The Charm of a Uniti

The production model Uniti One, available in three gray colours. (Photo: Uniti)

Uniti began life as an open innovation project at Lund University in 2015, then emerged as a Swedish electric vehicle startup in 2016. It is developing an advanced city car. What first attracted my attention, was the replacement of the steering wheel with a joy-stick. Most of the mechanical system appeared equally innovative, and claimed to be sustainable, whatever that means.

Prototype development was funded through an equity-crowdfunding campaign on the Swedish platform FundedByMe, with 570 investors contributing €1,227,990.

The design mandate of the Uniti One seems to be in a state of flux. At one time, it was a relatively unsafe L7e quadricycle. Now, thankfully, it is being lauched as a M1 vehicle requiring crash testing, and more safety equipment. Other details, such as seating arrangements have also been subject to change. It was a side by side 2 seater, before it became one with one person sitting behind another. Now it is launching as a 3 seater, with a driver in the middle in front, with space for two passengers behind. Trunk space is adequate to hold a packed lunch and a charging cable, at 155 litres.

With a 50 kW electric motor and 62 Nm of torque, and a mass under 600 kg, the Uniti One can reach 100 km/h in less than 10 seconds. It has a computer controlled top speed of 120 km/h.

The Uniti One comes with an electrochromatic panoramic roof that darkens automatically to keep the car cool when parked in direct sunlight. Its virtual sun visor darkens the top of the windshield when the sun is in the drivers eyes.

An Android operating system controls the infotainment system and most of the standard features of the car. Voice commands can be issued. Its systems are regularly updated over the air.

A high strength safety cage surrounds the driver and passengers keeps interior deformation to a minimum, in the event of a collision. Other standard safety equipment include driver’s airbag, anti-lock braking, electronic stability control and a tire pressure monitoring system. The Intel MobilEye 6 collision avoidance system provides forward collision and lane departure warnings, speed limit indicator, and warning for potential collisions with pedestrians or bicycles and their riders, in real time.

In its current state, what appeals most about the Uniti One is that much of the equipment is optional, which means that people declining options can end up with a lower cost vehicle. Currently, the base model costs about €18 000, before subsidies. The only options I would insist on would be the Intel Mobileye 6 collision avoidance system (€ 700), winter tires (€ 400) and possibly air conditioning (€ 300). This is not a highway vehicle, so a 150 km range with a standard 12 kWh battery and a slow 3.2 kW charger seem adequate. It seems wasteful to spend €2 800 each on a 24 kWh battery and a 22 kW charger.

In terms of a computer vehicle transporting one person and a lunch bag in an urban environment, this is probably a good choice except, in urban environments there is public transport, which would be a better choice.

That said, my greatest disappointment with the production vehicle is its steering wheel, with no joy-stick in sight.

Uniti One interior, available in gray. (Photo: Uniti)

Hydrogen Station Explosion – Aftermath

The hydrogen station at Kjørbo is centrally located in Sandvika outside of Oslo, by two of the busiest roads in Norway with 80 000 cars passing daily. It is in Bærum municipality, and Akershus county. It exploded on Monday 2019-06-10. Since then, a number of interesting – some might say alarming – facts have emerged.

The station was a joint venture between X-Uno, Nel and Nippon Gases (formerly Praxair), announced on 2016-04-01. It uses Nel technology for on-site hydrogen production from electrolysis. The station is co-located with Powerhouse Kjørbo, an energy-positive office building, that uses solar panels that can supply upward of 200 000 kWh each year, twice the amount of the building’s annual energy consumption. Some of this excess energy was to be used to produce hydrogen.

The project had a total budget of NOK 28.4 million, of which NOK 5.7 million was support from the Akershus County Council and NOK 7.7 million was from the Norwegian public enterprise, Enova, responsible for the promotion of environmentally friendly production and consumption of energy. Other project partners included consulting firm Asplan Viak and Bærum Municipality.

Nel is an electrolysis technology company that has expanded into the hydrogen market. Its roots going back to technology developed by
Norsk Hydro in 1927. It is the world’s largest electrolyzer manufacturer with more than 3500 units delivered in over 80 countries. It is also a world leading manufacturer of hydrogen fuelling stations; approximately 50 stations delivered to 9 countries.

