Design Concept of the Day 2: BMW Vision Next 100

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

bmw vision next 100Well, we were wondering why the BMW stand at the Geneva show was somewhat lacking in drama or surprises, and now we know: the big reveal was saved for this week and a special event in Munich marking the company’s centenary. To celebrate the big 100, BMW has revealed a concept reflecting ‘sheer driving pleasure of the future’, looking at trends and tech for the decades ahead. Main objective was for this vehicle not to be anonymous, but highly-personalised to suit each driver’s needs, with seamless interactions between human, machine and surroundings. Yet it had to still be driver-focused, and offer an ’emotional’ mobility experience, despite using advanced AI (with more humanised interactions) and new materials, including intelligent and networked materials created by 4D printing.

bmw next 100 intDesign started with the interior, a roomy dome, with wellbeing a priority and, inevitably, autonomous elements: Ease mode, with ambient lighting and atmosphere when the driver can sit back, and Boost, a more dynamic DIY mode in which the car’s software – the ‘Companion’ – ‘learns’ about the driver and their style and preferences to support accordingly. The interface features what BMW terms ‘alive geometry’ – a 3D display set into the instrument panel and areas of the side panels, consisting of nearly 800 moving triangles giving gestural, often peripheral, information to the driver. Effectively, the whole windscreen can serve as a giant display, the head-up display working in parallel to an analogue dashboard, and BMW describes it as involving the driver “in a form of preconscious communication, where an intuitive signal predicts an imminent real-time event.” The Companion can also signal to other road-users the status of the vehicle (automated or not) and communicate to, for example, pedestrians that it is safe to cross.

BMW points out that most of its fabrics are recycled or renewable, with components such as the side panels also made from residues from carbonfibre production. It expects in the future for the use of less wood and leather, and no leather is used inside the Vision Next 100. No word on its powertrain, but at this stage in the game, I think we can safely assume that it’s (conceptually, at least) electrified. Full lowdown & much more detail from BMW here. Conclusions? However advanced its tech and interfaces are, and its ability to communicate with the outside world, the Vision Next 100 is still very much a car, and a personal one at that: for all its work on mobility services, BMW certainly doesn’t envisage this core part of its business going away any time soon.

 

Design Concept of the Day: Toyota Setsuna

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Setsuna+Concept__midToday’s picture is of the Setsuna – ‘moment’, in Japanese – which is all about durability and the changing nature of a family’s relationship with a car over time with the accumulation of “precious, fleeting moments”, apparently. Toyota’s displaying it at Milan Design Week, and yes, it’s wooden. To last for “many generations if properly taken care of”, and to change in colour and texture as it ages; there’s Japanese cedar for the exterior panels and Japanese birch for the frame, assembled using a nail- and screw-less Japanese joinery technique. And an electric motor to drive it. More here.
In other news to start the week:
  • Natural gas: “not a ‘bridge fuel’ but an expensive dead-end on the road to decarbonising transport”, says pressure group Transport & Environment, based on research by Ricardo Energy & Environment which finds no GHG savings in shifting to CNG or LNG from diesel (cars and trucks) and very little advantage in terms of air pollution. In fact, due to emissions and methane leakage in gas extraction, production and supply, overall GHG emissions are raised. T&E argues for governments to stop incentivising gas use, and says that for cars, petrol-electric hybrids, electric and hydrogen are better bets. Waste biomethane can have niche uses at a local level, but that’s about it. Full set of report downloads here.
  • Full text of Audi chairman Rupert Stadler’s speech at the company’s annual press conference here: Stadler outlined [amongst other things post-#dieselgate] three key ‘milestones’, digitisation, electromobility and urbanisation, and confirmed its first all-electric large car for 2018. Hybrids and PHEVs are seen as a ‘bridge’ tech for the next 10 years, with the brand “thinking about electric mobility in high-volume terms” as well as high potential for fuel cell tech. The ‘urbanisation’ part of the plan includes mobility services and apps, including on-demand access to shared vehicles.
  • I like a Living Lab, and the latest to come to my notice is an electric bus project in Helsinki: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, with Helsinki Region Trasnport, is testing platforms for mobility services including new user interfaces and transport/logistics solutions as well as cabin-space innovations. The city of Tampere is also involved. More here.

