June 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Not as sexy as a supercar, granted, but working vehicles like this roadsweeper are rather useful, and have a future – especially in cities, whatever other motorised transport may be used. This is a prototype built by Bucher Municipal of Neiderwenigen, Switzerland in partnership with Empa (Materials Science Technology Centre), ETH Zurich University. In place of the conventional diesel engine plus hydraulics, it has a small natural gas engine with generator; it consumes less than half as much energy on its standard ‘sweeping’ cycle, and its CO2 emissions are cut by over 60% (even more when biogas is used). Though it would cost more to buy, this is compensated for by its much lower operating costs.
Interesting note on this is that Empa calculates the typical annual diesel consumption of a vehicle of this type is around 10,000 litres, typically ten times more than that of a passenger car; they quote a German study which reckons that working vehicles, including bin lorries, etc., account for around 15% of the energy consumption of all road traffic, despite their actual numbers being very small. Anyway, further work is underway on this concept to optimise its operation, packaging and costs, but Bucher aims to bring it to market. More here.
- Seven auto industry mega-trends identified by Goldman Sachs, reported here. In summary, the Great Vampire Squid reckons that: there is ongoing endless powertrain advancement, but petrol/diesel will still power 75% of the global fleet 10 years from now; vehicles will become lighter; industry focus will turn to emerging markets; power will shift to ‘megasuppliers’ while the trad carmakers become final-assembly and marketing concerns; connected-car tech, apps and shared mobility have had a small impact in the taxi/rental sector, but the extent of their potential disruption is unclear and impact on car ownership will be limited until they can solve issues of under-utilisation; autonomous driving is on the horizon with tremendous potential, but legislative, social and economic factors must be resolved and it may have more impact on sectors such as trucking, public transport and non-car businesses than on private car ownership; and that ‘barriers to entry’ for newcomers have been lowered with new techs, allowing the involvement of the likes of Google, Apple and Tesla, but adaptability of the old OEMs and these megasuppliers may yet win out. As Automotive News points out (claiming that there is ‘little evidence’ that consumers are demanding fundamental changes in mobility), this is essentially a pretty conservative and status quo-reinforcing view of things – no surprise. But not necessarily wrong. My biggest query would be over ‘adaptability’ of the slow-moving OEMs…
- Details on the Frauenhofer Institutes EDDA electric bus fast-charging project here; trials in Dresden saw the roof-mounted high-voltage ‘flash-charging’ system (6.5 minutes) enable the bus to serve a 20km route.
- More research on PM2.5s – particulates most commonly emitted by diesel vehicles: linked with respiratory illnesses in children by the University of Seville. More here.
- Not quite sure what’s happening with the Bollore Group and the former Source London network (anyone?) but Transport for London has issued a call for partners and suppliers to build EV-charging infrastructure in the city. Plans include rapid-charging for taxis, private-hire vehicles and other commercial fleets, in a shift of previous focus, although ‘incentives’ towards mass take-up of EVs, presumably involving private vehicles, is also mentioned. Reported here.
- Meanwhile in Wolfsburg, an e-mobility trial project based around the main station has gone into operation: a fleet of electric bicycles and Volkswagen e-Ups can be hired for use between nine locations. Also, Milan’s BikeMi service is now up to 4,600 electric bicycles, and 70 new docking stations are being added in the city. More here. Also, further news via Eltis – 150 EV charging stations for Hungary; and a trial of four automated driverless minibuses in Vantaa, Finland.
- Renault is to supply 150 Zoes to the King of Jordan for his fleet; to be solar-charged from facilities at the royal palaces as part of “an ambitious solar programme”, says Renault-Nissan.
- Latest registration figures from the SMMT covering January-May: all-electric vehicle registrations doubled compared to this time last year to 3,772. Plug-in hybrid and range-extended EVs numbered 8,147, with the best-seller the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
- TomTom doesn’t just make sat navs: TomTom Telematics has supplied an open API platform for an electric car booking/management programme. This integrates car booking and battery data for the Be Smart EV-share (Italy) and allows for remote battery monitoring, vehicle activation, location tracking and journey information for billing. More here.
