The Electric (Finally) Gets Its Due
As the old century comes to a close, the world enters this long anticipated future seeking dynamic and exciting technologies, wanting “more” for “less,” and expecting companies to deliver. The last year of the previous millennium has several highlights — the U.S. presidential election is decided in the courts, the first woman president of Finland is elected, the creator of Charlie Brown passes away, and the Y2K scare comes to nothing more than paranoia. It is also the time of immense innovation and research in the automotive industry, a reaction to the consumer need for better product, concerns about the environment, and technological advances to make driving easier. Nothing signals this shift more than the expansion of the Toyota Prius from Japan to the rest of the world. Although off to a rocky start, the low emissions compact soon becomes the car of choice for those wanting to show off their eco-conscious spirit. The acceptance of the highly computerized electric/gas hybrid by the public is arguably one of the most iconic signs that the world is entering a new transportation era, and sets the stage for how vehicles are designed and built for the foreseeable future.
NYPD Goes Green: Honda EV Plus
The NYPD starts the summer off by road-testing four battery-powered Honda EV Plus vehicles, which were produced in 1997 and 1998. The cars are primarily deployed in Central Park and prove to be good for public relations. While the top speed is 85 mph (136.8 km/h), the department plans to modify the cars so they can’t go over 35 mph (56.33 km/h), which is safer for travel within the park.
GM Partners for Efficiency
As the old millennium comes to a close, GM decides to pursue a more gas efficient option for a new generation of consumers as part of its Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) agreement with the U.S. Government, Ford, and Chrysler. The Precept—likened in looks to “Han Solo’s toaster” by Car and Driver — has a goal of being an 80 mpg (128.8 kmph) family sedan, utilizing both gas and electric to power the futuristic-looking four-door. Similar to the Toyota Prius in operation, it’s more spacious and hopes to appeal to American consumers. By the end of 2000, however, GM terminates the project citing lack of interest from car buyers in automobiles promising high fuel economy.
Oka NEV ZEV: Russian Made for American Tastes
Oka NEV ZEV is a neighborhood electric vehicle zero emission vehicle (NEV ZEV) that is converted from the Russian VAZ-1111 aka The People's Car, and sold throughout the United States by Oka Auto USA. The inexpensive microcar is converted at the MIROX plant in Nevada, becomes a regular at American auto shows and is available either fully-assembled or in DIY kit form. In addition to everyday commuter vehicles, the Oka NEV ZEV comes in three models of racing cars, finishing both first and second at the Las Vegas Region Sports Car Club of America (LVRSCCA) Racing Season RallyCross in the ‘SS’ class, and AutoCross in the ‘FP’ class.
Tesla: The Upstart Electric Startup
Entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning believe the future of transportation is the ZEV—zero emissions vehicle — and raise money to form Tesla Motors — named for inventor Nikola Tesla — to develop an electric sports car. $30 million of the startup’s funding comes from PayPal cofounder, Elon Musk, and the new company starts serious commercial electric car development in the fabled Silicon Valley.
Delivering Cleaner Alternatives
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) dreams of transforming the trucking industry in America—diesel trucks and buses release 7 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. To get the industry to embrace change, the EDF reaches out to FedEx in 2000 in hopes of getting the delivery giant to lead the way. The two partner and agree to develop a cost competitive truck that will reduce soot emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and function the same as a standard delivery vehicle. The two are able to work with Eaton Corporation to create a hybrid system that accomplishes EDF and FedEx’s goals beyond their expectations. The alternative fuel FedEx delivery trucks are introduced onto the roads in 2004, making it the first global company to invest in hybrid-electric commercial trucks.
The First Grand Challenge: Not Even Close
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—DARPA — commits to supporting autonomous vehicle research and development by kicking off the DARPA Grand Challenge in March. The first race of its kind, the Grand Challenge is offering $1 million to the first team to successfully finish a 150-mile (241.4 km) course through the Mojave Desert with an autonomous car of that team’s creation. 15 retrofitted and handmade unmanned vehicles — no drivers are allowed — leave the starting gate in the desert with none finishing. The closest any team gets is Carnegie Mellon University’s Red Team in Sandstorm — a converted Humvee. It gets 7.32 miles (11.78 km) before getting caught on a rock. The prize goes unclaimed, but the contest sparks even more interest within the robotics/automotive community and a second grand challenge is scheduled for 2005.
IFAC Celebrates Autonomous Vehicles
The International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) was founded in 1957. It is a multinational federation of members seeking more development and research on automatic control, and how it is realized in engineering, science, and its impact on society. Since 1993, the IFAC has brought innovators together to discuss autonomous vehicles at its Intelligent Autonomous Vehicles (IAV) Symposium series. At the 5th symposium in 2004, the IFAC provides a chance for researchers and those engaged in furthering the development of unmanned transportation in the fields of land, air and marine to share findings, thoughts and ideas, as well as the global future of autonomy in all forms of travel.
The Netherlands Automates Public Transport
The dilemma: public transportation often means long wait times, high labor costs for drivers, and difficulty getting from a station to your doorstep (the fabled Last Mile). Enter the autonomous, unmanned ParkShuttle, a computer driven people mover in The Netherlands. The compact, yet spacious shuttle picks passengers up from Kralingse Zoom metro station in the Kralingen neighborhood of eastern Rotterdam, and transports them to a business district in Capelle aan den IJssel, South Holland, Netherlands. Guided by the Free Ranging On Grid (FROG) system, the vehicles follow magnetic guide wires laid in the road and are summoned by the press of a button at the metro station stop. The minibuses seat 12 passengers and is operated by Connexxion. Although the system experiences a crash between two of its transports within 5 days of the pilot program launch, no passengers are on board and an inquiry reveals that operators remotely restarted the buses without checking why the automated safety shut them both down.
The Second Grand Challenge: A Tradition is Born
While no team is able to finish DARPA’s First Grand Challenge in 2004, the interest generated leads to a Second Grand Challenge on October 8, 2005 near the California/Nevada border. The 212 km (132 mi) off-road course gains 195 initial applicants and ends up with 23 teams by the competition’s start. Again, the challenge is set to see what autonomous vehicle will be able to complete the brutal course without any human intervention. Five vehicles succeed with the winner being the Stanley entered by the Stanford Racing Team from Stanford University. It takes 6 hours and 54 minutes to complete the course. Sandstorm, presented by the Red Team of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and H1ghlander from Red Team Too, also from CMU, follow in second and third place, a mere 10 and 20 minutes behind, respectively. This second challenge gains even more excitement and the DARPA Grand Challenge meant to promote and continue the development of autonomous transport technology becomes a yearly, highly competitive and anticipated event.
The Electric Sports Car is Born
Premiered at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show as a concept only, Venturi begins manufacturing the first ever production electric sports car in history. The ultra sleek, high performance Fétish is handbuilt to order in Monaco, and is at first offered exclusively in the U.S. and Japan in 2005, then goes global in 2006. Although it has just a top speed of 170 km/h (105.63 mph), making it on the slower side in the elite street car category—the 2006 Porsche 997 tops out at 289.7 km/h (180 mph) — it shatters electric car misconceptions with its exceptional handling, superior battery-operated power — 350 km (217.6 mi) on a single charge — and overall design.
Spirit of Berlin: Apple Enters the Autonomous Car Race (Without Knowing It)
A prototype driverless car sponsored by the Berlin Police Department, IBM Deutschland and the Microsoft Academic Alliance is developed by the computer scientists of Freie Universtät Berlin. It is a 2000 Dodge Caravan retrofitted to be autonomously controlled by computer and is called The Spirit of Berlin. The car is accepted as one of the 2007 entrants in the DARPA Urban Challenge under Team Berlin — a multinational, cross cultural team of scientists—and makes it all the way to the semi-final National Qualifying Event (NQE). While it is fully autonomous — unmanned and completely computer controlled — The Spirit of Berlin is also tested for its half-automated capability and is operated via an iPad or iPhone app, eye-tracking or brain - computer interface to allow the handicapped to “drive” in city traffic.
The EV1 Creators Move Into Hybrids
January 2007 marks the debut of the first-ever series plug-in hybrid concept car presented by a major car manufacturer. The Chevrolet Volt is GM Vice-Chairman, Robert Lutz’s response to the two-seater sports car still in development by Tesla. Called the “iCar” in homage to the iPod, the concept version of the Volt is revealed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a four - door family car with a target range of 250-300 miles (400-480 km). While Lutz first wants an all electric vehicle, he is reminded of the range, power and size constraints of the EV1 by GM’s Vice-President of Global Vehicle Development, John Lauckner, and the hybrid Volt—which is capable of achieving the equivalent of 525 miles per petroleum gallon (844.9 km) if the driver fills up with E85 fuel — is born.
London’s Promise of Lightning in a ZEV
With the launch of the Lightning GT at the British International Motor Show in July 2008, the second battery-powered electric sports car is unveiled to much fanfare and anticipation. The Lightning Car Company —makers of The Lightning GT—promises a car that goes faster than the all-electric Fétish at 200 km/h (124 mph) with a range over 250 miles (402.3 km) on a single charge by time of launch. Originally targeted for a 2009 public release, this proud British export now claims a 2020 date and is currently accepting inquiries on its website.
Building Electric Dreams in China
BYD — which stands for Build Your Dreams — presents the F6DM concept car at the North American International Auto Show in January and follows it up with the unveiling of F3DM at the Geneva Motor Show the same year. Both are plug-in hybrid offerings meant to advance the international low emissions vehicle market. The F6DM is a mid-size sedan while the F3DM is a smaller compact with an all-electric range of 37 miles (60 km) and a hybrid electric powertrain that can extend the range an additional 300 miles (480 km). The F6DM remains a prototype, but the F3DM goes on to be commercially produced and starts off by being sold to government agencies and corporations in China on 15 December 2008, making it the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid automobile.
Nikolas’ Sporty Namesake Changes Electric Car Perception
Starting in 2006, Tesla Motors presents its first production vehicle, The Roadster. An all-electric sports car, prototypes are presented to the public that July and the Roadster is featured on the cover of Time in December of 2006 as the recipient of the magazine’s “Best Inventions 2006 — Transportation Invention” award. The battery-powered sports car corners the market on quite a few firsts: the first highway-capable, all-electric vehicle in serial production in the U.S. in modern times, first production car to use lithium-ion battery cells, first mass production battery electric vehicle to travel more than 320 km (200 mi) on a single charge. After its debut on the cover of Time, the first “Signature One Hundred” of fully equipped Roadsters sell out in just over two weeks, the second set sells out by October 2007, and general production begins in March 2008 with delivery of the first production models in July 2009. The Tesla Roadster goes from zero to 60 in under 4 seconds with a top speed of 201 km/h (125 mph). Its performance prompts Motor Trend to report, “Tesla is the first maker to crack the EV legitimacy barrier in a century.” From that moment on, Tesla Motors—becoming Tesla Inc. in February 2017 — sets the bar for all other luxury electric vehicles that follow.
