Design Concept of the Day: Nissan BladeGlider

November 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

nissan bladegliderInspired by Nissan’s  ZEOD RC Le Mans contender and the earlier DeltaWing prototype racer, the BladeGlider concept is a preview of a proper production prospect, says Nissan: “both a proposal for the future of Nissan electric vehicle development and an exploratory prototype of an upcoming production vehicle”. Incorporating the aerodynamics of swept-wing aircraft, downforce is the duty of the super-rigid carbonfibre underbody (hence no wings), and drag is further reduced by the triangular shape – front track is just 1m and front:rear weight distribution is 30:70. And, excitingly, “when BladeGlider matures into a production car, it could be Nissan’s first use of in-wheel motors”. These motors are fitted to the rear wheels, freeing up space up top and lowering the centre of gravity, as do the low-mounted, rearward lithium-ion battery packs. The body’s carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), and entry is via scissor-up doors: it’s a three-seater, with the driver ahead of the passengers at an aircraft-style wheel. It’s a running prototype and not just a motor show fantasy, too – Autocar has a little more detail, and notes that there’s elements of the well-proven Ariel Atom in the chassis of the test mule. Full reveal of the BladeGlider will be at the Tokyo Motor Show.

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Oil insecurity, Nissan’s first EV, and hydrogen from plants?

April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

nissan tamaOil insecurity in the UK: 32% of our oil is imported now, compared to exports of 40% in 2001, according to a report by Deloitte for the RAC Foundation. 75% of all petroleum products in the country are consumed by transport; we’re a net importer of diesel in particular, because “our ageing oil refineries are also struggling to meet the demand”, with most coming from the Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Belgium and the US. Two national oil refineries have closed in the last decade, leaving the country with seven, of which “all but one has been up for sale within the past three years”. As North Sea stocks dwindle, “we are becoming more dependent on international markets and foreign suppliers to keep the nation moving”, and “our inability to meet our oil and roadfuel requirements is a potential timebomb”, says Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

  • Nissan has restored one of the 1947 Tama EVs (pictured) made by Prince Motor, its predecessor company (previously Tachikawa Airplane). Nice video about the vehicle, and Japan’s early experiments with e-mobility post-WWII, here. Built for a time of oil shortages and infrastructural crises… now there’s an idea. The Tama had lead-acid batteries and a range of over 96km; its top speed was only 35kmph, but enough for it to serve as a taxi until 1950. The Tama Senior, an electric saloon, was also made. A handy history of Nissan’s EVs here, btw.
  • Realistically, this ain’t exactly the answer to the  top-mentioned problem either, but… Porsche is introducing a plug-in hybrid Panamera. This 416hp Panamera S E-Hybrid returns up to 91mpg/71g/km (a very averaged-out sort-of-NEDC figure, really for compo purposes only), features regenerative braking and can be quick-charged in 2.5 hours or four hours from a standard domestic socket; it can do up to 22 miles in all-electric mode (11-22 miles range cited as an achievable everyday possibility) and 84mph (168mph possible from the engine, incidentally). Acceleration 0-62mph? 5.5 seconds, and it can coast in all-electric mode at high speeds too; transmission is the eight-speed Tiptronic S auto ‘box. Charging status, battery management and remote operation of the climate control can be monitored via the Porsche Car Connect smartphone app.
  • More hopeful news, albeit for further into the future? A team from Virginia Tech has developed biocatalysts to extract hydrogen from plant matter, which could “help end our dependence on fossil fuels”, says Professor YH Percival Zhang. More here.
  • US buyers of the Fiat 500e are to get 12 days’ worth of free ICE-rental via a deal with Enterprise (excl. insurance and fuel), reports Automotive News, to cover them should they wish to travel beyond the 500e’s 80-mile range.
  • Chinese car-maker Geely and the Kandi Technology Corporation are forming a JV to make mass-market EVs and electric solutions for the public transport system of Hangzhou, “an electric vehicle test pilot city”. Statement of intent posted here. Could these EVs be for some kind of car club/share?
  • All-electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class will go on sale in the US next year; release posted here. Plus more on that Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, to “sell a million in Portlandia”, suggests Autoblog Green. Slightly less old-school SUV-style than the Highlander, Pathfinder and QX60 hybrids also unveiled in New York, I suppose.
  • Was peak VMT (vehicle miles travelled) in the US three years ago? Or is the downturn a blip like 1979? Debate at the Twin City Sidewalks blog (via AutoblogGreen).
  • FutureDrive Live (previously known as EcoVelocity) has been canned. The show was due to take place next month as an add-on to the Ideal Home show at ExCel, but apparently not enough exhibitors had been signed up.
  • California’s Green Automotive Company, a distributor of EVs and already the owner of Liberty Automotive (converter of Range Rovers) has now snapped up GoinGreen, the UK distribution agents for the G-Wiz. More here.

The Nissan taxi, BMW i3, & aftermarket plug-in conversions

August 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

But will it go south of the river? Nissan has unveiled its NV200 London Taxi, claimed to be more than 50% more fuel-efficient than the classic cabs. It has the requisite 25ft turning circle, access for disabled travellers, will seat five adult passengers and has huge sliding side doors. It features the 89bhp 1.5dCi Renault-Nissan diesel engine, which meets the Euro 5 emissions legislation, with a six-speed manual gearbox, and returns 53.3mpg, compared to the current LTI TX4’s 35.3mpg. Its CO2 output is 138g/km (the TX4 puts out 209g/km, as well as much higher particulate and NOx emissions).

The NV200 London Taxi is already doing service in New York and Tokyo.  Nissan is aiming to achieve full certification for it later this year, subject to final procedures such as crash-testing, and aims also to undercut the price of the TX4. An all-electric version is also to undergo trials.

  • Spy shots of the BMW i3 range-extended EV at Autocar; you can clearly see the high floor (to package the batteries in the underbody) and reverse-hinged doors.
  • A team from Middle Tennessee State University is working on an aftermarket plug-in hybrid conversion kit which will cost a projected $3000. It won’t be long before you can buy this stuff at Halfords… More, including video, here.

Design Concept of the Day: Bizzarrini Veleno

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today’s Design Concept – found via Car Body Design – is a tribute to Giotto Bizzarrini by Coventry University graduate Borys Dabrowski. It’s (hypothetically) fuelled by biohydrogen derived from algae or organic waste, with a nanotube fuel cell converting the hydrogen to electricity, and its structure is made from a material called CentrAL. This is a composite with layers of aluminium and glass fibre, says CBD, with graphene. Note the wheels, too – these are made up of individual rollers which allow this low-riding super-coupe to slink laterally. Submitted as Dabrowski’s Automotive and Transport Design degree final project, Veleno (“Venom”) can be seen in a full gallery at Car Body Design.

In other news today:

  • Nissan is to work with Gateshead College to develop a Zero Emission Centre of Excellence; a MOU has been signed. The ZECE will initially work on developing EV charging infrastructure and programmes for battery ‘second life’ – recycling and reuse as energy storage devices at the end of their in-car life  – and a production facility will also be built at the site to make Nissan’s new quick-chargers.
  • Daimler is teaming up with BYD Auto to form a joint venture called Denza; its first car, based on the first-generation Mercedes-Benz B-Class platform with BYD’s electric drivetrain, will be unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show next month. Denza is intended as a Chinese-market product-line.
  • The Electric Vehicles Land Sea & Air USA 2012 conference is taking place in San Jose this week. There’s everything from electric planes to Autonomous Underwater Vehicles and nasty military drone-things – sounds fascinating. Follow the news here.
  • Good Karma: Fisker Automotive is to replace the batteries in the Karma after the breakdown of a car in tests by Consumer Reports. The recall will cover all Karmas sold so far (about 630), and Fisker will also extend the 50,000-mile/50-month warranty by another 10 months and 10,000 miles; an upgrade to the VIP Customer Care package is also promised. The fault was down to “a miscalibrated welding machine” at battery-supplier A123 System.

Nissan DeltaWing, e-bikes, more Tuesday news

March 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

A Nissan-powered prototype called DeltaWing is to run in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and will take some demo laps at Sebring this weekend. The super-aerodynamic DeltaWing features Nissan’s DIG-T 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine with direct injection and turbocharger, developing around 300bhp; it showcases low-drag, weight-reducing tech and despite its small engine and power output (around half that of its competitors, as is its weight and drag) it is expected to run at a pace between than of the LMP1 and LMP2 cars. The driver sits far back – almost over the rear axle – and the car’s engine is rear-mounted; there is a strong rearward weight bias.

The DeltaWing will start from garage 56 at Le Mans – the spot reserved for experimental cars – and carry the number 0; its results will not be classified. Partners in the DeltaWing project include Don Panoz, former F1 driver Dan Gurney and his All-American Racers constructors, the Highcroft Racing team and Michelin Tyres North America, the car’s designer is Brit Ben Bowlby, and drivers confirmed so far are Marino Franchitti and Nissan’s FIA GT1 champ Michael Krumm.

