Monday, July 24, 2017

Allego to operate fast charging at Shell stations in Netherlands and UK

Allego to operate fast charging at Shell stations in Netherlands and UK
News article from Charged Electric Vehicle Magazine about how Netherlands-based charging operator Allego has partnered with Shell to install and operate DC fast chargers at selected Shell stations in the Netherlands and the UK.

Locally in South Africa I have noticed more and more service stations having a multitude of fast food outlets on their forecourts, even those in urban areas and not just those on the freeways. Maybe this is in anticipation that before too long motorists might be spending a bit longer at the service station while they charge their electric vehicles.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Eskom establishes large-scale battery test and demonstration facility

Eskom establishes large-scale battery test and demonstration facility
Not actual electric vehicle news but EV related news. Creamer Media's Engineering News reports that South African power utility Eskom has unveiled a battery testing and demonstration facility at Eskom’s Research and Innovation Centre in Rosherville, Johannesburg. The purpose of this facility is to compare different types of battery storage to help support the grid and also store renewable energy sources such as solar.

This will be especially relevant for the inevitable imminent increase in the number of electric vehicles on the roads. One of the common criticisms of electric vehicles by South Africans is that our power grid has been notoriously unreliable over the past decade. Obviously for electric cars to be viable a reliable source of electricity is vital. With Eskom now looking at power storage systems it looks like we are on the way to having a more stable grid.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On-The-Air (14/07/2017)

On-The-Air (14/07/2017)
A very pro-mining interview with Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly clean energy vehicles. In particular he is championing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles because they, like catalytic converters for internal combustion engines, require platinum which South Africa is by far the biggest producer of.

As I've said many times before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles make very little sense. Unlike battery electric vehicles that can be charged anywhere there is a electric plug socket, fuel cell vehicles need to be filled at a pump, at the moment there are very few of these, and most of them are concentrated in either California or Japan. Creamer claims in the interview that fuel cell cars can get a range of 500km, the latest fully electric Tesla Model S already has a 500km+ range so why is there the need for the added complexity of a fuel cell when a simple battery electric powertrain is capable of the same range.

Battery technology is also improving at an exponential rate and at the same time prices of battery cells are dropping. Where around $35,000 would only get you an electric car with roughly 100 mile range a year ago, it will now get you one with over 200 mile range in the case of the Chevy Bolt and the new Tesla Model 3. Before the end of the year the new Nissan Leaf should also be offering a similar range at a similar price to these two. At this rate it won't be too long before the average affordable electric car has a plus 300 mile (500km) range.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will also require regular servicing due to the added complexity whereas battery electric vehicles require virtually no major maintenance checks.

In the end the consumer will decide and no doubt they will decide they would rather have the simplicity and low running costs of an electric vehicle.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Plans in California and China will change SA’s car choices

Plans in California and China will change SA’s car choices
Insightful article from News24. South Africa makes up only 0.68% of the global car market and because of this, whatever direction the global car market goes, we will have to follow.

China accounts for about 40% of the world's new car market and California sells roughly half the total number of light vehicle sold in the entire US. Representatives from California recently met with their Chinese counterparts to discuss how they can cooperate in accelerating the deployment of zero-emission cars, trucks and buses.

The Chinese Youxia X is one of the more
elegant electric cars being built in China.
With these two markets being so large and important to the world's car manufacturers it goes without saying that manufacturers will build suitable vehicles that comply with the regulatory demands of these regions. In other words California and China are going to force the auto industry to go electric and the rest of the world will be obliged to follow suit.

The South African car manufacturing industry and government should be paying close attention to this and take it upon themselves to roll-out adequate charging infrastructure before the inevitable mass arrival on our roads of electric vehicles. Obviously it's not going to happen overnight but at least they can start putting charging points along major routes and incentivising places such as shopping mall's restaurants and hotels to put in destination chargers so electric vehicle owners can charge up their cars while visiting such establishments.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mpumalanga holds Electric Car Race Competition

Mpumalanga holds Electric Car Race Competition
Science learners from schools in and around Mpumalanga have constructed battery and solar operated vehicles to encourage them to venture into car manufacturing in the future. 27 teams took part in a race where the fastest car runs at 30 kilometers per hour to test the endurance of their vehicles. Organisers of the Electric Car Race Competition aim to inspire learners to study Maths and Science.

Here is what’s holding electric cars back in South Africa

Here is what’s holding electric cars back in South Africa
A rather poorly researched negatively biased article full of electric vehicle misconceptions from Business Tech. It seems they're more concerned with the potential drop in the demand for platinum as less ICE vehicles get produced and there is less need for platinum for catalytic converters for them. Below I try and counter their arguments.

