October 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Some more news from the Visio.M project: the finished research car (developed from the MUTE, a concept from Technical University Munich) is to be showcased at the eCarTec event in Munich. Exploring technologies for lightweighting and cost-cutting in an affordable EV, the prototype weighs just 450kg (minus battery), is aerodynamically-optimised and features all-round camera monitoring, torque-vectoring, polycarbonate windows, a CFRP passenger cell, low-energy air conditioning/heating and cloud connectivity for entertainment, route optimisation and suchlike. It has a 99-mile range, a 15kW motor delivering up to 75mph, and can be recharged in three to four hours from a 230V connection; it’s only a two-seater, however. Lowdown at Green Car Congress. As is evident in the car’s styling (scaled-down i3-meets-old-Compact? ), BMW was the lead partner in this project.
- You’ve heard of iDrive – now how ’bout pieDrive? Not some kind of pastry-based award system for eco-driving (how good would that be?) but a pointer-based touchscreen operating interface with a projected pie chart-like display, developed at TU Darmstadt. More here.
- Interesting: @DrGregMarsden, tweeting from the Sustainable Transport 2014 conference, reports: “BMW data suggests that households buy EVs as a second car. Within 3 weeks it is used as the first car.” NB: Main sponsor of the event = BMW. Anyway, apparently presentations from the day are to be uploaded to the website shortly.
- Daimler has sold off its remaining 4% stake in Tesla, but Tesla will continue to supply the powertrain for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. Full statement here.
- Six hydrogen-fuelled Hyundai ix35s have joined fleets in the government-backed London Hydrogen Network Expansion (LHNE) project. More here.
October 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
Here’s a good little business model: solar-powered electric trikes for ‘last-mile’ deliveries of (locally-produced) food to restaurants and cafes. Foodlogica has a shipping container at base for storage of the trikes (made by German firm Radkutsche), kitted out with solar panels for recharging; the trikes have a cargo box good for 300kg. It’s said to be a replicable, up-scalable system and is a commercial spin-off from the Netherlands’ CITIES Foundation Farming The City project, which has been exploring and promoting sustainable and local food consumption, production, transportation and processing. (via Treehugger).
- BYD is supplying 34 e6 taxis to Brussels, its biggest order so far; the cars’ 190-mile range, as well as their size and comfort, won the tender, reports Automotive News Europe. Oh, and there’s a fleet of 167 (!) Tesla Model S taxis at Amsterdam Schipol airport now, reports EV Fleet World.
- The future according to Mercedes-Benz: all vehicles electrified, to different degrees from mild hybrids with starter-generators to PHEVs (10 in the M-B range by 2017) and battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles. The cost of batteries will be halved and energy density doubled by 2020, thinks R&D chief Thomas Weber, with the range of the B-Class e-drive up to 185 or even 250 miles. M-B is also anticipating lithium-sulphur and then perhaps lithium-air batteries. More at Autocar. (And Kia’s said to be launching plug-in hybrid versions of the K5/Optima and Sonata next year, btw).
- Less excitingly – of minority interest, really, beyond some EV awareness-raising among petrolheads – an Italian start-up has created (yet another) low-volume electric supercar. The Tecnicar Lavinia will be launched at next year’s Top Marques show in Monaco, reports Inhabitat.
- Nissan is testing a demand response system integrated with its Leaf To Home tech at dealerships in Japan; this will analyse grid-balancing and the potential for incentives to encourage businesses (or individuals) to use their vehicles as energy storage and for energy supply at times of peak demand. More here.
- Siemens has developed an integrated motor-inverter drive system which saves up to seven litres of space as well as weight and production costs; this has a single housing and an innovative water-cooling system, reports Green Car Congress.
- Titanium dioxide nanotubes at a battery anode could bring charging time down to two minutes for a 70% charge, and give battery life up to 20 years, according to research from Nanyang Technical University (NTU Singapore). Professor Chen Xiaodong says: “With our nanotechnology, electric cars would be able to increase their range dramatically with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars”. The technology is being licensed, and Prof Chen’s team is looking for funding to build a larger-scale proof-of-concept battery.
