Concept of the Day: MAN TGX

September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

MAN TGXMore trucking news: “Hybrid drives in commercial vehicles will be part of the drive concept of the future in all areas of application”, says Volkswagen-owned MAN, which has displayed a diesel-electric concept called TGX at the IAA (truck show), Hannover. This one has a parallel hybrid system for long-distance trips on diesel power (440hp), but with brake energy recuperation and battery storage to power a 130kW motor, which also acts as an alternator when coasting and braking. Total fuel and CO2 savings are around 8%. MAN has also made diesel-electric city buses, and also has a range-extended electric research prototype, the Metropolis, though it warns that engineering an all-electric range into hybrid heavy trucks is technologically complex, demanding big, heavy and expensive batteries.

  • On a more mainstream note, a plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Passat, too: a useful all-electric range of 31 miles, a combined 141mpg, and UK sales from summer next year, reports Autocar.
  • And on a very different note, Porsche is adding a plug to the Cayenne; the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is to make its debut at the Paris Motor Show later this week, joining the existing Panamera S E-Hybrid and 918 Spyder at the charging point. This delivers a combined 416hp and 0-60 in 5.4 seconds; no word yet on its all-electric range, however. Some interesting nuggets of info in the initial release: 9% of all Panameras sold worldwide Jan-August 2014 are E-Hybrids (1,513); the E-Hybrid accounted for 16% of Panameras sold in the US in August. Small numbers, to be sure, but this suggests that something is going on…
  • The University of Delaware is running a pilot project with 23 on-campus EVs, selling electricity back to the grid at profit; more here.
  • Eurotunnel is putting 18 EVs – mostly Renault Zoes – to work at its Coquelles site. More here. Kia’s putting in its own network of rapid-chargers at its offices and retailers across Europe, to be available to consumer-drivers of the Soul EV, reports EV Fleet World; and Norwegian discount store KIWI is putting in 50 rapid-chargers at its sites (more here).
  • Plans in Madrid to restrict car use in four central districts – and to eventually make 25% of the city car-free – are reported at CityLab. Still some exemptions (residents with guaranteed parking spaces), the major through-routes, circular and arterial roads remain (so they’re not quite car-free zones, then; nose-to-tail traffic, as we see on the borderlines of the London congestion charge zone?), plus there’s the need for delivery vehicles, of course – so in tandem with an electromobility policy this might be something really effective in reducing the city’s air quality, noise and congestion problems…

Concept of the Day: Iveco Vision

September 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

iveco vision conceptA vision of the van of the future from Iveco: a hybrid featuring the brand’s Dual Energy tech, which enables an all-electric range for urban use and short journeys with hybrid diesel-electric propulsion for longer/faster trips, said to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 25%. It’s an automatic power-switch system with real-time energy management. This latest Vision concept, unveiled at the IAA truck show in Hannover this week, also exhibits Iveco’s tech thinking in terms of sensor-controlled smart load management, a new driver interface with tablet, rear-view cameras and extensive glazed surfaces with see-through front pillars for improved visibility. It’s a van said to be “ideal for door-to-door delivery missions”. Commercial vehicles: a very important part of the electromobility transition, their cleaning-up being vital for the improvement of urban air quality.

  • Free parking and the right to use bus lanes: the German cabinet has approved a range of measures to incentivise EV take-up. Plug-in hybrids with an all-electric range of 30km+ and emissions below 50g/km will also qualify, along with fuel cell vehicles. Germany’s aiming to get 1million EVs on the road by 2020, up from the current 21,000, reports Automotive News Europe.
  • Austrian bike-maker KTM is launching its Freeride-E motocross bike – the first electric motorcycle from the mainstream manufacturers to reach series production (I believe). This features a 16kW/42Nm AC motor and a swap-out 2.6kWh battery said to give an hour of riding; a full recharge takes 80min but 80% 50min. Prices start from 10,995 euros.
  • The national Eco2charge consortium in France has launched an R&D programme to develop smart microgrid systems for workplace/commercial EV charging, using second-life batteries in scalable, modular, localised networks. More here.
  • Nissan’s extending its Choimobi Yokohama EV-share trial for another year; this uses the New Mobility Concept microcars (Nissan-flavoured Renault Twizys) and over 10,650 people joined in the first year. Data from the trial so far shows that average distance travelled around the city was 3km, average journey times 16 minutes; most users (70%) were in their 30s and 40s, and users were 80% male. In this next phase, co-operation with businesses, shopping centres and public transport hubs will be developed; two different pricing/payment plans introduced (including one aimed at tourists or occasional users); and the business model further developed. More here.
  • Big report from the California Fuel Cell Partnership on lifecycle energy efficiency, taking into account fuel feedstocks for electricity generation and water consumption; EVs coming out ahead of FCEVs, though not doing as well on water use. CFCP is talking about portfolios of solutions, incidentally, not claiming fuel cells/hydrogen as the only answer. Full report here.
  • Natural gas is most efficiently-used in generating electricity to power EVs, reports Oak Ridge National Laboratory after its latest well-to-wheels analysis. The results assume the US mix of gas (including shale) and electricity, the production method determining the impact. More details plus academic references here.
  • Daimler is teaming up with Recargo to offer the PlugShare app (US) in the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. This will be integrated into the in-car e-Navigator app. More here.
  • On the subject of the so-called sharing economy… if you’re not entirely convinced that this idea of collectively clubbing together is about altruism rather than sheer I-want-it-now convenience/economic advantage, and wondered if it was just another handy and socially-nice way to push new products and services, Dr Maurie Cohen (New Jersey Institute of Technology) has been pondering the matter. He’s been talking about “the absence of genuine sharing”, and, in the context of urban transportation, “the ersatz quality of most contemporary sharing activity ” and its “ineffectualness as a sustainability strategy”.
  • Group Irizar (a Basque research consortium) has developed a lightweight all-electric urban bus called i2e. More here.