Colorado Brings Clean Energy to California Mass Transit
Colorado native, Dave Hill, and the company he founded in 2004, Proterra, debut their battery-powered mass-transit bus — the EcoRide BE35 — at the American Public Transportation Association’s Annual meeting in 2008. The company follows this by launching the first of 3 Foothill Transit (FT) buses on the streets of Pomona, California. The BE35 is a 35 ft. composite body, fast - charge battery electric vehicle that seats 38 passengers — including the driver — but has a passenger capacity of 60. It is the first bus of its kind to complete the federally required durability, reliability and safety testing at the Bus Research and Testing Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Running on a 22-kW electric motor powered by a Lithium-titanate battery that can recharge in 5-10 minutes, the bus is capable of achieving the equivalent of 20.84 miles (33.54 km) per U.S. gallon diesel equivalent. This not only makes the BE35 600 percent more fuel efficient than traditional buses, but even compressed natural gas (CNG) and diesel-hybrid options.
An EV By Any Other Name is Still the First
It starts with an idea by Swatch CEO Nicolas G. Hayek—the watch company should also have a car and an electric one at that. Thus the Smart Car is born, but seeing as Swatch is not a car manufacturer, it turns to partners to help out and Daimler picks up on the idea while other automakers are skeptical, to say the least. Daimler and Mitsubishi work together to make the little car a dream come true, with Daimler taking the 2-door Smart Car and Mitsubishi the 5-door hatchback iMiEV—standing for Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle. It launches for fleet customers in Japan in July 2009. Computer mouse looking with a far more spacious interior than it appears, the little electric city car is no one’s highway warrior, but considered a great get-around town vehicle.
Google Gets 2020 Autonomy Vision
Since its inception in 1998, Google has been moving beyond its core “search engine” business to include other innovative, “push the envelope” opportunities. After leading the Stanford University team to victory with Stanley at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge — successful completion of a course by a fully autonomous car —Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), is tapped by Google to lead its self-driving car project. The company’s goal of making “roads safer, free up people’s time, and improve mobility for everyone” ends up setting a challenge not only for Google, but for carmakers all over the world.
The Zero’s a Hero
Back in 1963, Giorgio Tazzari has a vision of bringing together a group of companies to supply superior automotive/motorcycle components to automakers. He creates Tazzari Group and establishes the conglomerate in the heart of Italy's fabled Motor Valley. Erik Tazzari, President of the Group since 2005, pulls upon those years of technical know-how and leads the ZERO Project in 2006 in the goal of creating an electric city car that reflects that expertise. The Tazzari ZERO is the first electric car model created from that vision and is presented at the Bologna Motor Show in December 2009, ultimately entering the market in January 2010. Since that time, the company has gone on to successfully create five more models, and presents four additional products in 2016 to commemorate its 10th anniversary as a functioning and growing electric car company.
The Land of the Rising Sun Harnesses Its Name to Victory
Begun in Australia in 1987 as the World Solar Challenge, The Global Green Challenge is now open to all university developed environmentally friendly vehicles. On 25 October 2009, Japan’s Tokai University takes the top spot with the Tokai Challenger. The totally solar-powered car travels at speeds averaging 100.54 km/h (62.47 mph) over the course of 29:49 hours. The idea for the competition starts with Hans Thostrup who, along with car driver Larry Perkins, builds one of the first solar cars, Quiet Achiever, entering it into the BP Solar Trek, a contest for solar cars from December 1982 to January 1983.
Science Fiction Becomes Reality
The new millennium turns 10 years-old and while it may not be living up to the promises of hoverboards by 2015 as BACK TO THE FUTURE prophesizes, everything from how we grow our food to how we are moved from place to place is innovating at an astounding pace. The once defunct electric car is on the rise with automakers around the world introducing fuel efficient hybrids to fully electric plug-ins, and autonomous vehicles are not just a science fiction fantasy, but being tested on public streets and used as public transport. From 2010 on, it feels as if new technology is introduced everyday, let alone every year.
A New Age Begins
The electric car is back in a big way and alternative fuels begin pushing gasoline to the side. As 2010 begins, the autonomous vehicle is no longer the sole domain of space exploration, but believed to be the answer to the world’s traffic congestion and fatality woes. The new decade reveals that the promise of a fully electric and autonomous future seems closer than ever.
Award-Winning Proof Going Green Works
Entering the market eight months after the similarly designed Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Nissan LEAF has the distinction of being produced by the more financially stable Nissan Corporation with a less polarizing styling. Hoping to create a sort of Buck Rogers-looking vehicle that doesn’t alienate more mainstream consumers, the Leaf is introduced in 2010 and goes on to sell more than 250,000 models worldwide by December 2016, making this compact, five-door, plug-in electric hatchback the most successful highway-capable electric car in history.
A Legendary Ice Race Goes Electric
The Trophée Andros (Andros Trophy) is called “Formula One on ice.” This series of motor races is run on various ice tracks all over France, culminating in a Grand Finale where, historically, the winner of each of two categories, Elite and Promotion, are named. The race has been running since 1990 and introduces the Trophée Andros Electrique category in 2010. Each electric vehicle is built by Exagon Engineering powered by Lithium-ion 27 modules, 320V batteries and a 67kW motor, reaching speeds of up to 160 km/h (99.5 mph). The different rounds of racing take approximately 35 minutes over meticulously maintained ice tracks in a variety of French resorts.
First in Class Loses the States
Having established itself as a fleet car in Japan in 2009, the lowest priced of all of the up-and-coming ZEV options, Mitsubishi’s i-MIEV rolls out worldwide in April 2010. The “sedan” version of the 2-door SmartCar, the i-MiEV is considered the most fuel efficient EPA vehicle in the U.S. for all fuels until it is beat in 2012 by the new Honda Fit EV, even ranking number one in the EPA’s 2012 Annual Fuel Economy Guide that same year. Unfortunately, the little car never quite catches on in America and is discontinued in 2017. It is embraced in Europe, however, and continues to be sold as the PSA Peugeot Citroën (PSA) models Peugeot iOn and Citroën C-Zero.
FedEx Clears the Air
After having become the first global delivery service to use hybrid-electric vehicles to do business, FedEx’s desire to be transformative in the trucking industry keeps growing. The global delivery service incorporates the first all-electric parcel delivery trucks in the U.S. into its fleet — launching four in the Los Angeles area. There are also several in Paris and London. 2010 reveals there are more than 1,800 alternative energy FedEx vehicles worldwide, with the company setting a goal of a 20 percent improvement in efficiency of its entire fleet by 2020. FedEx optimizes routes and uses more compact, fuel-efficient “sprinter” vans to get them to that plan as well as having many of its couriers in New York City and London’s West End deliver packages on foot and by bicycle.
JAC J3 EV: Incentive Inspired
In an effort to promote job growth and reduce carbon emissions, the Chinese government pushes for cleaner energy cars by offering incentives to any company that can crack the electric vehicle code—up to 60,000 yuan (~US$9,281) for private purchase of new battery only cars and 50,000 yuan (~US$7,634) for plug-in hybrids. The subsidies go to the car manufacturer with the understanding that the savings will be passed along to the consumer. Enter the JAC J3 EV’s, all-electric cars that launch in 2010 and are sold exclusively in the country by the automaker that once made only trucks, but is now building innovative new energy vehicles (NEVs, as China calls them).
From Parma to Shanghai : An Unprecedented Autonomous Car Journey
The trek begins in Parma, Italy, on 20 July — 100 days, 15,926 km (9896 mi), crossing 9 countries, in clean energy, autonomous vehicles. The VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge is the brainchild of University of Parma’s VisLab and is considered the most geographically daunting autonomous car journey ever created. While the lead car navigates through terrain with a human driver stepping in when needed — which happens from time to time — the follow car is able to pick up the route and negotiate anything thrown its way without any human intervention. A completely driverless trip is achieved. The compact orange van collects 21.5 TB of data, almost becomes the first autonomous vehicle to be ticketed by a traffic cop while traveling through Russia — the team decides the car dodges the citation either because of its “Latin oratory” or the officer is too embarrassed by not knowing to whom to issue the ticket — and concludes its trip in Shanghai, China, on 28 October. This achievement is seen as one of the most important milestones in robotics and autonomous vehicle technology to date.
In for Millions, Out for A Euro
Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, head of the Onexim investment group, wants to change the perception that “Russia can’t produce good cars.” Working with Yarovit, owner of a small assembly plant in St. Petersburg, Russia, Prokhorov and team get to work to present a wholly unique series hybrid that burns both petrol and natural gas with an electric generator that feeds power directly to the car’s two rear electric motors, a marked difference from the Toyota Prius and others. The Yo-Mobile is introduced in December, touting a modest price of 450,000 rubles ($12,500) and gets deposits on 200,000 orders in no time. None of the players, however, are from the auto industry nor have ever designed cars, and although the technology is exciting and the potential incredible, by 2014 with no orders filled and the planned St. Petersburg plant still undone, it’s clear the car is stuck in the prototype stage. Citing rising costs and a blow to the ruble, Prokhorov cuts his losses and sells the technology to the government-owned research institute, NAMI, for a symbolic €1 ($1.40), ensuring Russia keeps the cutting edge technology.
Google Goes Driverless
On 09 October, Google reveals on its blog they have developed autonomous driving technology for cars. So far, the tech giant shares that its fleet of seven have logged over 140,000 self-driving miles (225,308.16 km) with minimal human intervention. The New York Times proceeds to report that an additional 1,000 miles (1,609.34 km) have been driven without a person controlling the car. The cars are modified versions of the Toyota Prius with an Audi TT thrown in. The company has gathered together the best engineers from the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenges to get the project up and going in an effort to cut down the number of people killed worldwide in traffic accidents — 1.2 million yearly — by at least half.
A Year of Upheaval and Rapid Innovation
It is the year of unbelievable upheaval all over the globe, both manmade — protests, political resignations — and natural—the Japanese tsunami, Joplin tornado. It is also a time of extraordinary movement within a variety of technologies that the passing of the idiosyncratic and visionary, Steve Jobs, seems to underscore.
An E-Luxury Car Derailed
The 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, introduces only a few electrically-enabled concept cars: BYD F6DM, Cadillac Provoq, Chrysler ecoVoyager, and Fisker Karma. Of the four, the Fisker Karma is the only luxury electric powered sports car and direct competition of the Tesla Roadster, presented in 2006 and not to be delivered until February, the next month. Henrik Fisker, the designer of the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, among other luxury cars, is the brains behind the Fisker Karma through his company, Fisker Automotive, and the elegant battery-powered car garners immediate praise, even raising a bid of GB£140,000 (approx. $181,000) to benefit Pratham UK in October 2011. Although production begins in July of 2011, the car is fraught with issues due to the sub-standard batteries provided by its sole battery provider, A123. After two recalls, A123 files for bankruptcy, causing Fisker Automotive to follow suit in 2012. Chinese company, Wanxiang, buys up the assets and reworks the Fisker Karma, calling it the Karma Revero, and is sold in 9 dealerships throughout North America with more on the way. Fisker relaunches in 2016 as Fisker Inc., renaming the Karma the Fisker EMotion with reservations being taken for the new car on its website.
