ElectricCarConversionBlog.com is under reconstruction

ElectricCarConversionBlog.com is under reconstruction

Hi,

due to various reasons (including replanning and working out which projects to do next), this blog is under reconstruction. As a result, my activities will be posted on https://www.facebook.com/ElectricCarConversionBlog

So come and join me on facebook and please like my page.

Thanks

Al

General Motors, Ford and Toyota to cease manufacturing in Australia by 2017 – a good thing for Electric Cars and Auto Workers!

General Motors, Ford and Toyota to cease manufacturing in Australia by 2017 – a good thing for Electric Cars and Auto Workers!

Ford factory facing extinction have still failed to electrify their cars.

Ford factory facing extinction have still failed to electrify their cars.

Within the last 12 months, General Motors (owner of Holden), Ford and Toyota have announced that they will cease manufacturing cars in Australia by 2017. I’m not happy about the resulting job losses and the negative impact it will have on their suppliers.

So why could it be a good thing for Electric Cars?

Ford and GM’s Holden did not manufacture any Electric Cars in Australia, so no great loss there from an EV perspective. Even when EV Engineering engineered a bolt in electric drive train for Holden with swappable battery packs, in my opinion it appears GM’s management failed to seize the opportunity that was handed to them on a silver plate. Toyota did manufacture the plugless Camry Hybrid so that was a half hearted attempt at electrifying their cars!

Electrification of cars (whether full electric or hybrid) is seen by many car makers as a way to meet upcoming tough emission laws being enforced in various markets around the world. Car makers that don’t electrify kill of their export sales potential.

However, the last time I recall a Toyota factory closure was in early 2010 which was the NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing) plant in California. GM also shared that plant with Toyota, but for GM, factory closures are nothing new. They do it quite regularly. However, what is significant is that Tesla Motors is manufacturing the Model S in the old NUMMI site, hence, it is not all doom and gloom for the workers.

If Tesla have managed to make a profitable Electric Car manufacturing business in the United States, then what is there to stop the same thing happening in Australia? Just like the United States, Japan and Germany, Australia has proven that it has a capable workforce to produce a car from inception through to production.

What’s more, in Australia, there are numerous people who have done Electric Car Conversions and Electric Vehicle Conversions so their experiences can be leveraged to good use. In fact, there are businesses involved in Electric Vehicle production in Australia, whether it be doing conversions or building vehicles from scratch. Let’s list a couple:

Then, there are companies involved in supplying parts. Here’s a list of some of them:

Why is it a good thing for auto workers?

In my opinion, the management at Ford and General Motors is pathetic. From my perspective, I could see decisions made that were not in the interest of auto workers and I feel the auto workers deserved better.

If EV entrepreneurs and the auto workers team up, they could produce really nice Electric Cars, just like what Tesla Motors did at the old NUMMI factory. Perhaps, some of those EV entrepreneurs could be the Auto Workers affected by the closures.

As mentioned already, there are EV businesses in Australia, but they are running at a small scale. With Ford, GM and Toyota closing up by 2017, it will create a void giving those EV businesses an opportunity to fill and hopefully provide sustainable employment for the auto workers affected.

Conclusion

Now is the time for EV entrepreneurs and auto workers to get together and secure their futures. EV entrepreneurs will have access to talented workers who are easy to retrain to manufacture Electric Cars. Suppliers will be willing to negotiate with EV manufacturing businesses (if they want to stay in business) and opportunities to acquire facilities (like the old NUMMI plant) to produce Electric Cars should become available.

Some auto workers may embrace expanding on their current skills and set up Electric Car Conversion businesses. Others will want to work for the EV entrepreneurs. Auto workers and EV entrepreneurs will need each other to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

EV entrepreneurs and auto workers need to act quick to minimize job losses and to get involved in what I see as a growing industry because if they pull this off, then it will be a great thing for Electric Cars and also for the Auto Workers.

