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Patrick Lindemann, President of e-mobility at Schaeffler.
Patrick Lindemann, President of Transmission Systems & E-Mobility at Schaeffler.

The concept of mobility is rapidly changing, with sustainable energy, carbon footprint reduction, and  electrification driving the evolution. As a leading global mobility supplier whose enduring success is built upon unsurpassed quality, outstanding technology, and partnership, Schaeffler is dedicated to energizing the next generation with sustainable mobility solutions that satisfy customer demands.

The successful transformation of Schaeffler’s automotive business is evident from the fact that it secured $5 billion euros in order intake for e-mobility in 2022. Driving this success are Schaeffler’s products, technology, and people.

Schaeffler has worked to transform in products in three key areas: a mix of ICE, hybrid, and BEV powertrains to meet current and future customer needs; intelligent, safe and reliable chassis systems; and new mobility solutions geared towards a driverless future. Dedicated to a systems approach, Schaeffler innovations span from electronic propulsion systems to steer-by-wire systems to innovative bearing advancements.

The consumption and emissions targets of the future can be met through electrification of the powertrain. Schaeffler offers a full range of electrification options from 48-volt hybrids and plug-in hybrids to technologies for all-electric vehicles and alternative drives, such as key components for fuel cells. The company’s systems expertise makes it the ideal partner for customers evolving into the electrified future. Schaeffler predicts the global percentage of new electrified cars in the year 2030 will be 80 percent (40 percent all-electric and 40 percent hybrids).

The idea of a steer-by-wire system initially seems almost foolhardy, as the system eliminates the steering column and the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the steering gear. But on further investigation, this type of system has a wide range of benefits, including advanced driver safety. Schaeffler leveraged its experience in mechatronic systems to develop its intelligent Rear Wheel Steering System and took its first step towards becoming a steering system supplier. This intelligent technology turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels, significantly reducing the turning radius and optimizes maneuverability in tight spaces. At higher speeds, it further improves handling by allowing the rear axle to turn in the same direction as the front axle, enhancing handling, stability, ride comfort, and improving vehicle safety.

schaeffler fuel cell power for sustainable mobility.

Innovative bearing solutions play a key role in sustainable mobility by making powertrain and chassis systems more efficient. Schaeffler has developed an alternative to tapered roller wheel bearings – called the TriFinity wheel bearing. The TriFinity wheel bearing can reduce friction by 50 percent and increases stiffness by 33 percent compared to a tapered roller wheel bearing while maintaining the same package envelope. This innovative ball bearing design provides an alternative to tapered roller wheel bearings that didn’t exist prior to TriFinity.

Technology Transformation

Schaeffler has been leading the successful transformation in mobility and in the areas of digitalization and sustainability. The company has made significant investments in its U.S.-based operations to support growth in this sector. To that end, Schaeffler’s facility in Wooster, Ohio, represents its E-Mobility Center of Competence in the Americas, leading the region’s development of the next generation of powertrain solutions.

This facility, which recently celebrated its 45th anniversary, has transformed from a team of six employees assembling manual clutches into approximately 1,700 highly skilled employees pioneering motion for products like the e-axle, which is responsible for moving the entire electric vehicle, gearboxes, hybrid systems, batteries, and more. The Wooster facility is supported by Schaeffler’s Troy, Michigan competence center for chassis mechatronics and ultra-low friction bearings like TriFinity. The Troy center leverages decades of expertise in engine and chassis developments, now focusing on the next generation of technologies for these components and systems.

Schaeffler Ohio plant focuses on sustainable mobility.

People Transformation

Schaeffler's nationally recognized apprenticeship program also helps the global supplier attract and cultivate top talent that it needs to drive its E-Mobility transformation. Schaeffler offers apprenticeship programs throughout the country, partnering with technical schools to offer a range of trades. The 3.5-year program consists of both classroom and on-the-job training with a high retention rate after graduation.

In addition to apprenticeship programs, Schaeffler has partnered with 30 universities in the Americas to grow its internship and co-op programs. The company recently also developed a unique collaborative partnership with The Ohio State University (OSU), launching its first North American Schaeffler Hub for Advanced Research (SHARE) program. Located on the OSU campus in Columbus, the collaborative program is dedicated to advancing energy storage technology by working with students and professors on solid state battery and fuel cell technology. Schaeffler has several successful SHARE programs in Europe and Asia, each with a distinct focus.

Schaeffler electronics.

Additionally, the Schaeffler Academy has developed a variety of Fit4 qualification programs to support the required re- and upskilling of employees. The programs consist of modular training options with defined learning paths that consider the target groups’ different backgrounds and areas of experience. The ‘Fit4Mechatronics’ program currently offers more than 100 training courses providing research and development engineers with knowledge about mechatronics and electronics.

With a dedicated focus on the transformation of its products, technology, and people, Schaeffler is embracing disruptive change as it continues its mission of energizing the next generation of future mobility.

Patrick Lindemann is President of Transmission Systems & E-Mobility at Schaeffler.

2024 Ford Ranger off-road.

Ford’s Ranger pickup stormed back into the market in 2019 after an eight year hiatus, keen to take on the likes of other midsize pickups such as the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon. Despite receiving good reviews and many accolades, the Ranger has not sold as well as Ford had hoped. The all-new, fifth generation 2024 Ford Ranger seeks to change that. While heeding the importance of the Ranger as a popular global product, the new model has been developed with the U.S. market in mind. This change speaks to complaints that the previous generation Ranger was designed first for the Europe and then adapted for sales here.

The new Ranger shares Ford’s T6 mid-size pickup platform with the second generation Volkswagen Amarok, a pickup VW sells only in offshore markets. This new iteration of the Ranger platform features beefier construction with a fully boxed high-strength steel frame, which is both wider and longer than the previous generation. It has also been raised to offer improved ground clearance. Ford estimates a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds along with a payload capacity of 1,805 pounds. Three trim levels will be offered including a base XL, mid-range XLT, and top-line Lariat.

2024 Ford Ranger 4WD control.

EcoBoost Powers 2024 Ford Ranger

Two fuel efficient engine options are available for the 2024 Ranger, starting with a base 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four delivering 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque. A 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 shared with the F-150 and Bronco joins the lineup to offer higher performance with its 315 horsepower and 400 lb-ft torque. Both motors are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Upping the excitement ante but far less efficient is the Ranger Raptor, a twin-turbo 405 horsepower off-road version of the Ranger featuring tons of unique equipment and specs. While many had speculated that a plug-in hybrid or fully electric version of the new pickup could be coming – with hopes running high for a Ranger hybrid after Ford’s debut of the Maverick hybrid pickup for the 2022 model year – that still remains just speculation.

Rear-wheel and part-time four-wheel drive are available, with the latter offering shift-on-the-fly capability allowing drivers to transition from two- to four-wheel drive at any speed under 55 mph. An electronic locking rear differential is also optional on both rear and four-wheel-drive applications to improve traction under challenging off-road driving conditions.

2024 Ford Ranger driving.

F-150 Design Cues

The all-new Ranger features a front fascia reminiscent of its F-150 big brother with a familiar wrap-around LED running light surrounding the headlights. While the F-150 and Ranger share similar design cues, the Ranger still takes on a look of its own with a brawny, high-slung bumper featuring a small opening for the Ranger’s intercooler with air active-shutters. When equipped with the FX4 Off-Road package, the Ranger includes a visible skid plate that protects the front differential and transmission from rugged terrain.

New touches set the new Ranger apart from the previous generation. Along the sides, smoothed wheel well arches replace the more boxed-out design of its predecessor, making its overall appearance appear a bit more grown up. Front fender badging appears above a functional fender vent designed to better cool front brakes under heavy use. At the back, Ford integrated optional side steps that allow easier access to the cargo bed without requiring the tailgate to be opened.

2024 Ford Ranger rear detail.

Appealing Design and Side Steps

The Ranger’s rear design has been reimagined and is more angular, highlighted by smoked LED taillights and ‘RANGER’ embossed at the bottom of a newly designed tailgate. Its pickup bed now boasts two additional inches of width and features optional 120- and 400-volt power sources. Five- and six-foot bed choices are available depending on cab configuration, though only the crew cab configuration is available for now.

Ford has redesigned the Ranger’s cabin to offer a much more refined experience. The dashboard has been refreshed and features new and stylish HVAC vents and a two-story glove box design with an inset storage tray in between. Door panels and seats now incorporate a cross-stitched design and include ample door pocket storage. The driving position is higher with better visibility and features a standard 8-inch digital instrument cluster with a 12.4-inch cluster available.

2024 Ford Ranger cabin with display.

Two Center Display Options

Taking center stage is a standard 10-inch  or optional 12-inch integrated infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. The infotainment system utilizes Ford’s SYNC 4A operating system that’s capable of over-the-air software updates. A new electronic E-shift gear selector is present on the center console along with a four-wheel-drive select-shift dial for 4WD models. Rear seat functionality is improved with the seat backs now offering fold-flat capability that effectively transforms the rear passenger area into additional cargo space. That, paired with under-seat storage compartments and the pickup’s wider cargo bed, makes the new Ranger even more versatile for recreation or work.

An array of driver assist systems are standard or available. Among these are trailer-adaptable blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and Ford’s Active Park Assist 2.0 that allows drivers to remotely parallel or perpendicular-park their Ranger using the FordPass Connect smartphone app. Also handy for trailering are functions like Pro Trailer Backup Assist and Trailer Reverse Guidance, which use cameras to display different angles that aid drivers in accurately and safely backing up their trailers.

2024 Ford Ranger side view.

Stylish 2024 Ford Ranger

Ford ‘s Ranger has been an enduring choice for compact and mid-size truck buyers since it first appeared as a 1983 model. Now, with its appealing new generation Ranger, Ford is poised to capture the imagination of mid-size truck buyers who would otherwise consider the likes of competitors Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado. With the entry price of a base Ranger XL SuperCrew coming in at  $34,160, order banks opening imminently, and deliveries beginning late this summer, we’ll know how successful the new Ranger will be soon enough.

