keep one as a second car.”The Test-drive experience
Your safety is paramount with airbags and anti-lock braking, break assist and electronic stability programme. The Nissan LEAF emits a sweeping low-high sound at speeds below 17mph to ensure the car is heard. These are just a few of the reasons it has been awarded five-stars by NCAP.Will fitting a home charging point involve major work?
Not at all. An engineer will assess whether your home is suitable, then fit a charging point in the most convenient location. After that, you can recharge your Nissan LEAF around a third faster than with a normal socket.Can you go on long distance drive?
Yes. A full charge will give you up to 109 miles. As well as public charging points across the country, Rapid charge where 80 per cent charge takes 30 minutes is available at Nissan dealerships and as an emergency measure you can charge on a domestic socket as long as the wiring complies with the latest electrical standards.Are there any tips for extending the battery life?
Yes. Nissan’s intelligent telematics system gives you pointers on how to change your driving style to maximise the car’s range.
Plus, if you switch over to Eco mode, you can increase the car’s range by up to 10 per cent.How easy is it to drive?
The Nissan LEAF is actually lot simpler than driving a ‘normal’ car. As with any automatic, there’s no clutch pedal to worry about and, instead of a gear stick, there’s a shifter knob between the seats. To go forwards you put it into ‘D’ (for drive), then shift into ‘R’ (for reversing). When you’ve parked up, simply press the ‘P’ button in the middle of the shifter.Essential information
For further information and to book a test drive, visit nissan.co.uk/leaf
The ageing body of the A3 luxury hatch hides a future-focused electric drivetrain. Forget that you're looking at an Audi A3 - it's what lies beneath its ageing body that counts.The all-electric A3 e-Tron is yet another strong indication of the VW-owned brand's electrification plans for the near future.
The German luxury brand has made no secret that by 2020 it aims to offer an "e-Tron" alternative powertrain variant of its entire model line up.
Audi's first e-Tron model will be the R8 electric supercar, which goes into small-scale production late next year with Australian deliveries expected about six months later.
At the other end of the scale are two "technology studies" that have yet to receive production approval: they are the A1 e-Tron, an electric car with a tiny petrol-engined range extender to overcome "range anxiety"; and this, the A3 e-Tron. Drive sampled each e-Tron prototype for just six kilometres in Hakone, Japan last week.
Revealed at the Los Angeles motor show last week, Audi describes the A3 e-Tron as "an all-around vehicle for future mobility".
Unlike the A1 e-Tron that uses a modest-sized electric propulsion system and a rotary engine to recharge the battery on the run, the A3 e-Tron employs a more powerful electric motor and more batteries to power it.
"We thought about other solutions ... one of them is a range-extender solution and we have the A1 to test this," product strategy boss for Audi e-Tron Heiko Seegatz says. "And we have the A3 battery electric [vehicle] to test another solution."
Though a concept, the A3 e-Tron's looks are even more understated than the smaller e-Tron sibling.
No fancy wheels or headlight details; it even has a conventional ignition barrel to start the electric motor. Unlike the A1 e-Tron's fancy recharging socket located behind the front logo, the A3 e-Tron's plug socket is positioned where you'd usually pump petrol into the car.
Under the bonnet, the electric unit supplies 60kW of continuous power and a peak of 100kW for short bursts during overtaking. Maximum torque, or pulling power, is 270Nm and available instantly for a noticeable shove in the back. Power is delivered to the front wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission as in the A1 e-Tron.
The lithium-ion battery is stored in blocks under the boot floor, rear seat and in the transmission tunnel. It stores 26.5kWh of usable energy and weighs 300 kilograms for a kerb weight of 1592kg - almost 140kg more than the heaviest A3 currently on sale, the all-wheel-drive 2.0 TFSI five-door hatch (1455kg).
Audi says the A3 e-Tron can be recharged in about nine hours from a household socket, or four hours on rapid charge. On a single battery charge, it can cover about 140 kilometres and sprints from 0-100km/h in 11.2 seconds (1.0 second slower than the A1 e-Tron). However, its electrically limited top speed of 145km/h is 15km/h faster than its sibling.
Our all-too-brief six kilometre sample behind the wheel of the A3 e-Tron revealed the typical electric car smoothness and silence and brisk acceleration from the word "go".
On the move, the ambience was disrupted by some wind noise and winter tyres fitted to our test car that made a loud thrumming sound over the smooth tarmac. A tyre change should be an easy fix.
The drive can choose from four brake settings which noticeably adjusts the degree to which the electric motor recovers energy during braking and coasting. The first setting feels much like any other car, while the fourth provides more aggressive "engine" braking as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator.
Curiously, the adjustment for the brakes was traversed via the gearbox paddle shifters - an odd placement that is presumably best put down to the fact these cars are still in the prototype phase.
So, when will a "real" A3 e-Tron be available? Audi isn't saying yet, though it has been widely reported that a production version is expected by 2014.
With the age of the electric car fast approaching, many believe it's a golden opportunity to bin conventional car design and start with a clean sheet.
Regular mechanical engineering doesn't necessarily apply to zero-emissions vehicles, so why not design them accordingly?
That's what Marko Petrovic argues with his Ferrari Millennio - an electric supercar design study, inspired by modern architecture and the Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi.The futuristic-looking building is said to be the world's largest indoor park and hosts the world's fastest roller-coaster and a G-force ride that catapults riders up 62 metres and back down.
