January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
Latest 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.
January 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
So, specs for the Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab extended-range electric taxi: 75mpg; 75% less CO2 than the current London cabs (it emits less than 50 g/km); a 560km combined electric/engine-extended range; typical cost savings to the cabbie of £30-£40 a day; six seats with optional seventh front passenger seats; lithium-ion polymer batteries with an electric motor at each rear wheel. It’ll rival the Nissan e-NV200 (see below). London taxi drivers are being invited to take part in field trials in advance of its roll-out in other key cities and international markets; registration and full details here. Now, can they make it go south of the river? And Mayor Boris has said that he wants all London taxis to be ‘zero-emissions capable’ from 2018, but, well, Boris says a lot of things…
- Generation Y/Millennials not into cars? Nope, the majority will still buy some wheels when they can afford to, according to a new study from Deloitte LLP. Their priorities are different, however, to those of their parents/grandparents: rather than power and speed, they’re into technology and digital connections, plus alt-powertrains. Lowdown from Automotive News and at Detroit News, chase up the full report (nice infographic here) if you’re interested. Presented at the Detroit Auto Show this week. Some pull-out figures: 61% of Gen Y-ers say they plan to buy or lease a car in the next three years (up from 50% last year); 59% believe they’ll be driving an alt-powertrain vehicle in five years’ time (up from 57%); 80% without a vehicle say it’s simply because they can’t afford one; 75% specifically cite running and maintenance costs as factors. 40% of those who don’t own their own car borrow one or use car-shares, incidentally – so they’re driving nonetheless – though they are willing to walk and use public transport. The majority also said they’d pay a premium for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Chinese car-maker BYD plans to bring its Qin plug-in hybrid – a small family hatch – to Europe in early 2015. This has an all-electric mode of up to 44 miles, returns an overall 177mpg, does 115mph and 0-62 in 5.9 seconds, apparently; prices in China start from an equivalent of £19,645.
- Charging in Canada: Sun Country Highways, which has placed over 1000 free-to-use charging stations coast-to-coast, has signed up VIA Motors in a $80million deal to provide vehicles and equipment for hotels and other businesses. First example of this is electric shuttle vans for Best Western – 1000 of its Vtrux, says Green Car Reports, which notes that Sun Country/VIA /Best Western also have activities below the border for Washington State, California, Florida and Texas. More VIA: the company will offer the Recargo PlugShare app in its in-dash information system (Green Car Congress).
- Summary of today’s events at the Transforming Transportation 2014 conference (#TTDC2014) in Washington DC at TheCityFix: the theme’s ‘the future we want/data and technology’, and sessions included ‘Enhancing Transport with Technology – presentations on a case study on smartcard fares from Seoul; modelling geographic and demographic data; platforms to incentivise ‘good’ commuting behaviour.
- Oh, and Toyota has now sold 6 million hybrids, and is planning 15 more in the next two years. It sold nearly 157,000 hybrids in 2013 in Europe alone, 43% more than in 2012, and hybrids now make up nearly 20% of Toyota’s total sales in Europe (28% in Western Europe). Yaris and Auris hybrids doing well, as well as the Prius.
January 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
OK, so we all know by now that 2013 was a bumper year in the UK for new car sales (2,264,737, up 10.8% on 2012), but in and amongst that consumer frenzy, sales of hybrid and plug-in cars also rose – up 20.5% to 32,715. Sales of pure electric cars were up 99% to 2,512; and other plug-ins i.e. RE-EV, plug-in hybrids up 8.1% to 1,072. Plug-in vehicles accounted for 11% of all plug-in/hybrid electrified vehicle sales (up from 4.5% in 2011). 26,017 petrol-electric hybrids were sold (up 10.2%), and 3,114 diesel-electric (142.5%). Figures from SMMT.
- EV sales in France: up 55% in 2013 to 8,779 units (from 5,663 in 2012). Best-seller – unsurprisingly – the Renault Zoe (5,511, 62.8% of the market), followed by the Nissan Leaf (1,438) and Bolloré Bluecar (658). Van-wise, 5,175 sold (up 42% on 2012′s 3,651), and the French also bought 46,785 hybrids (32,799 petrol-electric, 13,986 diesel-electric, up 60% on the 29,120 hybrid registrations in 2012). (Via Green Car Congress).
