Pre-Geneva news round-up

February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

rimac concept oneNormal service (such as it ever is) resumed following a three-week stand-in stint at Car Design News (cheers, guys! Invoice on its way!). So a quick news round-up, starting with an exotica alert: no shortage of high-price, high-tech electrified offerings on show at Geneva motor show next week, including the TechRules turbine-recharging EV and the Arash AF10 hybrid,  as well as the Morgan EV3 three-wheeler in production form. I think the most interesting, however, are Nanoflowcell AG’s Quantino – which has just completed a test run in which it operated non-stop for 14 hours on an urban cycle – and the production-ready Rimac Automobili ‘Concept One’ [pictured]. Well, production-ready in that eight are going to be made… Lowdown on the Croatian-developed Rimac is a motor at each wheel giving a total 800kW/1088hp and 1600Nm, four gearboxes (single-speed up front, two two-speed double-clutchers behind), all-wheel torque-vectoring with regenerative braking, 0-100kph in 2.6 seconds, adjustable settings including drift mode, full telemetry and 4G cloud connection, but for me the most interesting bit is its battery pack: 8450 cells, each individually monitored and controlled, with liquid thermal management and the ability to deliver 1MW of power under acceleration yet 400kW when braking. Rimac is shaping up to be an influential battery-supplier to several sectors (including e-superbikes, such as the Greyp G12S made by its sister company) and the Concept One is, effectively an ad for this end of the business. Lowdown here.

