Thoughts for the day: commuting, ‘peak car’, green attitudes

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

P1010383_SmallDetailed read at outlining research by Eve Bratman & Adam Jathav on commuting. It’s about how low-income commuters view cycling, not popular amongst urban poor; in the US, it’s typically white people from wealthier areas who ride bikes to work (I paraphrase). Predominant barriers include physical safety concerns, distance and comfort, linked to greater travel times/distances travelled of lower-income folk, and the fact that they’re more likely to use public transport. But the big factor is that respondents of all income groups consistently “ranked car ownership as the most desirable” of transport mode options – a significant proportion rejected car-sharing – and “suggests that, for low-income people, cars may have merits beyond simple cost-benefit use calculations. Automobility remains a paradoxical cultural and status symbol, such that while wealthier people increasingly reduce their car dependency, poor people still aspire to car ownership.” The authors recommend gradual policy changes, a focus on making muti-modal transport easier (i.e. being able to put bikes on trains, as with the Berlin S-Bahn, pictured?) and recognising that “excessively denigrating automobiles might hinder cycling adoption” and that “the rationale that leads some poor people not to desire a car-free lifestyle is likely very different from the rationale of planners and advocates who do.”

  • So the government is (at last) going to lead by example… to some extent. Announced today, plug-in cars and vans to join all governmental fleets, and a first batch of 150 vehicles. A further 135 will go to wider public sector fleets such as the NHS, councils and police forces in the autumn, and charging points are being installed, including on Downing Street and in the Whitehall area. No specific news as to whether parliamentary limos are going to be traded in for, say, Leafs (Sunderland-built!) as yet, however.
  • Latest on the “peak car” debate – car use is intrinsically related to economic and structural issues, there are a lot of divergent trends, not much convincing evidence to support some of the hypotheses, and no consensus as to whether it’s actually happening… Reports from a roundtable discussion in London collated in a paper published by the University of the West of England.


  • What makes us act green? Findings from an 18-month ESRC-funded research project on sustainable behaviour presented here; lots of interesting data and insights on commuting and transport use in relation to eco-friendly attitudes.
  • For those pondering car-sharing from a marketing point of view: some discussion and social media activity around the mysterious Car2Go ‘black cards’…

Notes from #CarliteLDN; more car-sharing, #EV and e-mobility news

July 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

zipcar appHave been following the #CarliteLDN conference at City Hall via Twitter today. It’s organised/chaired by Zipcar (app pictured; other services are available), so yes, it’s all about cheerleading for the cause, but some useful/interesting stats and references coming through and there seems to be a very positive attitude from the boroughs and councils. It seems that 32 boroughs have car club presence; London is the biggest EU market for car clubs; and 90% of Hackney residents live within 5mins of a car club car (Cllr Feryal Demirci, deputy Chair of Transport & Environment Committee). Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport, points out that car traffic is now slower in London than in the 1960s, and says that the average privately-owned car is used for only 45 minutes a day, with evidence showing that PAYG car use encourages more walking, cycling and public transport use. Full transcript of her presentation here.

Zipcar’s UK General Manager Mark Walker expects car club membership in inner London to grow from 171,000 at end of 2014 to nearly 800,000 by 2020, with these users sharing a fleet of 10,000 cars. He said that growth in outer London a challenge, with main gains in inner London to 2020, but noted that one-way journeys do “often replace” public transport and taxi use as well as cycling. Nick Lester, Corporate Director of Services, London Councils, is quoting 164,000 car club members across London at the mo, demonstrating that it’s not niche; and @fionamclean has tweeted that car club info and car locations are going to be incorporated into official TfL maps.

Thanks to @scottericlevine, @ZipcarUK, @Tiffy_Lynch, @afionamclean, @benitamatofska, @robv1989, @BriggsMartyn and everyone tweeting on the #CarliteLDN hashtag – much appreciated.

