Uruguayan electricity and other stories…

December 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

gttc-5Slightly off-topic but I have been particularly struck by the news today from the Paris summit that Uruguay – a small and not very wealthy country – has achieved an electricity mix of 94.5% renewables. Without government subsidies, or rising consumer prices. That’s 55% of the overall energy mix including transport fuels, with wind, hydro, solar and biomass all playing a part – but no nuclear. It’s good for business, too, energy accounting for 15% of its GDP. The Guardian story does note, however, that “the transport sector still depends on oil”, which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix – though it is at least in a good position to start using electrified vehicles (UTE, the state electricity generator/distributor, is already running a fleet of Renault Kangoo ZEs).  And I can’t resist making the point that this was mostly achieved under the watch of the country’s colourful former ‘peasant president’, a man who made Jeremy Corbyn look like a marauding free-marketeer. Or resist the temptation to post a holiday snap from Uruguay a few years back, suggesting that the country does still have some way to go before it cleans up its transport… (anyone want to hazard a guess what this is?)

  • No, not the Self-driven Volt but a fleet of self-driving Volts… GM is to deploy a fleet of autonomous Chevys at its technical centre in Warren, Michigan, involving a valet-service app: GM’s employees will reserve and summon the cars, which can park themselves. More here. (And to refer back to the esteemed Mr W Self and his recent series of radio shows, quite why the BBC thought it acceptable to send him on a long road trip in an obsolete electrified vehicle – discontinued UK-spec Volt – without the necessary charging cable and adaptor to use public charging points, then broadcast his predictably negative comments on his not-very-electric driving experience, I really don’t know. I don’t expect a writer and cultural commenter to be an EV expert/authority, but I would have expected better research and representation from the Beeb.)
  • Couple of summing-up-state-of-play studies from consultancy EY (Ernst & Young): first one, Who’s in the driving seat?, looks at autonomous vehicles and reckons that people are receptive to the idea, especially younger generations, seeing particular advantages for congestion and road safety, though they’re concerned about driving fun and liability issues. It points to a reversal of the driver-car relationship in terms of maintenance, safety and wellbeing, and importance of new values such as connectivity, reliability and safety in place of power or image – a shift from ‘extrinsic’ product values to ‘intrinsic’. Other one, Urban Mobility Redefined, goes down the “sharing is the new buying” route, with digitalisation and connectivity the key drivers. Nothing new here, but handy consolidations.
  • Swiss research institute Empa has opened a new platform called “move” in collaboration with ETH Zurich to study the use of surplus renewable electricity in cars, utility vehicles and machinery, encompassing a shift from fossil to renewable energy with a view to creating ‘a closed carbon cycle model.’ Mobility is responsible for 40% of Switzerland’s CO2 emissions, and the country anticipates a large surplus of solar-generated electricity in summer months. The project includes looking into synthetic electricity-based fuels, with the opening of an electrolysis plant to convert renewable electricity into hydrogen, as well catalytic conversion of hydrogen and CO2 into methane, and apparently nature is the role model since ‘plants have been using sunlight, water and CO2 to supply themselves sustainably with energy for millions of years.’ More here.
  • A frightening thought: mobility-on-demand, connectivity and autonomous vehicles could lead to “a profound impact” on consumers and vehicle mileage travelled, according a report from KPMG, which suggests that VMT could soar to an extra trillion additional miles a year by 2050. KPMG puts this down to increased demand for mobility and related services from older people and millennials in particular, citing older people using on-demand autonomous services as they age, as well as tech-savvy youngsters (aged 10-15) not yet old enough to drive, but who can get into an on-demand vehicle. It warns of large numbers of empty cars going to pick people up, and a possible increase in VMT of up to 3-4 trillion additional miles by 2050, as personal mileage escalates. More here; full report, “The Clockspeed Dilemma”, for download here.
