Renovo Motors gets Silicon Valley funding

renovo motors

Renovo Motors, a start-up supercar electric automaker, has just gotten a backing of confidence from a well known Silicon Valley venture capitol firm.  True Ventures has given Renovo an initial round of funding to get the company's first electric car, the Renovo Coupe, rolling.  It was not revealed how much money True Ventures has given Renovo Motors but the company has four funds with almost $900 million in capital under it's managment.  We assume that the Renovo funding was somewhat substantial as you need a lot of money to get an automaker off the ground.

Renovo Motors announced their electric supercar at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance with much fanfare and media hype.  The company was founded in 2010 with the mission to “build the world’s most exciting electric vehicles.”  The electric car company has quietly been developing the powertrain and technology for the Renovo Coupe which it is claiming is “the first all-electric American supercar.”  (Anyone else thinks this basically sounds like Tesla 2.0?)  Here are some specifications and stats that are being claimed by Renovo.

Renovo Coupe Specifications

  • 0-60 in under 3.4 seconds
  • 1000 ft-lbs of direct-drive torque instantly available from the Electric Motor
  • Twin sequential axial flux motors producing over 500 horsepower
  • Incredible throttle response with full power available in just 37 milliseconds
  • Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD)
  • Patent-pending modular lithium ion battery technology
  • 3,250 lbs curb weight
  • 30 minute quick charge and 5 hour level 2 charge
  • Genuine, factory modified Shelby American CSX9000 rolling chassis
  • Flexible control system with dynamic in-cabin regen adjustment
  • Will be built in Silicon Valley, USA

Nice specifications, but how much will it cost?  The Renovo Coupe will set you back a cool $500,000.  That's chump change in Silicon Valley though as most venture capitol firms eat that amount of money before breakfast.

The Renovo co-founders, Christopher Heiser and Jason Stinson, have a highly technical backgrounds working at companies like IDEO and Intel.  It's not clear if either of the co-founders have any experience in the automotive field.  So why would True Ventures be crazy enough to invest in a car company?  Toni Schneider, a partner at Palo Alto-based venture capital firm True Ventures, explained in a blog post;

Like all of our investments, we looked at Renovo from three angles: people, product and market. The people behind Renovo are stellar. Chris and Jason are total pros: highly talented and accomplished, friends for 15 years… ready to take risks and build a great team around them. The product is equally stellar. The Renovo Coupe is exactly what I believe the world of electric cars needs: a no-holds-barred, super high-performance, thrilling vehicle that blows away the dorky golf cart image of today’s electric cars (with Tesla being the other notable exception to the golf cart rule). Underneath the Coupe is a sophisticated digital vehicle platform that solves the data, control and power management challenges of tomorrow’s vehicles.

Schneider continues on the post;

Finally, the market Renovo is headed into is an exciting challenge and opportunity—very large and full of giant incumbents. We think we have a shot at disrupting that market for two reasons. First, Renovo is targeting the high-performance and motorsport sectors for market entry—that’s a part of the market that is open to innovation and new entrants. Second, Renovo is not interested in building cars to compete with the Toyota Camrys of today; instead, they aim to be a platform for a new generation of electric vehicles that can open up whole new markets, whether they be supercars, self-driving cars or something entirely new that we have yet to invent.

The Renovo Coupe is on sale now, but only in limited quantities, and plans to begin shipping in 2015.  Like a lot of supercars you pay now and get it later.  Whether Renovo can't meet this delivery deadline or not has yet to be seen.  Renovo Motors is going to use the True Ventures funding to continue its research and development of the powertrain.  This makes me think they won't meet that deadline if they are still tinkering with the electric motor and controller.

True Ventures has invested mostly in software and web 2.0 companies.  Notably companies True Ventures has backed includes Automattic (the company behind WordPress) and, a service so that people can showcase themselves in a mini 1-pager design.  The real question, does True Ventures and Renovo Motors understand how hard building it is building a product like a car?  Toni Schneider, who's worked closely with Matt Mullenweg on WordPress, continued in his post;

For True, Renovo fits into a line of recent investments that go beyond traditional tech, into areas like wellness (Fitbit), urban infrastructure (Streetline), creativity (Makerbot), drones (3D Robotics) and now into electric vehicles. It feels like the start of a new revolution in the automotive space. We welcome Renovo to our portfolio and are proud and excited to be part of their journey.

