Concept of the Day: ACM City eTaxi

June 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

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

  • More Munich: the city’s first ‘E-Sharing Station’ has opened for hire of EVs, electric cargo bikes, bicycles and scooters. It’s based in a solar-panelled facility on the new-build Domagkpark housing development, which appears to have been designed from scratch with a view to reducing car-dependency (and car ownership rates) of its 4000-odd residents – particular attention has been paid to bicycle parking and storage. More here.
  • Zipcar is adding 50 Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrids to its on-street fleet in London – 40 in Westminster, 10 elsewhere. “With dedicated charging stations”, apparently, for their reserved parking bays – no chance of these being shared with other EV users. Rental rates are from £7 an hour, all-electric range is a claimed 31 miles, more than enough for nipping about the city, should you need to.
  • Daimler does stationary energy storage: it has established a new division called Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH, incorporating its wholly-owned subsidiary Accumotive, which will  build both automotive and industrial static storage systems, highly-scalable. The new division has ambitious plans for global expansion and partnerships, seeing a diverse range of applications for the tech, and expects rapid growth, reports Green Car Congress.
  • A fuel cell vehicle-sharing scheme is starting in Munich: Hyundai is providing 50 ix35 FCVs to BeeZero, backed by Linde AG, with an element of real-world trial and infrastructure-building. More here.
  • And Europcar has bought up Spanish car-sharing/tech start-up Bluemove, merging it into multi-modal platform Ubeeqo, in which it has a majority stake. Bluemove has 47,000 users in Madrid, Seville and Malaga, reports Intelligent Mobility Insight, and will soon launch in Barcelona and Valencia.
  • More from Spain: SEAT, Volkswagen Group Research & the Universitat Politecnica de Cataluna are establishing a research & innovation hub for urban mobility in Barcelona. CARNET – Cooperative Automotive Research Network – is to look at and trial tech solutions and concepts, including multimodal stations and ‘microcities’ for city transport, a ride-sharing platform and an app for finding parking spaces, reports Intelligent Mobility Insight.
  • Apple is entering the world of independent power producers (IPPs), reports elektrek.com: this is selling excess electricity from its own rooftop solar arrays, via a new division called Apple Energy. This would feed into the local supply system, probably for ancillary services – such as vehicle charging. Shows how a new ecosystem/model of renewably-fuelled microgrids is emerging; elektrek also names Google, Ikea and Walmart as playing this game.
  • Route Monkey is developing an app and online portal for EV users for route-planning, turn-by-turn directions and identification of charging points en route, with real-time journey and battery data. Route times can be calculated including recharging times. The R&D is supported by a grant from Scottish Enterprise, and is with consumers and small fleets in mind.
  • Transport for London is trialling a pilot alert scheme with Twitter for direct notifications of delays on key services – the first live travel info partnership with Twitter for instant direct-message notifications in this way. It’s an opt-in via the existing TfL overground, rail, Central Line and District Line feeds (Intelligent Mobility Insight).
  • BMW is supplying 100 i3s (all-electric) to the Los Angeles Police Department; interesting note here is not just that smog-bound LA has a 50% guideline for EV procurement by fleets in the city, rising to 80% in 2025, but that the suite of ConnectedDrive services and data management were key selling points. More here.
  • Kia is working with UC Irvine on a smart-grid study, looking at V2G smart-charging algorithms, predicting vehicle charging demand and behaviour, and further evaluating vehicles’ impact on the grid. It’s supplying six Soul EVs. More here.
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Geneva 2016: the aftermath

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

IMG_1312So, 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.

IMG_1304In 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.

 

IMG_1331Croatia’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).

 

 

IMG_1327Nissan 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.

 

Friday news round-up

January 15, 2016 § 2 Comments

mitsu outlander phevYear-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.

 

 

Detroit show snippets, more on mobility…

January 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

2016_NAIAS_Kymeta_Mirai_02Snippets from the Detroit motor show this week (no, no Panic in Detroit… aaaah): first up, some satellite tech from Kymeta, maker of flat-panel antennae, fitted to the roof of a Toyota Mirai. Liquid-crystal chemistry plus software means no mechanical componentry and easy integration, plus “much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies”, says Toyota. It’s said to be stable, giving broad global coverage and common standards – and could just be the enabler for next-gen connected-car, autonomous and vehicle networking systems. Ground control to… no, stop it.

