Monday, October 26, 2020

Toyota Electric Car

Because the electric-car industry is relatively new it is still changing, sometimes drastically in a short period of time. One major automotive name that might fit into this "changing" category is world-leader Toyota.

Before we dig into why this major company has altered its path in the production of the electric vehicle (EV), we should point out that this discussion is not just about the Prius.

Toyota Motor Corp. has been working with another electric-car leader, Tesla, to develop "test versions" of battery-powered vehicles. Word from Tesla indicated that the company was planning to deliver two "prototype" vehicles to Toyota.

Sounds exciting!

But did you know that there were Toyota electric cars on the road in the late 1990s?

Information from various histories of the Toyota effort shows that the first RAV4 EV was an all-electric version of the RAV4 sports-utility vehicle. These models were leased to various clients during a period that extended from 1997 to 2003. The best available records indicate that about 800 of these electric cars are still being driven (in 2010).

The original RAV4 electric vehicle was offered as a fleet vehicle on a rather limited basis. Local government agencies and businesses had the opportunity to lease a vehicle or two through about 2001. The company sold about 320 of the early RAV4 to the public in 2003. This early EV effort was eventually discontinued.

Now Playing

In July of 2010 the company announced it is working with Tesla to come up with a second version of the RAV4 EV. Toyota plans to have this second-generation RAV4 in production for 2012.

Information from Toyota and Tesla indicates that there may well be an electric version of the Corolla, a popular compact car produced by Toyota. However, industry observers feel that the RAV4 and the RX, both considered "light trucks" are best suited for the Tesla battery system.

And here's a photo of the interior equipment...

Tesla has produced a high-end, all-electric Roadster that carries a price tag of $109,000. Toyota's interest in being a major player in the EV industry led it to invest $50 million in Tesla, which is based in California.

One feature that future owners of Toyota electric cars should enjoy is acceleration. Add to this the extended range of Tesla's early vehicles and Toyota owners may have the best of all possible electric-car worlds.

Tesla is working on a lower-priced electric car that may offer up to 150 miles of driving before recharge. This model is expected to sell for about $40,000. If the Toyota cars have similar technology they could prove to be very popular.

Some of the people close to the Tesla/Toyota project have stated that the companies have made a great deal of progress in a very short time. This joint effort will certainly help Toyota maintain its worldwide position in the automotive industry, especially during a period when government agencies are putting a lot of pressure on the development of vehicles that don't use fossil fuels.

Different Battery Idea

One of the most interesting features of Tesla vehicles is the use of many small lithium-ion batteries rather than larger battery packs!

Until this time, Toyota and other car makers have made use of the larger batteries. But the Japanese company now says it will turn its focus on the idea of using thousands of smaller cells, as Tesla now does.

Part of the process will involve Panasonic, a company that is already working with Toyota to develop suitable lithium-ion battery cells for electric cars. Panasonic already produces two different types of batteries, one for hybrid cars and one for all-electric models. The company is working with Tesla to improve battery technology.

With all of this effort, Toyota is still working on its own version of an electric car and on batteries for electric vehicles. It may turn out that Toyota doesn't make use of the Tesla battery system.

Toyota Electric Vehicle Concept Car

The Prius

Most people who follow the alternative-vehicle scene know about the Prius. In fact, many people who don't know a thing about cars except how to drive them know the Prius. It's a very popular hybrid vehicle from Toyota that has become one of the company's top sellers.

The latest version of the Prius has more horsepower from as slightly larger engine. This gives it better acceleration and smoother highway operation. Of course, the Prius is a gasoline/electric hybrid. But it does offer the equivalent of 50 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency.

Whether it is working in the hybrid sector of the industry or on all-electric cars, you can be sure Toyota electric cars will do whatever is necessary to stay near the top of the EV class.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Nissan Electric Car

Two years ago Nissan electric cars weren't a major player in the field. Now the company has moved to the head of the class and will mass produce an all-electric car for the masses, making it available in 2011. The price will be a reasonable $33,000 before federal electric car tax credits.

Most of the people in the general population may have forgotten the name Nissan because they have become so familiar with such automotive companies as Toyota, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and the U.S. car companies that are surviving. But Nissan recently hooked up with a major university to study the future of electric vehicles. Carnegie Mellon University is well known for its engineering, technology and business research so the cooperative effort with Nissan makes a lot of sense.

Students, professors and company management personnel are focusing on the development of electric cars in the next five years. According to information from Nissan, the goal is to develop electric vehicles for the real world.

Already There

But readers shouldn't get the idea that Nissan is behind in the electric car field. In fact, the company has established five states as preliminary markets in which to launch the Leaf electric vehicle. The San Jose, California company Nissan North America is offering the Leaf for test drives and public introduction in four western states (Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona), as well as in Tennessee. Part of this launch effort involves government funding to establish charging stations along one of the major interstate highways.

