Renault doing a battery deal, delays Zoe; the Daimler carpool

July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Renault is negotiating a three-way deal with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and battery-maker LG Chem for R&D of next-gen batteries for EVs. They’re expected to sign in September, with a view to production from 2017 at a new factory in France (to open 2015 to make current-generation batteries first).

  • Renault’s pushing back deliveries of the Zoe supermini (pictured) till early 2013, however, due to a software glitch in its infotainment system and integration of data/info on its state of charge (Automotive News).
  • The Delta E-4 coupe is to be a testbed for the Qualcomm wireless charging tech in the London trial (see below).
  • Daimler is investing in carpooling.com, a European social media platform for lift-sharing which has 4million registered users who team up for car journeys  online, on smartphones and on Facebook. Carpooling also sells train, bus and plane tickets. The plan is for this to be integrated with Car2Go in Daimler’s ‘moovel’ mobility management platform.
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Car2Go goes electric in Portland; France to subsidise cleaner cars; Electric Odyssey

July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Daimler’s car2go car-share programme has signed up 6000 members in Portland, Oregon in just 100 days, and it is now adding 30 all-electric Smart ForTwos to the fleet and expanding the city area which it covers. Feedback so far on the city’s usage finds that typical journeys are 30-45 minutes and 3-6 miles – basic urban runaround stuff. More here.

  • The French government is aiming to boost domestic manufacturing and incentivise the purchase of cleaner cars. It’s putting up 490million euros to subsidise the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles by 4000 and 7000 euros per car respectively, and to give a tax break of 150 euros with particularly fuel-efficient cars. Higher penalties will be imposed on high-CO2 cars to fund the breaks. And the state is also offering 600million-worth of loans to struggling small- and medium-sized supplier firms, reports the WSJ. New President Francois Hollande hopes that this will help struggling Peugeot-Citroen (in the process of closing factories) in particular, as well as Renault, which has invested so heavily in EVs. Socialists, eh?
  • Denso has developed a new vehicle-to-home charging/communications system for two-way power supply, energy storage and quick-charging, and is collaborating with Toyota. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Whoa – big drop in the number of American teenagers holding a valid driver’s licence. It’s down from 80% in 1980 to around 60% in 2010 and accelerating in recent years, claims the University of Michigan’s Transport Research Institute, which cites social media/online communication as one reason for the shift. The number of licenced 17-year-olds is down to 46% from 69% (1983), 18-year-olds now 61% from 80%, and 19-year-olds 70% (from 87%). No wonder the Big Three are worried.
  • Latest from the round-the-world Electric Odyssey team: the Citroen C-Zero has reached China and is heading through Gansu province, between the Mongolian plains and the foothills of Tibet, with the aim to get to Kazakhstan on 10th August. Engineers Antonin Guy and Xavier Degon are aiming to get around the world on electric power alone, travelling 25,000km and using just 250 euros-worth of electricity. The pair set out from Strasbourg in February, and in the last two months, have come from Japan and Singapore to go through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, charging up mostly from domestic points belonging to volunteer ‘Pluggers’ supporting their quest.

Midweek bulletin: Jaguar C-X75, Ford C-Max Energi, various EV-charging developments, and eco-tyres

July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

Latest on the Jaguar C-X75: electric motors at both axles, some 500bhp from a 1.6-litre engine with both turbo and superchargers, a rev limit of 10,000rpm, 0-60 in less than three seconds and 200mph. Ah, and an all-electric range of 60km. More at Autocar.

  • Details on a more accessible hybrid: the upcoming C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid will have a range of around 550 miles, says Ford, and it’ll return an average 95mpg (US) from its electrically-assisted 2.0-litre engine. Its all-electric mode gives a range of about 20 miles. The C-Max Energi goes on sale in North America this autumn; no word on Euro sales as yet, but the tech should filter over at some stage. Ford has also announced that its Fusion saloon will be its first non-hybrid model sold in the US to feature stop-start, saving around 3.5% of fuel.
  • Qualcomm, maker of wireless induction-charging systems for EVs, has signed a memorandum of understanding for co-operation with Renault on a trial programme in London, and “preliminary studies of the integration of Qualcomm Halo WEVC technology into some Renault vehicles”. The London trial starts in November and will involve “a cross-section of stakeholders from government departments and agencies to commercial and private sector enterprises”. It will “evaluate the commercial viability of wireless EV charging and gain user feedback on the use of WEVC enabled vehicles.”
  • BMW’s i Ventures division is making a strategic investment in Coulomb Technologies, operator of the global ChargePoint network and maker of EV charging equipment. “ChargePoint is the largest, longest established network with a significantly advanced and mature feature set. This investment will forge a close and strategic relationship as we further our electric mobility offer,” says i Ventures MD Dr Ulrich Quay.
  • GM and OnStar are contributing to a smart-grid research project with Pecan Street Inc., which is studying the domestic energy usage of volunteer citizens in a testbed community in Austin, Texas. 66 EV owners, including 55 Chevy Volt drivers, are taking part in the trial and will feed back info on their driving and charging habits. The Mueller community has been developed on a former airport site to be a sustainable mini-city with energy-efficient buildings, infrastructure and clean energy supply. More at Green Car Congress.
  • ‘Natural latex’ sounds a bit kinky, but it’s apparently suitable for making sustainable-source, oil-free car tyres. The first prototypes have been made by Dutch firm Apollo Vredestein, a partner in the EU-Pearls project, from a natural rubber synthesised from  guayule and Russian dandelion plants. The former can be easily grown in Mediterranean countries, the latter in northern Europe. More at alphagalileo.
  • Goodyear, meanwhile, has been experimenting with soybean oil (in a project funded by the United Soybean Board): possibility of a 10% improvement in tread life, and the saving of seven million gallons of oil a year, reports Green Car Congress.

