June 25, 2014 § 3 Comments
It’s not exactly the prettiest of things, but this is what the final-production Toyota’s Fuel Cell Sedan will look like; it has been confirmed for launch in Japan in April 2015, and later in the summer of 2015 for Europe and North America. Japanese pricing will be around seven million yen (£45,450 or so) and sales will be limited to areas which have some sort of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Performance and cruising range are said to be “similar to that of a petrol-engined vehicle” and refuelling takes around three minutes once you’ve located a hydrogen source, preferably of hydrogen generated using solar, wind or other renewable electricity.
- Further to the above, five hydrogen refuelling stations will open in Denmark this year, connecting the major cities and routes to Germany; five more in 2015, putting all citizens within a 15kn range of one. All using hydrogen generated by renewable-source electricity, too; more at Green Car Congress.
- This week’s concept from charlesbombardier.com (see below): the Aladdin, an induction-charging platform to transport vehicles from one place to the other, including the lifting/moving of ICE vehicles – buses, cars, trucks, etc. – within a zero-emissions zone, for example. Its designer, Ray Mattison, envisages a network of pick-up points and ramps across a city, and sees it as a way to smooth over the transition from ICE to electromobility. More at the Globe and Mail.
- Report on the Royal College of Art vehicle design MA students’ summer show at Autocar: themes this year include low-cost EVs, basic and recycled materials, customisation and transformability, and a focus more on city contexts than the driving experience. Good stuff…
- TUV Nord has done a lifecycle assessment of the Kia Soul EV, and declared it as having a smaller carbon footprint than its diesel equivalent. The assessment took into account factors including energy consumption, materials used in its construction, recyclability, tailpipe emissions (greenhouse gases 40% reduced). Release posted here.
- There’s a couple of electric motorbikes doing show-and-tell test drive tours of the USA right now: Italian brand Energica is showing off its Ego, but creating more column-inches is the Harley-Davidson LiveWire. Whilst obviously it’s great to have start-ups and niche manufacturers entering the e-space and increasing competition, it’s getting the iconic brands involved that will really help accelerate the mainstream adoption of electromobility.
- Attitudes to electric vehicles, the Office for National Statistics’ 2014 survey: just 5% had thought of buying an EV, 85% of car-buyers prioritised cost, perceptions on the negative side but some encouraging feedback as well (Great British Public not quite as dismissive as they could have been…
- And a load of data from California on EV drivers, their purchase motivations, demographic factors etc from the Center for Sustainable Energy – a really useful resource.
- The Molecules Project – multimodal transport link-up platform, including shared EVs and e-bikes – launches next week with pilot projects in Berlin, Barcelona and Paris. It’s to trial all-in, all-mode connected transport solutions across metropolitan areas.
June 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Nissan’s launching its e-NV200 electric panel van in Europe this week. This has a 106-mile range and 76mph top speed, and is said to promise 40% lower servicing costs and 4x cheaper energy-refuelling than a comparable diesel van, as well as retaining the ICE version’s 770kg payload and 4.2-cubic metre cargo capacity (two standard Euro pallets). It’s aimed at fleets and comes with the option of a top-hinged single rear door as an alternative to the wide-opening pair of rear doors. Mainland (LHD) Europeans will also be offered the five-seater Combi and plusher-trimmed Evalia people-carrying versions, which will be targeted at customers including taxi firms: a dedicated taxi version will be built (designed to comply with local regulations in specific cities/countries) and a fleet is going into operation first of all in Barcelona, where the e-NV200 is built.
Nissan points out that 70% of compact vans used by fleets in Europe do an average 100km a day, and that 35% of such vans never travel more than 120km, so the 106-mile range of the e-NV200 should be more than sufficient. Overnight single-phase charging takes eight hours, but 32-amp fast-charging just four, and a 50kW CHAdeMO DC quick-charger will zap up to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.
