GM Takes to the Water

Electric vehicles don’t all have to have wheels

By Gary S. Vasilash

From 1919 to 1979 General Motors owned Frigidaire, the appliance company that made, primarily, refrigerators.

Toyota was once cracked for making “appliances.” GM once did, literally.

(The Toyota comment was related to the fact that its designs were rather innocuous, like those white rectangles that are in kitchens and laundry rooms. Of course, a positive spin would go to the point that many major appliances are often highly reliable. . . .)

GM has announced that it is taking a 25% ownership in Pure Watercraft.

Seattle-based Pure Watercraft make boats.

But not your ordinary run-of-the-lake boats but electric boats. For the sake of argument, these are not “EBs” but bona fide “EVs.”

Said Dan Nicholson, GM vice president of Global Electrification, Controls, Software and Electronics, “GM’s stake in Pure Watercraft represents another exciting opportunity to extend our zero-emissions goal beyond automotive applications.”

The company recently announced that it is working with Wabtec Corp., a locomotive builder, providing batteries and its hydrogen fuel cell technology.

So obviously they’re serious about “beyond automotive.”

If you think back to the last time you were trying to take a snooze on a beach and then a boat with a massive outboard came blasting by, the whole notion of the silent running of a battery-powered boat seems all the more understandable.

At the very least the GM investment is going to expand scale to boat electrification, which should make it more accessible to more people.

And let’s face it: GM’s involvement in watercraft makes a whole lot more sense than refrigerators.

Kia Introduces Angular EV Concept

What the American family may be rolling in sometime in the not-too-distant future

The Concept EV9 is a concept EV SUV that Kia has introduced. It is a three-row vehicle that is 194 inches long, 81 inches wide, 70 inches high, and has a 122-inch wheelbase. It rides on 22-inch wheels.

Kia Concept EV9: a three-row family hauler with an EV powertrain. (Image: Kia)

While it is not clear exactly what the battery or motor are, according to Kia the Concept EV9 has a 350-kW charger that would allow the battery to go from 10 to 80% in 20 to 30 minutes. The driving range is said to be 300 miles.

The design of the vehicle is based on Kia’s “Opposites United” design language.

It seems that it might be influenced by a Ford Flex having a collision with a Tesla Cybertruck.

Faraday Future Financials

Because building electric vehicles costs lots and lots of money

By Gary S. Vasilash

This doesn’t sound good:

“LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Faraday Future Intelligent Electric Inc. (“Faraday Future” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: FFIE), a California-based global shared intelligent electric mobility ecosystem company, filed a Form 12b-25 notifying the SEC that it is unable to file its Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended September 30, 2021 within the prescribed time period, and does not expect to file it by the extended filing date pursuant to Rule 12b-25. The Company is also unable to file its amended Registration Statement on Form S-1 (File No. 333-258993) (the “Form S-1/A”) at this time.”

But maybe that’s just a financial maneuver that has little to do with the actual development of the FF 91 vehicle, which the company says it “remains on track” to deliver to initial customers in July 2022.

However, the company has established a “special committee of independent directors to review allegations of inaccurate disclosures.”

Meaning financial things gone potentially awry.

The company is building a plant in Hanford, California, for the vehicle. It says that during Q3 it completed its first major milestone there, which is the installation of pilot equipment in the pre-production build area. It seems that if they’re going to be delivering production vehicles in little more than eight months, the “pilot” and “pre-production” are going to have to give way to the actual stuff.

And after Q3 it hit its second milestone, obtaining its “Certificate of Occupancy, which allows the Company to begin building additional pre-production vehicles for final testing and validation.”

The company is taking reservations for the FF 91 Futurist, which it descrbies as its “class defining, 1,050 hp and a revolutionary user experience designed to create a mobile, connected and luxurious third internet living space.”

Except for the 1,050 hp, it sounds like a cross between an Airstream and a Starbucks.

EVs Made Simple

Why shouldn’t they be simple?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Years ago, before there were plug-in hybrids, I remember having an early Prius to test drive.

My neighbors were sufficiently knowledgeable about cars to know that it was something different.

So I explained to them that at some points during the drive cycle the Prius was capable of driving on electricity alone, that there were both electric motor and generator functions, as well as a good-ol’ internal combustion engine.

And the single question that came: “Where do you plug it in?”

I explained that it didn’t have a plug.

“How does it run on electricity?”

I tried to explain that the generator charged the battery and the battery powered an electric motor that drove the wheels.

And I might as well have been talking in some alien language.

After there were plug-in hybrids out there for a few years, when the then-FCA launched the Pacifica plug-in hybrid, the company didn’t promote it as a “plug-in hybrid,” but simply as a “hybrid.” The marketing folks knew that it would be too confusing for their own good.

One of the problems with people who are deeply involved in the auto industry in some way is that they expect everyone else is as fascinated as they are.

