Twizy on the tourist trail in Wales; first Tesla Model S delivered

June 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

The British tourism industry appears to be taking to the Renault Twizy, for all it lacks doors to protect its occupants from the rain. “We are supplying six to the Eco Travel Network for tourists in the Brecon Beacons National Park”, says Andy Heiron, Renault UK’s Head of Electric Vehicle Programme. Renault has already sold 135 Twizys since the mid-April launch, many – against expectations – going to businesses. “Twizy has been a surprise as we envisaged it as an almost exclusively (private) retail product”, Heiron explained, “and yet we have a two-month waiting list for fleet demonstrators. We have a large order for Twizy in London where they will be used as a mobile wi-fi platform by TfL. Most customers are looking to capitalise on Twizy’s striking looks as a marketing tool around cities.”

In Wales, the Eco Travel Network began two years ago with a pair of buggies built by Dragon Electric Vehicles of Crickhowell. The ‘b-bugs’ (named Boris and Blodwyn) have been trialled by visitors to the Brecon Beacons, and an informal network of recharging points has been established: free-to-use facilities at cafes, pubs, activity centres and suchlike in the area, some using locally-generated electricity from a micro-hydro system. The Network has now been established as a not-for-profit company leasing vehicles to local businesses, and whilst Boris and Blodwyn have been ‘retired’ for the moment in favour of the Twizys, b-bugs may supplement the numbers again in the future.

The first Twizy on the fleet is making an appearance at the Hay Festival this week as part of the launch of the Community Energy Wales initiative, and it is being used by the festival organisers, who have also been providing free EV charging to festival-goers and participants. It has, by the way, been called Thierry, and he and his friends will be available for rental from July 1st. Check out www.ecotravelnetwork.co.uk for more details.

  • In other news today: The first Tesla Model S saloon off the production line has been delivered to its new owner: venture capitalist and Tesla board member Steve Jurvetson. That’s what investment in a company gets you… oh, and a number plate reading TSLA S1, according to Green Car Reports.First deliveries to other customers start June 22nd, and Tesla is promising news, new video and “a few surprises” at its blog, in the run-up. Latest news on the Model S: the power steering is adjustable, with ‘comfort’, ‘sport’ and standard settings, and the regenerative braking and air suspension can also be configured to driver preferences. Nice video of the production-line robots assembling an S, too.

Tesla Model S chills out

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Tesla Model S (the saloon) is  undergoing cold-weather testing. Video of it sliding around in the ice at the Tesla blog. First deliveries begin in July, and online configurator tools will shortly go live; latest news on interior trim and options, and the Personal Delivery service (yes please…) at the blog.

General post-Easter news catch-up:

  • The Toyota Prius Plug-in goes on sale in July in the UK, and it’s priced at £27,895 (once the £5000 government grant is taken into account). Official CO2 output is 49g/km.
  • The Infiniti LE – unveiled at the New York Motor Show last week – is effectively going to be the posh Nissan Leaf (the 2013 version, reports Autocar, with improved  range). The NY concept also featured a home wireless charging system, which could be the first such set-up to reach production, says The Charging Point.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Jaguar F-Type, reports Autocar, following on from the conventional iterations of this two-seater sports car. Roadster models to come first; production-ready examples will be unveiled at Paris Auto Show this autumn.
  • The 2014 Acura RLX – smart US-market saloon – unveiled in NY will also have a hybrid variant. Two motors, a 3.5 V6, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and over 370bhp through all four wheels, reports Inside Line. And there’s a hybrid version of the new-generation Lexus ES, too. Oh, and of the Lincoln MKZ  (featuring the new 2.0-litre Ecoboost four-cyl engine).
  • Another EV-around-the-world trip: the Citroen C-Zero of Electric Odyssey is in the Rocky Mountains on its way down to California.
  • Lithium-sulphur batteries ‘could be  the power storage devices of the future’, according to research from Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. They’re quoting smartphones and e-bikes as likely recipients of these optimised batteries with porous nanoparticles (woo!) but the tech could work for cars too. Science bit at Alpha Galileo.
  • Honda is going to launch the Insight, Fit/Jazz hybrid and the CR-Z coupe in China, and is considering local production of hybrids and EVs there. More will be announced at the Beijing Auto Show, where Honda is also revealing two new concepts.
  • Ford is running a competition in the US to win a Focus Electric, in partnership with Yahoo! Screen: it’s a reality-TV extravaganza, with teams from selected cities taking part in a series of challenges. More here.
  • We will ignore the story about Justin Bieber’s chromed Fisker Karma. Move along, nothing to see here.

Midweek newsbriefs

February 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Suzuki is to display a concept called G70 at the Geneva Motor Show next month. It looks to be one and the same as – or developed a little from – the ‘Regina’ seen at last year’s Tokyo Show; it’s a low-weight (730kg) and highly aerodynamic compact car promising carbon dioxide emissions of just 70g/km. Suzuki will also display the Swift Range Extender, first seen in 2010 and now developed to give an all-electric range of 30km. This features a three-cylinder, 660cc petrol engine plus generator and a lightweight lithium-ion battery.

