Concept of the Day: Faraday Future FF 91

January 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

ff91Considerably prettier than the Chrysler Portal (see previous post), and also somewhat faster: the FF 91 is claimed to give the equivalent of 1050hp/780-odd kW and dragstrip-style acceleration (0-60mph in under 2.5 seconds), plus a range of 378 miles between recharges. And Faraday Future (backed by Chinese firm LeEco) is actually taking deposits and pre-orders, despite reports of a dubious financial situation: it put on a confident show at CES in Vegas last night (although there was a self-parking demo malfunction, apparently), and good luck to them.  The FF 91 is a roomy, high-riding four-seater, part-way between crossover and MPV, with rear-hinged rear doors; the powertrain comprises three motors, two to the rear with torque-vectoring plus one up front for all-wheel-drive. It features Faraday’s patented FF Echelon Inverter, said to be simpler, lower-cost to make and more energy-efficient than others available, and its monocoque body is based around Faraday’s scalable variable platform architecture.  It’s highly-connected, of course, with tech including facial recognition, remote monitoring, LIDAR for autonomous-driving capability, rear-view cameras with HD live-streaming, plus a liquid-crystal polychromatic roof and NASA-inspired ‘zero gravity’ reclining rear seats.  The FFID ‘global profile’ account connects users to the FF Ecosystem for preferences and services. It’s all well-thought-out, well-executed and cleverly-designed, though clearly it’s not going to be a mass-market model. More details here.



Playing catch-up

November 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

img_1553In a belated post-match analysis, as it were, there was certainly no shortage of new product at the Paris motor show. Probably the most important new model, I reckon, was the Volkswagen I.D. concept: not just electric, but a ground-up design for something global, highly-adaptable, highly-connected and versatile, which should, crucially, be affordable, accessible and mass-market. If VW can pull this off and get it to production [scheduled for 2020] without too many of its key points dialled down, it’s a potential game-changer (as well as a crucial reputation-saver for the firm itself). The pre-fit for autonomous driving [targeted for 2025] is a bit of a red herring, I think; the nice stuff here is the blank-space interior into which owners/users bring their digital preferences, settings and personalisation details – ideal for a shared/on-demand vehicle – and also what the interior designers are calling ‘physical apps’: extra interior features, from bike-carriers to storage consoles to extra screens, which can be retro-fitted or even hired as needed. All good for extending the versatility and service-life of a vehicle. There’s a real focus on simplifying HMI for more intuitive interactions, too. I’ve written about all this at more length here [sorry, subs req]. And the I.D. is the first vehicle in a family on Volkswagen’s new MEB modular electric-drive platform, too.

img_1599The Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ, meanwhile, was a good-looking and well thought-out proposal too – and close to production – but a more conventional upper-end like-for-like substitution of an ICE vehicle. Note the car-to-X [infrastructure] comms though, enabling real-time info on nearby recharging facilities (including, potentially, inductive) and re-routing/mapping where appropriate.

No shortage of new metal and new ideas unveiled in the last month or so since the show, either, not least many a Chinese-brand EV and PHEV, and the return, yet again, of the irrepressible Henrik Fisker, but I’ve been particularly amused by the autonomous rolling greenhouse that is the Rinspeed Oasis… [to be seen at CES in January]. Honda’s 3D-printed Micro Commuter mini-delivery van is perhaps more useful, though: this also signals OEMs moving in on this territory to deliver low-cost customised solutions. Also intriguing is the launch of Geely’s sub-brand Lynk & Co, less for the car itself – though it’s a nice-enough looking SUV (electrified versions to be offered) – than for the no-showroom all-in pay-as-you-go/lease/loan/share sales model, and for details such as the open API and always-on wifi, with the view to development of additional services, functions and mobility options.

Other random, miscellaneous recent news snippets worthy of note:

  • ‘Intelligent’ electric vehicle charging and vehicle-to-grid communication can negate the need for static energy storage, according to a study by UC Irvine, and if charging can be scheduled/shifted to align with renewable electricity generation, then otherwise lost electricity is captured in the overall energy supply system: issue is breaking US EV drivers’ habits of immediate on-demand charging. More here.
  • Toyota has created a Mobility Services Platform and is teaming up with US carshare provider Getaround; the programme will include smartphone access/ignition for vehicles via a ‘smart key box’. More here.
  • Exciting or terrifying? GM’s OnStar platform is to incorporate the IBM Watson cognitive mobility platform, delivering up personalised content, reminders and ‘in-vehicle experiences’, from parking advice to shopping reminders and fuel payments, plus, yuk, giving drivers ‘the ability to connect and interact with their favourite brands’. More here.



Design Concept of the Day 2: BMW Vision Next 100

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

bmw vision next 100Well, we were wondering why the BMW stand at the Geneva show was somewhat lacking in drama or surprises, and now we know: the big reveal was saved for this week and a special event in Munich marking the company’s centenary. To celebrate the big 100, BMW has revealed a concept reflecting ‘sheer driving pleasure of the future’, looking at trends and tech for the decades ahead. Main objective was for this vehicle not to be anonymous, but highly-personalised to suit each driver’s needs, with seamless interactions between human, machine and surroundings. Yet it had to still be driver-focused, and offer an ’emotional’ mobility experience, despite using advanced AI (with more humanised interactions) and new materials, including intelligent and networked materials created by 4D printing.

bmw next 100 intDesign started with the interior, a roomy dome, with wellbeing a priority and, inevitably, autonomous elements: Ease mode, with ambient lighting and atmosphere when the driver can sit back, and Boost, a more dynamic DIY mode in which the car’s software – the ‘Companion’ – ‘learns’ about the driver and their style and preferences to support accordingly. The interface features what BMW terms ‘alive geometry’ – a 3D display set into the instrument panel and areas of the side panels, consisting of nearly 800 moving triangles giving gestural, often peripheral, information to the driver. Effectively, the whole windscreen can serve as a giant display, the head-up display working in parallel to an analogue dashboard, and BMW describes it as involving the driver “in a form of preconscious communication, where an intuitive signal predicts an imminent real-time event.” The Companion can also signal to other road-users the status of the vehicle (automated or not) and communicate to, for example, pedestrians that it is safe to cross.

BMW points out that most of its fabrics are recycled or renewable, with components such as the side panels also made from residues from carbonfibre production. It expects in the future for the use of less wood and leather, and no leather is used inside the Vision Next 100. No word on its powertrain, but at this stage in the game, I think we can safely assume that it’s (conceptually, at least) electrified. Full lowdown & much more detail from BMW here. Conclusions? However advanced its tech and interfaces are, and its ability to communicate with the outside world, the Vision Next 100 is still very much a car, and a personal one at that: for all its work on mobility services, BMW certainly doesn’t envisage this core part of its business going away any time soon.


Design Concept of the Day: Toyota Setsuna

March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Setsuna+Concept__midToday’s picture is of the Setsuna – ‘moment’, in Japanese – which is all about durability and the changing nature of a family’s relationship with a car over time with the accumulation of “precious, fleeting moments”, apparently. Toyota’s displaying it at Milan Design Week, and yes, it’s wooden. To last for “many generations if properly taken care of”, and to change in colour and texture as it ages; there’s Japanese cedar for the exterior panels and Japanese birch for the frame, assembled using a nail- and screw-less Japanese joinery technique. And an electric motor to drive it. More here.
In other news to start the week:
  • Natural gas: “not a ‘bridge fuel’ but an expensive dead-end on the road to decarbonising transport”, says pressure group Transport & Environment, based on research by Ricardo Energy & Environment which finds no GHG savings in shifting to CNG or LNG from diesel (cars and trucks) and very little advantage in terms of air pollution. In fact, due to emissions and methane leakage in gas extraction, production and supply, overall GHG emissions are raised. T&E argues for governments to stop incentivising gas use, and says that for cars, petrol-electric hybrids, electric and hydrogen are better bets. Waste biomethane can have niche uses at a local level, but that’s about it. Full set of report downloads here.
  • Full text of Audi chairman Rupert Stadler’s speech at the company’s annual press conference here: Stadler outlined [amongst other things post-#dieselgate] three key ‘milestones’, digitisation, electromobility and urbanisation, and confirmed its first all-electric large car for 2018. Hybrids and PHEVs are seen as a ‘bridge’ tech for the next 10 years, with the brand “thinking about electric mobility in high-volume terms” as well as high potential for fuel cell tech. The ‘urbanisation’ part of the plan includes mobility services and apps, including on-demand access to shared vehicles.
  • I like a Living Lab, and the latest to come to my notice is an electric bus project in Helsinki: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, with Helsinki Region Trasnport, is testing platforms for mobility services including new user interfaces and transport/logistics solutions as well as cabin-space innovations. The city of Tampere is also involved. More here.

Geneva 2016: the aftermath

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

IMG_1312So, Geneva: a good show for electromobility, though probably a better event for supercar-lovers this year. If one got past the stands of McLaren, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Pagani et al, there were plenty of plug-ins nonetheless, covering pretty well all sectors of the market. At the exotic high-concept end was the Italdesign GTZero (pictured) – three motors giving 483bhp, a modular structure also allowing for a hybrid powertrain and a Lamborghini Espada-like design demeanour – and at the other, barely-even-a-car, end I have to admit that the styled up Citroen e-Mehari by Courreges (second image, below) caught my eye. Nice to see the Volkswagen Budd-e for real, too – lovely clean-looking design with a minimal, modern interior and well-developed connected-car vision, as well as its (putative) electric powertrain.

IMG_1304In between the extremes came the electric/PHEV/hybrid Hyundai Ioniq (exceedingly dull to look at, but then that’s probably the point; an important mainstream vehicle, all the same), the similarly three-way SsangYong SIV-2 SUV (still at concept stage), the oddball Morgan EV3, Toyota’s hybrid CH-R compact crossover, the Lexus LC 500h coupe (an underrated good-looker, I thought), plus the [Citroen] DS E-tense electric coupe concept (see below), which was great fun if, it has to be said, a bit silly and show-offy.


IMG_1331Croatia’s Rimac Automobili brought along its very limited-edition Concept_One supercar and its new ‘evil twin’, the Concept S (pictured), though the company’s tech and batteries are really where it’s at, and though there wasn’t any new news as such from Quant, it put on a strong stand with the near-road-ready Quantino, larger Quant F and a mock-up of how to refuel its nanoflowcell batteries with ioniq liquid (electrolyte-swapping; image below).



IMG_1327Nissan brought along the autonomous IDS as seen in Detroit with news that it was going to introduce ‘piloted drive’ on the Qashqai, as well as talking about its connected-car vision which includes smart EV-charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid link-ups enabling cars-as-energy-hubs; its ‘fuel station of the future’ concept co-developed with Foster & Partners describes autonomous parking-up to wirelessly charge, for example. Lots of talk about ‘mobility’, not least from Volkswagen which announced three new ‘Volkswagen Future Centers’ in Potsdam, China and California where designers and ‘digitalisation experts’ will work alongside each other on software, UX, HMI/interface design, infotainment, new interior concepts and services; it was bullish about electromobility, too, with big investment in Audi in particular to spearhead new plug-in model introductions. Hyundai also announced its ‘Project Ioniq’, research & development on future mobility ideas. Much, then, in the wake of #dieselgate, to be positive about.


Quick CES round-up #2…

January 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

vw budd-eVolkswagen’s BUDD-e concept: not so much a ‘new Microbus’ as a rolling tech showcase, and I’m glad they didn’t go retro for its design.  It’s based on VW’s ‘Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB), a flexible platform which could underpin a series of new EVs, has a motor driving each axle to give 4WD (110kW to the front, 125kW to the rear) and is said to give a range of up to 233 miles, 122mph and 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. Plus, inevitably, it features a fully-networked IoT-enabled interactive display, smart-home connections, touch and gesture controls, and app-programmable entertainment, and is furnished with the usual show-car lounge-style swivelling seats. The ground-up purpose-designed MEB “conceptual matrix”, by the way, is VW’s bid to make EVs competitive with gasoline-driven cars range-wise “by the end of the decade”, by which time, battery-charging time “should have been cut to about 15 minutes” for an 80% capacity. It’s compatible with induction charging, in the meantime (80% in 30 minutes on a 150kW DC charger). Packaging-wise, the BUDD-e is between VW’s Touran and Multivan T6 in size, although wider than both and with a long wheelbase. Full low-down on all the tech, etc, here.

  • Audi’s CES story is a version of the e-tron quattro concept (electric SUV), with new interior displays and communications kit: car-to-infrastructure connectivity, ‘organic light emitting diodes’ (OLED) for the ‘virtual cockpit’ displays, touch-response on the MMI (multi-media interface), an updated information/entertainment platform, a new ‘flat hierarchy’ menu system,  wi-fi, an expanded Audi connec portfolio of services/data streams, music streaming, Apple TV and more. The V2X stuff includes ‘swarm intelligence’ data – from other so-equipped vehicles – on traffic conditions, hazards and soforth, and speed advice for smoother driving through green traffic lights; there’s also piloted driving (traffic jams) and auto-parking. More here.
  • Feeding the data to the above Audi (and many others), mapping/location tech firm HERE has announced its new cloud-based HD Live Map, said to be a detailed and dynamic representation of the road ahead and to enable a car to ‘see’ around corners. This will feed into ADAS systems and, ultimately, automated driving. More, er, HERE.
  • And a ‘digital antidote’ – nice note on the Rinspeed Etos from Joe at Car Design News, who highlights some very analogue touches in this autonomous, drone-accessoried concept, including a bookshelf. For reading real hardback paper books while the car drives itself.
  • Pictures & details have been released on Hyundai’s Ioniq – hybrid (Prius rival) comes first, then PHEV and EV versions. Formal unveiling/launch at Geneva Motor Show in March. More here. And a production version of the Chevrolet Bolt has been shown off in Vegas – this high-riding compact hatch is said to have a 200-mile battery range, but won’t be coming to the UK, reports Autocar; it has, however, been designed with car clubs and car-sharing in mind, reports Auto News. More on the Bolt in Detroit next week.
  • And an interesting little DIY self-assembly idea: France Craft is punting its electric kit cars, aimed as low-cost, 125-mile runarounds. Well, not quite DIY – they’re road-legal in France only if assembled by a certified mechanic. More here.

Concept of the Day: Icona Neo

June 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

icona neo shanghaiOne that slipped through the net at the Shanghai Auto Show but which has just come to my attention: the Neo “sets out to explore the inspirations and daily challenges of life in a busy metropolis such as Shanghai,” says Icona, an Italian design studio/consultancy based in the city. Shades of Lexus LF-SA in this tiddler, I think, in some of its geometric lines, though it adds an asymmetric door layout (rear-seat passenger access only from the right side, which also lacks a B-pillar).

Anyway, it’s a four-seater, 1.5m-long EV, designed as such ground-up, featuring a 21kW in-wheel motor. It weighs just 720kg in total, and is said to have a range of 150km during city driving, plus a 120kph top speed. This is none too hypothetical, either: Neo has been developed by Icona’s Italian technical partners, Actua and Italtecnica, and it turns out that other divisions in the firm’s Italian parent company worked on development and build of the Bollore Bluecar (of Paris Autolib’, and soon London, EV-share, fame).

  • Six rather nice ideas here from design students, shortlisted entries in a DHL-sponsored competition: I’m liking the ‘water strider’ – a solar panel-driven small cargo boat which could help switch freight off roads, ‘London’s urban vehicle of 2065’, a modular autonomous pod, and the neat ‘Light commercial vehicle’ with four in-wheel motors and large cargo bay. Winner to be announced tomorrow as part of the Formula E festivities.
  • Some stats and feedback from the My Electric Avenue project, presented yesterday at the LowCVP conference in London. In less than 18 months, the Nissan Leafs involved (100+ in ten ‘clusters’, trialling their effects on local electricity networks, plus 100 more on other trials) have driven over 2.7million km and have been charged for 94million hours; there’s 20,000 hours-worth of data recorded by the Esprit tech (which controls EV charging if the grid becomes overloaded); Esprit has curtailed charging 17,000 times (5.2% of the total recorded charging time).
  • Possible applications for V2X tech include ‘wrong way warnings’ for drivers and other road users, report the conclusions of the CONVERGE project, as well as intelligent and efficient routing of freight transport. CONVERGE has aimed to develop a secure, decentralised and scalable systems architecture which enables communication between different network operators, agencies, service providers and other stakeholders. Handy summary here.
  • Road noise: linked to cardiovascular problems, stroke, and ‘all-cause’ mortality, in a study in London; noise in decibels was linked in a separate correlation from air pollution by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Reported here.

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