Tuesday news round-up; latest on Tata eMo

June 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Latest news on the Tata eMo project: the first feasibility study, carried out with Dassault Systems’ 3DExperience Platform simulation tech, has been completed, reports First Post. The eMo programme is researching a sub-$20,000 EV; a concept was shown by Tata Technologies at the Detroit Motor Show.

  • Renault is evaluating high-performance Renaultsport and Alpine-branded EVs, reports Autocar. Nothing more concrete than that at this stage, but it’s a thought.
  • Toyota is to supply BMW with hybrid and fuel cell technology, reports the Nikkei, in addition to lithium-ion batteries for use in hybrids and EVs as agreed earlier this year. The two companies have already agreed a diesel engine deal, with BMW supplying Toyota  its smaller oil-burning units.
  • Driver assistance technologies can bring benefits in terms of fuel economy as well as road safety, driver behaviour and cost savings, according to a report by the euroFOT (Field Operational Test) consortium. 1000 cars and trucks fitted with tracking software, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, speed regulation, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, curve speed warning and a ‘safe human/machine interface and fuel efficiency advisor’ were studied for 12 months. The cars returned a 3% fuel efficiency improvement, the trucks 2%.
  • The US Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority are putting $4.4million into installing a network of over 325 public EV recharging points in New York city and across the state. Full press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • How does smart grid tech and EV charging fit into Web 3.0, the cloud and the ‘Internet of Things’? Nice piece by SINTEF (a Scandinavian research institute working in partnership with the Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim, and the University of Oslo) at Alphagalileo.
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Elektromotive/Charge Your Car to establish UK’s largest pay-as-you-go EV charging network

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Brighton firm Elektromotive is forming a joint venture with Charge Your Car (North) in a bid to create the UK’s largest pay-as-you-go EV charging network. The existing Charge Your Car (North) network will be expanded, and will incorporate other regional facilities under the Charge Your Car banner; a target of 10,000 public-access EV chargers has been set. They will use Elektromotive’s technology, including its pay-by-phone software, user interface and back-office management, though any charging point (and not just the company’s Elektrobays, of which over 3000 have been installed already) can be integrated into the network as long as it meets the industry-standard Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). Users will not need to pay a monthly subscription, and will be able to locate their nearest Charge Your Car point via smartphone; billing, facility management and reporting will all be integrated.

“Charge Your Car is the perfect catalyst for the EV market and supports all the stakeholders with an interest in EVs,” says Elektromotive MD Calvey Taylor-Haw.  “Charge point owners in both the public and private sectors have a way to promote their charge points, generate revenue and manage their infrastructure.  EV drivers have a single access point for recharging that is quick, easy and affordable.  Charge point manufacturers have a company that will help them to sell more charge points and electric vehicle manufacturers have a company that will help them to sell more vehicles.  We are also seeking partners who wish to implement Charge Your Car outside of the UK, establishing it as one of the world’s leading recharging brands.”

In other news today:

  • Meanwhile, hydrogen: Germany plans to have 50 public-access hydrogen refuelling stations operational by 2015. The Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, along with companies including Daimler, Linde AG and Total Germany have signed a letter of intent to expand the network, and the federal government and industry are investing over 40million euros in the project. They expect around 5000 fuel cell cars to be on the road in Germany by 2015; there are currently 15 hydrogen refuelling facilities.
  • Venturi has completed its Mission Africa trek – 5800km Kilimanjaro to Okavango in the Venturi-Citroen Berlingo EV. Full story, video and some great pictures at the Mission Africa blog.
  • Just to remind you that EVs are nothing new: the Green Car Reports team have come across a 1981 Jet 007 (an electric conversion of the Plymouth Horizon TC3 coupe) on eBay. Eighties retro ahoy! Looks like it needs a bit of work, though…
  • And some more retro: students at Roanoke College,Virginia, are converting a lovely 1939 Pontiac Silver Streak to electric drive – looks like a great project.

