GM’s BrightDrop sets an electric van range record, Honda brings the wind, rotary rebirth rescheduled. All this on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Long-Range Van, Damn
While payload certainly has an effect on electric vehicle range, General Motors is out here showing that a weighed-down electric van can still go quite far on a single charge. A GM-built BrightDrop Zevo 600 electric van driven by BrightDrop driver Stephen Marlin has entered the Guinness World Record books by completing the greatest distance traveled by an electric van on a single charge. It actually beat its rated range while carrying an actual load. Sweet!
What is BrightDrop? It’s GM’s subsidiary for electric commercial solutions. In addition to fleet management software, it produces two wildly different electric vehicles — an electrically-propelled warehouse cart called the Trace and this electric delivery van called the Zevo. The world record drive itself took place on Wednesday on a route from New York City to Washington, DC. Not only is this a fairly regular trade corridor, it’s also a distance of roughly 260 miles, a few miles longer than the Zevo 600’s rated range. More impressively, this wasn’t just some special unladen journey. The electric van involved was on an actual FedEx-aided delivery run, hauling a load of sustainable cleaning products from home care brand Full Circle. Now, it’s worth noting that Full Circle doesn’t sell any liquid or gel products aside from hand sanitizer, so it’s not like this electric van was hauling gallons and gallons of heavy all-purpose cleaner. Still, it feels like there’s some real viability here.
To document the record-setting run, BrightDrop and FedEx placed cameras in and on the Zevo 600 electric van. After Guinness World Record adjudicator Andy Glass verified the validity of the run, BrightDrop and FedEx officially received their world record. Upon awarding the record, Glass said, “This accomplishment is a perfect example of the extraordinary efforts taken to make a difference for the environment and a fitting way to commemorate Earth Day 2022.” Quite right, Andy. Honestly, electrifying cars is one thing, but if we’re going to reduce transportation emissions we must look at every form of transportation. According to the EPA, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks made up 24 percent of all transportation CO2 emissions in 2019. Electric delivery vans sound like a great way to put a dent in that number.
Honda Opens Up A New Wind Tunnel
One of the unique foibles of electric cars is how they’re so quiet that the driver can hear everything. A badly-tuned wing mirror’s aerodynamic properties could get drowned out under the hum of a gas-powered car’s powertrain, but if said wing mirror were on an EV, its slight buffeting could drive the car’s owner nuts. Perhaps more importantly, EV range is hugely affected by drag. The Mercedes-Benz EQS may look ugly, but it’s so slippery that the wind doesn’t just view it as a six-figure Dodge Intrepid. It’s the most aerodynamic series production car on the market, which no doubt helps it achieve its rated range of 350 miles. With the electric future in mind, Honda has opened up a $124 million wind tunnel roughly 15 miles from their Marysville, Ohio complex.
So what can this wind tunnel do, and what will Honda use it for? Let’s start with the capabilities. This isn’t just some chamber in an existing complex, the tunnel stretches an eighth of a mile long and can accommodate five-belt and single-belt rolling roads. A five-belt rolling road setup lets a car’s wheels turn while mimicking the road under a moving car, while a single-belt rolling road setup only mimics the road under a moving car. Honda says that both of their rolling road setups are good for 193 mph, a pace best described as brisk. As for wind itself, that comes courtesy of a 5 Megawatt (6,705 hp) General Electric motor twirling enormous carbon fiber blades at 250 RPM. Instead of varying motor speed, air speed is manipulated via variable geometry nozzles. Peak wind speed? 190 mph. Nifty stuff.
Even niftier is Honda’s absolutely insane microphone array. How do up to 500 exterior mics and 54 in-car mics sound to you? Possibly a little excessive, but great cars are rarely made through good-enough measures. Of course, the wind tunnel also features a heat exchanger system for hot weather and cold weather testing, good stuff for keeping projects away from the public eye. Let’s answer the second question: what will Honda use this wind tunnel for? In addition to proximity to Honda’s Marysville assembly complex for production car testing, there are a litany of reasons for Honda to build its new wind tunnel in the midwest. For starters, Honda didn’t previously have a wind tunnel in North America, they’d have to rent tunnel time. Not only was this an expensive pain for North American product development, it was also annoying for Honda’s racing programs. What, you didn’t think Honda would run race cars in its new wind tunnel? According to Automotive News, Honda also plans to rent out this wind tunnel to researchers and universities, going so far as to build four secure bays for hire. Good on you, Honda.
You Spin Me Right Round
The on-again off-again Mazda MX-30 PHEV rotary-engined (the rotary would act as a range extender for the electric motor) subcompact crossover is claimed to still be on again, although its on-sale window just got wider. According to Automotive News, a Mazda spokesperson has stated that the rotary-engined MX-30 PHEV will arrive this fiscal year rather than this calendar year. As Mazda’s fiscal year ends on March 31, there’s chance that the rotary-engined MX-30 PHEV won’t arrive until the first quarter of 2023. Not exactly great news, yet not unprecedented either.
Remember the promised US-market Mazda 6 diesel? Back in 2012, Mazda said that America would get a diesel-powered version of the Mazda 6 midsize sedan in 2013. In 2013, Mazda delayed it to late spring 2014 due to emissions certification issues. Well, 2014 rolled around and Mazda placed an indefinite delay on the US-market diesel 6 because it didn’t meet internal performance requirements in US emissions-friendly, particulate filter-only tune. In the end, we only got Mazda’s diesel engine in the 2019 CX-5 compact crossover, ensuring unicorn status stateside. Hopefully the rotary-engined MX-30 PHEV doesn’t meet a similar fate of delays. Given the MX-30’s short 100-mile range, the availability of a rotary engine generator for long-distance travel does sound quite nice.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Friday everyone, we made it! Spring is in the air which means it’s time for spring cleaning. I’d love to ask, what are your garage time plans this weekend? I’m throwing a coat of Collinite No. 845 wax on my 325i, polishing the exhaust tips and touching up some paint chips. Apparently you can heat up Collinite No. 845 and use it as a spray wax which should be heaps easier than applying it as a paste.
Lead photo credit: GM