News: Nissan e-NV200 launched, e-tricycles + last-mile solutions, + more

June 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

nissan env200Nissan’s launching its e-NV200 electric panel van in Europe this week. This has a 106-mile range and 76mph top speed, and is said to promise 40% lower servicing costs and 4x cheaper energy-refuelling than a comparable diesel van, as well as retaining the ICE version’s 770kg payload and 4.2-cubic metre cargo capacity (two standard Euro pallets). It’s aimed at fleets and comes with the option of a top-hinged single rear door as an alternative to the wide-opening pair of rear doors. Mainland (LHD) Europeans will also be offered the five-seater Combi and plusher-trimmed Evalia people-carrying versions, which will be targeted at customers including taxi firms: a dedicated taxi version will be built (designed to comply with local regulations in specific cities/countries) and a fleet is going into operation first of all in Barcelona, where the e-NV200 is built.

Nissan points out that 70% of compact vans used by fleets in Europe do an average 100km a day, and that 35% of such vans never travel more than 120km, so the 106-mile range of the e-NV200 should be more than sufficient. Overnight single-phase charging takes eight hours, but 32-amp fast-charging just four, and a 50kW CHAdeMO DC quick-charger will zap up to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.

  • Concept of the Day: a sit-down Segway-type vehicle called the Joust. It’s envisaged as a short-distance, wirelessly-charged urban vehicle which could be used in short-term rental schemes, and to be affordable and easily-assembled. Lowdown at the Globe and Mail. The piece is by Charles Bombardier, as in Bombardier Recreational Vehicles and Bombardier Inc., but it’s not an in-house project as such: design is by Michigan-based Boris Schwarzer. More ideas and concepts are showcased at, which describes itself as a “concept vehicle factory” in which renderings are created to CB’s brief.
  • And the Dutch-built Virto and Virto S stand-up electric tricycles have passed the EU Type Approval process for use on public roads, reports Green Car Congress. These promise a range of up to 56 miles, a top speed of 16mph and hydraulic brakes, and feature Li-Fe-Po batteries. Virtu is also planning sales and manufacturing in North America. Again, these have possibilities for on-demand hire/share schemes and as last-mile solutions.
  • Media and mobility – some interesting thoughts coming out of the Transport in the Media symposium at Lancaster University’s CeMoRe (Centre for Mobilities Research), and not just on how different modes of transport are portrayed… #mediatransport is the hashtag.
  • And social media and transport: Monika Buscher is talking about the ‘quantified traveller’, who documents his/her mobility behaviour (rich data) and interacts with software ‘counsellors’ (apps) to devise journeys, etc. “The creative appropriation of social media into the micro-management of mobilities, for example, provides opportunities for a shift from thinking about ‘intelligent transport systems’ and ‘smart cities’ to socio-technical intelligent mobility systems and smart citizens”, she says.
  • But a view from the energy-consumption community (DEMAND Centre) on EVs: developing new powertrain tech, and a ‘techno-fix’ approach, is wrong because we should be looking at alternatives to the car. Blog post here. Because all of those 35 million cars in the UK (not to mention the billions more in the rest of the world, obviously) will then go away and not be needed (yeah, right). Because we haven’t had plenty of academics, multitudes of public bodies, organisations, think-tanks and consultancies looking at how to do this for a long time already, to little avail? And Tesla “the right answer to the wrong question”? No, one right answer to one of very many good questions that we should be asking – including those about electricity generation, other modes of transport, urban design and infrastructure – and an important one regardless of the minorities directly involved right now, because it has impacts on a far wider level. While we wait for this coming mecca in which everyone all over the country can access affordable public transport as and when they need it to go where they want to go, walk or cycle in perfect personal safety at all hours, and the affluent no longer feel the need for status symbols or private chauffeuring away from the great unwashed, I think we’d better get on and clean up the vehicles that continue to be in use, personally.
  • Ford is working with Heinz on a use for waste tomato fibres: these could be used in composite materials for wiring brackets and storage bins, reducing the need for petrochemical plastics in car production. The fibres – from tomato peel, stems and seeds, by-products of Heinz’s ketchup-making – are said to make for lightweight, strong materials. The experiment’s still in the early stages, but Ford is now already making cowl brackets using rice hulls, console components with cellulose fires, coconut-based composites, recycled cotton carpets and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.
  • Interesting feedback from BMW’s sales & marketing chief Ian Robertson on i3 buyers: 80% are new to the brand – and many “never owned a car before but decided to buy a zero-emission vehicle”. More at Automotive News Europe. Interesting because this may hint that the much-hyped ‘end of the Western love affair with the car’ may only mean the ICE car
  • Fleet software-builder CrossChasm has launched an Indiegogo campaign to market its MyEV device and app, reports Transport Evolved. This is said to go beyond current apps and telematics such as GM’s OnStar and Nissan’s CarWings in its tracking of vehicle efficiency and trip logging over time, monitoring state of charge and battery health, mileage, range and usage data, and enabling drivers to identify most energy-efficient routes, improve their technique and share efficiency scores with friends (or fleet managers). It uses a logging device plugged into the car’s diagnostics port and connected to a smartphone. And another neat feature, says TE: buyers get a windscreen sticker with QR code enabling other EV drivers to contact them via smartphone app at a charging station, i.e. to move their vehicle if they’ve finished charging or to ask if it’s OK to unplug them to free up a point.
  • Australians are driving less: fewer trips, with increased use of technology/telecomms a likely large contributing factor (among others), argues Alan Davies of The (Melbourne) Urbanist.
  • BMW is to offer its (US) i customers a new Smart Charging app – integrated with the existing i Remote – to identify best times and rates for domestic charging. Has the potential to save these drivers up to $400 a year, they say. It’s available to the former ‘Electronauts’ (field trial leasees of the ActiveE) first, presumably for sympathetic beta-testing, before being rolled out to further i3 and i8 owners next year.
  •  One to keep an eye on: insinuations of dirty behaviour in a charging infrastructure land-grab, reported here. Apparently Tesla wants exclusive rights to put its exclusive-use superchargers at service stations, shutting out Ecotricity, provider of electricity to any EV driver with the right plug adaptor. That such a battle is going on shows that there’s something in this EV business as an economic proposition, at least…
  • Toyota and Panasonic are to launch their jointly-developed smart home-car link-up service later this year. This uses the cloud-based Toyota Smart Centre for car-to-home communication with appliances, air conditioning systems, heating, etc.



