July 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
And it’s another heavy-duty Mercedes-Benz: following last week’s Future Bus, the Urban eTruck makes its debut in Stuttgart this week. It’s a 26-tonne three-axle, short-radius distribution truck, based on an existing Mercedes model but with new drive system: the rear axle is rear-driven by motors adjacent to the wheel hubs, as in the Citaro hybrid bus, giving 2x 125kW and 2x 500Nm of torque. Range is said to be up to 200km (“enough for a typical daily delivery tour”) thanks to three lithium-ion battery modules mounted within the frame; using the CCS charging system at 100kW it can be recharged to 100% in two to three hours.
Series production is “already conceivable at the beginning of the next decade”, apparently. M-B continues with its trials of the smaller Fuso Canter E-Cell, which have informed the development of this model, and an ongoing five-vehicle trial with parcel service provider Hermes in Stuttgart is looking at issues including topography and logistical deployment. Full suite of material on the eTruck here.
- And more Daimler: the launch of ‘smart ready to drop’, a service in partnership with DHL enabling parcel delivery to – or collection from – your (Smart) car [so small parcels only…]. This is via a ‘connectivity box’ which can be retro-fitted to existing Smart Fortwos, allowing the DHL driver to gain access to the boot via a one-time keyless access app (as in Car2Go vehicles). Beta-testing starts in Stuttgart, with Cologne, Bonn and Berlin to follow. More here. [Daimler is also looking at swarm intelligence in relation to digitalisation of mobility services and e-mobility, it emerges.]
- Yet more Daimler: Car2go has had a positive impact on emissions, traffic and parking in Calgary, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington DC, according to a study from UC Berkeley. The Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) concluded that the one way/on-demand service – used by nearly 9,500 members in these N American cities – resulted in fewer privately-owned cars on the road, fewer vehicle miles travelled and lower GHG emissions over a three-year period. Between 2-5% of members sold a vehicle and 7-10% did not buy a car thanks to their membership; each car2go car meant 7-11 cars were sold or not acquired (to a total of 28,000); mileage reductions were 6-16% in the cities (average 11%), GHG emissions were down 4-18% (average 10%). Further breakdown here.
- Meanwhile in the UK, we have a report linking poor suburban transport links with car-dependency and poverty: digest at the Guardian. Lengthy and expensive commutes, poor planning, poor public transport links and a lack of cycling infrastructure all get a mention…
- …but for those who can afford an electric car, some interesting news: former tennis player/gym chain entrepreneur David Lloyd has launched a new company called EV Hub. Idea is, reports the Mail on Sunday, that EV owners can roll up to the facilities and use office space or coffee shops (or gyms?) while their car is recharging. He’s planning a crowdsourcing campaign for five hubs in London initially, with later roll-out in other areas. Wonder what the cost-per-charge and/or membership demands are going to be for this, though?
- And another business model, albeit a somewhat grander vision: Elon Musk’s Master Plan, Part Deux. From the merger of SolarCity and Tesla will come a scaling-up and complete integration of home solar, energy storage and car charging; a compact SUV and a pick-up truck are on the drawing board; Tesla engineers are working on radical developments to its factory system; the Tesla Semi [heavy-duty truck; insert crude joke here] and a ‘high-density passenger urban transport’ proposal will be unveiled next year [he hints at a small, autonomously-driven bus]; advancing autonomy’; and, possibly most contentiously, adding your self-driving, on-demand Tesla to a shared fleet, ostensibly earning you money when it’s not in use. Can’t say I’m convinced that Tesla owners want to share, I have to say, but perhaps future customers for the Model 3 and other ‘lower-end’ vehicles may behave differently to Roadster and Model S owners…
July 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Not just a show vehicle, Mercedes-Benz’s Future Bus is up and running on trials in Amsterdam, on a 20km route between Schipol Airport and Haarlem. OK, it’s not electric (yet) – it’s based on a diesel-driven Citaro – but it is a very advanced and exciting technological platform/experimental testbed. Key feature is the CityPilot, semi-autonomous guidance using camera and radars, which is said to result in smooth and predictive progress which lowers fuel consumption and emissions, at least. Design-wise, it also represents a step forward in making bus travel attractive, with its three-zone passenger compartment, highly-styled seating and lighting, monitor screens and stripped-down driver interface. Let’s hope it’s more functional and performs better in real-life than London’s latest efforts. Mercedes is launching a battery-electric drive system for city buses in 2018, anyway (opening up further interior design possibilities, it notes, due to the lack of an engine in the rear). Full details here.
- And more bus news: the TOSA electric bus – the first wireless articulated trolleybus in production, I believe – is now in service on the airport run in Geneva. This features ABB’s flash-charging technology, which delivers 400kW in a 15-second top-up boost, plus supercapacitors in the charging points to help even out demand on the local grid. 12 buses have been ordered by the city for its Line 23.
- It’s been tried before with apps like PlugShare and platforms such as TesLoJuice, but Renault’s looking into the plug-sharing thing now: it is trialling ‘Elbnb’ in Sweden, an app through which EV owners/operators can offer/share their charging facilities. More here. Indications from my UK research are that this kind of sharing hasn’t really taken off to any extent beyond the occasional emergency calling-upon someone nearby with a plug socket, not least because owners’ private chargers tend to be slow-chargers, but I’d be interested to hear any reports/thoughts otherwise…
- Seat’s doing the start-up thing: its Martorell facilities are to host an ‘acceleration programme’ for five selected mobility-related businesses, in partnership with digital mentorship scheme Conector. Applications are invited… This is, for Seat, “aligned with our vision for the future of the company to promote a mobility ecosystem”, says President Luca de Meo. Interesting to see how the Volkswagen Group’s Spanish division has been having a bit of a promotional push lately (wonder why?) and how it’s being repositioned as innovation/design central.
- Ford is teaming up with tequila-maker Jose Cuevo to use its agave fibre waste and develop bioplastics: their use is being explored for wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins, in place of petrolchemical plastics, and the material created so far is said to be durable and lightweight. Ford notes that it’s also already using soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fibre, cellulose, wood, coconut fibres and rice hulls in its vehicles. More here. (Ford has also just invested in 3D mapping start-up Civil Maps, as part of its autonomous vehicle R&D)
- Nice round-up of state of play re. electric planes here. Concerns me that these city-hoppers could easily become the preserve of the elite while the rest of us struggle down below with surface transport (hello, Southern Rail), but I suppose the 1% have to get around and do their business somehow… And better little electric planes than fuel-guzzling jets and helicopters.
- Latest report from Frost & Sullivan on mobility: new digitally-driven services could reduce the number of cars on urban roads by 20 million a year globally by 2025, they say. IoT tech and on-demand access, integrated and fully-networked, mean fewer, more efficient journeys, reducing journeys in private cars by a potential 360bn kilometres a year.
- Pull-outs from the SMMT’s Motor Industry Facts 2016: over 32million cars currently on the UK’s roads; a record 2,633,533 new cars registered in the UK in 2015; 72,772 ‘alternative fuel’ vehicles registered 2015, comprising 45,045 hybrids, 17,785 plug-in hybrids, 9,934 all-electrics and, um, 11 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. And 66,311,917 new cars registered globally in 2015. All of which suggests that (to repeat a familiar point), cars aren’t just going to go away any time soon, so we better hurry up and make ’em cleaner.
July 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
Just a note here to pick up on something a few of my interviewees/research subjects reported re. the BMW i3: its sat nav only showing charging points from the Chargemaster network. Of course, these drivers should by now have picked up the updates since our conversations, but just in case [i.e. low-mileage drivers who don’t charge away from home & very rarely use the navigation, so may not have checked into the system lately], I’ve clarified this with BMW, and here’s a statement as to what i3 drivers should be able to see:
“Regardless of the age of the model the car should receive auto updates… We have dynamic data feeds from Chargemaster and ChargeYourCar to ensure that all points are included and any new, removed or updated points are sent to BMW once a week. With Chargemaster, as they are our ChargeNow partner, we are also able to display the status of these points (available, in use, partially in use, out of service) and this status data is updated every 15 minutes, unless a customer clicks into the BMW Online additional info whereby the status is updated every 3 minutes.
“We also have manual data feeds from PodPoint, ecarni, RCN, Source London and Ecotricity. We update this info on a regular basis, more so if the networks are making a significant number of changes or updates. Ecotricity is often one that customers ‘believe’ they do not have included as this was only added recently in approx. Nov 2015 [my emphasis].
“With regard to vehicle updates, the car refreshes its charging point POI [point of interest] data telematically (over-air) once a week assuming it stays within a 300km homezone. If, however, the car is driven outside of this zone it requests an immediate update for a new 300km radius zone based on its new position, up to 5000 POI points. If a customer searches charging POIs at a destination outside of the homezone it triggers a pull-down of fresh data of up to 20 charging POIs at that destination. Also, if a customer searched charging point POIs along a set navigation route, this would also trigger a pull-down of up to 100 charging POIs along the route within a width of 750m.”
As much as anything else, this serves to very usefully illustrate the pace of change and the ongoing welcome developments in information/data provision and related services. But for i3 drivers still not seeing the full data from all the providers, it’s suggested that your local BMW dealer will be able to help.
Hope this is useful and of interest – Farah
July 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
Beijing-based ‘clean energy’ company Hanergy has unveiled four solar-powered EV concepts, each featuring its thin-film, lightweight PV tech applied over roof and bonnet. The four, revealed at an event in Beijing, are said to “acquire power directly from the sun” and “do not depend on charging posts”: they’re said to generate 8-10kWhrs of power a day (based on 5-6 hours of sunlight) giving a range of about 80km, though they can be externally topped up as well.
The rather unique-looking vehicles [sorry, can’t find official-issue pics of these individually] are Hanergy Solar R (a sporty RWD two-door, with extra solar cells in its door panels); Hanergy Solar O (a city car, said to come with two rechargeable e-scooters in its boot); Hanergy Solar L (a gullwing-doored MPV said to weigh just 700kg); and Hanergy Solar A (an angular two-door with extra fold-out panels). Optimistic as these concepts may sound, there’s certainly some viable tech here which could prove useful for range-supplementation, if not to completely power a long journey in the near future. Report and snaps from the event, showing the cars more clearly, at China Car News.
- Much indignation in the UK EV world this week as Ecotricity announced its introduction of a £5-per-20min* fee for use of its Electric Highway rapid-chargers. Free for Ecotricity home energy customers, though… My thoughts: it is entirely unrealistic to expect ongoing free use of facilities which have been expensive to install and maintain, as well as free electricity for one’s motoring. However, the cost-per-mile analysis now puts use of these chargers in an unfavourable position re. diesel, and makes it unfeasibly expensive for PHEV drivers to have a quick zap-up (so they’ll be on the motorways using their ICE instead). Most worryingly for me, though, is that access to the chargers will now be only via smartphone app (iPhone, Android) rather than via RFID tag or on-the-spot credit card payments, which is going to cut down on accessibility and rule out usage by EV drivers who don’t wish to have a smartphone (and such people do exist – I’ve interviewed them). Predictably, operators of other networks and PAYG systems are meanwhile rubbing their hands and also keeping a very close eye as to how this pans out. One positive thing for all-EV drivers, though, is the lessening likelihood that they will be ‘Outlandered’, of course. *Subsequently amended – £6 per 30min the deal now, it seems.
- The folks at Zap-Map have now added the new Tesla Destination Chargers (slower than Superchargers) to their increasingly comprehensive charging map database; also, for FCEV drivers, hydrogen pumps (only 15 of those so far in the UK, though).
- BMW showed a grid-connected static home energy storage system – using second-life i3 batteries – at the EVS29 event in Montreal; more here. No word on when such a product will be ready to market.
- Nice feedback from the BlueIndy EV-sharing scheme in Indianapolis after nine months: 2, 100 registered members, 21,500 separate trips made, 230 cars and 74 operational sites (another 25 under construction), 70% of owners with annual membership and the rest less frequent users – going to and from the airport is a popular journey. Interesting thing is that users (average age 42) fall into three groups, with one portion being ‘service workers’ – low-paid people using the cars to access employment opportunities, which suggests a growing role for car-share in increasing mobility options for marginalised/low-income groups. Other users tend to be couples substituting for a second car, and occasional management-level businesspeople, apparently, and the scheme is now aiming to target students.
- On that note, BMW/Sixt’s DriveNow on-demand car-share has now opened in Brussels, its 10th European city (it’s also in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm and, if we can still call ourselves European, London). Latest stats from the scheme include: over half a million journeys in Germany each month; average journeys between 8-15km and 20-40 minutes; over 600,000 customers. 20% of the fleet is now electrified.
- Report for the LowCVP and IMechE from the Institute of Transport Studies (ITS), University of Leeds, calls for strategic policy interventions – needed if potential for cleaner, cheaper, lower-energy car travel is to be achieved through combination of connectivity, [less importantly] automation, and vehicle-sharing. ITS reckons that vehicle-infrastructure comms can improve energy efficiency as well as improving journey times and road safety; impact will depend on further innovation in system design; full automation could help reduce practical difficulties of recharging/refuelling, and that much work needs to be done on increasing car-shares. It warns that autonomous vehicles may, however, lead to increased traffic and energy demand. Full report – Automated vehicles: Automatically low-carbon? – available here.