Concepts of the Day: Hanergy Solar

July 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Beijing-based ‘clean energy’ company Hanergy has unveiled four solar-powered EV concepts, each featuring its thin-film, lightweight PV tech applied over roof and bonnet. The four, revealed at an event in Beijing, are said to “acquire power directly from the sun” and “do not depend on charging posts”: they’re said to generate 8-10kWhrs of power a day (based on 5-6 hours of sunlight) giving a range of about 80km, though they can be externally topped up as well.

The rather unique-looking vehicles [sorry, can’t find official-issue pics of these individually] are Hanergy Solar R (a sporty RWD two-door, with extra solar cells in its door panels); Hanergy Solar O (a city car, said to come with two rechargeable e-scooters in its boot); Hanergy Solar L (a gullwing-doored MPV said to weigh just 700kg); and Hanergy Solar A (an angular two-door with extra fold-out panels). Optimistic as these concepts may sound, there’s certainly some viable tech here which could prove useful for range-supplementation, if not to completely power a long journey in the near future. Report and snaps from the event, showing the cars more clearly, at China Car News.

  • Much indignation in the UK EV world this week as Ecotricity announced its introduction of a £5-per-20min* fee for use of its Electric Highway rapid-chargers. Free for Ecotricity home energy customers, though… My thoughts: it is entirely unrealistic to expect ongoing free use of facilities which have been expensive to install and maintain, as well as free electricity for one’s motoring. However, the cost-per-mile analysis now puts use of these chargers in an unfavourable position re. diesel, and makes it unfeasibly expensive for PHEV drivers to have a quick zap-up (so they’ll be on the motorways using their ICE instead). Most worryingly for me, though, is that access to the chargers will now be only via smartphone app (iPhone, Android) rather than via RFID tag or on-the-spot credit card payments, which is going to cut down on accessibility and rule out usage by EV drivers who don’t wish to have a smartphone (and such people do exist – I’ve interviewed them). Predictably, operators of other networks and PAYG systems are meanwhile rubbing their hands and also keeping a very close eye as to how this pans out. One positive thing for all-EV drivers, though, is the lessening likelihood that they will be ‘Outlandered’, of course. *Subsequently amended – £6 per 30min the deal now, it seems.
  • BMW showed a grid-connected static home energy storage system – using second-life i3 batteries – at the EVS29 event in Montreal; more here. No word on when such a product will be ready to market.
  • Nice feedback from the BlueIndy EV-sharing scheme in Indianapolis after nine months: 2, 100 registered members, 21,500 separate trips made, 230 cars and 74 operational sites (another 25 under construction), 70% of owners with annual membership and the rest less frequent users – going to and from the airport is a popular journey. Interesting thing is that users (average age 42) fall into three groups, with one portion being ‘service workers’ – low-paid people using the cars to access employment opportunities, which suggests a growing role for car-share in increasing mobility options for marginalised/low-income groups. Other users tend to be couples substituting for a second car, and occasional management-level businesspeople, apparently, and the scheme is now aiming to target students.
  • On that note, BMW/Sixt’s DriveNow on-demand car-share has now opened in Brussels, its 10th European city (it’s also in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm and, if we can still call ourselves European, London). Latest stats from the scheme include: over half a million journeys in Germany each month; average journeys between 8-15km and 20-40 minutes; over 600,000 customers. 20% of the fleet is now electrified.
  • Report for the LowCVP and IMechE from the Institute of Transport Studies (ITS), University of Leeds, calls for strategic policy interventions – needed if potential for cleaner, cheaper, lower-energy car travel is to be achieved through combination of connectivity, [less importantly] automation, and vehicle-sharing. ITS reckons that vehicle-infrastructure comms can improve energy efficiency as well as improving journey times and road safety; impact will depend on further innovation in system design; full automation could help reduce practical difficulties of recharging/refuelling, and that much work needs to be done on increasing car-shares. It warns that autonomous vehicles may, however, lead to increased traffic and energy demand. Full report – Automated vehicles: Automatically low-carbon? – available here.