Tuesday news round-up

June 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

mievevo3Mitsubishi’s got a 603bhp EV to go up the hill at Pikes Peak this year: more on the i-MiEV Evolution III (pictured) at Autocar. All good for EV consciousness-raising…

And in other news today:

  • Apps to simulate EV use/ownership are seen as an important way of engaging potential buyers, and one’s been developed for the Bollore Group (maker of the BlueCar), reports EIN Newsdesk. It’s a 3D ‘augmented reality’ experience for tablets, by ATOS (yes, that one, I believe, but its IT services division rather than the outsourcing lot doing the benefits assessments), and “enables our future customers to easily observe the specific advantages of Bluecar”, says the Blue Solutions sales director.
  • McLaren – an all-electric supercar is under consideration, and all models will become hybridised (to some degree) in the next ten years, reports Edmunds.
  • Eight US states have announced an 11-step plan to get 3.3million zero-emissions cars on their roads by 2025: more on the Multi-State ZEV Action Plan here, but the key take-outs are encouraging fleet adoption, investing in charging infrastructure and simplifying legislation.
  • On a cycling note: the retro-look pedelecs (tech by Applus Idiada) from Barcelona’s Otocycles are pretty damn cool.
  • Peugeot-Citroen is considering canning its EV-making relationship with Mitsubishi and rethinking its EV strategy, reports Reuters. Contributing factors: sales of just 651 Citroen C-Zeros and 455 Peugeot iOns in Europe last year (down from 3,142 and 3,080 in 2012, respectively), says Automotive News Europe. Of course, it may be due to both models remaining ridiculously expensive, and other cheaper, more advanced and/or more desirable alternatives (namely the Renault Zoe and BMW i3) coming to market… (thanks, Green Car Website).
  • Demo of the Alcoa/Phinergy aluminium-air ‘1000-mile’ battery car in Montreal: video and more details here. The aluminium hydroxides produced are fully-recyclable, but note that these batteries are not rechargeable… electrolyte-swaps (in this case, water) needed.
  • Natural gas vehicles: worldwide sales of light-duty NGVs will grow from 2.5million to 4.2million a year by 2023, according to the latest forecasts from Navigant Research. That means nearly 40 million NGVs on the road in the next 1- years, 2.6% of all vehicles.  And more on the whole erdgas thing from me here
  • And here’s a sad story/salutary lesson about attempting a cross-Europe trip in an EV right now… Even careful planning can’t foresee technical failures, the problems of French public holidays, and the sheer stupidity of a public network operated by multiple providers with incompatible access requirements. This is the difference between doing such a journey in a high-range Model S with access to the private Supercharger network and being an average (albeit well-informed) member of the public in a Leaf. And why there is still so much work to be done before electromobility is truly viable on a mainstream level.
  • In Japan, however, Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda are joining forces in the Nippon Charge Service to develop a universal network… lowdown here.
  • Some market research on how happy EV owners (US) are with their purchases: net promoter scores calculated by PlugInsights put Tesla Model S owners as the most satisfied, with Chevy Volt drivers also pleased, though Nissan Leaf owners’ NPS has fallen. And 96.7% of all surveyed would have another EV or RE-EV. More at Green Car Reports.
  • Batteries disguised as car seats? Carbon nanotube composite yarns could be woven into upholstery fabrics, according to research from Wuhan University (more here).
  • Traffic jams are getting worse, with congestion and journey times rising 1% in the last year, according to research by TomTom. Most congested city in the UK is Belfast, followed by London, Edinburgh, Bristol then Brighton & Hove (no surprises there, says a resident…). Lowdown here.



