Friday news round-up…

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup1Today’s news round-up is illustrated by a picture of one of the cleaner Volkswagens on the road, charging away happily in central Brighton… Dieselgate is well-reported elsewhere, and this is a story that will continue to unfold, so no great detail here – but I will smugly point out that I did write about how “cycle-beating… can involve activating selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx” as part of a lengthy cover story feature (click here to read!) for a well-respected engineering magazine earlier this year. This looked more generally at the emissions/fuel consumption testing regime and the gaping disparities between ‘official’ data and real-life driving, but the SCR dodge was discussed, albeit without reference to a specific manufacturer (fear of legal action, given that manufacturers and trade associations were adamant that all this was within the regulatory framework.) So yeah, we knew. Problem was getting people to listen.

Kudos has to go to the ICCT, of course, for doing the testing work, and to European lobbying organisation Transport & Environment for continuing to raise awareness and kick up a stink, and for providing mere writers/observers like me with data, quotes and general backing-up of arguments. Hoping now, of course, that all this will put an end to the diesel disinformation/greenwashing campaigns, bring on far more stringently-monitored regulation, and accelerate the demise of diesel (at least in passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, in the short-term) and ultimately fossil-fuel dependency full stop. As the far-cleverer-than-me people at the Economist wrote this week, “if VW’s behaviour hastens diesel’s death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.”

And in other news/musings this week…

  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed a new real-time data exchange system for electromobility, better-linking service providers, vehicles, fleet operators, charging equipment and users. The ELISE project resulted in a telematics-based control system which can support energy storage and even selling energy from a car back to the grid. More here.
  • Bosch (enabled by the purchase of Californian start-up Seeo Inc.) is working on solid-state battery tech said to potentially double the range of EVs and PHEVs within five years – without an increase in size. These batteries have no ionic liquid, and can have pure lithium anodes; more here.
  • Some updates on the ‘Apple car’: 2019, according to the WSJ, which adds that the 600-person team currently working on the project is set to triple. The car will certainly be electric, but while Apple is researching autonomous driving very seriously, it may not be fully-autonomous at first.
  • Have to admit that the whole smartwatch thing utterly baffles me, but should such things appeal, Ford is now making its MyFord Mobile apps wrist-compatible (Apple, Android Wear; US.) For EV and PHEV users, the watch app enables remote monitoring of charge levels, notification of reaching full charge levels, pre-heating/cooling of cabin, locking/unlocking doors, and mileage/last trip summary data showing efficiency, plus vehicle location directions (i.e. to walk back to the car.) Google Maps is incorporated, with info on charging stations.
  • Catching up on the Uptake of ultra low emissions vehicles in the UK report for the Department for Transport (August 2015): it’s an overview of socio-demographic characteristics of EV drivers (UK) and likely next-generation uptake, general usage, charging behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Nothing new or surprising here, but a very useful summary of research so far in this area…
  • Looking again at a London/Berlin comparo: 35% of Londoners rely on a car for their daily travel, over half prefer to travel by car than other means, and 75% of households have a car, according to a study outlined by Citylab. (Full report from LSE Cities/Innoz here.) Patterns were similar in both cities apart from much more cycling in Berlin, but the interesting thing here is the segmentation of the participants – ‘technology-focused individualists’, ‘pragmatic transit sceptics’, ‘green-oriented’, ‘innovative access-oriented’ and ‘traditional car-oriented’ – and how policy and incentive-offering need to tackle these groups differently. (This kind of approach has been called for in the above-mentioned report for the DfT, with regard to EV drivers.)

Frankfurt Motor Show: quick round-up

September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

FullSizeRender-14FullSizeRender-12OK, quick precis of the mammoth metal-fest that is the Frankfurt Motor Show… Most jaw-dropping for me design-wise was the stunning shark-nosed Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA – how to nod to your history yet produce something futuristic as well – and it also happened to have a PHEV powertrain. Much of the tech and interior styling of the self-driving F015, very cool extending rear louvres and other speed-sensitive flaps/spoilers enhancing its already slippery aerodynamics, and the considerable probability that it’s previewing the next CLS.

