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).


Friday newsbriefs, Mitsubishi PX-MiEV II plug-in hybrid

November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mitsubishi is to show a plug-in hybrid concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next month. The PX-MiEV II is a midsized SUV (previewing the next-gen Outlander) with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine and 70kW motor. It has an overall range of over 800km and an all-electric range of 50km, and selectable all-electric and battery charge modes, the latter switching the engine to act as a generator. The battery can be used as an external power source – when camping, for example, or in an emergency situation – and it is quick-charge compatible. This concept also showcases Mitsubishi’s new twin-motor four-wheel drive system, coupled with traction control developed from that in the Evo X. Acceleration from a standing start – with 100% of the electric motor’s torque available – is said to be equivalent of the oomph from a 3.0 V6. And Mitsubishi is also showing its Minicab-MiEV electric van, the latest ASX (RVR) small crossover with stop-start, an integrated house/car/energy management concept with smart power metering called MiEV House – plus the MiEV Cafe, powered by the battery of the EV parked next to it, via a heavy-duty external power supply device.

  • Easier EV charging? POD Point, a charging point-maker, has received an £89,000 government contract to create a database of publicly-accessible facilities across the UK. This will involve “systematic mapping”, says Transport Minister Norman Baker, and a system called Central Whitelist, allowing e-motorists to use points from different suppliers and different membership schemes in different locations – like mobile phone ‘roaming’. The data will be accessible via sat navs and mobile apps.
  • And further into the future: Qualcomm, which has just bought out wireless induction-charging firm Halo IPT, is to to start a trial of wireless charging in London, in partnership with Transport For London, Chargemaster and minicab giant Addison Lee. The trial, to be based in East London’s ‘Tech City’ development, will involve around 50 EVs and will be funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the Office for Low-Emissions Vehicles (OLEV).
  • Ford has announced a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, developed in the UK at the Dunton and Dagenham engine facilities. This turbocharged, direct-injection unit will feature first in the Focus early next year, giving 125hp (and 56.5mpg) or 100hp, with CO2 emissions from these two versions just 114g/km and 109g/km respectively. The engine – to be built in Craiova, Romania – will then go into the C-MAX, Grand C-MAX and upcoming B-MAX (mid-2012).
  • Nissan is giving away 400 fast-chargers across Europe to help accelerate EV use. 65 will be deployed in the UK at motorway service stations, airports and city centre locations.
  • Volvo is trialling two C30 Electrics in the Jiading district, Shanghai, in a bid to learn what Chinese consumers want from an EV.
  • The world’s smallest electric car is just one molecule big – if you’ve not caught the ‘nano-car’ story yet, then it’s at the BBC website.

A day of investing-in-the-environment announcements, more Monday newsbriefs

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a day for big “we’re investing in the environment” announcements. Opel wants “to be the market leader in electric mobility”, sales and marketing chief Alain Visser tells Automotive News. 6000 pre-orders for the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera already, apparently, with 10,000 to sell next year; a decision will be made by the end of the year whether to put the RAKe two-seater into production for 2013, and an electric city car (probably a sister model to the Chevy Spark EV) is under development for 2013 as well. Interestingly, ANE notes that the RAK-e may be built by Kiska, a subsidiary of bike-maker KTM, in Salzburg, and that it will have a target price of 10,000-12,000 euros.