In other news today:

  • EV Innovations is looking for dealers to market the electric truck it’s developed for Bluebird Automotive. Video of the  Bluebird City in action at YouTube, more info to be posted here.
  • Following my ramblings last week about e-bikes and pedelecs (see below), turns out that the University of Brighton is to run a 35-bike trial for six weeks. The researchers will be using GPS and smartphone apps to monitor use of the bikes, studying speed and distance travelled, and work with employers and community groups to look into how they can encourage e-bike usage for commuting. More details from the University here. Incidentally, I was overtaken by an e-bike (not one of the trial models) along the seafront this morning.
  • Aspiring designers are invited to create an urban micro-EV for the future; more on the GrabCAD competition here (thanks, @GreenMotor).
  • Mitsubishi Electric has developed a prototype EV motor with built-in silicon carbide converter, half the size of its existing product. More at Green Car Congress.

Geneva Motor Show #1

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Giugiaro Brivido concept: a good excuse to kick things off with a picture of a red super-coupe. This thing’s got gull-wing doors, of course – which emphasise its Back To The Eighties air – but more pertinently, it does get a modern-day Volkswagen-developed hybrid powertrain with 360hp 3.0-litre engine, giving 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and over 170mph. It’s a four-seater, carbonfibre/aluminium GT with rear-view cameras and steering column-mounted monitors, and iPad-integrated controls for entertainment;it’s said to be fully-functioning and road-capable and, says car design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, “not an object which is destined to remain an unachievable dream. My intention has always been to design something which is close to industrial reality and can easily be released into the market”. Full gallery of pictures and press release posted at World Car Fans.

Digest of other news so far, in no particular order:

  • That Bentley SUV, called EXP 9F: replete with twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 but plug-in hybrid (with V6) and V8 diesel to be offered as options. Should any of its target audience be interested. Ain’t pretty, either.
  • Great news: Nissan is to build the Invitation (Micra replacement) in Sunderland, creating 2000-odd jobs (underwritten by £9million of goverment funding, it has to be said). Could the range include a Renault Zoe-like EV, too? Just a thought…
  • Volkswagen Polo BlueGT has cylinder deactivation, shutting down two of its four cylinders under light demand and when cruising; this sporty 140hp turbocharged 1.4 petrol will thus return 60mpg and 108 g/km (62.8mpg and 105g/km with optional DSG transmission). On sale in mainland Europe in July, UK sales tbc.
  • First pictures of Toyota’s Ft-Bh hybrid concept, proposal for a low-cost hybrid supermini – looks interesting. This could be production-feasible.
  • Mitsubishi has confirmed a 50g/km plug-in hybrid version of the new-generation Outlander SUV for 2013; this will have a 30-mile all-electric mode and 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s also showing the MiEV House, a prototype grid-balancing car/home energy system (as seen in Tokyo last year).
  • Jaguar’s honing the final design of the hybrid C-X75 supercar, reports Autocar: this’ll cost around £700,000 and will have a Cosworth four-cylinder engine, a 60km all-electric range and CO2 ouput of 99g/km.

Detroit Auto Show 2012: Things electric

January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Went away for a couple of months to a sunnier and more optimistic place (more on this to follow) and am just back in time to pick up on some of the news from Detroit. Sounds as if the North American car-makers are putting a brave face on things despite worrying as much about their future in Europe as in their domestic market; still, there’s a few interesting concept cars with a greenish tinge.

First up, the EVs: most eye-catching of the bunch is the Volkswagen E-Bugster, a two-seater Beetle coupe with lowered roof. It’s got a Leaf-rivalling range of 110 miles, will do 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds, and can be fully fast-charged in 35 minutes. Just a show car, but its powertrain is as per that of the upcoming Golf Blue e-motion, so it’s feasible.

The Smart For-Us mini pick-up (below) is quite fun (for a specific niche: it’s not exactly the all-American dream) and previews the electric ForTwo city car; GM also has an urban commuter proposal in its autonomous Mk2 EN-V pod-car (full story on this here).  Of considerably more use to the US – and the world at large – is the Nissan e-NV200 van, an electrified version of the vehicle which will form the basis of the next-gen New York taxicab.

Alternatively, there’s the option of converting an already-popular model. Ohio’s AMP is offering e-versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercedes-Benz ML-Class (press release posted here), and the Bob Lutz-backed VIA Motors is charging up the Chevy Silverado (more here).

 

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