June 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
One that slipped through the net at the Shanghai Auto Show but which has just come to my attention: the Neo “sets out to explore the inspirations and daily challenges of life in a busy metropolis such as Shanghai,” says Icona, an Italian design studio/consultancy based in the city. Shades of Lexus LF-SA in this tiddler, I think, in some of its geometric lines, though it adds an asymmetric door layout (rear-seat passenger access only from the right side, which also lacks a B-pillar).
Anyway, it’s a four-seater, 1.5m-long EV, designed as such ground-up, featuring a 21kW in-wheel motor. It weighs just 720kg in total, and is said to have a range of 150km during city driving, plus a 120kph top speed. This is none too hypothetical, either: Neo has been developed by Icona’s Italian technical partners, Actua and Italtecnica, and it turns out that other divisions in the firm’s Italian parent company worked on development and build of the Bollore Bluecar (of Paris Autolib’, and soon London, EV-share, fame).
- Six rather nice ideas here from design students, shortlisted entries in a DHL-sponsored competition: I’m liking the ‘water strider’ – a solar panel-driven small cargo boat which could help switch freight off roads, ‘London’s urban vehicle of 2065’, a modular autonomous pod, and the neat ‘Light commercial vehicle’ with four in-wheel motors and large cargo bay. Winner to be announced tomorrow as part of the Formula E festivities.
- Some stats and feedback from the My Electric Avenue project, presented yesterday at the LowCVP conference in London. In less than 18 months, the Nissan Leafs involved (100+ in ten ‘clusters’, trialling their effects on local electricity networks, plus 100 more on other trials) have driven over 2.7million km and have been charged for 94million hours; there’s 20,000 hours-worth of data recorded by the Esprit tech (which controls EV charging if the grid becomes overloaded); Esprit has curtailed charging 17,000 times (5.2% of the total recorded charging time).
- Possible applications for V2X tech include ‘wrong way warnings’ for drivers and other road users, report the conclusions of the CONVERGE project, as well as intelligent and efficient routing of freight transport. CONVERGE has aimed to develop a secure, decentralised and scalable systems architecture which enables communication between different network operators, agencies, service providers and other stakeholders. Handy summary here.
- Road noise: linked to cardiovascular problems, stroke, and ‘all-cause’ mortality, in a study in London; noise in decibels was linked in a separate correlation from air pollution by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Reported here.
June 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
And a quickfire round-up of the 2015 end-of-year show at the Royal College of Art, and the work of the Vehicle Design graduates – a lot of futuristic visions, with shared vehicles and autonomy strong themes as well as biotechology. Lots of car design types wandering around at the private view (from consultancies and OEMs, probably scouting out the talent); also, many ‘fashion-forward’ outfits and haircuts, but then that’s art colleges for you… Anyway, the vehicle design projects are all showcased here; ones that particularly caught my eye from a more than aesthetic point of view (and for which there are some info on the RCA website) were: Farhana Safa’s Kinesis, an application for a shape-shifting liquid metal with sculptural qualities, suitable for housing electric drivetrains; Simon Haynes’ ‘No Infrastructure Needed’, a ‘4D-printed’ simple vehicle for local assembly, and Yibo Wu’s friendly little ‘Happie’ autonomous commuter car for 2040.
Shout-out too for Service Design student Nawar Almutlaq and her ‘Weave’ proposal for an integrated multimodal transport ticketing system for Doha, with an incentives scheme and “designed to facilitate the transition from car-based to mass transit commuting” – a nice example of location-specific design. Also, Yongkwan Yoon’s Delectricity (pictured) was well-thought-out – a scheme of portable EV chargers, charged up at central hubs but deployed to domestic ‘mobile’ or leisure (‘joyful’) locations, or used in emergency out-of-charge ‘rescue’ scenarios. “Convenience is key to scaling up electric mobility”, he says, pointing out that his mobile chargers can deliver charge to cars on a daily basis like taking delivery of a newspaper – wake up, and it’s arrived. Were I handing out Best In Show prizes, I’d probably pick this one as a really useful service which could be easily and quickly implemented.
