Concept of the Day: Citroen CXperience

August 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

citroen-cxperience-14Paris Motor Show is promising a fair few exciting things: am liking the Citroen CXperience Concept, for a start. The ‘CX’ reference is no mistake – it revives the idea of a big luxury hatchback, albeit this time with rear-hinged rear doors, full connectivity and, making it of interest here, a PHEV drivetrain set to make it into the Peugeot-Citroen production range. In the CX it’s delivering a useful 60km all-electric range, 150-200hp plus 80kW from the motor to give a total 300hp, plus eight-speed auto gearbox. Charging takes 4.5 hours on a standard socket or less than 2.5 hours at 6.6kW (via a connector to a 32-amp socket). As a way to ease people into electrification, it looks like a comfy one, even if the citrus yellow interior [see here] is not to everyone’s taste.

vision-mercedes-maybach-6-3One from last week: the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept, a 6m-long luxury 2+2, is a bit of an aerodynamically-optimised stunner, and its 750hp all-electric drivetrain is surely showcased with real-life application in mind. Range of 500km, and a quick-charge capability to zap up for another 100km in five minutes. [More pics here].

  • Beijing-based Techrules has hired the Giugiaro studio to develop its GT96 concept for production. Not just a design story: the GT96 super-coupe is an EV with micro-turbine recharging range-extender tech. More here.
  • Volkswagen is working with the city of Hamburg on a three-year strategic mobility programme: this will look at new urban mobility concepts, intermodal transport, traffic management, autonomous driving and parking, vehicle concepts and pollution control, positioning Hamburg as a ‘model city’ and testbed for experimentation in both freight and passenger transport. Meanwhile, Porsche has opened a Digital Lab in Friedrichshain, Berlin to look at IT solutions for ‘exclusive and dynamic mobility’- the use of innovations in big data, machine learning, cloud tech, IoT etc, for practical solutions. Teams at the Lab will cover project phases from trend-spotting and ideation to building IT prototypes and platforms.
  • Gamification can help increase acceptance of e-mobility projects and services, a study at Fraunhofer IAO has found. Case studies in Finland, Estonia, Denmark and Norway showed that when game-like techniques were used to involve customers in the development process for services, the more successful they were, and the earlier customers were involved in the ‘co-design’, the better. More here; full report here.
  • A Canadian start-up is proposing a new business model for selling and marketing EVs and PHEVs: a cross-brand platform with both online sales and physical showrooms to market electrified vehicles only. Idea is that it will make shopping around and making comparisons easier, and we’d hope for specially-trained and EV-enthusiastic salespeople as well. More on the EVEN Electric plans here.
  • Here’s a step forward, at least in Germany and the Netherlands: aggressively-expanding mapping provider HERE is collaborating with EVSE tech company Virta on providing data on public EV charging points, including those off-street. Data can be filtered by connector type, pricing, availability and other factors; more, um, here.
  • Report from MIT: electric cars can meet US drivers’ needs 87% of the time. And to help drivers work out when they’re going to need an ICE, the team s developing a predictive app to assess the risk of battery drain for a planned journey – so they can take the household’s other car, borrow a vehicle or access one via a shared, on-demand scheme or similar. This will take into account factors including distance, time spent at highway speeds, weather and temperature. The MIT research is also optimistic that the US grid can cope with increased EV charging, with only minimal changes needed. More here.
  • PHEV drivers – running on electricity 55% of the time, at least in Norway. A survey of 8000 owners by the Institute of Transport Economics, Norwegian Centre for Transport Research, found that PHEVs were typically owned by younger people with more children than average, with long work commutes, and multiple vehicles in their household; they charged mainly at home, partly at work but rarely elsewhere, except using fast-chargers on out-of-routine longer trips or to solve issues when out and about. Handy summary here, full report here.
  • Interesting rundown of state of play re. electromobility in Berlin at electrive: the city’s not doing quite as well as you might expect, as “the analogue island in a digital mecca” (nice). Though Berlin has a lot more public charging points than many cities, there’s still not a lot, rapid-charger provision has been slow, there’s a confusing and obstructive series of different providers and networks, varying, unpredictable and often high pricing, and chargers frequently blocked by ICE vehicles, it seems. Cross-provider apps for accessing and paying for charging aren’t quite there yet, either, with slow integration, they report.
  • Are ‘pioneer’ EV drivers – early-adopters – different to mainstream car buyers? Research (Axsen, Goldberg & Bailey, 2016) from Simon Fraser University, Canada, suggests (unsurprisingly) that yes, they are, and that they illustrate the ‘chasm’ between early visionaries and later pragmatists in the diffusion-of-innovations/Technology Adoption Life Cycle model. 1900 Canadian new-car buyers were surveyed; 1,750 in English-speaking Canada (2013) then 150 who bought plug-in vehicles in British Columbia, 2014-15. The ‘pioneers’ were happy to pay extra to be part of a revolutionary advance, and were prepared to accept inconvenience and risks’; they preferred all-electric cars (just about) over PHEVs. But even the ‘potential early mainstream’ buyers preferred evolutionary change and were unwilling to compromise; they overwhelmingly preferred the idea of a PHEV. A factor in this may have been that more of them (43%) lived in one-car households (only 17% of pioneers); the pioneers also had higher income, education, and greater access to recharging facilities, were much more engaged with the environment and tech in terms of their lifestyle, and were 5x more likely to value renewable electricity and to be prepared to pay much more for ‘green recharging’. Handy digest of the research at Green Car Reports.
  • Interesting paper here from Italy on gamification ‘to incentivise sustainable urban mobility’ – an EU-funded research programme and trial in Rovereto (north-east Italy) saw 40 people use an app for their daily itinerary planning over five weeks, with increasing levels of points-gathering and rewards for choosing more sustainable or healthy transport options. There was a significant shift noted towards reduced car usage, with gains for walking and cycling a privately-owned bike, though the incentives weren’t judged sufficient to get people using the city’s new bike-share scheme.
  • A new third-party route-planning tool (cross-platform and device) for EV drivers incorporating both vehicle and charger data has been launched in the US. EVTripping as yet only supports Tesla models, but plans to expand, funded by on-website ads and, later, subscriptions. Its algorithms are said to take into account data from the vehicle (i.e. state of charge), weather conditions, temperature, elevation, speed, payload etc.,  and give info on charging rates, power usage and driving time: the submitted data adds a crowdsourcing element to it, adding to the intelligence.  Looks professional and comprehensive; interesting to see how this develops.
  • And eco-driving training: ineffective after six months, when drivers just return to their old habits, according to a study from TUM Munich, and useless, even short-term, unless incentives are offered to the drivers to save fuel.
  • Paper in Applied Energy looks at governance for a transition to electromobility by 2050: Nilsson and Nykvist (2016) model both incremental and breakthrough scenarios, and conclude that strong interventions are needed in the next 5-10 years to reduce costs, build consumer knowledge and industry confidence, provide accessible charging infrastructure and support structural change in the auto industry. They [note to self!] use an MLP analysis to suggest that this could also lead to formation of a new regime involving energy supply, digital connectivity, wider mobility, etc. Which is pretty much what I’m arguing for.

Concept of the Day: Mercedes-Benz Future Bus

July 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

Weltpremiere: Mercedes-Benz Future Bus mit CityPilot – Meilenstein auf dem Weg zum autonom fahrenden StadtbusNot 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.

  • 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.

Design Concept of the Day: Renault Oura

June 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

Renault Central Saint Martins 1

Renault recently sponsored a project with industrial design students at London Central Saint Martins to develop an interior for a future autonomous car. Winning concept – presented last week at an event during Clerkenwell Design Week – was Project Oura, a ‘wearable’ vehicle with gesture controls and VR displays, beautifully animated. Runners up were a little less out-there but equally impressive: SYEO (Share Your Extra Office), a mobile work-pod, and Phantasy, a three-wheeled commuter vehicle with configurable interior, were both practical and realistic near-future proposals, very well-executed. The awards were presented by Renault’s VP of exterior design Anthony Lo, who spoke for a while before the announcement of the winner; he told me that (no surprise) Renault is preparing a concept for this autumn’s Paris motor show. I’m going to hazard a guess now that this is going to have some sort of autonomous capability/feature. More on the student projects, anyway, at Car Design News.

Other notes & jottings to get back up to speed with recent developments:

  • Some insight from the ‘Cité Lib by Ha:mo’ mobility service trial in Grenoble, France: at the 18-month mark in this three-year Toyota-partnered trial, 1000-odd people have signed up for on-demand use of the i-Road and COMS mini-EVs. The vehicles are used more during the week and in commuting hours, average trip length is 5km and 45 minutes, most journeys are one-way and the most frequently-used locations are by the train station. Average users are 36-year old males in white-collar jobs, though 14% of users are students; 43% subscribe to other public transport services, 54% cycle 2 or 3 times a week, 41% cycle every day – and 74% also own at least one car. No data yet on any reductions in town traffic/congestion as yet, but feedback generally positive that this is A Good Thing, it seems. More here.
  • Toshiba has developed a contactless induction charging system for electric buses and is starting trials of a 45-seater at Tokyo airport; the bus has an 89km range and takes 15min to charge, and it’s pointed out here that this is well-suited to shuttle-type activities between fixed locations. And in Paris, 23 Bollore Bluebuses are going into service on the city’s first all-electric bus route.
  • Quick round-up of more auto OEMs’ recent activities in the new mobility sector: BMW’s iVentures division has invested in California/SF Bay Area carpooling app Scoop – which partners with major employers in the area – to add to its portfolio of digital mobility services and platforms. More here.  Meanwhile, Volkswagen has taken a stake in taxi-hailing app (and Uber/Hailo rival) Gett; Toyota is collaborating with Uber itself, and Daimler is funding a mobility start-up ‘accelerator scheme’ in Stuttgart.
  • Research from the European Climate Foundation underpins a statement from the EU Platform for Electromobility project that any future renewable energy directive “should actively promote the electrification of transport”. For cars and vans alone, it reckons electrification (including hybridisation) would generate up to 1.1million net jobs in the EU by 2030, and cut CO2 emissions by up to 93%, NOx emissions up up to 95% and particulates by up to 95% by 2050. More from Transport & Environment. T&E is also continuing to campaign against EU biodiesel policy, pointing out this week that 45% of palm oil imported to Europe is used in vehicles.
  • More research on CNG: better used in power stations instead of coal or fuel oil, than for vehicles, according to a paper from Rice University which sees no benefits in terms of GHG emissions. It puts a hybrid petrol-electric Honda Civic as having lower (by 27%) well-to-wheel emissions than its CNG counterpart, and a CNG bus emitting 12% more CO2e than a diesel version. More details, references here.
  • BMW has developed some autonomous-driving robots for one of its production facilities, powered by second-life i3 batteries which will last for an eight-hour shift. Recycled parts from cars helping build the next generation, autonomously… more here.
  • [note to self] Oh, someone else using MLP theory to talk about transitions to electric vehicles… Anyway, Nilson & Nykvist are modelling scenarios for uptake and suggesting governmental/policy interventions including investment finance for fast/rapid-charging, durable incentives for uptake, consumer/business education, and support of structural and technological changes within auto industries.

The Honda hydrogen society, and other smarter mobility news…

January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

honda tottori projectIt’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.

And the year-end final round-up…

December 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

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

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

Uruguayan electricity and other stories…

December 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

gttc-5Slightly off-topic but I have been particularly struck by the news today from the Paris summit that Uruguay – a small and not very wealthy country – has achieved an electricity mix of 94.5% renewables. Without government subsidies, or rising consumer prices. That’s 55% of the overall energy mix including transport fuels, with wind, hydro, solar and biomass all playing a part – but no nuclear. It’s good for business, too, energy accounting for 15% of its GDP. The Guardian story does note, however, that “the transport sector still depends on oil”, which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix – though it is at least in a good position to start using electrified vehicles (UTE, the state electricity generator/distributor, is already running a fleet of Renault Kangoo ZEs).  And I can’t resist making the point that this was mostly achieved under the watch of the country’s colourful former ‘peasant president’, a man who made Jeremy Corbyn look like a marauding free-marketeer. Or resist the temptation to post a holiday snap from Uruguay a few years back, suggesting that the country does still have some way to go before it cleans up its transport… (anyone want to hazard a guess what this is?)

  • No, not the Self-driven Volt but a fleet of self-driving Volts… GM is to deploy a fleet of autonomous Chevys at its technical centre in Warren, Michigan, involving a valet-service app: GM’s employees will reserve and summon the cars, which can park themselves. More here. (And to refer back to the esteemed Mr W Self and his recent series of radio shows, quite why the BBC thought it acceptable to send him on a long road trip in an obsolete electrified vehicle – discontinued UK-spec Volt – without the necessary charging cable and adaptor to use public charging points, then broadcast his predictably negative comments on his not-very-electric driving experience, I really don’t know. I don’t expect a writer and cultural commenter to be an EV expert/authority, but I would have expected better research and representation from the Beeb.)
  • Couple of summing-up-state-of-play studies from consultancy EY (Ernst & Young): first one, Who’s in the driving seat?, looks at autonomous vehicles and reckons that people are receptive to the idea, especially younger generations, seeing particular advantages for congestion and road safety, though they’re concerned about driving fun and liability issues. It points to a reversal of the driver-car relationship in terms of maintenance, safety and wellbeing, and importance of new values such as connectivity, reliability and safety in place of power or image – a shift from ‘extrinsic’ product values to ‘intrinsic’. Other one, Urban Mobility Redefined, goes down the “sharing is the new buying” route, with digitalisation and connectivity the key drivers. Nothing new here, but handy consolidations.
  • Swiss research institute Empa has opened a new platform called “move” in collaboration with ETH Zurich to study the use of surplus renewable electricity in cars, utility vehicles and machinery, encompassing a shift from fossil to renewable energy with a view to creating ‘a closed carbon cycle model.’ Mobility is responsible for 40% of Switzerland’s CO2 emissions, and the country anticipates a large surplus of solar-generated electricity in summer months. The project includes looking into synthetic electricity-based fuels, with the opening of an electrolysis plant to convert renewable electricity into hydrogen, as well catalytic conversion of hydrogen and CO2 into methane, and apparently nature is the role model since ‘plants have been using sunlight, water and CO2 to supply themselves sustainably with energy for millions of years.’ More here.
  • A frightening thought: mobility-on-demand, connectivity and autonomous vehicles could lead to “a profound impact” on consumers and vehicle mileage travelled, according a report from KPMG, which suggests that VMT could soar to an extra trillion additional miles a year by 2050. KPMG puts this down to increased demand for mobility and related services from older people and millennials in particular, citing older people using on-demand autonomous services as they age, as well as tech-savvy youngsters (aged 10-15) not yet old enough to drive, but who can get into an on-demand vehicle. It warns of large numbers of empty cars going to pick people up, and a possible increase in VMT of up to 3-4 trillion additional miles by 2050, as personal mileage escalates. More here; full report, “The Clockspeed Dilemma”, for download here.
  • University of Glasgow student Morven Fraser (BEng Mechanical Engineering) won this year’s Autocar-Courland Next Generation award for aspiring automotive engineers: her energy-capture and storage system concept involves PV film on a vehicle’s body panels to capture  energy, then stored in nanobatteries integrated into the carbonfibre panels, and used in an electrified powertrain. This could extend EV range and reduce reliance on heavy conventional batteries. Fraser, 21, wins £9000 plus work experience at six of the sponsor OEMs.
  • A researcher at Stuttgart University is working on a wireless induction charging system for super-accurate positioning of an electric vehicle over an induction plate, and for optimised efficiency. PhD student Dean Martinovic has developed and patented a magnetic field technology to match up induction coils to an accuracy of 1cm, using a low-frequency pulsed magnetic field; this gives lower interference with the car’s metal underbody and no reflection of electromagnetic waves. The driver is guided by a 3D image (on a tablet, in the prototype) to the optimal positioning of the car and the system is said to be both very space- and cost-effective.
  • A lifecycle analysis study in New Zealand has found EV impact to be significantly lower than that of conventional ICE vehicles, with over 60% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to petrol, 40% reduction in energy use compared to diesel, and in a NZ-specific context, an 80% fall in CO2 compared to petrol, thanks to NZ’s high proportion of renewable electricity. More here.
  • Heuliez Bus – making over a quarter of French buses – is to trial its first all-electric model, the GX ELEC, in Paris. More here.
  • Further to the above, the European Environment Agency has released a report claiming that nitrogen dioxide emissions – predominantly from diesel vehicles – are responsible for an additional 75,000 premature deaths in Europe each year (and 432,000 premature deaths caused by particulates, with ozone another health-problem emission). That’s 21,600 in polluted Italy, 14,100 in the UK, 10,400 in Germany and 5,900 in Spain, it says – all countries which have lobbied for weaker emissions controls and higher limits for diesel vehicles, Transport and Environment points out. T&E also notes another study claiming 23,500 UK deaths are attributable to NO2, suggesting that “the EAA’s method may be conservative.”
  • And just in case the role of vehicles in all this isn’t clear, the EC’s Joint Research Centre and the World Health Organisation have released a report identifying traffic as the biggest source of particulate matter in 51 world cities. Traffic accounts for 25% of PM2.5s and PM10s, combustion and agriculture 22%, domestic fuel burning 20%, natural dust and salt 18% and industrial activities 15%, although the proportions differ around the world. Domestic fuel burning is the greatest contributor to PMs in Eastern Europe, for example, and natural dust in the Middle East and North Africa, but  traffic, heating and agriculture are the main culprits in North America and Western Europe. More here.
  • Looking into the myth of peak car: VMT (vehicle mileage travelled) may be up in the US, but not when looked at per capita, and is a few % down on all-time peaks when population growth is taken into account, argues this piece (with handy graphs). Yeah, but mileage is still pretty damn high, whether it’s peaked or not…
  • Loads of fleet-related news this week, but one of the biggest/most symbolic is 2000 EVs to New York City’s non-emergency fleet, which already runs 300 EVs on municipal duties. This will mean that half the fleet is electric, with a claimed reduction in fuel consumption of 2.5million gallons a year plus CO2 emissions halved by 2020, and is thought to be the biggest fleet deployment yet of EVs in the US. More here.
  • Audi America is in talks with other car-makers over establishing a single common-standard fast-charging network across the USA, a la Tesla Superchargers; another (potential) example, I think, of how the carmakers are expanding their businesses beyond building hardware to service provision. More here.
  • And more news from Germany’s most excellent and innovative Frauenhofer Institutes (a network of well-funded universities and research centres developing engineering solutions): a prototype battery cell with its own integrated microcontroller charting temperature, state of charge and suchlike, able to communicate with other cells, the main controller and other devices. An empty or defective cell can be decoupled from the system. This should allow for greater battery range (by up to 10%) – since it eliminates the problem of cells linked in series, whereby the weakest cell determines overall capacity – and lower costs, it’s claimed. This is part of the EU 3Ccar advanced systems design project, which aims to reduce EV complexity, costs and maintenance requirements.

Design Concept of the Day: BMW Light & Charge

June 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

MINI Plant Oxford showcases pioneering street lighting system with integrated electric vehicle charging-66907We’ve seen this before in Munich, but the Light & Charge low-energy LED streetlight/EV-charger has been installed in the UK for the first time – at Mini Plant Oxford. It proposes an integrated solution for local authorities whereby street lights can be replaced with one of these without adding to urban clutter. Up to four LED modules can be fitted on each post, which has a modular design; these can be self-adjusting and reduce their output at timed intervals or when no-one is around, and light can be targeted and diffused to minimise glare or light pollution. From the EV-charging point of view, it’s been designed to be vehicle-agnostic and to be activated via swipe-card.

  • Daimler/Car2Go is working with Bosch on a smartphone-app controlled automated parking system, hich will be tested in a parking garage; this is seen as an important step towards fully-automated driving as well as added functionality in the car-sharing business model. More here. And Jaguar Land Rover has today shown off a remote-controlled Range Rover Sport, driven by smartphone – not just for parking, but for negotiating tricky off-road conditions from a safe distance (within 10m), perhaps. This car is capable of doing a full 18-degree change of direction so even three-point-turns itself. The tech takes control of steering, braking, acceleration and gear selection, and JLR’s referring to the “Solo Car”. Also from JLR recently: the  ‘Pothole Alert’ tech – identifying location and severity of potholes and adjusting suspension accordingly – isn’t just a shock absorber-saver. Interesting thing about this is that this is data to be shared with other cars and with road authorities, and is thus a step towards cloud-enabled internet-of-things-sort-of-things, as well as autonomous driving.
  • On a related note – insights from McKinsey give 10 ways autonomous vehicles could change the automotive industry. Full read here, but they’re looking at three distinct eras. In the present, they’re already making inroads in industrial applications; new mobility models are emerging; and carmakers are assessing the market. As consumers start to adopt them, changes appear in the aftersales sector; supply chains and logistics are redefined; and the insurance market starts to cover tech failures rather than individuals. Once they predominate, they could free people up for 50min a day; parking space is reduced by billions of sq/m; crashes – and related costs to society – are reduced by 90%; and they accelerate robot tech in general.
  • 1.3million Americans had joined a car-share by the end of 2014, according to the latest data out of Berkeley; this report from the Freep looks at that, noting that Airbnb-style peer-to-peer car-sharing is also a growth area – but that actual car sales are also growing again too, including to millennials/Gen Y. Another interesting point is illustrated by data from Zipcar – whose members include a sizable proportion of 50-69 year-olds – which suggests that older Gen X/boomers are moving back to city centres and getting rid of private vehicles. Which turns around a few ideas that have been floating about in recent years. More on vehicle-sharing from the TSRC, UC Berkeley, here.
  • The Bollore Bluecar EV (previously built in Italy) is to be built at Renault’s factory in Dieppe, with a co-operation agreement signed between the two industrial groups.  The Bluecar is, of course, headed to London for the EV-share (finally) announced last week. Where it will be painted red, incidentally. A 50-car fleet is to be launched early next year, with a (much-needed) overhaul and expansion of the city’s malfunctioning charging infrastructure also promised.
  • Next year, Scania is to start testing hybrid diesel-electric heavy-duty trucks charged via an overhead pantograph system; a 2km test stretch of road is being built as part of the Electric Roads initiative. Later in the year, a similarly-equipped bus will also begin trials; this can be fully recharged in 6/7 minutes from equipment at a bus stop. More here.
  • More bus news: Route 55 in Gothenburg has electrified with three all-electric and seven hybrid buses from Volvo (obviously) up and running; there’s flash-charging at bus stops, using renewable wind/solar electricity.
  • And VDL Bus & Coach (Netherlands) has unveiled its articulated Citea SLFA Electric, due to go on duty shortly in Cologne; again, this has capability for ‘opportunity charging’.
  • New BMW 7-Series: plug-in hybrid variant, 740eLe (long-wheelbase only), does up to 40km in all-electric mode (up to 75mph) and its averaged-out figures (meaningless though they are) are 134.5mpg and 49g/km of CO2. xDrive AWD versions also available.
  • EU first-quarter figures for alt-fuel vehicles include a rise in all-electric sales, which more than doubled to 24,630 Jan-March 2015.
  • Tesla: not as disruptive as you might think, according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, who points to ‘neighbourhood’ EVs – micro-vehicles – as the real innovations with potential for disruption. Mmm. Anyway, comes off the back of Newsweek’s ‘green’ rankings which puts Tesla as only the eighth-placed carmaker, behind BMW, Toyota, Daimler, Nissan, Ford, Volkswagen and GM in an analysis taking into account factors including energy and water use in manufacturing. Not that I imagine Elon Musk is losing any sleep over either of these judgements.
  • Commuters want seamless connectivity on their journeys, according to a report from the Ericsson Consumer Lab, and to be able to take charge of their travel decisions with real-time info and personalised services.  Some useful stats on use of apps by people taking different transport modes, in the various cities studied (London, Sao Paulo, New York and Shanghai). Also, feedback on rapidly-developing consumer trends in app use and expectations of iOT/connectivity in this video.

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