Ace EV

The Australian Clean Energy Electric Vehicle (ACE EV) group is a startup founded in 2017 by Australian engineer Gregory McGarvie (ca. 1952 – ) and Chinese entrepreneur Will Qiang, in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. Its goal was to manufacture electric vehicles in Australia, especially small, city vans aimed for small businesses.

In August 2019, ACE EV unveiled their range of three electric vehicles: the Cargo van, the Yewt pickup, and the Urban 3-door hatchback. Sales of vehicles on the Australian market are expected to start in 2021, with prices of about AU$ 40 000 = NOK 250 000 = US$ 25 000. Castle Placement has been engaged to find AU$ 230 million in capital. Their prospectus provides further insights into ACE EV.

In addition to the Australian domestic market, developing countries throughout the world represent another target market for ACE EV. Competitive product pricing requires some changes to product development. The focus is on providing the underserved with access to electric vehicles and battery technologies. This will be done by offering kit based or do it yourself (DIY) modular packages for easy assembly and maintenance anywhere in the world; onboard Alternating Current Bidirectional/Vehicle to Grid (V2G) capabilities; and, Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) components that are 3D printable and recyclable.

Australia’s legacy auto-makers have closed down, with the last mass-market vehicles being produced in Australia in 2017. Now, only insignificant quantities of niche products are made.

The assembly of an electric vehicle kit could facilitate the training of EV service personnel, as well as more general education at secondary schools, and in other forums. This comment is addressed in particular to readers at Melvindale secondary school in Detroit, Verdal prison school, and the Inderøy Radio Control Club.

It may be less advantageous for private individuals to construct their own vehicles. If any problems arise, one wonders if Ace EV would accept responsibility, or attempt to deflect responsibility onto the builder/ owner. I asked my daughter if she would want me to spend some of her potential inheritance buying an EV kit? She tactfully replied that “a car is best purchased, not diy’ed.” Two minutes later, she added, “To put it bluntly, it sounds like a recipe for disaster.”

V2G capability could quickly become a must-have feature of an EV. In areas where short duration power outages are a relatively common occurrence, V2G could eliminate the need for a smelly, noxious wood stove. At cliff cottage, we removed the wood stove from our living room, with the intention of replacing it with a more modern variant. This would cost about NOK 50 000.

Unfortunately, a wood stove is an inferior substitute for electrical power. It does not power refrigerators or freezers, hot water tanks, induction stove tops, conventional and microwave ovens, computers and their screens, lighting or broadband interconnections. Its only function is space heating. One proposal is to invest in some form of a battery pack that could feed electricity to the house during an outage. V2G is one such answer.

I am eagerly awaiting a YouTube video, made by an Australian outback station owner, describing an Ace EV’s capabilities after a year of driving. Will it withstand driver abuse? is a critical question.

Foiling Moth

A moth (International Moth Class) “flying” over the water in the port of Kiel in 2008. Photo: VollwertBIT

Wikipedia comments on the Moth class, “Originally a small, fast home-built sailing boat designed to plane, since 2000 it has become an expensive and largely commercially-produced boat designed to hydroplane on foils. The pre-hydrofoil design Moths are still sailed and raced, but are far slower than their foiled counterparts.”

There have been many iterations of the Moss dinghy, with the exact number dependent on how they are counted. First, it began life in Australia in 1928 when Len Morris built a cat rigged = single sail, wooden scow = a flat-bottomed boat with a horizontal rather than a more common vertical bow. It was hard chined = with a sharp change in angle in the cross section of a hull, 3.4 m long, with a single 7.4 m2 mainsail. A second iteration emerged in North Carolina in 1929, with a 6.7 m2 sail, on a somewhat shorter mast. In 1933, The Rudder, an American boating magazine, published an article about the American Moths. A third iteration came about in 1932, when a British Moth class was started. This was a one-design, which meant that there could be very little variation between the boats. One designs are used in competitions so that winners can be distinguished on the basis of sailing ability, rather than in boat characteristics.

The fourth iteration was initiated with the Restricted Moth of the 1960s and 1970s. With few design restrictions, individuals were allowed to modify their boats. This allowed the class to develop and adjust to new technology and materials. An International Moth arose in Australia and New Zealand.

The Europa Moth, which became the Olympic Europe dinghy, can be regarded as a fifth iteration. This was followed by a sixth iteration, in the form of a New Zealand Mark 2 Scow Moth, in the 1970s. Finally, a seventh iteration emerged with the International Moth, a fast sailing hydrofoil dinghy with few design restrictions.

Most people who choose a Moth do so because it is a development class. In much the same way that there are two types of motorsport enthusiasts, those who want to keep their vehicles stock, and those who want to modify it. The Moth appeals to those who want to modify their boat. There are plenty of other one-design classes, some designed for racing, others more suitable for cruising, for sailors without genes that demand they experiment, and take risks.

The Moth of the 1930s was a heavy, narrow scow that weighed about 50 kg. Today’s foiling moth has a hull weight of under 10 kg. During some periods wider skows without wings have been popular. Now, hulls are narrow and wedge-shaped, but with hiking wings stretching to the maximum permitted beam. Sail plans have evolved from cotton sails on wooden spars, through the fully battened Dacron sails on aluminum spars, to today’s sleeved film sails on carbon spars.

