Design Concept of the Day: Giugiaro Clipper

March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

clipper smallNo, I’m not at Geneva yet – this is remote reporting. But the Italdesign-Giugiaro design house (now absorbed into the Volkswagen Group) has just unveiled a low-slung six-seater MPV concept called Clipper; it’s based on Volkswagen’s MQB platform (Golf, A3, Octavia, Leon etc.), and is good for 335 miles and 127mph from its twin-motored all-electric powertrain (a 148bhp motor at each axle, hence four-wheel drive). It’s got the obligatory showy concept car doors – front ones swinging up butterfly-style, the rear rear-hinged gull-wings. Seats are two x three rows; the batteries are housed under-floor giving a flat floor, there’s a ‘floating’ instrument panel with information projected into a perspex screen, and a rear-view camera to replace the interior mirror. The space between the seats accommodates a movable,  ‘mobile tunnel’ with 11-inch touchscreen for the control system, there’s a total loadspace of 900 litres, plus four iPads for passengers with a comms app/private network called Carlink. Oh, and there’s a second ‘vanette’ Ducati-branded version, with different doors.

  • “Elec­tric cars simply per­petuate cur­rent (unsus­tain­able) prac­tices and rep­resent a failure of ambition”, say Nicola Spurling and Dan Welch of the Sustainable Practices Research Group, berating a “techno-fix solution”. Yes indeed, more cycling is a Good Idea for short journeys and is certainly achievable/desirable to some extent, and the wider ‘need’ for driving caused by car-centric planning, out-of-town shopping centres etc does need to be addressed – but they write off the possibility of cleaning up the e-grid in parallel (citing a rather old paper in support), seem to think that the EVs of the future will still have “shorter ranges, long char­ging times” and “only ful­fill some of the func­tions of the con­ven­tional car”, and – in the blog post, at least – don’t look beyond like-for-like vehicle substitution (no mention of EV-shares, car clubs, multi-modal link-ups, etc.) nor at EVs’ role for businesses, fleets, or industrial applications (arguably where they can make more difference than in the private/consumer sector). Report summary, and useful primer on practice perspective for sustainability policy interventions here; full report (in which the driving/cycling substitution is an example of problem framing/targets for intervention) here.
  • And the view from industry… Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, confident on grid decarbonisation (amongst other issues): “In partnership with other automakers, industries and governments, we have the capability to reinvent the car for a new era, to provide sustainable mobility for all”.

(Natural) gas in Geneva

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

skoda visioncSkoda’s going gas-tastic at the Geneva Motor Show this coming week: its VisionC concept (a large five-door liftback on the next-gen Octavia platform) has a ‘bivalent’ 1.4 TSI engine (turbocharged, direct-injection) which can run on either petrol or CNG, and meets EU2020 emissions legislation. This powertrain – similar to that in the just-announced Octavia/Octavia Combi G-Tec, and indeed, the Audi A3 G-Tron and Volkswagen Golf TGI – is said to return 72mpg and emit just 91g/km in gas mode. “Natural gas drive is an important pillar of ŠKODA’s sustainability strategy”, says the company.

Good gas or a load of hot air? Can’t help but think it doesn’t do anything for fossil fuel-dependency, even if it is cleaner-burning than liquid petroleum, though CNG is thought of in some circles as a “bridge fuel” to a lower-carbon system (a bit like replacing heroin with methadone?). Some more discussion (gassing?) and useful references here, including the issue of methane leakage in the production process (cancelling out any life-cycle GHG benefits). “Fueling trucks and buses with natural gas may help local air quality and reduce oil imports, but it is not likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even running passenger cars on natural gas instead of gasoline is probably on the borderline in terms of climate,” says Prof Adam Brandt, assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University and lead author of “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems” (Science, 14th February 2014).

