On 2021-07-07 Robert N. Charette wrote an article in IEEE Spectrum, How Software Is Eating the Car, The trend toward self-driving and electric vehicles will add hundreds of millions of lines of code to cars. Can the auto industry cope?
As usual, an article in Slash Dot ( /.) is my main source of biased opinions about a serious technological issue, with one typical comment given a score of 4: interesting. It read: “If you get something pre-1978 then the most sophisticated electronics in the vehicle will probably be the radio kit.” This was then followed by numerous comments about 1976 (and later) Chrysler Cordobas. This type of reasoning reaches its zenith with, “What was the last car without this nonsense? Makes me want to buy a classic car or motorcycle, just for the simplicity.”
Yes, for a long time the trend has been towards increasing [Engine Control Units =] ECUs, based on the design philosophy of, “If you want a new feature, you buy a box from a Tier 1 [top-level component suppliers, such as Bosch] that provides the feature, and wire it in. As a general rule, automakers love outsourcing work; for most of them, their dream scenario is that everyone else does all the work for them and they just slap a badge on it and take a cut.
Then Rei adds a score 5: informative, but long, comment: “This article actually has it backwards. The first company to break with this philosophy was Tesla, which has from the beginning had a strong philosophy of in-house software design, and built basically a ‘car OS’ that offloads most vehicle software functionality into a handful of computers (with redundancy on safety-critical functionality). … Eventually everyone is going to have to either make their own ‘car OS’ stack or lease one from someone else. The benefits are just too significant[:] Lower hardware costs, lower assembly costs, lower power consumption, simpler cheaper lighter wiring harness, faster iteration time on new functionality, closer integration between different subsystems, you name it. This trend throws into reverse the notion of ever-increasing numbers of ECUs (which quite simply was an unsustainable trend).”
Who could possibly disagree?
What is the minimal vehicle a person needs? Of course, there will be as many answers as there are people, and it will all be dependent on what they are doing. There are a lot of vehicles available, but I will not refer to them as choices. Some places lack trams or other forms of public transit. They may exist in other places, but run at inappropriate frequencies. Some communities lack bike lanes, forcing cyclists to compete for space with cars. Some streets are perpetually gridlocked.
Some people need to work, outside of their residences! Does one have to take children to kindergartens or schools? What distance does one have to travel to attain basic health and nutritional needs? Can this be done as part of a commute, or is a separate trip necessary? What about specialty shops? What is the distance to the nearest bus station/ train station/ airport/ international airport? Is there a need for a social life? Is one dependent on driving a car? Could a bicycle do for some items? Are trains or buses an option? So many questions, so few obvious answers.
Perhaps my own situations could be used as an example. Compared to most people, my life is simple: no job is calling me, and I am no longer responsible for looking after young children. Yesterday, I used a vehicle with a mass of about 1.5 Megagrams (where 1 Mg = 1 000 kg), to drive 40 km. Admittedly, there are vehicles that weigh less than a car. A bicycle is probably the most efficient device for conveying people, and it can have a mass of from about 5 to about 20 kg. Yet, I would not feel safe driving one of these on the roads of rural Norway. There are no buses, but if I plan in advance and contact the appropriate office a day in advance, I might be able to use public transit, essentially a taxi charging bus rates, as long as I am willing to wait up to several hours, for a return trip.
The most basic foods, as well as building supplies, can be purchased with a 14 km return trip across Skarnsund bridge in Mosvik, where there is even a coffee bar, with better than acceptable lattes. Basic health care (doctor, dentist, pharmacy, optometrist) and a larger selection of food and basic necessities are met by driving 26 km for a return trip in the opposite direction, into Straumen. More specialty shops are available in Steinkjer involving a 70 km round trip. This all involves driving. However, there is also a train station at Røra, 40 km round trip by car, that will allow one to connect with an international airport (TRD), and the fourth largest city in Norway, Trondheim, about 120 km away – 240 km round trip, with an even larger selection of shops and activities.
I am in agreement with Rei, that more software (and less hardware) is needed in vehicles. Yet, I am reading this week that General Motors is charging purchasers of many GMC, Buick, and Cadillac vehicles, that are shipped with OnStar and Connected Services Premium Plan by default, $1 500 for the three-year plan that was once optional, but is now required. Other companies are doing the same sort of thing. It is estimated that this revenue stream could give GM an additional $20 to 25 billion per year by 2030. BMW has come out with similar claims, giving them an additional revenue of about $5 billion per year by 2030. I do not want to ensure that a wealthy elite continues to take more of an income pie that is already unfairly divided.
At issue is the right of consumers to direct access to vehicle data, which historically has been obtained from an on-board diagnostic (OBD-2) port (North America) or European on-board diagnostic (EOBD) port, since 1996 and 2001, respectively. These allowed vehicle owners and technicians access to vehicle data to assist with maintenance and repair. This situation is threatened by vehicle manufacturers, who want to use telematics = the sending of data wirelessly and directly, restricting vehicle data to manufacturers. In 2021, 50% of new cars have these connected capabilities, but no country has more than 20% of its vehicle fleet equipped. USA has the most. By 2030, it is estimated that about 95% of new vehicles sold globally will have this connectivity, according to a study by McKinsey.
While this data could provide economic and other benefits to car owners, vehicle manufacturer want to act as gatekeeper, determining who can access it, and at what cost. This is a detriment to consumers, which could result in: Increased consumer costs; restrictions on consumer choices for maintenance and repair; safety and security issues involving the use of non-standard data types and formats; privacy concerns. Automotive mechanics, and other aftermarket providers can also be affected.
This has resulted in a consumer backlash, which I associate with the right-to-repair movement. There are already open-source groups working to ensure that consumers retain their rights. In addition, Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) is an open source project hosted by The Linux Foundation that is building an open operating system and framework for automotive applications. It was started in 2012, and currently has 146 corporate members.
I imagine that automotive manufacturers will try to add just enough proprietary software to their vehicles, to profit maximally from their investment. On the other hand, I see that there will be an incentive for ordinary consumers to demand right-to-repair legislation, and for guerilla activists to produce generic software substitutes where this is useful.
In Europe, repair is increasingly regarded as an essential consumer right and an environmental necessity. The main objective of the European Green Deal, is to be climate neutral by 2050. The European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), published 2020-03, details how this goal is to be reached. To reduce waste, products have to be designed to last. If they don’t last, they shouldn’t be sold. To encourage the development of products that are longer-lasting, there could be lifespan labels, service manuals, and an EU-wide repairability index. This would encourage the market to compete on repairable and durability.
In 2020-11, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a right-to-repair, and insisted that the more conservative European Commission administrative arm, implement it. It also included repairability labeling.
In 2020-11, voters in Massachusetts approved Question 1, involving a right-to-repair Law, with almost 75 percent in favour. The law requires automakers to provide a way for car owners and their chosen repair shops to access vehicle data, including that sent wirelessly to the manufacturer. The intent of this law is to prevent manufacturers and dealerships from having exclusive access to data.
Massachusetts is the state where the first automotive right-to-repair law was passed in 2012. That law made car makers open up the data inside the car. Rather than create a state by state solution, automakers reached a nationwide agreement with car parts makers/ suppliers and repair shops on how to share the data. This agreement opened the OBD-II port. With this new and improved right-to-repair law, similar transformative actions are required.
There are an increasing number of underpaid programmers and other software and hardware specialists, unable to fully live the American (and Scandinavian) dream. Many of these would undoubtedly be willing to work as guerilla technologists to develop the tools needed for retrofitting vehicles with more consumer friendly components, especially after warranties have ended. There are an increasing number of inexpensive microprocessors and systems on a chip that can be used for these purposes.
To put electric vehicles in perspective, one needs to return to 1965-11-05, when President Lynden Johnson was given a copy of Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, a report by the Environmental Pollution Panel, President’s Science Advisory Committee. On publication of this blog, people have had 20 735 days or 56 years, 9 months, 8 days to confront this challenge, but have failed miserably at this task.
One fundamental question is, where can younger people learn more about the construction of appropriate vehicles for the 21st century? Currently the most interesting project is Woodpecker, that describes itself as an: “Open source based Carbon negative Electric Vehicle Platform. Woodpecker is a game changing micromobility vehicle to decrease CO2. Electrical propulsion allows to use solar and renewable power. Production of Wooden frame even decreasing CO2 because it is encapsulated by [wood] while growing. Vehicle built on Circular Economy concept – most parts are recyclable.” It appears to have originated in Latvia, and includes partnerships with many higher-educational institutions in the country. One problem with Woodpecker, is that it as an organization is too closely bound to commercial enterprises. For example, a good starting point for most open-source projects is to become acquainted with their documentation. In this case it requires people interested in downloading their technical drawings to have a Trimble account, in order to use Sketchup.
1. This post follows up some aspects of Vehicle Devices, published 2020-11-03. The division between parts is not based on content, but time. Part 1 of this weblog post was originally written 2021-06-18 and saved at 10:49. It had been patiently waiting to be published. On 2022-08-12, outdated content was removed, and Part 2, was added, starting at 20:43. Parts 3 was started on 2022-08-13 at about 07:40, while part 4 was started on the same date at 08:48.
2. Trondheim claims to be the third largest city in Norway, but I would give that title to Stavanger. The challenge with Stavanger, is that its metropolitan area is divided between multiple municipalities. Yes, I am aware that I have offended some of my Norwegian readers, because of their origins in Trøndelag. However, Stavanger is the only place in Norway where I have ever been able to find/ buy root beer! This is probably due to Americans working in the oil industry, and living in the Stavanger area.
As I attempted to write the first paragraph of this weblog post, an observer came by. So I made a comment, hoping for some encouragement: “Beautiful boat, isn’t it?”
“Not particularly,” came the reply. “It looks awfully cold. They even have to wear toques. If someone fell in the water, how would they get back onboard?”
