Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Indian Electric Cars

Reva NXG Electric CarIndia's Reva electric car company, has announced two new models of their small battery powered city car: the Reva NXG and the Reva NXR. Both are two door cars with more modern styling that Reva's previous model and meeting European NCAP safety standards. The NXR is a four seat due to release in the second quarter of 2010, whereas the NXG is a sportier two seat with more advanced battery and electronics (but a less certain release some time in 2011). Reva also announced a partnership with General Motors India to develop electric vehicles for the Indian market.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Electric vehicle recharge network starting in Canberra

Company Better Place, have announced they will roll-out an electric vehicle recharging infrastructure in Canberra. The system will use leased lithium-ion battery modules which can be quickly swapped into a car at “Battery Switch Stations” as well as charge spots in homes, offices, shopping centres and other public car parks.

This assumes that electric cars will be available at an affordable price and be adaptable to use Better Place's battery module. It also assumes that there are government incentives for the use of zero pollution vehicles and there is an infrastructure to provide them with zero pollution power.

It should be noted that Australia has large reserves of low pollution LPG and natural gas and an existing infrastructure to deliver it. A combination of LPG and natural gas would deliver many of the benefits of electric cars, at a lower cost. Existing Australian made petrol and diesel vehicles can be easily converted to gas in Austrlaia using Australian technology. The need to build renewable power stations will considerably add to the cost of electric cars
Better Place Australia, the leading electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and services provider today announced that it has chosen the nation’s capital, Canberra, as the site of its first city-wide roll-out of electric vehicle infrastructure in Australia.

The decision was announced by Better Place founder and Chief Executive Officer, Shai Agassi, with Evan Thornley, head of Better Place Australia and ActewAGL Chief Executive Officer, Michael Costello, the ACT’s electricity retailer and distributor.

“Canberra is a great city to start deploying our vision of zero-emissions mobility. Canberra has a mobile population that demands a viable alternative to allow for both short commutes and longer trips” said Mr Agassi. “There’s proven demand for EVs in Australia and the people of Canberra are ready for a more sustainable future. That future is electric.”

The initial roll out will involve an investment by Better Place, which will go towards building out the infrastructure, services and systems to support the first several hundred electric vehicles in Canberra.

The investment will cover:
• safe and completely recyclable lithium-ion batteries that will power the electric vehicles and be provided as part of the service to drivers, reducing the up-front costs of purchasing an electric vehicle;
• charge spots in homes, offices, shopping centres and other car parks where drivers can plug in to keep their battery fully charged; and
• “Battery Switch Stations” where motorists can simply drive in and have a depleted battery automatically exchanged for a fresh, fully charged one.

“We aim to start construction on our charge spots and battery swap stations in 2011 and start supporting customers in 2012” said Mr Thornley. “From Canberra we will then begin to roll out across the whole country.”

Better Place will work closely with ActewAGL to plan the infrastructure deployment. “A significant influence on our decision to choose Canberra was the enthusiasm and support we have received from Michael Costello and his team at ActewAGL” said Evan Thornley, Chief Executive Officer of Better Place Australia.

ActewAGL will be responsible for sourcing and distributing the renewable energy that Better Place will use to power its electric vehicles within the ACT. “It’s important that we work together closely so that we can be sure we have the right levels of power available in the car parks and similar locations where the electric vehicles will be charging” said ActewAGL Chief Executive Officer, Michael Costello. “But this is a great opportunity for Canberra to make a huge dent on its greenhouse gas emissions, so we’re very keen
to co-operate to help make it a reality.”

For further information on Better Place’s plans for Australia please visit ...

From: Better Place Australia announces Canberra as starting point of national roll-out of electric vehicle recharge network, News Release, Better Place, 24 July 2009

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Chevy Volt Not Commercially Viable

GM put a restructuring plan to the US Government. In its response, the US Treasury expressed the view that the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car is too expensive to be commercially viable:
"GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, “green” powertrain development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable ..."
From: Determination of Viability, General Motors Corporation, Summary, March 30, 2009
One of the problems is that the Volt tries to combine the functions of a hybrid car and an electric car. The Volt is designed with an electric motor and battery pack large enough to travel a reasonable distance (64.4 km) and speed (more than 100 k/hr) as an electric car, plus it also has a petrol engine. In contrast the Toyota Prius can only travel a couple of kilometres on battery power alone and only at up to 40 km. Many other hybrids cannot be driven at all without their petrol engine running. As a result these hybrids can have a smaller, lower cost electric engine and battery.

