Tuesday: the week starts here

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Citroen is to launch its DS4 small family car at the Paris Motor Show. Besides three petrol engines co-developed with BMW, it’ll be offered with two HDI diesels (110bhp and 160bhp). The lower-powered model will come with the e-HDI micro-hybrid option, which comprises stop-start, an alternator-generator with brake energy recovery, and the EGS (electronic gearbox system) transmission with efficiency-optimised gearshifts.

  • Volvo has announced two new petrol engines. The GTDI – Gasoline Turbocharged Direct Injection – four-cylinder, 1.6-litre units will come in 150PS and 180 PS forms, badged T3 and T4 respectively, and will be offered in the S60 and V60 later this year. Manual-transmission versions come with stop-start, and versions with the optional Powershift dual-clutch transmission have automatic gear disengagement when cruising.
  • The RAC is organising a showcase for green vehicles called the Brighton to London Future Car Challenge – to happen the day before the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run. Participants will rally from Brighton’s Madeira Drive to Regent Street on Saturday 6th November and will be displayed alongside the veterans which will then run to the coast on the Sunday.  Cars, vans and motorcycles are expected to take part, all aiming to use the least energy along the route; pre-production and prototype vehicles are expected to enter, and those already confirmed include a Tesla Roadster Sport, a Tata Indica Vista, a Murray T25 and a Delta E-4 Coupe, reports Autocar.

Friday round-up

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Latest on the Zero Carbonista/Ecotricity ‘wind car’, the Nemesis: it’s been for track-testing at Bruntingthorpe, its motor shut-down safety has been trialled, and it did a standing quarter-mile in a very respectable 12.71 seconds. Top speed recorded so far is 134.5mph so far, and the team think they can get it faster yet.  The car’s a Lotus-derived (but substantially re-worked) personal project by the founder of Ecotricity, supplier of wind-generated electricity. It’s not a production contender, but it looks like a blast – and an instructive learning experience for EV-builders. Full story and video at Zerocarbonista.com .

  • Lots of EV news Stateside. An 18-month trial of Local Use Vehicles (LUVs) has started in Los Angeles County with six runarounds on test in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and South Redondo Beach. More far-reaching: Ford has announced partnerships with Portland General Electric and city authorities in Seattle in anticipation of the lanch of the Transit Connect and Focus EVs. Meanwhile, Better Place is extending its battery-swap taxi trials in Tokyo till the end of the year.
  • A new phrase: supercritical fluid injection. Gives the potential for 30% fuel savings in petrol engines, says a Californian company called Transonic Combustion: the fuel is heated and catalysed, allowing for diesel-style compression ignition and very lean fuel-air mixtures. Works with diesel, ethanol and butanol, too, and negates the need for expensive exhaust aftertreatments, they say. Full low-down (and plenty of sceptical comments) at Autoblog Green.
  • Toyota is supplying ten fuel cell cars – the FCHV-advs, latest iterations of its Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle prototype –  to SunHydro of Connecticut. The firm is working on a hydrogen refuelling structure for the US East Coast, including a ‘hydrogen highway’ network from Maine to Florida. Its first refuelling point, will be in Wallingford, Conn., near its HQ.
  • DIY EV story of the day #2: students from the University of British Columbia are driving across Canada in a converted 1972 Beetle. Long distances, difficult terrain, and very little infrastructure; they’re aiming to set a record for the fastest coast-to-coast in an electric vehicle. More at Wired.

Proton EMAS: latest picture, Lotus badge

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Proton has released a new picture of its near-production EMAS concepts – and suggested that there’ll be an upmarket Lotus-badged version. The mainstream EMAS (‘gold’, in Malay, or an acronym for Eco Mobility Advance Solution) is a five-door hatch in the vein of the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107/Citroen C1, the Lotus model a sportier three-door. No word yet on powertrains for these vehicles, but suggestions include a hybrid with small range-extender engine (the Lotus Omnivore unit, as in the original concepts), a 1.2-litre petrol engine with turbocharger, or an all-electric layout (Paul Tan).

Hybrid school buses hit the road

August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

In Europe we’re waiting for the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 as our first series-production diesel-electric hybrid, but diesel-electric powertrains have been around for a while elsewhere – including inside the classic American yellow school bus.

The largest-yet fleets of hybrid school buses, with plug-in battery power supplementation, are to begin operation in Wisconsin next week. Built by IC Bus LLC, they have lithium-ion batteries and will be charged using solar-generated electricity. Eleven buses will be operated by Oconomowoc Transport Co and thirteen by Riteway Bus of Germantown. They return 12mpg (US), which might not sound much, but it’s an improvement on the standard-issue 7mpg, and they can run in all-electric mode at up to 27mph, giving emissions benefits when stop-starting in residential areas. Full story at the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Down on the farm with a fuel cell tractor

August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

My first driving experiences involved a tractor (which perhaps explains a lot about my technique). Tractors are great fun. As well as being rather useful in the agricultural world, obviously. Anyway: forget red diesel, these days tractors are getting greener. This is the New Holland NH2 prototype, complete with a 106bhp fuel cell: it drinks hydrogen, emits only heat and water, operates almost silently and  can do all the work of the T6000 it’s based on.