- Some feedback from a real-life driver which backs up some of my (research-related) suspicions: driving an EV has made her a more energy-efficient (and safer) driver, says ThereseWD, who uses her dash display to monitor her range and how driving quickly depletes it…
- And the sharing economy: a group of British Tesla owners have started a non-profit plug-sharing scheme called TesLowJuice, reports Auto Express. 66 people with 50 home or workplace chargers have signed up so far via and they’re planning to roll it out across Europe and the US. OK, this is very much a People Like Us sort of club (posh plug-surfing) but shows the power of collaboration and role of community in EV adoption…
October 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
BYD has unveiled a 60-foot articulated battery-electric bus, the California-built Lancaster, said to have a range of 170-odd miles with 120 passengers on board, and to charge in 2-4 hours. This – claimed as the world’s largest battery-electric vehicle to date – features BYD’s iron-phosphate batteries. Also on display at the American Public Transportation Association Expo in Houston was BYD’s 40-foot Transit electric bus – which was driven 1500 miles from Los Angeles using $200-worth of electricity. More here. And on a similarly 60-foot note, New Flyer Industries is working on an electric/hydrogen fuel cell hybrid bus in partnership with Ballard Systems; this is to go on a 22-month trial in Connecticut. New Flyer also has a 40-foot all-electric bus compatible with overhead pantograph charging, reports Green Car Congress. And more e-bus news: four 12m Solaris electric buses charged via the Bombardier PRIMOVE induction system are to go on trial in Berlin next year, reports Green Car Congress.
- Detroit Electric – which says its SP:01 sports car, to be assembled in Leamington Spa, is due to go on sale next year – has teamed up with South Korea’s Integrated Energy on a V2X project. Integrated Energy is placing an order for 300 vehicles and will run a pilot project on Jeju Island in which second-life battery usage for energy storage will also be explored. Jeju Island is said to have the most comprehensive EV-charging infrastructure in South Korea and aims to be a zero-emissions car zone by 2020; the tech to be trialled is looking into vehicle-to-grid, vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. It’ll use Detroit Electric’s ‘360-Powerback’ system* enabling bi-directional charge and discharge. An MOU has been signed. Chairman and Group CEO Albert Lam (a former Group Lotus CEO) says: “It’s our bi-directional charge and discharge technology and Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system – ‘SAMI’ – that will revolutionize the way we use electric cars. Soon customers will be able to earn money from stored energy in their car’s battery, power their home or business, and even charge other EVs.” *NB: I suspect this is where Detroit Electric’s main business may be, not in making the cars (which we’re yet to see) themselves.
- The Visio.M project at TUM (Technical University Munich) has come up with an EV-optimised torque-vectoring system, using regenerated brake energy to enhance stability and handling as well as increase energy recovery – especially on curves. This features an additional spur differential and enables a reduction in gearbox weight of 10%; more details here.
- Los Angeles County is deploying 82 Schneider Electric EVlink charging points, available to the public and free (for up to four hours’ use) for the first year. Locations include hospitals, sheriff stations and LA’s Civic Center. And on a private note, Sony is putting in 60 chargers for its EV-driving employees in So-Cal, reports EV Fleet World.
- 50 electric/hydrogen hybrids – Renault Kangoo ZEs with added hydrogen-fuelled range-extender – are going on trial in Grenoble and Lyon, in an area with a hydrogen-industry cluster of businesses. The Hyway project also includes the opening of two hydrogen refuelling stations in these cities, and study of energy use across the hydrogen lifecycle. The converted Kangoo ZEs are said to have a 300km (city) range.
- Why have EVs taken off in Norway? Massive tax breaks, very cheap hydropower versus high petrol/diesel costs, perks such as toll exemption and bus lane use… More details in this piece.
- Those Millennials again… Research from US PIRG looking at their lower car-mileage, preferences for public transport/walking/cycling, urban-dwelling, later marriage and moving away from parents, smartphone-lovin’ and other trends, and their implication for transportation planning.
- Adding an oxidisation catalyst to the electrolyte doubles the cycle life of lithium-air batteries, according to a journal paper reported at Green Car Congress (click through for the science bit).
- Summary and overview of CityLab’s thoughtful Future Transportation series of articles here, btw.