While foiling moths are mainly used in protected areas, they can also be used offshore. On 2017-01-21 Andy Budgen sailed Mach 2 a foiling International Moth Nano Project to complete the 60 nautical mile (nm) = ca. 111 km (1 nm = 1852 m) Mount Gay Round Barbados Race at a record pace of 4 hours, 23 minutes, 18 seconds, to established the Absolute Foiling Monohull record.

In 2021, the much larger 75 feet = 23.86 m foiling AC75 monohulls were competing. First, the Prada Cup series was held to determine who would challenge New Zealand in the America’s Cup. It ended with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli/ Circolo della Vela Sicilia’s Luna Rossa defeating American Magic/ New York Yacht Club’s Patriot and Ineos Team UK/ Royal Yacht Squadron’s Britannia. Speeds were regularly over 50 knots = 92.6 km/h = 25.7 m/s = 57.5 mph. In the subsequent America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand/ Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s Te Rehutai defeated Luna Rossa, to retain the cup. Here is a 10 minute summary of the last race. This video will also show the massive size and speed of these vessels.

Readers may, at this point, wonder why this weblog post is being written, especially when this writer has no interest in sailing such a vessel. He would only be interested in helping to make one for others to use and enjoy. The typical person who could be interested in this, is an inmate at a Norwegian prison, perhaps this unidentified person who drove at 288 km/h = 179 mph, through a tunnel, and bragged about it on social media. Working with cutting edge technology, and sailing at the limits this technology allows, should be a perfect combination of activities for such a risk-oriented person. The advantage of sailing is that it doesn’t put other people in danger, although I would want to have a high-powered rigid inflatable boat (RIB) available during test runs, to rescue this person when (rather than if) he capsizes.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect the prison system to welcome this suggestion. They seem to think that having inmates make pallets will in some way create law-abiding citizens. It won’t. A previous weblog has discussed Flow as a means of motivating inmates.

Further information: International Moth Class Association, Mach 2 Boats, Mothmart (the International Moth marketplace).

Aptera

Aptera 3 in 2021. (Photo: Aptera)

In the twenty-first century, the ancient Greek word, aptera = wingless, has been reused, this time to refer to a brand of extremely aerodynamic vehicles. Perhaps, it can best be regarded as reassurance that this vehicle will remain flightless, and not ascend into the skies. An equally appropriate name for the vehicle would be Phoenix, for the Aptera brand and vehicle was born in 2006, died in 2011, but was resurrected in 2019.

The original Aptera Motors, Inc., was founded by Steve Fambro (1968 – ) in 2006 and was originally named Accelerated Composites. Fambro was educated as an electrical engineer at the University of Utah, where he studied electo-magnets and antennas. Immediately before starting Aptera, he worked as a senior electrical engineer at Illumina, designing robots that make DNA, and vision systems to inspect that DNA. On LinkedIn, he writes, “Embracing efficiency as an ethos for a car company means we endeavour to do more with less. More range, more performance, more safety, more fun- with fewer batteries, less mining, less energy, less carbon. Doing more with less.”

Fambro initially worked as chief executive officer (CEO) at Aptera. He hired Chris Anthony to be the chief operating officer (COO) shortly after the founding. Thirty million dollars was raised in three rounds of funding, and Aptera grew from 3 to 50 employees. Aptera launched a prototype, the Typ-1, in 2007.

The design of the Aptera Typ-1 was futuristic, but due in large part to Jason C. Hill, president/ owner/ designer at Eleven, a transportation, automotive and mobility design consultancy, started 2003-11. Hill describes himself and his company on LinkedIn as “Specializing in design and product development as well as strategic design, advanced design, and design DNA creation. Currently working with a top New Energy Vehicle Company. Worked on AV solutions regarding the integration of sensor technology for the leading company of LiDAR tech. Recently worked with a MAAS start-up defining the design DNA and UX/UI for their unique urban mobility solution.”

The Aptera 2 Series, was a rebadged Typ-1, to be made available in two variants, a battery electric 2e, and a plug-in hybrid 2h. These could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in about 6.3 seconds. Their top speed was 140 km/h. About 5 000 pre-orders for the vehicles were made by California residents.

In 2008, Fambro relinquished his CEO position to Paul Wilbur, and became chief technical officer (CTO) for the company. When Wilbur joined Aptera he had 20 years of experience with Ford and Chrysler, and over 10 years experience as CEO of American Specialty Cars Incorporated, a tier 1 supplier. My thought on reading this, is that he was too integrated into the conservative automotive industry to function as a CEO of a venture capital financed startup.

Because of assorted production challenges that made it difficult to receive government financing for a three wheeled vehicle classified as a motorcycle, instead of a four wheeled vehicle classified as a car, the design was changed to that of a four wheel vehicle. This added immensely to the cost, and the original company was liquidated in 2011. Various reasons are cited for this, but one is the enormous amount of capital needed to actually produce a car.

After several years working with vertical farming, Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony, once again found an opportunity to relaunch the Aptera in 2019. This time it was Chris Anthony who was given the role of CEO. He had gained experience working as founder and chairperson at Flux Power, an energy storage technology company, for ten years from 2009-10 to 2019-12. Another major differences was that this new Aptera relied on crowd funding from enthusiasts, rather than venture capital from impatient capitalists. During the course of the intervening nine years, electric cars had matured. Batteries were larger and cheaper, motors were more powerful, and there was a better understanding of how everything worked.

