Category Archives: Electric Vehicles

ChargePoint Launches European Expansion With New InstaVolt Partnership

Originally published on CleanTechnica

ChargePoint has announced a new partnership with InstaVolt to install more than 200 ChargePoint rapid charging systems. This represents the first major milestone in its European expansion.

UK electric vehicle charging network InstaVolt has signed a contract to purchase more than 200 of ChargePoint Express Plus systems. These systems will be installed by InstaVolt along popular routes in the UK with an aim to enable drivers to quickly recharge their EVs on longer road trips.

As we shared back in January, the ChargePoint Express Plus charging system is a modular solution that allows operators to install the charging station and then increase the charging speed of the systems as more vehicles capable of fast charging enter the market. This is critical because it gives operators confidence that the initial investment will not be lost as technologies change over time, but instead allows them to change with the times and increase charging speeds up to 400 kW … which is 3 times faster than any vehicle on the market today.

Tim Payne, CEO at InstaVolt, said of the partnership:

“We are delighted to partner with ChargePoint to deliver a best in class EV charging infrastructure. We own, install and maintain rapid electric vehicle charging units all over the country, giving landowners the opportunity to earn a rental income by housing them, and giving EV drivers access to the fastest charging available.

“ChargePoint will fulfill two important criteria for us: the charging units are future-proofed so the units can be configured to meet the precise requirements of any site and can be scaled incrementally as demand for higher rate charging increases. This is particularly important as EV manufacturers begin to bring out new models with increased battery capacity. We are also committed to making sure the units are working 24/7 and so the reliability of the ChargePoint solution is one of the cornerstones of our offer.”

The move into the European market for ChargePoint and this new partnership with InstaVolt represent major milestones in the rollout of the fast charging network of the future. To date, the fastest non-Tesla charging stations available top out at 50 kW, whereas these new ChargePoint units allow for dramatic expansion in the future.

This turns the notion of installing 6.6 kW chargers that will be out of date in a few years on its head. For the first time, it gives the public the confidence they need to buy an EV with the knowledge that public chargers exist that can support them over the life of the vehicle. Whether consumers will need to own vehicles in 10 years is another story altogether. …

EV Drivers Want (or Require) Superfast Charging

Worth highlighting here is that many of today’s EV drivers demand or at least greatly desire superfast charging in their next EVs. Depending on the type of electric vehicle they drive today (a non-Tesla fully electric car, a Tesla, or a plug-in hybrid) and where they live (Europe or North America), 32–92% of the respondents we surveyed said they required superfast charging in their next EV.

Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.

Looking at desires instead of requirements, the figures ranged from 45% (European non-Tesla fully electric car drivers) to 86% (North American Tesla drivers).

Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.

BYD Refuse Truck to Saves $13,000 Per Year In Fuel & Maintenance

Originally published on CleanTechnica

BYD announced a new electric long-range class 8 refuse truck at the ACT Expo in Long Beach this week that is estimated to save operators more than $13,000 per year in fuel and maintenance when compared to a diesel-based refuse truck.

Read that again. $10,000 per year in savings just by driving a different vehicle. It also comes with a hefty improvement in maintenance costs with another $3,000 saved on maintenance per year. This is a result of the reduction in parts required to move the vehicle around coming from the simplified electric drivetrain. Regenerative brakes support this by reducing the wear and tear on pads and rotors.

The new vehicle builds on the electric BYD trucks that were launched last year and represents the start of a flood of purpose-built electric trucks coming from BYD. The trucks make use of BYD’s proprietary iron phosphate battery technology, which is built to last longer but at the cost of a slightly heavier pack than more traditional 18650 lithium ion cell-based packs.

refuse truck

The new 10-ton payload trash truck can achieve 76 miles per charge with minimal battery degradation. These trucks are some of the first to roll off of the new production lines at BYD’s recently expanded Lancaster, California, Bus and Coach Factory. It complies with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) to ensure maximum adoption in the North American Market.

Low speed, high torque vehicles with lots of starts and stops throughout the day, like mail delivery vehicles, parcel delivery vehicles, city buses, and refuse trucks with relatively predictable routes or fixed zones of operation, represent prime targets for electrification, as the vehicles can be purpose-built with en-route charging or perfectly sized batteries to maximize the financial returns for operators. Seeing BYD move into these spaces with intention is exciting and bodes well for increased fleet adoption in the North American market.

While it comes with a compelling set of figures, it is sure to be an uphill fight for BYD to move in on trash haulers with a new set of gear that’s going to have a higher cost up front. Educating operators about the fundamentals of electric vehicles, charging systems, new maintenance best practices and schedules are just a few of the real world challenges the team is faced with. But BYD continues to move forward. The silent giant in the world of plug-in vehicles doesn’t listen to the doubters, but it does keep taking orders and with each new order, continues to widen its lead as the top-selling plug-in vehicle manufacturer in the world.