Safety Assessment

Bærum municipality has clearly stated that they did not have the competence to say whether the station was safe or not. They pointed out that the operator Uno-X sent its risk analysis to the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB), relying on the authority to intervene if they saw the station as a security risk.

But DSB did not assess the analysis. Neither do they need to do so with anyone who stores or produces hydrogen in Norway. It emerges from DSB’s overview of hydrogen facilities in Norway, that the limit for having to get approval from the professional authority is actually set so high that it does not apply to anyone.

A total of 5 tonnes of hydrogen can be stored before it is subject to major accident regulations. Then another regulation on the storage of hazardous chemicals enters, which requires consent from DSB. That said, 100 grams of hydrogen can cause a serious situation if it is handled incorrectly, and less than one kilogram can lead to a fatal accident.

The 5 tonne limit is taken directly from Seveso, the relevant EU directive, which has been placed in the Norwegian major accident regulations. DSB is nevertheless free to demand that organizations obtain approval even if they are below the limit. However, DSB must argue that the risk dictates it, and then make a decision. It was not done at the hydrogen filling station in Sandvika. DSB is now also asking whether the limit of 5 tonnes of hydrogen is reasonable.

The amount of hydrogen stored when it exploded in the Uno-X station in Sandvika is uncertain, but in the safety analysis, the company estimates that they would store up to 100 kilograms during the first 1-2 years.

Leakage without Alarm

Perhaps the most disturbing fact emerging is that there was a hydrogen leak for an estimated 2.5 hours, that did not set off any alarms before the station exploded.

Nel installed the technology at the station and has admitted their responsibility for the explosion.

They are now reacting to the accident with a four point action plan. First, with a verified plug solution, they intend to inspect all high pressure storage units in Europe, and to check and re-torque all plugs. This should prevent the same circumstances arising in the future.

Second, they are updating their routines for assembly of high pressure storage units. This includes the introduction of a new safety system, and routines that follow an aerospace standard. This includes torque verification, double witness and documentation/marking.

Third, there is a need for improved leak detection, since it is estimated that hydrogen leaked from the tank for 2.5 hours, without this being detected. Thus, no alarm sounded before the tank exploded. Initially, this will involve a software update to increase leak detection frequency. However, they will also consider additional detection hardware and/ or modifications to the existing equipment.

Fourth, ignition control measures will have to be implemented. These are site dependent. A smooth surface, without gravel, should surround any high pressure storage unit. Additional ventilation may also be required, along with greater use of EX-equipment. That is, electrical equipment specifically designed for hazardous locations. This type of equipment should be specially designed and tested to ensure it does not initiate an explosion, including – but not restricted to – those due to arcing contacts or high surface temperature of equipment.

Incorrect Assembly of Equipment

The safety consulting company Gexcon, along with SINTEF and Bureau Veritas, is responsible for investigating the accident. They have found that a plug in one of the hydrogen tanks was mounted incorrectly and that this is why hydrogen leaked into the air and formed a cloud that eventually exploded.

On Friday, 2019-06-28, Nel, the company manufacturing the hydrogen distribution equipment, and who has taken responsibility for the explosion, explained how the incorrect assembly took place. Their presentation – which appears to be part public relations information about the company and part explanation for the incident – is here.

  1. Materials OK
    1. Magnetic particle inspection
    2. Penetrant testing
    3. Verification of materials
  2. Design OK
    1. 1 000 000 cycle accelerated test
  3. Assembly NOT OK
    1. Bolt analysis
    2. Physical gap
    3. Opening torque
  1. Starting condition.
    1. Green bolts torqued properly
    2. Blue bolts not torqued properly
  2. Red sealing fails.
    1. Starting with small leak on red sealing area
    2. Small leak wears red sealing out and escalates
    3. Large leak exceeding capacity of leak bore, causing pressure increases inside blue sealing area
  3. Bushing with Plug lifts and the blue seal fails.
    1. Insufficient pretension of bolts leads to lift of the plug and blue sealings fail immediately
    2. Spread of Hydrogen leaks out in uncontrolled way

There are two main candidates for ignition that are probably impossible to distinguish between. These are: 1. Self-ignition by static electricity mixed with optimum amount of oxygen and hydrogen led to ignition. 2. Gravel on the substrate at the tank, which lay at the very bottom in one corner. Wind acting on the gravel may have caused friction which led to ignition.

An additional report is expected to be released at the end of august 2019.

