Archive for EV

Save these other cars

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Desirable machines, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , , on 26/05/2015 by Alexander

Yesterday¬†I linked a beautifully-written article on what cars are worth saving from their ICE. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth having a look because the fundamental premise is saving cars that had crap engines but were otherwise lovely.

And because I’m a bit of an unoriginal simpleton, here are some of my own picks:

Citroen DS

Credit: Boldride

Credit: Boldride


No-one in the automotive world can deny the Citroen DS was revolutionary. Materials, aerodynamics, technology, safety and comfort were all redefined by the iconic French car, but it’s Achilles heel was the engine. There was nothing revolutionary about it, in fact, it was quite the contrary. On release, it had a 1.9l petrol unit, derived from the old Traction Avant, a car from the 1930’s. Subsequent engines introduced electronic injection, but you probably won’t see it written down as part of the huge range of the DS’s groundbreaking innovations.

Such a legend deserves to live on, and a technological advance like electrification would suit it like a glove. How you’d get the complicated hydraulics to work is for boffins, but it can’t be beyond the ken of man.

DeLorean DMC-12

Credit: DeLorean

Credit: DeLorean


A no-brainer. The DeLorean had a 2.8-litre Peugeot V6, which was underpowered for such a heavy car. Solution: a torquey electric motor, that suits its subsequent sci-fi credentials perfectly. Back to the Future, indeed.

And the best thing is, someone’s done it!

Alpine A108/Willys Interlagos
alpinea108
I love old Alpines, so much that I put the A110 in my Dream Garage. This particular Alpine was the type of old car powered by one those tiny engines that are bang-slap on the fine line of being suitable for cars or only good for lawn-mowers. The largest put into one I believe was for the Brazilian version (with the lovely name “Interlagos”, and manufactured by Willys, and pictured above) and had 945cc. And as anyone who has had this sort of car knows, the racket these cars make can be unbearable, making it perfect for EV treatment. You’d reach your destination without your ears bleeding and head pounding from a constant thrum of a noisy engine.

And because the A108 is so small, aerodynamic and light, I reckon it would be rather efficient in its energy consumption.

Volvo 200 series
volvo240
Because classic cars can’t all be sports cars or legends, here’s an example of a humdrum everyday car made famous for its safety and practicality. According to some motoring journalists, the only reason some models had large six-cylinder engines was to be able to lug so much weight around. So hey presto, there you have the perfect excuse to electrify it.

And that’s just the excuse, there are other good reasons to bring one up more to date. There are its fabulous lines that have aged unbelievably well, its comfort or that wonderful interior. Plus, since it was rather reliable, and always a contender for the Volvo High-Mileage Club, it’s probable that 200 series engines have so many miles on them that the pistons have worn down to nubs and all the wiring is flaky and brittle. So you might as well prepare it for even more miles by transforming it into an EV.

Another of the best reasons I can think of is to stop them being slammed by tastless modders.

I loved doing this. I’ll think I’ll do some more later

Save these cars

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception with tags , , on 25/05/2015 by Alexander

VS60e
One of my biggest worries as a conscious person who doesn’t want to see his planet bled dry of resources is what will happen to old cars if suddenly there’s a shift away from internal combustion engines?

There’s no good reason to throw away a car that’s in perfectly good condition apart from a broken engine, since the engine is where most malfunctions start. There’s the cooling system, with the radiator, the piping, the reservoir. The exhaust system, with manifold and mufflers and all sorts of bits that will wear out over time. The transmission, with gearbox, prop-shafts, clutch and linkages. And the engine itself, with oil, gaskets, valves, push-rods, pistons,¬† and so on.

Cars are usually thrown into a scrapyard once they’ve hit a certain mileage, because the engine is probably worn, but the rest of the car is probably alright. So why consign it to oblivion?

I’ve always been a fan of retrofits and turning an ICE car into an EV has undeniable benefits. For example, how about this BBC article that proposes modifying old classic cars that were lovely to look at but had poorly-engineered powerplants got them onto “Worst Car” lists since they arrived.

