Concept of the Day: QUANTiNO

February 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

quantinoNot content with launching the Quant F super-coupe (see earlier post), nanoFlowcell AG is also to show a smaller, more affordable EV in Geneva, showcasing its flow-cell battery tech. The QUANTiNo 2+2 has a lower-voltage 48V system – enabled by the efficiency of the flow-cell battery – delivering around 136hp via four 25kW motors; it promises a top speed of over 200kph plus a range of over 1000km (between top-ups of charged battery fluid into two 175-litre tanks, one positive and the other negatively-charged). It’s intended to be accessible to a mainstream audience – and the company is seeking to put it through the Euro-homologation Type Approval tests “very shortly”. More details here.

  • And Magna Steyr is to show the eighth model in its series of MILA concepts: MILA Plus is a plug-in hybrid sports car, with lightweight construction (1520kg),  a range of over 70km in all-electric mode and overall CO2 output of 32g/km. No more details than that – or pictures – at the moment. It follows the CNG-fuelled MILA Blue (2014).
  • Cenex is co-ordinating an EU-funded project to tackle ‘transport poverty’ in outer urban areas – with shared EVs. The project will involve trials in the West Midlands and Scotland, as well as in areas of Poland, Spain and Italy, and partners include housing associations. More here.


Design Concept of the Day: Rinspeed Budii

February 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Budii_Int_02More pictures of the Rinspeed Budii prior to the Geneva Auto Salon: on the surface, it’s a fun and eye-catching tricked-out BMW i3 (with a shower, an auto-winding – Swiss – watch, a very fancy Harmon Kardon audio system, touchscreen HMI and fibreoptic ambient lighting), but there’s also some clever thinking on autonomous driving and its implications. Drive-by-wire steering allows for either front-seat occupant to take the wheel; 3D laser-scanning enables autonomy but also terrain mapping and auto-adjustment of ride height; radar and V2X tech enables connectivity including the payment for services (parking, recharging); and two stowaway mini-two-wheelers (electric) take care of last-mile onward travel. Rinspeed – a Swiss consultancy/creative thinktank – has identified the need to make EVs “sexy and emotionally charged” (pun intended? Either way, sad but true) and as such, it’s a no-expenses-spared job on the interior finish and creature comforts (including smartphone- and watch-controlled auxilliary heating). More details here, full gallery of images here.

  • Changes to the Plug-in Car Grant scheme: to be increased from the current 25% of purchase price to 35%, as of April 1st – but capped at £5000, so it’s only going to benefit buyers of EVs under the £20,000 mark. Plug-in cars are also going to be divided into three eligible categories: 1, with CO2 under 50g/km and an all-electric range of at least 70 miles; 2, under 50g/km, and with a range of 10-69 miles; and 3, 50-75g/km and an all-EV range of at least 20 miles. The grants will run up until 50,000 have been awarded (it’s at about 25,000 right now). Though the grant allowance remains the same across the categories at the moment, it’s likely that a sliding scale will follow – perhaps in relation to the upcoming changes to BIK company car tax bandings, to be announced in the Budget.
  • BMW is working with Spanish utility firm Iberdrola to provide a 350-car shared fleet of i3 EVs. Iberdrola will deploy these in Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona and Valencia. More here.
  • I rarely agree with this particular (highly EV-sceptical) Detroit News columnist, but in this case, I’m with NW in that structural changes to mobility/car ownership/driving are going to be incremental rather than revolutionary overnight, and that some phenomena, such as peer-to-peer sharing, will probably remain marginal. Comment from several other industry-watchers on a similar note.
  • Apple is gearing up to challenge Google with its ‘Project Titan’, reports the  WSJ, with minivan-based electrically-driven prototypes spotted out and about to trial autonomous-driving tech. More here.
  • Volvo is expanding its V2X cloud-comms ice-warning project to a 1000-car fleet operating in Gothenburg and Oslo. More here.
  • Stopping at traffic lights is bad for you: on a journey where 2% of the time is spent stationary at red lights, 25% of exposure to particulates is experienced while waiting for green, according to research at the University of Surrey. And that’s just for the drivers… Deceleration, idling then revving up to go again ups PM emissions by 29% over those from free-flowing traffic. More, incl. references, here.


Autonomous vehicles, and other EV-related news

February 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

IMG_0329IMG_0301Some more pictures from Greenwich yesterday (further to those posted on Twitter), and the launch of the GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment). The eight sensor- and radar-guided Meridian electric vehicles (developed by a firm called Phoenix Wings) are going to shuttle all around the Greenwich Peninsula for two years, picking people up and dropping ‘em off between the O2 arena, North Greenwich tube station and soforth. The research, including collecting feedback from the general public, will be led by TRL.

  • And further to this… Autonomous vehicles could cut car ownership rates by 43%, according to researchers (Schoettle & Sivak) at UMTRI (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute). Identifying a lack of ‘trip overlap’ in multi-car US households, autonomous cars able to ‘go home’ to be used by someone else could bring car ownership down to an average 1.2 vehicles per household. However, each car’s mileage could increase by 75%, not including the extra passenger-less mileage it might do on its way back to base. Interesting stuff…
  • Kia’s Trail’ster concept car – revealed at the Chicago Auto Show this week – is a sported-up SUV-alike Soul with added hybrid power: an electric motor driving the rear axle to give AWD. The motor (35hp, 100lb ft) allows for 25-30% increase in fuel economy in city driving and 5-10% on the highway, apparently, supplementing the front-driving 1.6 turbo petrol engine to give a total 220hp/285lb ft).
  • The Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab RE-EV taxi has been licensed by Transport for London and the first examples are going on trial. This delivers an overall 98mpg/less than 50g/km, has a range of 560km, and is said to save a cabbie £20-£40 a day; its powertrain combines a 1-litre petrol engine with two electric motors and a generator, and it is also externally-chargeable with a zero-emissions mode.
  • And illustrating exactly why electrification is important… children (carrying certain genes) exposed to urban air pollution are at increased risk of ‘brain inflammation’, cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative changes, including lower IQ and short-term memory loss, akin to early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and even Parkinson’s diseases, according to a study from (very polluted) Mexico City. Summary plus links/references here.
  • The Volkswagen Group has bought an entire portfolio of fuel cell patents from Ballard, reports Green Car Congress. Yet Volkswagen of America has also announced a $10million investment in EV-charging infrastructure, in partnership with BMW USA and ChargePoint.

Concept of the Day: Lutz Pathfinder

February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

lutz podDriverless cars (well, electric golf cart-type vehicles) have hit the streets of Greenwich this week in the UK Autodrive trial, which will see investigation of public attitudes, legislative changes and protocols as well as technology tests. The Transport Systems Catapult also unveiled these Lutz Pathfinder ‘pods’, which will go into action in Milton Keynes and Coventry later this year, as well as the BAE Wildcat jeeps in Bristol. More detail here. (and here). The Lutz two-seaters are built by the RDM Group, with sensors and navigation tech from the Oxford University Mobile Navigation Group, and are designed with pedestrianised areas in mind, whereas the Greenwich golf carts are larger shuttles.

  • Lichtenstein-based nanoFlowCell is to show an update on last year’s Quant E-Sportlimousine concept at the Geneva Motor Show next month: the Quant F promises a 30% increase in range (to 800km) over last year’s prototype, as well as an all-new two-speed auto transmission, a 1075hp peak output and 186mph top speed, plus some small design tweaks. More details here.  Its flow cell batteries – using charged electrolytes – need a fluid-swap rather than conventional charging.
  •  Electric supercar story #2: a Finnish start-up is to unveil a 1 mega-watt monster called the Toroidion 1MW (of course) at the Top Marques show in Monaco in April, reports AutoblogGreen.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric is planning to build and provide 25,000 new EV-chargers in northern and central California, to be located in places including apartment buildings, retail centres and offices; it’s looking for third-party hosts. Release posted here.
  • Paper (Melanie Swan, Kingston University) on the application of so-called ‘quantified self’ technology – biometric measurements – in the automotive world, i.e. implications for fatigue detection, stress management, personal identification for security, and vehicle interventions, here. Conclusion is that this could be a factor – alongside other innovations such as 3D printing, other models of transport service delivery, energy sector reforms, autonomous driving – in a large-scale reconfiguration of cars, driving and personal transportation.
  • “Electric cars are good but connected electric cars are better”, said Bosch CEO Dr Volkmar Denner, speaking this week at the Car Symposium in Bochum. Bosch is aiming to offer integrated mobility solutions – combining automation, electrification and connectivity; other comments and predictions from this Tier One supplier include the idea that 15% of new cars will have some form of electrified powertrain (from hybrid onwards) by 2025; electrification is picking up pace unhindered by low oil prices; EV batteries will offer twice the energy density at half the price by 2020; hybrid powertrain will become standard-issue in the SUV sector; apps for battery-charging and payment for EV-charging will better-enable electromobility; and the success of e-bikes points to the fun factor of e-mobility.
  • France is to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme offering grants of up to 10,000 euros for people trading in diesels over 13 years old (in selected areas of  poor air quality) for plug-in hybrids or EVs,. Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal told Le Parisien this week that the measures will be introduced in April. This encompasses existing incentives and discounts. Meanwhile, the Bollore Group has just confirmed 150million euros-worth government funding for it to build a 16,000-strong network of fast-chargers across France; more here.
  • A not-yet-famous Belgian: designer Xavier van der Stappen is looking for funding to put his E-Car 333 into production, reports Sustainable Mobility. As its name hints, the E-Car (unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show this week) has three wheels, carries three people – and has a claimed range of 300km. It’s a kind of scooter/microcar hybrid with a chassis (recycled steel) that could accommodate different bodystyles; and interestingly, its panels are made from a flax-fibre laminated material (see previous post).
  • Registration figures from ACEA for last year: 75,331 plug-in vehicles registered in the EU, up 37% on 2013’s figures but still representing just 0.6% of the total market (12.6million cars of all types last year, up 5.7% on 2013).
  • Car-dependency in Washington DC vs similarly-populated Stuttgart: some nice number-crunching reported here. Similar trends in their suburbs, surprisingly.


Biomaterials for car bodies and other news…

February 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Carbon and hemp-fiber reinforced component.Fibres from hemp, flax, cotton and wood are strong, as affordable as glassfibre and lighterweight than carbonfibre, according to a team from the Frauenhofer Institute of Wood Research, which has developed mouldable thermoplastic or solid duroplastic car body components into which natural fibres are embedded. These hybrid materials are also recyclable, and the research is looking into their processing and reprocessing on an industrial scale.

  • Digesting the Continental Mobility Study 2015: its conclusions include statements that people (in France, Germany, USA, China, Japan) choose to drive for emotional rather than rational reasons; car ownership remains very popular and the preferred model of access to vehicles for the vast majority, even among younger generations (licence-holding is happening later in life, but still happening); money more an indicator of driving than age or location; and even that young people actively aspire to powerful, prestigious vehicles. Plus ca change, in other words, says an engineering consultancy/supplier to the automotive industry, but again, this does rather illustrate the futility of relying on ‘peak car’ to solve anything. Oh, and electric vehicles have a particular image problem: in Germany, though a majority saw EVs as eco-friendly and ‘sensible’, very few thought them sporty, fun to drive or attractively-designed, and enthusiasm and expectation of owning an EV in the future have both dipped since the 2011 survey.
  • Blimey: a blanket ban on older cars entering the city centre of Lisbon, at least between 7am and 9pm. Vehicles registered pre-2000 are restricted from a central ‘Zone 1′ and those pre-1996 from an outer Zone 2 as well. Except cars belonging to residents, emergency vehicles and those running on natural gas, however, the former being a pretty big exemption, I would imagine, though the measure is expected to cut air pollution by 10% in terms of in-commuting traffic (and should improve congestion, too). More here. And some detail on the telematics-monitored incentive in Milan to encourage drivers to leave their cars at home and take public transport: one free trip each day on public transport.
  • Forecasting sales of EVs and PHEVs: to remain relatively resilient despite oil prices, says Lux Research, as their niche consumer base is relatively price-insensitive (affluent people buying for environmental or technological reasons rather than economical). Could be dips till oil prices rebound, however, with non-plug-in hybrids hit hardest.
  • Ford’s European Research & Innovation Centre, Aachen, is partnering RWTH Aachen University to study business models and customer expectations in its two-year Personal Mobility Experience Innovation Project, a research collaboration looking into mobility and autonomous vehicles. This aims to identify technologies, features, services and solutions “that could enable Ford to meet customers’ changing preferences and expectations for personal mobility” as well as to address environmental issues and congestion, apparently. These will include new approaches to car-sharing and personalised mobility solutions, with a look towards “delivering a wide range of hardware and software platforms and services”. Ford has also confirmed that it will contribute to the UK government-funded UK Autodrive autonomous vehicles/connected-cars research project, providing two prototypes with V2V tech. More details here.
  • Meanwhile, Uber is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) and its Advanced Technologies Centre to research & develop autonomy, mapping and vehicle safety – more here. The statement refers to “very interesting new challenges at the intersections of technology, mobility and human interactions”.  Indeed.
  • The federally-funded ESKAM research consortium (Germany) has developed its scalable electric axle module for commercial vehicles. This comprises two motors, transmission and power electronics in a unit which can be fitted to an axle, and is suitable for vehicles from small vans to large trucks. More here and here.
  • The US DoT has unveiled its Beyond Traffic 30-year plan – and it sets out the need to reduce car-dependency, develop multimodal systems and public transit, invest in smart technologies, bring down the cost of implementing autonomous vehicles, and consider new funding mechanisms (including road-pricing). Handy digest at Citylab; more here.
  • The EU RDE (Real Driving Emissions) tests to cut NOx have got the green light for 2017: very good news, and a much-needed step towards wider use of on-road (rather than lab) testing for other emissions. The variance between optimised lab results and real-life – for mpg and CO2 as well – is pretty damn shocking, to the extent that it makes manufacturers’ claims that they’ve cleaned up (or reduced the fuel consumption of) their vehicles pretty meaningless, ‘cos there’s no reliable baseline figures. More on the RDE progress here.


Electric vans, fuel cell buses, EV-sharing, and more…

January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

1956-dkw-elektro-wagen-restoration-001-1A bit of nostalgia and a pretty picture to end the working week: Audi’s Tradition division (supply of classic-car parts) has restored one of only two remaining DKW Schnellaster Elektro-Wagen vans. DKW – one of the companies folded into Auto Union, which then became Audi – made around 100 of these between 1955-62, alongside the conventional two-stroke Schnellaster. Most were sold to energy companies and public utility firms, it seems, and this one (built 1956) went to serve in the East Frisian island of Wangerooge, where ICE vehicles are banned. Its lead-acid batteries gave an 80km range (enough for an island of less than five square km) and its 5kW motor a perfectly sufficient 40kmph.

  • Though yet to launch in London, Bollore is considering taking its Autolib’ EV-share to LA and Singapore. In interview with Bloomberg (via Automotive News), Vincent Bollore said that Autolib’ should become profitable this year – the break-even point in Paris will be 82,000 subscribers, up from the current 70,000 – and that its Bluesummer convertible  could join the Bluecar hatches on the US West Coast. The Autolib’ business is based around having cheap, durable vehicles (and batteries), the report notes.
  • Nice discussion, and plenty of good references, on “the invention of America’s ‘Love Affair’ with the automobile” – quote marks entirely justified – at Citylab.
  • Van Hool is working with Ballard to build 21 new fuel cell buses in an EU-funded programme. Belgian manufacturer Van Hool has already put 27 fuel cell buses on the road, but this new batch features Ballard’s latest fuel cell stack said to be 30-40% cheaper, more reliable and durable. Ballard has also recently supplied fuel cells for a range-extended plug-in hybrid powertrain in a two-bus trial by Solaris in Hamburg, reports Green Car Congress.
  • And BYD has launched its latest battery-electric bus: the C9 coach, capable of carrying 47 people at highway speeds (up to 62.5mph) for 190 miles. The longer C10 (58 seats) and the smaller, faster but shorter-range C6 (21 seats) will follow by the end of the year. More here.
  • Yet more buses: the city of Bristol is to trial hybrids with GPS ‘geofencing’ to ensure electric operation in areas of particularly poor air quality. More here.
  • Latest forecasts from Navigant Research: by 2023, the global market for electric-drive and hybrid commercial vehicles (including buses) will rise tenfold from today’s sales to 160,000 (just under 3% of the market, but with ‘spikes’ in urban areas and regions with clean-air policies). Diesel-hybrid drive is expected to dominate in the medium- and heavy-duty sector, however, but battery-electric will become in greater demand for lower-mileage urban fleets. More here.
  • Speaking of low-mileage urban fleets, DHL Express Italia has just deployed the first of 50 Nissan e-NV200 vans in Italy following successful trials in Paris. More here. (There’s four e-NV200s doing dairy deliveries in Lancashire now, too, reports EV Fleet World).
  • A Samsung/University of Rome team has developed a lithium-sulphur (Li-S) battery giving 98% efficiency, using solid electrolyte which overcomes polysulfide migration and the typical discharge-cycle plateau: science bit and references here.
  • And a simple-sounding but clever device from the University of Illinois at Chicago: a series of air pumps, compressors and fan belts embedded in a road surface, activated as a car drives over to capture energy. The Traffic Powered Renewable Energy System (TRES) could be deployed at intersections, traffic lights, tollbooths and other entry/exit ramps, they say; more here.

News round-up: EV batteries, digital platforms, driverless cars, diesel and more…

January 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

bosch battery second lifeBosch, BMW and energy supplier Vattenfall have kicked off their second-life battery/energy storage project. An installation of 100 used EV batteries (from i3 and ActiveE prototypes) at Vattenfall’s site in Hamburg is to integrate with a 2MW power station and explore the storage of 2MWhr-worth of energy (enough to power 30 four-person households for a week, apparently). The 10-year project – to be operational by the end of next year – is to explore the integration and management of the batteries, their storage capacity, and their ageing/degradation. More here.

  • The first Symbio FCell-converted hydrogen fuel cell range-extended Renault Kangoo ZE vans have been delivered to a fleet in West Normandy; their range is nearly doubled by the on-board fuel cell. More here.
  • Discussion on Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone platform at Car Design News: this kind of thing could be scaled-up for vehicle interiors and in-car connected services, allowing for updates and personalisation of services, for example.
  • Siemens is developing an algorithm to better predict the availability of car-share vehicles within integrated multi-modal route-planning; this will join its SiMobility Connect platform. More detail here.
  • Big report from the ICCT (International Council on Clean Transportation) suggests that over a quarter of gasoline/diesel fuel use on the Pacific Coast could be substituted by lower-carbon fuels by 2030. It modelled eight potential scenarios and sees a role for electricity, hydrogen and natural gas alongside ethanol and biofuels (and electric rail) in different proportions according to policy and incentives. Yep, no one answer or solution.
  • Porsche’s ‘Pajun’ sports saloon (shrunken Panamera) is to come as an EV only, reports suggest. It’ll be positioned as a Tesla Model S rival. And reports also – at the other end of the car market – of an Opel Karl/Vauxhall Viva EV.
  • Research from MTV (3600 respondents) found that ‘millennials’ – contrary to many recent claims – are pretty fond of driving after all; 75% would prefer to give up social media for a day than their car, apparently. More here. Adds to a growing sense that the contribution of this age-group to ‘peak car’ (if indeed this exists or is ongoing) is short-lived or even a bit of a fallacy?
  • …but driverless/autonomous vehicles may actually even cause congestion, according to research from Imperial College, London reported at CityLab (again); if acceptable levels of comfort are to be reached, lots of stop-starting and delays/snarl-ups at intersections, models suggest.
  • And more from Imperial College: deprived and ethnically-diverse neighbourhoods (in the UK and Netherlands) bear the brunt of poor air quality from traffic emissions, especially PM10s and NO2. Reported here.
  • In a not-unrelated move, the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney are to introduce a near-£100 diesel surcharge on already-expensive residents’ parking permits (reported here). Much debate as to whether Euro 6-compliant diesels (the latest) should be exempt and whether this blanket policy is too blunt an instrument; tempered in the media, perhaps, by a rather damning and difficult-to-argue-with report on diesel (“The Great Car Con”) from C4’s Dispatches.

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