Concept of the Day: MG Dynamo

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

mg dynamoMeet the e-Metro.  The MG team at Longbridge (now under ownership of China’s SAIC) has created an electric city car concept – called Dynamo – on display at the SMMT this week. It’s to make its public debut in June at an MG centenary event at Silverstone. No confirmed details on its powertrain as yet, though the car itself is based on the Chinese-market Roewe E50. It’s to gauge European interest/demand in a small MG EV, apparently.

  • Volvo’s showing a petrol plug-in hybrid at the Beijing Auto Show. The S60L PPHEV (as distinct from the diesel V60 PHEV and to be launched in China next year) has its 238hp turbocharged petrol engine supplemented with a 68hp motor (torque is 350Nm+ 200Nm), an eight-speed auto gearbox, selectable all-wheel drive, an integrated starter-generator for stop-start and a 11.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack.In hybrid mode, it emits 50g/km with average fuel consumption of around 141mpg; it can do up to 50km in all-electric mode; or in Power mode, both power sources combine to give 0-62mpg in 5.5 seconds. Total range is about 1000km.
  • As electric motorcycles go,  the Austrian-built Johammer J1 is one of the most bizarre-looking yet. It has a promised range of over 200km (comparable with a high-spec ICE bike), and an in-wheel motor/drive system. Top speed is limited to 75mph but its acceleration is pretty brisk. Smaller-batteried 150km-range versions are available, too. Its USP, though – aside from the styling – is that it has no dash, with all info including speed, range, state of charge and soforth on a digital display on the antenna-like mirrors. There’s also hub-centre steering and double-wishbone suspension rather than conventional forks. Prices from 23,000 euros or 25,000 euros for the top-spec model…
  • So Saab (in its new Chinese-owned NEVS guise) has confirmed the re-start of 9-3 Aero production (petrol engine), and said that electric versions (for China) will come later this year. More here.
  • Danish start-up ECOmove (maker of the Qbeak EV concept) has delivered the first of its lightweight, (relatively) low-cost carbonfibre chassis to German firm TURN-E, for an electric Porsche 356 replica. More here. Its light weight helps give a range of around 500km.
  • Some news from the Taiwan EV Show (via; fans of the 1950s bubble cars are targeted with the D-Face concept by D Art of Gifu (near Nagoya, Japan). This range-extended prototype – with a 7kW motor plus 3kW petrol generator – only does 45mph, but its all-electric range can be upped from 95-odd miles to nearer 190 when the engine kicks in. Apparently it’ll meet Japanese crash test regulations. More here.
  • Headlineauto also reports that Japanese company Neues (Osaka) is looking for a British company from the kit car world to help develop rolling chassis for special-bodied EVs. It has two chassis under development, one for a four- or six-seater car, the other for a 10-16-seat commercial vehicle. Its show car in Taipei looks like a scaled-down London black cab, apparently, but its chassis could also support a two-seater sports car. Neues is aiming to supply these flexible platforms, which will support front, rear or all-wheel-drive and different battery/motor capacities, to independent coachbuilders.
  • And an affordable Audi – a fold-away electric mini-scooter which will fit in the corner of a TT boot or something, to be offered to Audi fans in Germany. 500 have been made for Audi in Taiwan – by Dijiya Energy Saving Tech, which makes them with or without corporate branding, and which aims to be producing 50,000 a year within the next five years. Range is up to 12.5 miles, and they can be recharged in less than three hours. Dijiya (which supplied the batteries for the Think EV) also “has orders from another premium German auto manufacturer, which intends to supply a mini e-scooter as part of the standard equipment with an electrified car due to be launched later this year”, and plans to supply batteries for e-buses and to possibly expand into electric car-making (headlineauto).
  • News on a mobile charging system from Spain here; looks like a heavy thing to lug around in your boot on a regular basis, but could well have application in particular settings (i.e. fleet work).
  • A nickel-based metal organic framework (Ni-MOF) can improve the performance of lithium-sulphur batteries, according to work at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; this can guard against capacity degradation. Science bit plus full academic references at Green Car Congress.
  • Ultra-fast charging at 625amps has been tested in Umea, Sweden, via an overhead pantograph system, on the Hybricon Arctic Whisper electric bus: more here. Six minutes.



