January 4, 2017 § Leave a comment
Considerably prettier than the Chrysler Portal (see previous post), and also somewhat faster: the FF 91 is claimed to give the equivalent of 1050hp/780-odd kW and dragstrip-style acceleration (0-60mph in under 2.5 seconds), plus a range of 378 miles between recharges. And Faraday Future (backed by Chinese firm LeEco) is actually taking deposits and pre-orders, despite reports of a dubious financial situation: it put on a confident show at CES in Vegas last night (although there was a self-parking demo malfunction, apparently), and good luck to them. The FF 91 is a roomy, high-riding four-seater, part-way between crossover and MPV, with rear-hinged rear doors; the powertrain comprises three motors, two to the rear with torque-vectoring plus one up front for all-wheel-drive. It features Faraday’s patented FF Echelon Inverter, said to be simpler, lower-cost to make and more energy-efficient than others available, and its monocoque body is based around Faraday’s scalable variable platform architecture. It’s highly-connected, of course, with tech including facial recognition, remote monitoring, LIDAR for autonomous-driving capability, rear-view cameras with HD live-streaming, plus a liquid-crystal polychromatic roof and NASA-inspired ‘zero gravity’ reclining rear seats. The FFID ‘global profile’ account connects users to the FF Ecosystem for preferences and services. It’s all well-thought-out, well-executed and cleverly-designed, though clearly it’s not going to be a mass-market model. More details here.
January 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Snippets from the Detroit motor show this week (no, no Panic in Detroit… aaaah): first up, some satellite tech from Kymeta, maker of flat-panel antennae, fitted to the roof of a Toyota Mirai. Liquid-crystal chemistry plus software means no mechanical componentry and easy integration, plus “much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies”, says Toyota. It’s said to be stable, giving broad global coverage and common standards – and could just be the enabler for next-gen connected-car, autonomous and vehicle networking systems. Ground control to… no, stop it.
- Volkswagen’s Tiguan GTE Active concept – toughened-up version of its smaller SUV – is a hybrid with an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. Squeezes out a claimed 75mpg (US) from the 1.4 TSI petrol engine with an electric motor driving each axle; more here. Not a gamechanger but, well, better than a diesel SUV, I suppose.
- Audi, meanwhile, has turned its e-tron quattro into a fuel cell-driven SUV, now h-tron; 124mph, a 373-mile range and a four-minute hydrogen refuelling time, apparently, with production on course for 2020.
- Interesting in that this takes electrification to a different sector: there will be a PHEV version of the new Chrysler Pacifica (replacement for the Town & Country/Grand Voyager big MPV), giving a claimed all-e range of 30 miles. Given the short daily-drive routines of people-carriers like this, appropriate. Also, lowdown on Ford Fusion (US-market Mondeo) hybrid and Energi (PHEV) versions here: Fusion Energi does 19 miles in all-e mode, they say.
- And in terms of non-metal product, Ford is launching a service called FordPass in February: free membership, open to non-Ford owners, with reward/loyalty scheme, parking space location/reservations app, FlightCar (borrowing/sharing cars), mobility/transport advice, FordPay mobile payments and more to come, all linked up to FordHubs (‘innovation centres’ rather than trad dealerships, one coming to London). More here.
- Survey from IBM presented in Detroit: A New Relationship – People and Cars; notes that consumers are interested in autonomous, self-driving and adaptive, preference-learning vehicles, but don’t necessarily want to own one. The study – 16,494 consumers in 16 countries interviewed – looks at expectations of vehicle use in the next ten years, and concludes that the private car will continue to be a primary mode of transportation nonetheless. However, there is interest in part/shared ownership of cars, access by subscription and on-demand ride-sharing, and automakers need to develop new revenue-streams, buyer experiences and customer models. More in handy digest here.
- In non-Detroit news: research for BMW at MIT has developed a photovoltaic polymer film to capture and store solar energy to de-ice windscreens. Implication is that this could mitigate against the estimated 30% range reduction in an electric vehicle due to heating, cooling and de-icing. More here.
- Pipping the Bollore cars to the (charging) post, E-Car Club has launched in East London: £5.50 per hour, Renaults Zoe and Fluence in Poplar and Bow. More here.
- Though incidentally, some research from Erasmus University is suggesting that car-sharing and car clubs don’t lead to mileage reductions, and that displacement from public or active transport can actually mean more car use. Reductions are seen only in specific scenarios when club car use replaces a single high-mileage private car, or when drivers are truly convinced of the benefits, apparently. Original paper – in Dutch – here (I think)…
- …but more significant benefits can be seen in wider Mobility as a Service (MaaS) trials, such as one in Gothenburg, which involve modal shift and a wider range of transport choices/incentives. More on the UbiGo project here, too.
- Report on London’s air quality issues (NOx, primarily, these days) from The Policy Exchange; concludes that diesel cars remain main culprits and the ‘improvements’ from Euro 6 compliance may be overstated, with gas-fired CHP (combined heat and power) systems a further concern. Some handy references involved.
September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Big 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.”
August 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Heard the one about the sports car that sounds like a space ship? The GLM ZZ, an electric conversion of the Lotus Elise-alike Tommykaira ZZ roadster (pictured), is built in limited numbers to special order in Japan – and while in itself, it’s not that interesting a car, a fun new optional feature is going on offer: a “neo-futuristic driving sound generation system” courtesy of synth/amplifier-maker Roland. The creator of the popular Cube amp (three variants of this in my household) and keyboards used by some of the best-known names in popular music (no, all about vintage Hammonds, Moogs and Farfizers in my social circle, I’m afraid) is coming up with real-time “sonically rich, studio quality sounds” to substitute for engine noise and give the unique driving experience “of driving a space ship on the road.” Prog rock on the stereo, please.
- On a differently-futuristic note, car concept-conceptualiser Charles Bombardier (yes, scion of that dynasty of transport designers) has come up with a driverless, on-demand electric people-mover which levitates on magnetic tracks across a city. A modernised version of monorail shuttles, the egg-shaped Katric would be aimed at business commuters going in/out of central business districts. More here.
- Hyundai is planning a compact EV, with plug-hybrid and hybrid sister models, says Green Car Reports, which describes the car as a rival for the Toyota Prius, next-generation Nissan Leaf and upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV, and suggests that long-range versions could be offered.
- The UK is now Europe’s fifth-most traffic-congested country, according to data from Inrix, with congestion rising in 14 of the country’s 18 metropolitan areas last year. Though roadworks are cited as a contributory factor (irony alert?) a growing urban population and a pick-up in the economy are quoted as having increased the demand for more road travel, with an increase in the numbers of both private and commercial vehicles on the road and more people commuting by car, reports Fleet News. London drivers are said to have spent an average 96 hours stuck in traffic last year, making the capital Europe’s most congested city. Kinda questions the whole idea that cities (and people, in general) are falling out of love with cars, doesn’t it? And suggests, perhaps, that we need to get people using cleaner cars rather than thinking we can get them all on bicycles/foot/public transport instead (though of course, a realistic level of modal shift is desirable)? Full UK-slanted release on the Inrix Traffic Scorecard Report (with some nice tables linking traffic to economic growth) here; and for comparison, some lowdown on the German situation here. Germany is the third-most congested European country (behind Belgium and the Netherlands), with congestion up in 17 of 22 metropolitan areas, and Cologne, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe the worst-affected cities.
- Incidentally, Inrix has just released its On-Street Parking app, guiding drivers to spaces with a colour-coded system indicating availability. Rather than using data from on-street sensors, which proved in trials to be unreliable, this aggregates real-time data from cities, connected car-sharing services, vehicle GPS data, parking and mobile payment companies (including meter transactions) and similar. Full lowdown here. Hoping this Seattle-based firm can look at real-time EV charger status and availability…
- A new academic book, Sustainable Transportation (previews available) looks at planning, management and decision-making in the sector. There’s a nice distinction in Ch4, Transportation and Sustainability (pp81-2) between the two ways of looking at the concept of sustainable transportation: firstly as a subject in its own right, with transportation as the main focus, or alternatively, taking a holistic, multi-sector view whereby the transportation is looked at in terms of its contribution to sustainable development. Yep, the latter’s what we need to be doing in the electromobility field.
- This does come under the How Seriously Should I Take This? heading, but… China’s equivalent of Netflix, LeTV, is developing an EV with a view to taking on Tesla, reports FastCo. And has hired 600 people (including staffers from Tesla, GM and BMW) to create this car, a sporty fastback hatch to be revealed at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, and effectively a vehicle (no pun intended) for the company’s digital content. How seriously, then? Well, LeTV’s founder is said to be a billionaire, having launched best-selling TVs and phones in China, which has to be a good start.
- Also via FastCo: the school run just went digital. Shuddle Carpool, an extension of an ‘Uber for kids’ service already launched in California, aims to connect families (who know each other already) to ride-share in pre-booked cars with a vetted, probably female, driver. So a shared school taxi, then, as arranged by – and at the expense of – many local councils in the UK for country kids for many years, albeit now in Silicon Valley stylee.
- A South African firm called Big Boss is aiming to sell low-cost EVs, initially built in China but with a view to local production after the launch, and is working with the government to establish charging infrastructure; more here (via electrive.com).
July 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
A car called Alex… it’s a composite-bodied EV concept, and there’s a plan to build it in Dunleer, County Louth, Ireland. The firm behind is called Swift Composite Prototypes (does what it says on the tin), and a running prototype has been developed using a Lotus Seven chassis/body. The eroadster looks like a functional little runaround with a wedge-like shape to it and a lift-up front canopy, and they’re promising 0-62mph in less than 10 seconds, fast-charging capability and a range of over 350km, plus light weight but higher safety standards than other ‘light’ cars (quadricycle category). Power comes from two 15kW/80kW AC motors, and intriguingly, “revolutionary new batteries.” The programme appears to be well-funded, and the chassis is being developed by Danish firm Ecomove (creator of the somewhat stillborn Qbeak). Reported here; production by the end of 2016 is quoted, at the rate of a car a week. (via electrive.com).
- BMW has embarked upon more research with Nanyang Technical University, Singapore; the Future Mobility Research lab at NTU will explore a future materials programme, plus a project called Electromobility in Asia, alongside the battery, intelligent mobility and ‘driver enhancement’ research already underway. The Electromobility project will look at the way people interact with the i3 and i8, to inform future development with a view to using EVs and PHEVs in global megacities. More here.
- Engineers from University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed tech to harvest energy from tyre-friction: the triboelectric nanogenerator could improve a vehicle’s fuel economy by up to 10%, they reckon. More here.
- Opel has launched a car-sharing app called CarUnity for peer-to-peer vehicle-sharing; it can be downloaded free, and vehicle rentals are insured. Users do not need to be Opel owner/drivers; initial trials are taking place in the Rhine-Main region. More here. (An overview from Norway on car-sharing here; nothing new, but a summing-up of current thinking).
- Not quite convinced of the desirability of towing extra power sources behind an EV (except for emergency call-outs, this seems rather self-defeating), but the EC is funding Germany’s Nomadic Power to develop its portable battery pack, which can also be used as static energy storage. More here.
- London’s first all-electric bus (a BYD) will go into action in the autumn on the Victoria-Cricklewood route. More here.
- EVs are only as clean in terms of energy consumption as the electricity that goes into them (though dismissing them on these grounds is a pretty short-sighted attitude, and zero local tailpipe emissions still stand): reasons electricity grids need to go greener are illustrated here.
- They can do it in the US: West Coast EV drivers using the AeroVironment fast-chargers can pay on a PAYG basis via the Recargo/Plugshare app. More here.
- Solid-state batteries for EVs: already fitted in the Bollore Bluecar, and now Volkswagen could be considering them. More here.
February 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
More pictures of the Rinspeed Budii prior to the Geneva Auto Salon: on the surface, it’s a fun and eye-catching tricked-out BMW i3 (with a shower, an auto-winding – Swiss – watch, a very fancy Harmon Kardon audio system, touchscreen HMI and fibreoptic ambient lighting), but there’s also some clever thinking on autonomous driving and its implications. Drive-by-wire steering allows for either front-seat occupant to take the wheel; 3D laser-scanning enables autonomy but also terrain mapping and auto-adjustment of ride height; radar and V2X tech enables connectivity including the payment for services (parking, recharging); and two stowaway mini-two-wheelers (electric) take care of last-mile onward travel. Rinspeed – a Swiss consultancy/creative thinktank – has identified the need to make EVs “sexy and emotionally charged” (pun intended? Either way, sad but true) and as such, it’s a no-expenses-spared job on the interior finish and creature comforts (including smartphone- and watch-controlled auxilliary heating). More details here, full gallery of images here.
