Geneva 2016: the aftermath

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

IMG_1312So, Geneva: a good show for electromobility, though probably a better event for supercar-lovers this year. If one got past the stands of McLaren, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Pagani et al, there were plenty of plug-ins nonetheless, covering pretty well all sectors of the market. At the exotic high-concept end was the Italdesign GTZero (pictured) – three motors giving 483bhp, a modular structure also allowing for a hybrid powertrain and a Lamborghini Espada-like design demeanour – and at the other, barely-even-a-car, end I have to admit that the styled up Citroen e-Mehari by Courreges (second image, below) caught my eye. Nice to see the Volkswagen Budd-e for real, too – lovely clean-looking design with a minimal, modern interior and well-developed connected-car vision, as well as its (putative) electric powertrain.

IMG_1304In between the extremes came the electric/PHEV/hybrid Hyundai Ioniq (exceedingly dull to look at, but then that’s probably the point; an important mainstream vehicle, all the same), the similarly three-way SsangYong SIV-2 SUV (still at concept stage), the oddball Morgan EV3, Toyota’s hybrid CH-R compact crossover, the Lexus LC 500h coupe (an underrated good-looker, I thought), plus the [Citroen] DS E-tense electric coupe concept (see below), which was great fun if, it has to be said, a bit silly and show-offy.

 

IMG_1331Croatia’s Rimac Automobili brought along its very limited-edition Concept_One supercar and its new ‘evil twin’, the Concept S (pictured), though the company’s tech and batteries are really where it’s at, and though there wasn’t any new news as such from Quant, it put on a strong stand with the near-road-ready Quantino, larger Quant F and a mock-up of how to refuel its nanoflowcell batteries with ioniq liquid (electrolyte-swapping; image below).

 

 

IMG_1327Nissan brought along the autonomous IDS as seen in Detroit with news that it was going to introduce ‘piloted drive’ on the Qashqai, as well as talking about its connected-car vision which includes smart EV-charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid link-ups enabling cars-as-energy-hubs; its ‘fuel station of the future’ concept co-developed with Foster & Partners describes autonomous parking-up to wirelessly charge, for example. Lots of talk about ‘mobility’, not least from Volkswagen which announced three new ‘Volkswagen Future Centers’ in Potsdam, China and California where designers and ‘digitalisation experts’ will work alongside each other on software, UX, HMI/interface design, infotainment, new interior concepts and services; it was bullish about electromobility, too, with big investment in Audi in particular to spearhead new plug-in model introductions. Hyundai also announced its ‘Project Ioniq’, research & development on future mobility ideas. Much, then, in the wake of #dieselgate, to be positive about.

 

CES: first news from Bosch, Faraday…

January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

bosch ces conceptIs 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.

faraday

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…

Concept of the Day: Nissan Teatro for Dayz

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Nissan-Teatro-7Now I feel really, really old. Nissan’s Teatro for Dayz concept – to be revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show shortly – is designed not even for millennials but social media-obsessed Gen Z ‘share natives’ born this century, kids who might use a car to connect and share experiences with their mates, and be more likely to hire/share than buy. The interior is fully-customisable with digital touchscreen surfaces, allowing for a choice of colours and patterns on the seats and interior trim; there are no knobs or switches, and some motion-sensing controls instead. It’s electric, and an external LED strip along the side sills indicates its battery-charge levels; it’s also a kei-class tiddler. And really quite kawaii. More about it, with pretty pictures, here.

(Debate on Twitter re. a disparaging piece on Autoweek; while, as a bit of a social media curmudgeon, I have some sympathy for the argument about encouraging self-promotion and vanity, this is, I think, demonstrating how, quite blatantly, the mainstream auto press Just Doesn’t Get It and is becoming less and less relevant. Very good point by @drewdraws2 – “The idea that interest in cars should only be about ‘driving pleasure’ and theoretical excitement needs to die”. We could add ‘driving’ full stop into that, of course).

  • Further Tokyo previewing: Subaru has a pair of concepts, and VIZIV Future – a compact SUV – previews an all-wheel-drive hybrid system. Suspect it’ll run mainly on its turbocharged petrol engine, though. More here.
  • Honda will be showing its FCV (fuel cell vehicle), successor to FCX Clarity and rival to Toyota Mirai, said to be on its way to the UK. Its powertrain is entirely packed in the ‘engine’ bay, and it will give nearly 135bhp via its electric motor; driving range between hydrogen fill-ups (currently somewhat harder to find than electric charging points) is 435 miles. New fuel cell concept(s) also expected from Toyota.
  • Future Transport Systems and Ricardo have developed an EV fast-charger using second-life batteries: the FTS E-STOR system is also specifically developed to play a role in grid-balancing and buffering within a smart-grid. It can involve batteries from any vehicle – although the prototypes use Renault batteries – and the first installations are expected mid-2016.
  • GM has launched a car-share scheme (well, on-demand hiring by the hour: I can’t see much ‘sharing’ here) in New York. A fleet of Trax and Equinox SUVs (!) can be reserved by app. For residents of upmarket developments in Manhattan only, at the moment, perhaps as the vehicles can be housed in private car parks/garages. Interestingly, this comes as BMW pulls DriveNow from San Francisco: due to problems with parking permits, apparently, though there is an intention to return. And DriveNow has just added 20 new electric BMW i3s to its London fleet.
  • Research by Morpace (Michigan) with a panel of nearly 250 US EV/hybrid owners: government incentives and tax rebates were an important factor in purchase; buyers were wary of secondhand EVs; nearly a third thought salespeople/dealers were poorly-informed and gave an unsatisfactory purchase experience. Lots of detail on some specifics, i.e. changes in driving habits (42% now accelerate more slowly); a preference to buy aftermarket/independently-sourced chargers rather than OEM equipment; a preference for midsize crossovers and a desire for their car to stand out as an EV or PHEV. On charging behaviour, 79% use apps to locate public charging points;  94% know the locations in their area and choose to go to establishments/locations with charging facilities; they charge in public on average 3.5 times a month for two hours; 71% pay for public charging and 48% of those who don’t would be willing to.
  • Hamburg is the first city in Germany to pass new federal EV legislation; from next month, EVs can park for free, and the number of charging points will rise from the current 150 to 600 by the end of next year, reports electrive.com.
  • UK EV sales in September 2015: 1,549, up over 28% compared to this time last year, plus 2,363 PHEVs (up 25.6%) and 7,605 non-plug hybrids.

Frankfurt Motor Show: quick round-up

September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

FullSizeRender-14FullSizeRender-12OK, quick precis of the mammoth metal-fest that is the Frankfurt Motor Show… Most jaw-dropping for me design-wise was the stunning shark-nosed Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA – how to nod to your history yet produce something futuristic as well – and it also happened to have a PHEV powertrain. Much of the tech and interior styling of the self-driving F015, very cool extending rear louvres and other speed-sensitive flaps/spoilers enhancing its already slippery aerodynamics, and the considerable probability that it’s previewing the next CLS.

IMG_1124FullSizeRender-3Closer to a production car, however, was the all-electric Porsche Mission e; also a four-door, four-seater coupe, this one promises 600hp+, 0-62mph in less than 2.5 seconds and a range of over 500km plus 800-volt ultra-rapid ‘Porsche Turbo Charging’ giving 80% of battery charge in 15 minutes. Induction charging-compatible, too. Loved the Peugeot Fractal (see earlier post), effectively an experiment in interior acoustics but also featuring a (functional) 200bhp e-powertrain with a motor driving each axle plus a 450km range; however, was underwhelmed, at least aesthetically, by the three-motor, 800Nm, 130mph Audi e-tron quattro, though  it does have an interesting button-free cockpit and also a 500km range…

FullSizeRender-1Otherwise, the Borgward BX7 SUV (PHEV variant promised) wasn’t exactly exciting, but the Nissan Gripz concept (pictured)FullSizeRender, a high-riding 2+2 inspired by the Safari Rally-winning 240Z (like the thinking) and with (theoretical) electrified powertrain, was great fun. BMW showed four new plug-in hybrids, 740e, 330e, 225xe and X5 XDrive40e, Volkswagen is promising a GTE PHEV version of the new Tiguan, and Toyota had three new hybrids – an updated/nearer -production C-HR concept (small SUV), new-generation RAV4 Hybrid (bigger) and of course, the Mk4 Prius, as well as its Mirai fuel cell car, making its Euro debut.