At that point I realized, yet again, that the observer and I live in two different universes. In my universe, the boat motor stops, the foils sink and the hull floats on the water. The person in the water is dragged through the open transom onto the boat. It is probably one of the easiest boats in existence to effect a rescue. I replied, “Would you like some tea?”
Tea is one of her passions, while watercraft are one of mine. A major achievement was building a sailing dinghy, a 2.4 meter long Sabot, at the age of thirteen. In my adult life I have owned two sailboats, including a Eygthene 24 cruiser.
Theoretically, I share the same speed obsession as Toad of Toad Hall as found in Kenneth Graham’s (1859 – 1932) Wind in the Willows (1908), but in a more maritime variant. I appreciate fast sailboats including America’s cup AC72 foiling catamarans, AC75 foiling monohulls and even more affordable foiling Moth dinghys.
Practically, I usually sailed my cruiser from its harbour to a small inlet two nautical miles (NM = 3.5 km) away. I would then anchor, and enjoy the tranquility of its relatively remote location. One could make that journey in almost any type of boat, including a kayak or a row boat. The advantages of a cruiser include its galley, bunks, head and shelter from inclement weather.
A glimmer of hope that I might appreciate motorized vessels occurred in 2015. Aspiring to develop a new industry here in Norway, I gave my Technology students an assignment to design an electrically powered, water-jet vessel, based on a surfboard. I introduced the topic by showing a video about river jetsurfing. Now there are foiling boards as well, as this video shows. There are other foiling boards available, but most of them use propellers rather than waterjets, something I find ill-advised.
The Candela C-8 impresses me in several different ways.
First, the hull is constructed out of carbon fibre, using vacuum molding techniques to create a rigid platform to mount the driveline and foils, as well as passenger accommodation. It is also lightweight. However, it is not something that I would like to come into close contact with sharp rocks.
Second, the driveline is remarkable. The battery is enclosed in a waterproof container, to prevent salt-water from damaging it. It is freshwater cooled. Its 40 kWh lithium ion NMC battery pack (from BMW i3) could (theoretically) power the vessel for 50 NM = 92.6 km = 57.5 miles. However, even Candela admits that a more probable result is 40 NM at 20 knots = 2 hours. The motor uses 70 kW to take off and start foiling, 16 kW to foil at 23 knots, and 37 kW at full speed = 30 knots.
The motor is housed underwater, which provides cooling and noise reduction. Further, it is equipped with contra-rotating propellers, that is two propellers that rotate in opposite directions about a common axis, usually to minimize the effect of torque. This approach reduces the size of propellers needed, but it is a more complicated (read: expensive) system that may require more maintenance. Candela claims that its C-POD requires no maintenance and will operate for 3000 hours without service. They state that it is built to last a human lifetime, without maintenance. In addition, there is no need to change oil or cooling fluid, as the sealed electric motors are cooled by the flow of seawater. It is important to note that with contra-rotating propellers, hydrodynamic gains may be partially reduced by mechanical losses in shafting.
Third, the flight control system uses ten sensors to estimate the position, velocity, and acceleration of the boat on all axis, and to determine/ estimate the real-time system state. This allows the vessel to operate in rough sea and make sudden and sharp turns. It is so much quieter than a hovercraft.
Fourth, I suspect there is a brilliant navigation system provided, that will keep those onboard out of danger. In addition, I suspect there is a dead-man switch/ man-overboard button that, when engaged, will automatically maneuver the vessel back to the point where the person fell overboard, or became incapacitated.
With a starting price of €290 000, I cannot afford to buy a C-8. No, I have never bought lottery tickets out of principle, so I have no prospects of ever being able to afford one. I would like to encourage my younger friends and family to follow the used market. I estimate that a 20 year old vessel (at about 20% of the price) will offer optimal value.
If any of my offspring are wondering what to get me for my 80th birthday in 2028, a day foiling would be ideal. They can even choose the location, with the Salish Sea, San Francisco Bay or the Stockholm archipelago, three of numerous possibilities.
1605 kg DC version
8 passengers including driver
24 kn cruise, 30 kn top
Candela C-Pod (45/50 kW)
50+ NM at cruising speed +3 NM at 4 kn in limp home mode
0.5 m in shallow mode 0,9 m in planing mode 0,8 m while foiling 1.5 m while not foiling, foils extended
230Vx1x16A: 13h 230Vx3x32A: 2,5h
15,4-inch touch screen with Candela’s proprietary navigation and boat integration system. Free software upgrades included. One year free sea chart upgrades included.
Candela app with position, state of charge, route statistics and more. Optional geo-fence.
The hybrid hull is shaped for frictionless planing in addition to low air resistance when foiling. In Planing mode the foils are above the surface which prevents fouling and corrosion
Today’s rant: Since the reign of Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004, US president 1981 – 1989), the United States (and other western countries) have prioritized the wellbeing of billionaires, to the detriment of those who find themselves on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. This means that these lower positioned people are frequently excluded from the economic/ environmental benefits of new developments. Among other things, they are last in line for electric vehicles. Until now …
The business model of Transition One, a French startup, is automotive electrical retrofit kits at the wholesale level. Wholesale contrasts with retail. Transition One supplies kits to garage/ mechanic partnered retailers, who in turn install the kits for consumers. Each kit is designed for a specific model of vehicle. Retrofitting involves modifying/ restoring/ replacing outmoded technology found in older systems. Electrical refers to a specific driveline configuration, one that avoids internal combustion engines. Automotive means that these modifications involve road vehicles.
Transition One has worked on developing six retrofit kits. Currently, kits are available for the following six models: Fiat 500 generation 1, Mini made after the BMW reboot, Renault Clio 3, Renault Kangoo, Renault Twingo 2 and Volkswagen Polo 4. These are all lower-priced vehicles, originally fitted with internal combustion engines. More models are planned. To be eligible for conversion a vehicle must be roadworthy, registered in France, be over 5 years old, and be one of the six models mentioned.
The kits consist of a motor providing 53 kW of power and 78 Nm of torque; batteries offering between 15 and 30 kWh, and provide at least 100 km of range, with a top speed of 110 km/h. An inverter/ charger is also provided (with a plug) that can operate at a maximum of 6 kW, and will take about five hours to charge a vehicle to 100%. The price of the kit and its installation is € 5 000 paid by the consumer, in addition the French government provides a grant of another € 5 000. The installation process is not performed by Transition One itself, but by certified partner mechanics, authorized by Transition One. The installation process is designed to be completed within four hours.
Retrofit kits will be certified by the responsible French authorities, and are in accord with French regulations. A retrofit is guaranteed for two years with unlimited mileage, while the batteries are guaranteed for five years or 100 000 km, whichever comes first.
At the same time that Transition One is soliciting vehicle buyers, it is also enticing local garages to enter into a partnership to retrofit vehicles. In other words, Transition One is a manufacturer of retrofit kits.
The retrofit process involves five steps at a partner garage. First, the vehicle is received and inspected to ensure that it will meet all requirements for roadworthiness after the retrofit. Second, all ICE components are removed and appropriately re-cycled. Third, the retrofit kit is installed. Fourth, the retrofitted vehicle is tested, to ensure that it meets all requirements. Fifth, the vehicle is delivered to its owner.
Hopefully, other companies will follow the spirit of Transition One, by offering kits for other vehicles in other markets.
Life is hard; it is harder if you are stupid. John Wayne (Marion Robert Morrison, 1907 – 1979)
Today, I am entering the prophecy business, and, in particular, will be looking at predictions for electric vehicle technology in 2030. Some might question my sanity, or at least my intelligence. Prediction is a double-edge sword. It could result either in adulation (admittedly, a less likely result) or condemnation – perhaps worse (decidedly, more likely). I approach the task fearlessly. If the predictions turn out to be more correct than wrong, rest assured I will remind everyone about it in 2030. If they turn out to be less correct, I won’t bring up the matter again.
Predictions for 2030
New vehicles in advanced economies will be battery electric vehicles.
Dynamic wireless charging along main roads will start becoming standard, in addition to static charging at residences.
Environmentally friendly graphene ultra-capacitors and sodium-ion batteries will start to replace lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries in most vehicles. Some of these will have a life-expectancy exceeding 1 million km.
Vehicle owners will have a Right to Repair their own vehicles.
Yes, some of these predictions lack millimetre precision. However, here are a few points of clarification …
Different markets will achieve different levels of EV penetration at different times, but EVs in all markets will be on their way to displace internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Wireless means that plugs will become outdated technology. Dynamic charging refers to charging while a vehicle is in motion. This would probably result in smaller batteries. Commuter vehicles could end up with a battery capacity of about 25 kWh.
The term battery, as used in this prediction, is intended to include other forms of electrical storage, including the use of various types of capacitors.
Right to repair does not necessarily mean a right to do-it-yourself (DIY), it could involve local workshops, run by certified mechanics, or even specialists, especially when high voltage is involved.
Between 1996 and 2002, I took a lot of chemistry and chemical engineering courses, including some related to physical chemistry. At the time I wrote a paper (not lost, just not found) about fuel cells, the technology of the future! At about the same time, General Motors had proven to the world, with the EV1, that there was no future for electric vehicles. The EV1 “was the first mass-produced and purpose-designed electric vehicle of the modern era from a major auto-maker and the first GM car designed to be an electric vehicle from the outset.”
Unfortunately, General Motors was wrong. The documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) explains and condemns the short life and brutal death of the EV1. It puts GM in a negative light. There were 660 Gen(eration) I EV1 cars produced, followed by 457 Gen IIs. While a few vehicles were disabled and given to museums and universities, almost all the others were crushed, or shredded.
Could I ever own a GM product? Possibly, in a parallel universe where I am converting a Pontiac Aztek, with a defunct engine, to an EV. But not on this planet. Note: the Aztek is appreciated not just for its utilitarian appearance, but especially for its ability to carry standard sheets of plywood, inside.
