December 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
Well, I’m excited about this coming to fruition: Volkswagen’s confirmed the unveiling of the ‘new Microbus’ in concept form at the Detroit motor show early next month, and that it’s the next member of the all-electric I.D. family on the MEB modular platform. The I.D., my favourite car at the Paris motor show, was a really promising start for Volkswagen’s reinvention, and from teaser images so far, the new concept looks as if it’ll share much of the same thinking and character – with a smidgen of additional retro to its styling, perhaps, referencing the original Microbus. The show car will have the same retractable steering wheel as the I.D. for autonomous driving mode, and a suitably “multi-functional, flexible interior” is of course promised. Only details so far on the powertrain are that it’ll involve two motors and all-wheel-drive – and give “a long electric driving range.” This van’s also destined for use in VW’s new Moia mobility services schemes, to include Uber-style ride-hailing. Oh, and other VW news: it’s the seventh company to join the Hubject e-roaming platform for standardised access to EV charging infrastructure. One of my hopes for 2017 is that, following the unforgivable Dieselgate debacle [which will not, I fear, be resolved satisfactorily any time soon] VW gets on track with its electromobility programme. There’s a lot of good and progressive thinking going on at the company, including in terms of design and HMI/interface development, which shouldn’t be overshadowed by what the diesel engineers (and their managers, who must bear some responsibility) have done.
Quick round-up of more recent electromobility news:
- VW, Daimler, BMW plus Ford are also teaming up to bring super-quick 350kW/800-volt charging on the next-generation CCS system, with a network of 400 stations planned across Europe; more here.
- And BMW is offering an automated Digital Charging Service for its i customers to optimise both charging tariff and use of solar-generated electricity – pilot schemes in Germany and the Netherlands next year, drawing upon experience from the ChargeForward programme in the US. All good for successfully integrating EVs into the [renewably-supplied] grid…
- Zap-Map is now offering live charging point info and data covering the Chargemaster/Polar network in the UK, across desktop and iOS/Android platforms. An important breakthrough, this includes real-time status and availability plus feedback from the Zap-Chat peer-to-peer social network. Data from more networks to follow next year.
- Tesla’s taking a stand against poor charger etiquette: the advent of ‘idling’ charges for occupying a charging bay when not actually zapping-up is intended to end the abuse of parking privileges and to free up points. Expect more networks to follow suit, not least to encourage EV drivers to charge at home wherever possible – there are a small number (including interviewees in my own research sample) who actively choose to take advantage of free-at-the-point-of-use charging to save on their domestic bills, and as demand for public charging grows, that ain’t really acceptable behaviour.
- GM is testing the WiTricity wireless charging tech at 7.7kW and 11kW charge rates; more here.
- Uptake of EVs is not related to charging infrastructure either within or around a local authority, according to a case study from Scotland outlined here.
November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Turned down the chance to go to the Saatchi Gallery today for the unveiling of this one – preparing research presentation more important than champagne, canapes and schmoozing, ah well – but here’s the basic lowdown. The NIO brand is the first offspring of NextEV, it’s just set a lap record for EVs around the Nürburgring Nordschliefe and also round the Circuit Paul Ricard, so it’s quick, and it delivers an equivalent 1360hp or 1MW of power (whew). Range? 427km, and it can be charged in 45min or have its batteries swapped. Much as it certainly ain’t a mainstream solution, if it contributes to making EVs desirable and there’s some tech trickledown, surely no bad thing.
- Further good news from Volkswagen: it’s going to re-start car production at the ‘Transparent Factory’ in Dresden (a really lovely piece of industrial architecture/design), and the second-generation e-Golf it’s going to make there will have a claimed battery range of 200km or so. This can be charged to 80% within an hour on the CCS system; the new e-Golf also now develops 100kW, and comes with the standard new-Golf smartphone interface/app connect plus e-Remote for starting/stopping charging, pre-conditioning, etc.
- Nice description here of research into the synergies between micro smartgrids, energy storage and electromobility: the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering is developing a model scalable solution, being tested out in Stuttgart at a 30-EV, solar-panelled parking garage.