Obviously, Nissan is well established in the industry already yet is setting its sights on knowing more about the market opportunities. One review of the Leaf (Jerry Garrett, New York Times) stated that the car returned to base after a 12-mile test drive with more miles on the range indicator than when the test started!

The review asked if it was possible for an electric car to run so efficiently that it would actually "drive forever". This may be a quirk in this small test so Nissan probably won't take it as an indication of what their cars will do on a long-term basis. But the 107-horsepower Leaf can travel 100 miles before needing to recharge. Some tests have shown that the car will travel 130 miles or more on a charge, while others report as little as 60 miles. Of course, the differences are due to driving conditions, weather, traffic etc.

Inspecting the Leaf

Current versions of the Nissan electric car Leaf will cost about $33,000 when available to the general public in 2011. Several thousand people have already made a deposit so they can get their hands on one. This makes the Leaf a rarity among electric vehicles in that it appears to be very affordable for the working man or woman. Many electric cars have price tags two or three times the Leaf's $33,000.

This car is a five-passenger model that runs only on electricity (not a hybrid). The car will require a 240-volt, 30-amp home charger. Information from Nissan states that overnight charging will cost about $3 for a 100-mile range.

Leaf electric car from Nissan

Nissan electric car - model "Leaf"

The company advertises this five-passenger, five-door electric vehicle as capable of speeds up to 90 miles per hour. The electric car motor is 80 kilowatt AC "synchronous electric motor" powered by lithium-ion batteries. The Leaf is designed to carry a 3.3 kilowatt, on-board charger.

Going to Tennessee

Nissan has indicated that the Leaf is being built in Japan for the first two years. Car and battery production will then move to Smyrna, Tennessee. The company held a groundbreaking ceremony in May and started construction of the manufacturing facility.

Nissan will produce the lithium-ion batteries in Tennessee in the first phase of production and will begin Leaf assembly at the site in 2012. Production jobs will number well over 1,000, with as many as 1,300 jobs available when full production level is reached. The company states that the site will be capable of producing 200,000 batteries per year. When the plant is in full operation workers will be able to produce up to 150,000 electric cars annually.

Company executives hope to "radically transform the automotive experience for consumers" with the Leaf and future Nissan vehicles. Company figures indicate that Nissan invested about $2 billion, with a large portion of that coming from the United States Department of Energy.

Nissan has also partnered with French automaker Renault to produce lithium-ion batteries in Portugal and in the United Kingdom. Renault will also make the batteries in its plant in France.

Nissan Electric Cars - The Big Picture

People who have been watching the electric car industry for the past decade are surprised at how quickly Nissan has moved to the head of the pack!

A couple of years ago Nissan wasn't involved in the field in a big way. Now they may be offering the first mass-produced, affordable electric car.

While a few of these observers have asked questions about the passively cooled battery back (as opposed to a temperature-control system specific to the battery), the general view of Nissan's electric car efforts has been positive. If the Leaf delivers reliable transportation to the masses, the company may continue to lead the way in the world of electric cars.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Fisker Karma Electric Car Enters the Automotive Scene

In the world of electric vehicles, the Fisker Karma electric car is capturing attention from consumers and industry observers as an entrant in the gas/electric hybrid. Adding features such as luxury touches, four doors and rear-wheel drive and the Karma, from Finland, comes in as a "significantly redesigned", according to Consumer Guide Automotive.

Most of the media reports on this model indicate that the Karma will be presented in 2010 as a 2011 model. It is covered in the same reports as the Lexus LS, the S-Class from Mercedes and the BMW 7-Series. While the details of this specific car from Fisker were not yet presented in early 2010, there is plenty of information about the Quantum Hybrid edition that was shown at the 2008 industry show in Detroit.

This gas/electric combination vehicle was produced by Fisker Coachbuild in conjunction with Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies. As initially shown the Fisker hybrid offered a solar-roof option that could be installed at the factory. In addition, the Quantum Hybrid came with several charging options (110-volt home connection up to fast-charge with 220/240 volts).

Who is Fisker?

The man behind the vehicles is Henrik Fisker, portrayed as an ambitious entrepreneur in the same vein as Delorean and Tucker. Fisker was involved in the design and marketing of luxury vehicles for Aston Martin and BMW before starting his own company. His original idea was to produce a luxury hybrid sedan that would have a price tag in the $100,000 range.

In an extensive interview with Wired magazine, Fisker said he felt it was "the perfect time" for an "environmentally minded automaker". His company received a loan of more than $500 million from the United States Department of Energy, enough seed money to bring his company to life.