Concept of the Day: Bertone ZER (1994)

June 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

This streamlined single-seater is the electric Bertone ZER (1994). It’s going on display at the Turin Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile till mid-October, in a show to mark the centenary of the Bertone design studio. The ZER – which has a drag co-efficiency of just 0.11 – set a record for distance covered in an hour by a zero-emissions vehicle, doing 199.882km (124.204miles) at the Nardo circuit, and later clocked up a top speed of  303.977kph, setting a new world speed record for EVs. Full story on 100 years of Bertone here.

Other thoughts of the day:

  • Even the US car mags are getting worried: Motor Trend is asking “Is the automobile over?“. It’s picked up on the now-numerous ‘peak car’ studies this year which are arguing that ‘Generation Y’ consumers are driving less, buying fewer cars and appear to be more interested in smartphones and communications tech than in cars. Economy/financial considerations are still the biggest factors, but MT’s also quoting research by the Frontier Group showing that youngsters are increasingly migrating to cities and walkable/bikeable suburban areas, are cycling and walking more, and are using more mass transit/public transport solutions. Car-shares such as Zipcar are a factor as well. Surprising degree of insight in the comments to the MT article, too – beyond the expected knee-jerk responses.
  • Hertz is launching EV rental in Italy from the Rome Tiburtina and Rome Ostiense stations. The Smart Fortwo electric drives are offered at a discounted rate to passengers arriving on the Italo-NTV private high-speed rail service, and can be booked from eight euros an hour. City authorities in Rome have a manifesto, reports Green Car Congress, to increase EV usage; incentives include free parking in designated areas, and access to otherwise limited city centre traffic zones.
  • Estonia is to get 200 EV charging points by the end of the year, reports EV Fleet World, and the first fast-charger has gone live in Talinn. This roll-out is a partnership between power firm ABB and state-owned financial institution KredEx; the state is operating a fleet of over 500 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs and consumers will be offered incentives for EV purchase.
  • More details on the Source Bristol EV charging scheme, launched last month, at Next Green Car. 36 Chargemaster points around the city, including one 32-amp fastcharger, free ‘leccy in exchange for feedback to the scheme from users.
  • Have just learned that from today, EVs are now VAT-exempt in Iceland (thanks, @keith_johnston). With VAT at 22.5% (some goods/services are discounted from the standard 25.5%, apparently) that’s a useful discount, bringing them on a par with ICE vehicles, though a ceiling price limit will be applied. And Icelanders can also run their EVs on all that lovely geothermal electricity…

Concept of the Day: Pininfarina Vectus PRT

June 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pininfarina: styling studio responsible for many an exotic supercar, and now this, a Personal Rapid Transit concept for Korean/Swedish firm Vectus. It comprises lightweight driverless ‘pods’ operating on a network of interconnecting tracks, arriving on-demand and progressing on their route without stopping, if no-one wants to get in on the way. At the moment, it’s just a 1:18 scale model, to be displayed as part of the Pininfarina in London exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute, Belgrave Square. This will open 22nd June-15th July and admission is free; it focuses on Pininfarina’s long history of product design as well as its cars. More on the PRT system at the Vectus website.

Other news today:

  • The Royal College of Art’s exhibition of concepts by Vehicle Design graduates opens tomorrow. The show includes the McLaren-sponsored Provere city car, designed by Peter Wilkin, which connects up to others to form a ‘train’, and a single-seat 600kg Honda EV with transparent body, by Chi Hwin Mwang. Gallery of pictures, more details at Autocar.
  • Suzuki is teaming up with battery-maker Eliiy Power Co to jointly develop lithium-ion batteries for EVs. The car company bought a $12million stake in Tokyo-based Eliiy earlier this year, reports The Nikkei. The new project will take place at Eliiy’s facility in Otsu, and Eliiy is building a second plant in Kawasaki to boost its annual production capacity sixfold to 1.2million cells (AutoTech Daily).
  • Researchers from Japan’s Tohoku University have developed a lithium-ion cell with a cathode made from organic materials and containing no rare earth metals, reports AutoTech Daily. The organic material, tetracyanoquinodimethane (TCNQ), is said to cost one-fifth of the usual rare earth metals used in batteries. It is used in a unique compressed pellet-shaped cell. Full tech bit at nature.com.

