November 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
Around 145,000 new EVs were sold in Europe last year, according to number-crunching by Transport & Environment, reaching the milestone of a 1% market share, and bringing us up to around the total 600,000 mark for EVs on the road in the EFTA area (incl Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). However, though doubled over 2014’s figures, that number includes PHEVs and range-extended EVs as well as all-electric cars and vans – which goes to show that there’s a long way to go yet before mass-market acceptance. Full report, with lots of useful references, here. Picture: updated Volkswagen Golf GTE (plug-in hybrid), unveiled late last week, complete with requisite blue styling details to distinguish it; new all-electric e-Golf to be revealed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
- More good [redemptive] news from Volkswagen: all-EV and PHEV versions of the upcoming T-Roc compact crossover, reports Autocar…
- Finally, finally, the Bollore Group’s Blue City on-demand EV-hire is going into operation in London: first up for the scheme, as seen and well-proven in Paris, will be the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, where an initial batch of five cars will grow to 25 by next spring. The Pininfarina-built Bluecars can be hired for 30 minutes at a time and then left in any Source London EV charging bay, reports the local newspaper.
- And some interesting data from Scotland, analysed by the RAC Foundation: the country’s 870 public EV-charging points, with 1772 sockets/connectors between them (as of August 2016) were used 26,119 times in that month, suggesting charger use has doubled over the year. However, 25% were still not used at all (probably due to incompatibility with vehicles, poorly thought-out locations, and unsuitability of charger type/speed for their location, if the feedback I’ve collected from Scottish EV drivers is any indication; reliability is also an issue). 18% of the chargers available now are rapid-chargers, and these were used 42% of the time. ChargePlace Scotland is also listing 3,575 electric cars and vans licensed in Scotland (to end of June 2016).
- Nissan is launching a car-share service with a social twist: users will be ‘profile-matched’ via data from their social media accounts into local communities to share or ‘part-own’ a Micra. The idea is that the users will have compatible, complementary needs; they will be invoiced monthly for their usage of the car, with rates all-in to encompass servicing and insurance, and have “a financial stake” in the vehicle – part-ownership, rather than on-demand hire. Initial trials of Nissan Intelligent Get & Go Micra will take place in Paris from next spring.
- And something slightly different from Daimler/Mercedes-Benz: its peer-to-peer car-sharing service, Croove, goes on trial in Munich early next month. Any car from any brand, up to 15 years old, can be shared via the smartphone app-based platform: more here.
- And US truck-maker Workhorse, formerly part of Navistar and, before that, known as International (so it has pedigree), is to make an electric pick-up: the four-seater-plus-flatbed W-15 will have a motor driving each axle plus a small petrol engine acting as a range-extender, giving it an all-electric range of a claimed 80 miles and 310 miles all-in. Workhorse has already delivered 125 electric parcel vans to UPS, apparently, and the W-15 is said to be scheduled for production in 2018.
September 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
Hooray! Here’s the ideal iteration of the Smart city cars: all fourth-generation models, including the four-seater ForFour, are now offered in electric-drive form, with European sales from early next year. Motive power is 60 kW/160Nm, giving a claimed range of up to 160km, and 22kW fast-charging capacity can give a full charge (three-phase) in less than 45 minutes, depending on local supply [2.5 hours in UK/Euro spec, however]. Two-seater Smarts are built in Hambach, Germany, and the four-seater in Novo Mesto, Slovenia; they feature batteries from Daimler subsidiary Accumotive (Saxony), and drive systems from Renault in Clèon, Northern France. There’s an eco mode with max energy recuperation, boosted by a radar sensor to predict oncoming traffic slowdowns and suchlike, as well as pre-heating/cooling and remote-monitoring apps. More details and spec here.
- The latest BMW-Bosch-Vattenfall second-life battery energy storage project is now being tested in Hamburg: this has 2MW, 2800 kWhr capacity in 2,600 battery modules from over 100 EVs, and is being evaluated for its role in achieving grid stability. It’s delivering ‘primary control reserve power’ on demand, but could, theoretically, supply enough energy to power a two-person household for seven months.
- An oft-requested service/function: ChargePoint [US] has introduced Waitlist, which enables EV drivers to ‘line up’ for a public charging point which is in use. Drivers can use a phone app or RFID card to indicate that they want to charge, and reminders will be sent to drivers when their car has finished charging or reached a time/energy limit to make the point available [like ChargeBump]. It’s been tested with 30 point providers serving 14,000 drivers, and ChargePoint reports that it increased point utilisation by 20% on average, and by 45% at busy stations – efficiencies are being achieved. More here.
- Looking forward to seeing this Volkswagen EV concept next week at the Paris motor show; it’s said to promise a 250-300 mile range and 15-minute fast-charging, and will go into production in 2019. Though having a conventional steel body, it’s said to pack Passat-like interior space into a Golf-sized hatchback body, easily accessed via sliding rear doors. To be fully-connected with a transferable Volkswagen ID app for settings and preferences, too.
- But on an even more practical – and here-and-now – note, Volkswagen is continuing to try and redeem itself post-#dieselgate by selling the e-Crafter van from next year. This commercial vehicle can shift over 1700kg, has a range of over 200km, and has unimpaired cargo capacity.
September 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Danish start-up Spiri has produced a “lab on wheels” purpose-designed prototype EV for its on-demand car-sharing/car-pooling service: this ultra-light (750kg) carbonfibre urban runaround has no interior panels, no paint, and around a quarter of the components (700) of a conventional passenger car, reports TechCrunch, helping it to a claimed 200-mile range between recharges. Most impressively, Spiri is aiming for passenger journey pricing on a par with bus tickets in the selected cities it aims to launch in – and free travel for drivers who pick up passengers along their way, in a neat twist/extension to the usual on-demand offering. The system is based around ‘virtual bus stops’ and pick-up points, with ‘Spiri hubs’ for parking and recharging. Design-wise, it’s an interesting thing with closely-placed front wheels (Spiri also experimented with a three-wheel layout, it appears) for a max-capacity interior, seating four plus luggage with wide-opening doors for easy access.
Nice mobility concept from the Lohr Group (Strasbourg) unveiled at InnoTrans show this week: the Cristal is an all-electric shuttle bus for ‘last mile’ connections which can be operated by a driver, or by a service user on an on-demand basis. Up to four Cristals can be coupled together, and the boxy interior can be configured in various ways, i.e. for wheelchair access, seating, or accommodating up to 20 standing passengers. More here.
And the Siemens-RWTH Aachen Future Train: concept designed by BMW DesignWorks, modular, supporting different cabin structures for different purposes, flexible, highly-connected and -automated, with an eye to multi-modal transport link-ups, i.e. by ‘robo-taxi’ home pick-ups to connect with train stops. More here…
- A new research project, Electric Nation, launched last week at the LCV2016 show: it’s aiming to recruit 500-700 EV drivers to test the capabilities of local electricity networks and trial a smart-charging solution to even out grid load. Participants will get a free charger installed; initially, drivers are being recruited in the South West, South Wales and the Midlands, in the Western Power Distribution (WPD) area. The project will look at the energy demands of EVs in ‘clusters’, and builds on the My Electric Avenue research by looking at different types of EV and people using different substation feeders. More details here.
- And Tesla execs are talking about bi-directional charging and vehicle-to-grid, enabled by the next-gen inverter, reports Electrek…
- Nissan has unveiled a concept pick-up truck: the Navara EnGuard (Double Cab) is proposed as a rescue/emergency services vehicle, and besides kit for emergency/disaster relief, it shows off a prototype portable battery pack for emergency generation. This features seven Nissan battery modules, charged from the engine, to power specialist equipment; Nissan describes it as exploring how battery tech “can be integrated further into society” and “a real-world example of how it could be applied to new sectors, to provide cleaner, more sustainable power solutions.” Which can only be good.
- Some ‘peak car’ research (in Transport Policy, January 2017): US Millennials (born 1980s/90s) own fewer cars than earlier generations did at their age – unless they have moved out of their parental home, in which case they actually own slightly more cars than expected, given their relatively low incomes. “We caution planners to temper their enthusiasm about ‘peak car’, as this may largely be a manifestation of economic factors that could reverse in coming years,” say Klein & Smart. [thanks to @scottericlevine for that heads-up, & to more on peak car here…]
September 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
Mercedes-Benz Vans has a Vision: this concept is integrated into a digitally-connected supply chain and logistics network, with fully-automated cargo space, drones for deliveries and operational efficiency improvements of up to 50%. Its 75kW electric-drive powertrain gives an emissions-free, silent range of up to 270km, good for inner-city use and overnight deliveries. Inside, it has drive-by-wire with a joystick, enabling greater interior capacity and a large display surface – full-width across the dash in a textile-covered arc. Full details here.
- More Mercedes news: 1000 battery systems from defunct Smart Fortwo electric-drive cars have been fitted as static storage in Lünen, Westphalia, giving a claimed 13 MWh facility and the world’s largest second-life installation yet. It will store and release energy for network operators to balance the grid and integrate renewable generation.
- Good news for British EV drivers? Shell is in “advanced preparations” for installing charging points on its forecourts, reports The Guardian, with an interest in wireless induction charging as well…
- News from the Zap-Map team: its parent company Next Green Car has set up a new firm, Zap Digital Ltd, to develop “new smart tools for EV drivers and B2B products to help companies deliver electric mobility solutions.” Upcoming products will include Zap-Pay, a cross-network “payment and access interface”. It’s currently estimating that there are 80,000 EVs on the UK’s roads, and says there were over 40,000 users of the Zap-Map platform in August.
- There’ll be a convergence of EVs and autonomous vehicles, according to a report from Lux Research, detailed here, identifying six reasons (I paraphrase): 1. tech-focused early-adopters want both innovations; 2. it’s easier to integrate autonomous features into an EV; 3. there’s a good synergy between wireless charging and autonomy; 4. more efficient self-driving optimises battery range; 5. both techs will mature around the same time (2030-ish); 6. both techs will be government-mandated. I’d agree with 3 of the 6 statements; am less sure about the last, would suggest that EVs have a much greater chance of reaching market maturity by 2030 than autonomy (given the right market conditions and support), and would point out that tech-focused early-adopter types only make up a v small proportion of vehicle buyers.
- Study of 30 Californian cities for the ICCT found that EV sales correlated significantly with model availability (obv), public charging networks, local promotional activities, EV-sharing services, government/fleet programmes and median income – but not the Clean Vehicle Rebate scheme or prevalance of single-family homes (indicating home charging suitability). Conclusion was that comprehensive policy support was important; promotional activities and incentives including parking and workplace charging encouraged uptake; and that the EV market grows with its charging infrastructure. More here.
- But underlining how far we yet have to go, latest DfT stats on new vehicle registration [download here]: April-June saw a 2% rise on the same time last year, the highest level of registrations [805,000 new vehicles sold in the quarter] since summer 2003 – and an all-time high for the number of cars and vans on the UK’s roads [30.7million cars]. In this context, ULEV (ultra-low emissions vehicle, including EV) sales look pretty paltry: 9,657 in the quarter April-June, 49% up on this time last year but still representing a meagre 1.1%. And of that, the best-sellers were all PHEVs: Mitsubishi Outlander (1,854), Mercedes-Benz C350 (1,480) and BMW 330 (1,143). Traditional [ICE] car ownership ain’t exactly dead yet.
- …and nor is driving, though there are some notable developments in the just-released 2015 National Travel Survey. Last year, Brits made an average 914 trips (the lowest recorded) and travelled over 6,600 miles, spending an average hour a day travelling. Car use – 64% of trips, 78% of distance – and walking (combined 86% of trips) decreased, largely due to lower walking rates; cycling still accounts for only 2% of trips; trips by rail and bus in London increased; trips for shopping, commuting and visiting friends continued to fall. Women made more trips, but men travelled 20% further; highest-income households travelled more than 2x as as lowest-income; rural-dwellers went 44% further than urban residents, and nearly 2x as far as Londoners. Car ownership has continued to increase long-term, is now flattening out but with different regional patterns: 25% of households don’t have a car (down from 38% in 2005) but households with more than one car have increased from 17% to 35% 2005-2015; carless households have fallen 2002/03-2014/15 from 37% to 29% in the NE, but remain unchanged at 41% in London. As for licence-holding, 74% of adults 17+ in England have a full licence (32million of them), with the highest increase in women driving (now 68% having licences, compared to 80% of men); fewer young adults have a licence since the 1990s, but more older people, especially women. “Overall, the Department’s work concludes there is little evidence to confirm that car ownership levels or distance travelled per person have reached saturation.”
- Ford is buying out San Francisco’s Chariot Shuttle, a crowd-sourced ride-sharing service, partnering with bike-share scheme Motivate in SF and the Bay Area, and establishing a new team called City Solutions. Chariot currently operates nearly 100 Ford Transit minibuses along 28 routes in SF, based on rider demand, and will develop dynamic real-time data to map efficient routes: Ford describes it as “filling the gap between taxi and bus services”, and aims to launch it in at least five new cities in the next 18 months. Research for Ford by KPMG reckoned that each shuttle bus could take 25 private cars off the road. Motivate, meanwhile, will work with Ford to launch Ford GoBike, giving 7000 shared bikes by the end of 2018 and access via the FordPass app; Ford is also to collect data from the bikes “to build an interconnected mobility network”. More here.
- PSA Group, meanwhile, is partnering with Bollore on car-sharing in cities including Los Angeles, as part of a push into mobility services – probably as part of a test for a potential return of Peugeot sales to the USA, reports Automotive News.
July 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
And it’s another heavy-duty Mercedes-Benz: following last week’s Future Bus, the Urban eTruck makes its debut in Stuttgart this week. It’s a 26-tonne three-axle, short-radius distribution truck, based on an existing Mercedes model but with new drive system: the rear axle is rear-driven by motors adjacent to the wheel hubs, as in the Citaro hybrid bus, giving 2x 125kW and 2x 500Nm of torque. Range is said to be up to 200km (“enough for a typical daily delivery tour”) thanks to three lithium-ion battery modules mounted within the frame; using the CCS charging system at 100kW it can be recharged to 100% in two to three hours.
Series production is “already conceivable at the beginning of the next decade”, apparently. M-B continues with its trials of the smaller Fuso Canter E-Cell, which have informed the development of this model, and an ongoing five-vehicle trial with parcel service provider Hermes in Stuttgart is looking at issues including topography and logistical deployment. Full suite of material on the eTruck here.
- And more Daimler: the launch of ‘smart ready to drop’, a service in partnership with DHL enabling parcel delivery to – or collection from – your (Smart) car [so small parcels only…]. This is via a ‘connectivity box’ which can be retro-fitted to existing Smart Fortwos, allowing the DHL driver to gain access to the boot via a one-time keyless access app (as in Car2Go vehicles). Beta-testing starts in Stuttgart, with Cologne, Bonn and Berlin to follow. More here. [Daimler is also looking at swarm intelligence in relation to digitalisation of mobility services and e-mobility, it emerges.]
- Yet more Daimler: Car2go has had a positive impact on emissions, traffic and parking in Calgary, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington DC, according to a study from UC Berkeley. The Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) concluded that the one way/on-demand service – used by nearly 9,500 members in these N American cities – resulted in fewer privately-owned cars on the road, fewer vehicle miles travelled and lower GHG emissions over a three-year period. Between 2-5% of members sold a vehicle and 7-10% did not buy a car thanks to their membership; each car2go car meant 7-11 cars were sold or not acquired (to a total of 28,000); mileage reductions were 6-16% in the cities (average 11%), GHG emissions were down 4-18% (average 10%). Further breakdown here.
- Meanwhile in the UK, we have a report linking poor suburban transport links with car-dependency and poverty: digest at the Guardian. Lengthy and expensive commutes, poor planning, poor public transport links and a lack of cycling infrastructure all get a mention…
- …but for those who can afford an electric car, some interesting news: former tennis player/gym chain entrepreneur David Lloyd has launched a new company called EV Hub. Idea is, reports the Mail on Sunday, that EV owners can roll up to the facilities and use office space or coffee shops (or gyms?) while their car is recharging. He’s planning a crowdsourcing campaign for five hubs in London initially, with later roll-out in other areas. Wonder what the cost-per-charge and/or membership demands are going to be for this, though?
- And another business model, albeit a somewhat grander vision: Elon Musk’s Master Plan, Part Deux. From the merger of SolarCity and Tesla will come a scaling-up and complete integration of home solar, energy storage and car charging; a compact SUV and a pick-up truck are on the drawing board; Tesla engineers are working on radical developments to its factory system; the Tesla Semi [heavy-duty truck; insert crude joke here] and a ‘high-density passenger urban transport’ proposal will be unveiled next year [he hints at a small, autonomously-driven bus]; advancing autonomy’; and, possibly most contentiously, adding your self-driving, on-demand Tesla to a shared fleet, ostensibly earning you money when it’s not in use. Can’t say I’m convinced that Tesla owners want to share, I have to say, but perhaps future customers for the Model 3 and other ‘lower-end’ vehicles may behave differently to Roadster and Model S owners…
June 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
Renault recently sponsored a project with industrial design students at London Central Saint Martins to develop an interior for a future autonomous car. Winning concept – presented last week at an event during Clerkenwell Design Week – was Project Oura, a ‘wearable’ vehicle with gesture controls and VR displays, beautifully animated. Runners up were a little less out-there but equally impressive: SYEO (Share Your Extra Office), a mobile work-pod, and Phantasy, a three-wheeled commuter vehicle with configurable interior, were both practical and realistic near-future proposals, very well-executed. The awards were presented by Renault’s VP of exterior design Anthony Lo, who spoke for a while before the announcement of the winner; he told me that (no surprise) Renault is preparing a concept for this autumn’s Paris motor show. I’m going to hazard a guess now that this is going to have some sort of autonomous capability/feature. More on the student projects, anyway, at Car Design News.
Other notes & jottings to get back up to speed with recent developments:
- Some insight from the ‘Cité Lib by Ha:mo’ mobility service trial in Grenoble, France: at the 18-month mark in this three-year Toyota-partnered trial, 1000-odd people have signed up for on-demand use of the i-Road and COMS mini-EVs. The vehicles are used more during the week and in commuting hours, average trip length is 5km and 45 minutes, most journeys are one-way and the most frequently-used locations are by the train station. Average users are 36-year old males in white-collar jobs, though 14% of users are students; 43% subscribe to other public transport services, 54% cycle 2 or 3 times a week, 41% cycle every day – and 74% also own at least one car. No data yet on any reductions in town traffic/congestion as yet, but feedback generally positive that this is A Good Thing, it seems. More here.
- Toshiba has developed a contactless induction charging system for electric buses and is starting trials of a 45-seater at Tokyo airport; the bus has an 89km range and takes 15min to charge, and it’s pointed out here that this is well-suited to shuttle-type activities between fixed locations. And in Paris, 23 Bollore Bluebuses are going into service on the city’s first all-electric bus route.
- Quick round-up of more auto OEMs’ recent activities in the new mobility sector: BMW’s iVentures division has invested in California/SF Bay Area carpooling app Scoop – which partners with major employers in the area – to add to its portfolio of digital mobility services and platforms. More here. Meanwhile, Volkswagen has taken a stake in taxi-hailing app (and Uber/Hailo rival) Gett; Toyota is collaborating with Uber itself, and Daimler is funding a mobility start-up ‘accelerator scheme’ in Stuttgart.
- Research from the European Climate Foundation underpins a statement from the EU Platform for Electromobility project that any future renewable energy directive “should actively promote the electrification of transport”. For cars and vans alone, it reckons electrification (including hybridisation) would generate up to 1.1million net jobs in the EU by 2030, and cut CO2 emissions by up to 93%, NOx emissions up up to 95% and particulates by up to 95% by 2050. More from Transport & Environment. T&E is also continuing to campaign against EU biodiesel policy, pointing out this week that 45% of palm oil imported to Europe is used in vehicles.
- More research on CNG: better used in power stations instead of coal or fuel oil, than for vehicles, according to a paper from Rice University which sees no benefits in terms of GHG emissions. It puts a hybrid petrol-electric Honda Civic as having lower (by 27%) well-to-wheel emissions than its CNG counterpart, and a CNG bus emitting 12% more CO2e than a diesel version. More details, references here.
- BMW has developed some autonomous-driving robots for one of its production facilities, powered by second-life i3 batteries which will last for an eight-hour shift. Recycled parts from cars helping build the next generation, autonomously… more here.
- [note to self] Oh, someone else using MLP theory to talk about transitions to electric vehicles… Anyway, Nilson & Nykvist are modelling scenarios for uptake and suggesting governmental/policy interventions including investment finance for fast/rapid-charging, durable incentives for uptake, consumer/business education, and support of structural and technological changes within auto industries.
January 15, 2016 § 2 Comments
Year-end totals for plug-in car sales in the UK: 28,188 registered in 2015 (of 2.6million overall, but a significant growth in market share nonetheless). Of these, 18,254 were plug-in hybrids and 9,934 (48%) all-electric. 9,186 of the total were registered in south-east England, but 4,420 went to the south-west and 3,371 to the West Midlands. Top-seller was, inevitably, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (11,681; latest version pictured), followed by the Nissan Leaf (5,236) and then the BMW i3 (2,213). Estimates from the government currently put plug-in cars as taking a 5% market share (around 100,000 a year) by 2020.
And estimates of electrified vehicle sales (incl. hybrids) cross-Europe stand at 2.2million a year by 2021, says PwC Autofacts; that’s a growing share, but still, let’s face it, pretty damn tiny in the great scheme of things. It’s also forecasting a dip in PHEV sales in Europe as government subsidies and tax breaks are being canned, i.e. in the Netherlands, although all-electric vehicle production is expected to rise. More here.
- The Fraunhofer IKTS research institute, Thyssenkrupp and IAV are working on an EV battery project: EMBATT aims to develop a more compact, more affordable and longer-range concept with cells integrated into the car’s chassis. A 1000-km range is targeted. More here.
- And BMW is working with the Viessmann Group on ‘digital energy solutions’ to optimise energy use, including static storage systems, for decentralised and flexible electricity supply. Better-integrating electromobility and its demands into (renewable) energy supply, I think is the gist of it.. more here.
- The Ubeeqo ‘mobility platform’ (majority-owned by Europcar) has launched in London and Paris, with other cities to follow: this gives access to cars on-demand via a service called Matcha (from £6 an hour, incl. fuel for the first 50 miles); conventional rental from Europcar, and taxi-booking. A range of public transport options are to be added. Effectively, it’s streamlining/aggregating access from different service providers; this is part of the start-up’s portfolio of corporate solutions, but now extended to private individuals. Not quite the ‘super app’ talked about by Bosch here, but a step in the right direction… (and meanwhile, the car-makers are all circling to negotiate their position in all of this; some detail on Audi’s current thinking here).
- On a further note of consolidation, the Uber API has been integrated into a (US) app called TransLoc Rider, which combines private and public transport options to facilitate multi-modal journeys and commutes. This will debut in Memphis and Raleigh/Durham next month. More here.
- And a different business model for car-sharing/on-demand: WaiveCar, just launched in California (Santa Monica and Venice Beach, says electrive.com) gives the first two hours free and then charges $5.99 an hour thereafter. But… the cars are rolling advertising billboards, funding the service.
- Amsterdam’s aiming for 4000 EV charging points, using wind-generated electricity, by 2018, with 1500 already; partner in the expansion is EV-Box, also aiming to kit out the Benelux countries.
- The biggest auto industry trend to 2025? Connectivity and digitalisation, says this year’s KPMG International Global Automotive Executive Survey (800 executives in 38 countries, plus 2100 consumers). Major business model disruption is also thought to be likely in the next five years. Leverage data from car and driver, says KPMG, to become a customer-oriented service provider. BMW and Toyota are expected to lead in e-mobility and autonomous driving – not least due to their strong brands and breadth of product portfolios compared to the upstart start-ups like Tesla.