Fisker, a native of Denmark, stunned the automotive world in 2008 when he put a mock-up/shell of his hybrid on the floor at the 2008 show in Detroit. At the time he promised delivery by 2010 - a bit more than two years from the time he incorporated his company.

Big Plans, Big Ideas

Henrik Fisker, who appears to the world as a dashing, well-dressed young automotive executive, told one interviewer that his company would sell more cars than Porsche by the year 2016. As chief designer for the new company, Fisker said the combination of leading the design team and being chief executive allows him to choose a product direction and move more quickly than companies that must rely on a committee to make decisions.

One of the steps he avoids in product development is the experimental design and model for vehicles that will never be produced. Fisker feels this is a major advantage for small companies. In the Wired interview he characterized his company as "modern, fast and light". He wants the design process to take about two months, compared to a year at the larger, inefficient companies.

It Seems to Be Working

While Henrik Fisker might appear to be brash and even a bit unrealistic to some his work has already produced results. The company was recognized for business innovation after taking the wraps off of the Karma this year.

With an intended price tag of $87,900, the Karma brought the honors to Fisker Automotive during the American Business Awards program. The company currently has less than 100 employees and was recognized along with other innovators like Apple and computer software/technology company Mozilla.

Details on the Karma Hybrid include 100 miles-per-gallon efficiency with enough power to satisfy those who love the open road (403 horsepower). Emphasis is on producing a top-shelf vehicle that will find its way into the garages of the upper-middle class and above. Fisker worked with Bernhard Koehler on the design and worked in conjunction with Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies for power-train design and production. Quantum is widely recognized as a leader in the clean-fuel industry.

Fisker Karma Electric Cars - From the Outside

Henrik Fisker told interviewers at Wired that his company encourages suppliers to use his car designs as a "test bed" for new methods. When asked if this "outsourcing" makes Fisker Automotive a design company rather than a car-production company, the CEO said that assessment was inaccurate. He emphasized the number of parts needed to manufacture any car (3,500 for the Fisker Karma electric car). To Fisker, integration is crucial. Cooperation with suppliers is as well.

Saving money is one of the key benefits of starting small and remaining small in the automotive industry, according to Fisker. His business projections show a profit after the sale of only 15,000 vehicles because he uses very few design engineers compared to the larger companies.

Fisker only plans to build 15,000 vehicles in the first phase of his growth plans. The company has purchased a Delaware factory site that will be devoted to producing the next generation of automobiles from this startup company. Fisker plans to market to an entirely different segment of the population with his second vehicle. This car will have a sticker price that is less than half the cost of a Karma luxury sedan.

This second vehicle will have a much wider customer base, Fisker said. He expects to produce as many as 100,000 lower-priced vehicles by the year 2013.

But there's more!

He told Wired that the company will offer six distinct models by 2016, all of them targeted toward the future of automobile transportation.

Outside the Lines

If there is a way to think outside the normal guidelines of vehicle production, Henrik Fisker is probably going to do it. Should the company achieve the goals set for 2013 and 2016 it would be a bigger player in the automotive market than another producer of luxury automobiles, Porsche.

Fisker doesn't see this as a problem at all. He believes that car companies can and should design, produce and grow just as any other modern business does. Fisker is presented as a green-auto company, of course. But it is also a maker of top-shelf products that will have a somewhat limited customer list.

Yet Fisker believes this won't be a problem for his young company. The waiting list for the Karma Hybrid already has nearly 2,000 names on it!

I hope you find this article about Fisker Karma electric cars useful!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Electric Sports Car

A few companies have focused on this vehicle style with the goal of providing transportation that is both electric and eye-catching. Among the cars that fit this description are offerings from Renault, Tesla, Fisker Karma and a handful of others.

There are even some reliable plans for converting a Porsche to electric power, if you are into doing it yourself or having a professional conversion company do the work for you.

The Renault DeZir is designed to travel more than 100 miles per hour using an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. It's a two-seat coupe that promises to have a quick recharge time. Public release is still some time in the future though the car will be shown in Paris soon. The company has plans to produce half a million electric cars annually.

Tesla Etc.

Tesla already has an electric vehicle that is being driven by about 1,000 individuals. The Roadster from this company has been road-tested by industry engineers and major media. Reports show the car delivers 248 horsepower, 211 pound-feet of torque and weight/torque ratios comparable to cars like the Lotus.

A charging system has been integrated into the Tesla Roadster and it works in the power train. But there are also connectors for 120 volts and 240 volts. Automotive news indicates that Tesla will focus on a sedan model after 2011.

These are not the first cars that could be listed under the electric sports car is the Lightning Car presented at the British International Motor Show in 2008. At that time Peter Ward talked about as being an "inspired" design that has electric motors in each of its four wheels. Ward once directed the Royce and Bentley auto directions, so there were plenty of interested listeners.