- And in the US, hybrids accounted for 3.2% of the total car market last year (compared to 3.0% in 2012); over 96,050 plug-in cars of all types were sold (less than 1% of the market, but a surge on 2012′s 53,172. The exact numbers are slightly hazy – Tesla and Fiat 500e sales estimated – but Hybridcars does a detailed job.
- Another app launched at CES: EnLighten, from Green Driver, which uses location information and current traffic data to predict when a city’s dynamic traffic light system will turn a light green, and then alerts the driver a few seconds before to refocus their attention and prepare them for the get-go. It syncs with the lights in Portland and Eugene, Oregon; Pasadena, Arcadia and San Jose in California; Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, and Garland, Texas so far, with 5o cities targeted to take part by the end of the year. Full story at New Scientist. At the moment, it’s a bit what’s-the-point, but there’s potential here for optimising EV range, smoothing-out progress to aid fuel consumption, integration with autonomous driving/platooning, etc., I reckon.
- Brussels is considering turning its centre car-free, reports Atlantic Cities: the Belgian (and Euro) capital has a new mayor committed to creating a pedestrian zone. This follows the (not new) story about Hamburg (a ‘green network’ over 4o% of the city’s area) which has been doing the rounds again this week. And continuing on a cars-in-cities theme, London Assembly chair @DarrenJohnsonAM (Green councillor, Lewisham) has just tweeted: “TfL tell me today that research in London has shown casualty rates have halved in those areas with 20mph. That speaks for itself.” Indeed.
- Plug Power Inc is developing 10kW hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for 20 FedEx electric delivery trucks. This $3million US DoE project also involves Smith Electric Vehicles, and will see a near-doubling of range from the current 80 miles. More at Green Car Congress.
- And another study on greenhouse gas emissions within a city region – ‘blame the exurbs, not the suburbs’, in the case of Halifax, Novia Scotia. In this Canadian city, residents of the suburbs generated similar levels of CO2 to those in the inner city, but those in more rural areas within the jurisdiction had ‘significantly higher transport-related GHG emissions’.
And a load of EV- related research papers I’ve come across in recent issues/volumes of the journal Energy Policy:
- Some data and number-crunching from Newcastle University and the Switch EV trial: analysis of over 7700 recharging ‘events’ and 31,765 electric vehicle journeys found that peak electricity demand from private users was in the evening at home; individual ‘organisation’ vehicles were mostly plugged in at work upon arrival; and ‘pool’ EVs were recharged at work and at public recharging points throughout the day. It also emerged (in focus groups) that some drivers who could recharge at home instead chose to recharge at public facilities – because these were free and, even more crucially, gave them free parking in town. The researchers recommend smart meters to defer home recharging to off-peak times (after 23.00) and pay-as-you-go charging at public points to even out demand. Full study (open access) here; lots of very useful (for me) references, too.
- Here’s an Italian case study on smart grids, smart metering and electromobility, looking at the role of regulation and intervention.
- A look-ahead on evolution of the transport sector this century, and how to decarbonize it: the latter will happen later than in the power sector, due to the cost of changes; hydrogen and fuel cells will become dominant but not till after 2050 due to the cost of infrastructure; electric cars better fit the current infrastructure and short-term; but electric transportation more expensive long-term, unless electric car costs drop by at least 40%.
- A paper in the latest Energy Policy (February 2014) argues that US federal policies to incentivise EV take-up have been misguided in focusing on mainstream consumers: instead, they should focus in niche markets, and specifically car-sharing and postal fleets, as well as ‘green’ consumers/early-adopters. It’s all about strategic niche management.
- From the same issue (65) of Energy Policy: a study of EVs in Germany modelling hourly power demand according to size of car suggests that in a future power system, the cars would demand only 2% more electricity, which would not affect system stability if adequate grid-to-vehicle tech for charging/discharging batteries was deployed. Vehicle-to-grid tech (electricity back to the grid from cars) is not a viable economic solution due to battery costs, however, but EV use and G2V/V2G can help further solar/wind power integration into the grid.
- And here’s a discussion about ‘peak oil’ – the biases and inaccuracies on either side, why the debate has died down, but why it has ongoing relevance.
- And some modelling (forecasts) of light-duty electric fleets for transportation planners in the US: three case studies looking at investments over 40 years and subsequent cost/gasoline/emissions savings. Demand for electricity will rise, but greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced for little cost by switching from coal-fired to renewable-source power stations.
