Electric vans, platooning, European Mobility Week and more

September 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Electric cars: out of favour this week, following an MP’s report that government grants and investment in recharging infrastructure is largely “subsidising second cars for wealthy households”. Full report here, comments and ‘written evidence’ from various consultees here. There’s a certain truth in it if you’re just thinking about private motorists, but don’t forget business users and company fleets – 75% of EV buyers/users, apparently.

Which is where this comes in: the Aachen-built StreetScooter van, a low-cost lightweight electric urban delivery van specifically developed to be no more expensive to buy, and cheaper to run, than its engined equivalent. It features a simple single-speed transmission from Xtrac, lithium-ion battery and a 30-45kW/40-60bhp induction motor, giving a range of 75 miles and up to 53mph; long-wheelbase versions have up to 4 cubic metres of load-space.  Revealed at the Hannover van show this week; looks like a sensible solution for suitable applications, can be configured for a variety of tasks, and is being evaluated by “a major fleet operator” with low-volume production planned.

In other electric van news, Nissan is extending its trials of the e-NV200 with FedEx and has unveiled a near-production version in Hannover; Peugeot has confirmed that the Partner Electric will be available in the UK from spring 2013, and Citroen the Berlingo Electric; Mercedes-Benz is showing an all-electric Sprinter E-Cell concept good for 84 miles though only 50mph.

And a general news catch-up:

  • The Volvo/Ricardo SARTRE (Safe Road Trains For the Environment) project has concluded, with a full demo of the ‘platooning’ tech at Volvo’s test track. Four vehicles slotted in closely behind a manually-driven truck and were autonomously-guided, giving fuel economy gains of 10-20% and allowing the driver to multi-task (potentially, the opportunity to catch up with some reading, Facebook or whatever). Summary here; workshops have been held to discuss issues such as emergency situations, liability and, inevitably, charging/fees for users.
  • Volvo’s declared its intent on leading with such systems,  sees them as particularly relevant to younger tech-happy consumers who want to remain connected on the move, and has carried out some focus-grouping with its customers. It quotes some interesting figures: nearly half of car-buyers would be comfortable using a self-driving car (Accenture, 2011), and nearly 50% of drivers aged 18-37 would “definitely or probably” buy a vehicle capable of fully-autonomous driving (JD Power, 2012). Full release here.
  • Mindset – Swiss creator of an electric sportster called the e-Motion – has gone bankrupt. Release posted here. Second wave of the start-up failures? And Russia’s Yo Auto has pushed back production of its low-cost hybrids to 2015, reports AFP.
  • Zipcar has added the Honda Fit (aka Jazz) EV to its hourly-rental fleet in San Francisco. More here. Also, whilst on holiday, I spotted that an EV-share scheme for hourly rentals is to launch in Tallinn (Estonia is switching on to EVs rapidly and developing a national charging infrastructure; it’s also about to offer its citizens free public transport in the capital).
  • It’s European Mobility Week right now, and the International Association of Public Transport has issued a  new report on the future of urban mobility. Solutions proposed include better integration of public transport into urban planning; multimodal approaches (including carsharing: case study is the cambio scheme in Brussels); smarter ticketing/fare systems and increasing wi-fi availability on public transport.
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