Concept of the Day: Liberty Electric Cars DELIVER

May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

liberty deliverWell, the Google car’s everywhere, so I’ll bring you something different. This is DELIVER (Design of Electric LIght Vans for Environment-impact Reduction – catchy, eh?), built by the UK’s Liberty Electric Cars in an EC-funded project involving partners including RWTH Aachen University, Fiat, Volkswagen, Michelin, the Polis Network, Technical Research Institute of Sweden and HPL Prototypes. It features 2x 57kW/42Nm Michelin in-wheel motors, fitted on the rear axle with a two-speed transmission, an 80-cell Li-NMC battery pack, and promises a range of 100km and a top speed of 100kph. It weighs 2200kg and has a payload of 700kg, while its flexible cabin layout (no B-pillar kerb-side) gives walk-in capability and aids driver safety; it’s been developed with postal/delivery operations, supermarket deliveries and city council use in urban/suburban areas in mind. With a driver.

Described as a technology demonstrator at this stage, it has been evaluated on the RWTH Aachen University test tracks at Aldenhoven, and DELIVER will go display at the FISITA World Automotive Congress next week in Maastricht. More details at Green Car Congress; full presentation document from the DELIVER consortium here.

  • OK, the Google car… we all knew this was coming, but the most interesting/potentially disruptive thing about it, I reckon,  will be the degree to which Google plans to build and market it itself rather than work with established OEMs. The initial 100 prototypes will be in-house (albeit assembled by Roush and based on an existing product, say the rumours), then after that, Google is expected to work with partners – but how will the products be branded? The market’s opening up, though early days, of course. (“A revolutionary idea presented in a remarkably mundane package”, says Wired. Well, maybe that’s the idea).
  • Daimler’s pulling Car2Go out of the UK; its car-share schemes in Birmingham and London have failed to take off. Reuters cites the difficulty of co-ordinating between London boroughs on parking, given the one-way/’free-floating’ nature of the scheme; Car2Go itself talks in a statement of “the UK’s strong culture and tradition of private vehicle ownership” as well as the “unique challenges”. ZipCar continues to operate in London, nonetheless, though perhaps the greater ‘challenge’ in the capital is the fact that it’s actually pretty well-served by public transport. I’d also suggest that the limited fleet – Smart Fortwos – and the short-term-oriented pricing structure gave no appeal for residents (as opposed to tourists or city visitors) who don’t need a car for everyday or short-distance transport around the city (better means are available!) but might want to use one for occasional trips out to the country or weekends away, for example (something CityCarClub appears to have considered). Either way, it didn’t work out.
  • Some interesting discussion on car-sharing with car-share research queen Susan Shaheen (sorry, couldn’t resist that) here. Yes, it’s all about the city context (see above), which is continually shifting and changing; Shaheen also points to changes in the way car club members opt to use cars as their membership progresses.
  • Study from UC Berkeley (Caperello, TyreeHageman, Kurani) on the differences between male and female EV drivers: the men were less likely to talk about seeing long-distance journeys as impractical and more likely to consider using fast-chargers, women more likely to distrust range indicators; women more likely to focus on cost savings compared with buying petrol in the here and now; men more likely to look at long-term investments and also to see EV-driving as a political issue; men more interested in R&D and getting involved with EV communities; but really, many of the concerns and points raised were common to both genders. However, women are poorly represented in much EV-related research and product-planning, they argue. Full paper can be downloaded here.
  • The Chinese government is taking action to get smoke-belching old cars off the road – compulsory scrapping of a million to improve city air quality, reports Reuters. The interventions a totalitarian state can make, and my word, there are complications – and contradictions – inherent in actually pushing such a measure through.
  • Two-stroke scooters – which only have to meet Euro 2 emissions standards – are among the highest polluters of hydrocarbons and particulate matter in cities, claims a study from Switzerland: rundown, plus references and citations, here at Green Car Congress. Discussion too on diesel engine emissions from the United Nations Economic Congress for Europe, reported here; other sectors are more responsible and vehicles are not the primary culprits for PMs, but continued recommendations are made by UNECE.
  • Understanding this is way beyond my capabilities and the little I can remember from GCSE Chemistry, but there’s been some work on ‘iron molten air’ batteries. Said to offer higher energy capacity than lithium-ion, and when operating at lower temperatures as this research team has achieved, compatible with EV applications; more here.
  • A demo project at Berlin-Schonefeld (airport site) includes a multi-energy refuelling station with a hydrogen cogeneration plant, hydrogen refuelling for vehicles, plus electrolysis of hydrogen using surplus wind and solar energy. More on the Green Hydrogen Hub here.
  • Aston University is working on a bioenergy project involving Norwegian forestry waste; at the moment, it’s looking at biofuel for marine use, but research involves refinement processes and suchlike which could be relevant to land transport as well. More here.



