Concept of the Day: Volkswagen Hybrid-Electric City Taxi

March 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

1977-VW-Hybrid-BusOh, what could have been… Volkswagen was experimenting with hybrid and electric vehicles in the 1970s including this Type 2 Microbus-based hybrid reports Jalopnik – featuring a system based around the original air-cooled 1600cc flat-four plus Bosch motor-generator. The pictured drawing (found in a 1979 book on electric vehicles) depicts this ‘bus kitted out as a wheelchair-accessible taxi with an electrically-operated side door, as well as a bullet-proof glass screen between driver and passenger; Volkswagen apparently considered this “the taxi of the future”.

Anyway, in 2015’s electromobility-related news, today’s snippets…

  • A handy side-effect of EV usage: as they emit less than 20% of the heat, mile-for-mile, emitted by ICE vehicles, they could help keep city temperatures down and save on the energy usage/carbon emissions from air conditioning systems. A paper from Michigan State University takes Beijing as the example.
  • Dyson has invested $15million into a JV with solid state battery-maker Sakti3, a company with ambitions to supply batteries for automotive application. More here. Meanwhile, collapsed-then-rescued lithium-ion battery-maker A123, embroiled in the whole ongoing saga of Fisker Automotive, doesn’t see a viable market for EV batteries for a while yet…
  • Here’s a tie-up of two ambitious contenders: Chinese car-maker BYD is supplying 200 e6 electric minivans on lease to Uber in Chicago. More here.
  • Awareness of public EV-charging facilities is not a strong indicator of interest in plug-in vehicles, according to research from Simon Fraser University, Canada: home charging facilities and consumer incentives are more important. Full academic references plus detailed rundown here. Greater interest noted in PHEVs than all-electric models, too.
  • You don’t have to understand a complexity theory analysis to pull out a few salient points from this discussion on the slow progress of electromobility and adoption of EVs, from the e-mobility NSR network. It concludes that policy intervention continues to be needed, because the dominant system – including economic, infrastructural, cultural – is carbon-based and framed around ICE vehicles; positive feedback loops need to be set up, even on a micro-level, as they have tipping-point potential; behavioural ‘nudges’ can enhance policy effects (the example of PHEV take-up in the Netherlands is given); and a strategy of small steps in a continuously-learning process is needed.
  • Research ongoing at Imperial College, London, is looking into how EV drivers charge and use their cars, with a view to developing solutions for services, information and booking/securing electricity supply… link to take part here. This guy‘s looking into vehicle-to-grid services and predictive driving/charging patterns.
  • And a study linking traffic-related air pollution to Type 1 diabetes in very young children…
  • Meanwhile, in the US, total vehicle mileage travelled in 2014 is back up close to the all-time high of 2007, though vehicle mileage per capita rose less slowly. More at Citylab.
  • Another aspect of electromobility: BMW Group is deploying an electrified MAN truck to carry materials between its logistics company and its Munich factory. More here. It’ll make the near-2km journey eight times a day and save an estimated 11.8tonnes of CO2 a year, apparently.

News round-up: e-scooters, PHEVs, car-sharing – + advantages of electromobility

March 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

04_Motorman_red1-1024x768Its retro design might not be for everyone, but the Dutch-made Meijs Motorman electric scooter is, according to Wired, “taking over Europe”. No bad thing, the use of clean two-wheeled commuting solutions, and stylish, design-led products in the marketplace can only help raise the profile of e-scooters, mopeds and electromobility in general. Prices start from 4,750 euros (excl. VAT), with customisation options available from this Maastricht-based bike-builder. Rather nice-looking, in my opinion, but then I do like a bit of stripped-down vintage-look styling with the benefit of modern technology, modern maintenance demands and modern-day attention to air quality.

