Shop Class Reinvented for Electric Vehicle Era

Image of teacher and student in front of VW Cabriolet being converted to electric power.
Ron Grosinger and one of his students, Isamara Lozano, pose in front of electric-powered 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet.

As technology and STEM-focused curricula become ever more important, high school automotive shop classes have been suffering dwindling interest from teachers and students alike. Enter Ronald Grosinger, of Memorial High School in New Jersey, who figured out how to reposition the vocationally oriented course to appeal to a broader audience and prepare students for a wide range of career paths. “If you’re teaching students about gasoline cars, that’s basically the equivalent of 8-track players,” says Grosinger.

Grosinger persuaded his school to purchase a 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet so that his class could remove the internal combustion engine, install batteries, and rebuild the vehicle to be powered by electricity.

Photo of Volkswagen Cabriolet converted to electric power.

Over time, the students learned how to produce the various mechanical parts in cardboard, then wood, then steel. They welded parts, tackled wiring and learned to solve problems as they arose. Within a year, the student makeup of the class had expanded to include advanced math, science, physics and engineering students. Also, there were many more female students.

The curriculum has evolved over the past ten years, and now is structured around what Grosinger calls the Four Cornerstones of Engineering: Electrical, Fabrication, Design, and Mechanical.

Photo of chalk board containing electrical engineering drawings.

The department has expanded to four teachers, the school added an after-school automotive program, and several of Grosinger’s students have gone on to work in the automotive field. “Teachers should encourage students to explore new and more efficient ways to move a person from point A to point B, whether that system is a train with solar panels on it, a car with an electric motor in it or retrofitting an existing technology with a different energy source,” says Grosinger. “And don’t come up with the solutions for the students.”

For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Porsche Introduces Fully Electric Taycan; Sets New Standard for Driving and Charging Performance

“This day marks the start of a new era.”

With those words Oliver Blume, the Chairman of Porsche, today unveiled the eagerly awaited Taycan, a “100% electric, 100% Porsche.” The Taycan Turbo S and the Taycan Turbo will be the first in a new series of vehicles that are part of a massive transformation taking place at the iconic automaker. By 2022, the company will have invested more than six billion euros in e-mobility. Despite this apparent paradigm shift, Porsche is by no means deviating from its esteemed heritage.

We promised a true Porsche for the age of electromobility – a fascinating sports car that not only excites in terms of its technology and driving dynamics, but also sparks a passion in people all over the world, just like its legendary predecessors have done. Now we are delivering on this promise.

Michael Steiner, Porsche’s Executive Board Member for Research & Development

Performance

Photo of Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Photography: Christoph Bauer Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com

The flagship Turbo S version of the Taycan can produce up to 560 kW (750 hp) of overboost power with “Launch Control” enabled, while the Taycan Turbo produces up to 500 kW of power (670 hp).

Acceleration for the Turbo S is zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, while the Taycan Turbo completes this sprint in 3.1 seconds. The top speed of both all-wheel-drive models is 162 miles per hour.

Range is superior as well: The Turbo S has a range of up to 256 miles, and the Turbo a range of up to 280 miles. The Performance Battery Plus is capable of storing 93.4 kWh of energy.

Charging

The Taycan is the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts for electric vehicles. Higher voltage allows for lighter wiring; lighter wiring permits design flexibility, results in lighter vehicle weight, and enables higher charging speeds. This last point is a particular advantage when needing to charge up during long distance drives. The 800V system is capable of charging at a rate of up to 270 kW, which can provide 60 miles of range in about five minutes.

Charging an EV is similar to filling a container of water; the emptier it is, the faster you can fill it. This means that a charger will output the maximum amount of energy for the longest period of time when the battery is nearly depleted. When the battery is nearly full, on the other hand, a charger will dispense energy more slowly.

To take full advantage of the Taycan’s charging capabilities, then, a driver would strive to begin charging at a low state of charge (SOC). The charging time for 5 percent to 80 percent SOC with a maximum charge rate of 270 kW under ideal conditions is a mere 22.5 minutes. By comparison, a 50 kW charger would take about an hour and a half.

