The biggest electric bus, and more…

October 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

byd lancaster ebusBYD has unveiled a 60-foot articulated battery-electric bus, the California-built Lancaster, said to have a range of 170-odd miles with 120 passengers on board, and to charge in 2-4 hours. This – claimed as the world’s largest battery-electric vehicle to date – features BYD’s iron-phosphate batteries. Also on display at the American Public Transportation Association Expo in Houston was BYD’s 40-foot Transit electric bus  – which was driven 1500 miles from Los Angeles using $200-worth of electricity. More here.  And on a similarly 60-foot note, New Flyer Industries is working on an electric/hydrogen fuel cell hybrid bus in partnership with Ballard Systems; this is to go on a 22-month trial in Connecticut. New Flyer also has a 40-foot all-electric bus compatible with overhead pantograph charging, reports Green Car Congress. And more e-bus news: four 12m Solaris electric buses charged via the Bombardier PRIMOVE induction system are to go on trial in Berlin next year, reports Green Car Congress.

  • Detroit Electric – which says its SP:01 sports car, to be assembled in Leamington Spa, is due to go on sale next year – has teamed up with South Korea’s Integrated Energy on a V2X project. Integrated Energy is placing an order for 300 vehicles and will run a pilot project on Jeju Island in which second-life battery usage for energy storage will also be explored. Jeju Island is said to have the most comprehensive EV-charging infrastructure in South Korea and aims to be a zero-emissions car zone by 2020; the tech to be trialled is looking into vehicle-to-grid, vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. It’ll use Detroit Electric’s ‘360-Powerback’ system* enabling bi-directional charge and discharge. An MOU has been signed. Chairman and Group CEO Albert Lam (a former Group Lotus CEO) says: “It’s our bi-directional charge and discharge technology and Smartphone Application Managed Infotainment system – ‘SAMI’ – that will revolutionize the way we use electric cars. Soon customers will be able to earn money from stored energy in their car’s battery, power their home or business, and even charge other EVs.” *NB: I suspect this is where Detroit Electric’s main business may be, not in making the cars (which we’re yet to see) themselves.
  • The Visio.M project at TUM (Technical University Munich) has come up with an EV-optimised torque-vectoring system, using regenerated brake energy to enhance stability and handling as well as increase energy recovery – especially on curves. This features an additional spur differential and enables a reduction in gearbox weight of 10%;  more details here.
  • Los Angeles County is deploying 82 Schneider Electric EVlink charging points, available to the public and free (for up to four hours’ use) for the first year. Locations include hospitals, sheriff stations and LA’s Civic Center. And on a private note, Sony is putting in 60 chargers for its EV-driving employees in So-Cal, reports EV Fleet World.
  • 50 electric/hydrogen hybrids – Renault Kangoo ZEs with added hydrogen-fuelled range-extender – are going on trial in Grenoble and Lyon, in an area with a hydrogen-industry cluster of businesses. The Hyway project also includes the opening of two hydrogen refuelling stations in these cities, and study of energy use across the hydrogen lifecycle. The converted Kangoo ZEs are said to have a 300km (city) range.
  • Why have EVs taken off in Norway? Massive tax breaks, very cheap hydropower versus high petrol/diesel costs, perks such as toll exemption and bus lane use… More details in this piece.
  • Those Millennials again… Research from US PIRG looking at their lower car-mileage, preferences for public transport/walking/cycling, urban-dwelling, later marriage and moving away from parents, smartphone-lovin’ and other trends, and their implication for transportation planning.
  • Adding an oxidisation catalyst to the electrolyte doubles the cycle life of lithium-air batteries, according to a journal paper reported at Green Car Congress (click through for the science bit).
  • Summary and overview of CityLab’s thoughtful Future Transportation series of articles here, btw.
  • America’s Electric Power Research Institute and Sumitro Electronics are demo-ing an open-source software platform for vehicle-grid integration (VGI), said to be a step towards common standards in demand management and grid-balancing. More here. A trial, supported by Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda and Ford, will take place in Sacramento, California.

