Wednesday newsbriefs

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mazda is to embark upon a programme to give a targeted average 30% cut in fuel consumption of its vehicles by 2015. The Skyactiv programme involves lighter-weight construction, high-compression direct-injection petrol engines (promising 15% fuel economy and torque improvements), lower-compression clean-burning diesels (20%), new manual and auto gearboxes and lighter bodyshells (pictured) and chassis structures. Regenerative braking and hybrid systems will follow.

    • The next Mercedes B-Class – and related models including the A-Class and a new Audi A3 rival – will be on a patented front-wheel drive architecture capable of supporting fuel cells, battery packs or CNG tanks (Autocar).
    • BMW is to collaborate with PSA Peugeot-Citroen on hybrid tech for small front-wheel drive vehicles (Autocar).
    • Porsche is planning a hybrid in each model-line, with the low-volume 918 Spyder Hybrid to serve as a technology testbed. The Panamera, meanwhile, will get the Cayenne Hybrid’s powertrain next year (Autoweek).
    • Ford is to roll out its all-electric Focus (100-mile range) in the States from next year; details of the schedule at Detroit News.
    • Mitsubishi is testing a prototype light commercial EV in Japan in partnership with home-delivery firm Yamato Transport. This Minicab-based vehicle is a separate project from the van tie-up with PSA Peugeot-Citroen.
    • The Daimler Car2Go car-sharing scheme, trialled in Ulm, is to launch next spring in Hamburg. 300 Smart Fortwos will be equipped with dedicated telematics systems and solar roofs, and will be available on demand either by reservation or on the spot¬† for pick-up and drop-off within a 25-mile wide zone.
    • ECOtality is to install 960 EV charging points, including 40 fast-chargers in the Phoenix metro area, Arizona.
    • Questions are being raised (and quite rightly so) about the crash safety of the Reva G-Wiz, and indeed, other quadricycle-type microcars exempt from the usual EU crash-testing programmes, following a fatal crash in London last week. More at the Independent.
    • And finally: just to remind y’all that electric cars have been around since the proverbial dawn of motoring, a link to a story on the Lohner-Porsche (1900; 36mph; a three-hour operating range).

    Monday matters

    October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

    AVID Vehicles of Cramlington, Northumberland has developed an electric utility vehicle. The E-Warrior has a 250kg payload and a 40-mile range, and is said to be suitable for agricultural work, estate management and off-road duties such as landscaping, park ranger-ing or even military/security applications. It has dual DC motors on each axle, and whilst it can only do 25mph, it has a towing capacity of 500kg. Prices start from £9,750. AVID is also marketing a small electric car/van it calls Cue-V.

    • Hyundai is to lease 2000 fuel cell vehicles between 2012-2014. These trial demonstrators will be based on a mid- to large-sized SUV, and will be available in different countries; around 400 will go to the USA. Hyundai has also confirmed that it is working on a plug-in version of its new Sonata hybrid.
    • A Polish firm has unveiled an EV which could go on sale for just 6000-7000 euros. Romet’s 4E (Electric, Economic, Ecological, Easy) is only a tiny two-seater capable of less than 30mph, but it does have a 100-mile range (Green Car Congress).
    • AVL is showing a concept vehicle at the Expo Shanghai 2010. It’s an open-bodied commuter/tourist bus, rather than a ‘proper’ car, but it previews an electric powertrain with fuel cell range-extender, which could have further applications (Green Car Congress).
    • DIY EV of the day: the BMW bi-motor. A converted 1986 BMW 323i, its pair of motors put out the equivalent of 500bhp, making it a Tesla-beating drag racer. Video at Autoblog Green, from a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin forum called DIY Electric Car.

    James Bond’s next car?

    October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Concept of the day: the Halo Intersceptor, an electric vehicle for air, land and water. Add different modules, and it switches from car to helicopter to hovercraft, all based around a central control unit and using hydrostatic turbines for propulsion. A James Bond car for the 21st century: love it. More at the website of its creator, Phil Pauley; cheers to Inhabitat.com for bringing this to my notice.

    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.

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