As designed, the Volt will need a battery about 30 times the capacity of the one in the Prius and so costing about 30 times as much. The difference in size of the electric motor: 111 kW versus 57 kW, is less significant in terms of cost. One solution for GM would therefore be to sell a lower cost model of the Volt with fewer batteries. GM could then advertise the Volt as having an electric range much longer that the Prius, but starting at a comparable price.

A smaller battery pack would also be much quicker to charge and could be done from an ordinary power point. Smaller lower cost charges could double the range of the electric Volt if there is a charger at each end of a regular trip. As an example, if there is a charger at the office car park a commuter could travel to work on battery power and then plug the car in to recharge for the trip home.

Of course a hybrid plug-in electric car might be trying to do too much. If you want an electric car for short runs at 40 km/h, then India already makes the REVA Electric Car. If you want a hybrid which can go longer at higher speeds, then Toyota already make these, along with Honda (Civic Hybrid) and Ford (Escape Hybrid using technology from Toyota).

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car test drive

Mitsubishi i MiEV After a presentation by Mitsubishi Australia staff I had a brief test drive of the i MiEV electric car. The car lived up to the claims made by Mitsubishi Australia CEO and President , Robert McEniry that it was a production car, not a prototype. The car has two very roomy seats at the front and a slightly cramped, but usable two seat bench at the back. There is a usable load space accessed via the back hatch. This is a car I could drive around the city every day (but could not drive intercity).

The car has key less "ignition": you turn what looks like a normal knob on the steering column to get the car ready to go. Then you move what looks like an automatic floor shift from P to D and press the accelerator. The difference to a petrol car is that there is no engine noise when the car is stationary. There is also almost no perceptible engine noise when the car is moving. When you take your foot off the accelerator the car slows down slightly with some regenerative breaking. There is a "B" setting on the floor shift to simulate the engine breaking of a manual car. In other respects this looks and drives like a small four door hatchback car.

I was surprised by the low technology instrument panel used. I was expecting a flat screen display like the Toyota Prius. Instead there is a large digital speedometer set in the middle of a very large economy dial gauge showing energy use. The emphasis seems to on making the car look normal.

Overall this is a usable little car, comparable to my Daihatsu Sirion and other little cars, such as the Hyundai i10 and Suzuki Alto. However, such cars, with petrol engines of about 1 litre will cost around $15,000, or less, in Australia. The i MiEV will probably cost more than twice as much. Until the batteries can be mass produced at low cost, the electric car will be prohibitively expensive. In the interim it will make more sense, environmentally and financially, to use a smaller battery in a hybrid car.

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Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car in Canberra

Mitsubishi i MiEV Mitsubishi Australia CEO and President , Robert McEniry is just introduced the i MiEV electric car at the Boathouse Restaurant in Canberra. He claimed this was the world's first production electric car and had now been prepared for sale in Australia (not just a handmade prototype). Mr. McEniry did not shy away from the fact that because Australian electricity is generated from polluting coal. Dr. Peter Pudney from University of South Australia is then going to talk about the issues with electric cars. A little later we get to drive the car I have already driven a hand made Australian made electric car. The i MiEV is an electric version of the Mitsubishi i "K class" small car.

The 88 batteries for the car are lithium ion. One issue is the life of the batteries. The Nickel-metal hydride batteries in the Toyota Prius have lasted well.

The i MiEV is a very compact four seat car. Unlike most small cars, the engine is under the back seat, driving the rear wheels. The electric version has the batteries and electric motor in place of the fuel tank and petrol engine. The car has some addition CAM bus ecus to control the electric motor, with redundancy for reliability.

It struck me that the i MiEV has a similar layout to the Tata Nano. India already makes the REVA Electric Car. Assuming that Tata can meet demand for their petrol version, an electric Nano would seem a logical future development.

However, the major competitor for the i MiEV are inexpensive conventionally powered cars. To make such cars viable there will need to be sufficient renewable energy available and a sophisticated greenhouse gas policy to give incentives for its use. What also may help is a computer controlled smart grid to optimise the charging the cars. Smart transport systems would help optimise the use of the cars.

One example would be to use the cars with a share program such as that from GoGet. The share cars are parked at reserved parking spaces in the inner suburbs. It would make sense to equip these parking spaces with recharging stations. This would maximise the use of the cars.

There were staff of both the federal environment and innovation departments at the briefing. Hopefully they are not considering giving Mitsubishi a subsidy for the car in Australia. There are a lot better ways Australia could spend its money in the national economic and environmental interests.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Electric cars not zero emission

Mitsubishi i MiEV Mitsubishi are demonstrating their i MiEV electric car in Australia and have invited me for a test drive. I have already driven an Australian made electric car. The i MiEV is an electric version of the Mitsubishi i small car. The invitation referred to the i MiEV as a zero drive-time emissions
electric vehicle. This is an interesting, very precise description. The issue is that the electric car does not emit CO2, but generating the electricity to charge the car may do so. Most electricity in Australia is generated from burning coal, which produces CO2 pollution (especially Victorian brown coal). If the car is recharged from this coal sourced electricity, then it cannot be reasonably described as a zero emissions vehicle. However, it is technically correct to qualify this with "drive-time" to indicate that while you are driving the car it emits no CO2. This is a distinction which the general public are unlikely to understand and Mitsubishi need to be careful they do not make misleading statements about the green credentials of the car.

From a public policy point of view there is not a strong case for electric cars in Australia. If you recharged the car using renewable energy, the emissions would be less. But little petrol cars are very fuel efficient. The nation, the environment and the car owner might be better off with a small conventional powered car. The money saved over buying an electric car could be spent on renewable energy for use at home. With larger cars a diesel engine, natural or LPG gas might be a better option than electric. Until there are reasonably priced sources of renewable energy there may be only a very limited role for the electric car in Australia.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Indian Reva Electric Car Expanding

The little Reva Electric Car which I saw in India a few years ago is doing well. The company is reported to be launching a model with lithium-ion batteries and a 120 km range and expand production to 4,000 vehicles. The new model will probably look much like the existing "Noddy" model, not like their sporty NXG show car. The Reva has proved popular in London, where it is sold as the "G-Wiz" and is exempt from the congestion charge and lampooned by the Top Gear TV show.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car in Australia

Mitsubishi i MiEVAccording to a media release, Mitsubishi will be demonstrating their i MiEV electric car in Australia. So called "key stakeholders and decision makers" will be given a drive of an electric car "for the first time". I have already driven an Australian made electric car, but have asked Mitsubishi for a test drive, when theirs comes to Canberra. The i MiEV is an electric version of their petrol engine Mitsubishi i small car. Such retrofits of very small cars have been technically successful, but a marketing failure in the past. The problem is that customers what to show they have an environmental vehicle and that very small conventional cars are already efficient. Toyota's Prius has been a success because it looks different to Toyota's petro cars and is not too small.
"... Do we have sufficient sources of renewable energy to re-charge these cars in growing numbers? Do we have the infrastructure in place to enable full utilisation of electric vehicles? Are the incentives in place to encourage the early adoption of this cutting edge technology? These are the sort of issues that need to be addressed now, in order to create the market and the rationale to bring these cars to sale in this country.

Following display of the i MiEV in February at the Melbourne International Motor Show, Mitsubishi Motors will be moving this ground-breaking technology around the capital cities of Australia in a motorcade of public demonstrations, specialist briefings and individual drive experiences for key government officials, fleet managers, environmental opinion leaders and the media.

Later in the year we will build on this initial exposure program with a diverse range of longer term trials of the i MiEV in government and private fleets across the nation.

With this i MiEV program, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) will be seeking to prove to key stakeholders the true viability of this cutting-edge technology, and in doing so lay the foundations for the proposed sale of the vehicle in the Australian market.

The vehicle As one of the company's initiatives for reducing global warming and dependence on fossil fuels, MMC plans to bring the i MiEV electric vehicle to market in Japan in 2009.

i MiEV utilizes a large-capacity lithium-ion battery system and a compact, high-output electric motor in place of the traditional gasoline power train. ..."

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Toyota Prius Hybrid Sydney Taxi

Prius Sydney Taxi
In the streets of Sydney's inner west, I noticed a Toyota Prius hybrid car being used as a taxi. This makes sense as taxis spend a lot of their time traveling at low speed and in stop-start traffic, making best use of the electric motor of the hybrid system.

