May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
Volkswagen is fitting plug-in hybrid powertrains in a growing number of its production and concept cars: latest is the track-oriented Golf GTE Sport, an electrified, all-wheel-drive GTI concept. Developed for the annual GTI meeting at Lake Wörthersee, Austria, the carbon-bodied, GTE Sport gives 400hp, 174mph and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. All-electric range is 50km, and average fuel economy (not that the NEDC cycle gives in any way a representative figure) is 141mpg.
Its motors supplement a version of the turbocharged 1.6TSI from the Polo R WRC rally car; one (115hp/330Nm) is mounted up front within the housing of the six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, and another (115hp/270Nm) at the rear driving the rear axle. The racing-style interior – accessed via swing-up doors – features two self-contained areas for driver and passenger, and features a new three-level transparent information display system to accommodate all necessary data on charge, electric boost and power delivery as well as lap times. The mode-select switches for electric, hybrid and AWD ‘GTE’ performance modes is roof-mounted, and the driver can select battery ‘hold’ and ‘charge’ modes; in GTE mode, the front electric motor acts as a generator supplying energy to the rear motor via an “electric propshaft”, which Volkswagen has copyrighted.
I’m currently rather struggling with enthusiasm for PHEVs – firstly due to the growing suspicion that they’re not spending an awful lot of time in electric mode (as the Dutch government has suggested; see earlier post), and secondly as they are increasingly looking like an attempt to spin out the lifespan of the ICE from the OEM/industry end. However, on the positive side, consciousness-raising, gateway to electrification and all the rest of it, and if concepts like this grab the attention of petrolheads, so much the better.
- Spotted on this #PitchToRich thing (competition for Branson/Virgin investment: the Libralato petrol engine for plug-in hybrid powertrains (speaking of which), said to be half the size and weight of a conventional unit, and deliver the efficiency of a diesel. It’s a re-take on the rotary engine, with two rotors (and thus no pistons or crankshaft), from a firm in Greater Manchester. (Via @CarplusTrust – thanks). Well, potentially considerably more progressive than electrifying a conventional ICE.
- Toyota has launched its Open Road project, field-testing the i-Road micro-EV in Tokyo; there are three components to the programme, road-testing of the vehicle itself, collaborating with industry partners ‘to create unique extensions of the i-Road experience’, and broadcasting/sharing/promoting. It’s appealing for (Tokyo-based) participants.
- Renault-Nissan is planning EVs with a battery range of over 400km by 2020, according to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review. Latest EV sales targets have been revised, it reports, to 10% of Nissan’s sales by 2025 (from just over 1% now).
- Lack of public charging infrastructure remains a main barrier to EV adoption, yet most EV drivers are charging at home; an attempt to unscramble the contradiction from Navigant. Points out that the location of charging equipment is crucial if it is to be used, and that testing with mobile charging units is a good idea to determine suitable sites and justify investments.
- Driving costs society six times more than cycling, according to a Danish-Australian study: the paper, in Ecological Economics, says that cycling infrastructure is one of the most cost-effective investments for cities in terms of the impacts on air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, health, congestion and travel routes. Cycling costs 0.08euro per kilometre, with this cost showing a downward trend, whereas driving costs 0.50euro and rising, claim the researchers (Gössling and Choi, 2015). The study is based on Copenhagen.
- Toyota and Mazda are entering into a technology-sharing partnership: Mazda will get Toyota’s hybrid and fuel cell tech, while bringing its own SkyActiv fuel-efficient engines to the table, reports Autocar.
May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
In other news today:
- Pressure group Plug In America has published a report on promotion of EVs in the US; concludes there is an upward trend, consumer satisfaction is positive, but general awareness is poor; potential for alignment with renewable energy industry is good; but there is a ‘patchwork quilt’ of legislation and incentives with inconsistencies between states.
- GM doesn’t reckon it will meet its target of 500,000 electrified vehicles (of all types) on US roads by 2017, reports Detroit News. It’s citing a surge in competitive offers and lowered gas prices. However, in separate news, one analyst decouples the link between cheap petrol and falling ‘green’ car sales, saying the latter had peaked already.
