Concept of the Day: NIO EP9

November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

nio-ep9Turned down the chance to go to the Saatchi Gallery today for the unveiling of this one – preparing research presentation more important than champagne, canapes and schmoozing, ah well – but here’s the basic lowdown. The NIO brand is the first offspring of NextEV, it’s just set a lap record for EVs around the Nürburgring Nordschliefe and also round the Circuit Paul Ricard, so it’s quick, and it delivers an equivalent 1360hp or 1MW of power (whew). Range? 427km, and it can be charged in 45min or have its batteries swapped. Much as it certainly ain’t a mainstream solution, if it contributes to making EVs desirable and there’s some tech trickledown, surely no bad thing.

  • Further good news from Volkswagen: it’s going to re-start car production at the ‘Transparent Factory’ in Dresden (a really lovely piece of industrial architecture/design), and the second-generation e-Golf it’s going to make there will have a claimed battery range of 200km or so. This can be charged to 80% within an hour on the CCS system; the new e-Golf also now develops 100kW, and comes with the standard new-Golf smartphone interface/app connect plus e-Remote for starting/stopping charging, pre-conditioning, etc.
  • Nice description here of research into the synergies between micro smartgrids, energy storage and electromobility: the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering is developing a model scalable solution, being tested out in Stuttgart at a 30-EV, solar-panelled parking garage.
  • Car ownership is declining slightly in London, although 54% of households still own a car, and there are 2.56million cars registered in London, according to a new paper from TfL… Variations by borough (only 25% car ownership in Islington, 75% in Richmond), access to public transport, income, parenthood and nationality – wealthier Western Europeans with children more likely to have a car, unsurprisingly – as well as age, car ownership peaking at 55-59 years old. Detailed breakdown, some useful stats (thanks for tweeting this one go to @RachelAldred).
  • …and further to the above, yet again traffic levels in GB have reached an all-time high, surpassing their pre-recession peak: YTD September 2016 saw 320billion vehicle miles travelled (VMT), up 1.4% on 2015 and up 1.8% on the first three-quarters of 2007. It’s the 15th quarterly successive rise. Of that 320, 250billion VMT was done by cars (up 0.9% on last year) with van traffic up 3.8% and heavy goods up 3.4%; other traffic rises to new highs were noted on motorways and rural A-roads. #peakcar is [was], I think, something of a blip.
  • Some US stats and demographic data on EV consumer interest reported here (thanks, @keith_johnston). Hitwise is reporting – over past three years – that “today’s electric vehicle consumer is predominantly affluent, educated and married without children”, and reckons that the most promising demographic for ownership is aged 35-44 (older Gen Y/Gen X prefer to lease), but families with children aren’t convinced yet (except when it comes to Tesla Model S owners, significantly more affluent than the rest and buying a bigger vehicle, obv). Environmental concern expressed, too. Lots of interest – suggesting mainstream breakthrough – in Tesla Model 3, apparently.
  • BMW is expanding its ReachNow on-demand car-sharing service to Brooklyn, in addition to Seattle and Portland; the upmarket US alt to DriveNow is offering delivery of vehicles, rentals of up to five days, an ‘exclusive’ residential service [i.e. a private fleet shared between residents of an apartment block] and also, for existing Mini owners, a peer-to-peer rental service. Interesting footnote: all this is enabled by the RideCell ‘white label’ platform – more detail on that here.
  • Japanese-American tie-up to create a ‘corridor’ of 50 EV fast-chargers from Monterey, California, to Lake Tahoe, Nevada: the Japan-funded Drivethearc project “will also study EV usage and driving patterns” through its charging app, reports Green Car Congress. Basically, use its facilities, contribute your data…The app will give real-time info on charger vacancy and navigation to points within range, and the stakeholders – Nissan, Kanematsu, EVgo and NEDO – “will analyse and measure charger use patterns to better inform EV charging projects globally”.
  • Report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey identifies three distinct outcomes in a move to urban electromobility and autonomous driving during the 2020s. First up – for cities like Delhi, Mexico City, Mumbai with poor infrastructure, there will be a move towards electrification and sharing, but not AVs; sprawling cities like Los Angeles will see elements of autonomy plus electrification, but private cars will remain the primary source of transport; but dense, wealthy cities like London, Hong Kong and Singapore will see much more use of on-demand AVs and a move away from private ownership, they reckon. Handy rundown here.
  • Hyundai is offering US customers a series of options with the Ioniq Electric: trad purchase, ‘Ioniq Unlimited’ all-in subscription – or membership of WaiveCar, an all-electric on-demand scheme which gives up to two hours’ use free (and then extra hours at $5.99 an hour). The snag with the latter is that the ‘free’ cars have roof-mounted digital advertising displays… 150 Ioniqs will go on the WaiveCar fleet in LA next year, with the plan for 250 more to go to three further cities by the end of 2017. Unappealing as it sounds, t’will be interesting to see whether this has an impact in the car-share sector, attracts more people to on-demand services, has any impact on local car ownership (or public transport use), etc…

