Audi Unveils All-Electric e-tron SUV and Innovative Charging Experience

Introducing the e-tron

Photo of the world premiere of the Audi e-tron electric vehicle.Audi this week joined the expanding electric vehicle market in a big way, unveiling the all-electric e-tron SUV. The 5-seater e-tron comes equipped with a 95 kWh battery, is expected to provide approximately 300 miles of range on a single charge, and will be built in a carbon-neutral facility in Brussels. With a top speed of 124 mph and 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, the e-tron will be a force to be reckoned with.

Extreme Fast Charging

A big distinction for the e-tron is that it can charge at a rate of 150 kW using a CCS DC fast charger. This is faster than the 120 kW that Tesla peaks at today, and three times faster than the 50 kW maximum rate of charge for most other fully electric vehicles on the road today. Assuming an average of 3.25 miles of driving per kWh of energy, the e-tron can receive an 80% charge in 30 minutes. (A charger providing 150 kW of energy for 60 minutes will deliver 150 kWh; in 30 minutes the charger will deliver half that, or 75 kWh; 75 kWh x 3.25 miles per kWh = 243 miles in 30 minutes.)

Although very few CCS chargers are today capable of providing power at 150 kW, this will be changing as Electrify America invests $2 billion to create a nationwide network of highway and community ultra-fast DC fast chargers. In addition to Electrify America, a wide range of companies from established electric utilities to start-up entrepreneurs are racing to deploy infrastructure across the country.

New Generation Quattro Drive

The e-tron’s electric drivetrain’s inherent instant torque and high speeds are well suited to Audi’s legacy of quattro drive, and indeed electric drive brings quattro to a new level. The quattro all-wheel drive system, which is standard on the e-tron, enables the vehicle to achieve optimum traction in a variety of weather conditions and on challenging road surfaces.

Innovative Braking Increases Vehicle Range

Audi engineers estimate that, on average, the e-tron’s regenerative braking system will contribute as much as 30 percent of the vehicle’s range depending on the conditions, terrain and driving style. The e-tron recovers energy in two ways: by means of coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator, or from the driver actively pressing the brake pedal. When set to the most aggressive mode, regenerative braking will displace manual braking in up to as many as 9 out of 10 situations and enable the driver to control the vehicle solely with the accelerator.

Placemaking

Audi’s future EV charging station is the epitome of placemaking, a retail strategy of boosting foot traffic at a destination by making it compelling and creating reasons for shoppers to visit. Describing a temporary prototype charging station constructed this month in San Francisco (shown below), Loren Angelo, VP of Marketing at Audi of America, explained, “The heart of the experience is a modern take on what a charging station could look like in the near future – a place where drivers of electric vehicles can refuel themselves while their vehicle recharges.”

Photo of Audi's experiential electric vehicle charging station.The company perhaps is envisioning a future where Audi infrastructure complements the Audi brand experientially, rather than today’s model of installing chargers in parking lots of other retailers. Audi need not look far for inspiration for retail innovation; just a few miles from its U.S. headquarters in Fairfax County, Virginia, is finance giant Capital One, which is reinventing neighborhood banking with its modern and vibrant Capital One Cafes (themselves often located within a block of Apple or Tesla stores).

Photo of Capital One Cafe.Capital One’s innovative placemaking experiences, which will never be confused with a traditional bank branch, leverage the time customers may spend charging by offering them value in the form of food and drink, as well as a relaxing environment to spend a few minutes and unwind, do some work, or socialize.

Pricing and Delivery

The e-tron will be priced from $74,800 and is expected to be available in America during the second quarter of 2019. Audi is producing 999 limited “First Edition” models for the U.S. market. These first editions will be priced at $86,700, and will include features such as 21-inch bi-color black wheels and orange brake calipers to complement the e-tron nameplate lettering near the charging port; the interior will feature black leather with gray contrast stitching as well as natural wood inlays. Reservations require fully refundable $1000 deposits and are now being accepted. The e-tron is the first of more than 20 models Audi plans to introduce by 2025; some will be plug-in hybrids, and half will be fully electric.

For More Information

For more information about the e-tron and electric vehicle charging, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Audi’s 300+ Mile All-Electric e-tron SUV With Supercharging Coming Soon

Photo of Veiled Audi e-tronRipping a page from Tesla’s playbook, Audi this week announced that, starting this fall, customers will be able to place refundable $1,000 deposits for the company’s brand new, and first all-electric, 5-passenger SUV: the e-tron.

Until the new vehicle makes its global debut in San Francisco on September 17, though, customers will have to wait for details. In the meantime, Audi of America president Scott Keogh is setting expectations high, saying “We’re introducing a premium, customer-centric vehicle in a premium, customer-centric way.”

The e-tron is expected to be delivered to showrooms in the first part of 2019. With nearly 30 percent of its customers in the U.S. anticipated to go electric by 2025, the e-tron will be the first of three battery-electric vehicles that Audi plans to debut by 2020.Photo of Audi e-tron prototype.The all wheel drive e-tron is expected to carry a 95 kWh battery; assuming 3.5 miles per kWh, drivers should reasonably expect well more than 300 miles of range on a single charge.

And when drivers do need to charge away from home, the e-tron will fill up at a rate of up to 150 kW using CCS-format DC fast chargers. This translates into an 80% charge, or more than 250 miles, (from empty) in about 30 minutes.

What does it mean to charge at 150 kW? A kW is a measure of energy used in a given instant, while a kWh is a quantity of electricity consumed or stored. Using a car analogy, you can think of kW as your speed, and kWh as your distance traveled. And for a sense of magnitude, a typical LED bulb consumes less than 10 watts, while 150 kW is 150,000 watts.

Filling at a rate of 150 kW means that the e-tron can take on 150 kWh per hour, assuming maximum flow. (DC fast chargers do slow when the battery’s state of charge exceeds 80%, so automakers try to achieve 80% as quickly as possible; a typical metric is 30 minutes.) To charge a battery that can store 95 kWh to 80% from empty, the charger must deliver 76 kWh (80% of 95 kWh). Doing so in 30 minutes requires an hourly rate of 152 kW (76 kWh per half hour and 152 kWh per hour).

Other than Tesla’s proprietary network, nearly every DC fast charger in America today tops out at 50 kW, though Electrify America’s intercity corridor network will be built with 150 kW chargers. As vehicle capacities increase, today’s stock of DC fast chargers will have to be replaced with more powerful units. Fortunately, much of the cost of installing DC fast chargers is the initial construction; upgrade costs are certainly not insignificant, but these should be greatly reduced if the original construction contemplated eventual improvements.

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

GM’s Electric Lineup Grows With Buick Enspire Concept, Velite 6 PHEV and EV

Photo of Buick Enspire all-electric concept SUV.General Motors continues to expand its lineup of electrified vehicles, introducing at this year’s Beijing auto show a fully electric SUV concept from Buick called Enspire (above) and a plug-in hybrid electric version of the Buick Velite 6. The company reports that a fully electric Velite 6 will be introduced at a later date.

While there are no announced plans to bring either the Velite PHEV or EV to the U.S., GM is clearly ready to meet increased demand when in develops. The Velite and Enspire are part of GM’s commitment to roll out at least 20 new all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles globally by 2023. Following GM’s announcement last fall of its zero emission future, GM’s Mark Reuss, executive vice president of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain, said:

General Motors believes the future is all-electric. A world free of automotive emissions. These aren’t just words in a war of press releases. We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.

China, the location of the Velite and Enspire introductions, is clearly a ripe market for GM’s electric ambitions. EV sales in China last year jumped 53 percent, to a total of more than 750,000 units, or 2.7 percent of total vehicle sales. Here in the U.S., by comparison, sales totaled not even 200,000, or about 1.2 percent of the market (with California accounting for fully half of all sales). That said, sales are expected to increase dramatically in other parts of the country, particularly the so-called “Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate” states, where more than 3 million zero emission vehicles will have to be sold by 2025 for automakers to avoid significant penalties for non-compliance. ZEV Mandate states include Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Enspire SUV Concept

Buick’s Enspire SUV concept is sure to attract a lot of attention as the market for electric vehicles expands beyond the sedan market. Able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds, the fully electric Enspire will be able to travel up to 370 miles on a single charge and be recharged to 80 percent within 40 minutes.