Concept of the Day: Toyota Camatte

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t get too excited: Toyota’s latest EV concept is only kiddie-sized. Unveiled last week at the 2012 Tokyo Toy Show, the Camatte is an attempt to bring ’em to the brand young. It has an electric motor and cheap lead-acid battery, and will do up to 25mph; though not street-legal, it may be sold for use on go-kart tracks.

In other news to kick off the week:

  • Mitsubishi is going to unveil the Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) at the Paris Motor Show. It’s the sister model to the conventional ICE new-generation Outlander, and Mitsubishi claims it’ll be “the first permanent 4WD electric car in series production” (guess that depends on how you define ‘EV’). It features a motor up front, another driving the rear axle, and a petrol engine acting both to drive the front axle and as a generator, giving three operational modes: ‘pure’ (all-electric), ‘series’ (motors plus generator) and ‘parallel’ (engine plus motors). Total range is said to be over 800km, average fuel economy over 150mpg, and carbon dioxide emissions less than 50g/km. Sales will start in Europe next year.
  • Well, Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrids took the 1-2 at Le Mans over the weekend; both the Toyota TS030 hybrids crashed out, one taking the Nissan DeltaWing with it. Let’s hope Anthony Davidson – airborne in one of the Toyotas, and said to have broken two vertebrae – makes a good recovery.
  • The International Transport Forum has researched the additional costs to EV owners over a vehicle’s lifetime: 4000-5000 euros more for passenger cars (compared to their nearest ICE equivalents) and an even more whopping 7000-1200 euros once vans are added to the calculations. However, this depends on mileage and usage – a delivery van doing an average 90km a day could actually save the operator 4000 euros, for example. Detailed summary at Green Car Congress, report itself here.

Renault Zoe sets distance record, week-end news round-up

June 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Renault Zoe has completed a marathon run of 1005 miles (1618km)  in 24 hours, setting a new distance record for production EVs. Over the 24 hours – orbiting the circuit at the Aubevoye technical centre, Normandy, 363 times – it was fast-charged 18 times to keep its batteries juiced-up. Two cars took part (the second completing 1506 km), shared between fifteen drivers, and the Renault team used the new Chameleon charger, a universal connector compatible with any socket and power level.

In other news to round off the week:

  • The Eco Technology Show takes place at the Amex Stadium, Brighton, today (15th June) and tomorrow (16th). Lots of exhibits and trade stands re. energy-saving – domestic, transport, for business – plus a test-track to try out e-bikes; participants include ZeroCarbonWorld, which has pledged to give away 10 free EV charging points to local businesses or organisations. Tickets are £5 to get in, with lots of free workshops and seminars.
  • Cutting the cost of making motors is an important part of the EV manufacturing equation. The Technology Strategy Board/BIS is thus co-funding (to the tune of £750,000) a research programme called Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor – basically, a low-cost motor which doesn’t need expensive magnet materials such as rare earth metals. The three-year project will be led by Cobham Technical Services, and partners involved are Jaguar Land Rover and Ricardo UK. One of the main challenges is producing a torque-dense motor which is quiet enough for use in luxury vehicles, apparently, without using permanent magnets. More details from Ricardo.
  • Better Place is clearly serious about launching its battery-swap tech in Britain: it’s advertising for a Country Program Integrator – UK. The role includes “managing the relationships on the ground and coordinating the various functions and workstreams taking place in the UK”, “managing all of Global’s engagement activities with the specific country OpCo during its launch phases” and “building and maintaining the key relationships with local partners and government officials”, as well as being “the on-the-ground coordinator of all local pre-launch projects (e.g., taxi, utility)”. Full job spec here
  • Infiniti is going to show off the Emerg-e range-extended EV concept at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: it’ll be driven up the Hill by F1 ace Mark Webber.
  • For all that BMW opened its i show room (must stop calling it the i-Store) in London yesterday (see below), the company’s whole e-mobility project is “skating on dangerously thin ice”,  says Automobile. The American mag’s citing sketchy EV charging infrastructure, which hasn’t been developed as quickly as expected, and the pull-back of governmental incentives, and says that “the proposed i1 intra-city car and the i5 eco-van have been put on ice”.
  • Some more detail on the  i3: this compact all-electric hatch keeps the carbonfibre construction of the original concept, with rear-hinged rear doors; the interior incorporates some sustainable natural materials, such as hemp and wool in the trim. Let’s hope that there’s nothing in the rumours (see above) and that this intriguing, very promising-sounding vehicle will make it onto the road next year.
  • The new Smart Fortwo electric drive (see below) is “the most credible pure electric yet”, says Autocar.
  • Daimler’s Car2Go car-share/short-term rental scheme, which uses the Smart Fortwo in ICE and (in some locations) electric drive forms,  is now expanding to Miami, Calgary and Toronto. Pre-registrations are being taken for membership in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) too.

