Midweek newsbriefs

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

More information on the 1088bhp Rimac Automobili Concept One, an electric supercar to be revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show; teaser shots have been released. Designed by Adriano Mudri, interior styling by an ex-Pininfarina team, two have been ordered already by members of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, reports Autoblog Green. Fully-homologated road cars come in 2013, a production run of 10-15 a year and a total of 88 is planned, priced a little lower than exotics from the likes of Koenigsegg and Pagani.

  • At the other end of the automotive scale: the new-gen Fiat Panda, also set for launch in Frankfurt, gets stop-start with the latest TwinAir two-cylinder engines (85bhp with turbo, 65bhp without). The 69bhp 1.2 four-cyl is revised, and there’s a new 75bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel, also with stop-start. No mpg/CO2 figures as yet.
  • Ah, the Detroit News’ most conservative columnist thinks that all the carmakers showing EVs at Frankfurt are wasting their time. Mind you, I do agree with Neil Winton (a Brit) on one thing: I wouldn’t rent my car to my neighbours in a car-share scheme either.
  • More than five million EVs and plug-in hybrids will be sold in the next six years, according to Pike Research. The US will become the world’s biggest buyers of plug-in vehicles, ahead of Japan, and China the largest producer. Small numbers in the great scheme of things, and figures down from previous predictions due to production delays, but growing to become a significant number nonetheless. Further to the above, so ner.
  • But more EV-hating: it’s ‘time to kill the electric car, put a stake through its heart and burn its corpse’, according to an analysis by John Petersen, an advisor to the World Energy Council – who happens to have worked for the one company he describes as ‘the surprise winner’ in the battery market. Vested interests, perhaps? (Via Autoblog Green).
  • Let’s take to the water for a moment: the University of Birmingham has converted a canal boat to run on a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell/battery-electric powertrain, augmented by solar power. This system would only demand hydrogen refuelling one a month if travelling 650km a year through Britain’s canals, and could have a 100-year lifecycle. Bring back the barges! (Alpha Galileo).
  • Volvo is teaming up with Siemens to develop power electronics, control systems and charging tech for the C30 Electric, reports Business Green. A test fleet gets underway by the end of the year, with a further 200 cars going to Siemens next year for real-life evaluation. BG’s also reporting today that two EV charging points have been installed at the Silverstone racetrack for use by race-goers.

Design Concept of the Day: Ford Evos

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

It gives some clues to the future Focus – though those doors probably won’t feature on a production car. The Evos shows off Ford’s new global ‘design language’ (i.e. its key styling cues that will appear on all cars, in all markets) plus a plug-in hybrid powertrain as in the forthcoming C-MAX Energi, giving a range of over 500 miles.   It’s a four-door, four-seat fastback, with a wider-than-usual cabin and a sporty set-up.

Clever bit’s the cloud connectivity: in a development from Ford’s current SYNC system, the car can adapt its handling and powertrain responses according to the driver’s tastes and road conditions, as well as optimise its electric-drive performance using data on factors from weather and traffic levels to the driver’s work schedule. It can continue playing the same radio show you were listening to before leaving the house, close your garage door or switch off your lights; it’s car as personal assistant, says chief technical officer Paul Mascarenas, who adds that “this cloud-connected vision shows the enormous potential of tailoring the driving experience to suit the exact personal tastes and moods of the driver. From recommending a great driving road from friends on your social networks or resetting your alarm clock to let you sleep in when a morning meeting gets cancelled!” It’s that web 3.0 thing again, for those who really want their car to become a repository for all their personal preferences, details and information – though details such as adaptation of the ventilation system according to pollutant levels or presence of airborne allergens, automatic deactivation of smartphones in ‘dynamic’ driving situations and so on are indeed useful and safety-enhancing. The Evos will be revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in two weeks’ time.

Tuesday newsbriefs

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Another Peugeot: the 508 RXH crossover will be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Deliveries start in spring 2012 and a brown-painted special-edition model is available to order. The high-riding 508 RXH features the diesel-electric hybrid powertrain similar to that of the 3008 RXH, giving 200bhp from its 2.0 HDI engine (with particulate filter) and electric motor. It has four drive modes, automatic, electric-only, Sport or 4WD, returns a combined 70.6mpg and emits 109g/km of CO2.