- Concept of the Day: a sit-down Segway-type vehicle called the Joust. It’s envisaged as a short-distance, wirelessly-charged urban vehicle which could be used in short-term rental schemes, and to be affordable and easily-assembled. Lowdown at the Globe and Mail. The piece is by Charles Bombardier, as in Bombardier Recreational Vehicles and Bombardier Inc., but it’s not an in-house project as such: design is by Michigan-based Boris Schwarzer. More ideas and concepts are showcased at charlesbombardier.com, which describes itself as a “concept vehicle factory” in which renderings are created to CB’s brief.
- And the Dutch-built Virto and Virto S stand-up electric tricycles have passed the EU Type Approval process for use on public roads, reports Green Car Congress. These promise a range of up to 56 miles, a top speed of 16mph and hydraulic brakes, and feature Li-Fe-Po batteries. Virtu is also planning sales and manufacturing in North America. Again, these have possibilities for on-demand hire/share schemes and as last-mile solutions.
- Media and mobility – some interesting thoughts coming out of the Transport in the Media symposium at Lancaster University’s CeMoRe (Centre for Mobilities Research), and not just on how different modes of transport are portrayed… #mediatransport is the hashtag.
- And social media and transport: Monika Buscher is talking about the ‘quantified traveller’, who documents his/her mobility behaviour (rich data) and interacts with software ‘counsellors’ (apps) to devise journeys, etc. “The creative appropriation of social media into the micro-management of mobilities, for example, provides opportunities for a shift from thinking about ‘intelligent transport systems’ and ‘smart cities’ to socio-technical intelligent mobility systems and smart citizens”, she says.
- But a view from the energy-consumption community (DEMAND Centre) on EVs: developing new powertrain tech, and a ‘techno-fix’ approach, is wrong because we should be looking at alternatives to the car. Blog post here. Because all of those 35 million cars in the UK (not to mention the billions more in the rest of the world, obviously) will then go away and not be needed (yeah, right). Because we haven’t had plenty of academics, multitudes of public bodies, organisations, think-tanks and consultancies looking at how to do this for a long time already, to little avail? And Tesla “the right answer to the wrong question”? No, one right answer to one of very many good questions that we should be asking – including those about electricity generation, other modes of transport, urban design and infrastructure – and an important one regardless of the minorities directly involved right now, because it has impacts on a far wider level. While we wait for this coming mecca in which everyone all over the country can access affordable public transport as and when they need it to go where they want to go, walk or cycle in perfect personal safety at all hours, and the affluent no longer feel the need for status symbols or private chauffeuring away from the great unwashed, I think we’d better get on and clean up the vehicles that continue to be in use, personally.
- Ford is working with Heinz on a use for waste tomato fibres: these could be used in composite materials for wiring brackets and storage bins, reducing the need for petrochemical plastics in car production. The fibres – from tomato peel, stems and seeds, by-products of Heinz’s ketchup-making – are said to make for lightweight, strong materials. The experiment’s still in the early stages, but Ford is now already making cowl brackets using rice hulls, console components with cellulose fires, coconut-based composites, recycled cotton carpets and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.
- Interesting feedback from BMW’s sales & marketing chief Ian Robertson on i3 buyers: 80% are new to the brand – and many “never owned a car before but decided to buy a zero-emission vehicle”. More at Automotive News Europe. Interesting because this may hint that the much-hyped ‘end of the Western love affair with the car’ may only mean the ICE car…
- Fleet software-builder CrossChasm has launched an Indiegogo campaign to market its MyEV device and app, reports Transport Evolved. This is said to go beyond current apps and telematics such as GM’s OnStar and Nissan’s CarWings in its tracking of vehicle efficiency and trip logging over time, monitoring state of charge and battery health, mileage, range and usage data, and enabling drivers to identify most energy-efficient routes, improve their technique and share efficiency scores with friends (or fleet managers). It uses a logging device plugged into the car’s diagnostics port and connected to a smartphone. And another neat feature, says TE: buyers get a windscreen sticker with QR code enabling other EV drivers to contact them via smartphone app at a charging station, i.e. to move their vehicle if they’ve finished charging or to ask if it’s OK to unplug them to free up a point.