Image of 2020 Porsche Taycan charging port

The Taycan will come with the CCS DC Fast Charger port. This is not compatible with Tesla or CHAdeMO chargers, but most charging station developers other than Tesla, such as EVgo and Electrify America (a related company under the Volkswagen corporate umbrella), are deploying chargers capable of 150 kW and 350 kW.

At the moment, most DC fast chargers in the U.S. (other than Tesla) are only 50 kW, but the Taycan is backward-compatible, meaning it can use the legacy CCS chargers but will be able to draw only the amount of power the chargers are capable of dispensing.

For home charging, the Taycan can fill up at a rate of 30 miles per hour (for the Turbo S) and 33 miles per hour for the Turbo (which gets slightly better mileage than the Turbo S) using an 11 kW Level 2 charger on a 60 Amp breaker. Charging at that rate from 0% to 100% would take a little less than 8.5 hours.

Design

According to Michael Mauer, Head of Style Porsche, the company at first considered an SUV as its first fully electric vehicle, but ultimately decided that taking the first step with a sports car would make a clear statement “that this is the dawn of the new, purely electric era.”

Electric vehicles are typically higher than their gasoline counterparts due to battery placement, so sports car engineers must find a way to store the batteries while providing a comfortable seating position for passengers while maintaining the lowest possible center of gravity. Porsche’s solution is what Maurer refers to as his greatest challenge is “foot garages,” which are created by arranging the batteries in a staggered stair-step position.

Graphic showing chassis and electrical system of Porsche 2020 Taycan

Dispensing with a large internal combustion engine under the hood also allowed engineers to employ a look reminiscent of the iconic 911.

Photo of Porsche Taycan
Photography: Christoph Bauer Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com
Photo of Porsche Taycan
Photography: Christoph Bauer Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com

For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

BMW Prepares for Electrified Future and Increased Electric Ranges With $10M Battery Investment

Battery being installed in BMW X5 xDrive45e at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg.

Readying itself for a slew of electrified vehicles, BMW Group announced this week an investment of approximately $10 million to double battery manufacturing capacity at the company’s factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Spartanburg produces the company’s fourth-generation batteries, which provide improved energy density over prior generations. Maximizing energy density is beneficial because higher density provides more electric range in the same size battery.

For example, the battery in the 2019 plug-in hybrid model of the BMW 5 Series sedan is the same physical size as the prior version, but has a gross energy content of 12.0 kWh, up from 9.2 kWh. The benefit is 30 percent more electric miles while taking up no additional space in the vehicle.

Already a leader in vehicle electrification, up next for the U.S. market is the BMW X5 xDrive45e plug-in (up to 50 miles on electric power), which is expected to start production next month and is pictured above. The X3 xDrive30e plug-in (about 30 all-electric miles) is expected by the end of 2019, with a purely electric version due in 2020.

BMW plans to have 25 electrified models on the market by 2023; more than half will be fully electric.

For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

What Happens When Cities Ignore Electric Vehicles

Photo of electric vehicle charging curbside over sidewalk and through window.

Electric vehicles need places to charge, including on-street parking when garages are not available. In the absence of solutions, drivers who are dedicated to e-mobility are taking things into their own hands.

The Mitsubishi Outlander pictured below is a plug-in hybrid, meaning plugging in is optional; but to forgo plugging in would mean relying on gasoline instead of electricity. This rather drastic charging arrangement shows the lengths to which drivers will go to maximize their vehicles’ electric capabilities.

The result of such efforts is effective for the driver in the short-term but not for passers-by, and is hardly scalable. This problem of no on-street charging must be solved.

Contact me to discuss how to bring on-street charging and cleaner air to your community.

Electric Vehicles: Something for Everyone!

With more than 100 electrified models scheduled to hit showroom floors soon, you will have plenty of options from which to choose. What’s stopping you?