The Millennio is influenced by the building's intricate interplay of different surfaces, textures and materials.
The car's front and rear are inspired by the lines of the Italian supercar maker's models, reinterpreted with a mix of different elements.
The lightweight, two-seat supercar is theoretically powered by two electric motors, while the intricate exterior would be made from advanced materials such as buckypaper.
Claimed to be 10 times lighter and more than 500 times stronger than steel, buckypaper is an ultra-thin sheet made from an aggregate of carbon nanotubes.
It is currently undergoing tests for armour and fire-fighting applications. The exterior also includes a silicon layer that gives extra protection.
The Serbia-based industrial designer believes the visual design progress of electric cars is much slower than their technical development.
''Ferrari needs to maintain their philosophy of making the best and fastest cars in the world,'' Petrovic says. ''But will the [need for] speed be so dominant in the future?''
Petrovic believes future-generation Ferrari owners may not be so familiar with speed and performance but rather the sense of owning a piece of art.
The following link is to an article in Huffington Post about electric vehicles due in the next year - from 2010 onwards:
From Sydney Morning Herald:
Sports car maker toes the company line with plug-in push, reports Steve Colquhoun.
First came the SUV that Porsche didn't want but had to have; then the diesel engine it once said would never grace its products; followed by a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain that seemed so at odds with the company's uncompromising pursuit of performance.
Now it appears Porsche is set to take the next step into the brave new world of plug-in electric motoring with word that chief executive Matthias Muller has this week driven a fully electric prototype version of the company's Panamera four-door grand tourer.
The Panamera is already offered with V6, V8, diesel and petrol-electric hybrid engine choices, with the latter being test-driven this week in Germany by members of the Australia media and due for release locally in August.
Muller's test drive comes hot on the heels of a Porsche collaboration with the City of Stuttgart - near its home base of Weissach, in Germany - to produce a pair of plug-in electric Boxster convertibles, plus the plug-in hybrid 918 concept sports car it has shown at various motor shows and plans to carry into production.
A Porsche spokesman confirmed Muller has this week driven a Panamera fitted with an electric drivetrain, but was unable to give further details.
The Volkswagen group, which recently took control of Porsche and is also pushing towards an electrification strategy, appears keen keen to spin out its technology across its brands. Another stablemate, Audi, has already shown several concept "e-tron" cars at various motor shows.
The Boxster project, although not an officially sanctioned model program, perhaps provides the clearest perspective of the possibilities and challenges of sports car electrification.
The UK’s Autocar reports the early prototype of the Boxster E makes around 90kW - roughly half the power output of the petrol-engined car on which it's based - and 270Nm of torque, or pulling power.
The electric version is also 185 kilograms heavier and has a range of around 170 kilometres, requiring eight hours to recharge from a standard 240-volt power outlet.
A Panamera in base model specification weights almost 400kg more than the comparable Boxster, highlighting the challenges facing engineers.
From The Age newspaper:
Mitsubishi will have the first all-electric car on the Australian market when the tiny i-MiEV city car goes on sale from August – but hi-tech greenies will pay dearly for the privilege of plugging in.
The car will cost about $50,000, a premium price for one of the smallest cars on the road, and will face “steep” depreciation, the company admits, as the price of its most expensive component, the lithium-ion battery pack, is expected to rapidly drop in the years to come, making future models cheaper.
“The i-MiEV is the first step in the electrification of the Mitsubishi range,” said Paul Stevenson, Mitsubishi Australia’s vice-president of corporate strategy, pledging electric variants of existing models will come in the next few years. “We have a leadership in EV technology right now…….it’s not a gimmick.” he said.
So far, 110 i-MiEVs have been field-tested by mainly university and government fleets, with feedback used to modify showroom models.
The company has set modest sales targets. Initially, it expects to sell just five cars a month nationally, sold through one “premium dealer” in each capital city.
From The Age newspaper:
THE biggest yet bulk purchase of electric cars for Australia was announced at the opening of the motor show in Melbourne yesterday, signalling the dawn of a new era of electric motoring.
GE Capital Finance, joined by the car maker Renault and the recharge company Better Place, announced it would buy at least 1000 electric cars to lease to fleet customers over the next four years.
The director of GE's ''ecomagination'' division, Ben Waters, said fleet customers, mainly large corporations and governments, were looking for tangible ways to reduce their CO2 emissions.
''Companies have their own emissions reduction goals - a lot of their emissions are in their fleet,'' he said. ''The question is how quickly we can ramp it up. We can help that.''
Renault's Fluence ZE sedan, unlike other electric cars now in the pipeline for Australia, has a battery pack that can be swapped in and out of the car.
Better Place will establish the battery swap stations, as well as smart recharge points fed by renewable electricity generation, starting in Canberra this year, followed by Sydney and Melbourne.
The technological transformations happened later than people thought, said Better Place Australia's chief executive, Evan Thornley. ''But when they do, they always happen bigger than people think,'' he said. ''And when they're over, we can't remember how the world used to be.''
Other electric cars on show include the Nissan Leaf (expected to cost from $50,000 when it goes on sale next April) and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which goes on sale in mid-August for $48,800.
And then there is a home-grown electric car, the EDay Life E15 - Australian designed and engineered, Chinese built - which could be sold through cafes rather than dealerships.
But stargazers are catered for at the show, with stunning concepts cars from Mazda (the Shinari is said to represent the brand's styling future, while its Minagi is a precursor to the coming CX-5 compact SUV), the Audi E-tron electric sports car (destined for production next year), BMW's artistic EfficientDynamics concept car and Ford's brutal Mad Max cars made for the next film.
From The Age newspaper:
Your vehicle could soon provide energy for your house.
Two former Holden executives are planning to shake up the automotive establishment with two very different electric cars. The first, from EDay, comes equipped with a home energy-management system and a custom-designed iPad. On display at this week's Melbourne motor show, it is likely to be offered by subscription, in much the same way as a mobile phone plan.
The second is an electrified Holden Commodore, seven of which are being built as proof-of-concept vehicles that could lead to larger-scale production.
The former director of product planning for Holden, Ian McCleave, has used his extensive knowledge of the Commodore to oversee the development of an electric prototype of the large car, which this week achieved backing from the global financial services giant and fleet business manager GE.
At the same time, Laurie Sparke, the former head of Holden's defunct technology think-tank, Holden Innovation, has teamed with car dealer Robert Lane to produce three alternative-fuel prototypes.
Sparke says his EDay small car can drive up to 150 kilometres on a charge but he expects battery-development limitations to increase that to only 200 kilometres within the next five years.
''It's a city car; it's going to be a long time before the energy storage system is going to be up to driving long distances,'' he says.
His former co-worker, McCleave, says his electric Commodore will be ready to roll within a year. It will have an estimated range of 160 kilometres and will have a switchable battery to help overcome range concerns.
Sparke and Lane teamed up five years ago, finding a Chinese manufacturer to build them a range of cars that will include two small EDay electric cars - one of which will be retro-fitted with ultra-efficient petrol and LPG engines - and a sports coupe likely to run on a hybrid drivetrain. For now, EDay's company focus is on the two small cars, with plans to put a test fleet of 100 electric cars on Melbourne roads by early 2012.
EDay envisages more for its customers than simply purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle, however. It plans to roll out a ''home energy-management strategy'' with the car, including solar panels, a battery for electric storage and a controller that works with a smart meter to control energy flows between the house and the car.
''The controller takes energy out of a storage battery and perhaps even the car battery to run your home at peak times,'' Sparke says. ''It recharges as much as it can from the solar panels and then off-peak … it takes green power to replenish the system.''
EDay plans a leasing model, potentially providing customers with a new car every two years.
From The Age's DriveLife columns:
Drive experts look at the electric car's future and why the carbon tax won't apply to petrol cars.He says: Richard Blackburn
If you know a bit about the car industry and where it's supposed to be headed, you couldn't help but be struck by the irony surrounding the recent passage of the somewhat controversial carbon tax through the House of Representatives.
Here we have politicians popping corks about saving the environment and hitting the carbon emitters where it hurts and one of the biggest CO2 creators on the planet, the petrol-guzzling family car, has been left unscathed.
Worse still, it seems the only cars that will be affected by the carbon tax will be - wait for it - electric ones. The carbon tax targets the big emitters and some of the biggest are the electricity providers.
So while the rest of the world's governments do their darnedest to wean motorists off petrol, our government is going to penalise anyone who makes the switch to an electric vehicle.It seems our Industry Minister, Kim Carr, is the only politician on the planet who believes the future of alternative motoring is the six-cylinder family sedan.
So why is that bad news? Because it means we, as motorists, will be denied access to the very latest in automotive technology.
We're not going to be able to afford the ingenious new Chevrolet Volt when it becomes a Holden next year. No one will have enough cash to buy a Nissan Leaf or splash out on an electric BMW.
How is it that we queue like drug-addled rock groupies for some overpriced telecommunication device but we're happy to have last decade's technology when it comes to cars?
We might have relatively easy access to iPhone 4Ss, but the cars we're building in Australia are about as technologically advanced as a Nintendo 64.
In Denmark, government incentives and tax exclusions can add up to €20,588 ($28,000). France gives you about $7000 to go green, while the Poms fork out $9000 and let you park and drive in cities free.
Meanwhile, in the land Down Under, the government dismantles the Green Car Innovation Fund before it's done any good and refuses to include petrol in the carbon tax.And they expect us to believe that it's the Greens who are running the country.She says: Lenny Ann Low
Why would anyone want to drive an electric car? Because they replace petrol-guzzling cars, because they are kinder to the planet and because they are the future of motoring as Earth’s oil supplies dwindle. Yes, yes, yes, no argument with that.
But I’d rather drive a gas-guzzler and pay a carbon offset fee than chance a lengthy road trip in an allelectric car. Not because the Nissan Leaf or the Chevrolet Volt doesn’t have the grunt to get places. Nissan says the Leaf has a top speed of more than 150km/h.
The concern is the plug-in cars’ driving range.
The Leaf is said to reach 160 kilometres before the car stops and everyone starts looking for a power outlet.
Some tests have shown it could reach more than 200 kilometres in the right conditions but not every holiday drive is downhill all the way, windfree and for a single occupant with no luggage.
We’re all used to checking the petrol gauge. And it will be no different keeping an eye on readouts that show the amount of electric energy available.
But just imagine if you forget.
The car stops in the middle of nowhere and the dilemma of finding a power source in a field of cows seems more concerning than calling the NRMA to bring some petrol.
Even if you do get to your holiday destination, what if it’s a small country town, an isolated camping site or even a city hotel? Where do you plug the thing in?
If you’re visiting AuntyMuriel’s place in suburbia, she may not have enough extension leads to run a power cord from the house to the driveway.
Then there’s the cost of buying an electric car. You have pretty much summarised the dearth of government incentives to buy one here.
But even if you’ve got the cash to buy one, a new anxiety creeps in. Pedestrians can’t hear them. Other car drivers can’t either.
Electric cars deserve applause for saving the world – but first we need to adjust our world to using them.
From the Saturday Age:
Nissan Leaf - recharging the electric car
Nissan ... recharging an electric car could take minutes, not hours, but the technology is still in its early stages.
ELECTRIC cars are a big step closer to mainstream acceptance thanks to two breakthroughs.
Long battery recharging has been the biggest hurdle for the car industry to overcome. But a technology being developed by Nissan and Japan's Kansai University could solve the problem.
It has reportedly created a charger that can replenish a car's batteries in 10 minutes, without any adverse affect on the batteries. Currently it can take up to eight hours to recharge an electric car.
Nissan, while not denying the technology's existence, has said it is still at least a decade away from being ready for production.
"Nissan is always working on various research and development activities," it said. "However, the technology reported is still in the very early stage of basic studies, thus there is nothing we can communicate at this moment."
At present so-called fast chargers require 30 minutes to restore batteries to just 80 per cent capacity and cost more than $30,000.
The industry has been struggling to come up with a solution to long charging times as electric cars fight to become a viable alternative to petrol cars.
Attempts to create battery swapping stations, where the huge battery packs are replaced by robots, has so far met limited interest by car manufacturers or consumers.
"We still see the primary source [of recharging] will be at home or at the office," said Nissan Australia spokesman Jeff Fisher.
Another hurdle cleared by the industry is an agreed standard of recharging plugs.
The move is seen as crucial to the implementation of public charging infrastructure. Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have all agreed to work together on the universal system for plug outlets, voltage and cables.
Article from The Age:
Renault's new plug-in electric van is making a serious emission statement without sacrificing performance or practicability.
Most of us see courier vans every day. They could be running parcels between pick-up and delivery points or dropping flowers off to some lovelorn recipient; whatever their task, the humble box on wheels is one of the automotive world's unspoken heroes.
And now, thanks to Renault's plug-in electric Kangoo Z.E. (Zero Emissions), it is an environmental hero, too.
The power-point-driven version of the French brand's small van is currently under consideration for Australia and it looks an odds-on proposition for a 2013 launch. And it's a launch that anyone who's in the market for a compact van should look forward to.
From the outside, it looks startlingly similar to the regular versions - the main things that separate the Z.E. include a nose-mounted power socket and the funky Z.E. circuit-board stickers on the nose-cone and the doors.
It is almost identical inside as well. The main differences are the dash-top satnav system; an instrument cluster that has a battery-power meter rather than a tachometer; and a multifunction digital read-out that offers real-time information such as range, power used and power remaining.
It still gets all the same useful storage features, including the overhead shelf and the dashboard folder-holder, though the latter is a bit less useful because of where the satnav unit sits.
Safety gear includes dual front airbags and a side airbag on the driver's side, with anti-lock brakes and electronic brake distribution as standard. Stability control is not available yet but the next-generation model is likely to have it as standard.
Under the bonnet, the electric Kangoo Z.E. does away with the conventional diesel or petrol powertrain and is instead fitted with a 44kW electric motor that produces 226Nm of torque, which comes on almost instantly when you put your foot down.
The compact van can cover a claimed 170 kilometres on a full charge, with recharging taking between six and eight hours from a specified charge point. That could be enough to put some bigger-mileage drivers off.
The plug-in powertrain offers excellent linear power delivery without any of the annoyingly city-unfriendly gear-changes of a van fitted with a conventional auto or manual transmission. It can feel slightly weak up steeper hills but for dashes between traffic lights, it offers commendable acceleration.
For those worried about the effect a large load would have on the distance the Kangoo could cover, Renault claims it will only lose 1 per cent of energy for every 100 kilograms added - a fairly minimal loss, especially for drivers who regularly exploit the van's 650-kilometre load capacity.
And, thanks to the flat underfloor layout of the battery pack, the Kangoo Z.E. still offers the standard three-cubic-metre cargo hold.
The regular Kangoo is surprisingly good to drive and the Z.E. version isn't much different. It holds the road well and corners with admirable poise for a tall, boxy vehicle. It's perhaps even better than the conventional model, thanks to the lower centre of gravity created by the 280-kilogram bank of batteries under the load-space, which stabilises the body nicely.
The steering is well weighted and makes for easy parking manoeuvres and drivers who like to dodge and dart through traffic will no doubt be happy with the zippy driveability of the Kangoo.
We didn't get a chance to test it with a load and that's one thing we would want to do before signing on the line if it comes to Australia.
Not being able to test it laden was annoying but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Kangoo Z.E. is that, unlike its Fluence sibling, the battery pack is a fixed unit. This means that couriers or shopkeepers can't simply drop off a spent battery pack and pick up a fresh unit during their travels - which could well be a deal-breaker for some.
Overseas buyers have the option of longer-wheelbase versions of the Kangoo, as well as a five-seat wagon.