Design Concept of the Day: Zaha Hadid Z-Car

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

zaha hadid zcarIt’s not new, I know, but I’m highlighting Zaha Hadid’s Z-Car ‘cos it’s coming to Brighton to go on display at the Eco Technology Show (26th-27th June, free). Other vehicles on display at the show include the BMW i3 and i8, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Tesla Model S plus a selection of electric bikes, and test-drives will be available. There will also be seminars and events centring on sustainable fleet and domestic energy solutions.

The Z-Car, I’ve been reminded, is a neat little hydrogen-fuelled ,drive-by-wire three-wheeler with its carbonfibre composite body exemplifying Hadid’s trademark organic curves. It seats two in its passenger pod, which raises and lowers according to speed – riding high at low speeds for optimum visibility and to shorten the wheelbase for parking, and low on its hinged rear suspension for better handling and aerodynamics at speed. More about it here, anyway.

Other news, thoughts, general musings today:

  • Pushing mobility management schemes with an app for info on transport options had little effect on reducing car travel in a recent trial in Norway – even when a free seven-day public transport pass was thrown into the mix. The authors pointed out four factors which may have contributed: ample and free parking in the area where the trial took place; Norway’s harsh winters; the fact that high taxes on cars and fuel are already big disincentives not to drive to work; and that information on transport options is already widely-available anyway (Tornblad, Kallbekken, Korneliussen & Midseka, 2014). In Transport Policy 32, March 2014; contains detailed literature review on mobility management schemes and their impact. My reading of this paper: people have the ready info about choices, they’re taxed punitively to drive, yet they still choose to do so because it’s warmer, more comfortable and convenient… Surprise? I’m also wondering if, just as we’re seeing with EV adoption, you hit a point with mobility management or modal shift where the early-adopters or keen green advocates (I paraphrase) have all adopted, but the mainstream consumers aren’t playing – as in, most people prepared to shift to public transport, take up cycling, whatever, have done so and the rest stay put in their cars unless there’s a pretty serious intervention. Comes back to the argument that if people are going to drive whatever, let’s at least get ’em in cleaner cars.

Hamburg and the Netherlands: more notes from e-mobility NSR

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: hySolutions

Pic: hySolutions

And some more notes from the e-mobility NSR conference… feedback from the hySolutions public-private partnership in Hamburg, part of Germany’s Pilot Regions scheme (similar to our Plugged-In Places). MD Peter Lindlahr reported:

  • It’s not about competition between public transport and individual transport; public transport is the “backbone of urban transport” but integration is needed – with mandatory use of renewable energy! This demands strong political commitment on a local level with specific fields of action.
  • Private drivers were less of a focus than municipal fleets. Strong links with urban planning, housing projects, urban developments are needed (Hamburg is building 10,000 homes a year – it’s a fast-growing city, with consequences for transport including an annual 2.4% rise in public transit use).
  • New concepts and new mobility schemes with EVs need to be complementary, intermodal, i.e. car-sharing with smartcard system.
  • The 9000 buses in Hamburg (some hybrid) will all be zero-emissions by 2030 and the plans for EV use in the city are ambitious – an intended population growth from 800 at the end of 2013 to 5000 (including PHEV) in 2016.
  • This will be in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and local enterprises – C of C members could account for 12% of local car-market share, and a survey of members found that three in ten thought 50% of their vehicles could be electric within next two years. Up to 2020 this could mean 18,200 vehicles including 2,800 delivery vans.
  • There is also an ongoing taxi project, and a new mayor’s directive is targeting the replacement procedures on the municipal fleet – 30% of all vehicles will be replaced by EVs/RE-EVs or PHEVs, with 255 electrified vehicles already on-fleet. The e-Taxi Hamburg project incentivising local operators involves a ‘booster programme’ with 50 EVs and PHEVs (including the Nissan eNV200) as “creating visibility is very important”.
  • The parallel Electrified Economy and Eco Fleet projects are seeing EVs deployed on municipal and industrial tasks, and with SMEs, i.e. at Hamburg Port and in aviation and logistics; private sector firms involved include real-estate companies and utilities and there is discussion on the new-build districts and their infrastructure, including car-share programmes for neighbourhoods, and 600 public chargers (including 70 fast-chargers) by the end of 2015.
  • The criteria for success are availability (having an accessible range of products, both the vehicles and infrastructure); connectivity (coherency between different sectors, ie residential development integration, and also in terms of common standards); scalability (economies of scale which can be achieved); and visibility (the importance of creating public awareness, especially B2B, where procedures must be empowered and new business models created). Basically, it’s all about link-ups between sectors if e-mobility is to take off.

