Concept of the Day: Faraday Future FF 91

January 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

ff91Considerably prettier than the Chrysler Portal (see previous post), and also somewhat faster: the FF 91 is claimed to give the equivalent of 1050hp/780-odd kW and dragstrip-style acceleration (0-60mph in under 2.5 seconds), plus a range of 378 miles between recharges. And Faraday Future (backed by Chinese firm LeEco) is actually taking deposits and pre-orders, despite reports of a dubious financial situation: it put on a confident show at CES in Vegas last night (although there was a self-parking demo malfunction, apparently), and good luck to them.  The FF 91 is a roomy, high-riding four-seater, part-way between crossover and MPV, with rear-hinged rear doors; the powertrain comprises three motors, two to the rear with torque-vectoring plus one up front for all-wheel-drive. It features Faraday’s patented FF Echelon Inverter, said to be simpler, lower-cost to make and more energy-efficient than others available, and its monocoque body is based around Faraday’s scalable variable platform architecture.  It’s highly-connected, of course, with tech including facial recognition, remote monitoring, LIDAR for autonomous-driving capability, rear-view cameras with HD live-streaming, plus a liquid-crystal polychromatic roof and NASA-inspired ‘zero gravity’ reclining rear seats.  The FFID ‘global profile’ account connects users to the FF Ecosystem for preferences and services. It’s all well-thought-out, well-executed and cleverly-designed, though clearly it’s not going to be a mass-market model. More details here.

 

Concept of the Day: Volkswagen I.D. ‘Microbus’

December 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

vw_ebusWell, 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.

Concept of the Day: NIO EP9

November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

nio-ep9Turned 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…

Concept of the Day: Charge delivery van

November 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

charge-delivery-vanThe 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.

Smart electrifies all round

September 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

smart fortwo electric drive; Exterieur: schwarz; Interieur: schwarz ;Elektrischer Energieverbrauch gewichtet: 12,9 kWh/100km ; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km smart fortwo electric drive; exterior: black; interior: black; Electric power consumption, weighted: 12.9 kWh/100km; CO2 emissions combined: 0 g/km

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.

amber-oneAnother ride-share service with a purpose-designed vehicle: Amber Mobility plans to offer a 33-euro weekly subscription to use the Amber One, a  650kg EV said to have a 250-mile range, a top speed of 93mph, 0-60mph in around seven seconds, ‘modularity’ for easy updates and upgrades and potential autonomous-driving capabilities. Prototyping next year, a small production run in 2018, apparently. Amber’s Corporate Mobility trial programme [using BMW i3s, to start with] is set to begin next month in the Netherlands, based around a hub in Eindhoven. More at Electrek.
  • 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.

Concept of the Day: ACM City eTaxi

June 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

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

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

Geneva 2016: the aftermath

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

IMG_1312So, Geneva: a good show for electromobility, though probably a better event for supercar-lovers this year. If one got past the stands of McLaren, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Pagani et al, there were plenty of plug-ins nonetheless, covering pretty well all sectors of the market. At the exotic high-concept end was the Italdesign GTZero (pictured) – three motors giving 483bhp, a modular structure also allowing for a hybrid powertrain and a Lamborghini Espada-like design demeanour – and at the other, barely-even-a-car, end I have to admit that the styled up Citroen e-Mehari by Courreges (second image, below) caught my eye. Nice to see the Volkswagen Budd-e for real, too – lovely clean-looking design with a minimal, modern interior and well-developed connected-car vision, as well as its (putative) electric powertrain.

IMG_1304In between the extremes came the electric/PHEV/hybrid Hyundai Ioniq (exceedingly dull to look at, but then that’s probably the point; an important mainstream vehicle, all the same), the similarly three-way SsangYong SIV-2 SUV (still at concept stage), the oddball Morgan EV3, Toyota’s hybrid CH-R compact crossover, the Lexus LC 500h coupe (an underrated good-looker, I thought), plus the [Citroen] DS E-tense electric coupe concept (see below), which was great fun if, it has to be said, a bit silly and show-offy.

 

IMG_1331Croatia’s Rimac Automobili brought along its very limited-edition Concept_One supercar and its new ‘evil twin’, the Concept S (pictured), though the company’s tech and batteries are really where it’s at, and though there wasn’t any new news as such from Quant, it put on a strong stand with the near-road-ready Quantino, larger Quant F and a mock-up of how to refuel its nanoflowcell batteries with ioniq liquid (electrolyte-swapping; image below).

 

 

IMG_1327Nissan brought along the autonomous IDS as seen in Detroit with news that it was going to introduce ‘piloted drive’ on the Qashqai, as well as talking about its connected-car vision which includes smart EV-charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid link-ups enabling cars-as-energy-hubs; its ‘fuel station of the future’ concept co-developed with Foster & Partners describes autonomous parking-up to wirelessly charge, for example. Lots of talk about ‘mobility’, not least from Volkswagen which announced three new ‘Volkswagen Future Centers’ in Potsdam, China and California where designers and ‘digitalisation experts’ will work alongside each other on software, UX, HMI/interface design, infotainment, new interior concepts and services; it was bullish about electromobility, too, with big investment in Audi in particular to spearhead new plug-in model introductions. Hyundai also announced its ‘Project Ioniq’, research & development on future mobility ideas. Much, then, in the wake of #dieselgate, to be positive about.

 

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