Smart electrifies all round

September 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

smart fortwo electric drive; Exterieur: schwarz; Interieur: schwarz ;Elektrischer Energieverbrauch gewichtet: 12,9 kWh/100km ; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km smart fortwo electric drive; exterior: black; interior: black; Electric power consumption, weighted: 12.9 kWh/100km; CO2 emissions combined: 0 g/km

Hooray! Here’s the ideal iteration of the Smart city cars: all fourth-generation models, including the four-seater ForFour, are now offered in electric-drive form, with European sales from early next year. Motive power is 60 kW/160Nm, giving a claimed range of up to 160km, and 22kW fast-charging capacity can give a full charge (three-phase) in less than 45 minutes, depending on local supply [2.5 hours in UK/Euro spec, however]. Two-seater Smarts are built in Hambach, Germany, and the four-seater in Novo Mesto, Slovenia; they feature batteries from Daimler subsidiary Accumotive (Saxony), and drive systems from Renault in Clèon, Northern France. There’s an eco mode with max energy recuperation, boosted by a radar sensor to predict oncoming traffic slowdowns and suchlike, as well as pre-heating/cooling and remote-monitoring apps. More details and spec here.

amber-oneAnother ride-share service with a purpose-designed vehicle: Amber Mobility plans to offer a 33-euro weekly subscription to use the Amber One, a  650kg EV said to have a 250-mile range, a top speed of 93mph, 0-60mph in around seven seconds, ‘modularity’ for easy updates and upgrades and potential autonomous-driving capabilities. Prototyping next year, a small production run in 2018, apparently. Amber’s Corporate Mobility trial programme [using BMW i3s, to start with] is set to begin next month in the Netherlands, based around a hub in Eindhoven. More at Electrek.
  • The latest BMW-Bosch-Vattenfall second-life battery energy storage project is now being tested in Hamburg: this has 2MW, 2800 kWhr capacity in 2,600 battery modules from over 100 EVs, and is being evaluated for its role in achieving grid stability. It’s delivering ‘primary control reserve power’ on demand, but could, theoretically, supply enough energy to power a two-person household for seven months.
  • An oft-requested service/function: ChargePoint [US] has introduced Waitlist, which enables EV drivers to ‘line up’ for a public charging point which is in use. Drivers can use a phone app or RFID card to indicate that they want to charge, and reminders will be sent to drivers when their car has finished charging or reached a time/energy limit to make the point available [like ChargeBump]. It’s been tested with 30 point providers serving 14,000 drivers, and ChargePoint reports that it increased point utilisation by 20% on average, and by 45% at busy stations – efficiencies are being achieved. More here.
  •  Looking forward to seeing this Volkswagen EV concept next week at the Paris motor show; it’s said to promise a 250-300 mile range and 15-minute fast-charging, and will go into production in 2019. Though having a conventional steel body, it’s said to pack Passat-like interior space into a Golf-sized hatchback body, easily accessed via sliding rear doors. To be fully-connected with a transferable Volkswagen ID app for settings and preferences, too.
  • But on an even more practical – and here-and-now – note, Volkswagen is continuing to try and redeem itself post-#dieselgate by selling the e-Crafter van from next year. This commercial vehicle can shift over 1700kg, has a range of over 200km, and has unimpaired cargo capacity.

Concept of the Day: Spiri v0.1

September 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

spiri_prototype_frontDanish start-up Spiri has produced a “lab on wheels” purpose-designed prototype EV for its on-demand car-sharing/car-pooling service: this ultra-light (750kg) carbonfibre urban runaround has no interior panels, no paint, and around a quarter of the components (700) of a conventional passenger car, reports TechCrunch, helping it to a claimed 200-mile range between recharges. Most impressively, Spiri is aiming for passenger journey pricing on a par with bus tickets in the selected cities it aims to launch in – and free travel for drivers who pick up passengers along their way, in a neat twist/extension to the usual on-demand offering. The system is based around ‘virtual bus stops’ and pick-up points, with ‘Spiri hubs’ for parking and recharging. Design-wise, it’s an interesting thing with closely-placed front wheels (Spiri also experimented with a three-wheel layout, it appears) for a max-capacity interior, seating four plus luggage with wide-opening doors for easy access.