  • BMW’s confirmed UK sales in the autumn for the X5 xDrive40e, a plug-hybrid (why am I less excited about this than the above e-scooter?). Its total output is 313hp (245hp from its four-cyl 2.0-litre petrol engine, 113hp from its e-motor), with combined CO2 emissions of 77g/km and fuel economy up to 85.6mpg; it’ll still do 0-62 in 6.8 seconds and 130mph (up to 75mpg in all-electric mode). All-electric range, varies – “short, everyday journeys in urban areas can easily be completed with zero tailpipe emissions”, says BMW, promising an equivalent 94.2mpg for 15 mile-odd trips in city traffic or a return of 43.5mpg over a commute of up to 37 miles. In the optimised MAX eDrive mode, 19 all-electric miles are possible. However, long-distance (and higher-speed), fuel consumption is “above 25.7mpg”, more in line with a conventional SUV of this size. There’s eight-speed Steptronic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive, too, and a battery-save mode enabling a build-up of charge (giving range) for later deployment, i.e. when entering a zero-emissions city centre zone (when such things arrive and are enforced). Owners are further offered the BMW 360° ELECTRIC service, with a choice of Wallbox home chargers, membership of the ChargeNow scheme, ParkNow Longterm parking/charging space-booking and further customer services. More details here.
  • Ford’s car-sharing trial in London is going well, reports CleanTechnica, with users of the 17p-a-minute City Driving On-Demand service initially opting for the ICE Fiestas, but switching to the Focus Electrics when they are familiar with the app-driven booking process – and not going back.
  • Research at Imperial College, London, has untangled (some of) the chain of cause-effect linking diesel particulates and respiratory distress – the diesel particles are found to activate sensory nerves in the airways. More here.
  • And a new study from NYU (outlined here) linking fine particulate matter (PM2.5) with artery-narrowing and strokes: PM2.5s mostly come from diesel exhaust (as well as from non-transport sources such as wood-burning stoves) but gasoline direct-injection engines are increasingly the culprits as well (more on that here). T&E reports that EU-wide, vehicle traffic contributes a fifth of PM2.5s to the atmosphere.
  • Congestion on UK roads is the worst it has been for over 10 years, according to a survey by the Freight Transport Association (and they should know…). The FTA is noting an increase in domestic road freight but a 55% rate of decline in reliability on the motorway network; also, an expectation of “robust growth in domestic road freight activity” in most industry sectors and regions in the first quarter of this year. Its proposed solution is more investment in the road network, however, rather than, um, fewer vehicles (of all types?) and smarter use of the roads we have. Reminder, too, that transport issues ain’t just about cars.

Friday round-up: Traffic forecasts, transport reports, road safety and more…

March 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

trafficRoad traffic Forecasts 2015 from the Department for Transport: different scenarios to 2040 modelled (with results including “exponential growth”), and different assumptions about trip rates considered, but, yes, “in most cases we forecast traffic in all area types to grow strongly”, albeit with slower growth (still growth) in some urban areas if current trends are to continue. As @giulio_mattioli put it: “Peak car? What peak car?” Indeed.

