E-tron testing, another Aussie EV; Monday newsbriefs

October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

A fleet of 20 Audi A1 e-tron prototypes has gone into action in Munich; the trial, a partnership between Audi, energy supplier E.ON, public utility Stadtwerke München and the Technical University of Munich, will look at expanding the EV recharging infrastructure in the city, the power grid, usage patterns, communication of data between drivers, cars and recharging stations, and the use of smartphones as a control interface. This Modellregion Elektromobilität München project is part-funded to the tune of ten million euros by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. The A1 e-tron itself is a 102hp EV with a small range-extender engine; it’s capable of 81mph and a range of 155 miles, having an all-electric range of 31 miles/50km, and an overall fuel consumption of 147mpg; carbon dioxide output is 45g/km.
  • Another day, another Aussie EV: the Varley evR450 was unveiled at an electric vehicles conference in Brisbane last week. The Varley Group  makes everything from battery-powered utility vehicles for airports and harbours to military equipment; the evR450 prototype is a bright yellow, scissor-doored super-coupe said to be good for 200kmph (124mph), 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and a 93-mile rangel. Could hit the roads of Queensland by January 2012, apparently. Pictures and press release at Autoblog Green.
  • BYD has started selling the e6, a five-seater EV with a 190-mile range, in China. Quite an attractive-looking car, but expensive; more at AutoObserver.
  • Nissan is to unveil some electric trucks – with scaled-up versions of the powertrain – at the Tokyo Truck Show this week. More at Autoblog Green. Nissan is also inviting New York cabbies to sign up and trial the Leaf.
  • SEAT has signed a deal with Sanyo and EV components/systems-maker Ficosa to build batteries for SEAT and VW Group vehicles in Spain and Portugal (Green Car Congress).
  • The Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, is running a special exhibition on the history of the electric car. The display includes a battery-powered 1904 Columbia, and explores how and why petrol power proved prevalent. (Thanks to @charging_point).
  • Elektromotive is to supply 200 ‘twin head’ EV chargers to the Republic of Ireland. These will be installed nationwide by Carra Ireland for the Electricity Supply Board, which aims to have 1500 public charging points in operation.

Design Concept of the Day: StreetScooter

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is the car designed by over 50 companies: the StreetScooter was created in an open-source project managed by a team based at Aachen University. Software developers, parts suppliers and supplier firms all pitched in to develop this 74mph EV which uses leased batteries for an 80-mile range. This first concept car took just a year to create, say the project leaders, thanks to the non-hierarchical, collaborative approach. Partners in the programme include Deutsche Post DHL, which has already ordered 3,500 to its own specification, reports Wired Autopia.

The StreetScooter is built around a modular structure which allows for different bodystyles, and which can be customised or changed later in the vehicle’s lifecycle;  the initial concept is a 3+1-seater, but other bodystyles under development include a convertible and a utility van. Prototypes will go into action in Germany in spring 2013, and a sale price of around 5000 euros is targeted; the StreetScooter is also specifically designed to be cheap and easy to assemble. Video of its presentation (with English subtitles) here; another of its Frankfurt Motor Show debut here.

All-electric car2go launches in Amsterdam; week-end round-up

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Daimler’s car2go scheme is to launch in Amsterdam at the end of November – with 300 Smart Fortwo electric-drives, making it one of the first large-scale EV-share deals and car2go’s first all-electric fleet. Hire costs 29 cents a minute, recharging will be from renewable-source energy, and customers can take one-way trips; they will have access to over 250 charging stations, most with two charging points each, across the city and up to 1000 by the end of 2012. Registration for car2go in Amsterdam will be free up until November 24th and a one-off fee of 10 euros after that; the cars can travel within a 80 sq-km area over most of the city, and there will be ‘hubs’ in Zuidas, Arena and IJburg. Cars must be dropped off within the business area, but at any parking spot or at any of the 36 designated car2go ‘Q-Park’ garages in the city centre; cars returning with less than 20% of battery charge must be taken back to a charging station, and drivers plugging in cars with less than 40% will receive ten free minutes of driving. Only cars with a 50% charge or more will be released to customers; the range of the Fortwo electric-drive is 135km.

Car2go is reducing some of its prices across Europe from November in line with the Amsterdam launch; one minute will be 29 cents, an hour 12.90 euros and the daily rate 39 euros; a special parking rate of 9 cents a minute (5.40 euros an hour) will apply for those hanging on to a car between journeys. The hire costs otherwise include all insurance, taxes, electricity and parking charges. The scheme currently operates in Ulm and Hamburg, as well as Austin (Texas) and Vancouver.

