Quick round-up of EV-related news

July 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

Kontaktloses, induktives Ladesystem fŸr Elektrofahrzeuge, entwickelt am Fraunhofer IISB

A handy follow-up to this week’s news about autonomous cars – Volkswagen and Bosch, as part of the EU-funded V-Charge consortium, are developing an automated parking system which allots EVs to charging bays. It’s a smart valet-parking system for car parks (i.e. at train stations or park-and-rides) using sat nav, cameras and ultrasonic sensors; the challenge is going to be working out how to plug the cars in autonomously (induction charging over coils may be the ultimate aim).

And some more on induction charging from the Frauenhofer Institute (IISB) in Erlanger, Germany: best place to install the system is at a car’s front end, they say, allowing the car to be driven closer to the coils and thus enabling smaller coils in clusters on a column (pictured).

  • A nifty solution to providing on-street EV chargers: integrate them into street lamp networks and mount them on lampposts. The French-developed Telewatt chargers are about to make their debut in Aix-en-Provence, reports Sustainable Mobility.
  • So Tesla’s teaming up with Panasonic to build the ‘gigafactory’; economies of scale a key factor. More here.
  • Report on EV sales across Europe from NGO Transport & Environment: T&E’s Electric Vehicles in 2013: A Progress Report (July 2014) crunches some sales figures and says that sales have approximately doubled each year since 2010. Nearly 50,000 plug-in vehicles (incl. plug-in hybrids) were sold in the EU last year (0.4% of the market), with the top-sellers being the Renault Zoe, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Volvo V60 PHEV. The EU accounts for around a quarter of global EV sales, and its annual EV sales figures are expected to exceed 100,000 by 2015, 500,000 by 2021, and 1 million by 2025 – “steady growth” rather than sudden transformation is predicted, with EVs selling alongside other options such as downsized, more efficient ICE vehicles, hydrogen and fuel cell cars.
  • And July’s been a record month for EV sales in the UK: 1100-odd registered, OLEV has said.
  • Transport for London is running a three-month project with the Energy Saving Trust and RouteMonkey to gather telematics data from van fleets, to help plan a network of rapid-chargers for commercial electric vehicle use. It’s looking for fleets of 10+ vehicles (not necessarily electric) operating within the M25 to take part. More here.
  • And a big research programme in the US: the Electric Power Research Institute is working with eight car-makers and 15 utility firms on standardising smart-grid management via the cloud. More here.
  • On a gaseous note… Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago, have developed a catalytic process to derive syngas (a non-fossil natural gas substitute)  from CO2; molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid are used to produce the reaction. More, including academic references, here.

National Travel Survey 2013: very quick summary…

July 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

RoutemasterDigging into the data from the National Travel Survey 2013. Britons are travelling fewer miles each year (average 6,584, down 6% from 1995) and making fewer trips away from home (923 a year, the lowest recorded); driving, walking and cycling are all down (though driving and walking still account for 86% of travel), as are trips for shopping (20% of trips), visiting friends and commuting. 81% of men have a driving licence and 68% of women, but only 31% of those aged 17-20 (compared to 85% of 40-49 year-olds), and those in the highest income quintile travel nearly twice as far in a year than those in the lowest-income quintile.

Viewed from a more long-term perspective, however, annual mileage (using all modes) and number of trips are still way up on travel in the 1970s, and though average distance travelled over a year has fallen since the mid-’90s, average trip length is up 12% (to 7.1 miles), as is trip time (up 16% to 23.7 minutes). In 2013, 18% of trips were less than a mile, 67% less than five miles, 95% less than 25 miles; 77% of the total distance and 64% of all trips travelled were by car; walking accounted for 22% of trips, rail for 3% and buses 7%, though train travel was 10% of distance and buses just 5%.