I was also wrong about fuel cells taking over the world. Perhaps this too was wishful thinking. With Ballard Power located in Burnaby, the neighbouring municipality to New Westminster, I was well aware of their proton-exchange membrane (PEM) technology, and thought that this would dominate future vehicles. PEMs, more generally, was the topic of my missing paper. Looking at Ballard’s website in 2022, they have not lost their optimism, but seem more focused on heavy transport (buses, commercial trucks, trains, marine vessels) and stationary power applications.
Ulf Bossel (1936 – )has been arguing against Hydrogen technology since 2006. He concluded that Hydrogen technology is unlikely to play a major role in sustainable road transport. This has met with considerable scepticism. Recently, Patrick Plötz, in Nature Electronics 5, 8–10 (2022) confirms that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, (HFCV), including commercial trucks, are not likely to catch up to battery EVs. Part of the reason is explained in the following diagram, originally developed by Bossel.
The diagram illustrates that FCEVs are three times less efficient, as BEVs. In addition, they require an entirely different (and more expensive) investment in infrastructure. For BEVs, every electrical outlet is a potential charging station.
As I write this, a message from my daughter, Shelagh, California resident and owner of one half of a BMW i3 EV, has just ticked in on the teletype: “I read that 84% [83.7%] of all vehicles sold I Norway in January we’re electric[.]” This statistic refers to the 6 659 battery electric vehicles and the 1 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle sold. Hybrids are excluded, or more correctly, appropriately included with ICE vehicles in the other 16.3% of vehicles sold. Here, there were 910 rechargeable (or plug-in) hybrid vehicles, 175 with power from gasoline and 212 using diesel. These add up to a total of 7 957 vehicles. As the statistics show, there is no longer a sizeable market for ICE vehicles in Norway. From 2025-01-01, all new vehicles under 7.5 tonnes, will have to be EVs (or use fuel cells).
If Norway is ahead in cars, Sweden is ahead in roads. Sweden launched the first public electric road in 2016. The electric road outside Sandviken and Gävle utilises overhead lines, which powers freight trucks while driving. eRoadArlanda, outside the Arlanda Airport, provides a test track to generate knowledge and experiences about electric roads.
This was followed up with Evolution Road, a conductive, surface mounted electric road system to increase knowledge about electric roads on a 1-km stretch of road at Getingevägen in Lund, in southern Sweden.
On the Swedish, Baltic Sea island of Gotland, ElectReon is testing a dynamic wireless charging system on a 1.65-km public road, as part of the Smartroad Gotland project. A video demonstrates the construction process. A battery electric (BEV) long-haul truck was the first vehicle to be charged wirelessly. It drove on a 200-meter road segment, at various speeds of up to 60 km/h, averaging a transfer rate of 70 kW, while showing that snow and ice do not affect charging capabilities.
Modern electric road systems provide a number of benefits: the elimination of downtime for recharging – especially important for transit buses, delivery vans, long-haul trucks and robotaxis, reduction of battery sizes by 50–80 per cent (yes, my unscientific estimate is that 25 kWh batteries will be the standard size on EVs once electric roads become common), greater energy efficiency, because smaller batteries mean lighter vehicles, and, most types of electric vehicles: cars, trucks, utility vehicles and buses will be able to use the same system.
Seven years after Sweden, the first stretch of road in the United States to wirelessly charge electric vehicles while in motion will begin testing in Detroit. This electrified road will be up to 1.6 km long, and allow EVs to charge whether they’re stopped or moving. It is hoped that this in-road charging will encourage widespread EV adoption, by reducing consumers EV hesitancy. Michigan state will contribute $1.9 million toward the project, which will also be supported by Ford Motor, DTE Energy and the city of Detroit.
Israel based ElectReon is world leading in terms of dynamic wireless charging. While there are other companies hoping to be part of the solution, they have done little to prove their capabilities. Most potential suppliers of charging equipment are opting for static wireless charging systems in places like parking garages, taxi stands, and bus or truck depots. They should probably take a reality check. Nobody wants to stand still to charge, is the option is to charge while on the move.
It should also be mentioned that there are ongoing dynamic wireless charging pilot projects in Germany, Italy and Israel. All of these use induction technology with on-board receivers facilitating the transfer power from coils buried underground to the vehicle. ElectReon estimates that the cost of a receiver will be reduced to between $1 000 and $1 500, when installed by an EV manufacturer. Another approach is to tie the cost of the receiver to a monthly (?) subscription, that also provides the power.
I find it extremely interesting that one of the celebrated proponents of the International System of Units (SI) was the American electrical engineer, George Ashley Campbell (1870 – 1954). Yet, on an almost daily basis so many Americans, Britons and Canadians (but few others) want to retain all or parts of an antiquated, inconsistent measurement system. Readers have no doubt noticed the avoidance of conventional/ non-metric units, and the usage of SI units on this weblog. However, in this post, some non-SI units will be used. These units are commonly used with EVs throughout the world. I ask for the indulgence and forgiveness of readers.
If one really wants to be correct and use internationally accepted SI units, energy is measured in joules (J). There is also a distinction made between specific energy = massic energy = gravimetric energy density, which specifies energy per unit mass, as in J/kg, and energy density, which specifies energy per unit volume as in J/l (litre). Despite this clear demarcation, most people seem to engage in terminology convergence. They refer to energy density, but express it in terms of watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). Purists may want to remember: 1 Wh = 3600 J = 3.6 kJ.
Batteries and ultra-capacitors
Batteries have come a long way from the invention of the lead-acid battery in 1859 by Gaston Planté (1834 – 1889). Global sales in 2020 = $ 50 billion. These are still ubiquitous, cheap and reliable, but toxic. Finding out exactly how much lead ends up poisoning the environment is difficult. The Battery Council, with close ties to those with vested interests in battery production, typically estimates that 99% of lead is recycled. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a less optimistic, and more varied estimate that ranges from 60% to 95%. In addition, lead-acid battery recycling is the world’s most deadly industrial process, where an estimated 2 to 4.8 million disability-adjusted life years are lost annually and globally.
In 1989 Sony commercialized the Li-ion battery, and it has become the dominant battery technology. It is the first choice for Evs, stationary batteries, and mobile devices. One challenge with lithium technology, is that it has so many patents and intellectual property rights associated with it, that it becomes problematic to make anything – as a startup. Someone is sure to claim that there is a patent infringement.
Another challenge is availability. Lithium mainly comes from Australia, Chile, China and Argentina. It is also found in smaller quantities in many other places. Extraction is difficult and polluting. It currently costs about $ 5 000 / tonne. Other resources used in lithium (Li) batteries are also problematic. Cobalt (Co), especially. EV batteries can have up to 20 kg of Co in each 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) pack, or up to 20% of its mass.
There are many other Li-ion battery manufacturers who are also attempting to make new viable products, many with a focus on solid-state Li-ion technology. The reason for this focus is to reduce mass = weight. Unfortunately, this type of battery is almost always years away from being introduced, in part because other battery technologies are always moving the goal posts.
Some social media influencers, such as Sandy Munro, claim that one of the most important Li-ion battery developments in the world at the moment, is taking place at Our Next Energy, Inc. (ONE), located in Novi, Michigan. They have developed an experimental battery, Gemini 001, that stores over 200 kWh of electrical energy, with an energy density of 416 Wh/l, using pouch technology.
Another important development is taking place at Gruber Motors in Phoenix, Arizona. The company is especially important for saving the lives of innumerable bricked Tesla vehicles. It describes itself as an independent Tesla service organization providing engineering and aftermarket support. I refer to Pete Gruber as a guerilla technologist. In a video, he describes their graphene ultra-capacitor cells that now exceed 1 000 km range, and could soon reach 1 600 km. They are estimated to allow about 43 000 charging cycles, with each charge taking about 15 minutes, providing a battery potentially capable of propelling a vehicle exceeding 43 million km, and last 100 years. Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon, one of the most common elements.
The technology upon which the Gruber graphene capacitor is based could be made by Skeleton Technologies of Tallinn, Estonia. This company is providing graphene ultra-capacitor technology to many different industries, including high power applications for automotive, heavy transportation (rail, especially), marine, grid (wind turbines, for example), aerospace, and manufacturing. These use curved graphene sheets to produce mesospores that are accessible to and wettable by ionic electrolytes at voltages up to 4 V. This provides a specific energy of about 85.6 Wh/kg. One characteristic, appreciated in climates with winter, is its ability to operate in cold temperatures, without any performance loss. More information, about a number of technical topics and more, is available from their download page.
Chemical abundance is important when determining the suitability of future technologies for electric vehicle batteries. Here WebElements values will be used for comparative purposes, typically expressed in parts per million (ppm) by mass.Readers who want it expressed in terms of ppm by mole, are encouraged to undertake their own calculations.
Sodium (Na), is the 6th most common element in the Earth’s crust, at 23 000 ppm. In contrast Li ranks 33rd, at 17 ppm. This makes Na over 1 350 times more abundant than Li. This is reflected in its price, at about: $ 150 / tonne. Carbon (C) ranks 17th, at 420 ppm. Not only is this almost 25 times more abundant than Li, its existence in the atmosphere as CO2 makes it an ideal target for battery production.
Na-ion batteries were developed at about the same time as Li-ion batteries. They are suitable for stationary power and short range EVs. That is, applications where energy density is not an issue. For example, energy storage for renewal energy sources such as solar and wind. However, they are not really suitable for hand-held devices.
Like a Li-ion battery they have cathode, anode, porous separator, electrolyte. The same engineering and production methods can be used, but with different materials.
This does not apply to some of the earlier sodium based batteries. Some of the first research projects with sodium batteries were done at the Ford Motor Company where Joseph T. Kummer & Neill Weber published A Sodium-Sulpher Secondary Battery (1968). They state an energy density of 330 Wh/ kg, in contrast to 22 Wh/ kg for a lead acid battery. Later, others have considered this energy density an exaggeration, and have reduced it to about 150 Wh/kg in the real world. The most negative characteristic of this battery was its high operating temperature, 300 – 350 C.
The sodium-nickel-chloride battery, developed under the Zeolite Battery Research Africa Project, started in South Africa in 1985, and commonly called the Zebra battery. This is also a rechargeabe molten salt battery, that distinguishes itself from the Sodium Sulfer battery by it use of commonly available materials. It is simpler, safer, cheaper, but less energy dense, at about 90 to 120 Wh/kg.
From 2010, sodium batteries were developed that could operate at room temperatures. Typically, they have an anode made of hard carbon = charcoal; an electrolyte with low viscosity, high conductivity and electrochemically stable, (typically sodium salts dissolved in organic carbonate); a cathode, often a more problematic choice, but with a focus on sodium layered oxides, with crystalline structure, similar to lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO 2).
In 2020, Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory develop a more powerful sodium battery with the potential to produce 160 Wh/ kg. Other producers of So-ion batteries include: Faradion (UK), Altris AB (Sweden) with a Prussian blue cathodes, HiNa (China), and Natron Energy (USA) with Prussian blue cathodes. Prussian blue cathodes typically offer 95% charge retention after 10 000 cycles; However they do not function well in the presence of moisture, hence Prussian white.
Contemporary Amperex Technology Company Limited (CATL) has also developed a sodium battery. It has an anode made of hard carbon with a unique porous structure that lengthens the cycle lifetime and allows for more sodium-ion movement. The cathode is made of Prussian white, an analogue of the pigment Prussian blue. Energy density is currently 160 Wh/ kg, but there is a goal for G2 = 200+ Wh/ kg. Because of CATL’s intereconnection with Li-ion batteries, only a 10 – 30% price saving can be expected from these batteries.
Right to Repair
Relationships with the service departments of automotive dealers, are not always positive experiences. Going back several years now, here is one customer’s experience of a dealership service centre, that has permanently put him off wanting to use such a place. The customer had replaced original, inferior wiper blades with premium blades that were still in excellent condition when he delivered his vehicle in for servicing. When, the car was picked up, those premium blades had been replaced with inferior blades, and the customer was charged a price for them that exceeded those of the premium blades. When the customer requested the inferior blades removed, and replaced with his premium blades the dealership refused, citing that the manufacturer, required them to perform servicing to the letter, in order not to void the warranty. Wiper blades were part of the required service. The customer then asked for the premium blades to be returned to him, but the dealership could not find them.
Some weeks later, an indicator light showed that the vehicle needed immediate servicing, and should not be driven. The dealership was contacted, and they picked up the vehicle, transporting it on the back of a tow truck (a 70 km round trip from the workshop). It turned out that the dealership had forgotten to reset the servicing interval when they undertook the service, indicating that they were not following the servicing guide to the letter, as they had previously claimed. They then had to transport the vehicle back to the customer on the back of the same tow truck, two days later.
Shortly thereafter, a fuel injector failed on the vehicle (for a second time). Once again, a tow truck was needed to transport the vehicle, which was at the customer’s place of work. This time it involved a 160 km round trip, followed by a 70 km round trip after replacement. The fuel injector had to be replaced under warranty, and the customer wondered if the dealership had failed to do something else during the servicing, that had resulted in this failure. Some months later, the vehicle warranty expired, and the customer ended his relationship with the dealership. These incidents were so traumatic that the customer vowed never to buy that brand of vehicle again.
With EVs a different experience of service may be offered. EVs have fewer parts in total, and fewer moving parts, the operating environment is less extreme because there is no combustion to produce excessive amounts of heat. Thus, EVs typically require less service than their ICE counterparts. While legacy auto-makers may attempt to continue on as before, EV startups will probably be less reliant on dealerships, and more reliant on websites, for sales. They may also attempt to approach service and repairs in a different way.
Take Sono Motors GmbH as an example. Sono is a crowdsourced German company working on the development of the electric solar car, the Sion. It will have solar cells embedded in the plastic body panels on the roof and sides. Electricity generated will be fed into the traction battery, potentially providing about 5 000 km of range per year. Over an eight year period, over 260 000 vehicles are expected to be produced in Trollhättan, Sweden, at the National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) production facility. NEVS is a Swedish electric car manufacturer that acquired the assets of Saab from a bankruptcy estate in 2012.
There are currently about 13 000 customers waiting for production of the Sion to start. Potential purchasers are distributed (almost) randomly throughout Europe. This could mean that it would be very expensive for Sono to set up service centres. Fortunately, they have opted for something different: Low Cost Maintenance, with a 3-step maintenance system they claim will keep repair/ servicing costs as low as possible.
Standard replacement parts that can be replaced by almost anyone. That is, without needing much prior knowledge, these can be replaced by owners/ users. Sion says, DIY is back!
A workshop handbook, will allow an extensive network of independent mechanics, to undertake work that is beyond the capability of ordinary people. This is the essence of most Right to Repair legislation.
For repairs involving high-voltage or body parts, Sono intends to cooperate with an established European service provider.
Once one auto-maker has shown the viability of this approach, it will be difficult for others to avoid step #1. As shown previously, one of the challenges facing dealerships is that they are not behaving particularly professionally, when it comes to servicing vehicles. Another challenge in the future, is that there will be a shortage of workers available. Work that can be eliminated or reduced should be. Ron Hetrick explains what is happening in USA, but the same applies to other advanced economies.
Currently, I rank Sono Sion as my third choice for an EV. Above these are two families of MPVs: the upcoming Renault Kangoo, and its badge engineered Nissan Townstar, along with an upmarket Mercedes EQT; and the Stellantis MPVs: Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Rifter and Opel Combo, badge engineered variants.
EV Tipping Points
In 1989, A-ha lead singer Morten Harket and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, were in Switzerland with Norwegian environmentalist Frederic Hauge, attending an EV conference. After inspecting a privately converted Fiat Panda EV, Harket and Furuholmen bought the car, and took it back to Norway. Norwegian regulations at the time, prohibited the registration of electric cars. Since it was fitted with a propane-fuelled heater, it could be, and was, registered as a recreational vehicle/ motor home.
The Panda was enthusiastically driven around Oslo, without paying local road tolls and ignored all subsequent fines. This resulted in an enormous amount of publicity, in Norway. It also resulted in the car being confiscated, and auctioned off, with yet more publicity. However, since no-one else wanted to buy the car, the original owners bought it back again. This cycle repeated itself several times. The fine was NOK 300 each time, and they bought the car back each time for NOK 200.
In 1996, Norway’s Government abolished road tolls for EVs. This was a key incentive that started an EV policy, that resulted in generous subsidies and other incentives, leading to a situation where over 80% of all new light vehicles are EVs in 2022.
Tim Lenton, at the University of Exeter, is quoted in the Guardian as saying: The only way we can get anywhere near our global targets on carbon emissions and biodiversity is through positive tipping points. People, whether they’re business leaders, policymakers or whatever, know what needs to change. The question is how? It’s starting to happen, but it’s not going quick enough. The complexity [of the climate and ecological crises] can be paralysing,. I wanted to show that, if you understand the complexity, it can open up windows of opportunity to actually change things.
An analysis of this problem has been published in Global Sustainability.
Predictions, in general
I hope that my legacy as a person is not dependent on my ability to predict the future. Rather, I hope it is related to my ability to love a few people, and to show concern for the well-being of all of humanity and the planet more generally, now and into the future. Hopefully, I have learned something, including humility, from my years of living.
When it comes to judging the success or failure of predictions, I like to turn to the world of film, especially works set in the future. I am not a fan of either Gene Roddenberry’s (1921 – 1991) Star Trek, despite its debut on Canadian CTV on 1966-09-08 and set in the 23rd century, or George Lucas’ (1944 – ) 1977 Star Wars and successive films, taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, which excludes it from being set in the future. More appreciated are: Lucas’ 1967/ 1971/ 1977/ 2004 THX 1138; Stanley Kubrick’s (1928 – 1999) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971); Richard Fleischer’s (1916 – 2006) Soylant Green (1973) set in 2022; Michael Anderson’s (1920 – 2018) Logan’s Run (1976), set in 2274. Perhaps most of all, I admire Ridley Scott’s (1937 – ) Blade Runner (1982), set in Los Angeles in 2019, 37 years into the future, and currently three years in the past, if only because of its inability to predict the advent of the cell phone.
Yet, of these, it is Soylant Green that is the most haunting, and to where the political class seems to be leading the world: dying oceans, excessive humidity, pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty and – ultimately – euthanasia.
If one focuses on one random member of the political class – no better nor worse than many of the others – Joe Biden (1942 – ) born in Pennsylvania, the state where USA’s first oil well was drilled in 1859. He grew up in Delaware, where his father ultimately worked as a successful used-car salesman. In 2018, the US became the world’s largest crude oil producer (15%), exceeding Russia and Saudi Arabia. In 2021, some sources state that this resulted in 10.3 million jobs, and 8% of USA’s gross domestic product (GDP). Oil companies are major contributors to politicians, in the expectation that they will act positively to the needs of these companies and their shareholders. Chevron made 28% of its $4.9 million in political contributions to Democratic candidates and party, while Exxon made 41% of $1.7 million contributions to them.
Not everyone is happy with him. It is very strange that Biden can mention the electrification efforts at GM and Ford, without mentioning Tesla. Unfortunately, this could be because he is more interested in the profits of the oil industry, that are dependent on ICE vehicles from GM, Ford and others. Biden was willing to auction off 320 000 square kilometres of oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, making it the largest sale in US history, although only slightly less than 7 000 square kilometres were ultimately leased, yielding $192 million. So far, Biden is approving 320 drilling permits on public land each month, exceeding Trump’s 300 a month.
This support of the oil industry does not in any way mesh with a necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, that climate in crisis requires. Indeed, Biden’s environmental policy, if it exists, is difficult to understand. It seems to begin and end in words. The stated aim is a halving of greenhouse emissions by 2030, with them reaching net zero by 2050.
USA has many American EV manufacturer, to be appreciated. Aptera has the most efficient EVs; Arcimoto is making fun utility vehicles (FUVs); the Fisher Ocean should appeal to anyone wanting a conventional SUV; Ford has had great success with its Mustang, and sees promise in its upcoming F-150 Lightning; Rivian has started to provide adventure pickups and SUVs; Tesla is making the most EVs; and, last and least, General Motors is making an excessive, large and brutal Hummer EV that effectively shows that not all EVs benefit the world!
As John Wayne says, life is hard. It will be harder still for all people, smart or stupid, if politicians stupidly fail to implement environmental policies that stop the current rise in temperatures. This includes the elimination of fossil fuels, and fossil plastics, that are burnt as fuels once their few seconds of shelf-life are finished. The four predictions discussed in this weblog post, are all dependent on politicians enabling people to make enlightened changes to their ways of life, quickly! Most of those changes will have to take place now in advanced economies. If people alive today don’t start making changes to their lifestyle, the lives of upcoming generations will be immeasurably harder.
Fifty years ago today, 1971-11-24, a man identified as D. B. Cooper highjacked a Boeing 727-100. Sometime that day he disappeared.
A middle-aged man stood at Northwest Orient Airlines’ flight counter at Portland International Airport, identified himself as Dan Cooper and purchased a one-way ticket in cash for a 30-minute trip north to Seattle. After boarding the aircraft he, in all likelihood, sat in seat 18C.
Flight 305, with 36 passengers and a crew of six, departed Portland on schedule at 14:50 PST. Shortly after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to flight attendant Florence Schaffner. Although she initially put it in her purse, Cooper asked her to read it. It mentioned a bomb and directed her to sit beside him, which she did. Cooper showed her the bomb, then demanded $200 000 in “negotiable American currency”, four parachutes (two primary and two reserve), and a fuel truck to stand by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the pilots in the cockpit, then returned.
William A. Scott (1920–2001), the captain, contacted Seattle–Tacoma Airport air traffic control, which informed local and federal authorities. The passengers were told that their arrival in Seattle would be delayed because of a minor mechanical difficulty. Northwest Orient’s president, Donald Nyrop, authorized payment of the ransom, and ordered all employees to cooperate fully with the hijacker’s demands. The aircraft circled Puget Sound for about two hours while the parachutes and ransom money were assembled, and emergency personnel mobilized.
FBI agents assembled the ransom money, 10 000 unmarked 20-dollar bills and microfilmed each of them. Cooper rejected military parachutes, and obtained civilian parachutes with manual ripcords.
At 17:39, the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The aircraft taxied to an isolated, but brightly lit section of the apron. All window shades in the cabin were closed. Northwest Orient’s Seattle operations manager, Al Lee, delivered a cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to flight attendant Tina Mucklow on the aft stairs. Once on board, Cooper allowed all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane.
Cooper’s flight plan involved a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft—approximately 100 knots = 185 km/h at a maximum 3 000 m = 10 000-foot altitude, with landing gear remaining in the takeoff/landing position, and wing flaps set at 15 degrees, and the cabin unpressurized. This meant that a second refuelling would be necessary. Cooper and the crew discussed options and agreed on Reno, Nevada, as the refuelling stop.
At about 19:40 the aircraft took off with only Cooper, Scott, Mucklow, first officer William J. Rataczak and flight engineer Harold E. Anderson on board. Two F-106 fighters shadowed the airliner, one above and one below, along with a Lockheed T-33 trainer, for part of the trip.
After takeoff, Cooper asked Mucklow to show him how to open the door to the aft staircase. He then ordered her to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. At about 20:00, a warning light indicated that the aft airstair had been lowered. At 20:13, the aircraft’s tail moved upward movement, requiring trim to level it. The plane landed at 22:15, at Reno Airport. Cooper was no longer on board.
From my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the case has to do with investigators describing the highjacker as D. B. Cooper, rather than the name he used on his ticket, Dan Cooper. Agents theorized that Cooper took his alias from a popular Belgian comics series of the 1970s featuring the fictional hero Dan Cooper, a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot in a Belgian comic book/ graphic novel series, who participants in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting. These comics were never translated into English, nor imported to the U.S. Thus, there are suggestions that Cooper was Canadian. In particular, the phrase “negotiable American currency”, aroused attention, because it would seldom be used by Americans.
On 1980-02-10, Brian Ingram (ca. 1972 – ) uncovered $5 800 of the ransom from the Columbia River bank at Tina/ Tena Bar, about 14 km downstream from Vancouver, Washington. This is the only money from the highjacking that has ever been recovered.
There have been any number of suspects. Only one will be mentioned. In an article by Jake Rossen, writing in Mental Floss, in 2016, he suggests that D. B. Cooper may have been Barbara Dayton (1926 – 2002), who, before gender-reassignment surgery in 1969, was born Bobby. For the high-jacking she had disguised herself as a man. Pat and Ron Formans’ book, The Legend of D. B. Cooper (2008) gives a more detailed version.
There are any number of sources of information about D. B. Coooper, including a Wikipedia article that has provided much of the information here.
The Honda Cub is the best selling motor vehicle of all time, with over 100 million having been made in the years since 1958, when it was launched. Its origins are not in Japan, but in 1956 Europe when Honda co-founders Soichiro Honda (1906 – 1991) and Takeo Fujisawa (1910 – 1988) toured Germany and experienced the popularity of mopeds and other lightweight motorcycles.
Fujisawa was inspired, and wanted to produce a motorcycle for everyone: urban, rural or somewhere in between, living anywhere from a developed to an emerging economy. It had to be simple to survive in places without roads, advanced technology or access to reliable spare parts. It had to be quiet, reliable and easy to use. It also needed to have mass appeal, so that it could be produced on an enormous scale.
A scooter was considered but rejected: it was too complex for people in emerging economies, and, its wheels were too small for poorly maintained roads. Fujisawa specified ease of driving, by requiring that it could be driven with one hand while carrying a tray of soba noodles in the other. He is quoted as saying, “If you can design a small motorcycle, say 50 cc with a cover to hide the engine and hoses and wires inside, I can sell it. I don’t know how many soba noodle shops there are in Japan, but I bet you that every shop will want one for deliveries.”
Honda’s new vehicle was a 1958 Super Cub C100. It featured a low-floor backbone step-through pressed-steel frame. One important innovation, was their use of inexpensive but light weight plastic for the front fender and leg shields. This was the first motorcycle use of plastic. While the vehicle combined the characteristics of a scooter with the stability of a motorcycle. The 17-inch wheels, especially, gave the vehicle a stability not found in scooters. An automatic centrifugal clutch 3-speed transmission, and an air-cooled 4-stroke 49 cc (despite the model name) OHV engine, powered the vehicle. Top speed 65 km/h. Wheelbase 1 181 mm, Length 1 781 mm, Width 569 mm, Mass (wet) 65.0 kg.
The design was tested in advance of production, to eliminate any flaws. It would cost too much to fix problems after production started. It almost worked, except for an issue with the clutch, that required production and sales staff to visit each customer at home to fix each vehicle.
The early history of the Honda Cub will end here, with interested readers encouraged to either read the Wikipedia article or watch a more enjoyable but less extensive 8 minute video about it.
One challenge facing the world is reducing carbon emissions, and eliminating fossil fuels. This means transforming Honda Cubs into electric vehicles. So, even though Honda made an e-Cub prototype in 2019, they have never developed it into a production model. Why not? Is it because they are in too close a relationship with fossil fuel suppliers?
Shanghai Customs Ltd was founded by Alexander Style. It sells e-Cub kits throughout the world for US$ 2 800. There are three kits available for the C50, C70 and C90 models. The non-battery kit lacks more than just a battery. However, it claims to come with everything needed except a battery, charger, frame, front forks and front suspension. One step up is the full kit. The name is a misnomer, since it too is another partial kit, which is like the above kit but with a battery and charger. The full kit with frame and forks provides everything needed for an e-Cub build. Kits are designed for amateur installation, described as plug and play, with colour coded and numbered wiring. Assembly takes from about 15 hours of work, using only hand tools. The finished e-Cub is powered by a removable 1.3 kWh Panasonic battery that provides energy to a 1 000 W, rear hub motor, that can be boosted to 3 000 W for short periods. Top speed for the vehicle is still 65 km/h, with a range of 50 km. Included in the kit are new LED lights, and fully digital instrumentation.
Fully Charged YouTube channel presented a nine minute video about the company, and its conversion kits.
Phil Tucker commented 2021-02-25 on the YouTube video: “(Don’t get me wrong as I’m a massive “all electric” fan….) but I’m not necessarily convinced that someone who maybe bought an old hand me down cub off an older brother or sibling for say, fifty dollars to use to go to work on is then going to decide to spend 2500 dollars to go electric! Also I think some of those brand new Chinese electric bikes are actually cheaper than that?”
This brought several interesting replies including one from Siclmn Cyclerider: “I spent $6,000 on a Stromer electric bicycle.” However, several others commented on the need for improved brakes, that appear to come with the kit.
To put the e-Cub in perspective, it should probably be compared with a minimalist electric car, such as a Citroën Ami, measuring 2 410 mm in length, 1 390 mm (excluding mirrors) in width and 1 520 mm in height, with a total weight of 485 kg. It has a 6 kW electric motor operating at 48 V, and powered by a 5.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. It is registered as a light quadricycle for two, allowing a top speed of 45 km/h, and a range of 75 km. When it was first released, it came with a purchase price of $6 600, a leasing fee of $22 per month, or an on-demand rental for around $0.29 per minute.