Geneva 2016: the aftermath

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

IMG_1312So, Geneva: a good show for electromobility, though probably a better event for supercar-lovers this year. If one got past the stands of McLaren, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Pagani et al, there were plenty of plug-ins nonetheless, covering pretty well all sectors of the market. At the exotic high-concept end was the Italdesign GTZero (pictured) – three motors giving 483bhp, a modular structure also allowing for a hybrid powertrain and a Lamborghini Espada-like design demeanour – and at the other, barely-even-a-car, end I have to admit that the styled up Citroen e-Mehari by Courreges (second image, below) caught my eye. Nice to see the Volkswagen Budd-e for real, too – lovely clean-looking design with a minimal, modern interior and well-developed connected-car vision, as well as its (putative) electric powertrain.

IMG_1304In between the extremes came the electric/PHEV/hybrid Hyundai Ioniq (exceedingly dull to look at, but then that’s probably the point; an important mainstream vehicle, all the same), the similarly three-way SsangYong SIV-2 SUV (still at concept stage), the oddball Morgan EV3, Toyota’s hybrid CH-R compact crossover, the Lexus LC 500h coupe (an underrated good-looker, I thought), plus the [Citroen] DS E-tense electric coupe concept (see below), which was great fun if, it has to be said, a bit silly and show-offy.

 

IMG_1331Croatia’s Rimac Automobili brought along its very limited-edition Concept_One supercar and its new ‘evil twin’, the Concept S (pictured), though the company’s tech and batteries are really where it’s at, and though there wasn’t any new news as such from Quant, it put on a strong stand with the near-road-ready Quantino, larger Quant F and a mock-up of how to refuel its nanoflowcell batteries with ioniq liquid (electrolyte-swapping; image below).

 

 

IMG_1327Nissan brought along the autonomous IDS as seen in Detroit with news that it was going to introduce ‘piloted drive’ on the Qashqai, as well as talking about its connected-car vision which includes smart EV-charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid link-ups enabling cars-as-energy-hubs; its ‘fuel station of the future’ concept co-developed with Foster & Partners describes autonomous parking-up to wirelessly charge, for example. Lots of talk about ‘mobility’, not least from Volkswagen which announced three new ‘Volkswagen Future Centers’ in Potsdam, China and California where designers and ‘digitalisation experts’ will work alongside each other on software, UX, HMI/interface design, infotainment, new interior concepts and services; it was bullish about electromobility, too, with big investment in Audi in particular to spearhead new plug-in model introductions. Hyundai also announced its ‘Project Ioniq’, research & development on future mobility ideas. Much, then, in the wake of #dieselgate, to be positive about.

 

(Citroen) DS E-Tense concept & other #EV-related stories pre-Geneva…

February 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

ds e-tenseA-ha, a proper show car to look forward to at Geneva next week: (Citroen) DS E-Tense, a two-seater super-EV French fantasy. It’s a sharply-styled GT-style coupe said to deliver 402hp/516Nm, 250kph and 0-100km in 4.5 seconds, using expertise from the DS Formula E cars – and a range of 310km (360km on an urban cycle). Its batteries sit under the chassis. It’s as much a design showcase, though, dressed up in metallic green paint with a central chrome ‘spine’, striking LED lighting, a tail end minus windscreen (digital rear-view cameras instead) and a luxury-fit interior. More on the styling stuff here.

