Midweek round-up

September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Opel is trialling three Meriva EVs in Karlsruhe, Germany, to study vehicle-to-grid communications and Level 3 (up to 400-volt) charging. This three-phase charging system can be set up to only charge the car from renewable-source electricity fed into the grid, or for an any-source feed which can charge the car within an hour. The Meriva EV prototypes themselves are good for 81mph but only have a 40-mile range; they’ve been built only to study the V2G network.
  • The main Mini story at the Paris Show will be the Vespa-alike electric scooter, but of more interest is the new entry-level diesel engine, now in the One D Clubman in which it returns 72.4mpg and 103g/km. The drop-top gets it too: the Cooper D Convertible does 70.6mpg and 105g/km.
  • Saab has inked an engine-supply deal with BMW: BMW’s to provide its turbocharged 1.6 to Saab. This is an engine-downsizing move for the 9-3 and perhaps even 9-5, and the engine will be supplied complete with BMW’s stop-start and brake energy regeneration tech. It could also feature in the upcoming 9-2 small car.
  • Rumour of the day: we’ve heard this before, but Motor Trend is reheating the whispers that a new-age Ford GT40 (oh yeah?) could be all-electric. Pigs, wings, etc., but you never know…

Paris preview: Exagon gets Furtive

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

French motorsport firm Exagon Engineering – maker of electric buggies for an ice-racing series – has announced a 2+2 range-extended coupe it calls the Furtive-eGT. Claimed to be a potential Tesla-beating sports car, its pair of Siemens motors develop 340bhp and take it 0-60 in 3.5 seconds; its small range-extending petrol engine allows for a total range of 800km (400km in all-electric mode, an extra 400km with the engine acting as a generator). Exagon says it could start production in 2012; the Furtive-eGT will be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show later this week.

  • Component-supplier Valeo is to showcase its latest tech in a concept EV at the Paris Show: battery management systems and drivetrain components will be highlighted, apparently, along with “realistic, high-performance solutions for mass production” of electric cars.  
  • An alliance of 70 companies and 17 universities and research centres has been formed to develop electric vehicles and technological innovation in the Italian auto industry, reports del Corriere della Sera. Participants include Pininfarina, Ferrari, Fiat, Brembo, Piaggio, Dallara, Electrolux, Indesit, the universities of Rome, Padua, Palermo and Naples, and the polytechnics of Milan and Turin; the aim is to “win leadership” for Italy in “a rapidly-growing sector”, says the paper.
  • Interesting research at the Argonne National Laboratory: putting petrol into a compression-ignition (diesel-type) engine. Reduces nitrous oxides emissions and particulates, gives super-precise ignition control and diesel-like fuel consumption, says an engineer in a post for Wired. All enabled by firing top-dead centre, as in the Scuderi engine.

Fuso truck gets E-Cell treatment

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mitsubishi Fuso – now part-owned by Daimler Trucks – has given its Canter workhorse the E-Cell treatment. Using the Daimler electric powertrain, the Canter E-Cell has a 120km range and a 3.5tonne gross vehicle weight. Its batteries are mounted in the chassis frame. It’s on display in concept form at the Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show, and production is likely; the Canter is already offered in hybrid form.

Paris preview: Kia Pop

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Kia has released more shots of its Pop concept car in advance of its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show later this week. Its butterfly doors probably won’t make production, but these aside, it looks like a neatly-styled little city car. Designed at Kia’s European studio under the guidance of Peter Schreyer, it’s an attractive proposal for an all-electric commuter vehicle. Chief designer Gregory Guillaume says: “Designers very rarely have the opportunity to start from a clean sheet of paper and it’s great to be in a position to operate with such freedom.” More details in Paris, presumably.

Paris preview: Skoda goes Greenline

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Skoda is launching new-generation Greenline models, now featuring brake energy recuperation and stop-start. Both the 1.6 TDI CR 105bhp (in the Octavia, Yeti and Superb) and the 1.2 TDI CR 75bhp (Roomster and Fabia) and have particulate filters, a supercharger and direct injection, and bring big reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption. The new Fabia Greenline returns 83.1mpg and emits 89g/km; the Roomster Greenline 67.3mpg and 109g/km; the Octavia hatch 74.3mpg and 99g/km; the Octavia estate 67.3mpg and 109g/km; the Yeti 61.4mpg and 119g/km; and the Superb 64.2mpg and 114g/km.

  • Volvo, meanwhile, has reduced the emissions of its S40 and V50 DRIVe models, which now also feature stop-start. These 1.6-litre models both now emit 99g/km and thus fit into the zero-rate road tax band; they will also be exempt from the London congestion charge, if changes to the scheme to exempt all vehicles emitting under 100g/km are implemented next year as planned. 

Starting the week

September 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

  • Nissan’s Infiniti brand is to make a compact, five-seater all-electric model, and has released a sketch (pictured). This will be launched in Europe and the US in 2013; it’s thought to share its platform and powertrain with the Nissan Leaf.
  • Fiat has axed its two-seater, two-cylinder Topolino, reports Autocar, and instead will focus on a new-generation, more accessible and mainstream, Seicento.
  • BMW is to start field trials of the ActiveE – a 1-Series Coupe-based EV – in the USA. Drivers in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Boston and areas of Connecticut will participate in a full shake-down of the technology, which will later feature in the Megacity. The ActiveE trials follow those of the Mini E in BMW’s Project i programme, and are an advance in that this car’s a four-seater with a 100-mile range.
  • Toyota has confirmed production of a new small hybrid – Yaris-based – in Valenciennes, France, from 2012. And it’s also to supply the hybrid powertrain for the Lotus Elite, reports Automotive News Europe.
  • Saab is to start making electric all-wheel-drive systems and components for electric/hybrid powertrains in Trollhatten from 1st October. It has formed a partnership with American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., named e-AAM Driveline Systems, and will supply components to other manufacturers as well.
  • Subaru has improved the efficiency of its famous flat-four ‘boxer’ engine by 10%. Revisions to the cylinder bore, lengthening of the piston stroke, a new active valve control system and intake port configuration, plus lighter pistons and con rods and a smaller oil pump have all contributed to the improvement; internal engine friction is down 30%. The engine will be built at Subaru’s new factory north of Tokyo, and will first feature in the US/Japanese-market Forester from this autumn.
  • Rumour of the day: Honda is preparing a successor to the S2000 – and it’ll be a hybrid based on the CR-Z’s underpinnings/powertrain, claims Road & Track.
  • Meet VIPER and TIGERS: the first stands for Vehicle Integrated Powertrain Energy Recovery, a project underway involving Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Imperial College, BP, University of London, IAV and Controlled Powertrain Technologies (CPT). CPT is to contribute TIGERS: Turbo-generator Integrated Gas Energy Recovery System, to help reduce heat energy losses in an exhaust system.
  • Heard the one about the road as smooth as glass? Glazed solar panels in road surfaces could provide all the power for an ‘intelligent highway’, reports Wired.com.

Thursday briefs #2

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • More about the Peugeot EX1 (pictured) at Autocar: features ed Matt Saunders is now convinced that high-performance  EVs can “go the distance”.
  • Opel (incl. Vauxhall) has announced that it will build an all-new city car, and that there’ll be an all-electric variant. This Ford Ka/Fiat 500 rival, currently codenamed Junior, will be built in Eisenach, Germany, from 2013.
  • Nissan’s Infiniti division is to launch the M35h hybrid at the Paris Motor Show next week. We’ve seen it already at Geneva, but the facts and figures are now out: its 306PS 3.5 V6 and 68PS motor combine for 0-100kph in 5.9 seconds, a top speed of 250kph and a return of 38.6mpg and 170g/km. It’ll do 80kph on electric power alone. European deliveries start spring 2011.
  • Honda America held a web conference this week to discuss “the future of the automobile”, reports the LA Times. Yes, the company’s hedging its bets – but we knew that anyway.
  • An airborne diversion: a University of Toronto PhD student has built a human-powered ‘ornithopter’ and flown it for 145m. Todd Reichert’s creation, made from balsa wood, carbon fibre and foam, weighs just 45kg and generates its own energy from pedal power and, uniquely, the pilot ‘flapping’ its wings. This glorified glider will probably never fly again, however. Video at the National Post; a more detailed story on human-powere flight at the Globe & Mail.
  • An interesting discussion of Tesla and its relationships with Daimler and Toyota, both shareholders, at Der Spiegel.

