Will we see e-cars from Trollhättan earlier than expected?

Yesterday one interesting article appeared on the regional site P4 Vest of the Swedish radio corporation.

It is known that Tesla is searching for a production facility in Europe to achieve their production targets of 500.000 cars in 2018.

Different countries seem to be in the list, Spain because of the Sun, the Netherlands, because Tesla has already an assembly facility there or Germany, because Tesla has lately agreed to buy a German manufacturing specialist.

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Electric Updates (updated with Tesla response)

It’s been a while since my last post, but I haven’t lost any interest in Saab. There hasn’t been too much exciting NEVS news (public at least) to share, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of exciting EV news to report. The fact that Saab is investigating production of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) version of the 9-3 is exciting and welcome news, but doesn’t change the fact that its parent company is still primarily interested in electric cars. As I’ve read through comments the past few weeks, it’s clear still that some don’t see a viable market for electric propulsion in its current stage. I’m not writing this post to try to change their minds, only here to show those who understand the role it will play in the future of automotive technology relevant stories affecting the current leading players Saab wants to compete against.

While this is a long post, I find that I often cover a lot of ground that I see commenters on other articles confused about. There’s a lot of juicy info in here to bring everyone up to speed on the good and bad in the EV world, so it’s probably worth reading the article and the links provided if you care about this stuff. To make it a little easier to digest, I’m breaking it into sections about each subject. Truth be told, it might as well be 5 separate articles, but heck it’s the weekend so enjoy!

Tesla

I’ll admit, the main reason I even had enough inspiration to post today is because I saw a Tesla driving in my mom’s neighborhood outside Buffalo this week. For two seconds I thought it was a new Ford Fusion, then a Jaguar XF, and then I realized quickly that it was something I’d never seen before, a Model S. It looked sexy, and it was fast – 55 in a 30 mph zone fast. For frame of reference, watch it smoke this Mercedes Benz E63:

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This Week in EVs: Disaster Edition

It’s been a few weeks since my last TWiEVs post, but there hasn’t been much to cover. No matter, the biggest news in the world of automotive electric propulsion has really been flooding in this week (pun intended). Once again I’ve gathered some electric vehicle and battery news from around the net for SU readers to gain some insight into Saab’s new challenges.

Image from Jalopnik

Battery safety has been called into question this week after several Fisker Karmas and Toyota Prii (priuses?) spontaneously combusted after burning at port after being inundated by the storm surge of Superstorm Sandy. That same storm made getting gas an extreme headache for anyone with a car in downstate New York and northern New Jersey as many readers here can attest, we’ll look into how having more EVs might change that.

And speaking of EVs in North America, there’s some new studies out that show the US will actually lead plug-in sales in the next few years and that China will surprisingly not meet anticipated targets. Someone might want to tell those guys at NEVS they might want to rethink their Chinacentric model?

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This Week In EVs

Since substantive Saab news is hard to come by lately, and when it does emerge it’s about things like what if decisions regarding Griffins and the like, I figured I’d at least try to shine a light on the electric vehicle market. NEVS plans on focusing their initial efforts on an EV using Japanese technology (read: batteries), and as they conglomerate the parts necessary to commercially produce and profit from their first Saab, they will be struggling with the same challenges as competitors who have made their own solutions. It’s our attempt at SU to educate Saab fans and future new Saab customers about these engineering issues, EV advantages and disadvantages, and try to better understand the field so that when the new Saab EV emerges, we have a pretty solid knowledge base to draw from.

EVTV

Here’s the top 4 videos to watch this week in the world of electric propulsion.

1. Drive magazine talks to the head of engineering for the new Porsche 918 Hybrid.

This is basically the proposal I had for the High Performance Saab contest that Swade ran a while back, except done if money wasn’t an option. A completely new engine with carbon fiber mounts, carbon fiber chassis, new battery tech, and some incredible software to make it all work are all highlighted in the video. If Saab could do the poor man’s version with lightweight metals, their own EV propulsion, and some sort of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) motor or generator on board, and keep it under $40K out the door (with tax credits), I think we’d have a pretty solid car that most of us would die to own. Now, if they felt like building a limited run Aero-X as a showpiece for their new Japanese tech for $1,000,000+, I’m sure that wouldn’t be such a bad outcome either.

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What’s that Spaceship at the Rest Stop?

One of the more obvious obstacles to the adoption of EVs that Saab will undoubtedly face is long distance travel using Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). It’s the big reason why most companies to date are also focusing on including a motor generator on their EVs and thus building Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs). But adding a conventional fuel powered generator onto an electric car adds cost and complexity, which changes the chemistry requirements for the battery and yields a much lower range than if the car were simply battery powered. Since NEVS has stated their intention of first going the BEV route with their first production model based on the existing Saab 9-3, it’s worth a look at one very interesting solution unveiled this week.