Buick Enspire EV SUV Concept.

With regard to the interior, a “surround skyline” theme and suspended theater-type seating give the Enspire a bright and spacious interior.

Buick Enspire all-electric concept SUV seats.Simple yet elegant colors and exquisite craftsmanship combine with ambient lighting to wrap users in a premium environment. The center console and armrests feature natural wood grain and microfiber suede. The Enspire has an array of cutting-edge connectivity technologies that include an OLED display screen and an intelligent augmented reality technology-based head-up display system. It also adopts the 5G super-high-speed network concept.

Velite 6 PHEV and EV

The Velite 6 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle’s propulsion system is composed of an electronically controlled variable transmission, two AC permanent-magnet synchronous motors with a high-performance lithium-ion battery, and a 1.5L naturally aspirated engine especially tuned for hybrid vehicles.

Photo of Buick Velite 6 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.To enhance the battery’s life cycle and provide stable performance, GM is using a new-generation modular high-performance ternary lithium-ion battery pack whose liquid cooling heat management technology provides independent and uniform temperature control. The batteries will be assembled at the new SAIC-GM Power Battery Development Center in Shanghai.

Image of Buick Velite battery.Technology

In addition to cutting-edge powertrain technology, the Velite 6 also enables drivers’ smartphones to serve as a virtual key to enter and start the vehicle. In a move that provides convenience not only among family and friends, but also car sharing more broadly, GM’s technology also lets vehicle owners use their phones to authorize others to use the vehicle through their phones. According to the company, additional functions and new features will continuously be added to improve the user experience.

Buick Velite 6 all-electric concept SUV center control screen display.For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

 

Jaguar Land Rover Cites Vehicle Electrification in Appointing New Executive

Photo of plug-in electric Land Rover.

Citing vehicle electrification, Jaguar Land Rover named Grant McPherson as Executive Director of Manufacturing and a member of the company’s Board of Management. McPherson will oversee more than 20,000 people and will report to Ralf Speth, the company’s CEO.

In addition to responsibility for the company’s UK and global manufacturing operations and logistics teams, McPherson will be responsible for “transforming [the company’s] plants to enable Jaguar Land Rover’s exciting electrified future.”

Starting in 2020, all new Jaguar Land Rovers will be electrified, which means a mix of fully electric, plug-in hybrid, and mild hybrid vehicles.

I invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts about Jaguar, and follow me on Twitter.

Bentley Encourages Drivers to Plug-In and Maximize Electric Benefits by Bringing Style to EV Charging

Photo of Bentley Bentayga Plug-In Hybrid with home charging station concept by Philipe Starck.

Teaming up with world-renowned artist Philippe Starck, Bentley has unveiled conceptual images of a home charging station for the Bentayga plug-in hybrid. Designed to keep charging cables neat and safe at home while blending sophistication with utility, the “Bentley by Starck Power Dock” is intended to encourage Bentayga Hybrid customers to ensure each journey begins with the maximum electric-only range by not missing an opportunity to plug in.

While not difficult, plugging in a vehicle is hardly what most people would consider stimulating or glamorous. And while drivers of fully-electric vehicles need no coaxing to plug in their vehicles, charging is optional for plug-in hybrids. But if customers forgo charging, they will be missing a great benefit of electrified transportation. Bentley and Starck recognize that making the task of charging enjoyable and rewarding will enhance the overall experience of driving an electric vehicle.

“As always with my designs I wanted the maximum of intelligence with the minimum of materiality. I wanted it to be a modern art piece: durable, real and avant-garde high tech. It was also important for me that the unit was as sustainable as possible,” explained Starck. In addition to Starck’s home charging station, Bentley equips each Bentayga with bespoke bags containing charging cords for use when away from home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Starck, who happens to be a Bentley customer, describes his connection with the vehicles not as about design or horsepower, but as “a mental and sentimental relationship.” It is just this sort of emotion that draws many customers to electric vehicles today. Extending this aura to charging will increase the likelihood that customers will take an extra few seconds to plug in their vehicles and maximize the opportunity to drive with zero tailpipe emissions.