A team from Delft University of Technology has been looking at policy to support e-mobility development, based on a multinational (7-country) revealed-preference survey of consumer potential. Research student Dena Kasraian reported:

  • Medium-sized cities have the most potential for EV adoption – where people still drive, can park, etc. Suburban-dwellers are most likely to have private parking for recharging.
  • Looking at the need to use a tow bar (indicating, i.e. long-distance caravan-towing, for which an EV would not be suitable), the Netherlands and Sweden use these the most. The Netherlands had least potential for EVs of the countries surveyed, based on this and access to parking; Denmark, Norway and Sweden had best access to parking.
  • The model needs to add public transport variability, parking at work and non-work travel behaviour as further indicators of EV uptake potential.

Sjoerd Bakker then talked about the number of EVs (mostly PHEVs) in the Netherlands and ‘the Dutch storyline’ of how momentum has been building; but said that it’s an uphill battle to get EVs to the next level, and the need to look at governance at all levels – transnational, national, regional, municipal. He pointed out that only 30% of the mileage of PHEVs studied is electrically-driven, and a concern that PHEVs have ‘pushed out’ sales of all-EVs and “may not be helping in the transition” or “only postponing the real transition”.

Why so? Well, the ‘storyline’ I’ve heard from commercial quarters was that the Netherlands EV market has been a bit of an anomaly in that, because the country hosts the HQs for European distribution of certain Japanese brands, particular products (namely the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV) hit the road there (both in terms of use in trials and then sales to consumers) sooner than anywhere else…

e-mobility NSR conference – some more notes

April 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

leaf chargingAnd some more notes from the e-mobility NSR conference last week. There’s a cluster of EV-related activity going on in the psychology department at Oxford Brookes University – linked to the Mini E and the government’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle trials – and Dr Mark Burgess & team have been looking at the barriers to EV adoption. They’re working on “the most comprehensive psychological study of EV drivers in the largest multi-vehicle, multi-location trial in the world”, and recent papers include this one. Some take-outs from Burgess’ presentation at the conference:

  • Research involved 352 drivers, 14 million individual trips, 15,000 charging ‘events, and questionnaires/interviews pre-trial, at one week and at three months. The drivers were 212 private, 140 corporate, with a mean age of 46 and 76% male.
  • EV drivers are generally car enthusiasts, are interested in new tech and ‘being among the first’ to adopt it, want to test the practicalities, and are interested in protecting the environment and in saving costs.
  • Drivers of ‘pool’ cars had the same motivations as the private drivers if they identified with their corporation’s green agenda.
  • Pre-trial, they thought adaptation to driving an EV would be easy, at 3 months they said it was easy, and had been easier than they expected. Most  participants found their EV quick with a sufficient top speed and fun to drive; ‘milk float’ stereotypes were overcome.
  • Word of mouth and personal interactions were important in bridging the gap in ‘cultural meanings’.
  • Regen braking was seen as positive, and preferentially used; drivers liked the displays, but didn’t know how much energy they were actually regenerating and how this was extending range.
  • Range remained a big issue – though most thought this was fine for them, they thought it would be a problem for others.
  • Their routines didn’t change but their ‘cognitive load’ was higher – they thought about range even when they practically didn’t need to.
  • Typical trips for private users were around 5 miles, with weekly mileages of about 100 miles; as time went on, distance between charges (their comfort zone) increased and they could get by on charging once a week.
  • The ‘primary adaptations’ were good – initially getting used to the vehicle – but there was a slower degree of ‘secondary adaptation’ – i.e. really challenging the range. People mainly used the EVs for routine trips at first. The ‘secondary adapters’ drove further, and went further between charges, and had a higher level of ‘expertise’, but still didn’t know much about how the regen braking supplemented range.
  • Price, maintenance, support and resale values were all identified as further issues at the end of the trial – but participants were positive.
  • The researchers recommend changes to training of drivers – particularly the fleet drivers – to take them out of their range comfort zone; more accurate feedback on the regen braking and how this extends range; and focus on the ‘wider cultural meanings’ of EVs to bridge the gap between early-adopters and mainstream buyers.
  • There’s more about all of the above in the full report for the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator Programme. And here’s an earlier paper on attitudes and sterotypes of EVs from the Oxford team.