  • Feedback from the folks at Zap-Map: over 2500 charge point updates have been logged by the EV-driving members of its community, via web and smartphone apps since its Zap-Chat function was introduced last December. Drivers are reporting successful charges, any issues, and information to help others locate and use facilities. Zap-Map has also improved its route-planning tools and added filters for EV model, charger type, speed, network and access type. And latest stats on the infrastructure: it’s listing over 3,800 locations, 5000 devices and 10,000 connectors, including 850 rapid-chargers in 650 locations across the UK.
  • Latest news on the UK rapid-charge network, too – it now stretches 1,100km/683 miles from Stranraer in Scotland to Suffolk, Hull to Holyhead, and connects to both Belfast and Dublin via ferry-trips. That’s 74 chargers on motorways, dual-carriageways and major trunk routes, said to connect also with transport hubs and airports, and these have CCS, ChaDeMo and 43kW AC compatibility.  These RCN points were co-funded by the EU with Nissan, BMW, Renault and Volkswagen, in partnership with Ecotricity (UK) and ESB (Ireland), and implemented by Zero Carbon Futures.  It was funded as part of the programme also connecting Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bavaria and Croatia (Central European ‘corridor’), France, and Denmark with Sweden and Germany.
  • 60 22kW ‘semi-rapid’ chargers are being fitted around urban/suburban Paris: lower-cost than the all-out rapids and arguably well-suited to such an environment where they can fit in with drivers’ parking needs (i.e. topping up while shopping, not necessarily leaving a vehicle all day). More here
  • A bit of point-scoring: electric buses (Proterra models, to be specific) are four times as ‘fuel’-efficient as comparable CNG-fuelled counterparts. Says a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on a 12-e-bus, 400,000-mile, trial in California where the buses averaged 13.2 hours on the road and 13 charges each day. The buses returned 2.15kWh/mile, said to translate to an equivalent 17.48mpg in a diesel bus, reports ChargedEVs, whereas the NABI CNG buses tested only did 4.51DGE. And, they were more reliable – 133,000 miles between call-outs, compared to 45,000 for the CNG buses. Full report from NREL here.
  • EVs will be cheaper to buy & own than ICE cars – on an unsubsidised basis – by the mid-2020s, according to research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, mainly thanks to falling battery costs. This is despite an assumption of fuel economy improvements (averaging 3.5%) from ICE vehicles. BNEF predicts global sales of EVs to hit 41million, and 35% of the light-duty market, by 2040, although in most markets they will not crack 5% in the near future.
  • Following similar trends in the US, annual motor vehicle traffic in GB reached an all-time high in 2015, up 2.2% on 2014, according to latest DfT stats: ‘highest rolling annual total ever’ and an increase for an 11th quarter. Compared to 2014, car traffic grew 1.7% and is now v slightly above pre-recession levels; van traffic continued to rise faster than another other vehicle type, up 6.1% to 47.7billion VMT; HGV traffic rose on motorways and rural A roads, but fell on urban A roads; traffic levels rose on all types of road except urban A roads (where it stayed the same); motorway traffic rose 2.4% to an all-time high of 65.8billion VMT.Growth in the UK economy and lower petrol prices are thought to be the major driving (pun intended) factors.
  • Automating vehicles could have a big impact on transport GHG emissions and energy use – but it could go either way depending on scenario, according to a study from Leeds University, University of Washington and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, from nearly halving to nearly doubling emissions/consumption. Automation may facilitate changes in vehicle design or usage which have a positive effect -i.e. platooning, auto eco-driving, better congestion management – or there could be increased travel by new user groups, more travel by existing car users and new service models. More, incl. references, here.

