Concept of the Day: Magna MILA Plus

February 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Magna International Inc MILA PlusMagna Steyr’s MILA Plus concept’s a two-seater PHEV showing off the company’s lightweight construction tech and vehicle-building capabilities alongside its plug-in hybrid powertrain (two motors, one driving each axle; all-electric range 75km; overall CO2 emissions of 32g/km; 272hp, 580Nm and 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds). It weighs 1520kg, and its modular aluminum spaceframe construction could accommodate different driveline configurations, components and systems; the aluminium body-in-white is fully-recyclable and the interior features bioplastics and natural fibres. Its battery is incorporated into the spaceframe; its body panels are plastic; and its components are joined in a bonding process rather than by welding, as with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Aston Martin Rapide (also built by Magna). Typical concept-car touches include rear-view cameras in place of exterior mirrors, projecting images onto display screens. Will see more of this one at the Geneva Auto Salon next week…

  • Yamaha is planning to launch the two-seat Motiv city car in Europe in 2019, according to reports. The Motiv (and Motiv.e in electric form) were developed in partnership with Gordon Murray Design from GMD’s T25 and T27 prototypes.
  • MINI is presenting an installation at the Salone del Mobile in Milan next month in partnership with Spanish artist Jaime Hayon. The theme is ‘tomorrow’s urban mobility’, and it centres on the MINI Citysurfer concept e-scooter. Hayon has designed two Citysurfer variants to be taken on virtual graphic routes and paths in a “surreal space”, apparently; more here.
  • That £32million of EV infrastructure support announced yesterday: for chargepoints on A-roads, at train stations and even homes and hospitals, ringfenced to 2020, with an additional £11million across 50 organisations, companies, universities and other businesses working on 15 R&D projects. These include creating recycled carbonfibre material for massmarket vehicle structures (led by Gordon Murray Design); zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell range-extender bus powertrains (Magtec) and liquid nitrogen-fuelled power/cooling for refrigerated trucks and air-conditioning buses (Dearman Engine Company).  The government has also confirmed £15million for grants towards the installation of home EV-charging kit; £8million for public charging infrastructure on major roads and across towns and cities; and £9million for other infrastructure priorities, details tbc.
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Concept of the Day: Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II

February 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

mitsu concept xr-phevMitsubishi has released more details of its small SUV concept, a plug-in hybrid, prior to next week’s Geneva Auto Salon. The XR-PHEV II has a new powertrain promising a motor output of 163hp (no details yet on the engine) and overall emissions below 40gkm, and is front-wheel-drive despite its mini-Shogun styling; think next-generation ASX urban crossover.  It has all-electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid modes – designed for prioritising all-electric operation, with the engine acting as a generator, but the engine can also kick in to supplement the motor power.

  • Toyota is putting its i-Road into action in an EV-share in central Tokyo next month, in partnership with Park24’s Times Car Plus service. A trial – supplementing Toyota’s programme in Grenoble, France – will run till the end of September to gauge user feedback, activity patterns and ease of usage.Toyota expects the cars, to be located at the Times Station, Yurakucho ITOCiA shopping centre, to be used one-way to businesses, shops and sight-seeing locations; they can be returned to any of five central bases. Times Car Plus members opting into the service will pay 412 yen (about £2.25) per 15 minutes with max hire time two and a half hours. There are around 430,000 members of this mobility service (operated by car park network Park24) across Japan.
  • Springer has published a book on Electric Vehicle Business Models, including case studies and research on car-sharing, wireless charging, grid-balancing, marketing (‘technology push vs market pull’), and cost of ownership; more details and samples here.
  • Volkswagen’s Geneva concept previewing the next CC is to have a (petrol) plug-in hybrid powertrain, reports Autocar, but the Audi Prologue Avant (next-gen A6 Avant estate) is diesel-electric – 3.0 TDI engine, 353hp, plus 100kW motor and eight-speed tiptronic transmission, delivering 0-62 in 5.1 seconds, 155mph, 176mpg overall, 43g/km and a 54km range in all-electric mode. Wireless induction charging capability, too.
  • Zap-Map.com has launched a mobile app (£4.99, iOS, Android to follow) enabling UK EV drivers to search for public charging points (by rated power, connector type or compatibility with their vehicle as well as by postcode or location), and to provide feedback and ratings , i.e. on correct functioning. It’s the first of a series of apps the Zap-Map/Next Green Car team (managers of the government-funded National Chargepoint Registry) are developing to support electric car drivers. More here. This follows debate on EV user forums about the ins and outs of repurposing and selling data from OpenChargeMap and other OS databases…
  • Proterra has upgraded its e-bus battery packs to deliver a range of 180 miles; more at Green Car Congress.
  • Not all biofuel bad: the Greater London Authority is planning to get vehicles used on council fleets running on a blend with used cooking oils, fats and greases, and Hackney is to trial blends of B20 and B30 in its LCVs by the end of the year, reports Fleet News. This could also help tackle the problem of ‘fatbergs’ clogging the capital’s sewers.

