Electric Truck Race Has Started
When it comes to electric trucks, Silicon Valley’s Tesla Semi has gotten the lion’s share of attention, but they aren’t the only one developing battery-powered heavy-duty haulers. Instead of long-haul semis, Mercedes-Benz parent, Daimler, is focusing on electric urban delivery vehicles.
This week, the automaker best known in the U.S. for its luxury cars and SUVs, introduced the eActros, the production version of the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck concept that first appeared in 2016. An initial test fleet of 10 trucks will be deployed with customers in Europe in a few weeks. Mercedes plans to begin full-scale production of the eActros in 2021.
Mercedes-Benz is putting electric heavy-duty trucks on the road
While Mercedes isn’t attempting to build an electric semi-truck like Tesla, the eActros shows that the company wants to scale up from small, local-delivery vehicles to larger models. The company plans to spend $3.2 billion on research and development for its truck division through 2019, focusing on developing electric mobility, connectivity and automated driving technology for commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, Mercedes will launch electric versions of its Vito and Sprinter vans and an electric bus over the next two years.
Electric Motors and Batteries
The structure for the eActros is provided by the frame of the standard Actros diesel truck. Both two- and three-axle versions with a gross weight rating of 18 to 25 metric tons (39,000-55,000 pounds) depending on the variant will be evaluated by customers.
The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. These three-phase asynchronous motors are liquid-cooled and operate with a nominal voltage of 400 volts. They generate an output of 170 horsepower (125 kilowatt-hours) each, with maximum torque of 358 pounds-feet of torque (485 Nm) each. The gearing ratios convert this into 8,113 pounds-feet (11 000 Nm) each, resulting in driving performance on a par with that of a diesel truck.
It has a claimed driving range of 125 miles (200 kilometers), provided by two lithium-ion batteries with an output of 240 kWh. The batteries are accommodated in 11 packs: three of these are located in the frame area, the other eight are to be found underneath.
The high-voltage batteries do not just supply energy to the drive system, but to the vehicle as a whole. Ancillary components such as the air compressor for the braking system, the power steering pump, the compressor for the cab air-conditioning system and, where relevant, the refrigerated body, are also all electrically powered.
A full recharge takes three to 11 hours, depending on the power of the charging station. Recharging of the prototype trucks will be provided by portable rechargers.
Two Years, 20 Test Customers
“We are now passing both two- and three-axle variants of our heavy-duty electric truck, the Mercedes-Benz eActros, into the hands of customers. Initially, the focus will be on inner-city goods transport and delivery services—the ranges required here are well within the scope of our Mercedes-Benz eActros,” said Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
The eActros battery pack can charge in 3-11 hours
The range of requirements means that the vehicles are fitted with a variety of bodies—refrigerated box bodies, tankers or tarpaulin sides are used. The drivers of the eActros are trained specially to work with the vehicle.
The first 10 pilot customers, including German supermarket chain Edeka and parcel delivery service Hermes, will be testing the vehicles in real-life operations for 12 months, after which the trucks will be going out to a second set of customers for a further 12 months.
A Poke At Tesla
Daimler cast doubt on Tesla’s plan to deliver electric heavy trucks next year, saying its more modest goal to start selling battery-powered big rigs by 2021 is more realistic, according to trade publication Automotive News.
As the largest global truckmaker, Daimler has the most to lose should Tesla succeed in producing a semi-truck with a 500-mile range for delivery starting in 2019.
“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks—one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” head of Daimler Trucks Martin Daum said. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and in California,” he added.
Who Will Win the Race?
Daimler and rivals including Tesla, Volkswagen’s MAN, Volvo AB and U.S. truck maker Kenworth and engine maker Cummins are all racing to bring electric trucks to market to cope with a push to shift from fossil fuels to greener vehicles and reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. At the moment, Daimler is at the front of the pack while Tesla can boast of 100s of orders for its future truck.
The eActros can be configured to haul up to 55,000 pounds
In October of last year, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, part of Daimler Trucks, launched its new Fuso eCanter in New York City, the world’s first series-produced all-electric medium-duty truck. First on the list to buy three eCanter trucks was the United Parcel Service (UPS).
A few days after the New York introduction, Fuso showed off a Class 8 electric truck at the Tokyo Motor Show. The E-Fuso Vision One concept, called a trailerless or “straight” truck with an enclosed cargo area, carries a payload of approximately 11 metric tons (24,000 pounds) with a driving range of 210 miles on a single charge.
So, while Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, talks (brags) about a big electric truck, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Fuso already have two being driven by customers and the eActros arriving in a few weeks.