V2: The content was updated 2019-06-30 at 17:30.

Hydrogen Station Explosion

2019-06-10, the Uno-X hydrogen station at Sandvika, near Oslo, Norway, was destroyed in an explosion. The explosion led to the activation of airbags in two nearby cars. (Photo: NRK)

An explosion, most likely in a single hydrogen tank, occurred at the Uno-X hydrogen station at Sandvika, near Oslo, on 2019-06-10. When writing this post, the cause of the explosion was not known.

While no one appears to have been directly injured in the explosion, two people driving in the vicinity were injured when their airbags activated because of air pressure from the explosion.

The explosion resulted in the closing, in both directions, of two major highways. European Highway 16 (E16) is the major east-west connection between Bergen and the Swedish border. The E18 connects southern Norway with Oslo.

For those interested in robotics, a LUF 60 wireless remote controlled mobile firefighting support machine, was actively used to suppress the fire that followed after the explosion. More importantly, it was used to cool other unexploded hydrogen tanks, to prevent them from exploding. In addition, a platform lift with water canon assisted with this task. These two vehicles allowed firefighters to keep their distance.

Norway’s other two hydrogen stations, one in Skedsmo, another Oslo suburb, and the other in Bergen, have now been closed.

According to Norwegian Hydrogen Forum as of 2018-12-31 there were 148 hydrogen cars registered in Norway: 57 Toyota Mirais, 27 Hyundai Nexos, and 64 Hyundai iX35s. In addition to this there are 5 buses and 1 truck. In contrast, as of the same date there were 200 192 plug in electric vehicles, plus 96 022 hybrid vehicles.

In another post titled Methane vs Electricity, a significantly flawed study from the Munich-based IFO Institute for Economic Research, was examined, along with its support for methane based, hydrogen vehicles.

With this explosion, hydrogen supporters in Norway will have lost much of the little good will that hydrogen fuel cells have built up. It has probably resulted in the last nail being put into the hydrogen car coffin.

The Charm of an Einride T-pod

The world premiere of an Einride T-pod, a level 4 autonomous, electric vehicle with a mass of 26 tons, on a public road in Jonskjöping, Sweden. 2019-05-15. Photo: Einride.

Robert Falck, a former Volvo executive, is founder and CEO of Einride. Together with, Jochen Thewes, CEO of DB Schenker, a major logistics company, and Mats Grundius, CEO of DB Schenker Cluster Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, he hosted a world premiere on Wednesday, 2019-05-15.

Einride and DB Schenker entered into a commercial agreement in 2018-04 that includes a pilot in Jönköping with an option for additional pilots internationally.

Einride’s signature product is a T-Pod truck. With a Gross Vehicle Weight of 26 tons, its most notable characteristics are its electric drive train, and autonomous driving capabilities. These two features reduce road freight operating costs by about 60 percent compared to a diesel truck with driver.

However, Einride wants more, a safe, efficient and sustainable road freight transport solution, that can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent

The T-Pod is level 4 autonomous, the second highest category. It uses a Nvidia Drive platform to process visual data in real time. An operator, sitting anywhere in the world but most probably in Jonsköping, can supervise and control up to 10 vehicles simultaneously. The T-Pod has permits from the Swedish Transport Agency to make short trips – between a warehouse and a terminal – on a public road in an industrial area in Jonkoping, located in central Sweden, at speeds of up to 5 km/h.

In 2018-11, Einride and DB Schenker initiated the first installation of an autonomous, all-electric truck or “T-pod” at a closed DB Schenker facility in Jönköping. It was the first commercial installation of its kind in the world.

On 2019-03-07 the Swedish Transport Agency concluded that the T-pod is able to operate in accordance with Swedish traffic regulations. On 2019-03-11, the agency approved Einride’s application to expand the pilot to a public road, within an industrial area – between a warehouse and a terminal. The permit is valid until 2020-12-31.

Since Einride is primarily a software and operations company, they are seeking a partnership with a truck manufacturing company.

Falck said Einride would apply for more public route permits next year (2020). It was also planning to expand to the United States.

For further information, see: https://www.einride.tech/

Methane vs Electricity

The Solar (and battery) powered Sion EV, to be made by Sono Motors at the former Saab car plant at Trollhatten, Sweden. A more environmentally friendly choice than a methane powered vehicle. (Photo Sono Motors)

A study from the Munich-based IFO Institute for Economic Research, claims that battery electric cars are dirtier than those that are diesel powered. It proposes methane based, hydrogen vehicles. This study is significantly flawed.