  • Yet commuting habits have been changed – and road casualties and fatalities reduced – by the introduction of the London congestion charge in 2003, according to research from Lancaster University. Traffic accidents have fallen by 30 a month (a 40% reduction) with similar reductions in the numbers of those killed or seriously injured. The rate of accidents – number per million miles driven in the zone – has fallen by 2.6 from an average 12.4, showing a more than proportional decline in accidents in relation to the parallel reduction in vehicle numbers.  And accidents and injuries have also fallen in areas adjacent to the charging zone (fewer people driving through them to central London), in the non-charged hours 6pm-7am and for exempt vehicles (including motorcycles, bicycles, taxis and buses).
  • But the environmental/sustainability benefits of more fuel-efficient cars may be outweighed by higher mileages – a report from Sussex University suggests a ‘rebound effect’ in relation to fuel pricing, whereby one-fifth of economy improvements are cancelled out by motorists driving more. Don’t ask me to analyse (or even make any sense out of) the stats, but one clear conclusion appears to be that (British) motorists respond more to cuts in fuel prices than to improvements in mpg.
  • On a not-unrelated note to all the above, report out today from Global NCAP calling for a worldwide minimum standard for car safety/crash protection. It makes the point that “the global vehicle fleet reached 1 billion in 2010 and is forecast to double in the next ten to fifteen years. This unprecedented increase is occurring in low and middle income countries which account for 90% of total road deaths.” Underlining why we need cleaner (as well as safer) cars, because – to repeat the point I often make – with the best will in the world, refusing to engage with these issues and assuming that everyone (including those travelling outside well-connected, affluent urban areas) can be persuaded to walk, get on a bicycle or use public transport, however ideal that may be, is pretty damn futile.
  • Ecotricity is planning to get its rapid-chargers out onto the UK’s strategic A-road network, especially in areas not served by motorways. More here. (We won’t talk about the issues of maintaining functionality of these)…
  • GoMore, a Scandinavian car-pooling and peer-to-peer vehicle rental platform (established 2005) has bought out Spain’s Amovens, giving it 500,000 users. Plans for further international expansion, it’s been reported.
  • The European Parliament has voted to allow changes in lorry design, enabling more streamlined outlines to improve fuel efficiency as well as reforms to cab design for better visibility (and thus better safety for other road-users including pedestrians and cyclists) – but not until 2022, following lobbying from manufacturers. Comment on the matter here
  • Porsche: planning an all-electric small-ish hatchback-type model (downsized Panamera), reports Autocar.
  • The government’s announced a further 140 EVs and PHEVs for its own fleet, including vehicles for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and the Home Office. These will include the Nissan Leaf, and are part of a £5million investment in EVs and supporting infrastructure for public sector fleets. More here.

Integrated electromobility, EV economic benefits and more…

March 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

bmwi3 carshareAn integrated electromobility project: BiE (Bewertung integrierter Elektromobilität) is to look at the relationship between mobility services (including public transport and car-sharing) and EVs, and the everyday life of users. The federally-funded programme is looking at co-operation between services, the optimised planning of large EV-share fleets and the design of an evaluation system, booking system and charging support. Particular mobility needs, such as trips to supermarkets, will be considered for preparing of the vehicle’s charging accordingly; information as to EV-suitable journeys will be displayed to users via smartphone app. More details here; and from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, a partner in the project, here.

  • The UK’s oil imports could be cut by 40% and its carbon emissions cut by 47%  by 2030 with a large-scale deployment of EVs, reports a study from Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation. Drivers’ fuel bills could be cut by £13bn, or £1000 year – and more importantly, by 2050, transport emissions of NOx and particulates could be near-eliminated (saving over £1bn in associated health costs). This does, however, assume a population of over 6million EVs by 2030, growing to 23million by 2050 – along with a parallel growth in renewable-source electricity. Fuelling Britain’s Future further identifies benefits to the economy in terms of job-creation, as well as lower vehicle replacement costs, aiding fleets, economic growth and the manufacturing sector, pointing to Nissan’s factories and R&D work in Sunderland as an example.
  • One shared autonomous car could replace 14 private, DIY-drive vehicles, according to research from KTN Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, thus contributing to a reduction in congestion and an 80% fall in demand for parking spaces, thus freeing up land-space. The research was modelled on the Stockholm daily commute, and concluded that pooling taxi passengers and using self-driving tech, morning and evening rush-hour traffic jams could almost be eliminated. More here.
  • SsangYong showed a range-extended electric version of its Tivoli compact SUV at Geneva (though they didn’t announce any details about it at the time…). Turns out the Tivoli EVR concept features a single-cylinder petrol engine which recharges the battery, plus 127bhp e-motor, giving 93mph, 40g/km and an all-in range of 310 miles (up to 80 miles in all-electric mode), reports Autocar. The mag’s also reporting some news on the all-electric Audi Q8 sports SUV, to have a range of around 185 miles and arrive 2017.
  • A harbinger of pay-per-mile road tolling, reports Car and Driver: 5000 volunteers in Oregon are to take part in a trial with vehicle tracking and charging on a 1.5 cents per basis (they’ll have the difference between this and the current at-the-pumps gas tax refunded).
  • The US DoE is funding a series of EV and alt-fuel demo/education/training programmes to raise consumer awareness, prepare emergency services, crash responders, repairers and recyclers, and provide info to fleets; no time to detail these here now, but Green Car Congress has the lowdown.
  • Nice article on OEMs and car-sharing/mobility services at Automotive News: why they’re keen to get involved, the emerging new business models and possibilities for more ongoing revenue per vehicle than by simply selling it…
  • The SecMobil project at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum has developed a single chip for EV-charging stations securely combining measurement of current, charging time and any interruptions, and data for (cost) charging purposes; more here.