In 2009 the company was still working on a 700-horsepower rival for the Tesla Roadster, with hopes of putting the car into production in 2010. Media reports show information about the company and its high-powered electric sports car is still scarce. Lightning Car Company has a complex, active Web site that offers plenty of information. News includes a partnership with Applus Idiada, a Spanish engineering group.

They're Not the First

If you think Tesla, Lightning and Renault are leading the pack in the electric sports car field, think again. Reports from the Electric Vehicles Symposium in Monte Carlo in 2005 presented the Venturi Fetish as the first production electric sports car. The price tag was set at $450,000 Euro, well above the expected price of the Lightning and the Tesla.

The Fetish was produced with very good acceleration and a range of close to 300 miles on a full charge. Delivery time on these early vehicles was about one year. They did not meet United States standard for highway use when first produce. A few years later the company was presenting as a positive step the collaboration between Venturi and Michelin. This concept car, the Volage, was presented in Paris in 2008. The Fetish is hand-made in very limited numbers at this time.

There was a Dodge electric car called the Circuit EV. A great deal of marketing effort and press hoopla went into the introduction of this concept car in 2008. However, the news turned about 180 degrees in the next year, as industry observers were saying Chrysler was "pulling the plug" on the project.

And Now...?

Current work in the world of electric sports cars includes the efforts of French automaker Citroen, which took the wraps off its Survolt sports car. This concept vehicle is fully powered by batteries and has been tested at Le Mans. Some of the numbers on the Survolt: 300 horsepower; top speed – 162 mph; 0 to 60 acceleration under five seconds; and range of 124 miles on full charge. Media reports indicate Citroen does not have plans for production at this time.

It's also possible to get an SSI Racing 65 Coupe with a 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. Reports from the company show that less than a dozen have been sold at the $120,000 price.

In the last year or so the deep pockets of the U.S. Department of Energy have been opened to the benefit of car makers that have new ideas. Ford, Tesla, Fisker and Nissan have been recipients of this financial aid. General Motors and Chrysler have not been so fortunate until now. The news (rumor) seems to be more positive for those two traditional U.S. car makers. Some of this money may well go to producing sport vehicles, though it would be safer to bet on family sedans and tiny, efficient cars.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Tango Electric Car

When it came right down to getting the transportation you paid for and keeping you safe, the Tango electric car was very safe, thanks to the roll-cage design from an experienced manufacturer (Prodrive). The construction passed some important safety inspections and was believed to be safe at very high speed.

But this was an electric car, right?

Yes, indeed.

The general opinion is that electric cars were meant to be driven at low speed and for short distances.

The idea behind the electric vehicle is simple: economy without using fossil fuels. The Tango had that feature (economy) because of its electric power but protection for the occupant was far beyond what was absolutely necessary.

Horizontal strength bars and vertical sections gave this car even more safety features than some of the most expensive sports-utility vehicles. Add to this the ability to accelerate from a standing start to 60 mile per hour in four seconds and you have a unique entry into the electric car field.

Not for the Neighborhood

Tango electric cars began life in the Commuter Cars facility in Seattle, Washington. The vehicle had one seat and was only about four feet wide. This made it a great car for single-person commuting, especially if you wanted to get to your destination before everyone else.

You also had to have more than $100,000 to purchase one of these rather odd little vehicles. The motor produces an astonishing 800 peak horsepower with 1,000 foot-pounds of torque. But there's more to this story. The car was designed to be a kit that was delivered without a drive train or battery pack! Owners had to add these items for an additional $150,000. Quite a bit for a one-person vehicle.

Tango cars began to appear on the scene in 2005 and have gone through a few alterations since that time. The company eventually designed a couple of new models that carried more reasonable price tags ($20,000 to $40,000). The cars could be charged in about three hours in a standard 220-volt receptacle and would carry you up to 80 miles.

Eye-Catching Transportation

There's little doubt that the Tango electric car would capture your attention if you saw one on the road. The car almost looks like a two-passenger, tiny electric car that was cut in half.

It's skinny, tall, fast and, believe it or not, luxurious!

The Tango was so skinny that designers envisioned it making its way through traffic by splitting lanes or traveling between a side railing and the outside lane if necessary (as long as the cops weren't looking).

It could be parked in motorcycle parking spaces and would occupy less than half a car space on the ferry, if you needed to cross the water to get to your destination. The finish is considered top-of-the-line, as is the well-made interior. Orders were originally taken only through the company Web site, though distribution of the less-expensive models in 2008 and 2009 changed things just a bit.

Takes One or Two to Tango

So, we have a single-seat car that is luxurious, fast and expensive.

How does it work in the real world?

Drivers report that it is very maneuverable and handles very well, with good brakes and great driver vision. The Tango passes the strictest rollover tests, primarily because the batteries are located below the car, giving it a low center of gravity. Some reviews compare the rollover rating to the Porsche.

