Micro-mobility, the cost of alt-fuels, cheaper CFRP and electric trains

July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Buzzword(s) of the moment: micro-mobility. That’s one-to-three-wheelers for short-distance commuting and urban usage, and over 150 such ‘solutions’ will be sold by major car-makers by 2020, says analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, which also pinpoints ‘first/last mile connectivity’ (i.e. getting to or from a train station, park-and-ride or finishing off a car journey by other means) as another application. “Strong participation by global mainstream OEMs will give a lift to the genre”, it says, triggered by “growing urbanisation and changing mobility trends.”

F&S citesĀ  products such as the Renault Twizy EV (pictured), General Motors EN-V single-seater, Honda EV-Neo e-scooter and Volkswagen Bik.e folding e-bike as well as existing categories of car such as neighbourhood electric vehicles (NEVs), quadricycles, sub-A-Class vehicles and ‘kei’-class mini-cars. It points out that the car-makers are catching on to “newer business models” such as mobility management schemes or car-shares which they can provide in tandem with their mainstream operations or through third-party agencies, as well as integrating personal mobility products with their conventional cars, i.e. Volkswagen’s plans to offer buyers a Bik.e installed in a vehicle’s boot where a spare wheel would previously have been fitted.

It warns, however, that there could be a lack of awareness and high pricing, and progress in this sector could also be hampered by a lack of suitable EV charging infrastructure. Full release here.

  • The US Department of Energy has launched a comprehensive database for costing out and estimating performance of electric and alt-fuel vehicles. It’s aimed at companies, policy makers, academics and consumers, and can be used for benchmarking and informing research & development, reports Green Car Congress. This open-source wiki is called the Transparent Cost Database (TCDB); check it out here (warning: some knowledge of how to interpret datasets will be necessary).
  • A co-0perating initiative of 72 companies, research institutes, organisations and educational establishments in the Munich-Augsberg-Ingolstadt area has been formed with the intention to get carbonfibre-reinforced plastics ready for mass-production. CFRP is crucial for lightweighting cars and planes; it does not rust, it weighs about 60% less than steel and 30% less than aluminium, promising fuel savings of 0.3-0.6litres per 100 kilometre and 7-12g/km of carbon dioxide per 100kg weight loss in a car, but is expensive and labour-intensive to make. The project aims to reduce the manufacturing costs by 90% over the next five years; it is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry or Education and Research which has contributed 40million euros, a sum matched by industry with contributing partners including Audi and BMW. The project group, Functional Lightweight Design FIL, is expected to develop into an independent member of the Frauenhofer Institutes, a partner organisation. Full release on the project here.
  • Question of the week, not entirely unrelated to all the above: are the recently-announced electric trains as good news as they sound? Handy primer (with lots of links to source data) from the Guardian today. Good comments, too.
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