Concept of the Day: TUM Create VOI

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

TUM VOIIt’s not pretty, but it could be effective: the VOI (named from the Vietnamese word for elephant, apparently) is designed to be a safe, affordable and easy-to-ride electric transporter-scooter for congested metropoli. A collaboration between students from Technical University Munich (TUM) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, VOI was revealed at the Taiwan International Electric Vehicle Show. TUM Create, a research group spanning 20 countries, says that it could suit urban commuters and business people whizzing between meetings, and address the ‘first/last mile’ problem – link-ups with railway stations and other public transport systems, for example – as well as hosting a cargo box for multi-purpose use as an alternative to the enclosed front passenger seat. It’ll do 45km/h and has a range of 80km. More here.

  • Interesting interview here with the CEO of Alset Global, supplier of the hydrogen hybrid system for the Aston Martin ‘Ring racer (see previous post). Jose Ignacio Galindo describes the tech as being “a breakthrough technology without disrupting the industry” – as in, the hybrid nature of the system means that you don’t need a whole new fuel supply infrastructure straight away, and that minimal changes to existing ICEs are needed (as BMW has been saying for years). He sees it as a gateway to the “hydrogen economy” – a phrase he keeps using – which is quite telling, I think, and a glimpse into the industrial/commercial agenda for hydrogen (again, see previous post). Incremental improvement (in terms of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, at least) or a straight substitution of one fuel regime for another with little actual benefit to overall sustainability?
  • Big report out from the International Energy Agency’s Electric Vehicle Initiative – Global EV Outlook, giving predictions through to 2020. Haven’t had a chance for a go-through yet myself, but you can download it here. The IEA is also suggesting that transport gives “a window of opportunity” in an otherwise bleak lack of progress in the transition towards clean energy generation and use.
  • On a national level, the ULEV roadmap from the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research), setting out a plan for the UK to “develop a global advantage in low-emissions vehicles”). I’d summarise it as 4 Is: investment, incentives, infrastructure, improvements (the latter referring to electricity supply and the national grid). Available for download here.
  • Well, that told us… Enjoyed this piece, promoting a book called Roads Were Not Built For Cars. “Cyclists were written out of highway history by the all-powerful motor lobby in the 1920s and 1930s”, says Carlton Reid. Great stuff.
  • Toyota’s Prius PHV trial in Strasbourg (70 cars) charted an average 46% fuel economy improvement versus a comparable ICE car and 61% CO2 reductions. The more frequent the cars’ charging, the greater fuel economy results (unsurprisingly); 60% of recharges were at workplaces, 37% at home and only 3% using public facilities. Handy breakdown of findings here.
  • Another OPOC engine story: latest news from Achates Power. The 1.5 two-stroke, two-cylinder diesel can meet Euro 6 and LEV3 without SCR; 13.% fuel economy gain on a comparable Mercedes unit.
  • Large new study linking exposure to traffic pollutants and heart disease: lowdown here. It ain’t all about CO2.

Friday newsbriefs: Become an Electronaut

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

BMW’s looking for 700 “Electronauts” in the USA to trial the ActiveE for two years, and to feed back data on its performance. The cars will be released on a lease deal to participants with adequate charging facilities. Video at the BMW USA website.