Drawing showing drivetrain of electric commercial vehicles.

The mission to decarbonize transportation is well underway. We see this in the expanding field of high-profile electric cars regularly announced by automakers and discussed in the media every day. The unfolding story of personal transportation’s move toward higher efficiency, cleaner fuels, and decreased emissions is an important one that has been well documented by Green Car Journal over the past three decades. But this is just one part of the story. Over the years, we have also witnessed a growing movement toward more environmentally positive trucks and vans for business use, including electric commercial vehicles.

This is important since the movement of goods is an integral part of daily life and a significant contributor to CO2 greenhouse gases. Because of this, the big rigs transporting containers from ports to distribution centers, the trucks bringing food to supermarkets, and the commercial vans delivering packages to our businesses and homes have now become focal points for decarbonization strategies. Zero emission drivetrains have been developed for commercial vehicles of all types. New charging strategies have been devised for their batteries. Advanced technologies popular in personal electric vehicles have also been making their way to a new generation of commercial vehicles.

Packages being delivered by electric commercial vehicles.

Electric Commercial Vehicles

As all this is unfolding, it’s important to acknowledge the development and deployment of low- and zero-carbon commercial vehicles that are leading the way, as well as the companies committed to bringing them to our highways. This is the important mission of Green Car Journal’s Green Car Product of Excellence™ program and the Commercial Green Truck of the Year™ award.

The Green Car Product of Excellence™ honors commercial vehicles exhibiting laudable environmental achievement by virtue of higher efficiency, the integration of advanced technologies, and the use of powertrains that operate with low- or no carbon emissions. The Commercial Green Truck of the Year™ winner earns its distinction by rising above its competition as the most important ‘green’ vehicle in its field.

Freightliner eM2 is 2023 Commercial Green Truck of the Year.

Commercial Green Truck of the Year

Green Car Journal’s 2023 Commercial Green Truck of the Year™ is the Freightliner eM2. A standout amid an impressive field of electric commercial vehicles, the eM2 is an important flag bearer for the Freightliner brand as it further expands its reach into the crucial electrified commercial vehicle field. The electric eM2 is based on Freightliner’s best-selling medium duty M2 model with production taking place at the truck maker’s Portland, Oregon manufacturing facility.

Freightliner eM2 at electric charger..

Following the introduction of Freightliner’s eCascadia Class 8 electric truck, the series production eM2 represents a strategic move into the electric medium-duty truck market. Its impressive work capabilities and no compromise zero-emission operation make the Freightliner eM2 an attractive option for pickup and delivery service in crowded urban environments where Class 6/7 commercial trucks do much of their work.

Green Car Product of Excellence logo.

Product of Excellence Winners

The fast pace of the expanding low/no carbon commercial truck field means there are many new and important models that deserve to be honored for their environmental achievement. Green Car Journal recognizes these vehicles with the Green Car Product of Excellence™ award. We feel it’s important to acknowledge the design ingenuity, technical prowess, and environmental commitment exhibited by these award winning commercial vehicles and the companies responsible for bringing them to our highways.

Blue Arc electric step van.

BLUE ARC EV: The Blue Arc walk-in delivery van is aimed at last mile delivery service and other commercial activities. It offers Level 2 and 3 fast charging and an expected range of 150 miles, plus driver assist systems like a 360 degree camera, lane keep assist, and active emergency braking.

BrightDrop Zevo electric commercial vehicles.

BRIGHTDROP ZEVO: A GM business unit on the fast track, BrightDrop offers its Zevo electric delivery vans and an ecosystem built around them including the BrightDrop Core software suite. The Zevo 600 has a 250 mile range, over 600 cubic feet of cargo space, and a 2,200 pound payload rating.

GreenPower electric EV Star commercial truck.

GREENPOWER EV STAR: The EV Star electric cab and chassis has a GVWR rating of 14,300 pounds and can handle payloads up to 5,740 pounds. Its 118 kWh battery pack enables an estimated range of 150 miles. Charging is at 18.2 kw on a Level 2 charger or 50 kW with a DC fast charger.

Lion5 electric commercial truck by Lion Electric.

LION5: Lion Electric’s Lion5 is a new electric truck with crossover class 5/6 capabilities and a gross combined weight rating up to 30,000 pounds.  It’s powered by a 315 horsepower electric motor delivering 2,360 lb-ft torque and offers an estimated driving range of up to 200 miles.

Mack MD Electric commercial vehicles.

MACK MD ELECTRIC: Based on Mack’s popular MD medium-duty truck, the Mack MD Electric is available in Class 6 and Class 7 configurations with GVWR ratings of 25,995 to 33,000 pounds. Two battery choices, 150 kWh or 240 kWh, provide an estimated driving range up to 230 miles.

Mullen THREE electric truck.

MULLEN THREE: The electric Mullen THREE Class 3 cab chassis truck features an 11,000 pound GVWR, a payload capacity of 5,802 pounds, and the ability to be fitted with a maximum 14 foot box. It’s powered by a 160 horsepower electric motor and features an estimated 130 mile range.

Rizon medium duty electric truck is new to the field of electrified commercial vehicles.

RIZON e16M/e16L/e18L: A new brand from Daimler Truck Group, Rizon comes in three variations, the e16M, e16L, and e18L Class 4 and 5 medium-duty battery-electric trucks. They offer 15,995 to 17,995 pound gross vehicle weight ratings and have a range of up to 160 miles.

Tesla Semi electric Class 8 truck.

TESLA SEMI: This electric Class 8 big rig from Tesla is true to the company’s form with innovative design, a projected 500 mile driving range, and notable (for a semi) 0-60 acceleration in 20 seconds with its three electric motors.

Via Motors VTRUX electric commercial vehicles.

VIA MOTORS VTRUX: The VTRUX is a Class 3 electric work truck and chassis that can handle up to 6,657 pounds of payload. It’s available with a number of battery pack choices that are said to offer a driving range of 70 to 250 miles on a charge.

Workhorse W56 electric step van.

WORKHORSE W56: Available in various configurations, the Workhorse W56 Class 5 and Class 6 electric step vans from Workhorse Group offer a payload capability of up to 10,000 pounds and a driving range estimated at up to 150 miles.

2025 RAM REV electric pickup driving on trail.

RAM has been around as a distinct brand for some 14 years now, having split from its former identity as a Dodge nameplate in 2009. Since then, RAM has focused solely on pickup trucks and work vans with considerable success, especially with regard to its pickup truck line, which has won Green Car Journal’s Green Truck of the Year™ award three times in recent years. Now RAM has revealed details on its highly anticipated next act in the pickup realm, the all-electric RAM 1500 REV.

Building on the excitement generated by the wild electric RAM Revolution concept shown earlier this year, the 2025 RAM REV rides on the automaker’s all new STLA Frame optimized for full-size electric vehicle models with a body-on-frame design. This high strength steel frame is wider in the middle to accommodate battery packs while affording protection between the frame rails. It also features additional protection beneath courtesy of a full-length underbody belly pan.

2025 RAM REV electric pickup hood scoop.

RAM 1500 REV Power Options

This electric RAM pickup is especially noteworthy in that it boasts specs surpassing those of Ford’s F-150 Lightning and upcoming Chevrolet’s Silverado EV. REV will offer two EV powertrain options, with the base package featuring a standard 168 kWh battery pack projected to deliver a driving range of up to 350 miles. A more powerful option brings a 229 kWh battery pack with a targeted range of 500 miles, a feature sure to resonate with pickup buyers whose primary concerns are range and functionality. Normal and one-pedal driving capabilities are built in and regenerative braking comes as a matter of course.

Power won’t be a problem. We know the optional 229 kWh battery pack variant will offer a targeted rating of 654 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. Power ratings for the standard 168 kWh battery pack variant have yet to be disclosed. The REV’s projected towing capacity is said to be up to 14,000 pounds, with a payload capacity up to 2,700 pounds.

2025 Ram 1500 REV electric pickup chargeport.

Fast Charges in 10 Minutes

Charging is handled through the REV’s charge port located at the driver’s side front fender. Illuminated LED lighting and an audible chime lets a driver know that the truck is plugged in and charging. The charge port accommodates Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging connectivity on top and DC fast charging connectivity at the bottom of the charging interface. Drivers should expect the usual overnight charging experience if they have a 240-volt Level 2 wall charger at home. Those on the move can take advantage of the REV’s fast-charge capability at public fast chargers. If an 800-volt DC fast charger is available then the REV can add up to 110 miles of range in just 10 minutes while charging at up to 350 kW.

A handy feature is the RAM 1500 REV’s bi-directional vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-home, and vehicle-to-grid charging capability. With the use of a 7.2 kW on-board power panel mounted in the bed or a 3.6 kW power panel in the front trunk (frunk), this feature is very helpful during power outages in homes, or for individuals who will potentially use their truck to power equipment. It can also be used to charge your everyday devices if necessary.

RAM 1500 REV electric pickup.

Sporty RAM 1500 REV Styling

REV’s exterior styling lets us know this truck is electric without moving beyond the burly and commanding nature of the brand. A blend of elegance and toughness shows that RAM’s designers certainly didn’t want buyers forgetting what RAM stands for, while also conveying their vision for the future. To that end, the front fascia of this electric pickup features a sporty nature with its muscular hood and low grill. The look is accented with aptly named ‘tuning fork’ LED headlights and unique EV-specific RAM badging. At the rear we find a set of angular LED taillights that span a portion of the tailgate, and are specific to the RAM 1500 REV. RAM is boldly shown at the center of the tailgate and, like the front end, uses an exclusive lettering style to show us that this RAM is indeed electric.

Styling along the REV’s flanks remains quite similar to the current RAM truck with the exception of a flush-mounted chargeport at the driver’s side front fender and unique REV. Familiar lockable ‘RAM Boxes’ are available and positioned beneath the bed rails on either side of the pickup box and feature a handy 115-volt outlet. These boxes are also illuminated to facilitate easy access under low light conditions.

Interior view of the 2025 Ram 1500 REV electric pickup.