Paris Auto Salon preview: Renault EOLAB

September 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

renault eolabRenault’s EOLAB concept previews nearly 100 different technologies destined for production-fitment within the decade – including a hybrid powertrain. It also showcases Renault’s thinking for an affordable B-sector (supermini) car for “within 10 years”, i.e. a future-generation Clio, and has been developed with mass production in mind. It’s capable of 1 litre/100km (282mpg) fuel economy plus 22g/km CO2 emissions, aided by a 400kg weight reduction from the current Clio (to just 955kg) and a 30% reduction in aerodynamic drag. Features include a magnesium roof (just 4.5kg) and a steel, aluminium and composite bodyshell; the brakes are lighter and smaller, as is the centre-exit exhaust system, ‘tall and narrow’ tyres lessen rolling resistance, lighter window glass, thinner and lighter-weight seats, cabin fittings and trim, and variable ride height further aids aerodynamics.

Renault says that the hybrid powertrain will complement the EVs in its range, and that the EOLAB has an all-electric range of up to 60km at up to 120kph; the three-cylinder, 999cc (75bhp) SCe petrol engine works with a compact 40kW/200Nm axial flux motor, 400V 6.7kWhr lithium-ion battery and a clutchless three-speed transmission (first two gears for electric drive, the third engaged with the engine, giving a combination of nine gears in different modes). It foresees a ‘weekday’ (all-electric) mode for everyday commuting and errands, and ‘weekend’ combining petrol and electric power for longer-distance travel. No more details on charging as yet, but a key feature will include a driver interface specifically designed to engage drivers with their energy consumption and to encourage them to drive more efficiently. And the asymmetric 3-door layout with two rear-hinged doors on the right? To aid safety of passengers getting in on the kerbside, apparently (LHD).

  • Another Paris preview: Peugeot Quartz, a crossover concept with plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This comprises the PSA 1.6-litre THP turbo engine (270bhp, 330Nm), six-speed auto transmission, an 85kW e-motor driving the front axle and a further 85kW motor to the rear; there are three driving modes, Road (engine plus front motor for maximum battery-charging during deceleration), Race (engine plus both motors), plus the all-electric mode with a range of up to 31 miles.
  • Citroen, meanwhile, is to show a C4 Cactus concept called Airflow 2L – said to achieve fuel economy of over 2l/100km (141mpg). This prototype is 100kg lighter than the standard model, shows a 20% improvement in aerodynamics (thanks to side deflectors, active wheel shutters and auto-adjustable front bumper air intakes, modified wheel arches, spoilers and rear-view cameras in place of door mirrors), and has PSA’s Hybrid Air tech to reduce fuel consumption by 30%. Further details include lower rolling-resistance tyres, a smoother floor (featuring lighter-weight composite materials), carbon-based composite and aluminium structural elements and components, a polycarbonate sunroof, and LED light modules in place of the standard headlights. The drivetrain has the three-cylinder petrol engine plus two compressed-air energy storage tanks, which drive a hydraulic pump/motor unit to give an ‘air power’ zero-emissions mode in addition to air-assisted progress and petrol-only. It’s ‘medium-term’ with respect to the production-readiness of its technologies, apparently.
  • A concept of a different kind: Stella, by students at TU Eindhoven, is a solar-powered four-seater capable of capturing more energy (to sell back to the grid) each year than it actually uses. An entrant in last year’s World Solar Challenge, it’s out and about in the SF area right now for the USA’s National Drive Electric Week, reports Autoweek.
  • A lightweight micro-EV last seen at the Geneva Auto Salon, the Eon Weez, is ready for production, reports Automobile Challenges. Under the French quadricycle legislation, it can be driven licence-free. Interesting thing about it is its central driving position – like the McLaren F1, they report, though it’s rather more a la the ill-fated mia electric