Monday news round-up

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

blueindyThe Bollore Group has launched its BlueIndy EV-share in Indianapolis: it’s to get up to 500 cars, in 200 locations, with access to 1000 charging points, in the Indiana city, and is promised to be the world’s largest all-electric car-share scheme as yet. Release here. Incidentally, something worth remembering about EV-shares – the differences between schemes in which they are integrated into a multimodal system (ie BeMobility, Berlin) and where the cars are the primary mode of transport (ie Autolib’, Paris), discussed here.

  • BMW is adding live data on charging point status to its i Remote app for US customers – data supplied by CarCharging. More here. (And there’s now an EV charging station app for Google Glass, too).
  • Leicester University is developing an app for HGV drivers for urban routing to minimise congestion, noise and pollution; the SATURN project (satellite applications for urban mobility) will run a pilot trial in Bordeaux. More here.
  • Mercedes-Benz: PHEV versions of S-Class and C-Class on the way, but all-EV models will be restricted to the smaller/lower end of the range. Interview with head of development Thomas Weber at Autocar. And Volkswagen’s to unveil the Mk8 Passat in July, prior to a Paris Motor Show launch: average 20% fuel efficiency improvements across the range, and a PHEV with a 31-mile electric range.
  • Renault is getting to grips with the fact that EV sales haven’t lived up to forecasts: report (via Bloomberg) here. It has, however, just signed a MOU with LG Chem for development of next-gen lithium-ion batteries with a view to doubling range to 180-odd miles; more here.
  • Battery news: Power Japan Plus has come up with a dual carbon battery using organic electrolyte, said to have the same energy density as current lithium-ion tech but the capability of 20x faster charging, and no loss of capacity through repeated cycling. The Ryden dual carbon battery is also fully recyclable, uses no rare earth metals, and is said to be combustion-resistant. Basic details here.
  • Much fuss about BMW crushing its ActiveE prototypes (electric-converted 1-Series) at the close of the Electronaut beta-testing programme – but all of the batteries are being salvaged for a ‘second life’ research programme, says a statement released. It’s not quite a case of re-killing the electric car. 150 of the cars are going to join BMW’s DriveNow Fleet in the San Francisco Bay Area as an interim measure until the i3s come on-stream, anyway, and a further handful are going back to Munich for research. This is what generally happens to pre-production prototypes, electric or otherwise, for legislative/safety reasons: I remember driving an early press fleet Ford Focus RS to Le Mans, showing it off at the 24 Hours to people who were stunned and horrified that, upon its return, it was going straight to the crusher.
  • Latest from Navigant Research: biofuels to account for 7.5% of liquid fuels used in transportation by 2022 (more here); less than half of light-duty vehicles in operation by 2035 will have conventional ICEs (more here and handy digest here). Summaries of reports available on click-throughs; whether or not you agree, and whatever the issues with biofuels and their feedstock sources, some useful stats/forecasts…
  • Spanish utility firm Endesa is now overseeing a 200-strong research fleet of EVs in Malaga, with cars available for local businesses to rent by the hour; 40 Leafs have just been added to the line-up (joining its existing Mitsubishi i-MiEVs), 1.5million km have been clocked up, and the project’s 23 rapid-chargers now include six with V2G capability. The project’s called Zem2all and this Spanish-Japanese collaboration is hoping to start a ‘movement’, with its ‘smart city’ model for mobility to be replicated in Fukushima, Japan, as well as a number of Latin American cities.
  • Volvo’s planning to build a 300-500m ‘electric road’ in Gothenburg next year to test induction charging for its buses; more here. And in the UK, the Highways Agency is looking to start on-road dynamic charging trials in 2016, reports Transport Network.
  • And (yet) another defunct motorcycle brand revived to make e-bikes: Spain’s Bultaco, to launch with a pair of Barcelona-built 90mph sports bikes called Rapitan and Rapitan Sport next year. Release posted here.
  • Methanol from ‘recycled’ CO2 as a transport fuel: could help reduce fossil fuel dependency, according to a lifecycle analysis study for the European Parliament. More details, references here and here.
  • OLEV has temporarily halted the domestic chargepoint installation scheme – more at Transport Evolved (which also has some news of an electric bicycle conversion kit).
  • Mix up your quick-charging and conventional charging for best battery life, reports research from KIT, Karlsruhe, studying EVs operated by businesses including Michelin and Siemens; more here.
  • And IKEA just launched (in Vienna, with further select locations to follow) an electric bicycle… It’s called FOLKVÄNLIG.

Design of the Day: BMW Group Designworks USA solar carport

May 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

BMW-i-solar-carport-002No, not just a concept: this is actually up for sale (albeit at a price, no doubt; tba). BMW’s DesignworksUSA studio is presenting – to tie in with the launch of the i8 plug-in hybrid in Los Angeles – a solar panelled carport for EV charging. Its key points are bamboo struts (bamboo = quick-growing, sustainable raw material), carbon elements (strong, correlates with the carbonfibre of the i8 itself) and translucent glass-on-glass PV modules. The carport – which will be on offer in Europe as well – works in conjunction with BMW’s i Wallbox Pro control system, and surplus solar energy can be hived off for domestic use.

  • Further to Toyota’s trash-to-gas set-up (using waste methane from a nearby landfill site) at its plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, the company has now installed a stationary fuel cell at its sales HQ new Los Angeles (yes, another LA story today). This 1.1 MW cell is said to be the largest of its kind in the world, and will supply around half of the power needed by the six buildings on-site; it can be turned on and off quickly according to demand, has twice the energy-generating capacity of the solar array already in operation at the site, and generates power equivalent to that needed by 765 average American homes. The hydrogen is produced off-site by natural gas reformation (Toyota is offsetting the carbon byproducts of this by buying renewable biogas from landfill waste, it says). A 1,500-tonne saving in carbon dioxide emissions from the site is expected during peak summer operating hours.
  • Latest forecasts for electric motorcycles and electric scooters from Navigant Research: annual sales of the bigger e-bikes will grow to 1.4million in 2023, and the smaller scooters to 4.6million, the market expanding from 2015 as new products become available and their quality/abilities (range) improves. Growth will be in North America and Europe in particular, with an annual growth rate of over 30%. Speaking of which, Mahindra has opened its production plant in Troy, Michigan to make the GenZe e-scooter for the North American market (more here and here), and BMW has now launched its C evolution electric ‘maxi scooter’.
  • How do you process algae into biodiesel? With bi-functional nanoparticles, of course. New developments at the US DoE’s Ames Lab, reported here.
  • Drayson Technologies Ltd (new holding co encompassing the e-racing team) has set up a new division, Drayson Wireless, in partnership with Imperial College, London; aim is to commercialise its wireless induction charging tech. More here.
  • AlcoMix: sounds like a nasty night out on the town, but it’s the name for a high-octane syngas-derived fuel which can be drunk neat by petrol engines or blended with petrol as a better bet than ethanol. Reported in detail with journal refs/citations at Green Car Congress.
  • CNG: more costly to the environment than diesel for use in London buses, according to a lifecycle analysis study from Cambridge. Details, citations at Green Car Congress.
  • But a Proterra electric bus just did 700 miles in 24 hours in a record-breaking run designed to simulate real-life operation; its MPGe was claimed to be six times that of a diesel bus and seven times that of one running on CNG. More at Green Car Reports.
  •  Some presentations from the Mobilities and Design Workshop, Lancaster University, posted here. Some good points by Alison Hui on the intersections between travel behaviour, practices, and engagement with infrastructure.
  • A five-EV taxi fleet based in St Austell, Cornwall, has clocked up 150,000 miles in a year, reports Transport Evolved. C&C Taxis reckons it has saved £40,000 in fuel, its Leafs – soon to be joined by an e-NOV200 – cost around 2p a mile to operate, and that customers prefer the EVs as well. Nice story.
  • And an update/general thoughts on the progress towards e-mobility from the Civil Service/OLEV… Explains a bit about what the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles actually is, and what it’s trying to do.

#EV news catch-up…

May 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

nissan e-nv200Nissan is supplying 100 e-NV200s to British Gas following a successful pilot trial. The first 50 have been ordered for immediate deployment, with a further 50 going out on fleet by the end of the year. British Gas is committed to having 10% of its home service fleet electric by 2017. The initial trail of 28 vans, in collaboration with Gateshead College, tracked the vehicles for 60,000 miles and assessed their performance on typical BG working days and in wintry conditions. Feedback from drivers was positive.

  • Latest round of funding from BIS and the UK Alternative Propulsion Centre (APC): the four grant recipients are the ACTIVE project led by Ford (advanced turbo valvetrains, upgrades to EcoBoost engine); GKN, Alexander Dennis and Williams Hybrid Power (Gyrodrive high-speed flywheel for regen braking on city buses); Cummins and partners (stop-start diesel tech for buses); and JCB/Flybrid (more economical earthmoving equipment). More here.
  • Have been writing a lot about electric motorcycles recently (more to follow on this…) and what d’ya know, as soon as the piece goes to press another new one pops up. Saroléa SP7, reviving a long-dormant Belgium brand-name, to race at the TT this summer. Pics, video at Autoblog Green. And Yamaha – has just announced PES1 and PED1 street machines, reports Wired. (But maybe not the monowheels, OK?).
  • Ditto batteries… Lithium-carbon fluoride with bi-functional electrolytes, under development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US).
  • Rare earth-free magnets for use in motors: positioning an iron atom between nitrogen atoms has possibilities, according to the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. More here. (Similarly, the Infineon-led MotorBrain project has come up with a motor using ferrous magnets).
  • Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive: on sale in the UK early next year. Lowdown here.
  • Here’s the press release on the government’s announcement of £500m investment in EVs and ultra-low carbon vehicles. £100million in research and development. £32million for rapid-charger infrastructure. Continuation of the £5000 ULEV grants for buyers.
  • Rimac Automobili, maker of the Concept_One supercar, has found investors to back it to build 80-100 of these super-EVs; production of more mainstream models is then planned, as well as of the Greyp G12 electric bicycle. Story at