Premium and High Tech Interior

Inside, the blend of practicality and luxury is seamless with premium materials like carbon fiber, metal, and leather with tech peppered throughout. Ample passenger room is built in and functionality is enhanced with second row seats that can fold up for additional cargo capacity. Optional 24-way power adjustments are available for the front seats, including three memory settings and massage capability. Also optional is a 23 speaker Klipsch Reference Premiere audio system.

The REV cabin features a central 14.5 inch touchscreen, 12.3 inch digital instrument display, and a 10.25 inch digital screen mounted in front of the passenger seat. These screens utilize the automaker’s Uconnect 5 system that allows access to eight EV-specific functions across all screens, and entertainment functionality for the passenger screen. The REV also features a configurable head-up display capable of showing an array of selected information beyond vehicle speed, such as turn-by-turn navigation, speed limit, Lane Departure, Lane Keep Assist, and adaptive cruise control. A Uconnect 5 mobile app supports remote start and touchless door lock/unlock functions.

Front passenger screen in the 2025 Ram 1500 REV electric pickup.

Showcasing many industry-leading specs and visionary style, the RAM 1500 REV is shaping up to be a model in demand when sales begin in advance of its likely arrival at dealers toward the end of 2024. Of course, RAM will continue offering its popular gas-powered pickups to a willing market even as it dives ever deeper into electrification. In the meantime, the 2025 REV shows us that RAM aims to be a serious contender in the electric pickup truck competition.

Green Car Time Machine - archive articles from Green Car Journal.

Mitsubishi Motors’ electrification research and development dates back to the 1970s, Still, electrification didn’t represent a noticeable focus at Mitsubishi until the 2009 debut of its i-MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) in Japan and entry in the U.S. market two years later. The most notable example of Mitsubishi’s electrification effort is now the Outlander PHEV, a popular and award-winning plug-in hybrid variant of the marque’s Outlander SUV that first appeared abroad in 2013 and in the States in 2017. Like most automakers, Mitsubishi fielded interesting concepts over the years to share what might come to be. One that caught our eye was the Eclipse Concept-E, a sleek and artistic rolling rendition of what the next generation Eclipse of the era could become. As much as its styling grabbed our attention, it was the beefy hybrid powertrain that made the concept so compelling. Here’s our report on the innovative Eclipse Concept-E, just as it appeared 19 years ago in Green Car Journal’s Summer 2004 issue.

Excerpted from Summer 2004 Issue: It’s no secret that the sporty compact car craze, born in the shadows of the Southern California street racing underground and now spreading across the nation’s youth like wildfire, has arrived on the automotive scene. Exemplified, and perhaps proliferated, by the movie The Fast and the Furious and its sequel, this new generation of hot rodders has definitely captured the attention of automakers.

Sleek Supercar Styling

Side view of Mitsubishi Eclipse Concept-E hybrid sport coupe.

As Mitsubishi’s most visible entry into this new automotive sub-genre, the next Eclipse model is crucial to both the company’s image and its appeal to a younger demographic. So imagine our surprise when Mitsubishi's glimpse into the future, the Eclipse Concept-E, showcased a hybrid electric powertrain.

The Concept-E’s front wheels are driven by a parallel hybrid system integrating an electric motor with a 3.8-liter V-6, for a combined 270 horsepower. This is where it gets interesting: Mitsubishi’s innovative E-Boost system channels an additional 200 hp to the rear wheels from a 150 kW electric motor located behind the cabin, powered by lithium ion batteries secreted along the center of the vehicle. E-Boost is activated by aggressive throttle to provide an immediate boost in acceleration, much like a conventional turbo or supercharger, transforming the car into a 470 hp, all-wheel drive terror that raises the hybrid performance bar to new levels.

Powered by a 470 hp Hybrid

Mitsubishi Eclipse 470 horsepower hybrid powerplant.

A look inside reveals further emphasis on the car's hybrid technology, with a decidedly futuristic twist. Centrally placed is a complex, 3D video imaging display that offers simulated gauges, diagnostic information, and interactive displays. The gearshift, looking as much the part of a fighter jet’s sidestick controller as a shifter, connects to a 6- speed transmission that allows for both manual and automated shifting.

The familiar corporate grill sits atop a gaping air intake and between large headlight assemblies featuring unique plasma lamps. The car’s tear drop shaped details, including side glass, door-handle cutouts, and roof profile, pay homage to the second-generation Eclipse that was cherished by the street tuner crowd. But the overall look of this iteration is thoroughly modern and striking. The muscular fender bulges speak of immense power and purpose, not inconsequentially housing wild nine-spoke, 20-inch wheels wrapped by 245/40R20 performance tires up front and 275/35R20 tires at the rear, suspended by independent multi-links at all four corners. It’s a theme well-integrated with the car’s ground hugging lower styling and aggressive stance.

Interior of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Concept-E Hybrid.

With the Eclipse Concept-E, Mitsubishi has fused the disparate perceptions surrounding high-power, speed, and hybrid technology into a single package. In a youth-driven market that embraces innovation and technology – and times that demand higher efficiency – we hope that Mitsubishi is willing to bring this concept to the showroom and really find out if there’s such a thing as a supercar that’s too fast… and too clean.

Green Car Time Machine - archive articles from Green Car Journal.

Hydrogen has been on the minds of automakers for decades. Ever since GCJ editors experienced the hydrogen fuel cell Mercedes-Benz NECAR 2 (New Electric Car) on the streets of Berlin back in the mid-1990s, we’ve been believers that hydrogen could prove to be an important part of our zero-emission driving future. Over the years, concept, demonstration, and production hydrogen vehicles have been fielded by many automakers, from Chrysler, Ford and Nissan to Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota. One of the most notable was GM’s Sequel unveiled some 18 years ago, which followed in the footsteps of the automaker's Hi-wire hydrogen fuel cell concept Green Car Journal editors drove in 2003. The Sequel hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) was decidedly ahead of its time with its skateboard platform, sandwich-style floor, steer-by-wire technology, lithium-ion batteries, and 10,000 psi fuel tanks. Read our take on GM’s groundbreaking Sequel, pulled from our archives just as it appeared in the magazine's Spring 2005 issue.

Excerpted from Spring 2005 Issue: Reality check time. When General Motors debuted the AUTOnomy and Hy-wire advanced technology concept cars at the Detroit and Paris auto shows three years ago, the vision of real-world hydrogen powered fuel cell cars still seemed very far away. Sequel brings those concepts home in a ‘do-able’ vehicle that is suddenly a lot less like science fiction and more like Main Street.

Hydrogen and Battery Power

Cutaway of GM Sequel FCEV.

Clearly, GM hasn’t lost sight of what seemed to many a lofty goal when the company announced its intention to design and validate a fuel cell propulsion system that could be manufactured and sold by 2010. While this date certainly won’t see mass commercialization of fuel cell vehicles at GM’s new car showrooms, the General is surely aiming at reaching that milestone with technology and vehicles that can be sold – at a cost far lower than today’s fuel cell vehicles – to fleets and others willing to pay the price to be early adopters.

Sequel utilizes GM’s concept of a separate, low-profile skateboard chassis that completely houses the fuel cell propulsion system. By decoupling the rolling chassis from the bodyshell and utilizing bi-wire control technology, Sequel’s architecture offers incredible flexibility for future models. That flexibility could provide a significant advantage as merging technologies bring fuel cells closer to the showroom.

Electric All-Wheel Drive FCEV

Front view of GM Sequel hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

While a concept, Sequel aims to create fuel cell performance that meshes well with the kind of driving experience expected of modern vehicles. By utilizing three lightweight, high-pressure carbon composite hydrogen storage tanks, completely housed in the 11-inch thick chassis, Sequel boasts a driving range of about 300 miles. Combining electric motor front-wheel-drive with separate electric wheel hub motors at each rear wheel, Sequel is able to deliver all-wheel-drive traction and a noticeable increase in acceleration.  According to GM, Sequel will scoot from 0-30 mph in three seconds and reach 60 mph in just over nine seconds. Top speed is said to be 90 mph.

That performance is made possible by a transversely mounted, three phase 80 horsepower (60 kW) electric motor at the front of the chassis and two 34 hp (25 kW) three phase electric wheel hub motors at the rear, which together deliver a total torque output of 2,506 lb-ft at the wheels. 

Advanced Skateboard Chassis

Skateboard chassis for GM Sequel FCEV.

GM’s skateboard chassis design holds several key advantages. Most significant is its inherent low center of gravity, which dramatically increases vehicle stability. With Sequel, GM engineers were able to deliver an ideal 50-50 weight distribution by placing the lithium-ion battery pack at the rear of the chassis, offsetting the motor mass up front. The hydrogen fuel cell stack is placed directly behind the front wheels beneath the driver/passenger compartment. 

Midship, you’ll find the three high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks mounted in the sandwich style chassis, a location that provides the best protection from crash intrusion. These tanks have a service pressure of 10,000 psi, allowing them to carry much greater amounts of hydrogen than the 5,000 psi tanks used in the Hy-wire concept.

More Powerful Fuel Cell Stack

Interior of GM Sequel FCEV.

A high-power 65 kW lithium ion battery is employed for the power demands of launch and acceleration, but once up to speed, Sequel can cruise solely on the fuel cell.  Auxiliary power generated by the fuel cell at cruising speed is combined with regenerative braking to top off the battery charge. Sequel utilizes aluminum substructures in the chassis design and extensive use of aluminum in the body panels and structure to minimize weight.

Sequel is also the showcase for GM’s next-generation fuel cell technology. The fuel cell stack delivers 25 percent more power than previous models. GM’s Fuel Cell Product Engineering facility in Honeoye Falls, New York, is working to simplify and better integrate the overall fuel cell stack and power module system design, which will ultimately drive down the cost of production. 

Electronic Bi-Wire Control

Roof detail of GM Sequel FCEV.

