January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s the hydrogen society: Honda has signed an agreement with Tottori Gas Co, Sekisui House Ltd and Tottori Prefecture to develop a demo project integrating a hydrogen station, a smart house (pictured; love the graphic) and a fuel cell vehicle. The Smart Hydrogen Station will supply hydrogen created by electrolysis of water, using renewable electricity, and the idea is to show “a comfortable and smart lifestyle that can be achieved through energy-saving and energy-creation with the use of hydrogen energy.” More here.
In other news to end the working week:
- Toyota is showing off a van concept called U2 (U-squared) at the Toronto auto show; no word yet on what kind of powertrain it has, but apparently it’s the “future of urban mobility”. Possibly hydrogen/fuel cell fuelled, too?
- Much ado today about the end of Land Rover Defender production; for all it was about time for it to be pensioned off, people were pretty fond of it. One environmentally-positive part of the tale: remember the trial fleet of all-electric models, in which Land Rover tested out some of its electrification tech?
- Pods, driverless, to be deployed in London: adapted versions of the on-demand mini-shuttles on service at Heathrow Airport will go on trial at the Greenwich peninsula, this time without tracks. Seven cars will be built and tested by Westfield.
- Meanwhile, TfL launched an initiative called LoCITY to encourage take-up of lower-emissions trucks and lorries for us in London, looking at refuelling/recharging infrastructure (incl. hydrogen), affordability/availability, and enviro operating standards. Full programme overview here.
- And another interesting driveless-EV application: for freight, in tunnels, in Switzerland. The ‘cargo sous terrain’ project, using inductive rails, will cover Geneva-St Gallen, and the first stretch will be completed by 2030, reports electrive.com.
- There are many ways this particular cake can be cut, but a ranking of ‘greenest’ vehicles by the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) puts the Smart Fortwo in the top spot, followed by the Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500E, Toyota Prius Eco, Volkswagen E-Golf and then Nissan Leaf. The ACEEE says it has carried out a whole-lifecycle analysis, taking into account the US grid, and that “plug-in vehicles are outpacing all other vehicle offerings in terms of environmental friendliness… nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that how green your electric vehicle truly is depends on the electricity it uses to charge.” Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel models fitted with ‘defeat devices’ were disqualified from this year’s rankings, and rightly so. More here.
- Big charging point installation in California: 3500 in 350 locations, including businesses and residential communities, in San Diego and south Orange counties, with 10% to go to identified ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhoods. There will be incentives to charge off-peak as part of grid-management. More here.
January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
Well, news for the morning – and a good way to start the week – has to be the announcement of the Go Ultra Low City Scheme: £40million to go to four UK cities to support plug-in vehicle use. Initiatives to be funded include “rapid charging hubs”, on-street EV chargers integrated into lampposts (like the unit pictured, under trial in Oxford?), dedicated parking spaces for plug-in cars (around 25,000) and their use of bus lanes. The selected cities have been picked for their proposals for schemes to encourage EV take-up and funded programmes include:
- £13million to London across several boroughs, including streetlight chargers for an area in Hackney and a low-emissions zone with parking and traffic priorities in Harrow.
- £9million to Milton Keynes for a city centre ‘Electric Vehicle Experience Centre’ giving advice and vehicle loans, 20,000 free-parking bays for EVs, and opening up bus lanes to plug-in vehicles.
- £7million to Bristol for free residential EV parking, three car-pool lanes, over 80 fast- and rapid-chargers across the city and a four-week ‘try before you buy’ EV lease scheme.
- £6million to Derby and Nottinghamshire to install 230 charging points, discounted parking and access to 13 miles of bus lanes across the city.
- A further £5million to initiatives in Dundee, Oxford, York and the north-east, including “commuter charging hubs” in Dundee and solar-panelled park-and-ride hubs in York.
This follows the news – from the private sector – that Chargemaster is putting in up to 200 rapid-chargers in London this year and next, the first 30 going live this summer. Chosen locations will include petrol stations, public car parks and supermarkets, and they will operate both via POLAR network membership and pay-as-you-go; POLAR members will pay a lower tariff.
