December 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
A house, not a car, but one designed to support the charging of an electric vehicle thanks to a positive balance of surplus energy. The prototype ZEB Pilot House, a collaboration between Norwegian architects Snøhetta and the Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings and in situ on a site at Larvik, 80-odd miles south of Oslo, has a solar-panelled roof tilted south-eastwards for optimum light capture (at least within the bounds of aesthetic and practical considerations) and features including an app-controllable smart energy management system to optimise the energy storage system, reports Wired. It produces enough surplus energy to propel an EV 12,500 miles a year. More lowdown from its creators here. And just to show that this ain’t pie in the sky, it’s reported that a small town in southern Bavaria called Wildpoldsried has – through a government-subsidised programme to shift its inhabitants to solar, wind, biogas and hydro energy – ended up producing a whopping 500% energy surplus.
- Volvo has developed a cloud-enabled car-to-cycle helmet communication system in partnership with helmet-makers POC and Ericsson. This extends the City Safety system, which includes cyclist-sensing, to communicate with cycling apps such as Strava and alert both driver and cyclist to each others’ positions, activating auto-braking on the Volvo if necessary. This will be demoed at CES, Las Vegas, in early January. More details from Volvo here.
- A working paper from the US National Bureau for Economic Research reckons that driving a Tesla (for example) + having domestic solar panels = greater than the sum of the parts when it comes to greening-up suburban living. Conclusion is that a sub-group of “accidental environmentalists” is created, there being a positive association between Tesla-driving and installation of solar panels, and purchasers of both enjoying cost-savings. Tesla drivers are more motivated by energy independence, having the latest tech and vehicle performance than environmental issues, apparently.
- And some feedback from the US DoE via Green Car Congress) on six projects on charging behaviour, looking at 270+ public charging stations and 700-odd residential units. Most plug-in car owners plugged in to their domestic units overnight, and price incentives were successful in encouraging off-peak charging; public points were little-used but typically deployed during business hours; PHEV owners liked to top-up at free public points; power demand varied by vehicle and installation of 240-volt fast-chargers is expensive and complex; and utilities reported communication problems between smartmeters and charging points at load-reduction events (brown-outs).
- Fiat has been partnering with peer-to-peer carsharing service Getaround (USA) to offer discounts on the purchase of shared vehicles; there have been discounts of $1000 on selected 500 models made available via the Getaround Connect app and members have been claiming earnings from their vehicles each month which put them in profit against their (discounted) lease payments on their cars.
- Here’s some more at Wired on the General Electric/Con Edison/ Columbia University trial on EV fleet-charging and grid-balancing: the programme, with FedEx in New York, is looking at spreading out charging over a 24-hour period according to demands on the grid and forecasting to avoid ‘spikes’, and computer models are estimating that a building supporting 100 EVs could see a $10,000-a-month reduction in its electricity bills if using such a system.
- Waste from olive oil production can be converted to electricity, via biogas conversion and a fuel cell, reports Green Car Congress. A two-year project trialled the process on an olive farm in Andalucia, Spain. More on the EU-funded Biogas2PEM-FC project here.
- And that hybrid plane: researchers from Cambridge University, working with Boeing, have trialled a petrol-electric Honda-engined light aircraft (a converted Song single-seater) promising fuel savings of around 30%.
December 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
There’s a joke in here somewhere about ghost drivers in the sky (or something). Jaguar is working on a research project involving ‘Follow-Me Ghost Car Navigation”, whereby an image of a car is projected ahead of the windscreen to indicate directions, as well as embedding screens within each roof pillar to give a 360-degree view out, and combining all these with an advanced head-up display. The 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen could be cloud-integrated to preset info on parking spaces, petrol prices and other infrastructural details, as well as navigation by landmarks.
- The Bollore Bluecars – as per the Paris Autolib’on-demand EV-share – are coming to London in summer 2015, reports Autocar, which appears to have the latest say on dates/timing/extent of the scheme. But the Bluecars will actually be red… as per London buses. Autocar this week also has some news from Renault, including: a two-cylinder diesel engine for emerging markets; a Twizy mini-truck; plus a small hatch concept called Value Up, exploring weight- and cost-saving through the use of materials such as bamboo, with a stripped-down bench-seat interior.
- And BMW is to debut its smartphone/smartwatch-controlled Remote Parking Valet system at CES in January; its display the week after at NAIS in Detroit, meanwhile, is to showcase new add-ons to its ConnectedDrive tech suite including auto map updating; more on ChargeNow and ParkNow (including ParkNow Longterm, to match i-drivers with a permanent space/charging facility), and the latest from DriveNow plus battery second-life projects and some hydrogen fuel cell tech.
- Carrots, not sticks: the authorities in Milan are teaming up with insurers to ‘reward’ car owners – to the tune of a daily public transport ticket or so – not to drive into the city centre. This is monitored via in-car telematics. (FT, via AutoblogGreen)
December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Here’s a car without a driver – or even a windscreen. The latest concept from Charles Bombardier – showcased in his regular column for Canada’s Globe and Mail – takes the idea of autonomy to an extreme, creating a car interior solely designed for passenger comfort and sociability. It’ll seat four side-by-side, or two in more luxurious face-to-face seats, or various other modular configurations; there are luggage compartments at the front and rear. Access is via gullwing doors (of course) and the cabin includes a raise-up adjustable table with inductive charging for laptops, etc. Conceived as a commuting vehicle or highway transporter, it has side windows and front/rear LCD screens – with no driver, no windscreens are needed. It’s electrically-propelled, of course, with wireless induction-charging capability. More images (renderings by Boris Schwarzer) here.
- Some detailed feedback from a small sample (76) of Nissan Leaf owners in the UK: 93% use their Leaf as their main family car, 64% say it drives better than a petrol/diesel, 89% reported significant cost savings compared to ICE cars (£200-£250 a month reported by “many”), 41% said it had positively changed the way they drive, more than a third said they did not have to plan journeys in advance more than they did previously, 95% were happy to recommend it to a friend, and over half said they would not go back to ICE. 89% charge up overnight at home. Nissan GB MD James Wright notes: “The issues that the naysayers said would hinder ownership have not materialised and, in fact, the feeling from LEAF owners is that they would never go back to a traditional combustion engine.” Nissan has now sold over 6,500 Leafs in the UK and 147,000-plus globally. More here, anyway.
- Mazda (in cooperation with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation) has developed a bioplastic for exterior parts which gives a paint-free mirror-like finish. This can be dyed, and is made from plant-derived materials, so is lower-carbon and reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds. It’ll feature first in the cabin of the upcoming new MX-5 but is also suitable for exterior applications. It’s said to be mouldable, durable and to have a higher-quality finish than painted plastic. More here.
- Nearly half of all EVs sold in the USA were purchased in California, according to DoE figures; in 2013, 70,000 all-electric and 104,000 PHEV vehicles were registered in the US. That doesn’t sound like much in the context of overall sales of 226million vehicles – but is more than a drop in the ocean: 0.6% of all car sales in 2013, from 0.4% in 2012, and rising to 0.7% so far in 2014.
- A name to watch. Seeo, a developer of lithium-polymer batteries, has gained an investor: Samsung Ventures. This latest round of funding will enable it to bring a new generation of batteries towards commercialisation, with an energy density of 400Wh/kg targeted – around twice that of batteries currently in production, and up from the 350 Wh/kg of its current prototype cells.
- Plug in and play with a Predator’s kit car: the PC010 ST comes in DIY form from $10,000, with all-EV and hybrid options available. It’s a street-legal single-seater – or at least, it will be once European Type Approval is obtained. A crowdfunding campaign is now underway. More here.
- The government of Singapore is calling for participating partners in a 1000-car EV-sharing trial, reports Today.
- Volvo’s testing a three-cylinder petrol engine, downsizing further from the Drive-E four-pots: it’ll meet Euro 7. Turbocharging applied.