”A fuel cell system is more efficient than an internal combustion engine, but its energy conversion is totally different and requires much more heat to be removed via the coolant,” points out Lothar Matejcek, project manager of GM Fuel Cell Activities in Mainz-Kastel, Germany. To extract the heat, Sequel uses multiple radiators with three large openings in the front of the vehicle and two additional openings in the rear. These openings are well integrated into the overall vehicle design and lend a very aggressive look to the body profile. This attention to cooling demands are said to allow the Sequel to operate at maximum power with full air conditioning even on 100 degree F days. 

By-wire controls are utilized for all Sequel systems. Steering, braking, and acceleration are all free of mechanical and hydraulic control linkages. Pushing a pedal or turning the steering wheel sends an electronic signal from the vehicle controller to modulate power output, apply braking, and precisely control steering. Steer-by-wire on the Sequel processes steering inputs through a computer, actuating the front steering rack and two rear wheel steering actuators based on vehicle speed and driving conditions. 

Advanced Interior Design

Instrument panel in GM Sequel FCEV.

A major advantage to the separate low-profile chassis design is incredible flexibility in body and interior design, configuration, and packaging. Sequel is addressing a hot spot in the current vehicle market – the sport/luxury crossover SUV. In fact, GM compares Sequel’s size to the current Cadillac SRX crossover, with its measurements of 196.6 inches in overall length, 66.8 inches in height, and its 119.7 inch wheelbase. 

Styling is contemporary, with a broad shouldered and aggressive stance enhanced by crisp lines that blend hard edges with flowing curves. The chassis design delivers wheels pushed to far corners of the body structure with little intrusion into the cabin area. GM stylists were careful not to push the design envelope too far with this concept, though, to deliver the notion that this is a real-world vehicle.

A Spacious Cabin

GM Sequel FCEV cabin.

The five passenger interior is accessed through a pair of conventional doors up front with rear suicide-style door on either side of the cabin. There is no obstruction to the spacious interior with both doors open. Innovations inside are tempered by practicality. While this is a concept, the message is clear that Sequel is credible transport. One of the more striking design elements is the unique center glass sunroof that runs the length of the top.  It is actually a series of individual glass panels that slide rearward and pivot up to provide a very airy cockpit.

The front passenger seat rotates 180 degrees to provide a conference-style seating configuration. Although it is drive-by-wire, all controls are familiar with a traditional steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedals. The center console travels on a track that allows it to move from its normal location between the front seats to an aft position closer to rear seat passengers. Hinged at the front, the console’s lid pivots forward to reveal the Sequel’s audio, DVD, and navigation system. When in use as an entertainment center, the console is easily moved to the rear seat passengers for DVD movie viewing. The interior look and feel is contemporary and tasteful with metal and wood accents combined with a palette of plum, rice, and wasabi hue trim.

Sequel is the culmination of a global effort by General Motors to advance fuel cell vehicle design. Nearly 200 suppliers from around the world were sourced to fuse the latest technology into a vehicle that brings a clean, hydrogen fueled future a bit closer to home. 

Kristina Fritz, California Hydrogen Business Council.
Katrina Fritz is Executive Director of the California Hydrogen Business Council.

In recent years, state energy and regulatory agencies have modeled plans that conclude hydrogen is required to achieve deep decarbonization targets. Air pollution continues to worsen across the U.S. with hydrogen and fuel cells seen as part of the answer. For example, as a one-to-one replacement for diesel powered vehicles, equipment, and generators, hydrogen fuel cells have significant potential to decrease the negative air quality impacts this diesel equipment causes and eliminate their carbon emissions.  

With California’s current grid reliability challenges and need for more power generation capacity – coupled with the state’s continuing “overdemand” – all energy and mobility solutions must be brought to bear. National Lab studies have demonstrated the grid infrastructure required to charge battery electric vehicles of all sizes. The use of fuel cell electric vehicles, fueled by hydrogen, avoid further compounding grid reliability challenges.  The California Air Resources Board recent Hydrogen Station Self-Sufficiency Report  determined that an additional $300 million investment in hydrogen infrastructure, coupled with existing incentives like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard,  would lead to financial self-sufficiency of a fuel cell electric vehicle and hydrogen station network by 2030, avoiding additional upgrade costs and strain on the grid.

At the federal level, the multi-billion-dollar commitment to hydrogen and fuel cell programs in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA) has spurred a flurry of planning, project development, and investment in the hydrogen sector. States in every U.S. region have expressed support for project applications to the $8 billion Department of Energy hydrogen hub program. The awarded hubs will showcase production of hydrogen, distribution and delivery infrastructure, and broad end uses of hydrogen and fuel cells in the electricity, industrial, and transportation sectors.

Strong Support for Hydrogen

States from California to New York to Texas are committing significant funding and resources to support the development of these hydrogen hubs. The DOE and other agencies are launching additional energy manufacturing, clean electricity, zero-emission vehicle, and goods movement programs funded by the IIJA to further support hydrogen use alongside other clean energy technologies. Project developers and investors are simultaneously seeking guidance on the use of tax credits for hydrogen and fuel cells that came from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Hydrogen fuel cell big rig truck.

On the passenger light-duty vehicle side, Toyota and Hyundai continue to sell Mirai and Nexo hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in California. There are now over 15,471  fuel cell electric cars sold and leased in the U.S. In February, Honda announced a joint venture with General Motors to deliver a new fuel cell system not only for its light-duty vehicles but also for use in heavy-duty trucks, stationary power generation, and construction equipment. In early 2022, BMW announced its continued commitment to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles with on-road demonstration of the iX5 to begin in 2023. 

Traditional manufacturers of engines and heavy-duty vehicles are partnering with clean energy companies to rapidly bring fuel cell electric vehicles to market in high volume, heavily polluted transportation corridors, with the assistance of the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program.  Already, on-road testing of fuel cell systems and vehicles made by Ballard Power Systems, Cummins, Hyzon Motors, Nikola Motors, and Toyota is underway. Off-road, the Port of Long Beach is working with Toyota and FuelCell Energy using a fuel cell to generate power, heat, and hydrogen, the latter used to fuel Toyota equipment at the port and Toyota Mirai vehicles coming off the ship. Byproduct water from the fuel cell’s hydrogen production is used to wash the cars.

Off Road and Materials Handling

Hydrogen fuel cell mining truck.

Presently, the largest throughput of hydrogen is in the off-road and materials handling sectors. In creating the first commercially viable market for hydrogen fuel cell technology, Plug Power has deployed more than 60,000 fuel cell systems and over 200 fueling stations, more than anyone else in the world, and is the largest buyer of liquid hydrogen. Plug customers have completed more than 55 million hydrogen fills into forklifts and other material handling equipment used in warehouses, including those operated by companies like Amazon and Walmart, showing the economic value of fuel cell powered forklifts. Contributing to their increased productivity throughput are advantages like rapid hydrogen refueling and a smaller overall footprint than battery electric counterparts that require space for chargers.

The State of California is considering the level of support needed for the required hydrogen fueling infrastructure to service all on-road fuel cell electric vehicles. Documents from the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership illustrate the fueling stations needed for light-duty passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks  that would create a refueling network for launching a self-sustaining market. This would serve to quickly decarbonize key transportation corridors and improve air quality in the urban, rural, and agricultural communities along these corridors.

Hydrogen Powers Clean Transit

Hydrogen fuel cell bus on street.

Public transit agencies have been operating or conducting real-world testing of hydrogen fuel cell buses in their fleets . Following operational bus trials, many agencies concluded that both battery and fuel cell electric buses are required. Among the benefits cited for fuel cell buses are lower operating costs, often due to avoiding the investment required for battery electric buses such as charging stations and the need to expand capacity at local electric substations. In addition, the longer range and greater power density of fuel cell electric vehicles can support transit operations that must deal with varied, hilly terrain and longer routes.

California currently has 66 fuel cell electric buses in service with another 100+ committed to be placed in operation. Many transit agencies are set to follow the pioneering efforts of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit and SunLine Transit with their fleets of fuel cell electric buses and hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Among these are California’s Foothill Transit, Orange County Transit, and Humboldt Transit. Outside California, Stark County Transit in Ohio and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia are committed to using hydrogen fuel cell buses to meet their service needs.

Hydrogen is here. Debates on energy resources should include discussion of best fit, rather than either-or. There is significant public and private recognition across the U.S that an all-of-the-above strategy is needed to meet our varied energy requirements and decarbonization goals, and hydrogen is poised to make an immediate and growing contribution to a global decarbonization strategy.

Katrina Fritz is the Executive Director of the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC).

Illustration of Lexus steer-by-wire system.

There I was, doing my best to pilot a car around a test track in Sweden without the aid of a steering wheel. My job in this 1992 exercise: Negotiate the twists and turns ahead in an experimental Saab 9000 equipped with a steer-by-wire system and an aircraft-like sidestick controller, similar in concept to that used in Saab fighter jets like the JAS 39 Gripen.

The first few passes around the track were focused and intense, the car jinking far too actively in response to the inputs interpreted from my painstakingly measured efforts with the controller. I was clearly on unfamiliar ground here, quite literally and figuratively since this was my first time on this Swedish test track. But I was determined to get this right, and eventually I did, gaining a sense of the steering and confidently working the stick to turn into a curve, find the apex, and power out smoothly. Then my right-seat observer, a Saab tech with keyboard and display screen in front of him, adjusted sensitivity settings and the car was jinking again. Ahh…part of the learning process.

Lexus RZ Steer-by-Wire

Segue ahead some 30 years – quicker than Tom Cruise graduated from piloting Top Gun’s F-14 Tomcat to Top Gun: Maverick’s F/A-18E Super Hornet – and I’m in an auto-aircraft setting once again. This time I’m in the driver’s seat of an electric Lexus RZ test car equipped with advanced steer-by-wire technology, pondering the steering yoke in front of me.

Coming but not yet available, the steer-by-wire system in this Lexus was calling to me, offering an opportunity to pilot this car around a cone course where expectations were reasonably high that some of the orange pyramids ahead would be sacrificed to the cause, at least initially. But I was not about to repeat my experience with the sidestick controller those many years back, no sir. This would be different.

Lexus steer-by-wire steering yoke.

