Dissent on car club stats; electrification tech and more…

September 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

drivenow_mini_smallAnd something backing up my suspicions that on-demand car-sharing (as distinct from fixed-location car clubs) may not be the urban transport panacea its advocates position it as being: a German study claiming that it created more traffic on urban streets in Berlin, was used in favour of public transport or cycling and mainly for short leisure journeys (an average 5.8km). Vehicles also spent nearly 23 hours a day parked and stationary, only a half-hour or so more than than average private car. There’s been criticism of the methodology (Car2Go claims its vehicles work 150 minutes a day) and of the study’s concentration on usage statistics without looking at behaviour change, however.

  • Nissan, BMW, Volkswagen and Renault are co-ordinating in the EU-funded Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) programme to develop a multi-standard, interoperable network across the UK and Ireland, including over 70 rapid-chargers on major trunk routes; also involved in the project are Zero Carbon Futures (Sunderland) which will manage it, Irish energy co ESB, and Newcastle University, which will lead the research programme.
  • Controlled Power Technologies (CPT) has been demonstrating its 48V hybrid tech at the Low Carbon Vehicle event at Millbrook this week: this is a proposal using low-cost ‘switched reluctance’ (SR) motor-generators, which are simple stepper motors in which a non-permanent magnetic field is induced. These are said to be very controllable, efficient across a wide speed range, and need no expensive permanent magnets or rare earth metals. CPT has also developed its latest LC Super Hybrid demo cars for advanced regenerative braking and advanced engine torque-assist from the SR motor-generator, and is seeing a 17% fuel economy improvement (to 57mpg) compared to the standard 1.4-litre Volkswagen Passat on which the demo car is based; CO2 emissions are down close to 115g/km but performance is said to emulate that of a 2.0-litre engine. CPT is also showing off the ADEPT concept developed in partnership with Ricardo (see below), as well as COBRA (Controlled Boosting for Rapid response Application), using the SR machines in electric superchargers for buses and commercial vehicles – a means of enabling engine downsizing and higher gear ratios as well as improving diesel emissions. This is being retro-fitted in a number of transport fleets.
  • California-based Local Motion (San Mateo), vehicle-sharing tech provider to companies including Verizon, ride-share service Breeze, London’s EV-taxis Thriev, EDF and 1-800Courier (for Google Shopping Express deliveries) says it is scaling up deployment to nearly 90,000 vehicles; its fleet management/deployment/optimisation software includes keyless entry/access, enabling quick driver changeovers, and is said to facilitate fleet introduction of EVs.  A name to remember…
  • Another police alert: the Italian Carabinieri have taken delivery of 23 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs for use in city centres, on islands and in low-emissions zones, reports AutoblogGreen.

GM EN-V goes autonomous

September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Chevrolet-EN-V-2.0-201-1-580x386GM CEO Mary Barra has confirmed introduction of V2v-equipped models in two years’ time, and spoken at length about connected-car technologies at the ITS World Congress – full transcript of her speech here. To underline GM’s intentions, the latest prototype version of the EN-V 2.0 two-seater micro-EV (25mph top speed, 25-mile range) is on display – featuring autonomous-driving technologies, being fully fitted out with cameras, sensors and V2X communications including pedestrian-detection and sync-ing with traffic lights. Oh, and it’s gained a Chevrolet badge.

  • Renault and Bolloré have announced their joint venture (30:70 respectively) for complete EV-sharing solutions (vehicle supply and operation) and development of a new Renault specifically for car-shares. Renault’s Dieppe factory is to start building Bollore’s Bluecar EVs from mid-2015. The existing Bollore car-share networks in Lyon and Bordeaux will gain Twizys on their fleets in addition to the Bluecar, with Renault vehicles to make up 30% of the vehicles offered ‘as quickly as possible’. The Renault under development – though still at a feasibility-survey stage – is to be a smaller, three-seat EV with Bollore’s 20kW lithium-polymer battery, smaller than the Bluecar; this could also be sold to municipalities, companies and consumers, says Renault, though its main raison d’etre is ‘to support the expansion of car-sharing initiatives’.
  • Final conclusions from the 2011-2014 e-mobility NSR (North Sea Region) research programme have been published. Main pull-outs: Electrification a dynamic process – difficult to make long-term predictions. Realisation of public charging infrastructure a prerequisite – but must look at each scale, micro to macro, sort out interoperability. Need to combine actions of all actors, consumers, energy providers, distributors – overall system efficiency – but changing individual consumer/user behaviour also important. Lack of awareness/information gap biggest problem (info centres recommended, user simulation app). EVs good for urban freight, especially last-mile deliveries. Full report for download here
  • ‘Eco-routing’ navigation cut EV energy consumption by up to 51% in a trial and subsequent simulation by UC Riverside, though there were trade-offs for distance travelled, and, especially, journey time, which were in some cases not viable. The team thinks its system and algorithm for calculating optimal routing has potential for commercialisation. More here.
  • GKN has three new technologies on display this week at the LowCVP event, Millbrook. First up, the battery-alternative Gyrodrive flywheel hybrid system for buses, said to give 20% fuel savings, be suitable for retro-fit and to last the lifespan of the bus itself; a new version of the GKN EVO e-drive system for passenger cars and delivery vehicles, integrating an axial flux motor with single-speed transmission and promising much higher torque and power density in a smaller, lighter package; and a downsized engine to act as a range-extender, incorporating the axial flux tech on its crankshaft in an integrated package. More here.
  • Ricardo is demonstrating its ADEPT (Advanced Diesel Electric Powertrain) prototype at the LowCVP event. Fitted in a Ford Focus, this comprises the CPT ‘Tigers’ (turbine integrated exhaust gas recovery) plus Speedstart belt-integrated starter-generator and a lead-carbon battery pack, with 48-volt electrics. CO2 emissions are said to be under 70g/km, but the cost of the package considerably less than a full hybrid system. More here.
  • The Mini ‘Superleggera’ electric roadster concept could be a goer for production, with a decision to be made early next year, reports Reuters.
  • A stealthily quiet patrol car: Volkswagen has developed a police-specification e-Golf, with an 81-118-mile range sufficient for urban duties. It’s to go on display at a trade fair in Leipzig shortly, reports Autoweek.
  • Electric vehicles could play a key role in a paradigm shift away from centralized electricity generation to solar microgrids, thinks Swiss bank UBS, which is advising its investors accordingly…
  • How smartphones and apps are changing our ‘spatial thinking’ in terms of the way we relate to maps and journey-making: interesting piece at Citylab.
  • “Electrifying America’s fleet of transit buses would put a far larger dent in carbon emissions than putting a few hundred thousand Teslas on the road”, argues Daniel Gross at Slate in a piece about bus-maker Proterra.
  • Verizon has developed a provider-agnostic car-sharing app which integrates a number of its services. Verizon Auto Share features ‘scan & go’ QR code tech, with cloud data storage, and can be customised by service providers or clients. More here. And Valeo has partnered with French car-share tech firm VULOG to develop a Bluetooth-based smartphone access system for car-sharers, with the aim of creating a seamless and convenient user experience – more here.
  • The EPSRC is putting up £6m-worth of funding for two low carbon vehicle projects: the ELEvate programme at Loughborough University to develop fuel cells and batteries for energy storage plus integration of grids, vehicles and devices, and the Ultra Efficient Engines and Fuels project at the University of Brighton, aiming for a one-third efficiency improvement from ICEs and near-zero emissions. More here. 

Concept of the Day: Peugeot Exalt

September 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

peugeot exalt_parisThe latest iteration of Peugeot’s Exalt concept (last seen in Beijing in April) is going to the Paris Auto Salon next month. This big five-door saloon weighs just 1700kg and features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain delivering a total 340bhp from its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and 50kW electric motor, via a six-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive with regenerative brake energy recovery. Changes from the Beijing show car include a different ‘shark skin’ aerodynamic finish to the rear paintwork, and an interior trim made from recycled newspapers (in place of the earlier car’s ebony) – its pinkish tinge comes from certain business publications, apparently. In place of carbonfibre, there’s basalt fibre. And the finishing touch? A foldaway electric scooter (‘HYbrid-kick’) stowed under the boot floor as a last-mile solution.

  • A blog from the New Cities Foundation explaining California’s PATH (Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology) research at UC Berkeley, and the ‘Connected Corridors’ programme: developing a framework to integrate traffic and incident management with personalized route guidance, in partnership with Caltrans and using V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I, or V2X) communications. They argue that “transportation assets have been managed in silos” and that a holistic approach needs to be taken involving all transportation modes; while the focus is on reducing congestion and improving safety, while moving people – an goods – in as efficient a way as possible, reducing vehicle emissions is also a consideration.
  • The most important transportation innovation of this decade is the smartphone“, argues Eric Goldwyn (Columbia University) at Citylab – also making the case for public authorities to take control of app provision and multimodal integration, rather than leaving it to start-ups and to independent corporations such as the Googles of this world. Goldwyn looks at regulation and public policy, with reference to the ongoing Uber controversy, and cites Prof Elliot Sclar (Columbia) in calling this a missed opportunity for cities, which should be taking leadership, especially as more and more privately-operated transport options come into the frame.
  • On a different (though not entirely unrelated) note, a big report from UCL on transport and poverty: the authors discuss spatial mismatch (the dynamics between housing, jobs and transport networks, i.e. more affordable housing being in areas with poor or expensive transport connections), transport-related social exclusion and social justice, to examine issues such as the dynamics between poverty, transport behaviour and mobility, car-dependency (with particular focus on low-income groups in rural areas), risks of death on the roads and exposure to air pollution, and the impact of schemes to improve access to transport and mobility for key services, education, finding work and soforth.  Lots of useful references and data.
  • So transportation design students at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (training ground for many of the world’s best-known car designers) are being asked to take a different approach, reports The Guardian: rather than drawing stand-alone cars-as-products, they’re being told to look into the whole automobility system (as students have long been doing at the RCA in London), and address issues such as parking and the idea that vehicles spend 90% of their time idle, the land use that this entails, and the inherent all-round inefficiency of the private car. (This is in California, note).

Intelligent transport systems, connected cars, more #EV + automobility news…

September 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

outlander PHEV concept sPicture: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Concept-S, a sported-up version of the Outlander plug-in hybrid (one of Europe’s most popular plug-in electrified vehicles), to make its debut at the Paris Auto Show next month.

Some reading for the day: Latest report from ITS America (Intelligent Transport Systems) estimates the fuel and oil savings which could be delivered by the introduction of various technologies, including intelligent cruise control, traffic signal coordination, smart parking info, GPS tracking and wireless monitoring of fleet vehicles, optimised navigation and vehicle platooning. It also claims that plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles could bring fuel savings of 409.8million and 361.5million gallons per year respectively, though with current sales trends, petrol-electric hybrids “represent the most significant fuel savings” over the next ten years. Full report, focusing on four case studies, here.

  • Interesting article at CityLab on the carmakers’ attempts to woo Millennials – yep, apps, tech, smart accessories, etc. But not a note on the other reasons this age-group aren’t driving (in the US, at least) – increasing urban-dwelling, their financial insecurity; it’s surely not all about them being more into their iPhones than cars? Point made about grabbing their interest now with a view to capturing them in 15 years’ time when they do come into the car market, though (as if this is a good thing. Opinions – from sustainable transport world, the automakers – may differ, obviously).
  • South Korea has delayed a vehicle ‘smog tax’ in response to pressure from its domestic car-makers. Lobbyists claimed that the tax would cut Hyundai’s sales by 10%, according to this report.
  • UK car sales: 72,163 in August, 9.4% up on August 2013, the 30th successive month of growth, over 1.5million new cars sold so far this year… The greater surge has been in private registrations – a rise in consumer confidence, says the SMMT – but fleet is also up. Alt-fuel vehicles (including EVs and hybrids but also LPG/CNG) have accounted for 27,887 sales year-to-date (up 48.7% on this time last year).
  • Renault-Nissan is supplying 200 more EVs to Orange in France, mostly to be shared by employees and booked via Orange’s Auto Partage app. The fleet – Zoe superminis, Kangoo ZE vans, the Nissans e-NV200 and Leaf – will join the 30-odd Renault Twizys Orange is already running.
  • Tech problems are the most common issues reported with new cars, according to a survey by JD Power, with voice-recognition and Bluetooth connectivity the glitchiest. The survey warns that consumers, though interested in such systems, are frustrated when they don’t work, and are unwilling to pay much more them. More here.
  • However… Daimler has snapped up a couple of transport apps, mytaxi and RideScout, to add to its Moovel transport services unit (which also includes Car2Go and Park2Gether). It had owned a share in mytaxi – an Uber rival but for the booking of licensed taxis – since 2012; RideScout, functioning now in 69 North American cities, gives info for a range of transport options including car-sharing (Bloomberg, via Detroit News).
  • EVs: a likely market is as second or third cars for wealthy families, says Jaguar-Land Rover head of product development Wolfgang Ziebart. “We see some Range Rover owners or owners of high-end Jaguars as potentially being attracted to electric vehicles”, he notes, suggesting a two-part market with the other sector being EVs as inner-city transportation, in which JLR is less interested. Other JLR plans: increasing the all-electric range and capabilities of its hybrids (Automotive News Europe).
  • Propane: can be synthesized for transport fuel from e-coli bacteria, according to a team from University of Turku, UCL and Imperial College, London. Though it is a long way from commercial production, the metabolic pathway identified also has potential to incorporate ‘solar-powered’ cyanobacteria. More, incl. academic citations, here.


Tues news: e-mobility, incentives and other developments

September 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

usual-shop-feb-2010-003An interesting research paper from Lisbon in this journal (open access): 25 EV drivers (private and fleet) tracked for a year, giving feedback through interviews and online diaries. Environmental and economic factors were the primary motivators for the private drivers to go electric, while the fleet drivers cited their company’s image. Over the year, a well-to-wheel analysis showed an estimated 35-43% reduction in energy consumption by the drivers, and a 58-63% fall in CO2 emissions. Full paper here. (OK, I know this picture doesn’t show Lisbon. Generic EV-charging pic, taken in my ‘hood).

  • Latest e-motorbike and e-scooter forecast from Navigant Research: 55 million to be sold worldwide from now ’til 2023. Though China is the primary market for electric two-wheelers right now, from 2015 growth is expected in other regions; the report also identifies successful niches in the fleet market such as law enforcement and small cargo delivery.
  • An important step in solving home-charging access for EV drivers: in California, a bill has been passed giving rental tenants the right to install charging equipment (as long as they pay for it themselves, have suitable insurance, and gain their landlord’s approval), reports Charged EVs. The state has also just approved $1million of funding to support infrastructure, including fast-charger installation, in Encinitas and Sonoma County; more here. And China’s planning to plough $16billion into developing charging infrastructure, reports Bloomberg. Oh, and Rotterdam: a 2,500 euro scrappage grant to crush dirty older vehicles – in addition to the nationwide Dutch scheme giving 3,000 euros towards purchase of an EV, plus further local incentives (a slightly different scheme in Amsterdam, for example) of up to 7,000 euros. More here.
  • LG Innotek has developed a motor for DCTs which is rare earth-free: the motor enables fast and smooth switching between gears, and is said to give a 4% reduction over a conventional DCT (dual clutch transmission). Press release posted here.
  • Experiments in nanotech at MIT into a thermopower wave process suggest that electrical pulses of energy could be generated from burning liquid fuel, in an energy-dense and low-emissions process. Some details at Transport Evolved.

Changing car culture in California

August 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

la-freeway-1California: Beyond cars? asks Tom Turrentine in this journal article. He runs through the state’s history of car culture, describes its unique qualities including the role of Silicon Valley, and looks at the possibilities such as on-demand car-sharing, lift-sharing, bike-sharing, alt-fuels, EVs and smartphone app-enabled transport services, concluding that a transition ain’t going to happen overnight but that California is a big enough vehicle market to make a difference if new sustainable transport behaviours take off there. So it’s not exactly beyond cars, then, even in his most forward-thinking forecasts (it’s the usual networked/integrated/lower-carbon scenario) but it’s an optimistic and descriptive look nonetheless at some of the social background and contributing factors to car-dependency in the state.

  • And to illustrate the above further, news on California’s attempt to extend its tax rebates for EV buyers to target lower-income groups; rebates of up to $7500 could be on offer to qualifying households to tempt them to trade in older, polluting vehicles for something plug-in. Incentives under debate include cash-for-clunkers ‘scrappage’ payments or vouchers towards joining car-share programmes or for using public transport, to persuade people to give up their own cars full stop. The bill goes through its final approval from the Senate at the end of this month.
  • Transport for London is trialling wireless charging for four plug-in hybrid buses on the 69 route between Canning Town and Walthamstow; this is expected to increase their electric-only range to allow them to operate minus diesel engine for much of the time. More here.
  • The Eco Travel Network – behind the Eco Funky Travel fleet of 10 Renault Twizys operating in Wales, rented to tourists and visitors – is working on a more rugged version of the micro-EV. A trial prototype, with modified suspension, different tyres and added luggage racks, is heading to the island of Eigg for trial. More here. The Adapted Rural Twizy will be shared between 10 households in the trial, with particular attention to how much of Eigg’s  locally-generated renewable electricity it consumes. The goal is, says the ETN blog, “to explore what kind of lightweight, low cost, rugged electric vehicle might work on remote islands like Eigg where all journeys are short and the island generates its own renewable electricity but has to ship in expensive diesel by ferry to power the cars.” The Eigg trial is also to evaluate a Gazelle buggy.
  • Some car-sharing data from Dr Susan Shaheen and the Transportation Sustainability Research Center, reported here. Highlights of the 2014 Carsharing Outlook include over 1,462,000 members of car-shares (as of Jan 1st) in the Americas, sharing nearly 21,500 vehicles; 19 car-share programmes in Canada (over 224,500 members), 24 in the US (nearly 1,229,000 members) plus 1 programme each in Brazil and Mexico. “Growth in shared-use vehicle systems continues worldwide”, says Dr Shaheen.
  • Old newspapers could be a source of bio-butanol, due to the presence of of particular strain of bacteria which breaks down organic cellulose; research at Tulane University, New Orleans, reported here.
  • Latest news from Sakti3 (a University of Michigan spin-off) on its solid-state batteries: these could double the range of a Tesla Model S, could be produced for around $100 per kWhr (less than half the current price of Tesla batteries), and are safer (less flammable) than current lithium-ion tech, the start-up claims. Reported here.

Designers look at future of mobility, & research round-up

August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

minifutures_kmA Dezeen/Mini collaborative exhibition, called Frontiers – The Future of Mobility, opens at designjunction (in the Sorting Office, New Oxford Street) on 17th September as part of London Design Week. Work on display includes that of Keiichi Matsuda, who looks at the use of augmented reality to superimpose information and signage (pictured); Dominic Wilcox  who suggests that, when cars are fully-automated, safety features such as airbags and crumple zones are no longer needed – and thus cars can be made of anything, even intricate stained-glass windows; Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, who explores ‘repair ecologies’ and how genetically-engineered synthetic, biological vehicles could evolve and mutate as they are used and repaired, according to their environments; Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, developing 3D-printed dashboard figurine ‘avatars’ to communicate with drivers; and Pernilla Ohrstedt, predicting how cars could collect detailed 3D scans for mapping and the creation of virtual-reality worlds.

  • A little primer on behavioural insights and ‘nudge’ theory in relation to transport here from SDG; a further summary of this… it’s about the ideas that: people are creatures of habit and like to be consistent, but are not always logical in their decisions; they are influenced by other people and seek their approval, but the sacrifices they are prepared to make to change their habits are actually quite small; decisions (as in what mode of transport to use) are often based on mental short-cuts and misinformed perceptions; decisions are influenced by short-term gains, relative to context (again, not always logical); ‘sticks’ are more effective than ‘carrots’ in changing behaviour; but for successful outcomes, people need to feel empowered or positive about change rather than that they have no choice.
  • And on a not dissimilar theme, a new paper in Transport Geography warns that, unless “transport taboos” – interlinked factors which might harm governmental or business interests or social order, including social inequality of planned measures, social/psychological functions of mobility, lobbying, inequality in contributions towards emissions and transport volumes – are addressed, “it will be difficult to achieve significant emission reductions in passenger transport”. (thanks @RachelAldred).
  • Natural gas, whether powering vehicles directly in an ICE, used to generate electricity for EVs, or used to generate hydrogen for fuel cell cars, shows an improvement over coal or oil in all three scenarios, reports a team from University of Michigan, which has done a series of lifecycle analyses. Detailed lowdown and references here at Green Car Congress.


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