Tuesday news: EV-charging charges, grid-balancing, integrated transport, alt-fuels, etc…

February 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup5We’re looking at an end to free EV parking in central London: Source London is planning to introduce charges for using its charger-equipped bays, reports Autocar (alongside fixing the broken/inoperable chargers). There’ll be a sliding scale of tariffs (tbc), based on zones 1-6. Initial thought: that’s one big incentive to go electric gone. Second thought: this stops an incentive to drive into central London rather than take other forms of transport. This echoes thinking on a similar line southwards in Brighton at the weekend: nice to see a Volkswagen e-up! charging (as pictured) at the well-used bays at Bartholemew Square (first one I’ve spotted there), but on balance, I’d argue for the Lanes area being a car-free zone anyway. Driving into the very heart of heavily-congested city centres isn’t the best deployment of EVs…

  • News with strong implications for energy storage-electromobility synergies: San Diego Gas & Electric is running a pilot vehicle-to-grid project and pitching EV fleets and storage systems as one integrated resource into local wholesale energy markets. This demand response and grid-balancing programme is currently aggregating stationary storage with fleets at five locations in San Diego County, and incentivises users to charge off-peak. The project is further studying the benefits both at customer and grid levels, and identifying barriers as well as best practices and growth opportunities for future roll-out on a larger scale. More here.
  • And talking of integration: the NW Bicester ‘eco-town’ development (Oxfordshire) is to have an electric car club and communal charging points, as well as the option of EV-charging equipment fitted at the new homes. A fleet of subsidized EVs is also to be available for ‘champions’ who will share their experiences, and there will be test-drive events in the community. And alongside this, bike lanes and pedestrian routes linking the development to the town, and cycle storage for each house. Sensible measures to contain the impact of suburban sprawl? More here.
  • Nice accessible runthrough of how tech can transform commuting from the BBC: from apps to integrate multi-modal options, digital mapping and use of social media to bike-shares and wireless e-bus charging (I’ll pass on the jet packs, though), it does make the point that the actual modes of transport will probably change less than the means of accessing/paying. It also quotes Prof Carlo Ratti from MIT on car-sharing and ride-sharing – “we predict that, in future, four out of five cars can be removed from the road” – and on autonomous/self-driving cars, which “promise to have a dramatic impact on urban life, because they will blur the distinction between private and public modes of transportation”. Note that this is, however, specific to the urban environment – and that in this brave new world, there are still cars, even if they are shared and in fewer numbers.
  • But yes, more walking and cycling (and bike-sharing) are necessary if future cities aren’t to grind to a halt: a new report from the OECD, The Metropolitan Century, also calls for revised land-use regulation and taxation/fees to discourage private car use, as well as traffic and parking controls.
  • Ricardo has developed a next-gen 85kW electric motor for vehicles which needs no rare earth metals – and is thus cheaper to make. More on the RapidSR project here.
  • An alt-fuels workshop report from the US DoE: markets/applications for natural gas (trucks, vans, heavy-duty) and hydrogen (personal transport) will naturally segment, with only a little overlap in some areas (buses, light-duty commercial vehicles). However, economies of scale could be achieved by co-location of refuelling facilities and other supply chain infrastructure, as well as common standard-setting for storage equipment, etc; new business models and partnerships will emerge, with the potential to move away from centralised fuel production. More here. And analysis of the benefits of natural gas for trucking – but its mixed environmental effects – in a study reported here.
  • The above important because biofuels not necessarily the answer – and the EU has just voted to phase out ‘first-generation’ (land-based, crop-grown) biofuels from 2020, with a 6% ‘cap’ on their blending into petrol and diesel. This addresses the issue of biofuel from food-source crops, but also land use where other inedible crops are grown for energy rather than food, says think-tank Transport & Environment; criteria for fuels made from wastes and residues have also been tightened up.

 

Concept of the Day: QUANTiNO

February 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

quantinoNot content with launching the Quant F super-coupe (see earlier post), nanoFlowcell AG is also to show a smaller, more affordable EV in Geneva, showcasing its flow-cell battery tech. The QUANTiNo 2+2 has a lower-voltage 48V system – enabled by the efficiency of the flow-cell battery – delivering around 136hp via four 25kW motors; it promises a top speed of over 200kph plus a range of over 1000km (between top-ups of charged battery fluid into two 175-litre tanks, one positive and the other negatively-charged). It’s intended to be accessible to a mainstream audience – and the company is seeking to put it through the Euro-homologation Type Approval tests “very shortly”. More details here.

