Tag Archives: Detroit

Battery powered railcars

The city of Detroit is currently building a small street-car rail system going along Woodward ave from downtown to the new center area (3.3 miles in all–the original plan was for it to go much further). The system is called M-1 rail.
M1 Rail construction map

Wait? a rail system? in your EV blog? Yes a battery rail system.

There are sections of the track where they will be unable to put the overhead wires and in those instances the rail cars will be running on battery only.

Instead of a Woodward Avenue wrapped with electric lines, 60% of the route will be “off wire,” meaning most of it will run on battery power versus electricity.

I find this kind of ironic: The cities new rail system will be an EV and yet most of the automaker’s here would rather that EVs go away. Not to mention the fact that when the cars are running on battery they still are running off of electricity–just internal stored electricity.

2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS)

Known locally as “The Detroit Auto Show”. For this years show I was only really interested in 3 cars: The new Volt, the Bolt concept car, and what kind of treatment would my beloved FFE get? There wasn’t anything else “new” that I was interested in (or that I haven’t seen before)–at least with respect to plug in cars.
The new Volt: This car is really sharp compared to the old Volt. To my eyes it looks a bit sleeker and more modern. In addition there is sort of room for 3 in the back seat:
2016 Chevy Volt
2016 Chevy Volt
2016 Chevy Volt
2016 Chevy Volt
The Bolt concept car: This is GM’s 200 mile concept EV. I like the looks of it–to me it has a very similar form factor to the Ford Escape, or C-Max (although it is a bit smaller than either):
Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt
The Focus Electric: Last year Ford had all their plugin cars off to the corner of the display, almost as an afterthought. This year the plugin section was a little more prominent in with the cars. As for the FFE: It was smack dab right in the center of the Ford display!
Focus Electric
Focus Electric
Unfortunately we decided to go to the show at the same time as everyone else from Southeastern Michigan and thus I wasn’t able to get many clear shots of any other cars of interest (not that there were many more of interest than mentioned above). Tesla only had Model S’s on display of which all of them were packed with people.
Tesla Model S
A few other items to note: Aside from GM having the Volt/Bolt up on a prominent display and VW mixing the eGolf with the other Golf’s most other manufacturer’s plugin cars were off to the corner, almost as an afterthought. Even Nissan had their only Leaf way in the back of their display.
Nissan Leaf
The other observation was the demographic of people taking pictures: Those taking pictures of plugins tended to be younger college age (especially around the less expensive plugins like the Leaf or the Smart car). Those taking pictures of your typical ICE vehicle were more middle aged (except for Tesla–everyone was taking pictures of Tesla’s).

North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) aka The Detroit Auto show

(Long post warning)

In the Detroit area the Detroit Auto show is just part of the holiday season: First is Christmas, then New Years always followed by the Auto Show (followed by the boat & camper shows–in the middle of winter we celebrate the summer activities! Even the Tigers have a winter festival in January).
Before I go on about the show, though, we had to get there–and back. Downtown Detroit is a shade over 30 miles from our house. In the summer this poses no problem for the Focus Electric–we’ve even done it a few times: taking the FFE to a few Tigers games. In the winter, however, at 25 F outside a 60 mile round trip tends to be a bit more difficult. Fortunately, GMs headquarters is downtown and with GM promoting the Volt for the past few years there are more than a few Chargepoint stations downtown:
Chargepoint map
Even better: The two stations on W Congress are directly across the street from Cobo where the Auto Show is held. Charging spot picked out we set off. Arriving at the parking garage I used about the same amount of electricity that I have in the summer (about 55% remaining on the battery). So we plugged in and went to the show.
Plugged in
The trip home, however, was a bit more unexpected. With a 22 mph (gusting to 37 mph) head wind I ended up consuming double the electricity that we did on our way down! The total round trip cost 22 kWh (this was without using any heat).
Trip Display
At times we were burning electricity at 450 Wh/mile! I’m glad we found a charger. The “Low battery” indicator went off about a mile from home (on the FFE it indicates low battery when there are 10 or less miles left).