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BMW Goes Electric on Two Wheels, Too
In the past few years, the auto industry has been busy moving to electric drive. Much of the attention has been on cars and even semi trucks, but the motorcycle world is being impacted as well. One prime example is BMW’s new model of scooter. Let’s see why the new BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter is a game changer.
BMW is moving to electrify on two wheels and four
The Emergence of BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter
The motorcycle industry has becoming more and more competitive over the years. New companies have emerged on the scene and old companies continue to make innovations. BMW, for one, made another creation–the BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter.
BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter: The Specifications
Let’s look at this motorcycle’s specifications and features to get a better idea of why it has become such a game changer in the industry.
Model: C Series
Engine: Electric Motor
Top Speed: 80 mph
Battery: Air-cooled high-voltage battery
Battery Voltage: 133 V (nominal)
Features of the New BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter
The C Evolution is available in Ionic Silver Metallic and Electric Green. The color scheme emphasizes the shape of the motorcycle. Additionally, the touch of light electric green with the complementary color of the ionic silver, creates an attractive guise.
The electric performance of the C Evolution is at the same level as that of a combustion engine. With its 19 kW continuous output, and 35 kW peak output, this motorcycle offers remarkable power.
The C Evolution uses the same plug as electric cars
The version of the C Evolution for the European market also provides about the same level of drive power, with an 11 kW continuous output.
The C Evolution’s European version has top speeds of 129 km/h (80 mph)in long range and 120 km/h (74.5 mph) in the average range. So make sure you have all your safety equipment along.
With its engine technology, the C Evolution can take motorway driving and overtaking with complete ease. It can even carry two people with the same level of affluence. Plus, it can handle just about any type of road – from a steep slope to narrow roads.
Compared to traditional combustion engines, the C Evolution’s electric drive offers significant driving advantages, especially when you’re at low speeds. Its power electronics set-up allows the rider to have a sensitive and spontaneous response.
- Innovative Electric Drive
The C Evolution’s electric drive is integral to its swing arm. The e-motor behind the motorcycle’s battery casing functions as the swing arm’s integrated component.
BMW’s C Evolution also enables an optimum suspension set-up and a sensitive, yet spontaneous response. This is made possible by the proximity of the e-motor output shaft and the arm axles. Together, they minimize the inertia around the swing arm’s center of rotation.
The motorcycle’s secondary drive is positioned by the tooth belt from the location of the e-motor to the output shaft. The total gear reduction of the secondary drive is 1:8.28, and the e-motor’s maximum rotational speed is 10,000 rpm.
BMW has conducted a number of different road tests in order to develop a method of energy recuperation. Moreover, the C Evolution’s intelligent recuperation is unique from any other sing-track vehicles in the market. More importantly, it doesn’t have to initiate recuperation as the vehicle does the recuperation automatically when necessary.
BMW’s electric two-wheeler can keep up with the competition
The C Evolution makes use of Torque Control Assist (TCA) as the vehicle’s slip control feature. TCA limits the engine torque on rear wheel slip.
These features are only a few of the reasons why the new BMW C Evolution Electric Scooter is a game changer. Give it a try and see so for yourself. Basically, The C Evolution electric scooter has a lot of features to offer.
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Cargo & People Hauling To Became Cleaner in 2019
Mercedes-Benz pulled the covers off its new Sprinter van line this week at the company’s logistics center on the Mercator Island in Duisburg, Germany. In addition to the usual diesel- and gasoline-powered models, the truck and carmaker Daimler revealed an all-electric Mercedes-Benz eSprinter. The eSpritner goes on sale in Europe in 2019 and will be offered eventually in the U.S., said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
Few Electric Drivetrain Details
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter will be front-wheel drive only and at this point Mercedes says the new van will have a 41.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack and a driving range of around 100 miles. The exact specifications could change before the vehicle comes to market, including the battery size.
It’s a big electric box
According to Mercedes, the pairing of the electric battery with dedicated front-wheel drive lowers the load floor by 80mm and may end up as a slightly lighter drivetrain. Both low load floors and lighter vehicle weight are important factors not only for fleet purchasers, but for the drivers who end up running delivery routes in them.
Mercedes says the eSprinter will primarily be used in large metropolitan areas, where range isn’t critical, but emissions are. European cities like London, where electric-vehicles are exempt from a congestion charge, will likely make the electric van a popular choice for small and large trucking fleets. Mercedes says operating an eSprinter will cost about the same as a diesel-powered Sprinter. These electric vans can be tailored for specific payload requirements.
