Vehicle Devices

The Fisker Ocean will be contract manufactured by the Canadian owned, Austrian located, Magna Steyr facility in Graz, Austria. Photo: Fisker, Inc.

While many Americans will be focused on their presidential election taking place today (2020-11-03), this observer is awaiting the result of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative (2020), a referendum appearing on today’s Massachusetts general election ballot. This could update the state’s right to repair laws to include telematic electronic vehicle data. This was specifically excluded on the 2012 referendum that passed with 86% of the vote.

It comes as no surprise that Elon Musk is opposed to the Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative (2020), and is actively encouraging people to vote no. Right to repair legislation is generally supported by consumers, independent repair/ after-market companies and associations. It is generally opposed by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Ford or GM, and dealerships.

The Clean Air Act of 1963, is a United States federal law that with the purpose of controlling air pollution. It has been amended several times since then. The 1990 amendments required all vehicles built after 1994 to include on-board computer systems to monitor vehicle emissions. The bill also required automakers to provide independent repairers the same emissions service information as provided to franchised new car dealers. California further passed legislation requiring that all emissions related service information and tools be made available to independent shops. Unlike the Clean Air Act, the California bill also required the car companies to maintain web sites which contained all of their service information and which was accessible on a subscription basis to repair shops and car owners.

Today, microprocessors control operation-critical vehicle systems: brakes/ ignition (on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles) / air bags/ steering/ and more. Repairing/ servicing requires computer diagnostic tools. At the same time, OEMs have taken on gatekeeper roles to control information and parts necessary for service/ repairs. Control, in the above sentence, is particularly aimed at restricting access.

Most ICE vehicles use a controller area network (CAN bus) to manage microcontrollers, smart sensors and other devices to communicate with each other without a host computer. Each of these components is referred to as a node, with a hierarchical structure in relation to each other. No two nodes are equal, one always ranks above or below the other. The network features a message-based protocol. When two or more nodes transmit simultaneously, it is always the highest ranking node that is allowed to continue.

The electronic control unit (ECU) is typically based on about 70 nodes, each featuring, say, a 32-bit, 40 MHz microprocessor with about 1 MB of memory. This is orders of magnitude less powerful than those used in laptop or desktop computers.

Each node has to be able to handle a large set of processing tasks. These include: Analog-to-digital converters (ADC) – where a physical property usually measured in volts is converted into a digital number; Digital-to-analog converters (DAC) – provide an analog voltage output to drive some component, with a digital number telling the system what analog voltage to supply; signal conditioners make adjustments to input or output data so that it aligns more correctly with real-world needs; communication standards are implemented capable of sending appropriate signals to other nodes. The CAN-bus communication standard allows for speeds of up to 500 kilobits per second (Kbps) using two wires.

The CAN-bus, and similar devices, simplify vehicle wiring through the use of smart sensors and multiplexing. In ancient times (prior to about 1990) a wire ran from each switch to the device it powered. The circuit was completed by grounding one terminal of the battery to the chassis.

Smart sensors are integrated components, that include not only the sensor, but an ADC and a microprocessor. This allows it to read a voltage, make compensations for temperature, pressure or other factors using compensation curves or calculations, and then send digital output signals onto the CAN-bus.

With multiplexing a microprocessor monitors sensors in one area of the vehicle, such as a door. When that a specific window button is pressed “downward”, the microprocessor will activate a relay that will, in turn, provide power to the window motor so it moves downward.

Among the parts carmakers buy assembled from external suppliers are instrument clusters. These are designed by the supplier to the vehicle maker’s specifications. This is advantageous for both for the maker and the supplier. However, it also takes power away from the OEMs, and gives it to suppliers, such as Bosch or Continental.

Some of the nodes include: Battery Management System (BMS); Brake Control Module (BCM) which may also incorporate an Anti-locking an Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC); Door control unit (DCU); Electric Power Steering Control Unit (PSCU) or a Motor-driven Power Steering Unit (MPSU); Human-machine interface (HMI); Powertrain control module (PCM): which may combine an Engine Control Unit (ECU) and a transmission control unit (TCU); Seat Control Unit; Speed control unit (SCU);Telematic control unit (TCU).

Confusingly, ECU is also used as an abbreviation for the Engine Control Unit, which is one specific node. Here, and in many other circumstances to avoid confusion, it will be referred to as an ECM = Engine Control Module. It uses closed-loop control. Depending on the intended usage of the vehicle, the ECM will optimize specific goals: maximum torque, maximum fuel efficiency, minimum emissions, etc.