More Than Just a Yoke

Unlike Tesla’s addition of yoke steering in some Model S and Model X variants, a move that has reportedly caused some driver difficulties during tight turns, Lexus has given this much more thought and a serious dose of elegant engineering. For one, Lexus doesn’t just swap out a round steering wheel for a cooler-looking yoke. In a simple swap, a yoke makes tight turns requiring hand-over-hand steering more of a challenge. However, the yoke in an RZ is not simply a swap, but rather an integral part of a sophisticated steer-by-wire system.

In its steer-by-wire system, there is no mechanical connection at all between the yoke and the car’s rack and pinion steering. It’s all wiring and software backed up by triple redundancies. Software interprets steering input at the yoke and delivers this information to a motor controlling the pinion gear, steering the wheels. What’s important is that the system is speed sensitive and smart, providing a continuously variable steering ratio depending on driving conditions and inputs. The result is confident driving with much less steering wheel travel required than one might expect. Plus, no hand-over-hand steering needed ever, even during very tight turns. Driving this system did require dialing in to its operating nuances, but I figured this out quickly and no cones were harmed during testing.

Lexus RZ electric car.

Auto-Aircraft Tech

As I wrapped up this day’s steer-by-wire mission, I reflected on yet another auto-aircraft memory from years past. Back in the 1990s when GM introduced its swoopy, teardrop-shaped EV1 electric car, the automaker shared that the car’s groundbreaking 0.19 drag coefficient was the same as an F-16 Fighting Falcon, wheels down. The aircraft reference wasn’t surprising since GM had acquired Hughes Aircraft a few years earlier and the automaker was benefiting from a huge aircraft/aerospace brain trust. PR being what it is, we’re not sure if the F-16 aerodynamics comparison was actually accurate but it sure sounded impressive, and it gave us a good point of reference as to how slippery the EV1 really was during the time.

In the ever-changing realm of advanced vehicles and their affinity for aircraft and aerospace tech, what’s next on the agenda? I’ve already experienced Tesla’s “autopilot” and other automakers’ advanced driving tech so check that off the list, until newer iterations come to the fore. I have also driven blindfolded in a test environment during the early years of autonomous driving development…but that’s a story for another time. Maybe a flying car? I think I’ll wait on that.

Valerie Sarisky-Reed, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office.

The transportation sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, contributing to poor air quality and the climate crisis, and disproportionately impacting underserved and disadvantaged communities. To address this, our goal is to eliminate nearly all GHG emissions from the sector by 2050 while working to achieve a fair and just transportation system that will support economic growth and benefit all citizens.

In December 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) joined forces with the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development by signing and MOU to coordinate on transportation decarbonization. The first deliverable from that partnership was the January 2023 release of The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, a roadmap for how we can address these issues to provide better transportation and fuel options as well as zero-emission vehicles.

Light-duty vehicles (passenger cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and motorcycles) are responsible for about half of all U.S. transportation GHG emissions. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (larger delivery trucks, work vans, and buses) are the second-largest contributor to transportation GHG emissions with 21 percent of all emissions. Aviation is the third largest contributor at 11 percent, including fuel used for all domestic flights and international flights departing the United States

Biofuel – derived from biomass or organic wastes – plays an important role in decarbonizing transportation. The Federal Aviation Administration projects continued growth for the aviation sector and as more EVs enter the market, aviation will become a larger portion of the transportation sector’s GHG emissions. 

Biofuels Support Decarbonization

To reduce aviation GHG emissions, the aviation sector is scaling up sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) use. SAF is a “drop-in” liquid hydrocarbon jet fuel produced from renewable or waste resources that is compatible with existing aircraft engines – a critical near-term solution to reduce GHGs. This led to the creation of the SAF Grand Challenge.

Commercial aircraft being refueled with low carbon biofuel.

Together, DOE, DOT, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a roadmap to accelerate SAF research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) to meet the ambitious government-wide commitment to accelerate production of SAF to 3 billion gallons per year by 2030 – ultimately meeting 100 percent of U.S. aviation fuel needs with SAF by 2050.

Scaleup Collapses the Timeline

DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) supports RDD&D of technologies that convert domestic renewable carbon resources into biofuels and bioproducts. This effort is already decreasing the price of drop-in biofuels for airplanes, big rigs, and passenger vehicles. To meet the ambitious SAF Grand Challenge goals, BETO has accelerated efforts to scale up these technologies. Scale-up is essential for reducing risks associated with deploying novel technologies at large scale, as is expected in a biorefinery. In doing this, technologies move from the laboratory into relevant and realistic environments.

Developing low carbon biofuel to aid decarbonization.

Public–private partnerships are critical for ensuring that scaleup matches industry needs. For example, BETO is already funding projects with industry partners to turn industrial waste gases into jet fuel, convert biomass into refinery-ready biocrude, reduce GHG emissions from first-generation ethanol plants, and more. These large-scale pilot and demonstration projects enable researchers to test prototype components or subsystems in relevant operating environments. That way, researchers can identify further R&D needs for BETO’s subprograms. Large-scale projects also create larger volumes of target products, supporting quality control testing to verify existing infrastructure compatibility and potential end user specifications. They also provide data that analysts use to evaluate economic and sustainability performance.

Funding Spurs Innovation

BETO saw its first opportunity to fund SAF-focused research in 2021, awarding $64 million to 11 scaleup and demonstration projects. In early 2023, BETO awarded an additional $118 million to 17 projects with industry partners. In recognizing the need for strong designs prior to breaking ground on expensive construction, BETO requires projects to meet necessary criteria to advance from phase 1 into phase 2, which funds construction and operations.

By allocating funding across multiple years and different scales, BETO expects to collapse the time it takes to see success at the demonstration scale. Projects that meet criteria and are ready to go don’t have to wait years for additional opportunities.

As the demand for plane, train, and automobile transportation continues to increase, it is critical that we come together to find innovative solutions to the climate crisis. Biofuels can be a win-win solution, allowing our economy and way of life to thrive while lowering our carbon footprint on a national – and global – level.

Valerie Sarisky-Reed is Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office

Steve Hornyak, chief commercial officer of BrightDrop.
Steve Hornyak, BrightDrop Chief Commercial Officer.

Perhaps the most well-known benefit of switching to an electric vehicle is the environmental impact due to the elimination of tailpipe emissions compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. But what isn’t as obvious is that they can also be less expensive over the operating lifecycle.

Why? For starters, we tend to focus on fuel prices, yet one thing that often gets overlooked is the reduced maintenance costs electric vehicles can offer. The U.S. Government's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy estimates that scheduled maintenance costs for light-duty battery electric vehicles are about 6 cents per mile, compared to 10 cents per mile for a conventional vehicle. Someone buying a passenger car for private use is less likely to worry about maintenance, but for large fleet managers these cost savings can be meaningful over time.

Another costly issue for fleets is unscheduled repairs caused by breakdowns. According to the Deepview True Cost Second Owner Study by predictive analytics and data company We Predict, unplanned repair costs for electric commercial vans are on average 22 percent lower compared to internal combustion engine equivalents after three years on the road. The reason for this is that electric vehicles have fewer mechanical parts than internal combustion engine vehicles. This is significant because reductions in repairs also mean more time on the road for busy delivery fleets. In a world where downtime is death for fleets, keeping vehicles on the road is critical to meeting the ever-increasing demand for last-mile deliveries.

Charging BrightDrop electric delivery van.

Meanwhile, in March 2022, CNBC reported that diesel fuel was already costing over $5 (USD) per gallon nationally, with gasoline hitting $6 (USD) in some parts of the country. So there can be important fuel cost savings to be made for fleets that switch to electric vans. In fact, BrightDrop estimates fleet owners will save over $10,000 (USD) per vehicle per year in fuel and maintenance when switching to one of our Zevo 600 electric vans, compared to its diesel equivalent. Let’s take a closer look.

Fewer Moving Parts

Why do we expect electric vehicles will need less maintenance? Moving parts are a big part of it, because it’s the moving parts that most often encounter problems. Standard internal combustion engine vehicles usually have over 2,000 moving parts in the drivetrain, while electric vehicles tend only to have about 20. For example, a battery electric vehicle has no timing or fan belt and no alternator. Additionally, an electric vehicle also lacks many of the complex non-moving parts that often fail in internal combustion engines, such as oxygen sensors, spark plugs, and catalytic converters. A 2020 CarMD Vehicle Health Index assessment of the top 10 most popular car repairs in America found replacing a catalytic converter was the most common, while replacing an oxygen sensor came second. According to Forbes, only one of these top ten repairs could ever happen to an electric vehicle (and it was the cheapest to fix at $15). The lack of moving parts also means that repairs on electric vehicles can be less complicated.

Additionally, electric vehicles usually don’t use transmissions, meaning that the common (and expensive) issue of damage to gears is not an issue. Many electric vehicles also use regenerative braking to repurpose expended energy back into the batteries. In addition to electricity savings, regenerative braking can also increase the life (and therefore reduce spending on replacing) of conventional brake parts, due to minimal use. Finally, electric vehicles don’t use engine oil and, although they do use engine lubricants, these rarely require a refill or change.

BrightDrop is electrifying fleets for last mile delivery.

Advantages of Electrifying Fleets

Electric vehicles can be cheaper to maintain and repair than their ICE or diesel alternatives. They also can be kept on the road longer by reducing the frequency of unplanned repairs, as well as reducing the amount of labor that would otherwise be spent dealing with these problems. All of these benefits take time to accrue. They can only be realized if fleet managers take a ‘total cost of ownership’ perspective that considers all costs over the lifetime of a fleet.

Perhaps the biggest concern that electric vehicle buyers have is that the battery will degrade over time, ultimately requiring an expensive replacement. We believe that such concerns can be overhyped or misplaced. Battery range has improved markedly in recent years, and all BrightDrop vehicles adhere to or exceed federal regulations, which require that electric vehicle batteries are covered by warranty for a minimum of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Now is the time to switch fleets to electric vans. It's an opportunity not only to help reduce vehicle emissions, but also to help realize potential cost savings.