The Higher Intelligence That's MadeInGermany
AutoNOMOS Labs of Freie Universität Berlin, the brains behind the 2007’s DARPA Urban Challenge car The Spirit of Berlin, pushes the envelope with its Volkswagen Passat Variant 3C—named MadeInGermany. The fully autonomous taxi once again uses the capability of an Apple by communicating through an iPad via an app to be “hailed” to pick up a passenger. MadeInGermany uses a special GPS to gain information about the position of a user and is equipped with Drive-by-Wire technology, which allows the CAN-Bus to be directly accessed by a computer. This allows for a sending and receiving of directional signals between car and control. AutoNOMOS Labs manages the software side while the Volkswagen Research Garage handles the retrofitting of the Passat. After four years of testing around Tempelhof Airport, the university receives permission to test on Berlin roads.
The Silent Partner of the Most Successful ZEV
Thanks to a plan put together under the watchful eye of French carmaker Renault’s Executive Vice President and head of its South American division, Carlos Ghosn, in 1999, an East-West alliance is created with the then - troubled Nissan Motors. Renault buys a 36.8 percent stake in the Japanese automotive company, setting off a chain of highly profitable yet radical events for both companies. Among these is the commitment of €4 billion (over $5 billion) to a mass-market zero-emission electric car expansion for the Renault - Nissan Alliance, a market into which Ghosn plans to introduce a full line-up of options by 2012. While Nissan releases the LEAF in 2010, Renault follows up with its Fluence Z.E. in 2011, a battery-powered reimagining of the Fluence sedan. The electric car comes in two styles — one with a swappable battery that can be replaced in less than two minutes at proposed Better Place swap stations, and a fixed battery model sold in limited numbers only in Europe. Lower than expected sales and the inability to get enough Better Place stations built lead to the collapse of the Fluence Z.E. in the mass market, and by 2014 it is only available in South Korea as the SM3 Z.E. under the Renault Samsung Motors banner.
511 Puts Drivers in the Passenger Seat
Nevada becomes the first state to authorize the operation of autonomous vehicles. The new legislation, AB 511, defines “autonomous vehicle” and puts the responsibility of adopting rules for license endorsement and operation — including insurance, safety standards, and testing—on the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Nineteen states follow in its footsteps, enacting their own laws on operating self-driving cars on public roads over the next seven years. By 2017, Nevada has expanded its autonomous vehicle legislation with three more laws that 1) cover testing on a highway (SB313); 2) permits the use of a cell phone or other handheld wireless communications device while in a "legally operating autonomous vehicle" (SB 140); and 3) defines terms that include "driver assistive platooning technology," "fully autonomous vehicle," and "automated driving system," as well as other specific self-driving car requirements (AB 69).
Honda EV-Ster: A Study in Patience
When it’s presented at the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show in 2011, the Honda EV-STER, the Japanese automaker’s concept plug-in, is seen as the answer to the Tesla Roadster. With a rear wheel electric motor, the convertible turns heads with its two right and left joysticks replacing a steering wheel and climate control system powered by small solar panels. More in depth specs on the car are not made available, however, and what is discovered leaves several experts lukewarm on the Honda’s hope for motor vehicle supremacy — a maximum range of 100 miles (160.93 km) on one charge, 0-37 mph (0-59.6 km/h) in 5.0 seconds, a top speed of 99 mph (159.33 km/h) and 10kWh of lithium-ion batteries to power it all. The EV-STER is consistently a favorite at auto shows, but never reaches production even though rumors continue to swirl throughout the next 7 years.
China’s Electric Taxi Makes the Rounds
Three years after introducing the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid with the compact F3DM, BYD presents the e6 into the Chinese market for field testing in 2010. An all-electric compact crossover/compact MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), the goal is to launch it as an alternative fuel taxi then slowly merge it into the general retail market. It begins with 40 taxis in Shenzhen, China, then becomes available for sales to the public by October, 2011. Under perfect conditions, the cars have a single-charge range of between 290-320 km (180-200 mi) and able to go as fast as 140 km/h (87 mph). The e6 is powered by one of manufacturer BYD Auto’s core technologies, a lithium iron phosphate battery with chemicals that are all recyclable. Its battery can be charged at a charging station to 80 percent within 15 minutes and 100 percent within 40 minutes. While the car has sold upwards of 34,862 units in China as of December 2016, the e6 has ventured beyond its home country to be used as taxis in Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
Blue Car: Sharing is Caring
A small four-seat, three door electric car becomes the basis for one of the largest car sharing conglomerates in Europe. The Bolloré Bluecar designed by Pininfarina is the cornerstone for Paris’ carsharing program, Autolibꞌ. The little car is first presented at the 2005 Geneva Auto Show and is launched for limited rental on 5 December 2011. Built by Cecomp in Bairo, Italy, under a joint venture between Bolloré and Pininfarina called Vehicule Électriques Pininfarina Bolloré (VEPB), its range is 250 km (160 mi) in the city and 150 km (93 mi) on the highway. It travels at a max speed of 130 km/h (81 mph) and is the automotive complement to France’s bike sharing program, Velibꞌ. While a retail version has been available for first lease and then sale since 2012, 3,980 Bolloré Bluecars have been registered for carsharing service and the program has over 126,900 registered subscribers throughout Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon.
Ford Shifts its Focus
The Ford Focus Electric begins production in December of 2011 after being introduced as a concept electric car at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show and its pre-production model unveiled at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. The first chassis for the 2009 sneak-peek is from the European Mark II, incorporating components from Ford’s North American hybrid technology and is Ford’s contribution to its commitment to the UK’s “Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles” demonstration initiative. The Focus Electric is a 5-door hatchback with a 143 hp (107 kW) synchronous electric motor powered by a 23 kWh lithium-ion battery. The Focus Electric incorporates some of the most innovative, cutting edge technology to make it a viable and sustainable solution for the mass market, including a special version of MyFord Touch adapted for electric vehicles, a value charging feature powered by Microsoft, and a smartphone app.— MyFord Mobile — that allows owners to remotely control and charge the car. Manufactured at its plant in Michigan, by 2013 the Focus Electric is also built in Saarlouis, Germany, for the European market.
A Big Year, But Not the End of the World
2012 begins with waiting for the impending apocalypse on 21 December, a date felt to be predicted by the ending of the Mayan calendar. While some prepare for Earth’s last days, the summer is full of pivotal moments in space exploration — the second and last time the Transit of Venus will be experienced in this century, Space Shuttle Endeavour arriving at the California Science Center for permanent display, the passing of not one, but two interstellar pioneers — first woman in space, Sally Ride, on 23 July, and the first man to take “one step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong just one day before the August 6th Mars landing of Curiosity Rover.
The re-election of the 44th President of the United States and shifting priorities of countries around the world put more focus on innovation and environmentally friendly alternative fuels to protect a planet reeling from incredible highs — Summer Olympics in London, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee; life-changing social and cultural shifts — Denmark legalizing same-sex marriage, Facebook goes public; and heartbreaking tragedies — Hurricane Sandy kills almost 300 and costs over fifty billion dollars in damage as it rips through America’s Eastern seaboard, two men open fire in public in two separate events in the U.S. — James Holmes kills 12 during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Returns in July, Adam Lanza kills 26 mostly children at Sandy Hook Elementary School before turning the gun on himself in December. Exactly one week later, the predicted end of the world doesn’t come, but it is forever changed.
What a Difference a Year Makes
The Renault-Nissan Alliance may have missed the mass production mark with Fluence Z.E., but the supermini Zoe e-Sport fits the need for a zero emissions city car quite well. Sold only in Europe with a top speed of 135 km/h (84 mph) and a range of 100 km (62 mi) in the cold, 150 km (93 mi) in temperate conditions, Zoe e-Sport reaches sales of 61,205 units by the end of 2016, making it the all-time eighth best selling plug-in car in the world.
Nevada Goes the Extra Mile
Nevada keeps up with its national position as the pioneer of establishing legislation for driverless cars and issues the first autonomous vehicle license plate to Google. The move signals the start of testing the technology on public streets and highways.
Tesla: Model S Makes Luxury Electric
The full-sized, five-door all-electric Tesla Model S makes its debut, scoring a perfect 5.0 in the NHTSA auto safety ranking. It is first introduced with 2,650 models in the U.S. and expands to Europe in 2013, passing the 25,000 units sold milestone in December 2013.
Do - It - Yourself on Steroids
After 10 years with Chrysler, Indonesian-born Danet Suryatama establishes Elektrikcar LLC, headquartered in Michigan. He soon wins the INDOPRENEUR USA competition — a business plan competition for Indonesian citizens living in the U.S. With the investments he’s able to gather through the program, Danet designs and builds a wholly unique plug-in electric car, the Tucuxi. Named after a species of dolphin, it can hold 2 + 2 passengers, travel between 321.87 - 482.8 km (200-300 miles) on a single charge, and has a maximum speed of 193 km/h (119.92 mph). With a projected price of between $40,000 - $150,000 — depending on the quantity ordered — the limited edition vehicle awaits further buyer interest as it becomes available on Alibaba for $35,000 each for a minimum 200 unit order in 2017.
Not Enough of an Eco-Friendly Thing
After making a big splash at the 2010 Los angeles Auto Show, the all-electric version of the Honda Fit—the EV—goes into production in 2012 and delivered to its first customers. Meant only as a test and a way to comply with California’s zero emission vehicle mandate, only 1,100 units are targeted for production over a 24 month period. However, Honda announces it has reached its production quota four months early and is stopping. Its affordability—$259 to lease, dropped from its original $389—and convenient features make the Fit EV a big hit with consumers. Honda is overwhelmed by consumer interest, but sticks to its production plan and makes no further Fit EV’s.
Progress Cannot Be Stopped
Google’s self-driving project hits a giant milestone: the company announces it has racked up 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (500,000 km) without a single accident. All of this is without any driver intervention, completely computer controlled. While proud of its achievement, Google is quick to warn “there’s still a long road ahead.” The tech giant doesn’t reveal how many of those miles are driven on its secret race course, but Google plans to let some of its self-driving team members use the cars—manned by two-person teams for safety up to this point—for solo, daily commutes.
Formula E Races to the Start
An agreement is reached by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to license its commercial rights of the FIA Formula E Championship to a consortium of some of the international racing world’s most established expert investors. Among the team behind the new Formula E racing platform are Lord Drayson, Managing Partner of Drayson Racing Technologies; Eric Barbaroux, Chairman of the French electric auto company, “Electric Formula;” and Alejandro Agag, former MEP and racing team owner. The goal is to create a “new and exciting spectacle mixing racing, clean energy and sustainability” on par with the elite and thrilling Formula I competitions.
