Design Concept of the Day: Varsovia

September 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Varsovia-Concept-Car-01A Polish luxury EV, perhaps for passengers with a germ phobia: one of the more interesting touches on this Warsaw-design proposal is its ‘antiseptic’ dirt-repelling, hydrophobic surfaces within its plastic-free mobile office-style interior. The Varsovia concept’s main point is its cabin configuration and the kitting-out with large AV screens, full connectivity and teleconferencing equipment, plus mood sensors for ambient settings, but it is a range-extended EV with a claimed all-electric range of 350km and total range of 800km with its engine-generator activated. To be launched at a major motor show next year, apparently; more details here. Good to see a start-up looking beyond the usual, predictable supercar formula; good too to note another example of electromobility integrated into ground-up design and as an integral part of a something-different-from-the-mainstream proposition.

  • Ericsson has come up with a detailed discussion, well worth a read, of five tech trends shaping innovation – all of which have automotive [and electromobility] implications. First up is the cloud and 5G; no.2 is self-managing devices and the Internet of Things; no.4 is the reshaping of networks, i.e. via semiconductors and quantum computing; no. 4 is the ‘tactile internet’ – VR, haptics, audiovisual interaction, robotics – and no.5 is developing privacy and security. Check out also Ericsson’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016: there’s a handful of interesting pointers and stats from its ConsumerLab on smartphone and internet usage, lifestyle network effects and notes on the speed of technology adoption: “early adopters are less important”, they say, due to the increasing speed of mass-market take-up.
  • Speaking of which: NVIDIA is teaming up with Chinese tech giant Baidu on AI for a cloud-to-car autonomous car platform – an “end to end” architecture – developed for both Chinese and global carmakers. Sounds like a powerful partnership; more here.
  • Another reason to love Copenhagen: the district of Frederiksberg is to host what’s said to be the first commercial V2G system. The local gas, water and heating supplier [yes, district heating] Frederiksberg Forsyning is running 10 Nissan e-NV200 vans on its fleet and each can be plugged in & send electricity back to the grid on demand. Data from these vans will be studied to better-understand the potential for integrating EVs into the electricity network for grid-balancing. More here.
  • And in London: variable effects of policy interventions to improve air pollution, according to this paper from Kings College. A general decrease in NOx and NO2 2010-2014, but increased NOX on roads seeing more buses and HGVs; small particulates (PM2.5s) down but larger PM10s up; very different outcomes on different routes. All in all, much room for improvement, more measures to remove dirty diesel vehicles…

Design Concept of the Day: Renault Oura

June 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

Renault Central Saint Martins 1

Renault recently sponsored a project with industrial design students at London Central Saint Martins to develop an interior for a future autonomous car. Winning concept – presented last week at an event during Clerkenwell Design Week – was Project Oura, a ‘wearable’ vehicle with gesture controls and VR displays, beautifully animated. Runners up were a little less out-there but equally impressive: SYEO (Share Your Extra Office), a mobile work-pod, and Phantasy, a three-wheeled commuter vehicle with configurable interior, were both practical and realistic near-future proposals, very well-executed. The awards were presented by Renault’s VP of exterior design Anthony Lo, who spoke for a while before the announcement of the winner; he told me that (no surprise) Renault is preparing a concept for this autumn’s Paris motor show. I’m going to hazard a guess now that this is going to have some sort of autonomous capability/feature. More on the student projects, anyway, at Car Design News.