Steve Hornyak is Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Director at BrightDrop

Dave Prusinski of Ford Pro.
David Prusinski, Ford Pro Intelligence

One trend we hear from the market is the challenge small and midsize organizations face in finding accessible, scalable fleet management software that works for their business across all powertrains, gas, hybrid, and electric inclusive. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the global share of electric vehicles in a fleet is set to reach 31 percent by 2050. So, this challenge will continue in the years to come, especially as EVs become more widely adopted.

The reason? The market is awash with disintermediated software solutions, especially in the fleet management world.  Many large companies don’t have this issue as they have bigger budgets that acquire these solutions tailored specifically to them, or their in-house IT teams create bespoke solutions fit specifically for their business. This offers larger businesses a significant advantage in terms of efficiency. Smaller organizations typically lack the depth of IT support to integrate and customize disparate software solutions – let alone the capital to do so – to create integrated solutions that make their businesses safer, greener, and more efficient.

This is why there’s increased pressure on software vendors and OEMs to provide integrated suites of fleet management solutions to all, from Main Street USA to the largest fleets.

Organizations of all sizes need a simpler, integrated platform to enable holistic vehicle management, efficient maintenance monitoring with proactive scheduling. and improved driver behaviors to help increase the safety of operators while lowering costs associated with fuel, downtime, or vehicle damage. A single platform can also enable organizations to consolidate the management of their larger fleet needs, including managing vehicles across all powertrains as noted, as well as connectivity to insurance, financing, charging, and electric vehicle optimization. Adopting an integrated platform is essential for all businesses – and it represents a first step toward competitive parity for small and midsize fleets.

Man viewing Ford Pro telematics on computer screen.

Data Enhances Fleet Efficiency

Reaching the next level of efficiency and competitiveness is anyone’s game. As we’ve all heard, big data is the new oil that makes businesses run. One of the most critical applications of big data is the ability to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and maximize the uptime of ICE vehicles and EVs.

Data helps organizations gain real-time insights into fleet operations to enable better decision-making and take proactive measures to ensure vehicles stay well maintained. Fleet managers are using data from connected vehicles to predict and prevent breakdowns in an incredible orchestration of activities that can drastically reduce vehicle downtime.

For example, let’s say my telematics system tells me I will soon need to replace a part in one of my vehicles. It will identify the exact part to be replaced and may also locate the part and have it shipped to my dealer. I can make an appointment with the dealer, where the vehicle will be off the road for a few hours or maybe a half day.

Contrast that to what typically happens, which is the late identification of an issue, taking the vehicle to the dealer, having them diagnose a problem, and then perhaps needing to order the part, waiting for the part, and then replacing it. This can take days instead of hours.

Electric Ford E-Transit and phone charging app enhances fleet efficiency.

The Future of Connected Vehicles

Data will also play a crucial role in deriving added value from connected vehicles. Once we have millions of cars on the road equipped with telematics, the amount of data generated will be massive. We’ll be able to use the data to monitor aspects of the vehicle – such as temperature, location, and brakes – and the surrounding environment. Through high-speed 5G connections, vehicles could contribute information to a giant data lake that, when analyzed in real-time, could provide information about the road ahead, traffic patterns, and potential hazards.

For example, suppose multiple vehicles report the use of anti-lock brakes and traction-control systems around a specific corner in a cold-temperature climate. In that case, analytics could infer there might be a patch of black ice and instruct other vehicles to slow down and take the turn carefully.

Or perhaps a deep pothole triggers connected vehicles’ sensors. A city could purchase data related to road issues and send crews out to make repairs before the issue causes damage to vehicles or injuries to passengers. The sensors could also help fleets prevent damage to expensive vehicles. Connected vehicles will and are using prognostics to diagnose and alert of potential catastrophic failures ahead of time.  

What Fleet Managers Should Do Now

To fully realize the benefit of connected vehicles, fleet managers must get their entire fleet connected. In the future, this will become easier as OEMs automatically embed modems in their vehicles. Companies like Ford Pro are already offering free solutions such as Ford Pro Telematics Essentials with their connected vehicles to help provide visibility into the health and performance of their vehicles.

The connected vehicle market is at a tipping point and is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. This is good news for everyone: connected vehicles and integrated solutions can help small businesses achieve competitive parity, decrease costs through predictive maintenance, and apply analytics to reduce GHG emissions and maximize EV battery productivity to create a greener and more sustainable world.

David Prusinski is Global Chief Revenue Officer of Ford Pro Intelligence

Harjinder Bhade , CTO at Blink Charging.

As the country comes to the realization that a future of electrified mobility is crucial to mitigating the effects of climate change, government leaders and the electric vehicle (EV) industry have made it their mission to build a network of 500,000 EV chargers across America.

At the same time, the past year has demonstrated how disruptions in globally interconnected supply chains can lead to severe bottlenecks and slow production. The EV charging industry is not immune to these conditions. In order to achieve the ambitious electrification goals set by our elected officials and business leaders, EV charging companies must ramp up their domestic manufacturing capabilities to ensure they can meet the demand, regardless of global factors.

Meeting “Buy America” Requirements

There’s no better time than now to increase American manufacturing. With the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) earmarking $7.5 billion to build a nationwide charging network, there is more investment in the space than ever before. However, in order to qualify for these federal funds, EV charging manufacturers must meet the “Buy America” requirements – standards that call for equipment and projects to use American-made material and products, as well as be manufactured domestically. While domestic production of EV chargers holds much promise in solving supply chain concerns, this requirement also presents several challenges.

When considering the “Buy America” requirements for EV chargers, two provisions are most relevant. First, all steel in a finished product must be sourced locally. Secondly, under current criteria as clarifying language is pending, at least 55 percent of a finished product must come from the U.S.

Generally, meeting the steel requirement is not a challenge for EV charging manufacturers as chargers do not require large amounts of steel and steel can be locally sourced without undue burden. However, the larger challenge for EV charging manufacturers is sourcing domestically made chips, as most chip manufacturing is done offshore and imported to the U.S. From microprocessors to Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips, these necessary components are hard to source domestically, presenting a significant roadblock for EV charging manufacturers looking to meet the “Buy America” requirements.

Woman at Blink EV charger.

Manufacturing Corridors

In addition to the challenges presented by the “Buy America” requirements, there are also logistical challenges that come with relocating a manufacturing process, that was previously done overseas, entirely to the U.S.

In other countries, robust manufacturing corridors exist – areas of production where the various parts of a product are all sourced near one another – that help reduce the time and cost it takes to assemble critical components. However, in recent decades many of these components have been imported from overseas, and the U.S. has far fewer manufacturing corridors. This means domestic manufacturing facilities will have to re-invent their processes and supplier relationships to better centralize them and avoid the expenses and pollution incurred by shipping parts across the country.

As we transition to this new age, EV charging manufacturers are facing a plethora of challenges as well as unprecedented/exciting growth opportunities. From adhering to the “Buy America” procurement requirements to working out the logistics of a new supply chain, manufacturers have a lot to overcome, all while trying to keep up with the demand of a growing population of EV owners.

Building Out Domestic Manufacturing

Right now, the biggest hurdle facing domestic EV charger manufacturing is time. In order to tap into the federal funds made available by recent legislation, manufacturers must build up domestic capabilities and expertise in new areas, from sheet metal fabrication to PVC manufacturing, quickly.

With these challenges, it may seem daunting to make the transition to domestic manufacturing. However, Blink Charging, a leader in the EV charging industry for close to 14 years, has long been aware of these concerns and is taking steps to overcome them.

Driver with Blink EV charger app.

Managing the EV Charger Supply Chain

In June of 2022, Blink acquired SemaConnect, a leading provider of EV charging infrastructure solutions in North America with a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Maryland. This acquisition brought the complete design and manufacturing processes of Blink’s EV chargers in-house, allowing the company to comply with the “Buy America” provisions in federal law. The acquisition also marks Blink’s emergence as the only EV charging company to offer complete vertical integration – from research & development and manufacturing to EV charger ownership and operations – creating unparalleled opportunities for the company to control its supply chain and accelerate go-to-market speed while reducing operating costs.

In addition, Blink recently announced its commitment to establish a new manufacturing facility in the United States, which will further increase its charger production capacity. While the search for the facility’s location is still ongoing, the plant will offer 200,000 square feet of space with the latest technology to manufacture both DC Fast Charging (DCFC) and Level 2 Chargers.

With one facility already up and running and another on the way, Blink is leading the charge in domestic manufacturing of EV charging infrastructure in the U.S.

Harjinder Bhade is Chief Technology Officer at Blink Charging

Green Car Time Machine - archive articles from Green Car Journal.

As GM was taking a high-profile with its Impact electric vehicle prototype in the U.S., Nissan was showcasing the marque’s FEV (Future Electric Vehicle) that GCJ editors saw in Japan. Over the next several years, Nissan continued its electric vehicle development and showed its FEV-II, a less sexy but more practical electric vehicle prototype. As its program evolved, the FEV series was dropped in favor of other electric and hybrid electric vehicle studies. Still, the design of the initial FEV in particular resonates as we look back at early electric vehicle programs. This article is reprinted just as it originally ran in Green Car Journal’s December 1995 issue to share perspective on Nissan’s early electric vehicle development efforts.

Excerpted from December 1995 Issue: The Nissan FEV, which debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in late 1991, was a milestone electric vehicle concept for this automaker. It showed considerable thought as to what an electric vehicle could and should be, from its stylish exterior and handsome interior to an innovative powertrain and quick-charge system that garnered substantial world-wide attention.

Side view of Nissan Future Electric Vehicle concept car.

FEV a Quick Charge Electric Vehicle

As they say, that was then, and this is now. Nissan has now provided a follow-though by introducing its latest electric vehicle iteration, the FEV-II. This model is a bit less sporty than the original but definitely appropriate for the coming electric vehicle market. Somewhat in the vein of Volkswagen's Beetle-like Concept1, the FEV-II is handsome, rounded, and sure to be popular on the auto show circuit, and maybe even the highway.

The four-passenger (2+2) coupe's design is the handiwork of Nissan Design International, located in Southern California. It features a flat floor so batteries can be secreted beneath without infringing upon passenger comfort or space – a nice touch.