The full specs on the new vehicle are below. Let us know what you think about this new entry down in the comments.

refuse truck

Tesla Model 3 Production On Track as Tesla Ramps Up Supporting Infrastructure

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Tesla announced earnings for the first quarter of 2017 today and the message is loud and clear about the Model 3 — Tesla is on track for the move to production and ramping up its infrastructure across the board in support of the launch.

Model 3

Starting with the most foundational of Model 3 activities, Model 3 production is on track with all production-ready manufacturing equipment set to start working in July for honest-to-goodness manufacturing:

“Model 3 activities related to vehicle development, manufacturing equipment installation and supplier readiness remain on plan to start production in July.”

The letter continues by unpacking the work Tesla is doing to improve its overall geographic footprint across the globe.

“We are significantly expanding our infrastructure to support Tesla owners by increasing the density and geographic footprint of our presence.”

This comes on the heels of Tesla’s focused announcement that the Tesla Supercharger network will be doubling in 2017.

All signs point to Tesla’s gamble on installing production-capable manufacturing equipment right off the bat vs installing special, essentially disposable equipment and then upgrading to full-volume equipment after the release candidate vehicles are validated. The release candidate vehicles have been built so that improvements can be taken back to the manufacturing process to ensure it is capable of supporting Model 3 production at scale — at quality targets.

As the world has already seen, release candidates are also getting out in public for real-world road testing as part of the validation process.

Digging into the details of the manufacturing lines, Tesla has brought its latest Schuler press line up and has started the commissioning process for it in preparation for Model 3 production. This timing is in-line with the planned Model 3 ramp and allows “sufficient time to install and tune die sets ahead of volume production.”

Work continues across the Fremont factory, with the paint shop getting an overhaul as well as upgrades in the new Model 3 body welding process and general assembly lines, with Tesla noting that these are all on track.

On the supplier front, Tesla is also pounding on the upstream suppliers to ensure it doesn’t hit any roadblocks like those encountered with the Model X production ramp, which had serious issues with the components required for the second-row seats, supersplendulous windshield, and falcon-wing doors.

Service Improvements

Beyond just physical service centers, Tesla has moved forward with mobile service teams and is ramping up from the pilot of just a single mobile service vehicle to a fleet of over 100 mobile service vehicles by the end of Q2 2017. Tesla notes that it has built its vehicles to be largely serviceable without the need for a lift, which means mobile service is much easier to accomplish at the home or business of a customer, which saves the customer the time and effort of traveling to and from a service center (SC) as well as the non-value-add logistics associated with a SC visit.

I personally found the Ranger Service to be extremely user-friendly when a tech came to my home to swap out a door handle on my Model S while I made dinner for my family in the next room.

Tesla has also done work to continue to drive service times down. Specifically, it has continued to leverage proactive and reactive remote diagnostics to identify and flag service items before they leave a driver stranded on the side of a road. This has the potential to drive the uptime of Tesla vehicles up higher than any other competitor, as no other automotive manufacturer has or is using this type of advanced, remote diagnostic capabilities today. The work done to drive service times down this year has resulted in reductions of repair times by 35% this year alone.

A 30% increase in physical footprint density is also in the works for this year, with over 100 new retail, delivery, and service locations globally in parallel to the previously communicated doubling of the Supercharger network in 2017 to 10,000 stations and a 4-fold increase in the destination charger network density to 15,000.

Tesla is also moving into the body shop business, which is a part of the service model that it has historically outsourced. Body work has been a source of significant headaches and delays for users, with the rear quarter panels being a known constraint that regularly cause delays of several months due to their complexity, lead time for parts ordering, and the sheer effort required to remove and rebuild that section of the vehicle.

On the investors call, which CleanTechnica joined, the Tesla team noted that there has been a significant ramp in the number of loaners the company is keeping ready to ensure owners have a Tesla to borrow when their vehicle is in for service. The company noted that it is stocking well-equipped vehicles to give owners the best experience and to make service a positive experience to the point where they will be sad when it’s over. If a fleet of loaner Model X P100Ds are sitting at the ready, Tesla may see an increase in service requests from owners. 🙂

That positive experience could also lead to more upgrades and Model X or S sales. As reported in our freshly released second-annual EV report, the largest percentage of current EV drivers in Europe and North America plan to next buy a Tesla Model 3, but another large portion of initial EV drivers plan to buy a Model S or X next. In fact, among current Tesla drivers, approximately 26% plan to next buy a/another Model S and 10–11% plan to next buy a/another Model X.


EV Charging Startup EVmatch Connects Private Charging Station Owners With EV Drivers

Originally published on CleanTechnica

EV charging startup EVmatch aims to connect private charging station owners with EV drivers looking for a charge. The Los Angeles pilot launches this week, with free charging in the EVmatch system for the pilot users until 4/11/17.

EVmatch

What is EVmatch?

The EVmatch solution fills a gap in electric vehicle charging infrastructure by providing a platform and a compensation model that connects privately owned EV charging station owners with EV drivers. With home charging station installations generally tracking with EV adoption rates, EVmatch seeks to tap into privately owned charging infrastructure to expand charging options for EV drivers, eliminating range anxiety along the way.

Beyond just charging, EVmatch includes a reservation system which gives drivers assurance that the charger will be held for them during a fixed window. This is something no other public charging system does well and is a key differentiator, as it is very common to arrive at a charger only to find that someone else is there charging.

EVmatch

Finally, EVmatch facilitates connections between real people that are interested in and likely advocates of EVs. It’s difficult to put a price on community, but as someone who has been driving EVs, charging EVs at public infrastructure, and advocating for EVs for years, this is exciting for me.

Startup History

EVmatch is the brainchild of co-founders Heather Hochrein and Shannon Walker, who developed the solution together as part of the eco-entrepreneurship tract of the graduate program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since graduating in June of 2016, the duo has kicked the startup into high gear with a proof-of-concept launch in Santa Barbara, California, supported by the development of the software solution.

EVmatch

The solution initially made use of Google Docs and Google Calendar and quickly evolved into the development of a web app–based solution that brings all the learnings from the proof of concept together into a single solution that delivers compatibility on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Payments from users to hosts are determined by an intelligent algorithm that takes into account electricity rates that are entered by the host to determine which tier or time of use mode they operate in. The Smart Pricing algorithm takes into account charging speed, the cost of electricity, and a “profit per hour” that is set by the host. These are multiplied by the total charging time, which uses an honor system–based reservation duration for the pilot. The team has plans to implement a hardware/software integration that will provide customer recognition and real-time electricity metering to track total kWh used instead of an estimation. Finally, a service fee is applied as the primary revenue stream for the folks at EVmatch. In over-simplified terms, it looks like this:

[(Price per kWh)*(Charging Speed) + Host Markup per hour] * Length of Reservation + EVmatch Service Fee = Charging Session Price

This model was well received by hosts and users in the proof of concept. These initial test users were generally more excited to support EV adoption than they were about making a profit. Whether this excitement scales or not is one of the big questions the team is looking to answer with the pilot. Payments to hosts are currently made through weekly payments to keep the money flowing to hosts, but the frequency and method of payments may change after the pilot.

EVmatch

The Big Launch

EVmatch built a proof of concept in the Santa Barbara area but then kicked things into high gear last week when it launched the pilot of the solution, which expands the footprint to the greater Los Angeles area. In the limited-release pilot, the team will scale the solution to a broader user base to validate the new end-to-end solution before developing platform-specific apps and expanding the network to the rest of California and beyond.

Customers who have already pre-registered for the pilot launch on the EVmatch site have now received a formal invites to the pilot, which officially kicked off on March 28. The pilot features free in-network charging through April 11, 2017, and will be celebrated by a launch party in Los Angeles in the next couple of weeks.

More information about the pilot, including instructions for signing up as a charging site host or charging system user can be found over on the EVmatch Pilot site or on the main site at www.evmatch.com. I know I’ll be watching over the next few weeks and months to see how the EVmatch solution performs with a larger set of users, and I hope that it will be able to deliver on its goal of giving people enough confidence in the public charging network to buy an EV.

Images courtesy of EVmatch

The Rise Of The Stealth Plug-In (aka, The Day Plug-In Vehicles Went Mainstream)

Originally published on CleanTechnica

It hit me for the first time on the highway driving into the middle of a tornado of traffic in the heart of Los Angeles. Cars cluttered the highway in no intelligible pattern, aimed in every direction except with the flow of traffic, the glare of brake lights turning the masses of metal into a blurred mess that felt more like hell than a highway.

To make the mess more manageable — I’ve convinced my kids that counting plug-in cars on the highway is a game. In Southern California, it’s actually quite entertaining since there’s a sufficient quantity of them to keep us on our toes while still not so common as to overwhelm us … but that’s starting to change.

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“Count the Plugins”

Early trips down to my in-laws house (some 78 miles away and 1.5 to 4 hours away, depending on traffic) used to net game-winning scores in the teens … just a handful of years ago. Then we hit a milestone at 50 last year, which we were extremely proud of … then, on our recent trip, we hit 68, but we knew there were more out there that we just couldn’t identify.

We would catch the occasional Mercedes B-Class Electric, a Ford C-Max Energi or Ford Fusion Energi, and even the occasional Fiat 500e, but we knew tons were slipping by unnoticed. We could feel them near us, almost teasing us as they zoomed by unnoticed. Even the new Chevy Volt looks a bit mainstream, and the new Bolt has been wrapped in an urban camouflage so well done that it looks like a gasmobile.

I know, I know … it’s just a game Kyle, calm down. But it’s not. This is a critical point in the journey towards electrifying transportation … the point where plug-in vehicles go mainstream. This is the point where my former co-worker, who’s now driving 2 hours each way to work, started with a Prius but then upgraded to a Volt … because it just makes sense. This is the point where people are switching to the technology en masse because it’s simply better on just about every level.

This is huge, folks.

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The Will of the Masses

When my wife and I bought our first electric car (for her), my only request was that she would pick an electric car … or at least a plug-in hybrid. There were ~12 EVs to choose from, but only a handful that really met our criteria. We still had our half-gasmobile Prius hybrid for longer trips, so it just needed to get her to work and back for a daily average of no more than 30 miles — well within the range of most ~84 mile range EVs.

After spending several hours looking over pictures of cars and specs online, we narrowed it down to the BMW i3 and the Mercedes B-Class ED (now called the B250e). She eventually went with the B-Class because it didn’t look like an electric vehicle. The i3 stands out like a natural gas–fired power plant operating in the middle of a field of solar panels, and the Nissan LEAF isn’t much better (though, that may be changing soon).

The experience of purchasing the B-Class opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone will drive an EV just because it’s better, safer, and cheaper to operate — some people most people just want a “normal” looking car.

plugin

You Guys Rock!

More than anything, I just wanted to take a minute to celebrate this moment because it wouldn’t have happened without you. You care about electric cars, are passionate about them, and are probably going to be a resource for friends and neighbors as they first discover electric cars (have you heard of this Tesla thing? …yeah, Chris, I’m talking about you). You will help them consider their first plug-in vehicle purchase and help with running the numbers (Brian ended up in a white Volt if you were wondering) or try to figure out if solar really is a good deal or if it’s a scam (Melissa was put off by the flood of door-to-door solar salesmen but eventually signed with Vivint).

It is the passion and the wisdom of individual people being passed along and shared like a glass of cold orange juice on a warm summer afternoon that brought this transformation to life. So, I just wanted to say thanks … and congratulations.

Thanks for being ambassadors for clean technology in your world, to your friends, and to your family.

I have a confession to make, though. It didn’t happen on any particular day. But it did happen. It is happening. And I’m going to kick some serious butt on our next round of “count the plug-ins” because I can see the plug-ins no matter how much camouflage they put on to trick those mainstream buyers that have no idea how long those of us who have been in the know have been waiting for this moment.

If you are looking to purchase a new Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) which will save you $1,000 on the purchase while also helping me to write better content for the site. 

 


Tesla Model S EV Annex Carbon Fiber Upgrade

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The good folks over at EV Annex have the shelves stocked deep with custom designed and built Tesla accessories like the Center Console Insert and the Cubby Compartment that really fill in some the functionality gaps. They also have a wide variety of custom designed and built accessories that offer a different take on the design aesthetic of the Model S and X.

spoiler

Carbon Fiber Blade Spoiler

They sent a few of their carbon fiber accent items over to spruce up the exterior of my Model S. Unfortunately, I’m no professional installer but thankfully, all of the interior products I have tested out to date have been easy and straightforward to install. This time around, I was happy to find that their exterior products follow suit, while adding nice touches of class to the exterior of the Model S — a challenging feat considering how great it looks already.

For starters, adding the EV Annex Blade Spoiler adds an amazing pop of class to the car and does so at a much more approachable price point of just $589 compared to the Tesla version which will set you back a staggering $1500. Granted, the Tesla version includes installation, but even if professionally installed, the EV Annex version comes in at a much lower price point and with quality that is nearly indistinguishable from OEM.

The addition of a carbon fiber spoiler to the Model S stands out in contrast with the smooth lines and uniform color of the car, with a flash of glossy carbon fiber. It takes the rear of the car from smooth to standout with a bold new line that cuts away from the car, often inciting a double take to catch the extra pop of flair.

spoiler

Carbon Fiber Nose Cone Applique

Up at the front of the Model S, the EV Annex guys created a carbon fiber nose cone applique that cuts around the Tesla emblem with such precision, it looks almost as if the carbon fiber were poured in around it as a liquid (it wasn’t).

While the carbon fiber that the spoiler is made from is rigid, the applique for the nose cone, while also made with real carbon fiber, is comprised of a flexible layer of carbon fiber covered with a protective rubberized coating that serves a very similar function to the clear protective paint coatings many high end cars come with (like opticoat). The front of the car is extremely prone to chips in paint — or in this case, a carbon fiber applique — so I was happy to see that it came with its own protection.

Speaking of protective coatings, I chose to remove my protective paint coating prior to installing to ensure the best bond with the car. After all, this new beauty would both improve the aesthetics as well as protect the car. so it was a win-win. To remove the coating, I worked my way to the edge of the upper nosecone section to where the coating ended and just started pulling it back, like a large vinyl sticker. After a few minutes, it was off.

spoiler

I gave the nosecone a quick cleaning with window cleaner, then some alcohol, to ensure a tight bond with the new piece, and was ready to apply it. I read the instructions once more (read twice, apply once :)) and was ready to go. I removed the backing on the rear side to expose the adhesive, and from there it was a simple matter of taking my time to fit the piece onto the car. It went surprisingly quickly and fit like a glove.

spoiler

I stepped back to admire it and was extremely pleased at just how quickly and easily it upgraded the look of the front of the Tesla. The carbon fiber nosecone applique adds a nice pop of class to the front of the car, which is especially nice for Teslas with the old nosecone.