- Changes to the Plug-in Car Grant scheme: to be increased from the current 25% of purchase price to 35%, as of April 1st – but capped at £5000, so it’s only going to benefit buyers of EVs under the £20,000 mark. Plug-in cars are also going to be divided into three eligible categories: 1, with CO2 under 50g/km and an all-electric range of at least 70 miles; 2, under 50g/km, and with a range of 10-69 miles; and 3, 50-75g/km and an all-EV range of at least 20 miles. The grants will run up until 50,000 have been awarded (it’s at about 25,000 right now). Though the grant allowance remains the same across the categories at the moment, it’s likely that a sliding scale will follow – perhaps in relation to the upcoming changes to BIK company car tax bandings, to be announced in the Budget.
- BMW is working with Spanish utility firm Iberdrola to provide a 350-car shared fleet of i3 EVs. Iberdrola will deploy these in Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona and Valencia. More here.
- I rarely agree with this particular (highly EV-sceptical) Detroit News columnist, but in this case, I’m with NW in that structural changes to mobility/car ownership/driving are going to be incremental rather than revolutionary overnight, and that some phenomena, such as peer-to-peer sharing, will probably remain marginal. Comment from several other industry-watchers on a similar note.
- Apple is gearing up to challenge Google with its ‘Project Titan’, reports the WSJ, with minivan-based electrically-driven prototypes spotted out and about to trial autonomous-driving tech. More here.
- Volvo is expanding its V2X cloud-comms ice-warning project to a 1000-car fleet operating in Gothenburg and Oslo. More here.
- Stopping at traffic lights is bad for you: on a journey where 2% of the time is spent stationary at red lights, 25% of exposure to particulates is experienced while waiting for green, according to research at the University of Surrey. And that’s just for the drivers… Deceleration, idling then revving up to go again ups PM emissions by 29% over those from free-flowing traffic. More, incl. references, here.
January 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
- News on the Detroit Electric SP.01 Lotus-alike (£100,500 starting price): to go into production in Leamington Spa for 2016, reports Autocar, just in case you were keeping tabs on this one.
- Some more thoughts on ‘peak car’ from Scott LeVine, looking at driver licencing amongst young men in particular: the decline in their driving (both in terms of mileage driven and licence-holding) appears to have stabilised; there appears to be little correlation between reduced driving/internet usage and attitudes to environmental concerns; economic factors are an issue (including low pay, employment rates); the more difficult driving test and cost of lessons are off-putting; still a lot of questions unanswered, basically
- And some more detail (via the abovementioned S LeV) in a report for the RAC Foundation (Berington and Mikolai), using the Understanding Society data: young adults’ licence-holding correlates with age, education, economic activity status, individual income, living arrangement, housing tenure and rural/urban locality; reported mileage relates to age, commuting, economic activity status (more pronounced effects for women), individual income and area type, with one of the most important correlates being whether they drive to work. Not driving (despite having a licence) is associated with having low socioeconomic status/being unemployed, remaining in education, living in London and in shared accommodation. The report also points out the growing phenomenon of “emerging adulthood” – staying in parental home/studying for longer, later marriage/children/home ownership, etc, “important structural changes in the way that young adults make their transition from school to work” – and the impact of intergenerational financial support (i.e. having affluent parents who pay for driving lessons). It suggests looking further into the link between lower driving and the expansion of higher education since the 1990s; and whether there is actually a shift in lifestyle and preferences that will mean this generation’s lower driving rates will continue as they age, have children and soforth.
- Trend-reporting from Ford for 2015, looking at Generation Z (born 1993-): they’re digitally-savvy, socially-conscious, into sharing rather than tying themselves into soon-to-be-obsolete tech, don’t like carrying stuff (keys, wallets etc) and are looking at a convergence of transport and communication, amongst other claimed insights in the Looking Further With Ford 2015 report, outlined and linked-to here.
- And a report by John Urry et al (incl. folk from the Centre for Mobilities Research and Liveable Cities teams at Lancaster University) for the government’s Foresight Future of Cities project. This outlines historic urban growth and suggests five possible future scenarios – High-Tech City, Digital City, Liveable City and Fortress City (surveillance, etc) – hydrogen-fuelled, shared/on-demand driverless cars and slow-moving microvehicles feature in the first three projections, related to changes in commuting/working patterns, localism, virtual communication and soforth. The fourth scenario is the Mad Max social/infrastructural breakdown… But could larger cities see a mixture/combination of these by district?