  • Americans: driving more than ever before, according to data from the FHA [3.15trillion miles in 2015, with December’s VMT up 4% on December 2014]. The lowering price of fuel and urban sprawl are fingered as contributing factors, as well as a growing economy, says Scientific American, and a spokesman from the Union of Concerned Scientists describes policy to reduce car use full stop as ‘a very long game plan’ making efficiency and alt-fuels ‘ever more pressing’. As for the idea that Millennials aren’t driving, the fall in under-30s’ license-holding is only 1% 2004-2014, incidentally, and counterbalanced by more older adults staying on the road for longer. Can we now officially declare ‘Peak Car’ over?
  • Hubject has come up with a solution for detecting and transmitting ‘dynamic occupation data’ on availability of EV charging points – whether they’re in use already, or the space is ICE-d. More here.
  • ‘Green ergonomics’ research by Southampton University/TU Chemnitz with 39 already economy-conscious Toyota Prius drivers: even among those highly motivated to save energy, eco-driving strategies differed and were not necessarily successful. Many had “false beliefs” about energy-saving, and did not fully understand their vehicle’s tech and energy use, i.e. over-estimating energy recuperated under regenerative braking or overall energy saved in all-electric mode. Recommendations for HMI design include comprehensive feedback incl. real-time drivetrain performance data and predictive info, design for ease of perception, system support for driver ‘learning’, incorporation of automated interventions, i.e. energy-optimised adaptive cruise control, better displays on drivetrain dynamics and energy flows, and ability to configure info displays. More detailed rundown here,  full paper in Applied Ergonomics.
  • Unveiling of the Riversimple Rasa fuel cell microcar, developed for long-term leasing. Some more thoughts, from Cardiff University’s Paul Nieuwenhuis, co-director of the Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, here
  • And another fuel cell micro-vehicle, this time the Austrian-developed HET Engineering Citylog EMF, for urban deliveries. It can also connect up with others to form a ‘train’, and would suit shuttle and other passenger transport services as well. More here.
  • Tie-up between Seat, SAP and Samsung which takes IoT-enabled cars a stage further: new connectivity products under development (announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week) include a ‘global inventory’ of cloud-connected parking spaces which can be reserved and paid-for via Samsung Pay, using fingerprint recognition and integrated with location/navigation services. Same tech could apply to EV charger reservation too, of course. Also, ‘digital key sharing’ (keyless operation via smartphone, transferable with potential for time-limiting and even performance-limiting). To be worked into the My Seat app. (Volvo is also to offer a Bluetooth-enabled digital key, to operate via a phone app, from next year.)
  • From Ford at MVC: new offers and geolocation services in partnership with the likes of BP and McDonalds, plus Parkopedia with payments via Mobile City, within the FordPass membership programme; Ford is mentioning robot refuelling and auto-parking as future extensions. A pilot scheme called GoPark is under test in London (Islington) with volunteers sending live traffic/parking data, alongside the GoDrive on-demand car-share.
  • And BMW: I can’t pretend to understand the tech here, but it has announced trials of a ‘vehicular small cell’, a mobile femtocell which is said to optimise in-car mobile radio reception/transmission. Project’s called Vehicular Crowdcell, suggesting there’s an element of crowd-sourced data collection, and one possible application, BMW suggests, is carsharing schemes. More here.
  • Ericsson is working with Volvo (and wider Geely Auto group) on high-bandwidth streaming tech for autonomous vehicles – including improving network coverage, data storage and the quality of connectivity. V2V and V2X services will be developed on Ericsson’s Connected Vehicle Cloud platform with open API. Initial services to be offered to DIY drivers will include remote monitoring/activation of vehicle systems and a dynamic app store, next stage is sharing of info on potential road hazards.
  • Quote from Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche in the Euro am Sonntag paper: “Batteries have become more attractive [than fuel cells] in recent years. It has become more likely that they could prevail.” Zetsche cites progress in range and charging time as key factors – “Cars with electric driving ranges of 500 km and fast-charging times of 20 minutes are within reach” – whereas the issue of affordable and widespread hydrogen supply/distribution has not yet been solved.
  • Research from CIED, Sussex University, looking at 40 years of driver behaviour (1970-2011), mileage and fuel prices has found a 20% ‘rebound effect’ – as car fuel efficiency improves, people drive more, thus cancelling out a lot of the benefits of creating more efficient vehicles (a fifth of the energy-saving eroded). More here, full paper in Energy Economics (February 2016) here.
  • KTH Stockholm has developed a wood pulp-based carbonfibre material to form a roof and integrated battery for an electric vehicle: this saves weight, and the ‘lignin battery’ can be made from forestry byproducts. More here.
  • Linkoping Unversity has come up with a streamlined truck design that can cut fuel (100% biodiesel) use by 12%: more here.
  • Important development for EV awareness as well as to inform existing drivers: availability (or at least, presence) of fast-chargers is to be added to motorway service station signposts. More here.
  • A series of lectures from TSU Oxford on Urban Mobilities in the Smart City can be listened-to (podcasts) or viewed (presentation slides) here.
  • An interesting & thoughtful long read on autonomous cars, parking and urban space here
  • …and insight into Ford’s work with design agency Ideo on multi-modal transport apps here
  • Fun concepts of the last week: autonomous on-demand micro-catamarans, for city commuting by water. More on the SeaBubble here. And a clever electric tractor/compactor here

Concept of the Day: e.Go Life

July 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

e-GO-Mobile-AG-3-Detailed piece on the E.Go Life, a Renault Twizy-style quadricyle developed at Aachen University, in the latest (bumper) issue of Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International… It’s a follow-on spin-off from the Streetscooter C16 project (reported in this post), with e.Go aiming to produce low-cost 3D-printed, modular-construction microvehicles using Aachen’s Stratasys system, in an ongoing ‘scrum engineering’ process of continual development. Lowdown here. A beta-testing batch of 100 cars will be built at the university; and it also emerges that StreetScooter has now been sold to Deutsche Post DHL, which is currently running 150 of those vehicles on its fleet, an already-successful application.

  • On a different note: Audi is to preview its Q6 crossover with a concept codenamed C-BEV at Frankfurt, reports Autocar. High-performance, all-electric (three motors), a 311-mile range, apparently, to rival the Tesla Model X.
  • Data from Chargemaster shows that over 90% of electric vehicle charging (UK) is done at home (‘charging events’ data January-May 2015, said to be profiled to be representative of UK infrastructure), and finds that total charging volumes have risen 163% since 2014. The average UK commute is less than 10 miles, and over a third of UK motorists never drive more than 80 miles in one go, it’s claimed in a report for the Go Ultra Low campaign. Chargemaster is also, incidentally, taking over the Plugged-in Midlands network of charging points from Cenex – 870 of them, with another 100 to be added in the next few months. It is also taking over 300 Source London points (from Bolloré).
  • A bicycle by-product from BMW: a patent has been released by BMW R&D for an e-drive unit swing arm, now going into production on electric-assist (pedelec) bikes from HNF, Biesenthal. The HNF Heisenberg XF1 e-bike features this BMW unit, which integrates mid-motor, gears and belt-drive into a suspension module with no need for a belt-tensioner. More here.
  • BMW is also, in the US, adding in-car integration of an i0S app called EnLighten, which gives real-time traffic signal data and a green light count-down. This info – which can help drivers proceed more smoothly and save fuel – can appear on the dash display with recommendations on whether to stop or slow down, and is based on vehicle position, speed and ‘smart’ traffic signals. At the moment, it’ll only work in Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and Salt Lake City, in cars with the BMW Apps option – but this does mark a new step forward in V2X (car-to-infrastructure) comms. More here.
  • The California Air Resources Board has awarded a $1.6million grant to the City of Los Angeles to set up EV-sharing programmes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods said to be “disproportionately impacted by climate change and poor environmental quality” – air pollution. Such districts are also more likely to suffer from poor (or non-existent) public transport infrastructure, so it’s a boost for mobility as well. More from Senate District 24 here.
  • And BYD is to supply 50 e6s to a ride-share (shared taxi, in effect) service based at San Diego airport – more here.
  • Handy summary/digest of a paper on (US) Millennials and their driving habits at Citylab: Noreen McDonald (University of North Carolina) compares Gens Y & X and reckons 10-25% of driving decline is due to changing demographics (higher unemployment, greater likelihood of living with parents and/or in cities, etc.), 40% due to a general downward shift US-wide and 35-50% to attitudes. But these Millennials aren’t necessarily cycling or using public transport more – they’re just going out less and to fewer places. Full paper at Journal of the American Planning Association.
  • Two new research papers from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, again usefully filleted here. Though electrified vehicles currently account for less than 1% of Canadian vehicle sales, over a third of car-buyers do want a plug-in, apparently, with 89-93% of those wanting a PHEV. Axsen, Goldberg et al put this down to low consumer awareness and a current lack of choice, and think the market share is unlikely to exceed 4-5% by 2030 unless new models are launched – in which case it could rise to over 20%. Other take-aways: even with today’s electricity grids, plug-in vehicles could cut GHG emissions by 80-98% in British Columbia, 45% in Alberta and 58-70% in Ontario, they claim. They’ve also identified three groups of plug-in car buyers: PEV Pioneers, potential Early Mainstream (the next to be converted) and Later Mainstream (unlikely). PEV Pioneers tend to have higher-end incomes, are more likely to be graduates and to be engaged with tech and eco lifestyle issues, to be male and to own their own homes; they most own the Nissan Leaf (46%), Chevrolet Volt (24%) or Tesla Model S (10%); their median driving distance is 28 miles with an average 37 miles driven each day. Full report: Electrifying Vehicles – Insights from the Canadian Plug-In Electric Vehicle Study; plus a paper in Energy Economics, Vol. 50 (Axsen, Bailey and Castro, 2015).
  • Nissan reckons that air quality is the number one factor driving EV purchases, ahead of running costs and wider environmental concerns: speaking at the launch of the e-NV200 Evalia MPV, Nissan’s director of electric vehicles in Europe, Jean-Pierre Diernaz, said that enquiries about the Nissan Leaf rose dramatically in Paris when the city banned cars from the centre for three days. Reported by Transport Evolved. Wonder whether that was motivated purely by altruism or simply the desire to drive ban-exempted vehicles, though?




Design Concept of the Day: Ideo Work On Wheels

January 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

workonwheelsDesign firm Ideo has come up with three visions for the future of automobility. There’s Slow Becomes Fast – commutes aided by smart-nav tech, autonomous vehicles and driverless capabilities enabling people to work whilst in transit; 21st Century Mule – autonomous on-demand and just-in-time delivery vehicles (arguably the most useful) working off-peak to avoid congestion and going to requested drop-off points; and Inverse Commute, whereby ‘work on wheels’ office-spaces (pictured) go to where they’re needed, with further services coming to meet them, often in under-utilised areas. Not terribly convinced by the latter – my hot-desk in a shared office (repurposed industrial space) a few minutes walk away is working well for me, thanks – but there’s certainly merits in the ideas of flexibility and moving away from the conventional trip to a fixed office location. More at, anyway.  And all the concepts are electromobility-friendly, with inductive off-peak smart-charging and suchlike, of course.

  • On a less fanciful note, EU biofuels policy is having a “butterfly effect” and harming the environment, according to this new report (via Transport and Environment, a collaborator on it): deforestation and spiking of global food prices are cited as knock-on effects, with more detail on associated increases in carbon emissions, land-grabbing and analysis of the policies in place for the past decade.
  • A nice example of user innovation from the EV community: tech-savvy contributors to the active SpeakEV forum have been developing and testing an app called ChargeBump, to enable drivers to contact and negotiate with each other over use of public charging points. A “bump”, it appears, is when you ask someone plugged in and sufficiently topped-up if they can move their car on to let you use the point.
  • Germany is attempting to standardise EV-charging by mandating the CCS system: there are Betamax-vs-VHS arguments emerging as to whether this is the way forward, or a dead-end with lock-in to an inferior technology… More at Transport Evolved.
  • And some parochial news: Brighton & Hove has instigated its first low-emissions zone. The LEZ covers a city-centre area area (already with restrictions to passenger-car traffic) and requires buses entering the area to comply with Euro V emissions standards. Operators are updating their fleets or retro-fitting exhaust catalyst tech, with NO2 the focus. Taxis are exempt as yet but drivers have been asked to quit idling when waiting at the station rank. The LEZ comes after real-life air quality monitoring research by Ricardo, which differentiated between NO and NO2 emissions and looked at the impact of traffic flow, frequent stop-starting and uphill acceleration; more detail on this in the Q3 2014 issue of rQ.

Designers look at future of mobility, & research round-up

August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

minifutures_kmA Dezeen/Mini collaborative exhibition, called Frontiers – The Future of Mobility, opens at designjunction (in the Sorting Office, New Oxford Street) on 17th September as part of London Design Week. Work on display includes that of Keiichi Matsuda, who looks at the use of augmented reality to superimpose information and signage (pictured); Dominic Wilcox  who suggests that, when cars are fully-automated, safety features such as airbags and crumple zones are no longer needed – and thus cars can be made of anything, even intricate stained-glass windows; Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, who explores ‘repair ecologies’ and how genetically-engineered synthetic, biological vehicles could evolve and mutate as they are used and repaired, according to their environments; Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, developing 3D-printed dashboard figurine ‘avatars’ to communicate with drivers; and Pernilla Ohrstedt, predicting how cars could collect detailed 3D scans for mapping and the creation of virtual-reality worlds.

  • A little primer on behavioural insights and ‘nudge’ theory in relation to transport here from SDG; a further summary of this… it’s about the ideas that: people are creatures of habit and like to be consistent, but are not always logical in their decisions; they are influenced by other people and seek their approval, but the sacrifices they are prepared to make to change their habits are actually quite small; decisions (as in what mode of transport to use) are often based on mental short-cuts and misinformed perceptions; decisions are influenced by short-term gains, relative to context (again, not always logical); ‘sticks’ are more effective than ‘carrots’ in changing behaviour; but for successful outcomes, people need to feel empowered or positive about change rather than that they have no choice.
  • And on a not dissimilar theme, a new paper in Transport Geography warns that, unless “transport taboos” – interlinked factors which might harm governmental or business interests or social order, including social inequality of planned measures, social/psychological functions of mobility, lobbying, inequality in contributions towards emissions and transport volumes – are addressed, “it will be difficult to achieve significant emission reductions in passenger transport”. (thanks @RachelAldred).
  • Natural gas, whether powering vehicles directly in an ICE, used to generate electricity for EVs, or used to generate hydrogen for fuel cell cars, shows an improvement over coal or oil in all three scenarios, reports a team from University of Michigan, which has done a series of lifecycle analyses. Detailed lowdown and references here at Green Car Congress.