Smart Fortwo electric drive now on sale

June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Production of the new Smart Fortwo electric drive has begun this week in Hambach, France, and sales have started in Germany. This is effectively the third-generation version of this EV, though the first for mainstream sale; earlier production runs were in small numbers only for field trials and testing. The electric drive is now also built alongside its conventionally-engined sister models on the same production lines.
“For the first time we have realised the consistent and perfectly integrated production of models with electric drive and those with combustion engines”, says factory chief Dr Joachim Betker. “In production, we are now optimally utilising the Smart vehicle concept’s imminent potential for different drive systems.”

Daimler has invested over €200 million to upgrade and expand the Hambach plant. “With the new Smart electric drive we are further expanding our leading position in urban mobility and making fully electric driving accessible to everyone”, says Dr Annette Winkler, brand Head. “For this – and for the successor generation to the current Smart – we are making significant investments in the Hambach site. And I am convinced that this is money extremely well-invested.

“The new smart electric drive and the expansion of the Hambach plant are two important milestones for the future of Smart”, she added.

The Fortwo electric drive will be offered as a coupe or a cabriolet. It features a 55kW (74bhp) motor and a 17.6kWh battery, promising a range of 145km (about 90 miles) in city traffic and acceleration 0-60kph (0-37mph) in 4.8 seconds. Top speed is 77mph. The new motor is supplied by Bosch and the battery by Evonik, now making the car all-European.

Prices in Germany start from €23,680 (coupe) and €26,770 (cabriolet) all-in, but Smart is also offering the ‘sale&care’ option of buying, financing or leasing the car with a separate per-month fee for battery rental. This puts the vehicle purchase at €18,910 (coupe) and €22,000 (cabriolet), with battery rent €65 a month. Prices and options for other markets, including the UK, have not yet been announced.

In other news today:

  • BMW opened its Apple-like i Store in Park Lane, London, which will showcase its i-range and services. It’s to offer its own in-house EV chargers, a full service and support scheme, mobility packages including rental of conventional BMWs, access to public chargers and selection of green electricity tariffs, and sales will be directly-contracted from BMW rather than through its franchises. On show at the Store were models including a nearer-production i3 and the Pedelec folding e-bike, which fits neatly into the i3’s boot.
  • The Bluebird team has unveiled its GTL Formula-E electric racer. It’s hoping to be one of the four manufacturers chosen to supply vehicles to the FIA series, which will kick off in 2014. More at The Charging Point.
  • “America’s love affair with the motor car is running on empty”  – says the Guardian. Discuss…
  • It’s official: diesel exhaust fumes do cause cancer, the World Health Organisation has finally decided. More here. But non-exhaust particulates – brake dust, tyre dust etc – could contribute 90% of traffic emissions by the end of the decade, according to a new British report.
  • Ford’s 999cc three-cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost engine has won the International Engine of the Year award. Full story at Engine Technology International.
  • National Electric Vehicle Sweden, the new owners of Saab backed by Japanese and Hong Kong investors, aims to have a 9-3-based EV in production by early 2014, reports Automotive  News Europe. NEVS has the rights to the 9-3 and new ‘Phoenix’ platform, but not the 9-5 and 9-4x, reports Autocar. The new car is likely to be developed from the 9-3 ePower concept.

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