In local news

March 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

After the global-impact glitz of the Geneva Motor Show, I’m going to get all parochial on you. This is my nearest on-street EV recharging point in Brighton, one of two charging spots unveiled last autumn to much fanfare. Brighton & Hove council took the brave step of installing these on a build-them-and-they-will-come basis, with only a couple of EVs known to be operating around town at the time, but I’m pleased to note that this bay, empty most of the time in its first few months, is now regularly used by this Aixam Mega van.

Parking’s very tight around Brighton, and there’s been much protest over the requisitioning of much-needed spaces – but at least someone’s now using the charging points, which are supplied by local firm Elektromotive. The remaining problem is that there’s a four-hour limit under the parking regulations, not long enough for a full recharge, and several EV drivers have already been ticketed for overstaying at the other bays by Brighton Town Hall.

Clearly there’s a few issues to be ironed out yet, and I’d like to see a few more, different EVs using these bays (that Aixam’s owner has a guaranteed free parking space at the moment), but slowly, the infrastructure should support wider EV usage in the city.

*I’m going to take a break from blogging here for a while, but plan to resume mid-April. Take a scan back through the archive for a pretty comprehensive round-up of green car news from the last month, much of it posted ahead of the established UK car magazines’ websites, and covering a wider variety of stories. Feedback thus far welcomed via the comments facility on this page.

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Geneva Motor Show: Lumeneo Smera

March 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Another oddity, tucked away from the mainstream exhibits: the French-built Lumeneo Smera. Seats two in tandem, leans and tilts round corners, and just 2.5m long and 86cm wide; it’s conceived as an electric city commuter vehicle and it is currently going through the homologation process for European sales.  Production is planned for 2011.

The Smera weighs just 500kg, and it can do 130kph. Its pair of electric motors give a total 1000Nm of torque, and lithium-ion batteries give a range of 150km. The rear seat looks pretty tight, and there’s very little luggage space, but it’s a step up from a scooter – ‘a luxury cocoon’, says the company.

The French rail firm SNCF has invested in Lumeneo, though the majority of the company is owned by the Moulene family. Founder and president Daniel Moulene was the former vice-president of the Environment SA business group, and technical director Thierry Moulene an engineer at the French subsidiary of Pininfarina’s coachbuilding business, where he worked on the build of the Nissan Terranaut, Renault Egeus and Renault Zoe concept cars.  They’ve got credentials, then, and plan to employ 50 people by the end of the year, including 30 at their Paris research and development facility.

Friday round-up

March 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

And finally…

Ferrari plans to fit its Hy-Kers hybrid system – as in the 599 Hy-Kers concept – in all its production models within three to four years.  Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo told Automotive News that the company aims to cut its emissions by a minimum 35% in three years.

BMW is going to lease its electric 1-Series coupe, previewed by the ActivE concept, in Berlin, London, Paris and several US cities. A test fleet of up to 700 cars will be available. The 170bhp ActivE can do 160kph and has a range of 170km. As with the Mini E trials, this programme will feed into the development of the Megacity electric vehicle.

– Rental firm Europcar has pre-ordered 500 electric vehicles from Renault for delivery in the third quarter of 2011. The cars will be deployed in Europe’s largest cities; first on the fleets will be the Fluence ZE saloon, the Twizy ZE city car and the Kangoo ZE van, with the Zoe ZE supermini and further variants to follow. Renault also confirmed a deal with Avis earlier this month.

Mercedes-Benz is to spend E1billion a year over the next two years to develop batteries and more efficient powertrains, reports AutoBeat Europe. Most of this spending will be on electric vehicles, nearly doubling the current investment. Daimler plans to produce its own long-life lithium-ion batteries  in Germany from 2012.

– A joint venture has been set up between train-maker China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation and the Liaoning Shuguang Automobile Group to make electric vehicles. Times Electric Automobile of Dandong will be a subsidiary unit of China South, reports Edmunds.com, and it is to receive  investment of $37.4million.

Maximum Bob to retire

March 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

General Motors’ vice-chairman and head of product development Bob Lutz has announced that he will retire – this time, for good – on 1st May 2010.

Lutz, 78, spent 47 years in the auto industry at BMW, Ford and Chrysler as well as at GM, which he joined in 2001, and was responsible for introducing some of the guiltiest gas-guzzlers to the world: Ford Explorer, Dodge Viper, Pontiac GTO and G8, the reborn Camaro and Corvette, as well as the line-up of large trucks and SUVs which left GM stranded and in dire need of government handouts when oil prices rose and North American customer demand suddenly changed. He also oversaw ill-fated projects such as the hugely expensive repeated attempts to launch Cadillac in Europe (whilst leaving Saab, an established premium-level brand, to flounder and wither).

The motoring press and petrolheads around the world have always loved ‘Maximum Bob’ for being a genuine ‘car guy’, always one for more power, more speed, more adrenalin and more testosterone – and for his refreshing candour, directness and lack of respect for political correctness, for which I salute him too.

However,  his late-in-the-day enthusiasm for the Chevrolet Volt was entirely unconvincing. Lutz thought that global warming was “a crock of shit” (full marks for honesty and the courage of his convictions, at least) and told me in an interview some years ago that Americans would “never be interested” in buying small or fuel-efficient vehicles (“you clearly don’t understand about Americans, or American men in particular, young lady”). Nice to have met ya, Bob.

The end of an era at GM, then, and perhaps now it can properly embrace the demands and changing culture of the 21st century.

Geneva Motor Show: IDEA Sofia

March 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Not quite the hybrid superstar originally hinted at – it has no powertrain fitted, and the IDEA Institute of Turin says only that a hybrid powertrain ‘is possible’ in place of a conventional eight-cylinder powerplant – but the Sofia is very pretty. Inspired by feminine curvaceousness, hourglass figures and all things bella figura, it seems; how very Italian. Bring on the showgirls, Silvio.

Geneva Motor Show: Optimal Energy Joule

March 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

South Africa’s Optimal Energy has shown a near-production version of its Joule electric hatch. The Joule, initially designed by South African Keith Helfet and developed by Zagato, is scheduled for production at the end of 2012, with cars in showrooms by mid-2013.

Target specification includes a 230km range, a five-seater interior, highway cruising capability but only a rather disappointing four-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. Pricing is set to start from around E24,300.

A test fleet of 100 cars is to be built at a small facility near Port Elizabeth, with some cars to be on the road in time for the football World Cup in South Africa. Optimal Energy has signed a memorandum of understanding with German coachbuilders EDAG over further larger-scale production, and is also in talks with a Korean supplier of lithium-ion batteries to explore the potential of opening a battery-making facility in South Africa.

Geneva Motor Show: Tata Nano Europa EV

March 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

More news on the Tata Nano EV, coming to Europe in 2012:  it’ll be based on the Nano Europa (coming next year) and will have a range of up to 100 miles between recharges. It takes ten seconds 0-60kph (kph, not mph) so won’t trouble a Tesla with its performance, but this should be adequate for city use, as well as keeping costs down.

The Nano Europa is to be around 20cm longer than the Indian-market Nano, and will come equipped to meet EU safety standards with anti-lock brakes, airbags and extra impact protection. Its suspension will also be revised.

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