Nissan is once again credited with offering advanced thinking in its electric vehicle concepts. The FEV-II uses the advanced lithium-ion batteries this automaker is developing in conjunction with Sony. Top speed of the 3120-pound car is said to be 75 mph, while single-charge driving range is a claimed 125 miles. The EV can be charged from any standard electrical outlet via a detachable charging system.

Nissan FEV II electric vehicle concept rear view.

FEV-II Uses Lithium-Ion Batteries

Nissan is among many automakers who are actively working to develop viable electric vehicles to meet the 1998 ZEV mandate in California and other states. While GCJ editors have not yet road tested Nissan's new FEV-II, behind-the-wheel time has been spent in the automaker's Avenir demonstration EV. Not surprisingly, GCJ testers found it to be quite a capable electric vehicle with good acceleration and handling, indicating a great deal of sophistication in Nissan's EV development program. This electric station wagon also exhibited a high level of comfort – surprising from an electrically retrofitted production vehicle.

The automaker has been field testing 15 Avenir electric vehicles with Kyushu Electric Power Company, a Japanese utility which helped develop the electric variant. The station wagon is reportedly capable of a 50 to 100 mile single charge driving range with a top speed of 70 mph.

Roger Caiazza, blogger, Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.

Not so long ago, it was generally accepted that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles could be used as bridge technologies until ‘zero-emissions’ vehicles could perform like existing vehicles, at similar cost.  Unfortunately, politics in New York and elsewhere demand net-zero by 2050 with policies that preclude their use. 

I have spent a lot of time the last three years evaluating New York’s net-zero by 2050 target mandated by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) from a pragmatic point of view. Pragmatic environmentalism is all about balancing the risks and benefits of both sides of issues. Most troubling in the quest for net zero is the lack of consideration for tradeoffs.

PHEV and CNG vehicles banned by Climate Act.

In New York the mandated technology is ‘zero-emissions,’ either battery electric or hydrogen fuel cells.  PHEV and CNG vehicles have direct emissions and so will be banned.  The Climate Act fossil fuel accounting requirements inflate the global warming effects as compared to all other jurisdictions and mandate that upstream and life-cycle emissions also be considered.  On the other hand, the life-cycle emissions and impacts of the ‘zero-emissions’ technologies are ignored.

The Climate Act’s net-zero by 2050 transition is extraordinarily ambitious. The Scoping Plan that outlines the framework to implement this transition projects that in order to meet the net-zero schedule, over 30 percent of all light-duty vehicles sold will either be battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) in 2025, and 100 percent by 2035. For medium- and heavy-duty truck sales, the Scoping Plan projects that at least 10 percent sold will either be BEVs or FCEVs in 2025, and 64 percent by 2035.

PHEVs a Logical Bridge Technology

It's wishful thinking to presume that large percentages of people will choose BEVs and HFCVs, forgoing the flexibility of a personal car that has much greater range in all seasons, can be refueled quickly on long trips, and does not require expensive charging equipment at home.  PHEV technology eliminates range anxiety, refueling, and home equipment concerns. It also reduces fuel use and air pollution emissions significantly and uses a smaller battery pack than a BEV, which reduces the environmental impacts of rare earth mineral supplies and disposal that the Climate Act ignores.

When all the physical, cost, and logistical issues associated with hydrogen use are considered, it will not play a major role in the future. BEV technology doesn’t appeal to a majority of car owners because of nuisance constraints, but the technology could work. The same cannot be said for battery electric heavy-duty vehicles since range, refueling, and charging infrastructure constraints are deal breakers that prevent heavy-duty trucks from meeting the 2050 net-zero target. 

Natural gas trucks are a bridge technology to zero emissions.

CNG Trucks a Viable Alternative

There are serious inhalable particulate air pollution issues associated with diesel truck emissions at freight terminals in New York City. The Scoping Plan claims that replacing these trucks with zero-emission alternatives provides significant benefits. However, the plan’s zero-emissions aspirations ignore technological tradeoffs and the reality that CNG heavy-duty trucks are a viable alternative that would markedly reduce inhalable particulate emissions.  The problem with CNG is not technology since we know it works, but a problem with the development of fueling infrastructure and vehicle fleet turnover. It is not pragmatic to insist that heavy-duty trucks use unproven battery electric technology over other alternatives that can markedly reduce the air quality issues. 

The use of PHEV and CNG vehicles for personal and freight transport offers the opportunity for significant air quality benefits, at a cheaper societal cost, with less impacts on personal choice, and sooner than the ‘zero-emissions’ alternatives. Failing to consider those benefits while insisting upon a riskier technological approach is not good social policy. Someday, there may be a better alternative, but in the meantime bridge technologies that provide most of the benefits are the more appropriate policy approach.

Roger Caiazza, a retired Certified Consulting Meteorologist who has worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years, is a blogger at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York

Ron Cogan, Publisher of Green Car Journal

If we view the automobile’s history of environmental improvement in modern times  – say, from the 1990s to present day – there is an important perspective to be gained. It has never been just about electric vehicles. That’s simply where we’ve ended up at present due to an intriguing alignment of influences and agendas, from technology advances and environmental imperatives to gas prices and political will.

Over the years, auto manufacturers and their suppliers, technology companies, energy interests, and innovators of all stripes have been hard at work striving to define mobility’s future. Fuels in their crosshairs have included ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas, biofuels, synthetic fuels, and of course electricity. Lest we forget, cleaner-burning gasoline and diesel have been part of the evolution as well.

We Are Betting It All On Battery Electric Vehicles

As a nation, we have always approached this challenge with an open mind and a determination to explore what’s possible, and what makes sense. Rather than declaring a winner, for decades the approach has been to keep our options open as we define the best road ahead for environmental progress. Now, by government fiat and funding, battery electric cars have essentially been declared the winner.

This is troubling. As a die-hard auto enthusiast and auto writer my entire adult life – and a member/supporter of the Sierra Club for decades –  I have developed some strong and well-grounded perspectives on cars, their environmental impact,  and the future of mobility. My advocacy for electric cars is genuine and well-documented over the 30 years I have been publishing Green Car Journal, and before that through my writing as feature editor at Motor Trend. Honestly, it’s hard not to be a fan of EVs after a year of test driving GM’s EV1 and then spending many tens of thousands of miles behind the wheel of other battery electric cars over the years. Yet, I now sit back and wonder at the ways things seem to be unfolding.

Afeela concept is new addition to electric vehicles.

News Focus is Skewed Toward EVs

As expected, electric vehicles took a high profile at the increasingly important CES show in Las Vegas and this attention will certainly continue at upcoming auto shows. News of innovations, strategic alliances, and all-new electric models proliferate today, showing how dynamic this field has become and underscoring the nonstop media attention that EVs enjoy. But progress does not mean electric vehicles should be our singular focus.

There are significant risks with an all-in electric car strategy. Not the least of these is that by deemphasizing the importance of petroleum and the potential use of other alternative fuels in the near-term – crucial components in fueling the national fleet as we appear to be heading toward an electrified future – we risk the stability of our economy and our national security.

Gas station sign with high prices.

Gas Prices Influence EV Sales

Yes, sales of electric vehicles have surged in the midst of extraordinarily high gas prices and heightened concern about climate change. However, history shows us that gas prices spike, drop, and then remain at levels that find drivers once again becoming complacent. This predictable script should provide incentive to make smart moves like diversifying our energy sources as we build the necessary infrastructure for an increasingly electrified world, rather than bet it all on EVs. So many of the elements for the EV’s success remain unclear or continue to pose significant challenges.

If interest in electric vehicles is decoupled from high gas prices and surging because of the urgent need to mitigate carbon emissions, then we will see electric vehicle sales continue to rise, perhaps dramatically. But if increased interest and sales is largely tied to the high cost of gas, then a lot of regulators, environmental interests, and EV-leaning consumers  – plus of course automakers that have gone all-in with electrics – are set for a serious reckoning.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle plugged in to charger.

All Forms of Electrification Important

All this isn’t to diminish the importance of electric vehicles. Rather, it’s a call to be mindful of the challenges ahead and look at the bigger picture. We should encourage electric vehicles – whether powered exclusively by batteries, a combination of internal combustion and battery power, or perhaps hydrogen –  in every reasonable way possible. In particular, hybrids and plug-in hybrids must play an increasingly larger role in the years ahead. We have come a long way over the past 30 years, and we have a long road ahead in the effort to decarbonize transportation and mitigate its impact on climate change. We need to keep at it, aggressively, and we need to prepare.

Let’s just not make assumptions that all will go according to plan. California’s decision to ban the sale of gasoline cars by 2035, in particular, will certainly find unexpected obstacles on the way to that aspirational milestone. It happened before with California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate more than two decades ago, which failed to realize its goal of 10 percent electric vehicle sales by 2001. Beyond California, similar hurdles will exist in other ‘green’ states like Oregon, Washington, and Vermont that have now adopted California’s 2035 gasoline vehicle sales ban, along with other ‘green’ states that will surely follow California’s lead.

Man assembling battery for electric vehicles.

Many Challenges for Electric Vehicles

There’s a lot going right for electric vehicles today. But there’s also a wide array of continuing challenges that face EV proliferation.  These range from persistently expensive batteries, high vehicle prices, and sold out EV production runs to shortages of essential materials, a nascent nationwide charging infrastructure, and a national grid woefully unprepared to reliably charge tens of millions of electric cars. Then there’s the question of whether consumer EV purchases will continue to accelerate or weaken in tandem with lower gas prices.

It’s one thing to devise ambitious goals and quite another to make them law, especially when so many assumptions are in play. Given all this, is a wholesale shift to electric cars and a ban on the sale of gasoline vehicles even possible just a dozen years from now? As a long-time automotive analyst and  EV enthusiast, I have serious doubts.

Instrument display as you drive electric.