  • Porsche is to unveil its 919 Hybrid LMP1 Le Mans racer in Geneva this week; says it “can therefore be regarded as a research laboratory for the technology of future Porsche production vehicles”. Lexus is to bring the RC 300h hybrid coupe (as seen in Detroit), and has confirmed its launch in Europe for 2015.
  • Dutch drivers: more likely to opt for an EV or fuel cell car if they do a low annual mileage, don’t tow a caravan; range and refuelling times key factors in decision-making. Study by Hoen and Koetse in the latest issue of this journal. And some facts ‘n’ figures on Californian plug-in drivers from the Center for Sustainable Energy/CARB here (high-income, middle-aged, motivated by use of car-pool lanes…).
  • Have seen news that China’s Geely Group has bought out the UK’s Emerald Automotive, developer of a range-extended delivery van and associated ER-EV tech.
  • Over half of 8000 people questioned in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Austria reckoned that in the future, they’ll buy a “mobility solution” rather than a car – rundown here. Nearly 64% reckoned they’d use multi-modal transport apps as well, though 63% still said that they wanted to own a car (24% of whom thought they’d also use hired/shared cars where appropriate).
  • Corporate car-sharing to grow, says Frost & Sullivan; figures, projections and opinion here. And here’s a date for the diary (not that I can afford to go) – the F&S Urban Mobility 3.0 conference/workshop in London, June 26th.
  • The Kandi EV-sharing service, which started out in Hangzhou with its distinctive ‘tower’ of microcars, is expanding across China; more at Green Car Reports.
  • And here’s a biofuel that could smell interesting as it burns… Extreme Biodiesel Inc is aiming to buy some land in California to cultivate hemp for fuel. Release posted here.
  • But I predict a riot – warning on the growth of biofuels at the expense of fuel crops, as well as the prospect of global riots if we fail to solve our chronic addition to fossil fuels and transition to a “post-carbon” economy, at the Guardian… Plus, at the Observer, a report on environmentally-destructive underwater mining, including the trawl for rare-earth metals and ores for batteries (for gadgets and vehicles). Scary stuff. (Lunar land-grab, anyone?).
  • Not the answer to everyone’s motoring needs, but I do love an old Love Bug… Zelectric Motors of San Diego is now up and running with its ‘upcycled’ classic Beetle conversions, and is also selling DIY powertrain kits. Rather nice for local trundling-around in SoCal, I would imagine.


Design Concept of the Day: MILA Blue

February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

mila blueNatural gas: simply a substitution of one fossil fuel for another, or a practical use of an existing energy source/technology? Magna International is showing a hybrid-drive gas-powered city car concept called MILA Blue at the Geneva Motor Show next week, said to emit less than 49g/km of carbon dioxide – or less than 36g/km if running on biogas. It features an automated-manual transmission with stop-start and can cruise short distances in all-electric mode, at up to 30kph.

Li’l MILA is said to be 300kg-odd lighter than current A-sector tiddlers, thanks to the construction and architecture technologies it also showcases; downsized components, aluminium, magnesium and composite materials; and suitably-decorated structural parts in place of extra interior trim. More from Magna here.

More on this at Geneva next week, and I’m currently working on a project which involves looking into the eco-claims for natural gas, so will report back on this at a later point.

  • Speaking of biofuels… 16% of fuel used on European roads could come from waste material, claims a new report (outlined here at Guardian Sustainable Business). That’s waste from forestry, industry, agriculture and households, so no competition with food crops (as with, for example, corn-derived ethanol), and life-cycle carbon emissions are thought to be 60-85% lower than for comparative fossil fuels.
  • Detroit News is looking at ‘peak car’ this week (aren’t we all?); some figures from forecasters IHS Automotive, suggesting that global sales will top out at 100 million in the next decade, plus some good quotes, i.e.: “The key question is: Do you sell cars or do you sell mobility?” says Tim Ryan, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “If you ignore these megatrends, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.”
  • Tesla. Gigafactory. News well-covered elsewhere, but basic details are a $4-5billion investment by 2020, when it’ll be making enough batteries for 500,000 Tesla vehicles a year, reports Forbes. Note that this is for half a million Tesla vehicles, not just batteries to supply to other manufacturers; to include the upcoming Model X and ‘entry-level’ Model E, due 2015. The factory’s to cover every stage of production, including reassembly using cells from recycled battery packs, more from Tesla here.
  • Torotrak and Lotus Cars are getting £4.3million from the Technology Strategy Board to develop the FLYBRID KERS tech (flywheel kinetic energy recovery) for a manual gearbox. The 24-month programme will see it fitted into a Lotus road car. More here.
  • Report by Susan Shaheen and Matthew Christensen (UC Berkeley) for the New Cities Foundation (@newcitiesfound) asks “Is the future of urban mobility multi-modal and digitized transport access?” (answer = yes). Apps “are on the forefront of digitized transportation access and will play a growing role in urban mobility in the future”, along with RFID tech; but creation of a single platform covering multi-mode transport “would exponentially increase the value of sustainable transportation modes through ease of use, accountability, and by creating virtual and physical connection points”.
  • London: £300million to transform the city’s most dangerous junctions and make ‘em more cycle-friendly. More here. (And some feedback on the benefits of separating cyclists – and pedestrians – from cars here). Debate open on the segregation thing…
  • And Obama’s proposing a four-year transport plan to modernise the USA’s infrastructure: $600million up for grabs for innovative projects.

Newsbriefs: New hybrid systems and transmissions, V2G projections and battery-swapping

February 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

kia soul ev_2Alongside the Soul EV, Kia’s going to show off a new hybrid system in Geneva. This involves a 48V lead carbon battery, a small electric motor plus an electric supercharger which ups torque and power at low engine speeds. It gives a short electric-only range and all-electric cruising, features regenerative braking and a stop-start system, and enables the downsizing of the standard battery.

Kia has also been testing the Soul EV in northern Sweden (pictured; apologies for another Kia pic this week, but it is scenic) to check out its cold-climate behaviour and range. Its driver-only ventilation system helps reduce the power drawn from the batteries; its new heat pump uses waste heat from the air conditioning and electrical systems; its new air intake control system better-controls the air flow and humidity inside the vehicle; and owners can also schedule the pre-heating or pre-cooling of the cabin 30 minutes before set-off.

  • Vehicle-to-grid: more than 250,000 V2G-enabled plug-in vehicles will hit the road 2013-2022, according to a new report from Navigant Research. These will enable owners/operators to sell power back to the grid, as well as reducing peak loads and balancing demand, and “smoothing the integration of renewable energy resources and generation revenue from ancillary services markets”, says the release. Basically, you can think of it as all the cars acting as storage devices, emergency back-ups and general repositories for solar/wind/hydro power, which is generated unevenly according to time, climactic conditions etc. And there’s the opportunity to make money there, of course, which is what everyone’s trying to work out.
  • Honda’s showing the new Civic Type R in Geneva, but of more interest to me will be the Euro debut of the FCEV Concept, previewing a production car to be launched in 2015. There’s also, if not the whole car, the powertrain for the new NSX supercar: a twin-turbo, direct-injection V6 with Honda’s all-wheel-drive hybrid system adding electrical assistance.
  • British firm Magnomatics - a spin-off from Sheffield University – has announced a second-generation version of its Magsplit eCVT transmission system for hybrid vehicles. This could potentially replace mechanical planetary gears and motor/generators as in conventional hybrid power-split transmissions, and is said to offer 1-2% fuel consumption savings, though the larger gains are in downsizing, reduced system complexity, no need for lubrication, and low battery charge swing, allowing a downsizing of the battery or longer battery life. More of the science bit explained here.
  • Bosch, Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa have formed a JV to develop next-generation lithium-ion battery tech, with the aim of doubling energy capacity and achieving “a giant leap forward”. More here.
  • Is there still  a place for battery-swapping in the wake of the demise of Better Place? Transport Evolved has the low-down on a Slovakian fleet operator which is using a simple, low-tech manual stacking system – similar to that of loading pallets onto a forklift – to keep its clients’ vans in action. Swaps can take just seven minutes, apparently, and one of its clients has done 24,000 miles in six months due to elimination of the downtime needed for charging.

Chicago Auto Show: Kia Soul EV

February 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

kia soul evComing to the UK late this year, the Soul EV is said to offer a ‘realistic range’ of 80-100 miles, though it has achieved a longer range during Kia’s internal testing. Its 27kWh, 360-volt, 96-cell lithium-ion polymer battery is mounted under-floor,  and is supplemented by four-mode regenerative braking said to recapture up to 12% of kinetic energy. It’ll plug into any standard 120v outlet or conventional 240v charger, and has two charging points, one for Level 1/Level 2 AC and another which is (fast-charger) CHAdeMo DC 480v-compatible. Full recharging takes under five hours from 240v, 24 hours at 120v, but an 80% charge takes from 33min.