New Holland points out that “farmers are in a unique position to benefit from hydrogen technology. They have the space to install alternative electricity generation systems, such as solar, wind, biomass or waste, and then store that power as hydrogen. Apart from the environmental benefits, such a system would allow farmers to become energy independent and improve their financial stability.”  Why convert to hydrogen and not just use electricity? Longer working times, no need for lengthy charging, greater efficiency, says NH. More, including video of the NH2 in action and an outline of the ‘energy independent farm concept’, at the New Holland website. It’ll apear in public for the first time at the 2010 Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, reports Green Car Congress.

Electric motorbike tech takes to four wheels

August 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

An electric-drive system developed for motorbike racing is being developed for application in cars. Remy International is teaming up with design/engineering consultancy MotoCzysz to build a complete powertrain solution using Remy’s high-voltage ‘hairpin’ (HVH) internal permanent magnet motor and MotoCyzysz’s cooling systems and integration tech.

They’re calling the system Digital Drive; as it was originally developed to slot onto a motorbike frame, it’s compact and lightweight – and it packs a punch. All the high-voltage components are housed within a single unit, mounted between the two driven wheels, and 250lb ft of torque is promised from the first product. A smaller unit will follow, but also versions stronger yet.
Production starts next summer.

Remy International, based in Pendleton, Indiana, supplies electric motors to clients including Aptera and Mercedes-Benz (for the ML450 Hybrid). MotoCzysz, a small family firm from Portland, Oregon, builds and races electric motorbikes; more on its track exploits at Club MotoAmerica, but trophies won by its E1pc bike (pictured) this year include the Isle of Man TT zero (for electric bikes and the e-Power Red Bull MotoGP at Laguna Seca. Interestingly, the company is also working with the Indian company Bajaj on “a bold solution for a next-generation electric car”.

Automated manual transmissions back on the agenda

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

This month I have mostly been talking transmissions with senior driveline engineers at some of the world’s most-respected supplier firms. Some interesting trends are emerging in the gearbox world; full report’s to go in Transmission Technology International magazine, but here’s a brief summary.

  • There’s great potential to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by focusing on improving gearboxes, and to make larger step-changes at lower cost than for engine enhancements, said the guy from BorgWarner.
  • Dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs) such as Volkswagen’s DSG, Porsche’s PDK and Ford’s Powershift have been well-acclaimed globally, but sales haven’t yet matched up to forecasts (according to Ricardo) and take-up will be hampered by price. DCT’s good from an efficiency point of view as well as for driver enjoyment, but it’s complex and expensive (though there are ways to simplify its architecture, under study).
  • Old-school torque-converter autos are still evolving: the latest eight-speeders (as fitted by BMW, Lexus) have shown that you can improve economy – and consumer appeal – by adding ratios. But this brings diminishing returns. The Japanese in particular still like CVT, and it’s well-suited for urban driving. Don’t write off either, just yet.
  • Manual gearboxes? Still to be a majority in Europe for another decade or so, but there’s not much investment going on into development of all-new products.
  • Most pundits wrote off automated manuals (no clutch pedal, usually self-shift with fully-auto mode) when DCT came along: too jerky, neither one thing nor another, some horrid examples (i.e. that of Smart Fortwo), lack of consumer interest (remember the BMW SMG?). But suppliers are looking at them again with renewed interest – intially as low-cost automation solutions for developing markets (Far East, India, South America etc.) but increasingly as an option for Europe once more.
  • AMT is a. cheap to develop and build, and b. potentially very efficient. It works particularly well with stop-start systems (says the guy from Getrag), is well-suited to hybrids (there’s an AMT in the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4) and even EVs (the Zeroshift multi-speed transmission for electric cars is a variant on the theme), and engineers like it ‘cos the ideal shift-points can be designed in (said the engineering chief from Prodrive). Good for economy, and good for meeting all those pesky legislative requirements on emissions. Both electronic and electrohydraulic systems are under development; further into the future dry-clutch structures are possible which are even more efficient.
  • But will buyers like it? New-generation control software and systems integration tech smooths out the gearshifts; systems such as F1-style KERS (kinetic energy recovery) can be easily built in to further improve economy and act as a torque in-fill to ease the jerks in power delivery.
  • No-one wants to call precisely which way the gearbox market is going – and certainly, they’re all still pushing DCT. But cost and fuel-efficiency are clearly defining factors behind development right now.

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