IMG_1124FullSizeRender-3Closer to a production car, however, was the all-electric Porsche Mission e; also a four-door, four-seater coupe, this one promises 600hp+, 0-62mph in less than 2.5 seconds and a range of over 500km plus 800-volt ultra-rapid ‘Porsche Turbo Charging’ giving 80% of battery charge in 15 minutes. Induction charging-compatible, too. Loved the Peugeot Fractal (see earlier post), effectively an experiment in interior acoustics but also featuring a (functional) 200bhp e-powertrain with a motor driving each axle plus a 450km range; however, was underwhelmed, at least aesthetically, by the three-motor, 800Nm, 130mph Audi e-tron quattro, though  it does have an interesting button-free cockpit and also a 500km range…

FullSizeRender-1Otherwise, the Borgward BX7 SUV (PHEV variant promised) wasn’t exactly exciting, but the Nissan Gripz concept (pictured)FullSizeRender, a high-riding 2+2 inspired by the Safari Rally-winning 240Z (like the thinking) and with (theoretical) electrified powertrain, was great fun. BMW showed four new plug-in hybrids, 740e, 330e, 225xe and X5 XDrive40e, Volkswagen is promising a GTE PHEV version of the new Tiguan, and Toyota had three new hybrids – an updated/nearer -production C-HR concept (small SUV), new-generation RAV4 Hybrid (bigger) and of course, the Mk4 Prius, as well as its Mirai fuel cell car, making its Euro debut.

FullSizeRender-20Reborn Artega is hoping to make a limited production-run of its Scalo (updated, electric version of the GT) and, importantly, its parent company has a whole load of EV tech to licence, although the electric Roding roadster turned out to just be a rolling showcase for Siemens. However, the prize for total batshit craziness had to go to the Thunder Power EV (see earlier post), seen in Frankfurt in white-painted luxury-spec and also tricked out as a hardcore GT racer. Turns out this Taiwanese wannabe-Tesla has been designed by Zagato.





Concept of the Day: Thunder Power EV

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

thunder power EVTo be revealed at Frankfurt next week, the Thunder Power EV is all a bit mysterious as yet, but the company is promising that it “will have a long drive range, short charge time, lighter weight and will be competitively priced relative to the equivalent competing ICE.” Looks like a sports coupe, from the preview shots on the website, and the blurb accompanying an invite to the press conference/unveiling claims a range of over 600km, 0-100km acceleration in less than five seconds, 320kW of power plus a 250kmph top speed, suggesting it’s reasonably high-end. Also, “dedicated EV architecture”, “revolutionary powertrains” and “European engineering wrapped in Italian design.” So who are Thunder Power? Originally a Taiwanese power tool-maker, it seems, which has lately gone into biotech as well as electric vehicles, for which it has been developing “a number of proprietary technologies”. It has outposts in Taipei, Hong Kong, Hangzhou and Shaoxing in China, plus Milan, and has hired some auto industry veterans including Peter Tutzer as Chief Technical Officer (former technical director at Lotus, working on Elise, Exige and Evora, technical director at Bugatti) and chief production officer Franz Schulte (30 years planning prototype-building and production engineering at Ford, then at EDAG). Which may signal a. some money behind it  and b. some intent for the concept to be more than a showcase for the for-sale technologies. Will go and have a look at this one…

