EcoVelocity 2012

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Much activity at EcoVelocity; this year, the show’s at the ExCel Centre in London, running concurrently with Grand Designs Live (one ticket gets you into both) but still with the chance to take a test-drive of selected vehicles. Opening day on Saturday saw a steady queue of people lining up to take cars including the Vauxhall Ampera, mia electric, Honda Insight and Nissan Leaf out for a quick spin around the Docklands complex, and families piling into the Peugeot 508 RXH and 3008 Hybrid4 crossovers to check out the legroom and luggage space. There was some fairly serious tyre-kicking going on: Prius and Civic Hybrid owners considering going all-electric or range-extended, small business owners wondering if a mia would do for local deliveries, private individuals totting up the cost of installing domestic charging points. And of course, there was much attention being paid to the Fisker Karma, Lightning GT, Delta E4 and – most of all – the Opel RAKe concept. Show runs till Sunday 13th May, my friends/colleagues from The Charging Point (amongst others) will be doing presentations, more details here.

Random Monday musings

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

The calm before the Frankfurt Motor Show storm (or Hurricane Katia: it’s pretty damn windy round here today). Time to throw in a parochial pic before the international news onslaught; just to note that, for the first time, I’ve spotted both of Brighton’s central EV charging points in use at the same time. There’s at least one Leaf in town now, and that’s the second or third G-Wiz I’ve seen. And I have it on good authority (from my mother) too that the newly-installed charging points at Withdean are being used by “those silly-looking little Noddy cars” (her words, though  I’m no fan of the G-Wiz or the other quadricycles either).

Quick round-up of today’s other random thoughts/discoveries/items of interest:

  • The Charging Point has an (edited) video of Saturday’s electric car debate at EcoVelocity.
  • Autocar’s done a road test report on the Mia Electric. Same conclusion as me, really: too expensive, too cheap-feeling, though an interesting concept. Shame.
  • I knew the Audi Urban Concept reminded me of something. Plymouth Prowler, anyone? Minus that thirsty Chrysler 3.5 V6, obviously.
  • More on this tri-motor Quimera AEGT electric supercar at Wired Autopia – car to be revealed tomorrow.
  • Wired’s also checking out the Hyundai Tucson iX FCEV (hydrogen-powered fuel cell). And reporting on research into improving driver behaviour to save fuel.
  • Nuclear power: clean, sustainable – but unsafe? First Fukushima, now (thankfully, to a lesser degree) France. No leaks, says the BBC, reporting on the fatal blast at Marcoule.

EcoVelocity – show report

September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, it ain’t quite Frankfurt or Detroit, but there was still plenty going on today at the EcoVelocity show at Battersea Power Station (continues over the weekend.  Just £10 to get in, £25 a family ticket).

Latest on the GEVCO (Global Electric Vehicle Company) project: four ‘name-brand’ manufacturers are interested in making the i-Mav, a tiny four-seater, under licence, says the company CEO. They’re from the US, Brazil, China and India, and GEVCO’s hoping to do a deal with a European car-maker too. The car has an innovative electromagnetic geared motor – no need for a gearbox, thus saving weight, packaging space and costs – and they’re experimenting with various metal-air battery concepts including aluminium-air, which gives a range of up to 430 miles. Problem is, you need to swap batteries rather than recharge (which nonetheless suits some regions with poor electricity supplies); they’re working with partners to discuss a battery-swap infrastructure. Target price for the car is sub-£10,000 (excl. batteries) and it’s aimed at young Gen Y buyers.