Some folks have wondered about parking two or more Tango electric cars in the same parking space. This would depend on your local laws but some cities have had no problem with this as long as traffic is not obstructed.

Most people who look at the Tango for the first time are concerned about feeling closed in or extremely confined since the car is only four feet wide. However, they generally find that the seating and driving are quite comfortable. There seems to be plenty of head room and leg room, in spite of the design. In fact, a second adult can sit rather comfortably behind the driver in a second seat.

The price on the original Tango was high because of the low number of cars produced. The company reported that the parts for the early luxury model cost nearly $70,000. Upgrades were available by custom order. The original Tango also came with a 10-year warranty (unlimited mileage).

There is one other feature of the original Tango that draws some understanding nods from those who question the price. The chassis and battery compartment are made of stainless steel. That means no rust! Range is expected to improve to more than 100 miles and perhaps up to 200 miles before recharge. That should get even more attention from the buying public (along with new models at a lower price).

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Flying an Aptera Electric Car

You may ask "What's in a name?" Aptera, a California company that has produced a two-seat, high-efficiency vehicle, was once known by the technical name Accelerated Composites. The Aptera 2 Series is still being developed and the company is taking orders from residents of the home state.

According to information from third-party reviews and from the Aptera Web site, the proto-type vehicle provides the equivalent of 300 miles-per-gallon though it must be recharged every 120 miles. The production of vehicles has happened quickly. Accelerated Composites was a start-up company in 2006 when it announced a car designed to travel at 65 miles per hour while providing 330 mpg.

Aptera captured the attention of the automotive industry when it was successful in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize (2007). Company founders were aggressive in adding project leaders and marketing personnel, as well as technical personnel.

All of this good news was followed by the negative response from a government loan agency. The Aptera electric car is a three-wheel design and the loans applied for were focused on four-wheel technology. Pressure in the right places changed the loan guidelines to include three-wheel vehicles. Aptera quickly requested nearly $200 million from the loan program.

Where to Now?

With this positive change the company was able to move forward with development of a two-seat, three-wheel vehicle that would be available in all-electric and hybrid formats. In 2008 the company estimated one of these vehicles would cost from $25,000 to $45,000.

In making this announcement the company added that their vehicle would be twice as efficient as comparable cars. But in 2010, Aptera changed their estimates to state that the 2 Series would provide efficiency equivalent to 200 mpg with a range of 100 miles. Estimates for the hybrid Aptera vehicle remained at the 300 mpg level with charging at 120 miles.

Aptera has changed the overall design of the 2 Series, extending interior space and adding a few extras on the outside. The body will still be in the shape of a tear-drop and company officials state that design specifications put the crash-test capability in the same range as current conventional automobiles. According to the most recent information, real crash test results are not available.

One of the more interesting features of the Aptera 2 Series will be solar panels on the roof that will power a heat pump. The vehicle is designed to have keyless entry and a touch-sensitive computer screen for navigation, communication and entertainment. Battery power comes from lithium-ion packs.

Not the First Aptera Electric Car

The 2 Series is technically not the first Aptera vehicle. The company produced an Mk-0 proto-type vehicle that was never put into production. The 2e succeeded that first vehicle.

Specifications for the 2e are, according to the company:

  • Subcompact class
  • Two doors, three wheels
  • 9 kW (12 horsepower) diesel; 19 kW (25 horsepower) electric
  • 64 inch wheelbase
  • 173 inch overall length
  • 851 pounds starting weight

Somewhere in the company line there was an Mk-1 as well. This proto-type was not put into production either. The 2e eventually replaced this design as the leader in Aptera technology.

Seats and carpet are to be produced from used plastic bottle bottles and cups. Dyes for all fabrics are made from natural substances. In addition to a true aerodynamic design, the Aptera electric car will have gull-wing doors. The 2 Series will be equipped with a camera providing rear views in addition to side-mounted mirrors.

Aptera electric cars - great feedback from testers

Reports from professional, third-party testers state that the Aptera 2 Series could well change the game as far as alternative forms of transportation go. Among the key features that excited the reviewers were: overall design; wide front stance; simplicity of dashboard layout; and excellent windshield view. One report did offer a negative comment about the thin, manually adjustable seats.

History and Names

Aptera might seem a bit unusual as a choice for a "car" name but it fits well with the electric technology and design ideas of the future. The word apparently means "wingless" in Greek. The name was chosen because company founders feel it captures the idea of aircraft design and construction.

Company founders have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the plan off the ground. Aptera also reports that invested nearly $3 million in the effort. Media reports from the west coast show that Aptera is seeking larger facilities as it moves toward vehicle production.

About 4,000 people made deposits toward purchase of an Aptera 2 Series before 2010, with the deposits being held as refundable. Later figures show that only about 3,000 individuals have left their deposits with the program.

Individuals involved in establishing the company include Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony. Anthony had experience as a boat builder and the two approached Idealab founder Bill Gross, who helped them get started in business.

Community Effort

Among the questions fielded by the company in recent months are inquiries about vehicle handling in adverse weather conditions; air conditioning/heat controls, plans for starting production; and dealership opportunities.

Answers to many of these questions are simply not available at this time, company spokespersons say. Aptera doesn't want to compromise its place in a growing industry by revealing too much information to the public – at least not about ownership and dealership.

But a strong Aptera-fanatic community has grown around this vehicle design. There is an active, though unofficial, forum online. Bloggers and contributors are attempting to organize a "hospitality and electricity" network for Aptera electric car owners and drivers.

The general idea is to offer a place to recharge your vehicle, even when the property owner is not there. Taking the concept a step further, the Aptera community suggests that hospitality sites be designated so that the drivers and passengers can recharge as well.

The company expected to begin producing vehicles for 2010 but reports from car-industry media show that the 2010 is still a proto-type.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Tesla Electric Cars

There are at least two versions of the Tesla electric car story, both of which are based on information passed on from generation to generation. To summarize the legend of a 1930s electric car, this vehicle supposedly had some improvements and design features applied by Nikola Tesla.

Tesla was from the European nation of Serbia. He lived from 1856 to 1943, a lifetime during which he became known for his skill as an electrical engineer and mechanical engineer. His patents and inventions formed the foundation for what we know about alternating current, electrical power systems and alternating-current motors. But to some he was a "mad scientist" who died in relative poverty.

Real and Imaginary

The car involved in the Tesla story of the 1930s was a Pierce Arrow, according to the various myths, legends and traditions handed down over the past 80 years. These tales indicated that the electrical-power system ran "hot" and was not practical enough to be produced in large numbers.

However, the company that carries the Tesla name in the 21st century has taken the idea of an electric car far beyond anything the Serbian engineer and inventor could have produced. A modern company called Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers based in California's Silicon Valley. They set their goals on proving "that electric vehicles could be awesome".

By 2008 the company had produced a viable electric vehicle that is now operating on the streets and highways of several countries. 

Look at the Basics

At the heart of Tesla Motors success are the unique design and construction of battery packs and power trains. In addition to a goal of selling electric cars the company hopes to "put more electric cars on the road" by cooperating with other car manufacturers. This will, according to Tesla's marketing information, "lessen global dependence on petroleum-based transportation and drive down the cost of electric vehicles".

In the short time the company has been in existence designers and engineers have secured more than a dozen patents related to electric-vehicle transportation. The company also has nearly 100 patents pending. One of the primary targets for this new organization is production of electric vehicles built around the driver. Electric cars should be an experience that connects the driver, the car and the environment "in ways they've never connected before," Tesla has stated.

Objective View

One of the best ways to get to the truth about any product or service is to study the reports from third-party tests or reviews. Fortunately, such reputable observers of the automotive scene as Motor Trend magazine and Car and Driver magazine have taken a close look at the Tesla electric car. In spite of the reports that Tesla really didn't try to make car batteries, the modern-day connection with the engineer's name seems to be a success.

Road tests by these major automotive magazines show that the 248-horsepower Tesla Roadster delivers 211 pound-feet of "zero-rpm torque". The lithium-ion batteries apparently give the car plenty of "juice". The weight/torque ratio rivals that of the Lotus, according to tests. Battery reserves reportedly equal 2.1 gallons of gasoline though the company claims the Tesla Roadster is much more efficient than a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle.

How to Use a Tesla electric car

Charging the Tesla Roadster in preparation for road use is similar to charging a cell phone. The process involves plugging the connecting cord into an electrical wall outlet and waiting for the batteries to become fully charged. Most Tesla owners simply charge their vehicle overnight, which allows them to get in a drive away with enough electrical power to get through the day.

Without getting too "technical" in describing how the charging process works, we can simply describe the charger as being integrated into the vehicle (as part of the power train). Connectors are available for charging with a standard 120-volt outlet or a 240-volt outlet.

The number of miles provided by a full charge will vary, of course, depending on air temperature, highway use, city use and other variables. But the average mileage on a full charge is about 245 miles, according to the company. A Tesla electric car driven during test conditions traveled more than 300 miles before recharge was needed.

One of the questions people ask about electric cars in general and about the Tesla Roadster in particular is:

Can I use a Tesla electric car to make a long-distance road trip?

According to third-party reviews and company information, hundreds of owners are making long-distance trips as long as they can access electrical outlets at private homes, hotels, motels and campgrounds along the way.