  • Nissan has confirmed significant battery upgrades to give the 2016 model-year Leaf a 155-mile range*. The new 30kWhr battery is the headline news here – but the Leaf will also get an improved NissanConnect EV information/entertainment system to replace the much-maligned and frequently-malfunctioning Carwings set-up. Word on this is that it retains the Carwings functions, “but adds new features, a much-simplified activation process and a new design”, and very importantly, gives a new charging map with real-time information on availability of charging points, plus revised navigation, maintenance alerts and a car-finder function. There’s a new 7-inch touchscreen interface. *Of course, this is the under-lab-test ideal-world figure; real world results may vary, etc etc. Full lowdown incl. UK pricing for the revised cars, on sale for December delivery, here.
  • Chargemaster has launched its new (British-built) Ultracharger EV rapid-charger this week: this enables PAYG payments via contactless debit or credit cards as well as RFID cards, and can incorporate automatic numberplate recognition. It can charge all vehicles capable of taking up to 50kW, via a choice of three cables, and it is small enough that it can be installed without the need for planning permission. Sales of 1000 a year are targeted.
  • Renault is showing off its prototype Kangoo ZE+H2 electric vans with hydrogen fuel cell range extenders this week at the Low Carbon Vehicle show, reports EV Fleet World. Two of these, converted by Symbio FCell, are on trial with Aberdeen City Council as part of a hydrogen-adoption research programme, and are said to have double the range of the standard Kangoo ZE. A similar prototype, ZERE (Zero Emissions Range Extender; based on a Nissan eNV200?) is also being displayed by Intelligent Energy.
  • Feedback from the 18-month My Electric Avenue trial has found that some local electricity networks will need to be upgraded to cope with demand as EV use increases – but that the lower-cost Esprit demand-management system could be a solution rather than cable replacement. The Ofgem-funded project studied ‘clusters’ of EV users (Nissan Leaf drivers) and their impact on their local electricity grids, with Esprit-controlled domestic charging to prevent overloading, and determined that networks can typically cope with 30-50% of customers having EVs before additional investment is required. However, car-makers and the energy industry need to work together “much more closely”, it says.
  • Meanwhile in Toulouse, the Sogrid smart-grid project has kicked off; this is looking at 1000 households, with a view to integrating EV charging, demand management and renewable energy, and developing an international communications standard. More here (via
  • Handy stat: Transport is now the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world – 33% of final consumption (end users), compared to 31% accounted for by industry, and 20% by domestic use, according to new figures from the International Energy Agency. In Europe, industry is still a little ahead of transport in its consumption, but IEA points out that 95% of transport energy use is oil-based, whereas industry uses more of a mix of electricity, biofuels and gas. More here.
  • Toyota is working with Japanese energy companies and local authorities in Japan on a ‘carbon-free’ hydrogen production project – electrolysis of water, using wind power. Trials will take place near Yokohama and Kawasaki, looking at the development of a supply chain and logistics. More here.
  • Borgward – a reborn historic brand-name based in Stuttgart, to reveal a PHEV SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week – has announced a longterm partnership agreement and joint research centre with alt-drivetrain developer FEV GmbH. More here.
  • Ford surveyed 5000 ‘millennials’ (aged 17-34) in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and, far from finding that they’re not interested in cars, predicts a sales boom in SUVs as they reach peak car-buying age. The survey claims that 84% of this age-group think that SUVs have become more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly in the last five years. Mmmm… Reported here.
  • Segmentation/spatial mapping study from the Department for Transport looks at different locations/demographics and their likelihoods of making more sustainable transport choices – downloads and datasets here.
  • TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is leading a two-year project with partners including EDF, Route Monkey, EV Connect and Aberdeen University to look at integrating energy supply systems/market structures to encourage greater uptake of plug-in vehicles. More on the CVEI programme here; it will also look at consumer responses, and later, run a trial with 300 mainstream EV users.
  • Wrightbus is building a range of electric buses to go on sale next year; single and double-decker versions will be available, with the option of pantograph flash-charging, inductive charging or conventional overnight charging. More here. Oh, and Volvo’s new ElectriCity bus, currently on trial, shows the potential for a vehicle fully-integrated into urban planning, it’s claimed, such as quietly gliding ‘indoors’ i.e. into shopping malls, airport terminals and soforth. More here.

JLR Concept_e research vehicles and more…

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

JLR Concept_e carsJaguar Land Rover has revealed three Concept_e research vehicles at the Low Carbon Vehicle show this week, featuring an electric-drive module (eDM) said to produce twice the power and torque of any motor-generator currently in production; this can be mounted between any motor or transmission and configured to create mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains, or used alone in an all-electric vehicle. Partners in this government-funded two-year programme include GKN Driveline of Redditch,  contributing its eAxle tech (a single-speed eAxle driving a front axle, and a higher-performance two-speed gearbox eAxle system driving a rear axle, which can be combined in an AWD vehicle) as well as Zytek Automotive, Drive System Design, Motor Design Limited, Williams, Delta Motorsport, Tata Steel, and Bristol, Cranfield and Newcastle universities.

The Range Rover Evoque-based Concept_e MHEV is a mild hybrid with a prototype three-cylinder 90hp diesel engine and 48V electrical system incorporating clutch-disconnect and a nine-speed transmission. Concept_e PHEV – Range Rover Sport donor vehicle – has a prototype 300hp petrol engine, eight-speed transmission, a 150kW motor and 320-volt lithium-ion battery pack and full-time four-wheel drive. Concept_e BEV, meanwhile, is the all-electric research demonstrator built on the new JLR aluminium architecture, modified to house the e-drive units and battery; it has a single-speed transmission with 85kW motor driving the front axle, and a two-speed transmission and 145kW motor driving the rear axle. Other techs in the research vehicles include brake-by-wire (giving optimum energy recuperation) and torque-vectoring; JLR has also been working on HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technologies to reduce energy consumption, including infra-red reflecting glass and infra-red panels embedded in sun visors, door tops and key places such as the transmission tunnel, lightweight carbonfibre seating, lightweight fabrics and sound-proofing materials, and its further news this week is the Provoque concept: an Evoque with 2.0-litre diesel engine, 48V electrics and electric supercharger, said to emit 99g/km of carbon dioxide.

  • Winners have been announced of the 2016 Michelin Challenge Design, which called for concepts for low-cost mobility solutions for developing regions. Many clever and amusing ideas, but of the top-placed entrants, I’m liking second-prize Edgar Sarmiento’s Arriero: a rugged electric off-road quad bike for Columbian farmers and herders. Ride it, cowboy.
  • Haven’t heard much from Wales-based Riversimple lately, but they report that they’ve now built Mk2 vehicle architecture, and are showing it off at the Low Carbon Vehicle Show this week. The latest iteration of the super-lightweight, easy-assembly fuel cell vehicle features 120 lithium super-capacitors for energy storage, and four in-wheel motors delivering 160Nm of torque. A two-seater with carbon monocoque construction, it has a target weight of 520kg, a cruising speed of 55mph and a range of 300 miles between hydrogen top-ups. Riversimple has a vision of  decentralised production and a business model based around leasing/mobility services rather than vehicle sales.
  • Biofuel from waste products = better than biofuel from specially-grown crops, and bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘drinking fuel’, government funding of £11million is being given to Celtic Renewables, Edinburgh, to develop biofuels from waste by-products of whisky-making. Advanced Plasma Power, Swindon, also gets £11milion for household biowaste-to-biofuel research, and Nova Pangaea Technologies, Tee Valley, £3million to develop biofuel from forestry waste. More here.
  • Volkswagen is to reveal (yet another iteration of) its Microbus concept at CES in Vegas next January, reports Autocar, which says the reborn Kombi/Bulli/camper van is to get an (optional) electric-drive system delivering a range of 250-310 miles. Conventional ICE models will also be offered, of course, but the electric version will get an updated version of the R8 e-tron’s powertrain. Official announcement expected soon, with production said (this time) to be scheduled for 2017. The zero local emission driveline, which relies on the Volkswagen Group’s latest lithium-ion battery technology as used by the Audi R8 E-Tron and upcoming Audi E-Tron Quattro concept, is claimed to provide a range of between 400 and 500km (250-310 miles) depending on the driving conditions. It is planned to be offered alongside more conventional turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants on the production Microbus, which senior Wolfsburg sources describe as being smaller than the latest Multivan.
  • The BlueIndy carshare is now up and running in Indianapolis, and now the latest destination for the Bollore Group’s concept: Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, capital Kinchasa). 50 electric cars and 14 electric buses, plus 80 charging points and solar panels, are to be shipped out there in time for the African Games, in partnership with the state of Qatar. More here.
  • Thermal management in EVs is serious stuff, and Bosch is to debut a new system at Frankfurt next week. It’s said to increase battery range by up to 25% and is heat pump based: pumps and valves collect heat (and coldness) and redistribute this via coolant. More here.
  • A certain morbid fascination with this concept – a driverless, autonomously-guided electric hearse, the latest idea proposed via Charles Bombardier in his regular column for the Globe and Mail (Canada).
  • Latest BMW app news: as seen at the IFA 2015 consumer electronics show in Berlin, the ConnectedDrive suite is to include two new apps, Smart Home for Apple iOS, or Samsung SmartThings (Android, still in research stages). Both enable in-car control/checking of linked household functions such as heating, intruder alerts, etc – and even check whether ‘smart’ sensor-fitted windows and doors are locked. Not sure if they can check yet whether you’ve left the gas on or iron plugged in, however… Full release on these (and other new ConnectedDrive developments) here.
  • Some transport-related feedback from the Future of Cities conference (government-backed Foresight Project) here: reports from Cambridge (“expecting an explosion in cycling”), Newcastle (identifying need for cross-sector data-sharing) and Lancaster looked at visions for 2065; the Foresight Project’s own report (“People in Cities: The Numbers”) looks at demographics and trends to 2040 and 2065; a report from Sustrans makes the case for active travel (walking, cycling) and David Metz (UCL) for investment in rail  in his report “Future of Cities: Beyond Peak Car”. Great – but do we have to choke on exhaust fumes and consume fossil fuels till the necessary shifts are made?
  • And more discussion on a similar theme – review of new book, Urban Transport Without The Hot Air, talks about successful case studies and opportunities for change in terms of lessening car-dependency (good), but dismisses ‘techno-fix’ solutions (EV-ICE ). Like it’s some sort of either-or solution and we can’t have modal shift, behaviour change and (a smaller number of) cleaner vehicles where appropriate.
  • In the meantime until car-free Utopia is achieved, the majority of new diesel cars fail to meet the latest Euro 6 EU emissions standards on the road, chuffing out up to five times the amount of harmful particulates and nitrous oxides measured in lab tests, Transport & Environment reminds us, quoting a new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) which looks at NOx emissions. This problem and its implications for air quality is far too serious for us to wait until we can shift everyone onto bikes, feet or public transport, even presuming that this is in any way possible.
  • As an aside, incidentally, some interesting stats via the Campaign for Better Transport. Rail passengers have more than doubled in the UK to 1.7billion over the last 10 years, with 22% of passengers going into London having to stand on a typical weekday and an average 4.1% of peak-time trains ‘over capacity’ (passengers standing for more than 20 minutes) – 10.1% over capacity at Paddington and 26% of all morning peak trains, with a total 59% of training having passengers standing. Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield also had high numbers of over-capacity trains arriving at the morning peak. (If we want to get people out of cars, there has to be a viable alternative).
  • Report on ridesharing from Deloitte looks at potential for its expansion, saying that nearly 19million commuters in US metro areas could feasibly share a car, giving total CO2 savings of 91.million metric tonnes a year as well as massive societal benefits (I paraphrase) in terms of reduced accident rates, spend on infrastructure and lower congestion, plus personal economic benefits. It points to ‘ring’ neighbourhoods as a potential hotspot (drivers/riders not necessarily commuting to city centres), and discusses incentives and policies to support its growth.
  • And further to all the above, some fun… The Guardian Cities has collected a few ideas for easier London commuting, including underground travelators, walkways and bike lanes, swimming lanes in the Regent’s Canal, and a floating bike lane along the Thames.

