Volkswagen: promoting plug-in hybrid tech

June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Volkswagen has released details of its ongoing e-mobility study, presumably in an answer-back to the Greenpeace accusations, though perhaps it’s all serendipitiously coincidental. Its twinDrive plug-in hybrid powertrain “could over the mid-term develop into the ideal form of mobility for the vast majority of car drivers,” says chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn, and Volkswagen plans to launch “numerous” plug-in hybrids during 2013-2014, supplementing the hybrids and all-electric vehicles also on offer. The twinDrive Golf Variant (estate) models currently under testing are delivering a electric range of up to 57km and a total range of 900km, and Volkswagen is studying battery performance, driver behaviour, vehicle usage, effects on the electricity grid and other factors. Just to let y’all know that the company is working on some lower-CO2 solutions, anyway…

Gordon Murray unveils T.27

June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Gordon Murray formally unveiled  his T.27 city car at the RAC Club today. The T.27 – closely-based on his ICE T.25 but with a Zytek Automotive-supplied all-electric powertrain – is 2.5m long and 1.6m tall, weighs just 680 kg including battery, seats three, has a top speed of 65mph and a range of up to 100 miles. Power comes from a 25kW motor. Importantly, it has been fully crash-tested, meeting all EU standards for high-speed impacts, and it is intended to be cheap to produce and build, thanks to Murray’s patented iStream production process. Its lifecycle CO2 emissions are claimed to be over 40% less than those of a comparable conventional car, and its combined emissions using a typical UK energy mix are 43g/km. Murray says that he is talking to three manufacturers about licensing the car’s design and production process.

 

Midweek newsbriefs

June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Renault Fluence Z.E. saloon will cost from £17,850 when it goes on sale in the UK next year (taking into account the £5000 Plug-In Car Grant from the government), plus £75 a month for lease of its batteries (based on 6000 miles a year over three years). The initial models, called Prime Time, will come with TomTom sat nav, climate control, cruise control, 16-inch alloys and a high level of kit; they’ll have a range of up to 115 miles and a 95hp (70kW) motor. Reservations are now being taken. As yet, it’s the cheapest EV on sale in the UK.

  • The ‘microcar’ sector of the market is about to explode in Europe, according to auto analysts Frost & Sullivan. 60 new models by 2013, and whilst some of these are only quadricycles, about 20 are ‘proper’ cars from major manufacturers, and 75% will be EVs. Full release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • The Bluebird Electric land speed record car is going to appear at the EcoVelocity show in Battersea (September 8th-11th). Its test runs at Pendine Sands this weekend have been cancelled, however, for want of a crucial component.
  • Two-thirds of drivers would be ‘more likely’ to buy an EV if there were more public charging points at roadsides and in car parks, according to a survey by – yes! – EV charging point maker/supplier Elektromotive. Conclusion is that public charging points will alleviate range anxiety (bear, woods, etc.). Obviously there’s a vested interest in all of this, but the really interesting figure is that, of the 1,400-plus who participated, only 7.8% were positive that they would not buy an EV however easy it was to charge it in public. Just over a quarter were ‘undecided’.
  • Records all round for the EVs at the Pikes Peak hillclimb: the Nissan Leaf set a new one for production EVs (and outran a few ICE cars) at 14 minutes, 33 seconds; Chip Yates charted the fastest run on an electric motorbike (12.50.094); and the Yokohama car was the fastest electric car full stop (12 minutes 20 seconds).

Volkswagen on the Dark Side?

June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Just picking up on this Greenpeace/Volkswagen Dark Side story. Greenpeace is spoofing the latest Passat ad (the one with the kid in the Darth Vader costume) to attack VW for its opposition to EU 2020 targets for bringing down vehicle CO2 emissions. It’s also pointing out that a handful of economy-optimised Bluemotion models do not a green car manufacturer make (very fair point) and that Volkswagen has actually made the least progress in reducing its overall average CO2 output in recent years (they’ve got the figures). Volkswagen’s also been singled out here as it’s Europe’s largest car-maker.

Check out www.vwdarkside.com for the Greenpeace take – but remember that VW’s arguments against emissions cuts (the costs, they’re making the cars their customers want, etc) aren’t anything not said by the US Big Three (who all shut up pretty quickly* when Obama made cleaning up a condition of their bail-outs), for a start, and the look-at-the-whole-range argument is true of pretty well every other large-scale manufacturer. Take Toyota, for example: great ‘green’ image thanks to the Prius, but far more (if not the bulk) of its sales world-wide are of the gas-guzzling Land Cruiser 4×4 and the Hilux pick-up. No official statement from Volkswagen yet on the matter.

*Funnily enough, later in the day comes news that they’re protesting again. The Obama administration has compromised on the original proposal for a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) of 62mpg (US) by 2025 and is willing to come down to 56.2mpg; the automakers want 47mpg. More at Edmunds Auto Observer.

Design Concept of the Day: EDWARD

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

EDWARD stands for Electric Diwheel With Active Rotational Damping, which pretty well explains what this is. It’s also vindication that students watching Star Wars are not wasting time: EDWARD is inspired by the Wheelbike and Hailfire Droid concepts seen in the prequels. Created by a team from Adelaide University, it’s an electrically-assisted human-powered device (think gerbil-wheel without having to go upside-down, though you can do the full 360 if you want) with a battery life of an hour and a top speed of around 40kmph. The tech could have some practical applications, though it looks more like a fun recreational vehicle in the video… (thanks to Treehugger.com).

Monday newsbriefs

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Schoolkids have built a car that’ll do 1980mpg, or the equivalent thereof. Yes, really. Kingdown School from Warminster took victory in this year’s Mileage Marathon Challenge at Mallory Park, Cambridgeshire, with their streamlined vehicle. Also noted is the 1325mpg car driven by 11-year-old Kitty Foster from King’s School, Ely, though this car (pictured, as I can’t find a decent copyright-free shot of the winning car) was built with help from the professional Cambridge Design Partnership, complete with trackside telemetry and GPS to get the best out of the microdiesel engine with oxygen generator. 

  • BMW’s M3 CRT made its debut at the Nurburgring last weekend; this 450bhp V8-engined racer is, quite apart from being very quick, the first car to feature carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) made in a new production process. CFRP has been used, in a super-strong cellular carbon structure, for its bonnet and seats to give a weight saving of up to 50% compared to conventional carbonfibre, and will next be used to make the bodyshells of the upcoming i3 and i8 electric and hybrid vehicles. The basic carbonfibre-threaded material is woven into ‘mats’, impregnated with synthetic resin and then hardened; all cuttings and waste from the process can be reused. With the M3 CRT’s seats, the CFRP layers are wrapped around a honeycomb of recycled paper and a layer of carbon.
  • Continuing last week’s aviation theme: from September, Royal Dutch KLM is to start operating 200 flights between Amsterdam and Paris using biokerosene synthesised from waste cooking oil. Full story at Green Car Congress.
  • More on Mazda’s new laser-ignition rotary engine at Autocar. It’s up to 1600cc, and part-aluminium; the laser-controlled combustion (instead of spark plugs) enables more precise monitoring of the fuel-air mixture and thus improved efficiency, lower emissions and better torque delivery, it’s reported.
  • Autocar also has spy shots of the revised Renault Twingo, coming later this year – but the real story’s the all-new 2014 model. This will be smaller, a sister model to a reborn Smart Forfour (Daimler did the deal with Renault-Nissan this time) and will feature a new 900cc three-cylinder engine (to be used extensively in the Renault-Nissan line-up). Expect all-electric versions, too.
  • Americans marvel at tram use and pedestrianisation in Europe’s cities: a rather charming just-woken-up report in today’s New York Times.
  • Meanwhile down in Nevada, the state has authorised the use of automated driverless cars on its roads. Only in clearly defined areas and with appropriate certification, however, before you get worried about robo-cars prowling the highways like zombies. It’s all in aid of ongoing research, such as the DARPA work on drones for military use.

EVs up Pikes Peak

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Two electric cars are racing at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this weekend. Going up the famous 20km-long, 4,300m-high hill in Colorado are the Yokohama Summit HER-02 and the Nissan Leaf; the one-off Yokohama car (pictured) is a development from last year’s Summit contender, featuring Yokohama’s new BluEarth tyres and Sanyo lithium-ion batteries. Driver Ikuo Hanawa currently holds the EV record-time for the event, which he set last year. The Leaf, meanwhile, is a production-spec car (and not the NISMO RC); this will be driven by truck racer Chad Hord. And on two wheels, there’s Chip Yates and his 240bhp Swigz.com Pro Racing electric superbike.

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