Downsizing the Garage

The Nobe 500, one of six European vehicles featured in this weblog post. Photo: Nobe

Four years ago today, on 2017-10-29, a weblog post titled Stuffing a 10-car garage was published. It presented a number of electric vehicles (EVs) that had awakened my curiosity over the years, along with one internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, the Citroën Berlingo. The one advantage of a virtual garage is that it is very easy to acquire and then dispose of vehicles.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 26th held (COP26), is scheduled to begin 2021-10-31 in Glasgow, Scotland, two days after publication of this weblog post. The conference will end 2021-11-12. Hopefully something will be accomplished to prevent a climatic disaster.

EVs are not only increasing in number, but improving, technically and in terms of design. Unfortunately, most of this development is happening in vehicle segments that people should be avoiding . This weblog post presents six EVs made by six companies for six different segments from six different European countries. During the year this post has been in development, all of the models originally selected have departed the list, and been replaced by others. The number of continents represented has decreased from four to one, with an encouragement for people to buy locally produced products. I don’t believe I could do the same using North American products. Even, with this focus on smallish, affordable European EVs, it has been difficult.

Not many specifications are available for the selected vehicles at the time of publication. Those missing will be provided in subsequent updates, when I remember. The worst case situation in this post, is that of Fiat and its Giardiniera. Despite the initial hype and promises, at the moment it is looking more like vapourware. It is included to remind people that vapourware is a major problem in the automotive industry. It allows manufacturers to pretend that they are doing something, when in all likelihood nothing is happening at all.

In terms of the A segment, I had hoped that the Zetta CM1 had been developed further. I had wanted to put an improved Zetta in the A class, and even contacted the manufacturer, Russian Engineering and Manufacturing Company (REMC) in Toliatti about it. I received no reply to my email.

Segments D and above/ larger are ignored in this post out of concern for the environment.

CompanyModelSegmentCountry
Nobe500PickupEstonia
RenaultKangooMPVFrance
MicrolinoMicrolinoMicro (L7e)Switzerland
FrezeNikrobALatvia
Fiat500 GiardinieraBItaly
SonoSionCSweden
Six companies producing six vehicle models for six segments in six European countries.

Nobe 500

A Nobe 500 Pickup. Photo: Nobe

Pickups are typically regarded as American, so there would probably not have been many objections if this slot had been filled by any number of American vehicles including, in alphabetical order by brand, the Ford F-150 Lightning, the GMC Hummer, the Lordstown Endurance, the Rivian R1T, and the Tesla Cybertruck, There was a time when this list might have also included the Havelaar Bison and the Nikola Badger.

None of the vehicles listed above appeal to me. They are too massive. However, I will also admit, that the first vehicle I leaned to drive on, at the tender age of 14, was a Chevrolet Advance Design 3100 pickup, probably from 1952, in the farm fields of Okanagan Mission, near Kelowna. This featured the same split windshield, found on the Nobe 500. The Ford F-series, from the same time period, did not have this characteristic, although certain other F-series features do appear on the Nobe 500. This vehicle is at the top in terms of charm. I am waiting for it to appear dressed as a woodie (sic) wagon before buying one!

Renault Kangoo

The Renault Kangoo E-tech Photo: Renault

In terms of COP26, this vehicle should probably not have been included. It is, but only because of my infatuation with this type of vehicle. People should determine if this is the type and size of vehicle that meets their needs.

When we purchased a Citroën Berlingo in 2002, the other vehicle we considered was a Renault Kangoo. Both were considerably smaller than today’s vehicles. The Citroën was chosen, in part, because at that time there was no local Renault dealership. Currently, we are facing the opposite situation. There is no local Citroën dealership, but there is one selling Renaults. In addition, there are some indications that the upcoming 2022 Kangoo EV (termed Etech, previously ZE in Renault-speak) will offer a range of 285 km. Other specifications released so far include: battery capacity theoretical/ usable = 52/ 47 kWh; motor type = AC synchronous motor; power = 90 kW; torque = 245 Nm; and, importantly, a trailer towing weight braked = 1500 kg.

On 2021-10-28, a day before publication, we visited the local Renault dealer in Steinkjer, and found out that a vehicle should be available to test drive in 2022-05.

Badge Engineering: The Renault Kangoo will be badge engineered into a Mercedes-Benz EQT and a Nissan Townstar.

Microlino

A Microlino with space for two. Photo:Microlino.

Driving requirements vary, which means that a variety of vehicle types have to be made available. Many people live alone, and have little or no need for a vehicle that can transport more than themselves. For such people, a two person vehicle may be ideal.

In Our Journey, the idea for the Microlino originated when Wim, Oliver and Merlin Ouboter, asked: “How much car does one really need for daily driving?” In Switzerland the answer involved 1.6 passengers and 36.8 km on an average journey, along with parking challenges. This indicated to them that modern cars were over-engineered for urban use, especially if environmental factors, such as global warming, are considered.

Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 2 435/ 1 473 / 1 501 mm; wheelbase = mm; ground clearance = mm; curb weight = 513 kg; seating capacity = 2; battery type = Lithium-Ion (NMC/NCA); battery capacity = 14 kWh; range per charge = 230 km; motor type =; power = 12.5 kW; torque = 118 Nm; speed: max = 90 km/h; acceleration 0 – 50 km/h = 5s; regenerative braking = yes; cargo volume = 230 l; towing weight braked = 0 kg .

Freze Nikrob

The Freze Nikrob Photo: Freze

Another answer to the Ouboter question could have been the Freze Nikrob, based on the Wuling Mini EV. Rebadged and restyled by Dartz, it is assembled in Lithuania by Nikrob UAB. Dartz wants to sell the Freze Nikrob and its convertible version, the Freze Froggy, in European left-hand-drive markets. It aims for a 10-20% market share of the segment. At a price of €10 000, it is the cheapest in the EU. The focus is on selling to carsharing companies.

Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 2 917/ 1 493 / 1 621 mm; wheelbase = 1 940 mm; ground clearance = mm; curb weight = 665 kg; seating capacity = 4; battery type = lithium polymer; battery capacity = 13.8 kWh ; range per charge = km; motor type = permanent magnet; power = 13 kW; torque = Nm; speed: max = km/h; acceleration 0 – 100 km/h = s; regenerative braking = yes; cargo volume = l; towing weight braked = 0 kg.

Fiat 500 Giardiniera

An older Fiat 500 Giardiniera shown in this Dutch advertisement.

Giardiniera was a name used for Fiat station wagons. The name, in this context, means gardener. Fiat in 2018, before it became part of Stellantis, announced in general terms that it would be making a five-door, station wagon, hybrid version of a new 500. Fiat now seems to be transitioning to a battery electric brand. A Fiat 500 Battery EV station wagon appeals to me because, we need a vehicle that can be used to carry four (sometimes five) people, groceries, and workshop materials. When, or even if the vehicle will launch, remains speculative. Currently, Fiat is working on an electric replacement for the Panda, probably based on the Centoventi = 120 prototype. That vehicle is expected to launch in 2023.

One of my hopes with the Giardiniera is that the rear door will open more like a conventional door, hinged on the left/ traffic side, rather than a hatch, opening upwards. This was the way it opened on earlier models, made between 1960 and 1977, as shown in the above advertisement.

Sono Sion

The Sono Sion, equipped with solar panels. Photo: Sono

Of the vehicles described in this weblog post, the Sono Sion is the one closest in size to our current vehicle, a Mazda 5. Of its many attractive characteristics, it is its Open Service System that will be focused upon here. There are three different levels of service. Level 1 instructional videos and a catalog ensure that almost anyone can replace wear parts, without much prior knowledge. Level 2 involves a publicly viewable and available manual, that allows an extensive network of mechanic partners to offer more extensive repairs and service at an affordable price. Level 3 is for repairs involving high-voltage or body parts, Sono here wants to cooperate with an established European service provider.

I asked a number of people about this vehicle, and sent a copy of an information brochure. One response – from a person who works in the EV industry but for another company that doesn’t compete in the same market, was: “Oh interesting. Exciting for more players. The solar portion is neat! The aesthetics kind of baffle me. Utilitarian, met with early 2000’s interior design with forced elements like the screen and the green house strip. Doesn’t seem cohesive.” Another reply was: “it looks very generic Aka like a Toyota.” The most enthusiastic response came from a third person, “Love it. I’m a solar power human, so this has my full seal of approval.” Four and a half hours later, he added: “Upon further reflection, I would rank this as my top EV.”

Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 4 470/ 1 830/ 1 660mm; wheelbase = 2830 mm; ground clearance = 165 mm; curb weight = kg; seating capacity = ; battery type = liquid cooled lithium ion; battery capacity/ usable = 54/ 47 kWh; range per charge = 260 km; motor type =; power = 120 kW; torque = 270 Nm; speed: max = 140 km/h; acceleration 0 – 100 km/h = 9.0 s; regenerative braking = yes; cargo volume = 650 l; towing weight braked = 750 kg.

Personal Reflections

One of the most important specifications for a vehicle operating in a rural environment in winter is ground clearance. Here, there is no requirement to remove snow before it reaches 100 mm. Thus, ideally, this should be at least 150 mm clearance. However, is not always an easy specification to find. Our Mazda has only 135 mm, and this is noticed. Seating height is also important. In comparing different vehicles, the H-point measures the pivot centre of the torso and thigh, and the height of this in relation to the road, is what is important. This value is a compromise between being able to enter a vehicle elegantly, and being able to see the road.

In terms of range anxiety, we drive a car about 3 times a week, but often less. Once or twice the return distance will be under 40 km, often under 30 km; the other time(s) it will be under 80 km. About five times a year, our driving exceeds these values. Two or three times it will be less than 250 km; two or three times it will exceed that, but be under 400 km. Since our retirement started in 2017, we have only had one trip where the driving distance exceeded these values, when we drove to and from Bergen. It is about 750 km in each direction, but we spent two days driving each way, which also puts it in the 400 km a day range. When our daughter, Shelagh, lived in Umeå, Sweden, we would drive the 600 km distance in about 10 hours (including stops) in a single day.

The Norwegian Electric Car Association has an EV selector app (Elbilvelgeren), that can be used to help limit the number of EVs under consideration.

A screenshot of the Norwegian Electric Car Association has an EV selector app (Elbilvelgeren).

It allows one to select a range of values for price, range, brand, new or used, trailer capacity. Yes, trailer = tilhenger (in Norwegian) capacity is a must for Norwegians. A utility trailer is used instead of a pickup. These are the standard inputs one can choose from. In addition one can select/ add: launch year, heat pump, four wheel drive, high speed charging, battery size, trunk/ frunk size, electrical power usage, normal charging, number of doors, ground clearance, app for the car, number of seats, dimensions, roof rack capacity, acceleration, kW (power), guarantee, weight, wheel size and body type.

I used the standard one with some modest values, but only two cars came up: VW ID 4 and Skoda Enyaq. The list included both current and announced models to be purchased new. The reason only two models appeared could be because of the trailer capacity selected (1000 kg) and a price (max NOK 360 000). The two cars had a price of just under NOK 350 000. Of those two, I would select the Skoda. I tried the selector again, without the trailer, but with a ground clearance of 150 mm. Again, those two models came up, along with a Hyundai Kona and a Kia Soul.

My hope is that in four years time, 2025-10-29, that there will be a vastly improved EV market, with many more vehicles in the A – C segments, and even smaller vans/ multi-purpose vehicles.

The ICE Age

Frequently, I am accused of being a Citroën 2CV fanboy. In reality, I have always preferred the more elegant Citroën Dyane and the more practical Renault 4. However, I am more enthusiastic about fourgonnettes = small panel vans. French models include: the Citroen AU, AZU, AZ and, especially, the Acadiane, based on the Dyane, and the Renault 4 Fourgonette. English models include: the Morris Minor 1000 van variants, and the Traveller, a station wagon. However, the Hillman Husky, another small wagon, was my favourite. Since moving to Norway, I have come to appreciate the Saab 95, sold as a wagon as well as a panel van. Among larger vehicles, my preference is the International Metro Van, designed by Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986). In terms of European vehicles the Morris Commercial J-type is next best.

I would like to thank those members of School District 40, New Westminster, who ensured that teacher parking, rather than facilities for pupils, were placed in the courtyard of Vincent Massey Junior Secondary School. This provided me ample opportunity to reflect on the merits of various vehicles, and made me an avid fan of European vehicles, because they seemed so much more appropriately sized than their American equivalents. Thank you.

Tama Electric Car

This weblog post will end with a short portrait of a predecessor to the Nissan EVs, such as the Leaf, developed by Tokyo Electro Automobile Company, which was spun off from the Tachikawa Aircraft company. The Tama Electric Car, assigned vehicle code E4S-47 I. E is for electric, 4S is for 4-seater sedan, 47 is for the year 1947, and I stands for the initial type. The Tama brand name refers to the factory location, a city in the Tokyo metropolis, in the foothills of the Okutama Mountains of southwestern Tokyo. Nissan notes, “When this car first rolled out in 1947, Japan was suffering from an acute shortage of oil, goods and food while the supply of electricity had a surplus since there were almost no home appliances or bulk users of electricity.” This particular vehicle was used as a taxi until 1951. Even as I complain about the Citröen E-Berlingo Multispace, it shows how far electric vehicles have progressed during the 70 years between 1947 and 2017.

