The end of the road for the internal combustion automobile engine

The days of gas-powered cars are numbered. Sure, electric cars are cool and promising and are gaining in popularity worldwide, but an announcement by Volvo really helps make clear the powertrain of the future.  As reported by MotorAuthority, Volvo is no longer working on any next generation gasoline powered engines.  This doesn’t mean they’ll stop SELLING them any time soon…the current generation can last quite some time, I’m sure.  But they’re looking ahead, and they apparently don’t see the profit in developing new gas engines, not with the rise of electrics.  A big step, really, and one I expect other car companies will emulate.  Or…maybe it’s just a publicity stunt?  Volvo is owned by Chinese company Geely…so are they making this announcement for the eco-friendly news benefit, while actually planning to switch to Geely engines in the future if electrics haven’t reached the point needed by then?

Also in electric vehicle news…delivery company DHL did the math on Tesla’s new semi truck, and figured they’d break even on it in less than two years, compared to a conventional diesel truck.  For large companies that are willing to invest in capital equipment like this, switching their short/mid range fleets to electric is really a no-brainer!  It’s only a matter of time, too, before trucks like the Tesla are suitable for long-haul trucking.

Electric cars show big improvement at Pikes Peak

Greg-Tracy-breaks-the-EV-record-at-Pikes-Peak-2014Gasoline powered cars still dominate the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, but electric cars are showing big improvement and may be challenging fossil fuel cars in the near future.  The Mitsubishi shown here cut 38 seconds off of last year’s electric car time, and was only a few seconds behind the overall winner’s time (but almost a minute slower than the course record set last year by Sebastian Loeb).  Will 2015 be the year that an electric race car beats a gasoline one?  I can’t wait to find out!

Also in electric car racing news, Formula E has its first race in September of 2014!  Another milestone in automotive history as those battery-powered race cars take to the track for a one hour race.

via AutoWeek

Tesla releasing patents

Formula-E car racing

I’m a bit surprised at this…electric race cars are about to become a reality, with the Formula-E race series hitting its 10-team target and scheduled to start racing in the fall of 2014.  Motor output will be limited to 180hp (keep in mind electric cars are more about torque than horsepower), and will be allowed short-term power boosts like F1’s ‘push to pass’ feature.

Check out the video below…the cars sound pretty strange…I’m not sure I could get used to that, it’s just not the same.  Though I have no doubt the racing may be great!

Electric roads power electric vehicles

For a long time, people have talked about the concept of roadways that can provide electricity to the cars, trucks and busses running above.  While a cool idea, I always thought the economics of this didn’t make sense and it wouldn’t be implemented in our lifetimes.  At least on a small scale, I’m proven wrong.  South Korea has equipped fifteen miles of city streets with just such a system – underground cables that charge EVs that are either parked or driving above.  It’s cool to see this technology progress…but I still question whether it’ll be widely adopted this century.  It requires massive public infrastructure investment and commitment to this transportation technology.  In the US at least, those are two things that we are so incredibly far from, at least politically.  Maybe some other country can pull it off.  I can see this working out well with only major roads having this charging capability…the EVs would still use a small battery to power them on trips off those main arteries.

Portable EV charger

chargeonthegoThe idea behind small trailers like the one shown here is simple, it’s a gasoline powered generator to extend the range of an electric car, but only for those rare times you actually NEED a range extender.  It’s not a completely new concept, but so far, these are mostly still ‘in development’ so I wonder if it’ll ever manifest itself as reality.  With battery technologies continuing to improve and Tesla rolling out its free nationwide EV charging network…the market window for devices like these is narrow and if they don’t start selling them soon, they’ll miss their chance.

(via gizmag)

The New York Times caught lying in Tesla Model S review

models_coldweathertesting10The New York Times has been caught lying in a recent review of the Tesla Model S, outed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk (Musk was quite diplomatic about this and just laid out the facts, never accusing the Times of outright lying, but I’m not diplomatic and I call it as I see it).  Even before Mush presented this evidence, he tweeted about the test to which the reporter replied, “It happened just the way I described it” (link).

So, who do you believe?  The reporter, John Broder, is no fan of electric cars and an earlier article indicates a clear bias.  The thing is, after the TV entertainment show Top Gear created a misleading and negative review of the Tesla Roadster, Tesla Motors got smart and started equipping press cars with, well, let’s just call it the ‘Special Reviewer Option Pack A’, or to describe it briefly, data logging to capture information about the car throughout the review.  It’s that information that Musk is using to contradict Broder’s story.  He never fully charged the car, and even left his final charging station when the car was saying it could only go half the distance he planned.  Even then, the car exceeded that estimated range before it finally ran out of juice (well done, Model S!).

The data is difficult to ignore, and Elon Musk’s blog post will probably lead to John Broder’s firing (or if it doesn’t, I’ll lose all respect for the New York Times).  But this focus on the data got me thinking…what if the data could be falsified?  I do not believe that was done so, I fully believe in Tesla’s data…but as a society, we’re placing more and more reliance in data, in pictures, in videos…all of which can be falsified.  We’re entering a new world where to defend yourself, your word alone will not be enough…you’ll need your own set of data to back up your claims.  This is where wearable computing may come in…imagine a personal datalogger that just works in the background, until those times you need it.  You wouldn’t need to capture all the data your accusers did…just enough data to cast doubt on that evidence.

It used to be one person’s word against the other’s in court…and to win, you attack the credibility of the other witness.  There’s a new witness in court…it’s data.  Better have your own to defend you.

UPDATE – one of the New York Times editors has posted a reply here, basically saying that there were “Problems With Precision and Judgment, but Not Integrity, in Tesla Test.”  A fair look into the issue…it helps restore my confidence in that newspaper.

Nissan Leaf price drop

Great news for electric cars…Nissan just dropped the price of their all-electric Leaf, now starting at $28,800.  Depending on where you live, tax credits and other incentives may lower the price to as low as $18,800!  That’s with the $7500 federal tax credit, and a $2500 tax credit available in some states.

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