In Profile, Still A Sprinter Van
The 2019 Sprinter van’s exterior hasn’t changed much since its 1995 introduction. In profile, the new third-generation model remains with its boxy design, but the front and rear have some nips and tucks to look fresher. Of note, the new look up front adapts the latest Mercedes design direction that applies to both its latest vans and passenger cars.
The Sprinter dash ups the tech quotient
Inside, the story is much the same. That means the Sprinter retains its durable, everything-is-hard plastic. But changes were made to bring the van into the 21st century, such as incorporating the display screen into a semi-floating part of the dashboard that tilts upward. There’s also a plethora of storage from under-seat cubbies to large slots and bins on the dashboard. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mercedes-Benz without door-mounted seat controls.
It’s not known what tech gear will be offered on the eSprinter when it arrives, but the standard van is lousy with new=fangled tech, whether it’s intended for driver convenience, safety or the fleet company.
In terms of safety equipment, the Sprinter’s tried-and-true Crosswind Assist system returns to help mitigate the effects strong wind has on a slab-sided van. Distronic will guide the van in its lane on the highway, keeping distance between the Sprinter and any traffic ahead. It’ll brake on its own if something gets in the way, and traffic-sign recognition will help drivers navigate unfamiliar areas.
The Sprinter will come in several different configurations
LED headlights will keep the road ahead nice and bright, while a new “Wet Wiper” system puts the wiper fluid nozzles inside the wiper arms for better dispersal and less spray-related mess. USB Type C connections allow you to charge devices at amperages up to 1.5A, but there’s a traditional 12-volt port in there, too, if you need that.
The infotainment screen can display both the backup camera and a top-down view of the world around the van when navigating gets a little tight.
Speaking of infotainment, the Sprinter can also be optioned with Mercedes-Benz’s new MBUX infotainment system. With a 10.25-inch screen, MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) brings new connectivity to the table thanks to a new digital assistant that understands natural-language requests like, “I’m cold” or “The gas tank is empty.” Paired with the MBUX system is the new Mercedes Pro internet connectivity system. It connects customers to help with efficient fleet management, improved navigation, analysis of driving style, digitalized recording and remote vehicle operations.
Regular Sprinter vans will arrive in the U.S. before the end of this year and will be offered for the first time with a gasoline engine in addition to diesel engines. It will have configurations that work for nearly every commercial van use as well as serve as a recreational vehicle platform. It will come as a regular cab—the most popular body for a delivery van—as well as a crew cab.
As for the eSprinter, we’ll just have to wait (hopefully not too long) for details.
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Europe To Get Electric Trucks Next Year; the U.S. Later
Last year, beverage industry giant Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that, by 2025, it would purchase only 100 percent renewable electricity; proving that corporations are beginning to realize that fish don’t drink beer and rising sea levels could be very bad for business. This year, InBev followed that commitment by placing an order to receive 40 of Tesla’s new electric semi-trucks (whenever Tesla gets around to making them). But Tesla is not the only automaker looking to capitalize on the green corporate shift.
Volvo’s not saying which model, but here’s one likely candidate already in the city
Not to be outdone by the playground upstart, industry giant Volvo Group announced this week that it will also sell electric trucks in North America; but it’s not saying when. While Europe will get electrified medium-duty Volvo trucks in 2019, the auto maker has not released a firm timeline for bringing its trucks across the pond.
“By using electrically powered and quieter trucks for goods transport in urban areas, we meet several challenges simultaneously,” said Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks. “Without disturbing noise and exhaust gases, it will be possible to operate in more sensitive city centers.”
Urban Delivery Focus
However, urban truck mobility is not the only positive electrified trucks would bring. Less noise means trucks can operate during more hours of the night, reducing the number of trucks on city roads during daytime rush-hour traffic.
The first electric semis will likely be found making short runs in town
Electric range and mandatory recharge periods could also help prevent driver fatigue, a problem that has been blamed for causing many accidents involving semi-trucks. But the path to electrified product transportation could be a long one; especially in the U.S.
“Enabling long-term sustainable transport is a complex issue that requires a holistic and wide range of measures,” said Jonas Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy for Medium Duty Vehicles at Volvo Trucks. “We are working closely with customers, cities, suppliers of charging infrastructure and other key stakeholders to create the necessary framework for electrical trucks.”
Potential range, powertrain specifications and price have not yet been released.
