Design Concept of the Day: Moretti EGS

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

morettiIt’s Friday, so let’s be indulgent with a pretty pic of a retro-style sports car. Only a CAD rendering, I’m afraid, but it is (theoretically) an EV and the work of Coventry University vehicle design student Brian Males (a Slovakian). It’s described as “a modern reinterpretation of the 1954 Moretti 750 Grand Sport”, says Car Body Design, which has a full gallery of images plus video (nice archive footage of the original in action on, I think, the Mille Miglia). Males reckons that, to ease the transition to electric mobility, you’ll need an emotional, human factor to appeal to car-buyers, perhaps including imperfection, nostalgia, sexuality.

  • Who’s buying EVs, and what do they do with them? OK, buyers are mostly men, aged 30-50, well-educated and high-income, living in/near cities, and in households which have more than one car. They’re mostly using their EV for commuting, and some studies have found that owners are now driving more, and in some cases, taking the EV instead of public transport. Big literature review from the Norwegian Centre for Transport Research here (via WNYC and @Sust_Mobility – thanks).
  • Thoughtful report from Sustainable Mobility (@Sust_Mobility, France) on transport in peri-urban areas (outskirts of city centres, not quite out in the ‘burbs). Trams, bikes, EVs and car-sharing… Some useful factoids, stats and snippets of info: for example, SNCF (French train co) has a website for car-poolers to team up for journeys to/from its stations in the Île-de-France regional network, and is testing in-station terminals to enable last-minute lift-share arrangements;
  • EV charging, four times faster and $2000 less expensive: Saeid Haghbin of Chalmers University, Sweden, has developed an integrated motor drive and on-board charger concept, with a patented rotating transformer for power transfer. It’s lighter, more compact and lower-cost to make than existing units capable of full recharges in two hours. More (including link to his PhD thesis) here (via inhabitat).
  • More detail on the news that Porsche is to offer hybrid versions of every model, with a next-generation plug-in hybrid powertrain to debut in the Panamera in 2016, from Autocar; Porsche is working on induction charging, too, apparently.
  • Renault SAS is to team up with Spark Racing Technologies to build the cars for the FIA Formula E race series. The 42 e-powered single-seaters supplied to participating teams will be named “Spark-Renault” .
  • Volvo’s ramping up production of the V60 Plug-In Diesel Hybrid in response to demand: up from 150 to 282 cars a week from the Torslanda production lines, with target production of 10,000 in 2014. Most demand from Holland, Belgium and Italy, it says. Oh, and Mitsubishi’s doubling production of the plug-in Outlander to 4000 a month, too.
  • BMW hosted a Sustainability Hackathon for app developers at its US tech HQ in Mountain View, California: winning app is to help EV owners needing to charge at an already-occupied facility. More at Hybridcars.
  • On a similar note, nice story at Green Car Reports on how Nissan wants to collect data streamed from LEAFs for app development, vs privacy concerns.
  • The University of Missouri is developing a ‘convection cell’ lithium-metal battery said to be lighter and lower-cost than lithium-ion. More at Green Car Congress. And another opposed-piston, sleeve-valve engine under development, from Pinnacle Engine: initially intended for two-wheelers, but automotive applications in mind (again, more at GCC).
  • Source London has now installed its target 1300 public EV charging points, and is putting out a tender for operators to take over the network. More at Fleet News. A new network’s been launched in Manchester, too. Oh, and a 200-EV trial is starting in Malaga (EV Fleet World).
  • More on the falling-out-of-love-with-cars/crisis in car culture discussion/panic/opportunity from CNN’s Futurecast event (via @jeckythump and @talitrigg – cheers).

