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.



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.

CES: first news from Bosch, Faraday…

January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

bosch ces conceptIs this a new roofless version of the fabric-bodied EDAG Light Cocoon, my favourite concept at the Geneva show last year, modded by Bosch? Looks like it to me. Anyway, Bosch is showing off its vision of the car as personal assistant at CES, and its haptic-feedback touchscreen controls, cloud-connected functions and assistance systems. Aim is to minimise driver distraction, give more intelligent safety alerts (incl. wrong-way), sync up driver preferences, diaries and route guidance, and provide autopilot functions (of course). Bosch is also talking about connections to smart homes – controls of heating, security – and online services, as well as the ‘connected horizon’ of real-time traffic and safety data, and infrastructure-enabled automated valet parking. Full details here, and on the smart-home suite of tech here.


So, the Faraday Future FFZERO1 unveiled at CES, Las Vegas: only a concept as yet, looks a bit silly and toy-like, but under the wannabe-Batmobile surface is some tech to underpin some proper cars, apparently. The Variable Platform Architecture can be easily reconfigured for different vehicle types, two- or four-wheel-drive, and to house up to three motors and additional ‘strings’ of batteries.  This single-seater, carbonfibre composite-bodied concept has four motors delivering 200mph, 986bhp and a claimed 0-60 in less than three seconds. Theoretically. Feedback on Faraday so far suggests that the firm (backed by China’s Letv media conglomerate) sees itself more as a tech firm and infotainment-provider than a car-maker (no surprises in that statement) with some interesting ideas on non-traditional ownership/leasing models (i.e. availability of different cars on-demand) and that the concept previews some autonomous-driving tech, including smartphone-controlled functions and augmented-reality displays. More detail, pictures, here.

  • GM has announced a partnership with ridesharing platform Lyft “to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles” in the US. In the short-term, this means GM will supply cars to Lyft drivers at rental hubs in selected US cities, Lyft will use GM’s OnStar services, and both will develop “joint mobility offerings” – personalised services – “through their respective channels”, long before the longer-term autonomous fleet arrives.
  • Meanwhile, Volvo has been talking about its work with Ericsson to develop content-streaming for autonomous vehicles – high-definition TV, music and other high-bandwidth services, linked with ‘learning’ route preferences and traffic predictions to deliver the right-length entertainment for the journey. Interesting stat: Ericsson’s research reckons that 70% of all mobile data traffic will be for video in coming years.
  • In non-CES news… A bit cheaper than the Boris buses – the DfT is putting up £7million in its Clean Bus Technology Fund to retro-fit 439 existing buses with SCR (selective catalytic reduction) tech to reduce NOx emissions (by an estimated 50%-90%).
  • Are electric vehicles really the best option for greener driving? A rather misleadingly-titled piece at The Conversation which doesn’t so much answer the question as put the case for hybridisation, hydrogen and ‘electrofuels’ (those synthesised using renewable electricity, i.e. methane or liquid methanol). Arguments against EVs: batteries are expensive, European grid currently uses nearly 50% fossil fuels (both short-term-ist issues). Electrofuels “represent the minimum change to the status quo” – sure, but shouldn’t we be aiming for a bit more than that? Problem is, though, with these kinds of pieces is that it sets up a false either-or argument of one fuel type vs another, when really it should be about the right fuels for the right applications, i.e. in different sectors and niches (point is made about synthetic hydrocarbons for aviation, for example). There’s no one solution.
  • And Heathrow Airport is to install 135 EV charging points – each with two power outlets – in a bid to improve its sustainability (such things are all relative). Should help out the increasing number of electric private-hire vehicles and taxis on the airport run, anyway, and reduce the (anecdotally-reported) problem of certain firms hogging the rapid-chargers at the nearby service station…

CES: BMW ChargeForward trial and Home Charging Services

January 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

bmw solar carportBMW is to trial grid-balancing, grid optimisation and cost-efficiency with Pacific Gas & Electric Company in its i ChargeForward Program, and is looking to recruit up to 100 i3 drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The 18-month program, to start in July 2015, will look at managed/deferred charging (controlled via smartphone app), and also at second-life battery applications – eight used Mini E batteries (with a remaining 70% capacity) are to be repurposed into a static solar system at the BMW tech office in Mountain View to store energy and return it to the grid. The i ChargeForward app to be trialled includes informing drivers that – due to peak grid load – charging will be stopped for up to an hour (unless they opt to continue). Also at CES, BMW demoed its i Home Charging Services, a development (pictured, in solar carport) using the Wallbox Pro to automatically charge a vehicle from cheaper off-peak power or the house’s own domestic solar electricity when available; it also showed a concept static home energy storage system using repurposed i-car batteries. More on all the above here in handy rundown; full BMW CES presskit here.