  • Zipcar’s report, Car Lite London – How Car Clubs Will Help More Londoners Drive Less can be downloaded here.
  • On a not unrelated note, a summary of the Frost & Sullivan Urban Mobility 3.0 conference (London, 4/7/14) here. The key message was about a shift away from car ownership to on-demand usage, along with “mobility integration” both in the consumer market and in the corporate world.
  • And some great feedback from France on usage of the Autolib’ EV-share; the Guardian reports that membership is up to 155,000 with 10,000 rentals of the 2,500 cars a day; 80% of users are make with the bulk aged 25-49, and it’s particularly popular among younger drivers; the average distance covered is less than six miles and the average rental period is 30-40 minutes; and peak demand times include Wednesday afternoons when schools are shut and parents take kids to activities and Friday/Saturday evenings for getting home to the suburbs.  Around half of subscribers don’t have their own car, and 70% felt that using Autolib’ had enabled them not to buy one; 75% of the car owners thought it helped them limit their mileage in their own car, especially for leisure and shopping and 25% saw the service as their ‘main car’. Estimates are that in the first two years, over 11,500 ICE cars in the greater Paris region were sold (or not bought) by Autolib’ subscribers, with a ‘loss’ of 28,000 cars expected over five years. Users also say that they like the scheme’s green aims as well as its practicality.
  • Some findings at the University of California, Riverside, on the use of silicon dioxide (sand or quartz) in lithium-ion batteries for EVs – could increase their lifecycle x3. More here.
  • The Exagon Furtive e-GT (a boutique-build e-supercar) is to appear at a posh car show at the Hurlingham Club, London: latest stats/specs for it are a near-400bhp twin-motor powertrain (Siemens-supplied) with three-speed transmission, 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and 155mph. More at Autocar.
  • Honda’s putting all the plans, specs and drawings from its Smart Home project open-source – including details of the HEMS (Home Energy Management System) microgrids to co-ordinate renewable electricity generation with domestic demands and electric vehicle-charging.
  • Largest EV deployment by the US government as yet: 90 vehicles to 10 local administrations in the San Francisco/Bay Area. More here.
  • Jaguar Land Rover’s new ‘Ingenium’ family of lighter-weight engines will be, of course, electrification-compatible. More here.

Midweek reading: EVs, the urban environment and car-sharing

July 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

drivenow_berlin_smallAnother pic from my Berlin trip: a DriveNow BMW ActiveE on-street in Kreuzberg. Appropriate, because today’s thoughts centre on electric vehicles, the urban environment and on car-sharing… Reading/viewing matter this mid-week:

  • Bill Ford is addressing the prospects for his family’s firm; in a WSJ piece titled “Bill Ford on the Future of Transportation: We can’t simply sell more cars” he claims that the current model of transportation is unsustainable, and that car companies need to redefine themselves as ‘personal mobility companies’ (we’ve heard that before…). He also talks about the need for cars to interact with each other and the wider infrastructure, including other modes of (public or private) transport, and the role of car-sharing and ride-sharing.
  • And a interesting long-format read: cars are “racing toward disruption“, argues Harvard Business School’s Steven Sinofsky. He points to five key factors: the increasing acceptability of public transport and re-urbanisation; the ‘unbundling’ of in-car features (software, electronics and associated services, including vehicle personalisation); energy sources and impending oil shortages; the move towards shared cars and ride-sharing (again!); and the move towards driverless cars.
  • Some useful snippets in this Fortune piece: it highlights the move of the car-makers to Silicon Valley as they seek to make their products appeal to a tech-hungry younger generation, and has some stats from LA, one of the most car-centric cities in the world:  a 67% increase in walking and cycling in Santa Monica; a doubling since 2001 of people walking, cycling or taking public transport to work (now 22%) in the wider LA region; driving down 12%. More on the Google/GM EV-share (50 Chevrolet Sparks at Mountain View), too.
  • And also near Paris, the Rungis International Market – a 1,200-company food wholesalers – is to get a shared fleet of seven Renault Zoes to run around the site, for use by retailers and their customers (mainly restauranteurs). Renault Kangoo ZEs with cooler units running off auxilliary batteries are also on offer. More here.

