Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Fate of The Electric Car

Why is it taking so long for the electric car to take over?  One of the biggest challenges with electrical vehicles is the ever-present range anxiety–the fear that you’ll run out of juice before you reach the next charging station. Elon Musk promised to solve this for Tesla drivers with the Supercharger network. Now the American divisions of BMW and Volkswagen are teaming up to build 100 direct current (DC) fast charging ports across the US to improve long-distance travel.

The two car makers are also partnering with ChargePoint, a startup that provides the network for getting access to charging stations. The 100 additional charging stations will be tied in with ChargePoint’s current 20,000 stations in North America.

“Many of our customers voiced the concern about availability of public chargers,” said Robert Healey, BMW’s head of EV infrastructure, in a phone call. “We listened to them and we have committed to building out the infrastructure. To do that efficiently, we need partnerships betweens OEMs.”

BMW and Volkswagen will be providing the majority of the cash for all 100 stations with some money coming from ChargePoint. The group has already begun construction of the ports in San Diego and plan to get all 100 up by sometime this year. “The build out schedule is literally as fast as humanly possible,” said Healey. “We’re fully funded and fully staffed. The only limiting factor is normal construction time.”

The stations will be placed along high-traffic areas of Interstate 95 on the east coast that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C. On the west coast, the new charging stations will connect cities running as far north as Portland and as far down as San Diego. The charging stations will be placed no further than 50 miles apart.

The fast charging ports will include either two 50 kW DC Fast chargers or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers. A 24kW port will charge BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, and in 20 minutes at a 50 kW station. The 100 locations will also include Level 2 chargers, which are slower chargers but are compatible with all electric vehicles.

The charging stations will of course support the two companies own electric cars–the i3 and e-Golf–but will also support any vehicles with DC fast charging capabilities and vehicles that use the SAE Combo connector, which is the standard favored among American and European car makers. “From BMW’s perspective, we’re committed to support electric car mobility, not only for BMW but for others,” said Healey.

Tesla has also started the process of building out a vast network of “Supercharger” stations that can power up a Tesla vehicles in 30 minutes. Currently, the Supercharger network numbers around 150 stations in North America. The only problem is, these charging stations only work with Tesla cars.

As opposed to Tesla’s propriety Supercharger stations, the charging stations BMW and Volkswagen are building use the popular SAE standard.

Last year, Tesla opened up its patents to the Supercharger system that would, in theory, allow for other electric cars makers to adopt the technology and use Tesla’s infrastructure. But we’ve yet to see any results of this. Although the Financial Times reported that Nissan and BMW may be interested in working with Tesla on the charging technology, Healey from BMW would only say: “we have committed to the SAE standard.”  This new commitment may help push the electric car to where it needs to be.

Read the full article here 

It’s 2015; Where is The DeLorean now?

The DeLorean played a critical role in the 1989 sequel to “Back to the Future,” Michael J. Fox’s character uses his flying time machine to travel to a 2015 filled with flying skateboards, automated dog-walkers and self-drying jackets.

Little did he know that when 2015 finally rolled around, the car used in the movie would be in the middle of a legal battle pitting a Texas company against the widow of maverick automaker John DeLorean.

DeLorean’s eponymous creation co-starred in the original 1985 movie as it transported Fox’s Marty McFly back to the 1950s to engineer his parents’ meeting, and it was featured in two sequels.

Now, DeLorean’s widow, Sally, claims in a federal lawsuit that Texas-based DeLorean Motor Company has been illegally using the DeLorean name to sell hats, pens, notebooks, key chains and other items, and has illegally licensed the name and images to other companies including Nike, Mattel, Urban Outfitters and Apple. The company has never been formally affiliated with the one DeLorean started.

The Texas company “has improperly and illegally appropriated for its own use Mr. DeLorean’s legacy, including the DeLorean Identity, together with intellectual property,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit claims the company has plans to manufacture an electric version of the car, which it says would be illegal because the car’s design belongs to John DeLorean’s estate.

In addition to seeking to stop the company from continuing to use the trademarks, the suit seeks damages as well as the company’s profits derived from their use. Through its attorney, the company has denied all claims and asserted it has the right to the trademarks. A settlement conference is scheduled for next month.

