Monday news…

August 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Heard the one about the sports car that sounds like a space ship? ZZGW-1024x683The GLM ZZ, an electric conversion of the Lotus Elise-alike Tommykaira ZZ roadster (pictured), is built in limited numbers to special order in Japan – and while in itself, it’s not that interesting a car, a fun new optional feature is going on offer: a “neo-futuristic driving sound generation system” courtesy of synth/amplifier-maker Roland. The creator of the popular Cube amp (three variants of this in my household) and keyboards used by some of the best-known names in popular music (no, all about vintage Hammonds, Moogs and Farfizers in my social circle, I’m afraid)  is coming up with real-time “sonically rich, studio quality sounds” to substitute for engine noise and give the unique driving experience “of driving a space ship on the road.” Prog rock on the stereo, please.

  • On a differently-futuristic note, car concept-conceptualiser Charles Bombardier (yes, scion of that dynasty of transport designers) has come up with a driverless, on-demand electric people-mover which levitates on magnetic tracks across a city. A modernised version of monorail shuttles, the egg-shaped Katric would be aimed at business commuters going in/out of central business districts. More here.
  • Hyundai is planning a compact EV, with plug-hybrid and hybrid sister models, says Green Car Reports, which describes the car as a rival for the Toyota Prius, next-generation Nissan Leaf and upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV, and suggests that long-range versions could be offered.
  • The UK is now Europe’s fifth-most traffic-congested country, according to data from Inrix, with congestion rising in 14 of the country’s 18 metropolitan areas last year. Though roadworks are cited as a contributory factor (irony alert?) a growing urban population and a pick-up in the economy are quoted as having increased the demand for more road travel, with an increase in the numbers of both private and commercial vehicles on the road and more people commuting by car, reports Fleet News. London drivers are said to have spent an average 96 hours stuck in traffic last year, making the capital Europe’s most congested city. Kinda questions the whole idea that cities (and people, in general) are falling out of love with cars, doesn’t it? And suggests, perhaps, that we need to get people using cleaner cars rather than thinking we can get them all on bicycles/foot/public transport instead (though of course, a realistic level of modal shift is desirable)? Full UK-slanted release on the Inrix Traffic Scorecard Report (with some nice tables linking traffic to economic growth) here; and for comparison, some lowdown on the German situation here. Germany is the third-most congested European country (behind Belgium and the Netherlands), with congestion up in 17 of 22 metropolitan areas, and Cologne, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe the worst-affected cities.
  • Incidentally, Inrix has just released its On-Street Parking app, guiding drivers to spaces with a colour-coded system indicating availability. Rather than using data from on-street sensors, which proved in trials to be unreliable, this aggregates real-time data from cities, connected car-sharing services, vehicle GPS data, parking and mobile payment companies (including meter transactions) and similar. Full lowdown here. Hoping this Seattle-based firm can look at real-time EV charger status and availability…
  • A new academic book, Sustainable Transportation (previews available) looks at planning, management and decision-making in the sector. There’s a nice distinction in Ch4, Transportation and Sustainability (pp81-2) between the two ways of looking at the concept of sustainable transportation: firstly as a subject in its own right, with transportation as the main focus, or alternatively, taking a holistic, multi-sector view whereby the transportation is looked at in terms of its contribution to sustainable development. Yep, the latter’s what we need to be doing in the electromobility field.
  • This does come under the How Seriously Should I Take This? heading, but… China’s equivalent of Netflix, LeTV, is developing an EV with a view to taking on Tesla, reports FastCo. And has hired 600 people (including staffers from Tesla, GM and BMW) to create this car, a sporty fastback hatch to be revealed at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, and effectively a vehicle (no pun intended) for the company’s digital content. How seriously, then? Well, LeTV’s founder is said to be a billionaire, having launched best-selling TVs and phones in China, which has to be a good start.
  • Also via FastCo: the school run just went digital. Shuddle Carpool, an extension of an ‘Uber for kids’ service already launched in California, aims to connect families (who know each other already) to ride-share in pre-booked cars with a vetted, probably female, driver. So a shared school taxi, then, as arranged by – and at the expense of – many local councils in the UK for country kids for many years, albeit now in Silicon Valley stylee.
  • A South African firm called Big Boss is aiming to sell low-cost EVs, initially built in China but with a view to local production after the launch, and is working with the government to establish charging infrastructure; more here (via electrive.com).
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