Concept of the Day: Rinspeed Σtos

October 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

rinspeed etosRinspeed’s next concept is to be shown at CES in Las Vegas next year: the Swiss consultancy’s latest creation is a hybrid sportster called Σtos, complete with ‘learning’ autopilot function, an adaptive interior with a steering wheel that folds away and retracts into the dashboard in autonomous-driving mode, two curved info screens, a full suite of connected-car tech from Harman – plus an accessory drone with landing pad on the car’s tail end. So far, so Rinspeed, but note the departure from the firm’s usual protocol of a local reveal at the Geneva show. Canny Frank M. Rinderkneckt says: “The major and especially the disruptive innovations in future automotive engineering will come from the digital realm. That is why all major manufacturers and suppliers are now present at the CES Consumer Electronic Show.” Indeed.

  • The Transport Systems Catapult’s Intelligent Mobility: Traveller Needs and UK Capability study reports: 75% of journeys have ‘pain points’, 57% of travellers are always looking to optimise journeys; ‘start-stop’ traffic and parking are biggest pain points for drivers (12% each); multi-modal journeys are particularly painful; 31% of journeys wouldn’t have been made if virtual mobility had been possible. This involved 10,000 online questionnaire respondents, 50 company interviews, 100 expert interviews. Their answer? It’s in the emerging intelligent mobility industry, using tech incl autonomous vehicles (39% indicating they’d consider them), exploiting mobile data for user-focused integrated, efficient, sustainable transport systems. 4 transformational themes for roadmaps have been identified – Access, Automation, Demand and Supply, Integration: each could revolutionise travel (people and goods) but greater step change is possible if they’re combined, it concludes.
  • In the week Tesla took the headlines for its autonomous-features introduction, and Toyota formally launched its Mirai fuel cell car (fleets to go to Transport for London, private hire firm Green Tomato Cars and hydrogen co ITM, in the UK), Swiss (again) start-up nanoFlowcell AG updated us on progress on its Quant F super-coupe (heading towards European Type Approval and small-series production) and its embarking next year on construction of ‘Quant City’, 25,000sq-m R&D centre in Tenero, Switzerland. This is where its flow cell batteries (salt-water electrolyte, to be ‘swapped’) and the car itself will be developed and built. Expect also for the batteries to be promoted for use in energy systems for buildings as well as “applications in shipping, aerospace and rail traffic.”
  • EVs and PHEVs could account for 30% of vehicle sales in Europe by 2030, according to a study ‘Scenarios for the Electrification of Transport’, published by the ScelecTRA (Scenarios for the Electrification of Transport) project, reported here. ScelecTRA is one of the EU-funded Electromobility Plus programmes.
  • Aiding the above, Volvo’s announced plans to put a PHEV version in each of its model-ranges, as well as to “develop an entirely new range of electrified smaller cars and build a fully electric car for sale by 2019.” Medium-term forecasts – two years’ time – are for electrified vehicles to account for up to 10% of its sales. First up will come PHEV versions of its ’90-series’ and ’60-series’ vehicles, with the XC90 T8 Twin Engine PHEV already on sale; S90 PHEV is upcoming, as well as front-wheel-drive PHEVs. The anticipated 40-series small cars are based on Volvo’s new architecture said to have “been designed from the outset for electrification.” Interesting footnote: feedback from Twin Engine cars so far suggests that they’re driven in electric mode around 50% of the time.
  • Latest registration figures from the SMMT: 20,992 people bought a plug-in car in the first nine months of this year (up 138.5% on last year’s figures). Uptake of PHEVs was biggest, though, up 226.5% to 14,041 year-to-date; this marks a 1% share of the UK car market for cars with plugs. Breakdown of YTD figures: 9,303 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs, 4,285 Nissan Leafs, 1,564 BMW i3s as the top three.
  • India’s Mahindra & Mahindra plans to bring a four-door version of its E2O EV to Europe, reports This car will be launched next summer, and a UK distribution centre is to be set up, apparently.
  • Auto Club Europe is launching a PAYG charge card for EV-owning members; this will give access to 25,000 facilities across Europe, with charging to be, er, charged according to operators’ tariffs, but there will be no admin fee. ACE is also offering a tow-to-nearest-charger service for members who run out of range (


Concept of the Day: Mitsubishi eX

October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

mitsubishiex800Another electric concept car to appear in Tokyo: the Mitsubishi eX, which also previews a new compact crossover. This is described as a cross between a shooting brake and a compact SUV, and has 4WD (motor driving each axle) plus connected/automated systems; reports also suggest a (perhaps theoretical) 250-mile range between recharges. Mitsubishi Electric, meanwhile (different corporate division) has an updated version of an earlier assisted-driving concept: EMIRAI x3 DAS has LCD displays with cloud content synchronisation, motion-sensing controls, wearables syncs, head-up displays, driver fatigue/condition sensors, predictive/analytic mapping data plus remote control of household appliances.

  • Toyota has a series of concepts lined up for Tokyo: prettiest is the S-FR, a small lightweight RWD coupe (ICE), though the cleanest is the FCV Plus, a pod-like fuel cell city car which can also be used as an independent power generator. The third, the Kikai, has its mechanical components exposed (a bit like a Richard Rogers building) to ‘create a new driving sensation.’ Toyota will also be showing its Kirobo Mini compact robot, the Mk4 Prius and the C-HR crossover concept.
  • More on the LeTV SEE project: a compact electric sports car will be unveiled at next April’s Shanghai Auto Show (not Beijing, as originally suggested). Release posted here. LeTV is a Chinese equivalent to the likes of Netflix, apparently, and a massive repository/collector of digital content, which no doubt could be harvested/disseminated in its proposed cars (under development with help from Aston Martin, apparently).
  • A fleet of 10 wind-powered Renaults is now available for hire in the Outer Hebrides: the E-Car Club-operated vehicles (nine Zoes, one Kangoo ZE van) will use electricity from the six-turbine Pentland Road Windfarm, and can be hired on a daily or hourly basis from a number of locations in Stornoway or across the Isle of Lewis. The wind farm is said to supply sufficient electricity for all the Outer Hebrides’ domestic needs, and nearly 700 households in the local community receive a portion of its lease payments to the Stornoway Trust.
  • And hydrogen from artificial photosynthesis – light-activated splitting of water molecules – is being trialled at Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, and the Max Planck Institute, Stuttgart: this is touted as a potential storage method for solar energy, though it could also result in generating hydrogen to be used as fuel. More here.
  • Might be a while before there are sufficient numbers of end-of-life EV motors and drive units for this to be viable, but Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Massachusetts) is looking at processes to recover and recycle their rare earth metals (otherwise mined in China, generally). A recovery rate of over 80% is claimed. More, incl. references, here.
  • And nanoparticles of candle soot (carbon) could make cheap, efficient electrodes for car-capable lithium-ion batteries, reports research from Hyderabad. The recovered carbon has high conductivity, the researchers say. I’m not sure of the overall benefits of this in terms of lifecycle energy consumption and emissions involved in burning candles, though, I have to admit…
  • Californian EV drivers can sync their car-charging with home appliance use and lower their energy bills using a new app called OhmConnect: savings of around $200 a year are said to be possible, timing electricity consumption to benefits from incentives from local energy suppliers to charge off-peak. More at Cleantechnica. And (also US): new software called JuiceNet, from eMotorWerks in partnership with ClipperCreek, connects charging points into a cloud-controlled and app-enabled, ‘learning’ smartgrid. This is known as aggregated EV charging load management; more here.
  • Meanwhile, in Europe, MaaS Alliance: a new initiative of 20 organisations has been formed to develop Mobility as a Service – flexible multi-modal travel service options and related integrated information/billing systems. The Alliance includes universities and research centres, tech firms, public and private sector organisations and companies including Ericsson, Transport for London and Xerox.

Concept of the Day: Nissan Teatro for Dayz

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Nissan-Teatro-7Now I feel really, really old. Nissan’s Teatro for Dayz concept – to be revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show shortly – is designed not even for millennials but social media-obsessed Gen Z ‘share natives’ born this century, kids who might use a car to connect and share experiences with their mates, and be more likely to hire/share than buy. The interior is fully-customisable with digital touchscreen surfaces, allowing for a choice of colours and patterns on the seats and interior trim; there are no knobs or switches, and some motion-sensing controls instead. It’s electric, and an external LED strip along the side sills indicates its battery-charge levels; it’s also a kei-class tiddler. And really quite kawaii. More about it, with pretty pictures, here.

(Debate on Twitter re. a disparaging piece on Autoweek; while, as a bit of a social media curmudgeon, I have some sympathy for the argument about encouraging self-promotion and vanity, this is, I think, demonstrating how, quite blatantly, the mainstream auto press Just Doesn’t Get It and is becoming less and less relevant. Very good point by @drewdraws2 – “The idea that interest in cars should only be about ‘driving pleasure’ and theoretical excitement needs to die”. We could add ‘driving’ full stop into that, of course).

  • Further Tokyo previewing: Subaru has a pair of concepts, and VIZIV Future – a compact SUV – previews an all-wheel-drive hybrid system. Suspect it’ll run mainly on its turbocharged petrol engine, though. More here.
  • Honda will be showing its FCV (fuel cell vehicle), successor to FCX Clarity and rival to Toyota Mirai, said to be on its way to the UK. Its powertrain is entirely packed in the ‘engine’ bay, and it will give nearly 135bhp via its electric motor; driving range between hydrogen fill-ups (currently somewhat harder to find than electric charging points) is 435 miles. New fuel cell concept(s) also expected from Toyota.
  • Future Transport Systems and Ricardo have developed an EV fast-charger using second-life batteries: the FTS E-STOR system is also specifically developed to play a role in grid-balancing and buffering within a smart-grid. It can involve batteries from any vehicle – although the prototypes use Renault batteries – and the first installations are expected mid-2016.
  • GM has launched a car-share scheme (well, on-demand hiring by the hour: I can’t see much ‘sharing’ here) in New York. A fleet of Trax and Equinox SUVs (!) can be reserved by app. For residents of upmarket developments in Manhattan only, at the moment, perhaps as the vehicles can be housed in private car parks/garages. Interestingly, this comes as BMW pulls DriveNow from San Francisco: due to problems with parking permits, apparently, though there is an intention to return. And DriveNow has just added 20 new electric BMW i3s to its London fleet.
  • Research by Morpace (Michigan) with a panel of nearly 250 US EV/hybrid owners: government incentives and tax rebates were an important factor in purchase; buyers were wary of secondhand EVs; nearly a third thought salespeople/dealers were poorly-informed and gave an unsatisfactory purchase experience. Lots of detail on some specifics, i.e. changes in driving habits (42% now accelerate more slowly); a preference to buy aftermarket/independently-sourced chargers rather than OEM equipment; a preference for midsize crossovers and a desire for their car to stand out as an EV or PHEV. On charging behaviour, 79% use apps to locate public charging points;  94% know the locations in their area and choose to go to establishments/locations with charging facilities; they charge in public on average 3.5 times a month for two hours; 71% pay for public charging and 48% of those who don’t would be willing to.
  • Hamburg is the first city in Germany to pass new federal EV legislation; from next month, EVs can park for free, and the number of charging points will rise from the current 150 to 600 by the end of next year, reports
  • UK EV sales in September 2015: 1,549, up over 28% compared to this time last year, plus 2,363 PHEVs (up 25.6%) and 7,605 non-plug hybrids.

Friday news round-up…

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup1Today’s news round-up is illustrated by a picture of one of the cleaner Volkswagens on the road, charging away happily in central Brighton… Dieselgate is well-reported elsewhere, and this is a story that will continue to unfold, so no great detail here – but I will smugly point out that I did write about how “cycle-beating… can involve activating selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx” as part of a lengthy cover story feature (click here to read!) for a well-respected engineering magazine earlier this year. This looked more generally at the emissions/fuel consumption testing regime and the gaping disparities between ‘official’ data and real-life driving, but the SCR dodge was discussed, albeit without reference to a specific manufacturer (fear of legal action, given that manufacturers and trade associations were adamant that all this was within the regulatory framework.) So yeah, we knew. Problem was getting people to listen.

Kudos has to go to the ICCT, of course, for doing the testing work, and to European lobbying organisation Transport & Environment for continuing to raise awareness and kick up a stink, and for providing mere writers/observers like me with data, quotes and general backing-up of arguments. Hoping now, of course, that all this will put an end to the diesel disinformation/greenwashing campaigns, bring on far more stringently-monitored regulation, and accelerate the demise of diesel (at least in passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, in the short-term) and ultimately fossil-fuel dependency full stop. As the far-cleverer-than-me people at the Economist wrote this week, “if VW’s behaviour hastens diesel’s death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.”

And in other news/musings this week…

  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed a new real-time data exchange system for electromobility, better-linking service providers, vehicles, fleet operators, charging equipment and users. The ELISE project resulted in a telematics-based control system which can support energy storage and even selling energy from a car back to the grid. More here.
  • Bosch (enabled by the purchase of Californian start-up Seeo Inc.) is working on solid-state battery tech said to potentially double the range of EVs and PHEVs within five years – without an increase in size. These batteries have no ionic liquid, and can have pure lithium anodes; more here.
  • Some updates on the ‘Apple car’: 2019, according to the WSJ, which adds that the 600-person team currently working on the project is set to triple. The car will certainly be electric, but while Apple is researching autonomous driving very seriously, it may not be fully-autonomous at first.
  • Have to admit that the whole smartwatch thing utterly baffles me, but should such things appeal, Ford is now making its MyFord Mobile apps wrist-compatible (Apple, Android Wear; US.) For EV and PHEV users, the watch app enables remote monitoring of charge levels, notification of reaching full charge levels, pre-heating/cooling of cabin, locking/unlocking doors, and mileage/last trip summary data showing efficiency, plus vehicle location directions (i.e. to walk back to the car.) Google Maps is incorporated, with info on charging stations.
  • Catching up on the Uptake of ultra low emissions vehicles in the UK report for the Department for Transport (August 2015): it’s an overview of socio-demographic characteristics of EV drivers (UK) and likely next-generation uptake, general usage, charging behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Nothing new or surprising here, but a very useful summary of research so far in this area…
  • Looking again at a London/Berlin comparo: 35% of Londoners rely on a car for their daily travel, over half prefer to travel by car than other means, and 75% of households have a car, according to a study outlined by Citylab. (Full report from LSE Cities/Innoz here.) Patterns were similar in both cities apart from much more cycling in Berlin, but the interesting thing here is the segmentation of the participants – ‘technology-focused individualists’, ‘pragmatic transit sceptics’, ‘green-oriented’, ‘innovative access-oriented’ and ‘traditional car-oriented’ – and how policy and incentive-offering need to tackle these groups differently. (This kind of approach has been called for in the above-mentioned report for the DfT, with regard to EV drivers.)

Concept of the Day: Thunder Power EV

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

thunder power EVTo be revealed at Frankfurt next week, the Thunder Power EV is all a bit mysterious as yet, but the company is promising that it “will have a long drive range, short charge time, lighter weight and will be competitively priced relative to the equivalent competing ICE.” Looks like a sports coupe, from the preview shots on the website, and the blurb accompanying an invite to the press conference/unveiling claims a range of over 600km, 0-100km acceleration in less than five seconds, 320kW of power plus a 250kmph top speed, suggesting it’s reasonably high-end. Also, “dedicated EV architecture”, “revolutionary powertrains” and “European engineering wrapped in Italian design.” So who are Thunder Power? Originally a Taiwanese power tool-maker, it seems, which has lately gone into biotech as well as electric vehicles, for which it has been developing “a number of proprietary technologies”. It has outposts in Taipei, Hong Kong, Hangzhou and Shaoxing in China, plus Milan, and has hired some auto industry veterans including Peter Tutzer as Chief Technical Officer (former technical director at Lotus, working on Elise, Exige and Evora, technical director at Bugatti) and chief production officer Franz Schulte (30 years planning prototype-building and production engineering at Ford, then at EDAG). Which may signal a. some money behind it  and b. some intent for the concept to be more than a showcase for the for-sale technologies. Will go and have a look at this one…

  • Nissan has confirmed significant battery upgrades to give the 2016 model-year Leaf a 155-mile range*. The new 30kWhr battery is the headline news here – but the Leaf will also get an improved NissanConnect EV information/entertainment system to replace the much-maligned and frequently-malfunctioning Carwings set-up. Word on this is that it retains the Carwings functions, “but adds new features, a much-simplified activation process and a new design”, and very importantly, gives a new charging map with real-time information on availability of charging points, plus revised navigation, maintenance alerts and a car-finder function. There’s a new 7-inch touchscreen interface. *Of course, this is the under-lab-test ideal-world figure; real world results may vary, etc etc. Full lowdown incl. UK pricing for the revised cars, on sale for December delivery, here.
  • Chargemaster has launched its new (British-built) Ultracharger EV rapid-charger this week: this enables PAYG payments via contactless debit or credit cards as well as RFID cards, and can incorporate automatic numberplate recognition. It can charge all vehicles capable of taking up to 50kW, via a choice of three cables, and it is small enough that it can be installed without the need for planning permission. Sales of 1000 a year are targeted.
  • Renault is showing off its prototype Kangoo ZE+H2 electric vans with hydrogen fuel cell range extenders this week at the Low Carbon Vehicle show, reports EV Fleet World. Two of these, converted by Symbio FCell, are on trial with Aberdeen City Council as part of a hydrogen-adoption research programme, and are said to have double the range of the standard Kangoo ZE. A similar prototype, ZERE (Zero Emissions Range Extender; based on a Nissan eNV200?) is also being displayed by Intelligent Energy.
  • Feedback from the 18-month My Electric Avenue trial has found that some local electricity networks will need to be upgraded to cope with demand as EV use increases – but that the lower-cost Esprit demand-management system could be a solution rather than cable replacement. The Ofgem-funded project studied ‘clusters’ of EV users (Nissan Leaf drivers) and their impact on their local electricity grids, with Esprit-controlled domestic charging to prevent overloading, and determined that networks can typically cope with 30-50% of customers having EVs before additional investment is required. However, car-makers and the energy industry need to work together “much more closely”, it says.
  • Meanwhile in Toulouse, the Sogrid smart-grid project has kicked off; this is looking at 1000 households, with a view to integrating EV charging, demand management and renewable energy, and developing an international communications standard. More here (via
  • Handy stat: Transport is now the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world – 33% of final consumption (end users), compared to 31% accounted for by industry, and 20% by domestic use, according to new figures from the International Energy Agency. In Europe, industry is still a little ahead of transport in its consumption, but IEA points out that 95% of transport energy use is oil-based, whereas industry uses more of a mix of electricity, biofuels and gas. More here.
  • Toyota is working with Japanese energy companies and local authorities in Japan on a ‘carbon-free’ hydrogen production project – electrolysis of water, using wind power. Trials will take place near Yokohama and Kawasaki, looking at the development of a supply chain and logistics. More here.
  • Borgward – a reborn historic brand-name based in Stuttgart, to reveal a PHEV SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week – has announced a longterm partnership agreement and joint research centre with alt-drivetrain developer FEV GmbH. More here.
  • Ford surveyed 5000 ‘millennials’ (aged 17-34) in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and, far from finding that they’re not interested in cars, predicts a sales boom in SUVs as they reach peak car-buying age. The survey claims that 84% of this age-group think that SUVs have become more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly in the last five years. Mmmm… Reported here.
  • Segmentation/spatial mapping study from the Department for Transport looks at different locations/demographics and their likelihoods of making more sustainable transport choices – downloads and datasets here.
  • TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is leading a two-year project with partners including EDF, Route Monkey, EV Connect and Aberdeen University to look at integrating energy supply systems/market structures to encourage greater uptake of plug-in vehicles. More on the CVEI programme here; it will also look at consumer responses, and later, run a trial with 300 mainstream EV users.
  • Wrightbus is building a range of electric buses to go on sale next year; single and double-decker versions will be available, with the option of pantograph flash-charging, inductive charging or conventional overnight charging. More here. Oh, and Volvo’s new ElectriCity bus, currently on trial, shows the potential for a vehicle fully-integrated into urban planning, it’s claimed, such as quietly gliding ‘indoors’ i.e. into shopping malls, airport terminals and soforth. More here.

JLR Concept_e research vehicles and more…

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

JLR Concept_e carsJaguar Land Rover has revealed three Concept_e research vehicles at the Low Carbon Vehicle show this week, featuring an electric-drive module (eDM) said to produce twice the power and torque of any motor-generator currently in production; this can be mounted between any motor or transmission and configured to create mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains, or used alone in an all-electric vehicle. Partners in this government-funded two-year programme include GKN Driveline of Redditch,  contributing its eAxle tech (a single-speed eAxle driving a front axle, and a higher-performance two-speed gearbox eAxle system driving a rear axle, which can be combined in an AWD vehicle) as well as Zytek Automotive, Drive System Design, Motor Design Limited, Williams, Delta Motorsport, Tata Steel, and Bristol, Cranfield and Newcastle universities.

The Range Rover Evoque-based Concept_e MHEV is a mild hybrid with a prototype three-cylinder 90hp diesel engine and 48V electrical system incorporating clutch-disconnect and a nine-speed transmission. Concept_e PHEV – Range Rover Sport donor vehicle – has a prototype 300hp petrol engine, eight-speed transmission, a 150kW motor and 320-volt lithium-ion battery pack and full-time four-wheel drive. Concept_e BEV, meanwhile, is the all-electric research demonstrator built on the new JLR aluminium architecture, modified to house the e-drive units and battery; it has a single-speed transmission with 85kW motor driving the front axle, and a two-speed transmission and 145kW motor driving the rear axle. Other techs in the research vehicles include brake-by-wire (giving optimum energy recuperation) and torque-vectoring; JLR has also been working on HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technologies to reduce energy consumption, including infra-red reflecting glass and infra-red panels embedded in sun visors, door tops and key places such as the transmission tunnel, lightweight carbonfibre seating, lightweight fabrics and sound-proofing materials, and its further news this week is the Provoque concept: an Evoque with 2.0-litre diesel engine, 48V electrics and electric supercharger, said to emit 99g/km of carbon dioxide.

  • Winners have been announced of the 2016 Michelin Challenge Design, which called for concepts for low-cost mobility solutions for developing regions. Many clever and amusing ideas, but of the top-placed entrants, I’m liking second-prize Edgar Sarmiento’s Arriero: a rugged electric off-road quad bike for Columbian farmers and herders. Ride it, cowboy.
  • Haven’t heard much from Wales-based Riversimple lately, but they report that they’ve now built Mk2 vehicle architecture, and are showing it off at the Low Carbon Vehicle Show this week. The latest iteration of the super-lightweight, easy-assembly fuel cell vehicle features 120 lithium super-capacitors for energy storage, and four in-wheel motors delivering 160Nm of torque. A two-seater with carbon monocoque construction, it has a target weight of 520kg, a cruising speed of 55mph and a range of 300 miles between hydrogen top-ups. Riversimple has a vision of  decentralised production and a business model based around leasing/mobility services rather than vehicle sales.
  • Biofuel from waste products = better than biofuel from specially-grown crops, and bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘drinking fuel’, government funding of £11million is being given to Celtic Renewables, Edinburgh, to develop biofuels from waste by-products of whisky-making. Advanced Plasma Power, Swindon, also gets £11milion for household biowaste-to-biofuel research, and Nova Pangaea Technologies, Tee Valley, £3million to develop biofuel from forestry waste. More here.
  • Volkswagen is to reveal (yet another iteration of) its Microbus concept at CES in Vegas next January, reports Autocar, which says the reborn Kombi/Bulli/camper van is to get an (optional) electric-drive system delivering a range of 250-310 miles. Conventional ICE models will also be offered, of course, but the electric version will get an updated version of the R8 e-tron’s powertrain. Official announcement expected soon, with production said (this time) to be scheduled for 2017. The zero local emission driveline, which relies on the Volkswagen Group’s latest lithium-ion battery technology as used by the Audi R8 E-Tron and upcoming Audi E-Tron Quattro concept, is claimed to provide a range of between 400 and 500km (250-310 miles) depending on the driving conditions. It is planned to be offered alongside more conventional turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants on the production Microbus, which senior Wolfsburg sources describe as being smaller than the latest Multivan.
  • The BlueIndy carshare is now up and running in Indianapolis, and now the latest destination for the Bollore Group’s concept: Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, capital Kinchasa). 50 electric cars and 14 electric buses, plus 80 charging points and solar panels, are to be shipped out there in time for the African Games, in partnership with the state of Qatar. More here.
  • Thermal management in EVs is serious stuff, and Bosch is to debut a new system at Frankfurt next week. It’s said to increase battery range by up to 25% and is heat pump based: pumps and valves collect heat (and coldness) and redistribute this via coolant. More here.
  • A certain morbid fascination with this concept – a driverless, autonomously-guided electric hearse, the latest idea proposed via Charles Bombardier in his regular column for the Globe and Mail (Canada).
  • Latest BMW app news: as seen at the IFA 2015 consumer electronics show in Berlin, the ConnectedDrive suite is to include two new apps, Smart Home for Apple iOS, or Samsung SmartThings (Android, still in research stages). Both enable in-car control/checking of linked household functions such as heating, intruder alerts, etc – and even check whether ‘smart’ sensor-fitted windows and doors are locked. Not sure if they can check yet whether you’ve left the gas on or iron plugged in, however… Full release on these (and other new ConnectedDrive developments) here.
  • Some transport-related feedback from the Future of Cities conference (government-backed Foresight Project) here: reports from Cambridge (“expecting an explosion in cycling”), Newcastle (identifying need for cross-sector data-sharing) and Lancaster looked at visions for 2065; the Foresight Project’s own report (“People in Cities: The Numbers”) looks at demographics and trends to 2040 and 2065; a report from Sustrans makes the case for active travel (walking, cycling) and David Metz (UCL) for investment in rail  in his report “Future of Cities: Beyond Peak Car”. Great – but do we have to choke on exhaust fumes and consume fossil fuels till the necessary shifts are made?
  • And more discussion on a similar theme – review of new book, Urban Transport Without The Hot Air, talks about successful case studies and opportunities for change in terms of lessening car-dependency (good), but dismisses ‘techno-fix’ solutions (EV-ICE ). Like it’s some sort of either-or solution and we can’t have modal shift, behaviour change and (a smaller number of) cleaner vehicles where appropriate.
  • In the meantime until car-free Utopia is achieved, the majority of new diesel cars fail to meet the latest Euro 6 EU emissions standards on the road, chuffing out up to five times the amount of harmful particulates and nitrous oxides measured in lab tests, Transport & Environment reminds us, quoting a new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) which looks at NOx emissions. This problem and its implications for air quality is far too serious for us to wait until we can shift everyone onto bikes, feet or public transport, even presuming that this is in any way possible.
  • As an aside, incidentally, some interesting stats via the Campaign for Better Transport. Rail passengers have more than doubled in the UK to 1.7billion over the last 10 years, with 22% of passengers going into London having to stand on a typical weekday and an average 4.1% of peak-time trains ‘over capacity’ (passengers standing for more than 20 minutes) – 10.1% over capacity at Paddington and 26% of all morning peak trains, with a total 59% of training having passengers standing. Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield also had high numbers of over-capacity trains arriving at the morning peak. (If we want to get people out of cars, there has to be a viable alternative).
  • Report on ridesharing from Deloitte looks at potential for its expansion, saying that nearly 19million commuters in US metro areas could feasibly share a car, giving total CO2 savings of 91.million metric tonnes a year as well as massive societal benefits (I paraphrase) in terms of reduced accident rates, spend on infrastructure and lower congestion, plus personal economic benefits. It points to ‘ring’ neighbourhoods as a potential hotspot (drivers/riders not necessarily commuting to city centres), and discusses incentives and policies to support its growth.
  • And further to all the above, some fun… The Guardian Cities has collected a few ideas for easier London commuting, including underground travelators, walkways and bike lanes, swimming lanes in the Regent’s Canal, and a floating bike lane along the Thames.

Big data drop: DfT National Travel Survey

September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

trafficBig data drop! The DFT has released the England National Travel Survey 2014 (7000 households, 16,000 individuals, on the basis of a week’s travel diary) and on the surface of things, some trends reported do suggest downward trends in driving… Average no of trips per year continues to fall to an average 921 (lowest yet recorded), with particular falls in trips for shopping, commuting and visiting friends (home-working/online shopping thought to be a factor); car travel accounts for 64% of trips but 78% of distance travelled; walking accounts for 22% of trips but only short distances; walking and car trips have fallen whilst use of surface rail and buses has risen in London; cycling distances have risen 26% since 1995-97; the wealthiest people travel twice the distance of those in lowest income-brackets, rural people 50% further than urban (and 90% more than London-dwellers).

Yet in the context of long-term trends, while number of trips has fallen, this is mostly down to less walking (though fewer car trips are being made), and overall distance and travel time continue to grow, as a reflection of greater access to cars; 73% of adults aged 17 or over now hold a driving licence, up from 48% in the mid-70s, and while male licence-holding has plateaued, female licence-holding has been slowly rising; though licence-holding has fallen in younger age-groups, there are more older drivers with licences. It’s also a mixed picture for car ownership; in 1985-6, 38% of households had no car, but by 2005 just 25%, and those having more than one car rose from 17% to 32% in that time; while ownership has levelled off in the last decade, there are regional differences: no-car households rose from 41 to 43% in London, but fell from 37% to 30% in the north-east, and rose overall outside of London. Unsurprisingly, people with access to cars make more trips, spend more time travelling, and go a lot further.  Other pull-outs include: active travel (walking, cycling) down from 28% to 24% since the mid-90s though public transport use up 2% to 11%; 56% of car trips are less than 5 miles; economic/employment factors and changes to company car tax are thought to have influenced the fall in car use in the last decade; cycling accounts for just 2% of trips and 1% of distance travelled.

Overall, the conclusion of the DfT is thus: it “concludes there is little evidence to confirm that car ownership levels or distance travelled have reached saturation”, also pointing to resumed growth in traffic levels since in the latest year. Anyway, more detail and number-crunching in the full report.

And in other news today, in no particular order…

  • …but only 44% of commuters in England could get to work by bike or car in the event of a ‘fuel shock’, according to research from the University of Leeds: Dr Ian Phillips looked at dependency on motorised transport, with reference to different areas, and identified areas which enable high levels of active transport (and low levels). Access to bicycles was key, though it had different effects in different areas – the greatest impact was in suburban areas of larger cities 5-10km from the centre, suggesting these types of areas are well-suited to cycling.  However, districts on the outer edge of London had a particularly low capacity for people to commute by bike or on foot, with rural areas and certain ‘prospering suburbs’ (low-density new-build housing?) also scoring poorly. The most deprived areas had a relatively high adaptive capacity but some – such as areas in East London, South Birmingham and post-industrial Yorkshire – were the least resilient. While this is looking at an emergency-case scenario, it says a lot about dependency on motorised transport, including car-dependency.
  • And are increased numbers of taxis (especially Uber cabs and other private-hire vehicles) in London leading to lower use of public transport, greater traffic congestion and increased air pollution? Debate – based around stats from Transport for London – at TechCrunch. London car ownership levels continue to fall, nonetheless, with 307 cars per 1000 people as of the end of 2013 and 2.6million cars registered; 54% of London households have at least one car, though car-less households rose from 38% to 42% 2001-2011. So let’s not hail Uber as a sustainability-success just yet, then…
  • Car use Stateside: picking out some of the US data in the INRIX 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard (see earlier post). Traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels, with 95 of 100 metro areas seeing increases 2013-2014; worst gridlock is in Washington DC (82 hours of delay per commuter each year), followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours) and San Jose (67 hours). This is put down to growing urban populations – and cheaper fuel. Average travel delays are more than twice those in 1982 (and 4x worse in smaller cities of fewer than 500,000 people.) This follows data showing an all-time record in US VMT (vehicle mileage travelled), and further traffic and congestion growth is expected.  So yeah, peak car? Mind you, as pointed out at Citylab, only looking at commuter habits and building extra road capacity just to cope with rush-hour demand certainly ain’t the answer (agreed).
  • Meanwhile, University Hospital Brussels has released a study (again) linking air pollution with heart attacks and other cardiovascular ‘events’, pointing to fine particulates (PM2.5s), larger PM10s, ozone and nitrous oxides – the results of burning fossil fuels – as the prime candidates, even when emitted within ‘safe’ Euro-legislated levels.
  • OK, vapourware alerts to the ready, but… Edison Power (Delaware) and SunVault Energy are to build a “a revolutionary electric supercar”, which is probably less about the vehicle itself than showcasing graphene energy storage tech. The car – Edison Electron One’ – will feature a graphene-hydrogen fuel cell for on-board hydrogen generation, and while tech detail is thin in the official release, it is to be displayed at the Battery Show in Michigan later this month. Spec allegedly includes an electric motor driving each wheel to give a total 1000lb ft of torque, 0-60 in just over two seconds, and recharging in five minutes; it appears to be a range-extended EV with the fuel cell in place of an ICE.  Sales by special order, availability from Q1 next year, they say…
  • Heating is a drain on the battery-range of EVs – but researchers at the Frauenhofer Institutes have come up with a heat-radiating film which is coated with carbon nanotubes, and applied to the interior door trim panels. This is said to heat the cabin more effectively and quickly than a conventional heater, as well as being energy-efficient. More here. Fraunhofer IWES has also come up with a cost-effective coil system for under-road induction charging, and this will be exhibited – along with the heating film and other electromobility solutions, including an air-cooled wheel hub motor, a lightweight energy pack and high-performance energy storage modules – at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Latest report from JD Power echoes previous findings on in-car tech: many (US) buyers simply don’t use it, or find it of any interest. The 2015 DrIVE Report (Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience, 4,200+ responses from owners/leasers after 90 days of ownership, carried out April-June 2015) finds that at least 20% of new car owners have never used 16 out of the 33 tech features measured. 43% “never use” concierge services; 38% mobile routers; 35% auto parking systems; 33% head-up displays; and 32% built-in apps. 14 specific no-go areas were identified – which 20% or more of owners do not want in their next car – including Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, as well as the concierge services and voice-texting, and interestingly, Gen Y-age buyers cited 23 unwanted techs, particularly those related to entertainment or connectivity. If a dealer/retailer did not adequately explain how a feature worked, it was less likely to be used, and likewise if this was not activated at the point of delivery – which resulted in some owners not even knowing they had it fitted. Owners do, however, like tech which aids safety and their driving experience, such as blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control or vehicle health diagnostics. JD Power exec director of driver interaction/HMI research Kristin Kolodge points out that “in many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate.”

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