  • Dollars: EVs have a considerably lower total cost of ownership; electricity is equivalent to $1/gallon gasoline, and you will never have another oil change.
  • Charging: Chargers are turning up at more and more retail, workplace, multifamily, and other convenient public locations, as well as between cities for longer journeys.
  • Range: Most new fully electric vehicles can drive 250 miles or more on a single charge, and charging speeds are increasing.

And what about plain old fun? Watch the video above from Audi, and then contact me to learn about how transportation electrification can transform your community.

All-Electric Nissan Leaf Hits 400,000 Units Globally, Sets EV Sales Record

Illustration of Nissan Leaf EV hitting 400,000 in sales.

The Nissan Leaf today became the first electric car in history to surpass 400,000 worldwide sales. Introduced in 2010 as the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, the Leaf has now covered more than 6 billion miles, saving nearly 4 million gallons of oil per year. And this is just the beginning: Available in 50 markets globally, the Leaf is expanding to six new markets in Latin America and seven in Asia and Oceania this year.

“This milestone is a powerful statement that 400,000 customers, and counting, value the Nissan LEAF for the excitement, confidence and connection it delivers,” said Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s global head of marketing, sales and electric vehicles.

The all-new Leaf e+, with a range of 226 miles and MSRP of $36,550 (base trim & before applicable rebates), will be on sale at retailers nationwide this month.

Less than a decade ago, electric cars were seen as a niche product, and Leaf customers were mostly “early adopters.” Today, a growing number of consumers say their next car may be electric. And regulators, utilities, landlords, retailers are listening, as evidenced by EV charging stations popping up everywhere.

For tips on how EVs and EV charging can help your community, neighborhood, and place of business, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Electrified Jeeps To Follow Major U.S. Plant Investment

FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the parent company of Jeep, is bringing electric vehicle manufacturing capabilities to the off-road icon as part of $4.5 billion investment in U.S. plants.

“Today’s announcement . . . allows Jeep to enter two white space segments that offer significant margin opportunities and will enable new electrified Jeep products, including at least four plug-in hybrid vehicles and the flexibility to produce fully battery-electric vehicles” said FCA CEO Mike Manley.

The term “white space” refers to future but not yet defined “must-have” vehicles, and electric certainly appears to be what Jeep has in mind.

As for specifics, three manufacturing sites (Mack Avenue, Jefferson North, and Warren Truck) will all be capable of producing plug-in hybrid versions of their respective models following the upcoming investment, and they will each have the flexibility to build fully electric models in the future.

The accompanying video highlights some vehicles in Jeep’s pipeline; no electrics quite yet, but stay tuned.

Is your community and company ready for the coming wave of EVs?

Contact me to find out what you can do.

Electric Vehicles Continue Expansion Across America As Capabilities and Benefits Increase

Direct Current Fast Chargers in North America (Feb. 2019)

For the past few years the electric vehicle industry has focused on California. Now, though, states across America are enjoying the benefits of transportation electrification. Here is a partial list of recent developments ranging from early-stage regulatory/legislative initiatives all the way to actual investment:

  • New York: Recent approval of funding for corridor DC fast charging state-wide.
  • Maryland: Recent approval of ~$40 million utility-led investment in EV charging infrastructure.
  • New Jersey: Request by state’s largest utility to invest $364 million in EV charging infrastructure.
  • Massachusetts: Proposal by National Grid to substantially expand investment in EV charging infrastructure.
  • Iowa: Recent holding by state regulators that EV charging service providers are not necessarily regulated utilities (consistent with findings elsewhere but not resolved universally).
  • Washington: Proposed legislation to require state-owned vehicles to be electric.
  • Georgia: $63 million investment in electric buses (using funds from Volkswagen diesel settlement).
  • Minnesota: Adopted goal of increasing number of EVs from 6,000 today to 200,000 by 2030.