John Z. DeLorean was an automotive innovator who began his career at General Motors and is credited by some with creating America’s first “muscle” car, the Pontiac GTO, in the mid-1960s. He left GM in the early 1970s to launch his own company and eventually produced the DMC 12, referred to simply as “the DeLorean,” a sleek, angular car with gull-wing doors and an unpainted stainless-steel exterior.

Only about 9,000 of the cars were produced before DeLorean’s company went bankrupt in the early 1980s, but the car’s look and cult following helped land it a role in the “Back To The Future” films. According to the Internet Movie Database, the car was chosen because it would plausibly look like a spacecraft to people in the 1950s flashback scenes.

DeLorean died in New Jersey in 2005 at age 80 after years of court battles that included a highly publicized drug trial in the 1980s in which he was acquitted of conspiring to sell millions of dollars of cocaine. His former estate in the rolling hills about 40 miles west of New York City was converted into a golf course by developer Donald Trump in 2004. Sally DeLorean lives in New Jersey with her daughter.

Attorney R. Scott Thompson, who represents Sally DeLorean, said John DeLorean bought his company’s trademarks, images and other intellectual property during the company’s bankruptcy proceeding. The lawsuit alleges that in 2004 he gave the owners of the Texas company permission to make a small modification to the car’s user manual, and they acknowledged that DeLorean owned the intellectual property.

“There is definitely no written agreement” relinquishing the trademarks, Thompson said, adding, “to the extent that any written agreement exists, it says the opposite.”

At that time, the lawsuit contends, the Texas company was a “small forum” where DeLorean enthusiasts could buy or sell parts or exchange information. The company disputes this characterization.

William Mead, a New Jersey-based attorney representing DeLorean Motor Company, said in an email that the company existed for 10 years prior to John DeLorean’s death and has registered trademarks. He said DeLorean was aware of its operations and didn’t express opposition.  Who could have known that all this time the DeLorean has been fighting for it’s name.

Read the full article here 

The Biggest Cars Face off At This Years Detroit Auto Show

There have been many Detroit Auto shows but this years is different. Mercedes, BMW and Audi will lead the European assault on the U.S. market with new SUVs, sports sedans and coupes at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), but domestic manufacturers are starting to crank up some effective retaliation.

The Europeans, fresh from a strong 2014, will be helped this year by the fall in the value of the euro against the dollar, and will share with U.S. manufacturers the boost to sales at the gas-guzzling end of the market from the surprising and deep fall in the price of oil.

New vehicles from the upmarket Germans include a sporty SUV from Mercedes-Benz , the GLE Coupe, a big new SUV from Audi, the Q7, and a revamped BMW 6-series range. The 6-series comprises a two-door coupe, a convertible and a four-door Gran Coupe, making their world debut. Porsche is holding its cards close to its chest, only saying it will launch two versions of existing models. FCA’s Alfa Romeo will be marking its return to the U.S. market after nearly 20 years absence with the little 4C Spider. Alfa Romeo, the storied sports-car maker now emerging from a dormant period, won’t emerge as a strong player in the U.S. probably for a couple of years yet.

U.S. manufacturers though are getting ready to rumble, according to Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.

“The high-end, high-performance European cars are poised to succeed, but so are the largest SUVs and trucks produced by the domestic manufacturers, and those have been growing faster than the luxury brands in the past year, though the luxury brands have grown too. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche should continue to grow in 2015, but probably not as quickly as brands like (FCA’s) Jeep and Ram or models like the (Ford) F-150, Ram 1500, (Chevrolet ) Silverado, Suburban, (Jeep) Cherokee and other trucks and SUVs,” Brauer said.

New models from domestic producers include hot versions of the Ford Mustang and Ford GT, and GM’s Cadillac CTS-V. GM’s Buick will launch the Cascada, borrowed from the European Opel division.

The European threat will be helped by the 13 per cent rise in the dollar against the euro since mid-year, which means Americans need fewer dollars to buy these cars. But the yen has fallen even more, 15 per cent over the same timescale, so expect an increasing Japanese threat, especially from manufacturers still making large proportions of their vehicles at home. Japanese content ranges from 85 per cent for Mazda down to Nissan and Toyota’s 52 per cent and 48 per cent, while Honda is the lowest with 22 per cent.  Which car company will be able to get an edge?

Read the full article here