  • Ford is to launch the B-MAX compact MPV in Geneva, a Fiesta-based replacement for the Fusion. Engine options will include the new 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, delivering 125hp and 58.9mpg.This ultra-compact, highly-efficient turbocharged three-cylinder is also going into the Focus.
  • Tesla’s put out a new promo video for the Model S saloon. Handling advantages of the EV powertrain – i.e. low centre of gravity – explained and illustrated. Model X crossover to be unveiled live – via the Tesla website – on February 9th, btw.
  • The SolarWorld GT, which  has already crossed Australia, is to set out on the US leg of its round-the-world trip later this week. The car, built by students from Bochum University in partnership with solar panel-maker Solarworld, is a two-door, two-seater with an 823-watt generator; it’s said to be capable of 100km/h and has been  averaging 50km/h. More on the project at Gizmag.
  • Full story, including video interview, on the Range_e plug-in hybrid trial is now up at the Charging Point. Yes, it was a cold and windy day at Gaydon…

DeltaWing LMP, downsized engine for Alfa Romeo, Tuesday newsbriefs

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.

Seat Mii, Monday newsbriefs

October 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

And here’s the Spanish version of the Volkswagen Up! – the Seat Mii. The three-door goes on sale in Spain before the end of the year, with sales elsewhere in Europe in spring 2012; five-door versions follow later next year. As with the Skoda Citigo and the Up! itself (ha – just noticed that unfortunate connotation) it gets the new VW Group three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine (60hp and 75hp); economy-optimised Ecomotive versions will emit just 97g/km. Kit on offer will include stability control, side airbags, a portable sat nav/phone device, and City Safety Assist auto braking; on a practical note, its 251-litre boot expands to 951 litres with the rear seat folded, despite an overal length of just 3.55m. More figures: the 60hp version is good for 99mph and the 75hp model 106mph; they’ll return 62.8mpg and 60.1mpg respectively; the Ecomotive models will do 67.2mpg; a CNG-fuelled model (to be offered in mainland Europe) emits just 86g/km. An automated manual gearbox is optional. No word on UK pricing as yet.

  • Mazda’s second Skyactiv model – featuring extensive detail-changes and technologies to bring down fuel consumption and emissions – has gone on sale in Japan. The latest Axela (aka Mazda3) follows the Mazda5 in being lighter-weight, and it also gets Mazda’s new direct-injection 2.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed auto gearbox. Press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Nissan’s expecting the Leaf’s battery pack to have a lifespan of at least five years/60,000 miles before it dips below 80% of its original charge capacity, and is planning a cost-saving system of individual cell module swap-outs after than if necessary. Full story at AM-Online.
  • Tesla will unveil the Model X crossover at the Detroit Motor Show next January. It’s based on the same platform as the Model S saloon; a hot M5-rivalling version of the saloon has just been announced, doing 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and, with optional high-spec battery pack, good for a range of up to 300 miles. The Model S, even in its saloon form, seats up to seven (there are two fold-out, rear-facing child seats in the back) and has “the largest panoramic roof in a production car”, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. More at Autocar. Musk also noted that Tesla’s Toyota RAV4 EV conversion is ready to go on sale next year.
  • Renault Sport F1 is to source KERS from Red Bull Technology for next year.  Team Lotus and Renault Sport F1 are to continue to collaborate, with the V8 engine deal extending to the end of 2013, and aim to carry on under the new engine regulations. “KERS is now an essential part of a competitive performance in F1″, says Jean-Francois Caubet,Renault Sport F1 MD, “and we hope this supply will help the team continue its evolution. Furthermore, a wider experience of using the KERS system at this point in time will help in the development of the powerful energy recovery systems that will be introduced under the future engine regulations.”
  • First installment of the 12.grn.hrs story – a design-an-eco-car-in-a-day workshop, part of London Design Week – is at Green Car Design.

Monday newsbriefs

August 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Volkswagen is planning production for its retro-look Bulli concept, reports Autocar today. The wide-bodied 3+3-seat MPV, styled to look like the classic Microbus/campervan/Transporter/Samba or ‘Bulli’, as it was known in Germany, was seen at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year complete with an 85kW motor and electric powertrain; Volkswagen suggested a 300km range, a 0-60mph  acceleration time of 11.5 seconds and a top speed of 87mph, and it certainly looked production-feasible. Smaller than the earlier retro Microbus concept, the front-wheel drive Bulli sits on Golf-based underpinnings, like the latest Beetle; Autocar says that it could be built alongside the Beetle on the lines at Puebla, Mexico. A limited run is suggested, perhaps as part of a ‘heritage’ model-line.