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The Evolution of Car Sharing
Car sharing has changed dramatically since Clean Fleet Report first reported on it a decade ago. While it was picking up steam at that point, in the years since it has morphed and been influenced by changing technology, both in vehicles and in the software that enables the service. Some big players have jumped in and then retreated. Some small players were gobbled up by bigger companies. Where car sharing once resembled a rent-by-the-hour system that was a more decentralized version of the traditional car rental, it has now become a ubiquitous system that includes shared use and even cars that drive themselves. The changes keep coming as illustrated in this recent update. We recently took a look at a brand-new local iteration run by the local auto club, but using software developed and being used by many others.
Car sharing and ride sharing are blurring together
Car sharing allows households to own only one car, instead of two or three, or for some to forgo car ownership completely, using the variations of car sharing and services to pick a vehicle or ride for a given task and location. For some Americans it gives a chance to drive and experience a different car, maybe an electric car they might be thinking of purchasing.
Like they say about real estate, with car sharing it is location, location, location. The best program for you is a function of where you live and your mobility requirements. But take a look at the variety of program available. One of the gurus of car sharing, Dr. Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley, says we are in the age of shared mobility where new modes of alternative transportation services are making great changes. “Pushed primarily by demographic shifts, societal attitudes toward ownership, and advances in mobile technology, these modes are growing rapidly and becoming more numerous,” she commented recently. She outlines the variety of choices available in a white paper. For her car sharing had subcategories of:
Car sharing is expanding our mobility
- Personal Vehicle Sharing (which can include fractional ownership models)
Then there’s scooter sharing and bike sharing (also with subcategories of public, closed campus and peer-to-peer [P2P]). Autonomous technology can overlay much of this as well.
Competing with car sharing are alternative transit services (shuttles or microtransit), ride sharing (carpooling or vanpooling), on-demand ride services (ridesourcing, ridesplitting or e-hail services) and courier network services (P2P delivery services and paired on-demand passenger ride and courier services).
The choices can be almost overwhelming, so services like Yelp can help you sort out the consumer-facing side of the choices. Where it used to be Hertz or Avis–or the taxi–the choices now are much more complex.
According to Navigant Research, it’s not going to change soon. Their take on car sharing and related services was just published. They found: “Mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions such as carsharing, ride-hailing, and micro transit provide much more flexibility while also enabling the replacement of 5-20 individually owned vehicles depending on the use cases. According to Navigant Research, global revenue generated by ride-hailing services is expected to grow to almost $1.2 trillion in 2026.”
Although the carshare service model has been well established over the past 15 years, there have been some significant innovations in the market recently. The success of one-way car sharing services is prompting more companies to consider offering this service model. Such services can increase utilization since members can use one-way car sharing for shorter, spur of the moment trips. Automakers have entered this market with good results, building substantial membership levels in only a few years. Meanwhile, the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in car sharing services is expected to increase as automakers promote this technology.
Car companies are aware of these shifts, as you can see below, and are doing their best to try to keep up. This is a subject we’ll keep checking in on as it evolves.
If there was any question about the changing landscape, General Motors’ $500 million investment in the ride sharing company Lyft. The stated goal is to experiment in autonomous on-demand vehicles, hedging the reduction in vehicle sales caused by ride sharing by making GM the preferred vehicle provider for Lyft drivers and integrating connectivity tools like OnStar. Lyft claims it is the fastest-growing ride share service and is available in 190 cities worldwide. Lyft also has rolled out multiple-rider sharing that creates an on-demand carpool.
Coming to get you
Uber is the Hertz to Lyft’s Avis. It’s available in more than 300 cities around the world and offers a variety of vehicles to fit the needs of your trip, whether its an eco-friendly model or the full black limo experience. Uber’s value proposition is that it is cheaper than using a taxi and much cheaper than using a personal car.
Zipcar bills itself as the world’s largest car sharing and car bluc service. It views itself as the logical alternative to car ownership (own the trip, not the car) and traditional car rentals. The company was purchased by Avis in 2013 and operates as a subsidiary of the traditional car rental company. Zipcar has more than one million members worldwide who can reserve and use 10,000 cars in 500 cities in nine countries. In the U.S. Zipcars can be found in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego,
Zipcar users have a card that unlocks their local cars
San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. as well as universities throughout the country. Zipcar offers more than 50 makes and models of vehicles, including Audis, BMWs, Mini Coopers, pickup trucks, Prius hybrids and more. Each vehicle has a home location: a reserved parking space located on a street, driveway, or neighborhood parking lot in the member’s area, to which it must be returned at the end of the reservation.