Dimensions of the Aptera 2e and 3 respectively

Wheelbase2 819 / 2 743 mm
Length4 394 /4 369 mm
Width2 311 / 2 235 mm
Height1 346 / 1 448 mm
Kerb weight680 / 800 kg
Dimensions of the Aptera 2e & Aptera 3.

The Aptera 2e used an A123 Systems for the 20 kWh lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery pack, and Remy International for the 82 kW HVH250 electric motor. This was mated to a BorgWarner 31-03 eGearDrive transmission. A SAE J1772 compatible charging system at either 110 or 220 V was to be provided. The range was about 190 km.

The hybrid version also had a small, water-cooled electronic fuel injection (EFI) gasoline engine with closed loop oxygen feedback and catalytic converter that was connected to a 12 kW generator/starter. It is similar in approach to the range extender found on the BMW i3. With a 20 litre fuel tank and fully charged battery, the 2h could offer a range of 970 – 1130 km.

Aptera 3 evokes deja vu. It repeats the basic Jason C. Hill design, but modernized for the 2020s. Like many other smaller manufacturers of electric vehicles, Aptera has engaged the services of Munro & Associates, a company established in 1988. Munro & Associates, Inc., focuses attention on profit improvement through design innovation; not financial trickery or outsourcing. He claims that they use their 3 000 m2 facility to benchmark and redesign products using purpose built software, and an internal search engine to remove 20% to 60% of the cost while improving the product’s function and quality. Sandy Munro has his origins, like this weblog writer, in Windsor, Ontario, where he started working as a toolmaker at the Valiant Machine Tool Company.

The resin composite skin contains microfluidic channels filled with a coolant to transfer heat from the batteries, motors and solar panels to the underbelly and sides of the vehicle.

Technically, the Aptera 3 will come with either two or three wheel hub motors for front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Each motor provides 50 kW, and is provided by Elaphe Ltd, in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Multiple solar panel, motor and battery configurations are planned, with ranges from 400 to 1 600 km provided by 25, 40, 60 or 100 kW·h lithium-ion battery packs. Embedded solar cells will contribute up to an additional 65 km per day from sunlight alone under ideal conditions. With average daily commute distances estimated to be about less than 50 km per day, this allows Aptera to claim that they are producing a never charge vehicle. Prices vary from US$ 25 900 to over US$ 47 000. The all-wheel-drive version will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.5 s. The two-wheel-drive versions have a 0 to 100 km/h time of 5.5 s.

A number of details for the Aptera 3 are missing. This includes the charging technology to be used. Several enhancements/ options are offered: SafetyPilot adds Level 2 autonomy capability, including facial tracking, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and emergency braking; Enhanced audio provides three more channels of audio including an added lightweight transmission-line subwoofer; Off-road kit increases ground clearance and provides tougher wheel covers; Camping kit provides an integrated tent and rear awning; and, Pet kit adds a pet divider, a way to secure a pet, a rear ladder and other assessories for an animal.

From other sources, it appears that Aptera will use batch processing (rather than an assembly line) to produce its products. A batch could consist of between 100 to 200 units that have highly similar characteristics. Batch production would reduce capital investment.

Two new front-wheel drive (FWD) limited editions will be available. The Paradigm Edition is described as “The Most Efficient Vehicle on the Road” with a 640 km range, 100 kW drive system, with solar panels. The Paradigm + is “The Most Efficient Long Range Vehicle on the Road” with a full 1 600 km range, 100 kW drive system, and solar panels.

Another Aptera 3, showing off its solar panels (Photo: Aptera)

Notes: 1. The noun Aptera, has a long history. It was the name of an ancient city in Crete, as well as the name of another ancient city in Turkey. Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) classified Aptera as the seventh and last order of Insecta. It included many diverse creatures without wings, including crustaceans (crabs/ lobsters/ shrimp/ woodlice/ barnacles, etc.), arachnidans (spiders), myriapods (terrestrial creatures having anywhere from about 10 to 750 legs), and more. In 1795 Pierre André Latreille (1762 – 1833) divided it into seven orders: Suctoria, Thysanura, Parasita, Acephala, Entomostraca, Crustacea, and Myriapoda.

2. Wikipedia claims that the 2e was (going to be) assembled in Canada. Canada is a big place, and I haven’t been able to find out where, specifically, this was going to happen. If anyone knows, please advise and the text will be modified appropriately, with an acknowledgement.

Arcimoto

The Arcimoto Deliverator, is a last-mile battery electric delivery vehicle, made in Eugene, Oregon, USA. (Photo: Arcimoto)

Arcimoto describes itself as a manufacturer of ultra-efficient electric vehicles. These are (relatively) low cost and low environmental impact vehicles.

The Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) is a three-wheeled, two-passenger tandem = seated one behind the other, vehicle. This vehicle uses a platform that forms the basis for other models. Specifications for the FUV are shown in the table below. All values are converted and approximate. American units are available from the Wikipedia article on Arcimoto, or the company website.

Acceleration0-100 km/h in 7.5 s
Top Speed120 km/h
Turning Circle8 840 mm
Power57 kW
Range160 km city
ca 100 km @ 90 km/h
ca 50 @ 110 km/h
Overall Length2 870 mm
Overall Width1 549 mm
Max Height1 651 mm
Ground Clearance140 mm (unladen)
Wheelbase2 032 mm
Shipping Weight590 kg
GVWR816 kg
Specifications for the Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle, converted to conventional metric units.

