Vauxhall reveals Adam city car; the TVR (wind) turbine and other news

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Vauxhall/Opel has released the first pics of its Adam city car, to be formally launched at the Paris Motor Show. This smart-looking little thing will come with a choice of three petrol engines from launch, all with stop-start, and further down the line, Adam will be the first Vauxhall to get GM’s new small-capacity direct-injection turbo petrol engine plus six-speed gearbox, the firm’s answer to Ford’s Ecoboost. An electric version is said to be under consideration.

  • There’s something rather wonderfully ironic about this: TVR is to be reborn, but rather than resuming car-making, the brand-name will be used for portable wind turbines. TVR’s owner Nikolai Smolensky says that they couldn’t make the cars cheaply enough, though he “will listen to proposals”, reports Autocar, and is using the brand-name for his new venture rather than selling it. Would it be too much to suggest an electric TVR running on wind power as a future project? (I doubt one like this would be a seller, though).
  • BMW is breaking up its joint venture to develop hybrid powertrains with PSA Peugeot-Citroen. The BPCE (BMW Peugeot Citroen Electrification) programme will be brought in-house by BMW, which is to buy out PSA’s 50% stake and take over the R&D centre in Munich, reports Bloomberg. This is said to have been a result of General Motors’ buying of a stake in PSA. BMW has now, instead, signed a MOU with Toyota for “joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies.”
  • Better Place isn’t all about battery-swapping: it has just signed a deal with GM’s Australian division, Holden, to provide fast-charging facilities and membership to charging schemes and all-in support packages for Volt buyers Down Under. More here.

Renault Zoe sets distance record, week-end news round-up

June 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Renault Zoe has completed a marathon run of 1005 miles (1618km)  in 24 hours, setting a new distance record for production EVs. Over the 24 hours – orbiting the circuit at the Aubevoye technical centre, Normandy, 363 times – it was fast-charged 18 times to keep its batteries juiced-up. Two cars took part (the second completing 1506 km), shared between fifteen drivers, and the Renault team used the new Chameleon charger, a universal connector compatible with any socket and power level.

In other news to round off the week:

  • The Eco Technology Show takes place at the Amex Stadium, Brighton, today (15th June) and tomorrow (16th). Lots of exhibits and trade stands re. energy-saving – domestic, transport, for business – plus a test-track to try out e-bikes; participants include ZeroCarbonWorld, which has pledged to give away 10 free EV charging points to local businesses or organisations. Tickets are £5 to get in, with lots of free workshops and seminars.
  • Cutting the cost of making motors is an important part of the EV manufacturing equation. The Technology Strategy Board/BIS is thus co-funding (to the tune of £750,000) a research programme called Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor – basically, a low-cost motor which doesn’t need expensive magnet materials such as rare earth metals. The three-year project will be led by Cobham Technical Services, and partners involved are Jaguar Land Rover and Ricardo UK. One of the main challenges is producing a torque-dense motor which is quiet enough for use in luxury vehicles, apparently, without using permanent magnets. More details from Ricardo.
  • Better Place is clearly serious about launching its battery-swap tech in Britain: it’s advertising for a Country Program Integrator – UK. The role includes “managing the relationships on the ground and coordinating the various functions and workstreams taking place in the UK”, “managing all of Global’s engagement activities with the specific country OpCo during its launch phases” and “building and maintaining the key relationships with local partners and government officials”, as well as being “the on-the-ground coordinator of all local pre-launch projects (e.g., taxi, utility)”. Full job spec here
  • Infiniti is going to show off the Emerg-e range-extended EV concept at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: it’ll be driven up the Hill by F1 ace Mark Webber.
  • For all that BMW opened its i show room (must stop calling it the i-Store) in London yesterday (see below), the company’s whole e-mobility project is “skating on dangerously thin ice”,  says Automobile. The American mag’s citing sketchy EV charging infrastructure, which hasn’t been developed as quickly as expected, and the pull-back of governmental incentives, and says that “the proposed i1 intra-city car and the i5 eco-van have been put on ice”.
  • Some more detail on the  i3: this compact all-electric hatch keeps the carbonfibre construction of the original concept, with rear-hinged rear doors; the interior incorporates some sustainable natural materials, such as hemp and wool in the trim. Let’s hope that there’s nothing in the rumours (see above) and that this intriguing, very promising-sounding vehicle will make it onto the road next year.
  • The new Smart Fortwo electric drive (see below) is “the most credible pure electric yet”, says Autocar.
  • Daimler’s Car2Go car-share/short-term rental scheme, which uses the Smart Fortwo in ICE and (in some locations) electric drive forms,  is now expanding to Miami, Calgary and Toronto. Pre-registrations are being taken for membership in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) too.

All about EVs today…

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

EV racer of the day: British motoring writer/TV presenter Jonny Smith (pictured) is hot-rodding a 1974 Enfield 8000, an oil-crisis special built in small numbers on the Isle of Wight. Follow his progress at Flux Capacitor, where you’ll also find a full history of the car, early experiments by the likes of Seeboard into e-mobility and a timely reminder that there ain’t nothin’ new under the sun, etc etc.

  • Is there Ample room in this? The Ample Eo is a tandem-seating ‘four-wheeled motorcycle’ built by Chinese firm Ample International, on show at EVS26 in Los Angeles. Autoblog Green has pics and the lowdown.
  • Audi has opened a new battery lab near Ingolstadt to develop next-gen lithium-ion tech. 100 engineers have been hired, and the facility will design, test and build cells, modules, batteries, hardware, software and full systems, including those for the upcoming R8 e-tron and A1 e-tron test fleets (AutoTech Daily).
  • How does the Better Place EV battery-swapping system work in practice? Green Car Reports has been to Israel to check it out. Was Nikki converted?
  • The EV Casebook looks at best practice in 16 world cities to encourage EV adoption – municipal fleets, charging facilities, incentives and legislation, etc. And reading this makes me want to re-visit Portland, Oregon. More about it all at Forbes (thanks, @keith_johnston, for the link).
  • A last-minute hybrid: spy photos and the latest on the Porsche 918 Spyder at Autocar this morning.

PG Elektrus; midweek newsbriefs

January 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Another take on the electric Elise theme: this sharky-mouthed, cartoonish Lotus-based PG Elektrus has the Elise chassis (modified) plus a custom carbonfibre/plastic body. Its powertrain gives 200kW/258lb ft, gives a range of 215 miles, and is supplemented by a solar panel on its engine deck lid which supplies enough energy to run the lights, stereo and auxilliary items. It’ll do 155mph and 0-62mph in under three seconds, apparently.  Its interior has race-style toggle switches and a start button said to look like a missile launch device’s (to fulfill your James Bond or crazy dictator fantasies, perhaps), and a selectable engine noise simulator – V8 or F1. To be built in (probably very, very) small numbers in Dusseldorf, prices from E285,600, to join PG’s range of carbon-bodied electrified bicycles (as endorsed by Orlando Bloom).

In other news today:

  • EcoMotors, developer of the OPOC (opposed-piston, opposed-cylinder) engine, is running a design competition with students on the Art Center Pasadena and College for Creative Studies, Detroit, car design courses.  The compact, super-light OPOC engine allows for different packaging and positioning in a car’s body,  says EcoMotors, which has been funded by Bill Gates and thus stands a fighting chance of bringing its concept to fruition. More on the comp at Green Car Congress.
  • The first Better Place battery-swap facilities, supporting lease-drivers of the Renault Fluence ZE, started operation in Israel this week. Roll-out in Denmark next.
  • Bogota, Columbia, is to get electric taxis: it’s part of the C40-CCI network (Clinton Climate Initiative) and the cars will be supplied by BYD (e6) and Mitsubishi (i-MiEV). More at Green Car Congress.

Toyota’s Tokyo debuts; Car2go expands; more EV news

November 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Toyota is showing a series of new concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of the month. Whilst much attention will be on the compact FT-86 coupe co-developed with Subaru, there’ll also be the Aqua small hybrid hatchback (previewing the Prius C); an iQ-based electric city car called FT-EV III  (range 65 miles, launch could be next year); a five-seater fuel cell-powered family car called FCV-R; plus a further concept called Fun-Vii (the flowery one pictured, below), about which no details have been issued as yet other than to say that it’s for a future “where people, cars and society are linked.” More details at Green Car Congress.

  • Daimler’s Car2Go scheme is now expanding into Austria: a short-term rental fleet of 500 Smart Fortwos will be operational in Vienna early next month. A 300-car all-electric fleet is also now up and running in San Diego, California.
  • Renault has opened upgraded EV test facilities at Lardy, France; the facility, which first opened in 2009, has received a 28million-euro investment and now features 100 test benches. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Better Place has secured $200million-worth of funding to develop its business of battery-swap stations and EV recharging infrastructure. More, again, at Green Car Congress.
  • The London borough of Camden is  launching a trial two-week programme enabling local business to try out electric vehicles. Cars available to test-drive include a Nissan Leaf, a Mitsubishi i-MiEV and a Renault Kangoo Van ZE. There are 29 public charging points in Camden, apparently (Green Car Website).

Thursday newsbriefs

July 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s a quick preview of the new-generation Renault Twingo, to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Key nugget of info: it’ll get the new Renault-Nissan three-cylinder engine, an economy-oriented unit no doubt to feature extensively in the Renault-Nissan range. Next time around, however (2014), it’ll share its platform with the next Smart ForFour supermini, under the terms of a deal with Daimler; electric versions will follow.