Concepts of the Day: Hanergy Solar

July 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Beijing-based ‘clean energy’ company Hanergy has unveiled four solar-powered EV concepts, each featuring its thin-film, lightweight PV tech applied over roof and bonnet. The four, revealed at an event in Beijing, are said to “acquire power directly from the sun” and “do not depend on charging posts”: they’re said to generate 8-10kWhrs of power a day (based on 5-6 hours of sunlight) giving a range of about 80km, though they can be externally topped up as well.

The rather unique-looking vehicles [sorry, can’t find official-issue pics of these individually] are Hanergy Solar R (a sporty RWD two-door, with extra solar cells in its door panels); Hanergy Solar O (a city car, said to come with two rechargeable e-scooters in its boot); Hanergy Solar L (a gullwing-doored MPV said to weigh just 700kg); and Hanergy Solar A (an angular two-door with extra fold-out panels). Optimistic as these concepts may sound, there’s certainly some viable tech here which could prove useful for range-supplementation, if not to completely power a long journey in the near future. Report and snaps from the event, showing the cars more clearly, at China Car News.

  • Much indignation in the UK EV world this week as Ecotricity announced its introduction of a £5-per-20min* fee for use of its Electric Highway rapid-chargers. Free for Ecotricity home energy customers, though… My thoughts: it is entirely unrealistic to expect ongoing free use of facilities which have been expensive to install and maintain, as well as free electricity for one’s motoring. However, the cost-per-mile analysis now puts use of these chargers in an unfavourable position re. diesel, and makes it unfeasibly expensive for PHEV drivers to have a quick zap-up (so they’ll be on the motorways using their ICE instead). Most worryingly for me, though, is that access to the chargers will now be only via smartphone app (iPhone, Android) rather than via RFID tag or on-the-spot credit card payments, which is going to cut down on accessibility and rule out usage by EV drivers who don’t wish to have a smartphone (and such people do exist – I’ve interviewed them). Predictably, operators of other networks and PAYG systems are meanwhile rubbing their hands and also keeping a very close eye as to how this pans out. One positive thing for all-EV drivers, though, is the lessening likelihood that they will be ‘Outlandered’, of course. *Subsequently amended – £6 per 30min the deal now, it seems.
  • BMW showed a grid-connected static home energy storage system – using second-life i3 batteries – at the EVS29 event in Montreal; more here. No word on when such a product will be ready to market.
  • Nice feedback from the BlueIndy EV-sharing scheme in Indianapolis after nine months: 2, 100 registered members, 21,500 separate trips made, 230 cars and 74 operational sites (another 25 under construction), 70% of owners with annual membership and the rest less frequent users – going to and from the airport is a popular journey. Interesting thing is that users (average age 42) fall into three groups, with one portion being ‘service workers’ – low-paid people using the cars to access employment opportunities, which suggests a growing role for car-share in increasing mobility options for marginalised/low-income groups. Other users tend to be couples substituting for a second car, and occasional management-level businesspeople, apparently, and the scheme is now aiming to target students.
  • On that note, BMW/Sixt’s DriveNow on-demand car-share has now opened in Brussels, its 10th European city (it’s also in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm and, if we can still call ourselves European, London). Latest stats from the scheme include: over half a million journeys in Germany each month; average journeys between 8-15km and 20-40 minutes; over 600,000 customers. 20% of the fleet is now electrified.
  • Report for the LowCVP and IMechE from the Institute of Transport Studies (ITS), University of Leeds, calls for strategic policy interventions – needed if potential for cleaner, cheaper, lower-energy car travel is to be achieved through combination of connectivity, [less importantly] automation, and vehicle-sharing. ITS reckons that vehicle-infrastructure comms can improve energy efficiency as well as improving journey times and road safety; impact will depend on further innovation in system design; full automation could help reduce practical difficulties of recharging/refuelling, and that much work needs to be done on increasing car-shares. It warns that autonomous vehicles may, however, lead to increased traffic and energy demand. Full report – Automated vehicles: Automatically low-carbon? – available here.

