Quirky EVs — those offbeat, avante garde, often experimental personal transportation options — don’t always get the respect they deserve in an era in which Tesla has nearly dominated the all-electric market. But quirky EVs justify a look, as they may evolve into the vehicles the Average Joe and Jane of the not-so-distant future will be driving.
We know motorcycles are definitely quirky EVs, often without the power and prestige that so many US riders prefer. But much of the world depends on motorcycles as low-cost, efficient transportation to maneuver through congested urban traffic. Lots of traditional motorcycles are gaining in fuel efficiency, but Alta Motors’ electric Redshift really has the youth market taking notice.
Then again, a totally different kind of EV adventure is in store for anyone in Dubai who’s interested in testing out one of the quirky EVs that the Europeans like so much, the Renault Zoe, and for only $1.50 per hour (with a full day minimum). It’s part of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s push to meet scheduled emission reduction goals. And Dubai is not the only place where EV adventures are on the horizon. A Hyperloop for electric bikes? That’s what BMW’s R&D center in Shanghai has been working on, and it looks fascinating.
Also, there’s the People’s Car company, Volkswagen, which needs to play catch-up with the other EV manufacturers. They’ve announced newly-signed cooperation with 100 suppliers in advance of their 2022 line of 20 EVs. And our old friend the Nissan LEAF was front and center this week at the LA Auto Show, preening about enhancements to the original model in what has truly been an evolution of quirky EVs.
Here are those stories and more on this week’s edition of “The Gas2 Week in Review.”
36 new dealerships in 16 states in the past year? Alta Motors is presenting some pretty formidable competition to California electric motorcycle stalwart, Zero Motorcycles. With a distinct and deliberate focus on the off-road world, Alta has tackled a niche market with its Redshift models and custom battery pack which crams 5.8 kWh into 30.8 kilos with a maximum of 350V. Mile for mile, the company declares, there is no smaller, more energy dense battery pack in transportation.
Alta’s founders started out by trying to make a bike that would make riders of all skill levels better. Their research into available technologies made them realize that an electric motor would perform best, as it gives the rider total control with linear and immediate power delivery. No doubt, there are still hurdles to educating this market on the thrills and combined benefits of riding an electric bike, but the company is confident of a promising future. Their 18x increase in sales this year didn’t hurt the optimism.
For those of you who’ve never had the chance to test drive an EV, would about $30 for a day’s worth of use be an incentive for you to give it a try? SelfDrive, an online car rental company in Dubai, makes the offer with the Renault Zoe, those quirky EVs that are slightly smaller than the Nissan LEAF and which just happen to be the highest selling electric cars in Europe.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s network of 90 charging stations will soon be free to all who rent from SelfDrive. The rental agreement limits customers to no more than 250 kilometers of driving a day. Cars can also be reserved on a weekly or monthly basis. Part of the Dubai Green Mobility Initiative, the inexpensive EV rental promotes the use of electric and hybrid vehicles and supports the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 for Dubai. The country is trying to achieve the lofty goal of having the lowest carbon footprint in the world. Inexpensive SelfDrive quirky EVs are one of many incentives intended to motivate organizations to use sustainable transport and to contribute to the sustainable development of the emirate by reducing carbon emissions. Ground transport is the second largest gas emitter in Dubai.
We’re becoming more aware as a society that exercise as habit contributes to longevity. So the folks at BMW are designing a low cost way to make riding a bicycle to work fun, fast, and enjoyable. The project is called the E3 Way, named for the three “e’s” at its core — elevation, electrification, and efficiency. A collaboration between the BMW advanced R&D center in Shanghai and Shanghai’s Tongji University will result in what BMW head of Technology Office China Markus Seidel calls “our Hyperloop” — but it’s for electric bikes, not cars.
The dedicated weatherproof tunnel for e-bikes is intended for journeys of 10 miles or less. Modular tubes would likely have transparent covers so riders will see the world outside as they pedal along. Digital controls at on ramps could restrict entry when the system is at capacity. Maximum speed inside the tube would be set at 15 miles per hour and rigorously enforced by electronic monitors. BMW foresees e-bikes as a mainstream green transportation option for short and middle-distance travel in the years to come.
In order for Volkswagen to produce its new I.D. sub-brand of electric and plug-in hybrid cars in late 2019, it must begin to manage the supply chain for those vehicles now. As a result, the automaker recently announced a new type of cooperation with more than 100 suppliers. Volkswagen acknowledges that securing partnerships for work on the I.D. project is “considerably more intensively and at a significantly earlier stage” than the automaker had ever attempted previously.
Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, states that they’ll be offering more than 20 all-electric models by 2022 and will be investing about €6 billion in e-mobility over the next five years.
The new Nissan LEAF has 40% more range, 30% more HP, and a price slightly lower price than the original. One of the many features that has been modified is the trunk, which is spacious for an EV. The extra space came from rearranging back of the car structural components like rear-wheels. The new LEAF designers also realigned the interior space so it would have a lower center of gravity as well as an increased battery pack density.
The LEAF’s intelligent mobility vehicle-to-home (V2H) feature — a bi-directional charging capability that allows the car to charge but also allows it to send power back home — complements a portable Level 2 (240V) charger. Other tech upgrades include the LEAF’s autonomous driving intelligent auto cruise system, which engages at speeds over 20 mph and keeps you gently inside a lane. And Nissan’s E-pedal, a regenerative braking system, includes anti-creep mode to keep the car stationery when stopped on a hill. All in all, the new Nissan LEAF has features the public has come to expect, like heated seats, mirrors, and powered seats, while still maintaining the wonderful feel of those quirky EVs.