Tesla sells a home connector that will charge the Roadster at the rate of about 56 miles of use for each hour the car is connected. This means that a fully drained battery can be completely recharged in about four hours. Another connector that is designed for use on road trips charges a depleted battery in about six hours. These charges range in price from $1,500 to $2,000.

Tesla Roadster

The Tesla Roadster has a sticker price above $100,000 and was the first vehicle developed by Tesla Motors. Company figures indicated that approximately 1,000 Tesla Roadsters were in use in 2010.

Tesla Model S

Tesla also plans to manufacture a Model S, sedan style car that will travel about 300 miles on a fully charge battery pack. The company is "now taking reservations" for the Model S, which was made available in 2012. This design was more affordable for the working man and woman, with a price tag in the $50,000+ range. .

If the sedan model satisfies owners as the Roadster has the company should be successful with its new model. Some drivers have reported that the Roadster is not just a sports car it's a "great" sports car. Tesla has been able to produce practical, enjoyable vehicles that are up to three times as cost efficient as a comparable gasoline-powered car. Both third-party reviews and paying customers have praised the efforts of a car company that is new on the automotive scene. Some say Tesla has set the standard for the future of electric cars.

Tesla Model X

The Model X is a SUV style EV with unique T open doors that are very futuristic, loads of storage space and 6 spacious Seats.


Tesla Model 3

This Model is the Mid Range affordable model of Tesla EV and also was the most diffcult to reach purley because of numbers. The Model 3 is the mass production cheapest cost of the Tesla range thus the previous models had to be established and be succesful before this could be feasable. Now its out and is a raging success.

Tesla Truck

Since 2015 theres been a trend on trucks or pickups as standard family all purpose all terrain vehicles, everyone first thought teslas was a flop till they observed 250,000 pre orders role in after launch. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

ZENN Electric Car?

 What better way to let people know about your company's mission than to put it directly in the name. The company that made the ZENN electric car took the best branding ideas and put them to use in the world of electric vehicles. ZENN is an acronym for Zero Emission, NNoise.

Recent activity from the ZENN camp has made a bit of noise, however. In April the company ceased production of its vehicles to pursue a related path in the electric-vehicle industry. The announcement actually came in September 2009 when the company's chief executive officer said ZENN would stop making cars so it could focus on "selling its drive-train technology to other manufacturers."

In its original form the ZENN was a two-seat vehicle powered by a battery pack. The vehicle was designed to travel at speeds up to 25 miles per hour over a range of up to 40 miles. According to information from the company, only 500 ZENN electric cars were sold. That low number of sales was a primary reason for pursuing a drive-train-specialist route, according to Ian Clifford, ZENN CEO.

ZENN Electric Cars - Big Vision

ZENN started its journey in the electric-vehicle industry with a vision of "returning to the purity of that original feeling" of being mobile without "the heavy costs of pollution and oil dependency." Among the ideas the company tried to put into its product were "exhilarating acceleration" and "enlightened mobility."

ZENN planned to grow into a global leader in "zero-emission transportation" from its base in Toronto, Ontario. It will continue to pursue a slightly different course with its trademark ZENNergy technologies and solutions, using what engineers have learned about electric-car design to contribute to an expanding industry.

Clifford came up with the idea of doing something different in transportation as far back as 1995. Some of the early electric cars were not available in his native Canada. The ZENN Web site indicates that he was interested in an electric car that was created more than half a century ago, the Henney Kilowatt. Clifford set his mind to creating a reliable vehicle with his company, Feel Good Cars, Inc., after trying the age-old vehicle.

The New Century

As he sold his active Internet-based company and prepared for a new challenge in 2000, Clifford turned his attention to "declare open war on climate change." Feel Good Cars was the way to do this, Clifford felt.

The company started by making plans to convert a French car, the Renault Dauphine, into an electric vehicle. Plans included selling the converted cars for about $25,000. Feel Good Cars eventually morphed into ZENN, which "entered into a technology agreement with EEStor," a company that was originally part of the computer-storage industry. A "super battery" was at the heart of this joint venture.

Neighborhood Vehicles

With all of this experience behind it, ZENN became a short-lived player in the world of smaller, low-speed electric vehicles. Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV) or low-speed vehicles (LSV) were recognized as a separate category among cars. In fact, the LSV category was created by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in 1998.

The ZENN was first imported from France without a drive-train. The company then installed the electric motor and the battery group, completing a serviceable LSV that gave its few customers a pleasant surprise - it accelerated rather quickly and could take you on a trip of about 35 miles (unless you had the optional air-conditioning on). Then it would cover a bit less ground.

ZENN's cars were very popular in Florida and California. A few private individuals purchased them for use in residential areas and for urban driving. Businesses used them as security vehicles to patrol large parking lots and business properties. Recharging usually took about eight hours, though a quick-charger was available.