  • Audi’s launching the facelifted A4 right now. The revised range boasts an overall 11% improvement in fuel economy despite increased power and torque, and stop-start with energy recuperation is now standard. The 2.0 TDI (136hp) now returns 67.3mpg and emits 112g/km; the 163hp version does 64.2mpg/115g/km; the 1.8 TFSI (170hp) now does 50.4mpg and 134g/km, a 19% improvement over the outgoing model. The TFSI engine has gained a new thermal management system, revised valve control and lift, updated fuel injection and turbo, integration of the exhaust manifold in the cyclinder head, a reduction in internal friction and has decreased 3.5kg in weight.
  • New-generation Tesla Roadster comes 2014, confirms Autocar. It’ll be on an in-house platform this time, probably a shortened version of the Model S/Model X underpinnings. Cabriolet coming 2013, apparently.
  • GM’s going to fit a 85kW/114hp motor – built in Maryland – in the Chevy Spark EV. Detailed videos about this motor, plus press release, posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Honda is fitting its hybrid IMA powertrain (1.5-litre petrol engine plus motor) into the Japanese-market Freed, a small six/seven-seater MPV. The Freed range will include a series of specially-developed wheelchair-accessible versions. More at Autoblog Green.
  • The Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland, is to run a 5million-euro EU-funded smart grid research project. This will look at all aspects of the necessary infrastructure and communications to support EVs in Ireland. Full details at alphagalileo.
  • General Motors has introduced the first hybrid in South Korea: the Alpheon eAssist. Based on the Buick LaCrosse with the same tech, it combines a 2.4-litre direct-injection engine with a motor and starter-generator; fuel economy improvement is 25%, C)2 emissions fall by 22%. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Mitsubishi’s making a batch of 507 i-MiEVs to go to Estonia for municipal use; first 50 have been delivered (Autoblog Green).
  • The EV community is mourning the death of Bob Beaumont, creator of the 1970s CitiCar and e-mobility pioneer. Full obit at Green Car Reports.

And news just in:

  • Renault is to supply over 15,000 Kangoo Van ZEs to French public authorities. 10,000 are going to La Poste, the French Post Office, alone, and a total of 15,637 will go out to 19 state organisations or companies.
  • Kia has issued a statement today saying: it “is putting its faith in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as the answer to long-distance mobility with zero tailpipe emissions”. Fuel cell stacks are getting cheaper now, “enlightened countries like Korea are starting to establish a hydrogen fuel station network” and whilst “Kia has not yet decided which model in its range will be the first to go on sale with a fuel cell, it has committed to start building limited numbers of FCEVs and aims to have them commercially available by 2015.”

Design Concept of the Day: Citroen CCrab

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s a handy concept for the city: the three-seater CCrab has wheels which turn independently so it can scuttle sideways – out of a tight spot in a traffic jam, perhaps, or into a tiny parking space. It’s the work of RCA Automotive Design MA student Juha-Pekka Rautio, created in a project overseen by Citroen to help develop a new design language for EVs. Citroen’s taking notes, apparently (Inhabitat.com).

  • In other news: The joint BMW-PSA Peugeot Citroen hybrid/EV R&D centre has opened in Munich. The 100million-euro centre, BMW Peugeot Citroen Electrification, is to develop electric powertrains, batteries, motors, power electronics and energy management software, on an ‘open technology’ basis which will involve suppliers in the product development and purchasing processes. It will work with a factory in Mulhouse, France, which is to start production in 2014, and components will be sold to other carmakers (Autobeat Europe).
  • Citroen’s working on a low-cost city car known as ‘3CV’, reports Car. There’s been much talk of a successor to the 2CV pretty well since the original was finally discontinued, but 3CV comes 2013, says the mag, and could be a hybrid. It probably won’t look like the CCrab, though.
  • Chinese car-maker BYD has opened its North American HQ in Los Angeles, about a year later than originally planned; the introduction of the e6 electric hatchback has also been delayed, and will not now arrive for another 18 months (Bloomberg, via AutoBeat Asia).
  • A viable hydrogen fuelling infrastructure is still along way off in the UK, says Fleet News.
  • Fisker and Tesla have responded – somewhat scathingly – to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s claims that the federal loans they received as ‘green’ start-ups were influenced by donations to the Democrat campaign and examples of “cronyism and outright corruption.” Both deny political connections and point out that they’re creating jobs for Americans… Expect this one to run for a while. More at Detroit News and, finding further fault with Romney’s calculations, Grist.
  • Truck-maker Scania has unveiled a new ‘global engine platform’ for heavy-duty engines which can meet Euro 6 emissions requirements and run on 100% biodiesel. More at Green Car Congress.