Concept of the Day: Renault NEXT TWO

February 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

renault next twoBig presentation today from Renault on its vision of an autonomous EV for 2020, and more detail on its Zoe-based prototype. It’s positioned as a delegation of certain driving functions to reduce driver stress, improve safety, and free up driver time to use in-car services such as video-conferencing, online shopping, accessing travel information – with the view to marketplace introduction around the start of the next decade.

The system works in congested traffic on designated ‘protected routes’ at up to 18mph on main roads, with no lane-changing and (note the implications of this) no pedestrians or cyclists (should we expect designated car-zones?).  It includes an auto-parking function which finds a place in a car park (equipped with the appropriate sensors) and then manoeuvres into it, thanks to a camera on the rear-view mirror, a forward-facing sensor which detects markings on the road for positioning, and an all-round ultrasound field, all controlled and integrated by a central processor. It can pick up 3G, 4G, wi-fi, Bluetooth etc via an open-source cloud connectivity system (OS platform-agnostic).

Renault outlines a scenario involving ‘Juliette’, who receives a smartphone alert telling her when to leave for her meeting, how long the journey will take, and the congestion on the way, where ‘delegated driving’ will be permitted. Using her Automated Valet Parking smartphone app, she summons her car to pick her up; it auto-recognises her and adjusts its settings for seat, mirrors, radio etc to her preferences, and its sat nav with head-up display guides her till the delegated driving zone, where it suggests taking over. She enters autonomous drive mode, calls up her working documents and video-conferences a colleague – and when the nav alerts her of further delays, she has the option to switch to her multimodal mobility app. This gives her three options, one of which is to reserve a space in a nearby carpark and buy an e-ticket for the underground; she is guided to the car park and straight to her allocated space, where the valet parking takes  over.

On the way back? This is when it gets a bit more Minority Report. In the delegated driving zone, she passes a billboard advertising a concert and gets the option to buy tickets; then she gets an alert that a friend is nearby, and has a video-call, sharing a photo on a tablet; then her Health & Wellbeing app activates a massage function with relaxed lighting, sounds and scents in the cabin.  I’m surprised she’s not asleep (or irritated beyond belief) by this point, but thankfully the car takes her home (via local tourist information).  Presumably there will be a function so you can stop it telling you about the nearby stately home every time you go past.

Anyway, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has also been named by the French government as leader of the autonomous vehicles project in its 34-plan ‘New Face of Industry’ programme. First step for the project is to finalise the roadmap by the end of March, then to look at necessary amendments to legislation to allow autonomous vehicles on French roads.

Some discussion about the context; Renault makes the point that different nations see autonomous driving as having different benefits. Japan sees it as a way to keep an ageing population mobile for longer; the Netherlands (and others) are concerned with regulating traffic, with a focus on ‘platooning’; a third group sees it as a safety measure. It points out that Europe is already on the way, with auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection and suchlike to be made mandatory. And “NEXT TWO is a realistic prototype which incorporates technologies that are sufficiently well-developed to be built into production models in the medium-term future,” says Frédéric Mathis, project leader.

Some more news, observations, general notes of interest:

  • Cumbria: a £500,000 investment in EV charging infrastructure to address a ‘black hole’. Nine rapid-chargers, 14 fast-chargers, from central funding. More here.
  • An excellent series of well-thought-out articles this week on commuting from Atlantic Cities. Some interesting points about how the availability of off-peak travel by public transport benefits all travellers in this one and this one.
  • Very nice piece by eco-designer/TV presenter/all-round eco good guy Oliver Heath (no, I don’t know him personally, though he is a fellow Brightonian) on a year with his Vauxhall Ampera. Some insight into how it’s changed his driving style and approach; and 95% of his journeys have been electrically-powered. And he’s charging his car from his domestic rooftop solar array, too. His blog in general is a good resource for anyone interested in eco-building, green design and suchlike.
  • Sheffield’s getting a tram-train. More at Wired.


Porsche P1, other EV-related news

January 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

porsche p1Porsche is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the opening of its (most excellent) museum with a new exhibit: Ferdinand Porsche’s first-built car, the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2. Phaeton (“P1”, for short). This 116-year-old vehicle, one of the first vehicles registered in Austria (26th June, 1898), has been rediscovered and will be shown unrestored. Its 3hp electric-drive system weighed just 130kg and could take it up to 22mph, with an overboost-type system and 12-speed controller giving up to 5hp for short bursts; range was up to 50 miles. Not bad for what was, essentially, a motorised horse-cart, which had the additional advantage of summer/winter body styles.

This particular car went to the September 1899 international motor show in Berlin, and took part in a 25-mile race for electric vehicles – coming in 18 minutes ahead of the nearest opposition, though half of the competitors failed to finish. It also charted the best energy consumption in urban “traffic”.

  • So the UK government (OLEV, with the SMMT, in partnership with car-makers) has launched its Go Low Ultra website with info on EVs, charging, cost incentives and sweeteners, vehicles producing less than 75g/km tailpipe emissions (including plug-in hybrids, range-extended EVs) and the Zap-Map of public charging points. Not a lot of detailed information – it’s pretty basic-level stuff, written in a clear but verging-on-the-condescending style – but well, it’s something.
  • Honda has started field-testing its MC-β micro-EV and a solar recharging system in Miyakojima City; three PV recharging stations have been supplied by project partner Toshiba. Trials are also underway in Kumamoto Prefecture and Saitama City, but the Miyakojima project has the additional focus of evaluating EV use on a small island, where distances travelled are short and fuels otherwise have to be shipped in from the mainland. More at Green Car Congress.

Oil insecurity, Nissan’s first EV, and hydrogen from plants?

April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

nissan tamaOil insecurity in the UK: 32% of our oil is imported now, compared to exports of 40% in 2001, according to a report by Deloitte for the RAC Foundation. 75% of all petroleum products in the country are consumed by transport; we’re a net importer of diesel in particular, because “our ageing oil refineries are also struggling to meet the demand”, with most coming from the Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Belgium and the US. Two national oil refineries have closed in the last decade, leaving the country with seven, of which “all but one has been up for sale within the past three years”. As North Sea stocks dwindle, “we are becoming more dependent on international markets and foreign suppliers to keep the nation moving”, and “our inability to meet our oil and roadfuel requirements is a potential timebomb”, says Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

  • Nissan has restored one of the 1947 Tama EVs (pictured) made by Prince Motor, its predecessor company (previously Tachikawa Airplane). Nice video about the vehicle, and Japan’s early experiments with e-mobility post-WWII, here. Built for a time of oil shortages and infrastructural crises… now there’s an idea. The Tama had lead-acid batteries and a range of over 96km; its top speed was only 35kmph, but enough for it to serve as a taxi until 1950. The Tama Senior, an electric saloon, was also made. A handy history of Nissan’s EVs here, btw.
  • Realistically, this ain’t exactly the answer to the  top-mentioned problem either, but… Porsche is introducing a plug-in hybrid Panamera. This 416hp Panamera S E-Hybrid returns up to 91mpg/71g/km (a very averaged-out sort-of-NEDC figure, really for compo purposes only), features regenerative braking and can be quick-charged in 2.5 hours or four hours from a standard domestic socket; it can do up to 22 miles in all-electric mode (11-22 miles range cited as an achievable everyday possibility) and 84mph (168mph possible from the engine, incidentally). Acceleration 0-62mph? 5.5 seconds, and it can coast in all-electric mode at high speeds too; transmission is the eight-speed Tiptronic S auto ‘box. Charging status, battery management and remote operation of the climate control can be monitored via the Porsche Car Connect smartphone app.
  • More hopeful news, albeit for further into the future? A team from Virginia Tech has developed biocatalysts to extract hydrogen from plant matter, which could “help end our dependence on fossil fuels”, says Professor YH Percival Zhang. More here.
  • US buyers of the Fiat 500e are to get 12 days’ worth of free ICE-rental via a deal with Enterprise (excl. insurance and fuel), reports Automotive News, to cover them should they wish to travel beyond the 500e’s 80-mile range.
  • Chinese car-maker Geely and the Kandi Technology Corporation are forming a JV to make mass-market EVs and electric solutions for the public transport system of Hangzhou, “an electric vehicle test pilot city”. Statement of intent posted here. Could these EVs be for some kind of car club/share?
  • All-electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class will go on sale in the US next year; release posted here. Plus more on that Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, to “sell a million in Portlandia”, suggests Autoblog Green. Slightly less old-school SUV-style than the Highlander, Pathfinder and QX60 hybrids also unveiled in New York, I suppose.
  • Was peak VMT (vehicle miles travelled) in the US three years ago? Or is the downturn a blip like 1979? Debate at the Twin City Sidewalks blog (via AutoblogGreen).
  • FutureDrive Live (previously known as EcoVelocity) has been canned. The show was due to take place next month as an add-on to the Ideal Home show at ExCel, but apparently not enough exhibitors had been signed up.
  • California’s Green Automotive Company, a distributor of EVs and already the owner of Liberty Automotive (converter of Range Rovers) has now snapped up GoinGreen, the UK distribution agents for the G-Wiz. More here.

Government grants for EV charger installation; but is ‘green design’ dead?

February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

volvo c30 electricThe government’s OLEV (Office for Low Emissions Vehicles) is putting up £37million to aid EV and plug-in vehicle recharging. Private EV owners/buyers can claim a grant to cover up to 75% of the cost of installing a charging point at their home (to a limit of £1000); local authorities can claim 75% of the cost of on-street facilities (including fast-chargers), as can railway operators for installing charging points at stations, and public-sector organisations and facilities such as police, NHS or local government departments can get a free installation. Full press release here, which also notes that over 3200 claims have been made for the plug-in car and plug-in van grants scheme up to the end of 2012. Claims October-December 2012 were 20% higher than for the previous quarter, suggesting that contrary to stories that EV sales are dead in the water, sales of plug-in cars continue to gain momentum (including plug-in hybrids now, of course).

  • Yet apparently ‘green design’ is so over, at least from a marketing point of view, because “tech has killed green” – check out this column at dezeen. Such are the whims and vagaries of style, etc., though the writer does make the point that, to some extent, “green has become normal” – i.e. designers are using lower-energy materials and processes now anyway, even if the finished product isn’t marketed as ‘green’ as such. Salient to transport/mobility, too, because if you can’t persuade people to make more sustainable transport choices based on their environmental beliefs and values, how else can you do it? Through appealing to their interest in tech, perhaps?
  • In a neat piece of synchronicity, I’ve just been reading a presentation (available here, under ‘Symposium: Identity and Car Use’) by Dr Lorraine Whitmarsh (Cardiff University, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research), who found that though self-identity, values and attitudes predict some environmentally-friendly behaviours (recycling, taking measures to save energy, for example) when it comes to travel choices, there is an inconsistency and disconnect between attitudes and actions. In other words, even if people see themselves as being ‘green’ and eco-friendly, that doesn’t necessarily translate into any changes in their transport/travel behaviour – they will still drive or fly. The influential factors are, says Whitmarsh, demographic – age, location, density of local area, availability of alternatives and soforth. But does the same hold true when it comes to self-identity as an early-adopter of technology? Is there more of a correlation between values and behaviour on this score? That’s what I’m researching…

The hidden agenda behind the Toyota 2000GT EV

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

So Toyota’s 2000GT EV, as shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently, is more than just a fun project… Autocar today quotes Toyota engineer Naohiko Saito as saying that this concept’s powertrain is “an early part of the development process in refining the technology” for a production EV, with an electric city car to appear before a sports car. These vehicles are expected to get a manual gearbox, using a torque-converter to set gear ratios, and Toyota’s hybrids are also to gain a manual-transmission option. This is at least three years away, however.

  • Autocar’s also updating us on Tesla’s upcoming third model-line, scheduled for 2015. This is a BMW 3-Series-type electric vehicle, to cost from around $30,000 (£19,000) and be “more experimental” than the Model S; its platform could spawn a number of variants, even including a pick-up truck.
  • The European Commission has put forward some amended targets for CO2 reduction: an average 95g/km for cars by 2020 with a mandatory 130g/km in 2015, and 147g/km for vans with 175g/km mandatory from 2017. Manufacturers will be fined €95 per vehicle per gram/km over the target, but incentives and “super credits” will be put in place for vehicles emitting less than 35g/km. All detailed nicely at Green Car Congress.
  • Latest on Chargemaster’s POLAR network of EV recharging facilities: it is teaming up with Transport for London’s Source London to install more chargers in London. This private-public partnership will add 200 new jointly-branded POLAR/Source London fast-charge points in the city this year, and the first of these – at the Waitrose store in North End Road, Fulham – went live yesterday. All POLAR members will be automatically enrolled into the Source London scheme and able to use those charging points  from August.
  • Daimler is expanding further into the world of mobility management services with a scheme called moovel, to be piloted in Stuttgart. A mobile app has been developed to integrate information from local transport providers such as train and bus companies with a ride-sharing/car-pooling scheme, and in phase two of the trial, Daimler’s Car2Go short-term rentals will enter the equation as well (thanks, Green Car Congress).
  • Worth mentioning for its name alone, though it’s only a 25mph golf cart/mobility scooter: the Eggasus, an upright three-wheeled EV with all-weather ability, has just gone on sale in California after being a finalist in the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge. Initial models cost from $5000, through a crowd-funding social venture – expect to see more of such set-ups in the EV start-up world. More at Inside Line.
  • The Portuguese police force is the first to use the Nissan LEAF; it has taken delivery of eight, which will be deployed mainly for the force’s Safe Schools initiative and for use in urban centres. Pic and more info at EV Fleet World.
  • EVs by divine decree: the Pope has been given an NWG Zero, a two-seat EV which can do 62mph and 86 miles per charge (not that you’d need all that, around the Vatican). However, it can’t accommodate all the armouring necessary to protect the Pope against assassination attempts, so he’s unlikely to use it; instead, Mercedes-Benz is working on an M-Class plug-in hybrid for Papal duties. More at Green Car Reports.

Elektromotive/Charge Your Car to establish UK’s largest pay-as-you-go EV charging network

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Brighton firm Elektromotive is forming a joint venture with Charge Your Car (North) in a bid to create the UK’s largest pay-as-you-go EV charging network. The existing Charge Your Car (North) network will be expanded, and will incorporate other regional facilities under the Charge Your Car banner; a target of 10,000 public-access EV chargers has been set. They will use Elektromotive’s technology, including its pay-by-phone software, user interface and back-office management, though any charging point (and not just the company’s Elektrobays, of which over 3000 have been installed already) can be integrated into the network as long as it meets the industry-standard Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). Users will not need to pay a monthly subscription, and will be able to locate their nearest Charge Your Car point via smartphone; billing, facility management and reporting will all be integrated.

“Charge Your Car is the perfect catalyst for the EV market and supports all the stakeholders with an interest in EVs,” says Elektromotive MD Calvey Taylor-Haw.  “Charge point owners in both the public and private sectors have a way to promote their charge points, generate revenue and manage their infrastructure.  EV drivers have a single access point for recharging that is quick, easy and affordable.  Charge point manufacturers have a company that will help them to sell more charge points and electric vehicle manufacturers have a company that will help them to sell more vehicles.  We are also seeking partners who wish to implement Charge Your Car outside of the UK, establishing it as one of the world’s leading recharging brands.”

In other news today:

  • Meanwhile, hydrogen: Germany plans to have 50 public-access hydrogen refuelling stations operational by 2015. The Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, along with companies including Daimler, Linde AG and Total Germany have signed a letter of intent to expand the network, and the federal government and industry are investing over 40million euros in the project. They expect around 5000 fuel cell cars to be on the road in Germany by 2015; there are currently 15 hydrogen refuelling facilities.
  • Venturi has completed its Mission Africa trek – 5800km Kilimanjaro to Okavango in the Venturi-Citroen Berlingo EV. Full story, video and some great pictures at the Mission Africa blog.
  • Just to remind you that EVs are nothing new: the Green Car Reports team have come across a 1981 Jet 007 (an electric conversion of the Plymouth Horizon TC3 coupe) on eBay. Eighties retro ahoy! Looks like it needs a bit of work, though…
  • And some more retro: students at Roanoke College,Virginia, are converting a lovely 1939 Pontiac Silver Streak to electric drive – looks like a great project.

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