One major difference between the two vehicles is that while the Ami is a purchase of a product, the e-Cub is buying parts for a project. This involves people with two totally different mindsets. The e-Cub will only appeal to people who have the desire, time and opportunity to customize their own vehicle. The Ami will only appeal to people who want to buy happiness.
Note: There will be no attempt to enter fruitless discussions about other best selling vehicles. Contenders will not even be named. The point of this weblog post is to examine a potential waste recycling challenge, that allows people to continue to use a perfectly good vehicle, despite its currently inappropriate power source, by replacing it with a suitable electric power train. Mopeds may not be for everyone, but this writer is convinced that in Inderøy they are part of a Rite of Spring where, much like the return of the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano, thousands of mopeds appear on the roads, allowing their 16-year old drivers to self-certify themselves as adults, and slowing traffic to 40 km/h. More mature readers, no longer subject to the excesses of teenage hormones, may prefer to see new opportunities that emerge from using a mobility scooter which, fortunately, are already electrified.
To this day, a Honda 50, probably a 1966 model, owned at the time by Victoria Ayerbe, is the only motorcycle I have ever driven, and only once. I have no intention of repeating this experience with either a fossil fuelled or electrified motorcycle. Indeed, I have no intention of converting a Honda Cub to an e-Cub. However, I would like to encourage people in Inderøy involved in the electrification of old scooterettes, as they were often called, possibly at Reodor, Inderøy’s bicycle repair shop. There could be other two-wheeled vehicle models that, because of local popularity, are more deserving to be adapted to electric power. Making kits for these could be an enjoyable community project. If readers have particular candidates for conversions, please tell other readers about them by making appropriate comments.
Four years ago today, on 2017-10-29, a weblog post titled Stuffing a 10-car garage was published. It presented a number of electric vehicles (EVs) that had awakened my curiosity over the years, along with one internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, the Citroën Berlingo. The one advantage of a virtual garage is that it is very easy to acquire and then dispose of vehicles.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 26th held (COP26), is scheduled to begin 2021-10-31 in Glasgow, Scotland, two days after publication of this weblog post. The conference will end 2021-11-12. Hopefully something will be accomplished to prevent a climatic disaster.
EVs are not only increasing in number, but improving, technically and in terms of design. Unfortunately, most of this development is happening in vehicle segments that people should be avoiding . This weblog post presents six EVs made by six companies for six different segments from six different European countries. During the year this post has been in development, all of the models originally selected have departed the list, and been replaced by others. The number of continents represented has decreased from four to one, with an encouragement for people to buy locally produced products. I don’t believe I could do the same using North American products. Even, with this focus on smallish, affordable European EVs, it has been difficult.
Not many specifications are available for the selected vehicles at the time of publication. Those missing will be provided in subsequent updates, when I remember. The worst case situation in this post, is that of Fiat and its Giardiniera. Despite the initial hype and promises, at the moment it is looking more like vapourware. It is included to remind people that vapourware is a major problem in the automotive industry. It allows manufacturers to pretend that they are doing something, when in all likelihood nothing is happening at all.
In terms of the A segment, I had hoped that the Zetta CM1 had been developed further. I had wanted to put an improved Zetta in the A class, and even contacted the manufacturer, Russian Engineering and Manufacturing Company (REMC) in Toliatti about it. I received no reply to my email.
Segments D and above/ larger are ignored in this post out of concern for the environment.
Six companies producing six vehicle models for six segments in six European countries.
Pickups are typically regarded as American, so there would probably not have been many objections if this slot had been filled by any number of American vehicles including, in alphabetical order by brand, the Ford F-150 Lightning, the GMC Hummer, the Lordstown Endurance, the Rivian R1T, and the Tesla Cybertruck, There was a time when this list might have also included the Havelaar Bison and the Nikola Badger.
None of the vehicles listed above appeal to me. They are too massive. However, I will also admit, that the first vehicle I leaned to drive on, at the tender age of 14, was a Chevrolet Advance Design 3100 pickup, probably from 1952, in the farm fields of Okanagan Mission, near Kelowna. This featured the same split windshield, found on the Nobe 500. The Ford F-series, from the same time period, did not have this characteristic, although certain other F-series features do appear on the Nobe 500. This vehicle is at the top in terms of charm. I am waiting for it to appear dressed as a woodie (sic) wagon before buying one!
In terms of COP26, this vehicle should probably not have been included. It is, but only because of my infatuation with this type of vehicle. People should determine if this is the type and size of vehicle that meets their needs.
When we purchased a Citroën Berlingo in 2002, the other vehicle we considered was a Renault Kangoo. Both were considerably smaller than today’s vehicles. The Citroën was chosen, in part, because at that time there was no local Renault dealership. Currently, we are facing the opposite situation. There is no local Citroën dealership, but there is one selling Renaults. In addition, there are some indications that the upcoming 2022 Kangoo EV (termed Etech, previously ZE in Renault-speak) will offer a range of 285 km. Other specifications released so far include: battery capacity theoretical/ usable = 52/ 47 kWh; motor type = AC synchronous motor; power = 90 kW; torque = 245 Nm; and, importantly, a trailer towing weight braked = 1500 kg.
On 2021-10-28, a day before publication, we visited the local Renault dealer in Steinkjer, and found out that a vehicle should be available to test drive in 2022-05.
Badge Engineering: The Renault Kangoo will be badge engineered into a Mercedes-Benz EQT and a Nissan Townstar.
Driving requirements vary, which means that a variety of vehicle types have to be made available. Many people live alone, and have little or no need for a vehicle that can transport more than themselves. For such people, a two person vehicle may be ideal.
In Our Journey, the idea for the Microlino originated when Wim, Oliver and Merlin Ouboter, asked: “How much car does one really need for daily driving?” In Switzerland the answer involved 1.6 passengers and 36.8 km on an average journey, along with parking challenges. This indicated to them that modern cars were over-engineered for urban use, especially if environmental factors, such as global warming, are considered.
Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 2 435/ 1 473 / 1 501 mm; wheelbase = mm; ground clearance = mm; curb weight = 513 kg; seating capacity = 2; battery type = Lithium-Ion (NMC/NCA); battery capacity = 14 kWh; range per charge = 230 km; motor type =; power = 12.5 kW; torque = 118 Nm; speed: max = 90 km/h; acceleration 0 – 50 km/h = 5s; regenerative braking = yes; cargo volume = 230 l; towing weight braked = 0 kg .
Another answer to the Ouboter question could have been the Freze Nikrob, based on the Wuling Mini EV. Rebadged and restyled by Dartz, it is assembled in Lithuania by Nikrob UAB. Dartz wants to sell the Freze Nikrob and its convertible version, the Freze Froggy, in European left-hand-drive markets. It aims for a 10-20% market share of the segment. At a price of €10 000, it is the cheapest in the EU. The focus is on selling to carsharing companies.
Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 2 917/ 1 493 / 1 621 mm; wheelbase = 1 940 mm; ground clearance = mm; curb weight = 665 kg; seating capacity = 4; battery type = lithium polymer; battery capacity = 13.8 kWh ; range per charge = km; motor type = permanent magnet; power = 13 kW; torque = Nm; speed: max = km/h; acceleration 0 – 100 km/h = s; regenerative braking = yes; cargo volume = l; towing weight braked = 0 kg.
Fiat 500 Giardiniera
Giardiniera was a name used for Fiat station wagons. The name, in this context, means gardener. Fiat in 2018, before it became part of Stellantis, announced in general terms that it would be making a five-door, station wagon, hybrid version of a new 500. Fiat now seems to be transitioning to a battery electric brand. A Fiat 500 Battery EV station wagon appeals to me because, we need a vehicle that can be used to carry four (sometimes five) people, groceries, and workshop materials. When, or even if the vehicle will launch, remains speculative. Currently, Fiat is working on an electric replacement for the Panda, probably based on the Centoventi = 120 prototype. That vehicle is expected to launch in 2023.
One of my hopes with the Giardiniera is that the rear door will open more like a conventional door, hinged on the left/ traffic side, rather than a hatch, opening upwards. This was the way it opened on earlier models, made between 1960 and 1977, as shown in the above advertisement.
Of the vehicles described in this weblog post, the Sono Sion is the one closest in size to our current vehicle, a Mazda 5. Of its many attractive characteristics, it is its Open Service System that will be focused upon here. There are three different levels of service. Level 1 instructional videos and a catalog ensure that almost anyone can replace wear parts, without much prior knowledge. Level 2 involves a publicly viewable and available manual, that allows an extensive network of mechanic partners to offer more extensive repairs and service at an affordable price. Level 3 is for repairs involving high-voltage or body parts, Sono here wants to cooperate with an established European service provider.
I asked a number of people about this vehicle, and sent a copy of an information brochure. One response – from a person who works in the EV industry but for another company that doesn’t compete in the same market, was: “Oh interesting. Exciting for more players. The solar portion is neat! The aesthetics kind of baffle me. Utilitarian, met with early 2000’s interior design with forced elements like the screen and the green house strip. Doesn’t seem cohesive.” Another reply was: “it looks very generic Aka like a Toyota.” The most enthusiastic response came from a third person, “Love it. I’m a solar power human, so this has my full seal of approval.” Four and a half hours later, he added: “Upon further reflection, I would rank this as my top EV.”
Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 4 470/ 1 830/ 1 660mm; wheelbase = 2830 mm; ground clearance = 165 mm; curb weight = kg; seating capacity = ; battery type = liquid cooled lithium ion; battery capacity/ usable = 54/ 47 kWh; range per charge = 260 km; motor type =; power = 120 kW; torque = 270 Nm; speed: max = 140 km/h; acceleration 0 – 100 km/h = 9.0 s; regenerative braking = yes; cargo volume = 650 l; towing weight braked = 750 kg.