For inforation about the report see: http://www.cesifo-group.de/ifoHome/presse/Pressemitteilungen/Pressemitteilungen-Archiv/2019/Q2/pm_20190417_sd08-Elektroautos.html

IFO is an acronym from Information and Forschung (research). As one of Germany’s largest economic think-tanks, it analyses economic policy and is widely known for its monthly IFO Business Climate Index for Germany. Its research output is significant: about a quarter of the articles published by German research institutes in international journals in economics in 2006 were from IFO researchers. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find more recent data to support this claim. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ranking, it is also Germany’s most influential economics research institute.

Part of the problem is the recycling of disproved research. The claim promoted by ICE (internal combustion engine) automakers and the fossil fuel industry, is that electric vehicles are worse for the environment because they are powered by dirty electricity.

Studies looking at overall emissions based on electricity generation have debunked this and showed that electric cars are cleaner and becoming cleaner as renewable energy is becoming an increasingly more important part of the electric grid. Previous studies have shown that EVs are cleaner than diesel no matter which European grid electricity is used.

The new twist in the new report, is that EVs use significant amounts of energy in the mining and processing of lithium, cobalt, and manganese, which are critical raw materials for the production of EV batteries.

The major error here, is an assumption that EV batteries become hazardous waste after 150 000 km or ten years. This is untrue. First, 150 000 km is shorter than the warranty period for an EV battery, which is generally 160 000 km.

There are requirements in place throughout Europe for the recycling of batteries. Even in a depleted state, they are valuable because lithium is a scarce resourse. Lthium ion batteries are not considered hazardous waste, although lead acid batteries are, because of the lead.

Cobalt and manganese are also recycled.

The study also concludes that methane-powered gasoline engines or hydrogen motors could cut CO2 emissions by a third and possibly eliminate the need for diesel motors. Again the conclusions are not matched by the facts.

Most hydrogen is produced using steam-methane reforming, a production process in which high-temperature steam (700°C–1,000°C) is used to produce hydrogen from a methane source, such as natural gas. Methane reacts with steam under 3–25 bar pressure in the presence of a catalyst to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide. Steam reforming is endothermic, heat must be supplied to the process for the reaction to proceed.

This is followed by a water-gas shift reaction, where carbon monoxide and steam are reacted using a catalyst to produce carbon dioxide and more hydrogen. In a final process step called pressure-swing adsorption, carbon dioxide and other impurities are removed from the gas stream, leaving essentially pure hydrogen. Steam reforming can also be used to produce hydrogen from other fuels, such as ethanol or propane.

Steam-methane reforming reaction
CH4 + H2O (+ heat) → CO + 3H2

Water-gas shift reaction
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (+ small amount of heat)

The production of 1 ton of hydrogen produced 19 tons of CO2.

Hydrogen can be produced through other processes, including the partial oxidation of methane, and the electrolysis of water. Neither is in significant use.

While Germany currently uses more coal power than most of Europe, it is cleaning up more quickly than most. By 2030, 2/3 of its energy will be provided by renewables. This was not considered in the study.

Other mistakes arise from using the flawed NEDC driving cycle. This gives unrealistically optimistic numbers for diesel emissions, and unrealistically pessimistic numbers for electrical emissions.

One of the most significant mistakes involves the comparison of the full production and lifecycle emissions of an electric vehicle, including the emission from the electricity uses, versus those for a diesel vehicle. Unfortunately, the study does not account for all the energy used to produce the diesel and supply it to the cars.

The German auto industry has under-reporting diesel emissions, going so far as to install cheat devises on vehicles. These emissions have caused thousands of deaths, something that billions in fines cannot compensate.

Fossil fuel extraction requires large amounts of energy, machinery and in many cases has detrimental effects on the environment. A Canadian favourite, tar sands oil, requires strip-mining tar mixed with sand, this has to be liquified and cleaned for transportation. Then there are transportation costs including tanker grounding, railcar derailments and pipeline leaks, all resulting in massive environmental damage, including ground water contamination.

The Charm of a Nobe

A Nobe 100. Who needs more than three wheels? (Photo: Nobe)

The Nobe is 99% nostalgia, 1% practical motoring.

There are many different ways to judge technology. In looking at the Nobe’s electric design, it successfully plays on the strings of nostalgia. Of course it is a technologically advanced three-wheel drive battery electric vehicle. Designed and made in Tallinn, Estonia.

A nostalgic interior, with electric windows and air conditioning, but without airbags. (Photo: Nobe

In their mission statement, Nobe writes that they want to change people´s perceptions as well as their driving habits to finally make the electric car cool. They want to cross-wire rational analysis with emotions.

Their three-fold goal is to make the Nobe upgradeable, recyclable and sustainable, ending the disposable car. First, they want to make it easy for customers to upgrade their batteries, motor and electronics. Second, they want exterior panels to be swapable and recyclable. Third, they will never take/ send a Nobe to a scrapyard.

The Nobe features all-wheel drive. It is designed to grip the road and accelerate. Some versions are equipped with an optional M (muscle car) switch for increased power. The Nobe is equipped with dual batteries. The main battery puts power into each of the three powered wheels. A separate battery provides power for the supporting systems such as light, heat and entertainment.

When I first saw a Nobe, I found it an attractive vehicle. Since then, any thrill in the design has faded away. Of course the values expressed in the mission statement are admirable. Would I buy a Nobe? I don’t think so. Three wheels are only suitable for flatlands, Estonia or Michigan, not Norway or British Columbia.

When I look back at the 1960s, and at the height of my interest in cars, I was most interested in a white, second choice red, Triumph TR-4A. It was a road machine, suitable for the moutainous yet paved highways of British Columbia.

These days, a road machine has only limited appeal, if only because of its harsh yet functional suspension. In terms of sports cars, I am more attracted to a yellow or green Sunbeam Alpine that offered a softer ride, and more especially the 1964-5 Series IV, that featured a new rear styling, with more modest tailfins. It is pure nostalgia, a reminder that my first car was also made by Rootes Group, a Hillman Minx convertible.

I don’t have to buy a Nobe, a Triumph or an Alpine. In my dreams, I can drive any car I want, and it costs me nothing. Even the insurance, the fuel and any repairs are free. A bargain.

A Sunbeam Alpine IV at Horsted Keynes in 2012. Photo: Andrew Bone

The Nobe 100 has the following specifications:

Vehicle class: L5e – powered trike

Chassis: Steel tubing

Suspension: GAZ Gold Pro, custom

Body: Nextene, soundproof

Main battery: 21 kwh Li-On- or 25 kwh Li-On (GT)

Mobile battery: 4 kwh Li-On- or 5 kw Li-On (GT)

Range: 260 km combined: 210 on main 21 kwh battery, 50 km on additional, portable suitcase battery, or 310 km combined: 260 km main battery + 50 km on portable with 25 kwh battery.

Top Speed: 130 km/h

Engine: Three in-wheel electric motors, combined max power 76 kw

Drive: three-wheeled drive

Weight: 590 kg

Acceleration: 0–100 km/h 5,9 sec

Nobe has two doors, three seats and on the GT version, a removable Targa hardtop. The interior has Belize veneer details and brushed steel.

Hood ornament: the Foxy Lady.

The Foxy Lady. (Photo: Nobe)

Kaiyun Pickman

The Kaiyun Pickman is a Low Speed Electric Vehicle, aka Neigbourhood Electric Vehicle.

Wang Chao is an optimist. The founder of Kaiyun Motors hopes to transition owners of Ford F-150 pickups over to a Kaiyun Pickman. The Pickman is now NHTSA-approved for sale in USA and equivalently approved in Europe, where it is being sold in Germany and Italy.

While reports on the vehicle in January 2019, stated that it would cost $5 000 in USA and €5 000 in Europe, the American price had escalated to $9 000 by the middle of February, for a street-legal version; about $6 000 for a farm version.

While there must be caveats about the lack of safety features, the Pickman is undoubtedly an appropriate farm vehicle in rural environments, and a suitable vehicle for urban tradespeople. It is inappropriate for a daily commute involving any form of highway driving.

