Past Gas- Nasty!

While I was distracted by multiple conventions

BMW issued a recall, for fire.  Yes, BMW- though it’s BMW motorcycles this time.  A fuel fitting cracks and leaks.  Except, since the fittings are between the fuel pump and the injectors, the leak is more of a spray.  A spray of toxic, volatile, and thus explosive gas.  BMW went with the “leak” approach, despite riders reporting being sprayed, and having their garage floors soaked.  What’s worse, it’s apparent BMW knew of the fitting years ago.  A metal reinforcement was applied to the interface, in an attempt to fix the issue.  Guess it didn’t.

Again and again, you’re a hypocrite if you single out battery fires.  Gasoline is not only the most explosive thing the average person buys, but it’s as explosive as the law allows.  Companies would make it even more volatile if they could.

See also: Dateline: Hypocrisy and Dateline: STILL Hypocrites

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CES 2: Wheels = 1

When most people think of ‘transportation,’ they don’t think ‘gadget,’ and thus, CES.  Some are trying to change that worldview.  First came Segways, which didn’t break out of niches as planned.  With more work and lower part prices, Solowheel did the same job in unicycle form, hence the name.  It, too, had issues.  Balance is certainly easier than a “dumb” unicycle, but they have no seat.  You resort to using your knees for body english.  The SBU V3 aids this, with a seat to both rest on, and lean against for finer control.

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Photo credit: Onewheel

CES now brought us the Onewheel.  Instead of a Segway/ unicycle hybrid, it’s a Segway/skateboard.  You still lean to turn, but now forward/back… and bow/stern.  Makers compare it to snowboarding, partially since one huge, pneumatic wheel soaks up bumps way better than 4 tiny, solid ones.  Consider it the Segway’ed Wheelman Bushpig, out for 10 years now.

Options for final-mile transport (from your door, to public transport) are growing.  Just in time for global urbanization and US re-urbanization.  But I’d still work on it- the Onewheel has issues. Continue reading

NAIAS Vast: B2B EV

I’ve said it before: there’s an entire, enormous world the consumer on the street doesn’t see.  Except this time, it’s still on the street.

Via Motors sells electrified vehicles, just not to you.  Via takes truck and van chassis, and finishes them out (“coachbuilding”) as plug-in hybrids with a Volt-like drivetrain.  (Founder Bob Lutz came from GM, and no surprise, uses GM platforms.)  The resulting vehicles are not merely saving gas; they are now huge, self-propelled generators.  The company, then, predicted their killer app would be selling work trucks to utilities.

They seem to be on to something.  Via has a functional factory, and announced their latest big score: approximately $100 million from Canadian buyers.  Sun Country Highway has electrified the Transcontinental Highway, primarily through EVSEs at Best Western hotels.  Sun Country Highway and Best Western are now starting with their first $10 million in Via vehicles, as shuttle vans for the hotels.  Charging will be at SCH charge points, which will save the hotel chain money, and then be available for guest vehicles. Continue reading

CES 1, Audi 2(ish)

NAIAS happens to be the same time as CES, the Consumer Electronics Show.  I’ve been giving CES a whiff, simply because handheld gadgetry has been far removed from the energy domain.

No more.  Not only is telematics big, but vehicles themselves are falling in the gadget category.  Exhibit A, literally: Audi’s multiprong effort in 21st Century cars.  Besides NAIAS, they chose CES to show the Quattro Laserlight concept.  That’s “laser,” as in lasers = cool, and “Quattro™,” as in “we need 4 wheels to handle the 700 horsepower.”  Yup, not 170 hp, but seven hundred hybrid horsies.  It’s a concept car, sure.  But Volkswagen AG has committed to EVs and PHEVs, including two Porsches.  Now add Audi’s (planned) designs in (arguably) three segments.

And no mild hybrid, this Audi.  The electric motor gives 110 kW (147 hp), as much as the Honda Accord Hybrid, and backed up by a battery good for ~30 miles. Continue reading

NAIAS Blast

NAIAS without gas?  The big (electric) news is that Audi is getting serious about clean vehicles.  They’re part of Volkswagen AG, which also includes Porsche (all intent on electrification, starting with hybrids).  Yet, Audi was on again, off again with their e-tron plug-in sports coupe.  Originally advertized for 2012, the company then wavered again and again.  No more.  The R8 e-tron has been (re)confirmed.  The official line is that better batteries made the vehicle competitive; rumor is that Tesla had made their 2012 plans uncompetitive.  Going deeper- or shallower, if we’re talking pocketbooks- Audi also showed an A3 Allroad e-tron.  This crossover is a big hatchback (“sportback”) with electric all-wheel-drive and good acceleration.  Though a concept for now, Audi placed it front and center, including in their publicity, as if to show they’re a serious competitor.

Combined with VW’s e-Golf and e-Up and XL1, and Porsche’s plug-in Panamera and 918 Spyder…whole lotta snakin’ goin’ on there in Wolfsburg.  Tesla meanwhile was coy and vague about 2014- no firm Model X date besides “future,” and nothing firm on the Model E at all.

Buncha Lightweights!

Now about that NAIAS (“Detroit Auto Show” to most).  The big news (and I mean big) is aluminum Ford F-150s.  Sure, the Acura NSX and big Audi luxury sedans were aluminum-bodied, as is the Tesla Model S.  But those are niche vehicles, for people who can afford a daily driver.  The F-150 on the other hand, is the stereotypical daily driver.  (Well, except for chromed-up air haulers, a stereotype within truck world.)  Will trucksters accept aluminum… or cruncha lightweights?

They should- Ford’s been making aluminum hoods, decklids, trim, etc. for about two decades now, besides Honda Ltd. and Volkswagen Group and others.  About two decades right alongside steel lines, in the same factories.  ‘But those are covers,’ you might whine.  ‘I can drive without a hood or trunk if necessary.’  You can make the same attack on the F-150- it’s a body-on-frame design.  The cab and bed sit on a frame, which is still steel.  Trucks can still roll down the road to some degree with no body.  You can also make the point of heavy trucks (NOT air haulers), and airplanes.  Aircraft are monocoque, with fully load-bearing skins of aluminum- have been for almost a century now.   Continue reading

Electron-Honda Follow-On

Before I do NAIAS… Honda could be called “He-Who-Ruins-Hybrids” from recent history.  Yet they seemingly “nailed the formula” with 2014’s Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid.  This, despite screwing up the ’06 Accord Hybrid; I tried a New Insight too, and was very unimpressed.  The current (heh) Accord Hybrid is being compared to the Ford Fusion, called the smoothest and best-engineered 2013 hybrid (despite being a big sedan, not an econocar).

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it’s the Chevy Volt that should be proud.  BMW poached Chevy’s staff for their plug-in hybrids; the 2014 Accord now takes a page from the Volt too.  While the Volt certainly has its issues, it now seems to me GM got the concept down, but whiffed on some details.  Honda, with the hindsight of a second (or  third or fourth) mover, sounds like it now got the details too.

Like Chevy and Ford, the Accord has a battery pack and 4-cylinder gasser.  Unlike them, the 2014 Accord sounds simple and mostly straightforward: Continue reading