Week-end odds and ends

July 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Nissan is now taking orders for the electric Leaf in Europe; order books have opened in Portugal and the Republic of Ireland, with pre-orders in the UK from September 1st. Deliveries are scheduled for Portugal in January 2011, Ireland in February, and a month later in the UK. Deposits of E300 (£257) are being taken; prices start from E30,250 in Portugal, E29,995 in Ireland and £23,990 in the UK, including all government incentives.
  • Bosch has supplied 1.5million stop-start systems, giving vehicles an average 8% fuel saving, since launch of the tech in late 2007. The company said today that sales of its stop-start system for automatics are taking off; this is fitted in models as diverse as the Porsche Panamera (with dual-clutch transmission), the Fiat 500 (with automated manual) and new Audi A8 (with torque-converter auto).
  • Biofuel of the day #1: sugar.  Researchers at LS9 have found a new way to break down sugar, using bacteria, to create alkanes (the constituent hydrocarbons in diesel fuel). They have sequenced the DNA of the most efficient bacteria, which work in a quick one-stage process with high yield (Green Car Congress).
  • Biofuel of the day #2: cellulosic biomass. That is, matter from sugar cane, grain crops and sugar beet. Biofuels firm Gevo has developed a process using biocatalysts to make isobutanol, an ethanol substitute; this follows its work on sustainable-source jet fuel (Green Car Congress).  More fuels-from-foodstuffs, however.

Oregon drives electric

July 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here’s something new, albeit with limited appeal: the Arcimoto Pulse. It’s a bike-like electric three-wheeler going on sale later this year. Initial versions will have lead-acid batteries giving a range of only 40 miles, but lithium-ion models with 80- and 160-mile ranges will follow.

The Eugene-based company, exhibiting with the Drive Oregon collective at the Plug-In 2010 show in San Jose, California this week,  says it’s already taken 25 $500 deposits (Autoblog Green). Also at the Plug-In show: a wireless EV charging device; not entirely convincing as yet, but something that could solve the problems of recharging on-street or in places without a convenient socket.

Thursday thoughts

July 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Two lengthy treatises on American life with an EV: Edmunds Inside Line has come to the end of a year with its Mini E, and Autoweek’s man on the West Coast is getting to grips with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV (though the car seems to spend much of its time parked up at Burbank Airport). Range anxiety all round, though no-one’s been stranded as yet; definite second-car potential, they conclude.

Automotive X Prize: nine cars left

July 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

The contenders for the $10million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize have been further whittled down: just nine cars from seven teams, from the original 136 cars and 111 teams, will go through to the final validation stage.

The latest round of testing, in collaboration with Consumer Reports, required the vehicles to meet a minimum 90mpge (mpg or energy-equivalent) as well as criteria for operating range, performance and dynamic safety.

Two Edison2 Very Light Cars remain in the Mainstream Class and two X-Tracer E-Tracers n the Alternative Class – Tandem. Five cars are competing for the Alternative Class – Side by Side: the Aptera 2e, the Li-ion Motors Wave II, the RaceAbout Association’s RaceAbout, the TW4XP and the Zap Alias (pictured).