Harmonious mobility in Grenoble

September 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

toyota hamo grenobleThe Cité lib by Ha:Mo (harmonious mobility) project launches in Grenoble on 1st October, for a three-year trial; this puts 35 Toyota i-Road three-wheelers and 35 Toyota COMS micro-vehicles on the French city’s streets in a short-distance car-share programme. Partners include local authorities, EDF, SODETREL (an EDF subsidiary installing, managing and maintaining charging points) and the local car-share operator, Cité lib, with Toyota’s Ha:Mo management as trialled in Japan. It’s a one-way ‘free-floating’ system, with access to 27 charging stations where vehicles will be dropped off and plugged in, and the concept is to link people with local transport hubs for onward/inward journeys. “Urban mobility solutions will be a key growth for Toyota in the future”, says Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota Motor Corporation chairman. In the trial, data on technical issues and user behaviour will be collected.

  • Here’s a nice thought to start the week: drivers are more motivated to employ eco-driving techniques by environmental concerns than by financial savings, according to a study reported here. Three groups of Dutch motorists (305 in total) were told six things they could do to save fuel/emissions; one group was told about the specific CO2 benefits, one about the financial, and the third given no info at all, and the lot told about the CO2 savings thought making the effort would be the most worthwhile. Even small ‘green’ gains were thought worthwhile, but small cost-savings not thought worth the effort.
  • The first Motiv Power Systems electric garbage truck has gone into operation in Chicago, reports Clean Technica; this has a 9-tonne payload, is to work a 60-mile refuse and recycling round, and is the first of a fleet for the city.
  • The problems of the Wankel rotary engine have been solved, apparently: Libralato Ltd‘s rotary – tested at Loughborough University – gets 40% efficiency, but is 50% smaller (and 30% cheaper to make) than a  conventional ICE. It features a new thermodynamic cycle and engine mechanism, with a new switched reluctance motor (containing no rare earth magnets), and 48V operating electrics, and has been designed with a PHEV powertrain in mind. Libralato calls it the ‘Town & Country 48V Hybrid’ powertrain, or TC48, and says it would give (in an average car) a 15-mile all-electric range in town, and 54mpge (US) out of town. More here.
  • New EV registrations in Q2 2014: 2746, a 141% rise on the same period last year. Calculations are that the total EV fleet of all ages in the UK (including PHEVs and vans) is now over 13,200 (thanks, NextGreenCar, who’ve added up the numbers). More here. 
  • Mercedes-Benz: sceptical of the concept of increasing urbanisation, planning for continued dwelling in the ‘burbs and indeed, a future of ‘mega-suburbs’, reports Fast Company.
  • A smartphone app to simulate EV-driving: e.CODRIVER, developed at the University of Ghent, predicts the suitability of different EVs dependent on your driving needs and style (put phone on your dashboard). It can be downloaded free from Google Play.

Dissent on car club stats; electrification tech and more…

September 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

drivenow_mini_smallAnd something backing up my suspicions that on-demand car-sharing (as distinct from fixed-location car clubs) may not be the urban transport panacea its advocates position it as being: a German study claiming that it created more traffic on urban streets in Berlin, was used in favour of public transport or cycling and mainly for short leisure journeys (an average 5.8km). Vehicles also spent nearly 23 hours a day parked and stationary, only a half-hour or so more than than average private car. There’s been criticism of the methodology (Car2Go claims its vehicles work 150 minutes a day) and of the study’s concentration on usage statistics without looking at behaviour change, however.

