Design Concept of the Day: Modularity (Michelin Challenge Design)

December 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

01_modularity_02_kangTransportation Design students at the College for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit,  took part in the 25th annual Michelin Challenge Design; this year’s theme is ‘Driven/Undriven: The Duality of Tomorrow’s Automobile”. In teams of four, they came up with a platform for an autonomous vehicle, and individual members then created their own designs for the vehicle body as well as for a tyre/wheel assembly. They were asked to explain the target owner for their vehicle and their mobility needs, describe a typical 24-hour usage cycle, and take into account usability on the current road infrastructure, production feasibility and consumer demands for safety and comfort. Individual winner was Byungwan Kang of the ‘Modularity’ team; larger-sized pictures and images of all the entries can be seen here. They’ll be on display at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show next month.

  • Next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: a plug-in hybrid, says Peter Lyon at Motor Trend, who has some more details to flesh out this long-standing rumour. This super-saloon might not get the ‘Evo’ name, though.
  • The City of Houston will save $110,000 annually by running its fleet of 27 Nissan Leaf EVs, and Loveland, Colorado (2 Leafs), 41% of its fuel costs: two case studies from the Electrification Coalition, outlined at Green Car Congress. Apparently Houston also runs 15 plug-in Prius (aftermarket conversions) on its municipal fleet, as well as the Ford Escape Hybrid, and has 50 EVs, PHEVs and hybrids available to its employees on a car-share basis. Yes, this is Texas: a cultural shift indeed in the land of Big Oil?
  • Energy consumption of light-duty vehicles in the US will fall 25% by 2040, according to the US Energy Information Adminstration (EIA) in its report Annual Energy Outlook 2014 ( AEO2014). A counterpoint to the ExxonMobil forecasts (see yesterday’s post), it sees just a 0.9% rise in vehicle miles travelled 2012-40; fuel efficiency to rise by an average 2% a year in that time; and energy consumption of light-duty vehicles falling to 47% of the country’s total transport-related energy use from 2012’s 60%. Just 22% of vehicles will use fuels other than petrol/gasoline, EIA predicts, however (and that’s including diesel as well as hybrid powertrains); hybrids will account for just 6% of the market, plug-in hybrids 2%, and EVs 1%. The Early Release version of the report can be downloaded here (or there’s a handy digest at Green Car Congress).

And on an academic note, here’s a round-up of some more recent EV-related research I’ve come across:

  • Some conclusions from the SwitchEV trial in NE England on the use of topographical data/mapping to optimise EV range and give more accurate range forecasting at Intelligent Transport Systems, IET.
  • Study from DUT (Technical University Delft) looks at policies to stimulate EV uptake and use, and their effectiveness, efficiency and feasibility: more, incl. full academic citations, here.
  • And from RWTH Aachen University: German households are willing to pay for vehicles with greater fuel economy and lower emissions, and for increased driving range and recharging infrastructure, if enjoying benefits such as free parking, tax exemptions or bus lane use; young, well-educated and eco-aware buyers able to plug cars in at home and doing urban driving are most likely to adopt alt-fuel vehicles. Hybrid vehicles are less likely to be rejected than EVs, but overall, most buyers are reluctant. More here.
  • From the same journal issue: researchers from Technical University Denmark look at how drivers’ individual preferences – for driving range, fuel costs, battery life, charging, top speed and suchlike – change after they have trialled an EV for three months. Attitudes towards environmental concerns remain constant, however. More here. And there is a cost-benefit equation when it comes to vehicle range, with willingness to pay for extra range showing diminishing returns, according to research from VU Amsterdam.
  • Electric cars, the Marxist perspective: if we want to solve the ‘problem’  of cars, rather than researching alternative fuels we need to look at the whole culture of consumption, says Cardiff University’s Daniel Newman.
  • But if we want take-up of electric vehicles (or other sustainable technologies) social influence and interaction are key factors, involving negotiations of meaning, lifestyle and identity, say Axen, Orlebar and Skippon.
  • How do you plan a fleet of fully-automated vehicles to operate in pedestrian areas, getting around problems such as uneven distribution of vehicles due to one-way trips, and relocation of vehicles? Not just an academic question (ha) but part of the proposals for a scheme in Barreiro, Portugal. More here at the European Transport Research Review.
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