  • Volkswagen’s Tiguan GTE Active concept – toughened-up version of its smaller SUV – is a hybrid with an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. Squeezes out a claimed 75mpg (US) from the 1.4 TSI petrol engine with an electric motor driving each axle; more here. Not a gamechanger but, well, better than a diesel SUV, I suppose.
  • Audi, meanwhile, has turned its e-tron quattro into a fuel cell-driven SUV, now h-tron; 124mph, a 373-mile range and a four-minute hydrogen refuelling time, apparently, with production on course for 2020.
  • Interesting in that this takes electrification to a different sector: there will be a PHEV version of the new Chrysler Pacifica (replacement for the Town & Country/Grand Voyager big MPV), giving a claimed all-e range of 30 miles. Given the short daily-drive routines of people-carriers like this, appropriate. Also, lowdown on Ford Fusion (US-market Mondeo) hybrid and Energi (PHEV) versions here: Fusion Energi does 19 miles in all-e mode, they say.
  • And in terms of non-metal product, Ford is launching a service called FordPass in February: free membership, open to non-Ford owners, with reward/loyalty scheme, parking space location/reservations app, FlightCar (borrowing/sharing cars), mobility/transport advice, FordPay mobile payments and more to come, all linked up to FordHubs (‘innovation centres’ rather than trad dealerships, one coming to London). More here.
  • Survey from IBM presented in Detroit: A New Relationship – People and Cars; notes that consumers are interested in autonomous, self-driving and adaptive, preference-learning vehicles, but don’t necessarily want to own one. The study – 16,494 consumers in 16 countries interviewed – looks at expectations of vehicle use in the next ten years, and concludes that the private car will continue to be a primary mode of transportation nonetheless. However, there is interest in part/shared ownership of cars, access by subscription and on-demand ride-sharing, and automakers need to develop new revenue-streams, buyer experiences and customer models. More in handy digest here.
  • In non-Detroit news: research for BMW at MIT has developed a photovoltaic polymer film to capture and store solar energy to de-ice windscreens. Implication is that this could mitigate against the estimated 30% range reduction in an electric vehicle due to heating, cooling and de-icing. More here.
  • Pipping the Bollore cars to the (charging) post, E-Car Club has launched in East London: £5.50 per hour, Renaults Zoe and Fluence in Poplar and Bow. More here.
  • Though incidentally, some research from Erasmus University is suggesting that car-sharing and car clubs don’t lead to mileage reductions, and that displacement from public or active transport can actually mean more car use. Reductions are seen only in specific scenarios when club car use replaces a single high-mileage private car, or when drivers are truly convinced of the benefits, apparently. Original paper – in Dutch – here (I think)…
  • …but more significant benefits can be seen in wider Mobility as a Service (MaaS) trials, such as one in Gothenburg, which involve modal shift and a wider range of transport choices/incentives. More on the UbiGo project here, too.
  • Report on London’s air quality issues (NOx, primarily, these days) from The Policy Exchange; concludes that diesel cars remain main culprits and the ‘improvements’ from Euro 6 compliance may be overstated, with gas-fired CHP (combined heat and power) systems a further concern. Some handy references involved.

 

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.

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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…

Electrification, connectivity, automation: Bosch showcases Mobility Solutions thinking

June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

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And in another overdue catch-up, my recent day at Bosch… Presentations from executives took three key themes: automation, connected-car technologies and electrification. Forecasts for electrification are relatively conservative: over 90% of new cars sold worldwide five years from now will still have some sort of ICE; by 2025, some 15% worldwide (over a third, in Europe) will have at least a hybrid powertrain, including 3million PHEVs and 2.5million all-electric vehicles. But electrification is seen primarily as an add-on to extend the lifespan of the ICE, at least in the short- to medium-term: says Dr Rolf Bulander, Bosch board member and chairman, “Electrification means that ICEs will experience their best period of service life yet, giving an optimum range. They can be used more effectively and efficiently.” Bulander sees purchase prices and charging infrastructure as the main barriers to adoption of all-electric vehicles (“by 2020 we want to halve battery costs”), with crucial factors for the success of electromobility including driving enjoyment and also the use of sustainable-source electricity.

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Showcased at Boxberg and available to test-drive were vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid (IMG 290/110 motor built in the Bosch-Daimler EM-Motive joint venture); the C350e Plug-In Hybrid (IMG 290/110); the Smart Fortwo electric-drive (EM-motive 180/20); plus the Fiat 500e (complete powertrain including motor, power electronics, battery and regenerative braking supplied to Fiat-Chrysler); the BMWs i3 ReX and i8; and the fascinating, super-economical Volkswagen XL1 (all with Bosch bits). Oh, and there were passenger rides in the Porsche 918 Spyder e-hybrid, too…

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Moving on to internet-of-things, “connected electric vehicles are the best electric vehicles, because added functions can be achieved,” Bulander went on to explain, pointing out that by 2020, “cars will be an active part of the internet. They can collect and pass on information.” That’s for safety warnings, convenience functions, and optimisation of range/charge in electrified vehicles, for example, as in Bosch’s Panamera S E-Hybrid demonstrator, whose ‘electronic horizon’ software previews the road ahead to predict zero-emissions zones. Next step is electric vehicle communication with charging infrastructure, smart-grids and home energy systems; work at Bosch includes a smartphone app for charging point reservations and billing across network providers, plus a system of web-enabled sensors in parking spaces to build a real-time parking map, reducing the time and energy consumption of looking for a space.

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And “connectivity is the key to electrified and automated driving”, added board member Dr Markus Heyn. Electromobility, connectivity and automation are all ultimately interlinked – as showcased in two automated Tesla Model S demonstrator vehicles. Each car is fitted with 50 new Bosch components, including a stereo video camera (small and powerful enough that no unsightly roof-mounted systems are needed) which recognises traffic signs, lane markings, clear spaces and obstructions (as displayed on the screen, below), and automatic, independently-operating brake booster and ESP systems. A ride in one of these vehicles – the highlight of the day at Boxberg – showed that while there is still a long way to go before full automation is ready for mass-market application, the basic functionalities of the system are present and correct.

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Ongoing electromobility research and development programmes further involve inductive charging and fuel cell powertrains, with prototypes up and running from this summer. But the other interesting Bosch projects go beyond the car – it’s worth noting that this mega-supplier is not just making e-powertrains for scooters and battery-boost systems for pedal-bikes, but it’s rebranded its Automotive Technology division as Mobility Solutions. Software has been supplied to a test project, Stuttgart Services, which allows city residents to access trains, buses, car- and bike-sharing services and even swimming pools and libraries via a single RFID card. Another trial, in Monaco, looks at inter-connecting ‘smart’ city functions such as waste collection, bus networks, roadworks and even escalator maintenance. Quote of the day? Dr Rolf Bulander: “We need to rethink personal mobility, at least in big cities, and move toward a multimodal concept encompassing bikes, trains, buses and walking… We want to improve the efficiency not just of engines, but traffic in general.”

*More detailed, properly-written version of this to appear shortly in a subscription-only specialist-interest magazine (no, not that sort) which you won’t find in your local WH Smiths. Links to digital versions to be tweeted, probably…

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