Interestingly, trips by private transport (including walking, cycling, motorbike etc) are down 18% from 1995/7; men travel further than women, but take fewer trips; cycling is down but distances travelled is up (by 55%, in London). Public transport now accounts for 11% of trips, though people only use public transport on average 106 times a year. Public transport use has risen most steeply in London – bus trips are up 45% and surface rail trips up 67% since 1995/7, though bus use has declined outside London. Bus use is highest among young people – and those who have never worked or who are long-term unemployed. Anyway, much more detail – including on reasons for travel, regional and other demographic differences, licence-holding, car occupancy, ownership and mileage,  – is in the full statistical release.


Tues news round-up

July 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

PRIUS_PLUG-IN_HYBRID_TEC_01_2012__midA new study from UC Davis in which over 3,500 plug-in car owners were interviewed: their primary purchase motivation was use of the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Some 57% of Prius PHEV, 34% of Chevy Volt and 38% of Nissan Leaf buyers saw the HOV sticker as the deal-clincher, although those percentages have fallen in recent analyses to 34%, 20% and 15%. Tal, Gil & Nicholas (2014) identify HOV lane usage as a key incentive for getting people into plug-in cars, but warn of an increase in cars in these lanes leading to congestion, as has been reported in Norway.

  • The UK government is funding two pilot car-share programmes to the tune of £500,000, Transport Minister Baroness Kramer announced yesterday. The aim is to support schemes “which will promote much wider access to car clubs”. Interesting note with this is that the DfT is already funding 48 car club/car-share schemes through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – effectively creating a nationalised/public system.
  • Paper on the future of biofuels from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis: there are three possible routes, incremental improvements (slow), transitional (using existing facilities but developing new techniques) and leapfrog (investing in all-new infrastructure for cellulose- and algae-derived fuels).
  • Aftermarket supplier Tommykaira is launching a limited-run Tesla-esque roadster called the ZZ: only on sale in Japan as yet, but European imports possible, reports Autobloggreen.
  • Paper from Delft University (Sierzchula, 2014) describes the factors driving EV adoption by fleet managers: strongest was testing new technologies, ahead of lowering environmental impacts, chance to get government grants, and CSR/PR benefits. Handy rundown here.
  • Electric vehicles of the future will have batteries plus a network of nano-supercapacitors over their bodyshells, say a team from the Fraunhofer Institutes. These could use graphene as a conductor material, and take over or supplement energy supply at times of high demand, easing the burden on the battery, and enable battery downsizing.
  • And lithium-ion battery tech could be enhanced – with energy density improved sevenfold – by adding cobalt, according to the University of Tokyo. This forms peroxide ions, which react with oxide ions at the positive electrode. More here.
  • And finally, some potential legislation on emissions which takes into account nasties other than CO2: London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (to come by 2020) could see a £10 diesel surcharge added to the existing congestion charge (currently £11.50). Diesels meeting Euro 6 would be exempt, however – and petrol cars pre-2006 will also be liable. This could shake up the car market (both new and used) considerably – as well as having an impact on taxis, buses and vans. More here.






Tues news round-up: latest on #EVs, urban mobility and e-mobility

July 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

QUANT-e-Sportlimousine_front_side_doors openThe Quant E-Sportlimousine has been approved by TUV Sud in Munich to be used on public roads in Germant and Europe: this is the Koenigsegg-derived super-EV seen at the Geneva Motor Show this year with patented “nanoflowcell” batteries (demanding electrolyte swaps or charging, albeit after a 600km-plus range). This 350kph/0-100km in 2.8 sec giant coupe (it’s over 5.25m long) is now to go through the homologation process for series production, though it’s the Nanoflowcell tech which probably has the most commercial potential, for use in other energy storage applications – domestic as well as in the maritime, rail and aviation industries, notes this week’s release. (I’ve written in some detail about the nanoflowcells, and the E-Sportlimousine itself, elsewhere).

