Midweek, midsummer: recent news round-up

August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Headline story ‘cos it’s a pretty picture: this specially-modified Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid just reached 185.394mph on the Bonneville salt flats during Speed Week, setting a new land speed record (unofficial, as yet) for hybrids. More at Green Car Reports.

  • Not ‘green’ in the first instance – the primary objectives are improving road safety and reducing congestion – but with interesting implications: the biggest-yet V2V and V2X trial, involving 3000 vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, starts today. The vehicles, many privately-operated cars as well as trucks and buses, will test real-life applications of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wi-fi communications, including crash-avoidance warnings, as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure comms (V2X) to improve traffic flow. The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working with Ford, GM and the American R&D/technical centre divisions of Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. More at Detroit News.
  • Daimler, meanwhile, is leading a similar 120-vehicle trial in Germany. More detail on both at Wired Autopia.
  • BMW’s DriveNow carshare – giving access to a pool of 70 ActivE EVs – has launched in San Francisco. The cars will be placed in eight locations, hirable by the minute and booked using a smartphone app. More here. It’s also to launch ParkNow, a space-reserving scheme; both this and DriveNow will be rolled out in other cities in due course as part of BMW’s iVentures programme. DriveNow, a partnership with Sixt in Germany, is already operating in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Munich using the conventional Mini Cooper and 1-Series for short-term rentals. More here.
  • Infiniti has confirmed production of its LE (”posh Leaf’) electric hatchback concept for 2014, and it looks as if it will be the first car on sale with integral induction-charging equipment, reports USA Today.
  • Cadillac’s to launch its ELR extended-range EV (on/off-again production version of the Converj concept, using Chevy Volt-derived tech) at next year’s Pebble Beach Concours, reports Left Lane News.
  • Nissan is to show an electric SUV concept at the Paris Motor Show this autumn, says Green Car Reports. It’s likely to be an evolution of the Hi-Cross seen at Geneva earlier this year, a preview of the next-gen X-Trail.
  • Melbourne-based EV Engineering claims to have broken a distance record: its retro-converted Holden Commodore EV ran 1886km in 24 hours on a loop between Port Melbourne and Geelong, aided by battery-swapping. It’s unofficial, but no mean feat; release here.
  • Dwindling sales of the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn have led to a suspension of their production (probably terminal). Too small, too limited, too expensive given current market conditions, I reckon, and though price isn’t necessarily an issue for many EV buyers, the well-heeled are probably now either driving Leafs or holding out for a BMW i3. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (donor car for the PSA pair) continues, however.
  • The first Sanya Skypump has been been installed in Barcelona – a vertical-axis wind turbine, powering an EV charging point. It’s a compact solution which can be easily placed in public spaces where there’s wind… More here.

Renault doing a battery deal, delays Zoe; the Daimler carpool

July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Renault is negotiating a three-way deal with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and battery-maker LG Chem for R&D of next-gen batteries for EVs. They’re expected to sign in September, with a view to production from 2017 at a new factory in France (to open 2015 to make current-generation batteries first).

  • Renault’s pushing back deliveries of the Zoe supermini (pictured) till early 2013, however, due to a software glitch in its infotainment system and integration of data/info on its state of charge (Automotive News).
  • The Delta E-4 coupe is to be a testbed for the Qualcomm wireless charging tech in the London trial (see below).
  • Daimler is investing in carpooling.com, a European social media platform for lift-sharing which has 4million registered users who team up for car journeys  online, on smartphones and on Facebook. Carpooling also sells train, bus and plane tickets. The plan is for this to be integrated with Car2Go in Daimler’s ‘moovel’ mobility management platform.

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

July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

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

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

The hidden agenda behind the Toyota 2000GT EV

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

So Toyota’s 2000GT EV, as shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently, is more than just a fun project… Autocar today quotes Toyota engineer Naohiko Saito as saying that this concept’s powertrain is “an early part of the development process in refining the technology” for a production EV, with an electric city car to appear before a sports car. These vehicles are expected to get a manual gearbox, using a torque-converter to set gear ratios, and Toyota’s hybrids are also to gain a manual-transmission option. This is at least three years away, however.

  • Autocar’s also updating us on Tesla’s upcoming third model-line, scheduled for 2015. This is a BMW 3-Series-type electric vehicle, to cost from around $30,000 (£19,000) and be “more experimental” than the Model S; its platform could spawn a number of variants, even including a pick-up truck.
  • The European Commission has put forward some amended targets for CO2 reduction: an average 95g/km for cars by 2020 with a mandatory 130g/km in 2015, and 147g/km for vans with 175g/km mandatory from 2017. Manufacturers will be fined €95 per vehicle per gram/km over the target, but incentives and “super credits” will be put in place for vehicles emitting less than 35g/km. All detailed nicely at Green Car Congress.
  • Latest on Chargemaster’s POLAR network of EV recharging facilities: it is teaming up with Transport for London’s Source London to install more chargers in London. This private-public partnership will add 200 new jointly-branded POLAR/Source London fast-charge points in the city this year, and the first of these – at the Waitrose store in North End Road, Fulham – went live yesterday. All POLAR members will be automatically enrolled into the Source London scheme and able to use those charging points  from August.
  • Daimler is expanding further into the world of mobility management services with a scheme called moovel, to be piloted in Stuttgart. A mobile app has been developed to integrate information from local transport providers such as train and bus companies with a ride-sharing/car-pooling scheme, and in phase two of the trial, Daimler’s Car2Go short-term rentals will enter the equation as well (thanks, Green Car Congress).
  • Worth mentioning for its name alone, though it’s only a 25mph golf cart/mobility scooter: the Eggasus, an upright three-wheeled EV with all-weather ability, has just gone on sale in California after being a finalist in the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge. Initial models cost from $5000, through a crowd-funding social venture – expect to see more of such set-ups in the EV start-up world. More at Inside Line.
  • The Portuguese police force is the first to use the Nissan LEAF; it has taken delivery of eight, which will be deployed mainly for the force’s Safe Schools initiative and for use in urban centres. Pic and more info at EV Fleet World.
  • EVs by divine decree: the Pope has been given an NWG Zero, a two-seat EV which can do 62mph and 86 miles per charge (not that you’d need all that, around the Vatican). However, it can’t accommodate all the armouring necessary to protect the Pope against assassination attempts, so he’s unlikely to use it; instead, Mercedes-Benz is working on an M-Class plug-in hybrid for Papal duties. More at Green Car Reports.

Midweek news round-up

July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lotus has started testing its Evora 414E range-extended hybrid, and had a cutaway model on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend. First seen at the Geneva Motor Show back in 2010, it uses Lotus’s ‘Omnivore’ three-cylinder, 1.2-litre engine (which can run on petrol, methanol or ethanol) plus two electric motors and a seven-speed sequential-shift transmission. It can do up to 30 miles in all-electric mode before the engine kicks in to act as a generator or directly power the motors, giving a total range of up to 300 miles. Total output is 408bhp and 738lb ft, and it’s said to be capable of 130mph and 0-62 in about four seconds.

  • The benefits of being Royal: Prince Albert II of Monaco has taken delivery of the first Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid off the production line. He already has a standard Prius plus a one-off Lexus LS 600h Landaulet for official state duties, and will take the Plug-In on a two-month loan from Toyota. Monaco, incidentally, has 424 free EV charging points despite being just 48 acres in size.
  • More details on the deal between BMW and Toyota, who have just signed a MoU to build on their current lithium-ion battery development/diesel engine supply partnership. It involves, according to a BMW press release, “joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies.”
  • US firm Green Automotive, of Newport Beach, California, has bought British company Liberty Electric Cars, best-known for its Range Rover conversions. Ongoing Liberty projects include work with Volkswagen, Fiat and Michelin to develop an electric delivery van and research in partnership with Cranfield University, Rolls-Royce Electric Machines and Protean to develop an electric motor which does not use rare-earth metals (Green Car Congress).
  • Danish firm Ecomove is working on a range-extended version of its Qbeak EV, using methanol fuel cell technology to give up to 500 miles. The project is funded by the Danish government, and is a collaboration between Ecomove and fuel cell firm Serenergy, managed by Insero E-Mobility. More details here.
  • Citroen is offering a free wheel upgrade with the DS5 Hybrid4: fitting the 17-inch alloys has the benefit of cutting CO2 emissions to 99g/km (from 107g/km), thus qualifying the car for exemption from the London congestion charge and dropping it down to the 10% BIK company car tax band.
  • Mercedes-Benz is working on an all-electric B-Class, with powertrain developed by Tesla, reports Automobilwoche. This will probably be for the US market, in place of the F-Cell fuel cell and range-extended/plug-in hybrid tech previously considered, and could arrive 2014.
  • GoinGreen (distributor of the G-Wiz) has launched the Tazzari EM1 EV in the UK. The Italian-built EM1 is a tiny two-seater, but it meets with full M1 EU Type Approval for passenger vehicles, so it should be safer than the G-Wiz. Top speed is 62mph, it’ll do 0-31mph in less than five seconds (good enough for a speedy getaway around town) and its range is up to 87 miles, in ‘economy’ mode. The bad news? It costs nearly £25,000. More details at The Charging Point.
  • Another truck story: Daimler is to offer factory-built EcoHybrid Fuso Canter delivery vans. These promise fuel economy savings of 23%, and combine a 150hp diesel engine with a 40kW electric motor, lithium-ion battery (warranted for ten years), regenerative braking and automated manual transmission.
  • Green debate of the week: is peak oil a myth? There’s more than enough oil in the earth and I got it wrong, says George Monbiot. No there’s not, comes today’s rejoinder . If even the Guardian’s writers can’t agree amongst themselves… Not sure what Monbiot is suggesting, anyway. Drill, baby, drill and we all just give up, go home, and go back to gas-guzzling?

BMW and Daimler team with TUM on mass-market EV project

May 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) is working with BMW, Daimler, Siemens and other German supplier firms in a research consortium to produce a new safe, lightweight, low-cost mass-market EV. BMW is to lead the Visio.M project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research to the tune of 10.8million euros. The targets set include a kerbweight of 400kg (minus battery), 15kW of power, and the ability to meet the Euro L7e-class requirements.  The initial test ‘mule’ will be based on TUM’s MUTE prototype (pictured; more details here) which will be used to trial technology concepts including energy storage, the powertrain and operational software.

  • Toyota has unveiled its RAV4 EV – with Tesla-supplied 154hp/115kW powertrain – at the Electric Vehicle Symposium in Los Angeles. This has a range of 100 miles, does 100mph and 0-60 in seven seconds in Sport mode or 85mph and 0-60 in 8.6 sec in Normal mode, and is front-wheel drive only. No plans for UK or European sale, but Toyota is asking for (and responding to) comments at its blog on the matter. Prices from $49,800 in California, where deliveries start this summer.
  • BMW has done a deal in the US with Real Goods Solar for a 35% discount on solar panels for ActiveE customers. Some 700 ActiveE prototypes – 1-Series based hatches trialling the tech for the i3 – are out on lease now. More details (and comments from happy users) at Detroit News.
  • A car-share fleet of around 40 mia electric mini-minivans is to hit the roads of the Poitou-Charentes region of France, reports Technologic Vehicles. Mia electric is based in Cerizay in the region – and is 30% owned by the local state administration.
  • Here’s an uplifting story: EV converter Karabag has electrified a Fiat 500 using the powertrain from a Linde forklift truck. The Karabag 500e is available for sale or lease, should you want one; press release and video posted at Autoblog Green, which also has video of a Linde-powered go-kart which has just set a record for electric kart acceleration (0-60 in 3.45 seconds).
  • Supercharging and downspeeding a diesel engine, in conjunction with optimising transmission ratios, can give fuel savings of over 12%, claims a team from Southwest Research Institute and supercharger-maker Eaton. Paper presented at SAE Congress; more details here.
  • Actuators, bearings and seals: it’s the little things which count towards saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions. SKF has presented a portfolio of such solutions at the Electric Vehicle Symposium; lowdown at Green Car Congress.
  • More news from EVS: Siemens presented its eHighway concept, a charging proposal for trucks using tram-like overhead wires. Trials underway in Germany, more to follow at Los Angeles and Long Beach docks for cargo lorries. More, including video, at The Charging Point.
  • Infrastructure-provider DBT CEV and Matra have developed a battery-swap concept for electric bikes and scooters, said to be suitable for use in separate battery-leasing and charging programmes. A (scalable) rival for Better Place? More at Green Car Congress.
  • The city of Windsor, Ontario, has signed up for 10 40-foot BYD electric buses – and the province of Ontario is in talks with BYD over manufacturing the e-buses on Canadian soil (Green Car Congress). Windsor wants to become a major hub for e-mobility manufacturing, and work underway there includes research on second-life use of the bus batteries as static energy storage centres.

Midweek newsbriefs, the Frankfurt aftermath

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Infiniti has released a further sketch of its upcoming electric saloon, described as a “stylish, high-performance five-seat luxury vehicle” set to launch in 2014. It’s thought to be reasonably compact, and thus to share some mechanicals with the next-generation Nissan Leaf. And Infiniti has also done a deal with Mercedes-Benz to use the next B-Class platform for a small crossover (also 2014), reports Autoweek; hybrid or EV version of this possible too.

  • Flurry of news from Bosch today. The major supplier is to form a 50:50 joint venture with Daimler to develop and manufacture electric motors. The venture, called EM-motive GmbH, will be based in Hildesheim and production will start next year; it will make versatile, modular motors for use in battery-electric, fuel cell or range-extender powertrains in the Mercedes-Benz and Smart ranges and by 2020, plans to make one million motors a year. First vehicle to get an EM-motive motor will be the next-generation Smart Fortwo electric drive, to be launched next spring, but the motors can be adapted for a wide range of vehicles, including vans.

The EV infrastructure Bosch is building in Singapore is now operational, with 40 charging points to be available by the end of the year; these use Bosch’s software and eMobility web solution which directs drivers to a vacant point. This will eventually integrate route-planning, reservation of power at preferential rates and connections with other forms of transport. The compaany’s latest Motronic injection system for direct-injection, spark-ignition petrol engines aids downsizing and turbocharging; fuel economy improvements of up to 30% are promised, as well as reduced CO2, hydrocarbon and nitrous oxide emissions; its Denoxtronic exhaust gas treatment system gives nitrous oxide emission reductions of up to 95% and fuel economy improvements of 5% from diesel engines – important for meeting the forthcoming Euro 6 legislation. Enhanced stop-start systems are now on offer with ‘gliding’ functionality, increased engine shutdown times and potential fuel economy improvements of 10% over current systems, and Bosch is also working on new-generation brake energy recuperation systems for hybrids and EVs. Read your way through all this paragraph? Good – this stuff’s important. It’s at the supplier end of the industry where many of the most significant technologies are developed.

In other news:

  • Frankfurt Show pics of the Russian Yo-Auto concept at Autoblog Green – it’s now thought to have an extended-range EV powertrain.
  • The cost of owning an electric or hydrogen vehicle is to fall significantly by 2030, says the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. It’ll cost an average of just £500-750 a year more  to buy and run one (compared to £5000 now), as batteries and fuel cells get cheaper, and the cost of conventional cars rises, according to the LCVP’s latest figures.
  • TRW has announced its next-gen regenerative braking tech for hybrids and EVs too; more at Green Car Congress.
  • Honda is setting a target of a 30% CO2 reduction across all product areas by 2020. “We continue to develop our Hybrid, Battery Electric, Plug-in, and Fuel Cell products alongside energy generation technologies such as Solar Cell and Cogeneration”, said president Takanobu Ito at Frankfurt. The new Civic (on sale early next year) is a good start: a 10% CO2 reduction from the 1.8 petrol engine, nearly 20% in the 2.2 diesel despite better performance, and an all-new smaller diesel will be added to the range later next year.
  • Latest update from the BMW i/Wallpaper Sustainable Neighbourhoods project now on YouTube.

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