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In China, Tesla Model S is missing one basic feature

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    A window into China's low-speed electric vehicle revolution
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France getting legally fierce against Uber, ridesharing apps with 'go home' law

Taxi Companies Say Upstarts Not Playing Fair

Posted Jul 28th 2014 8:01AM

uber in paris, france

Those not-a-taxi ridesharing services are facing all sorts of difficulties, from union challenges to unfriendly local laws. Of course, they're also enjoyed by thousands of people around the world and have support from other union groups, so you're forgiven if you can't keep straight who's in favor of what on the issue. One thing is certain, though, France might soon be a completely anti-ridesharing country.

French legislators are discussing a law that would really hinder the work that Uber and other app-based ridesharing companies (like French companies Snapcar and Chauffeur-Privé) are doing. Namely, between fares, Uber drivers would need to go back to their headquarters or to a parking garage. No waiting in the park. No driving around aimlessly. Nothing. Just go home and wait for another fare. The only way out of the "go home" rule is if the driver has another reservation lined up. The problem is that Uber would not be allowed to show where its cars are on an online map. So, yeah.

The underlying issue, according to The Wall Street Journal, is that the government only allows taxis to respond to street hails. Uber gets around this by using the app-based reservation system, but if you can see that there's an Uber car around the block, what's the real difference between that and a street hail, is the government's point.

In January, the government tried to force ridesharing drivers to have to wait 15 minutes between fares, but that decree was suspended after protests. The new "go home" law passed the French Senate last week and will now be voted on by the National Assembly in the fall. We expect more protests before then.

When you put Rimac Concept One batteries into a wheelchair, magic happens

Posted Jul 27th 2014 4:55PM

Rimac EV batteries wheelchair Rolli

Rimac Automobili is no stranger to our pages, but it's usually for the Concept_One supercar or its sleek spinoffs. Today, though, the company is talking up a feel-good alternative use for the electric vehicle's batteries: powering a wheelchair for a young fan, Rolly Bugnar, who suffers from a serious and legitimate case of range anxiety.

"We were confident that we could relatively quickly adapt our battery for a wheelchair." – Mate Rimac

So Bugnar contacted Rimac to see if the company could repurpose its batteries for his daily conveyance. Mate Rimac, the company founder and CEO, said, "Since we have already used the technology originally developed for the Concept_One supercar in other products like the high-performance Greyp Bikes, we were confident that we could relatively quickly adapt our battery for a wheelchair. ... It still took us months of development and adaptation, but we are all very satisfied with the performance and reliability of the prototype system."

What did Rimac do? It took the li-ion battery system from that Greyp G12 bike as well as the company's battery management system, vehicle control unit and human machine interface. As you might suspect, the wheelchair now has better range (37 miles vs. just six with the old lead acid batteries) and weighs less. The new batteries went from 70 pounds down to 47, and the EV has more consistent power, too. You can tell Bugnar is a true EV fan, since he likes to keep close tabs on the individual cells and he wishes his wheelchair could go faster.

Sadly, Rimac Automobili doesn't have a plan to sell any wheelchairs like this, but we expect a lot of wheelchair users would enjoy a new ride like Bugnar's. See what we mean in the video below. It might be the most heartwarming seven minutes you'll spend online today.

News Source: Rimac via YouTube

More speculation about Tesla Gigafactory announcement

Posted Jul 27th 2014 8:59AM

Should we all be laying our chips down on Nevada for Tesla's proposed Gigafactory? At least a few news sources are saying yes, though another says there's a remote chance of a San Francisco Bay Area site getting the nod. Real remote.

The frontrunner appears to be the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, which is about 20 miles east of Reno proper and includes warehousing sites for Walmart, Dell and Petsmart, Transport Evolved says. Compared to other states in the running, Nevada has the advantages of lower taxes, lots of cheap real estate and some lithium-mining capabilities, while the specific site has very good highway and rail access. There's also already a li-ion company there, Dragonfly Energy.

Feeding that belief is the sight of about 50 earthmoving trucks recently spotted at that site, says ValueWalk, Greentech Media and Jalopnik, in addition to Transport Evolved. But then we heard that the site had been shut down. Nobody involved is giving any clues, but the site is plenty big enough for a $5 billion, 10-million-square-foot plant that would support about 6,500 jobs.

Meanwhile, Tesla may also be considering the former Concord Naval Weapons Station about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco and 45 miles north of Tesla's Fremont headquarters, says KTVU, the NBC affiliate for the San Francisco Bay Area. The problem is that's a Superfund site in need of some remediation. But that sort of cleaning project could be a good fit for a company focused on "clean" energy. Tesla is, of course, declining to comment.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said early last month that it was in "quite advanced" stages of planning for the plant, or perhaps two plants, and that the company was meeting on a daily basis with partner and battery-supplier Panasonic. The company is expected to officially announce the location of the Gigafactory later this year, and it could be up and running by the end of 2016.

Of course we'd like to Kickstart a hoverbike [w/video]

Posted Jul 26th 2014 4:09PM

hoverbike scale drone

It may not be a flying car, and it may not even be a Hoverboard. But we don't care. A hoverbike is still incredibly awesome, and there's now a chance to bring just such a device to the real world thanks to Kickstarter.

Designed by an Kiwi bloke in London named Chris Malloy and seen on these very pages three years ago in prototype form, the would-be hoverbike is a sort of combination between a motorcycle and a helicopter, relying on spinning rotors front and rear to generate lift. Past versions of the machine used two rotors, powered by a a 1,170cc boxer engine from BMW, but what you're helping build is rather different entirely.

Since we last featured that Hoverbike prototype, Malloy has further refined the design, changing from two rotors to four, but it's still far from being ready for production. That's the bad news. The good news is that small-scale testing has proven this new design, and third-scale models, powered by electric motors and controlled remotely, are now ready for those with a bit of expendable income to get their grubby mitts on.

As much as we'd love to see a Kickstarter campaign for the fullsize Hoverbike, we think these radio-controlled, unmanned drones are pretty darn cool in their own right, and Malloy says this project will help fund the real thing in true human-scale. Check out the Kickstarter campaign here, and scroll down below for some video.

News Source: Kickstarter

First BMW i8 in US to be auctioned off at Pebble Beach

Posted Jul 26th 2014 8:30AM

BMW i8 Concours d'Elegance Edition for Pebble Beach

Snag yourself a BMW i8 at the upcoming Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Weekend and you won't only be the first in the US to own this model, you'll be getting a one-of-a-kind version of BMW's new gas-electric plug-in marvel.

The special i8 will come with a special exterior paint color (called Frozen Grey Metallic) as well as a modified Pure Impulse Tera World interior that has "Concours d'Elegance Edition" etched in and comes with "Dalbergia Brown leather upholstery, which is tanned using dye derived from plant extracts." Tell all your treehugger friends. The 2014 BMW i8 Concours d'Elegance Edition also has laser headlights (as long as BMW gets government approval for them in the US) and comes with the first BMW Charging Station, professional edition. The standard i8 starts at $135,700 and Gooding & Company expects the special i8 to bring in between $150,000 and $200,000 at the auction. We'll find out Saturday, August 16. As a bonus, there's no reserve.

The Concours d'Elegance is not a complete stranger to electric vehicles, hosting an EV display at the Meadow Brook Concours in suburban Detroit last year.

News Source: BMW

Coal-rolling Ram dually does tandem beer-shooting burnout with ATV in bed

Posted Jul 25th 2014 8:03PM

A Coal-Rolling tandem ATV burnout

Sometimes a video comes around that just makes you shake your head in disbelief. Take for example these guys from Nebraska in their dually diesel flatbed Ram, doing a smoky burnout. Lighting up the tires is nothing new, but these folks take things a step further by having another guy on an ATV in bed that is also smoking the tires. Finally, people are sitting on a couch in the bed taking the whole show in, as beer cans shoot out of the stacks.

There have been several stories recently about the scourge of rolling coal, i.e., diesel trucks modified to lay down a thick, black smoke screen, sometimes for vaguely political reasons. Whatever your opinion is on it, breathing in this much nasty stuff isn't exactly great for your health. Of course, it turns out that burning rubber is pretty awful, too. Both diesel and tire emissions contain cancer-causing Group 1 carcinogens. Combine them with the cigarette smoking here, and these guys are an oncologist's nightmare. Scroll down to take it all in for yourself. Warning, there is a little explicit language.