Meet Mo; more mildly off-topic meanderings

October 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

Yes, it’s a bike in this picture – and yes, it is a glimpse of the future. Or so say the Munich team behind Mo, a mobility-management concept which has been tested in the city. Mo members download a smartphone app which clocks up their use of transport option – renting or borrowing shared bikes (including cargo bikes, like the one pictured), electrically-assisted bikes and cars, plus public transportation, all bought via a single swipecard. They score ‘momiles’ on a balance – positive for cycling, for example – which can then be used in the car-share; those who already own bikes can have a transponder tag fitted to their bike, rather than borrowing a Mo machine. The app also includes train and bus timetables. Expect to see more of this type of thing, especially corporate versions to be introduced as replacements for company fleets or ‘pool’ cars. Mo is a partnership between the University of Wuppertal, Munich design agency Lunar Europe, and the Green City Initiative; more here. Cargo bikes: they’re great, though not quite the thing for hilly cities like Brighton…

  • On the flipside of things, Grist has an absolutely outrageous story from a town called Hull in Wisconsin. The city wants to outlaw pedestrians, runners and cyclists from certain streets, or ask them to file ‘transport plans’ each time they want to use the streets. Apparently this is due to ‘safety concerns’ though there’s not been a traffic accident involving a pedestrian, runner or cyclist in the place since 2008, and before then incidents only numbering one a year. Why? Share the roads, people.
  • Another glimpse of the future (perhaps; longer-range) at CarBodyDesign: Holistica, a series of personal mobility concepts based around health and well-being, including an advanced skateboard, a surfboard-type device and a buggy using ‘vector thrusting’. These, the work of Art Center Pasadena graduate Eric Miller, incorporate ideas from the world of robotics and aerospace; interesting thing is that the project was aided by Dassault Systems. Miller’s now “working with several automotive companies who seek to diversify their business with alternative mobility solutions”, says CBD.


Arcspeed Sports: Aussies go electric

October 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Arcspeed of Sydney is a sports car start-up promising a cut-price, high-performance EV. The Arcspeed Sports is a low-slung open speedster said to do 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds,with body styling inspired by the CanAm racers. Designed and developed solely in Australia, it features a neat LCD touch-screen display for its control system and a fully-integrated, net-connected iPad for navigation, communication and in-car entertainment. Ah, and there’s 522Nm of torque to the rear wheels, which should satisfy most Aussie hoons…

The car has been developed as a road-goer, but with track days and club racing in mind as well; no numbers given yet on the pricing, other than that it’ll be sold “at less than half the price of other currently-available electric sports cars” (Tesla Roadster?). Production is about to start, with “a limited number” to be built for Australian roads and left-hand drive versions for export; Arcspeed is looking for investors and overseas distributors. More, including video of the car in action, at its website. (Thanks to Autoblog Green).

Tokyo Motor Show preview: Mazda Takeri

October 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mazda’s previewing the next-generation 6 saloon with a concept called Takeri, to be revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show (end of November). Takeri’s a mid-sized four-door featuring Mazda’s SkyActiv tech – lightweight structure, aerodynamic optimisation, new diesel engine, stop start – plus Mazda’s first regenerative braking system, which stores decelerative energy in supercapacitors and reuses it to power the car’s electrical equipment. It’s a taste of Mazda’s next-generation styling, dubbed ‘Kodo’, too.

  • In other news today: Honda’s going to launch the Fit (Jazz) EV at the Los Angeles Auto Show mid-November. It’ll do 100 miles and 90mph; no word on Euro sales as yet.
  • Battery-developer and manufacturer Axeon has signed a collaboration/supply deal with fellow lithium-ion specialists A123 Systems. A123 gives the nanophosphate tech, British firm Axeon the systems integration, design engineering and testing; the partnership is “already engaged with a major UK customer”, according to a statement today, “and additional projects are also on the horizon.”

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