Concept of the Day: Höweler + Yoon Architects “Boswash 2030”

May 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

18_the_reverse_commuterArchitects Höweler + Yoon, winners of the Audi Urban Future Award 2012, have been working with the company and met last week for a third City Dossier Workshop at the 2013 Ideas City Festival in New York. The panel discussion looked at their vision of “Boswash 2030″ – a practical mobility solution for the 53-million person conurbation between Boston and Washington DC. Audi’s sales and marketing chief Luca de Meo says:  “We want to understand and we want to listen. How can we improve the quality of life in cities? And what does premium mobility mean in the urban spaces?”. Boswash 2030 involves, inevitably, networked vehicles with autonomous capabilities, with cloud-stored data used for seamless traffic flow and navigation, but also facilitating multi-modal transport and sharing of vehicles from cars to pedelecs and electric motorbikes to overcome the ‘last mile’ issue and other gaps in connections. The researchers explored these gaps and hitches in integration by describing four typical types of urban traveller – the there-and-back  ‘reverse commuter’, the ‘straphanger’, the ‘road warrior’ and the ‘cast-away’, the latter struggling with poor public transport between districts.

Höweler + Yoon say: “Switching and sharing have emerged as key strategies for urban mobility in the Boswash region. Switching will become increasingly important as no single mobility system will be able to meet all of our needs, and we will increasingly need to switch from various modes: private car to shared bike, to shared car and public transit subway system. Sharing is already a prevalent means of using resources, including music, information, bikes and cars. Mobility will increasingly be shared between multiple users and communities of users”. More at the Audi Urban Future Initiative website (sadly over-designed, slow-loading and quite difficult to use – hopefully not an indication of any future transport provision from the brand).

Other titbits today:

  • Nano-materials containing germanium + lithium-ion batteries = a doubling of typical EV range plus recharging in minutes, say a team from the University of Wollongong; more at the Illawarra Mercury (via Autoblog Green).
  • Finland is pushing to be a major supplier of hydrogen for transport: a new roadmap report outlines the country’s export plans, including hydrogen from forestry biomass and from reformed natural gas. More here. The country’s car and bus transport could become energy-independent, it suggests.
  • Mobilities is a whole academic discipline crossing design, social science, geography, economics, the arts… with, as its name suggests, a focus on movement and transport. List of presentations from this week’s #Mobilities13 conference at the Mobile Media Lab, Concordia University, Montreal here.

Concept of the Day: Audi Urban Future Initiative Extreme Cities Project

May 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

audi future cities projectAudi’s Urban Future Initiative, a collaboration with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, has presented its Extreme Cities Project in New York this week. There are five hypotheses for the megacities of 2050: Transgeneration Capacity, whereby generational boundaries are blurred, and better access to services and communication enables care beyond an extended family network; Asymmetric Mobility, involving multi-modal transport, digital and virtual communication instead of traditional commuting patterns; Complexity, entailing an immense (and vulnerable) concentration of knowledge in dense urban centres; Migration, whereby people move freely and frequently to live and work in other world cities; and Generosity, with lots of community projects such as collective gardens. A more positive set of outcomes than Digiland etc. (see previous post). Full lowdown here (and more to follow from the Ideas City Festival, New York, tomorrow).

In other news today:

  • “Lifecycle emissions of electric vehicles are significantly lower than those of conventional alternatives when using low-carbon power generation and could be further reduced through the recycling of batteries”: new whole-lifecycle analysis by Ricardo-AEA for the Committee on Climate Change, in an extensive report (pro-nuclear) on reducing the UK’s carbon footprint for 2050. Available for download here.
  • Are e-bike sales (up 22% 2010-2011) eating into European car sales (down 2%, and a further 8% in 2012), asks Forbes? Electrically-assisted bicycle sales are expected to reach 1-1.2million in Europe this year, says Navigant Research. Having had one zoom past me whilst I was struggling in low gear up Clyde Road last night, I can see the appeal…
  • Road traffic fell in the UK again last quarter: down 2.3% compared to January-March 2012, though we still covered a long 74.7billion vehicle miles. Car traffic down 1.9% (59.6billion vehicle miles), light goods down 1.9% (10.4billion), heavy goods down 3.8% (3.7billion). Larger decreases were seen on rural and urban roads (down 2.5 and 2.9%) than on motorways (0.7%). Full report here.
  • The Elio two-seat, three-wheeler, a 1.0-litre lightweight to be built in Shreveport, Louisiana, goes on sale next month in the US from $6,800, and 13,000 have already been ordered, reports Autoweek.

