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

Telsa can Swap a Battery on the Tesla Model S in 90 Seconds [VIDEO]

Tesla recently demonstrated that the company can swap a battery in their Tesla Models S in about 90 seconds.  This is quicker than the time it takes to fill-up a car with gas (at least that is how it was shown in the demonstration).  You can checkout the presentation by Elon Musk and the demonstration of the Tesla Model S battery getting swapped out in this 7 minute video.   

At the beginning of the demonstration Musk says, “What if people do want to switch out their battery pack?  What if people only want to stop for a short period of time?”  Musk talks about how you have two options when stopping at a Tesla supercharger station, faster or free.  Faster being the battery swap so you can continue on your journey or the fast charge where you can wait and discuss with other electric car owners how awesome everyone is since you all own a Tesla Model S.  

While the video demonstrated what Tesla wanted to show gas vs a battery swap.  On the right side you see a guy getting gas at what Musk claimed is the faster gas station in Los Angeles since it pumps 10 gallons of gas a minute.  On the left side you see on the stage demonstration of the Tesla battery swap.  However, what I don't like is that Tesla doesn't really show the battery getting swapped out from any camera angles.  You can't see what is going on under the car and how the battery gets swapped out which would have made this battery swap demonstration about 100 times better.

Tesla was really thinking ahead in the terms of the usability and design of the Tesla Model S by incorporating having the option to swap a battery out.  Recently the Tesla Model S was awarded a 99 out of 100 rating by Consumer Reports.  This is the highest rating a car has ever received in Consumer Reports testing and only 1 other car got a 99 score.  However, swapping an electric car battery is nothing new.

Swapping electric car batteries was the main idea behind the electric car startup Better Place.  It's a smart since electric cars have limited range and you have to stop to get as anyway.  Unfortunately like a lot of car companies and great ideas the idea failed as Better Place filed for bankruptcy in May 2013.  So will people want to stop to swap a battery on the Tesla Model S?

It is possible since Tesla and Elon Musk seems like they are the only stand alones who have truly been able to make a serious impact with electric cars.  They have turned around skeptics and made supporters of EV's even more strong.  Hey, if you can get the battery swapped out wouldn't that take away the worries about electric car range anxiety?  

Tesla and Elon Musk are quite the show offs but that's what I like about Tesla.


GM starts production of Spark EV electric motors in Baltimore

2014 spark ev

General Motors (GM) unveiled the start of production for electric motors that will be equipped on the 2014 Chevy Spark EV at the automakers' Baltimore facility in White Marsh, MD today.  (Ok, that is not technically Baltimore but it is close enough.)  This makes GM the first automaker to assemble and build electric motors in the US.  In addition the plant will also manufacture and assemble transmissions for the Spark EV.

The 2014 Spark EV will represent a big shift for GM.  While many point to the Chevy Volt's success, the company hasn't released a fully electric car that has been available to the public since the EV1.  We all know that the EV1 was a PR nightmare for GM and is it important to note that the EV1 was not available for the general car buying public to buy.  Oh, the times are changing though.

GM seems to be committed to building electric cars like the Spark EV and being environmentally friendly at the same time.  Not only will the GM Baltimore Operations be building electric car motors  and transmissions, but it also has a solar panel array on the Baltimore operations that generate 1.25 megawatts of electricity.  I was told this provides roughly 9% of the energy for the plant, which isn't a lot but that is not bad either.  The Baltimore facility is also 100% landfill free.  Materials are either burned for energy, recycled or reused for other projects.

Larry Nitz, GM's global electrification director, mentioned that the through the whole process of designing the Spark EV that GM was, and is, customer focused.  “Quiet, reliable, fun.” is how he described the Spark EV.

Having driven the Spark EV around the closed Baltimore operations facility, I do agree it is all three of those things.  It is surprisingly smooth and has good pick-up but certainly is not fast.  (Some fit and finish could use a some work though.)  It is hard to tell from a drive that only lasted 5-10 minutes and was not on real roads though.  As well you need to have a GM engineer making sure you aren't doing burnouts or anything.  That is something a particular auto writer might have suggested.

GM has not announced official pricing for the 2014 Spark EV but has said it should be under $25,000.  With a tax credit of $7,500 it should be affordable for the average consumer putting it right in the electric car market with the Nissan Leaf.  While the Spark EV seems like it will be fighter against the Nissan Leaf, Nissan has sold 50,000 Leafs since the car's introduction.  This makes the Nissan Leaf the best selling electric car of all time and most likely will be hard to catch-up with in terms of sales.  (The Prius does not count since it is a hybrid, which has a gas motor, in case you were thought “What about the Prius?.”)

GM has also not confirmed the exact date when the Spark EV will be available for sale.  Larry Nitz did say during lunch that only a select amount of Chevy dealerships will be selling the Spark EV.  This is the similar strategy that GM used for the Chevy Volt launch.  No word on how many GM expects to sell or what the electric motor output for the Baltimore plant is.  (I asked they didn't say or budge a bit.)

Since this was a big announcement for GM and the area as a whole.  Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was on hand, as well Baltimore county executives, today to show his support for GM and the push to electrify the nations's vehicles.  Governor O'Malley even took a spin around in the Spark EV exclaiming as he got in, “I haven't done this in 13 years!”  I guess that shows how pampered politicians are! 🙂

You can see my video of Governor O'Malley taking the 2014 Spark EV for a spin.  I need to work on my video editing skills a lot though.  (Btw Windows Live Movie Maker sucks!)

One surprising guest I noticed at the event today was Debbie Phelps, Michael Phelps mom. I guess Debbie Phelps is now a celebrity in Baltimore so she gets invited to events like this Spark EV gathering.  My guess is that Michael Phelps, Baltimore's most famous and beloved athlete, could easily buy his mom a 2014 Spark EV (well probably like 20) without affecting his wallet too much.  She didn't drive a Spark EV, she just rode along in one, so I am unsure if she will be buying one in the future.

All in all it will be interesting to see what is next for the Baltimore facility in terms of manufacturing capabilities for electric motors and transmissions and if this will extend to other parts of the US.  As well what is next for GM and their electric car future.

Stay tuned for more articles about the Spark EV and Baltimore GM plant.

Electric Cars Keep Driving in Hurricane Sandy Gas Shortage

nissan leaf
Nissan Leaf

Electric Cars Keep Driving in Hurricane Sandy Gas Shortage

If you currently live in New York or New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy has most likely caused you to deal with long gas lines, even if you don't own a car. People with electric cars however, like the Nissan Leaf, seem to be making out ok.

After Hurricane Sandy, millions of people in New York and New Jersey were affected by flooding and massive power outages. Even now with electricity restored and debris out of the way, Hurricane Sandy's massive damage is still being felt as it is a huge pain to get gas in the Tri-State area. In the early hours in the morning people are queuing up at gas stations to make sure they get some of the limited supply.

People like Varun Bhatia, who lives in Long Island isn't having as much trouble with his all electric car, the Nissan Leaf. “I didn't realize I would be the only one driving for a couple of days and everybody else would be just in a tough position,” said Bhatia of Long Island, New York.

Bhatia got his Leaf shipped from Washington State so he could be among the first in New York to own a Leaf. Now he is happy with his choice to buy an electric vehicle, especially since he can skip the long gas lines. He also has made good use of his Leaf putting 300 miles on the car during the three days after the storm hit. Not only has his Leaf saved him money, but his popularity seems to be going higher too. Bhatia helped saved a couple of friends who got stranded because of Hurricane Sandy.

Let's face it for most of us gas is essential for getting around. Also if you didn't have electricity during a Hurricane it would be hard to charge your electric vehicle. Still, it seems Bhatia made out pretty good with his Nissan Leaf in the great gas shortage. Maybe this will cause a lot of people to change their thinking about electric vehicles and cars.