- Car ownership is declining slightly in London, although 54% of households still own a car, and there are 2.56million cars registered in London, according to a new paper from TfL… Variations by borough (only 25% car ownership in Islington, 75% in Richmond), access to public transport, income, parenthood and nationality – wealthier Western Europeans with children more likely to have a car, unsurprisingly – as well as age, car ownership peaking at 55-59 years old. Detailed breakdown, some useful stats (thanks for tweeting this one go to @RachelAldred).
- …and further to the above, yet again traffic levels in GB have reached an all-time high, surpassing their pre-recession peak: YTD September 2016 saw 320billion vehicle miles travelled (VMT), up 1.4% on 2015 and up 1.8% on the first three-quarters of 2007. It’s the 15th quarterly successive rise. Of that 320, 250billion VMT was done by cars (up 0.9% on last year) with van traffic up 3.8% and heavy goods up 3.4%; other traffic rises to new highs were noted on motorways and rural A-roads. #peakcar is [was], I think, something of a blip.
- Some US stats and demographic data on EV consumer interest reported here (thanks, @keith_johnston). Hitwise is reporting – over past three years – that “today’s electric vehicle consumer is predominantly affluent, educated and married without children”, and reckons that the most promising demographic for ownership is aged 35-44 (older Gen Y/Gen X prefer to lease), but families with children aren’t convinced yet (except when it comes to Tesla Model S owners, significantly more affluent than the rest and buying a bigger vehicle, obv). Environmental concern expressed, too. Lots of interest – suggesting mainstream breakthrough – in Tesla Model 3, apparently.
- BMW is expanding its ReachNow on-demand car-sharing service to Brooklyn, in addition to Seattle and Portland; the upmarket US alt to DriveNow is offering delivery of vehicles, rentals of up to five days, an ‘exclusive’ residential service [i.e. a private fleet shared between residents of an apartment block] and also, for existing Mini owners, a peer-to-peer rental service. Interesting footnote: all this is enabled by the RideCell ‘white label’ platform – more detail on that here.
- Japanese-American tie-up to create a ‘corridor’ of 50 EV fast-chargers from Monterey, California, to Lake Tahoe, Nevada: the Japan-funded Drivethearc project “will also study EV usage and driving patterns” through its charging app, reports Green Car Congress. Basically, use its facilities, contribute your data…The app will give real-time info on charger vacancy and navigation to points within range, and the stakeholders – Nissan, Kanematsu, EVgo and NEDO – “will analyse and measure charger use patterns to better inform EV charging projects globally”.
- Report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey identifies three distinct outcomes in a move to urban electromobility and autonomous driving during the 2020s. First up – for cities like Delhi, Mexico City, Mumbai with poor infrastructure, there will be a move towards electrification and sharing, but not AVs; sprawling cities like Los Angeles will see elements of autonomy plus electrification, but private cars will remain the primary source of transport; but dense, wealthy cities like London, Hong Kong and Singapore will see much more use of on-demand AVs and a move away from private ownership, they reckon. Handy rundown here.
- Hyundai is offering US customers a series of options with the Ioniq Electric: trad purchase, ‘Ioniq Unlimited’ all-in subscription – or membership of WaiveCar, an all-electric on-demand scheme which gives up to two hours’ use free (and then extra hours at $5.99 an hour). The snag with the latter is that the ‘free’ cars have roof-mounted digital advertising displays… 150 Ioniqs will go on the WaiveCar fleet in LA next year, with the plan for 250 more to go to three further cities by the end of 2017. Unappealing as it sounds, t’will be interesting to see whether this has an impact in the car-share sector, attracts more people to on-demand services, has any impact on local car ownership (or public transport use), etc…
November 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
Around 145,000 new EVs were sold in Europe last year, according to number-crunching by Transport & Environment, reaching the milestone of a 1% market share, and bringing us up to around the total 600,000 mark for EVs on the road in the EFTA area (incl Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). However, though doubled over 2014’s figures, that number includes PHEVs and range-extended EVs as well as all-electric cars and vans – which goes to show that there’s a long way to go yet before mass-market acceptance. Full report, with lots of useful references, here. Picture: updated Volkswagen Golf GTE (plug-in hybrid), unveiled late last week, complete with requisite blue styling details to distinguish it; new all-electric e-Golf to be revealed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
- More good [redemptive] news from Volkswagen: all-EV and PHEV versions of the upcoming T-Roc compact crossover, reports Autocar…
- Finally, finally, the Bollore Group’s Blue City on-demand EV-hire is going into operation in London: first up for the scheme, as seen and well-proven in Paris, will be the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, where an initial batch of five cars will grow to 25 by next spring. The Pininfarina-built Bluecars can be hired for 30 minutes at a time and then left in any Source London EV charging bay, reports the local newspaper.
- And some interesting data from Scotland, analysed by the RAC Foundation: the country’s 870 public EV-charging points, with 1772 sockets/connectors between them (as of August 2016) were used 26,119 times in that month, suggesting charger use has doubled over the year. However, 25% were still not used at all (probably due to incompatibility with vehicles, poorly thought-out locations, and unsuitability of charger type/speed for their location, if the feedback I’ve collected from Scottish EV drivers is any indication; reliability is also an issue). 18% of the chargers available now are rapid-chargers, and these were used 42% of the time. ChargePlace Scotland is also listing 3,575 electric cars and vans licensed in Scotland (to end of June 2016).
- Nissan is launching a car-share service with a social twist: users will be ‘profile-matched’ via data from their social media accounts into local communities to share or ‘part-own’ a Micra. The idea is that the users will have compatible, complementary needs; they will be invoiced monthly for their usage of the car, with rates all-in to encompass servicing and insurance, and have “a financial stake” in the vehicle – part-ownership, rather than on-demand hire. Initial trials of Nissan Intelligent Get & Go Micra will take place in Paris from next spring.
- And something slightly different from Daimler/Mercedes-Benz: its peer-to-peer car-sharing service, Croove, goes on trial in Munich early next month. Any car from any brand, up to 15 years old, can be shared via the smartphone app-based platform: more here.
- And US truck-maker Workhorse, formerly part of Navistar and, before that, known as International (so it has pedigree), is to make an electric pick-up: the four-seater-plus-flatbed W-15 will have a motor driving each axle plus a small petrol engine acting as a range-extender, giving it an all-electric range of a claimed 80 miles and 310 miles all-in. Workhorse has already delivered 125 electric parcel vans to UPS, apparently, and the W-15 is said to be scheduled for production in 2018.
November 4, 2016 § Leave a comment
The team behind the Roborace series plans to launch a delivery van next year; the Charge van, to be built in Oxfordshire, has a claimed all-electric range of 100 miles and a total range of 500 miles with a range-extender powertrain. It’s constructed from lightweight composites and it’s said that it can be built by one person in just four hours. More here. A range of trucks from 3.5 tonnes to 26 tonnes is planned, with potential for autonomous driving as well as wireless over-the-air updates. Charge (not to be confused with the British bicycle-maker) already supplies electric trucks to support Formula E.
- Nissan has installed vehicle-to-grid tech at its technical centre in Cranfield: in partnership with Enel, the eight V2G chargers can feed stored energy back from the plugged-in cars to the grid for load balancing. Enel and Nissan have also signed up their first commercial V2G customer in Europe: Danish utility firm Frederiksberg Forsyning has got 10 units at its HQ. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz is to start selling stationary energy storage systems for residential, commercial and utility applications in the US next year – the M-B answer to the Tesla PowerWall.These consist of 2.5 kWh modules which can be combined for up to 20 kWh of storage.
- More bi-directional charging: the Munich-designed Sono Motors Sion EV is described as both a vehicle and a mobile energy storage unit. Production targeted for 2019, apparently; Sono’s crowdfunding campaign continues.
- About time: an all-electric Mini will be launched in 2019, BMW announced today, and an X3 EV in 2020. BMW’s now marked sales of over 100,000 electrified vehicles. In tech updates, it’s also adding a ‘personal mobility assistant’ function to the Mini Connected app, hooking up navigation with personal calendars and appointment reminders, points of interest, monitoring of fuel levels and service station data, and a degree of ‘learning’ about drivers’ habits. All pertinent for similar assistance to be offered to EV drivers, of course.
- Much discussion on MAAS (mobility as a service) and feedback from providers [with useful stats] at a TU-Automotive conference this week: handy digest here.
November 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
In a belated post-match analysis, as it were, there was certainly no shortage of new product at the Paris motor show. Probably the most important new model, I reckon, was the Volkswagen I.D. concept: not just electric, but a ground-up design for something global, highly-adaptable, highly-connected and versatile, which should, crucially, be affordable, accessible and mass-market. If VW can pull this off and get it to production [scheduled for 2020] without too many of its key points dialled down, it’s a potential game-changer (as well as a crucial reputation-saver for the firm itself). The pre-fit for autonomous driving [targeted for 2025] is a bit of a red herring, I think; the nice stuff here is the blank-space interior into which owners/users bring their digital preferences, settings and personalisation details – ideal for a shared/on-demand vehicle – and also what the interior designers are calling ‘physical apps’: extra interior features, from bike-carriers to storage consoles to extra screens, which can be retro-fitted or even hired as needed. All good for extending the versatility and service-life of a vehicle. There’s a real focus on simplifying HMI for more intuitive interactions, too. I’ve written about all this at more length here [sorry, subs req]. And the I.D. is the first vehicle in a family on Volkswagen’s new MEB modular electric-drive platform, too.
The Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ, meanwhile, was a good-looking and well thought-out proposal too – and close to production – but a more conventional upper-end like-for-like substitution of an ICE vehicle. Note the car-to-X [infrastructure] comms though, enabling real-time info on nearby recharging facilities (including, potentially, inductive) and re-routing/mapping where appropriate.
No shortage of new metal and new ideas unveiled in the last month or so since the show, either, not least many a Chinese-brand EV and PHEV, and the return, yet again, of the irrepressible Henrik Fisker, but I’ve been particularly amused by the autonomous rolling greenhouse that is the Rinspeed Oasis… [to be seen at CES in January]. Honda’s 3D-printed Micro Commuter mini-delivery van is perhaps more useful, though: this also signals OEMs moving in on this territory to deliver low-cost customised solutions. Also intriguing is the launch of Geely’s sub-brand Lynk & Co, less for the car itself – though it’s a nice-enough looking SUV (electrified versions to be offered) – than for the no-showroom all-in pay-as-you-go/lease/loan/share sales model, and for details such as the open API and always-on wifi, with the view to development of additional services, functions and mobility options.
Other random, miscellaneous recent news snippets worthy of note:
- ‘Intelligent’ electric vehicle charging and vehicle-to-grid communication can negate the need for static energy storage, according to a study by UC Irvine, and if charging can be scheduled/shifted to align with renewable electricity generation, then otherwise lost electricity is captured in the overall energy supply system: issue is breaking US EV drivers’ habits of immediate on-demand charging. More here.
- Toyota has created a Mobility Services Platform and is teaming up with US carshare provider Getaround; the programme will include smartphone access/ignition for vehicles via a ‘smart key box’. More here.
- Exciting or terrifying? GM’s OnStar platform is to incorporate the IBM Watson cognitive mobility platform, delivering up personalised content, reminders and ‘in-vehicle experiences’, from parking advice to shopping reminders and fuel payments, plus, yuk, giving drivers ‘the ability to connect and interact with their favourite brands’. More here.
September 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
Hooray! Here’s the ideal iteration of the Smart city cars: all fourth-generation models, including the four-seater ForFour, are now offered in electric-drive form, with European sales from early next year. Motive power is 60 kW/160Nm, giving a claimed range of up to 160km, and 22kW fast-charging capacity can give a full charge (three-phase) in less than 45 minutes, depending on local supply [2.5 hours in UK/Euro spec, however]. Two-seater Smarts are built in Hambach, Germany, and the four-seater in Novo Mesto, Slovenia; they feature batteries from Daimler subsidiary Accumotive (Saxony), and drive systems from Renault in Clèon, Northern France. There’s an eco mode with max energy recuperation, boosted by a radar sensor to predict oncoming traffic slowdowns and suchlike, as well as pre-heating/cooling and remote-monitoring apps. More details and spec here.
- The latest BMW-Bosch-Vattenfall second-life battery energy storage project is now being tested in Hamburg: this has 2MW, 2800 kWhr capacity in 2,600 battery modules from over 100 EVs, and is being evaluated for its role in achieving grid stability. It’s delivering ‘primary control reserve power’ on demand, but could, theoretically, supply enough energy to power a two-person household for seven months.
- An oft-requested service/function: ChargePoint [US] has introduced Waitlist, which enables EV drivers to ‘line up’ for a public charging point which is in use. Drivers can use a phone app or RFID card to indicate that they want to charge, and reminders will be sent to drivers when their car has finished charging or reached a time/energy limit to make the point available [like ChargeBump]. It’s been tested with 30 point providers serving 14,000 drivers, and ChargePoint reports that it increased point utilisation by 20% on average, and by 45% at busy stations – efficiencies are being achieved. More here.
- Looking forward to seeing this Volkswagen EV concept next week at the Paris motor show; it’s said to promise a 250-300 mile range and 15-minute fast-charging, and will go into production in 2019. Though having a conventional steel body, it’s said to pack Passat-like interior space into a Golf-sized hatchback body, easily accessed via sliding rear doors. To be fully-connected with a transferable Volkswagen ID app for settings and preferences, too.
- But on an even more practical – and here-and-now – note, Volkswagen is continuing to try and redeem itself post-#dieselgate by selling the e-Crafter van from next year. This commercial vehicle can shift over 1700kg, has a range of over 200km, and has unimpaired cargo capacity.
September 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Danish start-up Spiri has produced a “lab on wheels” purpose-designed prototype EV for its on-demand car-sharing/car-pooling service: this ultra-light (750kg) carbonfibre urban runaround has no interior panels, no paint, and around a quarter of the components (700) of a conventional passenger car, reports TechCrunch, helping it to a claimed 200-mile range between recharges. Most impressively, Spiri is aiming for passenger journey pricing on a par with bus tickets in the selected cities it aims to launch in – and free travel for drivers who pick up passengers along their way, in a neat twist/extension to the usual on-demand offering. The system is based around ‘virtual bus stops’ and pick-up points, with ‘Spiri hubs’ for parking and recharging. Design-wise, it’s an interesting thing with closely-placed front wheels (Spiri also experimented with a three-wheel layout, it appears) for a max-capacity interior, seating four plus luggage with wide-opening doors for easy access.
Nice mobility concept from the Lohr Group (Strasbourg) unveiled at InnoTrans show this week: the Cristal is an all-electric shuttle bus for ‘last mile’ connections which can be operated by a driver, or by a service user on an on-demand basis. Up to four Cristals can be coupled together, and the boxy interior can be configured in various ways, i.e. for wheelchair access, seating, or accommodating up to 20 standing passengers. More here.
And the Siemens-RWTH Aachen Future Train: concept designed by BMW DesignWorks, modular, supporting different cabin structures for different purposes, flexible, highly-connected and -automated, with an eye to multi-modal transport link-ups, i.e. by ‘robo-taxi’ home pick-ups to connect with train stops. More here…
- A new research project, Electric Nation, launched last week at the LCV2016 show: it’s aiming to recruit 500-700 EV drivers to test the capabilities of local electricity networks and trial a smart-charging solution to even out grid load. Participants will get a free charger installed; initially, drivers are being recruited in the South West, South Wales and the Midlands, in the Western Power Distribution (WPD) area. The project will look at the energy demands of EVs in ‘clusters’, and builds on the My Electric Avenue research by looking at different types of EV and people using different substation feeders. More details here.
- And Tesla execs are talking about bi-directional charging and vehicle-to-grid, enabled by the next-gen inverter, reports Electrek…
- Nissan has unveiled a concept pick-up truck: the Navara EnGuard (Double Cab) is proposed as a rescue/emergency services vehicle, and besides kit for emergency/disaster relief, it shows off a prototype portable battery pack for emergency generation. This features seven Nissan battery modules, charged from the engine, to power specialist equipment; Nissan describes it as exploring how battery tech “can be integrated further into society” and “a real-world example of how it could be applied to new sectors, to provide cleaner, more sustainable power solutions.” Which can only be good.
- Some ‘peak car’ research (in Transport Policy, January 2017): US Millennials (born 1980s/90s) own fewer cars than earlier generations did at their age – unless they have moved out of their parental home, in which case they actually own slightly more cars than expected, given their relatively low incomes. “We caution planners to temper their enthusiasm about ‘peak car’, as this may largely be a manifestation of economic factors that could reverse in coming years,” say Klein & Smart. [thanks to @scottericlevine for that heads-up, & to more on peak car here…]