Design Concept of the Day: Ligier EZ-10 driverless shuttle

November 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

ligier ez10The Ligier Group has shown its driverless shuttle vehicle at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Chengdu, China, this week, and has partnered with Robosoft Technology to create the Easymile Company to market it.  Featuring video camera-based guidance tech (developed at the Institut Pascal) to position it on a roadway, the EZ-10 continuously monitors its path along a virtual track after an initial manually-driven journey down that route. It can detect obstacles – or people – in its path up to 50m away and stop or slow down automatically and can seat up to 10 (with four wheelchair-users). Designed for use on set routes at specific sites such as industrial complexes, airports and amusement parks (links between car-share and bike-share facilities are also mentioned), it can respond to multiple summons from call points or smartphones in an on-demand service. A fleet of five will now go on trial at the Michelin Europe Technology Centre, Ladoux. More here.

  • The Connected Car Expo takes place this week in LA; the keynote speech by “futurist” Peter Schwartz (wouldn’t mind his job title…) is previewed in a special Automotive News supplement. Schwartz talks about issues of consumer concern, security and regulation; the potential road safety, traffic and emissions benefits; and separating out the different roles of driving for essential transportation and driving for fun (the latter including personalised and selectable driving modes). Interesting quote about driving in 50 years’ time: “We will look back at driving the way people look back at horses today. Are there still people going out to ride horses? Yes, there are people going out to ride horses and they enjoy it, but we don’t use horses as transportation”. Does he mean driving as a pleasure/leisure activity for a wealthy, privileged few, then? (Probably yes, I reckon). BTW, some three-quarters of vehicles sold by 2035 will have autonomous capabilities, according to Navigant Research’s latest forecast.
  • Daimler’s Car2Go reckons it’s going to have 1million registered users by the end of the year, reports Automotive News Europe. Its ‘free-floating’ carshare fleet currently consists of 12,000 Smart Fortwos in 29 cities across North America and Europe, and it is about to expand into China, giving 60 locations by the end of 2016. Car2Go is yet to make a profit, however.
  • A 100m stretch of ‘solar road’ – said to be the world’s first – has been opened this week in Krommenie, the Netherlands. It’s only on a cycle path next to the N203 at the moment, but its PV panels sit under thick super-strength glass, and the electricity collected is thought to be enough to power streetlights and illuminate road signs. Ultimately, such roadways could power electric cars and nearby houses or buildings, claim the designers. A three-year trial is now underway; more here and at the SolaRoad website. This glass is expensive, though, and the system’s only 30% as efficient as simply putting PV panels on nearby buildings, says Treehugger.
  • All types of UK road traffic rose 2.2% in the quarter July-October 2014, to 77.9billion vehicle miles, the highest quarterly figure since 2008. Compared to the same period in 2013, car traffic rose 1.4%, light goods rose 6.9%, and totals are conclusively up compared to Q3 five years ago (up 1% compared to 2009); ten years ago (up 1.5% compared to 2004); and 18.8% compared to 1994. All types of roads saw higher traffic levels in the last quarter, with the greatest rise on urban minor roads (up 3.5%), and motorway traffic has reached a record high. So much for peak car?
  • A test fleet of V2X-enabled Hondas has taken to the road in Munich to start a 1300km tour across Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, communicating with traffic signals, smart traffic lights, congestion warnings and hazard alerts as they go. This is led by NXP Semiconductors in partnership with Siemens, Honda and Cohda Wireless, to showcase these countries’ ITS “corridor”. More here. (And details of Mexican research into data transference between vehicles here).
  • Australia: a 430km network of EV super-chargers – 12 locally-developed and manufactured Veefil points – is being built across SE Queensland, linking Brisbane with Noosa northwards up the Gold Coast and southwards to Byron Bay. More here. And also from the state: nanotechnology is the key to creating cars powered by their own supercapacitator-fitted body panels, say researchers at Queensland University of Technology. More here.
  • More here on the Fraunhofer Institutes’ development of the self-charging EVs: the Afkar project in Stuttgart involves an EV parking itself, finding a space with facilities for recharging (using wireless induction) and even moving itself on once charged to free the charger up for another car. This has particular relevance for car-sharing scenarios, they say.
  • The US Air Force is to replace its entire non-tactical fleet with plug-in vehicles, with a view to using them as back-up power in an energy crisis situation, reports EV Fleet World.




Daimler launches car2go in London; Audi harnesses Big Data

December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

car2go_londonDaimler’s car2go car-share scheme (in partnership with Europcar) has launched in London: the boroughs of Islington, Sutton and Newham will host fleets of Smart Fortwo mhd two-seaters (with stop-start; congestion-charge exempt). Registration is free until 31st December 2012, with 30 minutes of free driving; after that, it’s charged at 35p a minute all-in. Cars can be returned anywhere in the participating boroughs, with parking free in borough-operated bays or car parks. Access to the cars is via smartphone, tablet or Facebook apps, or the car2go London website, with no pre-booking necessary, and a swipe of an RFID membership card. More details at, at the car2go shop at BOXPARK Shoreditch, or at Europcar stores in the city.

It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of the first studies of usage of the scheme: will there be take-up as an alternative to private or business car use, or will it be used as an alternative to public transport, walking or cycling (i.e. using the Boris bikes)? For regular commuting as well as for occasional or tourist travel?

  • Audi outlined its Urban Intelligent Assist tech at the LA Show last month: developed in collaboration with the University of Southern California and University of California at Berkeley and San Diego, AUIA is intended to make commuting and city driving less stressful and to enhance safety. It’s a suite of functions including predictive and location-based technologies, navigation and route guidance, parking guidance, onward journey information, lane-change assist and ‘attention guard’; more here. “Harnessing the power of Big Data” to meet “the challenges of navigating the chaotic roadways of the world’s megacities”, apparently.

More autonomy from Volvo

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Volvo’s moving a stage closer towards autonomy, in several senses. It’s to fit a traffic jam assistance system in production cars in 2014, adding to existing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping tech to enable a car to automatically follow the vehicle in front in slow-moving traffic. Autonomous Driving Support works at speeds up to 50kmph, and is activated by the driver pushing a button; it will steer the car as well as brake and accelerate it, maintaining a safe gap from the vehicle ahead. It can be overridden at any time, of course, and is a step towards implementation of the full SARTRE ‘platooning’ system. And it is integrated into Volvo’s upcoming self-developed Scalable Product Architecture, the underpinnings of the next-generation models which mark the company’s rebirth since its sell-off by Ford.

  • Londoners – want a free domestic 16-amp EV charger? The Low Carbon London programme (funded by the OLEV/Plugged-In Places government scheme) is handing out free chargers to individuals and businesses willing to take part in a trial and have their charging behaviour monitored. The research, by UK Power Networks, is to study demand on the national grid and build up a picture of potential peaks. Some additional on-street points will also be supplied to Source London. More at just-auto, and you can apply at Low Carbon London.

Guess that car…

January 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Some off-topic Friday fun for y’all and a chance for me to self-indulgently post some of my holiday snaps. As I may have mentioned before, I have been away on an extended break (heartily recommended, especially if you get to avoid Christmas). To say exactly where will give too many clues for this little Guess The Car game, though of course, my close friends who know will have an unfair advantage, as will those with very sharp eyesight. So what are these elderly autos? Warning: not necessarily what you think. Answers as comments below or via Twitter…

E-tron testing, another Aussie EV; Monday newsbriefs

October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

A fleet of 20 Audi A1 e-tron prototypes has gone into action in Munich; the trial, a partnership between Audi, energy supplier E.ON, public utility Stadtwerke München and the Technical University of Munich, will look at expanding the EV recharging infrastructure in the city, the power grid, usage patterns, communication of data between drivers, cars and recharging stations, and the use of smartphones as a control interface. This Modellregion Elektromobilität München project is part-funded to the tune of ten million euros by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. The A1 e-tron itself is a 102hp EV with a small range-extender engine; it’s capable of 81mph and a range of 155 miles, having an all-electric range of 31 miles/50km, and an overall fuel consumption of 147mpg; carbon dioxide output is 45g/km.
  • Another day, another Aussie EV: the Varley evR450 was unveiled at an electric vehicles conference in Brisbane last week. The Varley Group  makes everything from battery-powered utility vehicles for airports and harbours to military equipment; the evR450 prototype is a bright yellow, scissor-doored super-coupe said to be good for 200kmph (124mph), 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and a 93-mile rangel. Could hit the roads of Queensland by January 2012, apparently. Pictures and press release at Autoblog Green.
  • BYD has started selling the e6, a five-seater EV with a 190-mile range, in China. Quite an attractive-looking car, but expensive; more at AutoObserver.
  • Nissan is to unveil some electric trucks – with scaled-up versions of the powertrain – at the Tokyo Truck Show this week. More at Autoblog Green. Nissan is also inviting New York cabbies to sign up and trial the Leaf.
  • SEAT has signed a deal with Sanyo and EV components/systems-maker Ficosa to build batteries for SEAT and VW Group vehicles in Spain and Portugal (Green Car Congress).
  • The Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, is running a special exhibition on the history of the electric car. The display includes a battery-powered 1904 Columbia, and explores how and why petrol power proved prevalent. (Thanks to @charging_point).
  • Elektromotive is to supply 200 ‘twin head’ EV chargers to the Republic of Ireland. These will be installed nationwide by Carra Ireland for the Electricity Supply Board, which aims to have 1500 public charging points in operation.

A day of investing-in-the-environment announcements, more Monday newsbriefs

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a day for big “we’re investing in the environment” announcements. Opel wants “to be the market leader in electric mobility”, sales and marketing chief Alain Visser tells Automotive News. 6000 pre-orders for the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera already, apparently, with 10,000 to sell next year; a decision will be made by the end of the year whether to put the RAKe two-seater into production for 2013, and an electric city car (probably a sister model to the Chevy Spark EV) is under development for 2013 as well. Interestingly, ANE notes that the RAK-e may be built by Kiska, a subsidiary of bike-maker KTM, in Salzburg, and that it will have a target price of 10,000-12,000 euros.