And feedback from the Evalu8 project (based at University of Hertfordshire) which has been running the Plugged-In Places EV infrastructure programme in the East of England. Dr Keith Bevis reported that:

  • the rate of buying/using EVs is nowhere near meeting the earlier expectations, with predictions for take-up now more conservative; by mid-2013 there were still only around 4000 in the UK, though we are now up to about 7000 (not counting DIY conversions).
  • Range anxiety is high on the list of concerns before people get to drive an EV, along with cost, and a lack of information.
  • Figures from British Gas saw 59% of charging at home, 32% at work and just 9% at public points, with a lack of residential access to charging points in urban areas a problem; workplace charging needs to be implemented.

His colleague Russell Fenner added:

  • the reassurance of having a network of public chargers available is important when buying, and the practicalities of using this (ie via RFID cards, being able to charge across different networks) is important to people.
  • It is important to see how charging (financially) for charging point use will impact on the market – their feedback from existing owners sees people who have EVs already as not bothered about the changes (perhaps because they’re not using the public infrastructure much anyway – my note), but those who have not got an EV yet see the rising costs as an obstacle.
  • The visibility of the charging infrastructure is important, and seeing it in use.
  • There is an observed big gap and difference between the existing EV drivers/early-adopters and the mass market in terms of perception of the infrastructure, but there is a lot of support from the early-adopters – they are prepared to put up with glitches in a way that others might not.
  • We need to look at bridging the gap; Evalu8 has been doing projects ie funding trials with companies, working with car clubs, trying to extend chance to drive an EV – and has found that once people have tested one, they’re more likely to be interested in buying one.
  • But e-scooters, e-bikes also have a role in encouraging e-mobility in general, attitudes towards e-cars.
  • Conclusion: there’s a need to understand the dynamic between actual needs for infrastructure vs the perceptions of it, and ways to get people into EVs (for testing) are important for take-up.

Concept of the Day: Peugeot Exalt

April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

peugeot exaltPeugeot is showing its follow-up to the Onyx concept car at the Beijing Motor Show: the Exalt, now petrol-fuelled, has a 340bhp plug-in hybrid drivetrain developed from that of the 3008/508 Hybrid4 models with a 1.6 THP turbocharged engine (270bhp), a 50kW electric motor powering the rear axle, and a six-speed auto gearbox. Am liking the bare-steel bodypanels, though not so keen on the ‘shark skin’ low-drag red-coated rear end, and I’m not sure Macassar ebony (used on the upper door panels inside) should be encouraged – it’s rare and edging towards being endangered, apparently. It’s a striking-looking thing, nonetheless.