Check out the gallery below for a full array of shots of these beautiful pieces on my “No Gasmobile” and head on over to EV Annex to check out the Carbon Fiber Blade Spoiler and the Carbon Fiber Nosecone Applique for the Model S.

If you are looking to purchase a new Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) which will save you $1,000 on the purchase while also helping me to write better content for the site. 

All Images Credit: Kyle Field 

ChargePoint Delivers Fast Charger Of The Future At CES

At CES today, ChargePoint raised the bar for DC fast charging with not just one new charger but a paradigm shift in DC fast charging that redefines the entire product category.

The ChargePoint Express Plus family revolutionizes DC fast charging by looking to the future and embracing the inevitable increases in charging speed demand with a modular design that allows hosts to upgrade as demand for faster charging speeds increases.

ChargePoint has 400 DC fast chargers (DCFCs) installed out in the field today, which are a mix of units from other manufacturers and ChargePoint units. The ChargePoint team has taken all of the learnings from those and rolled them into this new product family, which the EV company is confident can support the next several generations of EVs.

The Design

The modular design is built around the idea of individual power modules which invert AC from the grid and puts out 31 kW of DC to the charging cable. At the most basic DC Fast Charger installations for this family, each charging station can hold 1 or 2 power modules to support speeds of 31 kW and 62 kW, respectively.

Installing and linking two stations next to each other allows them to share these power modules — or power blades — much like pairs of Tesla Superchargers do today. If both chargers had two power modules, that would allow one of the chargers to charge a car at 124 kW. If another car connected to the other charger, the speed for each would drop down to the single station rate of 62 kW.

Charging … Cubed

Exciting, right? But that’s just the beginning. Adding more chargers allows them to play together in a larger group. 8 chargers can hold a maximum of 16 blades (2 in each), which can and will dynamically allocate the maximum available power to as many EVs as are charging at any given time.

If those chargers are in an apartment complex that is limited on power that it can supply to the chargers, they will dynamically allocate the available power to whichever car is connected and using power. One caveat is that the chargers can only allocate power in single-blade units — so, in 31 kW increments.

ChargePoint liked this modular design but had even bigger plans and took a chunk of 16 blades and dropped them into a cube which was then connected to a bank of chargers. Now those 8 chargers (or however many are connected) can share that pool of 16 power blades in addition to the blades that are built into the chargers.

Each blade is still the same 31 kW … but now the system has a LOT more blades in the pool to play with. Need more speed? Add another cube. Each charging station can go up to 400 kW using blades from other chargers or from a cube. Each cube can contain up to 500 kW of DC and can feed from 1–8 charging stations per cube.

Basically, this flexible, future-proof design allows system owners to start small with 1 or 2 chargers with a blade in each and provides flexibility for owners to add more blades or cubes with blades as customer demand grows for faster charging speeds.

The Power of the Network

For those familiar with virtual computing stacks, these power blades operate much like blade servers. The power modules can be hot swapped. They can communicate back to ChargePoint at the individual blade level for predictive maintenance and will automagically fail over to other power modules in the pool in the event of an unplanned failure.

One of ChargePoint’s strengths is the network which comes with a full set of tools and support for owners to configure and tune to deliver the customer experience they are looking for.

Summary

If I sound excited about this innovative new product line, I am. This truly feels like the charging system of the future. Yes, there are still a ton of variables that impact the viability of a charging location — installation costs, utility capability to supply such a massive amount of power in a given location, demand charges, customer demand, site host willingness to commit real estate for cubes, etc., etc., but just the fact that the product exists on the charging side to support faster charging speeds is huge.

I will break this family down in more detail in a future post but wanted to start with the basics of the new family to share this exciting news in a bite-size chunk. If you’re hungry for more information about it NOW, check out the official ChargePoint Express Plus page.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.


Faraday Future Shoots For The Stars With The FF91 Concept

Tonight, Faraday Future unveiled what it believes is not just the next step in the evolution of the automobile. No, the team at Faraday Future have stated that the FF91 is a complete step change. It is a new species. Huh? Yeah, me too. Faraday Future has always acted a bit differently, talked a bit differently, and done things a bit differently, so maybe this is just another Faraday Future thing, but don’t take my word for it — they unpacked a ton of details about the FF91 in the big reveal tonight.

The Outside

The FF91 exterior had been teased for so long by the Faraday Future team that it was almost anticlimactic seeing it revealed tonight, but at the same time, it’s a completely new beast. I can’t shake the feeling that it looks just like a Range Rover Evoque with a full suite of sensors on it, but maybe that’s just me. Even with two different prototypes driving past, it was hard to get a good feel for the car, as the masses were packed in so tight around it for the vast majority of the night.