Bentayga Highlights

The plug-in hybrid Bentayga, which will be available for ordering in select markets in the second half of 2018, will have an all-electric range of about 31 miles. Level 2 charging will take 2.5 hours (from fully empty), while charging on a household outlet will take about 7.5 hours.

To maximize fuel efficiency (whether electric or gasoline), the vehicle uses satellite navigation information to determine when and where to use the battery-powered electric motor versus the internal combustion engine. When the driver programs in the trip’s destination, the navigation system will dynamically calculate the most efficient route and use of gas and electricity, with the goal of maximizing electricity. For example, if the vehicle determines that the beginning of a journey will be on the highway but the end will be on local or urban roads (whose slower speeds and denser development are well-suited for electric drive), the computer will reserve battery energy for the end. In every case, the system is designed to maximize overall efficiency by reducing on-board charge to zero just as the vehicle reaches its destination.

 

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Cold Weather Testing for Electric Vehicles; Mercedes Benz and Jaguar Achieve Milestone

Photo of Mercedes-Benz EQC undergoing winter testing.
Copyright Daimler, used with permission.

Electric vehicles possess many advantages over their internal combustion engine counterparts, but extremely cold weather remains a challenge because it prevents batteries from performing at optimal levels. For this reason, demonstrating all-around performance under extreme winter conditions is an important milestone for new models. Jaguar and Mercedes recently announced the successful completion of cold-weather testing for, respectively, the I-Pace and EQC.

Cold Weather Testing

Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, along with many other OEMs and suppliers, test their vehicles (including EVs) in the northern Swedish town of Arjeplog (AR’-yuh-plog), home to more than 1,000 miles of track and where temperatures drop as low as -40°C. More than 3,000 engineers make the annual pilgrimage to the small town, more than doubling the permanent population.

New vehicles routinely undergo hundreds of tests; cold weather tests for anti-lock brakes and all-wheel drive (a popular feature in high-end EVs) include steep grades and slick surfaces such as Arjeplog’s many ice-covered lakes.

Tests that are specific to electric vehicles typically include motor and battery performance, vehicle range, and climate control. Battery charging is also assessed under extreme cold conditions; for this, the facilities at Arjeplog have been equipped with a full range of hardware ranging from household receptacles to high-powered DC fast charging.

The following chart, created by Shawn Salisbury of the Idaho National Laboratory, illustrates the energy consumption profile of a 2015 Nissan Leaf at various temperatures. The difference between cold starts (the first drive of a given day) and hot starts (any subsequent drive) is more pronounced at colder temperatures than at warmer temperatures. Cold starts at temperatures 30°F and below use as much as 100 DC Wh/mile more energy than their hot start counterparts. As ambient temperature rises, the differences between cold starts and hot starts are minimized. Around 70°F, it is difficult to determine any difference between cold and hot starts.

To mitigate the challenges that extreme temperatures have historically presented to EVs, vehicle manufacturers are making sizable investments and collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy and a wide range of suppliers to develop solutions. For example, because batteries do not hold a charge in the cold as well as they do in mild temperatures, electric vehicles typically possess integrated heating technology to warm the battery. But because battery heating itself uses energy that otherwise would be used for driving, alternative solutions are also being researched.

One tactic that EV drivers in cold climates can take is to park their vehicle in a climate-controlled garage; this is because an EV that is “soaked” in extreme cold (i.e., parked outdoors) prior to being driven in very cold weather will experience a diminished range as compared to the same vehicle driven the same distance but parked in a relatively warm garage prior to being driven.

Another challenge for EVs in cold weather is that generating heat for the passenger cabin requires using energy stored in the battery that would otherwise be used to propel the vehicle. Internal combustion engines do not face this situation because they produce large amounts of waste heat that can be used for comfort. EV drivers can mitigate the problem through measures such as heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and pre-heating (which entails activating the heater prior to beginning a trip and using energy from the grid rather than the battery).

