The helpful Hummer

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Introducing another Angel Car: Swiss energy storage firm Nation-E has already shown off a concept for rescuing stranded electric vehicles and boosting their batteries, and now it’s electrified a Hummer H1. The AngelH1 is conceived as a mobile service unit to generate electricity in off-grid situations – construction sites, festivals or work in the mining industry, for example – and emergency situations, whether black-out scenarios or after natural disasters. It has a 60kW battery which can power emergency units, and with the usual Hummer off-road ability, it can access remote or cut-off places. The AngelH1 will be on display at the E-Car-Tec exhibition in Munich next week.

LA Auto Show preview: Wheego LiFe

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

A city car for the Californians: Wheego, which has previously only offered very slow and limited local-use EVs, is to launch its “full-speed” car in Los Angeles next month. The LiFE has a 100-mile range and will be kitted out with front airbags and ABS brakes, though air conditioning’s an expensive option. It’s priced at an eye-watering $32,995, but Wheego points out that it qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500 plus a Californian state credit of $5,000, which makes it look more feasible. It’s only a two-seater, but has “plenty of room for your groceries and gear.”

Brief bits & pieces

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Maruti Suzuki has provided 10 SX4 Hybrids and four Eeco Charge EVs for use by officials at the Commonwealth Games in India. The Eeco Charge has a 50kW motor and lithium-ion battery, giving a range of 61 miles and just over 60mph; it’s based on the Eeco MPV sold in India with a 1196cc petrol engine. The SX4 Hybrid combines a 1.2-litre petrol engine, 50kW motor and an automated manual gearbox to give a 25% fuel saving, and has a short all-electric range.
  • Fast-charging points for EVs will be installed at 45 BP and Arco service stations in key areas of the USA from next spring. The ECOtality Blink 480-volt chargers can juice up batteries fully in just 15-30 minutes, depending on the vehicle: this is the tech “that will ultimately un-tether people from their garages with electric cars”, says ECOtality’s CEO. They’ll be fitted first in Portland, Eugene, Salem and Corvallis (Oregon); Seattle; Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga (Tennessee); Phoenix and Tucson (Arizona) plus San Diego and Los Angeles.
  • Coulomb Technologies and Aker Wade Power Technologies have also launched a 480-volt fast-charger, the fully-networked CT3000. The first one’s going into Magna ECAR’s facility in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
  • Rumour of the day: Lexus is to replace the SC 430 cabrio with a hybrid drop-top, reports Motor Trend. This’ll get a version of the LS 600h’s powertrain (500bhp), good for 0-60 in less than five seconds, plus all-wheel drive and a metal folding roof. Suggested name is LC 600h, debut’s said to be slated for 2015, to follow an update to the LS 600h saloon.
  • More infrastructure: 5,300 ChargePoint charging stations are to be installed in Michigan, with new ones in key locations in downtown Detroit – including out front at GM’s global HQ – this month. And the state of Massachussetts is putting in 100, inviting local authorities and organisations to apply to get one.
  • Yet more infrastructure: Renault-Nissan is working with French retail giant E.Leclerc to put 500 EV charging points at its centres by 2015.

MIT gets smart in the city

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

The CityCar project underway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing an EV smarter than a Smart: it’s smaller and lighter than a ForTwo, and its in-wheel motors enable individual control of each wheel and even a complete spinning-around on its own axis. It can thus get into tiny parking spaces, needing minimal room to manoeuvre. The MIT team is also investigating drive-on parking-space charging pads which would work rather like chargers for electric toothbrushes and suchlike. More at the MIT website; thanks to Autoblog Green for finding this one.

In other news

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Mercedes is to run a test lease programme for the B-Class F-Cell fuel cell car in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where there are a number of hydrogen suppliers. Up to 100 cars will participate, and the first will go out to early-adopters later this year (Edmunds Green Car Advisor).
  • Enterprise is to add 100 CODA electric saloons to its rental fleets in California. Good news for the CODA start-up, which has just begun production though is yet to deliver to customers.
  • Norwegian EV-maker Think is preparing  its US launch in December and has just marked production of its 2500th City EV. It’s to open a final-assembly facility in Elkhart, Indiana, which will slot in US-sourced componetry including new lithium-ion battery packs. Production for Europe will continue at the Valmet facility in Finland.

Chevy Volt: driven by petrol power, part-time

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Much controversy over the latest Chevy Volt revelations: turns out it isn’t wholly electrically-driven after all. Whilst the claims that “GM lied” (as many bloggers are blustering) are understandable, it’s not a total whitewash, however: the range-extender engine, which acts as a generator producing electrical energy most of the time, supplements the motors’ power during high-speed cruising over 70mph, or when under heavy load (i.e. on steep uphill inclines). It’s still not directly linked to the drive system, however, and as such, the Volt can still be described as an “extended-range EV” rather than a hybrid. GM says that this arrangement – kept quiet until now until the patents were in place – gives a 10-15% fuel economy improvement and allows for a few extra miles of range in electric-only mode. More at Autocar, which has a fairly sensible take on the situation; official response from GM here.

Prius family planning

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Two new variants of the Prius coming up, say reports, one a little bigger and one a bit smaller. The  bigger one’s a seven-seater MPV-estate (Prius Verso?) and the smaller one nearer the size of the Yaris supermini.  The MPV will be about 300mm longer with a higher rear roofline, and will get new lithium-ion batteries. Neither model’s Europe-bound, however, at least as yet. Toyota has issued a teaser image of  a billboard poster showing the MPV behind the current Prius hatchback.

Gordon getting on-iStream

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Gordon Murray is near to licensing his T.25 city car for production, reports Edmunds Inside Line.  A ‘major car-maker’ is said to be interested, as well as a large – non-automotive – retailer, and Murray’s firm, Gordon Murray Design, is working with two car companies, including one major European manufacturer, on deals involving his iStream manufacturing concept.

The T.25 itself is a three-seat, ultra-lightweight city car with a three-cylinder, 660cc Mitsubishi engine and composite body panels. Murray is developing an-electric version,T.27, in collaboration with Zytek, and this will be revealed next year. The iStream process, meanwhile, entails the construction of different car body-types on a universal chassis – body-on-frame structures – and is said to save about 80% of production investment costs, 20% of necessary factory space, and 20% of vehicle weight.

Further news for the day:

  • Australia switches on to EV use: a five-year trial involving 60 vehicles from a number of manufacturers, 180 citizens and 50 companies is to start in the state of Victoria. It’s backed by the state administration to the tune of AUS$5million.
  • Parisian mayor Bertrand Delanoe has confirmed that the Autolib EV-hire scheme will start next year. The vehicular equivalent to the Velib bike-borrowing programme (which inspired London’s ‘Boris bikes’), it will involve membership (15 euros a month) plus a five-euro per half-hour usage charge. Cars can be picked up and parked at 700 different locations across Paris, all with guaranteed parking – in itself, a very powerful incentive to join.

All-electric Formula: coming soon

October 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

French organisation Formulec is starting a series of promotional events to raise interest in an all-electric Formula race series, to start in 2012. The F3-like EF01 single-seater has been testing at French tracks, recording top speeds of over 250kph and 0-100kph in three seconds; it will have a racing range of up to 25 minutes, depending on the track, and a ‘push to pass’ function for overtaking. It has a two-speed gearbox and twin Siemens motors, and Saft-supplied lithium-ion batteries.

Developed with help from the Mercedes Petronas F1 team, the EF01 was designed by the team  behind the Furtive e-GT and Andros ice-racers, with technical co-ordination by Segula Matra. Formulec envisages an initial one-make series, with other constructors joining the championships once regulations have been agreed.

Midweek matters

October 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Engineering consultancy Ricardo and energy systems supplier Axeon are teaming up to develop a battery system for “a pioneering plug-in hybrid vehicle.”No details yet on the car itself, but it “will transform thinking about hybrid cars in every area, especially performance”, according to an Axeon spokesman.
  • Avis has ordered 500 electric vehicles for its rental fleets in France, Spain, Portugal, the UK, Germany, Italy and Belgium.The Renault Fluence and Kangoo Express EVs will be available to hire next year.
  • UPS has ordered 130 hybrid trucks for its delivery service, and will put these to work in New York, New Jersey and California. It reckons these trucks, built by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) using an Eaton drive system, will save it over 66,000 gallons of fuel a year.

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