  • University of Glasgow student Morven Fraser (BEng Mechanical Engineering) won this year’s Autocar-Courland Next Generation award for aspiring automotive engineers: her energy-capture and storage system concept involves PV film on a vehicle’s body panels to capture  energy, then stored in nanobatteries integrated into the carbonfibre panels, and used in an electrified powertrain. This could extend EV range and reduce reliance on heavy conventional batteries. Fraser, 21, wins £9000 plus work experience at six of the sponsor OEMs.
  • A researcher at Stuttgart University is working on a wireless induction charging system for super-accurate positioning of an electric vehicle over an induction plate, and for optimised efficiency. PhD student Dean Martinovic has developed and patented a magnetic field technology to match up induction coils to an accuracy of 1cm, using a low-frequency pulsed magnetic field; this gives lower interference with the car’s metal underbody and no reflection of electromagnetic waves. The driver is guided by a 3D image (on a tablet, in the prototype) to the optimal positioning of the car and the system is said to be both very space- and cost-effective.
  • A lifecycle analysis study in New Zealand has found EV impact to be significantly lower than that of conventional ICE vehicles, with over 60% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to petrol, 40% reduction in energy use compared to diesel, and in a NZ-specific context, an 80% fall in CO2 compared to petrol, thanks to NZ’s high proportion of renewable electricity. More here.
  • Heuliez Bus – making over a quarter of French buses – is to trial its first all-electric model, the GX ELEC, in Paris. More here.
  • Further to the above, the European Environment Agency has released a report claiming that nitrogen dioxide emissions – predominantly from diesel vehicles – are responsible for an additional 75,000 premature deaths in Europe each year (and 432,000 premature deaths caused by particulates, with ozone another health-problem emission). That’s 21,600 in polluted Italy, 14,100 in the UK, 10,400 in Germany and 5,900 in Spain, it says – all countries which have lobbied for weaker emissions controls and higher limits for diesel vehicles, Transport and Environment points out. T&E also notes another study claiming 23,500 UK deaths are attributable to NO2, suggesting that “the EAA’s method may be conservative.”
  • And just in case the role of vehicles in all this isn’t clear, the EC’s Joint Research Centre and the World Health Organisation have released a report identifying traffic as the biggest source of particulate matter in 51 world cities. Traffic accounts for 25% of PM2.5s and PM10s, combustion and agriculture 22%, domestic fuel burning 20%, natural dust and salt 18% and industrial activities 15%, although the proportions differ around the world. Domestic fuel burning is the greatest contributor to PMs in Eastern Europe, for example, and natural dust in the Middle East and North Africa, but  traffic, heating and agriculture are the main culprits in North America and Western Europe. More here.
  • Looking into the myth of peak car: VMT (vehicle mileage travelled) may be up in the US, but not when looked at per capita, and is a few % down on all-time peaks when population growth is taken into account, argues this piece (with handy graphs). Yeah, but mileage is still pretty damn high, whether it’s peaked or not…
  • Loads of fleet-related news this week, but one of the biggest/most symbolic is 2000 EVs to New York City’s non-emergency fleet, which already runs 300 EVs on municipal duties. This will mean that half the fleet is electric, with a claimed reduction in fuel consumption of 2.5million gallons a year plus CO2 emissions halved by 2020, and is thought to be the biggest fleet deployment yet of EVs in the US. More here.
  • Audi America is in talks with other car-makers over establishing a single common-standard fast-charging network across the USA, a la Tesla Superchargers; another (potential) example, I think, of how the carmakers are expanding their businesses beyond building hardware to service provision. More here.
  • And more news from Germany’s most excellent and innovative Frauenhofer Institutes (a network of well-funded universities and research centres developing engineering solutions): a prototype battery cell with its own integrated microcontroller charting temperature, state of charge and suchlike, able to communicate with other cells, the main controller and other devices. An empty or defective cell can be decoupled from the system. This should allow for greater battery range (by up to 10%) – since it eliminates the problem of cells linked in series, whereby the weakest cell determines overall capacity – and lower costs, it’s claimed. This is part of the EU 3Ccar advanced systems design project, which aims to reduce EV complexity, costs and maintenance requirements.

Electromobility important for GHG reductions

November 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

LichtBlick_1504_3E-Haus_mw_013Electric mobility (not just cars) could contribute far more than previously thought to the reduction of GHG emissions, according to a new paper from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/Mercator Research Institute of Global Commons and Climate Change. The transport sector (currently accounting for 23% of global energy-related emissions) could nearly halve its emissions by 2050 if a large-scale shift to electric mobility – alongside the promotion of public transport in cities, disincentives to drive, promotion of cycling, etc – is achieved. This would include car-sharing, e-bicycles and electric rail as well as cars, says the paper’s lead author Felix Creutzig, noting: “Efficiency gains will be very difficult to achieve with the conventional automobile fleet from 2025 on. A fuel shift will be the only remaining option to advance decarbonisation.” KIT’s Patrick Jochem adds: “Electrification of cars may also contribute to the energy turnaround, provided that electric vehicles are integrated smartly into the energy system. Shifting of charge processes to strong-wind hours might relieve the energy system and, hence, create synergies between both sectors.” More here; full paper – in Science, Vol. 350, no. 6363, pp.911-912, here.

  • On that note, the launch yesterday of the 100% London campaign -100% clean energy by 2050, also aimed-for by 50-odd Labour-run councils across the country – involves some hearty targets for GHG reductions. Implications for transport policy, of course, and talk about biogas and fuel cell vehicles as well as EVs.
  • And the clever folks at KIT are also working on ‘powercaps’ or ‘hybrid capacitors’ – devices combining the properties of batteries and capacitors for energy storage, storing twice as much power as capacitors but able to supply up to ten times more power than a battery. Science bit here.
  • Renault has been testing smart-charging management in German with TMH (The Mobility House), which has developed tech to automate EV charging at times of lower-cost electricity. Eleven Zoe-owning Renault employees in Germany have tested the system at their homes and research is ongoing between Renault and TMH on smart-grid communications to smooth out demand peaks and troughs, as well as optimising costs (and charging times) for EV owners. Payments for feeding electricity back to the grid (from cars) are also being studied. TMH has further ongoing collaborations with Daimler (energy storage and second-life batteries) and with Volkswagen (supply of home-charging solutions).
  • Volvo’s Concept 26 – revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week – is another vision of the future of commuting. It’s a take on the autonomous theme with a three-way seat which adapts to Drive, Create and Relax modes, involving degrees of seat recline, retraction of the steering wheel and a fold-out display screen – to either make use of the commute time “creatively” or to sit back and relax, watch media or listen to music. Volvo’s Drive Me research project is to get fully-autonomous vehicles on the road, “driving real customers” in Gothenburg next year. And the ’26’, apparently, refers to the average US commuting time. (On a related note, interiors supplier Faurecia is working on a research project with a team from Stanford University to study the issue of motion sickness in self-driving cars…)
  • Speaking of Gothenburg, I’m liking the Stadsleveransen – a city delivery service combining an electric vehicle-pulled ‘train’ of goods trailers and six-wheeled cargo bikes, driven by the ‘pooling’ and aggregation of deliveries to shops and businesses in a central area. Has cut down on traffic and parked vehicles, enabled increasing pedestrianisation and cycling, and created an all-round more pleasant place, they say.

Niro and new mobility

November 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

kia niroKia has announced an all-new hybrid model on a bespoke electrified platform: the Niro crossover is the first of a series of next-generation cars, and emissions of under 90g/km are targeted. It uses a 1.6 direct-injection petrol engine giving 105hp plus a 32kW e-motor, working via six-speed double-clutch transmission; plug-in versions will follow. The Niro will be unveiled next year, built in Korea for sales to start late 2016, and Kia is promising a further “wide range of advanced powertrains, from hybrids and plug-in hybrids to battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles”.

  • Smartphone-style services, user interfaces and business models are to influence commuting, according to the latest “intelligent mobility” report from Frost & Sullivan, expecting subscription-based on-demand driving to coexist alongside vehicle ownership. In its predictions for 2035, as well as these so-called new mobility models, a proportion of driverless vehicles are expected (though ‘a large fraction’ will still be DIY, albeit smarter than today’s cars); a 40% reduction in accidents is achievable, along with 25% time savings on urban transport, thanks to easier multi-modality, ride/car-sharing and rapid transit systems, and a 15% reduction in CO2 from transport.
  • White paper from Jato Dynamics: talks about slow progress in necessary move away from fossil fuels but suggests “demand for EVs is gaining momentum”, with current trends indicating “a bright future”. Steady market growth is noted, with EVs now taking 1% of the UK market (and 1.1% in France), on latest figures; forecast for 2025 is for 5.5million EVs sold a year worldwide, mostly to China, Europe and the US; 60% of these will be plug-in hybrids rather than all-electric, though. Pure-electric sales are expected to rise from a meagre 350,000 in 2016 to 2.2million in 2025.
  • Posten Norge aims to replace all its delivery fleet in the Rogaland province with EVs by autumn 2016, reports electrive.com, with 300 Renault and Nissan vehicles to join the 16 EVs the service already operates. And there are now nine electric Proterra buses operating on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, to give a random example of goings-on somewhere completely different.
  • Feedback from BMW on i3 sales: it’s the best-selling EV in Germany (one in every four EVs sold) and the no.3 worldwide, accounting for one in ten EVs sold since its introduction; over 80% of buyers are new to BMW; its biggest market is the USA (where every sixth EV sold is an i3); it’s the best-selling BMW in Norway; BMW’s Leipzig factory is making 100 a day as well as 20 i8s. It’s the (optional) range-extender that’s tipping the purchase decision, says BMW, though the i3’s visibility on the DriveNow fleets is also raising awareness of EVs. And a new BMW i-model has been promised. More here.
  • And very posh car-sharing from Audi in the US: Audi at home allows residents of luxury condos to pick their model and have it delivered for their use by personal valet. It joins Audi on demand, as already on trial in San Francisco. More here.
  • More Audi: it is to work with the city of Sommerville, Massachusetts, on trials of swarm intelligence, automated parking and V2I networking whereby cars communicate with traffic lights. The aim is to develop innovations to improve traffic flow but also reduce the space-needs of cars in the city – automated parking enables cars to slot in closer together, for example. More detail here.

Friday news round-up

November 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

bmwi3On a lifecycle basis, (US) EVs now generate half the GHG emissions of comparable gasoline vehicles, even accounting for the manufacturing of their batteries (and not assuming second-life reuse or recycling) according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. There are variations by area/electricity source/model, but overall, “battery electric cars make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within eighteen months of driving—shorter range models can offset the extra emissions within 6 months—and continue to outperform gasoline cars until the end of their lives”, it says. As the grid gets cleaner, manufacturing is optimised with economies of scale, and battery reuse is developed, the advantage-gap will widen further, UCS predicts. Full report here.

  • Motor vehicle traffic has increased again in the UK, to an all-time high: latest (provisional) stats from the DfT plot a 2.2% rise for year ending September 2015 compared to the same time 2014, and traffic levels are expected to continue to rise. Car traffic – measured in vehicle miles – was up 1.7%, but the sharpest rise has been in van/LGV traffic (up 6% to a new peak), and vehicle miles on the motorway is also at a new high. Likewise, traffic on minor rural roads has grown, and even urban roads saw a 1% rise. The DfT suggests a picking-up of the UK economy and lower fuel prices as contributory factors. So yeah, more congestion, more pollution. Great.
  • More details (via Autocar) on the Shell-funded, Gordon Murray-designed Project M. It’s a three-seater city car based on the GMD T25, weighing less than 600kg and promising 100mpg+, apparently, with a 660cc Mitsubishi-derived powerplant overhauled by former Honda F1 engine designer Osamu Goto for 47bhp and 70mph. So why’s Shell funding a low-consumption vehicle? Autocar says Project M “represents a fightback for fossil fuel vehicles”. Mmm. The final car will be revealed mid-2016, though it’s not destined for production.
  • Essay from Daimler about future mobility and the role of virtual reality – including “extended reality applications” – here; the company’s Future Talk conference/discussion this year was to the theme of “the virtualisation of the vehicle interior as a new perception horizon in the mobility of the 21st Century.” Very Cosmopolis.
  • A PhD student at MIT is working on a bi-directional EV charging solution integrating solar or other renewable power, and has founded a company, CZAR (Carbon Zero Advanced Research) Power. Nelson Wang is collaborating with a team at Kettering University (Flint, Michigan) on a charger acting as a ‘hub’ for connecting the different elements – battery, storage, utility etc. – in the energy supply chain in a microgrid, and patents have been taken out on some of the technologies involved. A 96% efficiency is claimed, and iOT connectivity is planned enabling drivers to get charging station info via smartphone app as well as detailed energy use/cost calculations. More here.
  • And Neusoft Reach (Shanghai) has launched a cloud-based charging system integrating V2G, ‘charging pile network’ (enabling data collection and open-protocol communication with the cloud via the cable) and a mobile app network; this allows for vehicle identification, charging control and dynamic power adjustment, as well as payment. More here.
  • EV drivers can now travel from Berlin to Munich, and on to Leipzig and Dessau (or vice versa) thanks to a ‘corridor’ of fast-chargers on the A9 autobahn. These are spaced roughly every 90km. More here. And… four fast-chargers for West Norfolk, addressing a ‘black hole’ in the infrastructure identified by a number of my research respondents. Three in Kings Lynn, one in Hunstanton; more here.
  • A report from the National League of Cities (NLC; Washington DC), City of the Future: Technology and Mobility, explores tech disruption and its effect on transportation.  It focuses on five factors affecting (US) cities: technology, economics, climate resilience, culture and demographics, and finds a rapidly-shifting mobility environment; widening gaps between private-sector innovation, citizen preferences and the visions of city planners; and a majority of cities not considering the impact of driverless technologies and private transportation networks/providers. Its forecast for 2020 includes workplace/workforce changes including an increase in contract jobs and a decrease in vehicle mileage travelled; more toll/paid-for roads and public-private mobility partnerships; more modal options with integrated payment systems and apps; ‘transport network companies’ the main personal and freight transportation providers; and an increase in driverless and electric cars. For 2030, it expects changes in commuting patterns due to the growth of urban areas; more driverless public transportation; fewer single-occupancy vehicles; more bike-sharing and high-speed rail; expansion of inner-city rail and even air travel; and first-class amenities on some public transport. Full report here.
  • A step in the above direction: the University of California, San Diego, is to run two projects with EVgo (fast-charger provider, US). One is to assess leverage of solar energy, battery storage and control systems to manage demand and provide services; the other will look at vehicle-to-grid tech. More here.
  • An all-electric Jaguar SUV is to go on sale in 2017, reports Autocar. Interesting note about its powertrain: “Sources suggest an electric motor will be mounted inboard at each corner, retaining the use of driveshafts, although there remains the possibility of Jaguar making a technology leap with in-wheel motors.”
  • Local Motors showed its LM3D Swim at SEMA: a 3D-printed, fully-homologated roadster with thermoplastic body by SABIC, ready for production at its ‘microfactory’ in Knoxville as well as at other local licensed facilities. Further iterations to follow.
  • And BMW has announced an electric super-bike: the eRR, developed in partnership with TU Munich, explores two-wheeled, high-performance i-mobility, and appears to preview a production model.

Friday electromobility news & updates

November 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

fraunhofer HEMS solar chargingA home energy management system with Android app created by researchers at the Frauenhofer Institutes is to help integrate EV-charging with domestic solar panels, and feeding surplus solar power back to the grid. The HEMS has been fitted in upgrades of ‘Passiv Haus’ properties in Fellbach, Baden-Württemberg, as part of the German federal Electric Mobility Showcase programme and Fellbach ZeroPlus project. Five of the seven houses feature a 22W fast-charger with embedded software, collecting data from the houses’ electricity meters and displaying information about the power flows and consumption as the solar energy is fed to the car, heat pump and other household needs. The HEMS also forecasts solar intensity and anticipates household power loads and demands, with the ‘leftover’ power sent to the vehicle for storage in its battery before any further surplus is then sent to the grid; the app allows owners to control the fast-charger and monitor the car’s charge levels and charging times. It is the result of two years’ field-testing and feedback from the homeowners. More here. Incidentally, two of the five households in the project are involved in a car-sharing project as well.

  • Meanwhile, Daimler is partnering with The Mobility House AG, GETEC (energy provider) and Remondis (recycling and services) on a project in Lünen, Westphalia. This involves a second-life battery energy storage unit – claimed to be the world’s largest at 13MW –  which will be connected to the grid for balancing and buffering/levelling out peaks and troughs in demand and better-enable the feed-in of renewable energy. The batteries used have come from the smart electric drive. More here.
  • And good news for standardisation of EV-grid communications: the EC’s Joint Research Centre has opened a lab with a partner facility at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (Chicago), with a view to transatlantic harmonisation. More here. Now they just need to bring the Japanese/other Far Eastern countries on board as well…
  • NEXT (‘The Future of Transportation’ has released a ‘v3.0’ video: this shows a swarm of self-driving, on-demand ‘pods’ which can drive on standard roads, join up and detach as required, complete with dynamic ‘service modules’ – loos, bars, restaurants – and smart-routing. Its latest vision describes a transport ecosystem in which these can serve for private, corporate or public transport.
  • And in the here-and-now, Bombardier Transportation has just done a catenary-free 41.6km test run (in Mannheim, Germany) of a electric tram, featuring its Primove battery system with supercapacitors. More here. This allows for free-running of e-trams without cables, in between flash-charging at stops or via pantograph.
  • On a further practical note, Iveco has unveiled a new electric version of its Daily van. Up to 5.6tonne GVW, payload increased by around 100kg, battery life up 20% and range now said to be up to 174 miles.
  • Apparently Nissan Leaf owners (US) drive a similar electric mileage to Chevy Volt-ers; the latter do a few extra miles on petrol power; 97% of Leaf charging is at home or a workplace, 84% at home (87% for Volts); 13% of Leaf owners and 5% of Volts only ever charged at home; around half the drivers charged away from home only up to 5% of the time; 20% of vehicles studied accounted for 75% of away-from-home charging, most of this workplace. Handy rundown here; full report – from Idaho National Laboratory – here.
  • A wireless induction charging project: the CU-ICAR centre at Clemson University, South Carolina, has developed a testbed using Evantrans coils, used to charge Scion iQ and showing efficiency of 85%. More here.
  • No single tech – i.e. electric vehicles – will solve air pollution issues, and EVs are costlier than other solutions in the short term, according to this report, which calls for scrappage of older diesel vehicles (in favour of new Euro 6), retro-fitting of catalytic solutions to buses, use of biodiesel and photocatalytic road treatments. All rather short-term – and ultimately limited – gains which don’t solve fossil-fuel dependency.

Tokyo show stars and more…

October 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

nissan idsQuick rundown of – my pick of – Tokyo motor show debutantes and show stars: first up, Nissan IDS, previewing the next-gen Leaf as well as Nissan’s upcoming autonomous tech (production, 2020). It features manual drive and a ‘learning’ automated Pilot Drive mode, said to mimic the driver’s own style and preferences; in this, the steering wheel retracts into the IP, and all four seats rotate inwards a little, under atmospherically dimmed lights. More clues to the next Leaf – or a new member of the Leaf family – include optimised aerodynamics, lower height, wheels pushed out further to each corner, super-thin tyres, and wheels with a fin-type design to smooth air flow. Oh, and a 60kW battery, wireless induction charging, reduced weight (thanks to a carbonfibre body) and the promise of “long distances” between charges. Automatic parking, too. More here. (And the dead cute Teatro for Dayz is – theoretically – electric and autonomous, too).

Latest news from Gordon Murray Design with its iStream Carbon chassis tech in the Yamaha Sports Ride Concept sports car; the structure is said to be affordable, suitable for high-volume production, and thus brings F1 lightweighting to everyday vehicles via the GMD iStream production process. The Lexus LF-FC previews the next-gen LS and features a fuel cell powertrain; Honda’s fuel cell rival for the Toyota Mirai is called Clarity and it’s coming to the UK; on a more conceptual note, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo (an autonomous minivan-like mobile lounge for young people in future megacities…) also features an ‘electric hybrid’ fuel cell powertrain with induction charging and total 980km range. And the all-electric Mitsubishi eX compact crossover concept has been well-received, too.

navya armaAway from Tokyo… Another autonomous electric bus has been launched this week: the Navya Arma, which can carry up to 15 people at up to 45kmph (on private sites, at the moment, its French makers suggesting industrial sites, airports, amusement parks, hospitals and tourist resorts as potential applications as well as urban areas). It can be induction-charged, and is now in production; three were seen in action at the ITS World Congress in Bordeaux, shuttling 1500 people on 2km trips between centres.

  • Two US surveys: the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange questioned 990 EV owners and enthusiasts, and concluded that they were primarily “very well educated, upper-middle class white men in their early 50s with ideal living situations for EV charging”, reports USA Today. Almost all owners had their EV as their primary vehicle, but interestingly, “energy independence, and not environmental anxiety, was the primary reason that these respondents became interested in electric vehicles”. JD Power, meanwhile, has declared that EV prices must come down, and that public infrastructure must improve, if sales are to grow beyond a small proportion; this is despite large savings on fuel bills found in a survey of 7,600 owners who saved an average $147 a month on gasoline but saw their utility bills rise by only $18. One in three owners took advantage of discounted off-peak electricity tariffs; 43% charged their vehicle away from home, and when they do, 85% charge somewhere free. Average daily commute is 34 miles, and only 11% suffer range anxiety, apparently.
  • Am liking the sound of the Power Road: not just incorporating solar panels and wind turbines on bridges and other structures, but generating more energy over its lifespan than it cost to make. This SINTEF project in Norway is looking at electricity-generating materials for EV charging, as well as locally-sourced, low-energy materials for construction.

Pre-Tokyo round-up…

October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

ligier ez10Both Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are about to unveil autonomous concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show, but in the meantime… driverless shuttle buses are about to go on trial in San Francisco. The idea is that these will act as last-mile solutions to/from transport hubs, and it’s the first application of the French-built EZ10 in the USA. Trials are already underway in Finland, France and Switzerland; more at EasyMile (a partnership with the Ligier Group).

  • Report from the EU’s Joint Research Centre notes that EV sales rose to over 70,000 last year (incl. PHEV, range-extended and fuel cell vehicles, with all-electric cars accounting for 65% of that number) and the total is coming up to 154,000. Conclusion is that the EU is witnessing “a transition from testing and experimenting with EV towards full-scale EV commercialisation”, but that market support, incentives and policy measures are still important until electric vehicles become mainstream choices. Sum-up here.
  • Meanwhile, another report claims that the EU’s 2020 goal of a 95g/km CO2 fleet average can only be met by deployment of EVs running on electricity; it assesses the benefits of EVs, PHEVs and range-extended vehicles versus fuel cells, and concludes EVs for short distances, FCEVs (fuelled with hydrogen produced by renewable-electricity hydrolysis) for longer trips. More here, full paper here.
  • A project to keep an eye on, based at Lund University, Sweden: Uniti is an EV prototype said to “question the logic of city mobility”, balance advanced tech and “human-centric design”, and to be “a serious contender for a much-neeed disruption in the automotive industry”.  Not much more than that to go on at the moment, but the Uniti team has an interesting open-source and patent-free approach to encourage the development of more sustaimable vehicles, and development is underway in LU’s new ProLab facility of a 15kW city car with a 150km range. Analysis of best vehicle configuration, production methods and materials is also being carried out, as well as whole-lifecycle impact analysis; so far, it’s been confirmed that the car will be a tandem two-seater with an interior including hemp and flax fibre biocomposites. Advanced HMI, customisable experiences and ”learning’ technologies are hinted at, and they’re aiming to get a first car built in late 2017. More here and at the project website.
  • A pro-hydrogen piece at The Conversation: OK, admittedly the current longer range of fuel cell cars vs. BEVs is a bonus, but I’m still not convinced on a well-to-wheel whole-lifecycle analysis in terms of energy consumption involved in producing (and storing, and distributing, and having a supply infrastructure for) hydrogen, at least in (relatively low-mileage) passenger vehicles. Trucks, freight, coaches, long-distance and heavy-duty stuff, yes. Good point about hydrogen production’s role in grid-buffering. What’s struck me here, however, is the idea that fuel cell cars are “a better match with existing habits”. Perhaps this is what we should be questioning as much as the fuel itself.
  • Nice map here showing the movements of the on-demand DriveNow cars in Berlin over a 24-hour period…

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