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 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.

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.