- Australians are driving less: fewer trips, with increased use of technology/telecomms a likely large contributing factor (among others), argues Alan Davies of The (Melbourne) Urbanist.
- BMW is to offer its (US) i customers a new Smart Charging app – integrated with the existing i Remote – to identify best times and rates for domestic charging. Has the potential to save these drivers up to $400 a year, they say. It’s available to the former ‘Electronauts’ (field trial leasees of the ActiveE) first, presumably for sympathetic beta-testing, before being rolled out to further i3 and i8 owners next year.
- One to keep an eye on: insinuations of dirty behaviour in a charging infrastructure land-grab, reported here. Apparently Tesla wants exclusive rights to put its exclusive-use superchargers at service stations, shutting out Ecotricity, provider of electricity to any EV driver with the right plug adaptor. That such a battle is going on shows that there’s something in this EV business as an economic proposition, at least…
- Toyota and Panasonic are to launch their jointly-developed smart home-car link-up service later this year. This uses the cloud-based Toyota Smart Centre for car-to-home communication with appliances, air conditioning systems, heating, etc.
June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
Quadricycles are not cars. Well, we knew that, but a reminder of this has come with the latest news from EuroNCAP: four ‘heavy’ quadricycles showed “severe safety problems” in frontal and side impacts at 50kmph in testing and showed “a level of safety that is way below that of cars”. The Ligier IXO J Line 4 and Tazzari Zero both “had major failings of of their restraint system” – seatbelts and seatbelt connections breaking – and the structure of the Club Car Villager 2+2 (basically a golf cart) “virtually collapsed in the frontal impact. Best performer was the Renault Twizy, which does have a standard fit-airbag, but “its stiff structure and restraint system resulted in some dangerously high dummy readings” nonetheless. EuroNCAP is now calling for a minimum crash safety level to be legislated in this sector. More here.
- Some US sales figures: there are now 61,390 Chevy Volts on the road, and over 52,500 Nissan Leafs; Nissan sold 3117 Leafs Stateside last month (with year-to-date figures now at 10,389) and Chevrolet 1684 Volts (YTD 6838). BMW delivered 336 of its newly-launched i3 and Tesla Model S sales are estimated at around 1,200, says Green Car Reports. (and detailed table here).
- Lowdown on the Solar Roadways at Guardian Sustainable Business; first trial application will be in a parking lot in Sandways, Idaho, later this year.
- The American Public Transportation Association estimates that individuals can save an average of around $850 a month if they take public transport rather than driving, and nearly $10,200 a year following petrol price hikes and rising parking costs. Cities where the biggest savings can be made, says APTA, are New York, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago; full table here plus detail on how the calculations are made (includes vehicle depreciation, as with many of these studies – not an issue for drivers of older vehicles). It’s based on having one fewer car in a two-person household, and 15,000 miles a year.
- Demand for inductive EV charging’s going to grow, with nearly 352,000 units to be sold 2012-2020, forecasts Frost & Sullivan; lowdown here.
- The Fiat/Eni/Trenitalia car-share has launched in Rome; 300 Fiat 500s, bookable via smartphone app to rise to 600 by September. More here. Though having just come back from Rome, I have to wonder why anyone would possibly want to drive there, adding to the appalling air quality and congestion… The scheme is already up and running in Milan, too.
- Carbonfibre as electric car battery: latest reports on structural batteries (as in Volvo’s experiments) from KTH, Sweden, outlined here; potential for much weight- and space-saving. Carbon is also posited as a graphite replacement, and could serve as an electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, they say.
- The French government is running a trial to incentivise cycling to work, pointing out that car and train travel are already subsidised; around 20 companies with 10,000 employees have signed up to offer staff 25c (euro) a mile to bike it, reports Reuters.
