Monday, April 7, 2014

Tesla Model E

At the end of March there was a bit of buzz about the Tesla Model E, but since then the activity has died down.  Elon Musk announced the Model E give some projections and left it at that.  Now we have to wait for what leaks we can get, when we can get them.  But so far the specs look promising.

You can expect the Model E to arrive in 2016, shortly after the release of its much larger brother the Model X (a cross-over SUV).  What is known so far about the E is that it will be about 20% shorter in length than the S, have about half the battery capacity (48 kWh), and cost less than half as much ($35k).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nothing New About Nissan's Smart Rear View Mirror

Smart rearview mirror

It's not new, it's long been an idea that has been considered by many vehicle manufacturers, to use a camera rather than a mirror.  But unlike other proposals to eliminate the physical rear view mirror, Nissan is merely proposing an added rear view camera.

Nissan is at the top of the game when it comes to cameras.  They've pioneered the Birds-Eye view around the vehicle for full perimeter awareness.  So when it comes to proposing the idea for a simple rear view, it's definitely nothing new.  But who's to say that you can't just toss out the physical mirror for a digital one?

The NHTSA, that's who.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is quite adamant that each motor vehicle must have a certain number of mirrors to accommodate as much rear viewing as possible.   Of course there are vehicles like trucks and buses that do not have good rear view visibility, but they are mandated to have additional side mirrors.

So what is Nissan actually proposing?  The Smart rearview mirror system places a 1.3 MP camera with a very wide angle lens at the top of the tailgate of the vehicle, offering the best position for a full view.  The fact in this case is that the camera will be better than your current rear view, even if there was nothing blocking in the back seat.  The function is enable with a simple rear switch on the mirror, chancing the entire thing into a video monitor.

Oh, yes, did you want to comment about the fact that the NHTSA doesn't allow full motion video in front of the driver, while the vehicle is in motion?  It does seem to put a strange spin on the distinction between the full motion of what is happening behind the vehicle and that of a movie.  What if the movie is mostly scenes from recorded rear view mirrors?

Personally, I'm cheering for Nissan to push for this, although I may never own one of their vehicles. Sadly, as cool and likely useful an idea as this, it may be a long uphill battle for Nissan, but we can always dream about it, right?

Check out the video promotion below

Monday, February 3, 2014


One Wheel

Only recently have I found myself reading about self-balancing one-wheel, electric mobility machines.  Quite some time back on this blog, a great deal of attention was given to the "wheel hub" idea, and since that time, many innovative ideas have only developed more. The market seems to be filling with wheel hubs and unique ideas and the OneWheel is yet another of those.

Future Motion, a Palo Alto based start-up company has introduced the Onewheel self-balancing electric skateboard.  It certainly hearkens to the idea of a skateboard as it is a board and you stand on it the same way you might stand on a traditional skateboard.  But that's about the extent of the similarities.

The Onewheel ideal seems to be sitting on one LARGE wheel hub, while storing the electronics and battery in the board.  The creators pitch the idea like that of the upcoming commemoration of the hoverboard in Back to the Future II.  The Onewheel does seem similar, but as these past thirty years has yet to find us a true overboard, this new single wheel might have to suffice.


   According to the Kick Starter video, the Onewheel requires only the motion of your body to maneuver forward or backward.  You merely need to lean into the direction that you wish to travel, the further you lean, the faster you go. There is also a tiny button that goes under one of your feet that initiates the power, so that if you fall off, the wheel won't continue on without you.
   They've gone so far as to include an app for smartphones and tablets that can give you distance, charge and experience modes.

Electric Vehicle

The motor and power barely there.  The motor IS the wheel, or rather inside the hub of the wheel (thus "wheel hub" motor).  The mono-wheeled snowboard can charge back up with the standard charger in about 2 hours or fast charge in about 20 minutes. The battery resides under one foot and the motor controller under the other.  With a top speed of 12 mph and a range of 4-6 miles, you can get in some serious street shredding.

Back to the Future

The inventor Kyle Doerksen loves to snowboard, but his day job was nowhere near the slopes. His answer to this issue is the Onewheel allowing him and 1000+ backers on Kickstarter to shred the pavement in their own towns.

So far you will need to have supported the (already closed) Kickstarter project to get one of your own.  But at a minimum of $1200 it may still be a while until we all have one.

The one thing that bothered me most about riding a skateboard was when riding on anything other than continuous concrete.  Bumps, gravel, cracks, breaks, anything could catch those wheels and send me flying.  But the one giant wheel on this board will never do that and the ride is smooth even off-road.

