Concept of the Day: Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II

February 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

mitsu concept xr-phevMitsubishi has released more details of its small SUV concept, a plug-in hybrid, prior to next week’s Geneva Auto Salon. The XR-PHEV II has a new powertrain promising a motor output of 163hp (no details yet on the engine) and overall emissions below 40gkm, and is front-wheel-drive despite its mini-Shogun styling; think next-generation ASX urban crossover.  It has all-electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid modes – designed for prioritising all-electric operation, with the engine acting as a generator, but the engine can also kick in to supplement the motor power.

  • Toyota is putting its i-Road into action in an EV-share in central Tokyo next month, in partnership with Park24’s Times Car Plus service. A trial – supplementing Toyota’s programme in Grenoble, France – will run till the end of September to gauge user feedback, activity patterns and ease of usage.Toyota expects the cars, to be located at the Times Station, Yurakucho ITOCiA shopping centre, to be used one-way to businesses, shops and sight-seeing locations; they can be returned to any of five central bases. Times Car Plus members opting into the service will pay 412 yen (about £2.25) per 15 minutes with max hire time two and a half hours. There are around 430,000 members of this mobility service (operated by car park network Park24) across Japan.
  • Springer has published a book on Electric Vehicle Business Models, including case studies and research on car-sharing, wireless charging, grid-balancing, marketing (‘technology push vs market pull’), and cost of ownership; more details and samples here.
  • Volkswagen’s Geneva concept previewing the next CC is to have a (petrol) plug-in hybrid powertrain, reports Autocar, but the Audi Prologue Avant (next-gen A6 Avant estate) is diesel-electric – 3.0 TDI engine, 353hp, plus 100kW motor and eight-speed tiptronic transmission, delivering 0-62 in 5.1 seconds, 155mph, 176mpg overall, 43g/km and a 54km range in all-electric mode. Wireless induction charging capability, too.
  • has launched a mobile app (£4.99, iOS, Android to follow) enabling UK EV drivers to search for public charging points (by rated power, connector type or compatibility with their vehicle as well as by postcode or location), and to provide feedback and ratings , i.e. on correct functioning. It’s the first of a series of apps the Zap-Map/Next Green Car team (managers of the government-funded National Chargepoint Registry) are developing to support electric car drivers. More here. This follows debate on EV user forums about the ins and outs of repurposing and selling data from OpenChargeMap and other OS databases…
  • Proterra has upgraded its e-bus battery packs to deliver a range of 180 miles; more at Green Car Congress.
  • Not all biofuel bad: the Greater London Authority is planning to get vehicles used on council fleets running on a blend with used cooking oils, fats and greases, and Hackney is to trial blends of B20 and B30 in its LCVs by the end of the year, reports Fleet News. This could also help tackle the problem of ‘fatbergs’ clogging the capital’s sewers.

Tues news: EV charging, batteries, biofuels and more

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: Chargemaster plc

Pic: Chargemaster plc

UK EV charge point network operator Chargemaster is launching a new app called Polar Instant (iPhone and Android), giving instant access to OCPP (open charge point protocol) points with no need for an RFID card. The app includes mapping and routing plus real-time info on the availability of points, including data on connector type and pricing (where applicable).

  • A lot of hearsay in this one, but a detailed account of the demise/failure/hubris of Shai Agassi’s Better Place battery-swap vision at Fast Company. And also on the Going Under list this week: Smith Electric Vehicles (trucks and vans), with Detroit Electric looking pretty dubious too (plans for Michigan production shelved, assembly now in the Netherlands, file  it under believe-it-when-you-see-it).
  • Latest roadmap report from the EC’s ERTRAC on fuels for heavy-duty transport and freight, Energy Carriers for Powertrains: handy digest at Green Car Congress. To 2050, potential for biomass-derived biofuels limited due to availability of enough sustainable-source (i.e. non-feedstock or food crop) biomass; CO2 ‘recycling’ or binding is crucial; limits on substitutions/blends with petrol/diesel for many biofuels; natural gas (as CNG/LNG) has good potential as drop-in fuel, as well as methanol and DME; thumbs-up to biomethane and renewable electricity (either as direct power source or in ‘carrier’ syngas, hydrogen or converted to liquid fuel); ethanol an economic solution (NB: beware its source?).
  • And how ’bout extracting hydrogen and CO2 from sea water and converting it to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, no ICE conversion needed? The US Naval Research Laboratory has demonstrated this in a replica-model WWII plane… (via Green Car Congress – thanks).
  • Polymer electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries are more stable, less flammable and can give better energy storage capacity and durability than current li-ion battery chemistries, says a team from Autonomous Metropolitan University (Mexico City). They’re looking into batteries for local metro trains, but which could also be used in cars, computers, cellphones and soforth. More here. And how about lithium sulphur graphene batteries – more here?
  • Microsoft has revealed a beta version of Windows in the Car; more at Wired. You better like Windows 8…
  • Autonomous vehicles: shared/hired or personally-owned? Some musings at Atlantic Cities (by a founder of ZipCar, so you can probably guess the vision).



First look at latest JRC report on future fuels/powertrains

March 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: Ecotricity

Pic: Ecotricity

The European Joint Research Centre and JEC Consortium have updated the authoritative Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in the European Context report; it has been extended to cover 2020 and beyond from a base year of 2010, with an update on analysis of natural gas impacts in particular (given the recent push towards fracking for shale gas in Europe), a reassessment of biofuel pathways, and updates on plug-in and fuel cell vehicles including analysis of the EU electricity mix for charging vehicles. Some take-outs:

  • Shifting to renewable or lower-carbon solutions may offer GHG reductions, but total energy use may rise, depending on the specific pathway. Large-scale production of synfuels or hydrogen from coal or gas is only beneficial if CO2 can be captured and stored.
  • Ongoing improvements to petrol/diesel fuels and technologies, including hybridisation, continue to be important.
  • Methane (natural gas) currently has well-to-wheel GHG emissions between those of petrol and diesel, but beyond 2020, will near those of diesel; however, energy use remains more than that of petrol. However, it’s down to supply pathway – biogas, from waste, has lower impact; synthetic gases or e-gases are low-emissions but energy-intensive.
  • For conventionally-produced biofuels (biodiesel, bioethanol), GHG and fossil energy savings depend on the manufacturing processes and fate of co-products; the report considers the variable impacts of nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture and land use changes, and points out that  “the fossil energy savings discussed above should not lead to the conclusion that these pathways are energy-efficient. Taking into account the energy contained in the biomass resource, the total energy involved is two to three times higher than the energy involved in making conventional fuels. These pathways are therefore fundamentally inefficient in the way they use biomass, a limited resource.”
  • However, there is potential for cellulose-based fuels from straw or ‘woody biomass’, which “have an attractive fossil energy and GHG footprint”.
  • GHG emissions from GTL (natural gas-liquid biodiesel) and CTL (coal-to-liquid) are higher than from conventional diesel, especially for CTL. Synthetic diesel from biomass has lower GHG – much lower than current biofuel options – but energy use is still high.
  • DME (dimethyl ether) can be produced from biomass or natural gas with lower energy use and GHG emissions than other GTL or BTL fuels, but would demand diesel engine and infrastructure modifications.
  • Overall energy use and GHG from electric/plug-in hybrid/range-extended vehicles depends on the source of the electricity, but if this is low-GHG, electrified vehicles beat ICE. If higher-GHG, plug-in hybrids are best option.
  • Fuel cell vehicles will become more efficient from 2020-onwards. But – and this is a big but – although hydrogen produced from natural gas and used in a fuel cell vehicle from 2020 gives half the GHG of a petrol vehicle, and “hydrogen from non-fossil sources (biomass, wind, nuclear) offers low overall GHG emissions”, at the moment, “electrolysis using EU-mix electricity or electricity from NG results in GHG emissions two times higher than producing hydrogen directly from NG and gives no benefit compared with a gasoline vehicle”.

And from the 2020+ horizon:

  •  “CNG as transportation fuel only provides small savings because its global GHG balance is close to that of the gasoline and diesel fuels it would replace” – implying that CNG has only short-to-medium term advantages.
  • “With the improvements expected in fuel cell vehicle efficiency, production of hydrogen from NG by reforming and use in a FC vehicle has the potential to save as much GHG emission as substituting coal by NG in power generation” – no advantage for fuel cell/hydrogen cars over EVs using gas-derived electricity, though both bring benefits.
  • “Using farmed wood to produce hydrogen by reforming saves as much GHG emission per hectare of land as using the wood to produce electricity in place of coal and saves more GHG emissions per hectare than producing conventional or advanced biofuels” – wood biomass good for both hydrogen and electricity production, lower-emissions than producing feedstock for biofuels.
  • “When sourcing wind electricity for transport fuels, hydrogen production and use in FCEV is more efficient than the application of synthetic diesel or methane in ICE-based vehicles” – making hydrogen using wind energy is more efficient than making syn-diesel or e-gas.
  • “Using wind electricity to produce hydrogen and using it in FCEV saves slightly less GHG emissions than substituting NG CCGT electricity” – CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) electricity using natural gas is slightly lower-emissions than wind-electricity for making hydrogen.
  • “Using wind electricity as a substitute for coal electricity is the most efficient option for GHG savings”  – indeed.

Anyway, read the whole thing here, and consider all the well-to-wheel, full-lifecycle and production pathway implications. Just shows that there’s no simple solution to finding the ‘fuel of the future’.

And in other news this week…

  • On the subject of energy, a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) mentioning BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) is about to come out, reports Reuters, with high hopes for the process.
  • Honda’s Smart Home US showcase, on the campus at UC Davis, opened this week; this is claimed to “enable zero net energy living and transportation… producing more energy on-site from renewable sources than it consumes annually, including enough energy to power a Honda Fit EV for daily commuting”. It’s all about smart home energy management (the HEMS system), renewable energy generation (solar), energy-efficient design and materials plus home-to-grid connectivity, energy storage and grid-buffering potential. Full low-down here.
  • Volvo is testing the Torotrak-developed Flybrid KERS tech in Sweden and the UK. This is said to cut fuel consumption by up to 25%, whilst adding an 80hp performance boost; a kinetic energy recovery system, it’s mounted on the rear axle in the test S60 T5s, spinning a carbonfibre flywheel to drive the rear wheels. The front-driven engine turns off under braking – and potentially up to 50% of the driving time – with the biggest potential fuel savings in stop-start traffic and ‘during active driving’ (repeated accelerator-brake action, presumably). The system’s said to be very close to market. More details here
  • Volkswagen “expects new digitalisation era in automobile industry” – details from a recent speech by chairman Dr Martin Winterkorn are here. “The two ground-breaking inventions, the automobile and the computer, are moving closer together. We need to shape the mobility of the future in an even more intelligent, more networked way,” he said, talking about a new initiative called Future Tracks and making good points about Big Data and privacy.
  • And on that note… PSA Peugeot-Citroen is working with IBM “to integrate the massive amounts of data from cars, phones, traffic signals, lights and other sources and analyze it in real-time for delivery”. with a view to offering a range of connected services, reports Green Car Congress.

(Natural) gas in Geneva

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

skoda visioncSkoda’s going gas-tastic at the Geneva Motor Show this coming week: its VisionC concept (a large five-door liftback on the next-gen Octavia platform) has a ‘bivalent’ 1.4 TSI engine (turbocharged, direct-injection) which can run on either petrol or CNG, and meets EU2020 emissions legislation. This powertrain – similar to that in the just-announced Octavia/Octavia Combi G-Tec, and indeed, the Audi A3 G-Tron and Volkswagen Golf TGI – is said to return 72mpg and emit just 91g/km in gas mode. “Natural gas drive is an important pillar of ŠKODA’s sustainability strategy”, says the company.

Good gas or a load of hot air? Can’t help but think it doesn’t do anything for fossil fuel-dependency, even if it is cleaner-burning than liquid petroleum, though CNG is thought of in some circles as a “bridge fuel” to a lower-carbon system (a bit like replacing heroin with methadone?). Some more discussion (gassing?) and useful references here, including the issue of methane leakage in the production process (cancelling out any life-cycle GHG benefits). “Fueling trucks and buses with natural gas may help local air quality and reduce oil imports, but it is not likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even running passenger cars on natural gas instead of gasoline is probably on the borderline in terms of climate,” says Prof Adam Brandt, assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University and lead author of “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems” (Science, 14th February 2014).

  • Porsche is to unveil its 919 Hybrid LMP1 Le Mans racer in Geneva this week; says it “can therefore be regarded as a research laboratory for the technology of future Porsche production vehicles”. Lexus is to bring the RC 300h hybrid coupe (as seen in Detroit), and has confirmed its launch in Europe for 2015.
  • Dutch drivers: more likely to opt for an EV or fuel cell car if they do a low annual mileage, don’t tow a caravan; range and refuelling times key factors in decision-making. Study by Hoen and Koetse in the latest issue of this journal. And some facts ‘n’ figures on Californian plug-in drivers from the Center for Sustainable Energy/CARB here (high-income, middle-aged, motivated by use of car-pool lanes…).
  • Have seen news that China’s Geely Group has bought out the UK’s Emerald Automotive, developer of a range-extended delivery van and associated ER-EV tech.
  • Over half of 8000 people questioned in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Austria reckoned that in the future, they’ll buy a “mobility solution” rather than a car – rundown here. Nearly 64% reckoned they’d use multi-modal transport apps as well, though 63% still said that they wanted to own a car (24% of whom thought they’d also use hired/shared cars where appropriate).
  • Corporate car-sharing to grow, says Frost & Sullivan; figures, projections and opinion here. And here’s a date for the diary (not that I can afford to go) – the F&S Urban Mobility 3.0 conference/workshop in London, June 26th.
  • The Kandi EV-sharing service, which started out in Hangzhou with its distinctive ‘tower’ of microcars, is expanding across China; more at Green Car Reports.
  • And here’s a biofuel that could smell interesting as it burns… Extreme Biodiesel Inc is aiming to buy some land in California to cultivate hemp for fuel. Release posted here.
  • But I predict a riot – warning on the growth of biofuels at the expense of fuel crops, as well as the prospect of global riots if we fail to solve our chronic addition to fossil fuels and transition to a “post-carbon” economy, at the Guardian… Plus, at the Observer, a report on environmentally-destructive underwater mining, including the trawl for rare-earth metals and ores for batteries (for gadgets and vehicles). Scary stuff. (Lunar land-grab, anyone?).
  • Not the answer to everyone’s motoring needs, but I do love an old Love Bug… Zelectric Motors of San Diego is now up and running with its ‘upcycled’ classic Beetle conversions, and is also selling DIY powertrain kits. Rather nice for local trundling-around in SoCal, I would imagine.


Tuesday newsbriefs #2: EVs go to EDF; £15m for green cars; EV charging integrated

October 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m running with this story because I like a good Brighton picture. EDF Energy has taken delivery of 35 Mini Es for use across its UK sites. The cars will be based at offices in Exeter, Plymouth, Gloucester, Hove (actually*), Worthing, Crawley and Doxford (near Sunderland). Charging points have been fitted at each of these sites. 30 of these cars will subsequently be seconded next year onto the BMW Group London 2012 Olympic support fleet; EDF is the official energy supplier to the Games, and will be working with LOCOG (the Olympic Organising Committee) and Source London on an EV recharging infrastructure for the event.

*Brighton joke, for the uninitiated. Anyway, in other snippets for today:

  • The UK government’s to invest £15million into the development of lower-carbon cars via the Technology Strategy Board and Office for Low-Emissions Vehicles. Announcement from Energy Secretary Vince Cable at the Innovate11 conference in London v. shortly.
  • The German car-makers – Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, Daimler, BMW – are showing off their Combined Charging System at a congress in Baden-Baden this week. The CCS is a universal interface for EV charging. More at Green Car Congress.
  • London black cabs are getting into biodiesel, made from waste cooking oil, on a fairly big scale; output of the fuel is increasing. Nice story – plus video – at The Guardian; thanks to @onewaytheatre, operators of a mobile solar-powered cinema screen, running their van on waste oil for a long time now.
  • Electric cars are to be built in Bulgaria; Litex Motors of Lovech will start manufacturing next spring, reports Novinite, a Sofia-based news agency. Plants in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varns are gearing up to make charging points (thanks to @cleancartalk). For further detail; here’s a lengthy and rather interesting history of EV-making in Bulgaria. No word yet as to what these EVs will be, but Litex has signed a deal to build ICE models by China’s Great Wall Motor Company.

Midweek briefs

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Peugeot has unveiled a new member of its 508 family: the 508 RXH, a crossover-style diesel-electric hybrid higher-riding than the 508 SW estate. This has a 200bhp powertrain with an all-electric mode, four-wheel drive and a CO2 output of just 109g/km; fuel economy is 67.2mpg. It’ll be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show this autumn and will go on sale spring 2012.

  • Singapore is extending an EV test programme till the end of 2013. The $16million programme is to develop charging and support infrastructure and subsidise fleet purchases; 20 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs and cars supplied by Daimler and Renault-Nissan are on trial (Autobeat Asia).
  • Waste Management Inc of Houston, Texas, has made its 1000th rubbish-fuelled garbage truck: this vehicle, powered by natural gas derived from methane, will go to work in Long Beach, California, where it will run on biogas from landfill sites (LA Times).
  • VINCI Autoroutes is partnering with Renault to set up EV recharging facilities at motorway services in France. Renault is to provide VINCI with vehicles for its own fleet.
  • Good results from the 45-vehicle West Midlands CABLED EV trial: users were satisfied that electric vehicles met their everyday needs. 77% of journeys were for less than 20 minutes and only 2% used more than 50% of their charge; more at The Engineer.
  • The Hybrid X team from West Philadelphia High School (semifinalists in last year’s Automotive XPrize) won the Green Grand Prix at Watkins Glen last weekend: their car, a Factory Five GTM kit car with biodiesel-drinking 1.9-litre Volkswagen engine and electric-drive system, returned 160mpg in the 100-mile event. More at EV World.
  • New York City authorities are adding 70 electric-drive vehicles to their fleets: 20 Chevy Volts, 20 all-electric Ford Transit Connect vans, and 10 Navistar E-Star trucks. That brings the total of municipal EVs up to 430 (Green Car Congress).
  • Here’s an offer: the city of Murcia, Spain, is giving away lifetime free passes for public transport to people getting rid of their cars (Treehugger).
  • Detailed feature on the GM ENV-1 (Electric Networked Vehicle) concepts at the Charging Point. I want a go in one! Is this the future of urban mobility?

Friday newbriefs #1

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A quick rundown of the end-of-week news, in no particular order. First up, the very cool-looking Venturi Volage: going into production next year, claims This all-electric coupe, designed by Sasha Lakic, features Michelin-developed ‘active wheels’ with in-wheel motors and suspension. Production, such  as it is, will be in very limited numbers, no doubt, but development work on the car is now complete, and it’s a good showcase for the tech.

  • The Greater Manchester area is to get 300 EV charging points, including fast-chargers, and six larger ‘pod centres’ in a programme to be rolled out by Manchester Electric Car Company this autumn. The pod centres will include sales facilities for electric vehicles (including vans, bikes and scooters), charging points and their sale, EV rental and car club facilities and aftersales services; they will be located in the city centre, Manchester Airport, the Trafford Centre, Stockport, Oldham and MediaCityUK at first, with a network of 25 intended in the medium term. Private company MECC’s investment is matched by £3.6million from the government’s Plugged In Placed fund.
  • Gordon Murray is teaming up with ACAL Energy to develop “an affordable” fuel cell vehicle. This will be based on Murray’s iStream chassis concept with ACAL’s platimum-free fuel cell tech. A 12-month project is supported by the Technology Strategy Board.
  • CEME, the Ford-run public-private Centre of Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence in Rainham, Essex, has gained a 45-panel solar-assisted EV charging point. It’ll be used by the Ford Transit Connect Electric demo fleet and other EVs visiting CEME, which is a training facility.
  • Axeon has received funding from the Technology Strategy Board to study recycling and reuse of hybrid and electric vehicle batteries. The battery-maker will work with the Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre at Oxford Brookes University.
  • Subaru has confirmed the launch of its first hybrid in 2013. This could be based on the Hybrid Tourer concept seen last year.
  • McDonalds is to use its own waste oil from its burger-frying to power its delivery trucks in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai-based Neutral Fuels (is that not a contradiction in terms?) is to convert 1million litres of the waste cooking oil into usable biodiesel.

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