The UFO line! FF mentioned this mysterious “UFO line” at the reveal of the FFzero1 in January last year and continued that talk tonight. The UFO line manifested itself in the FF91 in the form of a horizontal line about 1/3 of the way up the car that quite honestly doesn’t feel unique or creative, nor does it add anything unique to the exterior of the vehicle.

What it does do is to sound strange. I’m not sure how a company starting out from scratch (albeit, with a fully stacked team) thought it would be a good idea to add such an odd label to a rather unassuming design cue, but hey, there it is. The UFO line is here to stay folks.

Richard Kim, Head Designer at Faraday Future, took the stage to talk about the various styling cues that were integrated into the design of the car and broke the FF91 down into 3 sections — the black section, which includes the tires and rolling chassis (like the Tesla skateboard); the silver section, which is the lateral panel of silver that wraps the car (presumably metal?); and the glass section, which creates unique spaces for each of the passengers in the vehicle (why talk about a driver in an autonomous vehicle?).

Looking towards the rear of the car, there’s a fin on either side of the exterior of the car that reaches up from the silver section into the glass section of the FF91. It creates a very fun effect from the rear, as it creates a gap between the glass and the metal, much like the rear quarter panel section on the BMW i8 (which I love!). It’s not clear that this helps or hurts the drag coefficient of the car, but with it already down at .25, it’s clear that aerodynamics was a priority in the design of the FF91.

Fins

Comparisons

Tonight, Faraday Future talked about the FF91 as a production vehicle. That’s tough to swallow, as this car is still so far from being in production that the title just doesn’t stick. There’s literally not even a factory that can build it let alone a final vehicle for the factory to build. The blatant comparisons between the still-in-development FF91 and a car I can buy today — the Tesla Model S P100DL — frankly seemed disingenuous:

→ 0–60 MPH in 2.39 seconds … just a hair faster than the Tesla Model S P100D (2.5 seconds).

→ 1050 horsepower as compared to Tesla’s  760 horsepower.

→ 200 kW charging as compared to the ~130 kW charging speeds of Tesla Superchargers (though, Tesla recently indicated plans to increase that dramatically)

→ 130 kWh battery (optional) as compared to Tesla’s max pack size of 100 kWh

→ 378 miles of range … versus 315 miles of max Model S range

→ with the ultimate comparison being the in-person drag race between the FF91 and the P100D where the FF car beat out the Tesla Model S P100D by .01 seconds at the event (2.59 vs 2.60).

Looking back on the presentation and the stats shared by the FF team, it’s even more clear that the entire presentation was one big statement that “FF is better than Tesla in every way.” I wish all the best for the FF team but there’s still a long ways to go before the FF91 gets into the hands of consumers.

It’s also odd that the Variable Platform Architecture that FF touted as groundbreaking at CES last year is effectively the same skateboard design that Tesla has for the Model S, just with a better graphical representation when the pack gets larger or smaller.

The FF91

We knew the FF 91 would be autonomous and Faraday Future is still using that language. It’s a tough commitment to make because mandating that it be autonomous at launch can easily delay the car months if not years, as each state and every nation has unique laws governing autonomous driving that need to be worked through before the car could hit the streets.

Shifting to autonomous driving allows all of the passengers to engage with the car via the in-built WiFi hotspots that bridge the “multiple CAT6 LTE modems” into a WiFi network for passengers. Having a high-quality internet connection is critical in the next (unannounced) part of the story — the interior — which is sure to be packed with LeTV-style content consumption options.

Rolling all of this together, the FF91 is a powerhouse of technology mixed with a slew of new EV bones underpinned by the largest battery ever put into a “production” electric vehicle.

The Name

While this is yet to be confirmed by Faraday Future, we have it on good authority that the name 91 (“nine one” … not ninety one) is an amalgam of what Faraday Future calls the best number — 9 — and then 1 for the first version. So, it amounts to the first version of the best car, which is actually pretty neat. It was strange that Faraday Future presented the name of the car without explaining it, but perhaps there was too much to fit into the already bloated agenda and the explanation didn’t make the cut. Or perhaps Faraday Future wanted it to remain a bit mysterious.

What’s Next?

Faraday Future will open up reservations for the FF91 shortly, whereby potential customers can thunk down $5,000 to reserve their very own FF91. That’s a large chunk of cash for a vehicle that has no sales price announced (though, it will likely be up around $100,000), no factory to build it, and no timeline to back up the actual production of the car.

I really do hope the best for the FF team and the FF91 looks great to me … but there are a lot of gaps in the data — large, obvious gaps — that call into question what’s actually happening behind the scenes. Was the presentation this year just a ploy to get potential customers to drop a few thousand, so that FF could use that as capital seed money to build the factory? Is FF a shell company for LeEco? Will the FF91 ever have an actual production run? How much will it cost?

There are a lot of serious questions that beg for more than vague, futuristic answers, but FF seems content to leave potential customers in the dark. There is one thing we know after tonight — time will tell if FF will succeed … and based on the rate at which it was burning through capital in 2016, we’ll know sooner rather than later.

