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.

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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).

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Geneva round-up (2): Things autonomous

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

rinspeed smallI’ve already written about the Rinspeed Budii (modified BMW i3; electric powertrain itself unchanged) but it was good to get a sit inside and see the robot arm – enabling driving from either side when in DIY mode – in action. All made possible, and the room to accommodate this is created, by stripping out the mechanical steering for steer-by-wire. Along with airbags, much of the dashboard and other front-bulkhead safety-related structure, too, as one can do for a show concept, but we won’t quibble as it looked good and made its point about what may be possible.

giugiaro geaOn another tip, the ItalDesign-Giugiaro Gea was a considerably larger self-chauffeuring, app-controlled limousine: with four electric motors (one driving each wheel) giving a total 764bhp, reports Autocar. And on a different note altogether, the Italian-American ED Design TorQ: an autonomous – and windowless – high-torque e-racer. Which begs the question of who, in a race of driverless cars, wins? The one with the most intuitive human-machine interaction, apparently; it’s all to showcase V2X/V2V products and AI systems on offer from a technology provider anyway, but a fully-working prototype is under development to demonstrate ‘swarm intelligence’ and other advanced safety-related wares.

ed torq

Geneva round-up (1): Volkswagen Group

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw coupe concept coupe gte smallMotor shows: more fun via Twitter these days, but for a bit more detail… Further to things I’ve already outlined in previous pre-show posts, some more plug-in vehicles of various provenance and philosophy, with pictures (my own). First up, the Volkswagen Group contenders, and the Volkswagen Coupe Concept GTE (replacement for Passat-based CC, larger and intended to go further upmarket, so sort of a sporty mid-point between Passat and Phaeton, I suppose). Gets the Group’s PHEV powertrain with V6 TSI petrol engine and a pair of electric motors, delivering an overall 380hp and 141-odd mpg averaged-out. And the Volkswagen Group’s not confirmed any details, but the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 two-seat coupe concept (notable for its very verdant paintwork) is fitted with a hybrid powertrain too, reports Autocar.

audi etronsSimilarly, Audi e-trons galore: from the diesel-electric Q7 e-tron quattro (373hp, a 35-mile all-electric range, 166mpg, 0-62 in six seconds) and Prologue Avant fastback estate (next A6; near-identical powertrain to the above) to latest R8 e-tron (all-electric – more power, increased range of 280 miles, new spaceframe construction; available to special order) – and the series-production A3 Sportback e-tron PHEV (pictured). And on the Spanish side of the family, the Seat #20V20 concept (an SUV) is said to have – theoretically, at least, at this stage – a plug-in hybrid powertrain too.



Concept of the Day: Magna MILA Plus

February 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Magna International Inc MILA PlusMagna Steyr’s MILA Plus concept’s a two-seater PHEV showing off the company’s lightweight construction tech and vehicle-building capabilities alongside its plug-in hybrid powertrain (two motors, one driving each axle; all-electric range 75km; overall CO2 emissions of 32g/km; 272hp, 580Nm and 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds). It weighs 1520kg, and its modular aluminum spaceframe construction could accommodate different driveline configurations, components and systems; the aluminium body-in-white is fully-recyclable and the interior features bioplastics and natural fibres. Its battery is incorporated into the spaceframe; its body panels are plastic; and its components are joined in a bonding process rather than by welding, as with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Aston Martin Rapide (also built by Magna). Typical concept-car touches include rear-view cameras in place of exterior mirrors, projecting images onto display screens. Will see more of this one at the Geneva Auto Salon next week…

  • Yamaha is planning to launch the two-seat Motiv city car in Europe in 2019, according to reports. The Motiv (and Motiv.e in electric form) were developed in partnership with Gordon Murray Design from GMD’s T25 and T27 prototypes.
  • MINI is presenting an installation at the Salone del Mobile in Milan next month in partnership with Spanish artist Jaime Hayon. The theme is ‘tomorrow’s urban mobility’, and it centres on the MINI Citysurfer concept e-scooter. Hayon has designed two Citysurfer variants to be taken on virtual graphic routes and paths in a “surreal space”, apparently; more here.
  • That £32million of EV infrastructure support announced yesterday: for chargepoints on A-roads, at train stations and even homes and hospitals, ringfenced to 2020, with an additional £11million across 50 organisations, companies, universities and other businesses working on 15 R&D projects. These include creating recycled carbonfibre material for massmarket vehicle structures (led by Gordon Murray Design); zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell range-extender bus powertrains (Magtec) and liquid nitrogen-fuelled power/cooling for refrigerated trucks and air-conditioning buses (Dearman Engine Company).  The government has also confirmed £15million for grants towards the installation of home EV-charging kit; £8million for public charging infrastructure on major roads and across towns and cities; and £9million for other infrastructure priorities, details tbc.

Concept of the Day: Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II

February 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

mitsu concept xr-phevMitsubishi has released more details of its small SUV concept, a plug-in hybrid, prior to next week’s Geneva Auto Salon. The XR-PHEV II has a new powertrain promising a motor output of 163hp (no details yet on the engine) and overall emissions below 40gkm, and is front-wheel-drive despite its mini-Shogun styling; think next-generation ASX urban crossover.  It has all-electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid modes – designed for prioritising all-electric operation, with the engine acting as a generator, but the engine can also kick in to supplement the motor power.