cristal-slider-libre-service1Nice mobility concept from the Lohr Group (Strasbourg) unveiled at InnoTrans show this week: the Cristal is an all-electric shuttle bus for ‘last mile’ connections which can be operated by a driver, or by a service user on an on-demand basis. Up to four Cristals can be coupled together, and the boxy interior can be configured in various ways, i.e. for wheelchair access, seating, or accommodating up to 20 standing passengers. More here.

siemens-ants-trainAnd the Siemens-RWTH Aachen Future Train: concept designed by BMW DesignWorks, modular, supporting different cabin structures for different purposes, flexible, highly-connected and -automated, with an eye to multi-modal transport link-ups, i.e. by ‘robo-taxi’ home pick-ups to connect with train stops. More here

  • A new research project, Electric Nation, launched last week at the LCV2016 show: it’s aiming to recruit 500-700 EV drivers to test the capabilities of local electricity networks and trial a smart-charging solution to even out grid load. Participants will get a free charger installed; initially, drivers are being recruited in the South West, South Wales and the Midlands, in the Western Power Distribution (WPD) area. The project will look at the energy demands of EVs in ‘clusters’, and builds on the My Electric Avenue research by looking at different types of EV and people using different substation feeders. More details here.
  • And Tesla execs are talking about bi-directional charging and vehicle-to-grid, enabled by the next-gen inverter, reports Electrek
  • Nissan has unveiled a concept pick-up truck: the Navara EnGuard (Double Cab) is proposed as a rescue/emergency services vehicle, and besides kit for emergency/disaster relief, it shows off a prototype portable battery pack for emergency generation. This features seven Nissan battery modules, charged from the engine, to power specialist equipment; Nissan describes it as exploring how battery tech “can be integrated further into society” and “a real-world example of how it could be applied to new sectors, to provide cleaner, more sustainable power solutions.” Which can only be good.
  • Some ‘peak car’ research (in Transport Policy, January 2017): US Millennials (born 1980s/90s) own fewer cars than earlier generations did at their age – unless they have moved out of their parental home, in which case they actually own slightly more cars than expected, given their relatively low incomes. “We caution planners to temper their enthusiasm about ‘peak car’, as this may largely be a manifestation of economic factors that could reverse in coming years,” say Klein & Smart. [thanks to @scottericlevine for that heads-up, & to more on peak car here…]

Design Concept of the Day: Mercedes-Benz Vision Van

September 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz Vision Van - Exterior ; Mercedes-Benz Vision Van - Exterior;

Mercedes-Benz Vans has a Vision: this concept is integrated into a digitally-connected supply chain and logistics network, with fully-automated cargo space, drones for deliveries and operational efficiency improvements of up to 50%. Its 75kW electric-drive powertrain gives an emissions-free, silent range of up to 270km, good for inner-city use and overnight deliveries. Inside, it has drive-by-wire with a joystick, enabling greater interior capacity and a large display surface – full-width across the dash in a textile-covered arc. Full details here.