Munro & Associates, is providing engineering advice to Arcimoto. Some of this work is related to product engineering, such as reducing vehicle weight to 500 kg. Others aspects relate to expanding production capacity and profitability. Arcimoto has two strategic directions: It can focus on expanding production to 50 000 units/year, or it can concentrate on higher profit margin products (Deliverator/ Rapid Responder) at its current 3 – 5 000 unit/year rate, or some combination of both. On 2021-01-06, Agreed to purchase a larger, 17 000 square meter manufacturing facility, a few blocks away from its previous/ current location in Eugene.

An aside: Sandy Munro (? – ) is a Canadian automotive engineer, who started his working life as a tool and die maker. He worked for Ford, starting in 1977, but left in 1988 to start his own consultancy. His work incorporates design for assembly (DFA)/ design for manufacturability (DFM) principles. His focus is on lean design, which is also the name of his website. His tear-down reports critically examine quality issues of specific vehicle models. They are most often used by assorted Asian start-ups. As the wise, old man of the automotive industry, he begins his YouTube videos with, “Hey, Boys and Girls …” Munro is also assisting Aptera with a relaunch of their vehicle, abandoned ca. 2009.

The FUV platform uses pouch cells from Farasis Energy, a Chinese battery manufacturer, providing a total of 19.2 kWh. While the battery is capable of accepting level 2 charging, Arcimoto plans on making fleet vehicles capable of handle higher charging rates.

Arcimoto is not developing in-house autonomous driving capabilities, but provide a foundation for third party hardware and software that will integrate into the vehicle platform. For example, steering is drive by wire allowing software to control wheel direction without additional hardware. Advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) features will be gradually added up to level 5 (Eyes off) autonomous driving.

The Rapid Responder™ is an emergency response vehicle that retains the two passenger configuration, but has equipment found on emergency vehicles. It is inexpensive (US$ 25 000), easily manoeuvrable through traffic, and capable of reaching places inaccessible to large trucks.

The Deliverator® replaces the rear seat with a large cargo area accessible by a door on the starboard side (right side facing forward) for last-mile delivery. Because of its small footprint, it can park in places unavailable to larger vehicles.

In development is the Cameo™. The passenger seat and storage compartment is replaced with a rear-facing seat, for a camera person to film various activities. It is aimed at the “film and influencer industry”. Also in development is a flat-bed pickup variant, and the Roadster, “Anticipated to be released in the first half of 2021, the Roadster is designed to be the ultimate on-road fun machine. Built on our patented three-wheel all-electric platform, … [it] features an incredibly low and forward center of gravity, twin-motor front wheel drive, instant torque, and a fully-connected seating stance.”

On 2021-01-26, it was anounced that Arcimoto will be buying Tilting Motor Works’ assets for around US$10 million, along with Arcimoto shares. Arcimoto want to integrate these into future products. TRiO, which is the most popular three-wheel conversion kit for touring motorcycles, provides a comfortable and stable ride, but with the riding characteristics of a motorcycle. This means that the rider/ driver can drive/ pilot their vehicle as if it were a two-wheeled motorcycle, yet eliminate the need to put their feet down while at a stop, or riding in slow traffic.

Tilting Motor Works’ technology in operation. Photo: Tilting Motor Works.

Upcoming electric vehicle posts

With so much time spent researching and writing about computing, there has been less time available to research and write about electric vehicles. Currently, five drafts of weblog posts are either scheduled or pending. These are:

Aptera will be the subject of the next weblog post on electric vehicles. It is a three-wheeled streamlined (enclosed) vehicle. Originally scheduled to be launched ca. 2010, this vehicle was a focus during my teaching career. The project was abandoned, but has since been revised.

Paxster has much in common with the Arcimoto Deliverator, but is a four-wheeled vehicle. It used for urban mail distribution by the Norwegian postal service, Posten.

Frikar is a pod bike, made in Sandnes, Norway.

Eav from Electric Assisted Vehicles Limited, of Bicester, England, is an eCargo bike with electric power assistance for last-mile transport solutions.

e-Cub is about Shanghai Custom’s electric conversion of the world’s most popular vehicle, the Honda (Super) Cub, with over 100 million units having been produced since 1958.

Mobilize is the name of Renault’s new mobility division. This division will offer car-sharing, energy and data-related services to help make transportation more sustainable. Their first prototype, the EZ-1, was presented 2021-01-15. A production model could be a replacement for the Renault Twizzy.

Additional electric vehicles will be discussed in Downsizing the Garage, scheduled for 2021-10-29, the fourth anniversary of Stuffing a 10-car garage, which appeared 2017-10-29.

Panel Vans

A 1961 Hillman Husky panel van in Christchurch, New Zealand. This is an Audax design from Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986), who also designed vehicles for Studebaker and International Harvester. (Photo: Riley, 2011-10-23)

A panel van is a cargo vehicle with (up to) three distinguishing characteristics. First, it is based on a passenger car chassis. Second, there is typically only one row of seats for a driver and either one or two passengers. The area behind this row is for cargo/ goods/ freight. Third, (optionally,)there are no side windows behind the B-pillar, which is the roof support for the vehicle immediately behind the front doors.