  • Time to fill up/charge: It takes say 10 minutes to fill up with petrol and 5 hours for a EV. This means that petrol is 30 times more time efficient.This is simply not true. A Tesla Supercharger station will charge a Tesla Model S battery up to 50% in 20 minutes or 40 minutes to 80%. 50% charge in a Tesla should give you a 200km range. Tesla isn't yet available in South Africa but should be here within a year or two with the Model 3 and at the same time they will no doubt start to roll-out charging infrastructure as they have in the other markets they are active in. What the author means about petrol being 30 times more efficient, I don't know?
  • Range on full tank/charge: Petrol is ~1.5 times more efficient.Hmmmm... once again difficult to fully understand what point the writer is trying to put across. Electric vehicle ranges vary from 135km per charge for a Nissan Leaf to over 500km for the top of the Range Tesla Model S. Obviously someone who busy a Nissan Leaf is someone who doesn't plan doing many journeys over 135km and who's daily motoring will generally be under that mark. If you are never going to do more mileage in a day than the maximum range of your electric vehicle then you have nothing to worry about. Do whatever driving you need to do for the day, come home at night, plug your EV into the mains electricity and then in the morning it's ready to go again.
  • Price: A more affordable electric car has a range of 100 km and takes around 8 hours to fully charge at home, and even these cars are still expensive when compared to similar petrol engines. Tesla’s are 50% more expensive than similar petrol cars.Most people sleep for about 8 hours a night so of course it makes the most sense to charge your electric vehicle at the same time. Admittedly some current electric vehicles such as the two available in South Africa, the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 do have ranges on 135km and 160km respectively on a single charge. This is probably more than enough range for 95% of the populations motoring needs. However more and more electric vehicles are coming out with ranges of 300km plus. These include the already released Chevy Bolt & Tesla Model S/X, the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and the second generation Nissan Leaf. Prices of electric vehicles are more than a comparative fossil fuel powered one but the initial extra expense will be more than made up for by saving in fuel costs after a few years. Prices of electric cars are coming down all the time and at the same time their ranges are increasing. The Tesla Model 3 should be around the same price as a BMW 3 series of Mercedes C class, so not 50% more expensive.
  • Green: In countries like South Africa (and India, Australia, China etc), where coal is the main source of fuel for power generation, the carbon footprint is roughly equal. The carbon footprint of an electric car In South Africa is five times that of an electric car in Sweden.
    Even if the carbon footprint is roughly equal, it's still better to have electric vehicles than fossil fuel powered vehicles. Besides everything else, power stations don't blow their exhaust gases straight into the faces of pedestrians and other road users, the don't create air and noise pollution in the middle of cities where most people are. At least you'd be able to walk down the side of a busy road without having to shout to make yourself heard over the noise of petrol and diesel engines and without having to breath in exhaust fumes. As electricity gets greener as solar and wind get cheaper then the carbon footprint from all EV's will also drop.
  • Heading off the beaten track (driving in the bush) is out of the question.Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana and Londolozi Game Reserve are already using electric vehicles for game drives.
  • Towing a trailer or a caravan severely restricts range.
    Just like it does with a petrol or diesel vehicle.
  • Back-yard DIY maintenance and servicing is off the table.This has to be the most nonsensical and ignorant argument of them all. An electric vehicle literally needs little or no regular maintenance, apart from topping up the window washer fluid and rotating/replacing the tyres. Compare this to modern ICE vehicles which are so complex nowadays, you have  to get them serviced by the official agents.
  • The anticipated advancements in technology is perversely a negative against buying an electric car today. There are clearly going to be great advances in EV technology in the years and decades to come. However, this will make the (expensive) car that you buy today quickly obsolete. The likelihood is that as with any technological advance, EV’s may become a more affordable alternative much later in its evolution.Quite the opposite is true. If you buy a Tesla for instance, it gets upgrades downloaded via the internet. A good example of this is the Tesla Autopilot self driving system. Most Teslas have the hardware already installed and as the Autopilot software improves, Tesla will automatically update your vehicle. If you were to buy a Tesla today, in a couple of years you'd probably have the option of the same vehicle being able to drive fully autonomously.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New car battery promises instant recharging

New car battery promises instant recharging
Exciting news in an article from Mail & Guardian. The Ifbattery has been developed by a group of researchers at Purdue University in the United States.

Unlike conventional batteries which need to be recharged, and even the quickest car chargers take at least 20 minutes to get a meaningful charge, recharging of the Ifbattery is done by first emptying the batteries used fluid contents and then refilling via a pump with freshly charged fluid.

The Ifbattery uses a mixture of water, ethanol, aluminium and zinc to cause a chemical reaction. The article says that existing petrol pumps could be retrofitted to refill batteries instead of petrol and diesel tanks. The emptied contents of the flat battery could also be recharged to be used again.

If this technology comes to fruition it would mean that recharging an electric car would take no longer than filling up with petrol. Unlike fossil fuels though, the chemical mixture being used will be fully recyclable and will be recharged and used to fill another battery. It appears to have all the benefits of an electric vehicle with all the benefits of an ICE vehicle. It's also something that gives the oil companies an incentive to get behind electric vehicles. They will still be able to keep their chains of filling stations and instead of pumping gas they'll be pumping battery fluid. Everyone appears to be a winner.

This technology would really be a benefit to countries like South Africa where major cities are far apart and at the moment there are very few charging points and as far as I know there are no charging stations on the major intercity routes.

The group of researchers working on this revolutionary battery at the moment only amounts to three people. They are looking for funding to further their research. Hopefully this won't be the last we hear of the Ifbattery.

My favourite EV related YouTube channels

Some of the YouTube channels I have discovered about electric cars. Descriptions copied from the associated YouTube page.


James Cooke My daily VLOG about all things tech. Well mainly Tesla and Drones actually... for now!


Now You Know Now You Know is a educational technology YouTube channel creating unique videos on everything from Tesla and other electric cars, to vermicomposting and banana ice cream. We use everything from drones and GoPros to our Tesla Model X to show you the world from a different perspective Zac & Jesse, along with their trusty side-kicks Bobby & Brent, are trying to leave the planet just a wee bit better than how they found it by making videos packed full of information, motivation and mirth.

Transport Evolved Welcome to the official YouTube Channel for Transport Evolved, the daily multi-media news site for the latest news in the world of greener, cleaner, safer, smarter transport.

Fully Charged Fully Charged is a weekly + series produced and hosted by Robert Llewellyn (Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge, Carpool). It's not only about electric cars, bikes, boats and planes but how we generate and even own the electricity to power these machines. From looking behind the myths of renewable energy, to seeking the truth about conventional generation Robert Llewellyn demonstrates what the future could have in store for us all.

Like Tesla How is it living with the Model X? Are those doors actually functional? Are the white seats really stain resistant? In our Like Tesla family videos you'll get to see how life really is owning the Tesla Model X and living with an EV. Enjoy!

Teslanomics Hola everyone! I'm Ben Sullins and here at Teslanomics we look at the economics behind everones' favorite EV, Solar, Battery and Tunneling? Company :) Every week I break down data about someting Tesla related to see what the data really shows. From time to time I'll do reviews of Tesla related products, apps, and even other EVs. So if you like looking at the charts and love Tessla, I'd love for you to join the community!


Monday, June 12, 2017

BMW SA seeks greater govt commitment for EV expansion in SA

BMW SA seeks greater govt commitment for EV expansion in SA
CEO for BMW in Sub-Saharan Africa, Tim Abbott has called on the government to give more commitment to electric vehicles to increase consumer confidence in them.

According to Creamer Media's Engineering News BMW would like to see legislation favouring electric vehicles as well as government investment in charging infrastructure.

At present BMW SA has 54 EV charging stations and are reviewing new sites for more chargers in Gautang and Kwazulu Natal.