Limited Interest

As mentioned earlier, only a few hundred customers found the ZENN worth the investment of about $17,000 to $18,000. The suspension was not strong enough to provide a smooth ride on a bumpy road, according to some reviews. Because it was classified as a neighborhood vehicle or low-speed vehicle, the ZENN wasn't required to have doors. But it did have them.

A few people who looked at the ZENN found the interior quality acceptable, if only above average. There was room to seat two adults comfortably, with ample storage space as well. This little car had some neat standard features such as power windows and carpeting. You could even order a stereo system and air-conditioning.

For ZENN, it seems the bottom line wasn't healthy enough to continue selling finished electric cars to the public. Price was a problem, to judge by reviews from the years during which the ZENN electric car was available. A number of NEV or LSV models were for sale at about half the price. True, they weren't complete cars like the ZENN but they sold better. In any event, the company is alive and well in a slightly different part of the electric-vehicle world.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

GEM Electric Cars What are they?

You might ask, "Can't we use an electric car anywhere, at any time?" Yes and no. To put it simply, some electric cars are called neighborhood electric vehicles. They are four-wheel vehicles that have a maximum speed somewhere around 25 miles per hour. In many places a car that travels on the open road or public highway must be able to reach a minimum speed much higher than that.

GEM electric cars fit this category. These are neighborhood electric vehicles powered by batteries that are restricted to roads with a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour. People who live in populated urban settings might find GEM vehicles just what they need for local transportation. Some people who live on a college campus or in golf-cart community might find them suitable as well.

Special Use Vehicles

GEM officially started as Chrysler Group Global Electric Motorcars LLC in 1998. With a base of operations in Fargo, North Dakota, GEM produced a two-passenger car with a 48-volt power source and a top speed of 20 miles per hour. These cars must have seat belts, suitable headlights, safety glass and windshield wipers in order to be driven on public roads.

GEM has set its mission

"to establish its brand presence both as the maker of the top-selling NEV in the market and the purveyor of one of the smartest solutions to traffic congestion and air quality problems yet to be introduced".

With emphasis on versatility and enjoyment, GEM executives believe they have created a "new kind of personal transportation."

Variety is the Spice of Electric Vehicles

GEM vehicles come in six distinct models, according to information from the company. Figures from GEM show that there are about 40,000 of these vehicles in use.

After the company was founded in December 1997, the company offered a two-passenger, "long back" called the GEM eL. A month later the company offered the short-back version or the eS. A four-passenger version rolled out in December 1998 - the GEM e4.

After the company was acquired by Daimler Chrysler in 2000 a new production line began operation. In 2005 the company had approximately 150 dealerships nationwide. The six-passenger GEM e6 came out in 2006 and was soon followed by the "extra-duty", long-back utility vehicle, the GEM eL XD.

GEM electric cars have a varying range of travel, depending on use and conditions. But the company advertises 30 mile per charge as a "typical" range. The two newest vehicles, the e6 with "S" Package and the eL XD have a typical driving range of up to 40 miles per charge.

The company emphasizes that its vehicles are intended to be used on public roads designed for 35 miles per hour or less. It is important for a prospective buyer to know if their state has approved the use of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. GEM suggests using one of its vehicles for commuting short distances to work in an urban area, taking children to school or other activities and for going to the grocery store or other local stores.

GEM electric cars and similar vehicles from other manufacturers are attracting attention from:

  • campus security personnel
  • large businesses
  • and from hospital and shopping complexes.

Some people have found them to be suitable for indoor use when the area they have to travel is large but under roof.

One factor must be at the top of the priority list when you consider a neighborhood electric vehicle as opposed to a road-worth electric car - safety standards. The construction and safety features are significantly different. Shortly after this model was introduced the federal agency which oversees transportation officially designated some cars as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.

Getting a GEM

These cars are available at some Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers, as well as at locations specified as GEM dealerships.

Prices vary depending on model but the starting price for the two-passenger GEM e2 is $7,395. Customers are urged to check for current federal and state government incentives for purchasing an electric vehicle. Significant electric car tax credits may be offered.

Specifications on the GEM include a 72-volt battery system, custom controller and driver motor. Five of the models use six 12-volt batteries while the GEM e6 use nine 8-volt "maintenance free" gel batteries. Batteries can be charged with a built-in charger that is connected to a standard 110-volt outlet.

Charge time for several of the vehicles is "eight to twelve hours". The larger vehicles take "ten to fourteen hours to recharge from a completely discharged state", according to information from GEM. There is no solar-charge option at this time, the company states.

Available colors are

  • red
  • yellow
  • green
  • white
  • blue
  • silver
  • and black.

There are some equipment options available, according to company information. Top price is in the area of $11,500.