- BASF has developed a four-way catalytic converter for petrol engines, with particulate filter. Now in its testing phase; science bit here.
- And, not unrelated: the European Society of Cardiology has made a very explicit statement on fossil fuel use, traffic and air pollution, advising cardiovascular patients (or anyone at risk of heart problems) to stay clear of rush-hour traffic, busy roads, etc…
- The Blink network (USA) has added a remote-start function to its charging app, reports EV Fleet World. Am not sure how well-received it would be for a driver to bag a public charging point, plug in, and then start charging later in the day, but I think this is more about general functionality and being able to sort out registration/payment/charging in one go by smartphone.
December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
One for next spring’s Geneva Motor Show: the Rinspeed Budii is an autonomously-driven “friend on wheels” (hence its name) said to demonstrate how we need to “redefine the relationship between man and machine” (and, presumably, woman and machine, I hope). One from the imagination of Swiss designer/coachbuilder Frank M. Rinderkneckt, it has ‘learning’ technologies to adapt to its owner’s habits and preferences – gathering data from other vehicles and the surrounding environment/infrastructure as it proceeds – and to become “the perfect chauffeur”. It’s not entirely autonomous, however: while the autopilot handles daily commuting and the city grind, there’s still scope for DIY driving out of town – and either driver or front passenger can take the robot arm-mounted wheel to steer. “The transition from traditional to autonomous driving will take place in stages”, says Rinderkneckt. “Consequently, man and machine will still have a few years left to get used to this new form of mobility and the different interplay between people and technology it will entail, time they both will need.”
- Volvo’s new XC90 T8 – a large SUV PHEV – delivers a total 400hp and 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds but emits just 59g/km; this big seven-seater also offers five selectable driving modes (hybrid, all-electric, Power, AWD and ‘Save’, the latter saving charge for later use, i.e. if heading for a low-emissions zone). It combines a 60kW/82hp, 240Nm rear-mounted e-motor with Volvo’s 2.4-litre, four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E petrol unit (318hp, 400Nm) plus eight-speed auto gearbox, a crankshaft-mounted starter-generator and regenerative braking, and gives an all-electric range of up to 25 miles. Volvo has packaged the battery pack centrally in the transmission tunnel, giving a low centre of gravity and no impact on interior space. Further touches include the ability to pre-heat/chill the cabin and prime the drivetrain and battery via the Volvo On Call mobile app. Some more detail here.
- Siemens has demonstrated home-use EV/PHEV charging equipment with remote cloud monitoring/reporting, smart-grid compatibility and LAN control; EV owners using this are also able to check charging costs and energy consumption, and remotely schedule and monitor charging via computer, tablet or smartphone. More here.
- London private-hire firm Thriev is to expand its fleet of all-electric BYD e6s to 200 by April 2015.
- The Mayor of Paris has announced plans to ban diesel cars from the city centre by 2020 – and London could follow suit, reports The Telegraph. Good move, but might be one to believe when it happens… the lobbying by car-makers has already started.
- And that meme about Millennials not driving… some figures have been dug up by Citylab to suggest that Gen Y’s driving to work as much as – in fact slightly more than – their equivalents in the 1980s in the 25 most-populated metro areas of the USA. Their commuting rates dipped a bit in 1990 and 2000, but 84.5% of the demographic is still travelling to work by car either as a driver or passenger. Yes, 84.5%… Falls in car use among the age group were noted in NY, Boston, SF, Portland, Washington DC, Seattle, LA, Charlotte and Miami (yes, most of the cities you’d expect to see in that list) but these have been offset by rises elsewhere.