Other techniques for maximizing range include:

  • Use the eco mode: Many EVs come with an “eco mode” or similar feature that maximizes the vehicle’s fuel economy. In some vehicles, this mode can be activated by simply pressing a button. The economy mode may limit other aspects of the vehicle’s performance, such as acceleration rate, to save fuel.
  • Plan ahead before driving: Pre-heating or pre-cooling the cabin of an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle while it is still plugged in can extend its electric range, especially in extreme weather.
  • Avoid hard braking and anticipate braking: This allows the vehicle’s regenerative braking system to recover energy from the vehicle’s forward motion and store it as electricity. Hard braking causes the vehicle to use its conventional friction brakes, which do not recover energy.
  • Observe the speed limit: Efficiency usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

Update on the new Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC

Photo and video of Jaguar I-Pace undergoing winter testing.
CLICK IMAGE FOR VIDEO. Copyright Jaguar Land Rover, used with permission.

The Jaguar I-Pace, which went on sale last week, is equipped with a 90kWh lithium-ion battery that delivers an estimated 240 mile all-electric range. The vehicle is capable of being charged from zero to 80 percent in about 40 minutes using a 100kW charger, which is nearly as fast as Tesla’s 120kW superchargers and twice as fast as non-Tesla DC fast chargers deployed in the United States. Ian Hoban, Jaguar’s Vehicle Line Director, said of the I-Pace:

Not only will the I-Pace charge quickly enough for our customers to carry out their everyday lives, it will offer powerful and precise performance in a variety of conditions and climactic extremes. Allied with the versatile credentials of our celebrated Pace family, this will be an electric performance SUV like no other.

Mercedes has not yet released final specifications for the EQC, but the company previously reported that the vehicle will have an estimated 300 mile range. Market launch for the EQC is expected to be in 2019, and the company’s entire lineup is slated to be electrified (either fully electric or mild-hybrid) by 2022.

The all-wheel drive EQC is based on Daimler’s EQ concept, which was introduced in late 2016. Commenting on the vehicle’s performance, Michael Kelz, the EQC’s chief engineer, said:

On the one hand, it’s dynamic and powerful; on the other hand, it’s a quiet glider. It’s a new and at first unusual combination, even for us developers. The pre-production EQC offers a very safe driving feel and is also so much fun that it leaves a permanent smile on its driver’s face.

Photo of Mercedes-Benz EQC.

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Audi Is Paying Drivers to Scrap Old Diesels, Buy New Cleaner Vehicles

Seeking to rid German roads of old, polluting diesel vehicles, Audi is paying a premium for trade-ins when the customer purchases an Audi that is compliant with today’s more stringent Euro 6 emissions standard. The size of the bonus payment, which ranges from about $3,600 to $12,000 based on the vehicle the customer purchases, is highest when paired with an plug-in electric e-tron or CNG-powered g-tron. The trade-in bonus is available until March 31.

Audi’s payments are aimed at drivers of all diesel makes and models that are classified as meeting the more permissive Euro 1 through Euro 4 emissions standards. Audi is scrapping the trade-ins regardless of residual value.

Asked why Audi is offering such a generous incentive, a spokesperson for the company said:

Audi wants to make a contribution to improving air quality in our cities. As an automaker, we are living up to our promise to provide financial support for environmentally compatible mobility. We intend to offer our customers convincing incentives to choose modern, low-emission vehicles of the latest generation.

Germany is a logical market in which to run this program because diesels constitute more than half of all new cars sold in Europe in recent years. In the U.S., meanwhile, the diesel market share is less than one percent.

 

Euro Emissions Standards

As indicated by the numbered Euro standards, European regulation of vehicle emissions has evolved over time to reduce threats to environmental and human health. Tailpipe emissions include carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), as well as greenhouse gases (GHG). Each emission causes different impacts – hydrocarbons and NOx, for example, contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, CO2 contributes to climate change, and other air toxics and pollutants impose a range of harmful effects. The following table illustrates each generation of European emission standards for passenger vehicles.

Table showing EU emission standards for passenger cars (g/km).
EU emission standards for passenger vehicles (g/km)

Audi’s trade-in program specifically targets NOx, a diesel emission, as opposed to other emissions such as greenhouse gases. Technologies that enable diesel vehicles to meet the new standard include exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), the lean NOx trap (LNT), selective catalytic reduction (SCR), diesel particular filter (DPF). Despite movement in the right direction, advances remain achievable through better technical implementation as well as testing that is stricter and more consistent across each country’s regulators. Another major criticism of the European model to date has been that testing conditions are unrealistic and do not reflect real world driving conditions.