A Plug-in Not for All Seasons
With Prokhorov pulling out of the automotive arena, AvtoVAZ produces its first serial Russian electric car, hoping to corner the wide-open electric vehicle market in the Soviet Union. The company creates the LADA Ellada—aka EL Lada —built on a LADA Kalina chassis and developed at a cost of €10 million ($11.99 million). It has a 1.25 million ₽ price tag ($21,273.00) and 100 cars are earmarked to be sent to the Stavropol Territory to be used as taxis. Due to a disagreement between the administration of the territory and the taxi fleet, only five of the promised cars are delivered and no infrastructure is built for charging stations. The remainder of the 100 models are handed out across different areas — 40 to dealers of the Central and Southern Federal Districts as test cars with 40 held at AvtoVAZ. By January 2014, cars are made available to dealers for close to cost, however, only for testing, not resell. While the intentions are good, the EL Lada has a power disadvantage. One charge is said to take the car 150 km (93.3 mi), however that’s in perfect weather conditions. Once the temperature gets to -5ºC (23ºF), the battery capacity is reduced down by 50km (31 mi). It is further affected by using the lights or anything that pulls on the battery charge, making the distance the EL Lada can travel on a single charge as low as 45 km (27 mi). With the entire of Russia experiencing an average of five months of winter-like weather that shows average highs of approximately -39.5 to 15.7ºC (-39.1º to 60.3ºF), and the rest of the year hit and miss on temperature, a broader distribution of the EL Lada seems unlikely.
Autonomous Gives Drivers a Brake
After a deadly tour bus crash earlier this year, the European Commission announces all new commercial vehicles are required to have autonomous emergency braking (AEB) by 2014. Mitsubishi responds by unveiling a new fleet of innovative automobiles that will ensure passenger and driver safety. The 2013 Aero Queen and Aero Ace buses have automatic braking technology to be used in tandem with the Japanese automaker’s Driver’s Attention Monitoring System . The autonomous braking system—called Active Mitigation Brake—is able to determine the distance between the bus and the vehicle in front of it through a millimeter wave radar system. When the bus notices an imminent problem, it sends out an alarm to the driver to let them know action is needed. If the driver does not respond, the bus then decelerates and slowly applies the brakes while continuing to sound the alarm. If the driver still does nothing, the bus takes over and puts on the brakes. Mitsubishi is aware that an accident may not be completely avoided with the new technology, but it will minimize impact, and lower the chance of injury and damage to the bus. Per the European Commision, the new technology will reduce traffic accidents by 27 percent, which means preventing 8,000 deaths and saving between £3.9 billion ($5.2 billion) and £6.3 billion ($8.4 billion) every year.
Driverless Shelley Gets to the Point
Completing the 12.42-mile (19.9 km) race course in the world-famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the greatest achievements for rally drivers. Audi conquers the 14,100-foot (4.3 km) summit in 27 minutes without anyone behind the wheel—fully autonomous. The fastest drivers have been known to do it in a little over 10 minutes, but it has never been accomplished by a self-driven car. Named after Audi rally driver, Michéle “Shelley” Mouton, the first woman to win the Pikes Peak race, the Shelley is a 2010 TTS that has been developed with the help of Stanford University at Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Lab - the same minds that won the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005 with Stanley and took second in the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007 with Junior.
Events Heard ‘Round the World'
2013 proves a challenging year for all. It begins with the fall from grace of iconic Lance Armstrong for use of performance enhancing drugs. Just as the world of endurance sports recovers, it is hit an even more tragic blow when two bombs explode at the Boston Marathon in April, killing 3 and injuring 264. The country that has just inaugurated its first black president for a second term comes together with the rest of the world to support and heal — a world dealing with meteors exploding near Chelyabinsk in Russia, North Korea missile testing, a garment factory explosion in Bangladesh that kills 1,127 people, another catastrophic tornado in Oklahoma, and much more. A bright light for the international community arrives in the form of the U.S. automotive industry coming to the end of its controversial, yet effective government bailout. Jobs and companies have been saved, which makes the summer filing for bankruptcy of the legendary Motor City — Detroit — that much more shocking. While America scrambles to react — and understand — so does the rest of the world with automakers from across the globe focusing on creating the most innovative, fuel efficient and high-performing vehicles on the planet. As the year ends with the passing of the man who once said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” the international community prepares to pick up the pieces and move forward.
The Supercar for the 21st Century
The Rimac Concept One — or Concept_One — is presented from Croatia - based Rimac Automobili as more than just a high-end, luxury electric car. Its drive system creates an almost customized driving experience that matches the driver’s skills, preferences, and situations on the road via its “All Wheel Torque Vectoring System.” This distributes the power to the wheels based on user setup and driving conditions by controlling the vehicle’s powertrain, which is divided into four subsystems with each one consisting of its own separate powertrain for each wheel of the car. The technologically advanced, sleek automobile is designed and built almost totally in-house with price available only upon request — although the cost is to be set at $980,000 once production begins. Called the first electric supercar, all eight of the original Concept_One production models are sold by November 2014 with more to be made available via dealerships established in 2017.
BRAiVE: A PROUD Achievement
After its Parma to Shanghai accomplishment in 2010, VisLab puts its autonomous technology to an even bigger test: drive a mixed traffic route open to the public. BRAiVE (standing for BRAin driVE), the department’s Public ROad Urban Driverless-car (PROUD), drives through the everyday streets of Parma, Italy, without any remote control or human driver intervention. It successfully navigates urban, rural and freeway traffic, making it the first time in history a car moves autonomously and safely through the different publicly shared roads with no one in the driver seat.
BMW Gets Sustainably Mobile
BMW i kicks off as a sub-brand of German automaker, BMW — part of its commitment to sustainability and environmentally responsible mobility. The company presents both its all-electric Mega City Vehicle (MCV) and plug-in hybrid BMW i8, with the smaller MCV earmarked for 2013. By the time it goes into production, the MCV has become the BMW i3, the company noting that 80 percent of its customers are completely new to the brand. Presented as a city car due to its small size and maneuverability, it is BMW's first zero emissions mass-produced vehicle and includes a fully-electric powertrain that offers a gasoline powered range extender (REx) that acts purely as a generator to back-up the battery should it drop below a certain level. The car itself is made up of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, a material that increases its energy efficiency, making BMW i the first company in the world to launch a volume production vehicle using this feature. Just as it did 40 years before, BMW offers a sneak peek of its new electric cars at the 2012 Olympics held in London. Unlike the 1972 1602e, however, the i3 and i8 make it into production.
Ten Years On, GM Returns to Electric
General Motors’ first all-electric car since its much beloved EV1, the Spark EV rolls out in 2013 in select markets — California, Oregon, and Maryland. Billed as an “environmentally friendly car for millennials,” the little compact hopes to get 200 miles (321.87 km) on a single charge, but ends up getting only 82 (131.97 km), and while certainly more cost effective at $26,000 than the Tesla, its limited availability makes it a hard sell. As 2016 comes to an end, only 7,400 Sparks have been sold and it is discontinued by GM to make room for the more powerful Chevy Bolt EV.
The “Monster” Crushes It
Nobuhiro Tajima, known as “Monster,” has been driving in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) since 1992. In 2013, he competes in the new Electric Modified Class in the Rimac Automobili modified Concept_One called E-RUNNER. Having switched to the electric class in 2012 citing concerns about the effects of the ICE on the environment, Monster finishes the gruelling climb in 9:46.530, establishing a new record for his class. He comes in first for the electric modified category and finishes 5th overall.
The Golden State Gains An Italian Mini
Fiat presents the 500e EV to California as a way to support the state’s emissions requirement. Simply an electric version of the Fiat 500 Elettra, the 500e EV is simple, straight-forward and low-key in its appearance and handling. At first glance, it looks like any other 500, but offers zero emissions, a reasonable range—87 miles (140.01 km)—and a Bosch designed braking system that actually helps the car recover electricity when braking at coasting speeds over 8 mph (12.87 km/h) unless the battery is already full. Offered only in California, the little 500e EV expands to Oregon in 2014.
Volkswagen Steps E-Up
Volkswagen presents an all-electric plug-in kei car strictly for the European market at the International Motor Show Germany in September 2013. It has the same dimensions of the Up, VW’s petrol-powered city car, and can be charged with 2.3 kW plugged into a standard 230V socket or with 3.6 kW through a home - installed wall box or with up to 40 kW plugged into a DC fast - charging station through an optional Combined Charging System (CCS), which helps the battery charge up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. E-Up racks up most of its sales in Norway, followed by the Netherlands, France and Sweden.
The Netherlands Glows Strong
The World Solar Challenge has been run every two years since 1987 with teams from around the world and is won by Tokai University in both 2009 and 2011. Each of those years, Nuon Solar Car Team—the winner of the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 years — has placed second. 2013 is the team’s comeback year when it wins with its Nuna 7 going an average speed of 90.71 km/h (56.36 mph). Nuna 7 is the team’s first four-wheel solar entry and the first car to use a lens-system called concentrators, allowing this Nuna to absorb more energy than the competition.
Big Plans for a Little eGo
Named the best Russian startup by Forbes, Bravo e-Trike is the Soviet answer to traffic jams and limited parking. This fully-enclosed and electric ultra-compact can travel in speeds up to 90 km/h (55.92 mph) and can fold to half the size in 5 seconds with the push of a button. e-Trike uses a joystick instead of a steering wheel, and has a tablet computer instead of a keyboard that allows for extensive digital features. A joint venture of MordovAuto and Bravo Motors, the e-Trike is renamed the eGo and available for pre-ordering on the Bravo eGo website.
The Brilliance Behind China’s Zinoro
BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd begins in May 2003 as a joint venture between the BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. In April 2013, a new brand, ZINORO, is created and the Zinoro 1E (之诺1E) is born. Called an Electric Sports Activity Vehicle (ESAV), it is a purely electric, zero emissions car built exclusively in the company’s Tiexi Plant. Sold only in China, its goal is to lead the new energy vehicle (NEV) market in the region.
Everything is Super Awesome Micro with Lego
Okay, so it goes probably as fast as your basic bicycle. And, yeah, it’s sort of like a giant toy that escapes from a child’s backyard, but Australian Steve Sammartino and his buddy, Raul Oaida from Romania, decide the time has come for a zero-emissions full-sized Lego hot rod to grace the streets of Earth. Thanks to a Tweet Steve sends requesting $500-$1000 for an unnamed project—which in itself is rather miraculous that it gets any play at all—the two friends get backers plus the 20 participants they need to build it and use more than a half-a-million Lego bricks to get the thing made. They also receive a full set of tires and other things that go into creating the Super Awesome Micro Project. It has four orbital engines, is bright yellow with black accents and moves on compressed air. It is built in Raul’s native Romania then ships to Australia where it makes its debut, burning up the highway in a pulse-racing 18 mph (28.97 km/h). The team admits the car can go faster, but choose to keep the speed down so it doesn’t break apart. It is the ultimate proof that alternative materials and fuels may be a match made in automotive heaven.
A Leaf Goes It Alone
In late November, Nissan’s Autonomous Drive car—an all-electric LEAF equipped with Autonomous Drive technology — takes its pioneering first test on Japan’s public highways in Yokohama. The automaker's Vice Chairman, Toshiyuki Shiga, and Kanagawa Governor, Yuji Kuroiwa—whose prefectural government is cooperating with Nissan for further road testing—are the passengers. This comes after Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, christens the car a month earlier by taking it for a maiden voyage on the streets of Tokyo. The tests are part of Nissan’s goal of having fully-autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020.