Big data drop: DfT National Travel Survey

September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

trafficBig data drop! The DFT has released the England National Travel Survey 2014 (7000 households, 16,000 individuals, on the basis of a week’s travel diary) and on the surface of things, some trends reported do suggest downward trends in driving… Average no of trips per year continues to fall to an average 921 (lowest yet recorded), with particular falls in trips for shopping, commuting and visiting friends (home-working/online shopping thought to be a factor); car travel accounts for 64% of trips but 78% of distance travelled; walking accounts for 22% of trips but only short distances; walking and car trips have fallen whilst use of surface rail and buses has risen in London; cycling distances have risen 26% since 1995-97; the wealthiest people travel twice the distance of those in lowest income-brackets, rural people 50% further than urban (and 90% more than London-dwellers).

Yet in the context of long-term trends, while number of trips has fallen, this is mostly down to less walking (though fewer car trips are being made), and overall distance and travel time continue to grow, as a reflection of greater access to cars; 73% of adults aged 17 or over now hold a driving licence, up from 48% in the mid-70s, and while male licence-holding has plateaued, female licence-holding has been slowly rising; though licence-holding has fallen in younger age-groups, there are more older drivers with licences. It’s also a mixed picture for car ownership; in 1985-6, 38% of households had no car, but by 2005 just 25%, and those having more than one car rose from 17% to 32% in that time; while ownership has levelled off in the last decade, there are regional differences: no-car households rose from 41 to 43% in London, but fell from 37% to 30% in the north-east, and rose overall outside of London. Unsurprisingly, people with access to cars make more trips, spend more time travelling, and go a lot further.  Other pull-outs include: active travel (walking, cycling) down from 28% to 24% since the mid-90s though public transport use up 2% to 11%; 56% of car trips are less than 5 miles; economic/employment factors and changes to company car tax are thought to have influenced the fall in car use in the last decade; cycling accounts for just 2% of trips and 1% of distance travelled.

Overall, the conclusion of the DfT is thus: it “concludes there is little evidence to confirm that car ownership levels or distance travelled have reached saturation”, also pointing to resumed growth in traffic levels since in the latest year. Anyway, more detail and number-crunching in the full report.

And in other news today, in no particular order…

  • …but only 44% of commuters in England could get to work by bike or car in the event of a ‘fuel shock’, according to research from the University of Leeds: Dr Ian Phillips looked at dependency on motorised transport, with reference to different areas, and identified areas which enable high levels of active transport (and low levels). Access to bicycles was key, though it had different effects in different areas – the greatest impact was in suburban areas of larger cities 5-10km from the centre, suggesting these types of areas are well-suited to cycling.  However, districts on the outer edge of London had a particularly low capacity for people to commute by bike or on foot, with rural areas and certain ‘prospering suburbs’ (low-density new-build housing?) also scoring poorly. The most deprived areas had a relatively high adaptive capacity but some – such as areas in East London, South Birmingham and post-industrial Yorkshire – were the least resilient. While this is looking at an emergency-case scenario, it says a lot about dependency on motorised transport, including car-dependency.
  • And are increased numbers of taxis (especially Uber cabs and other private-hire vehicles) in London leading to lower use of public transport, greater traffic congestion and increased air pollution? Debate – based around stats from Transport for London – at TechCrunch. London car ownership levels continue to fall, nonetheless, with 307 cars per 1000 people as of the end of 2013 and 2.6million cars registered; 54% of London households have at least one car, though car-less households rose from 38% to 42% 2001-2011. So let’s not hail Uber as a sustainability-success just yet, then…
  • Car use Stateside: picking out some of the US data in the INRIX 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard (see earlier post). Traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels, with 95 of 100 metro areas seeing increases 2013-2014; worst gridlock is in Washington DC (82 hours of delay per commuter each year), followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours) and San Jose (67 hours). This is put down to growing urban populations – and cheaper fuel. Average travel delays are more than twice those in 1982 (and 4x worse in smaller cities of fewer than 500,000 people.) This follows data showing an all-time record in US VMT (vehicle mileage travelled), and further traffic and congestion growth is expected.  So yeah, peak car? Mind you, as pointed out at Citylab, only looking at commuter habits and building extra road capacity just to cope with rush-hour demand certainly ain’t the answer (agreed).
  • Meanwhile, University Hospital Brussels has released a study (again) linking air pollution with heart attacks and other cardiovascular ‘events’, pointing to fine particulates (PM2.5s), larger PM10s, ozone and nitrous oxides – the results of burning fossil fuels – as the prime candidates, even when emitted within ‘safe’ Euro-legislated levels.
  • OK, vapourware alerts to the ready, but… Edison Power (Delaware) and SunVault Energy are to build a “a revolutionary electric supercar”, which is probably less about the vehicle itself than showcasing graphene energy storage tech. The car – Edison Electron One’ – will feature a graphene-hydrogen fuel cell for on-board hydrogen generation, and while tech detail is thin in the official release, it is to be displayed at the Battery Show in Michigan later this month. Spec allegedly includes an electric motor driving each wheel to give a total 1000lb ft of torque, 0-60 in just over two seconds, and recharging in five minutes; it appears to be a range-extended EV with the fuel cell in place of an ICE.  Sales by special order, availability from Q1 next year, they say…
  • Heating is a drain on the battery-range of EVs – but researchers at the Frauenhofer Institutes have come up with a heat-radiating film which is coated with carbon nanotubes, and applied to the interior door trim panels. This is said to heat the cabin more effectively and quickly than a conventional heater, as well as being energy-efficient. More here. Fraunhofer IWES has also come up with a cost-effective coil system for under-road induction charging, and this will be exhibited – along with the heating film and other electromobility solutions, including an air-cooled wheel hub motor, a lightweight energy pack and high-performance energy storage modules – at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Latest report from JD Power echoes previous findings on in-car tech: many (US) buyers simply don’t use it, or find it of any interest. The 2015 DrIVE Report (Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience, 4,200+ responses from owners/leasers after 90 days of ownership, carried out April-June 2015) finds that at least 20% of new car owners have never used 16 out of the 33 tech features measured. 43% “never use” concierge services; 38% mobile routers; 35% auto parking systems; 33% head-up displays; and 32% built-in apps. 14 specific no-go areas were identified – which 20% or more of owners do not want in their next car – including Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, as well as the concierge services and voice-texting, and interestingly, Gen Y-age buyers cited 23 unwanted techs, particularly those related to entertainment or connectivity. If a dealer/retailer did not adequately explain how a feature worked, it was less likely to be used, and likewise if this was not activated at the point of delivery – which resulted in some owners not even knowing they had it fitted. Owners do, however, like tech which aids safety and their driving experience, such as blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control or vehicle health diagnostics. JD Power exec director of driver interaction/HMI research Kristin Kolodge points out that “in many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate.”

Design Concept of the Day: Peugeot Fractal

September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

peugeot fractalPeugeot’s concept for the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show is the Fractal: a compact two-seater electric coupe with removable roof panel, featuring the latest iteration of Peugeot’s i Cockpit interior design (head-up display, holographic screen, configurable screens), a top-end audio system and a ‘sound signature’ to warn pedestrians and stimulated by smartwatch-controlled door-opening. Interior trim is mostly (80%) made from 3D-printed parts, and power comes from e-motors on front and rear axles delivering a total 150kW/204hp plus a range of 450km/280 miles.

Adaptive ride height aids ground clearance and aerodynamics on different terrains and in potholed/speed-bumped urban conditions, and it sits on 3D-printed 19-inch wheels designed for low noise levels. Its lithium-ion batteries are housed in the central tunnel for optimum weight distribution and power is distributed between all four wheels according to grip and traction for optimum energy recovery; each motor is differently-geared, and while the rear motor handles acceleration from the get-go, the front kicks in beyond 62mph. 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds. The Fractal is sync-ed with a Samsung Gear S smartwatch for battery status, charging info, interior temperature and vehicle location info, as well as for door-opening and setting of the air con and sound system. More here. Oh, and PSA Peugeot-Citroen has also just set up a DS-brand division called DS Performance, nominally to support the DS Formula E racing team but probably also to develop electric and hybrid tech.

Design Concept of the Day: Nissan/Foster + Partners Fuel Station of the Future

August 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

nissan foster fuel stationNissan is working with architects Foster + Partners on a design concept for ‘Fuel Station of the Future’, the idea being to rethink the petrol station for the age of electromobility. The concept will be revealed later this year. Some interesting thinking behind this, perhaps hinting that this could be about more than just substituting plugs for petrol pumps, as Nissan says it “recognises that the refuelling infrastructure of the future represents the perfect opportunity to integrate and engage with local environments in an innovative way – potentially providing an energy and societal hub for modern communities.” Are we talking local/community renewable energy initiatives here?

Nissan goes on to mention “a zero-emissions society, connected communities, autonomous drive and the internet of things” in a “smart EV ecosystem – not just in terms of mobility, but in harnessing the potential of battery storage and vehicle-to-grid systems.” Look forward to seeing this – but let’s not forget the parallel system of people charging vehicles at home/work from their own (renewably-generated) electricity, arguably a potentially more disruptive development. Full blurb from Nissan here. (But will this fuel station’s equipment be as pretty as the Pininfarina Antares EV chargers?)

  • Comment at Forbes on how Tesla has eaten into sales of premium-brand German models, quoting Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the University of Duisberg-Essen’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR: of course) on “the blind alley of plug-in hybrids”. Prof Dudenhoeffer says that PHEVs are mostly run on their ICE power, and that the must-have luxury vehicle even in markets with no EV subsidies is the Tesla Model S, its 280-mile-plus battery range rendering the PHEV tech (expensive, heavy, not really eco-friendly) redundant.
  • Vehicle mileage travelled (VMT) in the US hit a record high of 1.54trillion miles in the first half of 2015: lowdown at Green Car Congress, which notes that “this is more than double the amount driven during the same period in 1981, continuing a trend of America’s driving mileage doubling nearly every generation.” Per-capita VMT is still below the peak of June 2005, albeit still trending upward over the last year, with total VMT (incl. commercial traffic) hitting record levels in June and total US driving increasing for 16 months in a row. Full release from US Department of Transportation has links to the Federal Highway administration (FHWA) data.
  • However… the example of “mobility fees” in Florida shows a different approach in US city development: restricting new road-building, concentrating development in areas with existing infrastructure, and attention to vehicle mileage, reports Citylab.

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