In the past, some panel vans were almost identical to station wagons, but with glass side-windows replaced with steel, and rear seats removed. In the above photo, the windows are still in place, but painted with signage. Others featured a raised cargo area, behind the B-pillar. British panel vans, especially the Hillman Husky and Commer Cob, with their Audax design from 1960 to 1965, by Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986), appealed most to me in the 1960s.

An aside: In part, this preference for British vehicles came from spending most summers in Kelowna, British Columbia, where my mother grew up. The community seemed to have a split personality: Half of the population drove British cars, the other half American. The first vehicle I ever drove was a Chevrolet pickup, in a farm field. I also spent a lot of time driving to beaches in the back of my aunt’s 1939 Plymouth. However, most of my mother’s friends had their own Austin A40s, Morris Minors, and even a Mini, bought in 1960.

By the 1970s, station wagons such as the Volkswagen Squareback and Volvo Amazon station wagon/ 125 and, later, Volvo 145 were also favourably viewed. This position was overtaken by the Saab 95 panel van in the 1980s and early 1990s. Our landlord in Aukra, Norway, had such a vehicle. Sometimes he would take us into Molde, about 30 km away, with Trish sitting in the passenger seat, while I lounged in the back. At the time, this was all perfectly legal. With the introduction of the Citroën Berlingo and Renault Kangoo in 1996, these two models dominated my thoughts. They no longer featured the front end, and lower seating height of a small car, but had a distinctive cockpit that improved visibility.

Part of the appeal of a panel van is that both sides and, potentially, the back, can be used to display artwork. This is part of their charm, and I have spent considerable time contemplating what I would paint on these surfaces. This characteristic does not extend to the panel van’s passenger vehicle cousin, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). Despite their inferiority in displaying artwork, they also have one major advantage. When they aren’t busy carrying cargo, they can also haul up to five, and sometimes even seven people. This group of vehicles also includes the Kia Soul.

Since retirement in 2017, I have been unable to justify buying a panel van. We are reduced to one vehicle in the household. Even if that one vehicle is used mainly by a single person at a time, and sometimes even two people, it has to be capable of carrying at least four people. Unfortunately, the premise of owning a panel van was dependent on having more than one vehicle in the household. Any new vehicle means that it won’t be a panel van, but could be an MPV.

Why an MPV? Apart from driving to the local store, or SpirenTEK, the local hacker space, which could be done with any vehicle, the answer is to transform it into a primitive mini-camper, that could be used to explore Trøndelag/ Norway/ Scandinavia/ Europe at a leisurely pace. There are companies that make removable camper conversions, but it is also something that could be made in almost any woodworking workshop. Thus, the MPV is the most relevant type of vehicle to consider.

There are smaller contenders: a Fiat 500 Giardiniera (if it ever makes it into production, hopefully with a side opening tailgate), a Hyundai Kona, or a Kia e-Niro, all vehicles that have suitable range! If worse comes to worse and price becomes an important consideration, there is always a Dacia Spring, or a Renault Zöe. Renault has also said it will reduce the number of platforms it builds on, which probably means it will discontinue its Renault Twingo EV. They have also said that they will introduce a Renault 5 hatchback EV in 2023 or 2024 (probably a replacement for the Zöe), and a Renault 4 retrostyled mini-SUV EV in 2025. These would both use a new CMF-B EV platform, designed for electric compact vehicles, and be built at the Douai plant near Lille, France. None of these vehicles would make a suitable mini-camper. Apart from power, torque and sufficient battery capacity, which determines range, liquid battery cooling is imperative.

EV variant vans prior to 2021 were better suited to flat, slow moving urban landscapes, than to the mountainous terrain of Norway. Fortunately, both Renault and Citroën have updated their smaller vans. Soon these will be available with improved motors and batteries, so that they provide sufficient range and power. Are they once again fit for purpose? The availability of liquid battery cooling will provide the answer. If not, the Kia Soul EV does.

A 2021 Renault Kangoo, a multi-purpose vehicle, available in ICE and EV (called ZE in Renault-speak) varieties. Buying one is dependent on it coming with liquid cooled batteries. Photo: Renault.

Update: On 2021-02-14 some minor changes were made to improve the text, and to help people better understand locations in Canada and Norway.

Heat

The U.S. consumes about 100 EJ = 100 Exajoules = 100 x 1018 Joules of energy, annually. Americans, being Americans don’t often express energy in Joules. Rather, they prefer to use British Thermal Units (BTUs), where 1 BTU = 1055 J. Another way of expressing this is to say that Americans use about 100 quads of energy, where 1 quad = 1015 BTUs. If one is willing to accept a 5.5% error, one can say that 1 EJ is about equal to 1 quad.

Only about one third of energy consumed is used for productive work. The above Sankey diagram shows energy inputs and outputs, productive work is clumped together as energy services, in a dark gray box. The other 2/3 is wasted as heat, which in the above diagram is referred to as rejected energy, which is clumped together in a light gray box.

Renewable energy comes from solar (1.04 quads), hydro (2.5 quads), winds (2.75 quads) and geothermal (0.21 quads) sources, for a total of 6.5 quads. Thermal energy systems burn fuel or split atoms, and accounted for about 93.5% of American energy inputs in 2019. Most of this fuel come from fossil sources, that is responsible for most of the carbon emissions associated with climate change. Wasted/ rejected energy is a proxy/ surrogate/ substitute for the damage being done to the planet. The exception is the energy provided by nuclear power, although it also has issues of its own. In contrast, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) capture energy, without creating heat. While there are some transmission loses, most of that energy provides energy services.