Other notes & jottings to get back up to speed with recent developments:

  • Some insight from the ‘Cité Lib by Ha:mo’ mobility service trial in Grenoble, France: at the 18-month mark in this three-year Toyota-partnered trial, 1000-odd people have signed up for on-demand use of the i-Road and COMS mini-EVs. The vehicles are used more during the week and in commuting hours, average trip length is 5km and 45 minutes, most journeys are one-way and the most frequently-used locations are by the train station. Average users are 36-year old males in white-collar jobs, though 14% of users are students; 43% subscribe to other public transport services, 54% cycle 2 or 3 times a week, 41% cycle every day – and 74% also own at least one car. No data yet on any reductions in town traffic/congestion as yet, but feedback generally positive that this is A Good Thing, it seems. More here.
  • Toshiba has developed a contactless induction charging system for electric buses and is starting trials of a 45-seater at Tokyo airport; the bus has an 89km range and takes 15min to charge, and it’s pointed out here that this is well-suited to shuttle-type activities between fixed locations. And in Paris, 23 Bollore Bluebuses are going into service on the city’s first all-electric bus route.
  • Quick round-up of more auto OEMs’ recent activities in the new mobility sector: BMW’s iVentures division has invested in California/SF Bay Area carpooling app Scoop – which partners with major employers in the area – to add to its portfolio of digital mobility services and platforms. More here.  Meanwhile, Volkswagen has taken a stake in taxi-hailing app (and Uber/Hailo rival) Gett; Toyota is collaborating with Uber itself, and Daimler is funding a mobility start-up ‘accelerator scheme’ in Stuttgart.
  • Research from the European Climate Foundation underpins a statement from the EU Platform for Electromobility project that any future renewable energy directive “should actively promote the electrification of transport”. For cars and vans alone, it reckons electrification (including hybridisation) would generate up to 1.1million net jobs in the EU by 2030, and cut CO2 emissions by up to 93%, NOx emissions up up to 95% and particulates by up to 95% by 2050. More from Transport & Environment. T&E is also continuing to campaign against EU biodiesel policy, pointing out this week that 45% of palm oil imported to Europe is used in vehicles.
  • More research on CNG: better used in power stations instead of coal or fuel oil, than for vehicles, according to a paper from Rice University which sees no benefits in terms of GHG emissions. It puts a hybrid petrol-electric Honda Civic as having lower (by 27%) well-to-wheel emissions than its CNG counterpart, and a CNG bus emitting 12% more CO2e than a diesel version. More details, references here.
  • BMW has developed some autonomous-driving robots for one of its production facilities, powered by second-life i3 batteries which will last for an eight-hour shift. Recycled parts from cars helping build the next generation, autonomously… more here.
  • [note to self] Oh, someone else using MLP theory to talk about transitions to electric vehicles… Anyway, Nilson & Nykvist are modelling scenarios for uptake and suggesting governmental/policy interventions including investment finance for fast/rapid-charging, durable incentives for uptake, consumer/business education, and support of structural and technological changes within auto industries.

Detroit show snippets, more on mobility…

January 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

2016_NAIAS_Kymeta_Mirai_02Snippets 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.

 

CES: first news from Bosch, Faraday…

January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

bosch ces conceptIs this a new roofless version of the fabric-bodied EDAG Light Cocoon, my favourite concept at the Geneva show last year, modded by Bosch? Looks like it to me. Anyway, Bosch is showing off its vision of the car as personal assistant at CES, and its haptic-feedback touchscreen controls, cloud-connected functions and assistance systems. Aim is to minimise driver distraction, give more intelligent safety alerts (incl. wrong-way), sync up driver preferences, diaries and route guidance, and provide autopilot functions (of course). Bosch is also talking about connections to smart homes – controls of heating, security – and online services, as well as the ‘connected horizon’ of real-time traffic and safety data, and infrastructure-enabled automated valet parking. Full details here, and on the smart-home suite of tech here.

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So, the Faraday Future FFZERO1 unveiled at CES, Las Vegas: only a concept as yet, looks a bit silly and toy-like, but under the wannabe-Batmobile surface is some tech to underpin some proper cars, apparently. The Variable Platform Architecture can be easily reconfigured for different vehicle types, two- or four-wheel-drive, and to house up to three motors and additional ‘strings’ of batteries.  This single-seater, carbonfibre composite-bodied concept has four motors delivering 200mph, 986bhp and a claimed 0-60 in less than three seconds. Theoretically. Feedback on Faraday so far suggests that the firm (backed by China’s Letv media conglomerate) sees itself more as a tech firm and infotainment-provider than a car-maker (no surprises in that statement) with some interesting ideas on non-traditional ownership/leasing models (i.e. availability of different cars on-demand) and that the concept previews some autonomous-driving tech, including smartphone-controlled functions and augmented-reality displays. More detail, pictures, here.

  • GM has announced a partnership with ridesharing platform Lyft “to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles” in the US. In the short-term, this means GM will supply cars to Lyft drivers at rental hubs in selected US cities, Lyft will use GM’s OnStar services, and both will develop “joint mobility offerings” – personalised services – “through their respective channels”, long before the longer-term autonomous fleet arrives.
  • Meanwhile, Volvo has been talking about its work with Ericsson to develop content-streaming for autonomous vehicles – high-definition TV, music and other high-bandwidth services, linked with ‘learning’ route preferences and traffic predictions to deliver the right-length entertainment for the journey. Interesting stat: Ericsson’s research reckons that 70% of all mobile data traffic will be for video in coming years.
  • In non-CES news… A bit cheaper than the Boris buses – the DfT is putting up £7million in its Clean Bus Technology Fund to retro-fit 439 existing buses with SCR (selective catalytic reduction) tech to reduce NOx emissions (by an estimated 50%-90%).
  • Are electric vehicles really the best option for greener driving? A rather misleadingly-titled piece at The Conversation which doesn’t so much answer the question as put the case for hybridisation, hydrogen and ‘electrofuels’ (those synthesised using renewable electricity, i.e. methane or liquid methanol). Arguments against EVs: batteries are expensive, European grid currently uses nearly 50% fossil fuels (both short-term-ist issues). Electrofuels “represent the minimum change to the status quo” – sure, but shouldn’t we be aiming for a bit more than that? Problem is, though, with these kinds of pieces is that it sets up a false either-or argument of one fuel type vs another, when really it should be about the right fuels for the right applications, i.e. in different sectors and niches (point is made about synthetic hydrocarbons for aviation, for example). There’s no one solution.
  • And Heathrow Airport is to install 135 EV charging points – each with two power outlets – in a bid to improve its sustainability (such things are all relative). Should help out the increasing number of electric private-hire vehicles and taxis on the airport run, anyway, and reduce the (anecdotally-reported) problem of certain firms hogging the rapid-chargers at the nearby service station…

Uruguayan electricity and other stories…

December 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

gttc-5Slightly off-topic but I have been particularly struck by the news today from the Paris summit that Uruguay – a small and not very wealthy country – has achieved an electricity mix of 94.5% renewables. Without government subsidies, or rising consumer prices. That’s 55% of the overall energy mix including transport fuels, with wind, hydro, solar and biomass all playing a part – but no nuclear. It’s good for business, too, energy accounting for 15% of its GDP. The Guardian story does note, however, that “the transport sector still depends on oil”, which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix – though it is at least in a good position to start using electrified vehicles (UTE, the state electricity generator/distributor, is already running a fleet of Renault Kangoo ZEs).  And I can’t resist making the point that this was mostly achieved under the watch of the country’s colourful former ‘peasant president’, a man who made Jeremy Corbyn look like a marauding free-marketeer. Or resist the temptation to post a holiday snap from Uruguay a few years back, suggesting that the country does still have some way to go before it cleans up its transport… (anyone want to hazard a guess what this is?)

