Monday news round-up

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

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

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

Design of the Day: BMW Group Designworks USA solar carport

May 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

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

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

#EV news catch-up…

May 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

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

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

Design Concept of the Day: Zaha Hadid Z-Car

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

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

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

Other news, thoughts, general musings today:

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

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

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: hySolutions

Pic: hySolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

e-mobility NSR conference – some more notes

April 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

His colleague Russell Fenner added:

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

Concept of the Day: Peugeot Exalt

April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

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

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



Concept of the Day: Bentley Hybrid

April 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

bentley hybrid conceptAm not entirely sure what this represents in terms of an environmental leap forwards, nor indeed, as a symbol of anything, but Bentley (the world’s largest producer of 12-cylinder engines) is to preview its plug-in hybrid technology at the Beijing Auto Show. This will be fitted in a version of its upcoming SUV (2017), though the Hybrid Concept showcases it in the Mulsanne limo body.  Bentley’s promising that ‘at least 90%’ of its production models will be available as plug-ins by the end of the decade; all-electric range will be ‘at least 50km’, giving a 70% reduction in overall CO2 emissions (despite a power increase of up to 25%). I could see this as a cleaner way of propelling embassy-issue or plutocrat-chauffeuring vehicles around the city, I suppose, which is progress of sorts if not exactly a mass-market solution.

  • Upcoming report from the United Nations: to claim that cars are to be the fastest-growing contributor to GHG emissions to 2050, reports Bloomberg. Points from the leaked report include a predicted 71% rise in GHG emissions from cars 2010-2050, especially in developing/emerging economies. Vehicle emissions are said to have doubled 1970-2010, with 80% of the rise due to road transport; road transport accounted for 27% of total ‘end use’ energy in 2010. Bloomberg also quotes predictions from IHS Automotive that global car sales will rise 4% this year to 70.2million, with a 27% rise to 2020; demand is expected to peak at around 100million units. On a global level, we’re a long way from ‘peak car’, if that’s the case.
  • Some figures on Western European EV sales for Jan/Feb via the ever-EV-sceptic Detroit News; up to 0.34% of the market from 0.23% in Jan/Feb 2013, with 5,894 sold versus 3,810. Tiny numbers, indeed, and if you take out Norway’s numbers (2,484, 12.3% of the country’s market) EV sales actually fell 10% Europe-wide. Small rise in Germany, though (1,038, up to 0.23% of the market).
  • The 2014 answer to the Segway – not exactly a mass-market solution for urban mobility, but may have its uses – could be the Ryno monowheel/electric unicycle, now in production… (via Autoblog Green).
  • Sugar: could be better in biofuel than the human body. The US Navy has tested a DSH (Direct Sugar to Hydrocarbon) fuel in a 50:50 blend in diesel engines; details of a paper presented at the SAE World Congress here.
  • More from the SAE World Congress: transmission-maker FEV is showing a two-speed transmission for plug-in hybrid vehicles and for use as a range-extender. It has no torque converter and is said to be 10% lighter than a comparable DCT. More here.
  • Daimler has bought out former partner Evonik’s shares in two lithium-ion battery-making firms. It now owns Li-Tec Battery GmbH and its factory near Dresden, which makes the cells for the Smart ForTwo e-drive, and battery developer/producer Deutsche ACCUmotive, outright. More here.

Monday morning news round-up

April 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

electric avenue marlowThe My Electric Avenue project is now up and running in Marlow; nine neighbours in one street are leasing Nissan Leafs and testing energy monitors for SSE Power Distribution to inform on how clusters of EVs are domestically-charged, and their demands on the grid. This is the first of eleven 18-month trials around the UK, led by EA Technology, with further groups in Chineham, Chiswick, Lyndhurst, South Gosforth, Wylam and South Shields (x2), plus workplace groups at Slough Borough Council and Your Homes Newcastle. Fleetdrive Electric and Zero Carbon Futures are also involved.  My Electric Avenue is still looking to recruit 100 individuals for ‘Social Trials’ – collecting data on driving patterns, mileage and times of driving – with ‘specially negotiated’ lease terms on a Nissan Leaf; more here.

  • Did someone say ‘peak car’? New car sales in the UK in March reached a 10-year high, with 464,824 vehicles registered in the month; year-to-date sales are up 13.7% on last year, standing at 688,122. The SMMT is talking about “a substantial margin of pent-up demand that is contributing to a strong new and used car market”, due to increased consumer confidence and new products. Supermini and city car sales are up, along with SUVs and MPVs; March also saw the highest-ever monthly sales of alt-fuel vehicles at, err, 8,713 – a pretty damn tiny drop in the ocean nonetheless.
  • The Mayor of London’s Office is co-ordinating a £31million fuel cell tech/infrastructure deal called the HyFIVE project; five car-makers – Honda, Daimler, BMW, Hyundai, Toyota – are deploying 110 fuel cell cars in several European locations, and developing refuelling stations. The other locations are Bolzano, Innsbruck, Copenhagen, Munich and Stuttgart, with new refuelling structure going to Aarhus and Odense.  More here.
  • 30 Bluebird race cars are to run at Brooklands in September in a charity trophy race; Don Wales, grandson of speed record-breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell, has been relaunching the ‘Bluebird’ name and more will be revealed at an event at Rockingham later this spring.
  • Fourth prototype from Japan’s SIM-Drive is the SIM-HAL (high-efficiency, all-wheel drive) sports coupe, featuring in-wheel hub motors; lowdown at Autoblog Green.
  • Bio-engineering at work: a team from Michigan State University and U of Wisconsin-Madison have genetically tweaked poplar trees to contain more easily broken-down lignin, thus making them better sources of biomass for fuel… summary, links to journal paper here. And more on microalgae for biodiesel here
  • BMW has begun production of its C evolution ‘maxi-scooter’ in Berlin; range 100km, 75mph, lithium-ion battery modules as in the i3. More here.
  • An 18-month trial of an all-electric 16t truck by French supermarket Carrefour saw an 86% fall in well-to-wheel CO2 emissions compared to an ICE equivalent, reports Green Car Congress. The prototype, developed by Renault Trucks on a Midlum chassis, travelled 16,000km, delivered 16t of goods and enabled night-time operations due to its silent powertrain; though there were a few glitches with battery settings, it managed 25% energy recovery through regenerative braking.
  • To solve city congestion and car-dependency, don’t focus on urban transport solutions – better planning and development address the root causes, says Maria Borjesson of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. More here.





Trash-to-gas power, more transport and #EV updates

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

toyota biogas plantToyota is collecting waste gas (methane) from a landfill site near its factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, to generate electricity: when up and running, the power plant will generate enough power to build around 10,000 cars a year, generating one megawatt per hour (enough to power 800 average American homes). And handily, greenhouse gas emissions from the landfill site will be cut by as much as 90%, Toyota claims. Partner in this is Waste Services of the Bluegrass (what a great name!); they are to build a network of wells and pipelines to feed the generators. More here. (On a similarly feel-good note, Toyota’s Kentucky operations has a zero-waste policy including producing compost, which is used in an on-site garden, which has already delivered over half a tonne of healthy produce donated to local food banks.)

  • Audi A3 e-tron drivers (in Germany) are being offered a renewable electricity deal with Hamburg-based energy provider LichtBlick for all domestic energy needs including car charging: it’s hydro power, at less than nine euros a month and 26.76 cents per kilowatt-hour.
  • Report from TU Dresden on “The True Costs of Automobility - external cost of cars“, looking at accidents, noise, land use/similar effects and overall costs to tax-payers as well as air pollution, contribution to climate change; concludes that Europeans travel by car “far too much”, that European drivers are heavily-subsidized by other people/regions; a reduction in vehicle kilometres travelled is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and that urgent political action is needed.  So far so uncontentious, but not so sure about their last sentence (near-silent EVs with zero tailpipe emissions, anyone?): “Technology measures such as biofuels or electric vehicles focus mostly on higher energy efficiencies and on reduction of greenhouse gases. Their effects on all other cost components of external costs are smaller. Noise and air pollution, as well as the large cost component of accidents, remain high, causing ongoing negative effects on society”. I’d go back and look at that JRC report (see previous post). Noting as well that there are very big differences between different types of biofuel, and indeed, different ‘types’ of electricity, dependent on source and production/supply pathway.
  • And the unpalatable factors of car-dependency – low-income households in poor neighbourhoods may need to drive more – or gain access to cars – in order to increase their employment and economic opportunities, due to inadequacies of public transport, says a study from the University of Maryland/UCLA, blogged-about at Atlantic Cities. It does mention car clubs/pay-as-you-go rentals. Goes back to the idea that transport modal ‘choice’ is often the preserve of the affluent.
  • The number of electrified vehicles – full-EV, RE-EV, plug-in hybrid – on the world’s roads doubled last year, according to German agency ZSW: it’s now standing at 400,000-odd, with the million mark expected at the start of 2016. More here.
  • Next-generation lithium-ion batteries for EVs: silicon nanoparticle anodes and sulphur cathodes show cost-effective potential, according to a paper from USC Viterbi, reported here.
  • A second-generation biofuels project (fuels from waste, rather than crops) is at pre-pilot stage in Mexico, looking at the scaling-up of fuel production to industrial scale. The national programme is looking at different types of refinery for different areas, such as one fuelled by agave waste from the cheese industry in the Highlands of Jalisco; more here.
  • Very useful paper on natural gas for transportation, and move to biogas/e-gas, from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
  • Am going to refrain from making opportunistic comments about the UK air pollution alert for today and tomorrow.

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