 

Concept of the Day: ACM City eTaxi

June 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

ACM_CITY-eTAXI_frontAdaptive City Mobility, a Munich-based programme funded by the German federal government, has unveiled a simple, low-cost EV for taxi services, vehicle-sharing, logistics and tourism applications. The City eTaxi is a lightweight quadricycle-type three-seater with Plexiglass doors and a ‘backpack’-style luggage compartment, and is designed for battery-swapping in a fully-networked fleet context. Van and pick-up variants are further proposed. Field trials are to start in Munich. An aspect of the concept is that fleet operational costs could be subsidised by advertising, and a business model is proposed involving battery leasing, energy sales and other services; the aim is for the vehicles to remain in more or less continuous deployment without downtime. More here and here.

  • More Munich: the city’s first ‘E-Sharing Station’ has opened for hire of EVs, electric cargo bikes, bicycles and scooters. It’s based in a solar-panelled facility on the new-build Domagkpark housing development, which appears to have been designed from scratch with a view to reducing car-dependency (and car ownership rates) of its 4000-odd residents – particular attention has been paid to bicycle parking and storage. More here.
  • Zipcar is adding 50 Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrids to its on-street fleet in London – 40 in Westminster, 10 elsewhere. “With dedicated charging stations”, apparently, for their reserved parking bays – no chance of these being shared with other EV users. Rental rates are from £7 an hour, all-electric range is a claimed 31 miles, more than enough for nipping about the city, should you need to.
  • Daimler does stationary energy storage: it has established a new division called Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH, incorporating its wholly-owned subsidiary Accumotive, which will  build both automotive and industrial static storage systems, highly-scalable. The new division has ambitious plans for global expansion and partnerships, seeing a diverse range of applications for the tech, and expects rapid growth, reports Green Car Congress.
  • A fuel cell vehicle-sharing scheme is starting in Munich: Hyundai is providing 50 ix35 FCVs to BeeZero, backed by Linde AG, with an element of real-world trial and infrastructure-building. More here.
  • And Europcar has bought up Spanish car-sharing/tech start-up Bluemove, merging it into multi-modal platform Ubeeqo, in which it has a majority stake. Bluemove has 47,000 users in Madrid, Seville and Malaga, reports Intelligent Mobility Insight, and will soon launch in Barcelona and Valencia.
  • More from Spain: SEAT, Volkswagen Group Research & the Universitat Politecnica de Cataluna are establishing a research & innovation hub for urban mobility in Barcelona. CARNET – Cooperative Automotive Research Network – is to look at and trial tech solutions and concepts, including multimodal stations and ‘microcities’ for city transport, a ride-sharing platform and an app for finding parking spaces, reports Intelligent Mobility Insight.
  • Apple is entering the world of independent power producers (IPPs), reports elektrek.com: this is selling excess electricity from its own rooftop solar arrays, via a new division called Apple Energy. This would feed into the local supply system, probably for ancillary services – such as vehicle charging. Shows how a new ecosystem/model of renewably-fuelled microgrids is emerging; elektrek also names Google, Ikea and Walmart as playing this game.
  • Route Monkey is developing an app and online portal for EV users for route-planning, turn-by-turn directions and identification of charging points en route, with real-time journey and battery data. Route times can be calculated including recharging times. The R&D is supported by a grant from Scottish Enterprise, and is with consumers and small fleets in mind.
  • Transport for London is trialling a pilot alert scheme with Twitter for direct notifications of delays on key services – the first live travel info partnership with Twitter for instant direct-message notifications in this way. It’s an opt-in via the existing TfL overground, rail, Central Line and District Line feeds (Intelligent Mobility Insight).
  • BMW is supplying 100 i3s (all-electric) to the Los Angeles Police Department; interesting note here is not just that smog-bound LA has a 50% guideline for EV procurement by fleets in the city, rising to 80% in 2025, but that the suite of ConnectedDrive services and data management were key selling points. More here.
  • Kia is working with UC Irvine on a smart-grid study, looking at V2G smart-charging algorithms, predicting vehicle charging demand and behaviour, and further evaluating vehicles’ impact on the grid. It’s supplying six Soul EVs. More here.