Unprecedented Recalls and the Return of an Italian Icon
The year proves to be a big one for the automobile industry. Although alternative fuels are now embraced as mainstream — even the hydrogen fuel cell is becoming a reality in Toyota’s Mirai and Hyundai’s Tucson — gas prices are the lowest they have been in a decade. 2014 is also the year of record vehicle recalls in a single year when both GM and Japanese airbag supplier, Takata, see faulty ignition switches and airbag deployment, respectively, leading to injury and even death. Cars are recalled worldwide due to both issues with Takata never able to fully identify the root cause of the problem. The U.S. Government mandates backup cameras in 10 percent of vehicles built between 1 May 2016 to 1 May 2017 with every new car sold required to have one by May 2018. And two decades after the last Alfa Romeo is sold in the United States, the Italian icon that introduced the overhead cam engine for the very first time when it placed it into the 1914 Grand Prix car returns to America with the two-seater 4C coupe, a perfect vehicle for celebrating the Ice Bucket Challenge craze that goes on to raise over $115 million for ALS worldwide.
The EV Gives the ICE a Run for Its Petrol
Mitsubishi proves that the EV is no longer merely a nice, clean alternative to petrol when veteran racer, Greg Tracy, grabs the 2nd overall spot/1st in class win at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) in the all-electric Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution III. His time of 9:08.188 is the fastest time recorded in the race for the Electric Class division, and the 4th fastest time in all. Rally winner, Romain Dumas, squeaks by with a 9:5.801 while Hiroshi Masuoka comes in right behind Tracy also driving a MiEV Evolution III. giving the two electrics a 1-2 win in their class and a 2-3 overall finish. The results have many anxious to see if 2015 will finally be the year the alternative fuels end up dominating all in the coveted PPIHC.
Pure, Recyclable Racing
Swiss company, SOFTCAR SA, comes up with an idea for an ultra light, close to 100 percent recyclable race car in 2011 to reduce a vehicle’s carbon footprint and also get the most out of a high-performance car. By 2014, SOFTCAR SA has created Aventor through its sister company, Aventor Ltd., a virtually 100 percent recyclable electric race car that is incredibly light, uses no chemical treatments or paint, has no oil or gearbox, is ultra high efficiency and is safer for the driver than traditional cars. Made out of a bio-polymer material with high crash absorption, Aventor achieves FIA F3 regulations for safety and weight reduction, offering an unparalleled and never before seen driving experience. The 3-wheel vehicle has brake regeneration on its rear wheel, making it possible for the car to gather energy as it slows to add more range.
Google Goes Full-On Commando
After studying its autonomous technology from the habits of various team members “driving” themselves to and from work via the company’s test vehicles, Google decides to completely take the driver out of the equation. It strips the cars of both gas and brake pedals, and a steering wheel. While California vehicle codes require a rear view mirror, the new car that looks like a cross between the mini-Fiat and the Mercedes Smart Car has a new foam-like front end in case of computer failure and hitting a pedestrian. Google’s prototypes are currently being used just on the company’s campus — the top speed is 25 mph for now — but hopes the technology can be used for driverless taxi cabs sooner rather than later.
Volkswagen Joins the EV Boom
The German automaker, Volkswagen finally enters the electric vehicle market with its e-Golf. Based on the company’s very popular Golf model, the production version is presented at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show and promises to have an all-electric standard range of 130 to 190 km (81 to 118 mi) and a winter range of 80 to 120 km (50 to 75 mi). Sales of the new e-Golf start in February in Volkswagen’s native Germany with the first car delivered to the United States on 31 October in California.
A Century Later, Mercedes Plugs Back In
Although the Daimler part of Daimler-Benz AG is promoting the third generation Smart Fortwo Electric — known as the Smart ED3 — the iconic Mercedes-Benz branding is finally placed on an electric vehicle for the first time in almost 100 years with the B-Class Electric Drive. Constructed of various aspects of the CLA, GLA, and smaller A-class, it is capable of getting up to 98 miles (157.72 km) on a single charge and has a top speed of 100 mph (160.93 km/h). The smallest of all the Mercedes-Benz cars, it is described as a Compact Sports Tourer by the company and is made available in the late summer throughout California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont with plans to go wide in 2015.
The Power of Water
The term “alternative fuel” takes on a whole new meaning with the introduction of the Quant e-Sportlimousine at the Geneva Motor Show. Both the Quant and the Quantino 48 — introduced at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show — are all-electric, but they aren’t plug-ins. These two cars charge via saltwater. It’s a technology NASA works with until it gives up due to its poor energy density. Inventions of the new NanoFlowcell AG — founded by Nunzio La Vecchia in 2013 — the two prototypes are just that, prototypes. The company has no intention of going into the car business and no plans to sell either car. NanoFlowcell is a research and development hub, seeking new ways to store and apply energy through flow cell technology. The goal is to apply what the company learns through building and testing the two Quants on a much broader scale. In 2015, La Vecchia competes in a 14-hour, 1100 km (683.51 mi) endurance run in the Quantino. Nunzio walks away with a back ache at the end of the continuous 14-hour, 144.84 km/h (90 mph) trek with fuel still left in the Quant’s tanks. Top Gear’s Ollie Kew takes a drive in the 48 in October 2016 and reports that it maneuvers and drives just like any other electric car. While there have been many skeptics of the technology, NanoFlowcell is approved to test on European streets and reaches 100,000 km (62,137.12 mi) with the Quantino 48 in 2017.
The Electric That’s Fit to Print
It’s electric, it’s sleek, it seats two and it’s 3D printed in a single piece. Introducing the Strati, a concept vehicle from Italian designer, Michele Anoe, and the winning entry of the 3D Printed Car Design Challenge announced in mid-April by Local Motors.. The wholly unique car takes less than 40 hours to print and just under four days to assemble. The goal is to cut the print time in half, and assembly down to less than an hour with two people handling it. If the car is able to accomplish this, then it will truly be the first production 3D printed car. As of 2017, Strati is in the collaborative engagement phase within Local Motors Labs, gaining insight on how to move forward from the general public and the engineering community.
Formula E Ignites
Ben Bowlby designs the innovative Nissan ZEOD RC (Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car) as part of the experimental “Garage 56” entry at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The hybrid electric racing car completes one full 8.5 mile lap, making it the first car of its class to ever do so. Although it is unable to finish the race — a case of new technology felled by the old thanks to an old school gear box — the ZEOD still makes history, prompting other carmakers to consider entering the intense race with alternative fuel racers in the future.
A ZEV Made in Africa... Or Not...
Apostle Dr. Kwadwo Safo is a visionary whose focus on technology is well-documented in his native Ghana. It has long been his dream to bring automobile production to Africa, which leads to the establishment of Kantanka, a car company locally based and run that utilizes local labor to make cars specifically to meet the needs of Ghanaians. Several zero emission vehicles (ZEV) are proposed and assembly begins in the manufacturing plant Dr. Safo builds. However, it appears that the cars are “assembled” not actually “built” in the factory, which has no electricity to explain the expertly formed chassis parts. A silent Chinese partner seems to be furnishing car kits to Kantanka to create its energy efficient automobiles, replicas of the Asian Foday vehicles. Other than some dignitaries and celebrities, Kantanka automobiles have yet to be sold to the public.
An Electric Showing at Gruelling Le Mans
The first ever racing season for the long anticipated Formula E class of cars gets underway in Beijing, China. Fully sanctioned and part of the FIA — Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the ruling body of motorsport — Formula E is run with electric powered Formula I cars. With teams backed by billionaire Richard Branson and actor Leonardo Di Caprio, all eyes in the racing world are watching the new entrant to the elite racing arena. Renault e. dams team ends the first full year of Formula E as number one in the standings and maintains the lead year over year.
Late, But Worth the Wait
Korean automaker, Kia, announces its late entry into the all-electric, plug-in market with the Soul EV, garnering praise on all fronts. Choosing the 2014 Soul as the basis for the zero emissions vehicle makes it possible to offer a larger battery — 27 kWh — which means farther distances on one charge. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the EV’s range at 93 miles (149.67 km), almost a full 10 miles (16.1 km) more than the best selling Nissan Leaf. Much like the Fiat 500e, Tesla Model S and BMW i3, the Kia Soul EV provides for regenerative braking. This means that in a certain mode, as the car is slowing down it is capturing kinetic energy and charging the battery pack, helping it conserve battery power and increase range. The first car in its class to offer direct current quick charge capability as standard — the luxury Tesla does this — 60 miles of range can be added in half-an-hour. Available only in California, Kia plans to go broader once it sees how it does in the Golden State.
Autonomous Vehicles: Poised to Live Long and Prosper
The automotive industry is seeing green with record sales. Gas prices may be lower, but electric and alternative fuels are still gaining a huge following. Proof that the status quo in the motor industry is changing comes in the form of Mercedes-Benz USA announcing its move from New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia, building a new campus due to be complete by 2018. Volvo and Porsche follow suit, taking advantage of America’s South, a region that hopes to gain more of the automotive market share from iconic— and ailing — Detroit and innovative Los Angeles.
Just as alternative fuels become part of the mainstream, autonomous vehicles get the go-ahead from governments around the world and gain interest from mainstream car companies. However, it’s still a dead heat between Tesla and Google as far as the advancement of self-driving car technology and its growth. The French government announces it will allow cars on public French roads as part of its New Industrial France initiative, more fully supported by the use of the French made Navya Arma, an automated shuttle that ferries attendees throughout Bordeaux, France, during the 2015 Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress.
Scandals and Safety Concerns Get Action
As the year nears its end, Volkswagen is felled by a giant diesel scandal that nearly destroys the company, and kicks the recalls of GM and Takata the year before off the headlines. The United States joins other global governments to push forward automotive innovation with legislation meant to provide friendlier avenues to advance autonomous and alternative vehicle growth. The goal across the world is to promote technologies that will save lives and the planet, not hinder them. In a year that includes the loss of a pointed-ear icon who seamlessly bridged logic with emotion — the basis for all countries supporting a cleaner, safer way to move people from Point A to Point B — all are poised to see who will be left standing to pursue the office of the President of the United States by the end of the year.
All ten teams of the inaugural Formula E season are seen competing in some form of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E. The result of a unique collaboration between four of the most legendary teams in racing—McLaren, Williams, Dallara and Renault—the SRT_01E is the first of its kind—an all-electric racing car that is Formula One in look and even handling, but lacks the powerful, ear - splitting sound fans have grown to anticipate and love. While some complain the eerily silent car is jarring, FIA holds strong, choosing to promote energy efficiency and what the races teach them about incorporating more alternative fuels into transportation rather than bend to spectator expectations.
Sweden Puts Autonomy to the Test
Volvo decides to put self-driving capability into a practical test when the company announces its Drive Me test program. The Swedish automaker plans to loan 100 modified XC90 SUVs to everyday people to try out autonomous technology in real-life situations. All participants must live within the Gothenburg, Sweden area—location of Volvo headquarters — and adhere to a preselected route to help the company collect data on safety, user experience, traffic flow, and even energy efficiency. The goal is to start in Sweden, but then continue with pilot projects in London, UK and China. These tests will involve real people from a variety of lifestyles, ages and experiences who also have different attitudes toward driving. Recipients of the autonomous enabled vehicles will be announced in 2017 with the first—The Hain Family—introduced at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.