  • More Mercedes news: 1000 battery systems from defunct Smart Fortwo electric-drive cars have been fitted as static storage in Lünen, Westphalia, giving a claimed 13 MWh facility and the world’s largest second-life installation yet. It will store and release energy for network operators to balance the grid and integrate renewable generation.
  • Good news for British EV drivers? Shell is in “advanced preparations” for installing charging points on its forecourts, reports The Guardian, with an interest in wireless induction charging as well…
  • News from the Zap-Map team: its parent company Next Green Car has set up a new firm, Zap Digital Ltd, to develop “new smart tools for EV drivers and B2B products to help companies deliver electric mobility solutions.” Upcoming products will include Zap-Pay, a cross-network “payment and access interface”. It’s currently estimating that there are 80,000 EVs on the UK’s roads, and says there were over 40,000 users of the Zap-Map platform in August.
  • There’ll be a convergence of EVs and autonomous vehicles, according to a report from Lux Research, detailed here, identifying six reasons (I paraphrase): 1. tech-focused early-adopters want both innovations; 2. it’s easier to integrate autonomous features into an EV; 3. there’s a good synergy between wireless charging and autonomy; 4. more efficient self-driving optimises battery range; 5. both techs will mature around the same time (2030-ish); 6. both techs will be government-mandated. I’d agree with 3 of the 6 statements; am less sure about the last, would suggest that EVs have a much greater chance of reaching market maturity by 2030 than autonomy (given the right market conditions and support), and would point out that tech-focused early-adopter types only make up a v small proportion of vehicle buyers.
  • Study of 30 Californian cities for the ICCT found that EV sales correlated significantly with model availability (obv), public charging networks, local promotional activities, EV-sharing services, government/fleet programmes and median income – but not the Clean Vehicle Rebate scheme or prevalance of single-family homes (indicating home charging suitability).  Conclusion was that comprehensive policy support was important; promotional activities and incentives including parking and workplace charging encouraged uptake; and that the EV market grows with its charging infrastructure. More here.
  • But underlining how far we yet have to go, latest DfT stats on new vehicle registration [download here]: April-June saw a 2% rise on the same time last year, the highest level of registrations [805,000 new vehicles sold in the quarter] since summer 2003 – and an all-time high for the number of cars and vans on the UK’s roads [30.7million cars]. In this context, ULEV (ultra-low emissions vehicle, including EV) sales look pretty paltry: 9,657 in the quarter April-June, 49% up on this time last year but still representing a meagre 1.1%. And of that, the best-sellers were all PHEVs: Mitsubishi Outlander (1,854), Mercedes-Benz C350 (1,480) and BMW 330 (1,143). Traditional [ICE] car ownership ain’t exactly dead yet.
  • …and nor is driving, though there are some notable developments in the just-released 2015 National Travel Survey. Last year, Brits made an average 914 trips (the lowest recorded) and travelled over 6,600 miles, spending an average hour a day travelling. Car use – 64% of trips, 78% of distance – and walking (combined 86% of trips) decreased, largely due to lower walking rates; cycling still accounts for only 2% of trips; trips by rail and bus in London increased; trips for shopping, commuting and visiting friends continued to fall. Women made more trips, but men travelled 20% further; highest-income households travelled more than 2x as as lowest-income; rural-dwellers went 44% further than urban residents, and nearly 2x as far as Londoners. Car ownership has continued to increase long-term, is now flattening out but with different regional patterns: 25% of households don’t have a car (down from 38% in 2005) but households with more than one car have increased from 17% to 35% 2005-2015; carless households have fallen 2002/03-2014/15 from 37% to 29% in the NE, but remain unchanged at 41% in London. As for licence-holding, 74% of adults 17+ in England have a full licence (32million of them), with the highest increase in women driving (now 68% having licences, compared to 80% of men); fewer young adults have a licence since the 1990s, but more older people, especially women. “Overall, the Department’s work concludes there is little evidence to confirm that car ownership levels or distance travelled per person have reached saturation.”
  • Ford is buying out San Francisco’s Chariot Shuttle, a crowd-sourced ride-sharing service, partnering with bike-share scheme Motivate in SF and the Bay Area, and establishing a new team called City Solutions.  Chariot currently operates nearly 100 Ford Transit minibuses along 28 routes in SF, based on rider demand, and will develop dynamic real-time data to map efficient routes: Ford describes it as “filling the gap between taxi and bus services”, and aims to launch it in at least five new cities in the next 18 months. Research for Ford by KPMG reckoned that each shuttle bus could take 25 private cars off the road. Motivate, meanwhile, will work with Ford to launch Ford GoBike, giving 7000 shared bikes by the end of 2018 and access via the FordPass app; Ford is also to collect data from the bikes “to build an interconnected mobility network”. More here.
  • PSA Group, meanwhile, is partnering with Bollore on car-sharing in cities including Los Angeles, as part of a push into mobility services – probably as part of a test for a potential return of Peugeot sales to the USA, reports Automotive News.