  • Nissan, BMW, Volkswagen and Renault are co-ordinating in the EU-funded Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) programme to develop a multi-standard, interoperable network across the UK and Ireland, including over 70 rapid-chargers on major trunk routes; also involved in the project are Zero Carbon Futures (Sunderland) which will manage it, Irish energy co ESB, and Newcastle University, which will lead the research programme.
  • Controlled Power Technologies (CPT) has been demonstrating its 48V hybrid tech at the Low Carbon Vehicle event at Millbrook this week: this is a proposal using low-cost ‘switched reluctance’ (SR) motor-generators, which are simple stepper motors in which a non-permanent magnetic field is induced. These are said to be very controllable, efficient across a wide speed range, and need no expensive permanent magnets or rare earth metals. CPT has also developed its latest LC Super Hybrid demo cars for advanced regenerative braking and advanced engine torque-assist from the SR motor-generator, and is seeing a 17% fuel economy improvement (to 57mpg) compared to the standard 1.4-litre Volkswagen Passat on which the demo car is based; CO2 emissions are down close to 115g/km but performance is said to emulate that of a 2.0-litre engine. CPT is also showing off the ADEPT concept developed in partnership with Ricardo (see below), as well as COBRA (Controlled Boosting for Rapid response Application), using the SR machines in electric superchargers for buses and commercial vehicles – a means of enabling engine downsizing and higher gear ratios as well as improving diesel emissions. This is being retro-fitted in a number of transport fleets.
  • California-based Local Motion (San Mateo), vehicle-sharing tech provider to companies including Verizon, ride-share service Breeze, London’s EV-taxis Thriev, EDF and 1-800Courier (for Google Shopping Express deliveries) says it is scaling up deployment to nearly 90,000 vehicles; its fleet management/deployment/optimisation software includes keyless entry/access, enabling quick driver changeovers, and is said to facilitate fleet introduction of EVs.  A name to remember…
  • Another police alert: the Italian Carabinieri have taken delivery of 23 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs for use in city centres, on islands and in low-emissions zones, reports AutoblogGreen.

GM EN-V goes autonomous

September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Chevrolet-EN-V-2.0-201-1-580x386GM CEO Mary Barra has confirmed introduction of V2v-equipped models in two years’ time, and spoken at length about connected-car technologies at the ITS World Congress – full transcript of her speech here. To underline GM’s intentions, the latest prototype version of the EN-V 2.0 two-seater micro-EV (25mph top speed, 25-mile range) is on display – featuring autonomous-driving technologies, being fully fitted out with cameras, sensors and V2X communications including pedestrian-detection and sync-ing with traffic lights. Oh, and it’s gained a Chevrolet badge.

  • Renault and Bolloré have announced their joint venture (30:70 respectively) for complete EV-sharing solutions (vehicle supply and operation) and development of a new Renault specifically for car-shares. Renault’s Dieppe factory is to start building Bollore’s Bluecar EVs from mid-2015. The existing Bollore car-share networks in Lyon and Bordeaux will gain Twizys on their fleets in addition to the Bluecar, with Renault vehicles to make up 30% of the vehicles offered ‘as quickly as possible’. The Renault under development – though still at a feasibility-survey stage – is to be a smaller, three-seat EV with Bollore’s 20kW lithium-polymer battery, smaller than the Bluecar; this could also be sold to municipalities, companies and consumers, says Renault, though its main raison d’etre is ‘to support the expansion of car-sharing initiatives’.
  • Final conclusions from the 2011-2014 e-mobility NSR (North Sea Region) research programme have been published. Main pull-outs: Electrification a dynamic process – difficult to make long-term predictions. Realisation of public charging infrastructure a prerequisite – but must look at each scale, micro to macro, sort out interoperability. Need to combine actions of all actors, consumers, energy providers, distributors – overall system efficiency – but changing individual consumer/user behaviour also important. Lack of awareness/information gap biggest problem (info centres recommended, user simulation app). EVs good for urban freight, especially last-mile deliveries. Full report for download here
  • ‘Eco-routing’ navigation cut EV energy consumption by up to 51% in a trial and subsequent simulation by UC Riverside, though there were trade-offs for distance travelled, and, especially, journey time, which were in some cases not viable. The team thinks its system and algorithm for calculating optimal routing has potential for commercialisation. More here.
  • GKN has three new technologies on display this week at the LowCVP event, Millbrook. First up, the battery-alternative Gyrodrive flywheel hybrid system for buses, said to give 20% fuel savings, be suitable for retro-fit and to last the lifespan of the bus itself; a new version of the GKN EVO e-drive system for passenger cars and delivery vehicles, integrating an axial flux motor with single-speed transmission and promising much higher torque and power density in a smaller, lighter package; and a downsized engine to act as a range-extender, incorporating the axial flux tech on its crankshaft in an integrated package. More here.
  • Ricardo is demonstrating its ADEPT (Advanced Diesel Electric Powertrain) prototype at the LowCVP event. Fitted in a Ford Focus, this comprises the CPT ‘Tigers’ (turbine integrated exhaust gas recovery) plus Speedstart belt-integrated starter-generator and a lead-carbon battery pack, with 48-volt electrics. CO2 emissions are said to be under 70g/km, but the cost of the package considerably less than a full hybrid system. More here.
  • The Mini ‘Superleggera’ electric roadster concept could be a goer for production, with a decision to be made early next year, reports Reuters.
  • A stealthily quiet patrol car: Volkswagen has developed a police-specification e-Golf, with an 81-118-mile range sufficient for urban duties. It’s to go on display at a trade fair in Leipzig shortly, reports Autoweek.
  • Electric vehicles could play a key role in a paradigm shift away from centralized electricity generation to solar microgrids, thinks Swiss bank UBS, which is advising its investors accordingly…
  • How smartphones and apps are changing our ‘spatial thinking’ in terms of the way we relate to maps and journey-making: interesting piece at Citylab.
  • “Electrifying America’s fleet of transit buses would put a far larger dent in carbon emissions than putting a few hundred thousand Teslas on the road”, argues Daniel Gross at Slate in a piece about bus-maker Proterra.
  • Verizon has developed a provider-agnostic car-sharing app which integrates a number of its services. Verizon Auto Share features ‘scan & go’ QR code tech, with cloud data storage, and can be customised by service providers or clients. More here. And Valeo has partnered with French car-share tech firm VULOG to develop a Bluetooth-based smartphone access system for car-sharers, with the aim of creating a seamless and convenient user experience – more here.
  • The EPSRC is putting up £6m-worth of funding for two low carbon vehicle projects: the ELEvate programme at Loughborough University to develop fuel cells and batteries for energy storage plus integration of grids, vehicles and devices, and the Ultra Efficient Engines and Fuels project at the University of Brighton, aiming for a one-third efficiency improvement from ICEs and near-zero emissions. More here. 