Tata Says “Hello” to the Power of the Wind
First announced in 2007, Tata Motors Ltd., the Mumbai - based auto giant, presents the Airpod — a mini-car that runs on compressed air. The super compact is said to be able to travel 124 miles (199.6 km) on one canister of air, and seats two adults and one child. It is earmarked to begin production in 2015 with hopes of being sold in Hawaii to start. The technology has been attempted over the years with little success, but the Indian automaker claims to have the tools to bring it to fruition. As of 2017, Airpod is said to be in production with a new launch of 2020 expected.
Nothing to Fear But Us Humans
Google’s self-driving project hits a huge milestone — 1.7 million miles (2.74 million km) driven since its inception in 2009. The company’s decision to build its own cars — called “Koala” cars — has made it more comfortable with allowing testers to go completely driverless. While the cars themselves are overly cautious when it comes to autonomous driving out on public roads, other drivers traveling around them are not, proving the point that human error accounts for the majority of traffic incidents. Of the 16 accidents the driverless cars have been involved in, 15 are due to external human negligence and 1 because of the person behind the wheel of the Google vehicle. Finding a way to reconcile the relationship between the software and humans becomes a top priority.
An EV Beats Them All to the Top
For the first time in the iconic rally’s history, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) is won by an all-electric vehicle in all classes. Race veteran, Rhys Millen, drives the Latvian team, Drive eO's 3rd generation vehicle — eO PP03 — with peak power of 1020 kW and peak torque of 2160 Nm, weighing 1200 kg (2645.5 pounds).
Automotive Innovation Boosts the Great Lakes
Almost 120 years after Ransom E. Olds launches his Olds Motor Works company in Lansing, Michigan, the University of Michigan establishes the Mobility Transformation Center, aka MCity. The 32-acre facility is a world-class test site for connected and autonomous vehicle technology developed in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and seeks to build on the state’s position as “the global center of automotive research and development.” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder notes, “We transformed how the world moved. Michigan is uniquely positioned to continue to be a leader in mobility, and the University of Michigan’s new MCity will play a critical role in that future.” MCity’s facility simulates both urban and suburban driving environments to allow new automotive technologies to be tested before going onto public streets and highways. Homegrown Ford Motor Company becomes the first car company to use the facility in November.
The Wolverines Put Self-Driving Through the Printer
In preparation for the upcoming MCity, University of Michigan announces the development of “SmartCarts,” 3D printed self-driving cars. Researchers are testing the low-speed, electric self-drivers over the course of the next year within the 32-acre MCity facility with a second phase that hopes to take the cars out onto the campus itself. The tests are meant to discover just how the autonomous driving technology works across a variety of areas and environments. Three cars are being printed using golf cart powertrains custom - made for the university by 3D vehicle experts and pioneers, Local Motors, in Arizona. The hope is to learn about what passengers wish to gain from the self-driving experience — viewed more as a ride-hailing than private ownership engagement — as well as how well the vehicle can navigate different routes.
Tesla Autopilot Arrives
Tesla Motors’ 2014 Model S is the first of its cars to come equipped with hardware that will allow the company to introduce incremental self-driving technology via automatic software updates. By October of 2015, the company announces that the Tesla Version 7.0 software release is available for its owners and is designed to work with the “automated capabilities already offered in Model S.” The features it offers are minimal — lane changing, cruise control, hands-free parallel parking—but are meant to relieve drivers of the burden of some of the more pedantic and potentially life - threatening road concerns. Tesla Motors promises to continue to develop the technology and deliver new innovations via over-the-air software updates. Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, cautiously espouses the benefits of the new feature, while making it clear it does not take the responsibility off of drivers — they still need to remain alert on the road. He reminds everyone the feature is an assist, not a total relinquishing of power, and should be considered akin to a public beta, not the final product.
A Real World Test to Fix Real World Woes
The autonomous bus created by Chinese auto manufacturer, Yutong, takes on some real-world challenges in the most populated country in the world—transporting large masses of people safely, efficiently and on time. The bus successfully handles 26 traffic signals, several lane changes and at least one passing maneuver during a 20-mile (32.2 km) drive between Zhengzhou and Kaifeng, all autonomously. Using a Daimler autopilot system with a stereoscopic camera to read lane lines and short- and long-range radar to scan the road for obstacles up to 800 feet (243.8 meters) ahead, Yutong’s self-driving helps save on labor costs and wait times, because autonomous can travel closer together. The bus is introduced onto public roads in Nevada in May of 2015 with the hope of making these options broadly available within the next few years.
From Imagination to the Page to Reality: Making Way for Autonomous Cars
While the world prepares for the UK to Brexit the EU and waits to see what the new U.S. President plans, automobile technology races forward. Assembly Bill No. 2866 is introduced in California allowing for autonomous vehicles on the roads — although the Left Coast denies Uber permission to continue testing its innovative self-driving cars. A fleet of automated taxis are set for testing in Singapore through a partnership between the Singapore Land Transit Authority and UK automotive supplier, Delphi. And with the support from governments around the world, automakers push the boundaries to transform self-driving, electric plug-in, hybrid, high-performing dreams into everyday reality.
The year brings with it massive ch-ch-ch-ch-changes—the loss of Ziggy Stardust, the artist who once was formerly known as but forever remained a Prince, and the passing of Harry Potter’s deceptively loyal and heartbroken protector feels like the end of an era; Eleven’s defeat of the monster in the closet sends a rousing message of female empowerment; the diverse representation in An American Musical shines a light on where society is and is not — and the world enters the latter part of the second decade of the new millennium holding its collective breath wondering, “What next?”
Drawing On Sustainability
Electra Meccanica is established in 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, by Henry Reisner of InterMeccanica — builder of custom cars — and Jerry Kroll, who previously developed electric drive systems in race cars at the NASA Research Park. The goal is to create sustainable, affordable city vehicles that are durable and reliable. By the end of 2016, the SOLO has moved from being just another beautiful sketch on a piece of paper to a three-wheel enclosed one-seater that is fully-electric and priced under $20,000 with a $250 deposit. With a range of 100 miles (160.9 km), plenty for city driving, the little car has no intention of competing with Tesla, BMWi or even Nissan Leaf. Its sole purpose is to offer personal transportation for quick daily commutes. SOLO gains high marks from reviewers and Electra Meccanica announces it will be joined by 4 new models in the coming years.
Environmentally Friendly Fun
Swiss owned KYBURZ has been making electric vehicles since 1991, mostly for utility and personal transport — the cars and scooters are wheelchair and low- to no-mobility friendly. With the introduction of the eRod at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, that changes. Likened to a zero emissions version of the Ariel Atom , eRod is a sporty electric car that comes in three different styles — Basic, Fun, and Race. More go-kart than car, the Basic and Fun can each hit up to 120.7 km/h (75 mph) while the Race version goes up to 130.4 km/h (81 mph). The eRod can be driven either open top or closed, and goes anywhere from 55 to 221 km (34 to 137 miles) on a single charge, depending on the body style.
All-Wheel EV Drive Recalls a One-Off Classic
The Luka EV is an electric vehicle designed by MW Motors in the Czech Republic. It’s unique for a variety of reasons. First, Luka EV has four wheel hub motors making it the first all-wheel EV in decades. Second, the target price is $22,445 before any incentives. Third, it travels 299.3 km (186 miles) on a single charge. Fourth, it is based on the iconic and much - beloved one-off Tatra JK 2500 prototype. Fifth, it is being offered ONLY in Europe, and, sixth, can come as a fully-assembled car or in a kit. The Luka EV seats two and comes in hard or soft top. Hitting a top speed of 148 km/h (91.96 mph), the unique, vintage styling has earned it many fans hoping to get their hands on the car.
Trucks Go Eco-Friendly Two Ways
Sweden opens the world’s first electric road near the city of Gävle that makes it possible for electrified Scania fleet trucks to save the environment two different ways. Using conductive technology developed by Siemens, the innovative two-kilometer strip of the E16 motorway comes as a result of many years of cooperation between the Swedish Government and the private sector. All trucks on the road are hybrid and Euro 6-certified, running on biofuel, and capable of operating as electric vehicles when on the electrified road and as regular hybrids when off. A pantograph power collector is mounted on the frame behind each truck’s cab where it receives the electrical charge when on the road. As soon as a truck goes outside the electronic lane, the pantograph disconnects and the truck runs on its combustion engine or battery-powered electric motor. This is the first time this duality has been accomplished on a public road and is part of Scania’s plan to have a fully energy-efficient, fossil-free fleet by 2030.
Russia’s Google Gets Into the Self-Driving Business
Yandex is Google’s counterpart/competitor in Russia. Just as it rivals the Mountain View, California, company’s search and mobile capabilities in the Eastern European nation, so does it hope to compete with them in autonomous driving. The big announcement of its partnership with Russian truck manufacturer, Kamaz, includes a reveal that the goal is to develop a driverless minibus shuttle based on the prototype Yandex unveils at the Moscow International Auto Show. Government - backed NAMI automotive research facility is working on the bus, and plans to start testing in early 2017 on simulated roads in a controlled environment. The minibus is meant to carry up to 12 passengers with a 200 km (124 mi) range on a single charge. NAMI hopes to make it possible to share where a passenger is going via a smartphone app connected to Yandex’s cloud. As part of the development of the technology, prototypes for the shuttle will be demonstrated at the 2018 World Cup to be hosted by Russia, both autonomously and via remote control. Production is planned for 2020.
The Best Selling EV in France Gets a Late Start
2016 brings with it a brand new Renault Zoe with a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack instead of the earlier 22. The mini-car enters the French marketplace late in the month — the only country where mass delivery is available — gaining it good performance at home, but not so stellar elsewhere. It ends the year as the top selling EV in Europe and with cumulative global sales of 61,205 units by the end of December, the all-time eighth best selling plug-in in the world.
Chevy Bolt: An EV That Drives Like, Well, a Car
The affordability of the new Chevrolet Bolt — about $30,000 after Federal tax incentives — is just one of the things that makes the all-electric offering appealing to car buyers. Unlike many of its competitors, the Bolt drives like a regular car with an estimated range of 238 miles (383 km) on a single charge. The 60kWh battery pack is built by LG and when the Bolt is in its “D” driving mode, it maneuvers just like a traditional gas-powered automobile. Putting it into the “L” mode turns it into more of an EV feel. The top speed is 92 mph (148 km/h) and Chevrolet’s goal is for consumers to view Bolt as just another car, not get too caught up in the intricacies — and often confusion — of the EV. The car is first introduced to California in December 2016 and makes its way to Europe from GM’s Opel division as the Ampera E in June 2017.
The E-Car Proves it’s Here to Stay
2016 ends up to be the year of the plug-in electric vehicle when global cumulative sales since the introduction of the Tesla Model S in 2008 reaches more than 2 million units. China accounts for over 40 percent of all sales, double that of the U.S., which has sold over 500,000 since ‘08. Although the numbers make up just 0.2 percent of the entire light-duty auto market, it shows year-over-year growth of what was once a flat market.