- In the US, annual mileage driven by women has been rising: some interesting stats from UMTRI, Michigan tracking mileage by gender 1963-2013. In ’63, women accounted for less than 40% of drivers (now nearly 51%, having outnumbered men for the last 10 years) and their mileage has risen 89% since then (compared to 33% for men). In ’63, men drove more than twice the distance of women, now it’s only 1.5 times (around 15,000 miles a year on average, vs 10,000). Researcher Michael Sivak notes that this “will likely have major implications o the extent and nature of vehicle demand, energy consumption and road safety”, due to the lower mileage, lower fatality rate per distance driven for female drivers, and because they are (still) more likely to buy smaller, safer, and more efficient vehicles.
- The next-generation 2017 London taxi – LTI TX5 – is to come with a PHEV powertrain, enabling it to meet upcoming air quality legislation; statement from Geely, LTI’s parent company, posted here.
- Meanwhile, the Dutch government is to reduce tax breaks for PHEVs – the Netherlands is Europe’s largest market for these, with over 12,200 sold there last year – because, according to a BMW source, owners are not using the electric capability and simply running on petrol/diesel. Report from Automotive News Europe. However, BMW’s claiming that its next-gen Power eDrive PHEV powertrains will typically give 80% of the average commuter’s journeys in all-electric mode – spokesman quoted here.
- Liftshare is reporting that a major British carmaker (unnamed) has installed 200 shared-vehicle parking bays at its facility; nearly 400 people have signed up, 90 ‘teams’ of car-poolers have been created, and they reckon that over a year, over 3,250,00o miles and over 1070 tonnes of CO2 will be ‘saved’. Liftshare creates bespoke software/booking solutions for formal sharing schemes, as well as personalised multi-modal travel planning.
May 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Autonomous shared vehicles could replace 90% of private cars on city streets, according to research from the International Transport Forum modelling ‘TaxiBots’ – simultaneously-shared vehicles – and ‘AutoVots’, on-demand vehicles transporting one person after another. It warns of increases in total vehicle mileage travelled, however, due to the pick-ups, drop-offs and vehicle repositioning in different scenarios, but points out the land use implications for a reduction in necessary parking spaces – and where the Bots and Vots could supplement (or replace) inefficient or insufficient public transport systems. Further effects on transportation privatisation implied… Handy rundown here, full report, Urban Mobility System Upgrade, here. It notes that, to accommodate charging downtime, only a 2% increase in vehicle numbers would be needed for the fleets to be electrified. Nice analysis by Citylab, too. Pic: Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept, the luxury/executive option. The car-makers have been thinking about how to manoeuvre themselves into this new market-space, of course.
- In the meantime… the used car market is the key to electric vehicle adoption, says an analyst from Glass’s Guides, pointing out the role of the motor trade in consumer education and charting the strengthening of EV residual values.
- The CarPlus annual survey of car clubs is out: download the various regional reports here. Some take-outs from the England & Wales report: 22,500 members using 700 cars (outside London); increasing usage of EVs; claiming that four cars removed from road for each car club car; only 29% of members (6 months+) now own a car, with car purchases deferred; average annual mileage 3,500; members 3x more likely than average to cycle. Car club membership is used as part of members’ ‘portfolios’ of transport options including train, bus, walking, etc. Corporate members use cars more than private, and their employers/organisations have reduced usage of pool and ‘grey fleet’ (employees’ own) vehicles; most popular reason for joining was moving to a new area, then changing job. Figures for London report 155,000 members using 2,300 cars; a claimed 8.6 cars removed from the road per car club car; average annual mileage 2,190; and in Scotland, 7,600 members are sharing 240 cars. Importantly, the reports discuss the potential for adoption of electric vehicles – a good level of willingness to try them out, and positive responses towards experiences so far, were noted.
- And there’s a lot more on car-sharing in the latest issue of Transportation: shared mobility services are now mainstream, its editors claim, enabled by digital tech. Papers look at case studies, model future scenarios, look at the potential for car-sharing in B2B applications, fleet efficiencies and business models.
- Doubling bus use in the UK will have only a tiny impact in reducing car usage (1.3%), argues Steve Melia, and in general, investment in public transport will have little effect on reducing car travel – they’re more likely to reduce walking and cycling. Instead, he argues for better and more strategic planning to reduce congestion and air pollution.