Much of the attention being paid today to diesels arises from the enforcement actions brought against Audi-parent Volkswagen for using defeat-devices to circumvent diesel emissions tests in the U.S. Whether or not there is a direct connection between that violation and Audi’s trade-in program in Germany, in the U.S. Volkswagen is committed to spending $2 billion over the next ten years on zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and awareness. Audi, for its part, has announced plans to deploy more than 20 electrified models before 2025. Production of the first two mass-produced models, the e-tron EV in 2018 (shown at top) and the e-tron Sportback in 2019 (shown below), will be in Brussels.

Photo of the Audi e-tron Sportback concept world premiere, Shanghai 2017.
Audi e-tron Sportback concept world premiere, Shanghai 2017.

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as the many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Automakers Partner With European Gas Stations On Electric Vehicle Charging; Will This Model Reach America?

Photo of Ionity electric vehicle fast charger.With the goal of making drivers comfortable purchasing fully-electric vehicles without worrying about running out of fuel, a consortium of global automakers is poised to install hundreds of high speed electric vehicle (EV) chargers across Europe by 2020. Earlier this month, BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche announced the formation of a joint venture called Ionity that will develop a network of approximately 400 separate locations with an average of six chargers per location.

Ionity stations will serve vehicles equipped with the Combined Charging System (CCS or Combo Coupler), which support the sponsoring companies and General Motors but exclude Japanese & Korean automakers such as Nissan, Kia, and Mitsubishi (which use the CHAdeMO plug) and Tesla (which uses a proprietary plug and can use CHAdeMO chargers with an adapter). There is no adapter between high speed CCS and CHAdeMO or Tesla.

Ionity’s Strategic Partners

This week, Ionity announced partnerships with European gas station operators Shell, OMV, Tank & Rast, and Circle K, under which more than 200 locations will be constructed across eighteen countries. Ionity’s partnership is clearly mutually beneficial because automakers need to quickly deploy hundreds of fast chargers at convenient locations and gas station operators need to hedge their bets as sales of fully electric vehicles ramp up and the demand for gasoline falls. “By installing fast charging stations … we are taking the next step and gearing our service to the future needs of our customers,” says Jörg Hofmeister, Head of Electromobility at Tank & Rast.

An Evolving Business Model

The term “gas station” is increasingly becoming a misnomer as facilities shed vehicle repair services and grow to incorporate retail such as merchandise and fresh-made food along with seating and the kind of restroom that is acceptable even to discerning customers. By offering EV charging, which takes longer than filling up a gas tank, companies are positioning themselves to leverage their retail offerings, which also happen to deliver far higher gross margins than gasoline.

Certain companies in the U.S., such as Wawa and Sheetz, already include relatively extensive food and merchandise, while others are heavily investing in upgrades; Speedway, for example, is investing $380 million to build new stores and remodel/rebuild existing locations. Adding electric vehicle charging is a relatively modest expenditure, especially when the alternative is to lose customers entirely.

Infrastructure 2.0

In the U.S., the first wave of fast-charging infrastructure has been installed at retail locations such as shopping centers. With electric vehicle sales increasing, there will be a need for more chargers and more powerful chargers. Whether the next wave of chargers will be installed in similar locations, or whether the Ionity model will be expanded to the U.S., remains an open question.

Meanwhile, in addition to the inter-city use case targeted by Ionity, there are significant opportunities for charging within urban locations, at workplaces and multifamily housing, and for fleets.

Next Steps

To discuss the factors that go into the strategies discussed above, as well as the many other opportunities that exist, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

With Dramatic Electric Concept, Mitsubishi Primed for EV Comeback

Photo of Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept.Mitsubishi this week unveiled the e-Evolution concept all-electric high performance SUV. The e-Evolution prototype, which Mitsubishi describes as demonstrating the company’s new direction in sport utility vehicles, electric vehicles, and connected mobility, is a big step forward for an automaker that was early to the electric vehicle space but has recently fallen a step behind.

