Friday newsbriefs: Become an Electronaut

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

BMW’s looking for 700 “Electronauts” in the USA to trial the ActiveE for two years, and to feed back data on its performance. The cars will be released on a lease deal to participants with adequate charging facilities. Video at the BMW USA website.

  • Three out of four electric cars sold in the UK in the last year have gone to fleets, not private individuals, according to stats from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. That’s 600 or so out of 800. No surprise there, given the all-in lease deals and support packages, access to recharging infrastructure and in many cases, centralised charging facilities, that fleet drivers can benefit from – it’s harder, not to mention more expensive, if you’re going it alone. Fleets also benefit from various tax incentives (see below, Prius Plug-In story).
  • THINK is still distributing cars from its North American base in Elkhart, Indiana, and eleven Think City EVs have just gone out to municipal authorities in the north of the state. Its North American operations, which were separately-owned subsidiaries, remained a going concern throughout its bankruptcy in Europe; the firm is now under new ownership.
  • Battery-maker Axeon has come up with a technology to deliver a 35% improvement in electric vehicle range without increasing in weight; its advanced battery uses nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) in place of lithium phosphate in its cells, which are packaged in modules. The layout and dimensions of the battery pack also allow for higher ground clearance and better weight distribution, and it can be rapidly prototyped for use in different vehicles. The project has been funded by the Technology Strategy Board.
  • The TSB’s also funding a project by motor control specialist Sevcon Ltd, with Cummins Generator Technologies and a research group from Newcastle University, to develop an electric traction drive system for hybrids and EVs which uses steel instead of rare earth metals in the motor. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Nissan has tweaked the 1.6 petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel powertrains in the Juke for improved economy and emissions. Gear ratios have been revised in manual versions; the petrol now returns 47.1mpg and 139g/km and the diesel 57.6mpg/129g/km, both coming down a tax band.
  • Toyota’s Prius Plug-In Hybrid will cost less than £31,000 when it goes on sale early next year, not counting the £5000 government grant or any other incentives which might be in place at that point. It’s going to give an all-electric range of over 14 miles, with combined fuel economy calculated at 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions at 49g/km. BIK tax for company car users is expected to be about £52 a month, with a 100% capital write-down allowance.
  • A Nissan Leaf completed the 1000km Cannonball Ireland run, proving that an EV can cross the length of the country using the existing recharging infrastructure. Story, video at Autoblog Green.
  • Pollution from vehicle exhaust fumes can increase the likelihood of a heart attack up to six hours after exposure, according to a study reported in the British Medical Journal. Full lowdown at The Guardian.
  • Yesterday was World CarFree Day. Did anyone notice? Well, I didn’t drive anywhere, not that I needed to…
  • The Green Car Design 12:grn:hrs challenge – to design a green car in a day – is underway. Follow their progress @greencardesign.

In other news

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Mercedes is to run a test lease programme for the B-Class F-Cell fuel cell car in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where there are a number of hydrogen suppliers. Up to 100 cars will participate, and the first will go out to early-adopters later this year (Edmunds Green Car Advisor).
  • Enterprise is to add 100 CODA electric saloons to its rental fleets in California. Good news for the CODA start-up, which has just begun production though is yet to deliver to customers.
  • Norwegian EV-maker Think is preparing  its US launch in December and has just marked production of its 2500th City EV. It’s to open a final-assembly facility in Elkhart, Indiana, which will slot in US-sourced componetry including new lithium-ion battery packs. Production for Europe will continue at the Valmet facility in Finland.

Tuesday titbits

August 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Think has signed a big distribution deal in France with the Mobivia Group’s new O2City division, which manages all-in fleet contracts for supply,  servicing, maintenance, recharging/refuelling, insurance, finance and aftersales support of eco-friendly vehicles. This puts Think on the radar for large-scale fleet purchases, and the little Norwegian EV-maker has its eye on contracts with the French postal service, car share schemes and local authorities.

  • It’s the US automotive industry’s version of carbon trading: ZEV credits. California’s CODA Automotive, about to launch a Chinese-built electric saloon in the States, is the first to announce that it has done a deal with “a major global automotive manufacturer” to sell the credits it gets for selling zero-emissions vehicles. It all brings down the overall emissions, I suppose, and selling credits is going to be a valuable way of helping small-scale start-ups  such as CODA get off the ground, but I can’t help but think that it just allows the big players to buy their way out of meeting the ZEV requirements (offering such vehicles as a percentage of their own line-ups).
  • Sixteen Chinese state-owned businesses have formed an Association of the Electric Vehicle Industry. The companies aim to’set unified standards’ in the short term, and longer-term, co-operate on core technologies and promoting their brands in the global marketplace. The companies involved include the China Changan Automobile Group, China Dongfang Electric Corp., Dongfeng Motor Corp., Beijing Nonferrous Metal Research Institute and, oddly for an EV consortium, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
  • The building of the ‘mega super cities’ of the future (2020-on) will drive demand – and create the ideal operating conditions – for electric vehicles, according to a report from Frost & Sullivan. The distribution of new suburbs, office districts and shopping areas will mean shorter, more EV-friendly commutes, and demographic factors such as a high proportion of childless single households will make ownership of small vehicles more widespread. More at Green Car Congress.

Week-end odds and ends

July 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Itochu Corporation has taken a $5million stake in EV-maker Think, further expanding an existing small investment. The new partnership is to market the complete Think City (pictured, in Racer form) in Asia, as well as to sell the Think electric-drive powertrain and the G4 EV Drive Controller unit.

    • Hyundai is to launch an electric version of the i10 city car at the end of the year; electric versions of further Hyundai and Kia models will follow late 2011. Batteries for these will be supplied by South Korea’s SK Energy (Green Car Advisor).
    • Renault has signed a MOU with Istanbul’s city authorities to supply electric vehicles. It will work with Istanbul Enerji to establish a network of charging points with a view to launching vehicles for private and fleet use at the end of 2011, and collaborate on promoting EV use in Turkey.
    • Hitachi is planning to build factories for lithium-ion battery production outside Japan. It’s expecting sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to increase five-fold by 2020.

    Think to supply EV control module

    June 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Norwegian EV-maker Think, once owned but dumped by Ford, has developed a fourth-generation control module for its vehicles. This rather dull-looking widget pictured here is the bit that integrates the battery and motor, housing the charger, converter, inverter and control systems, and Think promises improved vehicle range and efficiency gains, enhanced technical safety, cheaper manufacturing costs and better flexibility and functionality of the drivetrain.

    With this, Think now plans to expand its remit: besides its own-brand vehicles, it is to supply the control module for aftermarket conversions. Its clients for the module already include the Japanese Postal Service and a Brazilian energy supplier, who are converting their vehicles to electric-drive, and the system is claimed to be extremely adaptable for a wide variety of vehicles and battery/motor packages.

    Amsterdam to subsidise EVs

    February 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Amsterdam City Council has announced a E3million programme to subsidise electric vehicle purchases, with grants of up to half the cost of a car available, and up to E250,000 for large-scale fleet purchases of up to 20 vehicles or more. A sliding scale of subsidies is in place, with up to E45,000 for buyers of trucks and taxis, in a bid to improve air quality in the Dutch city.

    The news has been welcomed today by CEO of Norwegian  EV-maker Think, which has now upped its sale forecasts for the Netherlands. Richard Canny said: “This project stands out as the most forward-thinking of initiatives in the electric vehicle sector across the whole of  Europe. Business and enterprise is at the heart of any major city, and targeting this sector with such generous subsidies we think will change the face of business transport in the city.”

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