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Old 03-29-2013, 10:28 PM   #81
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Global sales of 30k-70k per year is hardly miniscule. (...) Just the NA was over 400k units. That is not miniscule by any measure.
The current-gen Prius has sold more than 400,000 units every single year since its introduction. Compared to that, 400,000 Miatas over 9 years is minuscule.

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Amortize a set of body tooling with 400k units versus 17k.
The NA and NB shared no body panels in common. So consider the NA, and then amortize a set of body tooling for 400,000 cars over 9 years vs. 400,000 cars every single year. (The NB is about the same ratio.)

The original Insight was ahead of its time, literally. The demand for hybrids in 1999 simply wasn't what it is in 2013, much as the demand for PCs in 1977 (when the TRS-80 was introduced) wasn't what it was in 1992 when Dell joined the Fortune 500.



And remember: my vision is to eliminate as much tooling as possible. Hydroforming steel requires serious machinery. Vacuum-forming GRP is child's play by comparison. The tooling to make every single GRP part in the Foresight (my just-coined name for the car I'm describing) would cost less than the tool used to form the left-front fender of the '90-'97 Miata.

The chassis would be completely tool-free. All parts would be fabricated in real-time, just as they are needed, using only two machines. One tube bender/notcher for the round bits, and one plasma or waterjet cutter for the flat bits. As the need arises to increase the rate of production, you just bring additional copies of that same two-machine work cell online.

You need to change paradigms here. Think rapid prototyping as opposed to investment casting. The manufacturing process itself is designed for low-volume production with minimal capital outlay, and the ability to rapidly accommodate design changes with minimal expense. This method would be entirely wrong for building a million Camrys a year, and exactly perfect for building 50 thousand Foresights.


I should be patenting this **** right now.


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Per your kit-car construction small hybrid car; I imagine re-inventing a factory to build a car like you described would cost quite a bit more than you think. I'm not saying it couldn't be done but I think it would still be a lot more expensive than you think.
I think it would be very expensive.

I also think that automotive companies have built radical new factories in the past, and have generally benefited from this. Consider what happened when the Japanese began to seriously embrace robotic automation in the 1970s, while American firms continued to plod along with antiquated tooling and techniques.

Then again, maybe the best company to exploit such a model would be the next Smart- an upstart with the backing of a major player.

Last edited by Joe Perez; 03-29-2013 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:01 PM   #82
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Hey Joe, we should start a car company together! With your know-how and money, and with my ...what do I have...
Hey Joe, you should start a car company!


Maybe I could sucker in, ...I mean invite... investors to join the project.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:03 PM   #83
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I got 5 on it
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:27 AM   #84
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I do not mind driving the wifes Prius C at all. Surprisingly good ride.

That said... i put the rpf1s on the CRX today and i like it a weeeee bit more.
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:47 AM   #85
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Gods, I wish I had money.

Real money. Sergey Brin money.

I would absolutely build this car if I could afford the up-front tooling costs.

Fisker and Tesla have the right idea, and everyone else is doing it wrong.

Except that Fisker and Tesla are doing it wrong as well, albeit in a unique and innovative way.

The way to introduce radical new technologies is to implement them in vehicles which already embody their so-called drawbacks (small size, lack of cargo space, etc) as fundamental character traits.

But at the same time, you have to make the damned thing affordable! You can't go buying body shells from Lotus and crafting in-seat buttplugs out of gold plated CNC-milled billet unicorn horn. THINK CHEAP!


The Foresight is an ultra-compact roadster. It targets the demographic of the NC, the Fiat 500, the Smart Fortwo and the VW Beetle (new version), while making those cars look like bloated pigs by comparison. Compared to the Foresight, the Pious and Hindsight are gas-guzzlers. It avoids the massive cost and complexity of the Tesla and Fisker by eschewing hypercar performance and EV purism in favor of a transitional attitude towards hydrocarbon fuels and modest power with an emphasis on daily driver torque.

I swear on my father's grave, this car can work.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:33 AM   #86
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I wonder how many people, just as smart as, if not smarter than you, had the exact same idea and swore the exact same thing, then failed massively or got nowhere with it due to all the laws, rules, and regulations put onto the automotive industry in this day and age.

Stupid laws like tire pressure monitors, etc etc etc
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:10 AM   #87
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Countless thousands.


Cognizance of this fact is a principal contributory factor to my chronic depression and alcoholism, and the crippling sense of doubt and self-loathing which haunt me every day.
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Old 03-30-2013, 10:54 AM   #88
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The book says 1.6 to 1.7 hours labor, so a little under $3k, but yeah- you're in the general ball-park.

As to resale value, that's not always the most important metric in the grand scheme of things. If you don't plan on keeping the car long-term, don't buy it with 200k on the odometer in the first place.

And don't just focus on resale value- focus on how much money you're NOT spending on a new car. Putting $3k of parts into a $6k car makes a lot more sense than paying $30k for a new car and selling it for $15k a few years later.


I'm pretty sure they're NiMn, not NiCad.

The cost per watt-hour is actually not much higher for the cheaper Lithium-based chemistries than NiMn. They will seem costlier on a cell-per-cell basis simply because the cells have a higher energy density.

So, to invent some hypothetical numbers purely for illustration:

Suppose that a NiMh cell costs $2, and has a 10 Wh capacity.
And suppose that a LiMn cell costs $5, and has a 20 Wh capacity.

To build a 10 KWh battery, you'd need 1,000 NiMh cells, costing $2,000.
Or you'd need 500 LiMn cells, costing $2,500.

The cells for the LiMn battery cost 25% more. But they also weigh a lot less, consume less space, require less wiring, packaging and interconnect material, and take less labor to build. Therefore, the cost of the assembled pack might only be 10% more, rather than 25%.

Is it a wash? Not yet. But we're getting there.
You are right, its been a few years since we were playing around with first gen batteries.

We found an equivalent set of lithiums to be lighter for the FH car, but I didn't do the work there, so there maybe math errors (college...full of them).
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:06 PM   #89
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We found an equivalent set of lithiums to be lighter for the FH car, but I didn't do the work there, so there maybe math errors (college...full of them).
That's exactly what I would expect. NiMh is highly advantageous over NiCad and SLA, but still lags Li(xx) in terms of energy density.

NiMh does have a few things going for it, however. In an automotive context, perhaps the biggest (aside from not wanting to catch on fire) is that the C-rating of NiMh cells is essentially unlimited. You can discharge them at arbitrarily high currents provided that you respect the 0.9v minimum per-cell rating.

So you can drain them at extremely high rates (to provide large amounts of motor energy from a relatively small pack), and then slam huge amounts of current back into them during regen. They do generate a fair amount of heat under these conditions, however they are not prone to thermal runaway.


There are certain lithium chemistries now which are starting to approach this benchmark, but it's one area in which NiMh still reigns supreme, and a huge factor in why NiMh continues to be used in most (all?) parallel hybrids, with Li-ion being reserved for pure EVs (Leaf) and series hybrids (Volt) where their extremely high energy density and low self-discharge rate justify the added cost and complexity, and the extremely large capacity of the battery (by way of its sheer physical size and cell count) moves the effective C-rating down into a tolerable range.
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Old 03-30-2013, 10:05 PM   #90
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So you are thinking body panels of molded plastic, like this?



It would be easy to make different colors, shapes and other variations. And they would be cheap to make.
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Old 03-31-2013, 12:18 PM   #91
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That's exactly what I would expect. NiMh is highly advantageous over NiCad and SLA, but still lags Li(xx) in terms of energy density.

NiMh does have a few things going for it, however. In an automotive context, perhaps the biggest (aside from not wanting to catch on fire) is that the C-rating of NiMh cells is essentially unlimited. You can discharge them at arbitrarily high currents provided that you respect the 0.9v minimum per-cell rating.

So you can drain them at extremely high rates (to provide large amounts of motor energy from a relatively small pack), and then slam huge amounts of current back into them during regen. They do generate a fair amount of heat under these conditions, however they are not prone to thermal runaway.


There are certain lithium chemistries now which are starting to approach this benchmark, but it's one area in which NiMh still reigns supreme, and a huge factor in why NiMh continues to be used in most (all?) parallel hybrids, with Li-ion being reserved for pure EVs (Leaf) and series hybrids (Volt) where their extremely high energy density and low self-discharge rate justify the added cost and complexity, and the extremely large capacity of the battery (by way of its sheer physical size and cell count) moves the effective C-rating down into a tolerable range.
How do lithium-polymers stack up in all this. I know they aren't particularly popular in current production cars right now, but they were getting a lot of attention when we were doing our battery research (2009-ish).
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Old 03-31-2013, 01:32 PM   #92
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[quote=sixshooter;995941]So you are thinking body panels of molded plastic, like this?[/IMG]I was actually using the "Chinese patio furniture" reference as an analogy for anything that is cheaply mass-produced.

The parts you have shown were most likely injection-molded. I don't have a huge amount of experience with injection molding. We do have a number of very small parts in our products (end-caps, rubber switch membranes, etc) which are injection-molded, and the tools for them are not inexpensive. I would imagine that a full set of molds for an entire car body would be cost-prohibitive for a startup building small numbers of cars, however it would probably work very well for an established automaker building vehicles at large scale.

I was thinking more of vacuum-molded fiberglass, as is done with race cars. The process is rather slower, however the tooling is extremely inexpensive. One could envision a production line consisting of perhaps 50 or 100 mold sets for each individual part, with a small number of workers moving from station to station producing parts in a staggered pattern. In other words, you lay a part into mold #1 and begin the curing process, then move on to #2, #3, etc. By the time you reach the end of the line, the part in mold #1 is finished curing and can be removed, and a new part started in that mold.

The advantage to this process is extremely low up-front cost and extremely good scalability. Cost per part would not be as low as with an injection-molding process, but you wouldn't need to shell out for millions of dollars in tooling and machinery up front.




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How do lithium-polymers stack up in all this. I know they aren't particularly popular in current production cars right now, but they were getting a lot of attention when we were doing our battery research (2009-ish).
Li-Po isn't a specific chemistry, but rather a physical construction method. It allows any given Li-(xx) battery to be produced in a thinner format with a slightly higher energy density, at the cost of, well, higher-cost. Li-Po is what enables flat, flexible pouch cells to be made.

Li-Po batteries are mostly used in low-voltage applications (eg: phones, tablets) with Li-Co chemistry, in which the charge / discharge rate is low and extra cost is justified relative to the decrease in weight. The RC aircraft guys also love them, and they're the ones who have special fireproof bags to charge them inside of.

I suppose a Li-Mn or NMC (LiNiMnCoO2) battery could be made in Li-po form. Probably has been for all I know. I've been trying to find some better info on the batteries in the Leaf and Volt, and I'm coming up dry.


That said, NiMh is actually not a bad technology for applications in which the battery is used as a supplement to help the acceleration of a tiny, gutless ICE. Li-ion is justified where the battery is the primary motivator for the vehicle.
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