Photo of 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi photos courtesy Mitsubishi Motors Corp.)

Mitsubishi earned plaudits for the 2009 launch of the all-electric i-MiEV, which is considered the world’s first modern-day highway-capable mass production electric vehicle. In the U.S., though, the subcompact never enjoyed significant sales or garnered much love. Burdened with a cramped interior, modest exterior, and range of only 62 miles, American sales have been downright abysmal.

With the electric vehicle market today growing by leaps and bounds, many industry-watchers have been wondering when the EV pioneer would get back in the game. Although Mitsubishi’s e-Evolution remains a concept prototype, all indications are that the company is on the right track.

Taking a page from Tesla’s playbook, Mitsubishi emphasizes styling and performance capabilities. For example, leveraging the design freedom afforded to vehicles without space-consuming internal combustion engines and the accompanying mechanical systems, the e-Evolution sports a vast digital dashboard, sharply slanted front windshield, short overhangs, and high ground clearance.

Photo of Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept.With regard to handling and performance, Mitsubishi’s concept vehicle provides 4-wheel drive via three electric motors, one for each rear wheel and a shared motor for the front wheels. The triple-motor system uses advanced sensors and other technology to provide superior cornering and traction performance in a system called Super All-Wheel Control.

As reported in Automotive News, Mitsubishi’s general manager for product strategy Vincent Cobee said:

[The e-Volution] is just trying to tickle your intellect and say “an EV is not an apology car, it’s the future of transportation.” This is one example to provoke folks but it is also clearly a symbol of where we want to go from a product development point of view.

Specifications such as range and battery size are not yet available, but based on the competition Mitsubishi will likely target at least 300 miles of range with a battery no smaller than 85 kWh. As for the type of plug Mitsubishi will use for fast charging, based on the company’s experience with the CHAdeMO direct current technology in the i-MiEV it’s a safe bet that plug will appear on the production vehicle along with the industry-standard J1772 Level 2 plug.

Photo of Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV at an EVgo Freedom Station.
Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV at an EVgo Freedom Station. © 2017 Michael Krauthamer

Further enhancing CHAdeMO’s chances is the fact that Mitsubishi is in the same corporate family as Nissan, whose 250,000+ Leafs use CHAdeMO. Finally, using CHAdeMO will enable Mitsubishi to leverage the nationwide network of DC fast chargers that Nissan has deployed at its dealerships and retail locations with EVgo to support Nissan’s No Charge To Charge program, under which Nissan customers get up to two years of free charging.

While the CHAdeMO chargers currently deployed in the U.S. supply up to 50 kW of power, the next generation of chargers is expected to deliver 150 kW, with the following generation after that expected to supply 350 kW. This is important because the coming wave of EVs will have large batteries, necessitating faster fast charging than is generally available today. At 150 kW, a 300-mile range EV would be expected to charge from empty to 80 percent in about a half hour, though with such a long range the vast majority of charging for nearly all drivers will be Level 2 charging overnight or while at work.

I invite you to view my other posts and sign up to receive future posts via email. I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter, and to contact me via my homepage.

With Holistic Approach, Mazda To Introduce Electric Vehicles

Photo of Mazda Concept RX-Vision.Every automaker takes pride in their engines, but few match the passion and conviction shown by Mazda. Mazda has reason to believe it’s on the right track; in 2016, for the fourth year in a row, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the company, whose fleet-wide adjusted fuel economy performance is 29.6 miles per gallon, the most fuel-efficient auto manufacturer in America. Mazda achieved this distinction despite offering not a single all-electric or plug-in, and only one hybrid electric model. No surprise, then, that Mazda’s approach to electric vehicles has been relatively tepid.

Nonetheless, Mazda has announced that, starting in 2019, it will introduce electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies. And, by 2030, according to a recent report in the Japanese outlet Kyodo News, Mazda anticipates that all of its models will use electric motors; this does not mean that every vehicle will be fully electric, but each will have an element of electrification. This follows on the heels of similar news from other major automakers, most notably Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, who are also transitioning to electrified powertrains.

What’s particularly interesting about Mazda’s news is that the company says it will be releasing electric powertrains “in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.” This principle is set forth in Mazda’s recently updated long-term vision dubbed “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.”