In other news:

  • Toyota  Motorsport GmbH has set a new lap record for electric vehicles on the Nurburgring Nordschliefe circuit. Its twin-motored TMG EV P001, based on a Radical chassis and driven by Jochen Krumbach, clocked in at 7min 47.794 seconds. More at TMG’s website.
  • Bentley’s planning plug-in hybrids, CEO Wolfgang Durheimer has told Car and Driver.
  • BMW has issued some updates on its heat energy recovery projects: more on the Turbosteamer and Thermoelectric Generator at Green Car Congress.
  • Hertz is adding EVs – Nissan Leafs and Smart Fortwo eds – to its On Demand fleet in San Francisco. The cars will be based at the  Airport Marriott Waterfront Hotel and at Hertz’s downtown HQ, where chargers are installed. And UPS is putting 100 electric vans to work in California, the largest fleet of electric delivery vans in the state (Autoblog Green).
  • Europcar, meanwhile, is putting the Peugeot iOn on-fleet for one-day hire from Heathrow, Luton and Gatwick airports, or bases in Marble Arch and Kings Cross, London.
  • The city of Salinas, California, is suing bankrupt EV-maker Green Vehicles for its $500,000-plus investment in the development of the Triac 2.0, a three-wheeler claimed to have a 100-mile range (Green Car Reports).
  • Biofuel catalyst of the day: panda poo. Or, more specifically, the microbes which live in a panda’s guts, and which are so efficient at breaking down bamboo into sugars and energy, could hold the key to easy synthesis of biofuel from waste plant matter such as corn stalks. More at Grist.
  • And more biofuel-scatology: a team from Tulane University have been experimenting with animal dung kindly donated by New Orleans Zoo, and have discovered bacteria which can break down old newspapers into butanol. Thanks, Detroit News.

Design Concept of the Day: Peugeot HX1

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

To be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Peugeot’s HX1 is a low-riding six-seater MPV with a ‘4+2’ seating layout and adaptable driving position. It’s ultra-aerodynamic, and can change its profile according to conditions and requirements. Power (299bhp in total) comes from a 2.2-litre HDI diesel engine driving the front wheels and a rear motor driving the rear axle, giving four-wheel drive and an all-electric mode of 18.6 miles; the HX1 will return 88.2mpg and emit just 83g/km of carbon dioxide. It’s just a concept to gauge public opinion at the moment, but looks pretty feasible, albeit with a more conventional interior configuration.

EV infrastructure: Source Edinburgh project “at the discussion stage”

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Source London scheme, a public-private partnership to establish electric vehicle charging points across the capital, could soon have a Scottish equivalent: talks are underway about Source Edinburgh, a collaboration which could be developed from the electric vehicle research just started at  Jewel and Esk College (pictured). The college, which has campuses near Musselburgh and in Dalkeith, is already working with Siemens, a partner in Source London, on a project involving the Edinburgh trams and other forms of transport in the area.

The EV research programme is collecting both quantitative data and subjective feedback from a 12-month trial in partnership with Midlothian Council; assessing four Mitsubishi i-MiEVs used by staff members, it aims to provide a comprehensive picture of real-life EV costs, practicalities and user needs, as well as informing policy-makers on infrastructure demands.

The college will be holding workshops and seminars for businesses, fleets and individuals interested in going electric, and making its findings available to the public; the research will also feed into the training of technicians, engineers and other auto industry workers studying at the college, including qualified mechanics returning for top-up training. Professor Steve Tinsley, Director of Innovation and Enterprise, says that the intention is to extend the initial 12-month trial into nationwide research involving universities and colleges in Dundee, Angus, Stirling and Perth, to give a national picture of the use of EVs in more rural areas and the necessary infrastructure to support them. And ultimately, “the intention is, though the conversation is only just starting with Edinburgh Council, to look at a Source Edinburgh project”, he says.

“It’s only at the discussion stage at the moment, but the intention is, that with all this information that we’re gathering, and the reason for mapping charging points as they are at the moment, is to take a view on Source Edinburgh as a project, and look at what we would need in terms of additional charging points and who would supply them”, he explains.

At the end of the initial 12-month trial, Prof. Tinsley says “we would hope to have data that will give us a very good understanding of an electric vehicle… And to have enough information to say ‘right, are we now in a position to take it to the next level, to implement Source Edinburgh?’ because we have enough knowledge around the region to introduce it (electric vehicles) as another part of a transport solution for Scotland.”