One of the most important specifications for a vehicle operating in a rural environment in winter is ground clearance. Here, there is no requirement to remove snow before it reaches 100 mm. Thus, ideally, this should be at least 150 mm clearance. However, is not always an easy specification to find. Our Mazda has only 135 mm, and this is noticed. Seating height is also important. In comparing different vehicles, the H-point measures the pivot centre of the torso and thigh, and the height of this in relation to the road, is what is important. This value is a compromise between being able to enter a vehicle elegantly, and being able to see the road.
In terms of range anxiety, we drive a car about 3 times a week, but often less. Once or twice the return distance will be under 40 km, often under 30 km; the other time(s) it will be under 80 km. About five times a year, our driving exceeds these values. Two or three times it will be less than 250 km; two or three times it will exceed that, but be under 400 km. Since our retirement started in 2017, we have only had one trip where the driving distance exceeded these values, when we drove to and from Bergen. It is about 750 km in each direction, but we spent two days driving each way, which also puts it in the 400 km a day range. When our daughter, Shelagh, lived in Umeå, Sweden, we would drive the 600 km distance in about 10 hours (including stops) in a single day.
The Norwegian Electric Car Association has an EV selector app (Elbilvelgeren), that can be used to help limit the number of EVs under consideration.
It allows one to select a range of values for price, range, brand, new or used, trailer capacity. Yes, trailer = tilhenger (in Norwegian) capacity is a must for Norwegians. A utility trailer is used instead of a pickup. These are the standard inputs one can choose from. In addition one can select/ add: launch year, heat pump, four wheel drive, high speed charging, battery size, trunk/ frunk size, electrical power usage, normal charging, number of doors, ground clearance, app for the car, number of seats, dimensions, roof rack capacity, acceleration, kW (power), guarantee, weight, wheel size and body type.
I used the standard one with some modest values, but only two cars came up: VW ID 4 and Skoda Enyaq. The list included both current and announced models to be purchased new. The reason only two models appeared could be because of the trailer capacity selected (1000 kg) and a price (max NOK 360 000). The two cars had a price of just under NOK 350 000. Of those two, I would select the Skoda. I tried the selector again, without the trailer, but with a ground clearance of 150 mm. Again, those two models came up, along with a Hyundai Kona and a Kia Soul.
My hope is that in four years time, 2025-10-29, that there will be a vastly improved EV market, with many more vehicles in the A – C segments, and even smaller vans/ multi-purpose vehicles.
The ICE Age
Frequently, I am accused of being a Citroën 2CV fanboy. In reality, I have always preferred the more elegant Citroën Dyane and the more practical Renault 4. However, I am more enthusiastic about fourgonnettes = small panel vans. French models include: the Citroen AU, AZU, AZ and, especially, the Acadiane, based on the Dyane, and the Renault 4 Fourgonette. English models include: the Morris Minor 1000 van variants, and the Traveller, a station wagon. However, the Hillman Husky, another small wagon, was my favourite. Since moving to Norway, I have come to appreciate the Saab 95, sold as a wagon as well as a panel van. Among larger vehicles, my preference is the International Metro Van, designed by Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986). In terms of European vehicles the Morris Commercial J-type is next best.
I would like to thank those members of School District 40, New Westminster, who ensured that teacher parking, rather than facilities for pupils, were placed in the courtyard of Vincent Massey Junior Secondary School. This provided me ample opportunity to reflect on the merits of various vehicles, and made me an avid fan of European vehicles, because they seemed so much more appropriately sized than their American equivalents. Thank you.
Tama Electric Car
This weblog post will end with a short portrait of a predecessor to the Nissan EVs, such as the Leaf, developed by Tokyo Electro Automobile Company, which was spun off from the Tachikawa Aircraft company. The Tama Electric Car, assigned vehicle code E4S-47 I. E is for electric, 4S is for 4-seater sedan, 47 is for the year 1947, and I stands for the initial type. The Tama brand name refers to the factory location, a city in the Tokyo metropolis, in the foothills of the Okutama Mountains of southwestern Tokyo. Nissan notes, “When this car first rolled out in 1947, Japan was suffering from an acute shortage of oil, goods and food while the supply of electricity had a surplus since there were almost no home appliances or bulk users of electricity.” This particular vehicle was used as a taxi until 1951. Even as I complain about the Citröen E-Berlingo Multispace, it shows how far electric vehicles have progressed during the 70 years between 1947 and 2017.
Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 3 035/ 1 230/ 1 630mm; Wheelbase = 2 000mm; Curb weight = 1 100kg; Seating capacity = 4; Range per charge = 65km; Motor = 36V DC series-wound, rated at 3.3kW; Batteries = Lead-acid 40V/ 162Ah; Speed: Max = 35 km/h, Most economical = 28km/h.
I have tried to approach Toyota neutrally, as a vehicle brand, over the past fifty years, but it has gradually sunk in my esteem. Today, it is probably the vehicle brand that I regard most negatively. Toyota’s major concern is that a rapid shift from ICE vehicles to EVs could erode its market share and reduce or eliminate profits.
Earlier, in our car purchasing careers, Patricia and I would attempt to evaluate Toyotas. However, they were not designed for our collective anatomies. If Patricia felt comfortable driving a model, it was uncomfortable for me, and vice versa.
Indeed, with the latest incident with their e-Palette pod at the Paralympics in Tokyo, Toyota is now permanently removed from my list of vehicle brands to consider purchasing.
The Last Straw
Toyota suspended use of the e-Palette transportation pods at the Tokyo Paralympic Games village, a day after one of the vehicles collided with and injured a pedestrian on 2021-08-26. After a couple of days the vehicles were taken into use again. The incident happened when a pod, was manually controlled by one of its two on-board operators using the vehicle’s joystick. It pulled away from a T-junction and drove through a pedestrian crossing while Aramitsu Kitazono (1991 – ), a visually impaired athlete, was walking across. The vehicle operators were aware that a person was there but thought the person would realize that a bus was coming and stop crossing the street.
This situation involves a vehicle capable of autonomous operation, but being operated in manual mode. Thus, the statement made by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda (1956 – ) is disingenuous, when he states that the crash shows autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads. Indeed, all it shows is that human vehicle operation still results in accidents. Admittedly, there is a need to scrutinize the various levels of autonomous driving systems, including their safety and real-world capabilities. Such an incident is inconsistent with what is expected from a self-driving vehicle. A car cannot expect anything from a human being. It is the vehicle that must exercise caution.
This statement by Toyoda is the proverbial last straw. Toyota has opposed a fast transition to electric vehicles (EVs), something that appears critical to mitigate climate change. In 2021-06, several media sources reported that Chris Reynolds (1963 – ), an American Toyota executive with responsibility for government relations, travelled to Washington DC for closed-door meetings with congressional staff members. Here, he allegedly stated Toyota’s opposition to an aggressive transition to all-electric cars, arguing that internal combustion engine (ICE) – electric hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles should be accorded a bigger role.
Toyota has opposed stricter vehicle emission standards and electric vehicle mandates in North America, the European Union and elsewhere, including India, where Toyota’s Indian subsidiary publicly criticised India’s 100% electric vehicle sale target by 2030.
Toyota, and other legacy auto-makers, agreed with the Trump administration in a confrontation with California over the Clean Air Act. Toyota also sued Mexico over fuel-efficiency rules. In Japan, it argued against carbon taxes. Toyota concentrated on the wrong technology. Hydrogen fuel cells offer a costlier and, increasingly, a less developed technology in relation to battery EVs.
The Colours of Hydrogen
Hydrogen may be a colourless gas, but it is available in a variety of colours, based on how it is manufactured. Some methods are environmentally suitable, many are not, and there is no easy way to distinguish what is in any particular vehicle’s tank. This is a major problem for Toyota, when they attempt to promote hydrogen as an environmentally friendly product.
Black or brown hydrogen, uses black (bituminous) or brown (lignite) coal in the hydrogen-making process. Grey hydrogen is the most common form and is generated from natural gas/ methane, through steam reforming. With blue hydrogen, the carbon generated from steam reforming is captured and stored underground through industrial carbon capture and storage (CCS). It is, therefore, sometimes referred to as carbon neutral as the emissions are not dispersed in the atmosphere. However, it is probably more correct to regard it as low carbon because 10-20% of the generated carbon cannot be captured. In addition, storing the
Green hydrogen is produced using clean energy from surplus renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, through electrolysis. Yellow hydrogen has two divergent meanings. It can refer to hydrogen electrolysis using solar power, or it can refer to electrolysis using mixed sources, including non-renewables, depending on what is available. Personally, I am attempting to refer to the latter as orange (up to 50% non-renewables) and red, when the non-renewables exceed this value. Pink hydrogen uses electrolysis powered by nuclear energy. Turquoise hydrogen may be more climate friendly than blue hydrogen, but it still relies on a fossil fuel, methane. It is currently an experimental process that uses methane pyrolysis to generates solid carbon. There is no need for CCS, and the carbon can be used in other processes, including tire manufacturing. I dislike the term turquoise being used in this way, because it greenwashes methane. Personally, I would like to refer to this as purple hydrogen.
FerdinandPorsche (1875 – 1951) developed the Lohner-Porsche hybrid vehicle in 1901. It was the first hybrid. Yet, it is Toyota that is known for its hybrids. Hybrid electric vehicles become widely available with the release of the Toyota Prius in 1997. Since then, Toyota has stagnated. Despite the first plug-in hybrid car being built by Andrew Alfonso Frank (ca. 1934 – ), and his students, in 1971, the first mass produced plug-in hybrid passenger car was the Chinese BYD F3DM, launched in 2008. Before this, there were some experimental vehicles, including some Prius models, that were after-market plug-in hybrid conversions, but this was more despite Toyota, than because of Toyota. These added plug-in charging and additional lead-acid batteries, to extend range. It is not Toyota, but Mitsubishi, with its Outlander PHEV that is the world’s all-time best-selling plug-in hybrid. Hybrid vehicles require a duplication of technology, and do not offer any guaranteed reduction in fossil fuel consumption.