Tesla decided to go the pure EV route, and chose to deal with range anxiety in a pretty radical yet simple way. This week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled a network of spaceship-like stations dubbed Superchargers. Each station can charge four to six cars at a time, and costs about $250,000 to build. They’re charged by a high voltage power supply presumably pulls it’s power from the grid, with PV (solar) panels that feed power back into the grid to offset the load. At the moment only the Model S and future Tesla vehicles are able to take advantage of the superchargers. It takes about 30 minutes to fill up a car with 100kW, which is about enough for 3 hours at 60mph. Obviously that’s not enough for most SU readers, who want less than 10 minutes and 4 hours at 75mph+, but for first-of-its-kind technology that actually exists today, it isn’t too shabby. There are already a number of other companies with similar plans, Better Place, NRG Energy, Ecotality and Coulomb to name a few, but it’s obvious that Tesla will have a serious presence along highways in major urban areas very soon.

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A Tale of Two Electric Startups – Fisker

Now that NEVS’s purchase of Saab’s assets are complete, a clearer picture of their future plans is emerging. While none of us know exactly where the road will take the company, one thing is clear- with a business model based on electric propulsion, they will effectively be operating as a startup company. In a previous story, we looked at Tesla as an example of an automotive startup that has proven a successful business case exists for electric cars. I’d like to continue looking at the other gorilla in the electric start-up room, Fisker, and focus more on their own missteps, so that we can watch and hopefully sound the alarm if we see NEVS in a similar situation.

Their first model, a $100K+ roadster, enabled them to test out their battery and control systems at an almost break even level. But for their first volume model, they didn’t want to compromise– they wanted a game changing mid-sized sedan. Indeed, Tesla has reduced the development process of their Model S sedan to its most salient details in order to exploit the best out of what electric propulsion provides– we’ll look at those in future articles. And by every measure of achievement, they’ve succeeded in silencing their critics. The respected auto journalist Dan Neil lost his bet with Tesla CEO Elon Musk that the Model S wouldn’t come to market on time, and paid $1,000 to charity as payment. Tesla has forecasted profitability next year, less than a year after delivery of the first Model S, due mostly to strong presale demand. They’ve presold 12,000 cars, and will break even around 8,000- showing that if NEVS wants to succeed, they must follow a similar path and leverage the support and initially target people like you and every reader of SU to survive.

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The Future Isn’t So Far Away

As the sale of Saab’s assets to NEVS reaches a head this summer, it will be almost three years since its last sale to Spyker. Amazingly their ownership of Saab feels like a blip in that whole spanse, which was more or less plagued by scandals, production stoppages, and dramatic sales. Yet Spyker was able to initiate several structural changes not only to Saab’s model portfolio through the development of the Phoenix platform, but also structural changes to its work force and third party sourced engineering expertise with companies like eAAM, Vicura, ZF, and True Electric. Three years, and yet here we are, without a Saab to buy and with no real promise that we’ll ever be able to drive a traditional gas powered Saab off a new car dealer lot again.

So what could the next three years bring? Three years ago, Tesla introduced the Model S in a big media splash. The company’s founder, Elon Musk, an internet billionaire, risked his entire fortune on his two startups, SpaceX and Tesla. The former just launched the first successful commercial space flight to dock with the International Space Station, so it’s clear this man can multitask. Some think of him as a cocky arrogant prick, I’m not one of them– he’s a visionary who sees obstacles and blasts through them. We’ve seen the arguments against his company (especially in comments sections of websites including our own) lambasting the company as a fly by night and their first car, the roadster, as a rich man’s go cart. Well, that go cart’s inflated price didn’t hurt sales to those rich men, who in turn helped subsidize the development of their real first car of note, the Model S.

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Friday Snippets – ‘Nobody told me there’d be days like these’ Edition

British Saab dealers had their launches yesterday, I believe.

I haven’t heard anything from attendees yet, but I’m sure all went well.

Photo by Robin M.

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It’s a mad day.

Can you believe the cult of celebrity, even in basketball where a man’s image is starting to overshadow the importance of his jump shot or his ability to actually win games, has grown to the stage where a national sports channel will devote an hour to one guy announcing where he’ll play for the next few seasons?

People with an interest in b-b-b-basketball should read Bill Simmons’ column on The LeBrachelor before the announcement comes through.

And can you believe I’m even writing about this here?

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Can you believe that a guy in the motoring industry – one whose company has just floated on the stock exchange – would feel the pressure of public scrutiny so much that he’d decide to address rumours about his personal relationships in the public arena? And then instead of doing it in a big national newspaper, he’d choose Jalopnik?

No smear on Jalopnik there, but I’d just assume that if you want it to be read by the people who are supposedly dogging you, then you’d pick the NYT or something.

Tesla’s Elon Musk: About my divorce.

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Can you believe how much time and money Toyota are spending to tell people how good they really think they are right now?

Autoblog was their servant during the unintended acceleration debacle and it seems they are Toyota’s servants once again.

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For those of you, who like me, still think of the potential Koenigsegg era with some fondness. The Koenigsegg Agera.

Not that I’m unhappy with how things turned out, of course.

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For those of you, who like me, have never lived in the midst of a snowy winter…….

This is what cars look like at that time of year. I found it quite curious. Maybe you will too.

That’s JJ’s Pepper Green SportCombi. Thanks JJ.

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And speaking of how things turned out, here’s a Spyker being featured in a FedEx ad in this month’s Hemmings.

Word to the doubters who might think this ad is a little fanciful: We know that FedEx deliver Spykers because we saw one being delivered to Just Saab in the back of a FedEx truck 🙂

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Less than 24 hours to go……..

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