Enterprise Car Share
Although Enterprise is known as a car rental giant, they have expanded into cars sharing 10 years ago, featuring a program rich in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. Enterprise acquired Philly-Car Share and its 13,000 users, then Mint Cars On-Demand, a car-sharing company serving more than 8,000 members in New York City and Boston. It later added Chicago’s 15,000 IGO car sharing service members and now operates on 130 college campuses, 40 government programs and has 300 business accounts in 35 states, Canada and the U.K.
Hertz on Demand–A Cautionary Tale
Hertz tried to leverage its huge presence to expand into car sharing. Hertz has 8,500 locations in 150 countries. A growing number of hybrid and electric cars are offered in the Hertz Green Travel Collection. Its car share program, Hertz on Demand, launched in December 2008 and grew to more than 1,000 vehicles, 85,000 members and more than 500 locations worldwide, including corporate fleets, airports, hotels, utilities, government, and universities. However, the company pulled the plug on U.S. operations citing a “low return on investment” after a half-dozen years of operation.
Car2Go features short-term Smart ED drives
Car2go, owned by auto giant Daimler, is the world leader in one-way car sharing. Car2go is in 15 North American cities. Car2go is a point-to-point car sharing service. You pay 41 cents a minute. And all without running fixed costs or deposits, parking charges, fuel costs, or recurring annual fees. No surprise fees are charged for being early or late, like some other car sharing services. You can take any of the car2go vehicles you find distributed around you, or you can reserve an available vehicle 30 minutes before you want to drive. That way, you can get to your destination faster. Once you reach your destination, you can either end your trip in accordance with your city’s Parking Rules, or you can keep it if you want to drive further.
A day in the life at Maven Gig
General Motors has got into car-sharing in a big way with Maven, which is now operating in 17 cities. Beyond basic car sharing, Maven has moved into more of a hybrid operation with Maven Gig, where cars, led by the new Chevrolet Bolt EV, are available for all-inclusive weekly rentals for folks working for other car sharing or delivery services. We just interviewed Maven’s chief growth officer and found she’s got bold plans for expansion in this new gig economy.
ReachNow cars now show up on Seattle transit screens
German executives see an increased global interest in using cars as a service, with consumers and fleet managers paying by the minute, hour, and day. BMW ran a successful pilot program of EV car sharing in SF, based on its European model, but went on hiatus because of a lack of progress in securing parking permit regulatory change. ReachNow is starting to ramp up in Portland, Seattle, Brooklyn and other cities. It is big in major German cities where the program also includes the bike sharing that inspired one-way car sharing. They’ve also explored using an app that gives the user alternative transportation options, calculating time and cost for each variable. In addition, it offers options of driving yourself or being picked up and driven to your destination–a blending of car sharing and ride sharing. ReachNow uses the Ridecell technology platform for its service. ReachNow has a fleet of 700 vehicles in Seattle, 360 in Portland and 260 in Brooklyn. Models include the BMW 328xi and 330xi sedans, the electric i3, the BMW X1 SUV, the Mini Cooper (in both 2-door and 4-door configurations) and the Mini Clubman.
Your Chariot awaits–check your phone
Like GM, Daimler and BMW (and other car companies), Ford is taking a big picture view of the car sharing business and has dipped into it by buying the microtransit company Chariot, which is is rapidly expanding around the world. Chariot seeks to supplement mass transit services by providing first/last mile transportation along regular routes based on consumer demand. Ford’s paired this and augmented it with a bike-sharing service. We covered the start-up here.
RelayRides’ peer-to-peer car sharing is part of an emerging trend of the sharing economy. RelayRides enables personal car sharing with web listings, $1 million liability insurance, and GM OnStar support. Investors in RelayRides include Google Ventures and GM Ventures. RelayRides is a leading example of peer-to-peer that is also embraced by other innovators including Wheelz, Getaround, Whipcar, IGO, non-profits, and even pilots among some auto service giants.
Ridesharing to work carries more people each day than transit. Sharing cars and rides is challenging among strangers. Trust is natural for people who work together. vRide makes it easy for individuals, employers, and transportation managers to facilitate carpooling, vanpooling, and park and ride. Similar organizations that help with facilitating, lunch-and-learns, vehicles, insurance, and ride matching include 511.org and Rideshare by Enterprise.
Getaround is free to join. Choose from 1000s of cool cars shared by great people in your neighborhood is the pitch of this peer-to-peer car sharing operation. Convenient hourly and daily rentals. No monthly or annual fees. All Getaround rentals include insurance coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance.