The CAN-bus allows module to communicate faults (errors) to a central module, where they are stored, then sent onwards to an off-board diagnostic tool, when it is connected. This alerts service personnel to system errors.

With electrification already a reality, and autonomous driving becoming one soon, the CAN-bus methodology will be unable the flow of data. Tesla uses a dual (read: duplicate/ redundant) artificial intelligence (AI) based, Samsung produced microprocessor system, running at 2 GHZ, to control vehicles. Compared to the CAN system, these are extremely powerful,

Volkswagen’s ID3 is going the same route, where it is using high-performance computers (HPC) supplied by Continental for control purposes.

Some vehicle designers do not have the capability to set their designs out in life. A notable example is Fisker. Danish-American Henrik Fisker (1963 – ) has made some exciting vehicle designs, but not all of the businesses he has started have survived. The latest manifestation is Fisker Inc., which was started in 2016. It has presented a SUV EV, Ocean, and a pickup proposal, Alaskan. With the Ocean’s design finalized, it is outsourcing vehicle production of its Ocean to Magna Steyr, a Canadian-Austrian contract vehicle manufacturer. For Fisker, this will reduce manufacturing complexities and costs, in contrast to building and operating its own factory. Magna’s electric vehicle platform, Partial payment for this will be in the form of (up to) 6% stake of Fisker Inc.’s equity, currently valued at $3 billion.

Returning to the Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative (2020), a yes vote can have dramatic consequences for the computing equipment put on vehicles (ICE as well as EVs) in the future. Starting with the model year 2022, all vehicles with telematic systems, sold in Massachusetts (but more likely throughout the United States, if not the world) will have to be equipped with a standardized open access data platform.

On 2020-10-15, Foxconn, the Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturer, responsible for production of an estimated 40% of all consumer electronics sold worldwide, announced its MIH open platform for electric vehicles. If Tesla is the iPhone of electric vehicles, Foxconn wants to be its Android. Foxconn has been involved in automotive manufacturing since 2007.

Currently, according to Foxconn, the battery pack accounts for 30 to 35% of the total production cost of an EV; powertrain = 20 to 25%; Embedded Electronic Architecture (EEA) = 15 to 20%; body = 13 to 15%; otheto develop and establish an open industry standard for automotive electrical-electronic (E/E) architecturer, including wheels & tires = 10 to 12%.

The MIH platform would be prepared for 5G and 6G, comply with AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture (AUTOSAR) and ISO 26262, and be ready for OTA (over-the-air) updates and V2X (vehicle-to-anything) communication.

AUTOSAR has been in operation since 2003 Its founding members include: Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), Robert Bosch GmbH, Continental AG, Daimler AG, Siemens VDO (until its acquisition by Continental in 2008), and Volkswagen. Later members include Ford Motor Company, Groupe PSA, Toyota Motor Corporation (all 2003), General Motors (2004). Thus, it represents a very large proporttion of the automotive industry. Its objective is to create/ establish an open and standardized software architecture for automotive electronic control units (ECUs). Other goals include “the scalability to different vehicle and platform variants, transferability of software, the consideration of availability and safety requirements, a collaboration between various partners, sustainable use of natural resources, and maintainability during the whole product lifecycle.”

ISO 26262, Road vehicles – Functional safety, was defined in 2011, and revised in 2018.

The MIH platform can accommodate wheelbases from 2 750 to 3 100 mm, with tracks from 1 590 to 1 700 mm, ground clearance from 126 to 211 mm. Three battery packs will be available. Vehicles can be rear wheel drive (RWD), front wheel drive (FWD) or all wheel drive (AWD). Motors on the front axle can be: 95 kW, 150 kW or 200 kW. Motors at the rear can be: 150 kW, 200 kW, 240 kW, and 340 kW. This allows a range of vehicles from a FWD with 95 kW to an AWD with 540 kW.

Part of the MIH strategy is to use mega castings. Foxconn cites one example, where they reduced 7 front suspension body panels to a single cast part and 27 rear longitudinal rail components to yet another single cast part, using a 4.2 Gg = 4 200 Mg (commonly called a ton) die-cast machine.

This post will end with a rhetorical question: What is a vehicle device? There may be many answers, but there are three I would like readers to consider. The first, is that there are subcomponents on a vehicle that could be regarded as devices. Second, the vehicle itself is also a device. Indeed, unlike a so-called mobile phone, which is a hand-held device, a vehicle is a true mobile device. Other potential members of this category include robot lawnmowers, electric airplanes and exoskeletons that are sometimes used by people with mobility issues. The third, is that the production platform is the device.

