TOGG

TOGG’s battery electric SUV will be available from 2022. Photo: TOGG

Tog is the Norwegian word for train. TOGG is not a train, but a family of five EV models to be produced in Turkey by a consortium. Two prototypes were unveiled 2019-12-27, consisting of a red SUV and a grey sedan. The Turkish government had guaranteed to buy 30 000 of the vehicles by 2035, or about 2 000 vehicles a year over a 15 year period. Annual production volume is estimated to be 175 000 units a year. An investment of about $3.7 billion will be required between now and 2033.

Turkish plans for a domestically made vehicle were first announced in 2017-11, by a consortium that was formally established in 2018. Shares in consortium member stocks fell after the announcement, in part because of their lack of experience in automotive production. Members of the consortium consist of: Anadolu Holding; BMC Group, a Turkey-Qatar partnership; Kok Group; Turkcell, a mobile phone operator; and, Zorlu Holding, parent of TV maker Vestel.

Turkey’s Automobile Initiative Group (TOGG) project was launched in 2019-10. In addition to assorted forms of state support, production facilities are going to be constructed in Bursa in northwest Turkey. Bursa is already Turkey’s automotive hub. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai, Renault and Toyota make vehicles in Turkey, that are exported to Europe.

This lack of automotive competence has now been rectified. TOGG’s CEO is Gurcan Karakas, former Bosch executive. Its COO is Sergio Rocha, former General Motors Korea chief executive. Production will begin in 2022 with compact SUVs.

Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, regards this project as a demonstration of Turkey’s growing economic power. Thus, TOGG has been launched as a potential global brand, starting with the European market. Erdogan said Turkey’s EV charging infrastructure would be ready nationally by 2022.

Further details will be published as they become available.

Cybertruck update: A tidbit

Find the Cybertruck! Photo: Found on Electrek.co

There has been a lot of media content produced about the Tesla Cybertruck. Here are some comments.

  1. Alasdair McLellan noted that the window damage to the Cybertruck was, if not deliberate, at least expected. How else could Musk ensure that every newspaper, magazine, blog and any other source on or off the web, publish a photo of the Cybertruck, so that everyone in the universe knows what a Cybertruck looks like?
  2. Adrián Esper Cárdenas, Mayor of Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, saw the electric truck as having great potential as a local police and municipal vehicle. He reserved 15 Tesla Cybertrucks!
  3. Mike Gastin described the Cybertruck as a branding masterstroke. At 6:05 into the video he says (and writes) that Tesla is Delivering the Future – Today!
  4. Robert Llewellyn’s recent edition of Fully Charged News is full of the usual rants, this time about the Cybertruck as well as the Mustang Mach-E.
  5. Jameson Dow, writing in Electrek, is claiming that the Cybertruck is popular in markets where other Tesla products have failed to capture interest. “The Tesla Cybertruck is the first time we’ve gotten a chance to compare data between a sedan launch and a pickup launch from the same company. And it turns out that, despite Tesla’s brand appeal on the coasts, the Cybertruck is breaking new ground and doing quite well in the “heartland” – where pickup trucks are traditionally more popular than sedans.”
  6. Here is a reference to Matt Ferrell’s Undecided, who asks: Why do we hate something viscerally at first, and then come to love it a little while later?
  7. There are even more details at Design Prototype Test. It provides some engineering concepts missing in other sources, but there are also misunderstandings. For example, EVs do not have engines, they have motors.

A major challenge with many YouTube videos/ channels is that they are one-person operations, without sufficient quality control. Rants are very easy and cheap to produce. Quality, fact-based information is a little more difficult and expensive to produce. They also requires thought, in addition to emotion.

Tesla Cybertruck: A tidbit

Visitors to the Tesla Cybertruck webpage are greeted with an elongated version of this photo of the Cybertruck ptototype. (Photo: Tesla)

The term pickup is of unknown origin, but was first used by Studebaker in 1913 and by the 1930s had become a generic term for a light-duty truck having an enclosed cab and an open cargo area with low sides and tailgate. In North America, the pickup is mostly used as a passenger car and accounts for about 18% of total American vehicle sales, in part because it benefits from lower fuel and emission control regulations, and tax breaks from the IRS. Full-sized pickups and SUVs account for more than two-thirds of their global pretax earnings of GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler, because of their high prices and profit margins.

Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s first pickup, the Cybertruck, in Los Angeles 2019-11-21. It is battery-powered. Tesla’s stated goal is to displace a large portion of fossil fueled light trucks sold.

Cybertruck’s styling is anything but charming, and many commented that the presentation setting, in both time and place. was that of the original Blade Runner. However, the Cybertruck has many positive characteristics including a durable exterior shell made of a light-weight titanium alloy, for passenger protection. It is also claimed that every component is designed for strength and endurance. These are important considerations in a truck.

Specifications, both estimated and revealed: Vehicle mass = 2 700 kg/ 6 000 lbs; payload = 1 600 kg/ 3 500 lbs; power = 570 kW/ 775 HP; storage space = 2 830 litres/ 100 ft3 ; vault aka bed length = 2 meters/ 6.5 feet; ground clearance = up to 410 mm/ 16 “; approach angle = 35 degrees; departure angle = 28 degrees; seating = 6 in two rows.