A modern electric vehicle (EV) with regenerative braking is about 95% energy effective. Even the most efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, can only achieve about 30% energy efficiency. This means that an EV only needs about 1/3 of the energy inputs that an ICE vehicle needs.

The United States transportation sector uses 28% of the total energy. Of this, cars, light trucks, and motorcycles use about 58%, while 23% is used in heavy duty trucks, 8% is for aircraft, 4% is for boats and ships, 3% is for trains and buses, while the last 4% is for pipelines (according to 2013 figures). This means that road transportation accounts for over 80% of the total. From the Sankey diagram, one can see that the transportation sector has 28.2 quads of input of (mostly) fossil-fuel energy, which means that 22.5 quads are road related. This results in 5.93 quads of transportation services, of which 4.75 quads are road related. These figures show about a 21% efficiency, because transportation related engines are considerably less efficient than other engines, including those used for electrical power generation.

If one uses renewable energy for road transportation, 4.75 quads of transportation services could be produced from about 5.0 quads of renewable (wind/ solar/ hydro/ geothermal) energy. At the same time, 22.5 quads of oil production would be eliminated, without any negative energy-related consequences. In fact, there would be benefits in terms of improved health, and less pressure on the environment.

A shift to renewable sources in other sectors would also have benefits. Natural gas and coal currently make a large contribution to inputs for electricity generation used elsewhere, 11.7 and 10.2 quads each, respectively, for a total of 21.9 quads. However, using the 1/3 service, 2/3 rejected formula, this means that these fossil-fuel inputs only produce 7.3 quads of electrical services. This contribution could be replaced by 7.5 quads of renewable energy.

Gasoline has an energy density of about 45 MJ/kg, which can provide about 15 MJ/kg of energy services, and 30 MJ/kg of rejected energy, as discussed above. A litre of gasoline has a mass of 0.76 kg and produces 2.356 kg of CO2 and 11.4 MJ of energy.

For American readers: The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that “About 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol. About 22.38 pounds of CO2 are produced by burning a gallon of diesel fuel. U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2013 resulted in the emission of about 1 095 and 427 million metric tons of CO2 respectively, for a total of 1 522 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equivalent to 83% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 28% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.Under international agreement, CO2 from the combustion of biomass or biofuels are not included in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.”

Since 1 MJ = 0.2778 Kilowatt hours (kWh), 11.4 MJ is the equivalent of 3.17 kWh. According to Electric Choice, the average price a residential customer in the United States pays for electricity is 13.31 cents per kWh in December 2020. This means that gasoline would have to sell for 42.19 cents per litre to be cost effective. Since there are 3.785 litres per American gallon, a gallon would have to sell for about $1.60 to provide an equivalent price. According to Global Petrol Prices, the average price of mid-grade/ 95-octane gasoline was $2.752 per gallon, the equivalent of $0.727 per litre, as of 2021-02-01.

In Norway, the price is about NOK 1 per kWh for electricity, but with wide variations. The price of 95-octane gasoline is about NOK 16.33 per litre, once again according to Global Petrol Prices. This helps explain why EVs are so popular. To be price equivalent, gasoline would have to sell for about NOK 3.17 per litre. Currently, Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, is debating increasing the CO2 tax by NOK 5 per litre, which would bring the price to over NOK 21 per litre. Not all political parties are in agreement, with this proposal.

There is a great deal of discussion about consumption figures for electric vehicles in Norway. In part, this is because the terrain varies greatly. Some people drive in urban landscapes, others out in the country. Some people are flatlanders, while others have more mountainous environments. However many consumers have experienced real-world energy consumption levels of about 15 kWh/100 km for vehicles such as a Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Tesla Model 3. This gives a fuel cost of about NOK 15/ 100 km. In American terms, this would be about 24 kWh/ 100 miles, or $3.20/ 100 miles, with the electrical costs noted above.

Sports Cars

A 1961 advertisements for a Volvo P1800 featured this photo. Call it what you will, the P1800 is nimble, designed for the mountains and winters of Scandinavia, but equally appropriate in British Columbia. One is currently being restored across the bridge in Mosvik, by Arne Ivar Sundseth, the son of the original builder and first owner of Cliff Cottage. Photo: Volvo.

Automotive prejudice is not necessarily against something. Often, it is for a particular nationality, brand or model. Some people appreciate vehicles because they originate in a particular country, or have a perceived status, closely related to the price of the vehicle when new. For others, use or performance measures are more important.

In British Columbia, where I grew up, and in Norway, where I grew old, there was and is, respectively, the odd freeway/ motorway allowing one to drive in a relatively straight line, but on most roads drivers must contend with the geography of mountains and valleys, and snowy road conditions. With few exceptions, an American built car with a large V-8 engine, and a soft suspension, is ill matched to the terrain. One needs something nimble, which is the adjective I use to distinguish sports cars from other vehicles.

Until the term got overworked and degraded, GT (Grand Tourismo = Grand Touring) cars were luxury sports vehicles for the monied classes. The only one that ever made an impact on me was a French Facel Vega, massively powered with a Chrysler V-8 engine. Other vehicles in this class included the German Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing, the Italian Maserati Sebring, the American Studebaker Gran Tourismo Hawk and the English Alvis TD 21.