Friday newsbriefs: More fuel cell research, cloud apps for plug-in Hondas, Tesla hyperloop and an e-plane

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The US Department of Energy is investing $2.4million in five hydrogen/fuel cell research programmes, looking at the performance and progress of hydrogen fuelling stations and supply infrastructure as well as the production of hydrogen from natural gas (uh-oh – are we in fracking territory here?) as well as from (nicer-sounding) solar-powered electrolysis of water. The programmes are in California, Connecticut and Illinois, reports Green Car Congress.

  • Honda’s new-generation infotainment system, Hondalink, will bring full connectivity including cloud-based audio streaming and radio plus Twitter and Facebook feeds – and, for drivers of the Fit (Jazz) EV and upcoming Accord plug-in hybrid, “unique applications designed specifically to maintain connectivity to their vehicle”- probably remote battery and charging management. The system debuts in the US when the new Accord arrives this autumn; a similar set-up is likely to be offered in Europe at a later date.
  • More about Tesla supremo Elon Musk’s idea for a ‘hyperloop’ – a solar-powered hyper-speed train – linking San Francisco and Los Angeles here. Well, a little more explaining the idea, anyway… this one’d be a long time into the future, though Musk stands a better chance than many of making something like this happen.
  • And planes: bike-racer turned pilot Chip Yates has become the first to fly an electric plane at over 200mph. He hit 202.6mph in the Burt Rutan-designed Long-ESA, and now aims to go trans-Atlantic. More at Flight of The Century.
  • Late addition to this bulletin: Aussie start-up EV Engineering of Port Melbourne has retro-fitted nine Holden Commodore saloons with electric powertrains and swappable batteries for a two-year trial. The aim is to see if e-power is feasible in such a large car, and to then offer conversions. Full story at The Age, via battery-swap people @BtrPlcAus.

Rimac Concept_One to debut in London; fuel cell and EV trials; micro-mobility and more

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Another day, another red super-coupe… The Rimac Concept_One is to make its debut at the Salon Privé event, 5th-7th September in Syon Park, London. This Croatian-developed 1850kg machine has four independently-operating electric motors, one at each wheel, giving a faintly ridiculous 1088bhp in total. All this is kept in check by an all-wheel torque-vectoring system, accelerating/braking each wheel up to hundreds of times each second as required. 0-60? 2.8 seconds, top speed is 190mph and range is 373 miles. Not quite sure yet how they’ve managed that, but I guess that at a price of $1million each, anything is possible. A production run of 88 is planned.

  • Also on a supercar note: McLaren has been collecting ideas for a small, minimalist, stripped-down and eco-friendlier high-performance model of the future, and has held a competition for students on the car design course at the Royal College of Art. Pic of the winning design, and more on what the company’s considering, at Autocar.
  • Nissan’s investigating problems with the Leaf’s batteries in baking-hot Arizona: owners have reported loss of range and battery performance, due to the extreme heat the batteries are exposed to. More here.
  • The US Department of Energy has released its final report on its six-year, 180-vehicle fuel cell trial which involved some 3.6million miles and over 33,000 hydrogen fill-ups. The conclusion? Even the earliest cars achieved over twice the (net system) efficiency of comparable petrol models, driving ranges over 250 miles were achieved, and 2000-hour durability of the fuel cell stacks validated. Detailed breakdown of the report at Green Car Congress, report itself here.
  • The California Energy Commission has given a $95,000 grant to a team at UC Riverside to develop an algorithm for routing EVs to maximise their range. This will take into account road conditions and real-time traffic scenarios, type of roads, vehicle load and number of passengers, and work with the car’s navigation system with a view to enhancing range by over 10% (Green Car Congress).
  • More on micro-mobility: the University of Singapore is to run a year-long trial in partnership with the local Toyota business unit, using a fleet of ten Toyota Auto Body COMS (a single-seat micro-EV) for commuting around its campuses. The trial will look at usage of the vehicles, typical journeys, their performance in tropical conditions and the necessary infrastructure to set up larger schemes such as short-term self-service rentals. It’s seen as an important first step in reducing congestion and pollution in high-density cities such as Singapore. More at alphagalileo.
  • BYD is to supply electric buses to Uruguayan transport firms CTS and Buquebus, with a view to getting over 500 on the country’s roads by 2015. The BYD GreenCity buses have a range of 155 miles per charge, reports Green Car Congress.