  • 100 EV charging points will be installed on-site for the 2012 London Olympics, said mayor Boris Johnson, who opened the show today. These will support the official fleet of 200 Mini Es and BMW ActivEs, and will remain after the end of the Games. BoJo’s also setting  a target of 25,000 charging points in the capital by 2015 (reports The Charging Point ) – 500 on-street and 2000 in public car parks, and the rest provided in partnership with businesses -pretty damn ambitious.
  • Competition’s hotting up to supply all these charging points: a number of new names had stands at the show and were talking to fleet/business customers. Finnish firm ENSTO is launching an aggressive campaign to market to public-domain clients – supermarkets, leisure centres – whilst Schneider Electric has a range of French-built posts from small private units to £5000 roadside quick-chargers; budget options come from Rolec, a British firm with long experience of supplying electric hook-ups to marinas and caravan parks, who can supply a very basic but safe 13-amp socket from £100  or so (more sophisticated/faster options also available). Prices are coming down, the choice is getting much wider.
  • Kia (displaying the great little new Picanto plus so-much-improved Rio, range now including a sub-90g/km model) is thinking about bringing the new Optima Hybrid to the UK. It’s a good year to 18 months away, however, as they’ve got to work out how to market/price it.
  • Peugeot had its diesel hybrids and the iOn on show, and was also promoting its Mu mobility programme, a membership scheme for rental of everything from a pushbike or scooter to a van or MPV. This is now operational in Chiswick, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, and a new site at Newcastle University opens up next week, with an iOn on-campus. ‘Several thousand’ people are now signed up to Mu in the UK, apparently, and a good 10,000 in mainland Europe.
  • Another new player in the rental business: Green Motion, offering a variety of EV and low-CO2 options from sites including major airports. Rapid expansion plans, hourly and daily rentals as well as corporate packages.
  • Other random thoughts: Test-drives available round the site’s perimeter and on marked-out areas within – chance to check out a Segway, the Renault Twizy, Fiat 500 TwinDrive, Vauxhall Ampera, Nissan Leaf, Lexus hybrids and loads more. Impressed by the Renault Fluence ZE – much more elegant-looking than the pictures suggest, more upmarket in feel than you’d expect from a Megane saloon. Even more impressed by the Kangoo ZE – a proper, working electric vehicle, immensely practical and very easy to drive.
  • Less impressed by the mia electric. Looks really cute – and again, better than in the pictures – and that 1+3 configuration with centrally-placed driver’s seat is intriguing, but oh my: it certainly doesn’t feel like £22,000-worth of car. The interior’s very basic, cheap-looking and flimsy (very poor sliding windows), the driving position is awkward and the seat uncomfortable (only slides on its base, with a fixed backrest). It’s probably as fast as it needs to be, however, and it’s a pleasant enough low-speed drive.
  • No real news re. progress on the EEMS Accelerate programme – a Technology Strategy Board-funded research project involving companies including Westfield (iRacer and Sport-E on show), Delta (E4 coupe), Lightning (two GTs) and Ecotricity (Dale Vince’s Nemesis). 12 months of road trials  and showcase appearances… Lightning’s saying ‘end of 2012′ for production, iRacer’s on track for next year’s EV Cup.
  • Bluebird Electric: bizarrely small when you see it for real.
  • The ‘world’s smallest car’ – the Peel P50 – was on show (Charging Point editor Will, all 6ft 5in of him, managed to fit inside, though it wasn’t elegant). The company can build you a new one to order, apparently, should you really want.
  • More amusing: the MEV mini-Hummer, all-electric and for some reason, proving hugely popular with tyre-kicking teenage boys. Doing nothing for the EV cause: the Zerocars open-bodied golf cart.
  • Big displays also from Honda (FCX  Clarity, Insight, Jazz Hybrid), Citroen (incl. a very snazzy silver DS3), Seat (Ecomotion line-up), Volkswagen (Bluemotion), Hyundai, Nissan (new Micra as well as Leaf) and Mitsubishi (incl. i-MiEV); plenty of opportunity to sit in, have a good look, chat with well-informed reps.
  • The London Motor Museum - a quirky-sounding collection of custom cars and oddities – sent its ETV (the maroon-coloured monstrosity in the Supercar Paddock). Four of these handcrafted ‘extra terrestrial vehicles’ were made to order…
  • And finally. Liked the Brahms-converted plug-in hybrid hearse, complete with wicker casket in the back for a biodegradable burial. And yes, just to confirm, it is a plug-in hybrid and not, as some others are reporting, an EV. It has an all-electric mode, giving a range of up to 50km at speeds of up to 35mph, but retains its petrol or diesel powerplant. More details here.

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.

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