October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
The new-generation BMW 3-Series saloon goes on sale in the UK in February; a month later, there’ll be eight versions on offer which emit less than 120g/km. All versions get stop-start, brake energy regeneration and lower rolling-resistance tyres, weight has been reduced by up to 50kg and aerodynamics have been enhanced; the optional eight-speed auto gearbox, available across the range, gives no fuel consumption penalty and in some models, is more economical than the standard six-speed manual. The new four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine (turbocharged 245hp) in the 328i replaces the previous six-cylinder 3.0-litre – it’s quicker, yet it returns over 44mpg and emits less than 150g/km. The 3.0 continues in the 335 – and will also be used in the ActiveHybrid 3, which adds an electric motor giving up to 40kW, as in the Active Hybrid 5 recently launched. The 320d’s 184hp 2.0-litre is tweaked to give 68.9mpg and 109g/km. From March, the 316d and 318d join the range (116hp, 143hp) plus 320i; xDrive four-wheel drive models and the ActiveHybrid 3 come by the end of 2012.
- Downsizing to four-cylinder engines is a growing trend, without power/performance penalties: some number-crunching at AutoObserver.
- Road test of the Chevrolet Volt at Autocar: “if it does suit your lifestyle, then it’s a no-brainer. Ultimately, it makes the electric car viable for the masses.” (Though actually, the Volkswagen Up! may be a better choice for many)…
- Detailed story on the Coda saloon at Autoblog Green, with a short road-test. It’s unlikely to come to Europe, I’d say, or at least, not to the UK (costs of right-hand drive, handicap of the saloon body-style).
- Three British firms are teaming up to develop a lightweight, low-emissions range-extended electric delivery van in a project funded by the Technology Strategy Board. Axeon is to provide the 25kWh battery pack, which will give a 60-mile range before the range-extender engine kicks in; this will feature nickel cobalt manganese ‘pouch’ cells, said to give greater energy density than lithium-ion phosphate. The other partners in the project are Intelligent Energy and Revolve Technologies.
- More corn was grown for ethanol and fuel than for food in the USA last year. Not good; Treehugger and the Guardian explain why. Spike in world food prices, anyone? Biofuel usage is not always the ethical solution.
- The largest “car-to-X” communications trial will start in Germany next year. This will test out wireless transmission of data to improve traffic flow and safety, optimising efficiency and the use of local infrastructure. More from Michelin Challenge Bibendum.
- Seven crazy green transport concepts outlined at Inhabitat. Love the pedal-powered submarine…
October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Michelin has been announced as the first major technical partner for the Project 56 DeltaWing Le Mans prototype (pictured), due to run as a special entry in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans. Michelin has developed a special high-performance tyre for the DeltaWing, a race car which aims to halve the weight, aerodynamic drag, fuel consumption and tyre wear of a typical Le Mans Prototype, and thus need half the power, yet will deliver all the necessary speed to compete. The front tyres of the DeltaWing will be just four inches wide, and all wheels will have 15-inch rims, compared to the usual 18-inchers. The car’s to have a turbocharged four-cylinder, 1600cc engine giving 300hp. More details – and video - at Green Car Congress.
- Latest on the Trexa Enertube ‘skateboard’ platform at AutoblogGreen (with pictures): the Enertube is a tube-like structure with attached wheels, conceived as a basic platform on which buyers can build their own EV. The central 9-inch aluminium cylinder houses the batteries – the concept’s cells give a 30-mile range at 70mph – and a variety of bodyshells can be easily fixed on. The structure allows for two- or four-wheel drive as well, and could be well-suited for beach buggy-type vehicles. The California-built Enertube was on display last week at the 2011 AltCar Expo in Santa Monica, and Trexa is said now to be looking for funding to put it into production.
- I’ve written before about technology transfer from the electric superbike scene to four-wheelers; now, the Lola-Drayson Racing EV (an 850bhp, 200mph would-be Le Mans prototype and 2013 Formula E racer, with induction charging) is to feature a battery pack adapted from the Mavizen TTXGP ‘bikes, reports Wired Autopia, which has more detail on this car and its tech. Note the plans to sell the set-up as a ‘plug-and-play’ kit – as with the Enertube (above), expect to see more such proprietary systems and licensing deals.
- The French government is ordering Renault-Nissan 15,600 EVs for various agencies, reports Le Figaro; these will include 10,000 Renaults for use by the postal service (probably Kangoo ZE vans, though details haven’t yet been released). A further deal for 3,900 PSA Peugeot-Citroen electric cars will follow, to a total of 25,000 EVs in new fleet contracts to be announced later this month.
- GM is looking into split-cycle engine technology, reports Green Car Congress, with a view to its potential for efficiency gains. GM is also planning to bring in HCCI (homogenous charge compression ignition) for its downsized turbocharged petrol units such as the 1.4 Ecotec.
- Fiat’s doing the downsizing thing with a a pretty damn powerful new four-cylinder, 1.8-litre petrol engine it’s developing for Alfa Romeo; this turbocharged, direct-injection unit, which will meet the Euro 6 and US Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions standards, is going to give 300hp. It’ll go into production in 2013, in time for Alfa’s much-delayed reintroduction to the USA (if that does eventually happen), and will probably be fitted in the next-generation Giulia (159 replacement) and the upcoming rear-drive big saloon co-developed with Chrysler. The Multiair variable-valve tech is thought to feature.
- Tesla’s been giving out passenger rides in the pre-production Model S saloon. Reports suggest it’s pretty damn good; “an extremely well-accomplished machine with a real depth of engineering behind it”, says Autocar.
November 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
The 2010 RAC Future Car Challenge (see earlier posts) has been judged a jolly good success all round. Most energy-efficient car of the event was judged to be the all-electricVolkswagen Golf blue-e-motion driven by What Car? ed Jim Holder; other individual efficiency prize-winners in their respective categories were the Tata Indica Vista Electric, the Gordon Murray T.25 City Car, one of the Toyota Auris Hybrids, the BMW 320d, the Lotus Elise S1 Electric, a Honda CR-Z, the Zytek Mercedes-Benz eVito taxi, the Nicholson McLaren Citroen Nemo Van Electric, the Ford Fiesta Van 1.6TDCi ECOnetic, the Proton Exora Extended-Range EV, and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell. The Vauxhall Ampera was judged ‘best public choice’ and ‘best private entry’ was Russ Sciville’s Lotus Elise S1 Electric. 64 vehicles took part in total.
- Fiat is to put the 500 EV into production in Toluca, Mexico (a Chrysler facility) in 2012. Its lithium-ion batteries are to be supplied by SB LiMotive Co., a joint venture between Bosch and Samsung SDI Co (Autobeat).
- London mayor Boris Johnson wants 1300 EV charging points across the city by 2013. He’s setting up a new programme called Source London. But didn’t he promise 25,000 by 2015? Some way to go, then (Autocar).
- BMW’s expanding its Leipzig plant and investing $560million to build EVs: the 1-Series ActiveE in 2011 and the little Megacity in 2013.
- First deliveries of the Volkswagen Up! (replacement for the Lupo city car) next year, prices from E10,000. Electric e-Up! comes 2013.
- The Powertrain & Vehicle Research Centre at the University of Bath is getting £590,000 from the Technology Strategy Board to develop its downsized engine concept. Its high-torque petrol unit is said to promise performance of a 5.0-litre V8 with less than half the capacity. Partners in the project include Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus Engineering, the University of Leeds and Imperial College London.
July 13, 2010 § 3 Comments
EcoMotors International of Troy, Michigan has secured $23.5million in investment from Microsoft’s Bill Gates and from Californian venture-capital firm Khosla Ventures. EcoMotors is developing an engine it calls OPOC – opposed piston, opposed cylinder – and which it claims is 50% more efficient than a comparable traditional piston engine, as well as half the weight and size. With fewer than half as many moving components as well, it will also be cheap and easy to manufacture.
OPOC is the creation of Peter Hofbauer, formerly the head of powertrain development at the Volkswagen Group and now chief technical officer and chairman of EcoMotors. Hofbauer is working with the former vice president for North American engineering at GM, Don Runkle, now the CEO of EcoMotors.
The two-stroke engine’s trick is to give a power stroke in each cylinder for every revolution of the crankshaft, rather than every other revolution. Horizontally-opposed (‘boxer’-style) cylinders keep it compact and well-balanced, and power density could ultimately be four-fold compared to a conventional unit, claims the company. This allows for downsizing of the engine itself, and for fewer cylinders; it does not have separate cylinder heads, cams or valvetrains, and transmits power via electronic clutches. And it’ll run on almost anything – gasoline, petrol, diesel or ethanol.
It’s a highly-scalable concept, too, which can be used for anything from 15bhp engines for ride-on lawnmowers to 600bhp units for heavy machinery, and crucially, it can be built on existing powertrain production lines with little changes to the infrastructure (a key problem for other revolutionary concepts such as the Scuderi split-cycle engine). More details, including video of Peter Hofbauer explaining the engine, at the Ecomotors website.
July 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
- First fruits of the Toyota-Tesla tie-up: all-electric versions of the RAV4 and Lexus RX-series. Prototypes will be sent to Toyota later this month, Tesla has said, and an all-electric Corolla/Auris is also on the cards. Toyota has invested $50million in Tesla and is said to be specifically interested in Tesla’s small-cell lithium-ion battery packs (Bloomberg).
- Nissan has announced a series of new fuel-saving measures. The March (Japanese-market Micra) gets an all-new three-cylinder, 1.2-litre engine with stop-start and an all-new CVT gearbox, smaller and lighter than before; the X-Trail diesel receives a cleaner-burning engine with new lean NOx (nitrous oxide) trap and particulate filter, enabling it to meet the stringent Japanese emissions legislation. There’s a new 1.5-litre petrol engine for the Juke, with two fuel injectors per cylinder giving a 4% economy improvement, and a direct-injection, turbocharged 1.6 for the Juke said to give the power of a 2.5 but the fuel consumption of a 1.8. Expect these engines to filter through to the European market for the 2011 model-year.
- Hyundai has tweaked its popular i20 supermini to improve fuel economy and emssions. The 1.2-litre petrol now emits 119g/km, bringing it down a UK tax band; the 1.4-litre drops two bands to 129g/km and sees its economy improve by 4.3mpg. The 75bhp diesel now emits just 110g/km, and the 90bhp model has economy improved by over 7% thanks to a new six-speed gearbox. All versions have received a small underbody spoiler to improve aerodynamics, a new alternator management system and lower-friction engine oil, plus a gear-change indicator to help the driver shift more efficiently. Small changes, significant effects.
- “We’re headed toward a future that is 100% electric”, says Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a Time 10 Questions. “Within 20 years, the majority of new cars manufactured will be pure electric.” Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Supply giant Bosch, announcing a $507million annual investment in EV-specific components, is a little more circumspect: it’s predicting that EVs – and plug-in hybrids – will account for only 3% of the global car market by 2020.
July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
- Biofuel of the day #1: pig poo. A team at North Carolina State University has developed a process to convert swine waste into bio-oils, using ethanol as a solvent. “Tremendous energy potential”, apparently (Green Car Congress).
- Biofuel of the day #2: miscanthus grass. A second project at NCSU involves the breaking down of the tough woody stalks into a carbohydrate-rich solid, with no waste, using ozone. The treatment process results in a “commercially viable feedstock for biofuels, curtailing biofuel’s reliance on staple food crops”, says a spokesman (Green Car Congress).
- British firm Aeristech has secured £500,000 of funding to support the development of its hybrid turbocharger technology. Its separate motor-driven compressor and turbine-driven generator units, electronically integrated, are said to eliminate delayed response (turbo lag) and will allow for “aggressive engine downsizing” (Green Car Congress).
June 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
- Tesla has raised $226million in its initial public offering of stock. The sale of 13.3million shares will fund the purchase and preparation of the former Toyota factory in Fremont, Caliornia, and development of the Model S electric saloon for production in 2012. The IPO includes the sale of $50million-worth of stock to Toyota.
- Maserati will add stop-start to its next-generation Quattroporte luxury saloon. A 15% weight reduction and a 25% improvement in fuel economy is targeted; the new Quattroporte will have four-wheel drive, an eight-speed gearbox and downsized V6 and V8 engines, and it will share its underpinnings with other top-end Fiat-Chrysler Group vehicles (Automotive News Europe).
- London mayor Boris Johnson has taken delivery of four Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars; they’re the first of 1000 electric vehicles to join the city’s fleet, and will be used by Transport for London to check on roadworks. Johnson plans to have 1,600 charging points across London in the next year, with 7,500 by 2013 and 25,000 by 2015.
- The US Department of Energy has awarded a $24million grant for commercialisation of algae-based biofuels. This will fund research for three years by consortia led by Arizona State University, University of California at San Diego, and Cellana LLC.
- The Southwest Research Institute claims it has solved the problem of low-speed pre-ignition in turbocharged, direct-injection petrol engines. Its HEDGE tech (High Efficiency, Direct-injection Gasoline Engine) will aid engine downsizing and carbon dioxide reductions, SWRI says. More at Green Car Congress.
- There’s a great picture gallery of experimental solar vehicles at Treehugger.com , some more convincing than others. My favourite’s ‘Eleanor’.
June 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
Engine downsizing has been a key theme in this year’s International Engine of the Year awards: overall winner for 2010 (for the second year running) is the Volkswagen 1.4 TSI Twincharger unit, a turbo- and supercharged engine delivering up to 180bhp despite its small capacity.
Best New Engine was awarded to the Fiat 1.4 MultiAir Turbo, as used in the Alfa Romeo Mito and Giulietta, and Best Green Engine the latest Toyota 1.8 hybrid–drive, as in the latest Prius and the Auris Hybrid. Toyota’s three-cylinder, 999cc engine (Aygo, Yaris) also won the sub-1-litre category. High-performance (and thirsty) engines dominated the larger-capacity categories, however.
These awards, in association with Engine Technology International magazine, were announced at the Stuttgart Engine Expo yesterday. They’re judged by a panel of 72 motoring journalists from 35 countries and four continents, and having served on the panel for a number of years, I can say that it’s an informed, objective process involving a complex, analytical marking system.
February 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Nissan’s Juke is a small (B-sector, or supermini-sized) crossover with a sporty edge; it’s to be built in Sunderland and will be sold in Europe, Japan and the US with UK sales from October. It’s a cute, chunky-looking little thing, and will come with the option of Nissan’s All-Mode 4×4-i electronic four-wheel drive plus torque-vectoring.
Engines for the European-market range are turbocharged, direct-injection (190PS, 240Nm) and non-turbo (117PS) 1.6-litre petrols, or a 110PS/240Nm 1.5 dCi diesel. CVT transmission is optional with the all-wheel-drive, turbocharged petrol model.
Nissan says that the turbo petrol engine delivers power and performance equivalent to that of a conventional larger, thirstier 2.5-litre. It’s another example of downsizing and no doubt this engine’s going to appear elsewhere in the Nissan-Renault range in place of a larger one.
But this has got me questioning the whole concept of downsizing on a vehicle level. Sure, small crossover-type vehicles like this may encourage a few people to trade down from unnecessarily large SUVs and 4x4s, which can only be a good thing.However, I suspect they may actually tempt more upsizing – just as Nissan’s Qashqai pulled in buyers from conventional, low-riding small family hatchbacks, the Juke will probably win a fair few from normal superminis and city cars. And even apart from its powerful engines, with the best will in the world a high-riding, high-roofed and relatively un-aerodynamic, heavy little crossover, especially once specced-up with four-wheel drive and a CVT, is not going to deliver the same fuel economy or low-level emissions as a mainstream supermini. Just a thought.