Geneva aftermath (2): More on that Koenigsegg, Suzuki iM-4

March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

koenigsegg_regera_10844Well, I knew there had to be some point to the Koenigsegg Regera PHEV other than willy-waving over it being the most powerful and fastest-accelerating production car ever (as Koenigsegg claims). Besides showing off the Swedish carmaker’s no-gearbox Direct Drive Transmission (KDD) with hydraulic coupling, three Yasa axial-flux motors (replacing the gears), torque-vectoring and KERS (to give a 50km all-electric range), it features a Rimac Automobili battery pack which can deliver 500kW of power and absorb 150kW from the regen. This has been radically light-weighted to just 115kg yet can deliver 4.35kW per kg and 9.27kWh. More details on that from Rimac, which hopes to collaborate further with Koenigsegg “in various fields”. (Mate Rimac and Christian von Koenigsegg pictured).

suzuki im-4And at the near-polar opposite end of the market: Suzuki’s cute little iM-4 mini-4×4 concept – previewing a replacement for the elderly Jimny, and an all-new platform for the brand – isn’t just about stripped-down, slightly retro styling: it showcases a mild hybrid system with integrated starter-generator, regenerative braking and e-assistance to the 1.2-litre engine. Release posted here.

  • In other, non-Geneva news: the government Transport Committee’s Motoring of the Future report has been published: it calls for the DfT to develop a comprehensive strategy for introducing new technologies (including driverless vehicle tech and alt-fuels) with five main aims. These are reducing road fatalities/casualties; cutting emissions from road transport; facilitating social inclusion and accessibility of road transport; supporting economic growth; and increasing road capacity. First two aims good, rest more debatable: surely we should be reducing dependency on road transport infrastructure and building better alternatives? Anyway, there’s not a lot to say on electromobility beyond a few obvious points on establishing charging infrastructure, raising awareness and renewable electricity supplies; the government seems far more excited about driverless cars, automated technologies, telematics and data collection, with (valid) questions raised about security, governance and legislation. Disappointing.




Geneva 2015: the aftermath

March 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

lexus lfsaI really liked the Lexus LF-SA city car concept, which has to give more than a few clues as to the next-gen Toyota/Scion iQ as well. Automotive News makes the valid point that as a Lexus, it’d be offered with hybrid powertrain only, and suggests that it’s a viable contender for production rather than just a think-piece. Further news from Geneva: some comment from Automotive News Europe on the prospect of an Opel/Vauxhall-badged Chevy Bolt: more commercially viable than a Karl/Viva EV, more likely than a direct replacement for the too-expensive Ampera. So Nissan launched – ahead of expectation – a seven-seat passenger-carrying version of its e-NV200 van, the Evalia (more here), and that Borgward brand-revival: plan is for mass-market production (800,000 cars a year by 2020) with an SUV to come first; it’ll be launched at Frankfurt show in the autumn, and there’ll be hybrid powertrains, reports Autocar.

ford ebikesMeanwhile, away from Switzerland Ford raised a few eyebrows at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, unveiling two folding e-bicycles and its Handle On Mobility trial programme. The Dahon-built MoDe:Me is a straightforward 200W-boosted commuter pedelec to be stowed in a car boot for short onward park-and-ride journeys; the MoDe: Pro is for commercial use (couriers, electricians, delivery services, suggests Ford) and can be stowed in vans or support vehicles. The trial will test an app called MoDe: Link (iPhone 6) which enables navigation (signalled to the rider via vibration on the handlebar grips); auto turn signals; communication with other vehicles, identification of bike-friendly routes, hazards and alerts; integrated multi-modal journey planning including weather, parking and charging point info; adjustment of pedal-assist according to the rider’s heart-rate (with ‘no sweat’ mode); and compatibility with Ford’s in-car SYNC. More details here. And also at the Mobile World Congress: BMW’s “Vehicular Small Cell” tech for better in-car wireless networking (more here).

