Electric Car Owners Dish on Their Real-World EV Experiences

Safety first

“I’d rather sit on batteries than a tank of gas, in terms of explosion risk,” says Olivier Chalouhi, who became the world’s first Nissan LEAF owner when he took delivery of one in late 2010. It is a sentiment that Patrick Wang, one of the first to own the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, shares. “There’s a ton more energy in gasoline than in the battery pack—so to me it’s not a concern at all,” he says.

The only safety concern among a small sample of EV owners interviewed in conjunction with the May EVS26 electric vehicle symposium in Los Angeles relates to pedestrians’ obliviousness to the quiet electric drivetrain. Chalouhi, whose LEAF is equipped with an automatic pedestrian-alert sounder, says he has not had any such issues. Yet Wang, whose Volt is equipped with a driver-actuated pedestrian-alert sound, says that sometimes in parking lots pedestrians have not noticed him, so he activated the chirping noise.

Maintenance and driving range

Given that the battery pack is the single most expensive part on the vehicle—some estimates are up to 45 percent of the total cost of the vehicle—questions have been raised as to how frequently it will need to be replaced.

 

via Nick Chambers – Scientific American

Continue reading Electric Car Owners Dish on Their Real-World EV Experiences

Cadillac releases sophisticated array of semi-autonomous sensors for self-driving cars

Google isn’t the only company working on a self-driving car. Cadillac today announced that it is actively road testing a semi-autonomous system called Super Cruise that can control a vehicle’s steering, braking and lane-centering capabilities. Super Cruise, according to Cadillac, is designed to help make freeway driving easier on the driver when either stuck in traffic or during long hauls down the interstate.

The system works by combining on-board radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS data to give your car the ability to read lane markings and detect curves in the roadway.

via Laptop Magazine

 

For certain luxury cars, we are already half-way (or more) there. From the Cadillac news release:

Many of the building block technologies for Super Cruise are already available on the all-new 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS luxury sedans, as part of the available Driver Assist Package:

  • Rear Automatic Braking
  • Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Intelligent Brake Assist
  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Safety Alert Seat
  • Automatic Collision Preparation
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Adaptive Forward Lighting
  • Rear Vision Camera With Dynamic Guidelines
  • Head Up Display

The key to delivering semi-autonomous capability will be the integration of lane-centering technology that relies on forward-looking cameras to detect lane markings and GPS map data to detect curves and other road characteristics, said John Capp, General Motors director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation.

 

 

Pretty crazy to think about all the technology needed to self drive a car. That’s 12 sensors/alerts/displays with more needed to fully automate the simplest of driving tasks. Makes our brains seem pretty sophisticated.

Jet travels more than 13,000 mph (Mach 20) thanks to sleek aerodynamic systems

It’s amazing that this Hypersonic jet was able to travel more than 13,000 mph with heats of over 3,500 degrees.

During flight it experienced shockwaves, 100 times more powerful than expected, which caused it to spin. It then righted itself and flew for twice as long before technicians finally aborted the mission.

The full story:

In August the Pentagon’s research arm, known as DARPA, carried out a test flight of an experimental aircraft capable of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound.

The arrowhead-shaped unmanned aircraft, dubbed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere…then glided above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20.

The plan was for the Falcon to speed westward for about 30 minutes before plunging into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,000 miles from Vandenberg.

But it was ended about nine minutes into flight for unknown reasons. The launch had received worldwide attention and much fanfare, but officials didn’t provide much information on why the launch failed.

via LA Times

 

Then last week, DARPA said in a statement:

The flight successfully demonstrated stable aerodynamically-controlled flight at speeds up to Mach 20 for nearly three minutes. Approximately nine minutes into the test flight, the vehicle experienced a series of shocks culminating in an anomaly, which prompted the autonomous flight safety system to use the vehicle’s aerodynamic systems to make a controlled descent and splashdown into the ocean.

“The initial shockwave disturbances experienced during second flight, from which the vehicle was able to recover and continue controlled flight, exceeded by more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand,” said DARPA Acting Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel. “That’s a major validation that we’re advancing our understanding of aerodynamic control for hypersonic flight.”

…larger than anticipated portions of the vehicle’s skin peeled from the aerostructure. The resulting gaps created strong, impulsive shock waves around the vehicle as it travelled nearly 13,000 miles per hour, causing the vehicle to roll abruptly. Based on knowledge gained from the first flight in 2010 and incorporated into the second flight, the vehicle’s aerodynamic stability allowed it to right itself successfully after several shockwave-induced rolls. Eventually, however, the severity of the continued disturbances finally exceeded the vehicle’s ability to recover.

via DARPA

Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2)

 

Congress orders FAA to integrate drones into the U.S. aviation system

As the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prepares to let civilian unmanned aircraft operate in domestic airspace, universities including Embry-Riddle have created majors in flying and building drones. Enrollment is accelerating as students look for new opportunities in an aviation job market pummeled by airline bankruptcies.

The drone industry, estimated worldwide at $5.9 billion annually, will expand to $11.3 billion by 2021.

During the past 10 years, drones have become a vital military tool in Iraq and Afghanistan, creating a platform to attack terrorists without risking pilots’ lives and giving ground troops a chance to see their opponents from the air.

Congress passed bills in December and February that ordered the FAA to create six test sites for flying unmanned aircraft alongside regular planes. The agency must also complete a plan for integrating unmanned flights into the aviation system by Sept. 30, 2015.

Unmanned aircraft could be used for photography, police surveillance and monitoring pipelines and power lines. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has special permission to use drones.

more at – Bloomberg

 

Here are a selection of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), used by the military. I suspect the first to be employed privately will be the helicopters for police surveillance.

A BQM-74E aerial drone is launched from the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) during a live-fire exercise.
Global Hawk Drone.
First flown in 2002, the Boeing X-45A was the first modern UAV designed specifically for combat strike missions. The stealthy, swept-wing jet has fully retractable landing gear and a composite, fiber-reinforced epoxy skin. Its fuselage houses two internal weapons bays.
The U.S. Navy's Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) launches into its flight test program.
A Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is being attended to by three soldiers at Forward Operating Base Fenty, Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan.
A Northrop Grumman RQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Take-Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) System.

 

// Photos – An Honorable German, Rennett Stowe, Cliff1066, Marion Doss, US Army Africa, & Marion Doss

// Thx to Kosso K

Are you ready to rent out your car? – ‘Personal Car Sharing’ brings in $2-300/month

Have you ever thought about renting out your car, like an automobile version of Airbnb?

The trend is catching on as “personal car sharing” comes to Los Angeles in March 2012. It already exists in Boston and San Francisco as a distinct service compared to Zipcar, which rents out cars owned by Zipcar-itself.

RelayRides, based in Boston, is expanding a service that allows car owners to rent their vehicles to other licensed drivers by the hour or the day.

Personal car sharing was legalized in California last year, but RelayRides and the other two companies that offered the service in the state (Getaround and Spride) operated only in San Francisco.

“AB 1871 allows Californians to rent their cars by the hour to offset their costs of ownership, as well as cars’ impact on the environment. Previously, California law prevented personal cars from being rented for commercial use.

Under the new law, individuals who rent their personal cars need to carry auto-insurance levels at least three times greater than the state’s current minimums of $15,000 for injury/death to one person, $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person and $5,000 for damage to property.” via Greenspace

Car sharing would seem to work best where “it’s easy to live without a car,” Clark said, meaning a dense city with good public transportation. In areas such as L.A., where the opposite is true, Clark expects car sharing will be used as an alternative to buying a second or third car.

“A lot of families always need one car and sometimes need two,” Clark said. “Right now, their only option is to round up. The only way to access that car when they need it is to own one.”

The starting price for RelayRides rentals is $5 per hour and includes gas, 20 miles of driving and insurance. RelayRides keeps 35% of the rental cost. The remaining 65% goes to the car owner. Monthly payments, which average $250, are sent to owners.

via LA Times

 

From RelayRides:

Total convenience – No more walking a mile to some gas station to pick up a car: RelayRides cars live where you live! Whether it’s down the block, across the street, or in your neighbor’s driveway, RelayRides cars are always conveniently located.

 

California launches a statewide network of charging stations for electric vehicles

Governor Brown joined with the California Public Utilities Commission today to announce a $120 million dollar settlement with NRG Energy Inc. that will fund the construction of a statewide network of charging stations for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including at least 200 public fast-charging stations and another 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the state. The settlement stems from California’s energy crisis.

The network of charging stations funded by the settlement will be installed in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.

“Through the settlement, EVs will become a viable transportation option for many Californians who do not have the option to have a charging station at their residence.”

The Executive Order issued today by the Governor sets the following targets:

  • By 2015, all major cities in California will have adequate infrastructure and be “zero-emission vehicle ready”;
  • By 2020, adequate infrastructure to support 1 million zero-emission vehicles in California;
  • By 2025, there will be 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California; and
  • By 2050, virtually all personal transportation in the State will be based on zero-emission vehicles.

via ca.gov

 

Just one question, not addressed in the announcement, is charging at the stations free?

What will be the cost for a full charge?

 

// photos via NCDOT Comms and gwyst

California traffic fatalities down 37% – lowest level since 1944

The California Office of Traffic Safety celebrated their fifth year of consecutive declines in traffic related fatalities.

In 2010, the number of fatalities in the Golden State dropped to 2,715.  That is nearly a 12 percent drop from 3,081 traffic deaths in 2009.  And since the peak in 2005, with 4,333 deaths, California’s numbers have declined by more than 37 percent.

The number of traffic fatalities in California have not been this low since 1944, when only one-tenth the number of vehicles were on the road, driving only one-sixteenth the number of miles California drivers traveled in 2010.

via The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation

 

A very, very big deal considering that driving is one of the top killers in the U.S.:

  • Heart disease: 599,413
  • Cancer: 567,628
  • Automobiles: 359,000
  • Chronic Respiratory: 137,353
  • Stroke: 128,842

 

Statistics from 2009 reports by the CDC and U.S. Census.

Another report claims that the drop could be due to new cellphone bans, “deaths blamed on drivers using hand-held cellphones were down 47 percent.” via Huffington Post