Midweek matters

July 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Despite the axe-wielding of our new coalition government, the Plug-In Car Grant scheme will still go ahead in the UK from January 2011. Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond confirmed today that up to £5000 – a 25% rebate on list price – will be available to buyers of electric, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell cars on a list of those approved for safety, reliability, performance and warranty standards. Funding for the Plugged-In Places initiative will also continue, with local authorities from the West Midlands, Cornwall, Sheffield, the Lake District, Greater Manchester and Northern Ireland bidding for support to establish recharging infrastructure. *Update (thanks to Autocar) – though the scheme’s not been axed, the pot of cash up for grabs has been reduced from the original £230million to £43million.
  • BMW has been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority for claiming in an ad that its all-electric Concept ActiveE gave out “zero C02 emissions”. The ASA ruled, in response to a complaint, that the ActiveE would most likely be powered by electricity from fossil-fuel power stations and therefore the “zero C02 emissions” claim was misleading – despite the caveat “when driving” (The Telegraph).
  • AFS Trinity of Delaware has patented its extended-range ‘extreme hybrid’ powertrain, which features ultracapacitors and is said to require half the usual number of battery cells. It intends to license the technology, claimed to be up to a third cheaper to make and fit than current plug-in hybrid systems, and is hoping that it will qualify for the US government’s tax rebates and incentives.  Full story at Autoblog Green.
  • Planar Energy of Orlando, Florida, is to start trial production next year of its solid-state batteries. These have a solid ion conductor in place of a liquid electrolyte, and are said to have higher-density storage and a higher power capacity than lithium-ion batteries. Planar claims to have solved earlier problems of scaling-up the technology, and plans to develop its batteries for automotive applications (Autoblog Green).
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car is to add electric vehicles to its US fleet at over 5000 locations.  It will take delivery of 500 Nissan Leafs from January 2011, with other models to follow. The first locations to offer EVs will be Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee; San Diego and Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington.  These cities will have a recharging infrastucture in place, with charging points at Enterprise depots as well as in public-access facilities.
  • Porsche has confirmed the launch of the Panamera Hybrid next year. This super-saloon will get the 329bhp supercharged 3-litre V6 petrol engine and 46bhp electric motor, as in the Cayenne Hybrid.

Mercedes Vito gets voltage

July 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz has started production of its electric Vito E-Cell van. Just 100 will be made this year, but a run of 2000 is planned for 2011. The E-Cell’s lithium-ion batteries give an operating range of just 130km, and top speed from the 60kW motor is only 80kph, but it will be suitable for localised deliveries and deployment from a central base with charging facilities. Its loadspace is unaffected by the electric conversion, and payload is around 900kg. Mercedes is leasing the first 100, rather than selling them outright, in a four-year trial deal to cover servicing and maintenance; subsidies are available to German users, and right-hand drive versions are on offer to British customers.

Tuesday titbits

July 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • General Motors is developing a global test fleet of all-electric vehicles. First up for China is a battery-driven version of the Chevrolet New Sail (pictured), its locally-created entry-level car built in partnership with SAIC; the first prototype will hit the road later this year. The extended-range Chevy Volt and the Buick LaCrosse Hybrid will be launched in China next year too.
  • Saab is to launch a test fleet of 100 electric cars early next year. The EVs will be versions of the next-generation 9-3, and will be used at the company’s headquarters in Trollhatten, Sweden, and other global offices.  The lithium-ion batteries will be supplied by Boston Power, the powertrain conversion has been developed by Swedish firm Electroengine,  and the project is supported by the Swedish Energy Authority, reports Edmunds.com. Full-scale production’s a good five to six years away, however.
  • Fiat’s Tofas joint venture in Turkey is to team up with Arcelik, the country’s largest appliance-maker, to develop an electric powertrain for the Doblo van. Tofas, owned 38% by Fiat, is to invest up to E20million to build the Doblo EV, reports Automotive News, with a view to production by mid-2011.
  • The new-generation Ford Explorer, unveiled yesterday, is up to 30% more fuel-efficient than its profligate predecessor. It now features a unibody (monococque) construction rather than an old body-on-frame structure; the V8 engine option has been dropped in favour of a turbocharged direct-injection 2-litre four-cylinder (237bhp, 30% more efficient than the V6 it replaces) and a naturally-aspirated 3.5 V6 (290bhp, 20% more efficient than its earlier counterpart). Sales start in the US at the end of the year.
  • Mazda is to halve the electrical power usage (for motors and electronic devices) in its petrol-engined cars to 25 amps by 2020, reports The Nikkei; this will reduce average power consumption to 300 watts and result in a 10% fuel economy improvement.

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