  • Three out of four electric cars sold in the UK in the last year have gone to fleets, not private individuals, according to stats from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. That’s 600 or so out of 800. No surprise there, given the all-in lease deals and support packages, access to recharging infrastructure and in many cases, centralised charging facilities, that fleet drivers can benefit from – it’s harder, not to mention more expensive, if you’re going it alone. Fleets also benefit from various tax incentives (see below, Prius Plug-In story).
  • THINK is still distributing cars from its North American base in Elkhart, Indiana, and eleven Think City EVs have just gone out to municipal authorities in the north of the state. Its North American operations, which were separately-owned subsidiaries, remained a going concern throughout its bankruptcy in Europe; the firm is now under new ownership.
  • Battery-maker Axeon has come up with a technology to deliver a 35% improvement in electric vehicle range without increasing in weight; its advanced battery uses nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) in place of lithium phosphate in its cells, which are packaged in modules. The layout and dimensions of the battery pack also allow for higher ground clearance and better weight distribution, and it can be rapidly prototyped for use in different vehicles. The project has been funded by the Technology Strategy Board.
  • The TSB’s also funding a project by motor control specialist Sevcon Ltd, with Cummins Generator Technologies and a research group from Newcastle University, to develop an electric traction drive system for hybrids and EVs which uses steel instead of rare earth metals in the motor. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Nissan has tweaked the 1.6 petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel powertrains in the Juke for improved economy and emissions. Gear ratios have been revised in manual versions; the petrol now returns 47.1mpg and 139g/km and the diesel 57.6mpg/129g/km, both coming down a tax band.
  • Toyota’s Prius Plug-In Hybrid will cost less than £31,000 when it goes on sale early next year, not counting the £5000 government grant or any other incentives which might be in place at that point. It’s going to give an all-electric range of over 14 miles, with combined fuel economy calculated at 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions at 49g/km. BIK tax for company car users is expected to be about £52 a month, with a 100% capital write-down allowance.
  • A Nissan Leaf completed the 1000km Cannonball Ireland run, proving that an EV can cross the length of the country using the existing recharging infrastructure. Story, video at Autoblog Green.
  • Pollution from vehicle exhaust fumes can increase the likelihood of a heart attack up to six hours after exposure, according to a study reported in the British Medical Journal. Full lowdown at The Guardian.
  • Yesterday was World CarFree Day. Did anyone notice? Well, I didn’t drive anywhere, not that I needed to…
  • The Green Car Design 12:grn:hrs challenge – to design a green car in a day – is underway. Follow their progress @greencardesign.

Wednesday newsbriefs

September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ford Fiesta and Focus ECOnetic Technology models, to debut in Frankfurt next week, deliver 85.6mpg and 83.1mpg respectively (and emit just 87g/km and 89g/km) – without hybrid systems. These 1.6 diesels feature stop-start, active grille shutters to improve aerodynamics, nitrous oxide traps, regenerative charging, an ‘eco’ mode and gearshift indicators, plus low rolling-resistance tyres, low-friction oils and electric power steering. Ford’s also showing a Focus with the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine (direct injection, turbocharged), the Focus Electric, the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi (plug-in hybrid), and says that half of all Fords sold in Europe by late 2012 will be ECOnetic Technology models, and two-thirds by 2013.

  • Fisker’s Frankfurt debut is called Surf. It shares the Karma saloon’s underpinnings and extended-range EV powertrain, and is a ‘active lifestyle’ kinda thing – looks like a CUV-style ‘shooting brake’ estate from the sketch released so far (not worth posting).
  • FondTech, an Italian aerodynamics consultancy, has unveiled a single-seat electric race for the Formula E. It’s said to be as fast as an F3 vehicle (for 20 minutes, anyway) and has a four-wheel drive set-up; it’s the work of former Ferrari F1 team aerodynamicist Jean-Claude Migeot, reports Autoblog Green. Track shakedowns start next January, Formula E races in 2013.
  • Another neat proposal for electromagnetic roads: no generator required. More on the Magneter system at
  • Consumer organisation Which? has tested the Nissan Leaf and Peugeot iOn: neither matched their manufacturers’ claims for range in real-life driving (just like petrol/diesel cars, then) and they’re claiming some high CO2 figures from electricity generation (run ’em on renewable-source electricity, then). Mind you, Which? does appear to have quite a downer on EVs…
  • Granted, cost is an issue. And EVs aren’t going to be able to compete in cost terms till 2030, according to a new report.

Monday newsbriefs

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Volvo’s to reveal an all-new concept car (no picture as yet) in Frankfurt next week, showcasing a “more exciting” look plus one of a new series of downsized petrol engines. The company’s going to chop out six- and eight-cylinder engines from its range and offer only four-cylinder units, including common-rail diesels and direct-injection petrols; these will have higher performance than the current six-cylinders, however, despite lower fuel consumption than the current four-pots.

Dubbed VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture), these engines have 60% fewer unique parts (they’re based around a common modular structure), are up to 90kg lighter than their current equivalents, and offer fuel economy improved by up to 35%. They’re also suitable for incorporation of hybrid-drive systems and technologies such as flywheel kinetic energy recovery (KERS). Volvo will start road-testing a flywheel KERS system this autumn; this is said to offer the driver an additional 80bhp whilst reducing fuel consumption by up to 20%.

Volvo’s also taking a modular approach with its new ‘scalable platform architecture’ (SPA), which will allow most models to be built on the same production line; this will enable it to establish its independence from former owner Ford and create its own stand-alone model-line. “We’re taking our technological future into our own hands”, says R&D chief Peter Mertens. The forthcoming SPA models will be 100-150kg lighter than the current cars, and will be suitable for electric-drive powertrains. “The Frankfurt concept car is a great example of what we can achieve with the new architecture,” adds designerPeter Horbury.

  • This Russian Yo-Auto firm is to reveal a concept at Frankfurt too, previewing its range of affordable hybrids. Not much detail on the car as yet, but the Yo-Concept show car (pictured; not intended for production) has a range-extended EV powertrain, side doors which slide up through the body, an extended windscreen/glass roof and full-length side windows.
  • Skoda is building a 10-car trial fleet of Octavia Green E Line estates, all-electric prototypes with a 60kW motor (peaking at 85kW and 270Nm of torque), an 84mph top speed, 0-62mph acceleration in 12 seconds – and a sound generator to simulate engine noise at up to 25mph. Range is 93 miles, brake energy recovery supplementing the 180-cell lithium-ion battery pack. Skoda says that electric-drive is an integral part of its future strategy, and that a plug-in hybrid will also be offered in the future. The Octavia Green E Lines will hit the road this autumn, and the trial data will feed into research and development work for production vehicles.
  • More engine news: Volkswagen is to add cylinder shut-off to its new 1.4 TSI engine from early 2012. Two of the four cylinders will temporarily, imperceptibly, shut off under low to medium load between 1400-4000rpm and 25-75Nm, improving fuel consumption by 0.4 litres per 100km; this is improved to 0.6 litres per 100km in combination with stop-start, and at 50kph in third or fourth gear, economy savings are nearly one litre per 100km. The range in which the cylinder deactivation can work covers nearly 70% of driving, but all four cylinders stay active when sharp acceleration is called-for. This engine also meets the EU 6 legislation.
  • Nissan’s replacing the 2.0dCi diesel engine (with manual transmission) in the Qashqai and Qashqai +2 with a new 1.6: this emits just 129g/km of carbon dioxide and delivers 62.8mpg. Yet-more economical models with stop-start, delivering 119g/km, arrive early next year.
  • The revised Honda Insight gets its unveiling in Frankfurt next week: it emits just 96g/km, thanks to tweaks to its CVT gearbox, its air conditioning and its aerodynamics. The ride’s been improved too, apparently.
  • The coroner has ruled a verdict of “accidental death” in the sad case of Judit Nadal, killed last year when her G-Wiz EV collided with a Skoda Octavia. It was noted that the G-Wiz ‘disintegrated’ on impact, offering no crash protection, though no further action is to be taken. The most tragic thing of all is that this accident could so easily have been avoided: Dr. Nadal, an academic at Imperial College and a mother of four, pulled out of a junction into the path of the Octavia whilst talking on her phone. She was also not wearing her seatbelt, though that would have made little difference in this particular crash. More at the London Evening Standard. GoinGreen, importers of the G-Wiz, have defended the safety of the ‘quadricycle’ car, though its former MD  has called for an extension of the ‘L7e’ legislative category from the current 450kg weight limit to allow for the building-in of extra safety features and crash protection.

Wednesday newsbriefs

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Citroen’s launching the DS5 (posh C5-based hatchback) at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The range is to include a diesel-electric Hybrid4 model, with 200bhp, four-wheel drive, an all-electric mode, acceleration boost function, sport mode, six-speed auto gearbox, stop-start and CO2 emissions from 99g/km. On sale next spring. Oh, and Lexus is to show the new GS 450h hybrid for the first time in Europe.

  • Autocar’s driven the Volkswagen Up (1.0 Bluemotion version): “the most modern baby car going and one of the most technically interesting.” Auto Express likes it too, especially that three-cylinder engine.
  • Hyundai will be offering passenger rides in the iX35 fuel cell prototype at the EcoVelocity Show in London next week.
  • Also at EcoVelocity, 3.15-4pm on Saturday Sept 10th: an EV discussion panel with debate and Q+As, featuring TheChargingPoint’s Robert Llewellyn, radio DJ/Nissan Leaf owner Mark Goodier, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, a spokesman from the Nissan Technology Centre Europe plus one special guest tbc.
  • Heard the one about laser-powered cars, giving emissions-free transport, forever? “Still a few problems to solve”, says Autoweek
  • The new Audi S6, S7 and S8 feature a 4.0 TFSI V8 (turbocharged, stratified-charge fuel injection) with cylinder deactivation, energy recuperation and stop-start; fuel consumption improved by up to 25%.  Launch at Frankfurt. Full lowdown at Green Car Congress.
  • Leaf looks like a limo: stretch jobs now available from the Electric Car Company, reports Autoblog Green. One for the more eco-minded hen party, perhaps.
  • Fisker is to source a four-cylinder turbocharged engine from BMW for its ‘Project Nina’ saloon, an extended-range EV due next year (Green Car Congress).
  • Williams F1 is to supply its flywheel energy recovery/storage system, developed for KERS, for use in mass transit and rail systems. It’s just signed a deal with Kinetic Traction Systems Inc. to advance and promote the tech for such applications (Green Car Congress).
  • The Canadian province of Ontario and Magna International are to jointly invest some CAN$400million in the development of electric vehicles (Globe and Mail).

Friday newsbriefs

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bizarre EV story of the day: not that this should be seen in any way as a redeeming quality, but ol’ Gaddafi has (had?) interesting taste in cars. Rebels/insurgents/freedom fighters (choose your definition) have taken possession of the Libyan despot’s custom-bodied, Castagna-converted electric Fiat 500, reports Corriere della Sella (slightly odd Google translation, but they have pictures; via Autoblog Green). Gaddafi’s green car was last seen being pushed through the streets away from his bunker.

In other news:

  • Seat’s smartened up the Exeo saloon and estate, and the 2.0 TDI diesel engine now gives up to 57.6mpg; its emissions are down to 129g/km. Stop-start comes to the range next year in an Ecomotive model which’ll deliver less than 120g/km.
  • General Motors and the LG Group are to “jointly develop and engineer future electric vehicles”, according to a statement today. Korean giant LG already supplies battery cells for the Volt and Ampera, but this arrangement “represents a widening of its portfolio as an automotive solution provider.” LG-branded cars? Don’t rule it out.
  • The Vauxhall Ampera has scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. It was specifically checked for the safety of its electrical systems; the battery pack proved to be efficiently protected from from the side impacts, there was minimal electrolyte spillage (none inside the passenger compartment) and it can be easily disconnected though there is an automatic shut-off of current.
  • Hertz is to lease BYD E6 electric crossovers in China, in a deal with BYD and GE Energy, which is to set up a recharging infrastructure. 770 new charging stations in Shanghai by the end of the year, apparently.
  • The seven-seat Prius+ hybrid is to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show, reports Automotive News.
  • Bill Dube and Eva Hakansson of Killacycle are aiming for the all-out motorcycle speed record – not just the one for electric bikes. That’s 367mph they’re heading for… full story at Wired Autopia.
  • Prince Charles’ Start Festival is at Kew Gardens this weekend. Talks on solar power and eco-driving, pop-up restaurants and more green-ish family fun.

Midweek newsbriefs

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Audi’s to start production of the A8 hybrid next year. This combines a 2.0 TFSI petrol engine and electric motor to deliver 245hp and 345lb ft; it’ll return around 44.1mpg and emit less than 148g/km of carbon dioxide. It’ll also accelerate 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds and reach 146mph; its electric-only range, boosted by brake energy recuperation, is about 3km and top speed 37mph. Drivers can select three modes: EV, prioritising electric-drive, D (default) and S (sport). More detail at Green Car Congress.

Mazda has started using recycled material from old bumpers for new ones; this increases the proportion of material from end-of-life vehicles which can be reused. As yet, only the Biante MPV features the recycled plastic, but the process will be rolled out further across the Mazda line-up. More at Green Car Congress.

  • All versions of the new Toyota Camry – a longstanding US best-seller – give better fuel economy and lower emissions, and the Hybrid now returns 49.2mpg despite its 13hp power gain. All the facts and figures at Green Car Congress (again).
  • Chinese car-buyers aren’t keen on hybrids and EVs, despite their government’s ambitious plans, reports The Guardian. Worrying, since the Chinese car market is now the world’s biggest, and still growing rapidly.
  • Debate continues on personal rapid transport (PRT) and podcars (mini-monorail systems) at Treehugger.

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