Concept of the Day: Liberty Electric Cars DELIVER

May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

liberty deliverWell, the Google car’s everywhere, so I’ll bring you something different. This is DELIVER (Design of Electric LIght Vans for Environment-impact Reduction – catchy, eh?), built by the UK’s Liberty Electric Cars in an EC-funded project involving partners including RWTH Aachen University, Fiat, Volkswagen, Michelin, the Polis Network, Technical Research Institute of Sweden and HPL Prototypes. It features 2x 57kW/42Nm Michelin in-wheel motors, fitted on the rear axle with a two-speed transmission, an 80-cell Li-NMC battery pack, and promises a range of 100km and a top speed of 100kph. It weighs 2200kg and has a payload of 700kg, while its flexible cabin layout (no B-pillar kerb-side) gives walk-in capability and aids driver safety; it’s been developed with postal/delivery operations, supermarket deliveries and city council use in urban/suburban areas in mind. With a driver.

Described as a technology demonstrator at this stage, it has been evaluated on the RWTH Aachen University test tracks at Aldenhoven, and DELIVER will go display at the FISITA World Automotive Congress next week in Maastricht. More details at Green Car Congress; full presentation document from the DELIVER consortium here.

  • OK, the Google car… we all knew this was coming, but the most interesting/potentially disruptive thing about it, I reckon,  will be the degree to which Google plans to build and market it itself rather than work with established OEMs. The initial 100 prototypes will be in-house (albeit assembled by Roush and based on an existing product, say the rumours), then after that, Google is expected to work with partners – but how will the products be branded? The market’s opening up, though early days, of course. (“A revolutionary idea presented in a remarkably mundane package”, says Wired. Well, maybe that’s the idea).
  • Daimler’s pulling Car2Go out of the UK; its car-share schemes in Birmingham and London have failed to take off. Reuters cites the difficulty of co-ordinating between London boroughs on parking, given the one-way/’free-floating’ nature of the scheme; Car2Go itself talks in a statement of “the UK’s strong culture and tradition of private vehicle ownership” as well as the “unique challenges”. ZipCar continues to operate in London, nonetheless, though perhaps the greater ‘challenge’ in the capital is the fact that it’s actually pretty well-served by public transport. I’d also suggest that the limited fleet – Smart Fortwos – and the short-term-oriented pricing structure gave no appeal for residents (as opposed to tourists or city visitors) who don’t need a car for everyday or short-distance transport around the city (better means are available!) but might want to use one for occasional trips out to the country or weekends away, for example (something CityCarClub appears to have considered). Either way, it didn’t work out.
  • Some interesting discussion on car-sharing with car-share research queen Susan Shaheen (sorry, couldn’t resist that) here. Yes, it’s all about the city context (see above), which is continually shifting and changing; Shaheen also points to changes in the way car club members opt to use cars as their membership progresses.
  • Study from UC Berkeley (Caperello, TyreeHageman, Kurani) on the differences between male and female EV drivers: the men were less likely to talk about seeing long-distance journeys as impractical and more likely to consider using fast-chargers, women more likely to distrust range indicators; women more likely to focus on cost savings compared with buying petrol in the here and now; men more likely to look at long-term investments and also to see EV-driving as a political issue; men more interested in R&D and getting involved with EV communities; but really, many of the concerns and points raised were common to both genders. However, women are poorly represented in much EV-related research and product-planning, they argue. Full paper can be downloaded here.
  • The Chinese government is taking action to get smoke-belching old cars off the road – compulsory scrapping of a million to improve city air quality, reports Reuters. The interventions a totalitarian state can make, and my word, there are complications – and contradictions – inherent in actually pushing such a measure through.
  • Two-stroke scooters – which only have to meet Euro 2 emissions standards – are among the highest polluters of hydrocarbons and particulate matter in cities, claims a study from Switzerland: rundown, plus references and citations, here at Green Car Congress. Discussion too on diesel engine emissions from the United Nations Economic Congress for Europe, reported here; other sectors are more responsible and vehicles are not the primary culprits for PMs, but continued recommendations are made by UNECE.
  • Understanding this is way beyond my capabilities and the little I can remember from GCSE Chemistry, but there’s been some work on ‘iron molten air’ batteries. Said to offer higher energy capacity than lithium-ion, and when operating at lower temperatures as this research team has achieved, compatible with EV applications; more here.
  • A demo project at Berlin-Schonefeld (airport site) includes a multi-energy refuelling station with a hydrogen cogeneration plant, hydrogen refuelling for vehicles, plus electrolysis of hydrogen using surplus wind and solar energy. More on the Green Hydrogen Hub here.
  • Aston University is working on a bioenergy project involving Norwegian forestry waste; at the moment, it’s looking at biofuel for marine use, but research involves refinement processes and suchlike which could be relevant to land transport as well. More here.




Monday news round-up

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

blueindyThe Bollore Group has launched its BlueIndy EV-share in Indianapolis: it’s to get up to 500 cars, in 200 locations, with access to 1000 charging points, in the Indiana city, and is promised to be the world’s largest all-electric car-share scheme as yet. Release here. Incidentally, something worth remembering about EV-shares – the differences between schemes in which they are integrated into a multimodal system (ie BeMobility, Berlin) and where the cars are the primary mode of transport (ie Autolib’, Paris), discussed here.

  • BMW is adding live data on charging point status to its i Remote app for US customers – data supplied by CarCharging. More here. (And there’s now an EV charging station app for Google Glass, too).
  • Leicester University is developing an app for HGV drivers for urban routing to minimise congestion, noise and pollution; the SATURN project (satellite applications for urban mobility) will run a pilot trial in Bordeaux. More here.
  • Mercedes-Benz: PHEV versions of S-Class and C-Class on the way, but all-EV models will be restricted to the smaller/lower end of the range. Interview with head of development Thomas Weber at Autocar. And Volkswagen’s to unveil the Mk8 Passat in July, prior to a Paris Motor Show launch: average 20% fuel efficiency improvements across the range, and a PHEV with a 31-mile electric range.
  • Renault is getting to grips with the fact that EV sales haven’t lived up to forecasts: report (via Bloomberg) here. It has, however, just signed a MOU with LG Chem for development of next-gen lithium-ion batteries with a view to doubling range to 180-odd miles; more here.
  • Battery news: Power Japan Plus has come up with a dual carbon battery using organic electrolyte, said to have the same energy density as current lithium-ion tech but the capability of 20x faster charging, and no loss of capacity through repeated cycling. The Ryden dual carbon battery is also fully recyclable, uses no rare earth metals, and is said to be combustion-resistant. Basic details here.
  • Much fuss about BMW crushing its ActiveE prototypes (electric-converted 1-Series) at the close of the Electronaut beta-testing programme – but all of the batteries are being salvaged for a ‘second life’ research programme, says a statement released. It’s not quite a case of re-killing the electric car. 150 of the cars are going to join BMW’s DriveNow Fleet in the San Francisco Bay Area as an interim measure until the i3s come on-stream, anyway, and a further handful are going back to Munich for research. This is what generally happens to pre-production prototypes, electric or otherwise, for legislative/safety reasons: I remember driving an early press fleet Ford Focus RS to Le Mans, showing it off at the 24 Hours to people who were stunned and horrified that, upon its return, it was going straight to the crusher.
  • Latest from Navigant Research: biofuels to account for 7.5% of liquid fuels used in transportation by 2022 (more here); less than half of light-duty vehicles in operation by 2035 will have conventional ICEs (more here and handy digest here). Summaries of reports available on click-throughs; whether or not you agree, and whatever the issues with biofuels and their feedstock sources, some useful stats/forecasts…
  • Spanish utility firm Endesa is now overseeing a 200-strong research fleet of EVs in Malaga, with cars available for local businesses to rent by the hour; 40 Leafs have just been added to the line-up (joining its existing Mitsubishi i-MiEVs), 1.5million km have been clocked up, and the project’s 23 rapid-chargers now include six with V2G capability. The project’s called Zem2all and this Spanish-Japanese collaboration is hoping to start a ‘movement’, with its ‘smart city’ model for mobility to be replicated in Fukushima, Japan, as well as a number of Latin American cities.
  • Volvo’s planning to build a 300-500m ‘electric road’ in Gothenburg next year to test induction charging for its buses; more here. And in the UK, the Highways Agency is looking to start on-road dynamic charging trials in 2016, reports Transport Network.
  • And (yet) another defunct motorcycle brand revived to make e-bikes: Spain’s Bultaco, to launch with a pair of Barcelona-built 90mph sports bikes called Rapitan and Rapitan Sport next year. Release posted here.
  • Methanol from ‘recycled’ CO2 as a transport fuel: could help reduce fossil fuel dependency, according to a lifecycle analysis study for the European Parliament. More details, references here and here.
  • OLEV has temporarily halted the domestic chargepoint installation scheme – more at Transport Evolved (which also has some news of an electric bicycle conversion kit).
  • Mix up your quick-charging and conventional charging for best battery life, reports research from KIT, Karlsruhe, studying EVs operated by businesses including Michelin and Siemens; more here.
  • And IKEA just launched (in Vienna, with further select locations to follow) an electric bicycle… It’s called FOLKVÄNLIG.

Design of the Day: BMW Group Designworks USA solar carport

May 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

BMW-i-solar-carport-002No, not just a concept: this is actually up for sale (albeit at a price, no doubt; tba). BMW’s DesignworksUSA studio is presenting – to tie in with the launch of the i8 plug-in hybrid in Los Angeles – a solar panelled carport for EV charging. Its key points are bamboo struts (bamboo = quick-growing, sustainable raw material), carbon elements (strong, correlates with the carbonfibre of the i8 itself) and translucent glass-on-glass PV modules. The carport – which will be on offer in Europe as well – works in conjunction with BMW’s i Wallbox Pro control system, and surplus solar energy can be hived off for domestic use.

