EcoVelocity – show report

September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, it ain’t quite Frankfurt or Detroit, but there was still plenty going on today at the EcoVelocity show at Battersea Power Station (continues over the weekend.  Just £10 to get in, £25 a family ticket).

Latest on the GEVCO (Global Electric Vehicle Company) project: four ‘name-brand’ manufacturers are interested in making the i-Mav, a tiny four-seater, under licence, says the company CEO. They’re from the US, Brazil, China and India, and GEVCO’s hoping to do a deal with a European car-maker too. The car has an innovative electromagnetic geared motor – no need for a gearbox, thus saving weight, packaging space and costs – and they’re experimenting with various metal-air battery concepts including aluminium-air, which gives a range of up to 430 miles. Problem is, you need to swap batteries rather than recharge (which nonetheless suits some regions with poor electricity supplies); they’re working with partners to discuss a battery-swap infrastructure. Target price for the car is sub-£10,000 (excl. batteries) and it’s aimed at young Gen Y buyers.

  • 100 EV charging points will be installed on-site for the 2012 London Olympics, said mayor Boris Johnson, who opened the show today. These will support the official fleet of 200 Mini Es and BMW ActivEs, and will remain after the end of the Games. BoJo’s also setting  a target of 25,000 charging points in the capital by 2015 (reports The Charging Point ) – 500 on-street and 2000 in public car parks, and the rest provided in partnership with businesses -pretty damn ambitious.
  • Competition’s hotting up to supply all these charging points: a number of new names had stands at the show and were talking to fleet/business customers. Finnish firm ENSTO is launching an aggressive campaign to market to public-domain clients – supermarkets, leisure centres – whilst Schneider Electric has a range of French-built posts from small private units to £5000 roadside quick-chargers; budget options come from Rolec, a British firm with long experience of supplying electric hook-ups to marinas and caravan parks, who can supply a very basic but safe 13-amp socket from £100  or so (more sophisticated/faster options also available). Prices are coming down, the choice is getting much wider.
  • Kia (displaying the great little new Picanto plus so-much-improved Rio, range now including a sub-90g/km model) is thinking about bringing the new Optima Hybrid to the UK. It’s a good year to 18 months away, however, as they’ve got to work out how to market/price it.
  • Peugeot had its diesel hybrids and the iOn on show, and was also promoting its Mu mobility programme, a membership scheme for rental of everything from a pushbike or scooter to a van or MPV. This is now operational in Chiswick, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, and a new site at Newcastle University opens up next week, with an iOn on-campus. ‘Several thousand’ people are now signed up to Mu in the UK, apparently, and a good 10,000 in mainland Europe.
  • Another new player in the rental business: Green Motion, offering a variety of EV and low-CO2 options from sites including major airports. Rapid expansion plans, hourly and daily rentals as well as corporate packages.
  • Other random thoughts: Test-drives available round the site’s perimeter and on marked-out areas within – chance to check out a Segway, the Renault Twizy, Fiat 500 TwinDrive, Vauxhall Ampera, Nissan Leaf, Lexus hybrids and loads more. Impressed by the Renault Fluence ZE – much more elegant-looking than the pictures suggest, more upmarket in feel than you’d expect from a Megane saloon. Even more impressed by the Kangoo ZE – a proper, working electric vehicle, immensely practical and very easy to drive.
  • Less impressed by the mia electric. Looks really cute – and again, better than in the pictures – and that 1+3 configuration with centrally-placed driver’s seat is intriguing, but oh my: it certainly doesn’t feel like £22,000-worth of car. The interior’s very basic, cheap-looking and flimsy (very poor sliding windows), the driving position is awkward and the seat uncomfortable (only slides on its base, with a fixed backrest). It’s probably as fast as it needs to be, however, and it’s a pleasant enough low-speed drive.
  • No real news re. progress on the EEMS Accelerate programme – a Technology Strategy Board-funded research project involving companies including Westfield (iRacer and Sport-E on show), Delta (E4 coupe), Lightning (two GTs) and Ecotricity (Dale Vince’s Nemesis). 12 months of road trials  and showcase appearances… Lightning’s saying ‘end of 2012’ for production, iRacer’s on track for next year’s EV Cup.
  • Bluebird Electric: bizarrely small when you see it for real.
  • The ‘world’s smallest car’ – the Peel P50 – was on show (Charging Point editor Will, all 6ft 5in of him, managed to fit inside, though it wasn’t elegant). The company can build you a new one to order, apparently, should you really want.
  • More amusing: the MEV mini-Hummer, all-electric and for some reason, proving hugely popular with tyre-kicking teenage boys. Doing nothing for the EV cause: the Zerocars open-bodied golf cart.
  • Big displays also from Honda (FCX  Clarity, Insight, Jazz Hybrid), Citroen (incl. a very snazzy silver DS3), Seat (Ecomotion line-up), Volkswagen (Bluemotion), Hyundai, Nissan (new Micra as well as Leaf) and Mitsubishi (incl. i-MiEV); plenty of opportunity to sit in, have a good look, chat with well-informed reps.
  • The London Motor Museum – a quirky-sounding collection of custom cars and oddities – sent its ETV (the maroon-coloured monstrosity in the Supercar Paddock). Four of these handcrafted ‘extra terrestrial vehicles’ were made to order…
  • And finally. Liked the Brahms-converted plug-in hybrid hearse, complete with wicker casket in the back for a biodegradable burial. And yes, just to confirm, it is a plug-in hybrid and not, as some others are reporting, an EV. It has an all-electric mode, giving a range of up to 50km at speeds of up to 35mph, but retains its petrol or diesel powerplant. More details here.


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