News round-up: e-scooters, PHEVs, car-sharing – + advantages of electromobility

March 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

04_Motorman_red1-1024x768Its retro design might not be for everyone, but the Dutch-made Meijs Motorman electric scooter is, according to Wired, “taking over Europe”. No bad thing, the use of clean two-wheeled commuting solutions, and stylish, design-led products in the marketplace can only help raise the profile of e-scooters, mopeds and electromobility in general. Prices start from 4,750 euros (excl. VAT), with customisation options available from this Maastricht-based bike-builder. Rather nice-looking, in my opinion, but then I do like a bit of stripped-down vintage-look styling with the benefit of modern technology, modern maintenance demands and modern-day attention to air quality.

  • BMW’s confirmed UK sales in the autumn for the X5 xDrive40e, a plug-hybrid (why am I less excited about this than the above e-scooter?). Its total output is 313hp (245hp from its four-cyl 2.0-litre petrol engine, 113hp from its e-motor), with combined CO2 emissions of 77g/km and fuel economy up to 85.6mpg; it’ll still do 0-62 in 6.8 seconds and 130mph (up to 75mpg in all-electric mode). All-electric range, varies – “short, everyday journeys in urban areas can easily be completed with zero tailpipe emissions”, says BMW, promising an equivalent 94.2mpg for 15 mile-odd trips in city traffic or a return of 43.5mpg over a commute of up to 37 miles. In the optimised MAX eDrive mode, 19 all-electric miles are possible. However, long-distance (and higher-speed), fuel consumption is “above 25.7mpg”, more in line with a conventional SUV of this size. There’s eight-speed Steptronic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive, too, and a battery-save mode enabling a build-up of charge (giving range) for later deployment, i.e. when entering a zero-emissions city centre zone (when such things arrive and are enforced). Owners are further offered the BMW 360° ELECTRIC service, with a choice of Wallbox home chargers, membership of the ChargeNow scheme, ParkNow Longterm parking/charging space-booking and further customer services. More details here.
  • Ford’s car-sharing trial in London is going well, reports CleanTechnica, with users of the 17p-a-minute City Driving On-Demand service initially opting for the ICE Fiestas, but switching to the Focus Electrics when they are familiar with the app-driven booking process – and not going back.
  • Research at Imperial College, London, has untangled (some of) the chain of cause-effect linking diesel particulates and respiratory distress – the diesel particles are found to activate sensory nerves in the airways. More here.
  • And a new study from NYU (outlined here) linking fine particulate matter (PM2.5) with artery-narrowing and strokes: PM2.5s mostly come from diesel exhaust (as well as from non-transport sources such as wood-burning stoves) but gasoline direct-injection engines are increasingly the culprits as well (more on that here). T&E reports that EU-wide, vehicle traffic contributes a fifth of PM2.5s to the atmosphere.
  • Congestion on UK roads is the worst it has been for over 10 years, according to a survey by the Freight Transport Association (and they should know…). The FTA is noting an increase in domestic road freight but a 55% rate of decline in reliability on the motorway network; also, an expectation of “robust growth in domestic road freight activity” in most industry sectors and regions in the first quarter of this year. Its proposed solution is more investment in the road network, however, rather than, um, fewer vehicles (of all types?) and smarter use of the roads we have. Reminder, too, that transport issues ain’t just about cars.

Friday round-up: Traffic forecasts, transport reports, road safety and more…

March 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

trafficRoad traffic Forecasts 2015 from the Department for Transport: different scenarios to 2040 modelled (with results including “exponential growth”), and different assumptions about trip rates considered, but, yes, “in most cases we forecast traffic in all area types to grow strongly”, albeit with slower growth (still growth) in some urban areas if current trends are to continue. As @giulio_mattioli put it: “Peak car? What peak car?” Indeed.

  • Yet commuting habits have been changed – and road casualties and fatalities reduced – by the introduction of the London congestion charge in 2003, according to research from Lancaster University. Traffic accidents have fallen by 30 a month (a 40% reduction) with similar reductions in the numbers of those killed or seriously injured. The rate of accidents – number per million miles driven in the zone – has fallen by 2.6 from an average 12.4, showing a more than proportional decline in accidents in relation to the parallel reduction in vehicle numbers.  And accidents and injuries have also fallen in areas adjacent to the charging zone (fewer people driving through them to central London), in the non-charged hours 6pm-7am and for exempt vehicles (including motorcycles, bicycles, taxis and buses).
  • But the environmental/sustainability benefits of more fuel-efficient cars may be outweighed by higher mileages – a report from Sussex University suggests a ‘rebound effect’ in relation to fuel pricing, whereby one-fifth of economy improvements are cancelled out by motorists driving more. Don’t ask me to analyse (or even make any sense out of) the stats, but one clear conclusion appears to be that (British) motorists respond more to cuts in fuel prices than to improvements in mpg.
  • On a not-unrelated note to all the above, report out today from Global NCAP calling for a worldwide minimum standard for car safety/crash protection. It makes the point that “the global vehicle fleet reached 1 billion in 2010 and is forecast to double in the next ten to fifteen years. This unprecedented increase is occurring in low and middle income countries which account for 90% of total road deaths.” Underlining why we need cleaner (as well as safer) cars, because – to repeat the point I often make – with the best will in the world, refusing to engage with these issues and assuming that everyone (including those travelling outside well-connected, affluent urban areas) can be persuaded to walk, get on a bicycle or use public transport, however ideal that may be, is pretty damn futile.
  • Ecotricity is planning to get its rapid-chargers out onto the UK’s strategic A-road network, especially in areas not served by motorways. More here. (We won’t talk about the issues of maintaining functionality of these)…
  • GoMore, a Scandinavian car-pooling and peer-to-peer vehicle rental platform (established 2005) has bought out Spain’s Amovens, giving it 500,000 users. Plans for further international expansion, it’s been reported.
  • The European Parliament has voted to allow changes in lorry design, enabling more streamlined outlines to improve fuel efficiency as well as reforms to cab design for better visibility (and thus better safety for other road-users including pedestrians and cyclists) – but not until 2022, following lobbying from manufacturers. Comment on the matter here
  • Porsche: planning an all-electric small-ish hatchback-type model (downsized Panamera), reports Autocar.
  • The government’s announced a further 140 EVs and PHEVs for its own fleet, including vehicles for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and the Home Office. These will include the Nissan Leaf, and are part of a £5million investment in EVs and supporting infrastructure for public sector fleets. More here.

Integrated electromobility, EV economic benefits and more…

March 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

bmwi3 carshareAn integrated electromobility project: BiE (Bewertung integrierter Elektromobilität) is to look at the relationship between mobility services (including public transport and car-sharing) and EVs, and the everyday life of users. The federally-funded programme is looking at co-operation between services, the optimised planning of large EV-share fleets and the design of an evaluation system, booking system and charging support. Particular mobility needs, such as trips to supermarkets, will be considered for preparing of the vehicle’s charging accordingly; information as to EV-suitable journeys will be displayed to users via smartphone app. More details here; and from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, a partner in the project, here.

  • The UK’s oil imports could be cut by 40% and its carbon emissions cut by 47%  by 2030 with a large-scale deployment of EVs, reports a study from Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation. Drivers’ fuel bills could be cut by £13bn, or £1000 year – and more importantly, by 2050, transport emissions of NOx and particulates could be near-eliminated (saving over £1bn in associated health costs). This does, however, assume a population of over 6million EVs by 2030, growing to 23million by 2050 – along with a parallel growth in renewable-source electricity. Fuelling Britain’s Future further identifies benefits to the economy in terms of job-creation, as well as lower vehicle replacement costs, aiding fleets, economic growth and the manufacturing sector, pointing to Nissan’s factories and R&D work in Sunderland as an example.
  • One shared autonomous car could replace 14 private, DIY-drive vehicles, according to research from KTN Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, thus contributing to a reduction in congestion and an 80% fall in demand for parking spaces, thus freeing up land-space. The research was modelled on the Stockholm daily commute, and concluded that pooling taxi passengers and using self-driving tech, morning and evening rush-hour traffic jams could almost be eliminated. More here.
  • SsangYong showed a range-extended electric version of its Tivoli compact SUV at Geneva (though they didn’t announce any details about it at the time…). Turns out the Tivoli EVR concept features a single-cylinder petrol engine which recharges the battery, plus 127bhp e-motor, giving 93mph, 40g/km and an all-in range of 310 miles (up to 80 miles in all-electric mode), reports Autocar. The mag’s also reporting some news on the all-electric Audi Q8 sports SUV, to have a range of around 185 miles and arrive 2017.
  • A harbinger of pay-per-mile road tolling, reports Car and Driver: 5000 volunteers in Oregon are to take part in a trial with vehicle tracking and charging on a 1.5 cents per basis (they’ll have the difference between this and the current at-the-pumps gas tax refunded).
  • The US DoE is funding a series of EV and alt-fuel demo/education/training programmes to raise consumer awareness, prepare emergency services, crash responders, repairers and recyclers, and provide info to fleets; no time to detail these here now, but Green Car Congress has the lowdown.
  • Nice article on OEMs and car-sharing/mobility services at Automotive News: why they’re keen to get involved, the emerging new business models and possibilities for more ongoing revenue per vehicle than by simply selling it…
  • The SecMobil project at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum has developed a single chip for EV-charging stations securely combining measurement of current, charging time and any interruptions, and data for (cost) charging purposes; more here.