Slightly below this were less luxurious vehicles, the Jaguar XK-E, (known as the E-type in Britain, and among hard-core North American enthusiasts), the Chevrolet Corvette, the Porsche 356, the Volvo P1800 and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

The British dominated the mass market sports cars, which also form their own hierarchy. This writer’s subjective ranking placed the Lotus Elite (aka Type 14), and its replacement, the Lotus Elan (aka Type 26) at the top. Immediately below this was the Austin Healey 3000, with its 6-cylinder 3-litre engine. Then came a series of Triumphs which culminated in the TR-4A, closely followed by MGs, ending with the MGB.

At the bottom of the heap were the cheap sports cars, the MG Midget and its sister the Austin Healey Sprite, along with its cousin, the Triumph Spitfire. The Triumph Herald, will not be mentioned, even if a convertible version was owned by John Lennon (1940 – 1980).

While I had an affection for British vehicles, they had cantankerous engines that needed considerable attention, and almost daily adjustment. The British sports car that avoided this best was, in my rather prejudiced opinion, the Sunbeam Alpine, made by Rootes Group. This was the first Bond car, appearing in Dr. No in 1962. It was also Maxwell Smart’s vehicle in the 1960s American comedy series, Get Smart, in its V-8 Sunbeam Tiger variant.

If I were to buy a sports car today it would be as an initial step in an educational project to learn technical skills surrounding vehicle electrification. This would hopefully result in a disposal problem being transformed into a functioning electric vehicle.

The specific vehicle would have to meet at least two of three criteria. First, it should have recycling issues, which should have the added benefit of being cheap. Second, it should come either without an engine (preferred) or with a defective engine. Third, and one potential cause of the recycling issue, it should have a fibreglass body. Yes, the Saab Sonett II and the Lotus Elan are both attractive, fibreglass vehicles, but existing models with functioning engines should be preserved. If for some reason they have engine challenges, they are top candidates.

Fibreglass replica cars, much like fibreglass boats, pose a recycling challenge. Some other people may even regard them as illegitimate. Yet, sports cars have often been considered works in progress by their owners. Thus, readers are encouraged to consider adopting one, to give it new life with an electric drivetrain, and allowing it to become a beloved object, that upcoming generations will yearn to inherit, despite its obvious imperfections.

People interested in undertaking their own conversions, may want to consider purchasing a wrecked electric vehicle, such as a Nissan Leaf, Renault Zöe, or ???

Production parts from Volkswagen’s e-up! can be used with a Kassel single-speed gearbox and Brunswick battery system components. This provides old VW Beetles, and potentially other related products, with 60 kW of power. The battery system can be built into the underbody and consists of up to 14 modules, each with a capacity of 2.6 kWh, providing up to 36.8 kWh. This would give an old beetle a new total weight of about 1 280 kg, allowing an acceleration to 50 km/h in just under four seconds and to 80 km in just over eight seconds. The top speeds is 150 km/h, with a 200 km range. Unfortunately, Volkswagen has misunderstood makers, and wants customers to use conversion specialist eClassics in Renningen, near Stuttgart, Germany.

An alternative for rear engined air-cooled Volkswagens, including Karmann-Ghias, and Porsches, is Zelectric. Once again, they “build to order”, rather than allowing people to undertake the work themselves.

General Motors, however, is offering a GM eCrate kit, although there are serious issues, especially related to the battery pack. It seems to be the drivetrain from a Chevrolet Bolt, slightly repackaged. An even more accessible manufacturer is EV West, which seems to be catering to the DIY market. Note: I have not used any of these products, and cannot comment on their quality or suitability for any purpose.

RBW Electric Roadster: A Tidbit

A RBW Electric Roadster, based on a MGB body shell from the 1960s, but with a modern electric drivetrain, Photo: RBW Electric Classic Cars

When enthusiasts comment on sports cars they commonly show their prejudices in their first sentence. This enthusiast is no exception. I cannot hide my delight that the age of the ICE (internal combustion engine) sports car is ending. Long live the electric sports car!

What seems to be happening is that people are taking their favourite 1960s vehicle bodies and fitting them with an electric power-train. Sometimes these bodies are real, with steel parts that have had sixty years to rust. At other times these bodies are constructed in fibreglass, original if available or a replica if not. Presumably there are also carbon-fibre replicas. Many of the drivetrains come from Teslas, or other electric vehicles, that have been totally damaged in an incident.

RBW Electric Classic Cars takes a different approach. Recently, they have produced a prototype of a sports car based on a MGB.

The body shell is new, produced under licence to the original specifications, by British Motor Heritage, of Witney, in the Cotswold. It is powered with a patented drivetrain system, incorporating three years of development by RBW, Continental Engineering Services (CES), and Zytek Automotive, a 100% owned subsidiary of Continental Engineering Services. This drivetrain is derived from Formula E technology. All three companies are based in Lichfield. While the electric motor is placed at the rear of the car, a lithium-ion battery pack is located in the abandoned engine room, giving a balanced weight distribution.

The front and rear suspension consist of independent coilovers. The brakes, feature discs and callipers, but also integrate regenerative braking technology.

While the interior features a 7″ dashboard display with wi-fi-enabled navigation, the system seems underwhelming, at least to a computer scientist.