This is Al Bunzel signing out.

P.S. Check out EV Secrets so that you can learn how to do Electric Car Conversions

http://www.batrium.com/

Some BMW i3 Sneak Preview Videos

Some BMW i3 Sneak Preview Videos

Here are some sneak preview videos taken at a BMW dealership of the BMW i3. A sneak preview report on the Australian version of the BMW i3 is also available.

External view of the BMW i3

This video shows what the BMW i3 looks like from the outside.

Where the front seat belt is located in the B-pillarless BMW i3?

The BMW i3 has no B-pillar, so where is the seat belt for the front occupants located?

BMW i3 Sneak Preview-Australian Version

BMW i3 Sneak Preview-Australian Version

Find out why I think this car is great!

Al with BMW i3 Electric Car with REX

Al with BMW i3 Electric Car with REX

Towards the end of 2013, I was invited by Rolfe Classic BMW to check out the BMW i3 they had for a short while on display. Although, it was reportedly available in Europe, the i3 is scheduled to be released in other markets like the United States, Canada and Australia later in 2014. The Australian market will only receive the range extender version which makes it a serial hybrid. The engine is 2 cylinder 647cc gasoline engine derived from the BMW motorbikes which means it will be super quiet and smooth. I will focus on what is significant and special about this Electric Car. I will also discuss what else you could buy for the same money and what is unique about this car.

Although, I did not get the opportunity to test drive the car, there are a lot of features to report on and what stood out for me was the ergonomics and comfort offered by the BMW i3.

The styling may appear to be a bit of a departure from BMW’s usual design, (although the kidney shaped grill remains),  but around 1991, BMW unveiled the BMW E1 concept electric car and you can see similarities between the E1 and the i3.  Inside EVs even has a report regarding the E3 and i3 relationship. As a kid, the E1 was one of my dream cars and it is great to see something come to fruition, even if it is over 22 years later.

Overview of the BMW i3 with technical specifications

Unlike the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford Focus Electric, the BMW i3 is a car designed to be electric from from the ground up. You can see it inherited many characteristics from the BMW E1 concept car from the early 1990s.  Being under 4 meters in length and 1775 meters in width (exclusing mirrors) and 2039 meters in width if you include the mirrors, making it bigger than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, but shorter on the outside than the Nissan Leaf. The BMW i3 is wider than the i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf. A number of people have commented to me how the BMW i3 is a great looking car. Only one person so far told me it looked ugly. There is no argument that it looks better than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the stock version of the Nissan Leaf.

The BMW i3 (electric only) has a typical range of 130km to 160km, but if driving in its most efficient mode, then a range of almost 200km is reportedly achievable (when using ECO PRO+). With the range extender, the typical range is 120km to 150km in electric only, but with the help of the gasoline motor, it is 240km to 300km. If driving in its most efficient mode, then a reported combined range of 340km is advertised (when using ECO PRO+).

The traction battery is a Lithium Ion chemistry with 18.8kwh capacity.

Charge time (up to 80% capacity) is:

  • 30 minutes for the DC quick-charge;
  • 3 to 6 hours using the AC-quick charge with BMW i Wallbox Pure; or
  • 6 to 8 hours when using a household socket (240volts).

The electric motor has a maximum torque of 250Nm and output of 125 kW (170 hp). The Synchronous Electric Motor is located in the rear and drives the rear wheels. For those with the Range Extender (REX), it is located in the rear.

What is unique about this car?

Carbon Fiber Body

The BMW i3 body is made from Carbon Fiber, a material normally reserved for low volume productions super cars,  which makes it extremely light at 1195kg (pure electric) and 1315kg (with range extender) for a car of this size, capability and safety. Despite its smaller exterior dimensions compared to the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, thanks to clever design and packaging, the interior space of the BMW i3 is fantastic. With the electric motor (and for those with the range extender) tucked away under the car, the external dimensions are smaller, yet still spacious for occupants inside the car. The carbon fiber provides strength and safety.