The other people aren’t.

Not by a long shot.

What seems ever-so fascinating to the enthusiast is, well, some irrelevance being described in some alien language.

The Volkswagen ID.4 is an electric vehicle.

Fully electric. (For my neighbor: “No, you can’t fill it with gas.”)

It strikes me that one of the best things about it is that it is sufficiently straightforward and simple. Yes, there are some things to get used to, like getting into the vehicle and not turning a key or hitting a button to activate it. And like turning a knob to put it into gear.

Small things, though.

Otherwise, it is all rather obvious.

Which is a good thing.

Regular people can drive it without feeling like they’re taking part in a science experiment.

So massive credit to the folks at VW for creating a video series, “Electric Like I’m Five,” hosted by Volkswagen Director of E-Mobility Dustin Krause and his daughter, Harper.

I can imagine the EV enthusiasts gasping: “How dare they simplify this exquisite technology!”

But I submit that is exactly the point.

VW realizes that to make EVs mainstream, then it needs to be something that is understood by adults and children alike.

This is not some sort of ultra-advanced technology (brought to us by aliens). It is an advancement in transportation.

Once people understand that it will get them to work in the morning—while providing advantages (like not having to go to a gas station unless snacks are desired)—then there will be more EVs purchased.

Simple as that.

Even a five-year old could understand that.

Lyten Is Building a Better Battery

That’s the goal of on-going work in San Jose. It is using lithium sulfur and a 3D grapheme that it has developed.

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the more interesting aspects of the on-going transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is that there are all manner of companies that are pursuing the technology, not only companies like Foxconn, more ordinarily associated with making things like iPhones rather than EVs, but a growing number of companies whose names are new, typically companies based in Silicon Valley who are busy developing things ranging from control software to batteries.

One such company is Lyten, which is based in San Jose, not exactly a place associated with motor vehicles (although the Tesla plant in Fremont is close, and there used to be a Ford assembly plant in San Jose, although it closed in 1983 and eventually became a shopping mall).

One of the cofounders of Lyten is Dan Cook, currently the company’s CEO. Cook began his career working at GM but has spent the better part of it in the tech space in northern California.

As he describes his professional point of view, “I’m half auto, half tech.”

Which is a good thing for someone who is working for a company that is undoubtedly hoping to become a supplier to a vehicle manufacturer.

Lyten is developing batteries.

The batteries it is working on are based on three-dimensional graphene and use a lithium-sulfur chemistry rather than the currently conventional lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) chemistry.

Cook, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” explains why the three dimensional grapheme is important to the batteries and the benefits of using sulfur rather than NMC for batteries. Among the benefits are energy density, which means long range, and another is that the materials used can be domestically sourced, which is advantageous as regards the supply chains that we are so now very aware of.

As for the chemistry part of it, let’s just say that you should want the show because Cook provides a better description of it than any summary here could.

Cook talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Christie Schweinsberg of Ward’s Intelligence, Dave Tuttle of the University of Texas Energy Institute, and me.

And you can watch it here.

A New Old Truck Concept from Ford

Something a couple of electric motors can do

By Gary S. Vasilash

Ford Performance, working with MLe Racecars and the Roadster Shop, has developed the F-100 Eluminator concept—an electric truck.

It is based on a 1978 F-100 pickup, which explains the retro styling (i.e., because it is retro).

F-100–customized with electric motors. (Image: Ford)

But bringing the truck up to the moment, it features two electric traction motors—front and rear—which are the same type as those used in the Mustang Mach E-GT.

The traction motors produce 480 hp and 634 lb-ft of torque.

Eric Cin, Ford global director, Vehicle Personalization, Accessories and Licensing. “Our F-100 Eluminator concept is a preview of how we’re supporting customers as they go all-electric and embrace zero-tailpipe emissions performance, even for our heritage vehicles.”

One can only imagine that were a truck like the Eluminator pull up along side a [fill-in-the-blank performance car] at a stop light it would get a glance from the other driver. . .who would then stare at the taillights as the truck has left him behind.

GM BrightDrop Announces EV600 Build

An approach to vehicle production at a fast rate: have someone else do it

By Gary S. Vasilash

General Motors is proud because in a rapidly changing industry, it shows that it can go fast.

“Getting our first electric vehicles on the streets in record time before another peak holiday shipping season is the best gift we could receive this year, especially when we consider the supply chain headwinds the world is facing right now,” said Travis Katz, BrightDrop president and CEO.

BrightDrop is the GM business that is developing products—such as electric delivery truck and associated material handling equipment—for companies like FedEx Express and Verizon.

The classification is “eLCV,” for “electric light delivery commercial vehicle.”

Katz is referring to the production of the EV600.

BrightDrop EV 600 (Image :General Motors)

From concept to development in 20 months.