And noticeable for a quite different reason was the quite literally stomach-churning and very visceral Digestive Car by Yi-Wen Tseng, a Design Interactions student: this has four cow-like ‘stomachs’ digesting biowaste to create methane on which it runs.
June 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Never let it be said that Morgan lives entirely in the past: its EV3 – to be revealed shortly at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – is a zero-emissions sport roadster. Based on the 3 Wheeler “reintroduced” in 2011, it has a rear-mounted 45kW motor surely sufficiently powerful to propel a 450kg lightweight, and giving a promised range of around 150 miles. It’s undergoing formal testing and development, presumably including the Euro-homologation procedures, and production (the usual Morgan hand-build process) is expected towards the end of 2016. It builds on the firm’s experience with the Plus E prototypes (four wheels), I guess.
- Another idea from Paris which could come to London: operators of the CityScoot electric scooter hire scheme want to bring it over here next, reports the Standard. And incidentally, in central Montreal, proximity to a Bixi (bike-hire, as per Boris bikes) station is increasing property prices…
- BMW is expanding its DriveNow car-share and app to allow Mini owners to hire out their cars, adding a peer-to-peer element as well as the on-demand service using cars on-street. More here. Oh, and Ford, too – Ford Credit customers in six US cities plus London can now lend out their vehicles. Both companies are citing the chance for owners to offset the purchase/lease costs of their new vehicle. Ford’s also unveiled its MoDe:Flex electrically-assisted fold-up bike, for further multi-modal/last-mile solutions, complete with MoDe:Link app for maps, routing, info including weather, congestion, public transport and various health/fitness functions. Full Fordext on both announcements here.
- Shared mobility and autonomous tech could help EVs “stage a comeback” (in shareholding/business terms), according to an analyst at Morgan Stanley (no relation to the above). Car-share schemes will help OEMs achieve economies of scale, says Adam Jonas, and autonomous tech – in an on-demand shared context – helps overcome short range, charging downtime and low charging station density. He also suggests that if Apple were to make an EV, they would effectively ‘sponsor’ the industry and transform the market.
- Norwegian start-up Meshcrafts AS is launching a trading platform for energy with charging app and secure payment system – and is looking for beta-testers. The Smart Charge system enables charging point owners and EV drivers to interact, with automatic metering, load management and billing; they have hardware for data monitoring at charge points; and ‘Ergo’, an automatic identification system for EVs including their charging preferences.
- Further to all the above, the global market for smart urban mobility infrastructure/services is expected to grow from 2015’s $5.1billion to $25.1billion in 2024, says the latest report from Navigant Research. Growth is expected in ITS, public EV charging, smart parking, car- and bike-sharing, ride-sharing and congestion charging schemes, with connectivity a focus; both public investment and private enterprise will play a role, with different solutions predominating in different regions. Report handily summarised here.
- Research at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has found that end-of-life lithium-ion EV batteries retain 70% of their charge capacity, and is modelling cost-savings of redeploying them in static energy storage; it identifies suitable applications and reckons that batteries could have a 10-year ‘second-life’ application. More detail here.
- Confirmation of the ending of the UK Plug-In Car grant at the end of the year: grants will be honoured for nine months now if orders have been taken and cars allocated to customers. Scheme to be changed but will run – in some form, with graduated bandings in three categories, though grant sums yet to be confirmed – till 2020. More at Fleet News.
- Most households with second cars in the UK could run an EV as their second car, according to research by the AA, which looks at typical mileage and access to off-street parking; more here. And nearly half of “EV stakeholders” – people working for/with the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, so not ‘real’ consumers, then – expect their next car to be an EV or PHEV, apparently (14% already have one). Lowdown at EV Fleet World.
June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
And in another overdue catch-up, my recent day at Bosch… Presentations from executives took three key themes: automation, connected-car technologies and electrification. Forecasts for electrification are relatively conservative: over 90% of new cars sold worldwide five years from now will still have some sort of ICE; by 2025, some 15% worldwide (over a third, in Europe) will have at least a hybrid powertrain, including 3million PHEVs and 2.5million all-electric vehicles. But electrification is seen primarily as an add-on to extend the lifespan of the ICE, at least in the short- to medium-term: says Dr Rolf Bulander, Bosch board member and chairman, “Electrification means that ICEs will experience their best period of service life yet, giving an optimum range. They can be used more effectively and efficiently.” Bulander sees purchase prices and charging infrastructure as the main barriers to adoption of all-electric vehicles (“by 2020 we want to halve battery costs”), with crucial factors for the success of electromobility including driving enjoyment and also the use of sustainable-source electricity.
Showcased at Boxberg and available to test-drive were vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid (IMG 290/110 motor built in the Bosch-Daimler EM-Motive joint venture); the C350e Plug-In Hybrid (IMG 290/110); the Smart Fortwo electric-drive (EM-motive 180/20); plus the Fiat 500e (complete powertrain including motor, power electronics, battery and regenerative braking supplied to Fiat-Chrysler); the BMWs i3 ReX and i8; and the fascinating, super-economical Volkswagen XL1 (all with Bosch bits). Oh, and there were passenger rides in the Porsche 918 Spyder e-hybrid, too…
Moving on to internet-of-things, “connected electric vehicles are the best electric vehicles, because added functions can be achieved,” Bulander went on to explain, pointing out that by 2020, “cars will be an active part of the internet. They can collect and pass on information.” That’s for safety warnings, convenience functions, and optimisation of range/charge in electrified vehicles, for example, as in Bosch’s Panamera S E-Hybrid demonstrator, whose ‘electronic horizon’ software previews the road ahead to predict zero-emissions zones. Next step is electric vehicle communication with charging infrastructure, smart-grids and home energy systems; work at Bosch includes a smartphone app for charging point reservations and billing across network providers, plus a system of web-enabled sensors in parking spaces to build a real-time parking map, reducing the time and energy consumption of looking for a space.
And “connectivity is the key to electrified and automated driving”, added board member Dr Markus Heyn. Electromobility, connectivity and automation are all ultimately interlinked – as showcased in two automated Tesla Model S demonstrator vehicles. Each car is fitted with 50 new Bosch components, including a stereo video camera (small and powerful enough that no unsightly roof-mounted systems are needed) which recognises traffic signs, lane markings, clear spaces and obstructions (as displayed on the screen, below), and automatic, independently-operating brake booster and ESP systems. A ride in one of these vehicles – the highlight of the day at Boxberg – showed that while there is still a long way to go before full automation is ready for mass-market application, the basic functionalities of the system are present and correct.
Ongoing electromobility research and development programmes further involve inductive charging and fuel cell powertrains, with prototypes up and running from this summer. But the other interesting Bosch projects go beyond the car – it’s worth noting that this mega-supplier is not just making e-powertrains for scooters and battery-boost systems for pedal-bikes, but it’s rebranded its Automotive Technology division as Mobility Solutions. Software has been supplied to a test project, Stuttgart Services, which allows city residents to access trains, buses, car- and bike-sharing services and even swimming pools and libraries via a single RFID card. Another trial, in Monaco, looks at inter-connecting ‘smart’ city functions such as waste collection, bus networks, roadworks and even escalator maintenance. Quote of the day? Dr Rolf Bulander: “We need to rethink personal mobility, at least in big cities, and move toward a multimodal concept encompassing bikes, trains, buses and walking… We want to improve the efficiency not just of engines, but traffic in general.”
*More detailed, properly-written version of this to appear shortly in a subscription-only specialist-interest magazine (no, not that sort) which you won’t find in your local WH Smiths. Links to digital versions to be tweeted, probably…
June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
Some thoughts, notes and jottings from the Imagine Festival (“Pioneering ideas in Intelligent Mobility”) at the Transport Systems Catapult, 11th/12th June 2015. A lot of talk about data and information delivery, some in a broad philosophical sense and much with reference to public transport, but also in application to autonomous/driverless cars. On display was the Lutz Pathfinder ‘pod’, three of which will hit the roads of Milton Keynes, with the first on-street late this summer (with driver/operator on board). Full automation is still seen as some way off, said Neil Fulton, programme director at the Catapult, with it to be introduced in levels. He also highlighted the impact on new business models and “economics of introducing new technologies; ownership models will change” and the idea that automated vehicles are a potentially huge market that the UK needs to tap into, quickly (much talk of UK plc all day).