  • BYD is to lease 200 eBus and 300 e6 saloons to authorities in Shenzhen for the 2011 Universiade, a national student sports festival. The saloons will be used as taxis, and all 500 of these electric vehicles will remain on public service in the city after the event (Edmunds AutoObserver). This is one of the biggest EV fleet deals yet made.
  • Tour of the Better Place visitor centre in Tel Aviv, including a look at the Renault Laguna EV and battery-swapping, at Autoblog Green today.
  • Mazda has started testing two electric Demio (Mazda2) prototypes in Japan. These have a 200km range; production is planned for spring 2012.
  • Solar EV chargers are now on sale in the US: SolarCity is supplying a $1500 package with photovoltaic panels and cells to customers in selected states (Wired Autopia). Makes sense in sunny SoCal, perhaps less so in the wet Pacific north-west…
  • Tequila all round! A study from Oxford suggests that ethanol for fuel use could be derived from agave plants, and as these grow only in desert or marginal climates, they won’t displace any food crops. Emissions from production of this biofuel are lower than from making corn-based ethanol (or petrol), too. More at The Guardian.
  • Bike alert: the Oregon Manifest project, sponsored by Levi’s, is a challenge to design a practical, attractive and versatile pushbike to encourage Americans out of their cars. Criteria include load-carrying ability, robustness, security and visibility. As someone who’s just bought a cargo bike, I approve. And it’s an interesting insight into the US pro-bike brigade (tattoos not compulsory, I hope).

Midweek newsbriefs

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is the KleenSpeed EV-X11, and it’s just set another lap record for electric prototypes at the Refuel SportElectric TT, Laguna Seca. Averaging 81.5mph, it lapped the circuit in 1.38.858, beating its own time set last year, thanks to a new  liquid-cooled motor giving 200hp and 300lb ft of torque, plus lighter lithium-polymer batteries. California-based KleenSpeed is claiming the 140mph EV-X11 as “the fastest electric track racing car in the world”, and says that it’s a test-bed for technologies, research and development which could be used in the real world. It also set a lap record in the conversions class with its ‘Eiata’, an electrified Mazda Miata (MX-5). Full press release and video posted at Autoblog Green.

  • Nissan has started testing an electric van based on its NV200. A first initial prototype is being run by the Japan Post Service in Yokohama in a two-month trial, when its usage in a real-world environment will be studied, and further testing will be carried out in Japan and Europe.
  • The second RAC Future Car Challenge will take place this year on Saturday 5th November, and a team from Imperial College, London, is again overseeing the data measurement and judging of the most energy-efficient vehicles on the 60-mile run from Brighton to London. This year, however, all the data logs will be made public directly after the event, and there are new categories for the 90 entrants: pure electric; extended-range and plug-in hybrid; hybrid; hydrogen; internal combustion engine (emitting up to 110g/km of C)2 and using any legal fuel). Prototypes will also be distinguished from production vehicles.
  • Only 1% of UK motorists questioned for a survey by the AA said they would buy a hybrid or electric vehicle in the next 12 months; 50% said that the cost of ‘green’ cars was prohibitive. However, over 75% of the 150,000 people questioned said that they were affected by the price of fuel…
  • Better Place is planning to install 20 battery-swap stations (plus conventional recharging points) in Denmark within the next nine months. The first opened in Gladsaxe this week.
  • The city of Normal, Illinois is offering EV buyers a 1% sales tax rebate. The offer applies to cars – including the range-extended Chevy Volt – registered in the city till 2014. Local authorities hope this will boost car sales in the area as well as incentivise EV purchase (Autoblog Green).
  • Portland, Oregon, meanwhile is named by All Cars Electric as “a leading market” for EVs and the first place to have a public fast-charging point. EVs are well-suited to the area’s commuting habits and layout, and local-use neighbourhood EVs are surprisingly popular.
  • A Turkish investment group, BD Otomotive, is in talks to rescue Think Global from bankruptcy. The group already runs EV conversion facilities, installs and operates recharging infrastructure, assembles battery packs and has opened battery recycling plants, and is also starting to distribute Fisker  and BYD vehicles in Turkey. If it is successful in its takeover of the Norwegian firm, it plans to “launch new platforms and the next generation of vehicles” (Green Car Congress).
  • Manufacturers’ plans for EV and plug-in hybrid production are way behind national targets, according to report by the International Energy Agency. Around 0.9million are scheduled for 2015 and 1.4million a year by 2020, but national targets call for 1.5 million a year by 2015 and 7million by 2020 (Green Car Congress).


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