Concept of the Day: TUM EVA

April 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

TUM EVATUM Create – a collaboration between TU Munich and NTU Singapore – has unveiled EVA, an all-electric taxi specifically designed ground-up as an EV, and with tropical climates in mind. Some interesting stats: taxis account only for 3% of vehicle population but 15% of mileage in Singapore; they typically run on a two-shift rotation 24 hours a day doing an average 520km; and of course, powering their air conditioning is paramount. EVA has a 200km range with only a 15-minute downtime for fast-charging, apparently, and is designed to be manufactured locally for Asian markets. More here.

  • PHEV sales are to reach 1.2million a year in Europe in 10 years, outselling non-plug-in hybrids by 2019, reports Automotive News Europe, synthesising several analyses and quoting LMC Automotive. The most-sold at the moment by a massive margin has been the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (though in recent month-on-month listings the newly-launched Volkswagen Golf GTE has edged ahead in some countries). Meanwhile, the Dutch government has set a target of 200,000 electrified vehicles on the country’s roads by 2020; it has pledged to continue state support. However, it’s worth noting that, as SUV and truck sales start to boom again in the US, it turns out that over 20% of hybrid/EV owners have traded in their electrified vehicles as gas prices lower…
  • Research from Toronto University: air pollution could be spread three times further than previously thought, with wide variations across districts. And in a sample of 100,000 vehicles, 25% – mainly older or ‘badly-tuned’ – were found to be causing 90% of the pollution, including 95% of particulates and 93% of carbon monoxide. More, incl. full academic references, here.
  • Some academic papers on the transition to electromobility: including discussion as to whether momentum is going to last, the niches where EVs can more easily be introduced, but mostly identifying where things are going wrong… interesting case study linking EV use with the hydroelectricity generation system in Quebec, however.
  • Catching up on latest EV/low-emissions vehicle registrations: 8573 cars with CO2 emissions under 75g/km were registered in the UK in the first quarter of 2015; again, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the leader, followed by the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe and… BMW i8. 2014 sales totals for all plug-in vehicles came to 14,498, including nearly 6,700 ‘pure’ EVs and 7,800 PHEVs, with some 52,000 alt-fuel vehicles (including hybrids, plug-ins and range-extenders) put on the road. SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2015 here. However, “diesel and petrol cars still represent the majority share of the new car market” – which itself continues to grow.
  • And, in rant of the week, all of the above tends to suggest that, while there’s lots to be optimistic about, we’re still a long, long way from the “seismic shift” in car use/attitudes towards car use as suggested by this Guardian Cities piece this week… I think the focus on city-dwellers is pretty damn misleading too, considering that it’s the suburbanites, ‘peri-urban’ dwellers and other inward commuters mostly driving into city centres. Christian Wolmar’s quote in particular raises an interesting point: he says he doesn’t drive into London any more, which is taken as an example of an attitudinal shift, but his decision is effectively due to congestion/parking problems – because there are too many other cars… Though it’s well-argued and descriptive, with nice (niche) examples of good practice, there are so many holes that can be picked both in this piece and in the reaction to it, mainly due to reliance on the ‘peak car’ concept (highly debatable) or conflating the idea of a slowdown or flatlining in traffic/driving growth with that of an actual substantial reduction in cars on the streets (nope; see above) – much as we would all (except the car-makers and the SMMT, presumably) like to see that. Also, the idea of ‘car-free’ does often seem to forget that autonomous, shared, car club, on-demand non-private cars, not to mention delivery/taxi/service/emergency/other task-specific types of vehicle, are all some form of automobile too. And thus better electrified.
  • Finally, further to the above… good in-depth discussion of ‘microtransit’ at Citylab. Yep, city-dwellers again, but some positive trends, plus a look at implications and unforeseen consequences. It ain’t all bad, but let’s not assume that cars are going to disappear just yet.

Shanghai sum-up, news round-up

April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

chevrolet-fnr-concept-A very quick Shanghai Motor Show round-up of stuff not previously covered/mentioned, in no particular order. Volkswagen: followed up the Geneva Sport Concept GTE with the C Concept GTE – stretched to a 5m-long four-door luxury “coupe” bodystyle, with a 245hp plug-in hybrid powertrain (four-cylinder TSI engine, eight-speed auto gearbox, 124hp electric motor). This can do up to 81mph in all-electric mode, with an all-electric range of up to 31 miles/50km; averaged-out economy is 122.8mpg and CO2 emissions 55g/km. Another plug-in hybrid: Qoros 2 SUV PHEV, a chunky little concept with hands-free and optional inductive wireless charging; and the latest in Audi’s Prologue series, the plug-in Prologue Allroad (previewing the next A6 Allroad) with 4.0 twin-turbo plus electric motor giving 724bhp.  Toyota unveiled a series of Chinese-market hybrids and EVs; Cadillac supplemented its CT6 saloon with PHEV capability; BMW launched the X5 xDrive40e PHEV; the Chinese will be offered a hybrid Nissan Murano, and a plug-in hybrid Audi A6 L e-tron and Q7 e-tron 2.0 TFSI quattro. One of the more interesting and forward-looking concepts, however, was the Chevrolet FNR (“find new roads”, pictured) from GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center in partnership with SAIC Motor, which featured in-wheel electric motors, wireless charging, autonomous-driving capability with sensors and roof-mounted radar, and an interior which enables 180-degree swivelling of the front seats when in self-driving mode.

  • A step forward in synthetic fuels: an Audi test facility in Dresden has produced its first batch of ‘e-diesel’, synthesised from carbon dioxide from a biogas plant. The process needs only ambient air, and works in stages: water is heated for steam, which is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis (using renewable energy); the hydrogen then reacts with the CO2 to produce ‘blue crude’, a long-chain hydrocarbon compound, which is then refined. This end-product is said to be free of sulphur or aromatic hydrocarbons, with a high cetane number,and it can be mixed with conventional diesel as well as used ‘pure’. The overall high-temperature process is claimed to be 70% efficient, with the added bonus that it can be incorporated into electricity grid stabilisation. Audi is aiming to produce over 3000 litres in coming months and then scale up the principle; petrol made in a similar way is also under development. More here. A classier news-release approach than Toyota’s talk about ‘hydrogen bullshit’, perhaps (hydrogen from cattle manure).
  • Audi has also delivered 40 A3 e-tron PHEVs for testing in three trial programmes in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart: these are to look at private consumer use, expectations and charging. More here.
  • Montreal is to get a municipal EV-sharing scheme: 250 cars to hit the streets by next spring, with the aim of 1000 by 2020. Importantly, this will be powered by Quebec’s abundant hydro-electricity. More at Treehugger.
  • Barriers to EV adoption: vehicle cost, current battery tech, lack of consumer knowledge, reports the US National Research Council. Findings summarised here.
  • Siemens has launched a cloud-based wi-fi enabled EV charging station that enables vehicle owners to activate and control/monitor vehicle charging remotely via mobile or web app, integrating into demand-management and grid-balancing incentives. More here.
  • Millennials: buying cars again, and more than GenX, though mileage and driving rates are down across the board and there’s much variation between cities/location. Summary here.

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