For more information on the Faraday Future FF91, check out the official website and the official press release.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica 

If you enjoy my articles and are looking to purchase a new Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) which will save you $1,000 on the purchase while also helping me to write better content for the site. 

91% Of Tesla Owners Would Buy Another Tesla, Tesla Takes #1 In Consumer Reports Survey

 Originally published on CleanTechnica

Consumer Reports finds itself between the proverbial rock of its own creation — the low reliability rating of Tesla vehicles — and the cold, hard reality that is the uber positive opinions of thousands of Tesla owners. The 2016 Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey found that Tesla owners were amongst the most satisfied and that 91% would purchase another Tesla.

That puts Tesla #1 in owner satisfaction … by a landslide. It beat #2 Porsche (84%) by a whopping 7 percentage points and #3 Audi (77%) by 14 percentage points.

I have to admit that I do not come into this news as an outsider, but rather, as a veteran owner of a Tesla Model S. My first year of ownership was well documented in our ongoing long-term review, with a more refined summary in my recent “year in review” article.

The results of the Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey put Tesla far above well established brands such as Porsche, Audi, and Subaru — an impressive result to say the least, especially in light of the well documented reliability issues that persist, particularly in the Tesla Model X.

Rank Brand Would Buy Again
1 Tesla 91%
2 Porsche 84%
3 Audi 77%
4 Subaru 76%
5 Toyota 76%

The Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey was looking at overall owner satisfaction, with a specific focus on whether they would definitely buy the car again:

“Our brand rankings represent owner sentiment across each brand’s product line. (Model satisfaction is determined by the percentage of owners who responded “definitely yes” to the question of whether they would buy the same vehicle if they had it to do all over again.) To determine brand love—or disdain—we took a straight average of the satisfaction score for each brand’s models.

“Our survey revealed that the TeslaPorscheAudi, and Subaru brands remained in the top four spots again this year. Some other brands were on the move. Lincoln climbed from 21st place last year to 12th this year, and Hyundai shot up to 13th from 24th, based on the strength of new and recently redesigned models.“

While this is only one data point, it highlights just how important the improvements are that Tesla has delivered to consumers (zero emissions at the point of use, electric drive, smooth ride, quiet interior, user-friendly tech, Supercharger network, great customer service, not treating service centers as profit centers, manufacturer owned dealership experience, etc., etc.) when weighed against less-than-stellar reliability that is inevitable in a new mass-market vehicle.

On the flipside of the electric revolution, slow adopters and dieselgaters (cough … VW) didn’t fare so well in the survey:

“Meanwhile, Ram, a brand that sells just pickup trucks and vans, took a huge tumble from last year’s 5th place ranking to 17th. Other brands that fell in the rankings include BMW (from sixth to 14th place) and Volkswagen (from 16th to a dismal 24th).”

Hat tip to Curt Renz over on the Tesla Motor Clubs Forums for highlighting this gem.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Tesla Model S – Thoughts After 1 Year of Ownership

Originally published on CleanTechnica

In December 2015, I hatched an admittedly convoluted plan to purchase a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S some 2,600 miles away in Columbus, Ohio; fly out to pick it up; … then drive back to my home in California with a few fun stops along the way. Thankfully, just about everything worked out flawlessly and I made it home safely.

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Picking up my Model S in Columbus, Ohio

Having owned the beast for a year now, I took some time to step back to think about what it’s been like to own a Tesla Model S as compared to our 85 mile range Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive — as well as what ownership is like compared to more conventional gasmobiles.

Summary

Taking a 30,000 foot view of the last year, it has truly been phenomenal. The car drives like a dream. It’s quiet. Thanks to the skateboard design of the battery pack, it has an amazing center of gravity which is a key contributor to great traction, which doubles up with the super intelligent traction control system that all but prevents the wheels from slipping and “burning out.” It’s packed with technology making an IT geek like me smile every time I get in. And it has enough range to make range anxiety a thing of the past.

The Power of the Supercharger

While on my road trip, I vetted the Tesla Supercharger network, which I found to be more than sufficient for long-distance road trips across the arterial highway routes in the US, and with more Superchargers being added seemingly every week. Coming from a year of driving my wife’s electric Mercedes and a few months in a Nissan Leaf of my own, the Tesla Supercharger network truly was a game-changer.

supercharging_colorado

With CHAdeMO and SAE Combo Level 3 chargers (aka DC fast-charging stations), there are usually only one or two chargers per location. On top of that, they aren’t fast enough to add enough range to truly enable anything even remotely resembling a road trip. On the Chevy Bolt, for instance, stops will have to be ~60 minutes to get a 20–100% charge. Yes, that’s not terrible, but it’s also less than half the speed of a Supercharger, which will add ~170 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

On my road trip and many long-distance trips since, the Superchargers provide the perfect balance of a pit stop — time to go to the bathroom (which are typically in high demand after 2+ hours of driving with my family), grab a coffee or a bite to eat, stretch my legs, and get back on the road. Extending that to an hour adds quite a bit of idle time to the agenda. Yes, it’s still possible … but it’s going in the wrong direction.

