As part of the grand opening of the world’s first BMW i Store on London’s Park Lane, BMW Group will present its i3 Concept with a new interior color and materials concept. Based on the original concept car which made its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, the latest version of the i3 was developed using BMW’s “next premium” vision.
The German automaker says the new interior gives an impression of generous space enhanced by renewable raw materials including leather, wood, wool and other natural fibers.
The BMW i3 Concept is an all-electric vehicle that makes extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). CFRP technology is already fundamentally changing the car industry because its strength and light weight allow automakers to create vehicles that burn less fuel, thereby producing fewer emissions. BMW produces the CFRP for the i-series in Moses Lake, Washington at a plant operated as a joint venture with SGL Group.
The i3 has a BMW-designed, rear-mounted, 170-horsepower, permanently excited hybrid synchronous electric motor that produces 184 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 km/h (about 37 mph) takes less than four seconds and the 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time is under eight seconds. The top speed is an electronically governed 93 mph: BMW says higher speeds have a major impact on range. Speaking of range, BMW estimates the i3 can go somewhere between 80 and 100 miles on a full charge.
One of the key talking points about the i3 is recharge time: BMW says the car can be recharged to 80 percent of capacity in just one hour with a fast charger. Full recharge with standard household power takes about six hours, hours less than most competing electrics.
If that’s not enough, BMW will offer an optional range extender, a small gasoline engine that can charge the battery the way the Chevrolet Volt does.
Compared to the hybrid i8 that appeared in Mission Impossible–Ghost Protocol, the i3 is more compact for city driving. It’s nine inches shorter and two inches wider than a Ford Fiesta. In fact, the i3′s geometry is unusual in that the width is equal to more than half the length. Works wonders for interior shoulder room.
One of the downsides of concept cars is that they are most often just that: concepts. BMW, however, believes the i3 should not only be admired, it should be sold with a premium price tag. Therefore, the i3, with some changes to meet various government standards, is expected to go on sale in the European market late next year and in the U.S. in 2014. The closest thing to a price that BMW has offered is an estimated 40,000-euro price in Germany, which would be about $50,000 at current exchange rates, making the i3 about $10,000 more than the Volt.
Honda Fit EV: Honda has launched the first all-electric vehicle that makes economic sense. Not only has it received an EPA rating of a combined mile-per-gallon-equivalency (MPGe) rating of 118 MPGe, and a consumption rating of just 29 kilowatt hours (kWh) per 100 miles, it actually goes for less than a comparably equipped Honda Fit Sport.
Honda has announced a $389.00/month lease program for well-qualified buyers that covers three years and 36,000 miles. Based on the EPA numbers, the monthly cost of electricity for 1,000 miles is $33.35, based on the national average of $0.115 per kilowatt-hour. That’s a total of $422.35 per month for car and power. Compare that to a three-year/36,000-mile lease for the Fit Sport with Navigation that comes out to $385.72/month, according to Honda’s lease calculator. The cost of unleaded gasoline at the current price of $3.547/gallon and the EPA-estimated 31 mpg combined for the Fit Sport with an automatic transmission yields a month fuel cost of $117.76 for a total of $503.48. The Fit EV saves you $81.13 per month or $2,920.69 over the term of the lease. Even better is the fact the electric Fit’s lease includes collision coverage, routine maintenance and roadside assistance for the duration of the lease.
There are a couple of “gotchas:” First, you have to be approved for one of just 1,100 leases that will be offered through October 2014 and Honda mentions “well-qualified” more than once in the fine print. Second, you have to live in California or Oregon or one of six Eastern states to be named later. Your mileage limit is 12,000 miles per year and there’s a $0.20/mile charge for exceeding it and there is no purchase option at the end of the lease.
In many ways, the Fit EV lease is similar to the program offered for the Honda FCX Clarity.
The Fit EV is more than a pretty lease; it has an EPA-estimated range of 82 miles and, if you have the appropriate 240V charging system, it takes only about three hours to fully charge. If you’re using the 110V outlet in your garage, it could take a while longer. Like 12 hours.
The Fit EV has a 92-kilowatt (123 horsepower) coaxial electric motor generating 188 ft-lb of torque mated to the driver-selectable, three-mode drive system adapted from the CR-Z Sport Hybrid. The Fit EV rides on a chassis with a fully-independent suspension. The Fit EV’s 20-kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery has enough capacity to outlast the new Ford Focus Electric (76-miles), Nissan Leaf (73 miles), and Mitsubishi MiEV (62-miles).
“Just as important as the industry-leading fuel-efficiency and fast recharging time, as a Honda, the 2013 Fit EV will be an absolute kick to drive,” said Steve Center, vice president of the American Honda Environmental Business Development Office.
Inside, the seating surfaces for up to five are covered with bio-fabric. Apparently Honda hasn’t gotten the news that EV buyers prefer leather. There are illuminated meters that keep the driver informed about the charge level, battery usage and driving range. The meters change color depending on the driving mode selected (green, white or red).
