2020 Jeep Wrangler
Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Detroit’s automakers hope to attract new buyers to upcoming electric vehicles (EVs) by tapping into decades of fandom. Ford is using the Mustang name to promote an upcoming small crossover EV, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) plans to launch plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) versions of the Jeep Wrangler, and General Motors (GM) is reportedly planning to bring back Hummer as an EV nameplate within GMC.

Ford Mustang Mach-E – Advance orders for the first production run of the electric crossover, due by the end of 2020, sold out quickly with most buyers opting for premium versions of the pony car.

While not a muscle car, the Mach-E shares some of the Mustang’s visual cues such as its headlight design, three-bar tail lamps, and long hood. However, the EV doesn’t have an engine under that hood, so the front area becomes a front trunk (frunk in Tesla terms) providing 4.8ft3 of storage space. Ford engineers added a drain to the frunk, allowing users to fill it with ice to keep food and drinks cool.

Specifications for the vehicle will come out closer to launch, but Ford is targeting:

  • 300-mile range
  • 332hp, 417 lb-ft torque
  • Standard all-wheel drive

“The Mustang Mach-E wholeheartedly rejects the notion that electric vehicles are only good at reducing gas consumption,” says Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “People want a car that’s thrilling to drive, that looks gorgeous and that can easily adapt to their lifestyle – and the Mustang Mach-E delivers all of these in unmatched style.”https://www.ford.com

Ford Mustang Mach-E
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Jeep Wrangler PHEV – FCA officials unveiled the Jeep 4xe badge, a signifier that vehicles use PHEV powertrains, for the Jeep Wrangler off-road vehicle, Jeep Renegade compact crossover, and Jeep Compass small sport utility vehicle (SUV). By 2022, Jeep plans to offer electrified models (EV or PHEV) on all vehicles, and the Wrangler, Renegade, and Compass will be the first three.

FCA’s new contract with the United Auto Workers (UAW), reached in late 2019, calls for investments in several plants to support PHEVs. GM’s and Ford’s contracts with the UAW call for more EVs. FCA investments include:

  • Detroit 2 Assembly Plant: $1.5 billion investment for vehicles including next generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, including PHEV version in 2021
  • Jefferson Assembly Plant (Detroit, Michigan): $3 billion investment for vehicles including PHEV Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2021
  • Toledo (Ohio) North Assembly Plant: $160 million investment for vehicles including Wrangler PHEV in 2020
  • Warren (Michigan) Truck Assembly Plant: $2.8 billion investment for vehicles including PHEV Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer in 2021https://www.fcagroup.com

Electric Hummer – GM shuttered its once-popular Hummer line in 2010, following its 2009 bankruptcy filing and federal bailout. At the time, the brand of gas-guzzling, giant SUVs was the opposite of what the market wanted following 2008’s $4-per-gallon gasoline and 2009’s Great Recession. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the automaker now plans to bring back the Hummer name as a sub-brand for GMC, focusing on giant electric pickups. The Journal reports that GM plans to launch the new sub-brand with Super Bowl commercials starring basketball’s LeBron James. Company officials declined to comment on reports by press time in late January. Update: GM has announced its EV Hummer plans. See more here. https://www.gmc.com

Chakratec kinetic energy storage system
Photo courtesy of Chakratec

Blink Charging wins $900,000 US-Israeli grant for EV charging research

The Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) energy program has granted Blink Charging Co. and Chakratec Ltd. $900,000 in matching funds to develop affordable, everyday direct-current (DC) fast-charging solutions for electric vehicles (EVs). The BIRD Energy Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and Israel’s Ministry of Energy together with the Israel Innovation Authority.

The project will focus on bringing a robust DC fast charging solution to the United States which can be deployed regardless of the location’s existing power grid capabilities.

Current DC fast chargers (50kW, 175kW, 350kW, and higher) can tax grid infrastructure, and upgrading transmission systems is extremely costly. Blink and Chakratec hope to introduce DC fast-charging technology that uses Chakratec’s kinetic energy storage system, effectively a giant flywheel using a rotating weight to store energy.

“The Chakratec technology has the unique capability of absorbing and storing peak loads in the power grid and utilizing the kinetically stored energy to enable DC fast charging anytime, anywhere,” says Blink CEO Michael D. Farkas. “This technology has the benefit of being entirely mechanical, not requiring the use of batteries, giving the charger a much longer life, and ensuring it has minimal to no impact on our environment.”

The BIRD Energy Program began in 2009 as a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Since then, BIRD Energy has funded 49 projects with a total government investment of approximately $38 million, in addition to the $49 million in matching funds coming from the private sector.

BIRD Energy Foundation https://www.birdf.com

Blink Charging https://www.blinkcharging.com

Chakratec https://www.chakratec.com