- And across the Atlantic, some news that slipped out last week: $CAN 16million (10mill equity, 6mill loan) to support R&D into electromobility in Quebec, supporting a partnership between Investissement Quebec, HydroQuebec’s IndusTech division, PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Exagon Motors (maker of the Furtive e-GT and electric ice-racers). A further $CAN 4million will be invested by HydroQuebec. The programme aims to develop “components for high-performance electric vehicles” and promote EV innovation in Canada, and HydroQuebec subsidiary TM4 is to develop and manufacture a motor/drivetrain. (More DoE tech funding in the US, too).
- More on the background of EV drivers (mostly USA, 1072 respondents) from a big survey of Clean Technica/EVObsession/GAS2 readers: yep, male (93.5%) and wealthy (58% with annual household income of over $100,000, 88.5% over $50,000). They tended to live either in larger cities (over 1million inhabitants – 27.3%) or small towns (with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, 29.4%), and 20.6% had only the one – electric – car; 45.8% had two cars and 33.6% more than two. And 70% said that they now drove more efficiently (24% didn’t, 6% ‘not sure’), 41% said that owning/leasing an EV made them conserve more domestic energy (42% didn’t, 17% ‘not sure’) and 37.5% had home solar panels. Similar questions were also asked to potential EV purchasers; full report available here.
January 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
An (extended-range) EV from Essex: Tevva Motors of Brentwood has announced three up-and-running prototypes, one now on service with UPS, featuring a factory-build or retro-fit RE-EV powertrain and predictive software to sync it in with low- or zero-emissions zones, or driving conditions – including switching to all-electric mode in areas when poor air quality is detected. The powertrain can be built into an existing 7.5 tonne-r with flatbed chassis and box body; it allows for 50mph and an electric-only range of 100 miles (250 miles overall) from its 120kW motor and 1.6-litre diesel engine.
In other news today:
Lots of nice feedback from London EV drivers in the Source London survey, reported by Zap-Map: headline demands are more charging points, standardised infrastructure, and real-time mapping showing availability/status of charging points – no surprises there. 1102 people polled online December 2015-Jan 2016, 43% dissatisfied (23% ‘very’, 20% ‘slightly), but 38% satisfied, though 20% hadn’t actually used a Source London point in the previous month. Satisfaction levels improving, just about (21% more satisfied with the service over the last 12 months) though 19% thought service had declined – but satisfaction was up 50% in the boroughs with charge-point supply and management taken over by Bluepoint. 93% wanted more charging points in the network, the other 7% thinking there were enough; 85% wanted one network (and 95% listed this in their top three preferences); 82% thought a real-time map was very important, 12% slightly so.
Other key take-outs: 68% thought a guaranteed renewable electricity supply very or slightly important; 64% a pre-booked charging bay; 62% mobile ‘unlocking’ of points; and 40% wanted wi-fi hotspots (eh?). Also interesting: only 53% used their EV as often as they wanted, the biggest barrier (61%) being lack of charging points (27% citing range). Overall, a third thought the number of charging points was the biggest barrier to take-up, 36% the current range, and 19% the high purchase costs. 61% thought national government had the greatest responsibility to promote EV use (13% the Mayor, 14% London boroughs).
Google Maps was the most commonly-used journey-planning tool (54%), Zap-Map next (48%). Of the 1102 drivers, 83% were male, average age 49, with high household income averaging £66,000. 81% owned a plug-in vehicle, 6% had more than one type of EV; 19% had owned an EV for more than three years, 41% for 1-3 years; 82% used their cars at least once a day (60% commuted) and 15% used them a couple of times a week (44% for food shopping). Good detailed stuff – but note to self: London is not the whole of the UK and results may vary by region…
- Another English EV plan: Morgan is receiving £6million-worth of government funding to develop new hybrid and electric powertrain tech, in a project partnering with Delta Motorsport and Potenza Technology. Electrified models to reach the market by 2019, they say. Not huge production numbers, obviously, but all good for consciousness-raising…
- On a somewhat larger scale though, Nissan has confirmed production of next-generation lithium-ion EV batteries in Sunderland. And e-mobility will also be supported by the new Intertek lab at Milton Keynes, the UK’s largest EV and hybrid testing facility just opened (a former Tickford facility, incidentally).
