Concept of the Day: BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage

May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

bmwcslhommageBit of an overdue catch-up here, but we’ll start with this BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept shown at Villa d’Este last week. Design-wise, you can read the full lowdown here, but of interest to me is this ‘eBoost’ function supplementing the straight-six. BMW hints only at “energy accumulators”, with the instrument panel including a charging display, but this sounds to me like some sort of supercapacitor-based hybrid system, perhaps…

  • Back in the real world, the Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab taxi is to go into production in Coventry next year. Assembly is by Multimatic, and the Metrocab will first hit the streets of London (where a small-scale trial is already underway). It’s a range-extended EV with two electric motors, a 1.0-litre petrol engine and generator (which can recharge the batteries in just 10 minutes), regenerative braking, lithium-polymer batteries and external charging; its overall range is over 560km.
  • We hear a lot about Generation Y and millennials, but how ’bout Generation Alpha (born 2010-on)? Design students from Art Center Pasadena see them as getting around in shape-shifting, shared, autonomous, connected EVs: some nice ideas in the SABIC-sponsored Design For Alpha project, reported here.
  • Vodafone’s M2M (machine-to-machine) platform is underpinning a new service/app for EV users called Ubitricity – a ‘virtual network’ for billing/accessing power supplies. More here.
  • Ford has launched its GoDrive carshare in London, with half its 50-car fleet Focus Electric Drives; more here.
  • Some interesting stats via Fleet News: over half of the BMW i3s registered in the last three months, and over 60% of Audi A3 e-tron PHEVs, are for fleet buyers/the corporate sector.
  • The global market for EV chargers will increase more than 12-fold 2014-2020, according to research by IHS Automotive; mainly AC charging still, it thinks, with just 10% of chargers in public/semi-public domain and DC fast-chargers a minority. More here.
  • Latest from Navigant Research: plug-in vehicle sales to exceed 1.1million a year in the US by 2020. More here.
  • Smith Electric Vehicles (US) has formed a JV with FDG Electric Vehicles (with lithium-ion battery-making division); the former is to assemble and distribute the latter’s vehicles in the USA, with a view to the urban delivery/transport sector. Smith will continue to make its Newton/Edison conversions. More here.
  • EV buyers are economy-driven first and foremost, more than environmentally-focused, and are also younger and more affluent than the average, according to a (US) survey. They’re motivated by tax rebates and other incentives, reports TrueCar, which admittedly only compared a small sample of Ford Focus Electric and Fiat 500e buyers against their ICE-purchasing equivalents.
  • The Institute of Energy and Transport, University of Leeds, is modelling electromobility: more on the project (for the Joint Research Centre) in this presentation.
  • Not a car, but a boat worthy of note: an electric car/passenger ferry has gone into service in Norway. Built by Fjellstrand and featuring a Siemens-developed drive system with lithium-ion batteries, it uses 150kWhr per trip, said to be equivalent to three days’ electricity use by the average Norwegian household (length of trip not stated). Oh, and it’s charged using hydro power. Operator Norled reckons at least 50 further routes along Norway’s coastline could be served by electric ferries, too. More here.

Concept of the Day: Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport

May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

volkswagen golf gte conceptVolkswagen is fitting plug-in hybrid powertrains in a growing number of its production and concept cars: latest is the track-oriented Golf GTE Sport, an electrified, all-wheel-drive GTI concept. Developed for the annual GTI meeting at Lake Wörthersee, Austria, the carbon-bodied, GTE Sport gives 400hp, 174mph and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. All-electric range is 50km, and average fuel economy (not that the NEDC cycle gives in any way a representative figure) is 141mpg.

Its motors supplement a version of the turbocharged 1.6TSI from the Polo R WRC rally car; one (115hp/330Nm) is mounted up front within the housing of the six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, and another (115hp/270Nm) at the rear driving the rear axle. The racing-style interior – accessed via swing-up doors – features two self-contained areas for driver and passenger, and features a new three-level transparent information display system to accommodate all necessary data on charge, electric boost and power delivery as well as lap times. The mode-select switches for electric, hybrid and AWD ‘GTE’ performance modes is roof-mounted, and the driver can select battery ‘hold’ and ‘charge’ modes; in GTE mode, the front electric motor acts as a generator supplying energy to the rear motor via an “electric propshaft”, which Volkswagen has copyrighted.