Design Concept of the Day: Varsovia

September 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Varsovia-Concept-Car-01A Polish luxury EV, perhaps for passengers with a germ phobia: one of the more interesting touches on this Warsaw-design proposal is its ‘antiseptic’ dirt-repelling, hydrophobic surfaces within its plastic-free mobile office-style interior. The Varsovia concept’s main point is its cabin configuration and the kitting-out with large AV screens, full connectivity and teleconferencing equipment, plus mood sensors for ambient settings, but it is a range-extended EV with a claimed all-electric range of 350km and total range of 800km with its engine-generator activated. To be launched at a major motor show next year, apparently; more details here. Good to see a start-up looking beyond the usual, predictable supercar formula; good too to note another example of electromobility integrated into ground-up design and as an integral part of a something-different-from-the-mainstream proposition.

  • Ericsson has come up with a detailed discussion, well worth a read, of five tech trends shaping innovation – all of which have automotive [and electromobility] implications. First up is the cloud and 5G; no.2 is self-managing devices and the Internet of Things; no.4 is the reshaping of networks, i.e. via semiconductors and quantum computing; no. 4 is the ‘tactile internet’ – VR, haptics, audiovisual interaction, robotics – and no.5 is developing privacy and security. Check out also Ericsson’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016: there’s a handful of interesting pointers and stats from its ConsumerLab on smartphone and internet usage, lifestyle network effects and notes on the speed of technology adoption: “early adopters are less important”, they say, due to the increasing speed of mass-market take-up.
  • Speaking of which: NVIDIA is teaming up with Chinese tech giant Baidu on AI for a cloud-to-car autonomous car platform – an “end to end” architecture – developed for both Chinese and global carmakers. Sounds like a powerful partnership; more here.
  • Another reason to love Copenhagen: the district of Frederiksberg is to host what’s said to be the first commercial V2G system. The local gas, water and heating supplier [yes, district heating] Frederiksberg Forsyning is running 10 Nissan e-NV200 vans on its fleet and each can be plugged in & send electricity back to the grid on demand. Data from these vans will be studied to better-understand the potential for integrating EVs into the electricity network for grid-balancing. More here.
  • And in London: variable effects of policy interventions to improve air pollution, according to this paper from Kings College. A general decrease in NOx and NO2 2010-2014, but increased NOX on roads seeing more buses and HGVs; small particulates (PM2.5s) down but larger PM10s up; very different outcomes on different routes. All in all, much room for improvement, more measures to remove dirty diesel vehicles…

Concept of the Day: Citroen CXperience

August 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

citroen-cxperience-14Paris Motor Show is promising a fair few exciting things: am liking the Citroen CXperience Concept, for a start. The ‘CX’ reference is no mistake – it revives the idea of a big luxury hatchback, albeit this time with rear-hinged rear doors, full connectivity and, making it of interest here, a PHEV drivetrain set to make it into the Peugeot-Citroen production range. In the CX it’s delivering a useful 60km all-electric range, 150-200hp plus 80kW from the motor to give a total 300hp, plus eight-speed auto gearbox. Charging takes 4.5 hours on a standard socket or less than 2.5 hours at 6.6kW (via a connector to a 32-amp socket). As a way to ease people into electrification, it looks like a comfy one, even if the citrus yellow interior [see here] is not to everyone’s taste.

vision-mercedes-maybach-6-3One from last week: the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept, a 6m-long luxury 2+2, is a bit of an aerodynamically-optimised stunner, and its 750hp all-electric drivetrain is surely showcased with real-life application in mind. Range of 500km, and a quick-charge capability to zap up for another 100km in five minutes. [More pics here].

  • Beijing-based Techrules has hired the Giugiaro studio to develop its GT96 concept for production. Not just a design story: the GT96 super-coupe is an EV with micro-turbine recharging range-extender tech. More here.
  • Volkswagen is working with the city of Hamburg on a three-year strategic mobility programme: this will look at new urban mobility concepts, intermodal transport, traffic management, autonomous driving and parking, vehicle concepts and pollution control, positioning Hamburg as a ‘model city’ and testbed for experimentation in both freight and passenger transport. Meanwhile, Porsche has opened a Digital Lab in Friedrichshain, Berlin to look at IT solutions for ‘exclusive and dynamic mobility’- the use of innovations in big data, machine learning, cloud tech, IoT etc, for practical solutions. Teams at the Lab will cover project phases from trend-spotting and ideation to building IT prototypes and platforms.
  • Gamification can help increase acceptance of e-mobility projects and services, a study at Fraunhofer IAO has found. Case studies in Finland, Estonia, Denmark and Norway showed that when game-like techniques were used to involve customers in the development process for services, the more successful they were, and the earlier customers were involved in the ‘co-design’, the better. More here; full report here.
  • A Canadian start-up is proposing a new business model for selling and marketing EVs and PHEVs: a cross-brand platform with both online sales and physical showrooms to market electrified vehicles only. Idea is that it will make shopping around and making comparisons easier, and we’d hope for specially-trained and EV-enthusiastic salespeople as well. More on the EVEN Electric plans here.
  • Here’s a step forward, at least in Germany and the Netherlands: aggressively-expanding mapping provider HERE is collaborating with EVSE tech company Virta on providing data on public EV charging points, including those off-street. Data can be filtered by connector type, pricing, availability and other factors; more, um, here.
  • Report from MIT: electric cars can meet US drivers’ needs 87% of the time. And to help drivers work out when they’re going to need an ICE, the team s developing a predictive app to assess the risk of battery drain for a planned journey – so they can take the household’s other car, borrow a vehicle or access one via a shared, on-demand scheme or similar. This will take into account factors including distance, time spent at highway speeds, weather and temperature. The MIT research is also optimistic that the US grid can cope with increased EV charging, with only minimal changes needed. More here.
  • PHEV drivers – running on electricity 55% of the time, at least in Norway. A survey of 8000 owners by the Institute of Transport Economics, Norwegian Centre for Transport Research, found that PHEVs were typically owned by younger people with more children than average, with long work commutes, and multiple vehicles in their household; they charged mainly at home, partly at work but rarely elsewhere, except using fast-chargers on out-of-routine longer trips or to solve issues when out and about. Handy summary here, full report here.
  • Interesting rundown of state of play re. electromobility in Berlin at electrive: the city’s not doing quite as well as you might expect, as “the analogue island in a digital mecca” (nice). Though Berlin has a lot more public charging points than many cities, there’s still not a lot, rapid-charger provision has been slow, there’s a confusing and obstructive series of different providers and networks, varying, unpredictable and often high pricing, and chargers frequently blocked by ICE vehicles, it seems. Cross-provider apps for accessing and paying for charging aren’t quite there yet, either, with slow integration, they report.
  • Are ‘pioneer’ EV drivers – early-adopters – different to mainstream car buyers? Research (Axsen, Goldberg & Bailey, 2016) from Simon Fraser University, Canada, suggests (unsurprisingly) that yes, they are, and that they illustrate the ‘chasm’ between early visionaries and later pragmatists in the diffusion-of-innovations/Technology Adoption Life Cycle model. 1900 Canadian new-car buyers were surveyed; 1,750 in English-speaking Canada (2013) then 150 who bought plug-in vehicles in British Columbia, 2014-15. The ‘pioneers’ were happy to pay extra to be part of a revolutionary advance, and were prepared to accept inconvenience and risks’; they preferred all-electric cars (just about) over PHEVs. But even the ‘potential early mainstream’ buyers preferred evolutionary change and were unwilling to compromise; they overwhelmingly preferred the idea of a PHEV. A factor in this may have been that more of them (43%) lived in one-car households (only 17% of pioneers); the pioneers also had higher income, education, and greater access to recharging facilities, were much more engaged with the environment and tech in terms of their lifestyle, and were 5x more likely to value renewable electricity and to be prepared to pay much more for ‘green recharging’. Handy digest of the research at Green Car Reports.
  • Interesting paper here from Italy on gamification ‘to incentivise sustainable urban mobility’ – an EU-funded research programme and trial in Rovereto (north-east Italy) saw 40 people use an app for their daily itinerary planning over five weeks, with increasing levels of points-gathering and rewards for choosing more sustainable or healthy transport options. There was a significant shift noted towards reduced car usage, with gains for walking and cycling a privately-owned bike, though the incentives weren’t judged sufficient to get people using the city’s new bike-share scheme.
  • A new third-party route-planning tool (cross-platform and device) for EV drivers incorporating both vehicle and charger data has been launched in the US. EVTripping as yet only supports Tesla models, but plans to expand, funded by on-website ads and, later, subscriptions. Its algorithms are said to take into account data from the vehicle (i.e. state of charge), weather conditions, temperature, elevation, speed, payload etc.,  and give info on charging rates, power usage and driving time: the submitted data adds a crowdsourcing element to it, adding to the intelligence.  Looks professional and comprehensive; interesting to see how this develops.
  • And eco-driving training: ineffective after six months, when drivers just return to their old habits, according to a study from TUM Munich, and useless, even short-term, unless incentives are offered to the drivers to save fuel.
  • Paper in Applied Energy looks at governance for a transition to electromobility by 2050: Nilsson and Nykvist (2016) model both incremental and breakthrough scenarios, and conclude that strong interventions are needed in the next 5-10 years to reduce costs, build consumer knowledge and industry confidence, provide accessible charging infrastructure and support structural change in the auto industry. They [note to self!] use an MLP analysis to suggest that this could also lead to formation of a new regime involving energy supply, digital connectivity, wider mobility, etc. Which is pretty much what I’m arguing for.

Concept of the Day: Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck

July 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz Trucks; Urban eTruck; Elektro-Lkw; Weltpremiere; Elektromobilität; modulares Batteriekonzept; Verteilerverkehr ; Mercedes-Benz Trucks; Urban eTruck; Electro-Lkw; world premiere; electric mobility; modular battery concept; distribution;

And it’s another heavy-duty Mercedes-Benz: following last week’s Future Bus, the Urban eTruck makes its debut in Stuttgart this week. It’s a 26-tonne three-axle, short-radius distribution truck, based on an existing Mercedes model but with new drive system: the rear axle is rear-driven by motors adjacent to the wheel hubs, as in the Citaro hybrid bus, giving 2x 125kW and 2x 500Nm of torque. Range is said to be up to 200km (“enough for a typical daily delivery tour”) thanks to three lithium-ion battery modules mounted within the frame; using the CCS charging system at 100kW it can be recharged to 100% in two to three hours.

Series production is “already conceivable at the beginning of the next decade”, apparently. M-B continues with its trials of the smaller Fuso Canter E-Cell, which have informed the development of this model, and an ongoing five-vehicle trial with parcel service provider Hermes in Stuttgart is looking at issues including topography and logistical deployment. Full suite of material on the eTruck here.

  • And more Daimler: the launch of ‘smart ready to drop’, a service in partnership with DHL enabling parcel delivery to – or collection from – your (Smart) car [so small parcels only…]. This is via a ‘connectivity box’ which can be retro-fitted to existing Smart Fortwos, allowing the DHL driver to gain access to the boot via a one-time keyless access app (as in Car2Go vehicles). Beta-testing starts in Stuttgart, with Cologne, Bonn and Berlin to follow. More here. [Daimler is also looking at swarm intelligence in relation to digitalisation of mobility services and e-mobility, it emerges.]
  • Yet more Daimler: Car2go has had a positive impact on emissions, traffic and parking in Calgary, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington DC, according to a study from UC Berkeley. The Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) concluded that the one way/on-demand service – used by nearly 9,500 members in these N American cities – resulted in fewer privately-owned cars on the road, fewer vehicle miles travelled and lower GHG emissions over a three-year period.  Between 2-5% of members sold a vehicle and 7-10% did not buy a car thanks to their membership; each car2go car meant 7-11 cars were sold or not acquired (to a total of 28,000); mileage reductions were 6-16% in the cities (average 11%), GHG emissions were down 4-18% (average 10%). Further breakdown here.
  • …but for those who can afford an electric car, some interesting news: former tennis player/gym chain entrepreneur David Lloyd has launched a new company called EV Hub. Idea is, reports the Mail on Sunday, that EV owners can roll up to the facilities and use office space or coffee shops (or gyms?) while their car is recharging. He’s planning a crowdsourcing campaign for five hubs in London initially, with later roll-out in other areas. Wonder what the cost-per-charge and/or membership demands are going to be for this, though?
  • And another business model, albeit a somewhat grander vision: Elon Musk’s Master Plan, Part Deux. From the merger of SolarCity and Tesla will come a scaling-up and complete integration of home solar, energy storage and car charging; a compact SUV and a pick-up truck are on the drawing board; Tesla engineers are working on radical developments to its factory system; the Tesla Semi [heavy-duty truck; insert crude joke here] and a ‘high-density passenger urban transport’ proposal will be unveiled next year [he hints at a small, autonomously-driven bus]; advancing autonomy’; and, possibly most contentiously, adding your self-driving, on-demand Tesla to a shared fleet, ostensibly earning you money when it’s not in use. Can’t say I’m convinced that Tesla owners want to share, I have to say, but perhaps future customers for the Model 3 and other ‘lower-end’ vehicles may behave differently to Roadster and Model S owners…

Concept of the Day: Mercedes-Benz Future Bus

July 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

Weltpremiere: Mercedes-Benz Future Bus mit CityPilot – Meilenstein auf dem Weg zum autonom fahrenden StadtbusNot just a show vehicle, Mercedes-Benz’s Future Bus is up and running on trials in Amsterdam, on a 20km route between Schipol Airport and Haarlem. OK, it’s not electric (yet) – it’s based on a diesel-driven Citaro – but it is a very advanced and exciting technological platform/experimental testbed. Key feature is the CityPilot, semi-autonomous guidance using camera and radars, which is said to result in smooth and predictive progress which lowers fuel consumption and emissions, at least. Design-wise, it also represents a step forward in making bus travel attractive, with its three-zone passenger compartment, highly-styled seating and lighting, monitor screens and stripped-down driver interface. Let’s hope it’s more functional and performs better in real-life than London’s latest efforts. Mercedes is launching a battery-electric drive system for city buses in 2018, anyway (opening up further interior design possibilities, it notes, due to the lack of an engine in the rear). Full details here.

  • It’s been tried before with apps like PlugShare and platforms such as TesLoJuice, but Renault’s looking into the plug-sharing thing now: it is trialling ‘Elbnb’ in Sweden, an app through which EV owners/operators can offer/share their charging facilities. More here. Indications from my UK research are that this kind of sharing hasn’t really taken off to any extent beyond the occasional emergency calling-upon someone nearby with a plug socket, not least because owners’ private chargers tend to be slow-chargers, but I’d be interested to hear any reports/thoughts otherwise…
  • Seat’s doing the start-up thing: its Martorell facilities are to host an ‘acceleration programme’ for five selected mobility-related businesses, in partnership with digital mentorship scheme Conector. Applications are invited… This is, for Seat, “aligned with our vision for the future of the company to promote a mobility ecosystem”, says President Luca de Meo. Interesting to see how the Volkswagen Group’s Spanish division has been having a bit of a promotional push lately (wonder why?) and how it’s being repositioned as innovation/design central.
  • Ford is teaming up with tequila-maker Jose Cuevo to use its agave fibre waste and develop bioplastics: their use is being explored for wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins, in place of petrolchemical plastics, and the material created so far is said to be durable and lightweight. Ford notes that it’s also already using soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, coconut fibres and rice hulls in its vehicles. More here. (Ford has also just invested in 3D mapping start-up Civil Maps, as part of its autonomous vehicle R&D)
  • Nice round-up of state of play re. electric planes here. Concerns me that these city-hoppers could easily become the preserve of the elite while the rest of us struggle down below with surface transport (hello, Southern Rail), but I suppose the 1% have to get around and do their business somehow… And better little electric planes than fuel-guzzling jets and helicopters.
  • Latest report from Frost & Sullivan on mobility: new digitally-driven services could reduce the number of cars on urban roads by 20 million a year globally by 2025, they say. IoT tech and on-demand access, integrated and fully-networked, mean fewer, more efficient journeys, reducing journeys in private cars by a potential 360bn kilometres a year.
  • Pull-outs from the SMMT’s Motor Industry Facts 2016: over 32million cars currently on the UK’s roads; a record 2,633,533 new cars registered in the UK in 2015; 72,772 ‘alternative fuel’ vehicles registered 2015, comprising 45,045 hybrids, 17,785 plug-in hybrids, 9,934 all-electrics and, um, 11 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. And 66,311,917 new cars registered globally in 2015. All of which suggests that (to repeat a familiar point), cars aren’t just going to go away any time soon, so we better hurry up and make ’em cleaner.
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