A number of billion dollar giants, venture backed players, and innovators see a major opportunity in the transition for vehicle sales to transportation services. With Daimler, GM and BMW now in the business, Toyota and others are evaluating whether to have their own car sharing program or strengthen partnerships. Audi just invested in Silvercar, what it calls a “next generation” car rental company. Because cars haring is capital intensive, the business is a natural for banking and financial service giants. Sharing, peer-to-peer, and fractional ownership have risk and liability management challenges. Who better to solve these than insurance giant entering the business? With information technology and social networking being integral to innovative mobility sharing, look for new strategic alliances and partnerships.
Bookmark this site and check back as we continue to update this list.
John Addison: Meeting of the Car Sharing Minds
At a meeting several years ago, I (John Addison, founder of Clean Fleet Report) lunched with Zipcar President Mark Norman gave me a good idea of why members prefer the range of carsharing services to owning a car. A member can try an electric car one day, use a larger van to transport 6 people the next, then take an AWD to the mountains on the next. Zipcar’s potential is enormous. By succeeding at a university such as USC in Los Angeles, Zipcar has a base to expand in Southern California’s over 10 million car drivers and massive fleets. I expect Zipcar to soon have over one million members.
Google autonomous car may be the next thing in car sharing
Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. By using Zipcar’s FastFleet technology, the City of Houston configures its fleet footprint in real time for optimal utilization; manages preventive maintenance, fueling, billing, and fleet distribution; and uses Zipcar’s analytics with data automatically captured during every trip. Zipcar’s FastFleet technology is used in Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago where DC officials estimate that they save approximately $1 million per year using FastFleet technology.
I talked with Rick Hutchinson, CEO City CarShare, at Meeting of the Minds. As a non-profit, City CarShare actively works to make urban mobility more effective as people combine walking, bicycling, transit, and carsharing. For 11 years, they have modeled best practices, which others learn from including Zipcar, Enterprise, and independents. City CarShare promotes equity with CommunityShare and AccessMobile. They promote sustainability by taking cars off the road and adding electric vehicles.
Susan Shaheen, Co-Director of Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC), has probably done more research about shared-use mobility than anyone. TSRC studies have determined that each carshare membership has resulted in at least 9 vehicles being sold, removed, or purchase-postponed. The biggest shift is one car households becoming car-free due to cars haring; 2 cars to one is another big segment. Her insights greatly helped with this article.
One million U.S. carsharing members will soon become 2 million as people save thousands per year owning one less car. University students, city dwellers, and fleets have new flexibility in getting the right vehicle when needed including roomy sedans, pickup trucks, and even electric cars. Just as we are transitioning from owning expensive computers and software to mobile use of cloud services, transportation has moved beyond just owning a car to a rich menu of transportation services.
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The Phoenix–the Junk Yard Dog That Took Home the Record
Eric Lundgren, creator of the concept called Hybrid Recycling and Founder of IT Asset Partners, was out to take his junkyard dog BMW electric car with 90 percent recycled parts and make a run for a Guinness Record. Built at a cost of $13,800 in 45 days with no R&D and three-year-old batteries repackaged from broken cells, “The Phoenix” was going to challenge the current record for the furthest distance driven by an electric car on a single charge. The record was held by a very professional Japanese effort that set the benchmark at 800 miles, driving on a very level track.
Eric Lundgren talks electric cars, Hybrid Recycling and record runs
Eric talked with us about The Phoenix: “The controller came out of a forklift. The charger came out a very old DC electric vehicle. The compressor for the power brakes came out of an old air conditioner. The pump came out of a fish tank. The whole thing is made out of trash – the car itself was dragged out of a junkyard.”
All up The Phoenix weighs 4,200 pounds with the 200-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Eric’s plan was to take The Phoenix and run it for as close to 48 hours as possible on the less than level Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.
Intriguing! What could it hurt to attend this Guinness Book attempt? Spirit Airlines could hurt, their logo should be in the dictionary next to the word “incompetent.” We landed three hours late and missed meeting some really interesting people. To get to the track we borrowed a mobile cocoon from Toyota called the Prius Prime. The Prime proved to be the perfect tool for heavy LA traffic. Flicking on the adaptive cruise control to cope with football signal velocity drift and stop–0/25/75/40/0 (MPH) hike–or maybe drive; hey, it’s LA. We were driving the current most advanced (practical) vehicle drivetrain to get to observe what is expected to be the future’s most advanced (practical) vehicle drivetrain. Bonus points–56 MPG! It was nice that the Prius Prime relieved some of the angst of driving in from LAX.