- America’s Electric Power Research Institute and Sumitro Electronics are demo-ing an open-source software platform for vehicle-grid integration (VGI), said to be a step towards common standards in demand management and grid-balancing. More here. A trial, supported by Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda and Ford, will take place in Sacramento, California.
October 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Year-t0-date car sales in the UK: alt-fuel vehicles (mostly EVs, PHEVs and hybrids, though the number also includes a handful of CNG-fuelled vehicles) have reached nearly 38,000, over 50% up on this time last year and a 1.9% market share. ‘Pure’ EV sales are up 181% (4,500 YTD), PHEVs up 1101% (!) – not least due to the wider choice of models now available. Rundown here; table of figures here.
- EV use could bring greater benefits in the suburbs and countryside than in urban areas, according to a journal article from Cardiff Business School, which argues that the greatest eco-gains in terms of energy efficiency are seen under intense usage, higher mileages and higher speeds than in stop-start city traffic and on short-distance trips; rural/suburban users are also more likely to have somewhere to plug a car in for recharging. You could also make the point about congestion and parking/land use, too, to argue against EVs in the city (except for delivery and service vehicles, of course). A note’s made about the cost of EVs and transport poverty, however.
- But… shared electric vehicles are “the true superheroes of the city”, according to a report from the Frauenhofer Institutes. The GeMo project team is showing a prototype with eight tech innovations to make electric car-sharing easier; these include bi-directional induction charging (energy back to grid as well), cloud-based charging management, vehicle-to-vehicle communications across the fleet, cloud-based mobility services and apps for users (bookings, profiles, invoicing), plus wi-fi positioning and GPS to locate and track vehicles. “To make shared mobility a reality, we have to link vehicles, data and infrastructure. That was the core of our project,” says Florian Rothfuss, project leader at Fraunhofer IAO. “What we need are applicable information and communication solutions that are both very reliable and easy to use. However, everything depends on having a convenient charging infrastructure integrated within the city.”
- A review of travel demands in London from TfL: car travel is down 15% since 1999; tube travel is up 20%, National Rail use up 50% and bus use up 70% since 2000. It’s down to investment in public transport and declining road capacity (plus increased parking charges, the congestion charge etc), they say, also pointing to stagnation in incomes, falling driving licence-holding amongst younger people, and the finding that migrants are less likely to own cars as factors in reducing driving. Cycling has grown, too. The report pulls apart the different trends, looks at effects of policy and fare pricing, motoring costs and the effects of the recession, and concludes that though general theory on income and transport/modal choice still hold true, demand for car travel (and ownership) saturates at the level of £35-50K incomes despite overall demand for travel rising. The self-employed drive the most, apparently, and if population growth/density in Outer London continues, car travel could start to rise again even if more central residents are driving less. It’s not simple… But while the trends are, by and large, reasonably positive, a 15% fall in car travel is still pretty small, ain’t it?
- And on a London note, here’s a story… BluePoint London (the name given to Bollore’s upcoming EV-share operators) has found that a third of the Source London charging points are inoperable, with some unmaintained by their original installers and broken – the fall-out from the original borough-by-borough and privately run networks. And they don’t have the resources to sort it out, they told Transport Evolved.
- The UK Government’s putting £11million into establishing a 15-station hydrogen refuelling network by the end of 2015, and funding fuel cell vehicles for the public sector (£2million of that investment). £7.5mill of the 11 is from government, £3.5mill from industry; a further £2mill is for upgrading 6-8 existing refuelling stations and making them publicly accessible. The idea is to provide mobile stations as well as stand-alone sites and others integrated onto existing petrol forecourts.
- Denmark, meanwhile, is putting up 38million kroner to support EV take-up; the country’s been slower to e-mobility than others in the Scando/Nordic region, and is aiming for 1,400 m0re EVs on the road next year as well as a doubling of Copenhagen’s municipal fleet of EVs (to 250-odd). More here.
- New Ford Mondeo: the Hybrid version – Ford’s first made in Europe – features two e-motors, one for traction and the other for regeneratively-charging the lithium-ion battery, and can do up to 85mph in electric mode; its 2.0-litre petrol engine delivers 187hp with electric assist, and an average 67.3mpg/99g/km of CO2. There’s an interface called Smartgauge for eco-driving tips and help to monitor, manage and reduce fuel/energy consumption, plus electrically-driven air con and an exhaust gas heat recovery system. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi is to add plug-in hybrid versions of the next-generation ASX crossover (2017) and Pajero/Shogun (2018) to its line-up, reports Automotive News Europe, and Tesla’s adding a ‘D’ dual-motor all-wheel-drive version of the Model S – with advanced automated-driving and auto-parking tech – to its range (more here). Chrysler’s also to launch a PHEV Town & Country MPV (minivan), with crossover to follow; more here.
- Still, PHEVs – and fuel cell vehicles – are just a bridge to electromobility proper, thinks Volkswagen’s chief of powertrain development, and EV ranges are going to reach 500-600km by 2020: speech by Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser reported here.
- …which could make battery-swapping obsolete (not that it ever took off the the first place); but UC San Diego has a project called M-Beam, exploring the swapping of modules within a battery rather than the whole thing. Applications for static batteries, storage of renewables, portable generators, etc; more here, and release posted here.
- Detailed creative-writing exercise from NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management: Re-programming Mobility: The Digital Transformation of Transportation in the United States. This looks at the new digitally-enabled technologies and services which will have the most impact, including effects on land use and organisational change, and how transport planners should prepare; it considers four possible scenarios or ‘alternative futures’, growth (present system extended/expanded), collapse (deterioration/failing of system), constraint (a resource-limited reorganisation) and transformation (disruption, emergence of new technologies and patterns, innovation and growth). A narrative is then developed for each. Meant to inspire planners to develop a story to guide their work, I guess.
- Twin turbos not enough? Volvo’s developed a ‘triple boost’ technology with two parallel turbos fed by an electrically-powered turbo-compressor, and created a 450hp high-performance powertrain. The trick is that this output is from a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine: boosted power density, notable engine downsizing and vehicle light-weighting (hence lowered fuel consumption and emissions), plus compatibility with electrification further down the line, apparently.
October 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
Some handpicked snippets from the Paris Motor Show and a few other random bits ‘n’ pieces to follow… A show concept to catch my eye – Volkswagen XL Sport, featuring the Ducati Superleggera ‘twin’ V2 engine (200hp). This sports coupe (pictured), good for 270kmph,0-62mph in 5.7seconds and revs up to 11,000rpm, is developed from the XL1 and just 500 will be made. OK, it’s not necessarily a planet-saver, and it’s not electrified – but an indicator that the next generation of sports cars need not be about brute power? There’s got to be some trickle-down tech from this in terms of lightweighting, materials and aerodynamics, too. (On a different note, we have the Lamborghini Asterion LPI910-4, a plug-in hybrid ‘technology demonstrator’ with three motors supplementing its 5.2 V10 and a 31-mile electric-only range. Which just leaves me slightly bemused). Similarly exclusive and even more exotic in its own way – the Venturi America EV, a two-seater, 400bhp beach buggy costing some £290,000 (yes, really). Just 25 of these will be made, perhaps for a handful of Monaco’s wealthy to nip between mansion and yacht. The Toyota CH-R concept - an Auris-derived hybrid sports crossover – looks a bit more useful in terms of a vehicle for the masses, however. Phew.
- Hyundai: its 48-volt i40 Hybrid shows the advent of ‘mild’ hybridisation in the passenger car market. Its belt-driven starter-generator system (in place of a conventional alternator) gives stop-start, a short low-speed and cruising electric-only mode, plus 1okW to boost engine power; CO2 emissions are down by up to 20% and power up 15% in combination with the 1.7-litre diesel engine to give a total 155hp/360Nm, but the cost of the system is said to be a quarter that of a full hybrid. Energy from regenerative braking and deceleration is stored in the lead-carbon battery pack, no external charging needed. Hyundai also showed a 1.4 T-GDI i30 CNG (with new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission), the ix35 and Intrado fuel cell vehicles, and its new three-cylinder 1.0 T-GDI petrol engine (in the latest i20).