News Source: 1320 Video via YouTube

In China, Tesla Model S is missing one basic feature

Posted Jul 25th 2014 6:44PM

Tesla Model S Nav Screen

There were questions about the nav system in the Tesla Model S when the vehicle launched in the US, and there are still people who don't like it. But here's the thing: the US version at least has a nav system. With the luxury electric vehicle now available in China, drivers are discovering that the car is shipping without a working navigation system at all.

As China EV blogger Alysha Webb reports, Tesla's explanation for the lack of a nav system is that "Google maps are not supported." At least the company is working on an alternative map database for the land where Google doesn't work right. We've confirmed with Tesla PR in the US that Webb's report contains an official Tesla response, which includes the following:

Currently there isn't a navigation system in Chinese Model S as Google maps are not supported in the country. However, teams are currently working on a solution with Chinese text and voice recognition. We plan to introduce navigation to Chinese cars later this year (as already communicated to our customers). Once it's available, maps will be pushed to customers' vehicles through software updates.

One interesting quirk is that Tesla can't yet push the updated map to everyone over the air, since, "remote over-the-air software updates are not yet supported in Chinese Model S." Instead, Tesla will have to rely on its backend system to update the EV to what most American customers would consider standard equipment in a car in this price range. You can read the whole thing here.

Tommykaira ZZ ready for a customizable EV closeup

Posted Jul 25th 2014 5:53PM

Tommykaira ZZ Electric Roadster

Tesla Roadster? What Tesla Roadster? Japanese automaker GLM and Japan racing-car maker Tommykaira are putting the finishing touches on one very cool electric roadster. No word on when it will reach the US but it looks worth waiting for.

The Tommykaira ZZ is said to be able to go from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds, about the same as a Tesla Roadster, according to Tech In Asia. The advantage is that Kyoto-based GLM specializes in what it calls "adaptable" chassis, so the flexibility and customization possibilities may be far beyond what's typical for a high-end sports car, much less an EV.

The model, priced at about $80,000, has sold out of its initial small batch in Japan, but the companies say broader production for markets such as Europe and Taiwan may start next year. Mitsubishi Capital and Globis Capital Partners are among companies who helped fund the development of the Tommykaira ZZ.

We'd reported on Tommykaira back in early 2010 when the company gained from renown for offering special body and wheel kits for hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. But this is far more impressive. Check out the really cool 87-second video of the electric roadster (yes, right-hand drive) in action below.

News Source: Tommykaira, Tech In Asia

AAA finds stop-start could save you $179 a year

Posted Jul 25th 2014 3:56PM

That silence you hear? It's a month's worth of payments on the family car-insurance plan not being spent on an idling engine. That's one way to look at new numbers out from the AAA that say stop-start engine technology will save drivers a solid chunk of change in the form of lower refueling costs. If only more automakers would embrace the tech for their vehicles.

AAA says a typical US driver can save $179 a year if they drive a car with a stop-start system, which automatically shuts off the engine when the car's not moving. By typical, AAA means a driver putting 15,000 miles a year on a car that gets 20 miles per gallon. AAA figured this out by running a commuter simulation with a 2013 Ford Fusion, a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS550 and a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

Hybrid Cars noted in 2011 that as much as 42 percent of new vehicles in 2016 would offer start-stop technology, and the lack of incentives prevented that number from being higher. Part of the problem with introducing the technology to the US is that the EPA's testing methods don't factor in real-world driving factors (yet) that can be boosted by stop-start technology. Therefore, the current tests underestimate the technology's fuel-saving benefits.

The lack of incentives appeared to take hold, as the US didn't get its first midsize family sedan with stop-start technology until the 2013 Ford Fusion offered it as a $295 option in the fall of 2012. Ford estimated at the time that the stop-start-equipped Fusion would save drivers about $220 a year in refueling costs relative to other midsize sedans, making it a good investment. Chevy now offers stop-start standard in some versions of the 2015 Impala.

Late last year, German automotive component maker Bosch estimated that stop-start systems may cut fuel use by about 10 percent. Bosch made that claim right after Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler said the EPA was underestimating fuel economy achieved by its sedans equipped with stop-start. Check out AAA's press release below.