Power’s from a 109hp, 81kW motor which gives 210lb ft of torque, with single-speed transmission to the front wheels; 0-60mph comes up in less than 12 seconds, though top speed’s limited to 90mph. It’s mechanically otherwise similar to the conventional ICE Souls, bar additional cross-bracing under the battery (said to give improved torsional rigidity over the standard models) – and the addition of a sound-alert (below 12mph and when in reverse) to warn pedestrians. There’s a minor loss of three inches of rear-seat legroom to accommodate the battery and boot space is down a little to make space under-floor for the battery cooling fan and to carry the 120v charger. Minor design tweaks include a larger grille to fit the charging points, special trim in the front and rear panels, projector headlights and LED lamps and taillights, plus unique 16-inch alloys with low rolling-resistance tyres.

  • A round-up of car-sharing news at Automotive News Europe. A Ford spokesman reckons there’s been ‘a breakthrough in acceptance’, BMW is seeing mainstream users joining the typically male, tech-head early-adopters; consumer awareness has ‘snowballed’ and the outlook for 2014 is promising, say consultants. They advise car companies to ‘see themselves as tech groups’, however – it’s all about the service rather than the product itself – and that they ‘should try to own some part of the information technology solutions they provide’. And the data generated, presumably (related to this, at the Guardian Sustainable Business blog: why big data will have a big impact on sustainability). Profitability is less the point in the immediate future than having a long-term plan, involving the chance to familiarise younger drivers with their products. This advice could just as easily apply to EV-makers, of course.
  • Nissan sold 230 Leaf EVs in the UK in January; this makes it Britain’s best-selling EV, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the all-electric vehicles sold last month. Nissan has now sold 3000 in the UK – and 100,000 worldwide.
  • Some interesting comments about hydrogen refuelling infrastructure from Toyota senior VP for Automotive Operations Bob Carter; speaking to motoring media in the Midwest, he said that only 1500 fuel stations would be needed in California to support fuel cell vehicles, if their locations were optimised. That compares to the current 10,000-odd. Full text of his speech posted at Autoblog Green; earlier speech from him about hydrogen here. His numbers are based on research by UC, Irvine.
  • Ssangyong is to reveal a compact SUV (B-sector) concept at the Geneva Motor Show next month; the XLV has a ‘mild’ hybrid system combining a 1.6-litre diesel engine, e-motor and lithium-ion battery. Yet despite  its dimensions – 4.4m long – it’s a seven-seater with three rows of seats plus an extra one which slides between the second and third row.
  • The US Department of Energy is putting up $30million for research into solar energy storage and conversion (with relevance to solar-fuelling EVs from domestic PV, etc). More here.

Design Concept of the Day: Millennium Tuk-Tuk

February 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

birmingham fuel cell carBirmingham City University has created a concept said to propose “the world’s first affordable hydrogen fuel cell-powered mass transport vehicle”. Built in partnership with Walsall-based motorsport firm Spencer Ashley and the DYP-DC Centre for Automotive Research, Pune, it’s on display at the Delhi Auto Expo this week. Not much detail at the mo, and this is the only image I’ve found as yet, but the “Millennium Tuk-Tuk” is suggested as “a primary mode of public transport in India in the future” to replace the traditional three-wheeler auto-rickshaws. It’d help the Indian government’s ‘Hydrogen Highway’ plan to get at least 1million hydrogen-fuelled vehicles on the road by 2020.

Some more lowdown from the university: “Hydrogen for the vehicle is stored in a cluster of low pressure metal hydride cylinders, providing a safe means of fuelling the system. A thermal compressor retrieves the produced hydrogen by splitting water into its component elements – hydrogen and oxygen – via solar energy. Hydrogen storage cylinders can then be used to power equipment including mobile phones, computers and lighting in remote and developing areas or in a humanitarian disaster situation, as well as powering an electric vehicle.” The uni has also been developing a ‘hydrogen tree’ concept – a simple design using solar power to charge multiple hydride stores to power vehicles and other devices; more on that here.