  • The LSE Cities (London) and InnoZ (Berlin) research institutes have carried out a study into new urban mobility trends in Berlin and London, interviewing 2,200 households in light of wider urbanisation trends such as “a rediscovery of accessibility and proximity in the city”, noting “the rediscovery of walking as well as urban cycling” (neither ever went away for some of us…), “a new culture based on shared mobility” (including bike- and car-sharing) and e-mobility, and “shifting towards a more multi-modal behaviour”, becoming more flexible, enabled by mobile apps and suchlike. The study identifies six distinct groups of people with specific mobility attitudes, and suggests that two of these “can be identified as significant of future behaviour changes”. First up, individuals who have traditionally been driving cars and who don’t like public transport – they’re actually quite open to changes, and cycle more than others. Secondly, tech-oriented younger people, who make opportunistic decisions mainly driven by price, time, and smartphone-delivered info. However, suburban car-owners, for example, will be harder to tempt away from driving. The study also found that though there were many similarities, Londoners tend to be less car-oriented, but Berliners are keener cyclists; Londoners are more tech-oriented, and their mobility attitudes and behaviours are more closely dependent on their housing location. Presentation slides from the mobil.TUM 2014 conference (Munich) here.
  • ABB and Volvo Buses are co-developing a DC fast-charging system to a common standard for electric and hybrid buses, which can be zapped up via an overhead cable at stops or charged back at base overnight. 12 Volvo Electric Hybrid Buses using the ABB charging tech will go into service in Luxembourg next year; these show a 75% fuel economy reduction compared to a conventional diesel bus. More details, and some tech spec, at Green Car Congress.
  • Renault Trucks is testing an all-electric 16t truck to be used for perfume deliveries in Paris: this will regularly cover delivery rounds to boutiques covering over 200km, and will be charged several times each day over a route scheduled to allow for two partial recharges plus an overnight full charge. Its payload is around 6 tonnes (its lithium-ion batteries are 2 tonnes), sufficient for Guerlain supplies. (via thegreencarwebsite – thanks).
  • Transmission-supplier Schaeffler has demoed a two-speed EV gearbox, fitted in a Golf-based prototype which competed at the recent Silvretta E-Rally, Austria. The STEP2 is showing an energy consumption improvement of around six percent compared to a single-speeder;it features a motor from subsidiary IDAM giving up to 70kW (peak) or 50kW (continuous), plus a planetary gear set, wet multi-disc clutch, band brake and diff – closing the brake and clutch alternately activates the gear-changes. “With a two-speed gearshift system, a low ratio for high tractive force and a high ratio for good overall efficiency also at high driving speeds, we offer higher dynamics and at the same time we achieve a longer range of electric operation”, said VP Uwe Wagner.
  • Battery-maker LG Chem of South Korea is promising to deliver EV batteries giving a 200-mile range in 2016, reports Reuters.

Friday news round-up: trend reports, connected cars, research review

July 18, 2014 § 2 Comments

smart fortwo and forfourSome mobility trend-reporting from Frost & Sullivan’s Martyn Briggs, in light of the launch of the new-generation Smart Fortwo and ForFour (pictured): city cars are increasingly important given the trend towards urbanisation; there’s an opportunity for Smart in micro-mobility and ‘last-mile’ solutions; personalisation is a key business opportunity; integration into wider mobility services, i.e. via smartphone apps such as Daimler’s moovel should be integral to the offering and attract younger “digital native” buyers; access to car-sharing and cars on-demand, i.e. through Car2Go is a growing opportunity; and “urban mobility poses one of the largest opportunities to the sector in the coming decades”.

  • On a not-dissimilar note to the above: connected-car services are already being used by 71% of drivers, reports a survey by Telefonica, and 80% expect in the future to have the same online services in-car as they have at home, at work and on their smartphones. Safety and diagnostics features were seen as the most important, with early-warning and smarter navigation systems also popular. In many ways most interesting, however, was that 35% of the drivers anticipated that they would not own their own car by 2034, instead using other options such as car-sharing.


