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 car2go.com/London, 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.

Goodwood Festival of Speed #3: Best of the rest

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Goodwood Festival of Speed’s mainly about high-performance motorsport machinery, classic and modern, of course, but there were a few DFT-friendly vehicles scattered around the site… From the top, in no particular order:

1. Drayson Racing B12/69EV, an 850bhp wirelessly-charged Le Mans prototype, featuring a Lola chassis, and fastest EV up the Goodwood Hill on Sunday.

2. Audi A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid concept with a 211hp 2.0 TFSI petrol engine and 27hp electric motor, giving up to 34 miles in all-electric mode. But why the four-door saloon bodystyle?

3. Tata Megapixel, a range-extended EV concept with a single-cylinder 30bhp, 350cc petrol engine and four in-wheel electric motors. It’ll do 68mph and has an all-electric range of 54 miles; overall range is nearly 560 miles.

4. Morgan Plus E; this Zytek-motored roadster is being seriously developed with production in mind.

5. The Riversimple hydrogen fuel cell lightweight. Cars are to go out on trial in Herefordshire and Shropshire this year,  the company has announced.

6. Infiniti M Hybrid. The Emerg_e coupe concept went up the Goodwood Hill, too, but it was too quick for me to catch it on camera. As was the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid.

7. The Quimera AEGT electric drift car, I believe.

8. Toyota TS030 hybrid Le Mans car; the winning hybrid Audi R8 e-tron quattro was also around & up the Hill.

9. Audi Urban Concept, as seen at last autumn’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Concept of the Day: Toyota Camatte

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t get too excited: Toyota’s latest EV concept is only kiddie-sized. Unveiled last week at the 2012 Tokyo Toy Show, the Camatte is an attempt to bring ’em to the brand young. It has an electric motor and cheap lead-acid battery, and will do up to 25mph; though not street-legal, it may be sold for use on go-kart tracks.

In other news to kick off the week:

  • Mitsubishi is going to unveil the Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) at the Paris Motor Show. It’s the sister model to the conventional ICE new-generation Outlander, and Mitsubishi claims it’ll be “the first permanent 4WD electric car in series production” (guess that depends on how you define ‘EV’). It features a motor up front, another driving the rear axle, and a petrol engine acting both to drive the front axle and as a generator, giving three operational modes: ‘pure’ (all-electric), ‘series’ (motors plus generator) and ‘parallel’ (engine plus motors). Total range is said to be over 800km, average fuel economy over 150mpg, and carbon dioxide emissions less than 50g/km. Sales will start in Europe next year.
  • Well, Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrids took the 1-2 at Le Mans over the weekend; both the Toyota TS030 hybrids crashed out, one taking the Nissan DeltaWing with it. Let’s hope Anthony Davidson – airborne in one of the Toyotas, and said to have broken two vertebrae – makes a good recovery.
  • The International Transport Forum has researched the additional costs to EV owners over a vehicle’s lifetime: 4000-5000 euros more for passenger cars (compared to their nearest ICE equivalents) and an even more whopping 7000-1200 euros once vans are added to the calculations. However, this depends on mileage and usage – a delivery van doing an average 90km a day could actually save the operator 4000 euros, for example. Detailed summary at Green Car Congress, report itself here.

Audi pulls e-tron plug

June 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Audi has pulled the plug on both the electric A2 city car and A1 e-tron range-extender projects, reports Car magazine. Problems of building the compact A2 at an acceptable price and the general costs of development, apparently, in difficult market conditions. No official statement from Audi yet on the matter. The A3 e-tron trial continues in the US, however: video posted at Autoblog Green.

  • In other news today: GE Capital Fleet Services – a major leasing company in the USA – has opened an Innovation Centre in Minnesota where fleet buyers, industry groups and researchers can test-drive EVs and hybrids on a special track and check out other technologies. More at Inside Line. Shows how a sector of the US auto industry is taking e-mobility seriously.
  • DIY EV of the day: the EVGT-40, a replica of the you-know-what. Seems appropriate in the run-up to Le Mans; video at Technologic Vehicles, which also has more on the PGO e-Hemera (a 356-alike), pics/a video clip of a prototype electric/range-extended with fuel cell SUV called Inmares e-Cross (looks like a Dakar Rally-er), and the lowdown on the Renault Fluence’s Korean-market sister model, the Samsung SM3 ZE, which will be compatible with the Better Place battery-swap system.
  • Toyota is to start testing a vehicle-to-home (V2H) comms system with the Prius Plug-In, which will explore the storage of excess electricity generated by a house’s solar panels in the car’s batteries, the integration of the car into a home energy management system and the use of the Prius Plug-In as a generator in times of grid outage. More at Green Car Congress.

Design Concept of the Day: EXO

April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

EXO is a minimalist city EV with a sturdy exoskeleton structure akin to that of a geodesic dome. The creation of Mark Beccaloni and Mauro Fragiotta, it’s said to have been designed ‘from the outside in’ with its safety-oriented framework determining its form. It’s a similar size to a Toyota iQ, but it’s claimed to be potentially far more efficient, lighter-weight and potentially much cheaper – and it was also inspired by the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion (as pictured on my Twitter feed). Full gallery at Yanko Design.

In other news today:

  • The stillborn Aptera 2e has resurfaced in China: the rights to its manufacture, or at least, its plastic moulds, have been bought by a Chinese firm. More at Autoblog Green.
  • And the Rimac Concept One – a 1088hp super-EV – has turned up in Monaco at the Top Marques show; a limited production run of 88 has been announced. Price? $980,000. Photos, video at Autoblog Green.
  • Honda has been trialling a driver-monitoring programme which crunches data on acceleration and braking to advise the driver to proceed in a more fuel-efficient fashion – and has recorded an average fuel economy improvement of 8% and an increase of nearly 25% in average speed in stop-start traffic. This data can also be fed into the ‘cloud’ along with traffic information to find an optimal flow-speed, and the car’s adaptive cruise control can be set for the smoothest, most efficient progress. The research study is in partnership with the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo, and the system is intended for production. Further trials will begin in Italy and Indonesia next month.
  • Audi’s updating the Q5, with revised models to go on sale in October. The new range will include the Q5 Hybrid, which features a 2.0-litre, 208bhp four-cylinder petrol engine and 53bhp electric motor.

Beijing Auto Show: Audi A6 L e-tron, show news #2

April 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Audi has fitted its e-tron tech into a long-wheelbase A6 saloon. The A6 L e-tron concept on display at the Beijing Auto Show combines a 2.0 TFSI engine (211hp) and a 95hp (70kW) electric motor, and has an 80km all-electric range. Top speed in all-electric mode is 60kph, and the e-tron can run in engine-only and hybrid modes, the latter delivering typically strong Audi sports car performance. This concept is a plug-in hybrid, though Audi is using the ‘e-tron’ badge to refer to all of its electrified vehicles, including all-electric and range-extended EVs. A very small production run of the R8 e-tron starts later this year, and the proper-production A3 e-tron will go on sale in 2014. A1 e-tron prototypes are also currently undergoing testing.

In more Beijing Show-related news:

  • California’s Coda Automotive – which recently launched its electric Sedan in the US – has signed a letter of intent with China’s Great Wall Motors to develop a low-cost EV for China, North America and Europe. This is likely to be a compact model, probably based on a Great Wall product, and promises are that it will compete on price against entry-level petrol cars. No timeframe has been given as yet, but the plan appears to be that Coda will develop the powertrain and battery tech, and will carry out final assembly for the US market, though most manufacturing will be in China. Press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • BYD unveiled its first concept for its new Denza brand/product-line, a collaboration with Daimler. No tech details on the NEV (“New Energy Vehicle”) as yet, though it’s all-electric, features rear-hinged rear doors (unlikely to make production) and is probably based on the Mercedes-Benz B-Class underpinnings. Full release and picture gallery at Autoblog Green, along with some more news on the Qin plug-in hybrid saloon.

Audi R8 etron gets audio

April 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Audi is in the studio, developing synthesised sounds for the R8 etron to compensate for its lack of engine or exhaust noise and to warn pedestrians of its presence. Speakers front and rear on this all-electric sports car will broadcast speed-dependent tones specially-created to give an impression of power. Make your own mind up: video, sound effects and a nice gallery of pics at Wired Autopia.

More news today:

  • Gases venting from an experimental battery pack caused yesterday’s explosion at the General Motors Tech Centre in Warren, Michigan, says GM. One employee was kept in hospital overnight, windows were broken at the Alternative Energy Centre and around 1,100 people were temporarily evacuated. It was the result of ‘extreme testing’ on a prototype battery and nothing to do with the Volt or any production vehicle, GM stresses. More at Detroit News.
  • The US Department of Energy is offering up $4million-worth of funding for development of wireless EV charging systems. Up to four projects researching, integrating and testing the tech will receive the cash; more here.
  • Honda’s American division, meanwhile, is teaming up with IBM and Pacific Gas & Electric on a project to develop communications between electric vehicles and power grids. The Honda Fit EV will serve as a testbed for a system using IBM’s cloud-based platform. More at Green Car Congress. IBM is also working with Slovakian energy provider ZSE to create a recharging and support infrastructure for Bratislava, with a view to building a ‘green highway’ with strategically-placed charging points linking Bratislava with Vienna. More on the VIBRATe project here.
  • Building the European-market Nissan Leaf at Sunderland will reduce its production cost by around a third, reports Automotive News. The UK-built Leafs – to be made from early next year – will be specifically retuned to suit Euro tastes, and will have an improved range and smoother power delivery.

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