  • Global production of plug-in hybrids and EVs will rise 67% this year, says new forecast from IHS Automotive/Polk; this is against an expected 3.6% rise for all auto-making. This is the first of 10 predictions for EVs in 2014, the other nine being: more choice for consumers; total number of charging units to reach 1.1million worldwide, with 35,000 new ones in public/semi-public domain; the roll-out of ‘trio’ chargers with multi-way AC-Type 2 Mode 3, DC-CHAdeMO and DC-CCS compatibility plus DC chargers for domestic use, the price of the latter to come down; the AC charger market to fade; higher typical EV range of 150 miles thanks to lower prices for lithium-ion batteries; more energy and fuel-saving technologies such as Ford’s ‘solar roof’; public chargers still struggling to be profitable for operators, but the prospect of advertising revenue from display screens; a growth year in China; and EV prices to come down.
  • A number of EVs from Mahindra at the Delhi Auto Expo this week; most headline-grabbing is the Halo sports car, said to do 160kph, 0-60mph in less than eight seconds, and have a 200km range. Features a tablet-based control system on the centre console, too. More workaday are the (updated) Verito (85kph, an 80km range) and e20 city car, now offered with fast-charging capability plus compatibility to use the battery as a domestic power source at times of grid outage. More at Autocar India. Oh, and Mahindra showed its Formula E electric racer and a hybrid SUV called XUV500, too.
  • The Charge Your Car EV-charging network is reporting 100,000 charging sessions (as of 4th February). It has 230 registered charging post-owners and manages 1,535 charging points; 1,637 users are currently registered, who use the UK-wide RFID card system (also accepted on the Ecotricity network) on a pay-as-you-go basis. It introduced the CYC app last year, and drivers pay via smartphone; the app also includes a search facility, live mapping showing current charging point status, and remote start/stop of charging. The CYC system is also built on open-source software.
  • Nice story from NASA: its Sustainability office (yes, it has one) is running a test programme at the Kennedy Space Center allowing ten employees to charge EVs for free. The EV drivers are contributing data on their mileage/trips each day, and GHG emissions at the base are being reduced at a much higher rate than expected, according to this piece; the EVs are showing CO2 per-mile reductions of about 60%.
  • Mitsubishi’s bringing three concepts as seen in Tokyo late last year to the Geneva party: XR-PHEV (compact plug-in hybrid crossover with 1.1-litre direct-injection turbo petrol engine plus compact motor); GC-PHEV (full-sized hybrid SUV with supercharged 3.0 V6, eight-speed auto and  high-output motor, hint at next-gen Shogun); and AR, a compact MPV with stop-start and the 1.1-litre turbo engine. Mitsubishi’s also reporting 15,000+ orders in Europe for the Outlander PHEV.

Latest EV sales stats, Gen-Y car rental survey, general news…

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

leaf chargingEV sales fell in the US last month; breakdown of the figures via Detroit News. Just 918 Chevy Volts hit the road (down 10.8% on last January’s figures);although Nissan Leaf sales nearly doubled, to 1,252. Sales of electrified vehicles of all types fell to just over 3.5% of the total US car market. However, this is a fall from a year (2013) in which EV and hybrid sales saw a startling growth, and sales levels are still substantially up on 2011′s results. Falling gas (petrol) prices are thought to be a major factor. (OK, I know that’s a pic of a British Leaf, and indeed, a British Nissan Ecotricity CHAdeMo fast-charger. The 1000th to be installed in Europe, at the Clacket Lane services on the M25, to be precise. But I’m in a hurry this morning).

  • Audi: an all-electric version of the Q8 SUV coming up for 2017, reports Autocar, with the powertrain from the R8 e-tron supercar giving a range of 370 miles; a plug-in hybrid will also be offered, though petrol and diesel versions will continue too. The Q8 e-tron is intended as a Tesla Model X rival and, notably, this mammoth SUV “will meet what Audi planners believe will be a demand for luxury cars that can travel in the zero-emissions city centres of the future”, writes HH. Yep, this is a trend to watch out for. Apparently, however, “Audi believes that at this market level the customers see ‘greenness’ as indivisible from premium values”. Or is that just the right to drive where and when they like, because they can afford to pay for the privilege?
  • US regulators are working to mandate wireless chips for all new cars to enable V2V and V2X communication and ‘internet of cars’ connectivity. Safety is the main motivator, but energy use and congestion reductions are also a consideration. More at Automotive News.
  • Some anecdotal detail on EVs in Norway, where EVs account for one in 100 cars sold and numbers have reached 21,000, at The Guardian. Incentives such as free parking, road tax and toll exemption, the chance to drive in bus lanes, and charging from free (hydro-generated) electricity have played a significant part… but queues for chargers and congestion in bus lanes now issues, says the report.
  • OK, a survey by Enterprise (car hire multinational) comes with an agenda, but some interesting figures for the Gen-Y-disinterest-in-cars debate. Of 1363 25-34 year-old rental customers surveyed at random: 79%  believed that owning their own vehicle was “extremely important”; 68% said their first experience with new automotive technology was in rental vehicles; 53% chose a particular rental vehicle because they wanted to try something new; 88% of then changed their minds about the make and model they rented based on a positive experience; and 28% were motivated to go car-shopping for a new car (compared to 20% across all age-groups). More at Automotive News.
  • Stelios is trying out the peer-to-peer car rental thing: easyCarClub is now being rolled out across the UK following trials in London. More here.

Design Concept of the Day: Quant e-Sportlimousine

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

nanoFLOWCELL AG Stages World Premiere at Geneva Motor Show: the new QUANT - the First e-Sportlimousine with nanoFLOWCELL® DriveThe Quant super-EV – as promised at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show - never did materialise as a production reality (surprise) but the Koenigsegg-built show car, originally commissioned by NLV Solar AG, is to have a second-life role as a “very special research vehicle”. This 5.25m-long four-seater will be back in Geneva next month as a showcase for a firm called nanoFLOWCELL AG, featuring its “entirely new energy storage system”. No more info than that as yet, but apparently the car is a “first navigable prototype”, “set to generate new and innovative ideas for ongoing research into battery development, specifically in the field of flow-cell technology”. Fair enough: just don’t expect to be able to buy one.

  • Establishing a public charging infrastructure for EVs “is not really very important because most people are charging their cars at home”, says Herbert Diess, BMW board member. Such is the feedback from the Mini E and BMW 1-Series’ ‘Electronaut’ trials; more in this interview with Ward’s Auto.
  • Some pull-outs from the JD Power 2014 US Avoider Study (why consumers purchase/reject/do not consider particular models; 29,000 car-owners surveyed who registered a new car April-May 2013): 38% of domestic-brand buyers cited new technology offerings, and 33% of import-brand buyers; fuel economy the most influential purchase reason for the third year running; but exterior styling the most influential reason to not look at other models in the sector; and of EV buyers, 32% bought an EV for environmental concerns and 29% for fuel/energy economy (a different outcome than in a number of other surveys, which have seen cost/economy as more of a priority than wider ecological issues/concern).
  • Volkswagen Group Research is co-ordinating a 29-partner research project in Wolfburg called AdaptIVe – Automated Driving Applications & Technologies for Intelligent Vehicles. The EC-funded 42-month programme will develop and test a range of automated-driving technologies, both for urban and motorway use. Full lowdown at Green Car Congress.
  • Don’t forget comfort when planning sustainable transport: a 1000-person study in Stuttgart has identified four ‘comfort profiles’ for different types of traveller, who value comfort and who are prepared to pay (or not) for it in different ways. There’s the ‘relaxers’, ‘dashers’, ‘discerners’ and the ‘sporty’. Next stage of the project is to develop an app to enable participants to report on travel comfort in real time, and to measure background influences.
  • Nissan is surveying Leaf owners to find out if they would be willing to pay more for a 150-mile range and faster charging times, reports Transport Evolved. Options of a premium of up to $5000 are being suggested. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of this – and the pricing/range of the next-generation model.
  • A grassroots technology initiative in Tanzania, at the very opposite of the automotive spectrum to the Quant: GalimotoCar involves the building of basic, functional working vehicles from recycled materials and rubbish. Note that, in this context of a developing region, the car/motor vehicles are still very much seen as a means to develop industry (moving away from an agrarian/agricultural economy; seen by project founders as desirable), create jobs and income, and improve quality of life. Wider picture, and all that…


Porsche P1, other EV-related news

January 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

porsche p1Porsche is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the opening of its (most excellent) museum with a new exhibit: Ferdinand Porsche’s first-built car, the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2. Phaeton (“P1″, for short). This 116-year-old vehicle, one of the first vehicles registered in Austria (26th June, 1898), has been rediscovered and will be shown unrestored. Its 3hp electric-drive system weighed just 130kg and could take it up to 22mph, with an overboost-type system and 12-speed controller giving up to 5hp for short bursts; range was up to 50 miles. Not bad for what was, essentially, a motorised horse-cart, which had the additional advantage of summer/winter body styles.

This particular car went to the September 1899 international motor show in Berlin, and took part in a 25-mile race for electric vehicles – coming in 18 minutes ahead of the nearest opposition, though half of the competitors failed to finish. It also charted the best energy consumption in urban “traffic”.

  • So the UK government (OLEV, with the SMMT, in partnership with car-makers) has launched its Go Low Ultra website with info on EVs, charging, cost incentives and sweeteners, vehicles producing less than 75g/km tailpipe emissions (including plug-in hybrids, range-extended EVs) and the Zap-Map of public charging points. Not a lot of detailed information – it’s pretty basic-level stuff, written in a clear but verging-on-the-condescending style – but well, it’s something.
  • Honda has started field-testing its MC-β micro-EV and a solar recharging system in Miyakojima City; three PV recharging stations have been supplied by project partner Toshiba. Trials are also underway in Kumamoto Prefecture and Saitama City, but the Miyakojima project has the additional focus of evaluating EV use on a small island, where distances travelled are short and fuels otherwise have to be shipped in from the mainland. More at Green Car Congress.

Design Concept of the Day: UPM Biofore Concept Car

January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

bioforeLatest news and a picture of the UPM-Metropolia University Biofore concept car (first reported here last June): it’ll be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Who’s UPM? A Finnish timber, bio-products and paper-making firm – so the car, a fully operational showcase for techniques and technologies from the forestry industry, features a wood-pulp/plywood frame with wood and cellulose-based biocomposite body components, and runs on timber-derived biodiesel. It’s described as utilising “next generation biomaterials in the automotive value chain”,  is being built by engineering and industrial design students at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, and is said to meet all standard European safety standards for road-legality. There’s an earlier blog from the team about its build and development here; full low-down on the project here.

  • Latest ‘peak car’ study from UMTRI (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute): per person, per driver, per household, Americans own fewer cars, are driving them less, and are consuming less fuel (2005-2012 national data; 2007-2012 data from the 30 largest US cities). Main pull-out stats include: 9.2% of US households have no vehicle (2012, compared to 8.7% in 2007); 56.5% of households in New York have no car though only 5.8% in San Jose (2012; no surprise); the general trend of car ownership in cities is downward (Sivak, 2014). Abstract here.
  • Thriev, a new all-electric chauffeur drive/cab service in London, has taken delivery of 20 BYD E6s to add to its existing fleet of Nissan Leafs. The membership service works via smartphone apps and cloud-based vehicle monitoring and tracking, and has its own fast-charger at its Edgware Road HQ.
  • Tesla has opened new Superchargers in its European network, linking the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria via the autobahns and Alpine destinations. It now has 81 worldwide fast-charging stations (20min charges), including 14 in Europe and 70 in North America (now enabling coast-to-coast driving, as now tested by several Tesla owner/enthusiasts). Press release posted here. Note to self: must talk to Tesla drivers for fieldwork as their relationship with EV charging infrastructure – and technology – may be different to that of the average EV driver. Any volunteers for interviews?
  • And in the UK: five new Ecotricity rapid-chargers join existing Electric Highway points to connect Southampton to Glasgow or Edinburgh up the motorway network and on major routes, with points at inner-city Ikea stores as well as service stations. More to follow, including on the M11 and A14, later this year; more here.
  • Controlled charging of plug-in hybrids can cut the cost of integrating them into the grid by around 50%, reports a study from Carnegie Mellon University; this is particularly relevant with reference to wind energy, scheduling charging for peak generation times, which also reduces the need to ramp up gas turbines (Weis et al, 2014, in Applied Energy; handy open-access summary plus full academic references at Green Car Congress).
  • But deployment of light-duty electric-drive vehicles won’t have much effect on overall US-wide carbon dioxide emissions to 2050 or until the grid is cleaned up, according to modelling from North Carolina State University/University of Minnesota, because LDVs account for only 20% of the country’s emissions anyway; US electricity generation is typically carbon-heavy; and other sectors have a greater impact on emissions. Handy rundown and full academic references here at Green Car Congress.
  • Cleaning up ICE: a new catalytic converter design could cut fuel consumption by 3%, reduce CO2 emissions, and more far-reaching, use up to 80% less rare metal, as well as being longer-life. Dr Benjamin Kingsley at Imperial College, London, has received funding to develop a prototype with a view to production; more here.
  • The DELFIN project, with partners including Fraunhofer IAO, is looking at how to make electromobility more appealing: it’s working on new consumer services and IT structures to make EV-driving more user-friendly, and implementing projects for a mainstream consumer market. Latest here.
  • Following the (see below) reveals of the Frazer-Nash Metrocab and the Nissan e-NV200 London taxi, the (Geely-owned) London Taxi Company’s plug-in hybrid; picture here. No tech spec as yet.

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