  • Nissan is partnering with Spanish energy firm Endesa to develop two-way vehicle-to-grid EV-charging for peak load-balancing, energy storage and back-up in emergency situations. The trials will also involve energy storage using second-life batteries from end-of-life EVs. More here.
  • Putting a silica shell, with ‘mildly reduced’ graphene oxides’, onto cathode material in lithium-sulphur batteries reduces the likelihood of ‘polysulfide shuttle’ as lithium tends to dissolve in electrolyte: a team from the University of California have developed a process promising higher battery performance and longer battery life. More, incl. references, here. Yet BASF is developing a process to increase the energy density of good ol’ nickel-metal hydride tenfold, apparently – NiMH batteries being both cheap and stable; more here.
  • And latest news on the ‘biobattery’ process – improving the efficiency of biogas plants in producing electricity, gas, biofuel and ‘biochars’ from green waste, sewage sludge, food industry by-products, straw or animal excrement. Trials in Germany are now seeing 75% efficiency.

Geneva round-up (3)

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

edag light cocoonHave to say that I really liked the textile-skinned EDAG Light Cocoon (body construction 3D-printed): one of the more truly innovative concepts of the show, and it was a pretty little thing, too. A welcome distraction from all the super-coupes, massive crossovers/SUVs and suchlike. The Magna Mila Plus (yellow one, below) was less eye-catching and less obviously impressive at first glance, but is interesting in that it effectively offers OEMs a turnkey solution: its platform can accommodate several PHEV powertrain configurations of varying power/output/range (in combination with a three-cylinder engine) as well as bodystyles.

magna milaAnd Quant – last year, arousing a certain level of scepticism and accusations of vapourware, though I gave ‘em the benefit of the doubt – have brought their nanoflowcell tech a stage closer to production-readiness. Quant F (the big red one, gullwing doors) promises a 30% increase in range (to 800km) over last year’s prototype, as well as an all-new two-speed auto transmission, a 1075hp peak output and 186mph top speed, and is close to final Euro-homologation; and the more affordable Quantino (compact, blue) has been developed with larger-volume sales in mind. Quant has been talking with a series of different infrastructure-providers, businesses and relevant bodies about setting up a supply-chain for the charged ionic fluid its batteries need (top-ups every 1000km); this is the difficult bit, but given that Tesla has managed to set up its Supercharger network, by no means impossible with the right partnerships in place.

quantf smallquantino small






goodyear smallAnd in other snippets (and in no particular order): Goodyear showed a piezo-electric tyre capable of collecting kinetic and heat energy, which can then be diverted to a hybrid powertrain.

hyundai tucson phev smallHyundai showed a version of its new Tucson SUV with PHEV powertrain: 50km all-electric range, 114bhp 1.7 diesel engine plus 68bhp e-motor driving the rear axle. And the Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II (red, bottom) looked good, too…

Non-pictorially, Koenigsegg’s Regera‘megacar’ is a PHEV, albeit one with electric motive force to add even more power rather than for any great environmental impact, I suspect; twin-turbo 5.0 V8 plus three motors (2x rear wheels, third on the crankshaft) to give a frankly ridiculous 1782bhp/1549lb ft and the title of most powerful car in production, which is probably the entire point of the thing. Similarly baffling (to me, anyway) was the high-riding Aston Martin DBX Concept (in-wheel electric motors, lithium-sulphur battery cells). However, on a far more practical everyday note – and therefore of far more use to the world – Mercedes-Benz showed a PHEV concept version of its latest V-Class MPV/executive taxi-shuttle; petrol-electric powertrain from the C350e, delivering 210hp plus 90kW from the motor (total 333hp output), 94.2mpg and an all-electric range of 50km (more details here). Oh, and the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV (a total 400hp; 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds; 59g/m and an all-electric range of 25 miles; described more in this earlier post) looked impressive, too (below).

volvo xc90 smallmitsu xr-phevii small



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