Pros and cons of electric vehicles in SA - reader

Pros and cons of electric vehicles in SA - reader
Excellent article by Wheels24 reader Dewald Carsterns on the advantages and disadvantages of owning an electric vehicle. Quite rightly the advantages Dewald lists far outnumber the disadvantages. I won't spoil it by going into too much detail. You can read and enjoy the full list here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Is BMW i8 & i3 Selling Like Hotcakes in South Africa?

Is BMW i8 & i3 Selling Like Hotcakes in South Africa?
Tech Financials look at the sales of the battery electric BMW i3 and the PHEV BMW i8 in South Africa.
Since market introduction in March 2015, a total of 419 BMW i models have been delivered to customers in South Africa, according to BMW South Africa. They said in a statement that the BMW i3 alone has sold 203 units, making it the most successful EV, while the BMW i8 ranks first among PHEVs with a total of 216 units delivered to customers.
Though not mind blowing figures, they are significant amounts. It equates to just under 10 of each model per month the past two and a bit years. Considering the i3 comes in around about R600,000, depending on the variant and the i8 is a wallet lightening R1,750,000, I'd say sales are pretty impressive.

Possibly aiding sales is the commitment BMW have put into charging infrastructure in the country. They have so far 54 charging stations and have signed a memorandum of understanding with Nissan, the only other local manufacturer offering a fully electric vehicle, to jointly expand the local charging network.

This shows that both companies are showing a long term commitment to plug-in electric vehicles in South Africa. There won't be, nor should there be, mass sales of electric vehicles until the charging infrastructure is in place first. When the consumer buys an electric vehicle, he or she needs to know there are ample places to charge their vehicle. Nobody is going to buy an electric car if they don't know where they're going to be able to charge it. The last thing the electric car cause needs is frustrated consumers not being able to locate chargers or having to queue to use a charger because there are insufficient numbers of chargers.


Friday, June 2, 2017

BMW vs Mercedes - Hybrid vs Hybrid - Electric Range Challenge

BMW vs Mercedes - Hybrid vs Hybrid - Electric Range Challenge
Cars.co.za compare two PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicles, the BMW 330e and the Mercedes C350e. They attempt to drive both 20km through Cape Town traffic on battery electric power only without having to resort to using the petrol engine.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

May in rear-view

A selection of articles from the past month.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Elon Musk’s Boring Company releases new images of its electric vehicle concept for passengers

Elon Musk’s Boring Company releases new images of its electric vehicle concept for passengers
Electrek reports in this article, on the passenger sled concept for Elon Musk's Boring Company. An autonomous minibus type vehicle that will utilise tunnels to swiftly transport passengers across cities.

Recently I was a bit skeptical about the whole Boring Company tunnel concept. With more thought though it is beginning to make sense.

Elon Musk is a step ahead of the rest of the World. He was producing electric cars almost a decade ago before most auto makers were even thinking of producing electric vehicles. Now that other manufacturers are rushing to get their electric vehicles out to compete with Tesla, Elon Musk is already on the next page.

Transporting regular passenger cars through tunnels is not the end game result for The Boring Company. Musk is envisaging ride sharing autonomous vehicles that have the advantages of a taxi in that they can pick up passengers at their door but at the same time also have the advantages of an underground train, the ability to travel at high speed underground from one point in the city to another.
This is a vision of how autonomous vehicles will actually end up operating and serving us. They'll be no need for it to be your car and you to be the driver as it won't need a driver. Whenever you need to go somewhere you'll just hail a ride. Just like Uber are doing already. With an autonomous minibus though where there is no driver to demand a salary and it can hold more passengers, the economies of scale should reduce the cost of a ride.

Maybe Tesla will become like Apple. In the 80's and 90's Apple were famous for their desktop computers and laptops. In the 2000's they were synonymous with first the iPod and then the iPhone and iPad. At the moment Tesla is known as the leading maker of electric cars. In ten years they'll be known for their autonomous mass transit network and Tesla cars will just be a legacy product

Recent history has taught us that tech companies that don't adapt quickly fall by the wayside. Automakers should really be paying attention to Elon Musk lest they become the next Kodak or Nokia.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Diesel vs petrol vs electric car sales in South Africa

Diesel vs petrol vs electric car sales in South Africa
Sales of diesel, petrol & electric cars all fell in 2016 from their 2015 levels reports Business Tech.

Diesel powered vehicles went from 189,000 to 173,000, petrol dropped from 397,000 to 345,000 and electric vehicles went from 79 sales in 2015 to only 41 last year.

A bit of quick mental arithmetic tells me that electric cars are accounting for roughly 0.01% of new vehicle sales in South Africa and at present heading south. As a comparison, as of 2016 plug-in electric vehicles accounted for 29.1% of new car sales in Norway, 6.4% in the Netherlands, 1.37% in the UK and 1.31% in China.

With the pending arrival of Tesla in South Africa with their Model 3, we should see the downtrend in electric vehicle sales in the country permanently reversed. That could be a year or two though as the right hand drive version of the Model 3 will only be coming sometime in the middle of next year.

Until then we will just have to hope that we see a bit more enthusiasm regarding electric vehicles from manufacturers with a presence in SA. Now's there chance to get a head start over Tesla in this country. They need to get there electric vehicles on sale here and advertise the advantages to the public. With the cost of petrol the highest in the world compared to salaries, the cost savings of having an electric car are going to appeal to South Africans. We just need the manufacturers and government to get behind them.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Interview with Andy le May

Interview with Andy le May
ESI Africa has an interview with the founder of EWIZZ electric vehicles Andy le May. The mission statement on the EWIZZ web site gives a brief explanation of the products they offer.
EWIZZ is driving the development and mass adoption of next generation electric vehicle technologies in South Africa. 
Why? It’s simple. Electric vehicles are just much better technology. They are more efficient, reduce emissions and drive down transportations costs. For too long we have only had petrol and diesel based vehicles that are expensive to run, pollute our environment, affect our health and are changing our climate. All that has now changed. EWIZZ is putting the latest electric vehicle technologies in the hands of South Africans. 
EWIZZ started in 2012 and is a registered MIB (Manufacturer Importer Builder) and motor dealer. EWIZZ works closely with Melex electro vehicles who have been EV space Africa for over 17 years. EWIZZ/Melex offices and workshops are in Cape Town and we have dealers around the country. With our experience, we offer and support the best electric vehicle solutions for South Africa. That means a combination of the most sustainable, reliable and affordable technology. EWIZZ is focussed on personal electric mobility solutions such as our range of electric scooters and motorcycles whilst Melex are focused on Golf carts, utility vehicles and buses. 
Through our internal R&D, and collaborations with Universities, local business and funders, EWIZZ is driving the development of local technology solutions for the EV market to increase and develop local content and expertise. 
EWIZZ electric vehicles are drastically reducing transport costs, journey times and transport emissions, which improves our collective health, productivity and competitiveness.
Read the interview here. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The most fuel efficient cars in South Africa right now

The most fuel efficient cars in South Africa right now
Business Tech gives a run down on the most economical new cars on the market with information sourced from Bloombergs April global fuel price index report. Not surprisingly the list is populated mostly by hybrid powered cars and headed of course by the all electric Nissan Leaf.

Strangely the BMW i3 is only third on the list and is given a fuel consumption of 2.1L/100km. I can only presume they are quoting figures from the range extender i3 REX model which has a small petrol generator to keep the battery topped up. The fully electric i3 like the Leaf has a fuel consumption of 0L/100km.
The index measures “affordability” as the cost of a litre of petrol relative to a country’s average daily wage, while overall spend represents how much the average driver spends on petrol in a year, relative to the average salary. According to the 2016 index, South Africa is ranked last – spending the highest proportion of the average salary on petrol in a year.

These statistics should make it clear that personal motorised transport is very expensive for South Africans. With electric vehicles these running costs would be reduced by at least 80%. It makes sense to drive an electric car in this country. Manufacturers not offering their fully electric or plug-in hybrid models yet in this country need to start making them available to South Africans and they need to work together to create sufficient charging infrastructure.

When Tesla arrive in South Africa with their all electric Model 3 within the next couple of years, they will also put up their own network of Supercharger fast chargers and destination chargers. The present car manufacturers with a presence in the country need to prepare themselves in time.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GM to halt India sales and sell South Africa plant

GM to halt India sales and sell South Africa plant
It appears any chances we have of seeing the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid or the 380km all electric range Chevy Bolt in South Africa have been reduced to roughly zero with news that General Motors are to pull out of the country.

It's a major disappointment that one of the world's leading producers of plug-in vehicles should be dis-investing at a time like this. Though we haven't seen either of GM's plug-in vehicles in the country there was maybe a hope that they would introduce the Bolt as a competitor to the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf battery electric cars, both on sale in South Africa but both with a battery range of less than half of the Bolt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chargie Opens Bookable Electric Car Charging Service In UK — Aims For International Market

Chargie Opens Bookable Electric Car Charging Service In UK — Aims For International Market
Clean Technica report that Chargie have launched a peer-to-peer electric car charging service in the UK. This service allows electric car owners to book a charge via www.chargie.net at a domestic charging point belonging to another electric car owner.
“The EV owner wanting to charge their car finds an exterior-wall-mounted chargepoint on the Chargie website and sends a booking request to the owner. The owner can then review the profile of the person making the booking before accepting or declining it. Once the booking is accepted, the user pays via Chargie and the system contacts both parties to confirm details. 
“The chargepoint owner specifies their per-charge cost when they register on Chargie and Chargie adds a small service fee, which is halved if the person has already put their own chargepoint on the network. Registration and search are free, and chargepoint owners can specify when their units are available.”
So far there over 60 EV owners in the UK have registered their charging point on the site since the service started on 2 May. There has already been interest in the service from other countries, including South Africa.

Seeing as the placement of charging infrastructure is seemingly moving at sub-snail pace in this country, the sharing of private charging points could be very welcome.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Minibus taxis go green(er) with LPG

Minibus taxis go green(er) with LPG
Article form IOL on the conversion of minibus taxis to LPG (liquid petroleum gas).
Versus SA Autogas, has already converted more than 100 minibus taxis. The company installs the required equipment, including an 80-litre LPG tank, in the taxis and turns them into hybrid vehicles that run on both LPG and petrol.
According to a taxi owner/driver Flyman Stanley there is some considerable saving over using petrol.
Stanley said he used to spend approximately R850 a day for a full tank of petrol, which is 50 litres, but now spends about R740 to fill up. “I can go about two days driving on a full tank of LPG, whereas in the past I had to fill up with petrol every day,"
Obviously conversion to LPG is a sensible option for the minibus taxi industry, where the biggest cost is fuel. Looking at these figures it appears the running cost of LPG is roughly 40% of that of petrol. It also produces fewer emissions, making it better for the environment as well as passengers and pedestrians in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle.

The downside of LPG as an automotive fuel at present is the scarcity of filling stations. At the moment there are only two LPG filling points for the Johannesburg Southern Suburbs Taxi Association, for who Versus have so far converted 100 taxis.

The cost of an LPG conversion appears to be between R30,000-R40,000 per taxi. Converting them to battery electric power would most likely cost ten times that amount if I use Freedom Won's cost of converting a Land Rover to electric as a marker. This is no doubt a major obstacle and until this price drops, we are unlikely to see any taxis converted to electric propulsion.

The advantages of EV conversion would be even cheaper running costs, roughly 20% of a petrol engine, and the fact that you can put a charging point literally anywhere. Saying that, the charging infrastructure would need to be in place at taxi ranks before any EV conversions take place.

Though electric conversion would be ideal, LPG conversion is a big improvement for both the taxi operator and the environment and until EV conversion becomes practical and affordable, it seems like the right way to go.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

BAW expansion shot in arm for creation of jobs

BAW expansion shot in arm for creation of jobs
Article from Business Day about Chinese automaker BAW increasing it's investment in South Africa. BAW assembles the Sasuka minibus taxi in Springs.

They are planning to launch a diesel powered taxi next month. Considering the bad press diesel has been getting recently around the world, this is a bit of a surprise. I honestly can't think of a worse fuel to use for a vehicle which is constantly around people. Passengers waiting at the side of the road or at the taxi rank are going to be assaulted with smelly diesel fumes, not to mention the extra noise that accompanies a diesel engine.

On a more positive note, BAW are also considering building electric vehicles in SA. The article suggests urban delivery vehicles will be the target for electric power, this should be a prime market for EV's as I explained back in March. Electric powered vans will mean huge savings for courier firms and other businesses that use vans constantly for short to medium journeys.

I'd really like  to see electric powered minibus taxis. They'd save the owners a fortune in fuel bills and maintenance costs, and they'd make a more healthy environment for their passengers and other pedestrians. I don't see why it would be difficult to put up some quick chargers in taxi ranks. If the vehicle had a battery with 300km range, it could charge overnight and then just top up while it's waiting to load with passengers at the rank. These top-ups would probably give it another 150km throughout the day. I'm guessing urban minibus taxis don't do more than 450km in a day.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Being Boring

One of the projects Elon Musk has been updating us with snippets of news over the last few months is The Boring Company. This is Elon Musks plan to build a network of tunnels under Los Angeles (and presumably other cities in the future) to help alleviate traffic congestion on the surface.

A few days ago the first details of how the tunnels will operate were revealed in a short video.
Cars will drive into a skate at ground level, this is like a cradle the car will sit in, which will then descend via an elevator into the ground, when it gets down to the tunnel level, the skate will then automatically carry the car and it's occupants to their chosen destination.

The first thing that crossed my mind when seeing this concept, is what is the need for the skates? This concept seems unnecessarily complicated and very unlike something Tesla would produce. How many skates would there need to be for a city the size of Los Angeles to make a meaningful difference to traffic congestion? How many elevators would there need to be and how fast would they have to be? When a car takes a skate, will there be another one waiting to pop up out of the ground for the next car waiting to use the tunnel? How much maintenance will the skates and elevators need? What about vehicles too big for the skate? What's to stop something else, a person, dog, cat etc. accidentally falling in the hole in the ground when it opens for the elevator? 

Why not have the cars drive themselves in the tunnels? I envisage the Tesla Autopilot software programmed so it would automatically switch on and override the manual car controls as soon as the vehicle entered the tunnel. It would then drive the car and passengers to the tunnel exit closest to the destination. With no human driven vehicles or other obstacles like pedestrians and cyclists to worry about down there, there would be zero chance of any collisions or anyone taking the wrong tunnel. The Autopilot software would also take note of the available battery range of the vehicle and make sure it exited the tunnels with enough capacity to get to a charging point. If the vehicle doesn't ahve enough battery charge to get to the nearest exit then it won't be allowed to enter the tunnel.

If vehicles were driving into the tunnels instead of using an elevator, far more vehicles would be able to enter the tunnel system, in a far simpler and quicker method than using elevators. There would be no problem with exhaust fumes as obviously all Tesla's are zero emission vehicles. 

Maybe the reason for the skates is because Musk wants the tunnels to be available to all road users, regardless of car make and propulsion system. If that is the case then the skate system would make sense. If it would just be for electric vehicles then I don't see why all manufacturers couldn't have a tunnel mode on their self-driving systems to allow their cars to also autonomously drive the tunnels?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A South African Gigafactory?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, indicated during a recent TED talk that Tesla would be announcing the construction of up to 4 more Gigafactories before the end of the year. At the moment there is just one Gigafactory producing lithium batteries for Tesla vehicles and Powerwalls in Nevada. This article from Electrek suggests that the new Gigafactories might be built in Buffalo, China and somewhere in Europe. It also mentions that it is anybody's guess where the fourth factory might be built.

Tesla Gigafactory
Though Tesla have denied there are plans to build a Gigafactory in South Africa, I can't help thinking it would be an ideal location for a Gigafactory. South Africa is a gateway to Africa and many other parts of the World.

Africa is potentially a massive market for Tesla's Powerwall, home battery pack and solar panels. Solar power charging a Powerwall could bring electricity to remote locations on the continent that are not on any electrical grid. It will mean that people will no longer have to wait on municipalities and traditional energy companies to bring them power. Not only will it bring power to peoples homes, it will enable them to also charge electric vehicles. Locations far from the nearest petrol station will be able to power their own transport.

Not only is South Africa the perfect place to manufacture and distribute Tesla products throughout the African continent, it also has many large ports and is on many major shipping routes. Being at the bottom tip of the continent, it'll be equally easy to ship Tesla batteries to South America, Asia, Middle East & Australasia. With North America, Europe & China seemingly already covered a South African Gigafactory could take care of the rest of the World. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

April in rear-view

It's been a bit quiet regarding local news about electric vehicles this past month. Here are our top blog posts from the past month.

On the international front there was plenty of spy shots of pre-production Tesla Model 3's and Elon Musk confirmed the Tesla truck was on it's way.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Electric car conversions

Until very recently I've been a bit dismissive about electric car conversions, where a conventional fossil fueled vehicle is changed to battery electric power. I used to think cars converted to electric power ended up looking a bit like some sort of Heath Robinson contraption. I imagined loose wiring hanging from the dashboard, a boot full of batteries, extra gauges bolted on to the dashboard and holes where the defunct gauges for the petrol or diesel engine were, no doubt accompanied by the rattle of loose fitting parts. I also presumed without the cutting edge engineering of a firm like Tesla, the range of a converted EV would be pitiful.

Happily, the more I hear reports and see videos of EV conversions, the more I'm realising that the majority of conversion jobs are very professional and offer comparative range and performance to a new fully electric vehicle. An example of this is this recent video by James Cooke. A Porsche 911 Targa converted to electricity by Electric Classic Cars. It's an immaculate vehicle and conversion, a totally professional job. You can view the video below.
In South Africa there is a company called Freedom Won doing electric car conversions. I wrote an article about them last week. Among their conversions have been the conversion of game viewing Landrovers and boats in Chobe Game Reserve to electric.

Another conversion from Freedom Won is a Fiat 500 which has a 23kWh battery which gives it a 200km range. I found some images of it on their Twitter account. Again, the conversion appears to be a very professional and neat job. The price of the conversion of the Fiat 500 was R250,000. It is a lot of money but if you have a car that you're happy with but you want to drive an electric car, then it is still half the price of the cheapest electric vehicle on sale in South Africa to convert it.