- And Route Monkey has joined a Bristol-based research consortium called Replicate (‘Rennaissance of Places with Innovative Citizenship and Technologies), its role to look at – and develop algorithms for – an EV-sharing initiative and integrated transport networks for commuters and business users. Also involved are partners including Co-Wheels car club, Toshiba, and Esoterix Systems, who are to operate an on-demand bus service called Buxi for the city. Replicate is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme. More here.
- Now GM has launched its own mobility service, is this officially a thing? Its car-share is called Maven, and is being rolled out across cities and communities in the US; GM’s also boasting of having recruited staff from Google, Zipcar and Sidecar to run this. Its partnership with Lyft continues. Maven is initially on offer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with residential, city and campus programmes (first roll-out is at the University of Michigan) and cars at 21 parking places across the city; residential services will launch in Chicago and New York.Further testing work is running at GM sites in the US, Germany and China. More here. GM has also just bought out the bankrupt US ridesharing firm Sidecar.
- Schneider Electric and EverCharge are teaming up to offer EV-charging solutions for multi-occupancy buildings – office blocks, apartment buildings, etc. – including metering, billing and demand management. More here.
- Titbit – with lots of links – on 3D printing, microfactories and their role in reducing whole-lifecycle vehicle emissions, in terms of emissions and energy use related to vehicle production (as well as costs) here at Treehugger; don’t get too distracted by the Blade, “the world’s first 3D-printed supercar”, though, there is actually a serious point in there…
- Meanwhile in ICE-land, my friends & sometime colleagues at Which? have been digging into three years’-worth of emissions data (tests commissioned from ADAC) to claim that 95% of diesel models – and one in ten petrol cars – tested on their “more realistic” cycle exceed NOx limits. Two-thirds of petrol models – including hybrids – also exceed EU limits for CO. Nope, it’s not just Volkswagen. And the latest paper from the ICCT (International Council for Clean Transportation) with Element Energy, using data from Germany’s Spritmonitor survey, shows a continuing growth in the ‘gap’ between claimed fuel consumption (and CO2) figures and ‘real life’ returns/output; more here. This all follows Renault’s recall of the diesel Captur, following an investigation into its emissions (no illegal software found).
- Oh, and quite apart from it being a record year for car production in the UK, the number of cars on our roads rose by 600,000, over half of those joining the streets in south-east England. That’s a vehicle population-rise of 1.6million in England alone since since 2011 (over 200,000 in Scotland and Wales). Just because a few kids have opted not to get their driver’s licences we cannot assume that cars are going to go away….
January 15, 2016 § 2 Comments
Year-end totals for plug-in car sales in the UK: 28,188 registered in 2015 (of 2.6million overall, but a significant growth in market share nonetheless). Of these, 18,254 were plug-in hybrids and 9,934 (48%) all-electric. 9,186 of the total were registered in south-east England, but 4,420 went to the south-west and 3,371 to the West Midlands. Top-seller was, inevitably, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (11,681; latest version pictured), followed by the Nissan Leaf (5,236) and then the BMW i3 (2,213). Estimates from the government currently put plug-in cars as taking a 5% market share (around 100,000 a year) by 2020.
And estimates of electrified vehicle sales (incl. hybrids) cross-Europe stand at 2.2million a year by 2021, says PwC Autofacts; that’s a growing share, but still, let’s face it, pretty damn tiny in the great scheme of things. It’s also forecasting a dip in PHEV sales in Europe as government subsidies and tax breaks are being canned, i.e. in the Netherlands, although all-electric vehicle production is expected to rise. More here.
- The Fraunhofer IKTS research institute, Thyssenkrupp and IAV are working on an EV battery project: EMBATT aims to develop a more compact, more affordable and longer-range concept with cells integrated into the car’s chassis. A 1000-km range is targeted. More here.
- And BMW is working with the Viessmann Group on ‘digital energy solutions’ to optimise energy use, including static storage systems, for decentralised and flexible electricity supply. Better-integrating electromobility and its demands into (renewable) energy supply, I think is the gist of it.. more here.
- The Ubeeqo ‘mobility platform’ (majority-owned by Europcar) has launched in London and Paris, with other cities to follow: this gives access to cars on-demand via a service called Matcha (from £6 an hour, incl. fuel for the first 50 miles); conventional rental from Europcar, and taxi-booking. A range of public transport options are to be added. Effectively, it’s streamlining/aggregating access from different service providers; this is part of the start-up’s portfolio of corporate solutions, but now extended to private individuals. Not quite the ‘super app’ talked about by Bosch here, but a step in the right direction… (and meanwhile, the car-makers are all circling to negotiate their position in all of this; some detail on Audi’s current thinking here).
- On a further note of consolidation, the Uber API has been integrated into a (US) app called TransLoc Rider, which combines private and public transport options to facilitate multi-modal journeys and commutes. This will debut in Memphis and Raleigh/Durham next month. More here.
- And a different business model for car-sharing/on-demand: WaiveCar, just launched in California (Santa Monica and Venice Beach, says electrive.com) gives the first two hours free and then charges $5.99 an hour thereafter. But… the cars are rolling advertising billboards, funding the service.
- Amsterdam’s aiming for 4000 EV charging points, using wind-generated electricity, by 2018, with 1500 already; partner in the expansion is EV-Box, also aiming to kit out the Benelux countries.
- The biggest auto industry trend to 2025? Connectivity and digitalisation, says this year’s KPMG International Global Automotive Executive Survey (800 executives in 38 countries, plus 2100 consumers). Major business model disruption is also thought to be likely in the next five years. Leverage data from car and driver, says KPMG, to become a customer-oriented service provider. BMW and Toyota are expected to lead in e-mobility and autonomous driving – not least due to their strong brands and breadth of product portfolios compared to the upstart start-ups like Tesla.
January 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Snippets from the Detroit motor show this week (no, no Panic in Detroit… aaaah): first up, some satellite tech from Kymeta, maker of flat-panel antennae, fitted to the roof of a Toyota Mirai. Liquid-crystal chemistry plus software means no mechanical componentry and easy integration, plus “much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies”, says Toyota. It’s said to be stable, giving broad global coverage and common standards – and could just be the enabler for next-gen connected-car, autonomous and vehicle networking systems. Ground control to… no, stop it.
- Volkswagen’s Tiguan GTE Active concept – toughened-up version of its smaller SUV – is a hybrid with an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. Squeezes out a claimed 75mpg (US) from the 1.4 TSI petrol engine with an electric motor driving each axle; more here. Not a gamechanger but, well, better than a diesel SUV, I suppose.
- Audi, meanwhile, has turned its e-tron quattro into a fuel cell-driven SUV, now h-tron; 124mph, a 373-mile range and a four-minute hydrogen refuelling time, apparently, with production on course for 2020.
- Interesting in that this takes electrification to a different sector: there will be a PHEV version of the new Chrysler Pacifica (replacement for the Town & Country/Grand Voyager big MPV), giving a claimed all-e range of 30 miles. Given the short daily-drive routines of people-carriers like this, appropriate. Also, lowdown on Ford Fusion (US-market Mondeo) hybrid and Energi (PHEV) versions here: Fusion Energi does 19 miles in all-e mode, they say.
- And in terms of non-metal product, Ford is launching a service called FordPass in February: free membership, open to non-Ford owners, with reward/loyalty scheme, parking space location/reservations app, FlightCar (borrowing/sharing cars), mobility/transport advice, FordPay mobile payments and more to come, all linked up to FordHubs (‘innovation centres’ rather than trad dealerships, one coming to London). More here.
- Survey from IBM presented in Detroit: A New Relationship – People and Cars; notes that consumers are interested in autonomous, self-driving and adaptive, preference-learning vehicles, but don’t necessarily want to own one. The study – 16,494 consumers in 16 countries interviewed – looks at expectations of vehicle use in the next ten years, and concludes that the private car will continue to be a primary mode of transportation nonetheless. However, there is interest in part/shared ownership of cars, access by subscription and on-demand ride-sharing, and automakers need to develop new revenue-streams, buyer experiences and customer models. More in handy digest here.
- In non-Detroit news: research for BMW at MIT has developed a photovoltaic polymer film to capture and store solar energy to de-ice windscreens. Implication is that this could mitigate against the estimated 30% range reduction in an electric vehicle due to heating, cooling and de-icing. More here.
- Pipping the Bollore cars to the (charging) post, E-Car Club has launched in East London: £5.50 per hour, Renaults Zoe and Fluence in Poplar and Bow. More here.
- Though incidentally, some research from Erasmus University is suggesting that car-sharing and car clubs don’t lead to mileage reductions, and that displacement from public or active transport can actually mean more car use. Reductions are seen only in specific scenarios when club car use replaces a single high-mileage private car, or when drivers are truly convinced of the benefits, apparently. Original paper – in Dutch – here (I think)…
- …but more significant benefits can be seen in wider Mobility as a Service (MaaS) trials, such as one in Gothenburg, which involve modal shift and a wider range of transport choices/incentives. More on the UbiGo project here, too.
- Report on London’s air quality issues (NOx, primarily, these days) from The Policy Exchange; concludes that diesel cars remain main culprits and the ‘improvements’ from Euro 6 compliance may be overstated, with gas-fired CHP (combined heat and power) systems a further concern. Some handy references involved.
January 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
Volkswagen’s BUDD-e concept: not so much a ‘new Microbus’ as a rolling tech showcase, and I’m glad they didn’t go retro for its design. It’s based on VW’s ‘Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB), a flexible platform which could underpin a series of new EVs, has a motor driving each axle to give 4WD (110kW to the front, 125kW to the rear) and is said to give a range of up to 233 miles, 122mph and 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. Plus, inevitably, it features a fully-networked IoT-enabled interactive display, smart-home connections, touch and gesture controls, and app-programmable entertainment, and is furnished with the usual show-car lounge-style swivelling seats. The ground-up purpose-designed MEB “conceptual matrix”, by the way, is VW’s bid to make EVs competitive with gasoline-driven cars range-wise “by the end of the decade”, by which time, battery-charging time “should have been cut to about 15 minutes” for an 80% capacity. It’s compatible with induction charging, in the meantime (80% in 30 minutes on a 150kW DC charger). Packaging-wise, the BUDD-e is between VW’s Touran and Multivan T6 in size, although wider than both and with a long wheelbase. Full low-down on all the tech, etc, here.
- Audi’s CES story is a version of the e-tron quattro concept (electric SUV), with new interior displays and communications kit: car-to-infrastructure connectivity, ‘organic light emitting diodes’ (OLED) for the ‘virtual cockpit’ displays, touch-response on the MMI (multi-media interface), an updated information/entertainment platform, a new ‘flat hierarchy’ menu system, wi-fi, an expanded Audi connec portfolio of services/data streams, music streaming, Apple TV and more. The V2X stuff includes ‘swarm intelligence’ data – from other so-equipped vehicles – on traffic conditions, hazards and soforth, and speed advice for smoother driving through green traffic lights; there’s also piloted driving (traffic jams) and auto-parking. More here.
- Feeding the data to the above Audi (and many others), mapping/location tech firm HERE has announced its new cloud-based HD Live Map, said to be a detailed and dynamic representation of the road ahead and to enable a car to ‘see’ around corners. This will feed into ADAS systems and, ultimately, automated driving. More, er, HERE.
- And a ‘digital antidote’ – nice note on the Rinspeed Etos from Joe at Car Design News, who highlights some very analogue touches in this autonomous, drone-accessoried concept, including a bookshelf. For reading real hardback paper books while the car drives itself.
- Pictures & details have been released on Hyundai’s Ioniq – hybrid (Prius rival) comes first, then PHEV and EV versions. Formal unveiling/launch at Geneva Motor Show in March. More here. And a production version of the Chevrolet Bolt has been shown off in Vegas – this high-riding compact hatch is said to have a 200-mile battery range, but won’t be coming to the UK, reports Autocar; it has, however, been designed with car clubs and car-sharing in mind, reports Auto News. More on the Bolt in Detroit next week.
- And an interesting little DIY self-assembly idea: France Craft is punting its electric kit cars, aimed as low-cost, 125-mile runarounds. Well, not quite DIY – they’re road-legal in France only if assembled by a certified mechanic. More here.
January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
Is this a new roofless version of the fabric-bodied EDAG Light Cocoon, my favourite concept at the Geneva show last year, modded by Bosch? Looks like it to me. Anyway, Bosch is showing off its vision of the car as personal assistant at CES, and its haptic-feedback touchscreen controls, cloud-connected functions and assistance systems. Aim is to minimise driver distraction, give more intelligent safety alerts (incl. wrong-way), sync up driver preferences, diaries and route guidance, and provide autopilot functions (of course). Bosch is also talking about connections to smart homes – controls of heating, security – and online services, as well as the ‘connected horizon’ of real-time traffic and safety data, and infrastructure-enabled automated valet parking. Full details here, and on the smart-home suite of tech here.
So, the Faraday Future FFZERO1 unveiled at CES, Las Vegas: only a concept as yet, looks a bit silly and toy-like, but under the wannabe-Batmobile surface is some tech to underpin some proper cars, apparently. The Variable Platform Architecture can be easily reconfigured for different vehicle types, two- or four-wheel-drive, and to house up to three motors and additional ‘strings’ of batteries. This single-seater, carbonfibre composite-bodied concept has four motors delivering 200mph, 986bhp and a claimed 0-60 in less than three seconds. Theoretically. Feedback on Faraday so far suggests that the firm (backed by China’s Letv media conglomerate) sees itself more as a tech firm and infotainment-provider than a car-maker (no surprises in that statement) with some interesting ideas on non-traditional ownership/leasing models (i.e. availability of different cars on-demand) and that the concept previews some autonomous-driving tech, including smartphone-controlled functions and augmented-reality displays. More detail, pictures, here.
- GM has announced a partnership with ridesharing platform Lyft “to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles” in the US. In the short-term, this means GM will supply cars to Lyft drivers at rental hubs in selected US cities, Lyft will use GM’s OnStar services, and both will develop “joint mobility offerings” – personalised services – “through their respective channels”, long before the longer-term autonomous fleet arrives.
- Meanwhile, Volvo has been talking about its work with Ericsson to develop content-streaming for autonomous vehicles – high-definition TV, music and other high-bandwidth services, linked with ‘learning’ route preferences and traffic predictions to deliver the right-length entertainment for the journey. Interesting stat: Ericsson’s research reckons that 70% of all mobile data traffic will be for video in coming years.
- In non-CES news… A bit cheaper than the Boris buses – the DfT is putting up £7million in its Clean Bus Technology Fund to retro-fit 439 existing buses with SCR (selective catalytic reduction) tech to reduce NOx emissions (by an estimated 50%-90%).
- Are electric vehicles really the best option for greener driving? A rather misleadingly-titled piece at The Conversation which doesn’t so much answer the question as put the case for hybridisation, hydrogen and ‘electrofuels’ (those synthesised using renewable electricity, i.e. methane or liquid methanol). Arguments against EVs: batteries are expensive, European grid currently uses nearly 50% fossil fuels (both short-term-ist issues). Electrofuels “represent the minimum change to the status quo” – sure, but shouldn’t we be aiming for a bit more than that? Problem is, though, with these kinds of pieces is that it sets up a false either-or argument of one fuel type vs another, when really it should be about the right fuels for the right applications, i.e. in different sectors and niches (point is made about synthetic hydrocarbons for aviation, for example). There’s no one solution.
- And Heathrow Airport is to install 135 EV charging points – each with two power outlets – in a bid to improve its sustainability (such things are all relative). Should help out the increasing number of electric private-hire vehicles and taxis on the airport run, anyway, and reduce the (anecdotally-reported) problem of certain firms hogging the rapid-chargers at the nearby service station…