  • Toyota is putting its i-Road into action in an EV-share in central Tokyo next month, in partnership with Park24’s Times Car Plus service. A trial – supplementing Toyota’s programme in Grenoble, France – will run till the end of September to gauge user feedback, activity patterns and ease of usage.Toyota expects the cars, to be located at the Times Station, Yurakucho ITOCiA shopping centre, to be used one-way to businesses, shops and sight-seeing locations; they can be returned to any of five central bases. Times Car Plus members opting into the service will pay 412 yen (about £2.25) per 15 minutes with max hire time two and a half hours. There are around 430,000 members of this mobility service (operated by car park network Park24) across Japan.
  • Springer has published a book on Electric Vehicle Business Models, including case studies and research on car-sharing, wireless charging, grid-balancing, marketing (‘technology push vs market pull’), and cost of ownership; more details and samples here.
  • Volkswagen’s Geneva concept previewing the next CC is to have a (petrol) plug-in hybrid powertrain, reports Autocar, but the Audi Prologue Avant (next-gen A6 Avant estate) is diesel-electric – 3.0 TDI engine, 353hp, plus 100kW motor and eight-speed tiptronic transmission, delivering 0-62 in 5.1 seconds, 155mph, 176mpg overall, 43g/km and a 54km range in all-electric mode. Wireless induction charging capability, too.
  • has launched a mobile app (£4.99, iOS, Android to follow) enabling UK EV drivers to search for public charging points (by rated power, connector type or compatibility with their vehicle as well as by postcode or location), and to provide feedback and ratings , i.e. on correct functioning. It’s the first of a series of apps the Zap-Map/Next Green Car team (managers of the government-funded National Chargepoint Registry) are developing to support electric car drivers. More here. This follows debate on EV user forums about the ins and outs of repurposing and selling data from OpenChargeMap and other OS databases…
  • Proterra has upgraded its e-bus battery packs to deliver a range of 180 miles; more at Green Car Congress.
  • Not all biofuel bad: the Greater London Authority is planning to get vehicles used on council fleets running on a blend with used cooking oils, fats and greases, and Hackney is to trial blends of B20 and B30 in its LCVs by the end of the year, reports Fleet News. This could also help tackle the problem of ‘fatbergs’ clogging the capital’s sewers.

Tuesday news: EV-charging charges, grid-balancing, integrated transport, alt-fuels, etc…

February 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup5We’re looking at an end to free EV parking in central London: Source London is planning to introduce charges for using its charger-equipped bays, reports Autocar (alongside fixing the broken/inoperable chargers). There’ll be a sliding scale of tariffs (tbc), based on zones 1-6. Initial thought: that’s one big incentive to go electric gone. Second thought: this stops an incentive to drive into central London rather than take other forms of transport. This echoes thinking on a similar line southwards in Brighton at the weekend: nice to see a Volkswagen e-up! charging (as pictured) at the well-used bays at Bartholemew Square (first one I’ve spotted there), but on balance, I’d argue for the Lanes area being a car-free zone anyway. Driving into the very heart of heavily-congested city centres isn’t the best deployment of EVs…

  • News with strong implications for energy storage-electromobility synergies: San Diego Gas & Electric is running a pilot vehicle-to-grid project and pitching EV fleets and storage systems as one integrated resource into local wholesale energy markets. This demand response and grid-balancing programme is currently aggregating stationary storage with fleets at five locations in San Diego County, and incentivises users to charge off-peak. The project is further studying the benefits both at customer and grid levels, and identifying barriers as well as best practices and growth opportunities for future roll-out on a larger scale. More here.
  • And talking of integration: the NW Bicester ‘eco-town’ development (Oxfordshire) is to have an electric car club and communal charging points, as well as the option of EV-charging equipment fitted at the new homes. A fleet of subsidized EVs is also to be available for ‘champions’ who will share their experiences, and there will be test-drive events in the community. And alongside this, bike lanes and pedestrian routes linking the development to the town, and cycle storage for each house. Sensible measures to contain the impact of suburban sprawl? More here.
  • Nice accessible runthrough of how tech can transform commuting from the BBC: from apps to integrate multi-modal options, digital mapping and use of social media to bike-shares and wireless e-bus charging (I’ll pass on the jet packs, though), it does make the point that the actual modes of transport will probably change less than the means of accessing/paying. It also quotes Prof Carlo Ratti from MIT on car-sharing and ride-sharing – “we predict that, in future, four out of five cars can be removed from the road” – and on autonomous/self-driving cars, which “promise to have a dramatic impact on urban life, because they will blur the distinction between private and public modes of transportation”. Note that this is, however, specific to the urban environment – and that in this brave new world, there are still cars, even if they are shared and in fewer numbers.
  • But yes, more walking and cycling (and bike-sharing) are necessary if future cities aren’t to grind to a halt: a new report from the OECD, The Metropolitan Century, also calls for revised land-use regulation and taxation/fees to discourage private car use, as well as traffic and parking controls.
  • Ricardo has developed a next-gen 85kW electric motor for vehicles which needs no rare earth metals – and is thus cheaper to make. More on the RapidSR project here.
  • An alt-fuels workshop report from the US DoE: markets/applications for natural gas (trucks, vans, heavy-duty) and hydrogen (personal transport) will naturally segment, with only a little overlap in some areas (buses, light-duty commercial vehicles). However, economies of scale could be achieved by co-location of refuelling facilities and other supply chain infrastructure, as well as common standard-setting for storage equipment, etc; new business models and partnerships will emerge, with the potential to move away from centralised fuel production. More here. And analysis of the benefits of natural gas for trucking – but its mixed environmental effects – in a study reported here.
  • The above important because biofuels not necessarily the answer – and the EU has just voted to phase out ‘first-generation’ (land-based, crop-grown) biofuels from 2020, with a 6% ‘cap’ on their blending into petrol and diesel. This addresses the issue of biofuel from food-source crops, but also land use where other inedible crops are grown for energy rather than food, says think-tank Transport & Environment; criteria for fuels made from wastes and residues have also been tightened up.



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