  • Toyota announced at CES that it’s doing its bit to shape the future of mobility as hydrogen-driven, and has made over 5,680 of its fuel cell-related patents royalty-free, including those for technology in the new Mirai saloon; around 1,970 of these are related to fuel cell stacks, 290 with high-pressure hydrogen tanks, 3,350 with fuel cell control system software and 70 to hydrogen production and supply. “By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the development of new technologies and move into the future of mobility more quickly, effectively and economically”, said Bob Carter, Senior VP of Automotive Operations, Toyota Motor Sales USA. Patents will be available to automakers, fuel cell component suppliers, energy companies and firms developing/making fuel cell buses and industrial vehicles such as forklift trucks; applications for non-transportation applications “will be evaluated on a case by case basis”. Toyota’s release also refers to “the company’s aggressive support for developing a hydrogen-based society”. Indeed. More detail here.
  • Audi has confirmed that its autonomously-driven A8 will go on sale in 2016: the tech will only be operating at up to 60kph and for parking manoeuvres, but this is indicative of the incremental introduction of self-driving vehicles. More here. Audi demoed its A7 Piloted Driving Prototype at CES, having had it guide itself from Palo Alto, California, to Vegas. And Volkswagen is also doing the automated-parking thing – and taking it a stage further with the e-Golf. It’s wired one up for inductive charging, and you can remotely position the car on the induction plate to maximise its uptake; more here.
  • Here’s the kind of emerging service which could aid electromobility: Powertree Services has launched (in San Francisco) rental of parking spaces in apartment buildings with hook-up to rooftop solar panels for EV-charging. Drivers can charge their cars at their own building or other Powertree facilities, building owners/freeholders can earn money from the rental of parking spaces (and rooftop space). (Via Treehugger).
  • Chip-maker NVIDIA is gunning for the autonomous car market, reports Transport Evolved, which quotes CEO Jen-Hsung Huan as saying: “Mobile supercomputing will be central to tomorrow’s car. With vast arrays of cameras and displays, cars of the future will see and increasingly understand their surroundings. Whether finding their way back to you from a parking spot or using situational awareness to keep them out of harm’s way, future cars will do many amazing, seemingly intelligent things. Advances in computer vision, deep learning and graphics have finally put this dream within reach”. NVIDIA’s Drive PX ‘deep learning’ system enables auto parking space location and parking – and for the owner to later summon and ‘meet’ their car at an arranged location.