And a research round-up – today, recent papers of interest in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

  • An Australian paper assessing the suitability of EVs in meeting drivers needs reports (no surprises here) that vehicles with a range of as little as 60km could meet 90% of day-to-day driving needs; owners of longer-range vehicles (up to 170km) were more likely to need to charge away from home on longer trips; recharging time isn’t really an issue ‘cos the cars spend most of their time parked anyway; the way a car is driven and its auxilliary systems used affects its range; EVs are particularly well-suited to low-speed urban driving. Well, we knew all this, but it’s good to have some more data: the sample drivers in Sydney were tracked by GPS for five weeks, generating a lot of useful information. (Vol. 66).
  • Something else from Sydney: choosing to drive when one could make the same journey by other means isn’t just about saving time, but autonomy, freedom, flexibility and “the interminable pull of the sensory experience provided by the cocoon of the car”, says Jennifer L Kent after in-depth qualitative interviewing of commuters. She refers to “the enduring appeal of the private car”. Are Australians less ready to embrace car-sharing, perhaps? (Vol. 65).
  • US drivers are much more likely to consider buying a PHEV if they are concerned about energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions – but they’re not willing to pay more than a few thousand dollars extra for plug-in capability. This is a different outcome to some surveys on hybrid buyers/potential consumers which have shown primary motivations to be cost-related. (Vol 64).
  • Quantifying the trade-off between the cost of installing EV-only parking spaces and charging bays in cities vs. the environmental benefits they bring: success is down to the price of parking, which determines how much the bays are used, as well as the cost of the equipment installed. Charge too much, and the EV drivers won’t use the spaces… (Vol 64).



Tues news: lots on urban mobility and car-sharing

July 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

P1010431_smallI’ve been in Berlin recently, where there’s a wealth of car-sharing options to choose from (pic: a Car2Go Smart Fortwo, on-street in Kreuzberg; other services are available, as they say) as well as a good number of on-street EV charging points, at least in the sort of right-on areas where e-mobility is more likely, excellent public transport and what looks like a pretty decent cycling culture too. (Yes, I would very much like to live there). Appropriately enough, today’s news bulletin contains a fair amount on urban mobility and vehicle-sharing besides things electrified. Not that I’m claiming to be tapping into a zeitgeist or anything…

  • Ridesharing platform BlaBlaCar has secured $100million of funding for its expansion through Europe and worldwide. The Paris-based company is claiming some 8million members in 12 countries now, with a million shared journeys a month made via the membership scheme and social media platform/smartphone app.
  • An interesting snippet about biogas: Finland now has 21 public filling stations, with 20 more to open by 2016. More here.
  • Micro-EV firm ZAP of Santa Rosa, California, has done a deal to sell 1000 URBEEs a month to a firm called SunRa (not to be confused with Sun Ra, though that would be amusing) for sale in China. The URBEE micro-vehicles – commuter cars and utility models – are made by subsidiary firm Jonway Auto in China. SunRa appears to be a division of a firm called Xinri Electric Vehicle Company, also a big EV distributor. ZAP says it intends to sell 8000 vehicles through the SunRa network in the next year, and that ZAP Jonway has the capacity to build up to 50,000 vehicles a year at its facility in Zhejiang Province.
  • Solid-state storage of hydrogen enables it to be carried in tanks at much lower pressures; EU-funded research co-ordinated by the University of Turin has developed a system to work with a fuel cell. At the moment, this only supplies power for an APU (auxilliary power unit), but the demo project does show potential. More at Green Car Congress.
  • The upcoming eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat will come with the option of a PHEV drivetrain. This combines a 154bhp TSI petrol engine with an 80kW motor to give a total 208bhp and an all-electric range of 50km/31 miles; a combined fuel consumption of 188mpg (though this is a pretty meaningless average figure in the context of a PHEV) and carbon dioxide output of 35g/km is claimed.
  • And Volvo’s next-generation XC90 SUV will include a ‘twin engine’ model badged T8: a plug-in hybrid with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine driving its front wheels and a 80bhp/60kW motor driving the rear. An all-electric range of around 25 miles is promised, but with 400bhp/640Nm of power on tap when required
  • Two interesting things about the latest UK car sales report from the SMMT. One, that registrations of EVs more than doubled in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period last year – up 144% to 2558 vehicles (‘pure’ BEVs). PHEVs and RE-EVs were up by over 90% to 973 vehicles. OK, the numbers are still exceedingly small, but the growth is in the right direction… But secondly, let’s put this in context: 1,287,265 new cars registered in the first six months of the year, 10.6% up on this time last year, the highest half-year total since 2005, and a market on track for 2.4million new cars on the road in the UK in 2014. In June alone, sales reached 228,291 cars. Britain’s appetite for cars does not appear to be slowing down despite the claims of ‘peak car’, and this illustrates the need for better management of this growing vehicle population and shifting people into cleaner, less polluting vehicles (which need not be privately- or individually-owned). Simply thinking that everyone can be persuaded/coerced onto public transport or a bike and hoping that the nasty cars will just go away is not enough.
  • But further to the above, some thought-provoking stuff from Guardian Cities about engineering more liveable cities in which the car is no longer “king” – present, but no longer dominant, enabling more space for pedestrians and cyclists, and for simply hanging out and enjoying the urban environment. It’s about achieving a balance, appropriate means of transport in particular areas and soforth, which all sounds eminently sensible (and, with the right supporting policies, achievable).
  • And continuing on this theme, another interesting snippet from Finland: the City of Helsinki is to trial a multi-modal route-planning system with employers and build a platform for its delivery, in the view that private car ownership will reduce in coming years and that city residents will instead buy transport ‘packages’ to include car rental mileage alongside use of the metro, bus and soforth, much as one buys phone/telecommunications packages. It’s a realistic long-term view which involves reducing driving and the numbers of vehicles on the road in cities, not ruling car use out completely or expecting radical, wholesale behaviour changes.
  • But it isn’t just about cities, either: Sustainable Mobility reports on two new EV-shares launching in France. One, in the small rural town of Gréoux-les-Bains (2,500 inhabitants) is a six-month trial with the slogan “Even in the countryside, I can drive plugged-in” (I think something may have been lost – or confused – in translation) and is targeted not just at the locals but at the 30,000-odd tourists who visit the resort’s spas each year. It’s offering Renault Zoes from 39euros a half-day and will be extended beyond the initial in-season trial if demand proves sufficient.  And back in town, SNCF mainline railway stations in Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille and Paris (Gare de Lyon) are to get an e-mobility service called Wattmobile: subscribers (typically paying 18euros a month) can hop into/onto a Renault Twizy or Peugeot e-vivacity scooter, levied per 15 minutes, to reach their final destinations.
  • Daimler and BMW have signed an agreement to develop a standardised EV induction-charging system. More here.




News round-up: car-sharing, EV-shares, batteries, #EV-related research and more…

July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

toyota smart city grenobleThe Smart City ‘Citélib by Ha:mo’ project kicks off in Grenoble in October, using 70 Toyota i-ROAD and COMS micro-EVs. This three-year test programme, mirroring Toyota’s Ha:mo (Harmonious Mobility) trials in Japan, is a partnership between local authorities, the EDF Group, Toyota and local car-share operator Citélib, and is now open for registration. EDF/Sodetrol is installing 30 charging stations close to public transport stops and hubs.

The aim is to promote interconnectivity between public/private (electrified) transport, complementing the existing Citélib service, and the Toyota EVs are intended to act as ‘last-mile’ solutions for people arriving/departing the city on trams, trains and buses – in this one-way system, they can be driven from one location and left in another. Reservations are via a smartphone app which also enables multi-modal route planning. Full news release here, more details at

  • Car-sharing: it’s not just about private individuals/travellers. The corporate market for car-sharing and car-pooling is growing rapidly as businesses and fleets look to cut costs (financial and carbon) and streamline operations; app-enabled integrated multi-modal solutions are an important part of all this. Frost & Sullivan and Smart Mobility Management are carrying out a big research programme to inform the development of next-gen products and their marketing – more here. SMM says that there are now more than 13 providers offering Europe-wide solutions, including existing fleet/leasing providers (i.e. Alphabet/AlphaCity), OEMs (Peugeot/Mu, Daimler ShareYourFleet) as well as third-party telematics and technology providers. It points out “an appetite” for retrospective charging to expense accounts rather than the consumer-oriented PAYG model, as well as for on-demand travel. They’re especially keen on all this in the Netherlands, apparently.
  • An interesting snippet of news from the Volkswagen Group: it’s taking over the Blackberry R&D centre in Bochum for its new Volkswagen Infotainment GmbH division, to develop “new strategies and innovations”… “in order that interlinking driver and automobile with the infrastructure can be further optimised”.
  • Bike-share schemes like London’s Boris bikes, the Paris Velib’, Montreal Bixi etc, do reduce vehicle mileage in city centres – except in London, finds a new study (Fishman, Washington and Haworth, Transportation Research Part D Vol 31/August 2014). In London, there was a low rate of bike-for-car substitution, and a lot of truck mileage involved in moving the bikes around. So basically, great as the Boris bikes (really Ken’s, but we won’t quibble) are, I’d read that as meaning that their users weren’t previously travelling by car anyway, that there are still logistical issues to be overcome, and that they haven’t actually done anything to reduce London’s traffic and air pollution. And I wonder what the car-to-cycling conversion rate is like among private bike-riders, too – again, are London cyclists on their own bikes mostly former public transport users/pedestrians, rather than drivers?
  • Detroit Electric, a reborn brand-name from the early days of motoring, is going to build its Lotus-based SP:01 sports car in… Leamington Spa, where an 80-strong team will be recruited for production. Sales will  start later this year in Europe and Asia, with the US launch to follow; the car (155mph, 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds) is “currently undergoing engineering sign-off tests” and its final styling will shortly be revealed.  The company is also opening a European sales and marketing HQ in Houten, the Netherlands. The original plans to manufacture in the brand’s home town were shelved due to problems with US regulatory processes, a spokesman said, though the main HQ remains in Detroit with the intention to start assembly and engineering work there at a later date. Further models in the pipeline are a 2+2 e-supercar and a saloon, all to be “engineered, developed and assembled at a planned facility in Michigan”.
  • A bold move in Madrid: smart parking meters which charge according to a vehicle’s emissions. Drivers have to input their numberplate to pay for parking, and the connection to the national licensing database charges a 20% surcharge for dirtier, older vehicles and gives a 20% reduction for hybrids and particularly fuel-efficient or low-CO2 models… (Bloomberg).
  • Ammonia could be an effective source of hydrogen and can be safely stored at low pressures in a vehicle, reports the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, which has developed chemical processes to ‘crack’ ammonia into nitrogen and hydrogen. It can work in a conventional ICE engine, and as ammonia is already widely supplied and transported – mainly for use in industry and agriculture – a supply and refuelling infrastructure need not be expensive, the STFC claims.
  • Another new name to remember in the electric motorcycles game: Brutus Electric Motorcycles, born out of Bell Custom Cycles, Nevada and proffering a range including a stripped-down cafe racer and a Pikes Peak-climber.
  • Leicester University is researching air quality and pollution in the city – using sensors on EVs. It’s also installing chargers on-campus and aiming to promote and encourage EV use; more here.
  • A new porous nanofibre for lithium-sulphur batteries has been developed by  LMU Munich and the University of Waterloo (Ontario); this could make Li-S tech more stable and resistant to charge/discharge fading, thus improving its suitability for automotive application. More here.
  • A 20-car, two-year EV trial in the north-east found that battery reliability, economy and durability were better than expected: the Peugeot iOns covered over 200,000 miles between them as part of the SwitchEV programme, and retained over 99% of their original battery capacity. More here.





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.

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