Renault Australia has its hand up for the regular short-wheelbase model that we currently get in petrol auto and diesel manual.
After driving all three models in the Kangoo line-up, it seems fair to suggest that the plug-in Z.E. variant is the hero of the trio.
Article from Care2:
The Nissan LEAF made history last year when it hit the market as one of the most affordable all-electric vehicles. Since then, Nissan has continued to make headlines by pledging to install free quick charging stations all over the world.
Now, the LEAF is jumping out ahead of the competition again by becoming the first electric car in the world to feature wireless charging technology.
Today at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan unveiled a flat floor unit that will enable LEAF owners to fully charge their battery without installing a charging system or searching for an extension cord. The pad could be placed in a garage or driveway, or in a parking lot. By simply parking over the charging pad, sensors on the bottom of the LEAF trigger an electromagnet that draws electricity from the car’s recharging coil.
Nissan says the wireless charging will not be effected by various weather conditions or weather changes. The charging time does not change either, which presently is eight hours.
The electromagnet induction process is the same as technology used in cordless phones and toothbrushes, and is considered safe as it transmits at a low three to six watts.
The company says it’s wireless charging technology will be available in Leafs starting 2013. Unfortunately, if you’ve already purchased a LEAF, you may still have to deal with cords and outlets, as the technology will not be available as a retrofit.
Article from The Age:
Senior executive says electric vehicles are not the environmental vandals some claim they are. Nissan has an answer to anyone who argues that electric cars using coal-fired electricity are not as clean as conventional ones - quite simply, the claim is "bullshit".
That's the assessment of Andy Palmer, the Nissan executive vice-president who is also responsible for the Japanese car maker's electric vehicle roll-out worldwide, in response to a question at the Tokyo motor show challenging the environmental friendliness of battery-powered cars.
Palmer is quick to shoot down the claim that coal-sourced electricity is just as bad for the environment as conventionally fuelled vehicles. "I think it's complete bullshit," he says.
"First of all, if you talk about tank-to-tank, the amount of CO2 consumed from creating the electricity to getting it to the car - is it zero emissions? The answer is no, you consume carbon energy in creating the energy, and that's true.
"That is sometimes the argument used, and I agree. But if all of your electricity is created by coal, it's a fact that the CO2 consumed at the level of the electric vehicle is lower than the level of the CO2 emitted by the equivalent gasoline car.
"If you were to do that compared to a hybrid - so instead of a gasoline car you used a hybrid - it's true that if you're on 100 per cent coal a hybrid emits lower CO2 than an electric car.
However, no country in the world is 100 per cent coal-burning for creating its electricity.
"Secondly, if you look across the world as a whole, by far the least emitting means when we talk about creation-to-use, electric cars are the lowest of the CO2 burners."
Palmer says electric cars are also caught up in a "chicken-and-egg discussion", with the car industry long criticised for being a large emitter of CO2.
"To some extent, we're cleaning up our act [with electric cars]," he says.
"The solution in our space, in what we can influence, is the electric car.
Now, what we try to do is we try to talk to governments to say 'how about cleaning up the generation of electricity, how about using more clean, more sustainable energy rather than going with coal-burning'.
"The more they clean up electricity, the more compelling the story is behind the electric car.
"I think it is fair to say that in every case, an electric car emits less CO2 than an internal combustion engine."
However, an Australian study released in 2009 shows Victoria is potentially the worst place in Australia in terms of emissions to own an electric car.
Peter Pudney, a University of South Australia-based researcher working for the AutoCRC, a government-funded co-operative research centre focusing on car-based technology, says Victoria's dependence on brown coal for electricity generation meant that a Mitsubishi i-MiEV battery-powered car would produce the equivalent of 130 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilometre it travelled.
That means it will produce about 25g/km more carbon dioxide emissions than a Toyota Prius hybrid car, and about the same as a small petrol-engined car.
New South Wales, which draws most of its power from cleaner-burning black coal reserves, would generate the equivalent of 106g of carbon dioxide a kilometre - almost the same as the Prius - while Tasmania, which gets almost all its electricity from hydro-electric power, would generate just 13g/km.
Even so, Nissan plans to launch its next electric vehicle within the next few years. It will join Nissan's EV pioneer, the Leaf battery-powered hatchback, which went on sale in Japan last year and is expected to go on sale in Australia some time in 2012.
Palmer says the growing reliance on emissions-free vehicles such as the Leaf will also have their health benefits as more people move to live in cities, concentrating populations.
"By 2050, 70 per cent of the world's population will be living in cities," he says.
"If we look at figures from the World Health Organisation, more and more people are being diagnosed with things like asthma every day.
"Undoubtedly, one of the causes of asthma are pollutants in the air. Now, if the electric car simply moved the polluting source from the city to somewhere else, isn't that a good thing?
"If our kids can grow up without suffering from asthma and other childhood diseases caused by pollution, isn't that by itself a good thing? I think it is.
"It doesn't solve the problem for the other 30 per cent, but let's be clear; the other 30 per cent don't live near power stations."
Article from the Herald Sun:
A car that could resurrect large family sedan sales and help safeguard Australian automotive jobs is being built in a tin shed in Melbourne. It's a Holden Commodore, but not as we know it.
