Ask people why they won’t buy an electric vehicle and you’re likely to hear responses about charging infrastructure, limited range, or sticker price. These concerns are valid enough, but the latest Consumer Reports ratings may suggest a more pressing problem: poor reliability, as neither Tesla nor BMW fared well with their flagship EVs. Nonetheless, there is no reason to sound the alarm. Plug-in car owners are committed to their vehicles for numerous reasons and subpar reliability ratings are likely just growing pains for the segment.
The latest hubbub surrounding Tesla centered on the “below-average” reliability score the electric car maker got from Consumer Reports following a reader survey. For a car that averages nearly $100,000 in purchase price, it is alarming to know faulty door handles could keep drivers locked out or that a new drivetrain may be necessary after a few years, warranty-covered or not. Likewise, the BMW i3 had enough bugs in its powertrain that readers rated it less-than-great on the reliability front.
Still, the survey was far from exhaustive. Only five electric vehicles and two plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) received ratings, with both PHEVs coming in
Modern cars are complex beasts with electric and electronic components that are smarter than the average desktop computer. They perform split-second calculations so they can deploy, for example, an airbag at the appropriate time.
And that is just one example. There are dozens of others, either available now or emerging from the research and development labs of Europe’s automakers. The developments mean automotive safety is about to get a whole lot more complex.
But complexity is the bane of dependability. The more complex a system, the more likely it will suffer potentially catastrophic errors.
Enter Integrated Safety Systems (ISSs), the latest paradigm in safety engineering. Such technologies allow safety components, like speed, steering or other sensors, to be available for a variety of applications.
In the past, a wheel speed sensor would be slaved to the ABS braking system, but under ISS all components are part of a network, so they are available for a host of other applications, like ensuring a car or truck is observing local speed limits.
This integration reduces development time and the costs of a new application. But ISS
Hydrogen is the fuel of the future. Unfortunately, one problem remains: Hydrogen is a gas and cannot easily be pumped into a tank like gasoline. Storage in the form of solid hydrides, chemical compounds of hydrogen and a metal or semimetal, are good storage materials in principle, but have not been well suited to automotive applications.
An American research team at the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn and the University of California, Los Angeles, has now developed a novel hydride that could be a useful starting point for the development of future automotive hydrogen-storage materials.
As Jun Yang and his team have reported* an “autocatalytic” reaction mechanism causes the composite made of three different hydrides to rapidly release hydrogen at lower temperatures and without dangerous by-products.
Certain hydrogen compounds, such as lithium borohydride (LiBH4 ) and magnesium hydride (MgH2), can release hydrogen and then take it up again. However, for automotive applications, they require temperatures that are too high to release hydrogen, the hydrogen release and uptake are far too slow, and decomposition reactions release undesirable by-products such as ammonia. In addition, these
So, you followed the advice of older and wiser motorcyclists and began your motorcycling career by taking theMotorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course. Good for you. But there’s a lot more to becoming a proficient motorcyclist than just mastering a bunch of parking lot maneuvers and the clutch’s friction zone. Safely handling a powerful two-wheeled machine requires a diverse range of skills that take both time and practice to acquire.
Unfortunately, many riders figure they’re good to go and never even consider furthering their motorcycle education after graduating from the BRC. Consider this: Professional athletes spend massive amounts of time practicing their discipline and probably pay private coaches to help them continue to improve. This goes for the best motorcycle racers in the world, too. Motorcycling is a sport that requires no less dedication to improvement, even by casual riders. This is especially true since there’s a lot at stake when riding a motorcycle. You never know when the proper execution of an avoidance maneuver or emergency braking will save your life.
The problem is, practicing these things on the street is both dangerous and impractical. Sure, finding an empty parking lot and
The modern four-stroke car or motorcycle engine is a marvel of engineering, making smooth, predictable power with great reliability. But if the four-stroke is an upstanding businessman with two and a half kids and a white picket fence, then the two-stroke is his unruly brother with a rap sheet and a penchant for anarchy.
It’s no doubt that two-strokes are now an endangered species in everything but chainsaws and weed whackers, so some gear heads may not know much about them. Most car and motorcycle enthusiasts are familiar with the suck, squeeze, bang, and blow (also known as intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust) sequence of the classic four-stroke. In this engine type, each phase of the process has its own unique stroke. This means that there’s just one power stroke for every two turns of the crankshaft. In a two-stroke, the intake and compression phases take place during the piston’s upward stroke. Combustion and exhaust occur during the downward, or power, stroke.
Four-stroke engines can be either liquid or air-cooled, depending on design goals. They also feature complex lubrication systems where the crankcase rotates in the oil-filled crankcase and sump. Not so with the humble two-stroke. This
Tesla has formally appealed the state’s decision, saying that the new regulations contradict an existing franchise statute the state legislature approved that allows such direct sales, NJ.com reports. Tesla said the commission “had bowed to intense pressure from the state’s franchise auto dealers association, the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers,” or NJCAR, according to the site.
“Franchise dealers have an inherent conflict of interest in selling electric vehicles,” Tesla’s filing reads. “In order to do so effectively, they would need to enthusiastically tout the reasons why electric vehicles are superior to gasoline vehicles. This is not something that they are going to do since gasoline vehicles represent virtually all of their revenue.”
Naturally, James Appleton, who heads up NJCAR, disagrees, arguing that the other 13 car companies that sell electric vehicles do so through franchises, including in New Jersey. What he didn’t mention was that those other 13 companies sell numerous gasoline vehicles as well, according to NJ.com.
Appleton is confident that the courts will “recognize the compelling state interest in regulating the sale and distribution of new motor vehicles and that Tesla’s legal challenge of the NJ MVC rules will fail,” NJ.com reports.
BMW recently announced it has plans under consideration for the next member of the i range family, with a larger electric vehicle that would be slotted above the compact i3. BMW is reportedly already hard at work building “something a little bigger, maybe a little more range, relative to the i3,” according to BMW’s head of electric vehicle operations and strategy, Jacob Harb, who spoke to Autoblog.
However, as any good business should do, BMW is waiting to see how well consumers respond to the i3 and its sports car cousin, the i8, before making further commitments to expanding its electric powertrain program. Already, BMW has pumped about 2 billion euros — about $2.7 billion — into the development of the i platforms, so it’s understandable that the company wants to ensure that there is enough demand to warrant additional investment.
So far, things are looking good for BMW’s i range, as the i3 has already logged 11,000 orders globally, surpassing even BMW’s own expectations. It’s been on sale in Europe since November and is scheduled to make its U.S. debut in the next few months.
Harald Krueger, BMW’s production chief officer, acknowledged to Automotive News that a third member