  • Mercedes-Benz has started production of the B-Class Electric Drive at Rastatt, with sales to follow (mainland Europe) from mid-year. The e-B features Tesla-sourced lithium-ion batteries (Daimler owns a 10% stake in Tesla), and a 177bhp/250lb ft motor; top speed is 100mph, 0-62mph happens in 7.9 seconds and M-B is considering right-hand drive sales for next year, reports Autocar.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Lexus NX compact crossover – to be launched in Beijing – reports Automotive News. And Toyota is rolling out some new petrol engines with significant economy/emissions improvements, thanks to moves including incorporating Atkinson cycle valve timing (as in the hybrids); more here.
  • And an update on the upcoming plug-in hybrid BMW X5: the Concept X5 eDrive is to appear at the New York Motor Show, nearer finished-spec. This latest iteration delivers a range of 20-odd mile/30km and up to 75mph in all-electric mode, returning over 74.3mpg on the evened-out EU test cycle; it has BMW’s twin-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine (245hp) plus a 70kW/90hp e-motor, and lithium-ion batteries. There are selectable driving modes, with ‘intelligent hybrid drive’, pure electric ‘max eDrive’, and ‘battery save’, and it’s now all-wheel drive, with the xDrive system channelling torque to both axles. And in Eco Pro driving mode, a ‘proactive driving assistant’ works with the sat nav to optimise route profile, given speed restrictions and traffic conditions, which also feed into the range calculations. The nav system shows charging points, and the iDrive OS includes data on charging times, operating status, charge level efficiency history and more; this can be downloaded to a smartphone, with the ConnectedDrive Remote app allowing for remote charge programming and activation plus pre-heating or cooling of the cabin. BMW’s also going to offer a high-voltage Wallbox charger, which can synch with home energy management systems, solar panels and soforth. More details, pics plus press release posted here.
  • And… Audi’s teaming up with Chinese auto-maker FAW to launch the A6 e-tron plug-in hybrid in China. It’ll be locally-built at the FAW-Volkswagen plant in Foshan, based on the LWB A6: a 50km range is promised. Audi already sells hybrid (non-plug-in) versions of the Q5, A6 and A8 L in China, with the A3 e-tron plug-in on its way there.
  • Not to be left out, Volvo is planning hybrid and pure-electric versions of the new XC90 SUV, reports Autocar, with everything in between including a model with the KERS-style flywheel.
  • Hyundai has improved the longevity of lithium-sulphur batteries, thought to offer greater energy density than Li-ion; paper presented at the SAE World Congress, links and lowdown here.
  • More battery news: Dongfeng Motors has taken delivery of new-generation lithium-ion polymer batteries from supplier Electrovaya, reports Green Car Congress.
  • The ‘MotorBrain’ project – Siemens, Infineon, TU Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen – has come up with a small, light e-motor which needs no rare earth metals. More here.
  • Tobacco is a good potential source of bioethanol, and could be grown in Spain (where the traditional tobacco-growing market has collapsed); more here.



e-mobility NSR – some take-away points

April 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Flyerbild_01Some notes from the e-mobility NSR (North Sea Region) conference at London Metropolitan University, April 11th – an event as much about, I think, acknowledging the slow take-up of EVs so far and the continuing barriers as it was about cheerleading for the future.  There’s a lengthy library of reports and resources from the project here, and presentation slides from the event are also to be posted, I understand, but some of my own scribblings (more to follow, perhaps) from the talks and discussions… Day ended with a Skype link-up with Paul Scott (a co-founder of Plug In America), characteristically upbeat about the future of EVs. Some input from him in response to specific questions from the plenary round-up:

  • Fleet leaders in the USA look at total cost for three-year leases and are finding now in many cases that electric trucks cost less – fleets such as FedEx, UPS, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola are starting to find them more profitable.
  • Legislative support for EVs is still necessary in California, due to the cheap cost of diesel/gasoline – in the US, subsidized by society! EVs need equivalent subsidies too, but there’s a need for sticks as well as carrots.
  • ICT can make a difference in logistics (for e-fleets), with better routing, energy-efficient optimising, real-time info (all also relevant to non-EV). But “educating drivers is a much bigger deal, how to drive more efficiently”. Estimates 30% of fuel is wasted by poor driving technique.
  • Vast majority of EVs sold in US are to single-family households (ie in detached houses) – but in cities like LA, off-street parking is an issue. States/federal government needs to install street-level infrastructure, change laws to enable this. In California, NRG is installing 10,000 charging points in multi-family housing/apartment buildings – though there are problems with antiquated wiring systems to deal with. Investment must be made, and workplace charging needs to come in faster.
  • An initiative in Santa Monica with free public charging is generating revenue – encouraging EV drivers to come into the city, spend their money locally i.e. the cash they’ve saved on fuel, on local goods and services; with local/regional electricity generation, money stays within the state.
  • But in the future there will be some need to tax EVs (more) to get some income towards road maintenance, etc; suggests a tax based on weight/mileage.
  • In the bigger picture, decarbonised electricity is feasible for the US, which is on-target to close coal and natural gas plants in 30-40 years, installing more wind and solar now… solar is already cheaper than nuclear, and close to the cost of wind; the economics, not the environmentalists, are killing nuclear; and wind is much cheaper than coal.
  • Reckons that autonomous vehicles will be on the market “within 10 years”, talks about summoning a car, Uber-style, without a driver, and for shared/autonomous cars (in operation 24/7) to be mass transit alongside buses and trains. “That’s the future you guarantee is coming, and it’ll come a lot faster than you people think”.
  • Sees a global carbon tax as crucial. And “utilities see energy storage as a huge deal, you need to be able to store electricity for wind and solar”… V2G, using EV batteries as storage, “the technologies are already pretty close” – 3-4 years off.