Undoubtedly that there are hurdles, caveats and other issues with this approach, but we’ll delve into that some other time. For now, just picture yourself driving your favourite car with the knowledge that it won’t overheat, vomit oil, seize up or spend a week in a sodding garage because its f**king head gasket decided not to do its job anymore (this last sentence is my personal rant because THAT’S WHAT’S BLOODY WELL HAPPENED TO ME).

EVs: I’ve changed my mind

Posted in Alt-Fuel with tags , , , , , , on 21/09/2014 by Alexander

If you’ve never read this blog and wonder if it’s a supercar-loving petrolhead writing this, I’ll boil down my view on cars: I love fuel-efficient, good-looking, comfortable cars. I’m especially fascinated by alternative fuels, as well as cheap and clean ways to make cars move.

In that vein, I’ve written on this very blog in bold letters that electric vehicles aren’t the future. I was eating my words a post or two on and it seems I’ll keep eating them. Electric cars are pretty cool and definitely will catch on. They’ll get cheaper and better and we’ll see more and more of them. I wrote a post call “The Evils of Electric“, and I stand by a lot of what I said, though since I’ve written it I’ve learnt a lot more about EVs and all the pros and cons surrounding them, especially concerning what it’s actually like to live with them every day.

This enlightenment can be attributed to Red Dwarf‘s Kryten, or Robert Llewellyn as I have no doubt he prefers to be RobertLlewellyncalled. His YouTube show Fully Charged is a very informative and balanced way of looking at electric vehicles, as well as some other alt-fuel technologies out there. What I like most is that he also loves cars, loves petrol engines and performance and respects everyone else who does, and just wants to say “getting around on petrol is fine, but it’s flawed and we should start looking at other solutions.”

For me, what really clinched Mr. Llewellyn’s status as an authority on these matters is how he doesn’t have his head up is arse or is out of touch with reality, and knows that someone like me who lives in a flat and doesn’t earn much money can’t really realistically run an EV in this day and age. But what he’s doing aims to make EVs widespread enough to become accessible, both in the price it costs to buy one, and the infrastructure necessary to keep them going. If you want to know more about Robert and his fantastic, entertaining and clever style of showing people how this EV malarkey simply makes so much sense, have a listen to a talk he gave in Liverpool last year called Electric Cars Are Rubbish. Aren’t They? I promise you’ll love it.

The Model S

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Desirable machines, General opinions with tags , , , , on 26/12/2012 by Alexander

Electric cars. Ah, the debate they inspire, whether it’s fuming outrage or bleating fanboy-ism, will be ongoing for years to come. Personally, I never bought the whole current electric car malarkey, for reasons I’ll note down once again in a minute, but first I’d like to speak a little about the current poster-child for the all-electric automobile. It’s not the Mitsubishi i-Miev, not the Renault Fluance Z.E. or the Twizy, nor even the Nissan Leaf. The epitome of electric motoring is without doubt the Tesla Model S.

Tesla Model SI’m starting off with something that’s indisputable here: it just looks the part, doesn’t it? Beautiful, striking lines that make it look as contemporary and as gorgeous as the best of current conventionally-propelled offerings with a little je-ne-sais-quoi hinting its futuristic character. The more I read and find out about the Model S, the more backward, redundant, obsolete and plain silly regular ICE’s look and feel. The absence of maintenance costs, the low running costs, the quietness, the smoothness, the performance and the space! With the battery pack doubling as the floor and thus, offering more rigidity to the chassis, it also frees up stowage space that allows for the two extra seats in the back.Tesla S Interior The rear boot, though huge, can be done without with because there’s another one up front. It just sounds so obvious and clever. This also allows for a completely flat floor in the front and rear, and a very spacious-feeling cabin.

The Tesla also has astonishing performance figures, with a sub-six second acceleration and the range of 300+ miles, that beats everything else electric out there by far. I have no doubt in saying that if you’re going electric, this is what to go for. Unless of course, you live outside the US and it isn’t available and is also as expensive as hell.

And that’s one of the downsides of the car. I do understand its price tag, but damn, that stings. Another problem is how long will the batteries last and how much it’ll cost to replace them. It’s all very well having little to no maintenance costs for five or so years, but then having to shell out a big ton of cash after that time for a car that cost a six-figure amount can be quite a slap in the face.