- Here’s an interesting claim: that car-makers (and the Danish government) want transport to be included in the European emissions-trading system, because they think it’ll weaken or even lead to the abolition of fuel economy standards. Lowdown here…
- Catching up with some news from Flanders’ Drive: a two-and-a-half year wireless EV-charging trial with 9 companies and 2 universities concluded induction charging was safe, efficient and user-friendly. Static and dynamic charging of a passenger car (Volvo C30 Electric) and Van Hool buses – both fitted with the Bombardier PRIMOVE tech – were tested in Lommel. More detail here.
- Plug-in cars could create a new business model for the energy supply industry, reports The Economist (October 4th), which also notes research finding that 32% of plug-in drivers in the US (southern states) have rooftop solar panels.
- EVs now account for 0.5% of the French car market, and France is aiming for 7million charging points (including private and workplace!) by 2030, according to the latest report from ADEME, the country’s Agency for the Environment.
- Electrification in the camper van sector: a Derby converter is to show a sleep-in Nissan e-NV200 at an event at the NEC next week, reports the Birmingham Mail. It’s only got a 106-mile range, so it might be best-suited to staycations as yet, but an interesting point is made about the need for campsites/caravan parks to start including EV-charging in their electricity hook-up provision.
- Nice story at Wired about the Wrightspeed-converted FedEx trucks, whose electric powertrains are supplemented by a diesel turbine range-extender.
- 83% current owners of hybrid vehicles (1000 surveyed) plan to own another hybrid as their next car; a third of these are planning to buy a plug-in next time, and of those who aren’t planning to buy a hybrid, 3% are going to go for an all-EV instead, according to research by Sivak & Schoettle (UMTRI). And of 1000 non-hybrid owners questioned, 31% planned to buy a hybrid next time around, and more than half of those not thinking about hybrids would reconsider if prices came down. More here.
- Researchers at Ohio State University have come up with a solar-assisted non-aqueous lithium-air battery; the solar voltage mitigates against the formation of lithium peroxides on the electrode, a problem with Li-O2, and ‘overpotential’ inefficiencies. More, including academic citations, here.
- Gnewt Cargo is doubling its fleet of EVs and expanding across the UK, reports EV Fleet World: it is operating 55 Renault Kangoo ZEs and now doing 5000 deliveries a day under contract for myHermes.
September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
More trucking news: “Hybrid drives in commercial vehicles will be part of the drive concept of the future in all areas of application”, says Volkswagen-owned MAN, which has displayed a diesel-electric concept called TGX at the IAA (truck show), Hannover. This one has a parallel hybrid system for long-distance trips on diesel power (440hp), but with brake energy recuperation and battery storage to power a 130kW motor, which also acts as an alternator when coasting and braking. Total fuel and CO2 savings are around 8%. MAN has also made diesel-electric city buses, and also has a range-extended electric research prototype, the Metropolis, though it warns that engineering an all-electric range into hybrid heavy trucks is technologically complex, demanding big, heavy and expensive batteries.
- On a more mainstream note, a plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Passat, too: a useful all-electric range of 31 miles, a combined 141mpg, and UK sales from summer next year, reports Autocar.
- And on a very different note, Porsche is adding a plug to the Cayenne; the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is to make its debut at the Paris Motor Show later this week, joining the existing Panamera S E-Hybrid and 918 Spyder at the charging point. This delivers a combined 416hp and 0-60 in 5.4 seconds; no word yet on its all-electric range, however. Some interesting nuggets of info in the initial release: 9% of all Panameras sold worldwide Jan-August 2014 are E-Hybrids (1,513); the E-Hybrid accounted for 16% of Panameras sold in the US in August. Small numbers, to be sure, but this suggests that something is going on…
- The University of Delaware is running a pilot project with 23 on-campus EVs, selling electricity back to the grid at profit; more here.
- Eurotunnel is putting 18 EVs – mostly Renault Zoes – to work at its Coquelles site. More here. Kia’s putting in its own network of rapid-chargers at its offices and retailers across Europe, to be available to consumer-drivers of the Soul EV, reports EV Fleet World; and Norwegian discount store KIWI is putting in 50 rapid-chargers at its sites (more here).
- Plans in Madrid to restrict car use in four central districts – and to eventually make 25% of the city car-free – are reported at CityLab. Still some exemptions (residents with guaranteed parking spaces), the major through-routes, circular and arterial roads remain (so they’re not quite car-free zones, then; nose-to-tail traffic, as we see on the borderlines of the London congestion charge zone?), plus there’s the need for delivery vehicles, of course – so in tandem with an electromobility policy this might be something really effective in reducing the city’s air quality, noise and congestion problems…
- And a different approach to increasing EV range: integrating motor with air conditioning compressor, particularly effective in hot tropical climates, according to researchers at Nanyang Technical University and German Aerospace Centre. Their 2-in-1 design increases range by a claimed 15-20%, saving space to fit larger batteries and increasing system efficiency.
September 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
A vision of the van of the future from Iveco: a hybrid featuring the brand’s Dual Energy tech, which enables an all-electric range for urban use and short journeys with hybrid diesel-electric propulsion for longer/faster trips, said to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 25%. It’s an automatic power-switch system with real-time energy management. This latest Vision concept, unveiled at the IAA truck show in Hannover this week, also exhibits Iveco’s tech thinking in terms of sensor-controlled smart load management, a new driver interface with tablet, rear-view cameras and extensive glazed surfaces with see-through front pillars for improved visibility. It’s a van said to be “ideal for door-to-door delivery missions”. Commercial vehicles: a very important part of the electromobility transition, their cleaning-up being vital for the improvement of urban air quality.
- Free parking and the right to use bus lanes: the German cabinet has approved a range of measures to incentivise EV take-up. Plug-in hybrids with an all-electric range of 30km+ and emissions below 50g/km will also qualify, along with fuel cell vehicles. Germany’s aiming to get 1million EVs on the road by 2020, up from the current 21,000, reports Automotive News Europe.
- Austrian bike-maker KTM is launching its Freeride-E motocross bike – the first electric motorcycle from the mainstream manufacturers to reach series production (I believe). This features a 16kW/42Nm AC motor and a swap-out 2.6kWh battery said to give an hour of riding; a full recharge takes 80min but 80% 50min. Prices start from 10,995 euros.
- The national Eco2charge consortium in France has launched an R&D programme to develop smart microgrid systems for workplace/commercial EV charging, using second-life batteries in scalable, modular, localised networks. More here.
- Nissan’s extending its Choimobi Yokohama EV-share trial for another year; this uses the New Mobility Concept microcars (Nissan-flavoured Renault Twizys) and over 10,650 people joined in the first year. Data from the trial so far shows that average distance travelled around the city was 3km, average journey times 16 minutes; most users (70%) were in their 30s and 40s, and users were 80% male. In this next phase, co-operation with businesses, shopping centres and public transport hubs will be developed; two different pricing/payment plans introduced (including one aimed at tourists or occasional users); and the business model further developed. More here.
- Big report from the California Fuel Cell Partnership on lifecycle energy efficiency, taking into account fuel feedstocks for electricity generation and water consumption; EVs coming out ahead of FCEVs, though not doing as well on water use. CFCP is talking about portfolios of solutions, incidentally, not claiming fuel cells/hydrogen as the only answer. Full report here.
- Natural gas is most efficiently-used in generating electricity to power EVs, reports Oak Ridge National Laboratory after its latest well-to-wheels analysis. The results assume the US mix of gas (including shale) and electricity, the production method determining the impact. More details plus academic references here.
- Daimler is teaming up with Recargo to offer the PlugShare app (US) in the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. This will be integrated into the in-car e-Navigator app. More here.
- On the subject of the so-called sharing economy… if you’re not entirely convinced that this idea of collectively clubbing together is about altruism rather than sheer I-want-it-now convenience/economic advantage, and wondered if it was just another handy and socially-nice way to push new products and services, Dr Maurie Cohen (New Jersey Institute of Technology) has been pondering the matter. He’s been talking about “the absence of genuine sharing”, and, in the context of urban transportation, “the ersatz quality of most contemporary sharing activity ” and its “ineffectualness as a sustainability strategy”.
- Group Irizar (a Basque research consortium) has developed a lightweight all-electric urban bus called i2e. More here.