The NSW Taxi Council and Legion Cabs ran a 12-month pilot program using early models of the Prius in 2006/2007. The Prius was then approved for use as a taxi and hire car in November 2007.

However, a Prius has some disadvantages as a taxi, being smaller than the cars usually used and a hatchback, not a sedan. Also the Prius' lack of boot space, and only a compact spare tire, would make it difficult to convert to LPG (autogas). Because of government incentives, LPG is cheaper than petrol and so a petrol Prius may not be more economical than an LPG car. At least one test car has been converted.

The Toyota Camry Hybrid might make a better taxi. The
New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) offers advice on how to install the meter. The Australian Government is seeing if the hybrid Camry be built in Australia. Toyota has has some LPG compatible vehicles. So a hybrid LPG Camry made in Australia is possible.

See also:
  1. Books about the Prius
  2. Prius accessories

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Tata Nano Indian Small Car

Tata Nano CarTata Motors of India announced the Tata Nano on 10 January, 2008 and intended for volume production in 2008. The Nano has a 160kW 624 cc 2-cylinder rear mounted petrol engine with claimed 4.55 l/100 km meeting Euro-IV emission standards.

The Nano is similar in layout and size to the Mitsubishi i, a Japanese Kei class car. The basic model is intended to cost Rs 100,000 (about US$2500). The car is 3,100 mm long, 1,500 mm wide and 1,600 mm high.

Electric or Hybrid?

The Nano is targeted at Indian families who currently use a motor scooter for transport. This has been criticized for leading to more fuel consumption and pollution in Indian cities. As a lightweight small car, the Nano has potential for conversion to pure electric battery operation like the Indian Reva Electric Car. Tata has not announced any plans to make one. However, third party after market conversion is possible, as has been done with the Toyota Yaris/Echo.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More Indian Electric Cars

Bavina  yc 1021 Electric Car
Bavina Enterprises, of Chennai, India announced 17 December 2007, battery operated cars to be assembled in India. There are two and four door models. The two door model is similar in appearance to the Mercedes Fortwo Smart Car. These cars appear to have conventional steel bodies, unlike the plastic panels of the Indian made Reva electric car. Parts will be initially imported from China.

It is unlikely that these vehicles would meet European or Australian safety regulations (Reva was approved in the UK not as a car, but a quadricycle).


Length x Width x Height
yc 1021Two door?
yc 1021 2Four door2608 x 1515 x 1526mm
yc e carFour door3020 x 1515 x 1520mm
yc 1021 3Four door3020 x 1515 x 1520mm


Bavina  yc e car Electric Car

Bavina Enterprises have only supplied specifications for the four door models, not the two door yc 1021.

All the four door models, except the yc 1021 2, have a 48V DC 3 kw drive system (12 V axillary electrics), with a 25A charger and six conventional 12V/200AH lead acid batteries weighing 384kg, with a claimed life of 500 charges. The yc 1021 2 has a more powerful 72V DC 4.5 kw motor, but the same batteries.

Bavina  yc 1021 2 Electric Car

Claimed range is 130km. All are rear wheel drive and claimed to be able to climb a 30 degree slope. Maximum speed is 55km/h, but can be limited to 40km/h. Minimum ground clearance is 110 mm, and wheelbase 2560 mm. Turning diameter is 4.6m with rack-and-pinion steering and 155-80R1277T tires. Net weight is given as 790kg for all vehicles, despite their different sizes. There is a hand operated parking brake for the rear-wheels.

Bavina yc 1021 3 Electric Car

See also:
  1. Bavina Enterprises web page
  2. My web page Electric Cars from Bavina Enterprises of India
  3. Reva Electric Car
  4. Indian Electric Cars
  5. Books on Electric Cars
  6. DVDs on Electric Cars
  7. Other Transport

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Advanced REVAi Indian Electric Car

Advanced REVAi Indian Electric CarIndia's Reva electric car company (RECC), based in Bangalore, has announced a new model of their small battery powered city car. Reva decided to take a conservative path with the new model, the REVAi, which looks outwardly the same as the previous production model. They decided not to use the sports styling cues of the Reva NXG show car. REVA will be selling the car in Norway and Spain, as well as the previous markets of India, UK, Spain, Norway, Cyprus, Malta and Greece. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely Australian authorities will permit the Reva in Australia any time soon.

Reva claim the new model has 40% more mid-range torque and a ”Boost” mode for short acceleration (but no word on the effect on battery life of this). A brushless motor is used with a "hill restraint" feature. Regenerative braking is now used to recover energy to the battery. An "advanced" IPC (Instrument Panel Cluster) with an electronic speedometer. There is also a computer derived indication for power consumption and power recovery through braking.

For more affluent customers the REVAi has options of a CD/ MP3 player, Climate Controlled and Leather Seats. However, the REVAi does not appear to use the innovative dashboard Linux computer of the Reva NXG.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Australian Experimental Hybrid Car

CSIRO Australian Experimental Hybrid CarThe CSIRO produced an Australian Experimental Hybrid Car branded the "aXcessaustralia" (pronounced "Access Australia"). The car uses large capacitors , as well as batteries to store power:
The car features a patented drive train that makes best use of mixed storage. Super-capacitors are used to provide good acceleration and batteries are used to give the car range under electric-only operation (about 20 minutes in urban traffic). The car uses a series hybrid arrangement to give optimum packaging in a small space and an ideal weight split between front and rear.

From: "aXcessaustralia: the car of the not-so-distant future", CSIRO, 29 March 2006
But unlike the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid, or even the Indian Reva electric car, the CSIRO vehicle is only experimental. It is intended to have technology from it used in vehicles of the future: you can't buy one.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hybrid Electric Tricycle Taxis in Sydney

Pedapod Hybrid Electric TricycleYou expect to see tricycle taxis (rickshaws or ) in India, but not Australia. In the financial section of Sydney I photographed a pedapod. This is a 3 wheeled recumbent bicycle (tricycle or trike) which seats three people (a driver and two passengers).

The pedapod has a conventional metal bicycle frame but with a plastic hood to provide some protection from the elements. The vehicle looks practical and seems to be able to get up the reasonably steep hills in the Sydney CBD.

These electric autorickshaws have an electric motor powered from a battery to help it go up hills and so technically is a hybrid vehicle. But as it has pedals and only a small motor it is legally a bicycle. As a result such electric tricycles sidestep the regulations on motor vehicles which have stopped the use of some battery powered cars in Australia.

The pedapods do not be available for sale, but there are other electric tricycles you can buy.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth - Book Cover
The book "An Inconvenient Truth", by Al Gore, provides a lucid argument for action on global warming.

This "book of the film" is 328 pages long. But it is not an old fashioned academic book. It is more for a coffee table, with mostly large color photos, a few diagrams a minimum of very large text (much like a children's book). The last few pages provide a useful set of suggestions as to what the average person can do to save the planet.

There is no table of contents in the front and no index in the back of the book. About the only way to look for topics in the book is using Amazon's "look inside" feature. I used this to find there are six references to Australia and none to the Indian "Reva" electric car.
An Inconvenient Truth - DVD Cover
Al Gore probably has done more for the world by presenting this material than he was likely to do as President of the USA. It will be a better seller than previous books by Al Gore which were famously lampooned on "The Simpsons" for their dull earnestness. But still the DVD of the documentary film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, is likely to sell more than the book (you can also download the video).

There is also a web forum to discuss the issues.

Some other books on the topic:

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Electric Cars an Australian Political Issue

I was interviewed on radio today about electric cars in Australia. This is odd as I not an electric car expert (as I told the interviewer).

I saw an Indian made Reva electric car on a visit to India and I wrote about this while there. Then Reva released a show-car model with a computer in the dashboard, so I wrote about that.

Also I mentioned there is a home built Australian electric car by Shaun Williams. He retrofitted a second hand Toyota Echo and had it registered in Brisbane.

This has now become topical because the documentary program Who Killed the Electric Car? was mentioned on SBS Dateline and is coming to Australia (you can now download the video as well as order the DVD).

Greens Senator Christine Milne issued a media release 11 October about problems a local importer is having getting the Reva car approved for use in Australia (although they are already on London streets):
Greens transport spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said the federal government's delay in issuing the necessary permits to enable the Reva trial was unacceptable when the Indian-manufactured vehicle had been approved for use in the European Union, Japan and Malta, and was being tested in several other markets, including the USA.
If anyone hears the interview, perhaps they could let me know what station it was on (I forgot to make a note).

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