These and other initiatives provide a host of societal benefits, ranging from saving consumers money due to lower total cost of ownership for EVs to reduced healthcare costs and better quality of life (especially for children) from reduced tailpipe pollution. Speaking on the subject of advances in the Midwest, Rolf Nordstrom, president and CEO of the Great Plains Institute, commented that:

This vision for electric vehicles offers . . . the chance to quite literally pave the way for a technological revolution in mobility as transformative as the switch from horses to cars. Collaborative public-private efforts . . . are essential to fully realizing the many benefits that electrifying our transportation system will have on the health of residents, the total costs of driving, and the economy.

EVs Ready For Mass Market

Demand for electric vehicles is increasing because customers like the performance and technology associated with EVs as well as the lower total cost of ownership. Upfront price and driving range have been obstacles in the past, but battery costs are falling and energy storage capacity is increasing. Moreover, regulatory imperatives are pushing auto manufacturers to develop EVs that customers find desirable and affordable. The result is that at least 100 electrified models are expected to hit the U.S. market by 2022. And in sharp contrast to just a few years ago when real-world range was around 100 miles, fully electric EVs now provide ranges exceeding 225 miles and plug-in hybrids often satisfy most consumers’ daily needs solely with electricity.

Graph of increasing electric vehicle driving range.
Image courtesy www.cleantechnica.com.

Urban and suburban use will surely continue to grow as scores of plug-in vehicles enter the market. But with longer ranges and increased capabilities, electrified vehicles (including plug-in hybrid as well as fully-electric) actually offer far greater benefits to rural drivers who tend pile on the miles. (The benefits being that electricity is generally equivalent to $1/gallon gasoline, and maintenance for fully electric vehicles is practically non-existent.)

A recent report by Dan Gatti of the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the average rural driver will save $870 per year by choosing an electric vehicle over a conventional sedan. From an air pollution perspective, that driver will also cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3 metric tons per year (almost twice the average emissions reduction from an EV in most urban counties).

Recognizing that more than 2/3 of all vehicles sold in America are trucks and SUVs, EV start-up Rivian is aiming squarely at this opportunity by bringing to market a fully electric pickup. The company gained substantial momentum with the recent $700 million equity investment round led by Amazon. The investment comes on the heels of Rivian’s reveal of the all-electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show last November.

Next Up: Commercial Electric Vehicles

On the commercial side, meanwhile, Chanje is developing a fully electric medium duty panel van designed and built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of the last mile industry. The company recently announced that FedEx will be adding 1,000 Chanje vehicles to its fleet. Electric trucks appeal to all constituencies: Financially they are economical to operate; environmentally they hasten the transition away from diesel; optically they position the operator as an innovator and supporter of clean technology.

“FedEx continually seeks new ways to maximize operational efficiency, minimize impacts and find innovative solutions through the company’s Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize approach to sustainability,” said Mitch Jackson, FedEx Chief Sustainability Officer.  “Our investment in [electric] vehicles is part of our commitment to that approach of serving our customers and connecting the world responsibly and resourcefully.”

Chanje fully electric delivery vehicle.

Next Steps

For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, including tips on how you can help bring EVs and EV charging to your community, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Volkswagen’s All-Electric Dune Buggy Illustrates Flexibility, Efficiency, of “MEB” Global Electric Vehicle Powertrain

Given the high cost and complexity of developing new vehicles, mass market automakers tend to stick to models with broad appeal while shying away from particularly distinctive or offbeat designs. But Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB), the central element in the company’s electric vehicle future, will help Volkswagen deliver a wide array of vehicles customized for particular regions and purposes, in addition to offering global efficiencies for all models by using a single cost-effective platform.

To illustrate this efficiency and flexibility, and show that the MEB platform can be used for more than just large-scale series production models, Volkswagen at next month’s International Geneva Motor Show will unveil an MEB-based fully electric dune buggy.

