Up until very recently, electric cars had a reputation of being slow, unexciting transportation appliances (This despite the fact the fastest car in the world from 1898 to 1904 was a French electric car, the Jeantaud Duc.). Lately, though, battery-powered cars are starting to come across as legitimate performance cars, due in no small part to cars like the Tesla Roadster and the Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell.
Now Nissan seems to be jumping onto the exciting EV bandwagon. First was the Esflow concept, which premiered at the Geneva Motor Show last month, and now the company’s tuning arm, NISMO, has created a radical, widebody racing version of the Leaf that’s on display at the New York Auto Show. But it turns out there’s very little Leaf underneath.
It’s good that there are a few 100% electric new cars out there; the fact that they are either six-figure-priced two-seat roadsters or beefed-up golf carts that are limited to 35 mph isn’t. Nissan asked why that’s the case, and instead of simply shrugging its collective shoulders, the company decided to do something about it. The result is a small five-door hatchback called the Leaf, which is set to arrive in select markets this December and nationwide next year.
Like the Tesla Roadster, the Leaf uses a 24 kilowatt/hour laminated lithium-ion battery pack to spin an electric motor that provides drive for the vehicle. The pack is surprisingly compact, allowing the interior to be roomy enough for five people and some cargo behind the rear seats. It holds enough juice to return 100 miles of driving under normal use, and once it wears down to the point it can only hold 80% of its original capacity, Nissan will buy it back and resell it for non-automotive electricity storage applications like industrial storage or home use. The two plugs used for recharging (one 110 volt, one 220 volt) are located at the Leaf’s nose behind a small door where the grille would be on most cars. The motor drives the front wheels, and provides peak torque as soon as you step on the accelerator.
Seeing the unveiling of the new 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, has me looking at hybrid technology in a new and much more positive way. I believe hybrids are good for the planet, and spending less money on gas – usually used for mundane errands – is a good thing. But the current hybrids available are boring. Well I’m happy to report that this is not your art teacher’s Prius. And of course it’s not, it’s a GT3 race car built by Porsche, which will be competing in the upcoming 24 Hours of Nurburgring.
Like the developing F1 systems, it has regenerative braking, and the extra electric power (up to 120kW) can be used in 6-8 second bursts. What’s new about this system is that instead of carrying heavy batteries, it has a generator that rides shotgun to the driver. The energy is sent from the flywheel to the motor and saved as potential energy. Two electic motors then deliver power to the front axles.
The 2009 Tokyo Motor Show kicks off next month and there is now a flurry of pre-event product announcements. Honda has just revealed the first official images of their EV-N Concept, designed to be a fast-forward of the classic 1960′s era N360. This new design study is a four-seater micro car powered by an electric motor.
“Pimp my Prius” is pretty much a cliche by now but somehow it never seems to get old. And it seems the effort to transform this fuel-sipping suburban transport into a vehicle that looks like it should be competing in Formula Drift, won’t fizzle out either. Japanese tuning shop Tommy Kaira is the latest shop to take a crack at the 2010 Toyota Prius with the release of a new mod package. Admittedly, at first glance, I almost didn’t recognize the third-generation hybrid sitting beneath its new performance garb.
Every year more and more automotive companies jump on board with the green movement. Many hem and haw but eventually come around as there seems to be sufficient consumer interest to at least take a few baby steps forward. If nothing else, it helps with public image even if the economics still don’t make sense. But what started out as an anomaly in the modern age has turned into a full blown onslaught of environmentally friendly vehicles, some particularly high-performance like the Tesla Roadster and the the Fisker Karma.
The technologies in the marketplace span the gamut from flex-fuel and hybrid-diesel engines to the new holy grail, battery powered electric vehicles with decent range and the ability to plug into any 110/220 outlet. This year marks the first Frankfurt Motor Show taking place in the age of the electrical auto revolution and all of the manufacturers have something to contribute to the cause. In all, there were over 50 electric and hybrid cars in the haus (get it?).
Electricity has always been fun. As a kid, a simple flashlight could be anything from a light saber (classic) to a magic pen that could write in space. Then you get a little older and graduate to slot cars. Of course with the advancement of technology, high-tech RC cars captivated the minds of children and adults alike. These cars cost hundreds of dollars, and you could change out all of the components you wanted until you were a 12 year old driving a 6 pound car at 40 miles an hour down your street. And then you hit 16, and electricity was suddenly boring. Because at 16 you discovered gasoline, and all the magic powers that come with the internal combustion engine.
I still appreciate all the things electricity gave to me. I love electricity, from the complicated television, to the simple act of flipping a switch to light my room. But my light switch couldn’t do a burnout. No matter how many candlepower that new flashlight has, or how many apps they make for the iPhone, the visceral feeling that cars and horsepower give us is something unique. If you have ever driven a Prius you understand. I am impressed by the technology and the results provided, but it is one of the most boring vehicles on the planet. But very soon, there may be a car at your local track day that runs on some pumped up AA batteries, and is able to silently blow by you in turn 4: the eWolf e1. This electric supercar is making it’s debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Yes, that’s right folks, during today’s special webcast, GM’s big cheese Fritz Henderson just announced that the new 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be the first car ever to get a triple digit fuel economy rating. After years of putting out vehicles that quickly depleted the world’s supply of oil by the second and spending millions of lobbying dollars influencing Congress to ignore EPA recommendations, GM may finally be getting an attitude adjustment. After all, it’s now 60% owned by the government.
Ferrari, for quite some time now, and more recently, Lamborghini, have both announced plans to introduce hybrid vehicles to bring to market around 2015. And along the way they have both expressed a strong commitment to reducing CO2 emissions with each subsequent model. What is basically shaping up is a pissing match between these two Italian supercar powerhouses.
The Department of Energy has announced a $465 million loan to Tesla Motors for construction of a manufacturing facility in Southern California and a power-train manufacturing plant in Palo Alto, California. The projects supported by DOE are expected to create over 1,600 jobs. Tesla’s Model S is fully electric, thus will consume no gasoline nor will the vehicle produce any emissions. The Model S will offer a variety of range options depending on the battery pack being loaned to the consumer. The ability to efficiently drive 300 miles on a single charge is a first for the EV market. Production of the Model S will begin in 2012 with a forecasted production capacity of 20,000 vehicles per year.