Concept of the Day: Frauenhofer IISB-ONE

July 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

IISB-ONEIt’s a rolling platform for developing EV power electronics, built by the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology (IISB), Erlanger, and it has hit the road for testing. IISB-ONE is said to be a modular concept capable of integrating future technologies, and it showcases Fraunhofer IISB’s portfolio of e-drive systems, converters, chargers and battery storage systems. Interesting note: this is (I think) a second-life application for a rare Artega GT (putative Porsche Cayman rival, designed by Henrik Fisker, originally meant to be Volkswagen-engined, around 150 built before obsoletion/company collapse). Tech spec includes two individually-controlled e-motors delivering 80kW/peak torque of 2000Nm to each driven wheel, a rated 355v lithium-ion battery pack, a high-performance DC-DC converter, flexible AC or DC charging, and wireless inductive-charging capability. Its drivetrain could also accommodate additional batteries or even a fuel cell. (Found via electrive.com)

  • Some detail on BMW’s ChargeForward trial at Citylab: 100 i3 drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area are testing an app to report to the utility firm (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) when they want to use their car each day, and for it to then be charged (remotely scheduled) at times to smooth out demand peaks. An early step towards EVs as grid-balancers and in reducing fossil-dependence at peak demand-times.
  • A UK survey of 203 EV-drivers by KiWi Power, Carbon Trust and HSSMI (respondents recruited via Zap-Map and Next Green Car) found that: 81% had a dedicated home charging point; 19% had access to charging at work (but only 14% used it); 90% regularly use public charging points – 68% at least once a week, 22% around once a month and 9% less than once a month; 67% use all charger types; 31% use rapid-chargers only; 50% charge on public facilities for less than 2 hours, 37% for 4-6 hours, 5% for 6-8 hours, remainder 8 hrs+ or ‘don’t know’; most plug in with less than 60% battery charge remaining – 24% at 0-20%, 35% at 21-40%, 25% at 41-60%; 95% select a public parking location based on availability of a charger (52% always, 43% sometimes, only 5% saying it’s not a deciding factor); 67% regularly use a particular point; points regularly used are 32% in retail car parks, 25% in public car parks, 21% in local authority car parks, 10% on-street and 6% at workplace locations. Handy infographic, rundown with comments, here.
  • Qualcomm has done a deal with Swiss parts-maker Brusa for manufacturing/supply of its induction-charging tech, moving wireless charging a stage closer; its Halo system has been licensed, reports Green Car Congress.
  • Report from the Innovative Mobility Research unit at TSRC, UC Berkeley, surveying responses from 23,774 active Zipcar members incl. 523 corporate members (Zipcar for Business accounts for around a quarter of membership in the US). Of the corporate members, two in five sold a vehicle or postponed the purchase of a new one due to their joining Zipcar, equating to a claimed 33,000 fewer cars across N. America. Some interesting stats: of those who had sold/postponed purchase of a private vehicle, 41% said they took public transit or walked more often now, and 22% were more likely to cycle – but 19% were less likely to cycle, 13% were less likely to take public transit, and 7% less likely to walk – Shaheen et al point to a 13% induced-demand effect. 49% said that their likelihood of buying a new car in the future was reduced, and this was unchanged for 41%. Full report here.
  • Nice report from TransitCenter (New York), A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovation, looks at citizen activism and resident- or people-driven innovations. The examples used include introduction of bike lanes, bike-shares, public plazas, mini-parks and pedestrian spaces, but well, same principles for energy transitions or a switch to alt-fuels and installation of infrastructure? It discusses the scaling-up of local initiatives, and identifies three key prerequisites for success: an independent but persuasive citizen-led civic sector; bold mayors and transportation chiefs with a vision and mandate from top-level government; and agency adoption/new practices within city government to ‘perpetuate new norms’. Full report available to download here.
  • And (yet) more on Millennials, (via NextCity)… Survey of 3000 18-34-year-old Americans in the country’s 50 biggest cities, by Portland State University, found that they use public transport more than any other age-group, are more likely to walk or cycle, and prefer ‘attached’ housing (apartments) and living in walkable urban environments with short commutes (surprise!).  83% like walking, 71% driving (still high, but there’s a larger gap between the two figures for this age-group).
  • Yet Americans (cross-agegroups) are actually driving more and more – VMT (vehicle mileage travelled) has just risen for the 14th month in a row, the most since April 2007, and 2015’s set to be a record year for mileage, reports AutoblogGreen. Low oil/fuel prices are fingered as the culprits. So though Millennials may be driving less, we can’t assume a downward trend…
  • …which is why we need to get people into cleaner cars. A white paper from the ICCT looks at metro markets (USA) for EVs and concludes that they’re breaking through successfully in cities where there is progressive city policy, effective promotion and incentives, investment in infrastructure, and a broad range of vehicles available.
  • Criticising EVs as being only as green as the source of their electricity is not constructive (agreed), takes only a very short-term view (double agreed) and electromobility needs to be looked at as one element in a wider system (agreed again), says Tali Trigg at Scientific American.

Concept of the Day: BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage

May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

bmwcslhommageBit of an overdue catch-up here, but we’ll start with this BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept shown at Villa d’Este last week. Design-wise, you can read the full lowdown here, but of interest to me is this ‘eBoost’ function supplementing the straight-six. BMW hints only at “energy accumulators”, with the instrument panel including a charging display, but this sounds to me like some sort of supercapacitor-based hybrid system, perhaps…

