Concept of the Day: Volkswagen e-load Up!

September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

72949vw-e-loadup1_mediumMy favourite of the concepts shown in Frankfurt this week: the practical Volkswagen e-load Up, a panel-van version of the e-Up city car. It’s got 1400 litres-worth and 1 cubic metre of cargo capacity, does 80mph and has a range of up to 99 miles, more than enough for local load-lugging or delivery duties. It has a five-door layout with the rear windows blanked out, and just two front seats; the passenger seat folds to increase load length. It’ll go into (limited-run) production if there is sufficient demand.

In other news today:

  • Renault has signed a letter of intent with the Bolloré Group – maker of the Bluecar as used in the Paris Autolib’ – for “joint development of car-sharing solutions and the implementation of industrial and commercial cooperation agreements in the field of electric vehicles”. Bolloré has won contracts in Lyon (Bluely), Bordeaux (Bluecub) and Indianapolis (!) as well as Paris, and with Renault, is planning joint-venture tenders for further services internationally. Some Bluecar production could be shifted to Renault’s plant in Dieppe, and a convertible version is to join the range next June; a three-seater with Bolloré’s battery (said to give a range of over 120 miles) is also under development. Renault is also to supply components, and may take a stake in the existing operations in Lyon and Bordeaux. (In a separate story, Bolloré has accused a firm contracted by BMW of industrial espionage; P3 claims its employees were checking charging post compatibility for the i3).
  • Also on an EV-sharing theme: Toyota is partnering with City Carshare in Pleasanton, California (Bay Area), to supply a 30-car fleet of Scion-branded iQ EVs. This pilot scheme will be called Dash; release posted here.
  • Here’s a commitment: Transport Scotland has declared that the country will be free from petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles and their emissions by 2050. It has published an Electric Vehicle Roadmap document, Switched On Scotland, and promised that half of all fossil-fuelled vehicles will be phased out of urban environments by 2030.
  • The City of London has voted for a blanket 20mph limit in the Square Mile (as predicted in yesterday’s Evening Standard; thanks to @livingstreets for tweeting the result of the vote). It’ll join Camden and Islington with this; good news for pedestrians and cyclists. Full release here. This marks quite a step forward in reducing car-dominance in city centres, I reckon.
  • Drayson Racing Technologies has entered into a licence agreement with Qualcomm Inc. to use the latter’s wireless charging tech in the cars it supplies. The 20kW Qualcomm Halo system is fitted in the prototype Drayson B12/69EV electric racer, which  has been undergoing high-speed trials, hill-climbing at Goodwood and setting land-speed records for EVs, and Qualcomm Europe Inc is sponsoring the Drayson Racing team. DRT also says that it is “developing systems for use on road-going EVs and for electric racing cars that will participate in the forthcoming FIA Formula E Championship”.

Venturi ventures thru’ Africa; EV week-end round-up

March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Venturi is to venture 4,800km in its electric Citroen Berlingo conversion (as supplied to the French Post Office, but with extra batteries) across Africa. The ‘Mission Africa’ trip will take in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa, Kilimanjaro to Okavango. You can follow its progress (in English) at ; the purpose of the trip is to prove reliability, raise awareness and study the infrastructure in a continent where 65% of people are said to have no access to mains electricity. The trip is backed by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and the car was presented at the EVER show in Monte Carlo this week.

In other news today:

  • Some spy shots of a big-wheeled Chevrolet Volt at Autoblog Green: word is that this is actually the Cadillac Converj (the Volt’s luxury sister model) in disguise. GM has also started testing the Chevy Spark EV.
  • Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute are to show next-generation lithium-ion batteries for EVs which have improved charging/discharging properties, optimised cooling, more flexible layouts and better pressure resistance. These will be on display at the Hanover Messe next month; more at Alpha Galileo.
  • The IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) has published a Code of Practice for electric vehicle charging equipment installation. Good stuff. Paperback or e-book available from the IET.
  • Robert Llewellyn has launched a new series of his EV web TV show Fully Charged, now sponsored by British Gas. More about it at the Charging Point, show itself at

Clandestine hybrid, electric van grants, Geneva EV previews and solar bus stops

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Despite being a Guardian-reading peacenik, I do have an interest in military vehicles. Am liking the US Army’s new Clandestine Extended-Range Vehicle (CERV) which has an all-electric mode and an eight mile range in which it can all-electrically creep around being, well, quiet and clandestine. It’s a light armoured buggy with a Quantum-developed diesel-electric hybrid powertrain: a 1.4-litre engine, 75kW generator and over 5000lb ft-worth of torque. Fuel savings are around the 25% mark and it can still do 80mph and climb 60-degree slopes.