You can’t have a battery-powered car without lots of battery-powered electronics: the Fit EV comes with a telematics system allowing the driver to be distracted by a smartphone, personal computer or interactive remote. In fact, the driver doesn’t even have to be in the car to use the systems: with the Fit EV smartphone and computer applications, the driver can remotely view the vehicle’s state of charge, initiate charging and activate the air conditioning and heater, to pre-condition the vehicle while the car is still connected to the charging station, which is actually a pretty neat idea as pre-cooling or heating the car while it’s plugged in will save a large drain on the battery: it’s easier for the system to maintain a temperature than it is to achieve it. The mobile application and website also allows the owner to set charging notifications and alerts to get the best utility rates. The Fit EV comes equipped with a standard Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System that can help locate public charging stations.
Smart ForTwo Electric Drive: After a facilities upgrade costing more than $225 million, Daimler AG began producing the new Smart Fortwo electric drive today at the Smart Hambach plant in France.
“The new smart electric drive and the expansion of the Hambach plant are two important milestones for the future of smart”, said Dr. Annette Winkler, Smart’s senior executive. “With the new smart electric drive we are further expanding our leading position in urban mobility and making fully electric driving accessible to everyone. For this – and for the successor generation to the current smart – we are making significant investments in the Hambach site. And I am convinced that this is money extremely well invested.”
Dr. Joachim Betker, Head of the smart plant in Hambach, emphasised the ground-breaking integration of the electric version in the production process: “For the first time we have realised the consistent and perfectly integrated production of models with electric drive and those with combustion engines. In production, we are now optimally utilising the smart vehicle concept’s eminent potential for different drive systems.”
The Smart EV has a 55kW electric motor good for a 0-60 km/h (0 – 37 mph) time of 4.8 seconds and top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph). The the motor is powered by a 17.6 kWh battery gives the Smart EV a range of about 145 kilometers (90 miles) in city traffic. We’re not sure if there is perhaps some big difference in the cars going to Germany and the cars coming here, but the Smart USA website says the 0-60 km/h time is 6.5 seconds and that the car is electronically limited to 96 km/h (60 mph). In an urban environment at warm temperatures, the EPA’s LA4 test cycle indicate the Smart’s range is up to 98 miles on a full charge. That drops to 63 miles in combined city and highway driving. Of course, with a top speed of 60, highway driving is likely going to be limited, mostly by the driver’s chutzpah and/or other motorists’ patience.
Since the Smart EV is built with components from Daimler AG and joint ventures with Bosch (EM-motive) and Evonik (Deutsche ACCUmotive), Daimler says it is the first truly European electric car.
The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive goes on sale in Germany this summer and is expected to begin arriving in the U.S. in late fall. No U.S. prices have been set at this time, but German buyers have a couple of options: they can buy the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive for the equivalent of $23,650 for the Coupe or $27,500 for the Cabriolett and rent the battery for $81.33/month. Or they can just buy the whole shebang for $29,630 for the coupe or about $33,500 for the Cabriolet. It should be noted those prices include Germany’s 19 percent value-added tax.
The fall arrival will actually be the second time a Smart electric car has landed in the U.S. Daimler had a test program for the battery-powered Smart last year. 250 were shipped over and leased for a whopping $599/month, about the same that Honda charges for the larger fuel-cell-powered FCX Clarity. With leases like the one offered for the Honda Fit and those being offered on other competing electric cars, Daimler may need to rethink its pricing strategies.
This morning at 11:00 AM Pacific Time, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire, accompanied by local officials, electric vehicle drivers and business people, will participate in a ribbon-cutting at the Sehome Village Shopping Center in Bellingham, opening up the latest expansion of the West Coast Electric Highway.
The West Coast Electric Highway is the section of Interstate 5 running from the Canadian border to the northern California state line. With the help of a $1.32 million federal grant, it has been made EV-friendly with the installation of recharging stations located at 25-30-mile intervals, well within the range of current EVs operating at highway speeds. The idea is to expand the opportunities for travel by owners of electric cars who might otherwise be reluctant to travel any distance by highway. It also allows drivers to travel Interstate 5 from the Canadian border to California without using any gasoline.
Most of the charging stations are located in areas where motorists can get some refreshments or shop while their car is getting juiced up. Even with the fastest charge, it’s still 20-30 minutes (or as the folks in Washington like to say, time to grab a cup of coffee) before the vehicle is charged.
So what’s the downside? According to the EPA, a Nissan LEAF has a 70-mile range traveling at 55 miles per hour with the air-conditioning on. It’s about 254 miles from Bellingham to Vancouver; almost the entire length of Interstate 5 in Washington state. At 55 miles per hour, that’s a journey lasting about 4 hours and 37 minutes. In a conventional automobile, there would be no need to stop at all except possibly for that cup of coffee. In the Nissan LEAF, there will be three 30-minute stops to recharge. That’s a fair number of coffee breaks or shopping trips and it extends the total time of the trip to over six hours.
It gets worse: the national 55 mph speed limit ended long ago. The speed limit on most of Interstate 5 is now 70 and doing 55 could be hazardous and certainly won’t win any friends. In obedience to the laws of physics, the LEAF’s range drops as the speed increases. MIT’s Technology Review estimates the range could drop to 62 miles, meaning an additional stop, and another 30-minute coffee break, just before the end of that Bellingham-to-Vancouver journey.
Washington, Oregon and California were among six states selected to participate in The EV Project, a $230 million U.S. Department of Energy project to spur electric vehicle ownership and infrastructure. This includes deployment of thousands of charging stations. The government is taking a proactive approach to building the infrastructure that will be required to make electric vehicles a practical, if expensive, mode of transportation.
Te West Coast Electric Highway is a step in that direction. Electric charging stations are the least expensive refueling option among alternative technologies that don’t use fossil fuels: natural gas or hydrogen distribution and dispensing systems are far more costly, even though there need to be fewer of them. And the most critical component of widespread acceptance of any alternative-fuel vehicle is infrastructure. A potential owner wants to be sure they won’t be stranded between refueling points. Time spent sipping a beverage or browsing in a shop is acceptable: time spent sitting on the side of the road, waiting for a wrecker, is not.
The stage is being set for a technology duel not unlike the Mac versus Windows or VHS versus Betamax battles.
U.S. and German automakers have agreed to adopt a new fast-charging technology that will recharge most compatible electric vehicles in as little as 15-20 minutes. This could be a major game-changer for battery and plug-in hybrid cars as it minimizes one of the key objections: the amount of time to restore the vehicle to usable condition. It’s also the technological equivalent of drawing a line in the sand as the Japanese have their own systems and so much of current EV technology is sourced through Japan.
The new Combined Charging System (CCS) – officially called DC-fast charging with a Combined Charging System – will be demonstrated at the World Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS26) that opens tomorrow at the Los Angeles Convention Center and runs through Wednesday, May 9.
Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen will support the use and deployment of the CCS in the United States and Europe as well as designing their electric vehicles to use it.
The CCS integrates one-phase AC charging, fast three-phase AC charging, DC-charging at home and ultra-fast DC charging at public stations into a single vehicle inlet. This will allow EV owners to recharge at most existing charging stations regardless of power source and may speed more affordable adoption of a standardized infrastructure. SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers), one of the world’s primary automotive standards organizations, has already chosen the Combined Charging System as the fast-charging methodology as its standard for incrementally extending the existing Type 1-based AC-charging. The SAE is to be officially published this summer. ACEA, the European association of vehicle manufacturers, has also selected the CCS as its AC/DC-charging interface for all new vehicle types in Europe beginning in 2017.
The charging system design was based on the collaborative review and analysis of existing charging strategies, the ergonomics of the connector and preferences of U.S. and European customers. The Combined Charging System was developed for all international vehicle markets and creates a uniform standard with identical electrical systems, charge controllers, package dimensions and safety mechanisms.
The system maximizes capability for integration with future smart grid developments through common broadband communication methods regardless of the global location of the charging system. The combined charging approach will reduce development and infrastructure complexity, improve charging reliability, reduce the total cost-of-ownership for end customers and provide low maintenance costs.
Commercially available combined charging stations are projected to be available later this year. All committed OEMs have vehicles in development which will use the Combined Charging System. First vehicles using this technology will be launched to the market in 2013.
In yet another blow to the electric car movement, Crain’s Detroit Business says the Center for Automotive Research is ending its electric-vehicle event, “The Business of Plugging In,” after a three-year run. Brett Smith, co-director of the research organization’s manufacturing, engineering and technology department and co-director of the conference, said manufacturers and suppliers in the field wanted to end the conference to concentrate on developing technologies.
These days, even as manufacturers rush to introduce new models, the phrase an increasing number of industry-watchers are using to describe electric vehicles is “not ready for prime time.” Sales worldwide show the market for the state-of-the-art electrics is tiny, even with generous subsidies. Even hybrids are fighting headwinds; other than Toyota, most manufacturers are seeing declines in sales of hybrids that have been on the market for more than a year.
The siren song of sales through battery power is claiming new victims. In March alone, Bright Automotive closed its doors after failing to secure a federal loan; Azure Dynamics filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving Ford looking for a warranty service provider for its converted Transit Connect vans, and A123 Systems has had serious problems with defective batteries that could hamper its efforts to raise money for future operations.
“We see the hype and the activity, but there continues to be no real business case,” said Brett Smith, co-director of the research organization’s manufacturing, engineering and technology department and co-director of the conference. “If it’s going to work, there has to be a way to develop a valid business case, and that hasn’t happened.”
“The goal of BPI is to highlight the challenges and opportunities of creating a viable (electric vehicle) business model — a challenge that continues to create problems” for many startups and early products, he said in an emailed statement to media. “CAR sees this challenge — and yes, even opportunity — continuing and is actively researching the topic.”
The Center says it will continue to discuss and research advanced powertrain trends, but only as part of its larger conferences, such as its annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
Bad Behavior has blocked 257 access attempts in the last 7 days.