- So Tesla has launched its PowerWall static energy storage systems, domestic grade and industrial: an important (and symbolic) step forward in capture and storage of renewables, nicely tying in with vehicle charging. This stuff is all connected.
- And some first-quarter figures from ACEA: EV registrations more than doubled compared to same time 2014, to 24,360 units. Hybrid sales were up 21.4% to 56,704, and natural gas-fuelled vehicles up 16.5% to 63,087.
- Researchers at University of Illinois, Chicago, have made advances in magnesium-ion battery tech – reported here.
April 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
TUM Create – a collaboration between TU Munich and NTU Singapore – has unveiled EVA, an all-electric taxi specifically designed ground-up as an EV, and with tropical climates in mind. Some interesting stats: taxis account only for 3% of vehicle population but 15% of mileage in Singapore; they typically run on a two-shift rotation 24 hours a day doing an average 520km; and of course, powering their air conditioning is paramount. EVA has a 200km range with only a 15-minute downtime for fast-charging, apparently, and is designed to be manufactured locally for Asian markets. More here.
- PHEV sales are to reach 1.2million a year in Europe in 10 years, outselling non-plug-in hybrids by 2019, reports Automotive News Europe, synthesising several analyses and quoting LMC Automotive. The most-sold at the moment by a massive margin has been the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (though in recent month-on-month listings the newly-launched Volkswagen Golf GTE has edged ahead in some countries). Meanwhile, the Dutch government has set a target of 200,000 electrified vehicles on the country’s roads by 2020; it has pledged to continue state support. However, it’s worth noting that, as SUV and truck sales start to boom again in the US, it turns out that over 20% of hybrid/EV owners have traded in their electrified vehicles as gas prices lower…
- Research from Toronto University: air pollution could be spread three times further than previously thought, with wide variations across districts. And in a sample of 100,000 vehicles, 25% – mainly older or ‘badly-tuned’ – were found to be causing 90% of the pollution, including 95% of particulates and 93% of carbon monoxide. More, incl. full academic references, here.
- Some academic papers on the transition to electromobility: including discussion as to whether momentum is going to last, the niches where EVs can more easily be introduced, but mostly identifying where things are going wrong… interesting case study linking EV use with the hydroelectricity generation system in Quebec, however.
- Catching up on latest EV/low-emissions vehicle registrations: 8573 cars with CO2 emissions under 75g/km were registered in the UK in the first quarter of 2015; again, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the leader, followed by the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe and… BMW i8. 2014 sales totals for all plug-in vehicles came to 14,498, including nearly 6,700 ‘pure’ EVs and 7,800 PHEVs, with some 52,000 alt-fuel vehicles (including hybrids, plug-ins and range-extenders) put on the road. SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2015 here. However, “diesel and petrol cars still represent the majority share of the new car market” – which itself continues to grow.
- And, in rant of the week, all of the above tends to suggest that, while there’s lots to be optimistic about, we’re still a long, long way from the “seismic shift” in car use/attitudes towards car use as suggested by this Guardian Cities piece this week… I think the focus on city-dwellers is pretty damn misleading too, considering that it’s the suburbanites, ‘peri-urban’ dwellers and other inward commuters mostly driving into city centres. Christian Wolmar’s quote in particular raises an interesting point: he says he doesn’t drive into London any more, which is taken as an example of an attitudinal shift, but his decision is effectively due to congestion/parking problems – because there are too many other cars… Though it’s well-argued and descriptive, with nice (niche) examples of good practice, there are so many holes that can be picked both in this piece and in the reaction to it, mainly due to reliance on the ‘peak car’ concept (highly debatable) or conflating the idea of a slowdown or flatlining in traffic/driving growth with that of an actual substantial reduction in cars on the streets (nope; see above) – much as we would all (except the car-makers and the SMMT, presumably) like to see that. Also, the idea of ‘car-free’ does often seem to forget that autonomous, shared, car club, on-demand non-private cars, not to mention delivery/taxi/service/emergency/other task-specific types of vehicle, are all some form of automobile too. And thus better electrified.
- Finally, further to the above… good in-depth discussion of ‘microtransit’ at Citylab. Yep, city-dwellers again, but some positive trends, plus a look at implications and unforeseen consequences. It ain’t all bad, but let’s not assume that cars are going to disappear just yet.
April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
A very quick Shanghai Motor Show round-up of stuff not previously covered/mentioned, in no particular order. Volkswagen: followed up the Geneva Sport Concept GTE with the C Concept GTE – stretched to a 5m-long four-door luxury “coupe” bodystyle, with a 245hp plug-in hybrid powertrain (four-cylinder TSI engine, eight-speed auto gearbox, 124hp electric motor). This can do up to 81mph in all-electric mode, with an all-electric range of up to 31 miles/50km; averaged-out economy is 122.8mpg and CO2 emissions 55g/km. Another plug-in hybrid: Qoros 2 SUV PHEV, a chunky little concept with hands-free and optional inductive wireless charging; and the latest in Audi’s Prologue series, the plug-in Prologue Allroad (previewing the next A6 Allroad) with 4.0 twin-turbo plus electric motor giving 724bhp. Toyota unveiled a series of Chinese-market hybrids and EVs; Cadillac supplemented its CT6 saloon with PHEV capability; BMW launched the X5 xDrive40e PHEV; the Chinese will be offered a hybrid Nissan Murano, and a plug-in hybrid Audi A6 L e-tron and Q7 e-tron 2.0 TFSI quattro. One of the more interesting and forward-looking concepts, however, was the Chevrolet FNR (“find new roads”, pictured) from GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center in partnership with SAIC Motor, which featured in-wheel electric motors, wireless charging, autonomous-driving capability with sensors and roof-mounted radar, and an interior which enables 180-degree swivelling of the front seats when in self-driving mode.
- A step forward in synthetic fuels: an Audi test facility in Dresden has produced its first batch of ‘e-diesel’, synthesised from carbon dioxide from a biogas plant. The process needs only ambient air, and works in stages: water is heated for steam, which is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis (using renewable energy); the hydrogen then reacts with the CO2 to produce ‘blue crude’, a long-chain hydrocarbon compound, which is then refined. This end-product is said to be free of sulphur or aromatic hydrocarbons, with a high cetane number,and it can be mixed with conventional diesel as well as used ‘pure’. The overall high-temperature process is claimed to be 70% efficient, with the added bonus that it can be incorporated into electricity grid stabilisation. Audi is aiming to produce over 3000 litres in coming months and then scale up the principle; petrol made in a similar way is also under development. More here. A classier news-release approach than Toyota’s talk about ‘hydrogen bullshit’, perhaps (hydrogen from cattle manure).
- Audi has also delivered 40 A3 e-tron PHEVs for testing in three trial programmes in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart: these are to look at private consumer use, expectations and charging. More here.
- Montreal is to get a municipal EV-sharing scheme: 250 cars to hit the streets by next spring, with the aim of 1000 by 2020. Importantly, this will be powered by Quebec’s abundant hydro-electricity. More at Treehugger.
- Barriers to EV adoption: vehicle cost, current battery tech, lack of consumer knowledge, reports the US National Research Council. Findings summarised here.
- Siemens has launched a cloud-based wi-fi enabled EV charging station that enables vehicle owners to activate and control/monitor vehicle charging remotely via mobile or web app, integrating into demand-management and grid-balancing incentives. More here.
- Millennials: buying cars again, and more than GenX, though mileage and driving rates are down across the board and there’s much variation between cities/location. Summary here.
March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
To be revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month, an SUV-ed up C4 Cactus with innovative interior design – and a PHEV powertrain. The Aircross compact crossover, which appears to preview a production model, features a 70kW/95bhp electric motor giving 200Nm of torque to the rear axle plus the 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol engine (218bhp/275Nm), and gives an all-electric range of 31 miles. Its lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in three and a half hours from a domestic 16A socket. Total power output is 313bhp, 0-62mph happens in 4.5 seconds, but the “combined” fuel consumption is 166mpg (not that this is a figure which really means anything given the way it’s averaged-out, but anyway) and CO2 emissions are down to 39g/km.
- Q1 2015 e-mobility Index from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants is out. Key trends/notes from this include: Japan is leading in terms of technologies at the moment, followed by France; China is investing heavily although R&D spending has fallen in other regions; vehicle weight remains an issue with few OEMs yet exploiting the possibilities of EV-specific structural design.
- Deaths related to air pollution are being underestimated, with the effects of NOx not taken into account, the Guardian reports: analysis here.
- And acute asthma worsening and attacks in children, linked again to traffic-related air pollution by UC Irvine. Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and PM2.5s particularly implicated, lower-income and ethnic-minority children more vulnerable since they are more likely to live in high-traffic areas. Rundown here.
- 30 Renault Twizy two-seaters have joined the Bluely EV-share in Lyon, with 110 to go into service in Lyon and in the Bluecub fleet in Bordeaux. More here.
- Plenty of electric scooters are coming onto the market, but the Gogoro Streetscooter comes with a battery-swapping trial programme – in Taipei, Taiwan, at least. 100 riders are being recruited to beta-test the scooters and the system, which uses ATM-sized battery dispensers to push out charged batteries, and take in the duds. More here.
- A new-generation Smart Fortwo electric-drive is on the way next year, and its batteries will be supplied by LG Chem. More here.
- There’s been talk of a revived VW Camper/Microbus (as distinct from the modern-day Caravelle) for a long, long time, but latest is that Volkswagen engineers are thinking about a battery-electric model inspired by the Bulli concept, reports Autocar. Other news from New York Motor Show: new Merc GLE (replacement for ML-Class, sportier) comes with plug-in hybrid option and 18-mile all-electric mode; the facelifted Toyota RAV4 also has a hybrid option (2.5-litre petrol engine plus e-motor). And there’s a Volkswagen Beetle Hybrid (non plug-in) prototype knocking around, as well. Oh, and Ssangyong unveiled a hybrid SUV concept – previewing a replacement for the Korando – called XAV at the Seoul Motor Show last week, too.
- A report from Arup/Qualcomm – “Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility” – looks at the potential of harnessing data for urban mobility, including the use of autonomous vehicles; it discusses issues of security, sustainability, ‘usership’ vs ownership, leveraging crowd-sourcing and ‘learning’ devices. More about it here.
- Waste corn stalks, cobs and husks can feed the production of hydrogen, in a twist on the usual biofuel focus: researchers from Virginia Tech have developed a high-rate enzymatic process to convert ‘dirty biomass’ into automotive-grade H2. More here.
March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
So Honda has launched its S660 roadster in Japan – a tiny kei-class 660cc turbocharged lightweight, a belated follow-up to the Beat – but there’s talk there might be an electric version. Remember the EV-ster concept (Toyota Motor Show, 2011)? That clearly had some influence on the S660’s design… More on the (very cute) little S660 here, anyway. Not-so-funnily enough, I’m much more interested in this than the equally long-anticipated NSX.
- A steering system based on in-wheel motor tech reduces the drain on battery range in EVs; the three-year e2-Lenk project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is to develop this assisted steering system with a view to saving cost, weight and manufacturing complexity. More here.
- Not sure about the name (toilet humour alert) but the e-floater (!) is a promising-looking ‘last-mile’ urban transport solution. It’s a battery-powered stand-up scooter, using composites and plastics from BASF (it weighs less than 12kg), with solar charging option. More details from Floatility Gmbh.
- Alongside last week’s announcement about OLEV grants for electric motorcycle/scooter buyers came confirmation of £6.6million for hydrogen infrastructure projects, including 2 new refuelling stations (Brentford, Croydon), upgrades to existing stations in Sheffield, Port Talbot, Swindon, London/Greater London, an upgrade to a mobile refuelling station (to support test drives, conferences, demos, etc) and one more mobile station. More here.
- Jaguar Land Rover is to double the size of its Whitley engineering/research/design centre for the development of “ultra-low-emissions vehicles”; these are to include all-electric versions of the XE and F-Pace crossover, reports Autocar, with an all-electric Range Rover likely too. The aim is, says the mag, to tap into the market identified by the Tesla Model S for luxury-level EVs which enable the affluent to get around LEZ/congestion charge-type legislation. Obviously.
- Another week, another rather ridiculous ‘hypercar’, but the 200mph LM2 Streamliner – to be unveiled at the upcoming New York Auto Show, ‘cos it’s really well-suited to the streets of the Big Apple – will also be offered in all-electric form, says Autocar. Which doesn’t necessarily make it alright.
- Better biofuels: researchers at University of East Anglia have identified strains of yeast that make the process of turning waste agricultural material – straw, sawdust, corncobs – into fuel more feasible. More here.