I assume the business plan is to work on a similar strategy to what Tesla did.  Built a highly desirable halo car, make people want it, charge a premium, and sell it to a rich Silicon Valley tech conscious crowd and celebrities.  Then they can partner and license the electric vehicle powertrains to other companies or work on building and selling more mass marker electric cars.  Alternatively they could become something of a consulting firm like Mission Motorcycles.  In theory the strategy is a good idea but as Elon Musk will testify… starting a car company is a hell of a lot harder than it sounds.  🙂

The team here at CarNewsCafe is all for companies trying to make a name for themselves and do something different in the automotive and motoring world.  We've covered electric motorcycle companies like Lightning Motorcycles and their LS-218, which will be the fastest production motorcycle in the world.  In addition to the 3-wheeled company Elio Motors (of course Elio seems like Vaporware.)

The reality is we'd like to see these companies succeed, but likely a lot of them will not.  I can sort of already tell the True Ventures and Renovo Motors guys don't really understand the automotive market or what they are getting themselves into as there wasn't much information provided about the funding.

What do you think?  Will Renovo Motors become another car company to vaporize into thin air or will they be successful now that they have Silicon Valley funding?

3 Reasons Dogs HATE Electric Cars


SmartCar Electric
SmartCar Electric

Only recently did we find out that our dog, Cody, really doesn't just have a dislike for electric cars but… actually he seems to hate electric cars.  He shows aggressive behavior toward any electric car that passes by pulling on his leash and barking frantically.  Sometimes it is difficult for me to even hold him.  It is has become a dangerous behavior.

I noticed Cody's behavior started a few months ago.  We tried calming him down and controlling him but it has become difficult since he gets so frantic and upset when one passes by.  As he goes nuts it have become difficult for me to control him on his leash.

Just to be clear when I say Cody hates electric cars I don't mean anything like a Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, or a Chevy Spark EV.  We have these little electric vehicles that go around for the neighborhood security patrol.  While it is fine with they use EVs for me, to Cody it is a problem.  Here is what I think bothers him about these electric cars.

1. Electric Cars Look Weird

These neighborhood electric vehicles don't look like anything else out on the road.  They have a pod shape and only fit 1 driver, a 1 passenger, and have a small trunk.  It seems to bother Cody that they look weird and he think sthey are of place on the street.

2. Electric Cars Go Slow

Since these electric vehicles are meant for paroling a small neighborhood, and have limited range, they drive pretty slow.  Since no other cars drive that slow Cody doesn't seem to like it.  Better speed-up!

3. Electric Cars Make Strange Sounds

These electric cars that go around our neighborhood do not make much noise but when they do have a funny and distinctive, “Whirring” noise as they drive by.  I assume Cody doesn't like this noise and someone said it might hurt his ears.  Since it doesn't hurt Sierra, our other dog's ears, I am not sure this is the issue.  Could it be?  Perhaps Cody just doesn't like the whirring and want it to stop.

We like Electric Cars

For those driving electric cars or who believe automakers should be building more electric cars, I just want to make it clear as an auto journalist I don't have personally problem with EVs. It's only our dog, Cody, who hates those darn things it seems.

This behavior has really become an issue as one time Cody broke free from his leash as the security patrol was driving by once when I was getting him out of the car.  He caught me by surprise and he starting running down the street after the car.  It scared me as if he had tried to bite the wheels of the car he could have gotten seriously injured.  Luckily we called him and he came back to us and the security patrol person slowed down a lot.

We are glad Cody doesn't show aggression toward all vehciles, but still it is concerning for us.  We would appreciate any training advice or suggestions on how to fix this aggressive behavior toward electric cars.

Article originally published here

11 Things You Need to Build an Electric Vehicle

Even though electric vehicles and electric cars are going mainstream with more major automakers building them and more companies manufacturing EV components, it seems like building your own electric vehicle would be too much of a hassle.  Even with all the options on the market there are still not enough choices to satisfy certain peoples demands in a vehicle.  What's the solution to this problem?  Building your own electric vehicle of course.

While this might not be an attractive option for everyone for those that are on a tight budget and want an EV this could be an ideal solution.  Also instead of saying you bought an electric vehicle you can say built an electric vehicle.  How awesome and cool does that sound?

If you are looking to build an electric vehicle (EV) here are some things you NEED if you are going to do it.

1. Electrical Knowledge

This kind of common sense but I'm stating the facts here.  If you don't understand the basics of electricity, electrical systems, circuits, Ohms Law, etc. you might find it hard to build your own electric vehicle.  You will have to understand how the basics of how electricity works to setup and get the electric motor, amp meter, batteries etc. connected  and running properly.

My recommendation is to check your local community college and see if they offer a basic Auto Electrical class.  This will help you immensely since it is applied skills and knowledge you can apply to building your electric car.  Generally this classes are geared toward not only understanding and repairing automotive circuits and electrical systems but gives you a basics.  It is like a physics and engineering class though so be prepared for a lot of hard work and studying.

2. Vehicle Repair or Auto Repair Skills

Your going to need to know how to take apart and fix vehicles and cars or you will need to get comfortable fast.  Even when you take out an internal combustion engine and associated components you still will want to know how to take apart and repair your car somewhat.  The car you use will still use brakes, a steering and suspension system, HVAC (heating ventilation and air condition), and hopefully a radio and sound system .

I'd recommend purchasing Automotive Technology by James Halderman's which is the textbook that is used in most auto technical colleges and schools nowadays since it covers so much information regarding auto repair and servicing a car.  The book is a bit pricey so you could consider getting the 3rd edition which is a few years old but still is packed with great information.

The internet is obviously a great resource for getting and finding repair skills and people that can help you.  Repair forums and communities about with knowledgeable DIY and professional mechanics.

Again taking some classes at your local community college might be a good idea for gaining additional repair knowledge as well.

3. Budget

You will need money to do an electric vehicle conversion but I assume you don't have unlimited funds.  (If you do, I'm happy for you!)  Setting a budget is important as it will determine what sort of electric vehicle you will build, what the range will be, and a lot of other factors.  Will you use an off-the-shelf EV conversion kit or mix and match your own components?

Set a budget for and try to stick to it.  This will be hard as anyone who's done restoration work or done an EV conversion will tell you that you will likely go over your budget.  If you are careful and smart though you can stay within it.

4. Extra Money (when You Go Over your Budget)

You will probably go over the budget…. sooo plan accordingly. 🙂

5. Good Shell Vehicle

You need to pick a good shell vehicle to convert to electric.

For building electric motorcycles typically older Japanese bikes that have a seized motor but a good frame are popular options.  These are usually fairly easy to take apart and don't take up too much room.

Popular electric car conversions shell vehicles are usually small older hatchbacks or sedans that are light and have ample trunk space for batteries.  Geo Metros, Old Corollas, Ford Festivas are all popular choices from what I've seen.

When you are looking to buy a vehicle make sure to ask the owner a lot of questions.  If it's not running or needs work make sure you understand that and factor that into the price and how much work it will take you.  I'd steer clear of a vehicle that has rust and needs a lot of paint or bodywork.  Even if you want to tackle and learn paint and bodywork yourself, this can eat into your budget as body and paint supplies get expensive fast.

I'd recommend searching in odd places to get a good deal.  Communities and forums around a specific vehicle are good places to start.  Check out out my 6 Craigslist Alternatives.

Remember you can resell a lot of the parts you take off the shell, like the engine, radiator, etc.  If they are not you can always try to get money through them at a scrap metal recycling center.  This way you make back some of the money spent to buy the motorcycle or vehicle. \

6. Space

You will need a good garage or workspace to do an EV conversion.  You are going to have to store a lot of components and tools you will need for the project as well as space to store your shell vehicle when it's being worked on and taken apart and put together.

Doing an EV conversion will likely take you several months to 1 year depending how many hours a day you can devote to the project.  So keep this in mind when you are utilizing your garage or wherever you are going to be doing your conversion.

7. Tools and Equipment

You can never have too many tools.  At least that's what the tool companies have us believe.  Seriously though I'm always buying tools for a new job or for certain tasks that I wouldn't have excepted.  Tools and equipment you will definitely need are;

  • Good Floor Jack, preferably this Arcan Floor Jack
  • Motorcycle Lift (if you are doing an electric motorcycle conversion)
  • Jack Stands, preferably 2 sets
  • Small-Medium Sized ToolBox
  • Basic Hand Tools like wrenches, vice grips, pliers, ratchets, sockets, etc.
  • Fender Cover

These are just the basic tools and equipment I recommend you purchase.  I don't really consider most of this purchase as part of the electric vehicle conversion budget as tools can be used on your gas-powered cars and for a lot of other things.  For basic hand tools Craftsman and ordering online should work well for most of what you need.  A lot of people like ordering tools on eBay, Amazon, and other retailers nowadays.  If you want to upgrade to professional tools Matco and Snap-On good brands but expensive.

If you don't have any tools and want to do an EV conversion you better start buying.  Once you start buying tools, you will never stop by the way.  🙂

8. Good Multimeter

This should already be in your toolbox if you like to work on cars and vehicles but most people own bad or cheap mutlimeters.  You will need to buy a high quality Mutlimeter such as the Fluke 88 which is the standard in the automotive repair field.  If you buy a Fluke 88 it's definitely worth the price due to the fact it auto-ranges and comes with a lifetime warranty.

I'd recommend getting the kit as you can use it for a lots of different applications.  Doing an EV conversion this should be good for most of your needs.

9. Friends

For taking out the internal combustion engine it would be a good to have friends to help you.  If you need help repairing the braking system or getting all your electric vehicle running properly it would be good to have knowledgeable friend to help you.

Make sure to know when to ask for help and seek the answers you need.  Everyone gets stumped or needs help sometimes and that is important to remember when doing an EV conversion.

10. Electric Vehicle Components

You will need electric vehicle components which includes;

  • An Electric Motor
  • Amp Meter (sometimes called Amp motor)
  • Batteries
  • Converters
  • Lots of Wires
  • Charger
  • Gearing Adapter Kit

There are probably some EV components I'm missing here but these are the basics.  A lot of people buy used electric motors from forklifts or other industrial equipment and used converters as well.  You also save money on batteries buy using standard Lead Acid batteries you find in your car.  They are not as good as Lithium-Ion batteries but work well for budget EV conversion builds.

11. Patience

Patience is a virtue my friend.  You will need patience with a project like this is it will go take more time and resources than you think.

When you get it all done though you have the benefit of looking at your own electric car and saying, “I build that!”

Nissan Leaf owner clocks 100,000 miles on Odometer [VIDEO]

A man in Washington state has just clocked over 100,000 miles in his Nissan Leaf, an all electric car.  This is thanks to Washington's charing infrastructure.

While the Nissan Leaf owner, Steve Marsh, did not put as many miles on his car as someone like Herb Gordon and his Volvo P1800, I think 100,000 miles is pretty good.

“With a daily commute of about 130 miles, I’ve saved more than $9,000 compared to my old gas-powered car since I bought my LEAF,” commented Marsh. “With plenty of public charging options, as well as a charger installed at my office, my LEAF is a perfect car for my commute.”

Do you think a Nissan Leaf or another electric car can get more miles than 100,000?

[Source – CarNewsCafe]

Justin Bieber Gets (Fisker) Karma For 18th Birthday

Justin Bieber gets Fisker Karma!

I am going to assume most readers of my blog are not fans of Justin Bieber.  This might be due to many reasons, but chief among them the fact you were forced to buy his album for your little sister for her birthday.  Well now you have another reason to dislike the teen pop sensation.  He got a Fisker Karma, a $116,000 electric car, as a gift for his 18th birthday on the Ellen Degeneres Show a few weeks ago.

His manager Scotter Braun and Usher gave him the gift, because they know he likes cars but also wants to be environmentally friendly you know.  “Don't get anything flashy!' You know, we're not about that.” said Scotter on the show.  Who doesn't want to be flashy when you are making mad money like Justin Bieber?

Bieber will probably have a hard time looking humble with the Fisker Karma, as this is one badass looking car.  Bieber won't be the only celebrity sporting keys to a Fisker Karma though.  Leonardo DiCaprio got the very first model in July 2011.  (Another reason to dislike him too!)  Politicians who got “Karma's” are former Vice President Al Gore and and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Imagine a drag race between these four!  The Fisker has also appeared on the ninth season of the CBS show Two and a Half Men as the vehicle of choice for Walden Schmidt, played by Aston Kutcher.  (Who replaced Charlie Sheen!)

Even though I don't like the Bieber, it's hard to hate him when you watch the video and see he goes to hospitals to visit fans that have cancer. Argh!  I wonder what Bieber's girlfriend Selena Gomez will think of the new car?  Even if you still don't like Justin Bieber, he's got a good Karma!