Lexus LF-LC “on track” for production; urban mobility and wireless EV charging

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Lexus LF-LC coupe concept – a 2+2 hybrid supercar – is “on track for development”, claims Autoweek, and could come to showrooms in three years’ time. Seen at the Detroit Auto Show last January, the front-engined, rear-wheel drive LF-LC was said to be purely a show car, “but several Lexus insiders now say the overwhelming reaction means it almost certainly will come to market”, reports Autoweek.

  • Evantran has fitted its first three Plugless Power wireless induction charging installations in test Nissan LEAFs, reports Green Car Congress. Its ‘Apollo Launch Programme’, in partnership with Hertz, Duke Energy and Clemson University International Centre for Automotive Research, has been trialling the system for a month already and will continue for three more months; a further three cars will be converted, and Evantran is looking for more fleets/commercial partners running their own Nissan LEAFs or Chevy Volts to take part in the trial. It’s also offering six months’  free electricity for the first 500 buyers of the system.
  • Research reading of the week: Urban Mobility Blueprint from Ernst & Young. Emphasis here on the need for carmakers to move away from traditional sales models and towards collaborations for car-sharing, combining public and private transport modes, infrastructural integration and connectivity – all the usual stuff, crucial for building a transport strategy or, as E&Y puts it, “an emerging ecosystem”.
  • Autocar has spy shots of the next-generation Ford Mondeo, to be launched at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn. A Euro-market version of the Ford Fusion hybrid system, using a 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT, is likely, they say.

Micro-mobility, the cost of alt-fuels, cheaper CFRP and electric trains

July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Buzzword(s) of the moment: micro-mobility. That’s one-to-three-wheelers for short-distance commuting and urban usage, and over 150 such ‘solutions’ will be sold by major car-makers by 2020, says analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, which also pinpoints ‘first/last mile connectivity’ (i.e. getting to or from a train station, park-and-ride or finishing off a car journey by other means) as another application. “Strong participation by global mainstream OEMs will give a lift to the genre”, it says, triggered by “growing urbanisation and changing mobility trends.”

F&S cites  products such as the Renault Twizy EV (pictured), General Motors EN-V single-seater, Honda EV-Neo e-scooter and Volkswagen Bik.e folding e-bike as well as existing categories of car such as neighbourhood electric vehicles (NEVs), quadricycles, sub-A-Class vehicles and ‘kei’-class mini-cars. It points out that the car-makers are catching on to “newer business models” such as mobility management schemes or car-shares which they can provide in tandem with their mainstream operations or through third-party agencies, as well as integrating personal mobility products with their conventional cars, i.e. Volkswagen’s plans to offer buyers a Bik.e installed in a vehicle’s boot where a spare wheel would previously have been fitted.

It warns, however, that there could be a lack of awareness and high pricing, and progress in this sector could also be hampered by a lack of suitable EV charging infrastructure. Full release here.

  • The US Department of Energy has launched a comprehensive database for costing out and estimating performance of electric and alt-fuel vehicles. It’s aimed at companies, policy makers, academics and consumers, and can be used for benchmarking and informing research & development, reports Green Car Congress. This open-source wiki is called the Transparent Cost Database (TCDB); check it out here (warning: some knowledge of how to interpret datasets will be necessary).
  • A co-0perating initiative of 72 companies, research institutes, organisations and educational establishments in the Munich-Augsberg-Ingolstadt area has been formed with the intention to get carbonfibre-reinforced plastics ready for mass-production. CFRP is crucial for lightweighting cars and planes; it does not rust, it weighs about 60% less than steel and 30% less than aluminium, promising fuel savings of 0.3-0.6litres per 100 kilometre and 7-12g/km of carbon dioxide per 100kg weight loss in a car, but is expensive and labour-intensive to make. The project aims to reduce the manufacturing costs by 90% over the next five years; it is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry or Education and Research which has contributed 40million euros, a sum matched by industry with contributing partners including Audi and BMW. The project group, Functional Lightweight Design FIL, is expected to develop into an independent member of the Frauenhofer Institutes, a partner organisation. Full release on the project here.
  • Question of the week, not entirely unrelated to all the above: are the recently-announced electric trains as good news as they sound? Handy primer (with lots of links to source data) from the Guardian today. Good comments, too.

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