Design Concept of the Day: Zaha Hadid Z-Car

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

zaha hadid zcarIt’s not new, I know, but I’m highlighting Zaha Hadid’s Z-Car ‘cos it’s coming to Brighton to go on display at the Eco Technology Show (26th-27th June, free). Other vehicles on display at the show include the BMW i3 and i8, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Tesla Model S plus a selection of electric bikes, and test-drives will be available. There will also be seminars and events centring on sustainable fleet and domestic energy solutions.

The Z-Car, I’ve been reminded, is a neat little hydrogen-fuelled ,drive-by-wire three-wheeler with its carbonfibre composite body exemplifying Hadid’s trademark organic curves. It seats two in its passenger pod, which raises and lowers according to speed – riding high at low speeds for optimum visibility and to shorten the wheelbase for parking, and low on its hinged rear suspension for better handling and aerodynamics at speed. More about it here, anyway.

Other news, thoughts, general musings today:

  • Pushing mobility management schemes with an app for info on transport options had little effect on reducing car travel in a recent trial in Norway – even when a free seven-day public transport pass was thrown into the mix. The authors pointed out four factors which may have contributed: ample and free parking in the area where the trial took place; Norway’s harsh winters; the fact that high taxes on cars and fuel are already big disincentives not to drive to work; and that information on transport options is already widely-available anyway (Tornblad, Kallbekken, Korneliussen & Midseka, 2014). In Transport Policy 32, March 2014; contains detailed literature review on mobility management schemes and their impact. My reading of this paper: people have the ready info about choices, they’re taxed punitively to drive, yet they still choose to do so because it’s warmer, more comfortable and convenient… Surprise? I’m also wondering if, just as we’re seeing with EV adoption, you hit a point with mobility management or modal shift where the early-adopters or keen green advocates (I paraphrase) have all adopted, but the mainstream consumers aren’t playing – as in, most people prepared to shift to public transport, take up cycling, whatever, have done so and the rest stay put in their cars unless there’s a pretty serious intervention. Comes back to the argument that if people are going to drive whatever, let’s at least get ‘em in cleaner cars.

Hamburg and the Netherlands: more notes from e-mobility NSR

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: hySolutions

Pic: hySolutions

And some more notes from the e-mobility NSR conference… feedback from the hySolutions public-private partnership in Hamburg, part of Germany’s Pilot Regions scheme (similar to our Plugged-In Places). MD Peter Lindlahr reported:

  • It’s not about competition between public transport and individual transport; public transport is the “backbone of urban transport” but integration is needed – with mandatory use of renewable energy! This demands strong political commitment on a local level with specific fields of action.
  • Private drivers were less of a focus than municipal fleets. Strong links with urban planning, housing projects, urban developments are needed (Hamburg is building 10,000 homes a year – it’s a fast-growing city, with consequences for transport including an annual 2.4% rise in public transit use).
  • New concepts and new mobility schemes with EVs need to be complementary, intermodal, i.e. car-sharing with smartcard system.
  • The 9000 buses in Hamburg (some hybrid) will all be zero-emissions by 2030 and the plans for EV use in the city are ambitious – an intended population growth from 800 at the end of 2013 to 5000 (including PHEV) in 2016.
  • This will be in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and local enterprises – C of C members could account for 12% of local car-market share, and a survey of members found that three in ten thought 50% of their vehicles could be electric within next two years. Up to 2020 this could mean 18,200 vehicles including 2,800 delivery vans.
  • There is also an ongoing taxi project, and a new mayor’s directive is targeting the replacement procedures on the municipal fleet – 30% of all vehicles will be replaced by EVs/RE-EVs or PHEVs, with 255 electrified vehicles already on-fleet. The e-Taxi Hamburg project incentivising local operators involves a ‘booster programme’ with 50 EVs and PHEVs (including the Nissan eNV200) as “creating visibility is very important”.
  • The parallel Electrified Economy and Eco Fleet projects are seeing EVs deployed on municipal and industrial tasks, and with SMEs, i.e. at Hamburg Port and in aviation and logistics; private sector firms involved include real-estate companies and utilities and there is discussion on the new-build districts and their infrastructure, including car-share programmes for neighbourhoods, and 600 public chargers (including 70 fast-chargers) by the end of 2015.
  • The criteria for success are availability (having an accessible range of products, both the vehicles and infrastructure); connectivity (coherency between different sectors, ie residential development integration, and also in terms of common standards); scalability (economies of scale which can be achieved); and visibility (the importance of creating public awareness, especially B2B, where procedures must be empowered and new business models created). Basically, it’s all about link-ups between sectors if e-mobility is to take off.