The Pickman is an example of a Low Speed Electric Vehicle, ususally referred to as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (USA) or Quadricycle (Europe). These are defined by limitations in terms of mass (weight), power and speed. All quadricycles must have a top speed of 45 km/h or less. In USA the limit is usually 25 mph or 40 km/h. In Europe, there are two categories: light quadricycles (L6e) and heavy quadricycles (L7e). A L6e EV must have a curb weight of 425 kg or less, and an electric motor producing 4 kW or less. A L7e EV must have a curb weight of 450 kg or less (passenger vehicles) or 600 kg or less (goods vehicles), The load capacity must be 200 kg or less (passenger vehicle) or 1000 kg or less (goods vehicle), with a maximum net engine power of 15 kW or less. .

The Pickman is powered by a 4 kW permanent magnet based electric motor with an asynchronization intelligent controller, mated to a 72V lead-acid battery pack providing 100 Ah or 7.2 kWh (26 MJ) of energy. Top speed is 45 km/h and range is 120 kilometers. There is some discussion about the load capacity. Some figures, in the table below are taken from a Chinese version, which appears to have a load capacity of 300 kg. The accuracy of the figures below is not guaranteed!

Specifications for base 2019 modelsPickmanF-150
Length/ mm3 2455 316
Width/ mm (excluding mirrors)1 3202 029
Height/ mm1 4601 918
Wheel Base/ mm2 0783 109
Ground clearance/ mm150 224
Load capacity (including driver/ passengers)/ kg500846
Curb weight/ kg6802 008

Note: Curb weight is the total weight of a vehicle with standard equipment, all necessary operating consumables such as motor oil, transmission oil, coolant, air conditioning refrigerant, and a full tank of fuel, while not loaded with either passengers or cargo. Note: In Europe, the mass of the batteries is excluded when determining vehicle curb weight.

Renault K-ZE

The interior of a Renault City K-ZE.
The modernist interior of a Renault 4.

A Renault K-ZE is being considered as an electric vehicle. One headline explained it all. “New Renault City K-ZE revealed in Shanghai as cheap electric SUV.” Yes, the operational word is cheap. This is not the only operative word in my automotive vocabulary. Safe, electric and autonomous are also important words. Tall is also important, as in 1 600 or higher vehicle height. However, tall is also important in terms of ground clearance in a snowy, poorly plowed landscape. Here, 180 mm (as in K-ZE) sound much more impressive than 120 mm (as in Zöe).

The K-ZE will not be available in Europe before 2021, at the earliest. Between now and then, there will be a lot of different EVs to consider, including the following already available: Kia e Niro, Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona, Renault Zöe, Citroen e Mehari, as well as the proposed Volkswagen I.D., Buzz and Buggy. If the range of a Citroen Berlingo could double beyond its current 170 km, it would be close to the top of the class. The same could also be said about the Renault Kangoo. The Nissan Evalia/ e NV200 gets slightly better range, but is much more expensive, eliminating it from the list of potential products.

Note: Some people may mistakenly believe that a Citröen 2CV represents my ideal car. This has never been the case. I much prefer utility vehicles such as the 2CV AZU Fourgonnette panel van, and its successors, the AK 400 Fourgonette, and the Acadiane. My interest stops there, avoiding the C15 entirely, and beginning again with the Berlingo.

When I looked at the interior of the Renault K-ZE, I focused my attention on the number of actuators (buttons) a driver would have to press, turn or otherwise manipulate. In contrast to many current cars, there seemed to be few. In many respects, European economy vehicles such as a Fiat 600 Multipla, Hillman Husky, Morris Minor 1000 Traveller, Renault 4 or even a slightly less practical but more popular Volkswagen Beetle of the 1960s have always represented a personal gold standard in terms of actuator manipulation.

While the K-ZE is based on the Renault Kwid, dimensions of the new vehicle have not been released, so Kwid dimensions have been used in the table below.

SpecificationK-ZE (Kwid)Zöe
Length/ mm3 6794 084
Width/ mm1 5791 730
Height/ mm1 5131 562
Ground Clearance Unladen/ mm180120
Wheel Base/ mm2 4222 588
Cargo Volume/ litres300338
Passengers55

Currently, the Renault Zöe costs NOK 215 000 (which is about the equivalent of USD 26 000/ CAD 36 000). This includes NOK 15 000 for the installation of a battery charger. The range of the Zöe is 240 km, and the expected range of the K-ZE is 250 km, both calculated using the NEDC-cycle. It is stated that the K-ZE will cost less than the Zöe.