Check out the KickStarter video

Website: OneWheel 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Frito Lay and Smith Electric

Smith Electric

I can honestly say that I was not aware that Frito-Lay had become a customer of Smith Electric until today.  While driving to work in my Smart ED, I noticed a strange visual on the back of a Frito-Lay delivery truck.  The image was of an electric socket; a strange thing to see on the back of a snack foods delivery vehicle.  But it did not fool me, rather clued to me that I should look to see if Frito-Lay had partnered with Smith.

According to the press-release for PepsiCo's Frito-Lay North America division nearly 300 Smith Electric trucks have been deployed from 2010 until  2013.   The release estimates that they will save nearly 600,000 gallons of fuel annually with these few vehicles.

In August [2013], Frito-Lay reached a milestone of three million all-electric miles driven.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Urban Delivery: Lit Motors' Kubo Scooter

A scooter with a gaping hole in the middle. The first thing that comes to mind after the strange design is probably that the space is perfect for a box?  If that is what you thought, then you are correct.  The Kubo Scooter is the result of the need for transport in the city and the ease of a 2-wheeled vehicle.  And what better place to use such a machine than San Francisco, the location of LIT motors, the creators.

In the City, whether it be New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, London, or Hong Kong courier services are a must. Even if most communications are done via the Internet these days, and 3D printing is also taking off, delivery services are still necessary.  And if you've ever tried to transport something larger than paperwork on a bike, then you know the challenges.

The Kubo scooter, it would appear, aims to resolve the problems of couriers and large item transport, both for those on bikes and trucks. Speculatively a fleet of Kubo's could make a dent in the traffic of full-size delivery vans in the city.

 I had a chance to see this machine up close at the last meeting of the Electric Auto Association of Silicon Valley.  At this meeting, the Chief Marketing Officer, Ryan James, spoke of his personal passion for the design and utility of the vehicle.  The EAASV had invited him to speak both about the Scooter and LIT Motors primary project, the C-1.  Mr. James made mention of the fact that LIT motors would be starting a kickstarter campaign, but that they would proceed with selling the Kubo whether or not they reached the goal.

Mr James and the LIT motors group chose electric for the simplicity and fast charge time.  The vehicle can travel up 45 mph with a range of 50 miles. I'd bet that a courier would get over the feeling of looking odd, when he / she can deliver much larger packages between clients.

Check out the Kickstarter page for the Kubo

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mercedes Benz B Class is Electric

Mercedes Benz B Class is Electric

Everyone is abuzz at the recent car shows in the U.S. around the idea of new electric and alternative fuel vehicles.  And Mercedes Benz is no slouch, bringing the B Class to the US market as an EV.

If you're familiar with MB, then you're probably also familiar with the prices.  There is a range of Mercedes Benz vehicles that sits in the $30-80k range and then if you want any power you can immediately tack on about $100k and get some serious performance. The price of the B Class will sit around the low 40's and after government incentives that could be in the mid to low 30's.

Again, the new B Class will be quite the contender offering

  • 28 kWh battery pack
  • 115 miles of range
  • 75 kW motor
  • 174 hp
  • 251 lb-ft torque
  • 0-60 in 7.9 s
  • 100 mph top speed
  • 9.6 kW charging (40A @ 240V)
  • 3.5 hrs to recharge from 0

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Via Trucks come with Solar-Power Tonneau

You can now get a Via Motors electric truck with a Solar-Power Tonneau cover.  But is it useful?

This is not the first vehicle to offer solar on the roof of the vehicle.  The Nissan Leaf has a tiny solar panel in the tail fin on the roof.  Granted this tiny solar panel is only intended to be used for ventilating the vehicle in the sun.  The solar tonneau that Via is offering is reported to boost electric range by as much as 10 miles.

If you think about it, it's simple genius.  The tonneau space is just wasted most of the time, why not coat it with solar panels (in fact why not coat the entire horizontal surface while you're at it). The tonneau cover is at least 24 sq-ft (2.26 sq-m) which can give you anywhere between 400 and 800 Watts of solar power. These are the two options offered by Via Motors on the Via Trux.  At best that's nearly 1 kilowatt on the back of the vehicle.

Fortunately for Via Motors, Tesla has set the stage for the price of an electric vehicle and with the noted cost of the Chevy Volt (the closest cousin to the Via Motors vehicles), the price isn't that bad.  But if you're in the market for a light-duty pickup truck and you want a lot of clean power, then you may be willing to shell out $80,000 for this vehicle.

But can you plug it into your house when the truck is done charging?

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