  • Nissan has announced its six-year environmental plan, NGP (Nissan Green Plan) 2016. This focuses on reducing the company’s carbon footprint, shifting to renewable energy and increasing the diversity of its resources. It’s aiming for a 35% fuel economy improvement overall (from 2005’s figures); cumulative sales of 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles across the Renault-Nissan Alliance; a 20% reduction per vehicle of overall CO2 emissions (from 2005’s figures); a 25% usage of recycled materials and the setting-up of a closed-loop recycling system for steel, aluminium and plastic; and a reduction in consumption of rare earth metals. Nissan is also to lead the development of an all-new fuel cell car with Daimler, and, by 2016, launch an all-new front-wheel drive hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. 70% of its R&D budget is to go specifically on ‘green’ tech, too.
  • Porsche is expanding its apprenticeship programme to take on 150 trainees a year in partnership with the Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg. This is with a view to “investing in the company’s future” and developing vocational training in the “the field of e-mobility and lightweight construction”, says a spokesman, and Porsche is expanding its training centre accordingly. “Cooperative State University” – is there a lesson here about investment in education for industry?
  • Citroen is adding its e-HDi Airdream microhybrid (stop-start, energy recuperation) system to the Berlingo van; with the 90bhp diesel engine, this brings fuel economy up to 60.1mpg and carbon dioxide emissions down to 123g/km, and enables the Berlingo to meet the Euro 5 legislation. Fuel economy is improved by up to 15% in city driving. Prices from £12,795 excl. VAT, six-speed automated manual gearbox optional.
  • More Porsche: the ‘960’ supercar, halfway between 911 and 918 Spyder, will come 2015/2016 and be a plug-in hybrid, says Autoweek.
  • More Nissan: there’s no need for longer-range EVs, says a Nissan North America product planner, who’s analysed all the data and feedback so far from Leaf owners. Only a handful have run out of juice, they’re getting relaxed about charging, and in two-car households, the Leaf has become the main daily vehicle. More at Auto Observer.
  • The iconic American yellow school bus goes electric: Trans Tech has launched a 50mph, 161bhp bus that can do 100-130 miles between recharges. First ones hit the road next year, with full-scale production mid-2012, reports Autoblog Green, which also notes that the city-state of Hong Kong has just ordered 28 battery-electric buses plus a further eight ‘supercapacitor’ buses which get a zap-up at each stop.
  • Autocar’s done some maths on the running costs of the Renault Fluence (noting the monthly battery-lease charge). Compared to a Passat Bluemotion, it only makes financial sense if you’re doing 15,000 miles a year, they claim, though the figures don’t include exemption from the London congestion charge (surely an incentive for most British EV buyers in and around the capital) or go into the more favourable company car tax savings.
  • The Scottish government has announced a £4.2million fund to encourage public bodies to invest in ‘green’ vehicles (Business Green).
  • Detailed Q&A at the Guardian on the forthcoming London Low Emissions Zone (coming January 2012) and the £100/£200 a day charge for vans not meeting the Euro 3 emissions legislation (or certified as having a particulate filter fitted). Classic pre-1973 camper vans exempt, anything else 1.205 tonnes gross vehicle weight and more, registered pre-2002, will probably be liable unless the owner can prove otherwise. This story has, it seems, been prompted by a Guardian journalist failing to do his homework before shelling out on an elderly Volkswagen Transporter to carry his surfboards.

Friday newsbriefs

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bizarre EV story of the day: not that this should be seen in any way as a redeeming quality, but ol’ Gaddafi has (had?) interesting taste in cars. Rebels/insurgents/freedom fighters (choose your definition) have taken possession of the Libyan despot’s custom-bodied, Castagna-converted electric Fiat 500, reports Corriere della Sella (slightly odd Google translation, but they have pictures; via Autoblog Green). Gaddafi’s green car was last seen being pushed through the streets away from his bunker.

In other news:

  • Seat’s smartened up the Exeo saloon and estate, and the 2.0 TDI diesel engine now gives up to 57.6mpg; its emissions are down to 129g/km. Stop-start comes to the range next year in an Ecomotive model which’ll deliver less than 120g/km.
  • General Motors and the LG Group are to “jointly develop and engineer future electric vehicles”, according to a statement today. Korean giant LG already supplies battery cells for the Volt and Ampera, but this arrangement “represents a widening of its portfolio as an automotive solution provider.” LG-branded cars? Don’t rule it out.
  • The Vauxhall Ampera has scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. It was specifically checked for the safety of its electrical systems; the battery pack proved to be efficiently protected from from the side impacts, there was minimal electrolyte spillage (none inside the passenger compartment) and it can be easily disconnected though there is an automatic shut-off of current.
  • Hertz is to lease BYD E6 electric crossovers in China, in a deal with BYD and GE Energy, which is to set up a recharging infrastructure. 770 new charging stations in Shanghai by the end of the year, apparently.
  • The seven-seat Prius+ hybrid is to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show, reports Automotive News.
  • Bill Dube and Eva Hakansson of Killacycle are aiming for the all-out motorcycle speed record – not just the one for electric bikes. That’s 367mph they’re heading for… full story at Wired Autopia.
  • Prince Charles’ Start Festival is at Kew Gardens this weekend. Talks on solar power and eco-driving, pop-up restaurants and more green-ish family fun.

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