May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
Bit of an overdue catch-up here, but we’ll start with this BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept shown at Villa d’Este last week. Design-wise, you can read the full lowdown here, but of interest to me is this ‘eBoost’ function supplementing the straight-six. BMW hints only at “energy accumulators”, with the instrument panel including a charging display, but this sounds to me like some sort of supercapacitor-based hybrid system, perhaps…
- Back in the real world, the Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab taxi is to go into production in Coventry next year. Assembly is by Multimatic, and the Metrocab will first hit the streets of London (where a small-scale trial is already underway). It’s a range-extended EV with two electric motors, a 1.0-litre petrol engine and generator (which can recharge the batteries in just 10 minutes), regenerative braking, lithium-polymer batteries and external charging; its overall range is over 560km.
- We hear a lot about Generation Y and millennials, but how ’bout Generation Alpha (born 2010-on)? Design students from Art Center Pasadena see them as getting around in shape-shifting, shared, autonomous, connected EVs: some nice ideas in the SABIC-sponsored Design For Alpha project, reported here.
- Vodafone’s M2M (machine-to-machine) platform is underpinning a new service/app for EV users called Ubitricity – a ‘virtual network’ for billing/accessing power supplies. More here.
- Ford has launched its GoDrive carshare in London, with half its 50-car fleet Focus Electric Drives; more here.
- Some interesting stats via Fleet News: over half of the BMW i3s registered in the last three months, and over 60% of Audi A3 e-tron PHEVs, are for fleet buyers/the corporate sector.
- The global market for EV chargers will increase more than 12-fold 2014-2020, according to research by IHS Automotive; mainly AC charging still, it thinks, with just 10% of chargers in public/semi-public domain and DC fast-chargers a minority. More here.
- Latest from Navigant Research: plug-in vehicle sales to exceed 1.1million a year in the US by 2020. More here.
- Smith Electric Vehicles (US) has formed a JV with FDG Electric Vehicles (with lithium-ion battery-making division); the former is to assemble and distribute the latter’s vehicles in the USA, with a view to the urban delivery/transport sector. Smith will continue to make its Newton/Edison conversions. More here.
- EV buyers are economy-driven first and foremost, more than environmentally-focused, and are also younger and more affluent than the average, according to a (US) survey. They’re motivated by tax rebates and other incentives, reports TrueCar, which admittedly only compared a small sample of Ford Focus Electric and Fiat 500e buyers against their ICE-purchasing equivalents.
- The Institute of Energy and Transport, University of Leeds, is modelling electromobility: more on the project (for the Joint Research Centre) in this presentation.
- BMW has added 30 all-electric i3s to its DriveNow on-demand fleet in Hackney, Islington, Haringey and Waltham Forest (NE London).
- Not a car, but a boat worthy of note: an electric car/passenger ferry has gone into service in Norway. Built by Fjellstrand and featuring a Siemens-developed drive system with lithium-ion batteries, it uses 150kWhr per trip, said to be equivalent to three days’ electricity use by the average Norwegian household (length of trip not stated). Oh, and it’s charged using hydro power. Operator Norled reckons at least 50 further routes along Norway’s coastline could be served by electric ferries, too. More here.
May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
Volkswagen is fitting plug-in hybrid powertrains in a growing number of its production and concept cars: latest is the track-oriented Golf GTE Sport, an electrified, all-wheel-drive GTI concept. Developed for the annual GTI meeting at Lake Wörthersee, Austria, the carbon-bodied, GTE Sport gives 400hp, 174mph and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. All-electric range is 50km, and average fuel economy (not that the NEDC cycle gives in any way a representative figure) is 141mpg.
Its motors supplement a version of the turbocharged 1.6TSI from the Polo R WRC rally car; one (115hp/330Nm) is mounted up front within the housing of the six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, and another (115hp/270Nm) at the rear driving the rear axle. The racing-style interior – accessed via swing-up doors – features two self-contained areas for driver and passenger, and features a new three-level transparent information display system to accommodate all necessary data on charge, electric boost and power delivery as well as lap times. The mode-select switches for electric, hybrid and AWD ‘GTE’ performance modes is roof-mounted, and the driver can select battery ‘hold’ and ‘charge’ modes; in GTE mode, the front electric motor acts as a generator supplying energy to the rear motor via an “electric propshaft”, which Volkswagen has copyrighted.
I’m currently rather struggling with enthusiasm for PHEVs – firstly due to the growing suspicion that they’re not spending an awful lot of time in electric mode (as the Dutch government has suggested; see earlier post), and secondly as they are increasingly looking like an attempt to spin out the lifespan of the ICE from the OEM/industry end. However, on the positive side, consciousness-raising, gateway to electrification and all the rest of it, and if concepts like this grab the attention of petrolheads, so much the better.
- Spotted on this #PitchToRich thing (competition for Branson/Virgin investment: the Libralato petrol engine for plug-in hybrid powertrains (speaking of which), said to be half the size and weight of a conventional unit, and deliver the efficiency of a diesel. It’s a re-take on the rotary engine, with two rotors (and thus no pistons or crankshaft), from a firm in Greater Manchester. (Via @CarplusTrust – thanks). Well, potentially considerably more progressive than electrifying a conventional ICE.
- Toyota has launched its Open Road project, field-testing the i-Road micro-EV in Tokyo; there are three components to the programme, road-testing of the vehicle itself, collaborating with industry partners ‘to create unique extensions of the i-Road experience’, and broadcasting/sharing/promoting. It’s appealing for (Tokyo-based) participants.
- Renault-Nissan is planning EVs with a battery range of over 400km by 2020, according to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review. Latest EV sales targets have been revised, it reports, to 10% of Nissan’s sales by 2025 (from just over 1% now).
- Lack of public charging infrastructure remains a main barrier to EV adoption, yet most EV drivers are charging at home; an attempt to unscramble the contradiction from Navigant. Points out that the location of charging equipment is crucial if it is to be used, and that testing with mobile charging units is a good idea to determine suitable sites and justify investments.
- Driving costs society six times more than cycling, according to a Danish-Australian study: the paper, in Ecological Economics, says that cycling infrastructure is one of the most cost-effective investments for cities in terms of the impacts on air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, health, congestion and travel routes. Cycling costs 0.08euro per kilometre, with this cost showing a downward trend, whereas driving costs 0.50euro and rising, claim the researchers (Gössling and Choi, 2015). The study is based on Copenhagen.
- Toyota and Mazda are entering into a technology-sharing partnership: Mazda will get Toyota’s hybrid and fuel cell tech, while bringing its own SkyActiv fuel-efficient engines to the table, reports Autocar.
May 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Autonomous shared vehicles could replace 90% of private cars on city streets, according to research from the International Transport Forum modelling ‘TaxiBots’ – simultaneously-shared vehicles – and ‘AutoVots’, on-demand vehicles transporting one person after another. It warns of increases in total vehicle mileage travelled, however, due to the pick-ups, drop-offs and vehicle repositioning in different scenarios, but points out the land use implications for a reduction in necessary parking spaces – and where the Bots and Vots could supplement (or replace) inefficient or insufficient public transport systems. Further effects on transportation privatisation implied… Handy rundown here, full report, Urban Mobility System Upgrade, here. It notes that, to accommodate charging downtime, only a 2% increase in vehicle numbers would be needed for the fleets to be electrified. Nice analysis by Citylab, too. Pic: Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept, the luxury/executive option. The car-makers have been thinking about how to manoeuvre themselves into this new market-space, of course.
- In the meantime… the used car market is the key to electric vehicle adoption, says an analyst from Glass’s Guides, pointing out the role of the motor trade in consumer education and charting the strengthening of EV residual values.
- The CarPlus annual survey of car clubs is out: download the various regional reports here. Some take-outs from the England & Wales report: 22,500 members using 700 cars (outside London); increasing usage of EVs; claiming that four cars removed from road for each car club car; only 29% of members (6 months+) now own a car, with car purchases deferred; average annual mileage 3,500; members 3x more likely than average to cycle. Car club membership is used as part of members’ ‘portfolios’ of transport options including train, bus, walking, etc. Corporate members use cars more than private, and their employers/organisations have reduced usage of pool and ‘grey fleet’ (employees’ own) vehicles; most popular reason for joining was moving to a new area, then changing job. Figures for London report 155,000 members using 2,300 cars; a claimed 8.6 cars removed from the road per car club car; average annual mileage 2,190; and in Scotland, 7,600 members are sharing 240 cars. Importantly, the reports discuss the potential for adoption of electric vehicles – a good level of willingness to try them out, and positive responses towards experiences so far, were noted.
- And there’s a lot more on car-sharing in the latest issue of Transportation: shared mobility services are now mainstream, its editors claim, enabled by digital tech. Papers look at case studies, model future scenarios, look at the potential for car-sharing in B2B applications, fleet efficiencies and business models.
- Doubling bus use in the UK will have only a tiny impact in reducing car usage (1.3%), argues Steve Melia, and in general, investment in public transport will have little effect on reducing car travel – they’re more likely to reduce walking and cycling. Instead, he argues for better and more strategic planning to reduce congestion and air pollution.
- So Tesla has launched its PowerWall static energy storage systems, domestic grade and industrial: an important (and symbolic) step forward in capture and storage of renewables, nicely tying in with vehicle charging. This stuff is all connected.
- And some first-quarter figures from ACEA: EV registrations more than doubled compared to same time 2014, to 24,360 units. Hybrid sales were up 21.4% to 56,704, and natural gas-fuelled vehicles up 16.5% to 63,087.
- Researchers at University of Illinois, Chicago, have made advances in magnesium-ion battery tech – reported here.
April 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
TUM Create – a collaboration between TU Munich and NTU Singapore – has unveiled EVA, an all-electric taxi specifically designed ground-up as an EV, and with tropical climates in mind. Some interesting stats: taxis account only for 3% of vehicle population but 15% of mileage in Singapore; they typically run on a two-shift rotation 24 hours a day doing an average 520km; and of course, powering their air conditioning is paramount. EVA has a 200km range with only a 15-minute downtime for fast-charging, apparently, and is designed to be manufactured locally for Asian markets. More here.
- PHEV sales are to reach 1.2million a year in Europe in 10 years, outselling non-plug-in hybrids by 2019, reports Automotive News Europe, synthesising several analyses and quoting LMC Automotive. The most-sold at the moment by a massive margin has been the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (though in recent month-on-month listings the newly-launched Volkswagen Golf GTE has edged ahead in some countries). Meanwhile, the Dutch government has set a target of 200,000 electrified vehicles on the country’s roads by 2020; it has pledged to continue state support. However, it’s worth noting that, as SUV and truck sales start to boom again in the US, it turns out that over 20% of hybrid/EV owners have traded in their electrified vehicles as gas prices lower…
- Research from Toronto University: air pollution could be spread three times further than previously thought, with wide variations across districts. And in a sample of 100,000 vehicles, 25% – mainly older or ‘badly-tuned’ – were found to be causing 90% of the pollution, including 95% of particulates and 93% of carbon monoxide. More, incl. full academic references, here.
- Some academic papers on the transition to electromobility: including discussion as to whether momentum is going to last, the niches where EVs can more easily be introduced, but mostly identifying where things are going wrong… interesting case study linking EV use with the hydroelectricity generation system in Quebec, however.
- Catching up on latest EV/low-emissions vehicle registrations: 8573 cars with CO2 emissions under 75g/km were registered in the UK in the first quarter of 2015; again, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the leader, followed by the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe and… BMW i8. 2014 sales totals for all plug-in vehicles came to 14,498, including nearly 6,700 ‘pure’ EVs and 7,800 PHEVs, with some 52,000 alt-fuel vehicles (including hybrids, plug-ins and range-extenders) put on the road. SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2015 here. However, “diesel and petrol cars still represent the majority share of the new car market” – which itself continues to grow.
- And, in rant of the week, all of the above tends to suggest that, while there’s lots to be optimistic about, we’re still a long, long way from the “seismic shift” in car use/attitudes towards car use as suggested by this Guardian Cities piece this week… I think the focus on city-dwellers is pretty damn misleading too, considering that it’s the suburbanites, ‘peri-urban’ dwellers and other inward commuters mostly driving into city centres. Christian Wolmar’s quote in particular raises an interesting point: he says he doesn’t drive into London any more, which is taken as an example of an attitudinal shift, but his decision is effectively due to congestion/parking problems – because there are too many other cars… Though it’s well-argued and descriptive, with nice (niche) examples of good practice, there are so many holes that can be picked both in this piece and in the reaction to it, mainly due to reliance on the ‘peak car’ concept (highly debatable) or conflating the idea of a slowdown or flatlining in traffic/driving growth with that of an actual substantial reduction in cars on the streets (nope; see above) – much as we would all (except the car-makers and the SMMT, presumably) like to see that. Also, the idea of ‘car-free’ does often seem to forget that autonomous, shared, car club, on-demand non-private cars, not to mention delivery/taxi/service/emergency/other task-specific types of vehicle, are all some form of automobile too. And thus better electrified.
- Finally, further to the above… good in-depth discussion of ‘microtransit’ at Citylab. Yep, city-dwellers again, but some positive trends, plus a look at implications and unforeseen consequences. It ain’t all bad, but let’s not assume that cars are going to disappear just yet.
April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
A very quick Shanghai Motor Show round-up of stuff not previously covered/mentioned, in no particular order. Volkswagen: followed up the Geneva Sport Concept GTE with the C Concept GTE – stretched to a 5m-long four-door luxury “coupe” bodystyle, with a 245hp plug-in hybrid powertrain (four-cylinder TSI engine, eight-speed auto gearbox, 124hp electric motor). This can do up to 81mph in all-electric mode, with an all-electric range of up to 31 miles/50km; averaged-out economy is 122.8mpg and CO2 emissions 55g/km. Another plug-in hybrid: Qoros 2 SUV PHEV, a chunky little concept with hands-free and optional inductive wireless charging; and the latest in Audi’s Prologue series, the plug-in Prologue Allroad (previewing the next A6 Allroad) with 4.0 twin-turbo plus electric motor giving 724bhp. Toyota unveiled a series of Chinese-market hybrids and EVs; Cadillac supplemented its CT6 saloon with PHEV capability; BMW launched the X5 xDrive40e PHEV; the Chinese will be offered a hybrid Nissan Murano, and a plug-in hybrid Audi A6 L e-tron and Q7 e-tron 2.0 TFSI quattro. One of the more interesting and forward-looking concepts, however, was the Chevrolet FNR (“find new roads”, pictured) from GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center in partnership with SAIC Motor, which featured in-wheel electric motors, wireless charging, autonomous-driving capability with sensors and roof-mounted radar, and an interior which enables 180-degree swivelling of the front seats when in self-driving mode.
- A step forward in synthetic fuels: an Audi test facility in Dresden has produced its first batch of ‘e-diesel’, synthesised from carbon dioxide from a biogas plant. The process needs only ambient air, and works in stages: water is heated for steam, which is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis (using renewable energy); the hydrogen then reacts with the CO2 to produce ‘blue crude’, a long-chain hydrocarbon compound, which is then refined. This end-product is said to be free of sulphur or aromatic hydrocarbons, with a high cetane number,and it can be mixed with conventional diesel as well as used ‘pure’. The overall high-temperature process is claimed to be 70% efficient, with the added bonus that it can be incorporated into electricity grid stabilisation. Audi is aiming to produce over 3000 litres in coming months and then scale up the principle; petrol made in a similar way is also under development. More here. A classier news-release approach than Toyota’s talk about ‘hydrogen bullshit’, perhaps (hydrogen from cattle manure).
- Audi has also delivered 40 A3 e-tron PHEVs for testing in three trial programmes in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart: these are to look at private consumer use, expectations and charging. More here.
- Montreal is to get a municipal EV-sharing scheme: 250 cars to hit the streets by next spring, with the aim of 1000 by 2020. Importantly, this will be powered by Quebec’s abundant hydro-electricity. More at Treehugger.
- Barriers to EV adoption: vehicle cost, current battery tech, lack of consumer knowledge, reports the US National Research Council. Findings summarised here.
- Siemens has launched a cloud-based wi-fi enabled EV charging station that enables vehicle owners to activate and control/monitor vehicle charging remotely via mobile or web app, integrating into demand-management and grid-balancing incentives. More here.
- Millennials: buying cars again, and more than GenX, though mileage and driving rates are down across the board and there’s much variation between cities/location. Summary here.
March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
To be revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month, an SUV-ed up C4 Cactus with innovative interior design – and a PHEV powertrain. The Aircross compact crossover, which appears to preview a production model, features a 70kW/95bhp electric motor giving 200Nm of torque to the rear axle plus the 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol engine (218bhp/275Nm), and gives an all-electric range of 31 miles. Its lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in three and a half hours from a domestic 16A socket. Total power output is 313bhp, 0-62mph happens in 4.5 seconds, but the “combined” fuel consumption is 166mpg (not that this is a figure which really means anything given the way it’s averaged-out, but anyway) and CO2 emissions are down to 39g/km.
- Q1 2015 e-mobility Index from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants is out. Key trends/notes from this include: Japan is leading in terms of technologies at the moment, followed by France; China is investing heavily although R&D spending has fallen in other regions; vehicle weight remains an issue with few OEMs yet exploiting the possibilities of EV-specific structural design.
- Deaths related to air pollution are being underestimated, with the effects of NOx not taken into account, the Guardian reports: analysis here.
- And acute asthma worsening and attacks in children, linked again to traffic-related air pollution by UC Irvine. Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and PM2.5s particularly implicated, lower-income and ethnic-minority children more vulnerable since they are more likely to live in high-traffic areas. Rundown here.
- 30 Renault Twizy two-seaters have joined the Bluely EV-share in Lyon, with 110 to go into service in Lyon and in the Bluecub fleet in Bordeaux. More here.
- Plenty of electric scooters are coming onto the market, but the Gogoro Streetscooter comes with a battery-swapping trial programme – in Taipei, Taiwan, at least. 100 riders are being recruited to beta-test the scooters and the system, which uses ATM-sized battery dispensers to push out charged batteries, and take in the duds. More here.
- A new-generation Smart Fortwo electric-drive is on the way next year, and its batteries will be supplied by LG Chem. More here.
- There’s been talk of a revived VW Camper/Microbus (as distinct from the modern-day Caravelle) for a long, long time, but latest is that Volkswagen engineers are thinking about a battery-electric model inspired by the Bulli concept, reports Autocar. Other news from New York Motor Show: new Merc GLE (replacement for ML-Class, sportier) comes with plug-in hybrid option and 18-mile all-electric mode; the facelifted Toyota RAV4 also has a hybrid option (2.5-litre petrol engine plus e-motor). And there’s a Volkswagen Beetle Hybrid (non plug-in) prototype knocking around, as well. Oh, and Ssangyong unveiled a hybrid SUV concept – previewing a replacement for the Korando – called XAV at the Seoul Motor Show last week, too.
- A report from Arup/Qualcomm – “Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility” – looks at the potential of harnessing data for urban mobility, including the use of autonomous vehicles; it discusses issues of security, sustainability, ‘usership’ vs ownership, leveraging crowd-sourcing and ‘learning’ devices. More about it here.
- Waste corn stalks, cobs and husks can feed the production of hydrogen, in a twist on the usual biofuel focus: researchers from Virginia Tech have developed a high-rate enzymatic process to convert ‘dirty biomass’ into automotive-grade H2. More here.