Pre-Geneva news round-up

February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

rimac concept oneNormal service (such as it ever is) resumed following a three-week stand-in stint at Car Design News (cheers, guys! Invoice on its way!). So a quick news round-up, starting with an exotica alert: no shortage of high-price, high-tech electrified offerings on show at Geneva motor show next week, including the TechRules turbine-recharging EV and the Arash AF10 hybrid,  as well as the Morgan EV3 three-wheeler in production form. I think the most interesting, however, are Nanoflowcell AG’s Quantino – which has just completed a test run in which it operated non-stop for 14 hours on an urban cycle – and the production-ready Rimac Automobili ‘Concept One’ [pictured]. Well, production-ready in that eight are going to be made… Lowdown on the Croatian-developed Rimac is a motor at each wheel giving a total 800kW/1088hp and 1600Nm, four gearboxes (single-speed up front, two two-speed double-clutchers behind), all-wheel torque-vectoring with regenerative braking, 0-100kph in 2.6 seconds, adjustable settings including drift mode, full telemetry and 4G cloud connection, but for me the most interesting bit is its battery pack: 8450 cells, each individually monitored and controlled, with liquid thermal management and the ability to deliver 1MW of power under acceleration yet 400kW when braking. Rimac is shaping up to be an influential battery-supplier to several sectors (including e-superbikes, such as the Greyp G12S made by its sister company) and the Concept One is, effectively an ad for this end of the business. Lowdown here.

  • Americans: driving more than ever before, according to data from the FHA [3.15trillion miles in 2015, with December’s VMT up 4% on December 2014]. The lowering price of fuel and urban sprawl are fingered as contributing factors, as well as a growing economy, says Scientific American, and a spokesman from the Union of Concerned Scientists describes policy to reduce car use full stop as ‘a very long game plan’ making efficiency and alt-fuels ‘ever more pressing’. As for the idea that Millennials aren’t driving, the fall in under-30s’ license-holding is only 1% 2004-2014, incidentally, and counterbalanced by more older adults staying on the road for longer. Can we now officially declare ‘Peak Car’ over?
  • Hubject has come up with a solution for detecting and transmitting ‘dynamic occupation data’ on availability of EV charging points – whether they’re in use already, or the space is ICE-d. More here.
  • ‘Green ergonomics’ research by Southampton University/TU Chemnitz with 39 already economy-conscious Toyota Prius drivers: even among those highly motivated to save energy, eco-driving strategies differed and were not necessarily successful. Many had “false beliefs” about energy-saving, and did not fully understand their vehicle’s tech and energy use, i.e. over-estimating energy recuperated under regenerative braking or overall energy saved in all-electric mode. Recommendations for HMI design include comprehensive feedback incl. real-time drivetrain performance data and predictive info, design for ease of perception, system support for driver ‘learning’, incorporation of automated interventions, i.e. energy-optimised adaptive cruise control, better displays on drivetrain dynamics and energy flows, and ability to configure info displays. More detailed rundown here,  full paper in Applied Ergonomics.
  • Unveiling of the Riversimple Rasa fuel cell microcar, developed for long-term leasing. Some more thoughts, from Cardiff University’s Paul Nieuwenhuis, co-director of the Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, here
  • And another fuel cell micro-vehicle, this time the Austrian-developed HET Engineering Citylog EMF, for urban deliveries. It can also connect up with others to form a ‘train’, and would suit shuttle and other passenger transport services as well. More here.
  • Tie-up between Seat, SAP and Samsung which takes IoT-enabled cars a stage further: new connectivity products under development (announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week) include a ‘global inventory’ of cloud-connected parking spaces which can be reserved and paid-for via Samsung Pay, using fingerprint recognition and integrated with location/navigation services. Same tech could apply to EV charger reservation too, of course. Also, ‘digital key sharing’ (keyless operation via smartphone, transferable with potential for time-limiting and even performance-limiting). To be worked into the My Seat app. (Volvo is also to offer a Bluetooth-enabled digital key, to operate via a phone app, from next year.)
  • From Ford at MVC: new offers and geolocation services in partnership with the likes of BP and McDonalds, plus Parkopedia with payments via Mobile City, within the FordPass membership programme; Ford is mentioning robot refuelling and auto-parking as future extensions. A pilot scheme called GoPark is under test in London (Islington) with volunteers sending live traffic/parking data, alongside the GoDrive on-demand car-share.
  • And BMW: I can’t pretend to understand the tech here, but it has announced trials of a ‘vehicular small cell’, a mobile femtocell which is said to optimise in-car mobile radio reception/transmission. Project’s called Vehicular Crowdcell, suggesting there’s an element of crowd-sourced data collection, and one possible application, BMW suggests, is carsharing schemes. More here.
  • Ericsson is working with Volvo (and wider Geely Auto group) on high-bandwidth streaming tech for autonomous vehicles – including improving network coverage, data storage and the quality of connectivity. V2V and V2X services will be developed on Ericsson’s Connected Vehicle Cloud platform with open API. Initial services to be offered to DIY drivers will include remote monitoring/activation of vehicle systems and a dynamic app store, next stage is sharing of info on potential road hazards.
  • Quote from Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche in the Euro am Sonntag paper: “Batteries have become more attractive [than fuel cells] in recent years. It has become more likely that they could prevail.” Zetsche cites progress in range and charging time as key factors – “Cars with electric driving ranges of 500 km and fast-charging times of 20 minutes are within reach” – whereas the issue of affordable and widespread hydrogen supply/distribution has not yet been solved.
  • Research from CIED, Sussex University, looking at 40 years of driver behaviour (1970-2011), mileage and fuel prices has found a 20% ‘rebound effect’ – as car fuel efficiency improves, people drive more, thus cancelling out a lot of the benefits of creating more efficient vehicles (a fifth of the energy-saving eroded). More here, full paper in Energy Economics (February 2016) here.
  • KTH Stockholm has developed a wood pulp-based carbonfibre material to form a roof and integrated battery for an electric vehicle: this saves weight, and the ‘lignin battery’ can be made from forestry byproducts. More here.
  • Linkoping Unversity has come up with a streamlined truck design that can cut fuel (100% biodiesel) use by 12%: more here.
  • Important development for EV awareness as well as to inform existing drivers: availability (or at least, presence) of fast-chargers is to be added to motorway service station signposts. More here.
  • A series of lectures from TSU Oxford on Urban Mobilities in the Smart City can be listened-to (podcasts) or viewed (presentation slides) here.
  • An interesting & thoughtful long read on autonomous cars, parking and urban space here
  • …and insight into Ford’s work with design agency Ideo on multi-modal transport apps here
  • Fun concepts of the last week: autonomous on-demand micro-catamarans, for city commuting by water. More on the SeaBubble here. And a clever electric tractor/compactor here

The Honda hydrogen society, and other smarter mobility news…

January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

honda tottori projectIt’s the hydrogen society: Honda has signed an agreement with Tottori Gas Co, Sekisui House Ltd and Tottori Prefecture to develop a demo project integrating a hydrogen station, a smart house (pictured; love the graphic) and a fuel cell vehicle. The Smart Hydrogen Station will supply hydrogen created by electrolysis of water, using renewable electricity, and the idea is to show “a comfortable and smart lifestyle that can be achieved through energy-saving and energy-creation with the use of hydrogen energy.” More here.

In other news to end the working week:

  • Toyota is showing off a van concept called U2 (U-squared) at the Toronto auto show; no word yet on what kind of powertrain it has, but apparently it’s the “future of urban mobility”. Possibly hydrogen/fuel cell fuelled, too?
  • Much ado today about the end of Land Rover Defender production; for all it was about time for it to be pensioned off, people were pretty fond of it. One environmentally-positive part of the tale: remember the trial fleet of all-electric models, in which Land Rover tested out some of its electrification tech?
  • Pods, driverless, to be deployed in London: adapted versions of the on-demand mini-shuttles on service at Heathrow Airport will go on trial at the Greenwich peninsula, this time without tracks. Seven cars will be built and tested by Westfield.
  • Meanwhile, TfL launched an initiative called LoCITY to encourage take-up of lower-emissions trucks and lorries for us in London, looking at refuelling/recharging infrastructure (incl. hydrogen), affordability/availability, and enviro operating standards. Full programme overview here.
  • And another interesting driveless-EV application: for freight, in tunnels, in Switzerland. The ‘cargo sous terrain’ project, using inductive rails, will cover Geneva-St Gallen, and the first stretch will be completed by 2030, reports electrive.com.
  • There are many ways this particular cake can be cut, but a ranking of ‘greenest’ vehicles by the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) puts the Smart Fortwo in the top spot, followed by the Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500E, Toyota Prius Eco, Volkswagen E-Golf and then Nissan Leaf. The ACEEE says it has carried out a whole-lifecycle analysis, taking into account the US grid, and that “plug-in vehicles are outpacing all other vehicle offerings in terms of environmental friendliness… nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that how green your electric vehicle truly is depends on the electricity it uses to charge.” Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel models fitted with  ‘defeat devices’ were disqualified from this year’s rankings, and rightly so. More here.
  • Big charging point installation in California: 3500 in 350 locations, including businesses and residential communities, in San Diego and south Orange counties, with 10% to go to identified ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhoods. There will be incentives to charge off-peak as part of grid-management. More here.

Monday: good news to start the week

January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

MINI Plant Oxford showcases pioneering street lighting system with integrated electric vehicle charging-66907Well, news for the morning – and a good way to start the week – has to be the announcement of the Go Ultra Low City Scheme: £40million to go to four UK cities to support plug-in vehicle use. Initiatives to be funded include “rapid charging hubs”, on-street EV chargers integrated into lampposts (like the unit pictured, under trial in Oxford?), dedicated parking spaces for plug-in cars (around 25,000) and their use of bus lanes. The selected cities have been picked for their proposals for schemes to encourage EV take-up and funded programmes include:

  • £13million to London across several boroughs, including streetlight chargers for an area in Hackney and a low-emissions zone with parking and traffic priorities in Harrow.
  • £9million to Milton Keynes for a city centre ‘Electric Vehicle Experience Centre’ giving advice and vehicle loans, 20,000 free-parking bays for EVs, and opening up bus lanes to plug-in vehicles.
  • £7million to Bristol for free residential EV parking, three car-pool lanes, over 80 fast- and rapid-chargers across the city and a four-week ‘try before you buy’ EV lease scheme.
  • £6million to Derby and Nottinghamshire to install 230 charging points, discounted parking and access to 13 miles of bus lanes across the city.
  • A further £5million to initiatives in Dundee, Oxford, York and the north-east, including “commuter charging hubs” in Dundee and solar-panelled park-and-ride hubs in York.

This follows the news – from the private sector – that Chargemaster is putting in up to 200 rapid-chargers in London this year and next, the first 30 going live this summer. Chosen locations will include petrol stations, public car parks and supermarkets, and they will operate both via POLAR network membership and pay-as-you-go; POLAR members will pay a lower tariff.

  • And across the Atlantic, some news that slipped out last week: $CAN 16million (10mill equity, 6mill loan) to support R&D into electromobility in Quebec, supporting a partnership between Investissement Quebec, HydroQuebec’s IndusTech division, PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Exagon Motors (maker of the Furtive e-GT and electric ice-racers). A further $CAN 4million will be invested by HydroQuebec. The programme aims to develop “components for high-performance electric vehicles” and promote EV innovation in Canada, and HydroQuebec subsidiary TM4 is to develop and manufacture a motor/drivetrain. (More DoE tech funding in the US, too).
  • More on the background of EV drivers (mostly USA, 1072 respondents) from a big survey of Clean Technica/EVObsession/GAS2 readers: yep, male (93.5%) and wealthy (58% with annual household income of over $100,000, 88.5% over $50,000). They tended to live either in larger cities (over 1million inhabitants – 27.3%) or small towns (with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, 29.4%), and 20.6% had only the one – electric – car; 45.8% had two cars and 33.6% more than two. And 70% said that they now drove more efficiently (24% didn’t, 6% ‘not sure’), 41% said that owning/leasing an EV made them conserve more domestic energy (42% didn’t, 17% ‘not sure’) and 37.5% had home solar panels. Similar questions were also asked to potential EV purchasers; full report available here.
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