Another downside, which I’m sorry to insist on, is still the range and charging time. 300 miles is fine for daily commuting but it’s utter crap for a road trip. And the hefty buying tag and charging conditions (i.e., you have to have your own mains socket next to the car, ergo, you have to own your own house that has to have its own garage) means this will be a toy for the well-off, who will buy this as a guilt-ridding tool so they don’t feel so bad about their other car, a V8 or V12 that gets a single-figure mpg count. And don’t forget, charging away from home will be difficult and lengthy.

To finalise, there’s that stupid touchscreen centre console. It’s pathetic. Everything is controlled from there, whether it’s the AC, the sunroof or the radio, and I bet it’s invisible in sunlight, clunky at best since you’ll probably have to navigate through a plethora of sub-menus to get where you want, and downright f**king dangerous since this demands a lot of eyes-off-the-road time for this. Utter bilge.

But these downsides are niggles that have to be brought into the real world for there to be a concerted effort for development (except for the touchscreen, that’s just s**t). The current model for electric car ownership is crap (it requires ownership of a second ICE car), and as I’ve said before, it’ll fail if it stays the way it is. But infrastructures for charging away from home will pop up eventually if there’s a demand for it. Charging times, battery life and costs will definitely go down over time, and there have been all sorts of news of battery packs that are cheaper, lighter and more efficient, and are just waiting some more R&D and testing to be made commercially available.

So thumbs up for the Model S. Let’s root for it’s success.

Quickies

Posted in News, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/02/2012 by Alexander


The BMW i8, which started life as the tongue-twisting Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car (which I like a lot), has been promised as a production car, and has been spotted in the wild during the usual winter tests for cars under development. Looks pretty cool.

Opel/Vauxhall is in the s**t again. After having gone through some hard times thanks to the incompetence of its parent company, General Motors, more trouble looms on the horizon in the shape of more cost-cutting measures. This just goes to show how much I understand the car industry. Let me illustrate.
SEAT are an awful brand, who make ugly Golf-based hatchbacks and cheap Audi A4 rip-offs. A couple of years ago VW, who owns them, mulled over the hypothesis of ditching the brand due to dismal sales. Unfortunately, they’re going strength to strength, even though there’s nothing tangible to justify this. Opel, on the other hand, have been making better and better cars. The Corsa and Astra make top 10 sales lists all the time, the Insignia has been a top-selling sedan in Europe (400,000 units sold up to 2011), won European Car Of The Year and another German award for “Car with the least flaws“. I’ve already raved about the Insignia and Astra’s brilliant interiors, and there’s still great Opels to look forward too: the four-door Astra and the amazing-looking Mokka (and I hate SUVs). I’d have thought Opel would be a lifeline for GM but I’m spectacularly wrong by the looks of it.

Gordon Murray has his T25 and T27 city cars nearly ready to go into production, all he needs is some ink on paper to render the whole thing official. His cars had better be bloody good because there’s been a lot of hype surrounding them. The iStream manufacturing looks pretty solid, though. But if I were Mr. Murray, I’d expect a lawsuit from Apple in the near future for calling his brainchild “i-(something)”.

Studebaker is planning a comeback. The legendary American brand that stopped manufacturing cars in 1966 has a new concept in the works and is betting on advanced, clean technology, with diesel-hybrid propulsion inside a compact five-door. Everyone, a warm welcome back to the Studebaker Lark.

An intellectually dishonest take on the cost of running an EV versus a petrol car. Doesn’t include the hefty cost of having to replace a battery every few years and/or its hefty rental cost. Doesn’t take into account the taxes petrol pays, and that EV’s will have to pay road tax eventually too (do you think governments will pass up this opportunity to go for what’s in our pockets?) Uses a 20mpg figure for the car (11.8 litres/100km)!

Cyclone engine

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16/01/2012 by Alexander

I’ve covered gas-turbine engines before, and they still live on in my mind as one of the best alternatives to ICE’s. Not as a direct substitute, mind you, but as a compliment to EVs as range extending technology. It’s a rather elegant solution, since it allows for regular, fossil-fuel consuming folk to adjust more easily due to the fact that they still have to pump in fuel, while at the same time it’s a cleaner, more eco-friendly electric vehicle. Everyone’s happy.