Finally at the Track
When we finally pulled in at 9:15 p.m., we found Eric Lundgren running on adrenaline. At that point he had already been up for close to 48 hours. Eric told us that the sweet spot for a maximum distance was 28 mph, where there would be little aerodynamic drag. His plan was to go to 30-to-35 mph for a hoped-for 1,200 miles. (He anticipated he could achieve 1,000 miles.) In this configuration The Phoenix had already demonstrated a 740 mile range–on the highway!
It was a race against time and technology
From the drive, Spencer (no last name): “We have to limit our speed. We need to keep the whole journey under 50 amps. I didn’t think that we could ever do 39 amps at 50 mph. Earlier in the day we were not getting that kind of efficiency. Heat of the day, efficiency, mid-range of the battery. Every battery chemistry has its own profile for how it pulls amperage. This battery may be better in the mid-range.”
Eric and half of his crew appeared to be exhausted, but dedicated and totally absorbed in their efforts.
Eric at 10 p.m.: “Yesterday, when we turned this car on, wouldn’t you know that all of the calibrated settings were wiped. We connected the controller and one guy went ‘oops,’ and reset all the settings. To my AC motor. To my cruise control. I had to redo the regeneration. I had to redo all the settings. It took the entire night.”
The Phoenix had a set-back that cost eight of 48 hours available at Fontana–ouch.
The amperage readings soared as The Phoenix passed the start/finish line and began the mild uphill climb.
Finding the Right Gear
Eric, a little while later: “If you’re driving in fourth gear and you floor it, then you are just dumping energy and not getting anything out of it. We put in a cruise control and we can do a perfectly calibrated cruise setting but the entire track is slanted. We are going up a hill, down a hill, up a hill, down a hill, so we can’t do cruise control here. Two-thirds of the course I can put it in fourth and one-third I have to be in third gear. Some drivers are good and can feel when it is lugging. We figured out a median by voltage.
Crunching the numbers into the night
We have gone 256 miles and we have used roughly 16 percent of our pack. You can do the math, but we had to increase the speed because we don’t have enough time on the track. If we had a flat track, at 28 mph we might be able to hit 1,580 miles, but let’s be honest, we have to beat 808 miles. We are going to smash that.”
Sam Rosner was conducting a video interview and asked: “So, then, this is going to be way more realistic?” Eric responded that: “We are not robbing Peter to pay Paul. We have to treat the pedal like there’s an egg under your right foot. But yes, this is going to be close to the real world in terms of what we can achieve.”
Things went smoothly until 10:30 p.m., then the car was slowing. The red safety truck flew out, going counter-clockwise to intercept the BMW. The Tesla support vehicle soon followed. The battery controller was hitting BBQ temperatures. Don from the crew told me later that the windshield fluid chamber used for cooling was bubbling hot. “We added some really cold water and turned the pump back on and it worked.” The Phoenix was rolling again. Tension dropped as the BMW quietly slipped past. Phil was calculating numbers; it looked like he had lots of spare power, but it was nighttime and in the cool air the batteries were fairing better. The Guinness Book witnesses changed shifts at 10:45 p.m., when Spencer took the wheel. Sam volunteered to take over the walkie-talkie, coaching the driver like Eric and doing spot calculations, so that Eric could take a nap.
Time To Play
The cat was away and Spencer wanted to play. Instead of dropping to third, Spencer wanted to see if he could dial in the controls and keep the car rolling in fourth. At 28 mph, point up hill, drop to third and the readout stated 126.3 volts; 36 mph took 53 amps; Phil said “bring it up to 60 amps. See if you can keep 32 mph going up the hill. Twenty-eight mph sucks; it feels like you are dying. It’s like a guy on roller skates pushing a piano up a hill.”
Driver Spencer was a key part of the record-breaking team
Spencer was getting pretty smooth and we were joking around in pits and talking about the Back to the Future DeLorean going 88 mph.
Max Balchowsky and his cobbled together championship Old Yeller cars kept popping into my head. Max used to get a kick out of going through the trash of the mighty Ferraris and Jaguars, pulling out an old spark plug (or a suspension) and asking if he could have it for his car. Max would regularly drive up to the Laguna Seca track with his four racing tires strapped together, tied into passenger seat. Quite often the winner’s trophy would be belted to the top of the tire pile for the ride home.