Freedom Won have a inquiry form where you can request a quote for getting your own car converted. They mention that one of the potential markets for conversions is minibus taxis. I think this is a great idea. The biggest influence on taxi fares is the petrol price, electric power would cost less than a fifth of what petrol is costing to power the vehicles. Imagine if the running costs could be cut by 80%, the taxi owners would save a fortune. Charging points could be installed at taxi ranks and the taxis could charge while waiting to fill up with passengers and also during the off-peak periods when they're not so busy.

Electric conversions would probably be more popular in some regions over others. Most likely more popular inland than at the coast. At the coast car bodies tend to corrode more due to the humidity and salt in the air from the sea. On the Highveld the air is dry and body corrosion isn't a worry. It makes no sense to convert a car to electric if the body is already rotten.

The biggest market for electric conversions could be vintage or rare cars. Cars that their owners have become attached to but due to age, they are becoming harder to find parts for and maintain. With an electric conversion a classic car could carry on running cheaply and indefinitely, with no worrying of where to find replacement engine parts when it next breaks down. Also there must be plenty of vintage cars where the bodywork is fine but the motor isn't working. Electricity could get these vehicles back on the road. We could see many more classic and vintage cars back on the road, old cars given a new lease of life and more people able to afford to run an old classic.

As an example of what a classic conversion could be, one of my dream cars is a Porsche 928. They can be found relatively cheap, however maintenance of the big V8 motor is horrendously expensive. Just changing the timing belt requires the removal of the whole engine. Of course a 5 litre V8 also tends to be a bit costly at the petrol pump. With an electric conversion you could still have the same driving experience and the same, if not better acceleration. Once the conversion is done, I'd have a classic car that will cost next to nothing to run and need virtually no maintenance. As I write this there is a Porsche 928 for sale on Gumtree for R33,500, the body and interior are in sound condition but it's not running. A perfect candidate for an electric conversion. As for now,it will remain my dream.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Autonomous vehicles - my thoughts

The drive towards vehicle autonomy appears to be going hand in hand with the growing popularity of battery electric vehicles. Tesla in-particular are aggressively developing their Autopilot self driving system and many other auto manufacturers are introducing various levels of autonomy to their vehicles. It seems we are on the way to highways full of driver-less cars.

The potential benefits of fully autonomous vehicles are numerous. As the most common cause of traffic accidents is driver error or recklessness, taking the human element out of driving should make road use safer.

At the moment autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles just have information about the road and other road users that they gather themselves. Typically this information is gathered by an autonomous car using radar, cameras mounted on the car and GPS. It can only see as far as the vehicle mounted sensors will allow it to. As can be seen though from the video clip below, Tesla's are already able to 'see-through' the vehicle in front and detect an unseen hazard.
In the future, vehicles will also be able to garner information about the road from other vehicles in the vicinity and maybe cameras by the side of the road. Your vehicle will be talking with other cars on the road to find out what obstacles might lay ahead around the next corner and timeously take action to avoid them. Maybe all the vehicles on the road will be able to organise themselves so they take different routes to ease congestion but in doing so make the traffic flow smoother and quicker.

Clearly fully autonomous driving is coming, I think though that until every car on the road is autonomous and is able to talk and work with other vehicles on the road, there has to still be some degree of human supervision of the vehicles AI. I think fully autonomous is maybe 15-20 years away and until then we will see more and more autonomous features introduced into cars, like lane guidance and automatic emergency braking.

My main concern with autonomous vehicles is pedestrians. Recently I was driving down a city street and I noticed the pavement ahead was blocked by building rubble which had been piled up. I also saw there was a gentleman the other side of the pile of rubble, walking in the opposite direction that I was going towards the obstacle. I could see he would reach the obstacle in the pavement at about the same time I would pass it. I also realised he was going to step out in the road to walk around it at exactly the same time as I would be passing it. He was just presuming I would predict his behaviour and leave him some room to get past the obstacle, which of course I did. I just wonder if an autonomous car's AI would deduce the same thing. Would it expect the person to wait until it's passed to step into the road? Would it predict, like myself, the movements of the pedestrian and take avoiding action ahead of time?

Obviously pretty much all the research and testing of autonomous vehicles is happening in places which don't have the same anarchistic road culture we have here in South Africa. If the human road users, motorists and pedestrians, are obeying the road rules then it's going to make things more predictable for an autonomous vehicles AI. It'll be interesting to see when Tesla finally gets to this country, how their Autopilot reacts in the bedlam that are South African roads.

Another worry was brought about by an incident I heard about the other day. A driver (driving a conventional vehicle) had to swerve to avoid someone in the road and in doing so ran over and killed several people on the pavement. Obviously the human driver reacted to the immediate obstacle, the man in the middle of the road, and took avoiding action without probably even realising they were going to drive into innocent bystanders. An unfortunate accident. It got me thinking though. If that had been an autonomous vehicle and presume the vehicle was already aware through it's various sensors that there were several people by the side of the road before the incident. Now, suddenly someone steps out in front of the vehicle and there's not enough space to stop in time. The autonomous vehicle has two choices, it can carry on straight and hit (and probably kill) the person who stepped in the road, or it can take evasive action but in doing so it knows it almost certainly won't be able to avoid a group of people on the side of the road. Does it carry on straight killing one person or does it avoid the immediate danger but in doing so ends up killing two or three people?

I'm sure these are only some of the problems the brains behind the various autonomous driving systems are busy trying to solve. However, when a human driver makes an error it's an accident. When an autonomous vehicle has an incident, the blame will fly in all directions. Even if traffic accidents are reduced by 99%, when one happens the manufacturer will be blamed for selling a faulty vehicle. Regardless that the same type of vehicle may have had millions of incident free miles up to that point.

I'm sure one day all these issue will be solved and all cars will be fully autonomous and the roads will be completely safe and nobody will ever have to touch a steering wheel again.

I hope that's not the case.

Sure, it might be nice to have your car drive itself in the morning traffic on your way to work, but an autonomous vehicle will never give you the thrill of actually driving a car. I hope that they'll still be the opportunity for manual control. To feel thrill of putting your foot down on the accelerator and getting pushed back in your seat. The thrill of buzzing along a winding country road. The thrill of holding a steering wheel and having the freedom to point it in whatever direction you like and going there!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

E-Mobility in Motion

E-Mobility in Motion
Freedom Won  is a South African company specialising in renewable energy solutions. They provide solar and battery packages to power your home as well as offering electric vehicle conversions.