FullSizeRender-20Reborn Artega is hoping to make a limited production-run of its Scalo (updated, electric version of the GT) and, importantly, its parent company has a whole load of EV tech to licence, although the electric Roding roadster turned out to just be a rolling showcase for Siemens. However, the prize for total batshit craziness had to go to the Thunder Power EV (see earlier post), seen in Frankfurt in white-painted luxury-spec and also tricked out as a hardcore GT racer. Turns out this Taiwanese wannabe-Tesla has been designed by Zagato.

FullSizeRender-16FullSizeRender-15

 

 

 

Concept of the Day: Thunder Power EV

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

thunder power EVTo be revealed at Frankfurt next week, the Thunder Power EV is all a bit mysterious as yet, but the company is promising that it “will have a long drive range, short charge time, lighter weight and will be competitively priced relative to the equivalent competing ICE.” Looks like a sports coupe, from the preview shots on the website, and the blurb accompanying an invite to the press conference/unveiling claims a range of over 600km, 0-100km acceleration in less than five seconds, 320kW of power plus a 250kmph top speed, suggesting it’s reasonably high-end. Also, “dedicated EV architecture”, “revolutionary powertrains” and “European engineering wrapped in Italian design.” So who are Thunder Power? Originally a Taiwanese power tool-maker, it seems, which has lately gone into biotech as well as electric vehicles, for which it has been developing “a number of proprietary technologies”. It has outposts in Taipei, Hong Kong, Hangzhou and Shaoxing in China, plus Milan, and has hired some auto industry veterans including Peter Tutzer as Chief Technical Officer (former technical director at Lotus, working on Elise, Exige and Evora, technical director at Bugatti) and chief production officer Franz Schulte (30 years planning prototype-building and production engineering at Ford, then at EDAG). Which may signal a. some money behind it  and b. some intent for the concept to be more than a showcase for the for-sale technologies. Will go and have a look at this one…

  • Nissan has confirmed significant battery upgrades to give the 2016 model-year Leaf a 155-mile range*. The new 30kWhr battery is the headline news here – but the Leaf will also get an improved NissanConnect EV information/entertainment system to replace the much-maligned and frequently-malfunctioning Carwings set-up. Word on this is that it retains the Carwings functions, “but adds new features, a much-simplified activation process and a new design”, and very importantly, gives a new charging map with real-time information on availability of charging points, plus revised navigation, maintenance alerts and a car-finder function. There’s a new 7-inch touchscreen interface. *Of course, this is the under-lab-test ideal-world figure; real world results may vary, etc etc. Full lowdown incl. UK pricing for the revised cars, on sale for December delivery, here.
  • Chargemaster has launched its new (British-built) Ultracharger EV rapid-charger this week: this enables PAYG payments via contactless debit or credit cards as well as RFID cards, and can incorporate automatic numberplate recognition. It can charge all vehicles capable of taking up to 50kW, via a choice of three cables, and it is small enough that it can be installed without the need for planning permission. Sales of 1000 a year are targeted.
  • Renault is showing off its prototype Kangoo ZE+H2 electric vans with hydrogen fuel cell range extenders this week at the Low Carbon Vehicle show, reports EV Fleet World. Two of these, converted by Symbio FCell, are on trial with Aberdeen City Council as part of a hydrogen-adoption research programme, and are said to have double the range of the standard Kangoo ZE. A similar prototype, ZERE (Zero Emissions Range Extender; based on a Nissan eNV200?) is also being displayed by Intelligent Energy.
  • Feedback from the 18-month My Electric Avenue trial has found that some local electricity networks will need to be upgraded to cope with demand as EV use increases – but that the lower-cost Esprit demand-management system could be a solution rather than cable replacement. The Ofgem-funded project studied ‘clusters’ of EV users (Nissan Leaf drivers) and their impact on their local electricity grids, with Esprit-controlled domestic charging to prevent overloading, and determined that networks can typically cope with 30-50% of customers having EVs before additional investment is required. However, car-makers and the energy industry need to work together “much more closely”, it says.
  • Meanwhile in Toulouse, the Sogrid smart-grid project has kicked off; this is looking at 1000 households, with a view to integrating EV charging, demand management and renewable energy, and developing an international communications standard. More here (via electrive.com).
  • Handy stat: Transport is now the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world – 33% of final consumption (end users), compared to 31% accounted for by industry, and 20% by domestic use, according to new figures from the International Energy Agency. In Europe, industry is still a little ahead of transport in its consumption, but IEA points out that 95% of transport energy use is oil-based, whereas industry uses more of a mix of electricity, biofuels and gas. More here.
  • Toyota is working with Japanese energy companies and local authorities in Japan on a ‘carbon-free’ hydrogen production project – electrolysis of water, using wind power. Trials will take place near Yokohama and Kawasaki, looking at the development of a supply chain and logistics. More here.
  • Borgward – a reborn historic brand-name based in Stuttgart, to reveal a PHEV SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week – has announced a longterm partnership agreement and joint research centre with alt-drivetrain developer FEV GmbH. More here.
  • Ford surveyed 5000 ‘millennials’ (aged 17-34) in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and, far from finding that they’re not interested in cars, predicts a sales boom in SUVs as they reach peak car-buying age. The survey claims that 84% of this age-group think that SUVs have become more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly in the last five years. Mmmm… Reported here.
  • Segmentation/spatial mapping study from the Department for Transport looks at different locations/demographics and their likelihoods of making more sustainable transport choices – downloads and datasets here.
  • TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is leading a two-year project with partners including EDF, Route Monkey, EV Connect and Aberdeen University to look at integrating energy supply systems/market structures to encourage greater uptake of plug-in vehicles. More on the CVEI programme here; it will also look at consumer responses, and later, run a trial with 300 mainstream EV users.
  • Wrightbus is building a range of electric buses to go on sale next year; single and double-decker versions will be available, with the option of pantograph flash-charging, inductive charging or conventional overnight charging. More here. Oh, and Volvo’s new ElectriCity bus, currently on trial, shows the potential for a vehicle fully-integrated into urban planning, it’s claimed, such as quietly gliding ‘indoors’ i.e. into shopping malls, airport terminals and soforth. More here.

Imagine Festival, Transport Systems Catapult, Milton Keynes 11th-12th June 2015

June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

CHSbiQUWEAA0xT_Some thoughts, notes and jottings from the Imagine Festival (“Pioneering ideas in Intelligent Mobility”) at the Transport Systems Catapult, 11th/12th June 2015. A lot of talk about data and information delivery, some in a broad philosophical sense and much with reference to public transport, but also in application to autonomous/driverless cars. On display was the Lutz Pathfinder ‘pod’, three of which will hit the roads of Milton Keynes, with the first on-street late this summer (with driver/operator on board). Full automation is still seen as some way off, said Neil Fulton, programme director at the Catapult, with it to be introduced in levels. He also highlighted the impact on new business models and “economics of introducing new technologies; ownership models will change” and the idea that automated vehicles are a potentially huge market that the UK needs to tap into, quickly (much talk of UK plc all day).

Yet while fully-automated vehicles are “a little way away”, connected cars are very close, said Dr Stephen Pattison of ARM; it’s less the tech that is holding things back than business models and delivery of IoT technology, and we “need (an) operational framework to give consumers confidence”. He talked of the crossover from material to service industries, from services to data, and that connected cars would need to empower people, not disenfranchise them, giving them control over their environment; representatives from the rail sector further talked about opening up data for third-party app development, harnessing social media communications and crowdsourcing data. (There’ll be 2.5million connected people on social media by 2020 and 25billion connected devices, said Chris Francis of SAP).

Talk too was of digitally- integrated transport systems in the smarter city – “the community benefits of ITS”, said Richard Harris of Xerox, back-office provider of transport operator systems, developer of mobility analytics platforms, smartcard payment systems and suchlike. Harris sees shared transport including cars as a trend, and points to the need to identify “the organisational elements that delay us”, such as multiple road authorities, as well as the use of social media for information-gathering. Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) is “like the Wild West at the moment”, he said, with too many apps, so little integration, and lots of good, local but isolated niche start-up solutions. Interestingly, Xerox is working on a trial of 6000 sensor-equipped parking spaces in Los Angeles, using a dynamic pricing algorithm to influence and direct people – circling traffic has so far been cut by 10% yet revenues for the city authority have been increased. Handy stat: it’s thought that 30% of city traffic is cruising for parking spaces.

CHOHWhYW8AAm2crMuch of the discussion centred around cities, with expectation of increasing urbanisation and increased choices – we need to stop thinking about modes, instead focusing on systems, system performance, and integration between modes, which are complementary, not competing, said the Catapult’s Andrew Payne. Several spokespeople from the aviation industry pointed out that most flights were, for their passengers, effectively multi-modal journeys too, and should be viewed end-to-end with getting to/from airports considered as seamless processes, bookings and transactions.  A neat example of integrated, shared systems was demonstrated in the form of Brompton Bike Hire – automated docking stations (pictured), some on-street in London, others in locations such as workplaces, ‘dispensing’ the famous folding bikes, which can then be taken (hire from £2.50 a day) on trains, or in car boots, as last-mile (or longer) solutions for onward journeys.

CHNs3c_WMAAxrCpTim Armitage of Arup and the UK Autodrive consortium raised an interesting suggestion in that while driveless and connected systems will improve road safety, there’s no proven benefit either to congestion or air quality – though it’s assumed that vehicles like the Lutz pod will be electric. “Autonomy will make low-carbon transport more attractive”, he thought, however. He sees increasing use of public transport, a world of interdependent systems that feed off each other, come back together, merge – mobility becoming more seamless, but the tech needs to be inclusive, accessible, affordable to everybody. The world is increasingly dependent on data and communications, he said, but data needs to be relevant, right and timely. There are commercial battles to control the data and provide the ‘hub’, with stakeholders including car makers and smartphone manufacturers, as well as energy providers – there are “so many interdependencies… the boundaries between what is transport and what is energy are getting blurred.” (Pictures show the virtual mapping of Milton Keynes for the driverless pod trial).

CHu-2GkWcAASgsXDemographic changes such as a global growth in both young and elderly drivers, and the doubling of the world’s urban population by 2025 were discussed by Rod O’Shea of Intel, who sees the integration of different business models, i.e. tracking fleet management and intelligent telematics, and new models emerging. Intel has been working with Siemens on ‘smart parking’ with a trial underway in Berlin and to launch in other cities late next year. And cities are where a lot of the changes happen first, said Catapult CTO Paul Zanelli, often because it’s not all about new infrastructure, because there isn’t enough space or it costs too much, so innovations are made for smarter use of what’s there. The ethical considerations of transport, the carbon and energy benefits, were raised by Susan Grant-Muller of Leeds University, who talked about the relevance of data from other sectors such as lifestyle, health and retail, and the EMPOWER project, developing tools to influence mobility choices and behaviour change.

CHO4dC1WcAAXyiuA final interesting note came from Nathan Day of start-up Rockshore (supplier of data for systems including the info displays on stations -as pictured, the image showing the fun I had getting home) on the differentiation between big data, open data and fast data (here and now, filtered, for instant decision-making). One of the main themes of the event, to my mind, was the tension between collecting/disseminating more data vs better or smarter data, with other questions raised around whether a digital tech fix is really the issue when you have faulty infrastructure (the example given being the rail network, but applies equally to the EV-charging network). Curious to note, too, that the words “peak car” weren’t mentioned once – the assumption being that road traffic is going to continue to grow, as per the DfT’s forecasts – and that there was little talk about active travel modes, or indeed, about reducing demand for mobility itself.

Concept of the Day: Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport

May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

volkswagen golf gte conceptVolkswagen is fitting plug-in hybrid powertrains in a growing number of its production and concept cars: latest is the track-oriented Golf GTE Sport, an electrified, all-wheel-drive GTI concept. Developed for the annual GTI meeting at Lake Wörthersee, Austria, the carbon-bodied, GTE Sport gives 400hp, 174mph and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. All-electric range is 50km, and average fuel economy (not that the NEDC cycle gives in any way a representative figure) is 141mpg.

Its motors supplement a version of the turbocharged 1.6TSI from the Polo R WRC rally car; one (115hp/330Nm) is mounted up front within the housing of the six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, and another (115hp/270Nm) at the rear driving the rear axle. The racing-style interior – accessed via swing-up doors – features two self-contained areas for driver and passenger, and features a new three-level transparent information display system to accommodate all necessary data on charge, electric boost and power delivery as well as lap times. The mode-select switches for electric, hybrid and AWD ‘GTE’ performance modes is roof-mounted, and the driver can select battery ‘hold’ and ‘charge’ modes; in GTE mode, the front electric motor acts as a generator supplying energy to the rear motor via an “electric propshaft”, which Volkswagen has copyrighted.

I’m currently rather struggling with enthusiasm for PHEVs – firstly due to the growing suspicion that they’re not spending an awful lot of time in electric mode (as the Dutch government has suggested; see earlier post), and secondly as they are increasingly looking like an attempt to spin out the lifespan of the ICE from the OEM/industry end. However, on the positive side, consciousness-raising, gateway to electrification and all the rest of it, and if concepts like this grab the attention of petrolheads, so much the better.

  • Spotted on this #PitchToRich thing (competition for Branson/Virgin investment: the Libralato petrol engine for plug-in hybrid powertrains (speaking of which), said to be half the size and weight of a conventional unit, and deliver the efficiency of a diesel. It’s a re-take on the rotary engine, with two rotors (and thus no pistons or crankshaft), from a firm in Greater Manchester. (Via @CarplusTrust – thanks). Well, potentially considerably more progressive than electrifying a conventional ICE.
  • Toyota has launched its Open Road project, field-testing the i-Road micro-EV in Tokyo; there are three components to the programme, road-testing of the vehicle itself, collaborating with industry partners ‘to create unique extensions of the i-Road experience’, and broadcasting/sharing/promoting. It’s appealing for (Tokyo-based) participants.
  • Renault-Nissan is planning EVs with a battery range of over 400km by 2020, according to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review. Latest EV sales targets have been revised, it reports, to 10% of Nissan’s sales by 2025 (from just over 1% now).
  • Lack of public charging infrastructure remains a main barrier to EV adoption, yet most EV drivers are charging at home; an attempt to unscramble the contradiction from Navigant. Points out that the location of charging equipment is crucial if it is to be used, and that testing with mobile charging units is a good idea to determine suitable sites and justify investments.
  • Driving costs society six times more than cycling, according to a Danish-Australian study: the paper, in Ecological Economics, says that cycling infrastructure is one of the most cost-effective investments for cities in terms of the impacts on air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, health, congestion and travel routes. Cycling costs 0.08euro per kilometre, with this cost showing a downward trend, whereas driving costs 0.50euro and rising, claim the researchers (Gössling and Choi, 2015). The study is based on Copenhagen.
  • Toyota and Mazda are entering into a technology-sharing partnership: Mazda will get Toyota’s hybrid and fuel cell tech, while bringing its own SkyActiv fuel-efficient engines to the table, reports Autocar.

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