  • An energy-optimisation system combining driver strategies, assistance systems and powertrain optimisation has resulted in energy savings of 27-36% in tests, with slower journey time trade-offs of 8-21%; eco-routing via the sat nav and prompts on driving style featured, as well as ‘smart’ torque distribution between front and rear axles, the Bosch iBooster regenerative braking system, EV-specific stability control and adaptive cruise control, and car-to-infrastructure communications. The test vehicles were Peugeot 3008 e-HDis. More on the OpEneR project here.
  • Although the UK’s low-carbon policy has helped revitalisation of the country’s automotive industry, the truck sector and biofuels have been neglected, according to a new report for the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. The report, by the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at the Cardiff Business School and E4tech, concludes that there have been sustained improvements in CO2 emissions and fuel economy, there is a favourable environment for low-carbon technology investment and revived R&D spending, among other positives, but that “the journey has only just started”. More – and links to download full report – here.
  • Researchers at the University of Twente (Netherlands) have developed a catalyst which improves the energy content and quality of biofuel from biomass waste; the oil is heated in nitrogen to 500 degrees Celsius with a sodium carbonate/aluminia catalyst, which boosts its energy content from 20 to 33-37 megajoules per kilogramme. Tests are currently being carried out in Texas; more details here.
  • Ferrari goes electric – not exactly, but “electrification is an integral part of the all-new Ferrari architectures which are due to come on stream from 2017 (front-engined cars) and 2019 (mid-engined cars), respectively”, reports Car magazine. This could mean anything from 48-volt circuits to plug-in hybrids, informed by the LaFerrari prototype, apparently.
  • Have been writing a few pieces about CNG as a transport fuel recently; research piece here suggests that there is a potential niche market for it as a fuel for light vans in the UK, with only minor policy intervention needed to kick-start demand. Barriers at this stage are a lack of refuelling infrastructure, and the cost of vehicles, the researchers say.
  • A six-month field trial of 79 EV drivers in the Berlin metropolitan area found a positive response to going electric, but that barriers remained. Questioned before receiving their car, then at 3 and 6 months of usage, the drivers reported more positivity as they progressed, with factors such as driving pleasure and low refuelling costs cited; barriers including acquisition costs remained. Conclusion: experience of EVs enhanced positive perceptions, and the likelihood of recommending them to others, but had no effect on actual purchase intentions.
  • A case study in Delhi found that 96% of commuters would be willing to shift from private to public transport – if certain criteria or services were considered. Safety was the most important factor, followed by reliability, cost and comfort. And in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton area, attitudes and psychosocial factors – rather than the built environment itself – were found to be the most likely indicators of whether children were driven to school. However, for adolescents in Norway, household structure and parental employment influenced how much they were driven around to leisure activities – basically, teenagers from more affluent two-parent families were driven further and to more activities. And in Flanders, land use (spatial characteristics) were found to be interrelated with residential decisions (where to live), influencing car ownership/availability. However, issues of life-stages and attitudes towards travel modes were also important.




Thoughts for the day: commuting, ‘peak car’, green attitudes

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

P1010383_SmallDetailed read at Citylab.com outlining research by Eve Bratman & Adam Jathav on commuting. It’s about how low-income commuters view cycling, not popular amongst urban poor; in the US, it’s typically white people from wealthier areas who ride bikes to work (I paraphrase). Predominant barriers include physical safety concerns, distance and comfort, linked to greater travel times/distances travelled of lower-income folk, and the fact that they’re more likely to use public transport. But the big factor is that respondents of all income groups consistently “ranked car ownership as the most desirable” of transport mode options – a significant proportion rejected car-sharing – and “suggests that, for low-income people, cars may have merits beyond simple cost-benefit use calculations. Automobility remains a paradoxical cultural and status symbol, such that while wealthier people increasingly reduce their car dependency, poor people still aspire to car ownership.” The authors recommend gradual policy changes, a focus on making muti-modal transport easier (i.e. being able to put bikes on trains, as with the Berlin S-Bahn, pictured?) and recognising that “excessively denigrating automobiles might hinder cycling adoption” and that “the rationale that leads some poor people not to desire a car-free lifestyle is likely very different from the rationale of planners and advocates who do.”