Concept of the Day: Peugeot Exalt

September 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

peugeot exalt_parisThe latest iteration of Peugeot’s Exalt concept (last seen in Beijing in April) is going to the Paris Auto Salon next month. This big five-door saloon weighs just 1700kg and features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain delivering a total 340bhp from its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and 50kW electric motor, via a six-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive with regenerative brake energy recovery. Changes from the Beijing show car include a different ‘shark skin’ aerodynamic finish to the rear paintwork, and an interior trim made from recycled newspapers (in place of the earlier car’s ebony) – its pinkish tinge comes from certain business publications, apparently. In place of carbonfibre, there’s basalt fibre. And the finishing touch? A foldaway electric scooter (‘HYbrid-kick’) stowed under the boot floor as a last-mile solution.

  • A blog from the New Cities Foundation explaining California’s PATH (Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology) research at UC Berkeley, and the ‘Connected Corridors’ programme: developing a framework to integrate traffic and incident management with personalized route guidance, in partnership with Caltrans and using V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I, or V2X) communications. They argue that “transportation assets have been managed in silos” and that a holistic approach needs to be taken involving all transportation modes; while the focus is on reducing congestion and improving safety, while moving people – an goods – in as efficient a way as possible, reducing vehicle emissions is also a consideration.
  • The most important transportation innovation of this decade is the smartphone“, argues Eric Goldwyn (Columbia University) at Citylab – also making the case for public authorities to take control of app provision and multimodal integration, rather than leaving it to start-ups and to independent corporations such as the Googles of this world. Goldwyn looks at regulation and public policy, with reference to the ongoing Uber controversy, and cites Prof Elliot Sclar (Columbia) in calling this a missed opportunity for cities, which should be taking leadership, especially as more and more privately-operated transport options come into the frame.
  • On a different (though not entirely unrelated) note, a big report from UCL on transport and poverty: the authors discuss spatial mismatch (the dynamics between housing, jobs and transport networks, i.e. more affordable housing being in areas with poor or expensive transport connections), transport-related social exclusion and social justice, to examine issues such as the dynamics between poverty, transport behaviour and mobility, car-dependency (with particular focus on low-income groups in rural areas), risks of death on the roads and exposure to air pollution, and the impact of schemes to improve access to transport and mobility for key services, education, finding work and soforth.  Lots of useful references and data.
  • So transportation design students at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (training ground for many of the world’s best-known car designers) are being asked to take a different approach, reports The Guardian: rather than drawing stand-alone cars-as-products, they’re being told to look into the whole automobility system (as students have long been doing at the RCA in London), and address issues such as parking and the idea that vehicles spend 90% of their time idle, the land use that this entails, and the inherent all-round inefficiency of the private car. (This is in California, note).

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