A team from Delft University of Technology has been looking at policy to support e-mobility development, based on a multinational (7-country) revealed-preference survey of consumer potential. Research student Dena Kasraian reported:

  • Medium-sized cities have the most potential for EV adoption – where people still drive, can park, etc. Suburban-dwellers are most likely to have private parking for recharging.
  • Looking at the need to use a tow bar (indicating, i.e. long-distance caravan-towing, for which an EV would not be suitable), the Netherlands and Sweden use these the most. The Netherlands had least potential for EVs of the countries surveyed, based on this and access to parking; Denmark, Norway and Sweden had best access to parking.
  • The model needs to add public transport variability, parking at work and non-work travel behaviour as further indicators of EV uptake potential.

Sjoerd Bakker then talked about the number of EVs (mostly PHEVs) in the Netherlands and ‘the Dutch storyline’ of how momentum has been building; but said that it’s an uphill battle to get EVs to the next level, and the need to look at governance at all levels – transnational, national, regional, municipal. He pointed out that only 30% of the mileage of PHEVs studied is electrically-driven, and a concern that PHEVs have ‘pushed out’ sales of all-EVs and “may not be helping in the transition” or “only postponing the real transition”.

Why so? Well, the ‘storyline’ I’ve heard from commercial quarters was that the Netherlands EV market has been a bit of an anomaly in that, because the country hosts the HQs for European distribution of certain Japanese brands, particular products (namely the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV) hit the road there (both in terms of use in trials and then sales to consumers) sooner than anywhere else…

e-mobility NSR conference – some more notes

April 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

leaf chargingAnd some more notes from the e-mobility NSR conference last week. There’s a cluster of EV-related activity going on in the psychology department at Oxford Brookes University – linked to the Mini E and the government’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle trials – and Dr Mark Burgess & team have been looking at the barriers to EV adoption. They’re working on “the most comprehensive psychological study of EV drivers in the largest multi-vehicle, multi-location trial in the world”, and recent papers include this one. Some take-outs from Burgess’ presentation at the conference:

  • Research involved 352 drivers, 14 million individual trips, 15,000 charging ‘events, and questionnaires/interviews pre-trial, at one week and at three months. The drivers were 212 private, 140 corporate, with a mean age of 46 and 76% male.
  • EV drivers are generally car enthusiasts, are interested in new tech and ‘being among the first’ to adopt it, want to test the practicalities, and are interested in protecting the environment and in saving costs.
  • Drivers of ‘pool’ cars had the same motivations as the private drivers if they identified with their corporation’s green agenda.
  • Pre-trial, they thought adaptation to driving an EV would be easy, at 3 months they said it was easy, and had been easier than they expected. Most  participants found their EV quick with a sufficient top speed and fun to drive; ‘milk float’ stereotypes were overcome.
  • Word of mouth and personal interactions were important in bridging the gap in ‘cultural meanings’.
  • Regen braking was seen as positive, and preferentially used; drivers liked the displays, but didn’t know how much energy they were actually regenerating and how this was extending range.
  • Range remained a big issue – though most thought this was fine for them, they thought it would be a problem for others.
  • Their routines didn’t change but their ‘cognitive load’ was higher – they thought about range even when they practically didn’t need to.
  • Typical trips for private users were around 5 miles, with weekly mileages of about 100 miles; as time went on, distance between charges (their comfort zone) increased and they could get by on charging once a week.
  • The ‘primary adaptations’ were good – initially getting used to the vehicle – but there was a slower degree of ‘secondary adaptation’ – i.e. really challenging the range. People mainly used the EVs for routine trips at first. The ‘secondary adapters’ drove further, and went further between charges, and had a higher level of ‘expertise’, but still didn’t know much about how the regen braking supplemented range.
  • Price, maintenance, support and resale values were all identified as further issues at the end of the trial – but participants were positive.
  • The researchers recommend changes to training of drivers – particularly the fleet drivers – to take them out of their range comfort zone; more accurate feedback on the regen braking and how this extends range; and focus on the ‘wider cultural meanings’ of EVs to bridge the gap between early-adopters and mainstream buyers.
  • There’s more about all of the above in the full report for the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator Programme. And here’s an earlier paper on attitudes and sterotypes of EVs from the Oxford team.

And feedback from the Evalu8 project (based at University of Hertfordshire) which has been running the Plugged-In Places EV infrastructure programme in the East of England. Dr Keith Bevis reported that:

  • the rate of buying/using EVs is nowhere near meeting the earlier expectations, with predictions for take-up now more conservative; by mid-2013 there were still only around 4000 in the UK, though we are now up to about 7000 (not counting DIY conversions).
  • Range anxiety is high on the list of concerns before people get to drive an EV, along with cost, and a lack of information.
  • Figures from British Gas saw 59% of charging at home, 32% at work and just 9% at public points, with a lack of residential access to charging points in urban areas a problem; workplace charging needs to be implemented.

