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.
- The folks at Zap-Map have now added the new Tesla Destination Chargers (slower than Superchargers) to their increasingly comprehensive charging map database; also, for FCEV drivers, hydrogen pumps (only 15 of those so far in the UK, though).
- 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.
March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
Well, we were wondering why the BMW stand at the Geneva show was somewhat lacking in drama or surprises, and now we know: the big reveal was saved for this week and a special event in Munich marking the company’s centenary. To celebrate the big 100, BMW has revealed a concept reflecting ‘sheer driving pleasure of the future’, looking at trends and tech for the decades ahead. Main objective was for this vehicle not to be anonymous, but highly-personalised to suit each driver’s needs, with seamless interactions between human, machine and surroundings. Yet it had to still be driver-focused, and offer an ’emotional’ mobility experience, despite using advanced AI (with more humanised interactions) and new materials, including intelligent and networked materials created by 4D printing.
Design started with the interior, a roomy dome, with wellbeing a priority and, inevitably, autonomous elements: Ease mode, with ambient lighting and atmosphere when the driver can sit back, and Boost, a more dynamic DIY mode in which the car’s software – the ‘Companion’ – ‘learns’ about the driver and their style and preferences to support accordingly. The interface features what BMW terms ‘alive geometry’ – a 3D display set into the instrument panel and areas of the side panels, consisting of nearly 800 moving triangles giving gestural, often peripheral, information to the driver. Effectively, the whole windscreen can serve as a giant display, the head-up display working in parallel to an analogue dashboard, and BMW describes it as involving the driver “in a form of preconscious communication, where an intuitive signal predicts an imminent real-time event.” The Companion can also signal to other road-users the status of the vehicle (automated or not) and communicate to, for example, pedestrians that it is safe to cross.
BMW points out that most of its fabrics are recycled or renewable, with components such as the side panels also made from residues from carbonfibre production. It expects in the future for the use of less wood and leather, and no leather is used inside the Vision Next 100. No word on its powertrain, but at this stage in the game, I think we can safely assume that it’s (conceptually, at least) electrified. Full lowdown & much more detail from BMW here. Conclusions? However advanced its tech and interfaces are, and its ability to communicate with the outside world, the Vision Next 100 is still very much a car, and a personal one at that: for all its work on mobility services, BMW certainly doesn’t envisage this core part of its business going away any time soon.
March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
So, Geneva: a good show for electromobility, though probably a better event for supercar-lovers this year. If one got past the stands of McLaren, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Pagani et al, there were plenty of plug-ins nonetheless, covering pretty well all sectors of the market. At the exotic high-concept end was the Italdesign GTZero (pictured) – three motors giving 483bhp, a modular structure also allowing for a hybrid powertrain and a Lamborghini Espada-like design demeanour – and at the other, barely-even-a-car, end I have to admit that the styled up Citroen e-Mehari by Courreges (second image, below) caught my eye. Nice to see the Volkswagen Budd-e for real, too – lovely clean-looking design with a minimal, modern interior and well-developed connected-car vision, as well as its (putative) electric powertrain.
In between the extremes came the electric/PHEV/hybrid Hyundai Ioniq (exceedingly dull to look at, but then that’s probably the point; an important mainstream vehicle, all the same), the similarly three-way SsangYong SIV-2 SUV (still at concept stage), the oddball Morgan EV3, Toyota’s hybrid CH-R compact crossover, the Lexus LC 500h coupe (an underrated good-looker, I thought), plus the [Citroen] DS E-tense electric coupe concept (see below), which was great fun if, it has to be said, a bit silly and show-offy.
Croatia’s Rimac Automobili brought along its very limited-edition Concept_One supercar and its new ‘evil twin’, the Concept S (pictured), though the company’s tech and batteries are really where it’s at, and though there wasn’t any new news as such from Quant, it put on a strong stand with the near-road-ready Quantino, larger Quant F and a mock-up of how to refuel its nanoflowcell batteries with ioniq liquid (electrolyte-swapping; image below).
Nissan brought along the autonomous IDS as seen in Detroit with news that it was going to introduce ‘piloted drive’ on the Qashqai, as well as talking about its connected-car vision which includes smart EV-charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid link-ups enabling cars-as-energy-hubs; its ‘fuel station of the future’ concept co-developed with Foster & Partners describes autonomous parking-up to wirelessly charge, for example. Lots of talk about ‘mobility’, not least from Volkswagen which announced three new ‘Volkswagen Future Centers’ in Potsdam, China and California where designers and ‘digitalisation experts’ will work alongside each other on software, UX, HMI/interface design, infotainment, new interior concepts and services; it was bullish about electromobility, too, with big investment in Audi in particular to spearhead new plug-in model introductions. Hyundai also announced its ‘Project Ioniq’, research & development on future mobility ideas. Much, then, in the wake of #dieselgate, to be positive about.
September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
OK, quick precis of the mammoth metal-fest that is the Frankfurt Motor Show… Most jaw-dropping for me design-wise was the stunning shark-nosed Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA – how to nod to your history yet produce something futuristic as well – and it also happened to have a PHEV powertrain. Much of the tech and interior styling of the self-driving F015, very cool extending rear louvres and other speed-sensitive flaps/spoilers enhancing its already slippery aerodynamics, and the considerable probability that it’s previewing the next CLS.
Closer to a production car, however, was the all-electric Porsche Mission e; also a four-door, four-seater coupe, this one promises 600hp+, 0-62mph in less than 2.5 seconds and a range of over 500km plus 800-volt ultra-rapid ‘Porsche Turbo Charging’ giving 80% of battery charge in 15 minutes. Induction charging-compatible, too. Loved the Peugeot Fractal (see earlier post), effectively an experiment in interior acoustics but also featuring a (functional) 200bhp e-powertrain with a motor driving each axle plus a 450km range; however, was underwhelmed, at least aesthetically, by the three-motor, 800Nm, 130mph Audi e-tron quattro, though it does have an interesting button-free cockpit and also a 500km range…
Otherwise, the Borgward BX7 SUV (PHEV variant promised) wasn’t exactly exciting, but the Nissan Gripz concept (pictured), a high-riding 2+2 inspired by the Safari Rally-winning 240Z (like the thinking) and with (theoretical) electrified powertrain, was great fun. BMW showed four new plug-in hybrids, 740e, 330e, 225xe and X5 XDrive40e, Volkswagen is promising a GTE PHEV version of the new Tiguan, and Toyota had three new hybrids – an updated/nearer -production C-HR concept (small SUV), new-generation RAV4 Hybrid (bigger) and of course, the Mk4 Prius, as well as its Mirai fuel cell car, making its Euro debut.
Reborn Artega is hoping to make a limited production-run of its Scalo (updated, electric version of the GT) and, importantly, its parent company has a whole load of EV tech to licence, although the electric Roding roadster turned out to just be a rolling showcase for Siemens. However, the prize for total batshit craziness had to go to the Thunder Power EV (see earlier post), seen in Frankfurt in white-painted luxury-spec and also tricked out as a hardcore GT racer. Turns out this Taiwanese wannabe-Tesla has been designed by Zagato.
September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Peugeot’s concept for the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show is the Fractal: a compact two-seater electric coupe with removable roof panel, featuring the latest iteration of Peugeot’s i Cockpit interior design (head-up display, holographic screen, configurable screens), a top-end audio system and a ‘sound signature’ to warn pedestrians and stimulated by smartwatch-controlled door-opening. Interior trim is mostly (80%) made from 3D-printed parts, and power comes from e-motors on front and rear axles delivering a total 150kW/204hp plus a range of 450km/280 miles.
Adaptive ride height aids ground clearance and aerodynamics on different terrains and in potholed/speed-bumped urban conditions, and it sits on 3D-printed 19-inch wheels designed for low noise levels. Its lithium-ion batteries are housed in the central tunnel for optimum weight distribution and power is distributed between all four wheels according to grip and traction for optimum energy recovery; each motor is differently-geared, and while the rear motor handles acceleration from the get-go, the front kicks in beyond 62mph. 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds. The Fractal is sync-ed with a Samsung Gear S smartwatch for battery status, charging info, interior temperature and vehicle location info, as well as for door-opening and setting of the air con and sound system. More here. Oh, and PSA Peugeot-Citroen has also just set up a DS-brand division called DS Performance, nominally to support the DS Formula E racing team but probably also to develop electric and hybrid tech.
April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
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.
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Well, I knew there had to be some point to the Koenigsegg Regera PHEV other than willy-waving over it being the most powerful and fastest-accelerating production car ever (as Koenigsegg claims). Besides showing off the Swedish carmaker’s no-gearbox Direct Drive Transmission (KDD) with hydraulic coupling, three Yasa axial-flux motors (replacing the gears), torque-vectoring and KERS (to give a 50km all-electric range), it features a Rimac Automobili battery pack which can deliver 500kW of power and absorb 150kW from the regen. This has been radically light-weighted to just 115kg yet can deliver 4.35kW per kg and 9.27kWh. More details on that from Rimac, which hopes to collaborate further with Koenigsegg “in various fields”. (Mate Rimac and Christian von Koenigsegg pictured).
And at the near-polar opposite end of the market: Suzuki’s cute little iM-4 mini-4×4 concept – previewing a replacement for the elderly Jimny, and an all-new platform for the brand – isn’t just about stripped-down, slightly retro styling: it showcases a mild hybrid system with integrated starter-generator, regenerative braking and e-assistance to the 1.2-litre engine. Release posted here.
- In other, non-Geneva news: the government Transport Committee’s Motoring of the Future report has been published: it calls for the DfT to develop a comprehensive strategy for introducing new technologies (including driverless vehicle tech and alt-fuels) with five main aims. These are reducing road fatalities/casualties; cutting emissions from road transport; facilitating social inclusion and accessibility of road transport; supporting economic growth; and increasing road capacity. First two aims good, rest more debatable: surely we should be reducing dependency on road transport infrastructure and building better alternatives? Anyway, there’s not a lot to say on electromobility beyond a few obvious points on establishing charging infrastructure, raising awareness and renewable electricity supplies; the government seems far more excited about driverless cars, automated technologies, telematics and data collection, with (valid) questions raised about security, governance and legislation. Disappointing.