That is evident as the car "beeps" as it reverses back to the laneway Carsguide will use as a "launch pad" for our first behind-the-wheel experience with a large, rear-wheel drive electric vehicle. Forward propulsion is silent ... tyre squeak on the painted floor and the hiss of the hydraulic power steering are the only sounds emanating from the car.
Outside, we're restrained to from-rest bursts up to 40km/h. That's more to do with the fact this car isn't registered than any worries over its driveability ... its stablemate is undergoing validation trials at the Anglesea proving ground on the same day.
Acceleration is steady, with a faint turbine whine as the Commodore picks up speed. Flicking the automatic transmission lever into Sport releases more charge from the batteries and the pace lifts noticeably.
It's not quite as quick as a regular combustion engined car but I suspect that has more to do with the way the car was programmed for Carsguide's visit and the developers' desire to keep it intact for further testing.
This Commodore has ditched the V6 engine for 300kg of lithium-ion battery cells. The battery pack is built in-house to fit in the engine bay and drivetrain tunnel, with the control electronics mounted where the fuel tank used to be.
There's still a gaping hole where the exhausts once exited, but EV Engineering - the non-profit company building the cars with the help of local auto component suppliers a $3.55 million government grant - plans to fit an aerodynamic undertray to cover the void.
The first generation car we're driving is powered by a 145kW/400Nm electric motor matched to a Borg-Warner electric single-ratio gearbox and differential.
EV Engineering's chief engineer Tim Olding says it is good for at least 140km/h and the seven "proof of concept" vehicles the company will by July will have a range of around 160km. They'll also be at least 40kg lighter than the first-gen cars.
The development has already led to the company filing several patents.
"We can buy a standard energy cell and then we have to adapt them to make it into a battery for us. So the first thing we have to do is attach a set of terminals to it. As a high-volume production cell they actually weld all the cells together. That's not a good idea for a small-scale battery because if something goes wrong we have to throw the entire battery away. So essentially, this (the terminal construction) is our technology we've had to develop. You lay a sheet of copper on the ground, lay a sheet of aluminium on top of it and then you put 50 grams of ammonium nitrate on that and explode it."
"Apparently the history is after the Battle of the Somme (World War I) they noticed bits of tanks were fused to other bits of tanks and initially couldn't work out what had happened. It's now used in armour plating ... when you want a ductile material and a hard material joined together, that's how you do it."
The resultant bond drives the impurities out and the dual-metal plate is then machined down into the square terminal posts that are screwed onto each cell and linked to create a 210-cell battery that weighs around 300kg.
Senior powertrain engineer Robert Dingli is just as convinced of the export potential of the software used to run the EV Comodore.
"We're written the code from scratch and I expect the proof of concept cars to be more "driveable" than an internal combustion Commodore," he says. "In terms of integrating the various functions on car we don't have the complexity regular engines have to contend with. The ABS and stability control systems in a conventional car have to deal with air-fuel mixtures, transmission shifts and a whole host of other parameters. We don't, and this will be a better driver's car for that."
The pair of electric Commodores already built by EV Engineering aren't the first Commodores to pack a motor.
Holden and the CSIRO built a petrol-electric ECOmmodore concept based on the VT model that was used at the Sydney Olympics Torch Relay in 2000. It was powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine sourced from the Vectra, along with a 50kW electric motor, backed up lead-acid batteries and super-capacitors. Holden announced at the time there were no plans for production ... but it obviously gave someone ideas.
Newspaper article 12 DECEMBER 2011:
Also see Antony Loewenstein's article on Israel, Palestine and Better Place
AS ELECTRIC cars trickle on to Australian roads, companies that operate recharge facilities are gearing up for big business.
Electric car infrastructure company Better Place is valued at $2.25 billion and plans to create the world's largest electric car network in Australia.
''By the end of 2013 we are looking at hundreds of battery-switch stations across Australia and tens of thousands of locations where people can recharge,'' Better Place Australia head of strategy Ben Keneally said.
The company's ambitious scheme begins with plug-in points and battery swapping stations to operate in Canberra next year.
The next stage is the eastern seaboard, with similar infrastructure in the pipeline for Melbourne.
''We are in discussion with many property owners about where we will place the battery-swapping stations. It will start with a few dozen in Melbourne but will expand over time. We have to have enough so that they are in the locations people want to go as the cars become more commonplace,'' Mr Keneally said.
''Range anxiety'' - a fear of electric cars running out of charge on a journey, is a key barrier to mass adoption of electric cars, he said.
''For most people, plugging in at night is all you need to do; that will give you 100 to 200 kilometres of range. For those occasions when you are driving further, you need a way of quickly recharging and continuing.''
Battery-swapping stations provide the ideal solution. Motorists swipe a membership card, pass through boom gates and park on an automatic track similar to a car wash. A metal arm reaches beneath the car, removes the 280 kilogram battery and replaces it with a recharged one. The process takes about four minutes.
The company recently secured $200 million in funding from investors and partners including General Electric and global banking group UBS. In the next few months it will launch a commercial electric car network in Israel and Denmark.
Mr Keneally said Australia was an ideal location for an electric car network because petrol was expensive.
''Petrol is the single most hated purchase in people's lives. Because we live in suburbs, are very car dependent and drive larger cars than people in Europe, our average petrol bills are quite high.''
He said access to off-street parking also made Australia suitable for an electric car network.Better Place has been in talks with local, state and federal governments about regulatory issues involved in rolling out the network. ''There are a lot of laws and regulations we never anticipated,'' Mr Keneally said.