News Source: AAA

Recharge Wrap-up: EV torque secrets, UC Davis maps future of biofuels

New Street-Legal Polaris Utility EV; Formula E Is Free At Long Beach

Posted Jul 25th 2014 2:15PM

fiat 500e

A UC Davis white paper maps out "Three Routes Forward for Biofuels," balancing investment risk with carbon benefits. The first option is "incremental," in which we tinker with the existing biofuel manufacturing infrastructure for small improvements over time. The "transitional" plan suggests integrating cellulosic production and other innovations with existing operations. The third route, called "leapfrogging," would mean building refineries based on new technology such as cellulosic and algae-based biofuels. The paper suggests ways the US could use these three routes together in different areas, and predicts the payoffs in terms of carbon emissions could be significant if the right people are willing to risk the capital. After all, financial advisers are always telling investors to diversify their portfolios to manage risk and rewards in the same way. Read more over at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

The Formula E Long Beach ePrix will offer free admission. The seventh round of the inaugural all-electric race season, which was moved from Los Angeles to the streets of Long Beach, will offer fans free grandstand and general admission. The race, which takes place on April 5, 2015, will use a 1.6-mile portion of IndyCar's Grand Prix of Long Beach. Read more at LA Times.

Polaris is now offering its 2015 GEM electric vehicles, including the new street-legal eM1400 LSV. The passenger and utility vehicles come in two- to six-passenger configurations, many of which are street legal on roads with posted speed limits of up to 35 miles per hour. The eM1400 LSV utility vehicle seats two, offers 1,250 pounds of payload, 1,250 pounds of towing capacity, a top speed of 25 mph and a range of up to 45 miles. Its on-board charger plugs into any standard 110-volt outlet. Read more at Hybrid Cars and check out all the different configurations yourself at the Polaris website.

In EVs, more torque does not always equal faster. Green Car Reports found this out when driving the Fiat 500e (with 147 pound-feet) against the similarly weighted Chevrolet Spark EV (with 400 pound-feet). The secret is, at least in part, in the gearing. The Fiat has a 9.6:1 reduction gear, making it quicker at lower speeds despite having far less available torque, while the Chevy uses a 3:1 ratio. The trade-off though, is in top speed. Furthermore, Chevy electronically limits the torque delivery at low speeds, as 400 pound-feet is a lot of launch for the little Spark EV to handle. Learn more in the article over at Green Car Reports. It's enlightening.
Related Gallery2014 Fiat 500e
2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e2014 Fiat 500e

News Source: UC Davis, LA Times, Hybrid Cars, Polaris, Green Car Reports

Image Credit: Fiat

A window into China's low-speed electric vehicle revolution

Over 200,000 Low-Speed EVs Sold In 2013

Posted Jul 25th 2014 11:56AM

Chinese Low Speed EV

China is the largest market for electric vehicles in the world. Not highway-speed passenger electric automobiles but low-speed electric vehicles, which in China do not qualify as automobiles.

There are literally hundreds of low-speed electric vehicle manufacturers in China and they manufactured over 200,000 four-wheel low-speed EVs in 2013. This low-speed electric vehicle revolution has put over half a million EVs on the roads in China while nobody was looking. Even in China, most people don't realize how invasive these vehicles have become or how powerful the low-speed EV industry in China has become.

Low-speed EVs in China combine automobile design practices from the 1930s with modern manufacturing processes to produce the cheapest electric vehicles in the world.

The cheapest low-speed EVs sell for $2,000 while a top-of-the-line vehicle can sell for $12,000. Luxury models include power steering, power brakes, heating and air conditioning. Keep in mind that a cheap new gasoline automobile sells for only $5,000 in China. Low-speed EVs in China are usually based on a welded steel frame with a stamped steel body on top. These vehicles combine automobile design practices from the 1930's with modern manufacturing processes to produce the cheapest electric vehicles in the world. Bodies are stamped using low-cost, low-volume stamping dies and then cut using three-dimensional laser cutting robots.

An entire stamped steel body for an electric vehicle can now be tooled up for less than $1 million, which is incredibly cheap and unheard of in the automobile industry outside China. An entire metal stamping industry has grown up to service the low-speed EV market. Amateur car designers are now financing their own EV projects, creating some cars which just three years ago would have never seen the light of day, as you can see in our accompanying gallery.

The low-speed vehicle market has also fostered the growth of component manufacturers for electric automobiles. China is home to a half-dozen electric heating/air conditioning systems manufacturers and another half-dozen manufacturers of electric power brake systems. Five years ago there were none. This supplier growth will benefit China's electric automobile industry in the years to come.
Related GalleryChinese Low Speed EVs
Chinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVsChinese Low Speed EVs

Smart updating EV, cabrio models for the Fortwo

Posted Jul 25th 2014 10:03AM


For Smart, the future is now, or at least this fall. That's when the next-generation versions of Daimler's Smart line of compact vehicles, which were unveiled earlier this month, reach European showrooms, Automotive News says. They might be the first of a broader range that would follow them to stores shortly thereafter.

The two-seat Smart Fortwo and the four-seat Forfour will start European sales in November, and the word is that a convertible model and a battery-electric version will follow. We don't know when the next-gen Fortwo will reach the US but that Forfour is unlikely to ever be sold stateside.

A broader vehicle line from Smart may be necessary for the badge's longer-term survival. The company has registered the term "Formore," indicating the possibility of an extra-long version of the Forfour that would be earmarked for the US and China. The Forfour may get a convertible version (it already has a fabric roof), while another, sportier roadster-type model could also be developed, Australia's says, citing an interview with Smart's design director Kai Sieber.

Earlier this month, Smart unveiled the look of the 2016 Fortwo and Forfour, whose powertrains range from 60 to 90 horsepower. A bit more aggressive looking the new Smarts will keep their colorful options with as many as 40 mix-and-match exterior color schemes.
Related Gallery2016 Smart Fortwo
2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo2016 Smart Fortwo

Drive an EV and you, too, can pay the equivalent of 75 cents a gallon

Posted Jul 25th 2014 7:57AM

One in six households can party like it's 1979 by purchasing a plug-in vehicle. Add a thumpin' sound system to that vehicle and you can celebrate by pumping out an appropriate hit from that year, too. We think Chic's Good Times would be appropriate.

Thanks to special rates for households with battery-electric of plug-in hybrid vehicles, about 21 million households (a sixth of the country's total), can drive their car for the equivalent of about 75 cents a gallon. The numbers come from a study from Northeast Group. Seventy-five shiny pennies for a gallon is about a fifth of what current gas prices are today and is equal to what folks were paying way back during the waning days of disco in 1979. Let's get down.

There was new on the lower rates for EV-charging last month when Minnesota became the first US state to mandate that investor-owned utilities offer plug-in vehicle owners such discounts. In addition to Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Maryland and Texas were among the 14 states with utilities offering EV-friendly electric rates. Sounds like it's time for 36 states to catch up.

News Source: ChargedEVs

How fast can a Formula E racer go? This fast

Posted Jul 24th 2014 7:57PM

lucas di grassi formula e lap video

Formula E completed its first testing session at the Donington Park circuit, where the electric racing series' headquarters are located. Lucas di Grassi, driving for Audi Sport Abt, was kind enough to attach a GoPro video camera to his helmet to give us a pilot's-eye view of what its like to steer Formula E's Spark-Renault SRT_01E around the track at full speed.

Formula E rules state there is to be an FIA-limited maximum speed of 225 kilometers per hour (140 miles per hour), and an estimated 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) time of 2.9 seconds. It appears the cars are capable of a little better. According to the video's description, the car can do 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds, and reaches speeds of over 230 kph (143 mph) on this track. It's not quite Formula 1 speeds, but it's not slow either, which is clear in the video. Also, with many of the drivers being Formula 1 veterans, we can look forward to some ace driving this season.

During the five days of testing, drivers got used to the cars, worked out some of the kinks and got the chance to shave seconds off their lap times. Lucas di Grassi was the second fastest, with a lap time of 1:31.2. Sébastien Buemi was best over all, with a lap of 1:31.083.

Check out the video below for a lap around the circuit with di Grassi. Maybe start with the volume turned low. There's quite a bit of wind noise. It is an open cockpit, after all. If you're curious about the sound of the car, check out the video in this article.

News Source: Hybrid Cars via YouTube

Image Credit: YouTube


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