Into the Night/A Revelation
Brother Carl Lundgren from Ohio took the walkie-talkie and called The Phoenix in to change the card for the onboard camera. Derek took the wheel at 12:15 a.m., going out with a fully charged walkie-talkie. Sam went back on communications. Spencer’s idea of dialing in the potentiometer to control power appealed to Derek and Carl. They decided to go with it. The cold air meant that the car was using a bit less power–121.4 volts was the reading. The Phoenix started at 134 volts and 80 volts meant dead stop. The Phoenix might be able to hit 1,000 miles. At 1:45 a.m. Eric and Carl’s mom came over and examined the numbers like a forensic accountant. Derek was turning laps of 3 minutes: 22 seconds; 3.21, 3.22– very consistent numbers. There were 30 hours left on the clock; things were looking pretty good. Carl asked
Phil Huerter (red shirt) & Sam Rosner (white shirt) debate driving strategy with the team
“Which is the enemy–time or power? We might have enough power for 32 hours, but we have 29.” Meanwhile the Guinness witnesses were asked if they could sign up for a few extra hours.
At 3:53 a.m. the reading was at 118.2 volts remaining, with 454 laps covered. It looked like The Phoenix was chewing up about one volt per hour. Phil emerged from his nap sporting clean clothes and a big smile. Sam and Carl explained what Spencer had come up with after Phil left for his nap. Phil, an ex-Navy electronics wizard, did not like Spencer’s idea, but when he ran his numbers and figured out that it was working, he said to go with it. At 4:37 a.m. The Phoenix hit 480 miles.
The Phoenix would beat its previous best of 750 miles, but it wouldn’t be until 11 a.m. that it cruised past the old record of 808 miles. Would it hit the half-ton? Almost. She came in at 999.5 miles.
The 12-volt system running the controller (which runs the motor) stopped functioning, causing a catastrophic failure. By Eric’s calculations, The Phoenix still had 110 miles in the battery pack.
The show was over, but the record had fallen, and it fell pretty hard.
The Art of the Possible
From Eric” “We want to show people what is possible, stop wasting their waste. We want to make lemons into lemonade. All of this trash that we throw away–that hurts us. Because we don’t know what to do with it, we dump it, and it leeches these chemicals into our environment, into our water table and we drink it.” Lithium-Ion, lithium-polymer, iron-phosphate are the new battery chemistries. The old one, lead acid–99.9 percent gets recycled, because it has been around forever, and we came up with all these solutions.” “But these new battery technologies are changing all the time so quickly.
More Eric: “So it’s very hard to find a solution to be able to recycle them for their commodity value. But it is easy to go from a utilitarian value. You can offset the actual recycling needed for the broken batteries. Salvage the good, (repackage it), and put it into a new application. That’s the secret–Hybrid Recycling.”
Breaking a record is a team sport
And more Eric: “We have done hundreds (of new applications.) We have done 18650 cells, the prismatic cells, the LG Chem cells, all going into e-wheelchairs. We worked with the company and we built electric wheelchairs that cost half as much and go twice as far (as current ones on the market), and are better for the environment. We take your cell phone and, when it breaks, we turn it into a video doorbell unit. We take your tablet and, when it breaks, we turn it into a flip-down unit for the back of your car for your kids to watch their cartoons.”
There are companies who have been unwilling to consider Hybrid Recycling, according to Eric. “They take the battery pack that has one broken part, where 90 or 100 pieces are working perfectly, generic components. They take it and they smelt it. Melt it for commodity value. Bringing all of its value down to its lowest use–tin and copper. They recycle the lithium, and say ‘aren’t we doing a great job?’ There is one car company that specifically refuses to use Hybrid Recycling. They sell their used batteries to a company that does not even recycle them–a middleman who gives it to a company located outside of BC (British Columbia, Canada) that takes the whole battery and they smelt it. It creates 18 percent toxic slurry that you cannot reuse. It (the slurry) floats up to top, comingled plastic and rubber and all the chemicals. They take off that 18 percent. You cannot dump that in Canada because it is so toxic. So they import it to my home state of Washington and dump it into an environmental landfill. Which is basically a hole with a giant plastic bag that you put stuff in and cap off. Mercury, lead, bromine, cadmium. Because we don’t know how to recycle this stuff properly.”
The electronic waste stream in the US is growing by leaps and bounds. Eric’s company ITAP grew up taking old computer equipment and digital trash and repurposing it rather than seeing it go to the dump or melted into toxins. An old BMW with parts pulled from a forklift as well as an assortment of other equipment lying around took on on some of the best the world could offer and won. It’s just using your brains, Hybrid Recycling.
Somewhere out there one of the great American Icons of car racing, Max Balchowsky, must be sporting an ear-to-ear grin, another American junkyard dog has notched up another win.
Here’s a video interview with Eric Lundgren by Sam Rosner.