And the year-end final round-up…

December 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Acciona 100x100 ecopowered,electric car, Dakar 2016, Marroco 2015, Zagora, car test.

I’ll sign off for the year with a pic of the car I’m cheering on in the 2016 Dakar Rally: the Acciona Dakar EV. With a 200kW motor giving 800Nm and a 200km range (theoretically enough for each stage) from new Tesla-supplied batteries, this all-electric vehicle, the first to compete in the Dakar Rally (actually in Argentina and Bolivia, these days; 9000km this year), is back for its second go. Last year, it dropped out – along with ICE vehicles, to be fair – before the second stage, but this year’s car has been upgraded and it recently completed the Rally of Morocco. It’s 40% lighter than its predecessor, and the new battery packs, supplemented this time with a roof-full of solar panels, should help too. Whilst I shouldn’t really approve of vehicles – electric or otherwise – charging across delicate eco-systems and all that, I suppose, this is one of the world’s great, legendary motorsport/engineering challenges and tests of endurance, and one hell of a spectacle. So good luck to ’em. Acciona, not-so-incidentally, is a renewable energy/infrastructures business (construction, engineering, services) with solar, wind, hydro and biomass activities in over 20 countries. The rally kicks off in Rosario, Argentina, on January 2nd and this car’s progress can be followed @ACCIONADakar.
In a final round-up of recent EV, electromobility and general relevant-to-me intelligent mobility news from recent weeks, in no particular order:
  • Carsharing – or on-demand hire, as I prefer to call it – has moved much closer to mainstream usage this year, and it’s also going commercial: nice example of this is Car2Share Cargo, a system developed by Daimler Business Innovation and trialled in Berlin. Here’s a heartwarming Christmas story: Berliner Tafel, a non-profit which collects and distributes food for social institutions (i.e. soup kitchens, meals for the homeless, unemployed or children in care), has adopted this logistics-optimisation programme and noted “huge potential of fuel and time savings” and that “satisfaction at our social facilities has increased as the food donations arrive timely and in better condition.” Car2Share Cargo works in partnership with IT logistics partner tiramizoo for the booking of M-B vans from a ‘digital fleet’ and driver management. With van traffic in cities growing (see below; factors involved in this include online shopping/deliveries) this has to be a positive step.
  • New – big – study out from TfL: Travel in London Report 8, latest overview of transport trends in the city. Headline news is that – in line with population growth, as expected – trip/journey rate is rising, with increased demand for public transport; an 11% modal shift since 2000 away from private transport (car) recorded, with gains in public transport, walking, cycling (a 3.3% shift since 2008); although there has been a return to growth in traffic levels in the last two years. Van traffic and private hire/licensed cab traffic up steeply, particularly the latter (blame Uber). In line with projected population growth, transport demand is also expected to grow, albeit concentrated in particular areas (redeveloped East London districts, in particular) and affected by demographic shifts such as a growing number of older people in outer areas.
  • More solid-state battery news: the US DoE Berkeley Lab and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have come up with an electrolyte combining polymers and glass. It’s claimed to overcome both the thermal problems with polymers (which need to be heated, not working well at room temperatures) and better-conducting ceramic electrolytes which need high pressures to maintain electrode contact, and to be stable, compliant and highly-conductive. It works in a lithium battery but would also be compatible with next-gen chemistries including lithium-sulphur. More details, references here.
  • Nissan and BMW are partnering in the US to roll out 120 DC fast-charging points across 19 US states, with both ChaDeMo and CCS connectors; more here.
  • Changes to the UK’s plug-in car grant scheme: extended till the end of March 2018, to continue to incentivise the purchase of EVs and plug-in hybrids, but some modifications. It’ll now be a two-level scheme (from March 2016): up to £4,500 for ‘Category 1’ cars (with a claimed e-range of 70 miles or more), and £2,500 for Category 2 and 3 vehicles (i.e. plug-in hybrids) with only vehicles costing up to £60,000 eligible. (If you can afford a £60K+ car, you don’t need a grant). Grants of £500 will still be available towards the cost of installing charging equipment.
  • Blog post by GM’s CEO Mary Barra sums up her predictions for 2016: she expects “more change in the automotive industry in the next five to 10 years than the last 50”, due to changing views of car ownership, greater urbanisation and digitisation; and rapid evolution of shared mobility, autonomous driving and alt-propulsion.
  • Latest EV market forecast from Navigant Research: global sales of light-duty EVs, hybrids and PHEVs will rise from 2015’s 2.6million vehicles to between 5.7-6.4million in 2024. Plug-in models will rise from 19% of all electrified vehicles this year to between 47-51% of the electrified market in 2024.  More here.
  • And an interview with Padmasree Warrior, new CEO of would-be Tesla competitor NextEV (and Tesla Model S driver): “I really believe transportation and the automotive industry is about to go through a major shift. It’s not just a technology-driven shift, but actually given the fact that we all live in the mobile Internet era, how can we envision a new mode of transportation, new vehicles, while leveraging all the tech advances that have happened on mobile and the Internet? How can we bring it into automotive as a platform and think about it as a technology platform, not just a physical car?” Prototypes and race car under development, mass-market vehicles to follow.
  • NEVS has announced ambitious plans for its reborn (electric) Saab range, and it’s also planning ‘mobility services’ as a major part of the business, it seems. A presentation this week outlined the aims for relaunch of the (improved, updated) 9-3 saloon, a compact SUV, midsize crossover, ‘fastback’ and SUV models, plus hints at connected/sharing services, reports Saabblog. And as it has just taken an order from Chinese vehicle leasing firm Panda New Energy for 250,000 cars, this relaunch might just happen now… The Panda deal involves 150,000 electric 9-3s and 100,000 ‘other’ products; Panda also works with chauffeured car services in China, reports a Swedish news agency, and aims to become one of the largest EV-leasers in the world.
  • Some comment here on Norway’s development of a smart-grid system to cope with all their EVs, aided (of course) by all that hydropower… and predictions as to the effects on Norway’s CO2 output and electricity usage – and subsequent impact on the rest of Europe, to which it exports electricity – should half its vehicles go electric by 2020, here. Conclusion: if 50% of Norwegian cars need to plug in, other European countries will have to generate more of their own electricity, with coal-fired power stations accounting for about half of that increased production, but there would still be a net one million tonne reduction in CO2 across the continent – and much more, if wind power is further developed in Norway.
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