  • Further to Toyota’s trash-to-gas set-up (using waste methane from a nearby landfill site) at its plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, the company has now installed a stationary fuel cell at its sales HQ new Los Angeles (yes, another LA story today). This 1.1 MW cell is said to be the largest of its kind in the world, and will supply around half of the power needed by the six buildings on-site; it can be turned on and off quickly according to demand, has twice the energy-generating capacity of the solar array already in operation at the site, and generates power equivalent to that needed by 765 average American homes. The hydrogen is produced off-site by natural gas reformation (Toyota is offsetting the carbon byproducts of this by buying renewable biogas from landfill waste, it says). A 1,500-tonne saving in carbon dioxide emissions from the site is expected during peak summer operating hours.
  • Latest forecasts for electric motorcycles and electric scooters from Navigant Research: annual sales of the bigger e-bikes will grow to 1.4million in 2023, and the smaller scooters to 4.6million, the market expanding from 2015 as new products become available and their quality/abilities (range) improves. Growth will be in North America and Europe in particular, with an annual growth rate of over 30%. Speaking of which, Mahindra has opened its production plant in Troy, Michigan to make the GenZe e-scooter for the North American market (more here and here), and BMW has now launched its C evolution electric ‘maxi scooter’.
  • How do you process algae into biodiesel? With bi-functional nanoparticles, of course. New developments at the US DoE’s Ames Lab, reported here.
  • Drayson Technologies Ltd (new holding co encompassing the e-racing team) has set up a new division, Drayson Wireless, in partnership with Imperial College, London; aim is to commercialise its wireless induction charging tech. More here.
  • AlcoMix: sounds like a nasty night out on the town, but it’s the name for a high-octane syngas-derived fuel which can be drunk neat by petrol engines or blended with petrol as a better bet than ethanol. Reported in detail with journal refs/citations at Green Car Congress.
  • CNG: more costly to the environment than diesel for use in London buses, according to a lifecycle analysis study from Cambridge. Details, citations at Green Car Congress.
  • But a Proterra electric bus just did 700 miles in 24 hours in a record-breaking run designed to simulate real-life operation; its MPGe was claimed to be six times that of a diesel bus and seven times that of one running on CNG. More at Green Car Reports.
  •  Some presentations from the Mobilities and Design Workshop, Lancaster University, posted here. Some good points by Alison Hui on the intersections between travel behaviour, practices, and engagement with infrastructure.
  • A five-EV taxi fleet based in St Austell, Cornwall, has clocked up 150,000 miles in a year, reports Transport Evolved. C&C Taxis reckons it has saved £40,000 in fuel, its Leafs – soon to be joined by an e-NOV200 – cost around 2p a mile to operate, and that customers prefer the EVs as well. Nice story.
  • And an update/general thoughts on the progress towards e-mobility from the Civil Service/OLEV… Explains a bit about what the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles actually is, and what it’s trying to do.

#EV news catch-up…

May 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

nissan e-nv200Nissan is supplying 100 e-NV200s to British Gas following a successful pilot trial. The first 50 have been ordered for immediate deployment, with a further 50 going out on fleet by the end of the year. British Gas is committed to having 10% of its home service fleet electric by 2017. The initial trail of 28 vans, in collaboration with Gateshead College, tracked the vehicles for 60,000 miles and assessed their performance on typical BG working days and in wintry conditions. Feedback from drivers was positive.

  • Latest round of funding from BIS and the UK Alternative Propulsion Centre (APC): the four grant recipients are the ACTIVE project led by Ford (advanced turbo valvetrains, upgrades to EcoBoost engine); GKN, Alexander Dennis and Williams Hybrid Power (Gyrodrive high-speed flywheel for regen braking on city buses); Cummins and partners (stop-start diesel tech for buses); and JCB/Flybrid (more economical earthmoving equipment). More here.
  • Have been writing a lot about electric motorcycles recently (more to follow on this…) and what d’ya know, as soon as the piece goes to press another new one pops up. Saroléa SP7, reviving a long-dormant Belgium brand-name, to race at the TT this summer. Pics, video at Autoblog Green. And Yamaha – has just announced PES1 and PED1 street machines, reports Wired. (But maybe not the monowheels, OK?).
  • Ditto batteries… Lithium-carbon fluoride with bi-functional electrolytes, under development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US).
  • Rare earth-free magnets for use in motors: positioning an iron atom between nitrogen atoms has possibilities, according to the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. More here. (Similarly, the Infineon-led MotorBrain project has come up with a motor using ferrous magnets).
  • Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive: on sale in the UK early next year. Lowdown here.
  • Here’s the press release on the government’s announcement of £500m investment in EVs and ultra-low carbon vehicles. £100million in research and development. £32million for rapid-charger infrastructure. Continuation of the £5000 ULEV grants for buyers.
  • Rimac Automobili, maker of the Concept_One supercar, has found investors to back it to build 80-100 of these super-EVs; production of more mainstream models is then planned, as well as of the Greyp G12 electric bicycle. Story at

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