  • Back in the real world, the Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab taxi is to go into production in Coventry next year. Assembly is by Multimatic, and the Metrocab will first hit the streets of London (where a small-scale trial is already underway). It’s a range-extended EV with two electric motors, a 1.0-litre petrol engine and generator (which can recharge the batteries in just 10 minutes), regenerative braking, lithium-polymer batteries and external charging; its overall range is over 560km.
  • We hear a lot about Generation Y and millennials, but how ’bout Generation Alpha (born 2010-on)? Design students from Art Center Pasadena see them as getting around in shape-shifting, shared, autonomous, connected EVs: some nice ideas in the SABIC-sponsored Design For Alpha project, reported here.
  • Vodafone’s M2M (machine-to-machine) platform is underpinning a new service/app for EV users called Ubitricity – a ‘virtual network’ for billing/accessing power supplies. More here.
  • Ford has launched its GoDrive carshare in London, with half its 50-car fleet Focus Electric Drives; more here.
  • Some interesting stats via Fleet News: over half of the BMW i3s registered in the last three months, and over 60% of Audi A3 e-tron PHEVs, are for fleet buyers/the corporate sector.
  • The global market for EV chargers will increase more than 12-fold 2014-2020, according to research by IHS Automotive; mainly AC charging still, it thinks, with just 10% of chargers in public/semi-public domain and DC fast-chargers a minority. More here.
  • Latest from Navigant Research: plug-in vehicle sales to exceed 1.1million a year in the US by 2020. More here.
  • Smith Electric Vehicles (US) has formed a JV with FDG Electric Vehicles (with lithium-ion battery-making division); the former is to assemble and distribute the latter’s vehicles in the USA, with a view to the urban delivery/transport sector. Smith will continue to make its Newton/Edison conversions. More here.
  • EV buyers are economy-driven first and foremost, more than environmentally-focused, and are also younger and more affluent than the average, according to a (US) survey. They’re motivated by tax rebates and other incentives, reports TrueCar, which admittedly only compared a small sample of Ford Focus Electric and Fiat 500e buyers against their ICE-purchasing equivalents.
  • The Institute of Energy and Transport, University of Leeds, is modelling electromobility: more on the project (for the Joint Research Centre) in this presentation.
  • Not a car, but a boat worthy of note: an electric car/passenger ferry has gone into service in Norway. Built by Fjellstrand and featuring a Siemens-developed drive system with lithium-ion batteries, it uses 150kWhr per trip, said to be equivalent to three days’ electricity use by the average Norwegian household (length of trip not stated). Oh, and it’s charged using hydro power. Operator Norled reckons at least 50 further routes along Norway’s coastline could be served by electric ferries, too. More here.

Autonomy, sharing and electromobility

May 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

09-Mercedes-Benz-F-015-Luxury-in-Motion-660x602Autonomous shared vehicles could replace 90% of private cars on city streets, according to research from the International Transport Forum modelling ‘TaxiBots’ – simultaneously-shared vehicles – and ‘AutoVots’, on-demand vehicles transporting one person after another. It warns of increases in total vehicle mileage travelled, however, due to the pick-ups, drop-offs and vehicle repositioning in different scenarios, but points out the land use implications for a reduction in necessary parking spaces – and where the Bots and Vots could supplement (or replace) inefficient or insufficient public transport systems. Further effects on transportation privatisation implied… Handy rundown here, full report, Urban Mobility System Upgrade, here. It notes that, to accommodate charging downtime, only a 2% increase in vehicle numbers would be needed for the fleets to be electrified. Nice analysis by Citylab, too. Pic: Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept, the luxury/executive option. The car-makers have been thinking about how to manoeuvre themselves into this new market-space, of course.

  • In the meantime… the used car market is the key to electric vehicle adoption, says an analyst from Glass’s Guides, pointing out the role of the motor trade in consumer education and charting the strengthening of EV residual values.
  • The CarPlus annual survey of car clubs is out: download the various regional reports here. Some take-outs from the England & Wales report: 22,500 members using 700 cars (outside London); increasing usage of EVs; claiming that four cars removed from road for each car club car; only 29% of members (6 months+) now own a car, with car purchases deferred; average annual mileage 3,500; members 3x more likely than average to cycle. Car club membership is used as part of members’ ‘portfolios’ of transport options including train, bus, walking, etc. Corporate members use cars more than private, and their employers/organisations have reduced usage of pool and ‘grey fleet’ (employees’ own) vehicles; most popular reason for joining was moving to a new area, then changing job. Figures for London report 155,000 members using 2,300 cars; a claimed 8.6 cars removed from the road per car club car; average annual mileage 2,190; and in Scotland, 7,600 members are sharing 240 cars. Importantly, the reports discuss the potential for adoption of electric vehicles – a good level of willingness to try them out, and positive responses towards experiences so far, were noted.
  • And there’s a lot more on car-sharing in the latest issue of Transportation: shared mobility services are now mainstream, its editors claim, enabled by digital tech. Papers look at case studies, model future scenarios, look at the potential for car-sharing in B2B applications, fleet efficiencies and business models.
  • Doubling bus use in the UK will have only a tiny impact in reducing car usage (1.3%), argues Steve Melia, and in general, investment in public transport will have little effect on reducing car travel – they’re more likely to reduce walking and cycling. Instead, he argues for better and more strategic planning to reduce congestion and air pollution.
  • So Tesla has launched its PowerWall static energy storage systems, domestic grade and industrial: an important (and symbolic) step forward in capture and storage of renewables, nicely tying in with vehicle charging. This stuff is all connected.
  • And some first-quarter figures from ACEA: EV registrations more than doubled compared to same time 2014, to 24,360 units. Hybrid sales were up 21.4% to 56,704, and natural gas-fuelled vehicles up 16.5% to 63,087.
  • Researchers at University of Illinois, Chicago, have made advances in magnesium-ion battery tech – reported here.

 

Shanghai sum-up, news round-up

April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

chevrolet-fnr-concept-A very quick Shanghai Motor Show round-up of stuff not previously covered/mentioned, in no particular order. Volkswagen: followed up the Geneva Sport Concept GTE with the C Concept GTE – stretched to a 5m-long four-door luxury “coupe” bodystyle, with a 245hp plug-in hybrid powertrain (four-cylinder TSI engine, eight-speed auto gearbox, 124hp electric motor). This can do up to 81mph in all-electric mode, with an all-electric range of up to 31 miles/50km; averaged-out economy is 122.8mpg and CO2 emissions 55g/km. Another plug-in hybrid: Qoros 2 SUV PHEV, a chunky little concept with hands-free and optional inductive wireless charging; and the latest in Audi’s Prologue series, the plug-in Prologue Allroad (previewing the next A6 Allroad) with 4.0 twin-turbo plus electric motor giving 724bhp.  Toyota unveiled a series of Chinese-market hybrids and EVs; Cadillac supplemented its CT6 saloon with PHEV capability; BMW launched the X5 xDrive40e PHEV; the Chinese will be offered a hybrid Nissan Murano, and a plug-in hybrid Audi A6 L e-tron and Q7 e-tron 2.0 TFSI quattro. One of the more interesting and forward-looking concepts, however, was the Chevrolet FNR (“find new roads”, pictured) from GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center in partnership with SAIC Motor, which featured in-wheel electric motors, wireless charging, autonomous-driving capability with sensors and roof-mounted radar, and an interior which enables 180-degree swivelling of the front seats when in self-driving mode.

  • A step forward in synthetic fuels: an Audi test facility in Dresden has produced its first batch of ‘e-diesel’, synthesised from carbon dioxide from a biogas plant. The process needs only ambient air, and works in stages: water is heated for steam, which is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis (using renewable energy); the hydrogen then reacts with the CO2 to produce ‘blue crude’, a long-chain hydrocarbon compound, which is then refined. This end-product is said to be free of sulphur or aromatic hydrocarbons, with a high cetane number,and it can be mixed with conventional diesel as well as used ‘pure’. The overall high-temperature process is claimed to be 70% efficient, with the added bonus that it can be incorporated into electricity grid stabilisation. Audi is aiming to produce over 3000 litres in coming months and then scale up the principle; petrol made in a similar way is also under development. More here. A classier news-release approach than Toyota’s talk about ‘hydrogen bullshit’, perhaps (hydrogen from cattle manure).
  • Audi has also delivered 40 A3 e-tron PHEVs for testing in three trial programmes in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart: these are to look at private consumer use, expectations and charging. More here.
  • Montreal is to get a municipal EV-sharing scheme: 250 cars to hit the streets by next spring, with the aim of 1000 by 2020. Importantly, this will be powered by Quebec’s abundant hydro-electricity. More at Treehugger.
  • Barriers to EV adoption: vehicle cost, current battery tech, lack of consumer knowledge, reports the US National Research Council. Findings summarised here.
  • Siemens has launched a cloud-based wi-fi enabled EV charging station that enables vehicle owners to activate and control/monitor vehicle charging remotely via mobile or web app, integrating into demand-management and grid-balancing incentives. More here.
  • Millennials: buying cars again, and more than GenX, though mileage and driving rates are down across the board and there’s much variation between cities/location. Summary here.

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