Izera

Izera Z100 Crossover SUV prototype. Photo: ElectroMobility Poland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (Photo: Wuling)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Citröen E-Méhari

My polite friends tell me that I have no taste. My honest friends tell me that I have bad taste. After this post you can judge for yourself.

There are times when I want to opt for the conventional. Over the past decade I have considered having a vehicle stationed in North America for holiday use. Almost always that vehicle turns out to be a Toyota Matrix.

2004 Toyota Matrix in Solar Yellow
2004 Toyota Matrix in Solar Yellow (Photo: GTcarlot.com)

Unfortunately, most of the time something that conventional has only limited appeal. Yes, it would be good on holidays, but for me a car is an enlarged business card. When you show it to someone they should gain some insights into your personality.  My adrenalin junkie persona seeks thrills elsewhere in the automotive landscape than a Toyota Matrix.

I have true affection for the Renault 4L (pronounced, Quatrelle), in hindsight. During the first two decades the Renault 4 was produced there were always other cars that seized my attention, such as a Karmann-Ghia. That said, the Renault 4 was the very first hatchback ever made, and ultimately 8 million were produced.

Renault 4
Renault 4 (Photo: renault4.plus.com)

Despite rumours to the contrary, I have never had the same affection for the Citroën 2CV, a four seater passenger vehicle. That is because in one’s youth people are attracted to two seater vehicles. A car was primarily a device for transporting up to one girlfriend. As a need for speed and sports cars grew less important, my preferences changed towards more utilitarian vehicles, in particular the Citroën Fourgonette and its successor the Citroën Acadiane.

Citroen-2cv-fourgonette-1

At this point it should be pointed out that we did acquire an updated version of a Fourgonette, a five-seater Citroën Berlingo Multispace. This is probably my favourite vehicle of all of the cars that I have owned.

Enter Méhari

Jonas Ardö Camel
Hopefully, this is a picture of the Méhari camel. (Photo: Jonas Ardö)

Yes, this is a Méhari camel. Very nice, I’m sure. A fast, saddle camel used in competitions. However, this isn’t what I was thinking of. My mind was more vehicular, the Citroën Méhari.

1974 CITROEN MEHARI BLANC MEIJE ikonto VL

This is an example of a vehicle as business card. When a Landrover 88 is just a little too upscale and far too reliable, the Citroën Mehari brings motoring down to earth, and then buries it in a hole. The above shows the vehicle as it was made in 1969, complete with plastic composite body.

The two photographs, below, show the Méhari’s interior, and the utterly simple controls used.

Citroen_Mehari_505citroen-mehari-1979-interieur

No one can dispute the utilitarian nature of this vehicle and its dashboard. While there may be discussions about the lack of safety features including seat belts and head rests, no one can dispute the claim that this vehicle is minimalistic.

Unbelievable as it sounds, Citroën was not alone in producing for this utilitarian market. Competition came in the form of a Mini-Moke, based on a very British Mini 850. Moke is an obscure/ obsolete term for another beast of burden, the donkey.

Mini-Moke_1984
A 1984 Mini-Moke, made in Portugal. (Photo: DeFacto 2006-10-15 at the Alec Issigonis centenary rally at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, UK)

Fortunately, for both the environment and passenger personal safety, neither the Méhari nor the Mini-Moke are being made.

We are in an age of electric vehicles. The Citroën e-Méhari is a battery electric. It is unavailable in Norway because Citroën Norway refuses to sell them! Their blessing is needed because unlike many other EVs, e-Méhari owners are required to rent battery packs on a monthly basis.

Here is what the e-Méhari’s looked like in 2016.

Therese Gjerde 2016 citroen-e-mehari 1
Citroën e-Méhari (photo: Therese Gjerde)

Therese Gjerde 2016 citroen-e-mehari -interior
Citroën e-Méhari with minimalist interior (Photo: Therese Gjerde)

The interior is very attractive, but there are very few safety features. For example, air-bags are entirely missing. The e-Méhari, as depicted here, is an unsafe vehicle. It can be argued that it is immoral to make production vehicles that lack basic safety features known to save lives.

In 2017 the interior was changed to provide a few more controls. One change was replacing a gear lever, with three buttons: forward, neutral and reverse.

2017_citroen_e-mehari_36
2017 Citroën e-Méhari interior with just a few more control buttons.