Range is not a major consideration. The vehicle would have to have an ability to make a weekly run to pick up supplies in Straumen (13 km away = 26 km round trip), Steinkjer (35 km away = 70 km round trip) or make a day trip out to the coast. Yesterday’s daytrip to Ørlandet was 317 km. In the future, this might have to involve an overnighting, because of charging challenges. However, this fact makes vehicles with a longer range more attractive.

Normal charging at home (AC) was a challenge for Zoe, and could create problems for the K-ZE, since the vehicle could only be charged on a TN-net (400V 3-phase). This challenge was partly solved by providing a dedicated charging box and associated separator (which in essence “converts” 230V 1-phase to 3-phase).

Another aspect of this problem, has been solved by the Stavanger company Zaptec AS, that developed a small charging cable, with a built-in separator. With this, a Zoe can be charged without problems. The charging power is 10A with this cable.

NORMAL CHARGING: Charging with 2.3 kW / 10A takes 20 hours / 3.6 kW / 16A takes 12-13 hours / 11 kW / 16A (3-phase) takes 3 hours and 20 min / 22 kW / 32A (3-phase ) takes an hour and 40 minutes. QUICK CHARGE: The Zöe should be able to load 0-80 percent in less than an hour in the summer (with 43 kW AC found in a few places), but can take much longer in the winter. DC quick charging is not possible.

The exterior of a Renault K-ZE.

Stylists

The new Nuno R1 autonomous delivery vehicle has arrived, and if all goes well, it will soon be making grocery deliveries from Kroger to a house near you. Not near me, unfortunately, as the distance to my closest Kroger store is measured in thousands of kilometers.

Nuro R1 Autonomous Delivery Vehicle (Photo: Nuro, 2018)

While the Nuro may have OK styling, its design is not great. Take the hinged (gull-wing?) door openings. They are much wider and thus heavier than necessary to provide full access to the storage areas. There is no reason for these doors to open as widely as the do. The vehicle rakes, unnecessarily, front and back. Why isn’t this area being used to house navigational equipment, instead of the centre of the vehicle, which could be designed to include more storage space?

In contrast, here is my own attempt at a delivery vehicle design that does address some of these issues, although the purpose of this vehicle is transport of building materials, rather than groceries. Even the colour is an improvement on dull beige-brown.

Autonomous delivery vehicle for construction materials, with vehicular control mechanisms at body ends. Battery pack is located under floor.

There are too many stylists at work, masquerading as designers. In the 1950s,  stylists knew they were stylists.

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Club Hardtop at weekly Garden Grove, California car show 2004-05-14. (Photo: Morven CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Nineteen Fifty Seven represented a high point for American car styling, but not for car design. This is seen particularly in low-end brands, such as Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth. In contrast,  facelifted 1958 models are regarded with less esteem, although not quite as low as the 1959 models.

The 1957 Fords were all about styling, one that dramatically changed passenger car appearance the most since 1949. There were 20 different models, on two separate wheelbases. Body styles included two- and four-door sedans, hardtops, wagons, a convertible, a retractable hardtop and a sedan/pickup. These were all available in more colors and two-tone combinations than ever before. There were six engine options, five of them V-8s.

The challenge with making so many different products is that there is no place for design. I will not be buying a 1957 Ford, or any other heritage car. They are just too impractical – too low, too long, too extreme in styling language.

There is a similar situation in the world of fashion. Fortunately, in my world many of my outer clothes, especially shirts and socks, are bespoke. Material is selected specifically for each garment, sleeve length is cut perfectly, each shirt has two pockets, buttons are placed where I want them. Not every man, has a wife who has such abilities and interests. Without being too disparaging, I would say that I have one shirt design, that is then styled to meet specific requirements in each garment.

There may be a few more variations on designs for chinos and jeans, but most of these differ only in terms of their styling. I have learned to live with a particular off the rack style of chinos. They come in more or less standard design, with components that can be traced back to the 19th century. The original watch pocket has been repurposed many times. A Levi-Straus blog comments about many of these same components in jeans:   http://www.levistrauss.com/unzipped-blog/2014/04/17/those-oft-forgotten-pant-parts/

Electric Car Charging

Everyone is on familiar terms with the watt, with the possible exception of American muscle car owners addicted to horse power. To help them enter a world free of fossil fuel, all they need to do is make a simple, if slightly inaccurate, calculation: 1 HP = 750 watts.