- And another electric motorbike-maker to keep an eye on: Icon of California, which has just launched its very stylish E-Flyer ($4,495). It’s another retro design – looks as if this is the way to go to get people on board. Or maybe that’s just my own personal taste, but well, if I lived in Los Angeles, I could fancy myself on one of these. (via @damonlavrinc – thanks).
June 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Mitsubishi’s got a 603bhp EV to go up the hill at Pikes Peak this year: more on the i-MiEV Evolution III (pictured) at Autocar. All good for EV consciousness-raising…
And in other news today:
- Apps to simulate EV use/ownership are seen as an important way of engaging potential buyers, and one’s been developed for the Bollore Group (maker of the BlueCar), reports EIN Newsdesk. It’s a 3D ‘augmented reality’ experience for tablets, by ATOS (yes, that one, I believe, but its IT services division rather than the outsourcing lot doing the benefits assessments), and “enables our future customers to easily observe the specific advantages of Bluecar”, says the Blue Solutions sales director.
- McLaren – an all-electric supercar is under consideration, and all models will become hybridised (to some degree) in the next ten years, reports Edmunds.
- Eight US states have announced an 11-step plan to get 3.3million zero-emissions cars on their roads by 2025: more on the Multi-State ZEV Action Plan here, but the key take-outs are encouraging fleet adoption, investing in charging infrastructure and simplifying legislation.
- On a cycling note: the retro-look pedelecs (tech by Applus Idiada) from Barcelona’s Otocycles are pretty damn cool.
- Peugeot-Citroen is considering canning its EV-making relationship with Mitsubishi and rethinking its EV strategy, reports Reuters. Contributing factors: sales of just 651 Citroen C-Zeros and 455 Peugeot iOns in Europe last year (down from 3,142 and 3,080 in 2012, respectively), says Automotive News Europe. Of course, it may be due to both models remaining ridiculously expensive, and other cheaper, more advanced and/or more desirable alternatives (namely the Renault Zoe and BMW i3) coming to market… (thanks, Green Car Website).
- Demo of the Alcoa/Phinergy aluminium-air ‘1000-mile’ battery car in Montreal: video and more details here. The aluminium hydroxides produced are fully-recyclable, but note that these batteries are not rechargeable… electrolyte-swaps (in this case, water) needed.
- Non-rare, low-cost alternatives to platinum catalysts in fuel cells: some suggestions from MIT.
- Natural gas vehicles: worldwide sales of light-duty NGVs will grow from 2.5million to 4.2million a year by 2023, according to the latest forecasts from Navigant Research. That means nearly 40 million NGVs on the road in the next 1- years, 2.6% of all vehicles. And more on the whole erdgas thing from me here…
- And here’s a sad story/salutary lesson about attempting a cross-Europe trip in an EV right now… Even careful planning can’t foresee technical failures, the problems of French public holidays, and the sheer stupidity of a public network operated by multiple providers with incompatible access requirements. This is the difference between doing such a journey in a high-range Model S with access to the private Supercharger network and being an average (albeit well-informed) member of the public in a Leaf. And why there is still so much work to be done before electromobility is truly viable on a mainstream level.
- In Japan, however, Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda are joining forces in the Nippon Charge Service to develop a universal network… lowdown here.
- Some market research on how happy EV owners (US) are with their purchases: net promoter scores calculated by PlugInsights put Tesla Model S owners as the most satisfied, with Chevy Volt drivers also pleased, though Nissan Leaf owners’ NPS has fallen. And 96.7% of all surveyed would have another EV or RE-EV. More at Green Car Reports.
- Batteries disguised as car seats? Carbon nanotube composite yarns could be woven into upholstery fabrics, according to research from Wuhan University (more here).
- Traffic jams are getting worse, with congestion and journey times rising 1% in the last year, according to research by TomTom. Most congested city in the UK is Belfast, followed by London, Edinburgh, Bristol then Brighton & Hove (no surprises there, says a resident…). Lowdown here.