Speaking of the build speed, Katz continued, “This is a strong statement to the market of how our unique operations setup, which marries the cutting-edge innovation, agility and focus of a technology startup with the scale and manufacturing might of a major automaker, can deliver real value to both customers and the planet.”

An interesting aspect of this.

The early builds of the EV600 were done for General Motors by automation supplier Kuka AG.

Perhaps that is the “unique operations setup.”

To be fair, GM will be building the EV600, the EV410 and possibly other vehicles at its CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. The plant is currently being transformed for the production.

The first EV600 is expected to go off the line at CAMI in November 2022.

Or 13 months from now.

A Car, Not the Bond Film

Rolls-Royce getting somewhat closer to its first EV

By Gary S. Vasilash

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (to give the full name its due) announced today that it is on the precipice (sounds fancier than “edge”) of testing its first full electric vehicle, named “Spectre.”

According to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Chief Executive Officer, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, this is “an extraordinary new product that will elevate the global all-electric car revolution and create the first – and finest – super-luxury product of its type.”

Yes, it is absolutely true that it will be the first product of its type, as it will probably be the type.

As this is an electric vehicle (in disguise), presumably the smoke is supposed to evoke the name, “Spectre.” (Image: Rolls-Royce)

Citing the history of the company for some sort of presumed advantage in the EV space, Müller-Ötvös noted, “it was Charles Rolls who truly prophesied an electrified future for automobiles. In April 1900 he experienced an early electric motor car named the Columbia and declared its electric drive to be ideal.”

While that is certainly notable and impressive, that was also 121 years ago.

What’s taken Rolls (the company, not the man) so long?

And given that deliveries are expected to commence (better sounding than “start,” eh?) not until the fourth quarter of 2023, roughly two years from now, by which time it is hard to imagine that there won’t be EVs from essentially every automotive company on the planet, the excitement seems a bit, shall we say, outré.

Ford Lightning Pre-Production Underway

The first versions of the F-150 model are being built at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan

By Gary S. Vasilash

Ford is increasing its investment—to the tune of $250-million—at its operations at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant.

The reason?

The F-150 Lightning.

It also means 450 more jobs spread across the plants, all of which are in Michigan (Dearborn, Sterling Heights and Ypsilanti).

“We knew the F-150 Lightning was special,” said Ford executive chair Bill Ford, “but the interest from the public has surpassed our highest expectations and changed the conversation around electric vehicles.

“So we are doubling down, adding jobs and investment to increase production,” Ford added.

“This truck and the Ford-UAW workers who are assembling it in Michigan have a chance to make history and lead the electric vehicle movement in America.”

Pre-production underway for the all-electric F-150 Lightning. (Image: Ford)

Ford has taken more than 150,000 reservations for the full-size electric pickup that has an estimated range of 300 miles and a starting MSRP of $40,000. (It is worth noting that the reservations require $100—which is refundable.)

The Lightning is another in the F-150 offerings, which has been the best-seller in the U.S. for 44 years running.

Pre-production is underway for the Lightning, with consumer vehicles planned for availability in the spring of 2022.

Safer Is Better

Technologies that are beneficial when you’re behind the wheel or simply a rider

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the factors of an electric vehicle that is often overlooked—unless you happen to be a first responder—is that when there is an accident and the vehicle needs to be quickly accessed, said vehicle can be “hot”—not (necessarily) a battery fire—but as regards the electrical current that is running through the vehicle.

Device is pyrotechnically actuated to severe the high-voltage line in an EV should there be an accident. (Image: Joyson Safety Systems)

So to address this potential hazard, Joyson Safety Systems developed a pyrotechnic device that is triggered by a vehicle’s ECU in the event of an accident and cuts the electric high voltage connection within a matter of milliseconds.

This is just one of the clever products that has been developed by Joyson. Some of these devices are in use on vehicles right now (e.g., Tesla put that high voltage electric line cutter into vehicles in 2017; the system that monitors whether a driver is paying attention when GM’s Super Cruise is activated is a Joyson development, as well).

So to discuss these and other developments, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we are joined by Jason Lisseman, vice president, Global Product Line, Integrated Safety Systems, Joyson Safety Systems. Lisseman talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Bengt Halvorson of Green Car Reports, and me.

One of the more interesting—and unusual, though absolutely useful—developments Lisseman describes is a sensor that detects and classifies the air quality within a vehicle.  As he explains, as there are shared, autonomous vehicles, it may be that whomever was in the vehicle before you was rather, um, fragrant, and so having a sensor that will be able to make a determination that the interior is odiferous and need some attention before other passengers climb in can make a big difference.

In addition, McElroy, Halvorson and I discuss a variety of other issues, including the GM battery problem with the Bolts, public charging issues and much more.

Which you can see right here.