His colleague Russell Fenner added:

  • the reassurance of having a network of public chargers available is important when buying, and the practicalities of using this (ie via RFID cards, being able to charge across different networks) is important to people.
  • It is important to see how charging (financially) for charging point use will impact on the market – their feedback from existing owners sees people who have EVs already as not bothered about the changes (perhaps because they’re not using the public infrastructure much anyway – my note), but those who have not got an EV yet see the rising costs as an obstacle.
  • The visibility of the charging infrastructure is important, and seeing it in use.
  • There is an observed big gap and difference between the existing EV drivers/early-adopters and the mass market in terms of perception of the infrastructure, but there is a lot of support from the early-adopters – they are prepared to put up with glitches in a way that others might not.
  • We need to look at bridging the gap; Evalu8 has been doing projects ie funding trials with companies, working with car clubs, trying to extend chance to drive an EV – and has found that once people have tested one, they’re more likely to be interested in buying one.
  • But e-scooters, e-bikes also have a role in encouraging e-mobility in general, attitudes towards e-cars.
  • Conclusion: there’s a need to understand the dynamic between actual needs for infrastructure vs the perceptions of it, and ways to get people into EVs (for testing) are important for take-up.

Concept of the Day: Peugeot Exalt

April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

peugeot exaltPeugeot is showing its follow-up to the Onyx concept car at the Beijing Motor Show: the Exalt, now petrol-fuelled, has a 340bhp plug-in hybrid drivetrain developed from that of the 3008/508 Hybrid4 models with a 1.6 THP turbocharged engine (270bhp), a 50kW electric motor powering the rear axle, and a six-speed auto gearbox. Am liking the bare-steel bodypanels, though not so keen on the ‘shark skin’ low-drag red-coated rear end, and I’m not sure Macassar ebony (used on the upper door panels inside) should be encouraged – it’s rare and edging towards being endangered, apparently. It’s a striking-looking thing, nonetheless.

  • Mercedes-Benz has started production of the B-Class Electric Drive at Rastatt, with sales to follow (mainland Europe) from mid-year. The e-B features Tesla-sourced lithium-ion batteries (Daimler owns a 10% stake in Tesla), and a 177bhp/250lb ft motor; top speed is 100mph, 0-62mph happens in 7.9 seconds and M-B is considering right-hand drive sales for next year, reports Autocar.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Lexus NX compact crossover – to be launched in Beijing – reports Automotive News. And Toyota is rolling out some new petrol engines with significant economy/emissions improvements, thanks to moves including incorporating Atkinson cycle valve timing (as in the hybrids); more here.
  • And an update on the upcoming plug-in hybrid BMW X5: the Concept X5 eDrive is to appear at the New York Motor Show, nearer finished-spec. This latest iteration delivers a range of 20-odd mile/30km and up to 75mph in all-electric mode, returning over 74.3mpg on the evened-out EU test cycle; it has BMW’s twin-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine (245hp) plus a 70kW/90hp e-motor, and lithium-ion batteries. There are selectable driving modes, with ‘intelligent hybrid drive’, pure electric ‘max eDrive’, and ‘battery save’, and it’s now all-wheel drive, with the xDrive system channelling torque to both axles. And in Eco Pro driving mode, a ‘proactive driving assistant’ works with the sat nav to optimise route profile, given speed restrictions and traffic conditions, which also feed into the range calculations. The nav system shows charging points, and the iDrive OS includes data on charging times, operating status, charge level efficiency history and more; this can be downloaded to a smartphone, with the ConnectedDrive Remote app allowing for remote charge programming and activation plus pre-heating or cooling of the cabin. BMW’s also going to offer a high-voltage Wallbox charger, which can synch with home energy management systems, solar panels and soforth. More details, pics plus press release posted here.
  • And… Audi’s teaming up with Chinese auto-maker FAW to launch the A6 e-tron plug-in hybrid in China. It’ll be locally-built at the FAW-Volkswagen plant in Foshan, based on the LWB A6: a 50km range is promised. Audi already sells hybrid (non-plug-in) versions of the Q5, A6 and A8 L in China, with the A3 e-tron plug-in on its way there.
  • Not to be left out, Volvo is planning hybrid and pure-electric versions of the new XC90 SUV, reports Autocar, with everything in between including a model with the KERS-style flywheel.
  • Hyundai has improved the longevity of lithium-sulphur batteries, thought to offer greater energy density than Li-ion; paper presented at the SAE World Congress, links and lowdown here.
  • More battery news: Dongfeng Motors has taken delivery of new-generation lithium-ion polymer batteries from supplier Electrovaya, reports Green Car Congress.
  • The ‘MotorBrain’ project – Siemens, Infineon, TU Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen – has come up with a small, light e-motor which needs no rare earth metals. More here.
  • Tobacco is a good potential source of bioethanol, and could be grown in Spain (where the traditional tobacco-growing market has collapsed); more here.



Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Research category at Driving to the Future.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 443 other followers

%d bloggers like this: