Concept of the Day: Citroen Aircross

March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

citroen aircrossTo be revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month, an SUV-ed up C4 Cactus with innovative interior design – and a PHEV powertrain. The Aircross compact crossover, which appears to preview a production model, features a 70kW/95bhp electric motor giving 200Nm of torque to the rear axle plus the 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol engine (218bhp/275Nm), and gives an all-electric range of 31 miles. Its lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in three and a half hours from a domestic 16A socket. Total power output is 313bhp, 0-62mph happens in 4.5 seconds, but the “combined” fuel consumption is 166mpg (not that this is a figure which really means anything given the way it’s averaged-out, but anyway) and CO2 emissions are down to 39g/km.

  • Q1 2015 e-mobility Index from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants is out. Key trends/notes from this include: Japan is leading in terms of technologies at the moment, followed by France; China is investing heavily although R&D spending has fallen in other regions; vehicle weight remains an issue with few OEMs yet exploiting the possibilities of EV-specific structural design.
  • Deaths related to air pollution are being underestimated, with the effects of NOx not taken into account, the Guardian reports: analysis here.
  • And acute asthma worsening and attacks in children, linked again to traffic-related air pollution by UC Irvine. Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and PM2.5s particularly implicated, lower-income and ethnic-minority children more vulnerable since they are more likely to live in high-traffic areas. Rundown here.
  • 30 Renault Twizy two-seaters have joined the Bluely EV-share in Lyon, with 110 to go into service in Lyon and in the Bluecub fleet in Bordeaux. More here.
  • Plenty of electric scooters are coming onto the market, but the Gogoro Streetscooter comes with a battery-swapping trial programme – in Taipei, Taiwan, at least. 100 riders are being recruited to beta-test the scooters and the system, which uses ATM-sized battery dispensers to push out charged batteries, and take in the duds. More here.
  • A new-generation Smart Fortwo electric-drive is on the way next year, and its batteries will be supplied by LG Chem. More here.
  • There’s been talk of a revived VW Camper/Microbus (as distinct from the modern-day Caravelle) for a long, long time, but latest is that Volkswagen engineers are thinking about a battery-electric model inspired by the Bulli concept, reports Autocar. Other news from New York Motor Show: new Merc GLE (replacement for ML-Class, sportier) comes with plug-in hybrid option and 18-mile all-electric mode; the facelifted Toyota RAV4 also has a hybrid option (2.5-litre petrol engine plus e-motor). And there’s a Volkswagen Beetle Hybrid (non plug-in) prototype knocking around, as well. Oh, and Ssangyong unveiled a hybrid SUV concept – previewing a replacement for the Korando – called XAV at the Seoul Motor Show last week, too.
  • A report from Arup/Qualcomm – “Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility” – looks at the potential of harnessing data for urban mobility, including the use of autonomous vehicles; it discusses issues of security, sustainability, ‘usership’ vs ownership, leveraging crowd-sourcing and ‘learning’ devices. More about it here.
  • Waste corn stalks, cobs and husks can feed the production of hydrogen, in a twist on the usual biofuel focus: researchers from Virginia Tech have developed a high-rate enzymatic process to convert ‘dirty biomass’ into automotive-grade H2. More here.

Tues news round-up

July 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

PRIUS_PLUG-IN_HYBRID_TEC_01_2012__midA new study from UC Davis in which over 3,500 plug-in car owners were interviewed: their primary purchase motivation was use of the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Some 57% of Prius PHEV, 34% of Chevy Volt and 38% of Nissan Leaf buyers saw the HOV sticker as the deal-clincher, although those percentages have fallen in recent analyses to 34%, 20% and 15%. Tal, Gil & Nicholas (2014) identify HOV lane usage as a key incentive for getting people into plug-in cars, but warn of an increase in cars in these lanes leading to congestion, as has been reported in Norway.