Friday newsbriefs

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bizarre EV story of the day: not that this should be seen in any way as a redeeming quality, but ol’ Gaddafi has (had?) interesting taste in cars. Rebels/insurgents/freedom fighters (choose your definition) have taken possession of the Libyan despot’s custom-bodied, Castagna-converted electric Fiat 500, reports Corriere della Sella (slightly odd Google translation, but they have pictures; via Autoblog Green). Gaddafi’s green car was last seen being pushed through the streets away from his bunker.

In other news:

  • Seat’s smartened up the Exeo saloon and estate, and the 2.0 TDI diesel engine now gives up to 57.6mpg; its emissions are down to 129g/km. Stop-start comes to the range next year in an Ecomotive model which’ll deliver less than 120g/km.
  • General Motors and the LG Group are to “jointly develop and engineer future electric vehicles”, according to a statement today. Korean giant LG already supplies battery cells for the Volt and Ampera, but this arrangement “represents a widening of its portfolio as an automotive solution provider.” LG-branded cars? Don’t rule it out.
  • The Vauxhall Ampera has scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. It was specifically checked for the safety of its electrical systems; the battery pack proved to be efficiently protected from from the side impacts, there was minimal electrolyte spillage (none inside the passenger compartment) and it can be easily disconnected though there is an automatic shut-off of current.
  • Hertz is to lease BYD E6 electric crossovers in China, in a deal with BYD and GE Energy, which is to set up a recharging infrastructure. 770 new charging stations in Shanghai by the end of the year, apparently.
  • The seven-seat Prius+ hybrid is to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show, reports Automotive News.
  • Bill Dube and Eva Hakansson of Killacycle are aiming for the all-out motorcycle speed record – not just the one for electric bikes. That’s 367mph they’re heading for… full story at Wired Autopia.
  • Prince Charles’ Start Festival is at Kew Gardens this weekend. Talks on solar power and eco-driving, pop-up restaurants and more green-ish family fun.

Thursday newsbriefs

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz is previewing the all-new B-Class – now a more conventional small family-sized car – prior to its launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Stop-start is now standard, aerodynamics have been enhanced, and its four-cylinder petrol engines are the first of an all-new engine series with third-gen direct-injection tech. They come in the B-Class in 1.6-litre form; 122hp in the B180 and 156hp in the B200. The four-cylinder, 1.8-litre diesel is scaled down from the engines in larger Mercs, and comes in 109hp (B180 CDI) and 136hp (B200 CDI) formats.  Also new is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, said to offer the same efficiency as a manual. No mpg and CO2 figures yet, but improvements expected all round. UK sales start next spring.

In other news:

  • Latest feature announced for the EcoVelocity Show (8th-11th September, Battersea Power Station) is ‘Electric Avenue’ – a display of some rather quirky EVs from different eras, including the Peel, Sinclair C5, new Brahms Electric Hearse, microcars from Zerocars, Greenpower racers and Econogo scooters. Honda has also confirmed that the FCX Clarity fuel cell car will be on show for the first time in the UK, and the Insight, CRZ and Jazz Hybrid will all be available for test-drives.
  • Ashwoods Automotive, based near Exeter, is launching a new range of aftermarket hybrid/electric conversion products, including battery management systems, ‘plug in and play’ hybrid modules and simulation software. They’ve been supplying hybrid-converted Transit vans for a while now, promising fuel savings of 15-25%.
  • Electric golf cart sales are booming – amongst retirees in Florida, at least, reports Detroit News. Money-conscious pensioners (gas-conscious seniors, I suppose) are increasingly turning to them as second vehicles for local use, but authorities are undecided whether the slow carts should be declared road-legal or restricted to private communities and the golf course.
  • A rather expensive EV – but a historic one. An 1899 Columbia Electric Landaulet just sold for $550,000 at the RM Auctions sale at Pebble Beach, making it the most expensive EV ever sold at auction (Green Car Reports).
  • Another ‘Electric Avenue’ – more on the network of fast-chargers between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington at Edmunds AutoObserver.
  • More on the Netherlands trials of pay-per-mile road charging at the New York Times.
  • What do you really think about green cars? Car magazine wants to know, and has a short survey. Stick in your two penn’orth.
  • I’ve been catching up with the BMW i/Wallpaper Sustainable Neighbourhoods project. Six teams in six very different world cities, coming up with proposals for the urban environments of the future; much creative thinking emerging.

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