Recharge Wrap-up: Elio explains engine updates, gas prices lowest since 2010

Researchers Aim For More Accurate Range Estimates; DC Cabbies Protest Ride Service Bill

  • Image Credit: Elio Motors
Computer engineers at North Carolina State University are working toward creating more accurate range estimates in electric cars. They hope that it could help relieve range anxiety. The new system takes the whole route into account rather than using an average of the previous miles driven. This approach looks at traffic, grade, weather and other variables that can affect mileage to give the driver a more realistic and less fickle range estimate. The folks working on the project were able to get range figures that were around 95 percent accurate. Read more at Treehugger.

Gasoline prices in the US are lower than they've been in almost four years. According to the most recent Lundberg survey, average prices for regular gasoline were at $3.08 per gallon on October 24. The highest prices were in San Francisco, averaging $3.45, with Memphis averaging the lowest at $2.73. Gas prices have dropped in response to the cost of crude oil, which is low due to high supply and weak demand around the world. Read more at CNBC.

Taxi drivers in Washington DC demonstrated in protest of a bill they felt favors ride services such as Uber and Lyft over taxis. The bill to regulate the ride services, the taxi drivers said, doesn't do enough to level the playing field, which puts the taxi drivers at a competitive disadvantage. The bill was approved by DC City Council in a 12-to-1 vote. "Our fight is not over," says Teamsters Local 922 business agent Royale Simms. "Communities and taxi drivers around the nation and around the globe continue to fight for fairness and we will do the same." Read more in the press release below.

Elio Motors has explained why it decided to use a new engine design for its 84-mpg three-wheeled car. Elio decided that the three-cylinder engine borrowed from the Geo Metro wouldn't allow it to meet its mileage goal. Elio is keeping the three-cylinder plan, but updating a whole host of components, with some designed specifically for the Elio and others chosen off the shelf from other sources. Elio plans to offer up more details on its new engine soon, as well as show a working prototype. Read more in the press release below.
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D.C. Taxi Drivers Demonstrate As Council Votes On Bill To Regulate Ride Services

Council Bill Fails to Address Fairness Issues Raised By Taxi Drivers

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hundreds of D.C. taxi drivers circled Freedom Plaza and packed a D.C. City Council hearing room today to protest a bill to regulate private sedan services that drivers say continues to give the services a huge competitive edge.

"We are here today because this is the final vote and our livelihoods are on the line," said Ziena Abraha, a D.C. taxi driver and member of the Leadership Council of the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association, which is affiliated with Teamsters Local 922 in Washington, D.C. "The council has not listened to us so far, but we will continue to fight for fairness."

Although several amendments were added to the bill, it still falls short in creating a level playing field between the services, such as UberX and Lyft, and the D.C. taxis.

The bill was approved today by a vote of 12 to 1, with Councilmember Jim Graham voting no.

The council refused to consider five of the nine amendments that were discussed, said Royale Simms, a Business Agent with Local 922.

"The council used a technical argument to avoid voting on the five amendments that would have addressed fairness and consumer protections," Simms said. "The excuse was that Councilmember Graham didn't prepare a fiscal impact analysis, but these were important issues."

Simms said drivers will not give up.

"Our fight is not over," Simms said. "Communities and taxi drivers around the nation and around the globe continue to fight for fairness and we will do the same. This is supposed to be a progressive council in a progressive city, but what happened today is the polar opposite."

Why We Went with a New Engine Design: Finding the Balance Between Fuel Efficiency, Power

The Elio Motors project has had three main goals for the powertrain team:

1. Up to 84 MPG for the highway drive cycle
2. The powertrain needs to be low cost
3. The powertrain needs to be comparable to current automotive quality standards.

Looking at these independently, each are not difficult to achieve, but together this is quite the challenge.

The original engine concept was to take the Geo Metro engine and create a template for the Elio engine. Overall it is compact, perceived to be efficient, has the correct power requirements, and is relatively inexpensive to produce. As the team began to dive into some of the details and changes to meet the desired Elio targets, one thing became apparent: the Geo Metro engine would not meet the fuel efficiency targets to enable the vehicle fuel economy goal of 84 MPG highway.

After running computer simulations, it was apparent that a new engine design was needed to work with the Elio vehicle to achieve this goal and still maintain a top speed of more than 100 MPH with a goal of 0-to-60 MPH in less than 10 seconds.

Since the Elio is considerably lighter than anything else on the market today, a suitable existing engine was not available. This included the Geo Metro engine since it was optimized for running at the higher load used in a heavier and larger vehicle. The conclusion was clear - to meet the vehicle performance, economy, and cost objectives, a new engine would be necessary.

With the decision to design a new engine for the Elio, the program focused on determining the technical features needed to achieve the targets. The team looked at the Geo Metro design to see if modernizing the 30-year-old strategy would make it more efficient. The outcome was to maintain the three cylinder architecture, but update the cylinder block, cylinder heads, CAM cover, front cover, oil pan, crankshaft, camshaft, valvetrain, pistons, connecting rods, bearings and water pump to Elio specifically designed components. This allowed the engine development team the flexibility to keep the design simple, efficient and easy to manufacture while enabling all of the major fuel economy related attributes - combustion system, friction and pumping energy - to be enhanced. Many parts were identified as cost and risk reductions to be sourced as currently produced off-the-shelf components. All of the sensors, alternator, A/C compressor, oil filter, air filter, electronic throttle body and the engine control system are all currently produced and available at your local service center.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will share some additional details about the Engine Control Unit (ECU), show nearly all of the components that have been machined to date and finally show the prototype Elio engine fully assembled. In doing so, the powertrain Tech Talk series will answer many of the questions you, our Elio fans and supporters, have been anxiously anticipating.

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