If one uses 1 watt for 1 second, then the amount of energy used is 1 joule (J). There are many other, but more confusing, ways to explain this energy transfer: the force of 1 (N) newton acting on that object through a distance of 1 (m) metre; (In electrical terms) the energy of 1 (A) ampere passing through a 1 (Ω) ohm resistor, with a voltage drop of 1 (V) volt, for 1 (s) second.

To be true to the SI system, the battery pack on your favourite vehicle should be expressed in joules, in precisely the same way that the power you purchase from your household electrical supplier, should also be expressed in joules. Instead it is expressed in an illegitimate kilowatt hours where 1 kWh = 3600seconds/hour x 1000 W/kW joules or 3.6 (MJ) megajoules.

The standard size of an EV is quickly approaching 60 kWh = 60 x 3.6 = 216 MJ.

The limiting factor in most houses with respect to charging, is the thickness of the electrical wires. In general wiring requires cable with the following characteristics: 10A = 1.5mm2; 16A = 2.5mm2; 20A = 4mm2; 32A = 6mm2; 40A = 10mm2; 50A = 16mm2; 63A = 25mm2. Electrical input to Cliff Cottage uses 230 V, 3-phase, 25mm2 wiring, which provides a maximum of 25 kW of electrical power to be used for everything and anything, including EV charging.

 

Standards

Details about charging EVs are contained in several standards, including IEC 61851 and IEC 62196.

IEC 61851 Electric vehicle conductive charging system specifies general characteristics, including charging modes and connection configurations, and requirements for specific implementations (including safety requirements) of both electric vehicle (EV) and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in a charging system.

IEC 62196 Plugs, socket-outlets, vehicle couplers and vehicle inlets – Conductive charging of electric vehicles is based on IEC 61851.

The IEC 62196 Type-2 connector (Mennekes) is used for charging electric cars within Europe. The connector is circular in shape, with a flattened top edge and originally designed for charging at between 3 and 120 kW, using either single-phase or three-phase alternating current (AC), or direct current (DC). In January 2013 it was selected by the European Commission as official charging plug within the European Union. It is also the official charging plug in Norway. There is a transition period until 2020, which will allow other charging plugs to be used.

At the moment there are only three vehicles that use this plug as standard in Norway, Tesla Model S (up to 22 kW), Renault ZOE (up to 43 kW) and Mercedes-Benz B-Klasse (up to 11 kW). Because the requirements are more stringent for these chargers, Renault includes the electrical installation of its residential charging system in the price of the vehicle.

Norwegian requirements for charging of EVs have been specified in the following document (in Norwegian): https://www.dsb.no/lover/elektriske-anlegg-og-elektrisk-utstyr/tema/elbil—lading-og-sikkerhet/

While other makes and models currently use other charging systems. As new models are introduced, they will increasingly use Type-2 charging as standard. However, it is interesting to see that the Hyundai Ioniq and the Opel Ampera-e, both introduced in 2017, both come equipped with Combo CCD (DC) charging cables.

With Type-2 charging, the electronics is in the charging station (Mode 3) instead of in a box attached to the charging cable (Mode 2).  This makes the cable cheaper to  purchase and easier to handle. The contact is more robust, with minimal electrical, heat and fire risks.

Type 2 charger cable (photo: Ståle Frydenlund)

Charging cables are needed in different variants depending on the electric car. At one end of the cable there will be a Type 2 connector to plug into the charging station. The other end has a contact designed for the specific electric car. Type 1 for Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kia, Peugeot and Citroën; Type 2 for BMW, Volkswagen, Tesla and Renault.

Charging Key and Chip

Access to charging stations is restricted, to prevent abuse. Most commonly access is dependent on the use of a standard key, or a chip. At most charging stations in Norway, use is free. Yes, that is correct. Vehicles gets filled up with electricity free of charge.

Because membership is included with most new EV purchases, it is standard practice for Norwegian electric car owners to be members of the Norwegian Electric Car Association (Norsk elbilforeningen) which, in addition to other services, provides members with both  a charging key, as well as a charging chip, to give them access to charging stations throughout the country. While the key is used with most older charging stations, newer ones rely increasingly on a charging chip. Note: the charging chip will not work until it is registered with the individual charging operator!