The 2018 Citroen E-Méhari all-electric is iconically styled. It is no longer just a four-seater cabriolet. While retaining much of its 2017 appearance, there has been a generational leap in terms of equipment, comfort and versatility. The Hard Top version features side windows and an opening rear window. It is beginning to look like a real family car. The new dashboard is new and features body-coloured trim. There are also new seats with Easy Entry access to the back seats. Safety equipment includes steel roof bars and 4 airbags. Designed in Paris and produced in Rennes, it is the first electric vehicle to earn “Origine France Guaranteed” certification. In terms of electrification, it has a more powerful 166 Nm electric motor, and improved range, at 200 km.

e-Mehari dashboard
2018 e-Méhari interior. While there are several additional controls compared to its predecessor, it is still relatively utilitarian. (Photo: Citroën)

2018 e-Mehari
2018 e-Méhari Hard Top with fixed roof and windows. (Photo: Citroën)

2018citroenemehari17
2018 Citroën e-Méhari tailgate and 85 litres of hidden storage space (Photo: Citroën)

2018 yellow
2018 Citroën e-Méhari in Yellow Submarine (Photo: Citroën)

The e-Méhari is available in white, turquoise, orange and yellow.  It is 3810 mm long, 1727 mm wide and 1624 mm high, and has a 2431 mm wheelbase. This contrasts with the original Berlingo which was 4108 mm long, 1719 mm wide and 1810 mm high, and had a 2690 mm wheelbase.

Is this e-Méhari a suitable vehicle for a 70 year old man, who wants a simple car? It has to take him shopping (7 or 13 km away) or to the train station (20 km away) or to one of three other commercial centres (30 or 50 km away in one direction, 35 km in the opposite direction). Would it be more sensible for him to buy a runabout like a Renault Zöe? Unfortunately, I’m not sure that he ready to opt for the conventional.

zoe-bose-hvit-matt-life
2018 Renault Zöe, the sensible alternative to a Citroën Méhari, available in white, light grey, dark grey, black, blue and red. No yellow.

 

 

 

Stuffing a 10-car garage

Today, I’ve let my imagination run wild. I’ve given myself unlimited funding to fill a 10-car garage with 10 of my favourite vehicles. Just imagine the expensive machines I will acquire when price is no object!

Before you begin, read the description below and make a note of what you think my favourite vehicles are based on the following description, then compare with the answers below.

  1. A French workhorse. No, this isn’t the pickup truck of that name, but a vehicle that will carry up to two people, and a Euro-pallet of materials.
  2. A Canadian pickup made in Errington, British Columbia.
  3. A Canadian sedan originally made in Delta, British Columbia. Production has now been moved offshore.
  4. A Canadian sports car, to be made in New Westminster, British Columbia, starting 2019.
  5. A Canadian three-door hatchback made in Saint-Jerome, Quebec.
  6. A Norwegian car made in Uusikaupunki, Finland then in Elkhart, Indiana.
  7. A Welsh utility vehicle made in Port Talbot.
  8. An Italian supermini that is actually made in Toluca, Mexico.
  9. A French city car rated best low running costs as well as second overall for ease of driving, out of 200 vehicles.
  10. A German workhorse, that will be able to replace vehicle #1, when it arrives in 2023.

10 car garage
10-car garage suggestion for Grand Theft Auto (photo: Sat Saintsfan, 2016)

citroen-berlingo-1996-03
Original Citroën Berlingo, from 1996. A fossil fueler. (Photo: Citroën)

Canev 2012-04-05 Might-E Truck
The Might-E Truck (photo: Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd)

Leonard G 2007-12-15 Dynasty iT NEV
Dynasty IT, originally built in Canada, currently being produced in Karachi, Pakistan (photo: Leonard G., 2007)

Tofino
The only sports car in the garage, An Electra Meccanica Tofino (rendering: Electra Meccanica)

Leonard G 2007-12-16 Zenn NEV
ZENN (Zero Emissions, No Noise) (photo: Leonard G., 2007)

Think-City1
Think City in precisely the correct colour (photo source unknown)

Acton ZeCar
Stevens’ ZeCar (photo: Stevens Vehicles, 2009)

bty
Fiat 500 EV in New Westminster (photo: Brock McLellan)

Renault 2016-09-29 Renault ZOE
Renault Zöe (photo: Renault Norge, 2016)

VW Buzz
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz. “The most versatile and emotional electric car ever.” (photo: Volkswagen)

There is always a chance that one of these fantastic electric vehicles won’t be available. So, I have another in reserve, the GEM (Global Electric Motorcars)  eLXD made in Fargo, North Dakota.

Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz 2009-03-22 GEM eLXD NEV
GEM eLXD working as a food vendor. (photo: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, 2009)