Some car-sharing reading, and other automobility snippets…

August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

drivenow_berlin_smallHere’s a useful journal article from last year on carsharing – lots of references and nice historical detail, in a discussion on whether carsharing is a part of, or distinct from, automobility (the whole established system of cars/driving, including supporting infrastructures and social attitudes). Kent & Dowling (transport geographers) look at it in terms of mobility practices, and point out that it uses much of the same infrastructure as conventional driving/car ownership, but differs in terms of its digital enablement (i.e. access to cars via RFID cards, smartphone apps to locate cars) and the car being a shared commodity or object of collaborative consumption. The freedom it offers is from commitment of ownership, rather than the chance to go wherever you want, whenever, as promised by the private car. Carsharing doesn’t demand any unique skills or habits (if you can already drive in the first place), but it does require different time-management and planning,  and it is often taken up at certain life-events or changes, i.e. moving house or changing job. It is increasing linked with other networks and structures of automobility, they argue – as demonstrated by car companies and established car rental firms entering into this sector – but with spin-0ffs and related practices such as lift-sharing and one-way car-sharing coming into the picture, could be taking on a life of its own (I paraphrase).

  • And further to the above, it turns out that car rental firm Sixt has publicly confirmed that its upper-end one-way car-sharing JV with BMW, DriveNow, is coming to London. It’s up and running in Berlin (pictured), Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Dusseldorf, as well as in San Francisco, and “London is next in line”, the Sixt blog reports. In London, it’ll have to take on the likes of Zipcar, CityCarClub and the upcoming Bollore BlueCar EV-share, though not Car2Go, which recently withdrew its Smart ForTwos, as well as smaller players under the auspices of Carplus, Co-wheels, the E-Car Club and suchlike. I reckon its main competition will, however, be all the other effective ways of getting around the city, i.e. its public transport system, cycling and walking, for starters, not to mention taxis, on-demand Uber cabs etc. Why would anyone want to drive in London unless they absolutely had to?


  • And something else for the reading list (note to self): The Urban Political Economy and Ecology of Automobility, ed. Alan Walks (Routledge), out now. I think the description – in plainer non-academic English – suggests that this explores the relationship of the car and driving to the economy, inequality and politics, focusing on the city context as well as looking at other social, ethnic and migratory factors. (Thanks, @RachelAldred, for flagging this one up).
  • Latest report and more details from the EU-funded V-Charge project, co-ordinating parking, automated driving and EV charging via a smartphone app; tests are underway of cars in Wolfsburg and Zurich, with a third car under development. It’s a new take on valet parking – no (human) valet needed.


Thoughts for the day: commuting, ‘peak car’, green attitudes

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

P1010383_SmallDetailed read at outlining research by Eve Bratman & Adam Jathav on commuting. It’s about how low-income commuters view cycling, not popular amongst urban poor; in the US, it’s typically white people from wealthier areas who ride bikes to work (I paraphrase). Predominant barriers include physical safety concerns, distance and comfort, linked to greater travel times/distances travelled of lower-income folk, and the fact that they’re more likely to use public transport. But the big factor is that respondents of all income groups consistently “ranked car ownership as the most desirable” of transport mode options – a significant proportion rejected car-sharing – and “suggests that, for low-income people, cars may have merits beyond simple cost-benefit use calculations. Automobility remains a paradoxical cultural and status symbol, such that while wealthier people increasingly reduce their car dependency, poor people still aspire to car ownership.” The authors recommend gradual policy changes, a focus on making muti-modal transport easier (i.e. being able to put bikes on trains, as with the Berlin S-Bahn, pictured?) and recognising that “excessively denigrating automobiles might hinder cycling adoption” and that “the rationale that leads some poor people not to desire a car-free lifestyle is likely very different from the rationale of planners and advocates who do.”

  • So the government is (at last) going to lead by example… to some extent. Announced today, plug-in cars and vans to join all governmental fleets, and a first batch of 150 vehicles. A further 135 will go to wider public sector fleets such as the NHS, councils and police forces in the autumn, and charging points are being installed, including on Downing Street and in the Whitehall area. No specific news as to whether parliamentary limos are going to be traded in for, say, Leafs (Sunderland-built!) as yet, however.
  • Latest on the “peak car” debate – car use is intrinsically related to economic and structural issues, there are a lot of divergent trends, not much convincing evidence to support some of the hypotheses, and no consensus as to whether it’s actually happening… Reports from a roundtable discussion in London collated in a paper published by the University of the West of England.


  • What makes us act green? Findings from an 18-month ESRC-funded research project on sustainable behaviour presented here; lots of interesting data and insights on commuting and transport use in relation to eco-friendly attitudes.
  • For those pondering car-sharing from a marketing point of view: some discussion and social media activity around the mysterious Car2Go ‘black cards’…

Midweek news round-up: #EVs, mobility challenges, hydrogen, car-sharing amd smart transport

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

simca vanRenault has delivered 30 Kangoo ZEs to Uruguay for electricity generator/distributor UTE. These vans – considerably more up-to-date and cleaner-running than this earlier French-built Uruguayan workhorse pictured here – will be deployed in Montevideo and elsewhere in the small country, with the aim of running them mostly on electricity generated by wind farms. Interesting note: 84% of Uruguay’s electricity is renewable-source, the country aims to up that to 90% in the near future, and wind farms will produce a third of the country’s electricity by 2016. More here.

As regards this picture, snapped a couple of years ago on the dusty, sunny streets of Colonia del Sacramento, I believe it’s a local chop-job based on a Simca Cinq (itself derived from the Fiat Topolino). And not electric, but anyway…

  • Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab in Palo Alto, California, has launched a series of challenges for software developers called Innovate Mobility Series. These are open to developers worldwide, with cash prizes and scholarships up for grabs; the initial challenges are to develop a 21st century parking lot for Los Angeles; improving delivery of goods and services in Lisbon; develop an app to improve mobility in Mumbai in the monsoon season; improve healthcare services and information in Delhi and remote rural regions around Chennai; to overcome congestion and enhance commuting in Shanghai; to develop accessories for commercial vehicles in Johannesburg; and to improve general mobility and mitigate congestion on a country-wide basis in Argentina. Competitors will use Ford SVL’s OpenXC platform. More news on the Series at Green Car Congress.
  • The Linde Group has started production of hydrogen fuelling units including its compressors; a deal to supply 28 to Japan is being fulfilled, and the first has now gone into public use near Osaka. More here. Linde says that this is the first ‘production line’ for hydrogen stations, and that it can make 50 a year.
  • Pisa may be most famous for its Leaning Tower, but it has a future-leaning IoT research project going on: it has teamed up with Deutsche Telekom and Kiunsys to install and test ‘smart parking’ tech to identify and direct drivers to empty spaces, and enable them to pay for parking via smartphone. Full lowdown on this, and Pisa’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan,  here.
  •  Electric motorbike-maker Brammo has teamed up with engineering and manufacturing consultancy TEAM Industries to develop electric vehicle powertrains; more at EV World.
  • Discussion on Helsinki’s ambitious plans for a ‘mobility on demand’ scheme and its intentions to make private car ownership in the city centre more or obsolete by 2015 at Guardian Cities
  • And a detailed rundown of the discussion/presentations at the Innovation In Mobility Public Policy Summit (Washington DC) here at Urban Omnibus – how can policy support new mobility schemes and encourage behaviour change? Conclusion of writer Manavsi Menon: “Shared use must be seen as complementary to existing services, not as antithetical to traditional forms of transport, and integrated into broader land use policy in order for a transportation network to bring mobility options to underserved areas and to be a truly seamless system across modes.”
  • Owning no car in suburban San Diego? Nice blog on “having no car and having plenty of cars” at the California Planning and Development Report – the difference in owning, and having access to cars via car club membership, using Uber as a fall-back, and car club membership as part of a mix-and-match of transport options.
  • BMW has signed a MOU with Samsung SDI for continued supply and development of battery cells for EVs. More here.

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