Image of Volkswagen electric I.D. Buggy concept

Why did Volkswagen choose a dune buggy? Says Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer at Volkswagen, “A buggy is more than a car. It is vibrancy and energy on four wheels. These attributes are embodied by the new e-buggy, which demonstrates how a modern, non-retro interpretation of a classic can look and, more than anything else, the emotional bond that electric mobility can create.”

MEB: The Heart of Volkswagen’s Electric Vehicle Strategy

According to a recent report in Automotive News, Volkswagen’s electrification seeds were planted at a crisis meeting arising out of the company’s emissions cheating scandal. Held in Wolfsburg on October 10, 2015, then-VW brand chief Herbert Diess convened nine top managers on a Saturday to discuss the way forward in the aftermath of the scandal that cost the company more than €27 billion in fines.

“It was an intense discussion, so was the realization that this could be an opportunity, if we jump far enough,” said Juergen Stackmann, VW brand’s board member for sales. “It was an initial planning session to do more than just play with the idea of electric cars,” he told Reuters. “We asked ourselves ‘What is our vision for the future of the brand? Everything that you see today is connected to this.'”

Just three days after the emergency meeting of the VW brand’s management board, Volkswagen announced plans to develop an electric vehicle platform, codenamed MEB, paving the way for mass production of an affordable electric car.

Fast-forward a few years, and the MEB is firmly positioned to make the manufacture of electric vehicles more efficient — i.e., less expensive — in the long term. The MEB will allow Volkswagen to produce electric vehicles with a more systematic focus and to cater to increasing demand for electric vehicles. The MEB also ensures vehicles using the platform are optimally equipped for EV-specific requirements by taking into account what axles, drive units, wheelbases, and weight ratios need to look like. It also considers the best design and position for the batteries.

Image of Volkswagen MEB Platform

The Plan: Transform 2025+

Streamlining vehicle architecture is key to the electrification aspect of Volkswagen’s Transform 2025+ plan. A big part of Transform 2025+ is an electric offensive aimed at making the company a global market leader and be the world’s first manufacturer to sell more than 1 million pure electric vehicles.

To that end, Volkswagen is investing €30 billion in electrification (in addition to tens of millions of euros in battery technology) and plans to have about 20 fully electric vehicles by 2025 with annual production of 3 million units. The company anticipates sales of 100,000 units during the first full production year, in part by deploying MEB at eight sites on three continents by 2022.

Map showing Volkswagen's MEB Deployment Sites

Volkswagen is currently converting its Zwickau plant to be run as an e-mobility site, and the company announced that Emden and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover will switch to the production of electric vehicles in 2022. Collectively, these three sites will become Europe’s largest e-production network. Two EV plants are also taking shape in Anting and Foshan in China, with MEB scheduled for 2020. For North America, VW announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it will invest $800 million to construct a second assembly plant dedicated to EVs in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Image of Volkswagen ID. Crozz concept vehicle
Volkswagen ID. CROZZ concept, expected to enter production in Zwickau in 2020

Conclusion

For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, including tips on what you can do to make your property and community EV-friendly, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Electric Vehicle Advertising Ready for Prime Time; Your Brand Can Benefit Too

Super Bowl ads cost upwards of $5 million for 30 seconds, so brands are deliberate in featuring products and services most likely to bring growth, profit, and success.

As evidence that electric vehicles are ready for prime time, Audi this Sunday will air a 60-second commercial during the big game’s second quarter called “Cashew” that highlights Audi’s electrification strategy by offering a glimpse of the fully electric e-tron GT concept car.

Making a cameo appearance in Cashew is the e-tron SUV, the first of three all-electric models Audi plans to introduce in the U.S. (expected to arrive this spring). The other two models are expected to be the Audi e-tron Sportback (debuting in 2019) and the Audi e-tron GT (debuting in 2020). Audi anticipates offering more than 20 fully electric and plug-in hybrid models globally by 2025.

While this ad is from an automaker, every company can benefit from association with electric vehicles. Let’s talk about how I can deliver your brand a lift in consideration, purchase intent, and perception through association with electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging.