Daimler launches car2go in London; Audi harnesses Big Data

December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

car2go_londonDaimler’s car2go car-share scheme (in partnership with Europcar) has launched in London: the boroughs of Islington, Sutton and Newham will host fleets of Smart Fortwo mhd two-seaters (with stop-start; congestion-charge exempt). Registration is free until 31st December 2012, with 30 minutes of free driving; after that, it’s charged at 35p a minute all-in. Cars can be returned anywhere in the participating boroughs, with parking free in borough-operated bays or car parks. Access to the cars is via smartphone, tablet or Facebook apps, or the car2go London website, with no pre-booking necessary, and a swipe of an RFID membership card. More details at car2go.com/London, at the car2go shop at BOXPARK Shoreditch, or at Europcar stores in the city.

It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of the first studies of usage of the scheme: will there be take-up as an alternative to private or business car use, or will it be used as an alternative to public transport, walking or cycling (i.e. using the Boris bikes)? For regular commuting as well as for occasional or tourist travel?

  • Audi outlined its Urban Intelligent Assist tech at the LA Show last month: developed in collaboration with the University of Southern California and University of California at Berkeley and San Diego, AUIA is intended to make commuting and city driving less stressful and to enhance safety. It’s a suite of functions including predictive and location-based technologies, navigation and route guidance, parking guidance, onward journey information, lane-change assist and ‘attention guard’; more here. “Harnessing the power of Big Data” to meet “the challenges of navigating the chaotic roadways of the world’s megacities”, apparently.

Car2Go goes electric in Portland; France to subsidise cleaner cars; Electric Odyssey

July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Daimler’s car2go car-share programme has signed up 6000 members in Portland, Oregon in just 100 days, and it is now adding 30 all-electric Smart ForTwos to the fleet and expanding the city area which it covers. Feedback so far on the city’s usage finds that typical journeys are 30-45 minutes and 3-6 miles – basic urban runaround stuff. More here.

  • The French government is aiming to boost domestic manufacturing and incentivise the purchase of cleaner cars. It’s putting up 490million euros to subsidise the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles by 4000 and 7000 euros per car respectively, and to give a tax break of 150 euros with particularly fuel-efficient cars. Higher penalties will be imposed on high-CO2 cars to fund the breaks. And the state is also offering 600million-worth of loans to struggling small- and medium-sized supplier firms, reports the WSJ. New President Francois Hollande hopes that this will help struggling Peugeot-Citroen (in the process of closing factories) in particular, as well as Renault, which has invested so heavily in EVs. Socialists, eh?
  • Denso has developed a new vehicle-to-home charging/communications system for two-way power supply, energy storage and quick-charging, and is collaborating with Toyota. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Whoa – big drop in the number of American teenagers holding a valid driver’s licence. It’s down from 80% in 1980 to around 60% in 2010 and accelerating in recent years, claims the University of Michigan’s Transport Research Institute, which cites social media/online communication as one reason for the shift. The number of licenced 17-year-olds is down to 46% from 69% (1983), 18-year-olds now 61% from 80%, and 19-year-olds 70% (from 87%). No wonder the Big Three are worried.
  • Latest from the round-the-world Electric Odyssey team: the Citroen C-Zero has reached China and is heading through Gansu province, between the Mongolian plains and the foothills of Tibet, with the aim to get to Kazakhstan on 10th August. Engineers Antonin Guy and Xavier Degon are aiming to get around the world on electric power alone, travelling 25,000km and using just 250 euros-worth of electricity. The pair set out from Strasbourg in February, and in the last two months, have come from Japan and Singapore to go through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, charging up mostly from domestic points belonging to volunteer ‘Pluggers’ supporting their quest.

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

June 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

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

In other news to round off the week:

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

Design Concept of the Day: ECOmove Essence EV

March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Following yesterday’s update on the progress of the ECOmove QBEAK (see previous post), today’s Design Concept is a variant thereof. Simon Sneftrup created the Essence as his thesis project for his MA in Automotive Design at Coventry University; it’s a two-seater sports coupe-cum-commuter car based on the flexible, modular QBEAK chassis and with its electric powertrain, incorporating in-wheel motors.

“With this unique platform I have been able to design a low-chassis e-car with an element of sportiness and excellent driveability”, says Sneftrup, a Dane and a graduate in industrial design from the Aarhus School of Architecture. “We think it is very interesting to see our platform being used in different contexts”, says ECOmove CEO Mogens Løkke. “This also inspires us to see things in a different perspective”. Full gallery at the ECOmove website.

In other news today:

  • Peugeot is launching a 508 HYbrid4 saloon alongside the SW estate-based 508 RXH, with the same 37bhp e-motor driving the rear axle in addition to the 2.0 HDI 163 engine. This 200bhp car emits just 95g/km and returns a claimed 78.5mpg (the RXH does 107g/km and 69mpg) and it’s priced from £31,450 (ouch. A lot, for a Peugeot).
  • Volkswagen’s confirmed the all-electric Golf Blue e-motion for a late-2013 US launch; European sales around the same time. Plug-in Audi A3 follows 2014 (Automotive News Europe).
  • The first Solar Sail solar-recharging point – a very cool-looking structure – has been installed near Austin, Texas. Pictures, press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Car2go is to launch in Birmingham this autumn, its first UK location. A fleet of up to 250 Smart Fortwos will be available for on-the-spot hire within a 30 square-mile area, from selected off-street parking spots or any on-street spaces; more details on pricing will be released shortly.

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

November 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

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

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

All-electric car2go launches in Amsterdam; week-end round-up

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Daimler’s car2go scheme is to launch in Amsterdam at the end of November – with 300 Smart Fortwo electric-drives, making it one of the first large-scale EV-share deals and car2go’s first all-electric fleet. Hire costs 29 cents a minute, recharging will be from renewable-source energy, and customers can take one-way trips; they will have access to over 250 charging stations, most with two charging points each, across the city and up to 1000 by the end of 2012. Registration for car2go in Amsterdam will be free up until November 24th and a one-off fee of 10 euros after that; the cars can travel within a 80 sq-km area over most of the city, and there will be ‘hubs’ in Zuidas, Arena and IJburg. Cars must be dropped off within the business area, but at any parking spot or at any of the 36 designated car2go ‘Q-Park’ garages in the city centre; cars returning with less than 20% of battery charge must be taken back to a charging station, and drivers plugging in cars with less than 40% will receive ten free minutes of driving. Only cars with a 50% charge or more will be released to customers; the range of the Fortwo electric-drive is 135km.

Car2go is reducing some of its prices across Europe from November in line with the Amsterdam launch; one minute will be 29 cents, an hour 12.90 euros and the daily rate 39 euros; a special parking rate of 9 cents a minute (5.40 euros an hour) will apply for those hanging on to a car between journeys. The hire costs otherwise include all insurance, taxes, electricity and parking charges. The scheme currently operates in Ulm and Hamburg, as well as Austin (Texas) and Vancouver.

  • Audi’s launching the facelifted A4 right now. The revised range boasts an overall 11% improvement in fuel economy despite increased power and torque, and stop-start with energy recuperation is now standard. The 2.0 TDI (136hp) now returns 67.3mpg and emits 112g/km; the 163hp version does 64.2mpg/115g/km; the 1.8 TFSI (170hp) now does 50.4mpg and 134g/km, a 19% improvement over the outgoing model. The TFSI engine has gained a new thermal management system, revised valve control and lift, updated fuel injection and turbo, integration of the exhaust manifold in the cyclinder head, a reduction in internal friction and has decreased 3.5kg in weight.
  • New-generation Tesla Roadster comes 2014, confirms Autocar. It’ll be on an in-house platform this time, probably a shortened version of the Model S/Model X underpinnings. Cabriolet coming 2013, apparently.
  • GM’s going to fit a 85kW/114hp motor – built in Maryland – in the Chevy Spark EV. Detailed videos about this motor, plus press release, posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Honda is fitting its hybrid IMA powertrain (1.5-litre petrol engine plus motor) into the Japanese-market Freed, a small six/seven-seater MPV. The Freed range will include a series of specially-developed wheelchair-accessible versions. More at Autoblog Green.
  • The Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland, is to run a 5million-euro EU-funded smart grid research project. This will look at all aspects of the necessary infrastructure and communications to support EVs in Ireland. Full details at alphagalileo.
  • General Motors has introduced the first hybrid in South Korea: the Alpheon eAssist. Based on the Buick LaCrosse with the same tech, it combines a 2.4-litre direct-injection engine with a motor and starter-generator; fuel economy improvement is 25%, C)2 emissions fall by 22%. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Mitsubishi’s making a batch of 507 i-MiEVs to go to Estonia for municipal use; first 50 have been delivered (Autoblog Green).
  • The EV community is mourning the death of Bob Beaumont, creator of the 1970s CitiCar and e-mobility pioneer. Full obit at Green Car Reports.

And news just in:

  • Renault is to supply over 15,000 Kangoo Van ZEs to French public authorities. 10,000 are going to La Poste, the French Post Office, alone, and a total of 15,637 will go out to 19 state organisations or companies.
  • Kia has issued a statement today saying: it “is putting its faith in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as the answer to long-distance mobility with zero tailpipe emissions”. Fuel cell stacks are getting cheaper now, “enlightened countries like Korea are starting to establish a hydrogen fuel station network” and whilst “Kia has not yet decided which model in its range will be the first to go on sale with a fuel cell, it has committed to start building limited numbers of FCEVs and aims to have them commercially available by 2015.”

Concept of the Day: Pininfarina Hybus

October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pininfarina has unveiled a hybrid diesel-electric bus at the MobilityTech forum in Milan. It doesn’t look terribly exciting – snazzy patriotic paint job apart – because it’s basically a conversion job of a 17 year-old Iveco bus, done to show the possibilities of retro-fit conversions. The HyBus gets a 1.3-litre Fiat Multijet diesel engine plus electric generator, two Magneti Marelli motors, a regenerative braking system and a lithium-ion battery pack; this is around 60% cheaper than a new hybrid bus, apparently. More about it here. I like the prospect of the revamp/upcycling of an otherwise obsolete old bus, too.

In a lightning-quick round-up of the best of the rest for the end of the working week:

  • The next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution – Evo XI – will be a diesel-electric hybrid, reports Autocar.
  • Detailed drive story on the Audi Urban Concept – a 6ft 7in journalist folds himself into this tiny city EV – from Automobile (thanks, @GreenMotor).
  • Daimler-owned car2go and Europcar have joined forces to roll out the car-share scheme in 40-50 European cities (Green Car Congress).
  • Only 106 electric cars were bought in the UK in the third quarter of this year. Still, when your choice is limited to the C-Zero/iON/i-MiEV (very small city car, fleet-lease only), Nissan Leaf (if you can get your hands on one), Tesla Roadster (ditto) and a few impractical little quadricycles, all very expensive for what they are, then that’s hardly surprising, is it? More choice, more sales expected next year; debate (not all of it well-informed) at the Guardian.
  • 10 US states and the District of Columbia have joined forces to create the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network, funded by government grants. The aim’s to reduce the region’s emissions and oil dependency, and create an EV recharging infrastructure  in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC (Michelin Challenge Bibendum).
  • Defence of Fisker at Grist – ol’ Henrik has come under fire from certain US media outlets who’re insinuating that Obama handed out a lot of government money for building inaccessibly-expensive cars in Finland. As Grist points out, Fisker’s now got production off the ground, is employing a load of people at a formerly-defunct GM plant, and is bringing more mainstream models to market having established its brand in the luxury sector. ‘Project Nina’ hits the road late 2012 with full production due mid-2013.

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