Rear Hinged Rear Doors

No B-pillar and rear door is hinged on the rear.

No B-pillar and rear door is hinged on the rear.

The rear doors are hinged at the rear (sometimes known as “suicide doors”), similar to what is used in various Rolls Royce cars and a missing B-pillar, means it is easier to get in and out of the car for all occupants. However, when all doors are shut, the rear door cannot be opened unless the front door is opened which makes this car inherently safer. This design gives the initial illusion that the BMW i3 is a two door car. Also, the doors appear to be very thick and solid.

Elegant Instrument Panel

The instrument panel is simple and elegant. There is a tablet screen where you would normally expect an instrument cluster. For the infotainment display, there is another tablet in the middle of the dashboard.

Ergonomics

Whilst seated in the driver’s seat, the switches and control felt easy to reach. Everything feels like it was in the right place and it feels very comfortable to sit inside. It was as if the i3 was designed with people in mind.

Seating

The seats did not look like something that came out of 3 or 7 series BMW, but rather like it went on a weight loss program. It did not matter which seat you sat in, it still felt comfortable and I would imagine it would be very comfortable on long trips.

The front seats could be folded down to allow entry to the rear if you did not want to open the rear doors. However, with the rear doors open (which means the front door needs to be opened first), most people would be able to gain entry to the rear without folding down the front seats.

“Angel Eyes” gone

This is one of the first BMWs in recent history not to be equipped with it’s unique “Angle Eyes” (where the parking lights were were set up as a ring around one pair of head lights. Instead, it has been replaced with what I call “U Eyes” where the parking light is like a U shape.

Interior

BMW i3 interior from front passenger's perspective.

BMW i3 interior from front passenger’s perspective.

The one I inspected was equipped with a combination of beautiful leather seats, leather covered steering wheel and wood giving the i3 a luxurious look and feel.

Storage

There is a rear hatch that allows cargo to be stored. Also, the rear seats fold down allowing for even more cargo space. The front trunk is not that large, but can store things like the charging chords and other little items.

What Else Can You Buy For The Same Money As A BMW i3 (in Australia)?

There is often interest in how much a particular car costs in various parts of the world. The anticipated cost including on road costs and the BMW i Wallbox Pure charger for the BMW i3 in Australia is around AUD$70,000. In Australia, I know people who paid more than that for a Mitsubishi i-MiEV when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was first sold to Australia and that had far less luxury features than the i3. These days, for $70,000, you can buy two i-MiEVs and have change left over as I see the i-MiEVs sell for AUD$28,990 drive away. You can buy one and three-quarter Nissan Leafs as I’ve seen the Nissan Leaf advertised brand new, drive away for $39,990 (which is a lot less than the $60,000 plus I was quoted in 2012). The Chevy (Holden) Volt sells for around AUD $60,000.

In Australia, we don’t get the Ford Focus Electric, nor do we get the Coda, Fiat 500 electric. We still don’t even have the Tesla Model S here yet.

Non electric cars you can buy in Australia for around AUD$70,000 are cars like the Subaru WRX STi, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) Commodore, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Landcruiser, Chrysler 300c 6.4L Hemi V8, Audi A4, BMW 3 series and various other luxury cars and SUVs.

So the BMW i3 will be competing against SUV, luxury and performance cars. In terms of off-road capability and large cargo areas,  the i3 can’t compete against the SUV. In terms of luxury, the BMW i3 has a chance and in terms of performance, I believe it will be competitive in terms of acceleration, but not in top speed due to the 150km/h restriction BMW placed on the car.

Is The BMW I3 Worth Buying?

BMW i3 Left Front side - inside a BMW dealership

BMW i3 Left Front side – inside a BMW dealership

When the Mitsubishi i-MiEV first came out, I knew people who paid over $70,000 for that car. I felt that was rather expensive and in recent times, I have seen prices fall buy more than half. The Nissan Leaf has also seen price falls. To put things in perspective, Ferrari prices and Porsche prices in Australia have fallen significantly. In fact, in mid 2013, Porsche dropped the price of their car by as much as up to 31%.

When you compare what you get with the BMW i3 with other offerings, the BMW i3 appears to be reasonably priced.

Also, I found the staff at Rolfe Classic BMW passionate about the i3, interested in talking to me about it, letting me have a look at it, keeping me up to date about what is happening in relation to the i3 and willing to take a deposit on the car. This is a positive attitude which I like to see from a dealer and I believe some Nissan and Mitsubishi dealers could learn from Rolfe Classic BMW when dealing with prospects looking to buy an electric car.

Although, this car is priced higher in Australia compared to other markets, it is comparable to what else is being sold for in Australia (gas or electric), plus the car looks great. I would personally like to see BMW sell more i3 cars and would urge them to drop their prices in line with BMW 125i prices or lower instead of BMW 135i prices, even it it means replacing the leather seats with cloth seats and dropping a couple of other features.

Summary and Conclusion

First impression is I love the BMW i3. The BMW i3 is a great car with great specifications and great looks. It is optimized to be electric from the beginning of development. The Range Extender (REX) is sensible for the Australian market as the current fast charging infrastructure is not as comprehensive compared to places like the United States or Europe. The carbon fiber body provides strength and safety with lightness, but has an inherent cost which is reflected in the anticipated asking price. I look forward to taking one for a test drive in the future.

This is Al Bunzel signing out.

P.S.Check out various videos showcasing the BMW i3

P.S.S.Check out more pictures of the BMW i3 below:

BMW i3 Center Console and Interior

BMW i3 Center Console and Interior

BMW i3 Left Side
BMW i3 Left Side

BMW i3 Rear Trunk

BMW i3 Rear Trunk

 

January 2014 EV News Summary Highlights

January 2014 EV News Summary Highlights



Video: January 2014 EV News Summary Highlights

Hi, it’s Al Bunzel, aka Crazy Al from ElectricCarConversionBlog.com with the January 2014 EV News Summary Highlights.

I finally got the Kelly KDZ48400 controller installed in my 2nd race kart. Part of the hold up was due to not realizing that the control circuit shared the traction battery pack. This meant that I could not use the 12 volt main contactor, but had to get a main contactor where the coils were designed for the voltage of the traction battery pack. As I was using 24 volts, I had to get a main contactor that could use 24 volts which I received in January. If I had a Kelly KDHE controller, it would have been a different story because from what I can see from the documentation, the control circuit is independent of the traction battery pack and it is 12 volts.

I tried to do some tests and noticed that this kart was pulling a peak current close to 300 amps and voltage sag was around 15 volts, but I still need to analyze the video footage to verify these figures.

 

The controller reported some errors. The KDZ48400 uses flashing LEDs to report errors. Let’s have a look at some:

 

This 2,4 error according to the manual means “throttle error at power up”. When I traced the wires to the throttle, they were disconnected, probably from not being tight enough and with the hard driving causing it to detach.

 

Let’s have a look at another error code.

This 3,2 error according to the manual means “internal reset” which may be caused by “temporary over current” or “momentary high or low battery voltage”. In my case, it was caused by low battery voltage because it happened after I went for a ticky tour in the back yard doing burn outs and drifting and the batteries needed serious recharging after that.

I have not even exhausted the full potential of the KDZ48400 controller.  From the wiring diagram, you can see there are more inputs and sensors that can be connected to the Kelly KDZ48400 controller. You can even make various adjustments, configurations and tune the controller using a PC.

In February, I plan to explore more features of the Kelly KDZ48400 controller.

This is Al Bunzel signing out.

P.S. Check out and please Like my facebook page which is on www.facebook.com/ElectricCarConversionBlog as I will be posting more EV related material there.

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