I’m currently rather struggling with enthusiasm for PHEVs – firstly due to the growing suspicion that they’re not spending an awful lot of time in electric mode (as the Dutch government has suggested; see earlier post), and secondly as they are increasingly looking like an attempt to spin out the lifespan of the ICE from the OEM/industry end. However, on the positive side, consciousness-raising, gateway to electrification and all the rest of it, and if concepts like this grab the attention of petrolheads, so much the better.

  • Spotted on this #PitchToRich thing (competition for Branson/Virgin investment: the Libralato petrol engine for plug-in hybrid powertrains (speaking of which), said to be half the size and weight of a conventional unit, and deliver the efficiency of a diesel. It’s a re-take on the rotary engine, with two rotors (and thus no pistons or crankshaft), from a firm in Greater Manchester. (Via @CarplusTrust – thanks). Well, potentially considerably more progressive than electrifying a conventional ICE.
  • Toyota has launched its Open Road project, field-testing the i-Road micro-EV in Tokyo; there are three components to the programme, road-testing of the vehicle itself, collaborating with industry partners ‘to create unique extensions of the i-Road experience’, and broadcasting/sharing/promoting. It’s appealing for (Tokyo-based) participants.
  • Renault-Nissan is planning EVs with a battery range of over 400km by 2020, according to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review. Latest EV sales targets have been revised, it reports, to 10% of Nissan’s sales by 2025 (from just over 1% now).
  • Lack of public charging infrastructure remains a main barrier to EV adoption, yet most EV drivers are charging at home; an attempt to unscramble the contradiction from Navigant. Points out that the location of charging equipment is crucial if it is to be used, and that testing with mobile charging units is a good idea to determine suitable sites and justify investments.
  • Driving costs society six times more than cycling, according to a Danish-Australian study: the paper, in Ecological Economics, says that cycling infrastructure is one of the most cost-effective investments for cities in terms of the impacts on air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, health, congestion and travel routes. Cycling costs 0.08euro per kilometre, with this cost showing a downward trend, whereas driving costs 0.50euro and rising, claim the researchers (Gössling and Choi, 2015). The study is based on Copenhagen.
  • Toyota and Mazda are entering into a technology-sharing partnership: Mazda will get Toyota’s hybrid and fuel cell tech, while bringing its own SkyActiv fuel-efficient engines to the table, reports Autocar.

Concept of the Day: Luka EV

May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

 

luka evThis retro-look coupe is all-modern in its conception: it’s an open-source collaborative project to build a 20,000-euro, affordable lightweight sports EV. The prototype has in-hub wheel motors, weighs less than 750kg, and is fibreglass-bodied; the team is aiming to get it road-legal by September 1st. Looks like a pitch at the modern-day kit car market, and really rather fun: an alternative take on electromobility. More here. Maybe not exactly a mass-market solution, but I do rather like these DIY/user-innovation projects.

In other news today:

  • Pressure group Plug In America has published a report on promotion of EVs in the US; concludes there is an upward trend, consumer satisfaction is positive, but general awareness is poor; potential for alignment with renewable energy industry is good; but there is a ‘patchwork quilt’ of legislation and incentives with inconsistencies between states.
  • GM doesn’t reckon it will meet its target of 500,000 electrified vehicles (of all types) on US roads by 2017, reports Detroit News. It’s citing a surge in competitive offers and lowered gas prices. However, in separate news, one analyst decouples the link between cheap petrol and falling ‘green’ car sales, saying the latter had peaked already.
  • In the US, annual mileage driven by women has been rising: some interesting stats from UMTRI, Michigan tracking mileage by gender 1963-2013. In ’63, women accounted for less than 40% of drivers (now nearly 51%, having outnumbered men for the last 10 years) and their mileage has risen 89% since then (compared to 33% for men). In ’63, men drove more than twice the distance of women, now it’s only 1.5 times (around 15,000 miles a year on average, vs 10,000). Researcher Michael Sivak notes that this “will likely have major implications o the extent and nature of vehicle demand, energy consumption and road safety”, due to the lower mileage, lower fatality rate per distance driven for female drivers, and because they are (still) more likely to buy smaller, safer, and more efficient vehicles.
  • The next-generation 2017 London taxi – LTI TX5 – is to come with a PHEV powertrain, enabling it to meet upcoming air quality legislation; statement from Geely, LTI’s parent company, posted here.
  • Meanwhile, the Dutch government is to reduce tax breaks for PHEVs – the Netherlands is Europe’s largest market for these, with over 12,200 sold there last year – because, according to a BMW source, owners are not using the electric capability and simply running on petrol/diesel. Report from Automotive News Europe. However, BMW’s claiming that its next-gen Power eDrive PHEV powertrains will typically give 80% of the average commuter’s journeys in all-electric mode – spokesman quoted here.
  • Liftshare is reporting that a major British carmaker (unnamed) has installed 200 shared-vehicle parking bays at its facility; nearly 400 people have signed up, 90 ‘teams’ of car-poolers have been created, and they reckon that over a year, over 3,250,00o miles and over 1070 tonnes of CO2 will be ‘saved’. Liftshare creates bespoke software/booking solutions for formal sharing schemes, as well as personalised multi-modal travel planning.

Autonomy, sharing and electromobility

May 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

09-Mercedes-Benz-F-015-Luxury-in-Motion-660x602Autonomous shared vehicles could replace 90% of private cars on city streets, according to research from the International Transport Forum modelling ‘TaxiBots’ – simultaneously-shared vehicles – and ‘AutoVots’, on-demand vehicles transporting one person after another. It warns of increases in total vehicle mileage travelled, however, due to the pick-ups, drop-offs and vehicle repositioning in different scenarios, but points out the land use implications for a reduction in necessary parking spaces – and where the Bots and Vots could supplement (or replace) inefficient or insufficient public transport systems. Further effects on transportation privatisation implied… Handy rundown here, full report, Urban Mobility System Upgrade, here. It notes that, to accommodate charging downtime, only a 2% increase in vehicle numbers would be needed for the fleets to be electrified. Nice analysis by Citylab, too. Pic: Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept, the luxury/executive option. The car-makers have been thinking about how to manoeuvre themselves into this new market-space, of course.

  • In the meantime… the used car market is the key to electric vehicle adoption, says an analyst from Glass’s Guides, pointing out the role of the motor trade in consumer education and charting the strengthening of EV residual values.
  • The CarPlus annual survey of car clubs is out: download the various regional reports here. Some take-outs from the England & Wales report: 22,500 members using 700 cars (outside London); increasing usage of EVs; claiming that four cars removed from road for each car club car; only 29% of members (6 months+) now own a car, with car purchases deferred; average annual mileage 3,500; members 3x more likely than average to cycle. Car club membership is used as part of members’ ‘portfolios’ of transport options including train, bus, walking, etc. Corporate members use cars more than private, and their employers/organisations have reduced usage of pool and ‘grey fleet’ (employees’ own) vehicles; most popular reason for joining was moving to a new area, then changing job. Figures for London report 155,000 members using 2,300 cars; a claimed 8.6 cars removed from the road per car club car; average annual mileage 2,190; and in Scotland, 7,600 members are sharing 240 cars. Importantly, the reports discuss the potential for adoption of electric vehicles – a good level of willingness to try them out, and positive responses towards experiences so far, were noted.
  • And there’s a lot more on car-sharing in the latest issue of Transportation: shared mobility services are now mainstream, its editors claim, enabled by digital tech. Papers look at case studies, model future scenarios, look at the potential for car-sharing in B2B applications, fleet efficiencies and business models.
  • Doubling bus use in the UK will have only a tiny impact in reducing car usage (1.3%), argues Steve Melia, and in general, investment in public transport will have little effect on reducing car travel – they’re more likely to reduce walking and cycling. Instead, he argues for better and more strategic planning to reduce congestion and air pollution.
  • So Tesla has launched its PowerWall static energy storage systems, domestic grade and industrial: an important (and symbolic) step forward in capture and storage of renewables, nicely tying in with vehicle charging. This stuff is all connected.
  • And some first-quarter figures from ACEA: EV registrations more than doubled compared to same time 2014, to 24,360 units. Hybrid sales were up 21.4% to 56,704, and natural gas-fuelled vehicles up 16.5% to 63,087.
  • Researchers at University of Illinois, Chicago, have made advances in magnesium-ion battery tech – reported here.

 

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