And the year-end final round-up…

December 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

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

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

Concept of the Day: ACCIONA Dakar Rally racer

December 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

noticia_prensa1It’s the first all-electric Dakar rally contender: developed by Spanish engineering/construction corporation ACCIONA, this off-roading buggy features solar panels, four swappable lithium-ion battery packs (giving 140kWhr) and a 300hp/700Nm motor (more spec here) and it’s built around a lightweight chrome-moly tubular frame with carbonfibre composite body-panels. It’s said to have a range of 350km in race conditions, which should prove sufficient for the stages. Its progress in the event, which kicks off this year from Buenos Aires on 4th January and covers 9000km through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, can be followed here. Drivers are Albert Bosch and Agustín Payá. I wouldn’t normally support charging around Patagonia and other sensitive ecosystems etc in fast cars, but at least this lot shouldn’t have offensive numberplates…

  • The driverless vehicle research team leading road-test projects in Milton Keynes and Coventry is to be called UK Autodrive; the project will be led by Arup, and besides the driverless ‘pods’ in Milton Keynes – L-SATS (Low-Speed Autonomous Transport System), for areas including otherwise pedestrianised zones, as ‘last-mile’ solutions – a semi-autonomous Range Rover research vehicle will also hit the road. The testing is to develop in-car, V2V and V2X (vehicle-to-infrastructure) tech, as well as legal and insurance protocols, and studying of social and economic implications. It’s funded by Innovate UK to the tune of £10million, with consortium members upping the budget to £19.2m for the three-year programme. Jaguar Land Rover is to look at human-machine interfaces both for the Range Rover research car and for the pods.
  • Plus: TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is leading an £8million project to test driverless cars in Greenwich, E London. This will involve fully automated shuttles (out on the Peninsula to the O2 centre/ExCel?), automated valet parking, with attention to integration into the wider multi-modal network in the area. Responses from the general public are to be monitored on social media as part of the research. More here.
  • BMW’s launched its DriveNow car-share in London: 210 BMW 1-Series and Mini Countrymans (Countrymen?) available initially, with 30 i3s joining the fleet next spring and 300 cars on-street by the end of 2015. It’ll only operate in Islington, Haringey and Hackney initially, but plans are for later expansion; charges are 39p a minute, with an hourly cap of £20, but packages including £35/three hours (with 40 free miles) and £120/24 hours (125 free miles) are on offer. There’s a one-off registration fee of £29. More here.

Tuesday news round-up

June 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

mievevo3Mitsubishi’s got a 603bhp EV to go up the hill at Pikes Peak this year: more on the i-MiEV Evolution III (pictured) at Autocar. All good for EV consciousness-raising…

And in other news today:

  • Apps to simulate EV use/ownership are seen as an important way of engaging potential buyers, and one’s been developed for the Bollore Group (maker of the BlueCar), reports EIN Newsdesk. It’s a 3D ‘augmented reality’ experience for tablets, by ATOS (yes, that one, I believe, but its IT services division rather than the outsourcing lot doing the benefits assessments), and “enables our future customers to easily observe the specific advantages of Bluecar”, says the Blue Solutions sales director.
  • McLaren – an all-electric supercar is under consideration, and all models will become hybridised (to some degree) in the next ten years, reports Edmunds.
  • Eight US states have announced an 11-step plan to get 3.3million zero-emissions cars on their roads by 2025: more on the Multi-State ZEV Action Plan here, but the key take-outs are encouraging fleet adoption, investing in charging infrastructure and simplifying legislation.
  • On a cycling note: the retro-look pedelecs (tech by Applus Idiada) from Barcelona’s Otocycles are pretty damn cool.
  • Peugeot-Citroen is considering canning its EV-making relationship with Mitsubishi and rethinking its EV strategy, reports Reuters. Contributing factors: sales of just 651 Citroen C-Zeros and 455 Peugeot iOns in Europe last year (down from 3,142 and 3,080 in 2012, respectively), says Automotive News Europe. Of course, it may be due to both models remaining ridiculously expensive, and other cheaper, more advanced and/or more desirable alternatives (namely the Renault Zoe and BMW i3) coming to market… (thanks, Green Car Website).
  • Demo of the Alcoa/Phinergy aluminium-air ‘1000-mile’ battery car in Montreal: video and more details here. The aluminium hydroxides produced are fully-recyclable, but note that these batteries are not rechargeable… electrolyte-swaps (in this case, water) needed.
  • Natural gas vehicles: worldwide sales of light-duty NGVs will grow from 2.5million to 4.2million a year by 2023, according to the latest forecasts from Navigant Research. That means nearly 40 million NGVs on the road in the next 1- years, 2.6% of all vehicles.  And more on the whole erdgas thing from me here
  • And here’s a sad story/salutary lesson about attempting a cross-Europe trip in an EV right now… Even careful planning can’t foresee technical failures, the problems of French public holidays, and the sheer stupidity of a public network operated by multiple providers with incompatible access requirements. This is the difference between doing such a journey in a high-range Model S with access to the private Supercharger network and being an average (albeit well-informed) member of the public in a Leaf. And why there is still so much work to be done before electromobility is truly viable on a mainstream level.
  • In Japan, however, Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda are joining forces in the Nippon Charge Service to develop a universal network… lowdown here.
  • Some market research on how happy EV owners (US) are with their purchases: net promoter scores calculated by PlugInsights put Tesla Model S owners as the most satisfied, with Chevy Volt drivers also pleased, though Nissan Leaf owners’ NPS has fallen. And 96.7% of all surveyed would have another EV or RE-EV. More at Green Car Reports.
  • Batteries disguised as car seats? Carbon nanotube composite yarns could be woven into upholstery fabrics, according to research from Wuhan University (more here).
  • Traffic jams are getting worse, with congestion and journey times rising 1% in the last year, according to research by TomTom. Most congested city in the UK is Belfast, followed by London, Edinburgh, Bristol then Brighton & Hove (no surprises there, says a resident…). Lowdown here.



Concept of the Day: Hyundai Intrado

December 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

hyundai intradoA 2014 Geneva Motor Show preview already. The Hyundai Intrado concept (codenamed HED-9) showcases the company’s latest design thinking, as well as a next-generation hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain – smaller and lighter than in the current iX35 Fuel Cells – and, arguably most interestingly, a new “super-lightweight” structure said to be “a mixture of advanced materials”, “joined using a revolutionary technique that has the potential to change the way cars are constructed in the future”. It has been styled and engineered mostly at Hyundai’s European R&D centre in Russelsheim. “Intrado”, btw, is the underside of an aircraft wing which produces lift. Oh, and also to appear in Geneva: a 141mpg-plus plug-in hybrid city car from Renault, reports MSN, probably a variant of the next-gen Twingo.

In other news this week:

  • The French postal service is testing three Renault Kangoo ZE electric vans fitted with a prototype hydrogen fuel cell range extender system. These HyKangoos have their range doubled thanks to the Symbio FCell conversion kit; more details at Green Car Congress.
  • Bollore – maker of the BlueCar and its operator in the Paris AutoLib carshare – is to take over the running of the Source London EV charging network. Full story at Transport Evolved.
  • Car production and sales in the UK and EU should pick up in 2014, with renewed enthusiasm for EVs thanks to the launch of range-extended models like the BMW i3, according to the 2014 KPMG Global Automotive Executive Survey.
  • A prototype FAW-Volkswagen Bora (Chinese-market Jetta) is being fitted with Protean in-wheel motors for a hub-driven electric-drive powertrain. More tech details at Green Car Congress.
  • Audi’s 2014 Le Mans contender, the R18 e-tron quattro, supplements its V6 TDI engine with kinetic energy storage (KERS) at the front axle with an optimised flywheel storage system, and an electric turbocharger with heat energy recovery. With additional help from enhanced aerodynamics, fuel economy (though such things are in the context of a 24-hour race) is improved by some 30%. Tech trickledown? And Porsche’s LMP1 – direct injection petrol – also features a pair of energy recovery systems.
  • Meanwhile, Audi’s concept to debut in Detroit next month, a compact crossover-type vehicle (probably Q1), is another e-tron model, though no firm details as yet to the degree of its electrification.
  • Toyota’s planning to sell only 5-10,000 FCVs a year from the 2015 launch, but reckons fuel cell vehicles will be price-competitive by 2030, and from 2020, “just one alternative of the eco cars”. Interview, quotes, more detail at Automotive News Europe.
  • Bosch is claiming its next-gen stop-start system – with ‘coasting’ mode – gives fuel savings of 10% over current systems. More here.
  • Scania is to lead a three-year EU-funded research project on digitally-enabled truck platooning. More here.
  • The E-Car Club has launched its third pay-per-use EV-share scheme in Hemel Hempstead (joining Oxford and London). More here. There’s a fleet of Renault Fluence and Zoe EVs from £5.50 an hour.

Concept of the Day: Hyundai Fuel Cell Farm

October 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

hyundai fuel cell farmOK, it’s a gimmick, but Hyundai’s Fuel Cell Farm is quite a charming concept. It’s a contained aquaponics ecosystem – plants growing in water, fed by waste from fish, using waste water from the ix35’s tailpipe – and is on display at the mo at the Design Museum, London. More here. But where does the hydrogen come from? Two refuelling stations in London, a third on the way, but the fuel itself still has to be synthesized from somewhere.

And in other recent green cars/transportation news:

  • An on-demand, personally-tailored bus service – accessed using smartphone apps – is being trialled in Helsinki.  The Kutsuplus service chargers users in its nine-seat minibuses by the mile, clustering together people who want to travel in the same direction. More details on the story from Treehugger.
  • The system is the solution for sustainable urban transportation, and it’s about access (incl. financial) rather than the transport itself, according to a big new report from UN Habitat, “Planning and Design for Sustainable Urban Mobility”. Worth a read…
  • Minimising the need for ‘forced car ownership’ would address growing social and environmental concerns, says a report from Sustrans discussing ‘transport poverty’.
  • The home/car hybrid: Denso and Nagoya University have developed in-vehicle energy management technology to co-ordinate domestic electricity usage and generation (from solar panels) with EV and PHEV charging and energy storage in the car’s batteries. More here.
  • A large-scale trial is to start in Stuttgart of tech to integrate EV/PHEV optimisation, energy demand/supply, traffic/fleet management and the energy and transport sectors on a single platform. The iZeus project is based at KIT, Karlsruhe, and includes 30 Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell vans plus 90 private cars – Smart Fortwo ed, Opel Ampera and Toyota Prius.
  • Over 8000 i3s have been ordered in advance of the European launch next month, and an upping of production is under consideration, says BMW.
  • By 2070, passenger road transport could be almost oil-free. Says who? Shell, outlining two possible scenarios (depending on level of governmental intervention), in a new report discussing transitions and resilience, tipping biomass as an easier/more viable fuel option than hydrogen or 100% renewable electricity.
  • Reality sets in for autonomous car developers? Useful rundown of the challenges – including the possible lack of capacity even with 4G to cope with all the data – here.
  • Volvo is exploring energy storage in car body panels and structural elements, possibly to supplement or even replace batteries; more here.
  • A solar-powered EV-share (on-demand short-term rental scheme) called SUNMOOV has just launched in Lyon; more here. Let’s hope it’s less incendiary (literally) than the Paris Autolib’ has been lately…
  • Discussion on greening the freight sector at Guardian Sust Biz; UPS sees oil as remaining dominant for a long while yet, and diesel best option for road freight, but is liking natural gas, according to latest quotes.
  • Nissan is rolling out its New Mobility Concept (aka Renault Twizy) on trial car-share fleets in Japan: first up is a 30-vehicle fleet in Yokohama, with 100 cars in 70 locations within the year. More here.
  • Interesting blog post at PE (iMechE): connected cars tech is evolving more quickly, but with a different focus, in emerging/developing markets, according to senior engineer at Tech Mahindra.

Concept of the Day: Volkswagen e-load Up!

September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

72949vw-e-loadup1_mediumMy favourite of the concepts shown in Frankfurt this week: the practical Volkswagen e-load Up, a panel-van version of the e-Up city car. It’s got 1400 litres-worth and 1 cubic metre of cargo capacity, does 80mph and has a range of up to 99 miles, more than enough for local load-lugging or delivery duties. It has a five-door layout with the rear windows blanked out, and just two front seats; the passenger seat folds to increase load length. It’ll go into (limited-run) production if there is sufficient demand.

In other news today:

  • Renault has signed a letter of intent with the Bolloré Group – maker of the Bluecar as used in the Paris Autolib’ – for “joint development of car-sharing solutions and the implementation of industrial and commercial cooperation agreements in the field of electric vehicles”. Bolloré has won contracts in Lyon (Bluely), Bordeaux (Bluecub) and Indianapolis (!) as well as Paris, and with Renault, is planning joint-venture tenders for further services internationally. Some Bluecar production could be shifted to Renault’s plant in Dieppe, and a convertible version is to join the range next June; a three-seater with Bolloré’s battery (said to give a range of over 120 miles) is also under development. Renault is also to supply components, and may take a stake in the existing operations in Lyon and Bordeaux. (In a separate story, Bolloré has accused a firm contracted by BMW of industrial espionage; P3 claims its employees were checking charging post compatibility for the i3).
  • Also on an EV-sharing theme: Toyota is partnering with City Carshare in Pleasanton, California (Bay Area), to supply a 30-car fleet of Scion-branded iQ EVs. This pilot scheme will be called Dash; release posted here.
  • Here’s a commitment: Transport Scotland has declared that the country will be free from petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles and their emissions by 2050. It has published an Electric Vehicle Roadmap document, Switched On Scotland, and promised that half of all fossil-fuelled vehicles will be phased out of urban environments by 2030.
  • The City of London has voted for a blanket 20mph limit in the Square Mile (as predicted in yesterday’s Evening Standard; thanks to @livingstreets for tweeting the result of the vote). It’ll join Camden and Islington with this; good news for pedestrians and cyclists. Full release here. This marks quite a step forward in reducing car-dominance in city centres, I reckon.
  • Drayson Racing Technologies has entered into a licence agreement with Qualcomm Inc. to use the latter’s wireless charging tech in the cars it supplies. The 20kW Qualcomm Halo system is fitted in the prototype Drayson B12/69EV electric racer, which  has been undergoing high-speed trials, hill-climbing at Goodwood and setting land-speed records for EVs, and Qualcomm Europe Inc is sponsoring the Drayson Racing team. DRT also says that it is “developing systems for use on road-going EVs and for electric racing cars that will participate in the forthcoming FIA Formula E Championship”.

Prototype of the Day: Spark-Renault SRT_01E

September 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

spark-renault-formula-e-carThis is Renault’s entry in the FIA Formula E Championship for electric vehicles: the single-seater Spark-Renault SRT_01E. The ten-round international series kicks off in September 2014, with ten teams and 20 drivers; Renault is to make the first 40 cars for it, but other manufacturers will get involved later. Renault is responsible for the car’s electric drivetrain, system integration, performance optimisation and safety; McLaren Electronic Systems for development, production and assembly of the powertrain and electronic controls; Williams Advanced Engineering for battery design; Dallara for the monocoque design and construction; and Spark for the suspension, aerodynamics and assembly. The car’s motor delivers 200kW/270hp tothe rear wheels, though in the races, will be limited to 133kW/180hp with a ‘push to pass’ transient mode for overtaking; its body meets conventional F1 regulations, and it’s good for 0-62mph in three seconds though top speed is limited to 200km/h for safety on the urban circuits it will race on. Total weight is 800kg. More here.

  • An energy storage demo project, exploring the use of end-of-life EV batteries, is under development at the Future Technology Centre (a partnership with Gateshead College) in north-east England.  Commissioned by Zero Carbon Futures in collaboration with SR Technology Innovations and tadea, it has come up with a demo unit that can store energy from solar panels for domestic power, EV charging, feeding back into the grid or managing power supplies to minimise exposure to peak tariffs. The unit will be trialled at the centre, where various low-carbon vehicle technologies are under development, and its potential assessed.
  • And KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) is actually going into small-scale production of lithium-ion batteries for electric commercial vehicles and for energy storage, at the same time developing technologies for licensing. More here.
  • A big urban transport trial in Barcelona: 400 people are to test the SUPERHUB smartphone app which gives multi-modal service information and route guidance. The EU-funded three-year SUPERHUB project is already being tested in Helsinki, and a trial in Milan will also start this month. SUPERHUB incorporates route options and modes including local trains, underground trains, cycling and private vehicles, and calculates CO2 production in each case.
  • Johnson Controls is displaying a compact  48-volt micro-hybrid system at the Frankfurt Motor Show, said to deliver up to 15% fuel savings and to power an air conditioning system and other anciliaries at lower cost than a full-hybrid set-up thanks to increased regenerative braking capacity over earlier micro/mild hybrid technologies. More here.
  • The Volkswagen Group is promising 14 electrified – EV or hybrid – vehicles on sale across its brands by 2014, and is “electrifying all vehicle classes”, according to CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, speaking at the Frankfurt Motor Show. More here.

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