Thursday round-up

August 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lexus: to show a new 500bhp hybrid coupe concept at the Sydney Auto Show in October, has released a teaser pic (not worth showing) of the car’s taillights.  Probably an evolution of the LF-LC 2+2 (pictured) seen in Detroit earlier this year.

  • Spy shots of the ‘235mpg’ Volkswagen XL1 plug-in diesel hybrid here. This thing really is up and running, and it’s still got the concept’s gullwing doors and mirror-less side panels.
  • Production version of the Exagon e-GT Furtive is set for launch at the Paris Motor Show; more here.
  • Belgian firm Formula Group T has built an electric race car – using 3D printing tech. The Areion will be supplied to the Formula Student championship, and features an 85kW motor and lithium-polymer batteries; though its top speed is a modest 88mph, it can accelerate 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds. More at Wired Autopia. 3D printing is shaping up to be an effective way of producing low-volume niche vehicles, says Wired.
  • A nice three-and-a-half minutes from Wired’s Adam Rogers on connected/autonomous cars and platooning – “it’s not that the car is smart, but that the collective of cars is smart, they’re going to talk to each other.” Discusses ‘flocking behaviours’, and what this means for the individual driver.
  • GE Global Research is working with the University of Michigan on fitment of a tiny sensor for EVs which continually monitors the driving style for optimisation of the range. More at Wired.
  • The FIA Formula E series has been given the green light for 2014, with demo runs next year. Races will be an hour long (expect battery-swapping) and feature 10 teams of 20 drivers, and the E team is now putting together a calendar of international city-based fixtures on street circuits – Rio de Janeiro is the first city to confirm its interest in hosting an event. The 150mph Formulec EF01, which can run for up to 25 minutes on a full charge, will be made available to teams, but self-developed cars can also race if FIA-approved. Release here.
  • At the other end of the tech scale, but arguably more relevant to the general (Russian) public: AvtoVaz has electrified the Lada Kalina. The EL Lada can do 80mph and 93 miles on a charge, and will be sold as a taxi. More here.
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Midweek, midsummer: recent news round-up

August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Headline story ‘cos it’s a pretty picture: this specially-modified Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid just reached 185.394mph on the Bonneville salt flats during Speed Week, setting a new land speed record (unofficial, as yet) for hybrids. More at Green Car Reports.

  • Not ‘green’ in the first instance – the primary objectives are improving road safety and reducing congestion – but with interesting implications: the biggest-yet V2V and V2X trial, involving 3000 vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, starts today. The vehicles, many privately-operated cars as well as trucks and buses, will test real-life applications of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wi-fi communications, including crash-avoidance warnings, as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure comms (V2X) to improve traffic flow. The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working with Ford, GM and the American R&D/technical centre divisions of Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. More at Detroit News.
  • Daimler, meanwhile, is leading a similar 120-vehicle trial in Germany. More detail on both at Wired Autopia.
  • BMW’s DriveNow carshare – giving access to a pool of 70 ActivE EVs – has launched in San Francisco. The cars will be placed in eight locations, hirable by the minute and booked using a smartphone app. More here. It’s also to launch ParkNow, a space-reserving scheme; both this and DriveNow will be rolled out in other cities in due course as part of BMW’s iVentures programme. DriveNow, a partnership with Sixt in Germany, is already operating in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Munich using the conventional Mini Cooper and 1-Series for short-term rentals. More here.
  • Infiniti has confirmed production of its LE (”posh Leaf’) electric hatchback concept for 2014, and it looks as if it will be the first car on sale with integral induction-charging equipment, reports USA Today.
  • Cadillac’s to launch its ELR extended-range EV (on/off-again production version of the Converj concept, using Chevy Volt-derived tech) at next year’s Pebble Beach Concours, reports Left Lane News.
  • Nissan is to show an electric SUV concept at the Paris Motor Show this autumn, says Green Car Reports. It’s likely to be an evolution of the Hi-Cross seen at Geneva earlier this year, a preview of the next-gen X-Trail.
  • Melbourne-based EV Engineering claims to have broken a distance record: its retro-converted Holden Commodore EV ran 1886km in 24 hours on a loop between Port Melbourne and Geelong, aided by battery-swapping. It’s unofficial, but no mean feat; release here.
  • Dwindling sales of the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn have led to a suspension of their production (probably terminal). Too small, too limited, too expensive given current market conditions, I reckon, and though price isn’t necessarily an issue for many EV buyers, the well-heeled are probably now either driving Leafs or holding out for a BMW i3. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (donor car for the PSA pair) continues, however.
  • The first Sanya Skypump has been been installed in Barcelona – a vertical-axis wind turbine, powering an EV charging point. It’s a compact solution which can be easily placed in public spaces where there’s wind… More here.

The Nissan taxi, BMW i3, & aftermarket plug-in conversions

August 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

But will it go south of the river? Nissan has unveiled its NV200 London Taxi, claimed to be more than 50% more fuel-efficient than the classic cabs. It has the requisite 25ft turning circle, access for disabled travellers, will seat five adult passengers and has huge sliding side doors. It features the 89bhp 1.5dCi Renault-Nissan diesel engine, which meets the Euro 5 emissions legislation, with a six-speed manual gearbox, and returns 53.3mpg, compared to the current LTI TX4’s 35.3mpg. Its CO2 output is 138g/km (the TX4 puts out 209g/km, as well as much higher particulate and NOx emissions).

The NV200 London Taxi is already doing service in New York and Tokyo.  Nissan is aiming to achieve full certification for it later this year, subject to final procedures such as crash-testing, and aims also to undercut the price of the TX4. An all-electric version is also to undergo trials.

  • Spy shots of the BMW i3 range-extended EV at Autocar; you can clearly see the high floor (to package the batteries in the underbody) and reverse-hinged doors.
  • A team from Middle Tennessee State University is working on an aftermarket plug-in hybrid conversion kit which will cost a projected $3000. It won’t be long before you can buy this stuff at Halfords… More, including video, here.

Midweek round-up: BMW’s i-strategy, GE’s high-temperature motor, solar power

August 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

BMW’s going to sell its i-models online, as well as through its differentiated standalone i-brand showrooms; more at Detroit News. Different marketing strategies for a different type of car, logically enough.

  • Heard the one about the Lexus city car? Not as silly as it sounds: a sister model to the Prius C, positioned to rival the Audi A1, Mini and suchlike, and featuring either the Prius C’s 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain or a 1.2-litre direct-injection turbo unit, reports paultan.org.
  • Good news for Detroit: the University of Michigan Solar Car Team has won the 2012 American Solar Challenge for the fourth year running and seventh time since the event was inaugurated in 1990. Despite bad weather conditions, its Quantum car came in 10 hours and 18 minutes ahead of its nearest competitor from Iowa State University, having travelled 1650 miles in eight days from Rochester, NY, to St Paul, Minnesota, and clocking up 44 hours, 36 minutes and 21 seconds on the road. Press release posted here.
  • General Electric has got to the testing phase with a new 55kW permanent-magnet motor for hybrid, range-extended and electric vehicles which can run at very high temperatures yet need only conventional transmission fluid as a coolant. This is said to be 3-5% more efficient than current EV motors, and GE is planning to licence the tech to car-makers and motor-makers with a view to commercial applications by 2015; the next phase of the project will be to develop it so it requires no rare-earth metals (Green Car Congress).

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