December 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s the first all-electric Dakar rally contender: developed by Spanish engineering/construction corporation ACCIONA, this off-roading buggy features solar panels, four swappable lithium-ion battery packs (giving 140kWhr) and a 300hp/700Nm motor (more spec here) and it’s built around a lightweight chrome-moly tubular frame with carbonfibre composite body-panels. It’s said to have a range of 350km in race conditions, which should prove sufficient for the stages. Its progress in the event, which kicks off this year from Buenos Aires on 4th January and covers 9000km through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, can be followed here. Drivers are Albert Bosch and Agustín Payá. I wouldn’t normally support charging around Patagonia and other sensitive ecosystems etc in fast cars, but at least this lot shouldn’t have offensive numberplates…
- The driverless vehicle research team leading road-test projects in Milton Keynes and Coventry is to be called UK Autodrive; the project will be led by Arup, and besides the driverless ‘pods’ in Milton Keynes – L-SATS (Low-Speed Autonomous Transport System), for areas including otherwise pedestrianised zones, as ‘last-mile’ solutions – a semi-autonomous Range Rover research vehicle will also hit the road. The testing is to develop in-car, V2V and V2X (vehicle-to-infrastructure) tech, as well as legal and insurance protocols, and studying of social and economic implications. It’s funded by Innovate UK to the tune of £10million, with consortium members upping the budget to £19.2m for the three-year programme. Jaguar Land Rover is to look at human-machine interfaces both for the Range Rover research car and for the pods.
- Plus: TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is leading an £8million project to test driverless cars in Greenwich, E London. This will involve fully automated shuttles (out on the Peninsula to the O2 centre/ExCel?), automated valet parking, with attention to integration into the wider multi-modal network in the area. Responses from the general public are to be monitored on social media as part of the research. More here.
- BMW’s launched its DriveNow car-share in London: 210 BMW 1-Series and Mini Countrymans (Countrymen?) available initially, with 30 i3s joining the fleet next spring and 300 cars on-street by the end of 2015. It’ll only operate in Islington, Haringey and Hackney initially, but plans are for later expansion; charges are 39p a minute, with an hourly cap of £20, but packages including £35/three hours (with 40 free miles) and £120/24 hours (125 free miles) are on offer. There’s a one-off registration fee of £29. More here.
December 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Big reads of the week: first up, the new EV Casebook from Urban Foresight. It outlines 50 ‘big ideas’ for electromobility – the co-developments and influences, potential outcomes, business models and just plain Good Ideas – and supplies plenty of case studies to show how these are being implemented around the globe. And secondly, a 12-essay collection from the RAC Foundation, Moving Cities: The Future of Urban Travel – thoughts and recommendations from a variety of perspectives.Thirdly: Delivering the Smart City, from Arup with UCL, on the use of big data and analytics; concludes that investment, a holistic research agenda and leadership are needed, along with the understanding of what a smart city entails. And how are international financial institutions approaching urbanism? Report here from the Future Cities Catapult.
- London private-hire firm Openstart has ordered a fleet of 80 plug-in Prius and Prius+; 50 are already in service.
- France – where diesels have dominated for decades – is to raise excise duty and remove purchase incentives on oil-burners; French car manufacturers, unsurprisingly, are complaining. More here… Germany, meanwhile, is pushing forward with plans to get a million EVs on its roads; Chancellor Merkel is supporting further subsidies.
- The EU’s putting up 2million euros for a network of fastchargers along major Northern European routes; the Fastned network already has 18 stations in the Netherlands, is adding more at the rate of one a week, and is to expand into Germany. Its to-be-94 stations will form part of a 155-fastcharger corridor across Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, to be completed by close of play December 2015. Oh, and the Fastned stations are solar- and wind-fuelled (80 solar cells on each one).
- Employees with workplace charging are 200x more likely to drive a plug-in car than those without, according to research by the US Department of Energy.
- Veniam, the tech provider behind a 600-vehicle V2V trial in Porto, Portugal, is to set up operations in Silicon Valley: its early experiments with a mobile wifi network, vehicles acting as mobile hotspots, are said to have found improved congestion, near-constant wifi connectivity (for public transport users, for example), and optimisation of freight transport, as well as potential for money- and energy-saving benefits such as more efficient rubbish collections (thanks to ‘smart bins’). Report at CityLab.