Top Speed80 mph = ca < 130 km/h
0-60 mph = ca 0-100 km/h9 s
Range160 miles = ca 260 km
BatteriesSix Hyperdrive Lithium-ion battery packs
Power Output70 kW
DC Charging3.0 kW
Recharge Hours8 hours
Electrical and related characteristics of the RBW Electric Roadster.

Thirty examples of the RBW Electric Roadster will be produced, starting in early 2021. Prices will start from £90 000, plus taxes, with an initial £5 000 deposit.

Izera

Izera Z100 Crossover SUV prototype. Photo: ElectroMobility Poland.

Izera is an electric vehicle brand, named after the Izera Mountains in south-western Poland. It is owned by ElectroMobility Poland, a state-controlled joint venture established in October 2016 by four Polish power companies: PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA, Energa SA, Enea SA and Tauron Polska Energia SA. Each has a 25% share. It even has a marketing slogan “A million reasons to keep on driving.” As if this isn’t enough, the company has been able to design and make two prototypes, with the intention of launching an electric vehicle production facility: a hatchback (T100) and crossover/ SUV (Z100), both suitable for families.

Poland is the largest European state that has no vehicle brand, despite the automotive industry being the second largest in the country, at 7% of GDP, over 200 000 jobs in production and 270 000 other jobs.

The Izera EVs were designed based on a detailed analysis of Polish consumer expectations and car clinic studies. Production models are not meant to be luxury products but affordable vehicles for Poles. ElectroMobility Poland wants to introduce an installment payments system so that the total cost of ownership of the car is less than comparable internal cumbustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Much of the prototype design originates with Torino Design. ElectroMobility Poland intends to start production around 2023, which means that there is ample time to refine the prototypes into production vehicles. ElectroMobility Poland’s CEO Piotr Zaremba says the production models “will retain the characters of the presented vehicles”.

Production vehicle characteristics announced: 0 to 100 km/h in under 8 seconds; range about 400 km; two battery pack sizes that are suitable for home chargers as well as fast-charging stations; a dedicated smartphone app; all-LED lighting; high-resolution LCD touchscreens; Electronic Stability Control; Forward Collision Warning; Blind Spot Detection; Traffic Sign Recognition; and probably much more. Dimensions of the prototypes and the proposed production vehicles were not revealed.

ElectroMobility Poland says it is negotiating the purchase of a vehicle production platform from Germany’s EDAG Engineering GmbH, based in Wiesbaden. It is also active in the fields of product development, production plant development, plant engineering, limited series manufacturing, modules and optimization. After a production platform is in place, the prototypes can be industrialized, and a suitable production facility constructed.

A short YouTube video shows the current state of the design prototypes, released to the public.

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (Photo: Wuling)

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is being made by the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint-venture, with each company having 50.1, 44 and 5.9% of the shares, respectively. The company is located in Liuzhou prefecture, in south-eastern China. It is known for its microvans (bread box cars), especially the ICE-powered (internal combustion engine) Wuling Sunshine. As China has become richer, microvans have become less popular, encouraging Wuling to focus on other segments.

After first being announced in 2020-03, recent attention has focused on deliveries for the Mini EV. It was launched 2020-07-24, with 15 000 vehicles were sold in the first 20 days. Now, there are more than 50 000 orders. According to Wuling partner, General Motors, the vehicle is inspired by the Japanese Kei car, their smallest highway-legal passenger car segment.

In the future, about 100 Experience stores will be opened, throughout China, to market the car, particularly in urban centres. According to Gasgoo, this is being done to attract fashion conscious younger owners.

The Mini EV dimensions are: length 2917 mm on a 1 940 mm wheelbase, width 1 493 mm and height 1 621 mm. It can provide seating for four adults.

The range is 120 km with a 9.2 kWh battery or 170 km with a 13.8 kWh battery. Charging is via a 240 V outlet. The motor has 13 kW of power, and 85 Nm of torque. This provides a top speed of 100 km/h. It comes equipped with an intelligent battery management system (BMS), as well as low-temperature pre-heating technology and battery insulation. It has an IP68 waterproof and dustproof rating and, according to Wuling, been put through 16 rigorous safety tests. The battery’s functions can be remotely monitored via a smartphone app.

The price of the vehicle in China ranges from 28 800 yuan (ca. €3 550) to 38 800 yuan (ca. €4 750).

More than half (57%) of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV’s body consists of high-strength steel. It also comes with the anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and reversing radar. The back seats are equipped with two ISOFIX child safety seat restraint interfaces. When the rear seats are not in use, there is 741 litres of storage space. In addition, there are 12 storage compartments in the cabin, including a smartphone tray.

While the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is currently only available in China, some characteristics hint that it could be built to satisfy European microcar (L7e), or city car (A-segment) specifications. The 13 kW engine power hits at it being a microcar, can only have a maximum of 15 kW. However, the contra-indication to this is the seating for four adults. This would mean that the payload would exceed the maximum 200 kg allowed. If the rear seats were removed, this would put the maximum payload below 200 kg. As a city car, the vehicle would have to be equipped with airbags, and other safety equipment, raising the price.

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV interior, with the rear seats folded (cutaway). Photo: Wuling.

Given a choice between a Zetta CM1 and a Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, there is no doubt (at least in my mind) that the Zetta is a superior vehicle, and probably gives better value.