Design Concept of the Day: Mercedes-Benz F 015

January 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

merc f015Its full name is “F 015 Luxury in Motion”, but I can’t quite bring myself to type that in a headline. Anyway, this Merc concept, on show at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (more news from CES to follow), is an autonomously-driven four-door monospace lounge-saloon, longer and roomier than the S-Class, with a CFRP/steel construction said to give a 40% weight reduction, and furnished with four rotating armchair-type seats. These can be swivelled for face-to-face contact, set up for working or for entertainment, and swing outwards by 30 degrees when the doors are opened for easier climbing-in and -out. The cabin’s described as “a digital arena”, with six screens on the instrument panel, rear and side panels, controlled by touch-screen, gesture or even eye-tracking and using laser-projection and LED displays.
It can be ‘driven’ manually, it seems, but this camera- and sensor-equipped car’s in constant contact with the outside world and can be commanded to operate fully-autonomously (there’s a pedestrian-detection system with automatic braking, of course, though this, spookily, involves projection of a virtual zebra-crossing and the broadcasting of a message that it’s safe to cross. Not sure I like the sound of cars issuing instructions). Says Daimler chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche, “we have a master plan (my italics) in place to take the big leap required getting from technically feasible to commercially viable.” Dr Zetsche also makes the very salient point that, by 2030, given the expected growth in the global mega-cities, “the single most important luxury goods of the 21st century are private space and time… autonomously-driving cars by Mercedes-Benz shall offer exactly that.”
Also notable is the F 015’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, with hydrogen fuel cell plus pair of electric motors; it’ll have a range of 684 miles (124 miles in all-electric mode) and can do 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds, reports Autocar – which quotes Dr Zetsche as saying: “Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society. The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.” Luxury in Motion for those who can afford it, at least.
  • News on the Detroit Electric SP.01 Lotus-alike (£100,500 starting price): to go into production in Leamington Spa for 2016, reports Autocar, just in case you were keeping tabs on this one.
  • Some more thoughts on ‘peak car’ from Scott LeVine, looking at driver licencing amongst young men in particular: the decline in their driving (both in terms of mileage driven and licence-holding) appears to have stabilised; there appears to be little correlation between reduced driving/internet usage and attitudes to environmental concerns; economic factors are an issue (including low pay, employment rates); the more difficult driving test and cost of lessons are off-putting; still a lot of questions unanswered, basically
  • And some more detail (via the abovementioned S LeV) in a report for the RAC Foundation (Berington and Mikolai), using the Understanding Society data: young adults’ licence-holding correlates with age, education, economic activity status, individual income, living arrangement, housing tenure and rural/urban locality; reported mileage relates to age, commuting, economic activity status (more pronounced effects for women), individual income and area type, with one of the most important correlates being whether they drive to work. Not driving (despite having a licence) is associated with having low socioeconomic status/being unemployed, remaining in education, living in London and in shared accommodation. The report also points out the growing phenomenon of “emerging adulthood” – staying in parental home/studying for longer, later marriage/children/home ownership, etc, “important structural changes in the way that young adults make their transition from school to work” – and the impact of intergenerational financial support (i.e. having affluent parents who pay for driving lessons). It suggests looking further into the link between lower driving and the expansion of higher education since the 1990s; and whether there is actually a shift in lifestyle and preferences that will mean this generation’s lower driving rates will continue as they age, have children and soforth.
  • Trend-reporting from Ford for 2015, looking at Generation Z (born 1993-): they’re digitally-savvy, socially-conscious, into sharing rather than tying themselves into soon-to-be-obsolete tech, don’t like carrying stuff (keys, wallets etc) and are looking at a convergence of transport and communication, amongst other claimed insights in the Looking Further With Ford 2015 report, outlined and linked-to here.
  • And a report by John Urry et al (incl. folk from the Centre for Mobilities Research and Liveable Cities teams at Lancaster University) for the government’s Foresight Future of Cities project. This outlines historic urban growth and suggests five possible future scenarios – High-Tech City, Digital City, Liveable City and Fortress City (surveillance, etc) – hydrogen-fuelled, shared/on-demand driverless cars and slow-moving microvehicles feature in the first three projections, related to changes in commuting/working patterns, localism, virtual communication and soforth. The fourth scenario is the Mad Max social/infrastructural breakdown… But could larger cities see a mixture/combination of these by district?



Electric vehicle sales figures, transport news and bumper EV research round-up

January 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

madeira-drive-charging-pointOK, so we all know by now that 2013 was a bumper year in the UK for new car sales (2,264,737, up 10.8% on 2012), but in and amongst that consumer frenzy, sales of hybrid and plug-in cars also rose – up 20.5% to 32,715. Sales of pure electric cars were up 99% to 2,512; and other plug-ins i.e. RE-EV, plug-in hybrids up 8.1% to 1,072. Plug-in vehicles accounted for 11% of all plug-in/hybrid electrified vehicle sales (up from 4.5% in 2011). 26,017 petrol-electric hybrids were sold (up 10.2%), and 3,114 diesel-electric (142.5%). Figures from SMMT.

  • EV sales in France: up 55% in 2013 to 8,779 units (from 5,663 in 2012). Best-seller – unsurprisingly – the Renault Zoe (5,511, 62.8% of the market), followed by the Nissan Leaf (1,438) and Bolloré Bluecar (658). Van-wise, 5,175 sold (up 42% on 2012’s 3,651), and the French also bought 46,785 hybrids (32,799 petrol-electric, 13,986 diesel-electric, up 60% on the 29,120 hybrid registrations in 2012). (Via Green Car Congress).
  • And in the US, hybrids accounted for 3.2% of the total car market last year (compared to 3.0% in 2012); over 96,050 plug-in cars of all types were sold (less than 1% of the market, but a surge on 2012’s 53,172. The exact numbers are slightly hazy – Tesla and Fiat 500e sales estimated – but Hybridcars does a detailed job.
  • Another app launched at CES: EnLighten, from Green Driver, which uses location information and current traffic data to predict when a city’s dynamic traffic light system will turn a light green, and then alerts the driver a few seconds before to refocus their attention and prepare them for the get-go. It syncs with the lights in Portland and Eugene, Oregon; Pasadena, Arcadia and San Jose in California; Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, and Garland, Texas so far, with 5o cities targeted to take part by the end of the year. Full story at New Scientist. At the moment, it’s a bit what’s-the-point, but there’s potential here for optimising EV range, smoothing-out progress to aid fuel consumption, integration with autonomous driving/platooning, etc., I reckon.
  • Brussels is considering turning its centre car-free, reports Atlantic Cities: the Belgian (and Euro) capital has a new mayor committed to creating a pedestrian zone. This follows the (not new) story about Hamburg (a ‘green network’ over 4o% of the city’s area) which has been doing the rounds again this week. And continuing on a cars-in-cities theme, London Assembly chair @DarrenJohnsonAM (Green councillor, Lewisham) has just tweeted: “TfL tell me today that research in London has shown casualty rates have halved in those areas with 20mph. That speaks for itself.” Indeed.
  • Plug Power Inc is developing 10kW hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for 20 FedEx electric delivery trucks. This $3million US DoE project also involves Smith Electric Vehicles, and will see a near-doubling of range from the current 80 miles. More at Green Car Congress.