In March I wrote about how Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana are using converted electric powered Land Rovers for game viewing. These conversions were done by Freedom Won.

Freedom Won's prototype electric conversion vehicle is a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Since Friday, 9 December 2011 @ 20h05, Team-Freedom Won© has been driving our prototype electric car conversion to work, shops, restaurants, friends and family! We are thrilled to report that after almost four years all systems are performing according to our high standards for reliability, safety and operability.
The vehicle selected for our first electric conversion was a Jeep Grand Cherokee with uprated suspension, which easily handles the 200kg net weight increase of the conversion - enter Freedom1©. Our electric conversion is a five seater SUV with a motor capable of delivering 80kW continuously, with 600Nm of torque available, a practical 170km range between charges and is comfortable with a 120km/h highway driving.
The motor is a robust air cooled six pole three phase magnet motor, designed for heavy duty applications and ultimate efficiency. It is driven by a sophisticated microprocessor controlled variable speed inverter drive, capable of efficiently providing strong but smooth torque delivery through the motor speed range. The system includes regenerative braking for maximum efficiency and range.
The Freedom1 drive design consists of the motor connected directly to the transfer case via a short drive shaft, driving the front (optional) and rear wheels through the original axle differentials. The 600V DC battery pack design is made up from a number of large format high performance lithium ion cells, produced by one of the world's leading lithium cell manufacturers.
The vehicle is fitted with an on-board charger that connects at home or office to a simple custom installed high power charging supply, capable of charging a fully discharged battery pack within 6 hours. For everywhere else the vehicle can also be charged in 6-8 hours using an ordinary 16A 230V household socket.
EVs (electric vehicles) require almost zero maintenance andFreedom1©'s operating costs amount to a fraction of its ICE (internal combustion engine) counterparts.
The full specs of the Freedom 1 are on their web page. The web page also notes that the cost per km for the Freedom 1 is 12c. That is probably 10% of the cost of fuel for a similar ICE (Internal combustion engine) vehicle and about the sixth of the cost of a small fuel efficient petrol or diesel car. That's not accounting for the cost of servicing and maintaining an ICE vehicle.

Click here to take a look at details of Freedom Won's other electric vehicle conversions and even request a quote to convert your own vehicle to electric power.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Plug-in Hybrid's (PHEV's) in South Africa

Plug-in Hybrid's combine an electric motor and battery with either a petrol or diesel internal combustion engine (ICE). As the name suggests, and what differentiates them from conventional hybrids, is that they have a plug to charge the battery that powers the electric motor. Typically a PHEV vehicle will be charged overnight (or like an all electric vehicle it can be charged at a charging point) and when turned on first uses the electric motor for propulsion, when the battery runs out of charge the car will automatically switch to the internal combustion engine. In some instances, depending on the model, both power sources may be used at the same time.

Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid
The electric range of PHEV's range from about 20km to, in the case of the Chevy Volt, over 80km. If  your usual daily mileage is less than the range of the battery in your PHEV then you might find you rarely use the ICE component in day to day driving and just use the car as a pure electric vehicle. However if you're planning a longer journey, you do have the longer range of an ICE motor and the easy and quick availability of petrol or diesel to power it. Unlike a pure battery electric vehicle you don't need to try and find a charging point and wait for the batteries to charge.

The downside of having the ICE motor in a Hybrid is like conventional gas powered cars, it needs regular servicing and fluid/filter changes. With battery electric vehicles there is relatively little maintenance required and usually extends to rotating the wheels and topping up the windscreen washer fluid. Obviously a PHEV is still better than an ICE vehicle, especially if you mainly use the electric motor, because you'll be saving on fuel costs.

Though I'd like to see South African roads full of fully electric vehicles, it's an unavoidable fact that as yet there are few charging points in the country and none out of the major metropolitan centres. Add to that, the maximum range of electric vehicles currently on sale in the country is 160km (BMW i3) and it's obvious that with our long inter-city distances, anything other than urban travel in an electric vehicle is sadly not possible in South Africa as yet.

Plug-in Hybrids could be the way to introduce the benefits of electromobility to South Africans without the worry of running out of battery power and having to find somewhere to charge. At the moment there are very few PHEV's available in South Africa and they're all a bit pricey. Here's a list of the ones I'm aware of and the battery range of each one. I've left out the Mercedes S500 e and BMW i8 as they use gasoline combined with electric and don't appear to exclusively use battery power for any set distance.
  • Mercedes Benz C350 e R804,900
    30km all electric range
  • BMW X5 xDrive40eR1.188.600
    22km all electric range
  • BMW 740eR1,496,500
    22km all electric range
There is also the BMW i3 REX which isn't a true PHEV, it has a small motor that charges the batteries to give it extended range. The motor doesn't however directly drive the wheels.

There are several more affordable PHEV's available in other markets. Unfortunately none of them are available locally at the moment. Prices are just an approximate conversion from dollars or pounds.
  • Toyota Prius PrimeR356,692
    40km all electric range
  • Chevrolet VoltR448,761
    84km all electric range
  • Hyundai Ioniq Plug-inPrice n/a
    43km all electric range
  • Chrysler Pacifica HybridR552,742
    52km all electric range
I can't really understand why these manufacturers with a presence in South Africa don't bring their plug-in hybrid vehicles into the country. Prices are quite comparable to equivalent ICE vehicles and there is no pressure or obligation on the manufacturers part to provide a charging network. Indeed a PHEV still has the benefits of an ICE to a motor dealer. Like an ICE it still will require regular after sales servicing and maintenance. There really isn't any reason why these vehicles shouldn't be available to South African consumers.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What current electric cars should come to South Africa?