Yet while fully-automated vehicles are “a little way away”, connected cars are very close, said Dr Stephen Pattison of ARM; it’s less the tech that is holding things back than business models and delivery of IoT technology, and we “need (an) operational framework to give consumers confidence”. He talked of the crossover from material to service industries, from services to data, and that connected cars would need to empower people, not disenfranchise them, giving them control over their environment; representatives from the rail sector further talked about opening up data for third-party app development, harnessing social media communications and crowdsourcing data. (There’ll be 2.5million connected people on social media by 2020 and 25billion connected devices, said Chris Francis of SAP).
Talk too was of digitally- integrated transport systems in the smarter city – “the community benefits of ITS”, said Richard Harris of Xerox, back-office provider of transport operator systems, developer of mobility analytics platforms, smartcard payment systems and suchlike. Harris sees shared transport including cars as a trend, and points to the need to identify “the organisational elements that delay us”, such as multiple road authorities, as well as the use of social media for information-gathering. Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) is “like the Wild West at the moment”, he said, with too many apps, so little integration, and lots of good, local but isolated niche start-up solutions. Interestingly, Xerox is working on a trial of 6000 sensor-equipped parking spaces in Los Angeles, using a dynamic pricing algorithm to influence and direct people – circling traffic has so far been cut by 10% yet revenues for the city authority have been increased. Handy stat: it’s thought that 30% of city traffic is cruising for parking spaces.
Much of the discussion centred around cities, with expectation of increasing urbanisation and increased choices – we need to stop thinking about modes, instead focusing on systems, system performance, and integration between modes, which are complementary, not competing, said the Catapult’s Andrew Payne. Several spokespeople from the aviation industry pointed out that most flights were, for their passengers, effectively multi-modal journeys too, and should be viewed end-to-end with getting to/from airports considered as seamless processes, bookings and transactions. A neat example of integrated, shared systems was demonstrated in the form of Brompton Bike Hire – automated docking stations (pictured), some on-street in London, others in locations such as workplaces, ‘dispensing’ the famous folding bikes, which can then be taken (hire from £2.50 a day) on trains, or in car boots, as last-mile (or longer) solutions for onward journeys.
Tim Armitage of Arup and the UK Autodrive consortium raised an interesting suggestion in that while driveless and connected systems will improve road safety, there’s no proven benefit either to congestion or air quality – though it’s assumed that vehicles like the Lutz pod will be electric. “Autonomy will make low-carbon transport more attractive”, he thought, however. He sees increasing use of public transport, a world of interdependent systems that feed off each other, come back together, merge – mobility becoming more seamless, but the tech needs to be inclusive, accessible, affordable to everybody. The world is increasingly dependent on data and communications, he said, but data needs to be relevant, right and timely. There are commercial battles to control the data and provide the ‘hub’, with stakeholders including car makers and smartphone manufacturers, as well as energy providers – there are “so many interdependencies… the boundaries between what is transport and what is energy are getting blurred.” (Pictures show the virtual mapping of Milton Keynes for the driverless pod trial).
Demographic changes such as a global growth in both young and elderly drivers, and the doubling of the world’s urban population by 2025 were discussed by Rod O’Shea of Intel, who sees the integration of different business models, i.e. tracking fleet management and intelligent telematics, and new models emerging. Intel has been working with Siemens on ‘smart parking’ with a trial underway in Berlin and to launch in other cities late next year. And cities are where a lot of the changes happen first, said Catapult CTO Paul Zanelli, often because it’s not all about new infrastructure, because there isn’t enough space or it costs too much, so innovations are made for smarter use of what’s there. The ethical considerations of transport, the carbon and energy benefits, were raised by Susan Grant-Muller of Leeds University, who talked about the relevance of data from other sectors such as lifestyle, health and retail, and the EMPOWER project, developing tools to influence mobility choices and behaviour change.
A final interesting note came from Nathan Day of start-up Rockshore (supplier of data for systems including the info displays on stations -as pictured, the image showing the fun I had getting home) on the differentiation between big data, open data and fast data (here and now, filtered, for instant decision-making). One of the main themes of the event, to my mind, was the tension between collecting/disseminating more data vs better or smarter data, with other questions raised around whether a digital tech fix is really the issue when you have faulty infrastructure (the example given being the rail network, but applies equally to the EV-charging network). Curious to note, too, that the words “peak car” weren’t mentioned once – the assumption being that road traffic is going to continue to grow, as per the DfT’s forecasts – and that there was little talk about active travel modes, or indeed, about reducing demand for mobility itself.
June 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
Latest news from Riversimple: they’ve received a £2million R&D grant from the Welsh government, having relocated over the border, and are now aiming to produce 20 of their hydrogen-fuelled microcars for a 12-month trial. Aim for the two-seater, composite-bodied lightweights is to do over 200mpg(e) with a range of 300 miles between refuelling stops, with a cruising speed of 55mph and nippy 0-30mph acceleration; these are very much neighbourhood/short-distance commuting vehicles. Riversimple’s also talking about its leasing model (cars will not be sold outright) with all-in monthly fees, and localised/distributed manufacturing for future expansion. The final design is underway at a studio in Barcelona, led by Chris Reitz (formerly design chief for the Fiat 500).
- The Bolloré Bluecar (hatchback) is now being made by Renault in Dieppe, but a separate deal has been done with PSA Peugeot-Citroen: Bluesummer convertibles to be made at the PSA plant in Rennes, which can make 15 a day/3,500 a year. Bolloré and PSA are also to co-operate on car-sharing (passenger cars and commercial vehicles) with a view to worldwide operations.
- More from Jaguar Land Rover this morning on in-car biometric and even brainwave monitoring: the Mind Sense project is looking at predictive gesture-controlled touchscreen HMI and haptic pedals to communicate warning information, as well as sensing fatigue, health problems and suchlike.
- Several EV battery second-life projects announced this week, including one using packs from the Chevy Volt: five Volt batteries (as distinct from 5V batteries…) are working with 74kW-worth of solar panels and two 2kW wind turbines at GM’s Milford Proving Ground to power the building. Enough power is generated to provide all the energy for the ground’s office building plus lighting for the car park, equating to the energy used by 12 average (American) households. Excess energy goes back to the grid for the wider Milford campus, and the batteries – with 80% of capacity remaining at end-of-life in the car – can also supply back-up power for four hours in the event of an outage.
- And Nissan is partnering on a second-life Leaf battery scheme with static storage firm Green Charge Networks; a bank of used Leaf lithium-ion cells will be installed at a US Nissan factory for grid-balancing trials. More here.
- Report by CE Delft for Greenpeace, ‘Saving fuel, saving costs’, looks at the role of the fleet sector in reducing GHG emissions and energy consumption alongside costs, and concludes electrification’s a win-win. Some useful stats: 64% of global oil demand is for transport; 23% of global GHG emissions are from transport (20% in Europe, 28% in US and Canada); road transport “dominates” transport emissions. Besides electrification – hybrid, PHEV, EV – the report also mentions, for fuel-saving, low-resistance tyres, eco-driving courses and teleworking, as well as modal shift and optimised logistics.
June 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
We’ve seen this before in Munich, but the Light & Charge low-energy LED streetlight/EV-charger has been installed in the UK for the first time – at Mini Plant Oxford. It proposes an integrated solution for local authorities whereby street lights can be replaced with one of these without adding to urban clutter. Up to four LED modules can be fitted on each post, which has a modular design; these can be self-adjusting and reduce their output at timed intervals or when no-one is around, and light can be targeted and diffused to minimise glare or light pollution. From the EV-charging point of view, it’s been designed to be vehicle-agnostic and to be activated via swipe-card.
- Daimler/Car2Go is working with Bosch on a smartphone-app controlled automated parking system, hich will be tested in a parking garage; this is seen as an important step towards fully-automated driving as well as added functionality in the car-sharing business model. More here. And Jaguar Land Rover has today shown off a remote-controlled Range Rover Sport, driven by smartphone – not just for parking, but for negotiating tricky off-road conditions from a safe distance (within 10m), perhaps. This car is capable of doing a full 18-degree change of direction so even three-point-turns itself. The tech takes control of steering, braking, acceleration and gear selection, and JLR’s referring to the “Solo Car”. Also from JLR recently: the ‘Pothole Alert’ tech – identifying location and severity of potholes and adjusting suspension accordingly – isn’t just a shock absorber-saver. Interesting thing about this is that this is data to be shared with other cars and with road authorities, and is thus a step towards cloud-enabled internet-of-things-sort-of-things, as well as autonomous driving.
- On a related note – insights from McKinsey give 10 ways autonomous vehicles could change the automotive industry. Full read here, but they’re looking at three distinct eras. In the present, they’re already making inroads in industrial applications; new mobility models are emerging; and carmakers are assessing the market. As consumers start to adopt them, changes appear in the aftersales sector; supply chains and logistics are redefined; and the insurance market starts to cover tech failures rather than individuals. Once they predominate, they could free people up for 50min a day; parking space is reduced by billions of sq/m; crashes – and related costs to society – are reduced by 90%; and they accelerate robot tech in general.
- 1.3million Americans had joined a car-share by the end of 2014, according to the latest data out of Berkeley; this report from the Freep looks at that, noting that Airbnb-style peer-to-peer car-sharing is also a growth area – but that actual car sales are also growing again too, including to millennials/Gen Y. Another interesting point is illustrated by data from Zipcar – whose members include a sizable proportion of 50-69 year-olds – which suggests that older Gen X/boomers are moving back to city centres and getting rid of private vehicles. Which turns around a few ideas that have been floating about in recent years. More on vehicle-sharing from the TSRC, UC Berkeley, here.
- The Bollore Bluecar EV (previously built in Italy) is to be built at Renault’s factory in Dieppe, with a co-operation agreement signed between the two industrial groups. The Bluecar is, of course, headed to London for the EV-share (finally) announced last week. Where it will be painted red, incidentally. A 50-car fleet is to be launched early next year, with a (much-needed) overhaul and expansion of the city’s malfunctioning charging infrastructure also promised.
- Next year, Scania is to start testing hybrid diesel-electric heavy-duty trucks charged via an overhead pantograph system; a 2km test stretch of road is being built as part of the Electric Roads initiative. Later in the year, a similarly-equipped bus will also begin trials; this can be fully recharged in 6/7 minutes from equipment at a bus stop. More here.
- More bus news: Route 55 in Gothenburg has electrified with three all-electric and seven hybrid buses from Volvo (obviously) up and running; there’s flash-charging at bus stops, using renewable wind/solar electricity.
- And VDL Bus & Coach (Netherlands) has unveiled its articulated Citea SLFA Electric, due to go on duty shortly in Cologne; again, this has capability for ‘opportunity charging’.
- New BMW 7-Series: plug-in hybrid variant, 740eLe (long-wheelbase only), does up to 40km in all-electric mode (up to 75mph) and its averaged-out figures (meaningless though they are) are 134.5mpg and 49g/km of CO2. xDrive AWD versions also available.
- EU first-quarter figures for alt-fuel vehicles include a rise in all-electric sales, which more than doubled to 24,630 Jan-March 2015.
- Tesla: not as disruptive as you might think, according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, who points to ‘neighbourhood’ EVs – micro-vehicles – as the real innovations with potential for disruption. Mmm. Anyway, comes off the back of Newsweek’s ‘green’ rankings which puts Tesla as only the eighth-placed carmaker, behind BMW, Toyota, Daimler, Nissan, Ford, Volkswagen and GM in an analysis taking into account factors including energy and water use in manufacturing. Not that I imagine Elon Musk is losing any sleep over either of these judgements.
- Commuters want seamless connectivity on their journeys, according to a report from the Ericsson Consumer Lab, and to be able to take charge of their travel decisions with real-time info and personalised services. Some useful stats on use of apps by people taking different transport modes, in the various cities studied (London, Sao Paulo, New York and Shanghai). Also, feedback on rapidly-developing consumer trends in app use and expectations of iOT/connectivity in this video.