  • The first seven vans to be eligible for the government’s Plug-In Van grants – up to 20% of their purchase price, or £8000 – have been announced. Some unfamiliar names here: we know the Azure Dynamics Transit Connect Electric, the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell, the Mia-electric Mia U, Renault Kangoo ZE and Smith Edison SE2 and SE 3, but the Faam Ecomile and Jolly 2000 - Italian micro-vans – were  new to me.
  • A Czech company called EVC is converting the Skoda Roomster to battery power; two conversions offered, R3 (41hp, 110km/ph top speed, range of 140km) and R7 (88hp, 170km/ph, 175km). Both cars to be launched at Geneva Motor Show, more details thanks to Technologic Vehicles.
  • Another Geneva EV preview: quadricycle-maker Volteis is to unveil a Philippe Starck-designed minimalist concept car, reports Technologic Vehicles (again). “I wanted to offer an alternative. A different answer so we can return to the minimalist definition of a vehicle. A simple vehicle. Almost a breeze. With four wheels. A steering wheel. And electricity. A vehicle there to transport. To carry people and luggages,” says Starck  (as quoted by TechVehicles. I like the translation of  “luggages”, which gives a perfect sense of plural items). No picture yet.
  • Nice solar induction-charging concept for buses, developed by Dutch firm Studio Mango for the city of Noord-Brabant, outlined at Smart Planet. Can’t see it working here, though – when did I last see a bus shelter which hadn’t been vandalised?

Monday: Mindset and more

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

An update on the Mindset EV: the Swiss firm has optimised the performance of its lithium-ion batteries, doubling their power density in a “major breakthrough for electric vehicles”. Three models are planned; two are all-electric (and one of these four-wheel-drive), and the third a range-extended EV with a single-cylinder 300cc four-stroke engine acting as a generator. Prices from 76,000 euros, they say. (Thanks to @TechVehicles).

In other news today:
  • Honda is to introduce a new 1.6-litre diesel engine at the Geneva Motor Show; it’s the first of a new series of engines dubbed “Earth Dreams Technology” (hm…) which will “see Honda become number one in fuel economy within three years” (take that, dissatisfied Civic Hybrid owners). Going into the Civic late this year, this 120hp/300Nm diesel will emit less than 100g/km. Honda will also show the NSX Concept (hybrid) and EV-Ster concept, plus a Jazz 1.2 with stop-start (giving a 3g/km reduction), which goes on sale this spring.
  • The EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show will be held at Silverstone on August 18th. Manufacturers including Renault, Nissan, Peugeot and Citroen will have cars at the event for fleet managers to test-drive, and charging point/infrastructure firms will also attend. The show is organised by Fleet World magazine in association with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association; Fleet World’s managing editor Ross Durkin says: “Fleets’ attitude towards electric vehicles is changing steadily as some of the myths are dispelled, and the recharging infrastructure develops… With oil prices widely expected to rise again, I think EVs will make commercial sense to a growing number of organisations… maybe 10% of new cars into fleet in five years’ time.”
  • Mercedes-Benz will launch its Citan van at the Hannover CV show in September; this small van is developed from the Renault Kangoo, so electric versions are probably on the agenda too.
  • Bluebird Automotive is testing its prototype electric trucks in London this week. Follow @ev_innovations for all the news.

Meet mia electric

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The mia electric (yes, all lower-case, like smart) is to launch at the EcoVelocity show in London next month. The mia cars made their debut at the Geneva Motor Show last year, and will be seen in the UK for the first time. Mia plans to reach a production capacity of 14,000 cars  in 2012 at its factory in Cerizay, France; 3000 orders have been taken, production started in June, and mia expects to make 4000 cars this year; UK sales start early 2012.

Mia – a French-German company which was originally part of coachbuilding firm Heuliez – is to show three versions of its Microbus. There’s a standard three-seat short-wheelbase model, the slightly longer mia L (four seats) and mia box van (a 1500-litre cargo capacity). Designed by Murat Günak, former head of design at Volkswagen, they feature a central driving position which allows the driver to get in and out on either side; the rear passengers thus have plenty of legroom as well, and there’s space on the dash to mount a tablet computer and iPod.

Günak says: “As a father of four I wanted to pursue a new, sustainable path towards environmentally-friendly mobility of the future. We started with a blank piece of paper and asked ourselves the same question over and over again: what does a customer really want to be mobile in the city? Our conclusion was a compact-yet-spacious microbus that’s well organized and single-mindedly focused on urban transportation.”

Design partner David Wilkie, the former design director of Bertone, adds: “Working on the mia project was like reinventing the car itself. It hasn’t been designed to look swoopy and fast, it’s designed to be practical and likeable. A lot of cars are derivatives of mainstream cars but this is all new and perfect for big cities. It will undoubtedly become harder, and maybe even illegal, to drive petrol cars in downtown urban areas, so electric city cars like the mia have enormous potential.”

All three mia models (which weigh 750-759kg)  have an 18kW rear-mounted motor, giving a top speed of 68mph. Range  is 120-130km, and a full charge takes five hours, but the lithium-phosphate batteries can take short top-up charges without any detriment. A ten-minute charge gives an extra 6km.

Pricing is still hefty, for a vehicle so small, however. The mia electric starts from £22,000 – after the £5000 government subsidy is taken into account – though incentives do include exemption from the London congestion charge, free road tax, 0% BIK tax for company car users and of course, big savings on fuel. There’s a three-year warranty for the car and its batteries, which can be extended to five years.

Design Concept of the Day: Renault Frendzy

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Renault’s Frendzy concept is a compact work van/family car, and perhaps a hint at the next-generation Kangoo line-up. Created under the direction of Laurens van den Acker, it has an assymmetric body structure with one conventional door and one sliding door on the passenger side, but centre-opening doors on the driver’s, meant to give optimum versatility for work use or family comfort and practicality.

The interior can be configured as a load-space or a people-carrier with rear bench seat, and the Frendzy is designed to adapt between work mode and family mode – represented by selectable mood lighting settings. High-tech touches doubling as office-on-wheels and family entertainment include an external screen which could display messages (such as a company name), a touch-screen games console or video screen, a Blackberry Playbook and a 37-inch screen on the sliding rear door; there are also magnetic load-anchoring points, door-mounted sensors which can monitor payloads and the loading of tagged items (to track deliveries, for example), and an adaptable fabric roof panel that can accommodate odd-shaped loads.

Frendzy features the same electric powertrain as the Kangoo ZE, and the charging point of the Zoe; it was designed from scratch as an EV. It also has two distinctive simulated engine sounds to alert pedestrians – one representing its work mode and the other leisure-time.

The Frendzy will be on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show this autumn.

Midweek newsbriefs

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is the KleenSpeed EV-X11, and it’s just set another lap record for electric prototypes at the Refuel SportElectric TT, Laguna Seca. Averaging 81.5mph, it lapped the circuit in 1.38.858, beating its own time set last year, thanks to a new  liquid-cooled motor giving 200hp and 300lb ft of torque, plus lighter lithium-polymer batteries. California-based KleenSpeed is claiming the 140mph EV-X11 as “the fastest electric track racing car in the world”, and says that it’s a test-bed for technologies, research and development which could be used in the real world. It also set a lap record in the conversions class with its ‘Eiata’, an electrified Mazda Miata (MX-5). Full press release and video posted at Autoblog Green.

  • Nissan has started testing an electric van based on its NV200. A first initial prototype is being run by the Japan Post Service in Yokohama in a two-month trial, when its usage in a real-world environment will be studied, and further testing will be carried out in Japan and Europe.
  • The second RAC Future Car Challenge will take place this year on Saturday 5th November, and a team from Imperial College, London, is again overseeing the data measurement and judging of the most energy-efficient vehicles on the 60-mile run from Brighton to London. This year, however, all the data logs will be made public directly after the event, and there are new categories for the 90 entrants: pure electric; extended-range and plug-in hybrid; hybrid; hydrogen; internal combustion engine (emitting up to 110g/km of C)2 and using any legal fuel). Prototypes will also be distinguished from production vehicles.
  • Only 1% of UK motorists questioned for a survey by the AA said they would buy a hybrid or electric vehicle in the next 12 months; 50% said that the cost of ‘green’ cars was prohibitive. However, over 75% of the 150,000 people questioned said that they were affected by the price of fuel…
  • Better Place is planning to install 20 battery-swap stations (plus conventional recharging points) in Denmark within the next nine months. The first opened in Gladsaxe this week.
  • The city of Normal, Illinois is offering EV buyers a 1% sales tax rebate. The offer applies to cars – including the range-extended Chevy Volt – registered in the city till 2014. Local authorities hope this will boost car sales in the area as well as incentivise EV purchase (Autoblog Green).
  • Portland, Oregon, meanwhile is named by All Cars Electric as “a leading market” for EVs and the first place to have a public fast-charging point. EVs are well-suited to the area’s commuting habits and layout, and local-use neighbourhood EVs are surprisingly popular.
  • A Turkish investment group, BD Otomotive, is in talks to rescue Think Global from bankruptcy. The group already runs EV conversion facilities, installs and operates recharging infrastructure, assembles battery packs and has opened battery recycling plants, and is also starting to distribute Fisker  and BYD vehicles in Turkey. If it is successful in its takeover of the Norwegian firm, it plans to “launch new platforms and the next generation of vehicles” (Green Car Congress).
  • Manufacturers’ plans for EV and plug-in hybrid production are way behind national targets, according to report by the International Energy Agency. Around 0.9million are scheduled for 2015 and 1.4million a year by 2020, but national targets call for 1.5 million a year by 2015 and 7million by 2020 (Green Car Congress).


Mia EV: coming to UK this autumn

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

More on this Mia EV, to arrive in the UK this autumn. The German-registered company Mia electric GmbH is to offer a three-car range comprising two mini-MPVs (2.87m and 3.19m long) and a box-van. The Murat Gunak-styled microcar – first seen at the Geneva Motor Show last spring – is a three-seater with sliding side doors and a centrally-positioned driver’s seat, allowing the driver to get in and out from either side and giving ‘enormous legroom’ for rear-seat passengers; the longer-wheelbase Mia L (pictured) seats four, with three-abreast in the back, but the van, which has a 1500-litre cargo capacity, is a single-seater.  It’ll be built in Cerizay, western France, by Mia electric SAS, a spin-off company from Heuliez owned 70% by Mia electric GmbH and 30% by the administration of the Poitou-Charentes region.

The range is now up to about 80 miles (from a three-hour charge) and prices start from E19,500 – unfortunately rather steep for UK buyers, given the current exchange rate. Over 2,500 orders have been taken so far, and production starts in June. The Mia L will be taking part in the RAC Future Car Challenge (5th November 2011) to promote its UK launch. More at

Vauxhall electrifies Vivaro

September 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Vauxhall is showing an electric Vivaro van at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany, this week. The Vivaro e-Concept promises an extended range of up to 250 miles – 60 miles in all-electric mode plus additional range thanks to a small range-extender engine, Chevy Volt-style. The van’s lithium-ion batteries are mounted under-floor, and it retains a 750kg payload and 5 square-metre load capacity.

Midweek matters

September 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

RLE International and Australian firm Energetique have launched a jointly-developed all-electric light van called the MaxEV. Based on the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi, it has a payload of 600kg and a range of up to 150km (200km in higher-spec form). It’s on display at the Low Carbon Vehicle Show at Millbrook this week and is being marketed to UK fleets.

  • Cheaper than carbonfibre: a new material called inrekor, a propylene-based foam sandwiched between sheets of aluminium, could cut vehicle weight by 30%, reports Autocar. Inrekor is said to be suitable for chassis-building and for vehicle structures, bonded together with super-strength adhesives. It has been tested by the Warwick Manufacturing Group and crash-tested at MIRA, achieving results similar to a structure with five NCAP stars.  It’s 100% recyclable, as well. Inrekor says that a prototype’s a way off, but a showcase concept (a Porsche 356 Speedster replica) using the material has been built by Dorset’s Chesil Motor Company.
  • Daimler is to collaborate with Renault-Nissan on electric vehicle tech; the tie-up will involve vehicles from the Mercedes and Smart brands.
  • Nissan’s also announced a partnership with Sumitomo Corporation to find a ‘second life’ for used lithium-ion batteries. The venture’s called 4R Energy – the 4Rs are for Reuse, Resell, Refabricate and Recycle.
  • BMW has collected feedback from the Mini E trial in the UK. Mostly good (they say), with few problems and general satisfaction; gripes included some specific issues with range, poor load-space (the batteries took up the rear compartment) and poor performance in very cold weather (Edmunds Green Car Advisor).
  • Toyota is to build a new engine factory in Altona, near Melbourne; this facility will make hybrid powertrains and a new four-cylinder petrol engine.
  • The University of Colorado at Boulder is to partner with the US Department of Energy and Toyota to trial a fleet of 18 plug-in Prius PHVs. The progress of this two-year trial can be followed on a community blog.
  • Ashwoods Automotive of Exeter has developed a retro-fit hybrid system for panel vans which can be fitted in less than four hours, and which can reduce fuel consumption by up to 25%. The company also offers retro-fit stop-start conversions, and has already delivered 130 hybridised Ford Transits to private and public sector fleets. Its clients include the Environment Agency, Transport for London, numerous local councils and Riverford Organics. The company is now working in a consortium funded by the Technology Strategy Board to develop next-generation hybrid powertrains for a variety of applications (Green Car Congress).

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