Design Concept of the Day: Audi O

September 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

audi_o_wearable_carThis one’s the award-winning 2013 Interior Motives Student Design of the Year, and it’s wearable. Created by Nir Siegel, Cherica Haye and Hunchul Lee, students at the Royal College of Art, London, it is an electric vehicle in which the driver’s suit is directly-connected to the chassis for information transfer. It’s an open-wheeled single-seater with integrated steering and throttle unit and the suit would stretch and tighten around the driver at higher speeds. It won the ‘Best Ergonomics’ category of the competition, which had the brief of ‘The Connected Car’; puts a new spin on the idea of the human-machine interface, anyway. More about the Interior Motives competition here; a further report is at Car Design News. Incidentally, if you Google ‘Audi O Concept’, you come up with an earlier design of that name which is a neat little thing: a diesel-electric hybrid specifically created for an optimum audio (get it?) experience.

In other news so far this week:

  • Some interesting stats on the Guardian data blog: bike sales (new) outstrip new car sales (down 5% in August, incidentally) in 19 out of 23 European countries, including Germany, the UK, France and Spain. It’s not a new trend, but the biggest leap in bike sales recently has been in the UK. Is this down to the exponentially-growing number of MAMILs and their multiple-bike collections, or a wider trend involving practical transport choices?
  • The number of people world-wide using car-share schemes (short-term rentals) will rise from today’s 2.3million to over 12 million by the end of the decade, according to Navigant Research.
  • And a nice, detailed and illustrative article on car-sharing in Berlin at Spiegel Online. Quotes research from the Frauenhofer Institutes claiming that the number of cars in Germany will halve by 2050 – that’s some fall in ownership.
  • Am not sure whether this is an inspired idea or some horrible foretaste of the dystopian cities of the future: the Land Airbus, a huge catamaran-style people-carrier which runs on rails straddling the road so car traffic can continue to pass underneath it. Pics, video at Treehugger.
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Design Concept of the Day: Volkswagen Aerrow

September 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

01-Volkswagen-Aerrow-Concept-10-720x508It’s Friday fantasy car time… this is a project by Andreas Blazunaj of HBK-Braunschweig, designed for maximum energy efficiency and aerodynamics plus ultra-light weight. It’s a two-seater in which the driver sits in a recumbent position, and stays stable using gyroscopes. Power comes from a two-cylinder diesel engine, with all-wheel drive and steering. Full gallery of pics at Car Body Design.

In news today:

  • Did I hear someone say ‘peak car’? The UK’s vehicle population has just reached 35million, including 29million cars, for the first time, according to data from the DVLA. A preliminary blog post from the RAC Foundation suggests that factors influencing this growth in car ownership may include a rising population, more women in employment, a record number of people in employment, more people living on their own, and longer-term changes in land use such as relocation of workplaces, services and retail to out-of-town sites.
  • Heard the one about the electric car which booked in its own slot at a charging station? Norwegian researchers at SINTEF are working on a GPS-enabled system with route planning and range calculation; a small trial in Trondheim and a larger 200-car programme in Oslo and Kongsberg will kick off next year. Full story here. SINTEF is also working on electric buses and studying the benefits of electric goods vehicles in Norway, which currently boasts an EV population of around 11,000.
  • How are bike-share systems used? What/who goes where, and when? Interesting-looking spatial network analysis study (from CASA, UCL) looking at spatio-temporal flow data from bike-shares in five cities (incl London) and creating data visualisations: see here.
  • And duel-fuel cars: researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a natural gas/diesel hybrid in which diesel is injected into the intake manifold of a diesel engine converted to run on CNG. This could bring CO2 emissions down to 43g/km, and fuel consumption up to 118mpg, in a typical subcompact (supermini) fitted with the trial VW 2.0-litre diesel.

Concept of the Day: Volkswagen e-load Up!

September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

72949vw-e-loadup1_mediumMy favourite of the concepts shown in Frankfurt this week: the practical Volkswagen e-load Up, a panel-van version of the e-Up city car. It’s got 1400 litres-worth and 1 cubic metre of cargo capacity, does 80mph and has a range of up to 99 miles, more than enough for local load-lugging or delivery duties. It has a five-door layout with the rear windows blanked out, and just two front seats; the passenger seat folds to increase load length. It’ll go into (limited-run) production if there is sufficient demand.

In other news today:

  • Renault has signed a letter of intent with the Bolloré Group – maker of the Bluecar as used in the Paris Autolib’ – for “joint development of car-sharing solutions and the implementation of industrial and commercial cooperation agreements in the field of electric vehicles”. Bolloré has won contracts in Lyon (Bluely), Bordeaux (Bluecub) and Indianapolis (!) as well as Paris, and with Renault, is planning joint-venture tenders for further services internationally. Some Bluecar production could be shifted to Renault’s plant in Dieppe, and a convertible version is to join the range next June; a three-seater with Bolloré’s battery (said to give a range of over 120 miles) is also under development. Renault is also to supply components, and may take a stake in the existing operations in Lyon and Bordeaux. (In a separate story, Bolloré has accused a firm contracted by BMW of industrial espionage; P3 claims its employees were checking charging post compatibility for the i3).
  • Also on an EV-sharing theme: Toyota is partnering with City Carshare in Pleasanton, California (Bay Area), to supply a 30-car fleet of Scion-branded iQ EVs. This pilot scheme will be called Dash; release posted here.
  • Here’s a commitment: Transport Scotland has declared that the country will be free from petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles and their emissions by 2050. It has published an Electric Vehicle Roadmap document, Switched On Scotland, and promised that half of all fossil-fuelled vehicles will be phased out of urban environments by 2030.
  • The City of London has voted for a blanket 20mph limit in the Square Mile (as predicted in yesterday’s Evening Standard; thanks to @livingstreets for tweeting the result of the vote). It’ll join Camden and Islington with this; good news for pedestrians and cyclists. Full release here. This marks quite a step forward in reducing car-dominance in city centres, I reckon.
  • Drayson Racing Technologies has entered into a licence agreement with Qualcomm Inc. to use the latter’s wireless charging tech in the cars it supplies. The 20kW Qualcomm Halo system is fitted in the prototype Drayson B12/69EV electric racer, which  has been undergoing high-speed trials, hill-climbing at Goodwood and setting land-speed records for EVs, and Qualcomm Europe Inc is sponsoring the Drayson Racing team. DRT also says that it is “developing systems for use on road-going EVs and for electric racing cars that will participate in the forthcoming FIA Formula E Championship”.

Prototype of the Day: Spark-Renault SRT_01E

September 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

spark-renault-formula-e-carThis is Renault’s entry in the FIA Formula E Championship for electric vehicles: the single-seater Spark-Renault SRT_01E. The ten-round international series kicks off in September 2014, with ten teams and 20 drivers; Renault is to make the first 40 cars for it, but other manufacturers will get involved later. Renault is responsible for the car’s electric drivetrain, system integration, performance optimisation and safety; McLaren Electronic Systems for development, production and assembly of the powertrain and electronic controls; Williams Advanced Engineering for battery design; Dallara for the monocoque design and construction; and Spark for the suspension, aerodynamics and assembly. The car’s motor delivers 200kW/270hp tothe rear wheels, though in the races, will be limited to 133kW/180hp with a ‘push to pass’ transient mode for overtaking; its body meets conventional F1 regulations, and it’s good for 0-62mph in three seconds though top speed is limited to 200km/h for safety on the urban circuits it will race on. Total weight is 800kg. More here.

  • An energy storage demo project, exploring the use of end-of-life EV batteries, is under development at the Future Technology Centre (a partnership with Gateshead College) in north-east England.  Commissioned by Zero Carbon Futures in collaboration with SR Technology Innovations and tadea, it has come up with a demo unit that can store energy from solar panels for domestic power, EV charging, feeding back into the grid or managing power supplies to minimise exposure to peak tariffs. The unit will be trialled at the centre, where various low-carbon vehicle technologies are under development, and its potential assessed.
  • And KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) is actually going into small-scale production of lithium-ion batteries for electric commercial vehicles and for energy storage, at the same time developing technologies for licensing. More here.
  • A big urban transport trial in Barcelona: 400 people are to test the SUPERHUB smartphone app which gives multi-modal service information and route guidance. The EU-funded three-year SUPERHUB project is already being tested in Helsinki, and a trial in Milan will also start this month. SUPERHUB incorporates route options and modes including local trains, underground trains, cycling and private vehicles, and calculates CO2 production in each case.
  • Johnson Controls is displaying a compact  48-volt micro-hybrid system at the Frankfurt Motor Show, said to deliver up to 15% fuel savings and to power an air conditioning system and other anciliaries at lower cost than a full-hybrid set-up thanks to increased regenerative braking capacity over earlier micro/mild hybrid technologies. More here.
  • The Volkswagen Group is promising 14 electrified – EV or hybrid – vehicles on sale across its brands by 2014, and is “electrifying all vehicle classes”, according to CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, speaking at the Frankfurt Motor Show. More here.

Monday briefing: EVs, electromobility infrastructure, more e-bikes and a research round-up

September 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

fort_carson_ev_chargingMore on the US military’s smart microgrid experiments at Charged EVs: bi-directional fast-chargers (giving energy storage capability) are now operational to support a fleet of electric trucks at Fort Carson, Colorado (pictured).

  • EVs should be delinked from the CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) regulations; this, in combination with controlled (off-peak) charging and implementing standards for supply of renewable electricity, gives the optimum scenario for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, say researchers from Georgia Tech who modelled six possible EV market-share scenarios. Handy rundown at Green Car Congress; for academic reference, it’s Environmental Science & Technology (July 2013); Dong Gu Choi, Frank Kreikebaum, Valerie M. Thomas, and Deepak Divan (2013) Coordinated EV Adoption: Double-Digit Reductions in Emissions and Fuel Use for $40/Vehicle-Year. Interesting point about decoupling EVs (including, in this study, PHEVs) from CAFE, which would preclude manufacturers offering a tiny handful of ‘compliance cars’ to bring down their overall average, thus forcing them to make greater improvements in their mainstream ICE ranges.
  • Electric in Orlando: Enterprise is launching a fleet of 15 Nissan Leafs in the Florida tourist town. Customers can charge for free, with points located at hotels, convention centres, theme parks and on-street; apparently, there are about 300 public charging points in the greater Orlando area. Full story at Detroit News.
  • South America’s largest all-electric taxi fleet is in Bogota, Columbia. According to BYD, supplier of the city’s 45 e6 taxis, anyway; press release posted here at Autoblog Green.  The city has abolished import duty on all-electric private cars, buses, trucks and taxis, and reduced duty on hybrid or CNG buses and trucks from 15% to 5%.
  • The Range Rover Evoque_e is to get a three-speed axial flow transmission developed by Drive System Design/YASA Motors; this is said to be super-light and compact, and to reduce energy consumption by 10-15% compared to a single-speeder. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Nissan has started work on a new electric truck, the e-NT400 (based on the Cabstar plus Leaf powertrain). It’s said to have a range of 87 miles and is scheduled for launch next year (Green Car Congress).
  • More e-bike news: Electra (maker of retro-look urban cruiser bicycles) is now offering electric pedal-assist models. Nice story, complete with pic of requisite tattooed, bearded ageing hipster (the post-fixie target market?), at Treehugger, which also has news on Bay Area BikeShare (Boris bikes, San Fran style) and  relaunch of Copenhagen’s GoBike, the former with reference to ‘last mile’ transport.
  • Brazil’s set to be a new EV hotspot, according to research from Frost & Sullivan, which claims that 70% of the country’s car-market could be plug-in hybrids and EVs by 2020 (via Charged EVs).
  • Could car ownership go the way of the landline phone (i.e. near-obsolete)? A look at car-sharing and incorporation of the car into an integrated system from the Rocky Mountain Institute blog.

Concept of the Day: Greyp G12 e-bike

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Greyp-G12Electric bikes are getting more versatile and becoming available in increasing variety: the Greyp G12 is a kind of e-bike/motorcycle hybrid designed to give the best of both worlds, and with the rugged appearance of a trials bike. It’s said to do 65km/h, has a range of 120km (without pedalling), and can be fully recharged in 80min from a standard 22-V outlet, with charge supplemented by regenerative braking. Interesting thing is that it’s the work of Croatia’s Rimac Automobili (creators of the Concept One supercar) and features its top-spec battery pack with the A123 Systems-developed lithium-nanophosphate cells. Press release and video of it in action posted here; not sure on how the road-legality of it, and its classification, translates to the UK as yet, however. Prices from 6000 euros, deliveries next year, they say. Greyp is launching the G12 this week at the Salon Prive show in Syon Park, London, an event better-known for its supercars, exotic classics, luxury limos, concours d’elegance and lavish corporate hospitality than for eco-machines. Does this signal a repositioning of two-wheeled, pedal-assisted electromobility as upmarket, desirable and aspirational?

In other news for a pre-weekend round-up:

  • The success of car-shares (in the US sense of on-demand rentals) rests on on-street access and drop-off, says BMW DriveNow USA’s CEO, a problem in San Francisco and US cities. More at Automotive News.
  • 4G LTE ultra-fast broadband in cars: opens up a whole host of new possibilities and business models, according to state-of-play article at Automotive News Europe.
  • Proterra has made its largest-yet US fleet sale: 12 of its electric buses are going to Foothill Transit, operating in the Pomona and San Gabriel valleys, southern California (Green Car Congress).
  • Over 6,400 plug-in hybrid cars were sold in the US last month, the highest monthly figure yet. This includes over 3,350 Chevy Volts, nearly 1800 Toyota Prius PHVs and over 620 Ford C-Max Energis (Green Car Congress).

Concepts of the Day: Smart Fourjoy, Citroen Cactus

September 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

smart_fourjoyThe four-seat Smart is back – though this time, it has no doors or rear windows. In concept form, at least; the production-spec new-generation Forfour which the Fourjoy previews (a model co-developed with the next Renault Twingo) is likely to be more of a conventional supermini. The 55kW electric motor-driven powertrain (as in the current Fortwo electric drive) will be developed for the real deal, though, and the concept gives a good preview of the design of the car to be launched late 2014. It keeps the Smart ‘tridion cell’ styling – playing up its structural features – with a polished aluminium finish to this framework plus moulded plastic panels and plexiglass trimmings. The interior incorporates a pair of smartphones for entertainment and connectivity – and the roof holds a pair of electrically-driven longboard skateboards plus helmets with cameras for live image-streaming. The ‘boards are suggested for use over short distances in the city – perhaps solving the ‘last mile’ problem. The Fourjoy goes on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week. Gallery of pics at Car Design News.

citroen cactusAlso on show in Frankfurt: Citroen Cactus, previewing the first of a series of utility-focused C-line models from Citroen (distinct from the design-driven DS-line). This concept is an SUV-style supermini, its most interesting technology its Hybrid Air drivetrain. This uses a tank of compressed air and hydraulics to supplement engine power and eke out a claimed 94mpg-plus. with a 45% reduction in fuel economy promised around town. The Cactus also features an all-digital touchscreen control system with Citroen’s online Multicity Connect applications and location-based information. More pics here. But is it as cute and attention-catching as Citroen’s earlier C-Cactus diesel-electric hybrid with its boggle-eyed headlamps?

  • Another Frankfurt reveal: modular battery technology for e-buses, developed by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
  • Toyota is working on wireless charging for the Prius Plug-In Hybrid (which will, presumably, no longer need to be plugged in). Full text from speech by Satishi Ogiso, managing officer, posted here.
  • Electric trucks for Texas: 30 heavy-duty Smith Newton delivery vehicles are to go into service in the Houston-Galveston region (Green Car Congress).
  • BMW is working with power company Vattenfall on a second-life programme for lithium-ion batteries from its i-range. Leftover EV batteries should still have 80% of their original capacity, it says, and can be used for energy storage and grid-buffering. More here.
  • US EV drivers can now rate their charging experience – equipment broken, busy, inconvenient, etc – with PlugScore, a further app from Recargo’s PlugShare (Green Car Reports).
  • Ford has confirmed that it’ll be selling two hybrids – C-MAX Energi plug-in, new-generation Mondeo petrol-electric – plus the Focus Electric in Europe by the end of next year (EV Fleet World). It’s doing demos of the Focus Electric at the LowCVP event at Millbrook this week.
  • A 50-bike electric scooter-share has been launched in Barcelona: Motit users can reserve bikes via smartphone and it costs from 4 euros an hour or 45 cents per km. More here.
  • “Local laser reinforcement” techniques could reduce weight of steel structures in cars by 20% – thus delivering fuel-efficiency and emissions savings – without compromising crash safety. Work from the Frauenhofer Institute for Material and Bean Technology, Dresden: more here.
  • EV charging points have now been installed in 12 London Underground car parks (Fleet News).
  • Smart Highway, a concept designed by Daan Roosegaarde, has won the Community category of the Index: Award 2013. Smart Highway features solar-charged glow-in-the-dark and temperature-activated paint, reducing the need for energy-inefficient lighting, and could incorporate induction charging for EVs. Looks cool, too.
  •  Oh, and on a watery note, I’m liking the Planet Solar solar-powered catamaran, which has just cruised into London.

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