Tama 1947 Electric Car Photo: Nissan Heritage Collection

Specifications: Overall length / width / height = 3 035/ 1 230/ 1 630mm; Wheelbase = 2 000mm; Curb weight = 1 100kg; Seating capacity = 4; Range per charge = 65km; Motor = 36V DC series-wound, rated at 3.3kW; Batteries = Lead-acid 40V/ 162Ah; Speed: Max = 35 km/h, Most economical = 28km/h.

Ford Comuta

The 1967 Ford Comuta EV. Photo: Ford of GreatBritain.

In 1913, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had collaborated on an electric vehicle. This was not a successful venture. Fifty-four years later, in 1967, Ford of Great Britain, produced their first modern electric vehicle, a Ford Comuta concept/ prototype, developed at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre, east of London.

The Comuta was 2 032 mm long, and weighed about 545 kg. Along with a fiberglass body, it featured a steel backbone chassis, with an independent suspension provided by leading arms at the front and trailing arms at the rear. Drum brakes were also provided.

It could seat two adults in the front and two children in the rear. It’s top speed of 60 km/h and a range of 60 km if driven at 35 km/h. The rear wheel drive vehicle was powered by dual DC electric motors that put out 3.7 kW. These were originally designed as aircraft auxiliary units. Power came from four mid-mounted 12 V 85 Ah lead-acid batteries, producing a total of about 4 kWh. Ductwork piped air through the central backbone to provid motor cooling and heating for the passenger compartment.

Somewhere between two and six Comutas were built (sources conflict). It was unveiled at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show. One can be found in the collection of the Science Museum in London. The fate of the other(s) is unknown.

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.

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.

RBW Electric Roadster: A Tidbit

A RBW Electric Roadster, based on a MGB body shell from the 1960s, but with a modern electric driveline, 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 drivelines 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 driveline system, incorporating three years of development by RBW, Continental Engineering Services (CES), and Zytek Automotive, a 100% owned subsidiary of Continental Engineering Services. This driveline 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.

Zetta CM1: A tidbit

The Zetta City Module 1 (CM1) is the first Russian built EV to enter production, according to Automotive Logistics. Unfortunately, detailed information is difficult to access. Even the English version of the Zetta company site fails to mention the CM1, devoting its content to technological issues of its drive train, especially the in-wheel = in-hub induction motors. However, some information is available from Russian Auto News.

The modular approach used by Zetta means that different modules can be built for different purposes, goods as well as person transport. Some of these will be mass produced focussing on common needs. This is the case of the CM1. Others may have more limited appeal, such as outfitting a vehicle to accommodate a person with disabilities, who has very specific and individual needs. Yet flexibility is not the only attribute. The Zetta is also technologically efficient, economic and – to repeat that so-often misused term – ecological.

The in-hub drive train is exceedingly important for Zetta. Zetta CEO Denis Schurovsky says “Summer and winter validation has shown us that induction motors can endure road dynamic stresses. They are resistant to chemicals, dust, water, etc. All wheels are connected to a single management system that simulates electric ABS and ESP with high recuperation capability.” Each in-hub motor is rated at 20 kW, for a total of 80 kW, a respectable power for such a small vehicle.

The CM1 has a length of 3 030 mm on a 2 000 mm wheelbase, and with a width of 1 270 mm and height of 1 600 mm. It is configured as a four-seater. Inside EVs makes a point that the car is just 340 mm longer than a Smart Fortwo, and that the seating must only be for children in the back. This misses the point entirely that an EV with in-hub electric motors will use space much more efficiently than an ICE (internal combustion engine) designed vehicle. Top speed is 120km/h and battery capacity ranges between 10kWh and 32kWh, for a range of between 200 and 560 km. Depending on the battery pack selected, the weight of the vehicle should be between 500 and 700 kg.

About 90% of the vehicle content is Russian. Much of the remainder is in the batteries, imported from China. The vehicle has been in development since 2017.

At a price of €5 300, Zetta CM1 claims to be the cheapest EV in the world. The vehicle has been developed by Russian Engineering and Manufacturing Company (REMC) in Toliatti/ Togliatti, the Russian city named after Italian Communist Party Leader Palmiro Togliatti (1893 – 1964). Estimated production is 15 000 vehicles a year.