  • And Magna Steyr is to show the eighth model in its series of MILA concepts: MILA Plus is a plug-in hybrid sports car, with lightweight construction (1520kg),  a range of over 70km in all-electric mode and overall CO2 output of 32g/km. No more details than that – or pictures – at the moment. It follows the CNG-fuelled MILA Blue (2014).
  • Cenex is co-ordinating an EU-funded project to tackle ‘transport poverty’ in outer urban areas – with shared EVs. The project will involve trials in the West Midlands and Scotland, as well as in areas of Poland, Spain and Italy, and partners include housing associations. More here.

 

Design Concept of the Day: Rinspeed Budii

February 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Budii_Int_02More pictures of the Rinspeed Budii prior to the Geneva Auto Salon: on the surface, it’s a fun and eye-catching tricked-out BMW i3 (with a shower, an auto-winding – Swiss – watch, a very fancy Harmon Kardon audio system, touchscreen HMI and fibreoptic ambient lighting), but there’s also some clever thinking on autonomous driving and its implications. Drive-by-wire steering allows for either front-seat occupant to take the wheel; 3D laser-scanning enables autonomy but also terrain mapping and auto-adjustment of ride height; radar and V2X tech enables connectivity including the payment for services (parking, recharging); and two stowaway mini-two-wheelers (electric) take care of last-mile onward travel. Rinspeed – a Swiss consultancy/creative thinktank – has identified the need to make EVs “sexy and emotionally charged” (pun intended? Either way, sad but true) and as such, it’s a no-expenses-spared job on the interior finish and creature comforts (including smartphone- and watch-controlled auxilliary heating). More details here, full gallery of images here.

  • Changes to the Plug-in Car Grant scheme: to be increased from the current 25% of purchase price to 35%, as of April 1st – but capped at £5000, so it’s only going to benefit buyers of EVs under the £20,000 mark. Plug-in cars are also going to be divided into three eligible categories: 1, with CO2 under 50g/km and an all-electric range of at least 70 miles; 2, under 50g/km, and with a range of 10-69 miles; and 3, 50-75g/km and an all-EV range of at least 20 miles. The grants will run up until 50,000 have been awarded (it’s at about 25,000 right now). Though the grant allowance remains the same across the categories at the moment, it’s likely that a sliding scale will follow – perhaps in relation to the upcoming changes to BIK company car tax bandings, to be announced in the Budget.
  • BMW is working with Spanish utility firm Iberdrola to provide a 350-car shared fleet of i3 EVs. Iberdrola will deploy these in Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona and Valencia. More here.
  • I rarely agree with this particular (highly EV-sceptical) Detroit News columnist, but in this case, I’m with NW in that structural changes to mobility/car ownership/driving are going to be incremental rather than revolutionary overnight, and that some phenomena, such as peer-to-peer sharing, will probably remain marginal. Comment from several other industry-watchers on a similar note.
  • Apple is gearing up to challenge Google with its ‘Project Titan’, reports the  WSJ, with minivan-based electrically-driven prototypes spotted out and about to trial autonomous-driving tech. More here.
  • Volvo is expanding its V2X cloud-comms ice-warning project to a 1000-car fleet operating in Gothenburg and Oslo. More here.
  • Stopping at traffic lights is bad for you: on a journey where 2% of the time is spent stationary at red lights, 25% of exposure to particulates is experienced while waiting for green, according to research at the University of Surrey. And that’s just for the drivers… Deceleration, idling then revving up to go again ups PM emissions by 29% over those from free-flowing traffic. More, incl. references, here.

 

Autonomous vehicles, and other EV-related news

February 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

IMG_0329IMG_0301Some more pictures from Greenwich yesterday (further to those posted on Twitter), and the launch of the GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment). The eight sensor- and radar-guided Meridian electric vehicles (developed by a firm called Phoenix Wings) are going to shuttle all around the Greenwich Peninsula for two years, picking people up and dropping ’em off between the O2 arena, North Greenwich tube station and soforth. The research, including collecting feedback from the general public, will be led by TRL.