You know the drill. Get in the car, commute to work, run your usual errands, and at regular intervals stop at the gas station to fill up. It’s a routine that’s been ingrained in the driving psyche for decades. If you want to simplify, then consider a move from gas and instead drive electric. Driving an EV is not a panacea to life’s constant demands but all in all, it calls for less of your time and attention. Here are a few reasons why driving an electric vehicle may be for you.

EVs Can Enhance Convenience

How much is your time worth? Charging an EV’s battery can conveniently be done at home with a garage charger, through a growing public charging network, and increasingly at workplace chargers. Those regular trips to gas stations? Cross them off your list, forever. Another benefit that can save time – and frustration – is the ability for solo EV drivers to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV/carpool) lanes in some states, which can shave plenty of time off a commute.

It's Cheaper to Drive Electric

Electricity is a far cheaper way to fuel a car than gasoline. In fact, electric motors are so much more efficient than internal combustion engines, the most efficient electric vehicle today nets an EPA combined city/highway rating of 140 MPGe. The savings don't stop there. If you charge at home, additional savings can be realized by signing up for an electric utility’s favorable electric vehicle rate plan, then timing a charging session during a plan’s specified hours.

Less Maintenance Required

Vehicle maintenance is key to a healthy vehicle. Tune-ups keep a typical car running its best over the long haul, making the most efficient use of the gas it consumes and optimizing combustion so it produces fewer tailpipe emissions. One of the important benefits of an electric vehicle is that maintenance needs and costs are significantly diminished. Simply, there are far fewer moving parts in an EV than a conventional internal combustion vehicle, which means there’s less to take care of and fewer appointments needed for service.

Get a Subsidy to Drive Electric

Electric vehicles today are almost universally more expensive than those powered by traditional internal combustion engines. But if you want one, the federal government – along with many states, electric utilities, and other sources – can make it easier to buy an EV with generous subsidies of many thousands of dollars. The most valuable of these subsidies comes from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which offers a potential clean vehicle tax credit up to $7,500 if you buy a new plug-in electric vehicle and up to $4,000 on a qualifying used EV.

Polestar 2 driving on highway.

Status Comes with the Territory

Driving an EV makes a statement. We’ve seen this over time as Toyota’s Prius hybrid made its way to U.S. highways just over 20 years ago and was embraced by environmentalists and celebrities. The instantly recognizable profile of the Prius was part of the attraction, which shouted, “Look, I care about the Earth!” To many, that was reason enough to drive a Prius. To a whole lot of others it was just kind of obnoxious. Thankfully, today’s expanding field of eco-friendly electric vehicles offer a different approach. Some feature futuristic design cues that push the envelope in a positive way, but most are so mainstream you have to look for EV badging. Either way, your immediate circle of influence will recognize that you’re driving an electric vehicle and that confers positive status.

Green Car Time Machine - archive articles from Green Car Journal.

The world’s automakers have long pursued diverse alternative fuel technologies for good reason. Simply, the future of transportation may well unfold in surprising ways. Among the many advanced fuels explored has been hydrogen, and in fact, even amid today’s focus on battery electric power there continues to be significant interest in this zero-carbon fuel. Here’s a look at the amazing developmental work that BMW was conducting on hydrogen vehicles 18 years ago, as documented in Green Car Journal at the time. We lend perspective on the BMW H2R hydrogen vehicle’s evolutionary importance by presenting this article just as it ran in Green Car Journal’s Winter 2004 issue.

Excerpted from Winter 2004 Issue: In the quest for environmental leadership, there’s often a delicate balancing act as designers strive to create cars that are environmentally positive, yet offer the features drivers most desire. Clearly, core values must remain in focus during the process to retain the values and identity that distinguish carmakers from their peers.

BMW H2R hydrogen race car in shop.

Hydrogen a Focus at BMW

This has been BMW’s mission over the past decade as it has pursued hydrogen cars and the performance to go with them. You can’t, after all, lay claim to the title “ultimate driving machine” if your zero-to-sixty times are glacial and you slog through corners, even if powered by clean-burning hydrogen.

For years, BMW has been refining the liquid hydrogen fueled sedans that it has placed in field trials on multiple continents, championing the use of hydrogen in conventional engines in lieu of the more popular fuel cell. These hydrogen vehicles have improved over the years, making the most of renewable hydrogen fuel in their internal combustion powerplants.

BMW H2R hydrogen car on race track.

Record Setting BMW H2R

Now, this automaker is putting its stamp on the hydrogen record book with adaptations of this hydrogen engine technology, fielding a land speed record car that has passed the 185 mph mark and claimed an additional eight records as well. Along the way it has achieved recognition by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile as the fastest hydrogen car in the world.

A distinction achieved at the high-speed Miramas Proving Grounds in France, BMW’s 285 horsepower H2R hydrogen car was propelled to 100 km/h in about 6 seconds, setting records in the flying-start kilometer; standing-start ½ kilometer, kilometer, and 10 kilometers; flying-start mile; and standing start 1/8 mile, ¼ mile, mile, and 10 miles. The record car was piloted by BMW works drivers Alfred Hilger, Jörg Weidinger, and Günther Weber, who took turns at the wheel of the H2R during their record-breaking session.

Cutaway view of BMW H2R hydrogen race car.

Powered by a V-12 Hydrogen Engine

The sleek and imposing car was conceived, designed, and developed by the automaker’s subsidiary, BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH. Its carbon fiber exterior was designed by DesignworksUSA, the California-based strategic design consultancy owned by BMW Group. This is the same design house that worked on the BMW E1 and E2 electric car prototypes in the early 1990s.

This BMW is motivated by a 6.0-liter V-12 engine modified to run on hydrogen, a gasoline powerplant normally found in the automaker’s 760i model. Among the engine modifications is a fuel injection system adapted to handle hydrogen, which uses injection valves integrated into the intake manifolds. Special materials are also used for the combustion chambers. Liquid hydrogen is carried in a vacuum-insulated, double-wall tank that’s fitted next to the driver’s seat.

Front of hydrogen BMW H2R developmental car.

Is the H2R just a whimsical exercise? Nope, it’s part of a larger vision. In fact, BMW plans to launch a dual-fuel 7 Series that will run on hydrogen or gasoline, sometime during the production cycle of the present model, surely at a price far lower than that of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Exercises like the H2R help pave the way.

Green Car Time Machine - archive articles from Green Car Journal.

One of the more interesting electric cars in the early 1990s was the German-designed BMW E1 and then the U.S.-designed E2, innovative yet mainstream looking vehicles that illustrated BMW electric vehicle aspirations. The E2 was slightly more compact than the futuristic-leaning BMW i3 ‘megacity’ electric car that was to come some 25 years later. It was 8 inches shorter, 6 inches narrower, and 5 inches lower than the i3, plus 700 pounds lighter. The E2’s ‘hot’ sodium-sulfur battery was projected to deliver a 161 mile driving range, about 8 miles farther than the i3. To enlighten readers on BMW’s early electric vehicle development efforts, we’re sharing the following article from the Green Car Journal archives as it originally appeared in the January 1992 issue.

Excerpted from January 1992 issue: BMW’s E1, an electric concept vehicle now undergoing road testing in Europe, has just been joined by a new U.S. variant. Introduced at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, BMW’s new E2 prototype appears mainstream enough to be a mid-‘90s model. Its appearance is somewhat reminiscent of both a downsized minivan and sedan, leaning toward the look of Mitsubishi’s new 1992 Expo and LRV, and the Mitsu-built Eagle Summit.

E2: A Coming BMW Electric Vehicle?

Is this the precursor of a production model? We asked Robert Mitchel, product information manager of BMW of North America. “It’s a concept car,” Mitchell shares, “although it is fairly close to what a production car could be. Rather than taking a current 3 Series and modifying it as we have in the past, we’ve built this solely with the intent of designing a car that would satisfy consumer needs and potential legislation.”

BMW E2 electric vehicle illustration.

Among the important consumer needs to be served is a handsome package, and the E2 does provide that. Lower ground effects panels, distinctive BMW grillework, and an aero exterior are distinct design features. While the initial E1 was designed in Germany by BMW Technik GmbH, the automaker turned to California-based Designworks/USA (which is 50 percent owned by BMW AG) for the U.S. version.

Designing the BMW E2

According to Designworks/USA president Chuck Pelly, the studio’s intent was to give the E2 a formidable stance, with strong wheel flares and tires moved outboard as much as possible. A more substantial hood and bumper system were also integrated. “It’s a totally new body,” adds Pelly, “that’s more traditionally BMW styled, with less reversals” than the original E1. It’s also longer, wider, and lower with a smoother overall shape.

Inside the E2 variant is seating for four with storage behind the rear seat. A rounded dash integrates driver and passenger side airbags and a speedometer, range indicator, and clock. Forward/reverse controls and an electric handbrake are also provided. Designworks/USA is currently working on a completely new and more luxurious interior for the E2.

Illustration of BMW E2 electric vehicle interior.

Efficient But Not BMW Quick

Both rear drive models use a new Unique Mobility [UQM Technologies] brushless DC motor mounted at the rear axle. The 45 hp, motor is efficient, offering very respectable power by EV standards. But the E2’s acceleration numbers point to fairly sedate performance when compared to internal combustion vehicles.

Bottom line: Could the E2 sell if it were produced as a mid-‘90s model? Green Car Journal editors believe so, with a few caveats. Acceleration is passable for an EV utilizing current state-of-the-art technology. But a projected 15.6 second 0-50 mpg (80 kph) time may not be acceptable to the mainstream BMW buyer who expects sporting performance from his driving machine – even if the E2 does exhibit a typically upscale BMW image.

BMW-style performance is possible by combining more potent electric propulsion with the E2’s advantageous curb weight. Perhaps integrating twin UQM motors would do the job (90 hp total), or using an advanced generation motor available closer to the time the E2 could make it to market. The LRV’s 1.8-liter engine supplies 113 hp total, 1 hp less than the GM Impact prototype’s twin electric motors … so electric propulsion can offer the level of highway performance driver’s have come to expect. It doesn’t seem such a stretch to conjure visions of contemporary BMW performance from an ideally configured E2.

Technical specifications for the E2 BMW electric vehicle..