  • No, not the Self-driven Volt but a fleet of self-driving Volts… GM is to deploy a fleet of autonomous Chevys at its technical centre in Warren, Michigan, involving a valet-service app: GM’s employees will reserve and summon the cars, which can park themselves. More here. (And to refer back to the esteemed Mr W Self and his recent series of radio shows, quite why the BBC thought it acceptable to send him on a long road trip in an obsolete electrified vehicle – discontinued UK-spec Volt – without the necessary charging cable and adaptor to use public charging points, then broadcast his predictably negative comments on his not-very-electric driving experience, I really don’t know. I don’t expect a writer and cultural commenter to be an EV expert/authority, but I would have expected better research and representation from the Beeb.)
  • Couple of summing-up-state-of-play studies from consultancy EY (Ernst & Young): first one, Who’s in the driving seat?, looks at autonomous vehicles and reckons that people are receptive to the idea, especially younger generations, seeing particular advantages for congestion and road safety, though they’re concerned about driving fun and liability issues. It points to a reversal of the driver-car relationship in terms of maintenance, safety and wellbeing, and importance of new values such as connectivity, reliability and safety in place of power or image – a shift from ‘extrinsic’ product values to ‘intrinsic’. Other one, Urban Mobility Redefined, goes down the “sharing is the new buying” route, with digitalisation and connectivity the key drivers. Nothing new here, but handy consolidations.
  • Swiss research institute Empa has opened a new platform called “move” in collaboration with ETH Zurich to study the use of surplus renewable electricity in cars, utility vehicles and machinery, encompassing a shift from fossil to renewable energy with a view to creating ‘a closed carbon cycle model.’ Mobility is responsible for 40% of Switzerland’s CO2 emissions, and the country anticipates a large surplus of solar-generated electricity in summer months. The project includes looking into synthetic electricity-based fuels, with the opening of an electrolysis plant to convert renewable electricity into hydrogen, as well catalytic conversion of hydrogen and CO2 into methane, and apparently nature is the role model since ‘plants have been using sunlight, water and CO2 to supply themselves sustainably with energy for millions of years.’ More here.
  • A frightening thought: mobility-on-demand, connectivity and autonomous vehicles could lead to “a profound impact” on consumers and vehicle mileage travelled, according a report from KPMG, which suggests that VMT could soar to an extra trillion additional miles a year by 2050. KPMG puts this down to increased demand for mobility and related services from older people and millennials in particular, citing older people using on-demand autonomous services as they age, as well as tech-savvy youngsters (aged 10-15) not yet old enough to drive, but who can get into an on-demand vehicle. It warns of large numbers of empty cars going to pick people up, and a possible increase in VMT of up to 3-4 trillion additional miles by 2050, as personal mileage escalates. More here; full report, “The Clockspeed Dilemma”, for download here.
  • University of Glasgow student Morven Fraser (BEng Mechanical Engineering) won this year’s Autocar-Courland Next Generation award for aspiring automotive engineers: her energy-capture and storage system concept involves PV film on a vehicle’s body panels to capture  energy, then stored in nanobatteries integrated into the carbonfibre panels, and used in an electrified powertrain. This could extend EV range and reduce reliance on heavy conventional batteries. Fraser, 21, wins £9000 plus work experience at six of the sponsor OEMs.
  • A researcher at Stuttgart University is working on a wireless induction charging system for super-accurate positioning of an electric vehicle over an induction plate, and for optimised efficiency. PhD student Dean Martinovic has developed and patented a magnetic field technology to match up induction coils to an accuracy of 1cm, using a low-frequency pulsed magnetic field; this gives lower interference with the car’s metal underbody and no reflection of electromagnetic waves. The driver is guided by a 3D image (on a tablet, in the prototype) to the optimal positioning of the car and the system is said to be both very space- and cost-effective.
  • A lifecycle analysis study in New Zealand has found EV impact to be significantly lower than that of conventional ICE vehicles, with over 60% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to petrol, 40% reduction in energy use compared to diesel, and in a NZ-specific context, an 80% fall in CO2 compared to petrol, thanks to NZ’s high proportion of renewable electricity. More here.
  • Heuliez Bus – making over a quarter of French buses – is to trial its first all-electric model, the GX ELEC, in Paris. More here.
  • Further to the above, the European Environment Agency has released a report claiming that nitrogen dioxide emissions – predominantly from diesel vehicles – are responsible for an additional 75,000 premature deaths in Europe each year (and 432,000 premature deaths caused by particulates, with ozone another health-problem emission). That’s 21,600 in polluted Italy, 14,100 in the UK, 10,400 in Germany and 5,900 in Spain, it says – all countries which have lobbied for weaker emissions controls and higher limits for diesel vehicles, Transport and Environment points out. T&E also notes another study claiming 23,500 UK deaths are attributable to NO2, suggesting that “the EAA’s method may be conservative.”
  • And just in case the role of vehicles in all this isn’t clear, the EC’s Joint Research Centre and the World Health Organisation have released a report identifying traffic as the biggest source of particulate matter in 51 world cities. Traffic accounts for 25% of PM2.5s and PM10s, combustion and agriculture 22%, domestic fuel burning 20%, natural dust and salt 18% and industrial activities 15%, although the proportions differ around the world. Domestic fuel burning is the greatest contributor to PMs in Eastern Europe, for example, and natural dust in the Middle East and North Africa, but  traffic, heating and agriculture are the main culprits in North America and Western Europe. More here.
  • Looking into the myth of peak car: VMT (vehicle mileage travelled) may be up in the US, but not when looked at per capita, and is a few % down on all-time peaks when population growth is taken into account, argues this piece (with handy graphs). Yeah, but mileage is still pretty damn high, whether it’s peaked or not…
  • Loads of fleet-related news this week, but one of the biggest/most symbolic is 2000 EVs to New York City’s non-emergency fleet, which already runs 300 EVs on municipal duties. This will mean that half the fleet is electric, with a claimed reduction in fuel consumption of 2.5million gallons a year plus CO2 emissions halved by 2020, and is thought to be the biggest fleet deployment yet of EVs in the US. More here.
  • Audi America is in talks with other car-makers over establishing a single common-standard fast-charging network across the USA, a la Tesla Superchargers; another (potential) example, I think, of how the carmakers are expanding their businesses beyond building hardware to service provision. More here.
  • And more news from Germany’s most excellent and innovative Frauenhofer Institutes (a network of well-funded universities and research centres developing engineering solutions): a prototype battery cell with its own integrated microcontroller charting temperature, state of charge and suchlike, able to communicate with other cells, the main controller and other devices. An empty or defective cell can be decoupled from the system. This should allow for greater battery range (by up to 10%) – since it eliminates the problem of cells linked in series, whereby the weakest cell determines overall capacity – and lower costs, it’s claimed. This is part of the EU 3Ccar advanced systems design project, which aims to reduce EV complexity, costs and maintenance requirements.

Electromobility important for GHG reductions

November 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

LichtBlick_1504_3E-Haus_mw_013Electric mobility (not just cars) could contribute far more than previously thought to the reduction of GHG emissions, according to a new paper from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/Mercator Research Institute of Global Commons and Climate Change. The transport sector (currently accounting for 23% of global energy-related emissions) could nearly halve its emissions by 2050 if a large-scale shift to electric mobility – alongside the promotion of public transport in cities, disincentives to drive, promotion of cycling, etc – is achieved. This would include car-sharing, e-bicycles and electric rail as well as cars, says the paper’s lead author Felix Creutzig, noting: “Efficiency gains will be very difficult to achieve with the conventional automobile fleet from 2025 on. A fuel shift will be the only remaining option to advance decarbonisation.” KIT’s Patrick Jochem adds: “Electrification of cars may also contribute to the energy turnaround, provided that electric vehicles are integrated smartly into the energy system. Shifting of charge processes to strong-wind hours might relieve the energy system and, hence, create synergies between both sectors.” More here; full paper – in Science, Vol. 350, no. 6363, pp.911-912, here.

  • On that note, the launch yesterday of the 100% London campaign -100% clean energy by 2050, also aimed-for by 50-odd Labour-run councils across the country – involves some hearty targets for GHG reductions. Implications for transport policy, of course, and talk about biogas and fuel cell vehicles as well as EVs.
  • And the clever folks at KIT are also working on ‘powercaps’ or ‘hybrid capacitors’ – devices combining the properties of batteries and capacitors for energy storage, storing twice as much power as capacitors but able to supply up to ten times more power than a battery. Science bit here.
  • Renault has been testing smart-charging management in German with TMH (The Mobility House), which has developed tech to automate EV charging at times of lower-cost electricity. Eleven Zoe-owning Renault employees in Germany have tested the system at their homes and research is ongoing between Renault and TMH on smart-grid communications to smooth out demand peaks and troughs, as well as optimising costs (and charging times) for EV owners. Payments for feeding electricity back to the grid (from cars) are also being studied. TMH has further ongoing collaborations with Daimler (energy storage and second-life batteries) and with Volkswagen (supply of home-charging solutions).
  • Volvo’s Concept 26 – revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week – is another vision of the future of commuting. It’s a take on the autonomous theme with a three-way seat which adapts to Drive, Create and Relax modes, involving degrees of seat recline, retraction of the steering wheel and a fold-out display screen – to either make use of the commute time “creatively” or to sit back and relax, watch media or listen to music. Volvo’s Drive Me research project is to get fully-autonomous vehicles on the road, “driving real customers” in Gothenburg next year. And the ’26’, apparently, refers to the average US commuting time. (On a related note, interiors supplier Faurecia is working on a research project with a team from Stanford University to study the issue of motion sickness in self-driving cars…)
  • Speaking of Gothenburg, I’m liking the Stadsleveransen – a city delivery service combining an electric vehicle-pulled ‘train’ of goods trailers and six-wheeled cargo bikes, driven by the ‘pooling’ and aggregation of deliveries to shops and businesses in a central area. Has cut down on traffic and parked vehicles, enabled increasing pedestrianisation and cycling, and created an all-round more pleasant place, they say.

Royal College of Art: Vehicle Design show & more mobility concepts

June 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

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And a quickfire round-up of the 2015 end-of-year show at the Royal College of Art, and the work of the Vehicle Design graduates – a lot of futuristic visions, with shared vehicles and autonomy strong themes as well as biotechology. Lots of car design types wandering around at the private view (from consultancies and OEMs, probably scouting out the talent); also, many ‘fashion-forward’ outfits and haircuts, but then that’s art colleges for you… Anyway, the vehicle design projects are all showcased here; ones that particularly caught my eye from a more than aesthetic point of view (and for which there are some info on the RCA website) were: Farhana Safa’s Kinesis, an application for a shape-shifting liquid metal with sculptural qualities, suitable for housing electric drivetrains; Simon Haynes’ ‘No Infrastructure Needed’, a ‘4D-printed’ simple vehicle for local assembly, and Yibo Wu’s friendly little ‘Happie’ autonomous commuter car for 2040.

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Shout-out too for Service Design student Nawar Almutlaq and her ‘Weave’ proposal for an integrated multimodal transport ticketing system for Doha, with an incentives scheme and “designed to facilitate the transition from car-based to mass transit commuting” – a nice example of location-specific design. Also, Yongkwan Yoon’s Delectricity (pictured) was well-thought-out – a scheme of portable EV chargers, charged up at central hubs but deployed to domestic ‘mobile’ or leisure (‘joyful’) locations, or used in emergency out-of-charge ‘rescue’ scenarios. “Convenience is key to scaling up electric mobility”, he says, pointing out that his mobile chargers can deliver charge to cars on a daily basis like taking delivery of a newspaper – wake up, and it’s arrived. Were I handing out Best In Show prizes, I’d probably pick this one as a really useful service which could be easily and quickly implemented.

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And noticeable for a quite different reason was the quite literally stomach-churning and very visceral Digestive Car by Yi-Wen Tseng, a Design Interactions student: this has four cow-like ‘stomachs’ digesting biowaste to create methane on which it runs.

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