  • The UK government is funding two pilot car-share programmes to the tune of £500,000, Transport Minister Baroness Kramer announced yesterday. The aim is to support schemes “which will promote much wider access to car clubs”. Interesting note with this is that the DfT is already funding 48 car club/car-share schemes through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – effectively creating a nationalised/public system.
  • Paper on the future of biofuels from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis: there are three possible routes, incremental improvements (slow), transitional (using existing facilities but developing new techniques) and leapfrog (investing in all-new infrastructure for cellulose- and algae-derived fuels).
  • Aftermarket supplier Tommykaira is launching a limited-run Tesla-esque roadster called the ZZ: only on sale in Japan as yet, but European imports possible, reports Autobloggreen.
  • Paper from Delft University (Sierzchula, 2014) describes the factors driving EV adoption by fleet managers: strongest was testing new technologies, ahead of lowering environmental impacts, chance to get government grants, and CSR/PR benefits. Handy rundown here.
  • Electric vehicles of the future will have batteries plus a network of nano-supercapacitors over their bodyshells, say a team from the Fraunhofer Institutes. These could use graphene as a conductor material, and take over or supplement energy supply at times of high demand, easing the burden on the battery, and enable battery downsizing.
  • And lithium-ion battery tech could be enhanced – with energy density improved sevenfold – by adding cobalt, according to the University of Tokyo. This forms peroxide ions, which react with oxide ions at the positive electrode. More here.
  • And finally, some potential legislation on emissions which takes into account nasties other than CO2: London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (to come by 2020) could see a £10 diesel surcharge added to the existing congestion charge (currently £11.50). Diesels meeting Euro 6 would be exempt, however – and petrol cars pre-2006 will also be liable. This could shake up the car market (both new and used) considerably – as well as having an impact on taxis, buses and vans. More here.






Friday news round-up: trend reports, connected cars, research review

July 18, 2014 § 2 Comments

smart fortwo and forfourSome mobility trend-reporting from Frost & Sullivan’s Martyn Briggs, in light of the launch of the new-generation Smart Fortwo and ForFour (pictured): city cars are increasingly important given the trend towards urbanisation; there’s an opportunity for Smart in micro-mobility and ‘last-mile’ solutions; personalisation is a key business opportunity; integration into wider mobility services, i.e. via smartphone apps such as Daimler’s moovel should be integral to the offering and attract younger “digital native” buyers; access to car-sharing and cars on-demand, i.e. through Car2Go is a growing opportunity; and “urban mobility poses one of the largest opportunities to the sector in the coming decades”.

  • On a not-dissimilar note to the above: connected-car services are already being used by 71% of drivers, reports a survey by Telefonica, and 80% expect in the future to have the same online services in-car as they have at home, at work and on their smartphones. Safety and diagnostics features were seen as the most important, with early-warning and smarter navigation systems also popular. In many ways most interesting, however, was that 35% of the drivers anticipated that they would not own their own car by 2034, instead using other options such as car-sharing.


  • An energy-optimisation system combining driver strategies, assistance systems and powertrain optimisation has resulted in energy savings of 27-36% in tests, with slower journey time trade-offs of 8-21%; eco-routing via the sat nav and prompts on driving style featured, as well as ‘smart’ torque distribution between front and rear axles, the Bosch iBooster regenerative braking system, EV-specific stability control and adaptive cruise control, and car-to-infrastructure communications. The test vehicles were Peugeot 3008 e-HDis. More on the OpEneR project here.
  • Although the UK’s low-carbon policy has helped revitalisation of the country’s automotive industry, the truck sector and biofuels have been neglected, according to a new report for the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. The report, by the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at the Cardiff Business School and E4tech, concludes that there have been sustained improvements in CO2 emissions and fuel economy, there is a favourable environment for low-carbon technology investment and revived R&D spending, among other positives, but that “the journey has only just started”. More – and links to download full report – here.
  • Researchers at the University of Twente (Netherlands) have developed a catalyst which improves the energy content and quality of biofuel from biomass waste; the oil is heated in nitrogen to 500 degrees Celsius with a sodium carbonate/aluminia catalyst, which boosts its energy content from 20 to 33-37 megajoules per kilogramme. Tests are currently being carried out in Texas; more details here.
  • Ferrari goes electric – not exactly, but “electrification is an integral part of the all-new Ferrari architectures which are due to come on stream from 2017 (front-engined cars) and 2019 (mid-engined cars), respectively”, reports Car magazine. This could mean anything from 48-volt circuits to plug-in hybrids, informed by the LaFerrari prototype, apparently.
  • Have been writing a few pieces about CNG as a transport fuel recently; research piece here suggests that there is a potential niche market for it as a fuel for light vans in the UK, with only minor policy intervention needed to kick-start demand. Barriers at this stage are a lack of refuelling infrastructure, and the cost of vehicles, the researchers say.
  • A six-month field trial of 79 EV drivers in the Berlin metropolitan area found a positive response to going electric, but that barriers remained. Questioned before receiving their car, then at 3 and 6 months of usage, the drivers reported more positivity as they progressed, with factors such as driving pleasure and low refuelling costs cited; barriers including acquisition costs remained. Conclusion: experience of EVs enhanced positive perceptions, and the likelihood of recommending them to others, but had no effect on actual purchase intentions.
  • A case study in Delhi found that 96% of commuters would be willing to shift from private to public transport – if certain criteria or services were considered. Safety was the most important factor, followed by reliability, cost and comfort. And in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton area, attitudes and psychosocial factors – rather than the built environment itself – were found to be the most likely indicators of whether children were driven to school. However, for adolescents in Norway, household structure and parental employment influenced how much they were driven around to leisure activities – basically, teenagers from more affluent two-parent families were driven further and to more activities. And in Flanders, land use (spatial characteristics) were found to be interrelated with residential decisions (where to live), influencing car ownership/availability. However, issues of life-stages and attitudes towards travel modes were also important.




Design of the Day: BMW Group Designworks USA solar carport

May 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

BMW-i-solar-carport-002No, not just a concept: this is actually up for sale (albeit at a price, no doubt; tba). BMW’s DesignworksUSA studio is presenting – to tie in with the launch of the i8 plug-in hybrid in Los Angeles – a solar panelled carport for EV charging. Its key points are bamboo struts (bamboo = quick-growing, sustainable raw material), carbon elements (strong, correlates with the carbonfibre of the i8 itself) and translucent glass-on-glass PV modules. The carport – which will be on offer in Europe as well – works in conjunction with BMW’s i Wallbox Pro control system, and surplus solar energy can be hived off for domestic use.

  • Further to Toyota’s trash-to-gas set-up (using waste methane from a nearby landfill site) at its plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, the company has now installed a stationary fuel cell at its sales HQ new Los Angeles (yes, another LA story today). This 1.1 MW cell is said to be the largest of its kind in the world, and will supply around half of the power needed by the six buildings on-site; it can be turned on and off quickly according to demand, has twice the energy-generating capacity of the solar array already in operation at the site, and generates power equivalent to that needed by 765 average American homes. The hydrogen is produced off-site by natural gas reformation (Toyota is offsetting the carbon byproducts of this by buying renewable biogas from landfill waste, it says). A 1,500-tonne saving in carbon dioxide emissions from the site is expected during peak summer operating hours.
  • Latest forecasts for electric motorcycles and electric scooters from Navigant Research: annual sales of the bigger e-bikes will grow to 1.4million in 2023, and the smaller scooters to 4.6million, the market expanding from 2015 as new products become available and their quality/abilities (range) improves. Growth will be in North America and Europe in particular, with an annual growth rate of over 30%. Speaking of which, Mahindra has opened its production plant in Troy, Michigan to make the GenZe e-scooter for the North American market (more here and here), and BMW has now launched its C evolution electric ‘maxi scooter’.
  • How do you process algae into biodiesel? With bi-functional nanoparticles, of course. New developments at the US DoE’s Ames Lab, reported here.
  • Drayson Technologies Ltd (new holding co encompassing the e-racing team) has set up a new division, Drayson Wireless, in partnership with Imperial College, London; aim is to commercialise its wireless induction charging tech. More here.
  • AlcoMix: sounds like a nasty night out on the town, but it’s the name for a high-octane syngas-derived fuel which can be drunk neat by petrol engines or blended with petrol as a better bet than ethanol. Reported in detail with journal refs/citations at Green Car Congress.
  • CNG: more costly to the environment than diesel for use in London buses, according to a lifecycle analysis study from Cambridge. Details, citations at Green Car Congress.
  • But a Proterra electric bus just did 700 miles in 24 hours in a record-breaking run designed to simulate real-life operation; its MPGe was claimed to be six times that of a diesel bus and seven times that of one running on CNG. More at Green Car Reports.
  •  Some presentations from the Mobilities and Design Workshop, Lancaster University, posted here. Some good points by Alison Hui on the intersections between travel behaviour, practices, and engagement with infrastructure.
  • A five-EV taxi fleet based in St Austell, Cornwall, has clocked up 150,000 miles in a year, reports Transport Evolved. C&C Taxis reckons it has saved £40,000 in fuel, its Leafs – soon to be joined by an e-NOV200 – cost around 2p a mile to operate, and that customers prefer the EVs as well. Nice story.
  • And an update/general thoughts on the progress towards e-mobility from the Civil Service/OLEV… Explains a bit about what the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles actually is, and what it’s trying to do.

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).



Monday morning news round-up

April 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

electric avenue marlowThe My Electric Avenue project is now up and running in Marlow; nine neighbours in one street are leasing Nissan Leafs and testing energy monitors for SSE Power Distribution to inform on how clusters of EVs are domestically-charged, and their demands on the grid. This is the first of eleven 18-month trials around the UK, led by EA Technology, with further groups in Chineham, Chiswick, Lyndhurst, South Gosforth, Wylam and South Shields (x2), plus workplace groups at Slough Borough Council and Your Homes Newcastle. Fleetdrive Electric and Zero Carbon Futures are also involved.  My Electric Avenue is still looking to recruit 100 individuals for ‘Social Trials’ – collecting data on driving patterns, mileage and times of driving – with ‘specially negotiated’ lease terms on a Nissan Leaf; more here.

  • Did someone say ‘peak car’? New car sales in the UK in March reached a 10-year high, with 464,824 vehicles registered in the month; year-to-date sales are up 13.7% on last year, standing at 688,122. The SMMT is talking about “a substantial margin of pent-up demand that is contributing to a strong new and used car market”, due to increased consumer confidence and new products. Supermini and city car sales are up, along with SUVs and MPVs; March also saw the highest-ever monthly sales of alt-fuel vehicles at, err, 8,713 – a pretty damn tiny drop in the ocean nonetheless.
  • The Mayor of London’s Office is co-ordinating a £31million fuel cell tech/infrastructure deal called the HyFIVE project; five car-makers – Honda, Daimler, BMW, Hyundai, Toyota – are deploying 110 fuel cell cars in several European locations, and developing refuelling stations. The other locations are Bolzano, Innsbruck, Copenhagen, Munich and Stuttgart, with new refuelling structure going to Aarhus and Odense.  More here.
  • 30 Bluebird race cars are to run at Brooklands in September in a charity trophy race; Don Wales, grandson of speed record-breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell, has been relaunching the ‘Bluebird’ name and more will be revealed at an event at Rockingham later this spring.
  • Fourth prototype from Japan’s SIM-Drive is the SIM-HAL (high-efficiency, all-wheel drive) sports coupe, featuring in-wheel hub motors; lowdown at Autoblog Green.
  • Bio-engineering at work: a team from Michigan State University and U of Wisconsin-Madison have genetically tweaked poplar trees to contain more easily broken-down lignin, thus making them better sources of biomass for fuel… summary, links to journal paper here. And more on microalgae for biodiesel here
  • BMW has begun production of its C evolution ‘maxi-scooter’ in Berlin; range 100km, 75mph, lithium-ion battery modules as in the i3. More here.
  • An 18-month trial of an all-electric 16t truck by French supermarket Carrefour saw an 86% fall in well-to-wheel CO2 emissions compared to an ICE equivalent, reports Green Car Congress. The prototype, developed by Renault Trucks on a Midlum chassis, travelled 16,000km, delivered 16t of goods and enabled night-time operations due to its silent powertrain; though there were a few glitches with battery settings, it managed 25% energy recovery through regenerative braking.
  • To solve city congestion and car-dependency, don’t focus on urban transport solutions – better planning and development address the root causes, says Maria Borjesson of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. More here.





Trash-to-gas power, more transport and #EV updates

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

toyota biogas plantToyota is collecting waste gas (methane) from a landfill site near its factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, to generate electricity: when up and running, the power plant will generate enough power to build around 10,000 cars a year, generating one megawatt per hour (enough to power 800 average American homes). And handily, greenhouse gas emissions from the landfill site will be cut by as much as 90%, Toyota claims. Partner in this is Waste Services of the Bluegrass (what a great name!); they are to build a network of wells and pipelines to feed the generators. More here. (On a similarly feel-good note, Toyota’s Kentucky operations has a zero-waste policy including producing compost, which is used in an on-site garden, which has already delivered over half a tonne of healthy produce donated to local food banks.)

  • Audi A3 e-tron drivers (in Germany) are being offered a renewable electricity deal with Hamburg-based energy provider LichtBlick for all domestic energy needs including car charging: it’s hydro power, at less than nine euros a month and 26.76 cents per kilowatt-hour.
  • Report from TU Dresden on “The True Costs of Automobility – external cost of cars“, looking at accidents, noise, land use/similar effects and overall costs to tax-payers as well as air pollution, contribution to climate change; concludes that Europeans travel by car “far too much”, that European drivers are heavily-subsidized by other people/regions; a reduction in vehicle kilometres travelled is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and that urgent political action is needed.  So far so uncontentious, but not so sure about their last sentence (near-silent EVs with zero tailpipe emissions, anyone?): “Technology measures such as biofuels or electric vehicles focus mostly on higher energy efficiencies and on reduction of greenhouse gases. Their effects on all other cost components of external costs are smaller. Noise and air pollution, as well as the large cost component of accidents, remain high, causing ongoing negative effects on society”. I’d go back and look at that JRC report (see previous post). Noting as well that there are very big differences between different types of biofuel, and indeed, different ‘types’ of electricity, dependent on source and production/supply pathway.
  • And the unpalatable factors of car-dependency – low-income households in poor neighbourhoods may need to drive more – or gain access to cars – in order to increase their employment and economic opportunities, due to inadequacies of public transport, says a study from the University of Maryland/UCLA, blogged-about at Atlantic Cities. It does mention car clubs/pay-as-you-go rentals. Goes back to the idea that transport modal ‘choice’ is often the preserve of the affluent.
  • The number of electrified vehicles – full-EV, RE-EV, plug-in hybrid – on the world’s roads doubled last year, according to German agency ZSW: it’s now standing at 400,000-odd, with the million mark expected at the start of 2016. More here.
  • Next-generation lithium-ion batteries for EVs: silicon nanoparticle anodes and sulphur cathodes show cost-effective potential, according to a paper from USC Viterbi, reported here.
  • A second-generation biofuels project (fuels from waste, rather than crops) is at pre-pilot stage in Mexico, looking at the scaling-up of fuel production to industrial scale. The national programme is looking at different types of refinery for different areas, such as one fuelled by agave waste from the cheese industry in the Highlands of Jalisco; more here.
  • Very useful paper on natural gas for transportation, and move to biogas/e-gas, from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
  • Am going to refrain from making opportunistic comments about the UK air pollution alert for today and tomorrow.

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