Characteristics that vary, depending on the model, are included in the table below.

1- motor 2-motor3-motor
Drive wheelsRWDAWDAWD
Range km/ miles400/ 250500/ 300 800 / 500
0 -100 kph; 0 – 60 mph in s< 6.5< 4.5< 2.9
Top speed kph/ mph177/ 110193/ 120209/ 130
Towing capacity kg/ lb3 400/ 7 5004 500/ 10 0006 350/ 14 000
Price (to closest US$ 1 000)40 00050 00070 000

Compressed air is an important feature of the Cybertruck. It allows for a self-levelling suspension which compensates for variable load. In addition it provides power for pneumatic tools. On-board power inverters supply both 110 and 220-Volt electricity, for electrically powered tools.

At the presentation, Tesla’s armoured glass failed to work as intended, when a steel ball thrown by design chief Franz von Holzhausen shattered two windows in two attempts. The presentation ended with a Tesla Cyberquad electric ATV being loaded onto the truck vault, using built-in tailgate ramps. The Cyberquad was then plugged into the Cybertruck’s onboard power outlet, to charge it.

My hope is that many people currently buying Ford F-150s, Chevrolet Silverados, Rams and other ICE pickups, will be encouraged to buy either a Cybertruck, or a more conventional looking Rivian R1T, or other suitable electric vehicles. Personally, I am not part of the pickup culture. My Brenderup 4310S utility trailer meets almost all of my freight transport needs, and should do so for the rest of my life.

The Charm of Endurance

The Workhorse W-15 Hero, renamed the Lordstown Motors Endurance. Photo: Workhorse Group.

In 1998, Workhorse Custom Chassis was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio to take over production of General Motors’ P30/P32 series stepvan and motorhome chassis. By 2005, the company was taken over by Navistar International, its supplier of diesel engines. Navistar then closed the plant in 2012.

AMP Electric Vehicles bought the company in 2015, and changed its name to Workhorse Group Incorporated, scattering attention on electrically and ICE powered delivery vans, buses and recreational vehicles.

In 2016, Workhorse introduced a W-15 Hero prototype, an all-wheel drive plug-in pickup. It used custom battery packs, to provide power to an electric-drive, with a range oft 80 miles/ 130 km. These batteries were housed underneath the vehicle to save space and provide more payload capacity. Confusingly, a BMW three-cylinder generator/ range extender was also provided, making this a hybrid ICE vehicle, rather than a pure battery electric. The vehicle was be built with four motors — one for each wheel — to deliver all-wheel drive. It also had outlets to run power tools off the vehicle battery.

In 2018, Workhorse scattered attention again, by announcing Surefly, its two-seat gasoline/ electric hybrid eVTOL (vertical takeoff and landling) octocopter.

On 2019-11-07, the newly constituted Lordstown Motors Corporation purchased the 576 000 square meter Lordstown Ohio assembly plant from General Motors. This plant originally opened in 1966. Confusingly, some reports say Workhorse Group has a 10% stake in this plant, others state that it has no financial involvement.

The plant has been a political liability for GM since its 2018 announcement that it would not use the facilities. This became an immediate political liability for Donald Trump, who earlier had discouraged supporters from selling their homes in Lordstown because of all the jobs he would bring back to the area

Steve Burns, previous CEO of Workhorse, and current CEO of Lordstown Motors, is fundraising to convert the plant so it can manufacture electric vehicles. What used to be called a Workhorse W-15, is now being called a Lordstown Motors Endurance, targeting pickup truck fleet buyers.

Meanwhile, Workhorse Group is bidding on a contract to make plug-in mail trucks for the U.S. Postal Service. Even if Workhorse wins the postal contract, it is unclear if the Lordstown plant would build those vehicles. Lordstown Motors does have an agreement to transfer the 6 000 existing pre-orders for the W-15/ Endurance from Workhorse Group to Lordstown Motors for production.

Burns has stated that Workhorse and Lordstown Motors share intellectual property related to electric-drive systems.

Production of the W-15/ Endurance is dependent on successful funding. If sufficient funds were raised, Burns said he would work with the UAW (United Auto Workers Union) to hire staff who didn’t transfer to other plants. Burns wants experienced vehicle assemblers to build the trucks.

Lordstown Motors has the money to buy the plant and work on the vehicle, but needs more money to continue development, conduct crash and safety testing, get the truck approved for sale and to retool the factory.

Lordstown Motors is not the only electric pickup attracting attention. The Rivian R1T pickup is possibly the top contender, is fully electric, has an exciting design that it shares in part with its R1S SUV sister, a large fan base willing and able to purchase vehicles, financing under control, and production facilities secured in Normal, Illinois. Ford has also announced its own fully electric version of its F-150 pickup. Yet, the pickup everyone is wanting to learn about is the Tesla Cybertruck, to be unveiled in Los Angeles, 2019-11-21. Which is why anything about the Workhorse W-15 Hero/ Lordstown Motors Endurance had to be pushed out now.

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)