The company, which will use 100 per cent green energy, also must negotiate with councils that own kerbsides.
Article from the Saturday Age:
They used to build diesel-electric locomotives at General Motors, you know. It didn't last very long but the beautiful, streamlined forms that criss-crossed the US set the foundation for the technology that, decades later, would help to bring the company's car-making division back from the brink of extinction.
Jump to modern-day Sydney and the era of the locomotive is slowly coming back to life. Australian Technology Park, the place where we'll get our first hands-on experience of the Chevrolet Volt electric car on local soil, resides in the century-old remnants of the historic Eveleigh Railway Yard.
When I first get to see them, our Volts are asleep at their power points. All three cars are connected by a short umbilical cord to a portable power conditioning unit that turns the 240 volts coming out of the wall socket into at least 60kilometres of all-electric range.
When that electric range reaches its limit, the petrol engine comes to life and powers a generator, which feeds electricity to the batteries that supply charge to the electric motor.
That extends the distance the Volt can travel to about 500kilometres.
There's no low electric hum or blinking lights on the lightweight, portable plug-in power conditioners, which are prototypes of what Holden will likely sell once the Volt arrives late next year.
Why sell the chargers? Well, Holden expects up to half of Volt owners will leave one permanently plugged into the garage rather than fumble under the bonnet for the portable recharging kit each time they nose the car in.
According to Holden's director of energy and environment, Richard Marshall, if you're going to use the petrol engine all the time, the Volt is probably not for you.
''What people buy will depend on what they need,'' Marshall says. ''If you're getting into the Volt and driving it, and you're recharging it [using the petrol motor] most of the time, then the Volt is probably not the car you should have,'' he says.
The Volt has been designed for commuters whose daily drive is within the car's 60- to 80-kilometre all-electric range.
Plugged in during the day in the US, where the Volt is already on sale, a short recharge can add an extra 20 kilometres or so of range to cover a diversion on the trip home. A full four-hour recharge on off-peak power will cost about $2.50, or less than a cup of coffee. In a year, an average suburban commuter will tip less power into the car than it takes to run a typical household fridge.
One of the problems for Holden, though, is making sure Australian electricity suppliers are up to the task of helping Volt owners manage their power use, lest any problem come back to haunt the car maker.
''Problems [with recharging] tend to be blamed on the car rather than the electricity service providers,'' Marshall says.
US Volt owners are able to go online using either their smartphone or a computer to check the status of the Volt's batteries. Australian owners won't have such connectedness until Holden restores its defunct Holden Assist remote-access service.
However, Marshall points out they will be able to connect a phone to the Volt using Bluetooth, the short-range wireless networking function common in most cars.
Australian-delivery Volts will get what is called a ''mountain mode''. Developed for the US and different from the autobahn setting the same-but-different Opel Ampera will have when it goes on sale in Europe, the hill-climb mode won't let the batteries fall below 35per cent of charge, calling on the engine more often.
At lower speeds, too, switching the car to mountain mode will force it to stick to full electric operation at speeds of less than 80km/h. Otherwise, though, we get almost exactly the same car as the US version. Apart from the badges, the only other change Holden will need to make is to the Chevrolet bowtie on the central LCD screen when the car is switched on.Holden is still a few months away from snaring its first right-hand-drive version of the Volt. Even when it does, it will be a rebadged ring-in, sourced from the first batch of Opel Ampera vehicles heading into right-hand-drive European markets.
In the meantime, there's a nervous energy at Holden. We've heard references to how the Volt will be a breakthrough product for the brand, how it will change the way we think about the car maker, particularly in terms of technology, and how it will change the way we drive forever.
They're big asks for a small car that will cost about twice as much as similarly sized cars that use a conventional petrol engine. Reckoned to be $60,000-plus, that price would buy a lot of fuel for a petrol- or diesel-engined small car such as the Cruze.
It won't be a big seller, either. Various estimates put sales about 50 cars a month and Holden general manager Mike Devereux says the company is not in the business of selling cars at a loss, adding the Volt will sit in showrooms without any cost-cutting government incentives if it needs to.
However, GM and Holden appear to be getting serious about electric cars, even if Holden thinks hybrid vehicles aren't a good fit for the Australian market. There were several references to the recently unveiled Chevrolet Spark battery electric car concept.
With the conventionally engined Spark already on sale in Australia rebadged as the Holden Barina-Spark, it's a logical contender for local showrooms — if the Spark EV makes it into production.
In the meantime, Holden believes the Volt's range-extending electric-vehicle system is right for us. So right, in fact, that Marshall can't help but use one more standout example of how different the Volt is from more conventional electric vehicles.
A Volt attended last month's Energy Breakthrough, which is a showcase of highly efficient transport solutions at Maryborough in central Victoria, about two hours north-west of Melbourne.
''We drove the Volt the whole way there and the whole way back,'' Marshall says.''The [Nissan] Leaf and [Mitsubishi] i-MiEV [electric vehicles] were also there but they turned up and went home on the back of a truck.''
If the Holden Volt fails to spark any interest, maybe one of these electric cars, due next year, will appeal.Mitsubishi iMiEV
The only electric car on sale — and with a whopping price tag that just slips under $50,000 — the tiny i-MiEV makes quite a few compromises in the name of emissions-free motoring. Think tight interior space, wooden brakes, limited electric range and quirky (read: outdated) looks.Nissan Leaf
Due mid-next year, the Leaf is expected to gain styling and software tweaks we're yet to see.