Perhaps their greatest advantage is that they can run on nearly anything that burns. Petrol, diesel, kerosene, whiskey, perfume, basically anything that’s liquid and combustible. And that includes all sorts of lovely biofuels that hopefully will be produced just as cleanly as they burn. However, this application of gas turbines to automotive propulsion is only being pursued by a consortium (that includes Jaguar), apparently.

It even crossed my mind to do something I’ve dreamt about for years: to get myself an old car, rip out the engine and turn it into an alternatively propelled vehicle (just as these guys turned a classic Toyota 2000GT into a solar-powered EV). In this case, a gas turbine electric hybrid. And I thought to myself, how hard can it be?! You just remove the ICE and strap in a gas turbine, batteries and some electric motors behind each wheel hub. But I’m absolutely certain that in reality things would be much more complicated than it sounds. The most elementary components that have a clear place in a conventionally-powered vehicle could become a nightmare. How many gears would it have, if it even had gears at all? What would power the brake servo, the air-con, or the rest of the HVAC system? Would it be the turbine or the batteries? How would someone who wasn’t a very clever engineer even begin to rig the readouts as to how much juice you have left on the batteries, what shuts down or comes to life when the turbine kicks in, etc., etc.? That’s complicated s**t.

I’m still curious as to how gas turbines compare with regular engines. I can’t seem to find any sort of specifications as to what mileage you could get from a gas turbine electric hybrid car or what’s their emission-per-km figure. After all, it’s a very nice technology in principle, but not really worth it if takes a gallon of fuel to keep the car fully operational for a mile. The Jaguar C-X75 concept has “an estimated fuel economy of 41.1 mpg, 778 horsepower, 0 to 62mph in 3.4 seconds, and a top speed of 205 mph”, which is very nice for a concept car, but that doesn’t mean it can to it in the real world. While trying to find some proper numbers, I stumbled across yet another type of engine I wasn’t aware of, called the Cyclone Engine. Its working principle is (if I’m not very much mistaken) a modern take on the steam engine, and has many real world applications, not just powering cars. And like the gas turbine idea (and unlike the split cycle engine and, from what I can tell, the shockwave motion generator), it can burn virtually anything in order to function. The website boasts a lot of advantages over conventional internal combustion engines, just like the split cycle and shockwave engines, from efficiency to number of components, which makes me wonder why these sorts of things aren’t being pursued more aggressively by more mainstream car manufacturers. If any one of these technologies (or hopefully, all of them) take hold, they’ll be tripping over themselves to play catch-up.

Is going electric as green as we think?

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , , on 08/02/2010 by Alexander

The march toward all-electric vehicles continues with some good ideas, like Volvo’s power-storing bodywork, and less good ideas, like the stupid-looking and stupidly-named Protoscar Lampo2. I’ve mentioned the pros and cons of EV’s before, and the bottom line is that unless recharging a car is as fast as filling it up with fuel, and that it’ll go a long way before having to stop again, the future of motor transport lies with another fuel or mode of propulsion. I suspect car manufacturers insist on EV’s because they’re easier to build and something more easily understood by the public, because even a corporate accountant can see the inevitable downsides of betting on electricity as the petrol of the future. Apart from its practicality issues, there’s an even bigger issue that EV’s have to deal with, one that attacks the very cornerstone of their existence: their carbon footprint.

An interesting article in the Portuguese website AutoPortal speaks of how a Dutch company, CE Delft, has uncovered an aspect of European law that, while an incentive for making EV’s, is at the same time an excuse for less environmentally-friendly behaviour. Loosely translated:

The study indicates that the European legislation that regulates car emissions presents “serious loopholes”, by allowing car manufacturers to ‘compensate’ the sale of electric vehicles with the sale of more polluting vehicles, which go beyond the emission limits set by legislation.

It’s an interesting point and one which isn’t easily visible, unlike the other disadvantages which are the realm of common sense and simple inferences. An overtaxed power grid, consuming lots of fossil fuel to produce the juice needed to recharge EV’s, and the junking of old cars are the main contentious and valid points, and they’re simply not being addressed.

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