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Supercharging is a game-changer for today’s EVs and becomes an absolute “have to have” for EVs with 200+ miles. This single fact will become evident as the masses of Bolt owners hit roads around the US over the next few months.

Service

For better or worse, I was able to experience Tesla service firsthand a few times over the last 12 months. I had my door handle extending mechanisms replaced, which took a ranger appointment and an in-house visit to fix completely. Initially, they were only going to replace the one … but when they were at my house fixing it, they confirmed that the others needed to be replaced as well. To Tesla’s credit, the process was painless and they came out and picked up my car, brought a loaner to me, and vice versa to return my car to me.

Everything about how Tesla processes service requests to how the services are scheduled to the unique approaches to repairing vehicles is a vast improvement over conventional dealerships. For the first door handle, Tesla offered to fix it in my garage with the Ranger service. That meant no dropping my car off, no waiting an hour at the dealership, no hassle of loaner cars … I opened the door and they went to work while I went inside and made dinner. It was great.

For the seatbelt recall earlier this year, Tesla staffed service techs at Supercharger locations to perform the quick 5 minute recall check in order to make it even easier for customers. This was a great example of how Tesla can and is leveraging its unique differences to improve the customer experience.

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In another interaction with Tesla service, I received a proactive call from Tesla Service to schedule a replacement of an electrical switch for the battery that wasn’t performing up to Tesla’s high standards. There was no impact to me and I received a loaner for the duration of the check. It took all of 1 day and I actually enjoyed getting to try out a different configuration of the Model S for a day.

This shows how Tesla is thinking of the vehicle as more of a smartphone than a car. Remote monitoring of vehicle health including diagnostics enables a level of preventive maintenance that simply does not exist in other car companies. This is just one more example of how Tesla doesn’t just have the longest range EV on the road but has exceeded current vehicles in just about every way.

Finally, in my most recent service experience, a notification popped up in my car that my 12 volt battery needed to be replaced. This was a known issue but it happened 2 days before Thanksgiving — for which we were planning to drive several hours a day for the entire weekend. I called Tesla and in under 5 minutes on the phone Tesla had confirmed that the battery needed to be replaced (again remotely, with no action required from me), confirmed that the battery didn’t need to be replaced immediately (had 2 weeks of life left), and had an appointment booked for early the following week.

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Overall, my Model S has had more service issues in 1 year of ownership than my Prius did over 6 years, but frankly, because of how much better the car is than any other car out there, AND just how painless Tesla Service is, I don’t mind it one bit. In fact, I enjoy calling them about an issue because they’re just so darn good at doing service.

A point of caution moving forward: it will be challenging to deliver the same high quality of service as they do today when Model 3 … and Model Y come online. I fully expect service staff to grow over the next 2 years and for the number of service locations to increase accordingly.

The Best Jerry, The Best*

My favorite part of owning the car is the rearview mirror. It’s no technical marvel — though, it is photochromatic, meaning it gets darker when bright lights (headlights) are shining in it, but that’s beside the point. I love seeing the people behind me pointing at my car and having little discussions. In addition to being in a Tesla, which draws looks by itself, my license plate is “NOGAAAS,” which helps close the gap for folks who aren’t as familiar with Tesla or electric cars.

I imagine what they’re saying and can honestly tell when they are talking about the car. I love that the car gets people talking about it. They may just know that Tesla is a nice car or a fast car or a high-tech car, which gets people excited about it … but it’s also an electric car, and to have people excited about electric cars and to get them talking about them is a huge win.

The car starts the discussion and I’ve swooped in many times to fill in any gaps in knowledge about it — dozens of times over the months I’ve owned it. For people I know, I’ve had several dozen people drive it. Again — it’s a sexy car and that draws people in and gets things going. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody was asking to drive my LEAF when I owned it … or my wife’s electric Mercedes. The Tesla is a different beast.

*This subheading refers to a somewhat obscure scene / character from the popular sitcom Jerry Seinfeld. 🙂

Put a Bow on It

In summary, this is the best car I’ve ever owned. When combined with the Supercharging network, it definitively puts range anxiety to rest once and for all. It packs more tech than any car I’ve seen in a way that’s more intuitive than I would have thought possible. It drives better (and quieter!) than any other car out there, and is faster to boot.

The Tesla app on my smartphone gives me all sorts of fun control and visibility of what it’s doing that has been helpful to me more than a few times. It can even unlock and turn on the car, allowing it to drive without a key in it. My wife — who’s not the most tech-friendly person and not a huge EV fan — feels comfortable driving in it with minimal instruction … which is great for my stress level and our marriage. 🙂

The only downside is the price … and that’s going to improve by leaps and bounds in another 12 months.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica