Concept of the Day: Faraday Future FF 91

January 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

ff91Considerably prettier than the Chrysler Portal (see previous post), and also somewhat faster: the FF 91 is claimed to give the equivalent of 1050hp/780-odd kW and dragstrip-style acceleration (0-60mph in under 2.5 seconds), plus a range of 378 miles between recharges. And Faraday Future (backed by Chinese firm LeEco) is actually taking deposits and pre-orders, despite reports of a dubious financial situation: it put on a confident show at CES in Vegas last night (although there was a self-parking demo malfunction, apparently), and good luck to them.  The FF 91 is a roomy, high-riding four-seater, part-way between crossover and MPV, with rear-hinged rear doors; the powertrain comprises three motors, two to the rear with torque-vectoring plus one up front for all-wheel-drive. It features Faraday’s patented FF Echelon Inverter, said to be simpler, lower-cost to make and more energy-efficient than others available, and its monocoque body is based around Faraday’s scalable variable platform architecture.  It’s highly-connected, of course, with tech including facial recognition, remote monitoring, LIDAR for autonomous-driving capability, rear-view cameras with HD live-streaming, plus a liquid-crystal polychromatic roof and NASA-inspired ‘zero gravity’ reclining rear seats.  The FFID ‘global profile’ account connects users to the FF Ecosystem for preferences and services. It’s all well-thought-out, well-executed and cleverly-designed, though clearly it’s not going to be a mass-market model. More details here.

 

Concept of the Day: Chrysler Portal

January 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

chrysler-portalChrysler’s doing the digital-age thing: the Portal concept, to be unveiled in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, is aimed at always-connected millennials with young families. Autonomous capabilities on approved stretches of highway, of course, with this conceptualisation of a next-generation six-seater MPV, but the powertrain (packed underfloor) is worthy of note: it’s said to give a useful 250-mile range, with 150 miles-worth of range from a 20-minute fast-charge. Whether or not the self-driving aspect is a goer to any extent, this does give some indication that FCA is at last properly engaging with, and preparing for, electrification.

  • Ford is to launch 13 electrified – to some degree – vehicles globally in the next five years, including a Transit PHEV (2019) and hybrid F-150 trucks and Mustangs (2020), but most interesting is an all-electric SUV “with an estimated range of at least 300 miles”, to be built in Michigan and destined for North America, Europe and Asia. Along with other news today Ford has also confirmed that it is testing prototype EVs in Europe (Transit Custom PHEV), New York and other large US cities (Transit Connect hybrid taxis and vans), and that it is piloting wireless charging technology. Expect also “a high-volume autonomous vehicle [hybrid] designed for commercial ride hailing or ride-sharing”, and there’s a $4.5bn investment in electrification to 2020. Ford has also given feedback from its EV-related research: among 33,000 Ford EV owners, it found 88% made daily drives of 60 miles or less; for PHEV drivers, the average refuelling distance was 680 miles; 80% of EV owners charged once a day, 60% in the evening; 92% of all-electric vehicle customers would replace their car with another EV.
  • Interesting titbit of info about the Rinspeed Oasis: this greenhouse-style concept (complete with plantlife) is built on a new rolling electric-drive chassis from ZF, with two in-wheel motors at the rear axle. Check out also the single-spoke steering wheel with touch- and gesture-sensitive controls replacing trad knobs, levers and buttons. [On a similar note, the BMW HoloActive Touch ‘virtual touchscreen’ looks pretty impressive, too. Expecting more HMI advances to be unveiled at CES].

Concept of the Day: Volkswagen I.D. ‘Microbus’

December 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

vw_ebusWell, I’m excited about this coming to fruition: Volkswagen’s confirmed the unveiling of the ‘new Microbus’ in concept form at the Detroit motor show early next month, and that it’s the next member of the all-electric I.D. family on the MEB modular platform. The I.D., my favourite car at the Paris motor show, was a really promising start for Volkswagen’s reinvention, and from teaser images so far, the new concept looks as if it’ll share much of the same thinking and character – with a smidgen of additional retro to its styling, perhaps, referencing the original Microbus. The show car will have the same retractable steering wheel as the I.D. for autonomous driving mode, and a suitably “multi-functional, flexible interior” is of course promised. Only details so far on the powertrain are that it’ll involve two motors and all-wheel-drive – and give “a long electric driving range.” This van’s also destined for use in VW’s new Moia mobility services schemes, to include Uber-style ride-hailing. Oh, and other VW news: it’s the seventh company to join the Hubject e-roaming platform for standardised access to EV charging infrastructure. One of my hopes for 2017 is that, following the unforgivable Dieselgate debacle [which will not, I fear, be resolved satisfactorily any time soon] VW gets on track with its electromobility programme. There’s a lot of good and progressive thinking going on at the company, including in terms of design and HMI/interface development, which shouldn’t be overshadowed by what the diesel engineers (and their managers, who must bear some responsibility) have done.

Quick round-up of more recent electromobility news:

  • VW, Daimler, BMW plus Ford are also teaming up to bring super-quick 350kW/800-volt charging on the next-generation CCS system, with a network of 400 stations planned across Europe; more here.
  • And BMW is offering an automated Digital Charging Service for its i customers to optimise both charging tariff and use of solar-generated electricity – pilot schemes in Germany and the Netherlands next year, drawing upon experience from the ChargeForward programme in the US. All good for successfully integrating EVs into the [renewably-supplied] grid…
  • Zap-Map is now offering live charging point info and data covering the Chargemaster/Polar network in the UK, across desktop and iOS/Android platforms. An important breakthrough, this includes real-time status and availability plus feedback from the Zap-Chat peer-to-peer social network. Data from more networks to follow next year.
  • Tesla’s taking a stand against poor charger etiquette: the advent of ‘idling’ charges for occupying a charging bay when not actually zapping-up is intended to end the abuse of parking privileges and to free up points. Expect more networks to follow suit, not least to encourage  EV drivers to charge at home wherever possible – there are a small number (including interviewees in my own research sample) who actively choose to take advantage of free-at-the-point-of-use charging to save on their domestic bills, and as demand for public charging grows, that ain’t really acceptable behaviour.
  • GM is testing the WiTricity wireless charging tech at 7.7kW and 11kW charge rates; more here.
  • Uptake of EVs is not related to charging infrastructure either within or around a local authority, according to a case study from Scotland outlined here.

Concept of the Day: NIO EP9

November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

nio-ep9Turned down the chance to go to the Saatchi Gallery today for the unveiling of this one – preparing research presentation more important than champagne, canapes and schmoozing, ah well – but here’s the basic lowdown. The NIO brand is the first offspring of NextEV, it’s just set a lap record for EVs around the Nürburgring Nordschliefe and also round the Circuit Paul Ricard, so it’s quick, and it delivers an equivalent 1360hp or 1MW of power (whew). Range? 427km, and it can be charged in 45min or have its batteries swapped. Much as it certainly ain’t a mainstream solution, if it contributes to making EVs desirable and there’s some tech trickledown, surely no bad thing.

  • Further good news from Volkswagen: it’s going to re-start car production at the ‘Transparent Factory’ in Dresden (a really lovely piece of industrial architecture/design), and the second-generation e-Golf it’s going to make there will have a claimed battery range of 200km or so. This can be charged to 80% within an hour on the CCS system; the new e-Golf also now develops 100kW, and comes with the standard new-Golf smartphone interface/app connect plus e-Remote for starting/stopping charging, pre-conditioning, etc.
  • Nice description here of research into the synergies between micro smartgrids, energy storage and electromobility: the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering is developing a model scalable solution, being tested out in Stuttgart at a 30-EV, solar-panelled parking garage.
  • Car ownership is declining slightly in London, although 54% of households still own a car, and there are 2.56million cars registered in London, according to a new paper from TfL… Variations by borough (only 25% car ownership in Islington, 75% in Richmond), access to public transport, income, parenthood and nationality – wealthier Western Europeans with children more likely to have a car, unsurprisingly – as well as age, car ownership peaking at 55-59 years old. Detailed breakdown, some useful stats (thanks for tweeting this one go to @RachelAldred).
  • …and further to the above, yet again traffic levels in GB have reached an all-time high, surpassing their pre-recession peak: YTD September 2016 saw 320billion vehicle miles travelled (VMT), up 1.4% on 2015 and up 1.8% on the first three-quarters of 2007. It’s the 15th quarterly successive rise. Of that 320, 250billion VMT was done by cars (up 0.9% on last year) with van traffic up 3.8% and heavy goods up 3.4%; other traffic rises to new highs were noted on motorways and rural A-roads. #peakcar is [was], I think, something of a blip.
  • Some US stats and demographic data on EV consumer interest reported here (thanks, @keith_johnston). Hitwise is reporting – over past three years – that “today’s electric vehicle consumer is predominantly affluent, educated and married without children”, and reckons that the most promising demographic for ownership is aged 35-44 (older Gen Y/Gen X prefer to lease), but families with children aren’t convinced yet (except when it comes to Tesla Model S owners, significantly more affluent than the rest and buying a bigger vehicle, obv). Environmental concern expressed, too. Lots of interest – suggesting mainstream breakthrough – in Tesla Model 3, apparently.
  • BMW is expanding its ReachNow on-demand car-sharing service to Brooklyn, in addition to Seattle and Portland; the upmarket US alt to DriveNow is offering delivery of vehicles, rentals of up to five days, an ‘exclusive’ residential service [i.e. a private fleet shared between residents of an apartment block] and also, for existing Mini owners, a peer-to-peer rental service. Interesting footnote: all this is enabled by the RideCell ‘white label’ platform – more detail on that here.
  • Japanese-American tie-up to create a ‘corridor’ of 50 EV fast-chargers from Monterey, California, to Lake Tahoe, Nevada: the Japan-funded Drivethearc project “will also study EV usage and driving patterns” through its charging app, reports Green Car Congress. Basically, use its facilities, contribute your data…The app will give real-time info on charger vacancy and navigation to points within range, and the stakeholders – Nissan, Kanematsu, EVgo and NEDO – “will analyse and measure charger use patterns to better inform EV charging projects globally”.
  • Report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey identifies three distinct outcomes in a move to urban electromobility and autonomous driving during the 2020s. First up – for cities like Delhi, Mexico City, Mumbai with poor infrastructure, there will be a move towards electrification and sharing, but not AVs; sprawling cities like Los Angeles will see elements of autonomy plus electrification, but private cars will remain the primary source of transport; but dense, wealthy cities like London, Hong Kong and Singapore will see much more use of on-demand AVs and a move away from private ownership, they reckon. Handy rundown here.
  • Hyundai is offering US customers a series of options with the Ioniq Electric: trad purchase, ‘Ioniq Unlimited’ all-in subscription – or membership of WaiveCar, an all-electric on-demand scheme which gives up to two hours’ use free (and then extra hours at $5.99 an hour). The snag with the latter is that the ‘free’ cars have roof-mounted digital advertising displays… 150 Ioniqs will go on the WaiveCar fleet in LA next year, with the plan for 250 more to go to three further cities by the end of 2017. Unappealing as it sounds, t’will be interesting to see whether this has an impact in the car-share sector, attracts more people to on-demand services, has any impact on local car ownership (or public transport use), etc…

Concept of the Day: Jaguar I-Pace

November 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

jag-i-paceOn the road in 2018, Jaguar says: the I-Pace has a useful claimed range of over 500km, 0-60mph acceleration in around four seconds, twin motors giving 400hp/700Nm, and all-wheel drive. Proper performance car stuff, then, though it’s a crossover-style high-riding five-seater hatchback rather than a sports coupe or saloon. The motors – which drive each axle – and 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack were designed in-house by JLR, and it’s rapid-charge compatible, of course; a full charge takes just over two hours for 220 miles or so. It’s on display this week at the Los Angeles auto show; more here. And more to follow from LA…

  • BMW is about to embark upon phase 2 of its ‘ChargeForward’ trial with Pacific Gas & energy, to further explore grid-balancing and optimisation, load-shifting, adjusting charge timing to prioritise use of renewable electricity, and incentives to drivers for participation. Phase 1 – 100 i3 EV drivers in the SF Bay Area, July 2015-Oct 2016 – saw a 92% satisfaction rate when drivers were encouraged to delay their charging by up to an hour a day to reduce load on the grid; they were messaged according to their charging needs, and supplied with a static [second-life] battery to store solar energy. In 94% of the ‘demand response events’ – when PG&E requested drivers to hold off from charging – the required 100kW load reduction was achieved, and July 2015-August 2016, over 19,000 kWh were ‘shifted’ to avoid the use of carbon-generated electricity. Rundown here.
  • Researchers from Stanford University and TUM [Munich] have concluded that – when required infrastructure is taken into account as well as electricity generation – plug-in electric vehicles are a better carbon-saving bet than hydrogen fuel cell cars. They modelled scenarios in 20 or 30 years’ time, and concluded that total energy use and carbon dioxide emissions in a community – for buildings as well as transportation – would be greater-reduced, and fossil fuel elimination more likely, if there was large-scale adoption of electric vehicles. Battery vehicles were also judged to be the more economically-attractive choice, given the growing economies of scale, and the cost of hydrolysis tech to produce hydrogen; although the latter could be made using ‘spare’ solar energy, the use of hydrogen as energy storage would be limited. In the analysis, battery vehicles were judged to be cost-competitive against ICE from 2025, and to require less than half the electrical energy. More on the study (in Energy, vol 114) here.

Concept of the Day: Charge delivery van

November 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

charge-delivery-vanThe team behind the Roborace series plans to launch a delivery van next year; the Charge van, to be built in Oxfordshire, has a claimed all-electric range of 100 miles and a total range of 500 miles with a range-extender powertrain. It’s constructed from lightweight composites and it’s said that it can be built by one person in just four hours. More here. A range of trucks from 3.5 tonnes to 26 tonnes is planned, with potential for autonomous driving as well as wireless over-the-air updates. Charge (not to be confused with the British bicycle-maker) already supplies electric trucks to support Formula E.

  • Nissan has installed vehicle-to-grid tech at its technical centre in Cranfield: in partnership with Enel, the eight V2G chargers can feed stored energy back from the plugged-in cars to the grid for load balancing. Enel and Nissan have also signed up their first commercial V2G customer in Europe: Danish utility firm Frederiksberg Forsyning has got 10 units at its HQ. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz is to start selling stationary energy storage systems for residential, commercial and utility applications in the US next year – the M-B answer to the Tesla PowerWall.These consist of 2.5 kWh modules which can be combined for up to 20 kWh of storage.
  • More bi-directional charging: the Munich-designed Sono Motors Sion EV is described as both a vehicle and a mobile energy storage unit. Production targeted for 2019, apparently; Sono’s crowdfunding campaign continues.
  • About time: an all-electric Mini will be launched in 2019, BMW announced today, and an X3 EV in 2020. BMW’s now marked sales of over 100,000 electrified vehicles. In tech updates, it’s also adding a ‘personal mobility assistant’ function to the Mini Connected app, hooking up navigation with personal calendars and appointment reminders, points of interest, monitoring of fuel levels and service station data, and a degree of ‘learning’ about drivers’ habits. All pertinent for similar assistance to be offered to EV drivers, of course.
  • Much discussion on MAAS (mobility as a service) and feedback from providers [with useful stats] at a TU-Automotive conference this week: handy digest here.

Playing catch-up

November 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

img_1553In a belated post-match analysis, as it were, there was certainly no shortage of new product at the Paris motor show. Probably the most important new model, I reckon, was the Volkswagen I.D. concept: not just electric, but a ground-up design for something global, highly-adaptable, highly-connected and versatile, which should, crucially, be affordable, accessible and mass-market. If VW can pull this off and get it to production [scheduled for 2020] without too many of its key points dialled down, it’s a potential game-changer (as well as a crucial reputation-saver for the firm itself). The pre-fit for autonomous driving [targeted for 2025] is a bit of a red herring, I think; the nice stuff here is the blank-space interior into which owners/users bring their digital preferences, settings and personalisation details – ideal for a shared/on-demand vehicle – and also what the interior designers are calling ‘physical apps’: extra interior features, from bike-carriers to storage consoles to extra screens, which can be retro-fitted or even hired as needed. All good for extending the versatility and service-life of a vehicle. There’s a real focus on simplifying HMI for more intuitive interactions, too. I’ve written about all this at more length here [sorry, subs req]. And the I.D. is the first vehicle in a family on Volkswagen’s new MEB modular electric-drive platform, too.

img_1599The Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ, meanwhile, was a good-looking and well thought-out proposal too – and close to production – but a more conventional upper-end like-for-like substitution of an ICE vehicle. Note the car-to-X [infrastructure] comms though, enabling real-time info on nearby recharging facilities (including, potentially, inductive) and re-routing/mapping where appropriate.

No shortage of new metal and new ideas unveiled in the last month or so since the show, either, not least many a Chinese-brand EV and PHEV, and the return, yet again, of the irrepressible Henrik Fisker, but I’ve been particularly amused by the autonomous rolling greenhouse that is the Rinspeed Oasis… [to be seen at CES in January]. Honda’s 3D-printed Micro Commuter mini-delivery van is perhaps more useful, though: this also signals OEMs moving in on this territory to deliver low-cost customised solutions. Also intriguing is the launch of Geely’s sub-brand Lynk & Co, less for the car itself – though it’s a nice-enough looking SUV (electrified versions to be offered) – than for the no-showroom all-in pay-as-you-go/lease/loan/share sales model, and for details such as the open API and always-on wifi, with the view to development of additional services, functions and mobility options.

Other random, miscellaneous recent news snippets worthy of note:

  • ‘Intelligent’ electric vehicle charging and vehicle-to-grid communication can negate the need for static energy storage, according to a study by UC Irvine, and if charging can be scheduled/shifted to align with renewable electricity generation, then otherwise lost electricity is captured in the overall energy supply system: issue is breaking US EV drivers’ habits of immediate on-demand charging. More here.
  • Toyota has created a Mobility Services Platform and is teaming up with US carshare provider Getaround; the programme will include smartphone access/ignition for vehicles via a ‘smart key box’. More here.
  • Exciting or terrifying? GM’s OnStar platform is to incorporate the IBM Watson cognitive mobility platform, delivering up personalised content, reminders and ‘in-vehicle experiences’, from parking advice to shopping reminders and fuel payments, plus, yuk, giving drivers ‘the ability to connect and interact with their favourite brands’. More here.

 

 

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