Biomaterials for car bodies and other news…

February 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Carbon and hemp-fiber reinforced component.Fibres from hemp, flax, cotton and wood are strong, as affordable as glassfibre and lighterweight than carbonfibre, according to a team from the Frauenhofer Institute of Wood Research, which has developed mouldable thermoplastic or solid duroplastic car body components into which natural fibres are embedded. These hybrid materials are also recyclable, and the research is looking into their processing and reprocessing on an industrial scale.

  • Digesting the Continental Mobility Study 2015: its conclusions include statements that people (in France, Germany, USA, China, Japan) choose to drive for emotional rather than rational reasons; car ownership remains very popular and the preferred model of access to vehicles for the vast majority, even among younger generations (licence-holding is happening later in life, but still happening); money more an indicator of driving than age or location; and even that young people actively aspire to powerful, prestigious vehicles. Plus ca change, in other words, says an engineering consultancy/supplier to the automotive industry, but again, this does rather illustrate the futility of relying on ‘peak car’ to solve anything. Oh, and electric vehicles have a particular image problem: in Germany, though a majority saw EVs as eco-friendly and ‘sensible’, very few thought them sporty, fun to drive or attractively-designed, and enthusiasm and expectation of owning an EV in the future have both dipped since the 2011 survey.
  • Blimey: a blanket ban on older cars entering the city centre of Lisbon, at least between 7am and 9pm. Vehicles registered pre-2000 are restricted from a central ‘Zone 1’ and those pre-1996 from an outer Zone 2 as well. Except cars belonging to residents, emergency vehicles and those running on natural gas, however, the former being a pretty big exemption, I would imagine, though the measure is expected to cut air pollution by 10% in terms of in-commuting traffic (and should improve congestion, too). More here. And some detail on the telematics-monitored incentive in Milan to encourage drivers to leave their cars at home and take public transport: one free trip each day on public transport.
  • Forecasting sales of EVs and PHEVs: to remain relatively resilient despite oil prices, says Lux Research, as their niche consumer base is relatively price-insensitive (affluent people buying for environmental or technological reasons rather than economical). Could be dips till oil prices rebound, however, with non-plug-in hybrids hit hardest.
  • Ford’s European Research & Innovation Centre, Aachen, is partnering RWTH Aachen University to study business models and customer expectations in its two-year Personal Mobility Experience Innovation Project, a research collaboration looking into mobility and autonomous vehicles. This aims to identify technologies, features, services and solutions “that could enable Ford to meet customers’ changing preferences and expectations for personal mobility” as well as to address environmental issues and congestion, apparently. These will include new approaches to car-sharing and personalised mobility solutions, with a look towards “delivering a wide range of hardware and software platforms and services”. Ford has also confirmed that it will contribute to the UK government-funded UK Autodrive autonomous vehicles/connected-cars research project, providing two prototypes with V2V tech. More details here.
  • Meanwhile, Uber is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) and its Advanced Technologies Centre to research & develop autonomy, mapping and vehicle safety – more here. The statement refers to “very interesting new challenges at the intersections of technology, mobility and human interactions”.  Indeed.
  • The federally-funded ESKAM research consortium (Germany) has developed its scalable electric axle module for commercial vehicles. This comprises two motors, transmission and power electronics in a unit which can be fitted to an axle, and is suitable for vehicles from small vans to large trucks. More here and here.
  • The US DoT has unveiled its Beyond Traffic 30-year plan – and it sets out the need to reduce car-dependency, develop multimodal systems and public transit, invest in smart technologies, bring down the cost of implementing autonomous vehicles, and consider new funding mechanisms (including road-pricing). Handy digest at Citylab; more here.
  • The EU RDE (Real Driving Emissions) tests to cut NOx have got the green light for 2017: very good news, and a much-needed step towards wider use of on-road (rather than lab) testing for other emissions. The variance between optimised lab results and real-life – for mpg and CO2 as well – is pretty damn shocking, to the extent that it makes manufacturers’ claims that they’ve cleaned up (or reduced the fuel consumption of) their vehicles pretty meaningless, ‘cos there’s no reliable baseline figures. More on the RDE progress here.



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