  • So the government is (at last) going to lead by example… to some extent. Announced today, plug-in cars and vans to join all governmental fleets, and a first batch of 150 vehicles. A further 135 will go to wider public sector fleets such as the NHS, councils and police forces in the autumn, and charging points are being installed, including on Downing Street and in the Whitehall area. No specific news as to whether parliamentary limos are going to be traded in for, say, Leafs (Sunderland-built!) as yet, however.
  • Latest on the “peak car” debate – car use is intrinsically related to economic and structural issues, there are a lot of divergent trends, not much convincing evidence to support some of the hypotheses, and no consensus as to whether it’s actually happening… Reports from a roundtable discussion in London collated in a paper published by the University of the West of England.


  • What makes us act green? Findings from an 18-month ESRC-funded research project on sustainable behaviour presented here; lots of interesting data and insights on commuting and transport use in relation to eco-friendly attitudes.
  • For those pondering car-sharing from a marketing point of view: some discussion and social media activity around the mysterious Car2Go ‘black cards’…

Midweek news round-up: #EVs, mobility challenges, hydrogen, car-sharing amd smart transport

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

simca vanRenault has delivered 30 Kangoo ZEs to Uruguay for electricity generator/distributor UTE. These vans – considerably more up-to-date and cleaner-running than this earlier French-built Uruguayan workhorse pictured here – will be deployed in Montevideo and elsewhere in the small country, with the aim of running them mostly on electricity generated by wind farms. Interesting note: 84% of Uruguay’s electricity is renewable-source, the country aims to up that to 90% in the near future, and wind farms will produce a third of the country’s electricity by 2016. More here.

As regards this picture, snapped a couple of years ago on the dusty, sunny streets of Colonia del Sacramento, I believe it’s a local chop-job based on a Simca Cinq (itself derived from the Fiat Topolino). And not electric, but anyway…

  • Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab in Palo Alto, California, has launched a series of challenges for software developers called Innovate Mobility Series. These are open to developers worldwide, with cash prizes and scholarships up for grabs; the initial challenges are to develop a 21st century parking lot for Los Angeles; improving delivery of goods and services in Lisbon; develop an app to improve mobility in Mumbai in the monsoon season; improve healthcare services and information in Delhi and remote rural regions around Chennai; to overcome congestion and enhance commuting in Shanghai; to develop accessories for commercial vehicles in Johannesburg; and to improve general mobility and mitigate congestion on a country-wide basis in Argentina. Competitors will use Ford SVL’s OpenXC platform. More news on the Series at Green Car Congress.
  • The Linde Group has started production of hydrogen fuelling units including its compressors; a deal to supply 28 to Japan is being fulfilled, and the first has now gone into public use near Osaka. More here. Linde says that this is the first ‘production line’ for hydrogen stations, and that it can make 50 a year.
  • Pisa may be most famous for its Leaning Tower, but it has a future-leaning IoT research project going on: it has teamed up with Deutsche Telekom and Kiunsys to install and test ‘smart parking’ tech to identify and direct drivers to empty spaces, and enable them to pay for parking via smartphone. Full lowdown on this, and Pisa’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan,  here.
  •  Electric motorbike-maker Brammo has teamed up with engineering and manufacturing consultancy TEAM Industries to develop electric vehicle powertrains; more at EV World.
  • Discussion on Helsinki’s ambitious plans for a ‘mobility on demand’ scheme and its intentions to make private car ownership in the city centre more or obsolete by 2015 at Guardian Cities
  • And a detailed rundown of the discussion/presentations at the Innovation In Mobility Public Policy Summit (Washington DC) here at Urban Omnibus – how can policy support new mobility schemes and encourage behaviour change? Conclusion of writer Manavsi Menon: “Shared use must be seen as complementary to existing services, not as antithetical to traditional forms of transport, and integrated into broader land use policy in order for a transportation network to bring mobility options to underserved areas and to be a truly seamless system across modes.”
  • Owning no car in suburban San Diego? Nice blog on “having no car and having plenty of cars” at the California Planning and Development Report – the difference in owning, and having access to cars via car club membership, using Uber as a fall-back, and car club membership as part of a mix-and-match of transport options.
  • BMW has signed a MOU with Samsung SDI for continued supply and development of battery cells for EVs. More here.

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