Get communal with Communicar

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Is it a car? Is it a train? Communicar is a bit of both. Meterbuilt of Los Angeles has come up with a concept for individual commuter vehicles which link together to form a fuel-saving chain. Not much info on it at the company’s website, but the slideshow’s quite fun. Found via inhabitat.com.

Paris Motor Show preview: Lotus Elite

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

KERS is coming to road cars – though it’ll be at the top end of the sports car market at first. Lotus is unveiling a 2+2 concept called Elite next week – recalling an earlier Lotus coupe – and whilst a rather un-environmentally-friendly 5.0 V8 is posited for the standard-issue version, planned for production in 2014, the interesting bit is the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery) option. This is said to bring down carbon dioxide emissions to 215g/km, still high, but low by V8 super-coupe standards.

Thursday newsbriefs, in brief

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

BMW has signed off  a version of the Vision EfficientDynamics concept (pictured) for production, reports Car magazine. Rumoured name is i100 ActiveHybrid. Production 2012; three-cylinder  1.5-litre diesel engine plus a pair of electric motors.

Chevrolet is launching a Cruze EV trial in South Korea. The Cruze EV has a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 103mph; Chevrolet (aka the former GM Daewoo, in Korea), is studying its performance and also the use of quick-charge systems. More at Auto Express.

  • Renault-Nissan has signed an agreement with the City of Amsterdam to encourage EV use. The City wants at least 1000 EVs on its streets by the end of 2011, and is offering free charging – and free parking at its charging posts till March 2012. Amsterdam has nearly 100 charging points at the moment and plans up to 2000 public facilities, including quick-charge points which come next year. Nissan, along with Mitsubishi, has also joined a project with Spanish utility firm Endesa SA to install a  network of quick-charging stations in Malaga and Catalonia, and this week it’s also announced a partnership with local authorities in Cordoba, Argentina, to accelerate EV use in the city, where it has a production facility.
  • Dutch sat nav-maker TomTom is launching a product for fleets called EcoPlus. This is a simple, affordable and easy-to-install device enabling fleet managers (and drivers) to analyse vehicle usage, fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, idling time and even gear-changes. It costs £129 excl. VAT. Eco-saviour or spy in the cab?
  • Santa Monica-based start-up Coda Automotive is promising first deliveries of its Chinese-built compact saloon in December. It will initially sell directly through factory-owned outlets in shopping malls in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with 17 sites to open by the end of next year, and sales of 14,000 cars are planned for this first year. Prices start from $44,900 but Californian and federal incentives and tax breaks bring it down as low as $32,400.
  • Kia is expected to unveil a hybrid version of the Optima saloon  at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. This’ll be closely related to the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid recently launched.
  • Better Place, purveyor of battery-swap systems and partner of Renault-Nissan, has done a deal with General Electric to cover financing and technology transfer. GE can link its chargers to the Better Place infrastructure and vice versa, whilst  Better Place will gain financing for its purchase of 10,000 battery packs for its first swap-stations in Denmark and Israel.
  • Toyota is to build an EV for China in partnership with Tianjin Auto, reports the Nikkei. The small hatch will be based on the Vios supermini but will be sold under a new brand-name and targeted to undercut its opposition.
  • BMW’s X3 SUV is no eco-saint, but it is to gain stop-start and a more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic gearbox option (Euro-market) with its six-cylinder engine. The updated-for-2011 X3 will be launched at the Paris Motor Show next week.
  • DIY EV of the week: the Probatron, built by James Killick of Basildon, Essex. Handily, he’s an engineer at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre.

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