And so to the question many readers will be asking, would I buy one? I would like to answer yes, especially after a theoretical regret at prioritizing a Japanese Subaru Justy four wheel drive in 1986, instead of the cheaper Russian Lada station wagon (VAZ-2104) or its similarly priced, but considerably larger and more powerful 4×4 off-roader, the Lada Niva (VAZ-2121). Andy Thompson in Cars of the Soviet Union (2008), states that Lada “gained a reputation as a maker of solid, unpretentious and reliable cars for motorists who wanted to drive on a budget.” It is my hope that the Zetta will offer purchasers a similar, positive experience. Unfortunately, the answer will probably be no, and I will be unable to engage in the one-upmanship that comes from owning a €5 300 EV, capable of doing the same basic driving tasks as a €53 000 (or more) Rivian R1S or Tesla Model Y.

Oatly & Einride: A tidbit

Oatly has devised a process to provide a vegan alternative to milk. Now it is concentrating on making that process more sustainable, but reducing CO2 emissions. Artwork: Oatly.

My personal transition from omnivore to vegan/ vegetarian is proceeding almost as slowly as my transition away from driving a diesel to an electric vehicle. One positive change, is that we purchase our eggs and milk (and some honey as well as produce) from neighbouring farms, rather than grocery stores.

I asked my personal shopper to add some Oatly products onto her shopping list. Instead, she invited me to help her shop at the local Co-operative in Straumen. Thus, I was able to purchase one litre (about a quart) of havredrikk kalsium (oatmilk calcium). Unfortunately, I was unable to find the other products I wanted to try: havregurt vanilje (oatgurt vanilla); havregurt turkisk (oatgurt Turkish) and iMat fraiche (Oat creme fraiche).

Oatly is a Swedish vegan food brand, producing dairy alternatives from oats. Based on research at Lund University. The company’s enzyme technology turns oats into a nutritional liquid food suitable for the human digestive system. The company operates in southern Sweden with its headquarters in Malmö, with a production & development centre in Landskrona. The brand is available in more than 20 Asian and European countries, Australia, Canada and USA.

Oatly claims to be a sustainable food manufacturer. Artwork: Oatly

Oatly also tries to be sustainable, by reducing its contributions to global warming. They also produce a sustainability report. It shows that almost half of Oatly’s contribution to greenhouse gasses comes from the cultivation of ingredients, a quarter from transport, 15% from packaging and 6% from production (p. 26).

Oatly is not perfect. For example, there has been some controversy about it selling oat residue to a pig farm. On the other hand, it has benefited from two publicity attacks. First, Arla, the Swedish dairy company, attempted to discourage people from buying vegan alternatives to cow’s milk (mjölk in Swedish) using a fake brand Pjölk. Oatly responded by trademarking several fictitious brands Pjölk, Brölk, Sölk and Trölk and began using them on their packaging. Second, the Swedish dairy lobby LRF Mjölk, won a lawsuit against Oatly for using the phrase “Milk, but made for humans” for £ (sic) 100 000. When Oatly published the lawsuit text, it lead to a 45% increase in Oatly’s Swedish sales. Once again, this seems to suggest that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

On 2020-05-14, Oatly and Einride announced that Oatly will use four 42-tonne vehicles starting 2020-10 to transport goods from production sites in southern Sweden, using Einride’s Freight Mobility Platform. This is estimated to lower its climate footprint (on the affected routes) by 87% compared to diesel trucks: 107.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year per truck, about 430 tonnes per year in total, or 2 100 tonnes throughout the five year duration of the contract.

Part of the solution involves optimizing electric trucks operations using computer-controlled logistics with Einride’s Freight Mobility Platform software. Accurate transport planning allows 24 tonnes of goods to be transported an average of 120 kilometers without charging. It involves optimizing and coordinating drivers, vehicles, routes as well as charging. On a typical shift, three drivers will drive four different trucks. This means that one truck is always charging, which places less strain on batteries, and making the operation more durable and economical.

Oakly’s 42-tonne Einride trucks will feature a DAF glider, with Emoss driveline and Einride software. Photo: Einride

This initial iteration involves a DAF glider (a vehicle without a driveline/ prime mover/ power source, fitted with a Emoss motor. Future iterations may involve a Einride Pod, previously referred to as a T-pod.

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)

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/