“Cars Keep Going Faster All the Time... And The Beat Goes On...”
A new U.S. President is inaugurated and the automobile is a fertile ground for innovation and technologies that may have trouble coming to light elsewhere. AR or augmented reality is a huge topic of focus through heads-up displays promoted at the 2017 CES. Long a hope of automakers to make for safer, more insightful driving, AR is just one of the big innovations that will be pushing their way into commercial and personal vehicles in the coming year.
Just as early automotive pioneers were doing a lot of DIY inventing in the infancy of cars, so it continues with a huge community of environmentally-minded innovators turning everything from everyday bicycles to used cars into something that can be powered by electric, solar, vegetable oil, and pretty much anything other than petrol. 3D printing pushes the envelope of what can be turned into a functioning vehicle, and is changing how long and expensive building a car really has to be.
Alternative fuels are becoming more viable, and the race toward implementing truly autonomous, fully-self-driving technology is hotter than ever. While there is massive upheaval across the globe—uncertain relationships between superpowers, devastating natural disasters, and shocking acts of violence—forward progress continues in space exploration, IT, automotive, and more.
As the world moves closer to the end of its second decade of the 2000s, all eyes are on where political, social, financial, emotional, spiritual and technological changes will lead.
Insanely Fast, Awesomely Eco-Friendly
The Girfalco Azkarra is a super-fast, 100 percent electric car that’s presented as great to drive both on the street and at the track — basically, taking a page from the Porsche 911 playbook and making it eco-friendly. It can go from 0 to 60 in just 2.5 seconds and has motors on each one of its three wheels. The first car produced by Canadian company, Atelier Girfalco Limitée, the Azkarra comes in two models — the base that has a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) and the S that can hit 241 km/h (150 mph). Both models have a direct-drive connection between the motors and the wheels, and an estimated asking price of C$67,500 ($54,889 USD) for the standard and C$97,500 ($79,284 USD) for the S. While the prices are seen as limiting the appeal and accessibility of the car(s), Girfalco believes it will deliver about 25 units per year.
Navya Arma Reflects the Future of Transportation
Formerly the Navia by Induction, Navya Arma is launched in 2015 after a decade of research and development. It is 100 percent electric and fully-autonomous, just as its predecessor. By 2017, the little shuttle that carries upwards of 15 passengers now has 30 vehicles deployed across the globe including University of Michigan’s MCity, the Las Vegas Strip, and Lyon, France, to name just a few areas. A partnership with leading public transportation authority, Keolis, and NAVYA, the parent company behind the Arma, leads to the launch of NAVLY, the world’s first truly-autonomous, driverless public transportation program. The collaboration focuses on North America — the United States and Canada — for the vehicles, and has the goal of providing “public authorities with an exciting and intelligent new option to meet the growing demand for urban solutions.”
All-Electric Car Charms Dakar on its Third Try
After attempting to finish the intense Paris-Dakar Rally in 2015 and 2016, Acciona—a Spanish conglomerate developing renewable energy and infrastructure projects — finally completes the race in a custom-made 100 percent electric vehicle. It is the first time a zero-emission car finishes the almost 9,000 km (5,600 mile) rally, becoming the first of “18,000 vehicles in the history of the Dakar Rally to complete the event without consuming a drop of fuel or emitting a single molecule of CO2.” The Acciona team has been working on their specialized vehicle for the race for the last 5 years. It is their way of showing alternative fuel cars are capable of the same wear-and-tear as other automobiles. The car is equipped with a 250 kW engine (340 hp) and a 150 kWh battery. The battery consists of several modules with each one able to be charged separately by a power cable to speed up the process.
Faraday Poises for Electric Luxury Dominance
The long-anticipated Faraday FF91 beta model is presented at the 2017 CES in January to much fanfare and as viable competition for Tesla Model S. The car meets with mixed reviews when its autonomous driving and parking go slightly awry at the conference, but Faraday Future reminds spectators that the car is not complete as yet and is currently being tested on the streets of Southern California. There are 21 on the road and the company is pushing them as hard as possible to run them through rigorous testing before going into production. In July, an FF91 driven by principal engineer, Robin Shute, beats the previous production EV record held by a Tesla Model S in 2016 at the Pikes Peak race — by 20 seconds. It sets the new record for fastest production EV up the hill with a time of 11:25.082. After scrapping the building of a $1 billion plant in Nevada in July, Faraday Future signs a lease on a manufacturing facility in Hanford, California, in August with plans to deliver the first production FF91 to market by late 2018.
Two Automotive Pioneers Team Up
Uber is changing the face of riding and driving as we know it. Its goal of a completely driverless experience is well-documented. In January, the ride-hailing giant teams up with Daimler AG, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz and namesake of the inventor of the world’s first four-wheeled motorcar, Gottlieb Daimler . The partnership is an agreement for Uber to use the German company’s self-driving cars as part of its service in the future. Just as Uber has been testing driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, Arizona, and parts of California, Daimler is already developing autonomous technology and hopes the partnership will put them in the lead of the practical driverless revolution when the time comes.
Croatia Proves the Electric Supercar is Here to Dominate
Rimac unveils a brand-new, upgraded, more powerful Concept_One at the Geneva Motor Show along with new distribution deals in Europe, Middle East and the U.S. The powerhouse joins its lighter, aerodynamic “evil twin,” the Concept_S s as one of the most sought after supercars in the electric market. As Rimac Automobili starts to deliver production models of its cars to customers — at a $1 million+ price tag for both cars—it continues its focus of keeping orders small and pushing the technology, not the actual automobiles. With the Concept_S s capable of hitting 365 km/h (226.8 mph) and the upgraded Concept_One topping out at 355.67 km/h (221 mph) with an estimated distance-per-charge of 310 miles, Rimac is presenting a different way to look at the electric car.
Toyota Puts i-Nnovation to the Test
Toyota begins its “new concept in urban mobility” with the i-Road in 2014. A combination of a car and motorbike, the three-wheel electric car introduces a whole new way of traveling with its 2-person tandem seating and Lean Technology. The goal is to have the tires move up and down—similar to a skier banking around corners—to achieve maximum control and comfort during turns, and lowering car sickness. The i-Road is tested in Tokyo and other parts of Japan with 10 i-Roads made available to 100 participants who range from ordinary citizens to car experts and trendsetters starting in July of 2015. By 2017, Toyota launches the i-TRIL at the Geneva Motor Show in March, a concept car similar to the i-Road with a vision toward a 2030 release. The i-TRIL goes a bit further with the addition of autonomous driving included to its zero-emission drivetrain. It, too, has the Lean Technology and is maneuvered not by gauges or pedals, but hand controls and a state-of-the-art heads-up display. There are no dates for production as yet and the possibility of it ever being manufactured are slim, but the goal is to use the tech that has gone into i-TRIL across other Toyota vehicles.
An EV for the Early Masses
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric joins other stalwart all-electric models like the Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen e-Golf meant for zero emissions city driving at an affordable price. With a price of under $31,000 before tax rebates, Ioniq offers a comfortable, versatile ride with an approximate 124 miles (200 km) on a single charge and even up to 136 MPGe (219 KMPGe), depending on driving style and situations. Charging to full takes about four-and-a-half hours on a 240-volt power source, but Hyundai claims the battery pack can be charged to 80 percent in 23 minutes when using a 100-kilowatt DC fast-charging system. Currently only available in California, Hyundai also offers a lease option for Ioniq Electric of $2500 down and $275 per month for 36 months on its base model with unlimited mileage, wear-and-tear and scheduled maintenance covered, and reimbursement of electricity costs to run the Ioniq EV up to 50,000 miles (80,467 km).
Self-Driving Crashes Cause Headaches for Uber
As 2017 gets underway, Uber suffers some minor setbacks with its self-driving program with two collisions during testing on public streets — one in Arizona and one in California. The first occurs in March when a Honda CRV is turning left and hits a self-driving Volvo manned by two Uber employees in autonomous mode. The Honda driver is cited while the Uber team is not. The second happens in September as another Uber autonomous Volvo is in the left hand turn lane and is rear - ended by a Toyota Tacoma. No injuries are reported in both cases, however, the Arizona crash results in the car flipping and hitting two other vehicles. While Uber has been plagued by some minor fender benders since it begins testing in Pennsylvania, these two are the first “crashes” recorded, making many question whether the program is safe.
The Fastest Accelerator Shocks the World
Tesla Model S proves it’s more than just a luxury all-electric vehicle. In March, it breaks the record for acceleration from 0-60 of any production car in the world—traditional ICE or zero emission — with a time of 2.28 seconds. The meaning of this shocks the entire automotive community. The high-end, full-sized ZEV proves to be faster off the starting line than the Ferrari LaFerrari, Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Aventador and Porsche 911 Turbo S in an independently conducted Motor Trend Magazine test. It’s not just any Tesla S, however, but the P100D with the latest “Ludicrous+” software and not yet available on the market. Driven the right way, Tesla claims this Model S is capable of getting 337 miles (542 km) per charge, and extends even up to 409 miles (658 km) or more when speed is lowered just right and in heavy traffic with more regenerative braking.
Building a Better Car: A Study in Swedish Ingenuity and Uniti
Back in late 2016, engineering students at Lund University in Sweden design and build an all-electric car with sustainable materials. The goal is to show it as a model for future urban transport and the project ends up getting €1.2 million via crowdfunding. The team and its purpose gain the attention of Siemens, and the German industrial giant puts its weight behind the program, partnering with the students to help them produce the two-seater electric car known as Uniti L7e. With a top speed of 129 km/h (80 mph) and a 15 kW electric motor, the car is meant to weigh less than 408 kg (900 pounds) with a range of 145 km (90 miles) on a full charge and steering is done by a sort of Wii controller rather than a conventional steering wheel. The hope is to sell the L7e for $22,835 and have prototypes available by the end of the year. The group plans to produce 50,000 cars a year starting in 2018, although some caution that certifying the car worldwide may prove to be difficult.
A Trio of Eco Responsible Hondas
The 2017 Honda Clarity Electric model line chooses luxury over endurance in its quest to finally enter the alternative fuel market in a big way. Previous efforts with the Insight back in 1998 should have put the Japanese automaker at the forefront of the lower emissions movement, but it didn’t breakthrough as the Prius did. Now, the Clarity EV, Clarity Fuel Cell, and the coming-soon Clarity Plug-in Hybrid hope to change all of that. Offered only as lease options, the EV gets 89 miles (143 km) on a single charge and the Fuel Cell version 366 miles (589 km). Although the EV transports consumers a shorter distance than the competition, it makes up for it in comfort and the time it takes to charge — 30 minutes to get to an 80 percent charge when using DC fast charging with the SAE Combined Charging System.
Cadillac Makes an Autonomous Commitment
True self-driving capability is to be made available from Cadillac with its Super Cruise technology on its 2018 CT6 models. The Cadillac CT6 hopes to overcome the issues that plagued the Tesla Model S and X by offering a package that is heavily vetted, only works on extensively lidar-mapped highways in the U.S. and Canada, and keeps watch on drivers to make sure they stay alert when needed. To this end, the package includes a steering column-mounted camera that has infrared capability, and constantly monitors head position and eye focal point. It also offers a plethora of other automated operations meant to optimize efficiency and safety. The level of checks and double-checks to ensure accidents are virtually nonexistent while using Super Cruise are extensive, and it is GM’s goal to allow its drivers to experience true autonomy safely in order to promote the continued development and broad implementation of the technology.