 

Concept of the Day: ACM City eTaxi

June 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

ACM_CITY-eTAXI_frontAdaptive City Mobility, a Munich-based programme funded by the German federal government, has unveiled a simple, low-cost EV for taxi services, vehicle-sharing, logistics and tourism applications. The City eTaxi is a lightweight quadricycle-type three-seater with Plexiglass doors and a ‘backpack’-style luggage compartment, and is designed for battery-swapping in a fully-networked fleet context. Van and pick-up variants are further proposed. Field trials are to start in Munich. An aspect of the concept is that fleet operational costs could be subsidised by advertising, and a business model is proposed involving battery leasing, energy sales and other services; the aim is for the vehicles to remain in more or less continuous deployment without downtime. More here and here.

  • More Munich: the city’s first ‘E-Sharing Station’ has opened for hire of EVs, electric cargo bikes, bicycles and scooters. It’s based in a solar-panelled facility on the new-build Domagkpark housing development, which appears to have been designed from scratch with a view to reducing car-dependency (and car ownership rates) of its 4000-odd residents – particular attention has been paid to bicycle parking and storage. More here.
  • Zipcar is adding 50 Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrids to its on-street fleet in London – 40 in Westminster, 10 elsewhere. “With dedicated charging stations”, apparently, for their reserved parking bays – no chance of these being shared with other EV users. Rental rates are from £7 an hour, all-electric range is a claimed 31 miles, more than enough for nipping about the city, should you need to.
  • Daimler does stationary energy storage: it has established a new division called Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH, incorporating its wholly-owned subsidiary Accumotive, which will  build both automotive and industrial static storage systems, highly-scalable. The new division has ambitious plans for global expansion and partnerships, seeing a diverse range of applications for the tech, and expects rapid growth, reports Green Car Congress.
  • A fuel cell vehicle-sharing scheme is starting in Munich: Hyundai is providing 50 ix35 FCVs to BeeZero, backed by Linde AG, with an element of real-world trial and infrastructure-building. More here.
  • And Europcar has bought up Spanish car-sharing/tech start-up Bluemove, merging it into multi-modal platform Ubeeqo, in which it has a majority stake. Bluemove has 47,000 users in Madrid, Seville and Malaga, reports Intelligent Mobility Insight, and will soon launch in Barcelona and Valencia.
  • More from Spain: SEAT, Volkswagen Group Research & the Universitat Politecnica de Cataluna are establishing a research & innovation hub for urban mobility in Barcelona. CARNET – Cooperative Automotive Research Network – is to look at and trial tech solutions and concepts, including multimodal stations and ‘microcities’ for city transport, a ride-sharing platform and an app for finding parking spaces, reports Intelligent Mobility Insight.
  • Apple is entering the world of independent power producers (IPPs), reports elektrek.com: this is selling excess electricity from its own rooftop solar arrays, via a new division called Apple Energy. This would feed into the local supply system, probably for ancillary services – such as vehicle charging. Shows how a new ecosystem/model of renewably-fuelled microgrids is emerging; elektrek also names Google, Ikea and Walmart as playing this game.
  • Route Monkey is developing an app and online portal for EV users for route-planning, turn-by-turn directions and identification of charging points en route, with real-time journey and battery data. Route times can be calculated including recharging times. The R&D is supported by a grant from Scottish Enterprise, and is with consumers and small fleets in mind.
  • Transport for London is trialling a pilot alert scheme with Twitter for direct notifications of delays on key services – the first live travel info partnership with Twitter for instant direct-message notifications in this way. It’s an opt-in via the existing TfL overground, rail, Central Line and District Line feeds (Intelligent Mobility Insight).
  • BMW is supplying 100 i3s (all-electric) to the Los Angeles Police Department; interesting note here is not just that smog-bound LA has a 50% guideline for EV procurement by fleets in the city, rising to 80% in 2025, but that the suite of ConnectedDrive services and data management were key selling points. More here.
  • Kia is working with UC Irvine on a smart-grid study, looking at V2G smart-charging algorithms, predicting vehicle charging demand and behaviour, and further evaluating vehicles’ impact on the grid. It’s supplying six Soul EVs. More here.

Design Concept of the Day: Toyota Setsuna

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Setsuna+Concept__midToday’s picture is of the Setsuna – ‘moment’, in Japanese – which is all about durability and the changing nature of a family’s relationship with a car over time with the accumulation of “precious, fleeting moments”, apparently. Toyota’s displaying it at Milan Design Week, and yes, it’s wooden. To last for “many generations if properly taken care of”, and to change in colour and texture as it ages; there’s Japanese cedar for the exterior panels and Japanese birch for the frame, assembled using a nail- and screw-less Japanese joinery technique. And an electric motor to drive it. More here.
In other news to start the week:
  • Natural gas: “not a ‘bridge fuel’ but an expensive dead-end on the road to decarbonising transport”, says pressure group Transport & Environment, based on research by Ricardo Energy & Environment which finds no GHG savings in shifting to CNG or LNG from diesel (cars and trucks) and very little advantage in terms of air pollution. In fact, due to emissions and methane leakage in gas extraction, production and supply, overall GHG emissions are raised. T&E argues for governments to stop incentivising gas use, and says that for cars, petrol-electric hybrids, electric and hydrogen are better bets. Waste biomethane can have niche uses at a local level, but that’s about it. Full set of report downloads here.
  • Full text of Audi chairman Rupert Stadler’s speech at the company’s annual press conference here: Stadler outlined [amongst other things post-#dieselgate] three key ‘milestones’, digitisation, electromobility and urbanisation, and confirmed its first all-electric large car for 2018. Hybrids and PHEVs are seen as a ‘bridge’ tech for the next 10 years, with the brand “thinking about electric mobility in high-volume terms” as well as high potential for fuel cell tech. The ‘urbanisation’ part of the plan includes mobility services and apps, including on-demand access to shared vehicles.
  • I like a Living Lab, and the latest to come to my notice is an electric bus project in Helsinki: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, with Helsinki Region Trasnport, is testing platforms for mobility services including new user interfaces and transport/logistics solutions as well as cabin-space innovations. The city of Tampere is also involved. More here.

Pre-Geneva news round-up

February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

rimac concept oneNormal service (such as it ever is) resumed following a three-week stand-in stint at Car Design News (cheers, guys! Invoice on its way!). So a quick news round-up, starting with an exotica alert: no shortage of high-price, high-tech electrified offerings on show at Geneva motor show next week, including the TechRules turbine-recharging EV and the Arash AF10 hybrid,  as well as the Morgan EV3 three-wheeler in production form. I think the most interesting, however, are Nanoflowcell AG’s Quantino – which has just completed a test run in which it operated non-stop for 14 hours on an urban cycle – and the production-ready Rimac Automobili ‘Concept One’ [pictured]. Well, production-ready in that eight are going to be made… Lowdown on the Croatian-developed Rimac is a motor at each wheel giving a total 800kW/1088hp and 1600Nm, four gearboxes (single-speed up front, two two-speed double-clutchers behind), all-wheel torque-vectoring with regenerative braking, 0-100kph in 2.6 seconds, adjustable settings including drift mode, full telemetry and 4G cloud connection, but for me the most interesting bit is its battery pack: 8450 cells, each individually monitored and controlled, with liquid thermal management and the ability to deliver 1MW of power under acceleration yet 400kW when braking. Rimac is shaping up to be an influential battery-supplier to several sectors (including e-superbikes, such as the Greyp G12S made by its sister company) and the Concept One is, effectively an ad for this end of the business. Lowdown here.

  • Americans: driving more than ever before, according to data from the FHA [3.15trillion miles in 2015, with December’s VMT up 4% on December 2014]. The lowering price of fuel and urban sprawl are fingered as contributing factors, as well as a growing economy, says Scientific American, and a spokesman from the Union of Concerned Scientists describes policy to reduce car use full stop as ‘a very long game plan’ making efficiency and alt-fuels ‘ever more pressing’. As for the idea that Millennials aren’t driving, the fall in under-30s’ license-holding is only 1% 2004-2014, incidentally, and counterbalanced by more older adults staying on the road for longer. Can we now officially declare ‘Peak Car’ over?
  • Hubject has come up with a solution for detecting and transmitting ‘dynamic occupation data’ on availability of EV charging points – whether they’re in use already, or the space is ICE-d. More here.
  • ‘Green ergonomics’ research by Southampton University/TU Chemnitz with 39 already economy-conscious Toyota Prius drivers: even among those highly motivated to save energy, eco-driving strategies differed and were not necessarily successful. Many had “false beliefs” about energy-saving, and did not fully understand their vehicle’s tech and energy use, i.e. over-estimating energy recuperated under regenerative braking or overall energy saved in all-electric mode. Recommendations for HMI design include comprehensive feedback incl. real-time drivetrain performance data and predictive info, design for ease of perception, system support for driver ‘learning’, incorporation of automated interventions, i.e. energy-optimised adaptive cruise control, better displays on drivetrain dynamics and energy flows, and ability to configure info displays. More detailed rundown here,  full paper in Applied Ergonomics.
  • Unveiling of the Riversimple Rasa fuel cell microcar, developed for long-term leasing. Some more thoughts, from Cardiff University’s Paul Nieuwenhuis, co-director of the Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, here
  • And another fuel cell micro-vehicle, this time the Austrian-developed HET Engineering Citylog EMF, for urban deliveries. It can also connect up with others to form a ‘train’, and would suit shuttle and other passenger transport services as well. More here.
  • Tie-up between Seat, SAP and Samsung which takes IoT-enabled cars a stage further: new connectivity products under development (announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week) include a ‘global inventory’ of cloud-connected parking spaces which can be reserved and paid-for via Samsung Pay, using fingerprint recognition and integrated with location/navigation services. Same tech could apply to EV charger reservation too, of course. Also, ‘digital key sharing’ (keyless operation via smartphone, transferable with potential for time-limiting and even performance-limiting). To be worked into the My Seat app. (Volvo is also to offer a Bluetooth-enabled digital key, to operate via a phone app, from next year.)
  • From Ford at MVC: new offers and geolocation services in partnership with the likes of BP and McDonalds, plus Parkopedia with payments via Mobile City, within the FordPass membership programme; Ford is mentioning robot refuelling and auto-parking as future extensions. A pilot scheme called GoPark is under test in London (Islington) with volunteers sending live traffic/parking data, alongside the GoDrive on-demand car-share.
  • And BMW: I can’t pretend to understand the tech here, but it has announced trials of a ‘vehicular small cell’, a mobile femtocell which is said to optimise in-car mobile radio reception/transmission. Project’s called Vehicular Crowdcell, suggesting there’s an element of crowd-sourced data collection, and one possible application, BMW suggests, is carsharing schemes. More here.
  • Ericsson is working with Volvo (and wider Geely Auto group) on high-bandwidth streaming tech for autonomous vehicles – including improving network coverage, data storage and the quality of connectivity. V2V and V2X services will be developed on Ericsson’s Connected Vehicle Cloud platform with open API. Initial services to be offered to DIY drivers will include remote monitoring/activation of vehicle systems and a dynamic app store, next stage is sharing of info on potential road hazards.
  • Quote from Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche in the Euro am Sonntag paper: “Batteries have become more attractive [than fuel cells] in recent years. It has become more likely that they could prevail.” Zetsche cites progress in range and charging time as key factors – “Cars with electric driving ranges of 500 km and fast-charging times of 20 minutes are within reach” – whereas the issue of affordable and widespread hydrogen supply/distribution has not yet been solved.
  • Research from CIED, Sussex University, looking at 40 years of driver behaviour (1970-2011), mileage and fuel prices has found a 20% ‘rebound effect’ – as car fuel efficiency improves, people drive more, thus cancelling out a lot of the benefits of creating more efficient vehicles (a fifth of the energy-saving eroded). More here, full paper in Energy Economics (February 2016) here.
  • KTH Stockholm has developed a wood pulp-based carbonfibre material to form a roof and integrated battery for an electric vehicle: this saves weight, and the ‘lignin battery’ can be made from forestry byproducts. More here.
  • Linkoping Unversity has come up with a streamlined truck design that can cut fuel (100% biodiesel) use by 12%: more here.
  • Important development for EV awareness as well as to inform existing drivers: availability (or at least, presence) of fast-chargers is to be added to motorway service station signposts. More here.
  • A series of lectures from TSU Oxford on Urban Mobilities in the Smart City can be listened-to (podcasts) or viewed (presentation slides) here.
  • An interesting & thoughtful long read on autonomous cars, parking and urban space here
  • …and insight into Ford’s work with design agency Ideo on multi-modal transport apps here
  • Fun concepts of the last week: autonomous on-demand micro-catamarans, for city commuting by water. More on the SeaBubble here. And a clever electric tractor/compactor here

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.

Detroit show snippets, more on mobility…

January 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

2016_NAIAS_Kymeta_Mirai_02Snippets from the Detroit motor show this week (no, no Panic in Detroit… aaaah): first up, some satellite tech from Kymeta, maker of flat-panel antennae, fitted to the roof of a Toyota Mirai. Liquid-crystal chemistry plus software means no mechanical componentry and easy integration, plus “much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies”, says Toyota. It’s said to be stable, giving broad global coverage and common standards – and could just be the enabler for next-gen connected-car, autonomous and vehicle networking systems. Ground control to… no, stop it.

  • Volkswagen’s Tiguan GTE Active concept – toughened-up version of its smaller SUV – is a hybrid with an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. Squeezes out a claimed 75mpg (US) from the 1.4 TSI petrol engine with an electric motor driving each axle; more here. Not a gamechanger but, well, better than a diesel SUV, I suppose.
  • Audi, meanwhile, has turned its e-tron quattro into a fuel cell-driven SUV, now h-tron; 124mph, a 373-mile range and a four-minute hydrogen refuelling time, apparently, with production on course for 2020.
  • Interesting in that this takes electrification to a different sector: there will be a PHEV version of the new Chrysler Pacifica (replacement for the Town & Country/Grand Voyager big MPV), giving a claimed all-e range of 30 miles. Given the short daily-drive routines of people-carriers like this, appropriate. Also, lowdown on Ford Fusion (US-market Mondeo) hybrid and Energi (PHEV) versions here: Fusion Energi does 19 miles in all-e mode, they say.
  • And in terms of non-metal product, Ford is launching a service called FordPass in February: free membership, open to non-Ford owners, with reward/loyalty scheme, parking space location/reservations app, FlightCar (borrowing/sharing cars), mobility/transport advice, FordPay mobile payments and more to come, all linked up to FordHubs (‘innovation centres’ rather than trad dealerships, one coming to London). More here.
  • Survey from IBM presented in Detroit: A New Relationship – People and Cars; notes that consumers are interested in autonomous, self-driving and adaptive, preference-learning vehicles, but don’t necessarily want to own one. The study – 16,494 consumers in 16 countries interviewed – looks at expectations of vehicle use in the next ten years, and concludes that the private car will continue to be a primary mode of transportation nonetheless. However, there is interest in part/shared ownership of cars, access by subscription and on-demand ride-sharing, and automakers need to develop new revenue-streams, buyer experiences and customer models. More in handy digest here.
  • In non-Detroit news: research for BMW at MIT has developed a photovoltaic polymer film to capture and store solar energy to de-ice windscreens. Implication is that this could mitigate against the estimated 30% range reduction in an electric vehicle due to heating, cooling and de-icing. More here.
  • Pipping the Bollore cars to the (charging) post, E-Car Club has launched in East London: £5.50 per hour, Renaults Zoe and Fluence in Poplar and Bow. More here.
  • Though incidentally, some research from Erasmus University is suggesting that car-sharing and car clubs don’t lead to mileage reductions, and that displacement from public or active transport can actually mean more car use. Reductions are seen only in specific scenarios when club car use replaces a single high-mileage private car, or when drivers are truly convinced of the benefits, apparently. Original paper – in Dutch – here (I think)…
  • …but more significant benefits can be seen in wider Mobility as a Service (MaaS) trials, such as one in Gothenburg, which involve modal shift and a wider range of transport choices/incentives. More on the UbiGo project here, too.
  • Report on London’s air quality issues (NOx, primarily, these days) from The Policy Exchange; concludes that diesel cars remain main culprits and the ‘improvements’ from Euro 6 compliance may be overstated, with gas-fired CHP (combined heat and power) systems a further concern. Some handy references involved.

 

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…

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