It uses a more conventional hatch styling and has a similar 160-kilometre range to the Mitsu but drives more like a normal car than its rival.Renault Fluence ZE
A dowdy, cookie-cutter sedan, the Fluence ZE will sell in Australia late next year and include a battery system that can swap a depleted one for a fresh unit in as much time as it takes a conventional car to fill with petrol. You won't own the battery, which means it should be cheaper to buy.Burn, baby, burn
Just because you don't have to use the petrol engine doesn't mean you don't have to put any fuel in the tank.
Because GM thinks Volt owners will do their best to avoid visiting the petrol pump — US comedian and talk show host Jay Leno has driven more than 16,000km in his Volt without refuelling once — the car maker has done its best to find the balance between not using the stuff and managing the car's needs.
That means the petrol engine will automatically switch on for 10 minutes every 42 days — but only while you are driving at speeds below 80km/h — so that the engine's internals stay lubricated. Once a year, too, it will automatically run the tank dry, forcing owners to put fresh premium unleaded in the specially sealed, pressurised system.Jump the queue
The arrival of the first Holden Volt in Australia next year appears to be building up the same frenzy as the arrival of a new Rolls-Royce model or the latest Lamborghini supercar — people desperatiely want to be the first to own it.
Holden chief executive Mike Devereux says he has already received ''several emails'' from potential buyers wanting to put their name at the head of the queue and receive the first official Volt on sale.
''We've already had people say 'I'd love to get one', and certainly there's going to be people who want to put a deposit down to be the first retail owner of a Volt,'' Devereux says.''That kind of stuff happened in the US [when the Chevrolet Volt was launched], and we'll have to work out how to handle that. It's a nice kind of problem to have.''
Article in The Age newspaper:
Holden fuel miser's price tag is likely to make sparks fly.
The Holden Volt plug-in hybrid electric car may be as cheap as a cup of coffee to run but it will cost more than $60,000 to buy - three times the price of the small sedan on which it is based.
Holden is yet to announce the price publicly but has told its dealer network the vehicle will have a recommended retail price of $59,990 before on-road and dealer costs, which will likely to equate to a total of $66,000 drive-away when it goes on sale late this year.
The Volt is about the same size as a Holden Cruze sedan, the starting price of which is currently advertised at $21,990 drive-away.
The Volt can drive up to 64 kilometres on battery power alone before the petrol motor takes over for a total driving range in excess of 400 kilometres.
As most drivers commute less than 64 kilometres a day, Holden estimates the Volt will take less than four hours to recharge from empty, using about $2.50 worth of electricity.
Holden has also told dealers only 100 of the US-made cars will be imported this year and no more than 500 will be available in 2013. It says it will only import as many Volts as ordered by customers: ''If demand is 300, we will only bring in 300,'' one dealer says. ''If demand is higher than 500, we will bring in no more than 500.''
By comparison, Toyota Australia last year sold 5400 Camry and 800 Prius hybrids.A US study has shown more than two-thirds of Volts in North America run purely on electricity.
General Motors had to develop technology that automatically runs the petrol engine for a few minutes each month to keep it maintained.
Furthermore, if a Volt customer does not consume a tank of fuel after 12 months, the on-board computer will run the petrol motor until the tank is empty to get rid of the stale fuel.US talk-show host and car fanatic Jay Leno reportedly still has the original tank of petrol his Volt came with - despite having travelled more than 16,000 kilometres.
The consumer data was taken from more than 8 million kilometres of customer driving in North America over the first six months of last year.
The Volt is unlike the Toyota Prius, which can travel a maximum of about two kilometres without petrol in ideal conditions and which, to date, cannot be topped up via a power point.
General Motors is in the middle of a recall campaign for the Volt in North America to strengthen the area around the T-shaped, lithium-ion battery pack (mounted in the ''spine'' of the car).
Last June a Volt caught fire in a holding yard three weeks after a severe side-impact crash test by US safety authorities.
In November, the same authorities replicated the test on three Volt battery packs in a laboratory. Two of the three devices caught fire - one after a few hours and the other six days later.
GM has since called back about 8000 Volts for rectification work; a handful of customers have asked for and received their money back.
The US safety authorities and GM said the Volt was safe and no fires had occurred after crashes on public roads. The Volt will be updated before it arrives in Australian showrooms badged as a Holden instead of a Chevrolet.
GM said the Volt's battery should have been drained after the crash but it never told the safety authorities to do that. GM had no formal procedure to drain the batteries until after the June fire.
GM said the liquid solution used to cool the Volt's battery leaked and crystalised, causing an electrical short that set off the fire.
The company now sends out a team to drain the batteries after being notified of a crash by GM's satellite safety system.
Mitsubishi, which introduced a full-electric car last year, and Nissan, which will introduce a full-electric car this year, said they were satisfied with their post-crash battery-safety procedures even though their cars also used lithium-ion packs.
As is the industry norm, car makers introducing vehicles with new technology brief Australian emergency crews about dealing with the wreckage after a crash.
DVD: "Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)
Available in Australia
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This page was created on 22 DECEMBER 2011 and updated on 12 JANUARY 2020