On 2020-12-07, Toyota announced plans to bring two EVs and a hybrid to the European market. On 2021-02-10, they repeated this for the US market. One of the EVs is the bZ4X SUV (and its badge engineered Subaru Solterra AWD). The others are more difficult to guess, but some sources think the plug-in could be a Toyota RAV4/ Subaru Forester. These EVs will not be built by Toyota, but by BYD, the Chinese EV manufacturer. Admittedly, plug-in hybrids can be efficient in some use cases, but it is an exaggeration, if not an outright untruth, to state, as Toyota did, that: “GHG [greenhouse gas contribution] of a currently available BEV model and PHEV model are roughly the same in on-road performance when factoring in pollutants created by electricity production for the average U.S. energy grid used to charge batteries.”
Toyota announced on 2021-09-08, that it is investing ¥ 1.5 trillion = ca. US$ 13.6 billion = ca. € 11.5 billion, in EV batteries as it is trying to catch up after falling behind in electrification. Masahiko Maeda (1969 – ), Toyota’s chief technology office, said that Toyota wants to secure 200 GWh of batteries by 2030. With an average battery pack of 60 kWh, this would be enough to produce more than 3 million EVs per year.
Toyota seems to be trying to game climate change, rather than taking it seriously. They are playing both sides: offering climate scepticism to climate sceptics and climate concern to environmentalists, when it suits them. My personal conclusion is that this approach makes Toyota one of the least ethical auto-makers in the world. It is attempting to undermine agreed upon climate goals, which may in themselves be too little, too late. Consumers with the possibility, should only be considering EVs for their next vehicle purchase. One approach is to retain a current ICE vehicle, until EV prices decline sufficiently to allow a purchase. Regardless, consumers should avoid buying Toyotas, until the company starts talking realistically about environmental concerns including human induced climate change, and shows real environmental progress by eliminating ICE (including hybrid) vehicles from their model program.
If not a Toyota, what?
In the coming months and years, a number of new, lower cost mass market EVs will be emerging, that are more reliable, economical and environmentally friendly than current vehicles. These will not be technological experiments on wheels, but functional mass-market products. The handling of fires in Chevrolet Bolts and Hyundai Konas, shows that manufacturing and selling EVs is not a game, but an endeavour with potentially serious and expensive consequences. While General Motors used delay tactics and let consumers deal with emerging safety issues, Hyundai replaced defective batteries almost immediately, despite the enormous cost. Now, General motors is also having to replace batteries at the same enormous cost, but has lost the respect and confidence of consumers. My expectation is that few consumers will want to prioritize buying a Bolt (or any other Chevrolet EV) in the future.
While there are several theories about innovation, one of the first and most influential was Everett Rogers’ (1931 – 2004) famous Diffusion of Innovations (1961) book, containing a model and curve (see below). Geoffry Moore (1946 – ) in Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (1991) regarded the step from early adapters to early majority as a chasm. Crossing it is difficult, yet critical for success. To understand why I am pessimistic about the fate of legacy auto-makers, one has only to read Clayton Christensen (1952 – 2020), The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997). He is not optimistic about the chances of any legacy manufacturer of anything surviving, in a disrupted market.
For the past ten years, EV models have been released that have suited initiators, innovators and early adopters, with an emphasis on sportiness and luxury. These values are wasted on the majority, who want pragmatic solutions to their transportation needs. In Norway, the early majority are already in the marketplace. By 2025, the late majority will have started buying EVs. Laggards will be making EV purchases by 2030, if not 2027.
Today, I read in passing that there are 138 EV models available. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it seems a reasonable approximation. I will make no attempt to influence or micromanage any reader, or to suggest any of these models for anyone. Instead, I will allow readers to see some of my considerations, when I evaluate EVs, and why I need help to make sensible choices. At the most basic level, safety (including positive crash test results) must be in place, and the technology (battery, motor, charging) must be sound.
I am not known for my wise automotive purchases. In part, this is because practicality has to combine with my personal sense of style (some would say, frivolity) to create an attractive vehicle. My first car was a 1962 Hillman Minx convertible, purchased in 1966. It was fun, but unreliable. It lasted six months. Together with Patricia, over our lifetimes, we have owned 2 English, 2 French, 2 German, 2 Japanese and 1 Korean vehicles. In this time I have learned something about vehicles, my own personality, and Patricia’s.
My temperament attracts me to utilitarian French vehicles because of their comfort, ground clearance and load carrying capacity, and despite their notorious lack of reliability. Yet, I manage to see them possessing utilitarian elegance. I have appreciated the Citroën Berlingo since its inception, but I am less enthusiastic about its current and upcoming electric Multispace, its multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) variants. Even the new Renault Kangoo ZE update in the same segment, is not being built as an EV from the ground up. However, I find Renault (and its sub-brand Dacia) along with Fiat, the most interesting European automotive manufacturers, precisely because there is a sense of whimsy in their design. What they lack in quality, they make up in style. Fiat, back in 2018, announced a 500 Giardiniera station wagon. Then in 2019, it presented the Centoventi (120) concept, which they suggested, could become the first Panda EV. Both would be built on an electric only platform. Both hold a design appeal I find lacking in a BMW or Cadillac or a Ford F-150. The main difference between 2019 and now, is that Fiat has become part of Stellantis, headquartered in Amsterdam, but with 30 manufacturing facilities around the world. Most new Fiat products would be built on the Stellantis STLA Small EV platform.
Fortunately, Patricia won’t let me make the most ruinous decisions, and tempers my desire for fashion, form, frivolity and fun. She will undoubtedly tell me that it would be much more sensible to purchase a Hyundai, such as the upcoming Ioniq 3 (compact) or Ioniq 1 (mini) crossover SUV EVs, but that I should wait until 2025, when more mass-market models will be available, at lower prices. Nirvana is less than 40 months away!
Regardless of what happens, it should be noted that I will not be the first in the family to own an EV. My daughter, Shelagh together with her domestic partner, Derek, own a BMW i3.
Heart Aerospace is a Swedish startup company developing an electric aircraft, the ES-19, a 19-passenger regional airliner, with four propellers. The ES-19 is planned to have a range of 400 kilometers, and to be able to recharge in less than 40 minutes. Heart plans to fly the aircraft in 2024 and have it certified by the end of 2026.
In 2021-03 Heart signed a letter of interest with Finnair which would allow the airline to purchase up to 20 ES-19 aircraft. In 2021-07 United Airlines and their sometime partner, Mesa Airlines, announced their intention to purchase 100 ES-19 aircraft, each.
Heart Aerospace is based in Göteborg, Sweden. It also has offices in Stockholm, Sweden and Palo Alto, California. Originally, it was part of the Electric Air Travel in Sweden (ELISE) project. It has funding from Sweden’s Vinnova innovation agency. For the ES-19 project, Heart Aerospace have backing fromEQT Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (a venture fond started by Bill Gates in 2015 “to accelerate the development of sustainable energy and green technologies”), Mesa Airlines, United Airlines, and the European Innovation Council Green Deal Accelerator Programme. The governments of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Greenland have contributed about $1.4 million in funding.
While some might put the ES-19 in the same category as a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, currently marketed as the Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter, perhaps because they carry the same number of passengers, and have a high-wing design, there are a number of differences. In addition to all-electric propulsion, the ES-19 has a modular design, with aluminium as the airframe’s base material. The fuselage has a non-cylindrical profile, to optimise internal space utilisation, with 1+1 seating. The cabin is pressurised, and the landing gear retractable. It is designed to operate from a 800 m long runway.
The Nordic Network for Electric Aviation, founded in 2019, includes national airport authorities (Avinor, Finavia and Sweavia) and five airlines (Air Greenland, Braathens Regional Airlines, Finnair, Icelandair and SAS). For example, in 2020-12 Iceland stated it plans to have carbon-free domestic flights by the end of 2029. Iceland’s compact size and short distances between population centres, makes it suitable for using first-generation electric aircraft. enthusiastic about the application of electric technology, especially in light of the island’s abundant geothermal and hydro-power green-energy resources. Swedish North Volt is also involved in battery development for the aircraft.
Distances between airports are longer in Norway and Sweden, and the number of passengers to be moved is higher. However, Norway plans to have all its domestic flights all-electric by 2040. It is considering subsidies and/ or tax incentives for individual routes.
United Airlines has stated that the aircraft can be used on about 100 different routes in USA, but none are mentioned by name.
For further information see: https://heartaerospace.com/
In 1913, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had collaborated on an electric vehicle. This was not a successful venture. Fifty-four years later, in 1967, Ford of Great Britain, produced their first modern electric vehicle, a Ford Comuta concept/ prototype, developed at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre, east of London.
The Comuta was 2 032 mm long, and weighed about 545 kg. Along with a fiberglass body, it featured a steel backbone chassis, with an independent suspension provided by leading arms at the front and trailing arms at the rear. Drum brakes were also provided.
It could seat two adults in the front and two children in the rear. It’s top speed of 60 km/h and a range of 60 km if driven at 35 km/h. The rear wheel drive vehicle was powered by dual DC electric motors that put out 3.7 kW. These were originally designed as aircraft auxiliary units. Power came from four mid-mounted 12 V 85 Ah lead-acid batteries, producing a total of about 4 kWh. Ductwork piped air through the central backbone to provid motor cooling and heating for the passenger compartment.
Somewhere between two and six Comutas were built (sources conflict). It was unveiled at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show. One can be found in the collection of the Science Museum in London. The fate of the other(s) is unknown.