Concept of the Day: Digicars at the Design Museum

May 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

digicarsOne of four future ‘United Micro Kingdoms‘ on display at the Design Museum, London, the Digiland UmK features a series of remote-controlled microcars in which riders can buy a series of services as well as differing levels of privacy and performance. Citizens of this county – Digitarians – are dependent on digital tech and market forces, subject to total surveillance, data logging and tracking, and the electric Digicars are standing room-only, basically-equipped transportation appliances which constantly calculate the most economical route, over which “every square metre of road surface and every millisecond of access, at any moment, is monetized and optimised”. Mind you, this still sounds more attractive than the Bioliberals‘ Biocar, and I’m not sure about the Very Large Bike of the Anarcho-Evolutionists, either (no story-telling, please, and I do hope bloody hippy drumming isn’t involved)… Great fun and thought-provoking stuff from Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, tutors/professors at the Royal College of Art and University of Applied Arts, Vienna, respectively,  who “interrogate the cultural and ethical impact of existing and new technologies and how they alter the way we live”, according to the Design Museum website, and “use elements of industrial design, architecture, politics, science and sociology to provoke debate around the power and potential of design. UmK challenges assumptions about how products and services are made and used, through reinterpretations of the car and other transport systems”. Review at the Observer. Oh, and by the way, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has been talking with Google about autonomous-driving (“autopilot”, he likes to call it) tech, reports Automotive News.

  • More on the kids-losing-interest-in-cars meme at just-auto: Professor Dale Harrow of the Royal College of Art agrees with Prof. Juliet Schor (research interests: sustainable consumerism) that in the short to medium term, there is evidence to suggest that Gen Y’s not so keen. However, this isn’t holding true in developing markets, and once young Westerners grow up and have families having their own car may become a priority anyway. Harrow mentions increased customisation and the product-to-services shift as future auto industry preoccupations.
  • Story on BMW’s Connected Foresight project at Autoblog Green; basically, developing a suite of driverless/driver-assist technologies (do we see a theme emerging this evening?) which will enable travellers to safely stay in social media contact whilst crawling in the stop-start traffic of the congested mega-cities of the future. BMW’s new DesignWorks Shanghai think-tank has a dedicated Apps Lab, too.
  • No surprise here, but Californian EV start-up Coda Automotive (assembling nondescript-looking Chinese-developed budget saloons) has filed for bankruptcy. Company’s hoping to go into energy storage instead now, apparently; more here.
  • Sounds as if Better Place is on its way to a worse one; Renault-Nissan appears to be bailing on the battery-swap idea, with only the Fluence EV featuring the tech in selected markets (Israel, Denmark), and the Zoe, Kangoo and other ZE models to have their own staying-in-to-charge batteries.  CEO Carlos Ghosn told  Energiwatch that “when you look at the overall trend, we must conclude that replaceable batteries are no longer the main path for electric vehicles… We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that the demand is for rechargeable standard batteries… there may also be large companies, where they have a huge fleet of cars, and do not want to wait for charging. But it will not be the majority of the market, and going forward, our focus is on the charging technology.” Battery-swapping may still have relevance in the fleet/van sector, however; Green Car Reports has the lowdown and video on the GreenWay project in Slovakia, for example.
  • Car-sharing in Toyota City: the Ha:Mo (‘harmonious mobility’) trial is up and running with three COMs micro-EVs and a fleet of e-bikes now available to commuters linking-up with a nearby train station for  ‘last mile’ purposes. Nice pic at Green Car Congress.
  • Another intriguing report from Green Car Congress about work at MIT to extend an algorithm for car-sharing (ie reserving a Zipcar vehicle) for detailed multi-modal journey planning, calculating the most time- and energy-efficient routes. Prof Brian Williams and research student Peng Yu say that the algorithm could also be used for range optimisation in plug-in hybrids and EVs, and see it as a human-machine collaboration which could also work with robots (they’re in talks with Boeing).

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