Enough of that–on to the show: I’ll start with Ford since I’ve already admitted to some Ford bias (see the about page). Ford’s big news this year was the 2015 Mustang and the all new aluminum F-150 both of which aren’t exactly your economy leading vehicles (even though both new vehicles will offer a significant improvement in efficiency). Thus the two “center stages” in the very large Ford area were dominated by Mustangs and trucks. Off to the side was the high-efficiency plug in vehicle display:
Ford's green vehicles
The good news here is: This display was in a high traffic area on the very corner of Ford’s show. If you were walking from Acura, Cadillac, or Honda it is likely that the first display of Ford that you would come to is these three cars. (Yup that is a Focus Electric on the left in white.)

Many people are interested in how much space the batteries take up. Here are a few pictures (yeah not the most sexy pictures but probably more useful!). First up a Fusion Hybrid’s trunk, followed by a C-Max Hybrid trunk, and then finally a C-Max Energi trunk (if you want to see a Focus Electric’s trunk I covered that in this post):
Fusion Hybrid Trunk
C-Max Hybrid Trunk
C-Max Energi Trunk
(Sorry about the blue tint: There was a Ford LED wall right behind the cars which was lighting up the whole area in Ford blue–look at the above picture of all 3 cars: All those blue walls are all LEDs.)

Next up, every EV lover’s favorite: Tesla.
Tesla display
I got a very strong “Apple Store” vibe from walking around the Tesla area and talking to other people (people viewing the cars, not the “product specialists”). It was very different from any of the other manufacturers. Here is the Model S cutaway chassis:
Tesla cut away chassis

In between Ford and Tesla was a company trying (at least they say they are) to be Tesla’s competitor: Cadillac with their ELR:
The ELR
Complete with a Cadillac branded EVSE–I wonder how much extra it costs for the word “Cadillac” on it! The ELR is deceiving: In drawings and photo’s, at least to me, its always appeared longer than it actually is. Being developed on a Volt chassis I knew it wasn’t going to be very long which is why the pictures I’ve seen were not what I was expecting. Here is the dash of the ELR.
Inside the ELR
Next on our tour, the ELR’s brother: The Volt:
Chevy Volt
Much like Ford, Chevy’s big news was the new Corvette Stingray (there were so many people in the Corvette area–we couldn’t even get close to one!) and so the Volt’s were hidden in their own display behind the Camaro’s? Which was very odd. Even more significant: We couldn’t find an electric Spark–there were a couple of gas engined Sparks on display.

Nissan had a multi-level display area with the Leaf’s off in the corner–one of which could drive itself:
Nissan Leaf
Honda introduced a new Fit at the show, but didn’t mention if the new Fit will have an electric version or not.
Honda Fit
Audi had an A3 eTron parked for viewing:
Audi A3 eTron
BMW was showing an entire area dedicated to its “i” vehicles: The i3:
BMW i3
and the i8:
BMW i8
Wouldn’t you like to sit behind the wheel of the i8?
BMW i8
The other German company (VW) was showing off the eGolf:
VW eGolf
Unlike any other manufacturer there, VW had a cutaway of the eGolf’s drive train:
VW eGolf drive train
Lets see, what else is left? Oh yeah: Fiat: (This really is a small car)
Fiat 500e
Love the dash on the 500e (looks like its from the 1940s or 1950s):
Fiat 500e dash
There’s still more: Electric Smart Car (even smaller than the 500e):
Smartcar
Plug in Prius:
Plugin Prius

Last we have, from the basement, VIA motors with their electric conversions:
VIA Pickup
Note the cover on the pickup bed, its a covered with solar cells!
VIA Pickup solar cell

I did spy something very interesting off in the corner of the basement. A very exotic looking hybrid that I didn’t think I’d see at a new car auto show any more…
Fisker!
Yes! A Fisker Karma!

We were very surprised by the number of people at the auto show (especially when the doors opened at 9:00am on a Sunday!). Very good news for the Detroit automakers, and for Detroit on the whole….