On a fleet feedback note, some input from Jim York, VP of GoGreen DHL Supply Chain Europe:

  • DHL employs 500,000 worldwide in four divisions – Supply Chain, Express, Deutsche Post and freight. In aiming to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% 2007-2020, had to tackle emissions from air freight, fleet and road transport, including at local subcontractors.
  • Air freight was relatively simple – updating fleet of planes – but road transport much more complex, with diverse range of vehicles around the world in much bigger numbers (60,000 vans in Germany alone; 7000 HGVs in the UK), so had to look at a breadth of different initiatives including telematics, aerodynamics, dual-fuel/natural gas.
  • EVs “come into their own” for urban operations and home deliveries; pilot projects in a number of countries. Challenge is with payload – range is an issue, but not so much for urban use, “can work within certain limitations”; lack of noise is a bonus; but need accurate info for driver on state of charge and displays.
  • Local infrastructure also needs to be powerful enough to support the number of vehicles.
  • Heating and cooling are “massive impacts on a vehicle’s energy consumption” and payload legislation needs addressing (having to upsize vans to get the desired payload).
  • But biggest issue is cost – actual trucks and battery packs, finance is a real issue; hefty additional purchase prices for base vehicle, fuel cost benefit not actually much gain over economical diesel over low-mileage routes; good carbon savings but overall lease costs, total cost of ownership bigger.
  • So looking at hybrid as a solution, more versatile; offsets some costs and increases range, giving greater flexibility. In conjunction with “step-change in operations” – ie consolidation centres, and using quiet EVs for overnight deliveries, all-round utilisation, whole thing becomes more commercially viable.
  • Future is definitely there with hybrid and electric, but need to work at getting over initial hurdles.

Design Concept of the Day: Applus IDIADA iShare

April 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

applus idiada ishareHere’s an EV for European car-sharing: the iShare, developed by Barcelona-based engineering consultancy Applus IDIADA (creator of the rather more sporting Volar-e) and on display this week at the SAE World Congress. Autoblog Green has turned up a a few details on it: the key-free doors open via a scanner which reads a barcode on a smartphone, ignition is via a PIN code; power is from a 15kW motor with 140Nm of torque; it’ll do 50mph; and its 7kWhr lithium-ion battery gives a 62-mile range, rechargeable in 70 minutes. At 2m long, it can be parked side-on (like a Smart Fortwo), and it has an easy-clean, easily-replaceable plastic interior. It’s classed as a ‘heavy quadricycle’ at 530kg and would cost a projected $8000-$12,000 to buy. Autoblog Green also has a video of it in action.

  • A ‘hydrogen hybrid’ van converted by Revolve Technologies (maker of the Emerald t-001 RE-EV van) is on trial with Commercial Group in London, reports Fleet News. This differs from a fuel cell vehicle in that it effectively combines the hydrogen with diesel fuel (in tiny quantities, acting as an ignition catalyst, and in greater proportion under higher engine load), and it can run on diesel alone if hydrogen is not available. Full lowdown on the H2ICED tech from Revolve here. The vans are based on the 2.2-litre Ford Transit diesel, and are said to have particulate emissions ‘to a factor of ten’ lower than the original oil-burners as well as ultra-low CO2 and diesel fuel economy of 100mpg-odd.


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