Self-Driving Gets a Facelift in the U.S.
MCity acts as host to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, as she announces the current administration’s plans for autonomous vehicles on public roads. The new guidelines are called Automated Driving Systems (ADS) 2.0, A Framework for Safety, and relaxes several of the previous rules. These include no longer requiring the outlined 15-point safety assessment of the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy—it is moved down to 12-points and the process of submitting for the assessment is now completely voluntary. Manufacturers no longer need to submit safety assessment letters to NHTSA and federal approval is not required. Level 2 automation is also taken out of the guidelines, which are now only focused on Level 3, 4, and 5 vehicles. Several other issues are addressed, including a set of best practices that more clearly define the roles of the states and federal regulators when it comes to motor vehicle safety standards. The goal is to encourage forward movement of innovation for those companies seeking to bring self-driving to the public sooner, and position America as an even more viable and preferred testing and production ground for the much anticipated technology.
Record Breaking Endurance
The Proterra Catalyst E2, an all-electric commuter bus from the company that creates the BE35, breaks the world’s record for an electric vehicle range by traveling 1,101.2 miles (1,772.21 km) on a single charge. Run on a test track, the 40-foot mass transit Catalyst E2 beats the record set by German Schluckspecht-E in 2011, which was able to run 1,013.76 miles (1,631.5 km). There is a huge difference between the two vehicles, however. The Schluckspecht-E is a lightweight, aerodynamically designed single-seat car, which makes the much larger and heavier Catalyst E2’s accomplishment that much more impressive.
An Electric Car Puts “The People” First
Belarus intends to roll out its people’s electric car soon at a price between $10,000-$14,000. Other models may be made for higher earning consumers, but the goal is to present the economy-class as the premier automobile to address the needs of those with modest means first then expand to mid-range and premium cars. The vehicle seeks to perform in line with the latest EV imports and a prototype is already being tested. It currently travels 100-120 km (62.14-74.6 mi) on one charge at a speed of 100-120 km/h (62.14-74.6 mph). Vladimir Gusakov, Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus which is developing the new EV, notes the as-yet-unnamed car needs to be able to travel 200-300 km (124.3-186.41 mi) or more, and have a top speed of at least 150 km/h (93.21 mph). The automobile, however, has passed all of the trials it’s been put through and the team hopes to get it production ready before too long.
Three Decades of Winning at Light Speed
Having gone back and forth with names—from the World Solar Challenge to the Global Green Challenge and now back—the 30th anniversary of the biennial event once again takes place between 8-15 October from Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, to Adelaide in South Australia— 3000 kms (1864 mi). 28 teams compete across the week-long event for the honor of being crowned the fastest solar powered car in the world and Nuon Solar Team of the Netherlands wins for a third consecutive time. The Delft University of Technology created car, called the Nuna9, finished a good 2 hours ahead of its closest challenger, making this win the seventh out of nine showings by the team. The World Solar Challenge also boasts 17 additional crews on uniquely designed courses that test out their vehicles as the solar car industry heats up. The race has long been an attraction for solar aficionados around the world and teams are manned mostly by universities and corporations, but high school teams also compete.
Waymo Takes Autonomous Driving to the Streets
Since mid-October, Waymo, the self-driving company run by John Krafcik and owned by Alphabet, has been “driving” its autonomous minivans on the streets of Arizona without a driver behind the wheel. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids will have a Waymo employee in the vehicle during trips for now, but they will be in the backseat not the front. Cars will be geofenced within a 100-square-mile area in the short term, but Waymo plans to expand those areas once the vans collect enough data and conduct more trips. Only specific members of Waymo’s Early Rider Program are eligible for rides at this point, but it is a step in the direction of practical innovation with the company ordering thousands more Chrysler hybrids to fill out its fleet in preparation for broader use.
Slow, Steady and Silent May Win the EV Race
Chinese automaker, BYD, proves it’s leading the way with electronic vehicle innovation with the introduction of fully-operational mass transit EV buses on the streets of Turin, London and Liverpool. The public transportation vehicles are built in the company’s plant in Hungary with additional facilities planned for France and, as announced on 9 December, Morocco. The North African manufacturing plant will also produce battery-powered passenger cars and trucks. While BYD has not said which of the three the company will focus on to start, it is clear that the automaker is building strong momentum with electric in its home country of China, throughout Europe and thanks to its public transport partnership in the U.K.
Volkswagen Beetle: Do Punch Buggies Dream of Electric Charging Stations?
Once again, the iconic and humble Volkswagen Beetle is on the chopping block. Or is it? As the year comes to a close, discussions arise about turning the little car that could into a fully electric model. Little two-doors are falling out of favor as larger, more spacious models take over the automotive landscape once again, leaving the much loved Punch Buggy at risk. Tasking himself with improving sales of the ecoNOMICALLY friendly, smile-inducing car by 6 percent by the year 2025, VW’s brand chief, Herbert Diess, is considering turning it into an ecoLOGICALLY friendly vehicle as well. But it may be too late for the car that was once the poster child for the “Free Love” movement. As VW looks to revive the Minibus as the all electric Microbus Buzz model in 2022, even turning the Beetle into an EV may be too late to save it from once more being cast aside.
Oh, The Times… They are a Changing and Shifting and Moving and...
The new year dawns with more extraordinary images of what tomorrow will bring on the roads of the world at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and hopes that a former talk show host will become the first female President of the United States in 2020. Although not technically called “The Year of the Woman,” women dominate the news as a movement is born of female strife and victimization, and arguably the most famous woman race car driver in history retires in a blaze of glory. There are massive ups — Elon Musk’s red Tesla gleaming as it orbits in the stars to the sounds of David Bowie’s “Starman” — and devastating lows — 17 killed in a mass shooting at a high school in Florida that leads to student protests and calls for tighter gun control. The automotive industry innovates forward and the sighs of sorrow at the announcement that the Volkswagen Beetle is once again being discontinued are met with gasps of joy when the German automaker promises to replace it with VW’s much anticipated Microbus, an all-electric version of the Minibus. As the world sits on the brink of unprecedented diplomacy and possible nuclear annihilation — the scales are teetering in either direction — cars continue to innovate even in their quest for sparking nostalgia.
Will it or Won’t It? The Toyota e-Palette
They call it “a transparent cargo container on wheels” and whether or not Toyota’s newest concept car will ever be made is anyone’s guess. The e-Palette is unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas during the January event with a promise that this fully-autonomous and battery electric vehicle will be ready for use at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The ride-hailing/ridesharing/delivery vehicle plans to become the most requested car on the roads and is already touting partnerships with Pizza Hut, Mazda, Uber, Amazon and more. Fully customizable and totally see through, the box on wheels may seem like just another concept car never to see the light of day, but many believe it will come to fruition. While completely autonomous vehicles will need to remain geofenced for several years once they are introduced, Toyota seems ready to take that on and make these little cargo carts available. The goal is to manage the mobility issues facing the world and e-Palette intends to be the answer to many of the problems burdening the world’s roads, such as congestion and driver-based accidents.
Porsche Opens Doors with Blockchain
Luxury carmaker, Porsche, teams up with Berlin-based startup, XAIN, to test blockchain applications directly inside its cars. The motor company is using the technology beyond cryptocurrency, recognizing the opportunity to use it to transfer data more quickly and securely than servers. Applications currently being tested include locking and unlocking the vehicle via an app — a process that takes 1.6 seconds or six times faster than before — temporary access authorizations and new business models based on encrypted data logging. The first motor company to actively pursue blockchain technology, Porsche believes the uses will be beneficial in autonomous driving development.
Autonomous Trucking Takes to the Highways
In one month alone, Uber, Waymo, Google and Embark announce testing of self-driving semi-trucks around the country. Predominantly relegated to the Western United States, Uber has set up a system by which a conventional trucker loads up cargo onto a self-driving semi that then takes it to a designated holding area. Here the truck is met once again by a conventional driver who then takes the cargo to its final destination. The point is to keep the self-driving vehicles in areas that work best for its technology — highways. Waymo and Google have partnered on their program to have their autonomous trucks deliver loads to Google’s Atlanta-based data centers using the same software and sensors as those used by Waymo minivans. Embark is a San Francisco based startup focused on self-driving trucks and completes a coast-to-coast test drive in February. The company uses machine learning software and data from on-board sensors to map its surroundings in real-time and avoid obstacles, making it different from its competition.
Doc Brown’s Flying Car Promise — Better Late Than Never
While it may not be the flying DeLorean promised in Back to the Future II, the PAL-V Liberty is a gyrocopter that many believe will be ready for our roads and skies by 2019. It unveils at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show with a promised price tag of $600,000 for its standard model and $400,000 for the “sport” model. This unique hybrid carries up to two passengers and can hit speeds of 100 mph on the road with a range of 817 miles on a full tank. In the air, it can hit 112 mph and travel 310 miles.
GM Rolls Out an Electric Plan
General Motors may have set an ambitious target with their desire to introduce at least 20 electric or fuel cell vehicles by 2023, but they are backing it up by putting the Buick Velite 6 on the market first in China within the next year. The Velite 6 EV will use what GM calls “a new-generation pure electric drive system” while the plug-in hybrid electric variant (PHEV) Velite 6 sedan — set to have a range of 435-miles — features a variable transmission that’s controlled electronically among other features. The PHEV is scheduled for Chinese dealerships by 2019. There is also a full-electric concept SUV called Enspire said to have a range of 370 miles or more being discussed, but no news on when or if that will be released to the public. GM’s plan, however, is to release most of its EV fleet in China first over the next 5 years.
Turning Your Car Into the Receiver, Not the Deliverer
Connected cars just got a boost from turning that “last mile” into more than just making it easier to get from the public transportation stop to your final destination. These intelligent automobiles will now be able to get your Amazon orders to wherever you need it on your own terms by delivering to your car. Thanks to a partnership with Volvo and GM, the eCommerce giant is making the service available in 37 U.S. cities via a connection in newer model Volvos with On Call and newer GM OnStar clients. This coincides with the area covered by Amazon Key, the service debuted autumn 2017 for Amazon Prime members that allows packages to be delivered inside their home without their having to be there or having to give the courier an actual key. The automobile-based program is called Amazon Key In-Car. How it works is that those in the service area with the coinciding Volvos and GMs download the Amazon app into their vehicle through their infotainment system and link their Amazon Prime account with their OnStar or Volvo On Call account. Once the app is linked and set-up, the driver registers a delivery location as they normally do. However, whenever they buy from Amazon.com, they can select “in-car delivery” at checkout and deliveries are made to cars that are parked in a publicly accessible area. Customers receive digital confirmation that the package has been placed in the car and it’s now locked again. The service has been available from Volvo in Sweden, Switzerland and Norway since 2015, and is felt to be an amazing convenience for shoppers/owners.