Geneva 2015: the aftermath

March 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

lexus lfsaI really liked the Lexus LF-SA city car concept, which has to give more than a few clues as to the next-gen Toyota/Scion iQ as well. Automotive News makes the valid point that as a Lexus, it’d be offered with hybrid powertrain only, and suggests that it’s a viable contender for production rather than just a think-piece. Further news from Geneva: some comment from Automotive News Europe on the prospect of an Opel/Vauxhall-badged Chevy Bolt: more commercially viable than a Karl/Viva EV, more likely than a direct replacement for the too-expensive Ampera. So Nissan launched – ahead of expectation – a seven-seat passenger-carrying version of its e-NV200 van, the Evalia (more here), and that Borgward brand-revival: plan is for mass-market production (800,000 cars a year by 2020) with an SUV to come first; it’ll be launched at Frankfurt show in the autumn, and there’ll be hybrid powertrains, reports Autocar.

ford ebikesMeanwhile, away from Switzerland Ford raised a few eyebrows at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, unveiling two folding e-bicycles and its Handle On Mobility trial programme. The Dahon-built MoDe:Me is a straightforward 200W-boosted commuter pedelec to be stowed in a car boot for short onward park-and-ride journeys; the MoDe: Pro is for commercial use (couriers, electricians, delivery services, suggests Ford) and can be stowed in vans or support vehicles. The trial will test an app called MoDe: Link (iPhone 6) which enables navigation (signalled to the rider via vibration on the handlebar grips); auto turn signals; communication with other vehicles, identification of bike-friendly routes, hazards and alerts; integrated multi-modal journey planning including weather, parking and charging point info; adjustment of pedal-assist according to the rider’s heart-rate (with ‘no sweat’ mode); and compatibility with Ford’s in-car SYNC. More details here. And also at the Mobile World Congress: BMW’s “Vehicular Small Cell” tech for better in-car wireless networking (more here).

  • Nissan is partnering with Spanish energy firm Endesa to develop two-way vehicle-to-grid EV-charging for peak load-balancing, energy storage and back-up in emergency situations. The trials will also involve energy storage using second-life batteries from end-of-life EVs. More here.
  • Putting a silica shell, with ‘mildly reduced’ graphene oxides’, onto cathode material in lithium-sulphur batteries reduces the likelihood of ‘polysulfide shuttle’ as lithium tends to dissolve in electrolyte: a team from the University of California have developed a process promising higher battery performance and longer battery life. More, incl. references, here. Yet BASF is developing a process to increase the energy density of good ol’ nickel-metal hydride tenfold, apparently – NiMH batteries being both cheap and stable; more here.
  • And latest news on the ‘biobattery’ process – improving the efficiency of biogas plants in producing electricity, gas, biofuel and ‘biochars’ from green waste, sewage sludge, food industry by-products, straw or animal excrement. Trials in Germany are now seeing 75% efficiency.

Concept of the Day: Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II

February 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

mitsu concept xr-phevMitsubishi has released more details of its small SUV concept, a plug-in hybrid, prior to next week’s Geneva Auto Salon. The XR-PHEV II has a new powertrain promising a motor output of 163hp (no details yet on the engine) and overall emissions below 40gkm, and is front-wheel-drive despite its mini-Shogun styling; think next-generation ASX urban crossover.  It has all-electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid modes – designed for prioritising all-electric operation, with the engine acting as a generator, but the engine can also kick in to supplement the motor power.

  • Toyota is putting its i-Road into action in an EV-share in central Tokyo next month, in partnership with Park24’s Times Car Plus service. A trial – supplementing Toyota’s programme in Grenoble, France – will run till the end of September to gauge user feedback, activity patterns and ease of usage.Toyota expects the cars, to be located at the Times Station, Yurakucho ITOCiA shopping centre, to be used one-way to businesses, shops and sight-seeing locations; they can be returned to any of five central bases. Times Car Plus members opting into the service will pay 412 yen (about £2.25) per 15 minutes with max hire time two and a half hours. There are around 430,000 members of this mobility service (operated by car park network Park24) across Japan.
  • Springer has published a book on Electric Vehicle Business Models, including case studies and research on car-sharing, wireless charging, grid-balancing, marketing (‘technology push vs market pull’), and cost of ownership; more details and samples here.
  • Volkswagen’s Geneva concept previewing the next CC is to have a (petrol) plug-in hybrid powertrain, reports Autocar, but the Audi Prologue Avant (next-gen A6 Avant estate) is diesel-electric – 3.0 TDI engine, 353hp, plus 100kW motor and eight-speed tiptronic transmission, delivering 0-62 in 5.1 seconds, 155mph, 176mpg overall, 43g/km and a 54km range in all-electric mode. Wireless induction charging capability, too.
  • has launched a mobile app (£4.99, iOS, Android to follow) enabling UK EV drivers to search for public charging points (by rated power, connector type or compatibility with their vehicle as well as by postcode or location), and to provide feedback and ratings , i.e. on correct functioning. It’s the first of a series of apps the Zap-Map/Next Green Car team (managers of the government-funded National Chargepoint Registry) are developing to support electric car drivers. More here. This follows debate on EV user forums about the ins and outs of repurposing and selling data from OpenChargeMap and other OS databases…
  • Proterra has upgraded its e-bus battery packs to deliver a range of 180 miles; more at Green Car Congress.
  • Not all biofuel bad: the Greater London Authority is planning to get vehicles used on council fleets running on a blend with used cooking oils, fats and greases, and Hackney is to trial blends of B20 and B30 in its LCVs by the end of the year, reports Fleet News. This could also help tackle the problem of ‘fatbergs’ clogging the capital’s sewers.

Tuesday news: EV-charging charges, grid-balancing, integrated transport, alt-fuels, etc…

February 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup5We’re looking at an end to free EV parking in central London: Source London is planning to introduce charges for using its charger-equipped bays, reports Autocar (alongside fixing the broken/inoperable chargers). There’ll be a sliding scale of tariffs (tbc), based on zones 1-6. Initial thought: that’s one big incentive to go electric gone. Second thought: this stops an incentive to drive into central London rather than take other forms of transport. This echoes thinking on a similar line southwards in Brighton at the weekend: nice to see a Volkswagen e-up! charging (as pictured) at the well-used bays at Bartholemew Square (first one I’ve spotted there), but on balance, I’d argue for the Lanes area being a car-free zone anyway. Driving into the very heart of heavily-congested city centres isn’t the best deployment of EVs…

  • News with strong implications for energy storage-electromobility synergies: San Diego Gas & Electric is running a pilot vehicle-to-grid project and pitching EV fleets and storage systems as one integrated resource into local wholesale energy markets. This demand response and grid-balancing programme is currently aggregating stationary storage with fleets at five locations in San Diego County, and incentivises users to charge off-peak. The project is further studying the benefits both at customer and grid levels, and identifying barriers as well as best practices and growth opportunities for future roll-out on a larger scale. More here.
  • And talking of integration: the NW Bicester ‘eco-town’ development (Oxfordshire) is to have an electric car club and communal charging points, as well as the option of EV-charging equipment fitted at the new homes. A fleet of subsidized EVs is also to be available for ‘champions’ who will share their experiences, and there will be test-drive events in the community. And alongside this, bike lanes and pedestrian routes linking the development to the town, and cycle storage for each house. Sensible measures to contain the impact of suburban sprawl? More here.
  • Nice accessible runthrough of how tech can transform commuting from the BBC: from apps to integrate multi-modal options, digital mapping and use of social media to bike-shares and wireless e-bus charging (I’ll pass on the jet packs, though), it does make the point that the actual modes of transport will probably change less than the means of accessing/paying. It also quotes Prof Carlo Ratti from MIT on car-sharing and ride-sharing – “we predict that, in future, four out of five cars can be removed from the road” – and on autonomous/self-driving cars, which “promise to have a dramatic impact on urban life, because they will blur the distinction between private and public modes of transportation”. Note that this is, however, specific to the urban environment – and that in this brave new world, there are still cars, even if they are shared and in fewer numbers.
  • But yes, more walking and cycling (and bike-sharing) are necessary if future cities aren’t to grind to a halt: a new report from the OECD, The Metropolitan Century, also calls for revised land-use regulation and taxation/fees to discourage private car use, as well as traffic and parking controls.
  • Ricardo has developed a next-gen 85kW electric motor for vehicles which needs no rare earth metals – and is thus cheaper to make. More on the RapidSR project here.
  • An alt-fuels workshop report from the US DoE: markets/applications for natural gas (trucks, vans, heavy-duty) and hydrogen (personal transport) will naturally segment, with only a little overlap in some areas (buses, light-duty commercial vehicles). However, economies of scale could be achieved by co-location of refuelling facilities and other supply chain infrastructure, as well as common standard-setting for storage equipment, etc; new business models and partnerships will emerge, with the potential to move away from centralised fuel production. More here. And analysis of the benefits of natural gas for trucking – but its mixed environmental effects – in a study reported here.
  • The above important because biofuels not necessarily the answer – and the EU has just voted to phase out ‘first-generation’ (land-based, crop-grown) biofuels from 2020, with a 6% ‘cap’ on their blending into petrol and diesel. This addresses the issue of biofuel from food-source crops, but also land use where other inedible crops are grown for energy rather than food, says think-tank Transport & Environment; criteria for fuels made from wastes and residues have also been tightened up.


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.


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Research category at Driving to the Future.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 572 other followers

%d bloggers like this: