Rimac’s Real (well, mostly)

Rimac Automobili, the Croatian company that I mentioned, is one step closer to selling its supercar design.  Rimac has obtained ten million Euros (~12 million USD) towards selling its “C1” or “Concept_One” super-coupe.  Investors have contributed this much for a Series A financing round; the company claims it is expanding and developing.

rimaclogoOn the one hand, this looks pretty compelling.  The vehicle itself, with over 1,000 horsepower as currently designed, can embarrass many Ferraris; founder Mate Rimac claims its interior will have every appointment.  Mate Rimac got his start as an e-racer of his own conversions and homebuilts, so he’s not coming in cold.  He’s also selling components to other automakers, and the Greyp electric bike/moped, again gaining practical experience in real-word products and manufacturing.  This is in Eastern Europe mind you, with low wages and rents but surprising scientific and engineering talent.  Meanwhile, since the C1 car will go for a million apiece, at a low delivery rate, to those who can pay cash on the counter, financing the company behind it will be easier than in a more consumer-oriented, competitive, high-production rate market segment.

On the other hand though, ~$12 million is NOTHING in auto world.  It’s why I led off with “one step closer,” and not “already there.”  Rimac’s capitalization is around 70-80 million dollars; Tesla by comparison required oh… around half a billion to get going.  And that’s starting with the Tesla Roadster, which was built around the Lotus Elise, which was already converted to electric by other houses.  It took three more years to go from Roadster to the Model S, the company burning up money all the way.  While this one financing round makes Rimac more credible than it was before, that’s still not saying all that much.  Continue reading

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No One (Wheeled) Solution

Someone by me has a unicycle.  Actually saw him go about his day, not just around the block.  He finally got on public transportation.

That got me thinking: the “final mile” problem is real, and really needs multiple solutions.  To planners, “final mile” is getting to mass transit when you’re in a suburb or similar and can’t just walk.  With no final-mile answer, it’s tempting to just drive the whole way, if you had to drive to a train station.  In Japan, Toyota is demoing little NEVs (Neigborhood Electric Vehicles) in railroad suburbs.  These can’t do highways, and seat just one or two, but are perfect for the final mile.  With no highway range or speed, batteries are just fine, and the charge points need only be household outlets at the station and your house.

I walk or ride a bike; this guy took his unicycle.  A Segway has appeal for trips like this, but has the same issue as a bike: you need to lock it up, as it’s hard to take indoors or onto that mass transit.  A unicycle, kick-scooter (“Razor”), or skateboard, though, you just pick up.  I pondered skates for the final mile, and know a guy with an electric skateboard.  Skateboards have marketing issues, though, since not all can balance… and not all are twelve.  Besides e-bikes, electric unicycles and Razors exist, too; who will market the final-mile killer?

March On

Time for a winter update, now that Spring is officially here.  I was quite surprised to see that for weeks, my battery pack had not lost any bars, strictly speaking.  Of course, there are eleven bars on the Zero’s meter; it’s likely that the loss of charge simply wasn’t one bar’s worth.  This, despite the fact that I don’t have a garage and simply left it in the yard, completely exposed to the cold.  It’s also consistent with some other manufacturers’ EV experiences- lithium likes cold just fine.

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Let’s keep it like the left, not the right.

I was pleasantly surprised that my town, at least, hasn’t gone nuts with the salt.  Even though there were some snow and sleet moments, the ground was simply too warm to cause ice patches.  My town didn’t salt up the place, just to be sure.  Not sure if that’s sensible thinking, or just being cheapskates.  So the limitation on riding is now whether I feel like frostnip or not.  Haven’t bought or built handguards or a flyscreen. Continue reading

Let It Salt, Let It Salt, Let It Salt

Yes, winter is upon us.  The white stuff is falling, and the coarser white stuff is too.  I’ve laid up the Zero for the season.  No special accommodations are necessary; the EV battery will sit there just like a regular bike’s battery.  If the winter turns out to be long, then it would be good to top up the battery sometime mid-season, just like a conventional, lead-acid car/moto battery.  The one caveat here is that we’re told not to charge a freezing battery.  The manual says freezing, which one would assume to be 32 F.  I’ve also heard 20 F; I don’t intend to push it either way.  There’ll be at least one day, even in midwinter, where the air temperature is obviously and consistently above freezing.  If I really want to be sure, I can bring it inside, or at least roll the bike up to the dryer vent.  (This freezing thing wasn’t a problem, even pre-salt.  The pack retains heat from riding, then warms slightly in charging.  So I would plug in when I got home even at 31 F or 19 F or whatever.)

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Not snow… not salt grains…

Growing up in the Midwest, some people had “salt cars.”  Old but functional cars for use in winter, while their nice one stayed salt- and slushball-free.  You don’t see that as much, with modern materials.  The thought crossed my mind again, though.  Right now I’m split between public transportation, and biking/hoofing it.  But my bicycles are due for a good amount of annoying work, and flu season is supposed to be brutal.  So…?

For winter-only purposes, an electric car doesn’t really make sense.  Having a battery pack sit unused (Summer or Winter, or whatever) is throwing money away.  If you’ve spent the extra money upfront, that pack needs to be rolling, to earn its keep via fuel savings.  Not using it enough means not saving.  What about… ethanol, propane, or natural gas? Continue reading

No Bring A Zero

Well, that’s it.  They salted the streets, so I’m calling it a motorcycle-riding season.

Back in the Autumn, I decided to call it a year when the municipalities started salting.  Not that a Zero can’t take salt.  But, being a new vehicle, I figured it was the safe thing to do.  Besides, it’s a pretty clear line.  My cold tolerance was being severely tested by this dry, unsalted December we’ve had; in previous seasons I’ve had a fingertip or two lose feeling for days.  The outside decision to salt then stops that ambiguity.  Now there are obvious clumps of salt grains in spots where the scattering hung up for some reason.  Fortunately, there weren’t more than one or two puddles, so I didn’t throw any significant amount of greywater onto anything.

I’ve got plenty to write about still.  If nothing else, I’ll be back on the human-powered bike for more than errands.  I happened to have bought a nice model with a non-ferrous frame, and the rest is either also not-steel, replaceable, or consumable outright.  And the onward trundle of other technologies continues, of course.

Bike CVT: Derailleurs not derailed

It has been brought to my attention that the bicycle has another, new transmission option: the CVT.

The NuVinci gearshift looks like a hub gear, with a command cable coming out one side to the shifter.  Except, you can dial the analog shifter at will, for stepless changes.  And?

Well, there’s the and.  CVTs aren’t really transformative transmissions, at least in the bicycle world.  Human legs have a narrow powerband, sure.  But they can pause and “reengage” at will, with only a loss of concentration, not efficiency, really.  The NuVinci does not weigh less, nor does it save much in friction losses.  It’s more weatherized, but so were hub gears.  So far, it doesn’t span a huge range, which would at least appeal to downhillers.

The target market, then, is utility bikes (in-town or commuting vehicles).  Except, these riders also want a cheap bike, and something with “elastohydrodynamic fluid” (the special grease needed to drive the system) isn’t rock bottom, or anywhere near.  Of course, let’s not have tunnel vision.  The target market is ultimately anyone who will pay the company, including automakers with advanced alternators, variable superchargers, or simply small, advanced hatches.

Should the technology be mass-produced for multiple markets, then bicycle applications will eventually be cheap enough to compete in that market.  Otherwise, I see no leapfrogging or even upheaval.  Heck, people have taken to singlespeeds and related urban bikes.  For the industry, that’s a mindshare and business upheaval if not a technological one (or even anti-technological).