Friday newsbriefs: Become an Electronaut

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

BMW’s looking for 700 “Electronauts” in the USA to trial the ActiveE for two years, and to feed back data on its performance. The cars will be released on a lease deal to participants with adequate charging facilities. Video at the BMW USA website.

  • Three out of four electric cars sold in the UK in the last year have gone to fleets, not private individuals, according to stats from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. That’s 600 or so out of 800. No surprise there, given the all-in lease deals and support packages, access to recharging infrastructure and in many cases, centralised charging facilities, that fleet drivers can benefit from – it’s harder, not to mention more expensive, if you’re going it alone. Fleets also benefit from various tax incentives (see below, Prius Plug-In story).
  • THINK is still distributing cars from its North American base in Elkhart, Indiana, and eleven Think City EVs have just gone out to municipal authorities in the north of the state. Its North American operations, which were separately-owned subsidiaries, remained a going concern throughout its bankruptcy in Europe; the firm is now under new ownership.
  • Battery-maker Axeon has come up with a technology to deliver a 35% improvement in electric vehicle range without increasing in weight; its advanced battery uses nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) in place of lithium phosphate in its cells, which are packaged in modules. The layout and dimensions of the battery pack also allow for higher ground clearance and better weight distribution, and it can be rapidly prototyped for use in different vehicles. The project has been funded by the Technology Strategy Board.
  • The TSB’s also funding a project by motor control specialist Sevcon Ltd, with Cummins Generator Technologies and a research group from Newcastle University, to develop an electric traction drive system for hybrids and EVs which uses steel instead of rare earth metals in the motor. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Nissan has tweaked the 1.6 petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel powertrains in the Juke for improved economy and emissions. Gear ratios have been revised in manual versions; the petrol now returns 47.1mpg and 139g/km and the diesel 57.6mpg/129g/km, both coming down a tax band.
  • Toyota’s Prius Plug-In Hybrid will cost less than £31,000 when it goes on sale early next year, not counting the £5000 government grant or any other incentives which might be in place at that point. It’s going to give an all-electric range of over 14 miles, with combined fuel economy calculated at 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions at 49g/km. BIK tax for company car users is expected to be about £52 a month, with a 100% capital write-down allowance.
  • A Nissan Leaf completed the 1000km Cannonball Ireland run, proving that an EV can cross the length of the country using the existing recharging infrastructure. Story, video at Autoblog Green.
  • Pollution from vehicle exhaust fumes can increase the likelihood of a heart attack up to six hours after exposure, according to a study reported in the British Medical Journal. Full lowdown at The Guardian.
  • Yesterday was World CarFree Day. Did anyone notice? Well, I didn’t drive anywhere, not that I needed to…
  • The Green Car Design 12:grn:hrs challenge – to design a green car in a day – is underway. Follow their progress @greencardesign.
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