Mazda's Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 graphicBy limiting deployment of electrified vehicles to regions meeting these specific characteristics, is Mazda adopting the “compliance car” mentality under which EVs are sold only to avoid penalties, or is Mazda looking to examine various regulatory and environmental market attributes and determine which of its vehicles will create the smallest environmental footprint by balancing tailpipe emissions against power plant emissions?

Mazda’s strategy includes:

  • “continu[ing] efforts to perfect the internal combustion engine” with innovations such as SKYACTIV-X, the company’s new engine technology that combines compression ignition and a supercharger to improve fuel economy; and
  • introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies starting in 2019.

The goal appears to be to deploy gasoline and diesel vehicles where emissions from tailpipes are lower than from power plants, and electrified vehicles where electricity generation is cleaner than tailpipe emissions.

Electricity Production

It is well known that the fuel used to generate electricity makes a big difference in the type and quantity of greenhouse gases produced per mile driven by an electric vehicle. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, electricity from American power plants fueled by natural gas instead of coal results in a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The following table (reproduced from the UCS’s 2015 study titled “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave; How Electric Cars Beat Gasoline Cars on Lifetime Global Warming Emissions) shows the benefits of each fuel type:

Table showing GHG reduction by electricity fuel type.Fuel mixes vary regionally, within regions, by time of day, and based on prevailing market conditions. In general, though, the overall fuel mix by region in the U.S. is as follows:

Map showing generating capacity by fuel type (2017).The good news is that, overall, electricity generation in the U.S. is increasingly powered by natural gas and other technologies that are cleaner than coal, with the trend toward clean energy clearly continuing. Because natural gas is largely displacing coal, the result will be reduced air emissions.

Graph showing U.S. electricity production by fuel type, 2011-2016.Regardless of the overall fuel mix, individual customers’ electricity is generally derived from a variety of fuel sources at any given time based on economic dispatch directed by regional grid operators.

Renewables

Drivers can ensure, in a sense, that their vehicle is charged with renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy credits, but this is a financial and not physical transaction.

Even without renewable energy credits, though, drivers who plug into the grid at night are likely to be fueling their vehicles with at least some wind power. This is because onshore wind is typically strongest at night. The following chart illustrates wind generation in PJM over three days earlier this month, with each of the peaks occurring during overnight hours:

Graph showing hourly wind generation in PJM.
Hourly Wind Generation in PJM (Sept. 15-17, 2017).

Solar power is having a comparable (though inverse) effect during daylight hours, as shown in the following “Duck Curve” graph from the California ISO (the state’s electrical grid operator), which illustrates demand for traditional electricity falling during the day and then quickly increasing at dusk; this energy supply coincides with EV drivers charging while at work:

Graph showing California ISO Duck Curve.

The amount of energy produced from wind and solar is growing as the price of installing these technologies continues to fall due to reduced costs and increased productivity.

Global Market

Compared to countries with less-stringent air quality regulations, both power plant and tailpipe emissions in the U.S. are relatively clean. For this reason, the Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded:

On average, [battery electric vehicles] representative of those sold today produce less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, even when the higher emissions associated with [battery electric vehicle] manufacturing are taken into consideration.

Globally, as the cost of batteries falls and vehicles’ electric ranges increase, driving electric will become more and more feasible. In countries with weak electrical grids, proliferating distributed energy resources such as solar, wind, and battery storage can serve to strengthen the grid, improve reliability, and bring cleaner air.

Conclusion

Whether fueled by electricity or gasoline/diesel, the transportation sector is a key factor in reducing greenhouse gasses. Because electric vehicles, when paired with the decarbonizing electricity sector, will bring so many benefits, every auto manufacturer offering EVs is to be applauded. Mazda’s plan is not only commendable, it is also highly thought-provoking because the company is taking a rational approach to its sales strategy with the purpose of not only doing well financially by responding to the clear market demand for electrified vehicles, but also doing good by strategically deploying vehicles where they will be most effective in helping the planet.

I invite you to view my other posts and sign up to receive future posts via email. I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter, and to contact me via my homepage.