  • Nissan has announced its six-year environmental plan, NGP (Nissan Green Plan) 2016. This focuses on reducing the company’s carbon footprint, shifting to renewable energy and increasing the diversity of its resources. It’s aiming for a 35% fuel economy improvement overall (from 2005’s figures); cumulative sales of 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles across the Renault-Nissan Alliance; a 20% reduction per vehicle of overall CO2 emissions (from 2005’s figures); a 25% usage of recycled materials and the setting-up of a closed-loop recycling system for steel, aluminium and plastic; and a reduction in consumption of rare earth metals. Nissan is also to lead the development of an all-new fuel cell car with Daimler, and, by 2016, launch an all-new front-wheel drive hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. 70% of its R&D budget is to go specifically on ‘green’ tech, too.
  • Porsche is expanding its apprenticeship programme to take on 150 trainees a year in partnership with the Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg. This is with a view to “investing in the company’s future” and developing vocational training in the “the field of e-mobility and lightweight construction”, says a spokesman, and Porsche is expanding its training centre accordingly. “Cooperative State University” – is there a lesson here about investment in education for industry?
  • Citroen is adding its e-HDi Airdream microhybrid (stop-start, energy recuperation) system to the Berlingo van; with the 90bhp diesel engine, this brings fuel economy up to 60.1mpg and carbon dioxide emissions down to 123g/km, and enables the Berlingo to meet the Euro 5 legislation. Fuel economy is improved by up to 15% in city driving. Prices from £12,795 excl. VAT, six-speed automated manual gearbox optional.
  • More Porsche: the ‘960’ supercar, halfway between 911 and 918 Spyder, will come 2015/2016 and be a plug-in hybrid, says Autoweek.
  • More Nissan: there’s no need for longer-range EVs, says a Nissan North America product planner, who’s analysed all the data and feedback so far from Leaf owners. Only a handful have run out of juice, they’re getting relaxed about charging, and in two-car households, the Leaf has become the main daily vehicle. More at Auto Observer.
  • The iconic American yellow school bus goes electric: Trans Tech has launched a 50mph, 161bhp bus that can do 100-130 miles between recharges. First ones hit the road next year, with full-scale production mid-2012, reports Autoblog Green, which also notes that the city-state of Hong Kong has just ordered 28 battery-electric buses plus a further eight ‘supercapacitor’ buses which get a zap-up at each stop.
  • Autocar’s done some maths on the running costs of the Renault Fluence (noting the monthly battery-lease charge). Compared to a Passat Bluemotion, it only makes financial sense if you’re doing 15,000 miles a year, they claim, though the figures don’t include exemption from the London congestion charge (surely an incentive for most British EV buyers in and around the capital) or go into the more favourable company car tax savings.
  • The Scottish government has announced a £4.2million fund to encourage public bodies to invest in ‘green’ vehicles (Business Green).
  • Detailed Q&A at the Guardian on the forthcoming London Low Emissions Zone (coming January 2012) and the £100/£200 a day charge for vans not meeting the Euro 3 emissions legislation (or certified as having a particulate filter fitted). Classic pre-1973 camper vans exempt, anything else 1.205 tonnes gross vehicle weight and more, registered pre-2002, will probably be liable unless the owner can prove otherwise. This story has, it seems, been prompted by a Guardian journalist failing to do his homework before shelling out on an elderly Volkswagen Transporter to carry his surfboards.

Toyota’s hybrid LMP1; Nissan fuel cells; Friday newsbriefs

October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Toyota is going to Le Mans next year with a petrol hybrid LMP1 racer. This will feature a Japanese-built TMC engine and powertrain, and a chassis built by Toyota Motorsport in Germany; it will be entered in other 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship races, and will break cover at track testing early next year. It’ll be Toyota’s first entry at Le Mans since the GT-One in 1999, which set a lap speed record.

  • Nissan has announced its new-generation fuel cell stack. Improvements to its membrane electrode assembly and separator flow path (sorry to get all arcane on you here on a Friday) have improved its power density 2.5 times over that of the 2005 model. It’s now giving 2.5kW per litre, which Nissan claims as “a world’s best” (from the car makers, at least). Changes to its supporting frame also means that it’s now half the size – and as it needs only a quarter of the platinum and number of parts as used in the 2005 design, it costs one-sixth of the price.
  • Also from Nissan: its new front-wheel drive hybrid system, developed in-house  in combination with an improved CVT gearbox, and to go in next year’s Altima (US-market). Lowdown at Autoweek.
  • Detailed range-by-range rundown of BMW’s future product plans at Autoweek. i3 and i8 we know about (2013, 2014), and they’re also talking about the rumoured front-wheel drive compact cars, to include the new 1-Series ‘family’, Minis, a mini-MPV and a compact wagon.
  • A drive (briefly) in the Audi E-Tron Spyder plug-in diesel hybrid concept – Auto Observer gave it a go.
  • Heard about the 8,571mpg car? It might not be the most practical thing to go shopping in, but the Team Fireball entrant achieved this phenomenal economy in the 2011 Honda Eco Mileage Challenge. Full story from Integrity Exports.
  • Volkswagen is launching a car-share programme called Quicar in Hanover next month. Members get to use a fleet of 200 Golf Bluemotions for short-term use, and Quicar Plus gives access to 70 more cars for longer-term use including the up!, Passat estate, Golf cabrio, Caravelle and Transporter. Membership is a one-off fee of 25 euros, with a minimum rental of 30min (6 euros, all-in) and further charging by the minute (20 cents); preferential parking fees apply (Green Car Congress).
  • Had been ignoring this proposal by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne re. extending the motorway speed limit to 80mph for EVs only, as I thought it was far too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Because, y’know, doing 80mph is really good for an EV’s battery range, and such a ruling is going to be really enforceable. But it’s still making me laugh, until I consider the consequences of having such a well-informed energy secretary… ‘Strewth.

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