- Oh, and a survey of over 2300 adult drivers in 21 of the largest cities in the US found that nearly two-thirds gave incorrect answers to factual questions about EVs, 75% underestimated their value and advantages, and 94.5% were unaware of consumer or federal incentives for EV purchase in their area. Demographic and attitudinal characteristics had the most effect on interest in EVs or plug-in hybrids; misperceptions all round and better consumer information needed.
- Not just hot air: a substantial part of the extra electricity demanded by EVs in Germany could be met by ‘otherwise unused’ wind power – if there is sufficient conventional power to stabilise the grid. Wind power use is limited by ‘bottlenecks in the transmission grid’ and cars’ charging demand. Full study/projections here. But again, using EVs as back-up energy storage (‘secondary reserve’) is not economically viable for consumers/customers, according to this study.
- And in Ireland, an ‘environmental’ premium and subsidies for EVs would have to be hiked to “incredible” levels to reach the government’s 10% market share target, according to this forecast. (And consumer tax credits for EVs crucial in the US, too, says this one).
- An Italian study argues that success of EVs is hampered by the limits and costs of battery systems, and that research and development spend needs to be doubled if battery cost is to be competitive by 2030; it recommends investment in lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride.
- And another, modelling R&D spend: EVs will not dominate till after 2050, and limited innovation in batteries means a higher cost in policies; but even if capital costs of EVs remains higher than for ICEs, EVs will still play key role in the necessary policy-driven decarbonisation of transport.
- In more of a wider-view approach, the barriers to EV adoption are down to socio-technical inertia, this paper argues. Its authors cite the immaturity of developing technologies as a cause of non-commercialisation; EVs not currently representing a significant benefit to the electricity sector; reliance on regulatory and governmental measures; and the problem of ‘lock-in’ to unsustainable technologies. They call for a “positive milieu for innovation”
- One from Carnegie Mellon University, PA: Lifetime costs and emissions savings of electric, hybrid, plug-in and extended-range vehicles are highly dependent upon how, and where, they are driven: lifecycle emissions on the ‘NYC’ cycle can be cut by up to 60%, and costs by up to 20%, but reductions are marginal on highway test conditions at higher costs. But aggressive driving reduces the all-electric range of plug-ins by up to 45%. The authors advise careful targeting of drivers to encourage adoption, representative testing to enhance consumer perception, and discuss policy implications.
- Some thoughts and recommendations for the development of EV use in China here.
- Smart-charging of EVs can give annual savings for energy providers in electricity-sourcing costs of up to 45%, but the saving per car is minimal; discussion of incentives to deploy smart infrastructure here in this one.
- But why are we bothering with alt-fuel vehicles at all? To contain emissions and improve vehicle energy efficiency, we’d be better off (in the US and China, at least), we’d be better off focusing on the sectors that supply fuel than the choice of fuels for cars itself, as well as managing travel demand and improving efficiency of existing ICE technologies, this paper from the University of Michigan argues.
January 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
An e-bike theme emerging today: Local Motors is showing off the Ariel Cruiser (also available with petrol power) at CES, having recently announced a crowd-funding campaign to raise cash to build it.
Incidentally, Local Motors has popped up as an inspiration in the winter show of this year’s crop of MA students on the Automotive and Transport Design course, Coventry University. The well-thought-out flex-fuel Local Motors Canvas is the work of James Kerr, who has tapped into the Local Motors open-source/co-creation community and its focus on micro-manufacturing and customisation around a basic platform (a kind of DIY Gordon Murray ethic, maybe). The Canvas uses the Local Motors chassis with carbonfibre frame, plastic interior ‘tub’ passenger compartment and synthetic fabric exterior panels; more at his Local Motors portfolio. FormTrends is posting galleries of pictures of other Coventry students’ concepts, including Aaron McTurk’s CITY (Compact Intelligent Transport for You), a low-weight single-seater and Can Huang’s Sustainable Future Sports Car styling study. More to follow, no doubt.
- Detailed lowdown on the Bosch-Aston Martin DB9 plug-in hybrid prototype in the latest (very good) issue of Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International; the V12 is supplemented by a pair of front-mounted electric motors plus a third on the engine belt, adds torque vectoring, and it’s quicker than the original despite the weight gain. It’s just a demo project for Bosch, however.
- Also from Bosch: in and amongst its lengthy list of displays and activities at CES, there’s an interesting little nugget about a ‘connected city’ project in Monaco. The Monaco 3.0 pilot will initially focus on mobility, with the aim of making Monte Carlo’s urban centre highly internet-of-things enabled by 2015; first to be connected are bus networks, parking lots, paper/waste collection facilities and road-work information, with residents able to access real-time information and deal with the relevant authorities directly. Bosch promises that communication between various service providers will also be improved, and gives the example of informing maintenance-workers and users in the event of problems with the city’s many public elevators and escalators.
- Latest forecasts from Navigant Research: there’ll be more than 700,000 plug-in EVs on the world’s roads by the end of 2014; the PEV market will grow 86% in the US with sales of over 346,000 electric vehicles this year; most growth will be in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, but in both high-end and mainstream sectors. Navigant has 10 predictions for the year: carmakers will push for changes to the Californian ZEV mandate; Tesla will have a bumpy year; it’ll be a ‘breakout year’ for e-motorcycles; EV-makers will look to alternative forms of revenue including home energy management, data-gathering, entertainment, carsharing and information services; the launch of fuel cell vehicles will spur FCV vs EV debate/hype; EVs “will play a leading role in carshare growth”; wireless charging will hit the streets; EVs will save over a million tonnes of cO2 emissions in the US; more than 2.2 e-motors will be sold (including for hybrids) in the US; vehicle-to-grid projects will expand and start to create revenue. Handy rundown at Green Car Congress.
- A rather lukewarm review of the (expensive) Smart e-bike at the Guardian’s Bike Blog. Personally, I prefer the looks of the Faraday Porteur – a retro cargo e-bike also launched this week at CES – though I’ll be sticking with a pedal-only two-wheeler for now. And I’m definitely too old for this electric skateboard concept...
- At the other end of the plug-in vehicle scale, Bentley’s plug-in hybrid SUV (a Range Rover/Cayenne rival) has been confirmed for 2017. Will even come with a towbar, reports Auto Express. Which justifies its existence, obviously.
- Ricardo is to lead a feasibility study commissioned by the DfT on platooning of heavy goods vehicles. Road trials later this year.
- Launch of the wirelessly-charged electric buses in Milton Keynes today; tech lowdown and more info here.
January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Well, more than ‘just’ a concept at this stage: Gordon Murray’s iStream manufacturing process is market-ready and vehicles – the Yamaha Motiv.e. (pictured) – have been made. Gordon Murray Design has now launched its new website with extensive detail on what it’s all about, but basic points are that it’s a ‘cradle-to-grave’ manufacturing process for low-cost, lightweight vehicles, minimising energy use and carbon footprint at every stage of the car’s production and life-cycle (a 40% reduction compared to closest conventionally-built rivals is claimed, plus 60% energy savings from the assembly plant itself). Multiple variants can be built around the same basic chassis architecture, accommodating different powertrains including electric and hybrid, and there’s scope for using various recycled/upcycled components such as plastics for body panels; panels are pre-painted, so no need for paint shops.
Murray’s approach has been to completely re-think the whole car-making, design and development process – as well as what we need from future cars. And quite apart from the depth and coherence of his vision, his advantage is, I think, that he – with his background in F1, hero status as creator of the McLaren F1, etc – is seen as an auto industry insider and ‘car guy’, and is thus viewed with less scepticism than start-up innovators or upstarts from other sectors (i.e. Musk et al). Change from within, a very necessary element in this move to more sustainable transport.
In other news today:
- Good rundown of state-of-play re. apps for EVs and plug-in hybrids in the latest issue of Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International (p104-5). A Continental spokesman is quoted as saying that apps “will help to make EVs more attractive for drivers, because they will enable more spontaneous use and greater flexibility”, citing functional standalone apps for, i.e. parking space reservation or summoning assistance for disabled drivers, and notes that “the more things that get connected, the more intelligent we can make transport and mobility”.
- Greenhouse gas emissions from the sprawling suburbs cancel out the environmental benefits of densely-populated urban dwelling in US cities, according to research from UC Berkeley. Households in city centres have a carbon footprint 50% lower than average (transport, including that of goods and services, playing a major role) but occupants of outer ‘burbs are twice as bad as average (I paraphrase). Handy rundown plus full references at Green Car Congress.
- More from CES: BMW presented a Samsung Galaxy Gear watch with its BMW i Remote app for the i3. Detailed lowdown on this – and its new automated-drive research prototype and camera-based assistance systems – at Green Car Congress. Oh, and it demoed its ‘self-drifting’ autonomous-driving tech.
- Kia’s CES stand shows off the UVO (‘Your Voice’) system, integrated in the UCD concept with infrared gesture sensors, wireless charging for mobile devices, a head-up display and a 3D-view TFT screen; a UVO for EV smartphone app will be offered, giving info on battery status, range, charging point location, remote charge scheduling and pre-heating/cooling of the cabin. A full UVO app store will be available, including Yelp, music and entertainment options. Other Kia kit on show includes the In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) concept for the Soul, with tablet/smartphone plug-in for social media, parking assist, concierge services, radio playlists plus V2X and V2V comms for hazard/traffic alerts.
January 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
Volvo has launched its new cloud-based information/entertainment system. Sensus Connect includes a parking location/payment service, music streaming and Wikipedia hook-up, as well as wi-fi; Park&Pay is Volvo’s first car-to-infrastructure application. Partners in development of Sensus Connect include Ericsson, Yelp and Glympse. Volvo’s also working with Swedish sports kit-maker POC on projects including car-to-cyclist communications systems, and is to reveal a show car called Concept XC Coupe in Detroit next week. Not much detail on this as yet beyond the headline news that it’s “inspired by the design of modern sports gear”, and will have some orange detailing, exterior graphics and matte rubber mouldings (woo).
- And BMW’s ConnectedDrive in the i3 and i8 will feature the INRIX Intermodal Navigation system – a real-time navigation/journey planner with public transport link-up info plus EV energy management, range optimisation and charging point location. More at Green Car Congress.
- We’ve looked at ‘peak car’, ‘peak oil’, etc – now, how about ‘peak road’? Concept – a levelling-off of US road-building – explained at The Atlantic Cities, based on work by David Levinson, Urban Systems Research Group, University of Minnesota.
- Google and Nvidia are partnering with Honda, Hyundai, GM and Audi to put Android systems in their cars, via an organisation they’re calling the Open Automotive Alliance (aim to make Android the platform for automotive applications). Story reported at Wired. Notes on iOS vs Android for cars at Fast Company.
- Evantran-Bosch’s domestic wireless induction charging system – 240-volt – has been launched at CES. It’s compatible with some (but not all) Volt and Leaf models; press release posted here.
- One for the DIY brigade: the OSVehicle can, its creators claim, be assembled in as little as an hour using open-source blueprints plus a supplied electric or hybrid powertrain. Choose from an open buggy or a street-legal machine; the Tabby and Urban Tabby will be offered as kits or, later, pre-built, with options for customisation and soforth. Story at Treehugger.
January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
Happy New Year; we’ll kick off with a red supercar, just for the hell of it. Audi’s Sport quattro laserlight is a(nother) nod to the classic ’80s quattro coupe with next-generation laser-diode lighting technology (smaller but with twice the range and three times the luminosity of LEDs), but more interestingly, a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s an e-tron with 700hp and 800Nm (590lb ft) of torque from its 4.0 bi-turbo V8 (560hp/700Nm) plus 100kW/400Nm motor, which nonetheless returns a claimed 113mpg and 59g/km; all-electric range is up to 31 miles and there are three selectable driving modes (EV, Hybrid, Sport). This concept – on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas – also previews Audi’s next-gen MMI driver interface.
- Ford’s showing a solar-enhanced C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid (all-electric range: up to 21 miles) at CES. It hooks up to a domestic solar array, and Ford reckons that (in the right climate) up to 75% of journeys made by the average owner could be solar-fuelled. Trials are to start in partnership with Georgia Tech with a view to pre-production evaluation. Full lowdown here.
- Mercedes is showing off its internet-of-things thinking at CES: in partnership with watchmaker Pebble, it is demo-ing smart-watch integration of its Digital DriveStyle phone app. The watch face acts as a second screen, allowing drivers to monitor information such as vehicle location, fuel level and door locking status when away from the car (handy for valet-parking in Vegas, I guess). On the move, it connects up to V2V data on traffic conditions, road hazards and soforth as well as working with Siri voice commands and remote-controlling media.
- Hyundai, meanwhile, also sees ‘wearables’ – i.e. Google Glass – as the future, and is making its cloud-based Blue Link platform compatible; next year’s Genesis saloon will come with a Glassware app. More details here at just-auto.com. And GM’s going 4G LTE this year, too, reports Detroit News.
- Nissan unveiled its NV200 taxi in London today (with 1.6-litre petrol engine for low particulate/NOx emissions), and has confirmed launch of the electric version in 2015.
- The Department for Transport has published its ‘door to door’ Action Plan for integrated transport, an update on progress so far; download it here. We won’t talk about this week’s rail fare increases (boo, hiss) now, will we?
- And a pie-in-the-sky concept: Foster & Partners’ SkyCycle, elevated cycle paths above London’s train lines. Lovely idea, but realistically?
- Apparently the Elio Trike (an 84mpg lightweight) is to go into production in Louisiana next year; it’s on display this week at CES too. Press release posted here. Personally, I prefer the electric Charles Bombardier-designed Arrow…
- There was a 30% rise in public EV charging points last year in the US, up to 6,770, reports Autoblog Green, which has a handy rundown of the data. Including, presumably, this Skypump solar/wind installation at Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, which also powers street lights and supports rooftop hydroponic greenhouses.
- Seen the one about the EV vending machine? Treehugger has the lowdown on the stacks of Kandi micro-cars in a soon-to-rapidly-expand Chinese car-share scheme.
- Alternative fuels are as important in the transition to low-carbon cars as alt-powertrains, reports a well-to-wheel study from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. Handy rundown and full references (Journal of Power Sources, vol 249) at Green Car Congress.
December 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
Transportation Design students at the College for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit, took part in the 25th annual Michelin Challenge Design; this year’s theme is ‘Driven/Undriven: The Duality of Tomorrow’s Automobile”. In teams of four, they came up with a platform for an autonomous vehicle, and individual members then created their own designs for the vehicle body as well as for a tyre/wheel assembly. They were asked to explain the target owner for their vehicle and their mobility needs, describe a typical 24-hour usage cycle, and take into account usability on the current road infrastructure, production feasibility and consumer demands for safety and comfort. Individual winner was Byungwan Kang of the ‘Modularity’ team; larger-sized pictures and images of all the entries can be seen here. They’ll be on display at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show next month.
- Next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: a plug-in hybrid, says Peter Lyon at Motor Trend, who has some more details to flesh out this long-standing rumour. This super-saloon might not get the ‘Evo’ name, though.
- The City of Houston will save $110,000 annually by running its fleet of 27 Nissan Leaf EVs, and Loveland, Colorado (2 Leafs), 41% of its fuel costs: two case studies from the Electrification Coalition, outlined at Green Car Congress. Apparently Houston also runs 15 plug-in Prius (aftermarket conversions) on its municipal fleet, as well as the Ford Escape Hybrid, and has 50 EVs, PHEVs and hybrids available to its employees on a car-share basis. Yes, this is Texas: a cultural shift indeed in the land of Big Oil?
- Energy consumption of light-duty vehicles in the US will fall 25% by 2040, according to the US Energy Information Adminstration (EIA) in its report Annual Energy Outlook 2014 ( AEO2014). A counterpoint to the ExxonMobil forecasts (see yesterday’s post), it sees just a 0.9% rise in vehicle miles travelled 2012-40; fuel efficiency to rise by an average 2% a year in that time; and energy consumption of light-duty vehicles falling to 47% of the country’s total transport-related energy use from 2012′s 60%. Just 22% of vehicles will use fuels other than petrol/gasoline, EIA predicts, however (and that’s including diesel as well as hybrid powertrains); hybrids will account for just 6% of the market, plug-in hybrids 2%, and EVs 1%. The Early Release version of the report can be downloaded here (or there’s a handy digest at Green Car Congress).
And on an academic note, here’s a round-up of some more recent EV-related research I’ve come across:
- Some conclusions from the SwitchEV trial in NE England on the use of topographical data/mapping to optimise EV range and give more accurate range forecasting at Intelligent Transport Systems, IET.
- Study from DUT (Technical University Delft) looks at policies to stimulate EV uptake and use, and their effectiveness, efficiency and feasibility: more, incl. full academic citations, here.
- And from RWTH Aachen University: German households are willing to pay for vehicles with greater fuel economy and lower emissions, and for increased driving range and recharging infrastructure, if enjoying benefits such as free parking, tax exemptions or bus lane use; young, well-educated and eco-aware buyers able to plug cars in at home and doing urban driving are most likely to adopt alt-fuel vehicles. Hybrid vehicles are less likely to be rejected than EVs, but overall, most buyers are reluctant. More here.
- From the same journal issue: researchers from Technical University Denmark look at how drivers’ individual preferences – for driving range, fuel costs, battery life, charging, top speed and suchlike – change after they have trialled an EV for three months. Attitudes towards environmental concerns remain constant, however. More here. And there is a cost-benefit equation when it comes to vehicle range, with willingness to pay for extra range showing diminishing returns, according to research from VU Amsterdam.
- Electric cars, the Marxist perspective: if we want to solve the ‘problem’ of cars, rather than researching alternative fuels we need to look at the whole culture of consumption, says Cardiff University’s Daniel Newman.
- But if we want take-up of electric vehicles (or other sustainable technologies) social influence and interaction are key factors, involving negotiations of meaning, lifestyle and identity, say Axen, Orlebar and Skippon.
- How do you plan a fleet of fully-automated vehicles to operate in pedestrian areas, getting around problems such as uneven distribution of vehicles due to one-way trips, and relocation of vehicles? Not just an academic question (ha) but part of the proposals for a scheme in Barreiro, Portugal. More here at the European Transport Research Review.
December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
10 prize-winning design students from the Royal College of Art have been chosen to go to Fiat Centro Stile in Turin to transform their drawings into clay models and undertake internships. The RAC/Fiat Two of a Kind project asked students – mostly on the MA Vehicle Design course – to imagine the 500 and Panda city cars of 2020, the 500 in terms of ‘emotion’ and the Panda in terms of ‘functionality’. The ten winners included Francesco Binaggia’s ‘Panda Hug’, with an innovative modular interior, and Ji Won Yun’s ‘Panda Roomy’, whose exterior was conceived as an extension of personal living space. The project co-ordinated with the roll-out of Fiat’s Fiat Likes U student car-sharing programme; trialled at eight universities in Italy, Fiat is now planning to roll this out across its home country and in Europe, with the RCA the first British university to take part.
- And on the subject of university car-shares… Fleet News reports that Southampton University (my new ‘home’) is the first UK university to sign up for Enterprise Carshare.
- Swiss consultancy Rinspeed is doing the automated thing next year at the Geneva Motor Show: its XchangE concept is a electric saloon that allows occupants to stretch out and relax in comfort whilst they’re electronically chauffeured. It’s fully-wired for work, games, movies and media, with seats similar to those in business-class cabins.
- New report from US PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) on ‘peak car’, “Transportation in Transition”, looks at changing travel patterns in the US’s largest cities. Average mileage down 7.6% since 2004, mileage fell in almost three-quarters of the cities 2006-2011, most urban areas seeing increased cycling, use of public transport, working from home plus a fall in private car ownership. Not thought to be recession/economy-linked, either. Percentage changes still small, however, and only applicable to urbanized areas.
- 42% of US households would find the range of a plug-in hybrid adequate for their everyday needs, and 25% could cope with an EV with a range of 100 miles, reports a survey by the US Union of Concerned Scientists and the Consumers Union. For weekday driving, 69% could use an EV as they drive less than 60 miles. The study took into account access to parking and an electricity outlet, the need to transport five people or fewer, and towing or hauling needs, as well as (when considering EVs) range and ownership of a second vehicle. Nice infographic and PDF of full report at the USC website.
- More research: annual forecast from ExxonMobil, Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, reckons that global energy demands will grow 35% by that date, vehicle numbers will double as car ownership in developing markets rises, but that after growth and plateau-ing, vehicle fuel demand will gradually decline thanks to more efficient vehicles. Up to 5% of global fleet will be electric vehicles, it thinks, and 35% hybrids. Higher demand for diesel due to freight/delivery growth, however, and natural gas will be fastest-growing fuel market, though a 60% rise in renewables. Whatever you think of the report’s source/agenda, some interesting numbers to chew over. Handy digest at Green Car Congress. And after all, ExxonMobil has as much need to get its figures right as everyone else.
- More on Renault’s self-driving Zoe project at Autocar: self-driving at speeds of up to 20mph in designated pedestrian-free zones (i.e. for stop-start motorway traffic queues), self-parking. And news on new tech including an all-in one auto transmission/electric motor for hybrids and EVs, steel pistons for fuel savings, and twin turbos for engine downsizing. Renault also reckons to get a range of 260 miles out of the Zoe EV by the end of the decade.
- Ford has just demoed its semi-automated obstacle avoidance tech, and has teamed up with the University of Michigan on a fully automated Fusion Hybrid research vehicle for an ongoing project.
- Oerlikon Graziano has announced and outlined its new hybrid six-speed automated-manual transmission, said to be cheaper, lighter and more efficient than equivalent DCT units, yet as refined; ‘torque infill’ comes from an electric motor to smooth out gearchanges. The OGeco is designed for high-performance vehicles with front or rear-wheel drive, can work with range-extended plug-in hybrid powertrains, KERS, electric boost and energy recuperation systems, and will be trialled early next year.
- Not so grim Up North: the BIS-backed Regional Growth Fund and Collaborative Projects Fund (managed by Gateshead College and Zero Carbon Futures) is putting up a £900,000 investment in five low-carbon transport infrastructure initiatives in the north-east. One is the Route Monkey/Teeside University/Urban Foresight project to develop software to analyse usage patterns and total cost of EV ownership for fleets; another is the AVID Technology/Newcastle University work to develop an improved DC fan and water pump for EVs; a third is the Seeward Electronics/Teeside University project to develop an EV charging point tester; the fourth is the Sevcon/Wolverine Tube modelling/development of a new high-voltage low power inverter; and the fifth the Hyperdrive/Wylan Professional Services development of products and engineering services in data logging and GPRS-enabled control ECUs for automotive, defense, marine and portable power applications.
- Brrr… VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland) is testing intelligent vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems in cold and slippery conditions in the city of Tampere. The Drive C2X project is a collaboration between VTT, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Opel, and is looking at information on road surface conditions. More here.
December 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
A 2014 Geneva Motor Show preview already. The Hyundai Intrado concept (codenamed HED-9) showcases the company’s latest design thinking, as well as a next-generation hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain – smaller and lighter than in the current iX35 Fuel Cells – and, arguably most interestingly, a new “super-lightweight” structure said to be “a mixture of advanced materials”, “joined using a revolutionary technique that has the potential to change the way cars are constructed in the future”. It has been styled and engineered mostly at Hyundai’s European R&D centre in Russelsheim. “Intrado”, btw, is the underside of an aircraft wing which produces lift. Oh, and also to appear in Geneva: a 141mpg-plus plug-in hybrid city car from Renault, reports MSN, probably a variant of the next-gen Twingo.
In other news this week:
- The French postal service is testing three Renault Kangoo ZE electric vans fitted with a prototype hydrogen fuel cell range extender system. These HyKangoos have their range doubled thanks to the Symbio FCell conversion kit; more details at Green Car Congress.
- Bollore – maker of the BlueCar and its operator in the Paris AutoLib carshare – is to take over the running of the Source London EV charging network. Full story at Transport Evolved.
- Car production and sales in the UK and EU should pick up in 2014, with renewed enthusiasm for EVs thanks to the launch of range-extended models like the BMW i3, according to the 2014 KPMG Global Automotive Executive Survey.
- A prototype FAW-Volkswagen Bora (Chinese-market Jetta) is being fitted with Protean in-wheel motors for a hub-driven electric-drive powertrain. More tech details at Green Car Congress.
- Audi’s 2014 Le Mans contender, the R18 e-tron quattro, supplements its V6 TDI engine with kinetic energy storage (KERS) at the front axle with an optimised flywheel storage system, and an electric turbocharger with heat energy recovery. With additional help from enhanced aerodynamics, fuel economy (though such things are in the context of a 24-hour race) is improved by some 30%. Tech trickledown? And Porsche’s LMP1 – direct injection petrol – also features a pair of energy recovery systems.
- Meanwhile, Audi’s concept to debut in Detroit next month, a compact crossover-type vehicle (probably Q1), is another e-tron model, though no firm details as yet to the degree of its electrification.
- Toyota’s planning to sell only 5-10,000 FCVs a year from the 2015 launch, but reckons fuel cell vehicles will be price-competitive by 2030, and from 2020, “just one alternative of the eco cars”. Interview, quotes, more detail at Automotive News Europe.
- Bosch is claiming its next-gen stop-start system – with ‘coasting’ mode – gives fuel savings of 10% over current systems. More here.
- Scania is to lead a three-year EU-funded research project on digitally-enabled truck platooning. More here.
- The E-Car Club has launched its third pay-per-use EV-share scheme in Hemel Hempstead (joining Oxford and London). More here. There’s a fleet of Renault Fluence and Zoe EVs from £5.50 an hour.