As I've mentioned many times before on this blog there are at present on two fully electric cars on sale in South Africa. The Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. Other car manufacturers with a significant presence in the country also produce electric vehicles but choose not to sell them in SA. I thought I'd make a list of electric vehicles that could be available in the country if the local distributors and manufacturers chose to import them or assemble them here.
  1. Chevy Bolt
    Released late in 2016 the Bolt is the first non-Tesla electric car to have a range of over 200 miles on a single charge. At $37,500 (R518,966) it's also substantially cheaper than the base Model S70 which at the moment is Tesla's entry model at R71,200 (R985,343). The Bolt has a 60kWh battery and a maximum range of 238 miles (383km). More than enough to drive from Durban to Johannesburg with only one charging stop. Unfortunately though there are no plans at the present to bring the Chevy Bolt to South Africa
  2. Hyundai Ioniq
    The Ioniq comes in three guises, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric. Of course we are interested in the latter which with a 28kWh battery can achieve 200km on a single charge. This makes the Ioniq one of the most efficient electric cars around. The price of the Ioniq is also very competitive at £24,995 (R431,475).

  3.  Kia Soul EV
    The Kia Soul EV is the electric version of Kia's crossover vehicle. It has a 27kWh battery which is good for 150km on a single charge. The price in the UK is £29,995 (R504,699).




  4.  Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
    I can't think of a car that looks more like it should be an electric car than the Smart Fortwo. This small city car has a 17.6kWH battery that will get you 160km before you need to recharge. That's further than many bigger EV's on the market right now. It's also one of the more affordable EV's at this time. In the US it's selling for $25,750 (R338,545)
  5. Volkswagen e-Golf
    The electric version of the perennially popular VW Golf.  The e-Golf utilizes a 134-hp 100-kWh electric motor powered by a 35.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. The EPA estimates 200km of range on a single charge. Prices start in the UK at £31,680 (R532,933)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Love Affair with Land Rover - Londolozi TV

A Love Affair with Land Rover - Londolozi TV  
Londolozi Game Reserve converted one of their game viewing Land Rovers to electric and developed it to the point where it got the attention of Land Rover themselves who then built their own electric Land Rover concept vehicle which they then developed further at Londolozi.

Here is the story of the electric Land Rover from the Londolozi web site. The video of how they developed the vehicle is below.
Londolozi Game Reserve is announcing the first ever Zero Emissions Safari Vehicle…Out of Africa!
Renowned for its pioneering work in conservation development and the creation of the Londolozi Conservation and People Development model, Londolozi now introduces to the Safari industry a vehicle which moves guests silently through the wilderness with a lower carbon footprint than the conventional 4×4.
The Zero Emissions Safari Vehicle is a project that Londolozi has been pioneering for the last 18 months. Starting with 6 months of planning and testing, a test vehicle was imported to complete phase one of the project.
Phase two involved converting an existing Londolozi Land Rover into a prototype electric vehicle with more environmentally friendly batteries. This is currently where Londolozi is at present. We have a fully functional prototype electric Land Rover that is charged by connecting it to a wall plug socket.
The third phase of the project is about further progression towards lighter, longer lasting, eco friendly batteries. This step of the project is also about moving away from the earth’s resources and moving towards solar energy. We are exploring the possibilities of putting up solar panels on the roof of the garages to charge the electric vehicle. This is part of the long term goal of lowering Londolozi’s carbon footprint without affecting the current luxury safari experience.
We are also fortunate to be testing the first Electric Land Rover produced by Land Rover UK and Barkers Performance Products.
Londolozi prides itself on being a constant innovator in the safari industry – always wishing to provide our guests with a fresh experience filled with a warm spirit of hospitality and a deeper purpose to life. You are invited to join us as one of the first safari adventurers to enter the African wilderness in silent observation, enabling a greater connection with sound and silence.
Chobe game reserve in Botswana are also using electric Land Rovers for game viewing. Their vehicles have been converted to electric, I believe without any official involvement from Land Rover.

Unfortunately I can't find any indication that the electric Land Rover is even close to full production. Hopefully this will change soon. I wrote here of the huge benefits of electric game viewing vehicles.

Morocco Reveals the World’s First Electric Pickup Truck

Morocco Reveals the World’s First Electric Pickup Truck
Story on Morocco World News I found from late last year.
National Transportation and Logistic Company (SNTL) in Morocco revealed on Tuesday the world’s latest and newest innovation of the first electric pickup truck ever made. The innovation, which is 100% electric, is also a 100% of Moroccan origin in terms of concept and assembly.

This Moroccan creation can carry up to an 800kg load and has a range of 180-200km and a top speed of 129kmh. It takes seven hours to fully charge using a 220v wall socket or one hour using a supercharger.

The article also talks about a modular design which allows upgrades of a particular component while leaving the rest of the vehicle unchanged. It doesn't mention which components though. Maybe their is provision for the battery to be upgraded at a later stage or perhaps you'll be able to convert from a bakkie to a panel van? The article also mentions that the vehicle has temperature control to keep goods at a constant temperature, this makes me think that a refrigerated compartment instead of the load bed might be one option they'll make available.

The article says initially the truck will initially be available in Europe. Hopefully they'll also look at making it available on their own continent. Small pick-up trucks are ubiquitous in Africa and an electric one with it's low fuel and maintenance costs will surely be a success on the continent.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hydrogen-powered cars to flood the streets by 2020 [Hi-Tech]

Hydrogen-powered cars to flood the streets by 2020 [Hi-Tech]
An article full of misinformation from Africa News
Soon, driving cars will not be the same again as car manufacturers are developing hydrogen-powered vehicles to flood the streets by 2020.
So far the evidence suggests this will not be the case. As of 2016 there were only 23 hydrogen filling stations in the US for fuel cell vehicles, mostly in California as opposed to 15,774 electric charging stations. Of course this doesn't include home charging units or indeed every plug socket that can also be used to charge an electric vehicle.
Big name car manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Hyundai among others, are investing in hydrogen-powered vehicles because they are more environmentally friendly compared to the electric-powered vehicles.
Actually only Honda, Toyota and Hyundai are producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at present. Indeed Mercedes Benz are decreasing their investment in fuel cell technology in favour of fully electric vehicles. They are not more environmentally friendly than electric cars, in fact they use roughly 2.4 times more energy than a fully electric vehicle.
They take just three minutes to refuel, making them cheaper; and they can go up-to 350 miles at a top speed of 186 miles-per-hour. 
The longest range fuel cell vehicle is the Toyota Mirai which has a range of 312 miles. Of course with only 23 hydrogen filling stations in the US and 20 of them in California, the chances of driving from California to anywhere else are about nil. The top speed of the Mirai is also only 108mph.