  • The Bluebird Electric land speed record team took some trial runs at Pendine Sands last weekend, but had to abandon the tests after hitting a hole in the sand and damaging the car. “Plenty of valuable experience”, they say @bluebirdspeed; lots of pictures on their Facebook page.
  • But a better weekend for the electric superbike brigade: Lightning Motorcycles has become the first to hit the 200mph mark with an electric racer, reaching over 205mph at Bonneville Speed Week. Reported by a rival racer, @ChipYates89 – the competition’s hotting up.
  • Toyota’s launching the production plug-in Prius at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Prius PHEV is good for 49g/km and 128.4mpg thanks to its extended all-electric range.
  • Hertz has added the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Smart Fortwo ed to its On Demand (car-share, membership-access) fleet in San Francisco; this is part of a programme rolling out in other key cities in the US and Europe in the not-too-distant.
  • Is the Aptera three-wheeler a non-starter? Green Car Reports says that the company is now returning deposits made on the 2e Ev and 25 hybrid.
  • Honda’s new Civic, to be launched at Frankfurt next month, gets Honda’s latest 2.2-litre diesel engine: 148bhp, 110g/km, the addition of stop-start, plus various aerodynamic enhancements to the car’s body to improve efficiency.
  • Tesla has taken 4,600 orders for the Model S saloon so far, and CEO Elon Musk has also confirmed that the Model X SUV will be shown in concept form by the end of the year. Launch late 2013 for that, says AutoTech Daily.

Starting the week: Tuesday newsbriefs

May 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tesla will reveal a Model X crossover prototype (production 2014) by the end of the year, reports Edmunds. Model S saloon (pictured) coming 2012; production of 20,000 a year planned in Fremont, California; range of up to 300 miles; prices from $57,400 and over 4,600 deposits and orders have already been taken. Production of the Roadster will cease at the end of the year, but a convertible on the Model S platform is planned. The once-rumoured van may have been crossed out from the plan.

  • GM’s pulled the plug on a range-extender EV version of the Cadillac SRX crossover, reports Autobeat Daily.  SRX platform will be up for replacement by the time this model (with the Volt’s powertrain) would be ready, and they don’t think it would be profitable. Project could be revived at a later date, however, and all of GM’s North American brands are to get at least one plug-in hybrid or EV.
  • Chrysler has sent the first 10 of its plug-in hybrid Ram trucks to the city of Yuma, Arizona. A test fleet of 140 is to be built, featuring the HEMI 5.7 V8 (359bhp) plus electric motor and batteries giving an extra 40bhp and 20 miles in all-electric mode (Edmunds AutoObserver).
  • The first Chinese-made BYD e6 electric crossovers of a 75-strong fleet have arrived in Rotterdam for trials (Green Car Congress).
  • Prince Charles is to lay the foundation stone for an eco-village in Ayrshire this week – and each house in Knockroon will have a recharging point for an electric vehicle. The development will also offer residents a pool car – diesel or hybrid – for when they need to go on longer journeys, reports Scotland On Sunday (via @EVCUP).
  • Road test of the Liberty E-Range (battery-electric Range Rover) at BusinessGreen. Verdict? Expensive at £160,000 (yes indeed), might not be much more to run overall than a standard RR once you take into account company car tax breaks, exemption from the congestion charge etc. Should you wish to run a Range Rover as a company car, obviously. On a more realistic/appropriate note, road test of the Renault Zoe at Wired Autopia.
  • Mitsubishi has rushed out a device to convert the i-MiEV into a power supply, following the Japanese earthquake. The i-MiEV’s battery will be able to power rice cookers, washing machines or a domestic power supply for up to a day and a half in an emergency situation (or on a camping trip, presumably). Thanks to thechargingpoint.com for this one. Mitsubishi has also said this week that it’s planning to sell 25,000 i-MiEVs this year, a three-fold rise in sales, most going in Europe to public-sector organisations and fleets. Oh, and it’s also just taken 100 orders for its Minicab MiEV electric van, reports Autoblog Green.
  • Audi is to put its A3 TCNG into production in 2013. The TCNG is powered by ‘e-gas’, a synthetic gas derived from hydrogen via electrolysis with electricity from a reneawable source. The engine can also run on normal petrol, but has an efficiency-enhancing high compression ratio when using gas.
  • Aftermarket upgrades now available for fast-charging a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt (AllCarsElectric).
  • British engineering consultancy Ricardo is working with China’s Lifan Automobile Group on a range of downsized petrol engines. Two 1.2-litre units, one ‘mid-boost’ with direct injection to replace 1.5-1.8s, the other ‘high-boost’ to replace 2.0-litres, both meeting Euro 5 standards. Chongqing’s Lifan has ambitions to export.
  • Volkswagen is to announce a major battery supply contract with Bosch, reports Reuters.


Tuesday titbits

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’.

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