  • And further to this… Autonomous vehicles could cut car ownership rates by 43%, according to researchers (Schoettle & Sivak) at UMTRI (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute). Identifying a lack of ‘trip overlap’ in multi-car US households, autonomous cars able to ‘go home’ to be used by someone else could bring car ownership down to an average 1.2 vehicles per household. However, each car’s mileage could increase by 75%, not including the extra passenger-less mileage it might do on its way back to base. Interesting stuff…
  • Kia’s Trail’ster concept car – revealed at the Chicago Auto Show this week – is a sported-up SUV-alike Soul with added hybrid power: an electric motor driving the rear axle to give AWD. The motor (35hp, 100lb ft) allows for 25-30% increase in fuel economy in city driving and 5-10% on the highway, apparently, supplementing the front-driving 1.6 turbo petrol engine to give a total 220hp/285lb ft).
  • The Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab RE-EV taxi has been licensed by Transport for London and the first examples are going on trial. This delivers an overall 98mpg/less than 50g/km, has a range of 560km, and is said to save a cabbie £20-£40 a day; its powertrain combines a 1-litre petrol engine with two electric motors and a generator, and it is also externally-chargeable with a zero-emissions mode.
  • And illustrating exactly why electrification is important… children (carrying certain genes) exposed to urban air pollution are at increased risk of ‘brain inflammation’, cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative changes, including lower IQ and short-term memory loss, akin to early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and even Parkinson’s diseases, according to a study from (very polluted) Mexico City. Summary plus links/references here.
  • The Volkswagen Group has bought an entire portfolio of fuel cell patents from Ballard, reports Green Car Congress. Yet Volkswagen of America has also announced a $10million investment in EV-charging infrastructure, in partnership with BMW USA and ChargePoint.

Concept of the Day: Lutz Pathfinder

February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

lutz podDriverless cars (well, electric golf cart-type vehicles) have hit the streets of Greenwich this week in the UK Autodrive trial, which will see investigation of public attitudes, legislative changes and protocols as well as technology tests. The Transport Systems Catapult also unveiled these Lutz Pathfinder ‘pods’, which will go into action in Milton Keynes and Coventry later this year, as well as the BAE Wildcat jeeps in Bristol. More detail here. (and here). The Lutz two-seaters are built by the RDM Group, with sensors and navigation tech from the Oxford University Mobile Navigation Group, and are designed with pedestrianised areas in mind, whereas the Greenwich golf carts are larger shuttles.

  • Lichtenstein-based nanoFlowCell is to show an update on last year’s Quant E-Sportlimousine concept at the Geneva Motor Show next month: the Quant F promises a 30% increase in range (to 800km) over last year’s prototype, as well as an all-new two-speed auto transmission, a 1075hp peak output and 186mph top speed, plus some small design tweaks. More details here.  Its flow cell batteries – using charged electrolytes – need a fluid-swap rather than conventional charging.
  •  Electric supercar story #2: a Finnish start-up is to unveil a 1 mega-watt monster called the Toroidion 1MW (of course) at the Top Marques show in Monaco in April, reports AutoblogGreen.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric is planning to build and provide 25,000 new EV-chargers in northern and central California, to be located in places including apartment buildings, retail centres and offices; it’s looking for third-party hosts. Release posted here.
  • Paper (Melanie Swan, Kingston University) on the application of so-called ‘quantified self’ technology – biometric measurements – in the automotive world, i.e. implications for fatigue detection, stress management, personal identification for security, and vehicle interventions, here. Conclusion is that this could be a factor – alongside other innovations such as 3D printing, other models of transport service delivery, energy sector reforms, autonomous driving – in a large-scale reconfiguration of cars, driving and personal transportation.
  • “Electric cars are good but connected electric cars are better”, said Bosch CEO Dr Volkmar Denner, speaking this week at the Car Symposium in Bochum. Bosch is aiming to offer integrated mobility solutions – combining automation, electrification and connectivity; other comments and predictions from this Tier One supplier include the idea that 15% of new cars will have some form of electrified powertrain (from hybrid onwards) by 2025; electrification is picking up pace unhindered by low oil prices; EV batteries will offer twice the energy density at half the price by 2020; hybrid powertrain will become standard-issue in the SUV sector; apps for battery-charging and payment for EV-charging will better-enable electromobility; and the success of e-bikes points to the fun factor of e-mobility.
  • France is to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme offering grants of up to 10,000 euros for people trading in diesels over 13 years old (in selected areas of  poor air quality) for plug-in hybrids or EVs,. Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal told Le Parisien this week that the measures will be introduced in April. This encompasses existing incentives and discounts. Meanwhile, the Bollore Group has just confirmed 150million euros-worth government funding for it to build a 16,000-strong network of fast-chargers across France; more here.
  • A not-yet-famous Belgian: designer Xavier van der Stappen is looking for funding to put his E-Car 333 into production, reports Sustainable Mobility. As its name hints, the E-Car (unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show this week) has three wheels, carries three people – and has a claimed range of 300km. It’s a kind of scooter/microcar hybrid with a chassis (recycled steel) that could accommodate different bodystyles; and interestingly, its panels are made from a flax-fibre laminated material (see previous post).
  • Registration figures from ACEA for last year: 75,331 plug-in vehicles registered in the EU, up 37% on 2013’s figures but still representing just 0.6% of the total market (12.6million cars of all types last year, up 5.7% on 2013).
  • Car-dependency in Washington DC vs similarly-populated Stuttgart: some nice number-crunching reported here. Similar trends in their suburbs, surprisingly.

 

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