And a load of EV- related research papers I’ve come across in recent issues/volumes of the journal Energy Policy:

  • Some data and number-crunching from Newcastle University and the Switch EV trial: analysis of over 7700 recharging ‘events’ and 31,765 electric vehicle journeys found that peak electricity demand from private users was in the evening at home; individual ‘organisation’ vehicles were mostly plugged in at work upon arrival; and ‘pool’ EVs were recharged at work and at public recharging points throughout the day. It also emerged (in focus groups) that some drivers who could recharge at home instead chose to recharge at public facilities – because these were free and, even more crucially, gave them free parking in town. The researchers recommend smart meters to defer home recharging to off-peak times (after 23.00) and pay-as-you-go charging at public points to even out demand. Full study (open access) here; lots of very useful (for me) references, too.
  • Here’s an Italian case study on smart grids, smart metering and electromobility, looking at the role of regulation and intervention.
  • A look-ahead on evolution of the transport sector this century, and how to decarbonize it: the latter will happen later than in the power sector, due to the cost of changes; hydrogen and fuel cells will become dominant but not till after 2050 due to the cost of infrastructure; electric cars better fit the current infrastructure and short-term;  but electric transportation more expensive long-term, unless electric car costs drop by at least 40%.
  • A paper in the latest Energy Policy (February 2014) argues that US federal policies to incentivise EV take-up have been misguided in focusing on mainstream consumers: instead, they should focus in niche markets, and specifically car-sharing and postal fleets, as well as ‘green’ consumers/early-adopters. It’s all about strategic niche management.
  • From the same issue (65) of Energy Policy: a study of EVs in Germany modelling hourly power demand according to size of car suggests that in a future power system, the cars would demand only 2% more electricity, which would not affect system stability if adequate grid-to-vehicle tech for charging/discharging batteries was deployed. Vehicle-to-grid tech (electricity back to the grid from cars) is not a viable economic solution due to battery costs, however, but EV use and G2V/V2G can help further solar/wind power integration into the grid.
  • And here’s a discussion about ‘peak oil’ – the biases and inaccuracies on either side, why the debate has died down, but why it has ongoing relevance.
  • And some modelling (forecasts) of light-duty electric fleets for transportation planners in the US: three case studies looking at investments over 40 years and subsequent cost/gasoline/emissions savings. Demand for electricity will rise, but greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced for little cost by switching from coal-fired to renewable-source power stations.
  • Oh, and a survey of over 2300 adult drivers in 21 of the largest cities in the US found that nearly two-thirds gave incorrect answers to factual questions about EVs, 75% underestimated their value and advantages, and 94.5% were unaware of consumer or federal incentives for EV purchase in their area. Demographic and attitudinal characteristics had the most effect on interest in EVs or plug-in hybrids; misperceptions all round and better consumer information needed.
  • Not just hot air: a substantial part of the extra electricity demanded by EVs in Germany could be met by ‘otherwise unused’ wind power – if there is sufficient conventional power to stabilise the grid. Wind power use is limited by ‘bottlenecks in the transmission grid’ and cars’ charging demand. Full study/projections here. But again, using EVs as back-up energy storage (‘secondary reserve’) is not economically viable for consumers/customers, according to this study.
  • And in Ireland, an ‘environmental’ premium and subsidies for EVs would have to be hiked to “incredible” levels to reach the government’s 10% market share target, according to this forecast. (And consumer tax credits for EVs crucial in the US, too, says this one).
  • An Italian study argues that success of EVs is hampered by the limits and costs of battery systems, and that research and development spend needs to be doubled if battery cost is to be competitive by 2030; it recommends investment in lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride.
  • And another, modelling R&D spend: EVs will not dominate till after 2050, and limited innovation in batteries means a higher cost in policies; but even if capital costs of EVs remains higher than for ICEs, EVs will still play key role in the necessary policy-driven decarbonisation of transport.
  • In more of a wider-view approach, the barriers to EV adoption are down to socio-technical inertia, this paper argues. Its authors cite the immaturity of developing technologies as a cause of non-commercialisation; EVs not currently representing a significant benefit to the electricity sector; reliance on regulatory and governmental measures; and the problem of ‘lock-in’ to unsustainable technologies. They call for a “positive milieu for innovation”
  • One from Carnegie Mellon University, PA: Lifetime costs and emissions savings of electric, hybrid, plug-in and extended-range vehicles are highly dependent upon how, and where, they are driven: lifecycle emissions on the ‘NYC’ cycle can be cut by up to 60%, and costs by up to 20%, but reductions are marginal on highway test conditions at higher costs. But aggressive driving reduces the all-electric range of plug-ins by up to 45%. The authors advise careful targeting of drivers to encourage adoption, representative testing to enhance consumer perception, and discuss policy implications.
  • Some thoughts and recommendations for the development of EV use in China here.
  • Smart-charging of EVs can give annual savings for energy providers in electricity-sourcing costs of up to 45%, but the saving per car is minimal; discussion of incentives to deploy smart infrastructure here in this one.
  • But why are we bothering with alt-fuel vehicles at all? To contain emissions and improve vehicle energy efficiency, we’d be better off (in the US and China, at least), we’d be better off focusing on the sectors that supply fuel than the choice of fuels for cars itself, as well as managing travel demand and improving efficiency of existing ICE technologies, this paper from the University of Michigan argues.

Concept of the Day: Local Motors Ariel Cruiser

January 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

lm ariel cruiserAn e-bike theme emerging today: Local Motors is showing off the Ariel Cruiser (also available with petrol power) at CES, having recently announced a crowd-funding campaign to raise cash to build it.

Incidentally, Local Motors has popped up as an inspiration in the winter show of this year’s crop of MA students on the Automotive and Transport Design course, Coventry University. The well-thought-out flex-fuel Local Motors Canvas is the work of James Kerr, who has tapped into the Local Motors open-source/co-creation community and its focus on micro-manufacturing and customisation around a basic platform (a kind of DIY Gordon Murray ethic, maybe). The Canvas uses the Local Motors chassis with carbonfibre frame, plastic interior ‘tub’ passenger compartment and synthetic fabric exterior panels; more at his Local Motors portfolio. FormTrends is posting galleries of pictures of other Coventry students’ concepts, including Aaron McTurk’s CITY (Compact Intelligent Transport for You), a low-weight single-seater and Can Huang’s Sustainable Future Sports Car styling study. More to follow, no doubt.

  • Detailed lowdown on the Bosch-Aston Martin DB9 plug-in hybrid prototype in the latest (very good) issue of Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International; the V12 is supplemented by a pair of front-mounted electric motors plus a third on the engine belt, adds torque vectoring, and it’s quicker than the original despite the weight gain. It’s just a demo project for Bosch, however.
  • Also from Bosch: in and amongst its lengthy list of displays and activities at CES, there’s an interesting little nugget about a ‘connected city’ project in Monaco. The Monaco 3.0 pilot will initially focus on mobility, with the aim of making Monte Carlo’s urban centre highly internet-of-things enabled by 2015; first to be connected are bus networks, parking lots, paper/waste collection facilities and road-work information, with residents able to access real-time information and deal with the relevant authorities directly. Bosch promises that communication between various service providers will also be improved, and gives the example of informing maintenance-workers and users in the event of problems with the city’s many public elevators and escalators.
  • Latest forecasts from Navigant Research: there’ll be more than 700,000 plug-in EVs on the world’s roads by the end of 2014; the PEV market will grow 86% in the US with sales of over 346,000 electric vehicles this year; most growth will be in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, but in both high-end and mainstream sectors. Navigant has 10 predictions for the year: carmakers will push for changes to the Californian ZEV mandate; Tesla will have a bumpy year; it’ll be a ‘breakout year’ for e-motorcycles; EV-makers will look to alternative forms of revenue including home energy management, data-gathering, entertainment, carsharing and information services; the launch of fuel cell vehicles will spur FCV vs EV debate/hype; EVs “will play a leading role in carshare growth”; wireless charging will hit the streets; EVs will save over a million tonnes of cO2 emissions in the US; more than 2.2 e-motors will be sold (including for hybrids) in the US; vehicle-to-grid projects will expand and start to create revenue. Handy rundown at Green Car Congress.
  • At the other end of the plug-in vehicle scale, Bentley’s plug-in hybrid SUV (a Range Rover/Cayenne rival) has been confirmed for 2017. Will even come with a towbar, reports Auto Express. Which justifies its existence, obviously.
  • Ricardo is to lead a feasibility study commissioned by the DfT on platooning of heavy goods vehicles. Road trials later this year.

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