June 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
Latest news from Riversimple: they’ve received a £2million R&D grant from the Welsh government, having relocated over the border, and are now aiming to produce 20 of their hydrogen-fuelled microcars for a 12-month trial. Aim for the two-seater, composite-bodied lightweights is to do over 200mpg(e) with a range of 300 miles between refuelling stops, with a cruising speed of 55mph and nippy 0-30mph acceleration; these are very much neighbourhood/short-distance commuting vehicles. Riversimple’s also talking about its leasing model (cars will not be sold outright) with all-in monthly fees, and localised/distributed manufacturing for future expansion. The final design is underway at a studio in Barcelona, led by Chris Reitz (formerly design chief for the Fiat 500).
- The Bolloré Bluecar (hatchback) is now being made by Renault in Dieppe, but a separate deal has been done with PSA Peugeot-Citroen: Bluesummer convertibles to be made at the PSA plant in Rennes, which can make 15 a day/3,500 a year. Bolloré and PSA are also to co-operate on car-sharing (passenger cars and commercial vehicles) with a view to worldwide operations.
- More from Jaguar Land Rover this morning on in-car biometric and even brainwave monitoring: the Mind Sense project is looking at predictive gesture-controlled touchscreen HMI and haptic pedals to communicate warning information, as well as sensing fatigue, health problems and suchlike.
- Several EV battery second-life projects announced this week, including one using packs from the Chevy Volt: five Volt batteries (as distinct from 5V batteries…) are working with 74kW-worth of solar panels and two 2kW wind turbines at GM’s Milford Proving Ground to power the building. Enough power is generated to provide all the energy for the ground’s office building plus lighting for the car park, equating to the energy used by 12 average (American) households. Excess energy goes back to the grid for the wider Milford campus, and the batteries – with 80% of capacity remaining at end-of-life in the car – can also supply back-up power for four hours in the event of an outage.
- And Nissan is partnering on a second-life Leaf battery scheme with static storage firm Green Charge Networks; a bank of used Leaf lithium-ion cells will be installed at a US Nissan factory for grid-balancing trials. More here.
- Report by CE Delft for Greenpeace, ‘Saving fuel, saving costs’, looks at the role of the fleet sector in reducing GHG emissions and energy consumption alongside costs, and concludes electrification’s a win-win. Some useful stats: 64% of global oil demand is for transport; 23% of global GHG emissions are from transport (20% in Europe, 28% in US and Canada); road transport “dominates” transport emissions. Besides electrification – hybrid, PHEV, EV – the report also mentions, for fuel-saving, low-resistance tyres, eco-driving courses and teleworking, as well as modal shift and optimised logistics.
June 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
We’ve seen this before in Munich, but the Light & Charge low-energy LED streetlight/EV-charger has been installed in the UK for the first time – at Mini Plant Oxford. It proposes an integrated solution for local authorities whereby street lights can be replaced with one of these without adding to urban clutter. Up to four LED modules can be fitted on each post, which has a modular design; these can be self-adjusting and reduce their output at timed intervals or when no-one is around, and light can be targeted and diffused to minimise glare or light pollution. From the EV-charging point of view, it’s been designed to be vehicle-agnostic and to be activated via swipe-card.
- Daimler/Car2Go is working with Bosch on a smartphone-app controlled automated parking system, hich will be tested in a parking garage; this is seen as an important step towards fully-automated driving as well as added functionality in the car-sharing business model. More here. And Jaguar Land Rover has today shown off a remote-controlled Range Rover Sport, driven by smartphone – not just for parking, but for negotiating tricky off-road conditions from a safe distance (within 10m), perhaps. This car is capable of doing a full 18-degree change of direction so even three-point-turns itself. The tech takes control of steering, braking, acceleration and gear selection, and JLR’s referring to the “Solo Car”. Also from JLR recently: the ‘Pothole Alert’ tech – identifying location and severity of potholes and adjusting suspension accordingly – isn’t just a shock absorber-saver. Interesting thing about this is that this is data to be shared with other cars and with road authorities, and is thus a step towards cloud-enabled internet-of-things-sort-of-things, as well as autonomous driving.
- On a related note – insights from McKinsey give 10 ways autonomous vehicles could change the automotive industry. Full read here, but they’re looking at three distinct eras. In the present, they’re already making inroads in industrial applications; new mobility models are emerging; and carmakers are assessing the market. As consumers start to adopt them, changes appear in the aftersales sector; supply chains and logistics are redefined; and the insurance market starts to cover tech failures rather than individuals. Once they predominate, they could free people up for 50min a day; parking space is reduced by billions of sq/m; crashes – and related costs to society – are reduced by 90%; and they accelerate robot tech in general.
- 1.3million Americans had joined a car-share by the end of 2014, according to the latest data out of Berkeley; this report from the Freep looks at that, noting that Airbnb-style peer-to-peer car-sharing is also a growth area – but that actual car sales are also growing again too, including to millennials/Gen Y. Another interesting point is illustrated by data from Zipcar – whose members include a sizable proportion of 50-69 year-olds – which suggests that older Gen X/boomers are moving back to city centres and getting rid of private vehicles. Which turns around a few ideas that have been floating about in recent years. More on vehicle-sharing from the TSRC, UC Berkeley, here.
- The Bollore Bluecar EV (previously built in Italy) is to be built at Renault’s factory in Dieppe, with a co-operation agreement signed between the two industrial groups. The Bluecar is, of course, headed to London for the EV-share (finally) announced last week. Where it will be painted red, incidentally. A 50-car fleet is to be launched early next year, with a (much-needed) overhaul and expansion of the city’s malfunctioning charging infrastructure also promised.
- Next year, Scania is to start testing hybrid diesel-electric heavy-duty trucks charged via an overhead pantograph system; a 2km test stretch of road is being built as part of the Electric Roads initiative. Later in the year, a similarly-equipped bus will also begin trials; this can be fully recharged in 6/7 minutes from equipment at a bus stop. More here.
- More bus news: Route 55 in Gothenburg has electrified with three all-electric and seven hybrid buses from Volvo (obviously) up and running; there’s flash-charging at bus stops, using renewable wind/solar electricity.
- And VDL Bus & Coach (Netherlands) has unveiled its articulated Citea SLFA Electric, due to go on duty shortly in Cologne; again, this has capability for ‘opportunity charging’.
- New BMW 7-Series: plug-in hybrid variant, 740eLe (long-wheelbase only), does up to 40km in all-electric mode (up to 75mph) and its averaged-out figures (meaningless though they are) are 134.5mpg and 49g/km of CO2. xDrive AWD versions also available.
- EU first-quarter figures for alt-fuel vehicles include a rise in all-electric sales, which more than doubled to 24,630 Jan-March 2015.
- Tesla: not as disruptive as you might think, according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, who points to ‘neighbourhood’ EVs – micro-vehicles – as the real innovations with potential for disruption. Mmm. Anyway, comes off the back of Newsweek’s ‘green’ rankings which puts Tesla as only the eighth-placed carmaker, behind BMW, Toyota, Daimler, Nissan, Ford, Volkswagen and GM in an analysis taking into account factors including energy and water use in manufacturing. Not that I imagine Elon Musk is losing any sleep over either of these judgements.
- Commuters want seamless connectivity on their journeys, according to a report from the Ericsson Consumer Lab, and to be able to take charge of their travel decisions with real-time info and personalised services. Some useful stats on use of apps by people taking different transport modes, in the various cities studied (London, Sao Paulo, New York and Shanghai). Also, feedback on rapidly-developing consumer trends in app use and expectations of iOT/connectivity in this video.
June 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Not as sexy as a supercar, granted, but working vehicles like this roadsweeper are rather useful, and have a future – especially in cities, whatever other motorised transport may be used. This is a prototype built by Bucher Municipal of Neiderwenigen, Switzerland in partnership with Empa (Materials Science Technology Centre), ETH Zurich University. In place of the conventional diesel engine plus hydraulics, it has a small natural gas engine with generator; it consumes less than half as much energy on its standard ‘sweeping’ cycle, and its CO2 emissions are cut by over 60% (even more when biogas is used). Though it would cost more to buy, this is compensated for by its much lower operating costs.
Interesting note on this is that Empa calculates the typical annual diesel consumption of a vehicle of this type is around 10,000 litres, typically ten times more than that of a passenger car; they quote a German study which reckons that working vehicles, including bin lorries, etc., account for around 15% of the energy consumption of all road traffic, despite their actual numbers being very small. Anyway, further work is underway on this concept to optimise its operation, packaging and costs, but Bucher aims to bring it to market. More here.
- Seven auto industry mega-trends identified by Goldman Sachs, reported here. In summary, the Great Vampire Squid reckons that: there is ongoing endless powertrain advancement, but petrol/diesel will still power 75% of the global fleet 10 years from now; vehicles will become lighter; industry focus will turn to emerging markets; power will shift to ‘megasuppliers’ while the trad carmakers become final-assembly and marketing concerns; connected-car tech, apps and shared mobility have had a small impact in the taxi/rental sector, but the extent of their potential disruption is unclear and impact on car ownership will be limited until they can solve issues of under-utilisation; autonomous driving is on the horizon with tremendous potential, but legislative, social and economic factors must be resolved and it may have more impact on sectors such as trucking, public transport and non-car businesses than on private car ownership; and that ‘barriers to entry’ for newcomers have been lowered with new techs, allowing the involvement of the likes of Google, Apple and Tesla, but adaptability of the old OEMs and these megasuppliers may yet win out. As Automotive News points out (claiming that there is ‘little evidence’ that consumers are demanding fundamental changes in mobility), this is essentially a pretty conservative and status quo-reinforcing view of things – no surprise. But not necessarily wrong. My biggest query would be over ‘adaptability’ of the slow-moving OEMs…
- Details on the Frauenhofer Institutes EDDA electric bus fast-charging project here; trials in Dresden saw the roof-mounted high-voltage ‘flash-charging’ system (6.5 minutes) enable the bus to serve a 20km route.
- More research on PM2.5s – particulates most commonly emitted by diesel vehicles: linked with respiratory illnesses in children by the University of Seville. More here.
- Not quite sure what’s happening with the Bollore Group and the former Source London network (anyone?) but Transport for London has issued a call for partners and suppliers to build EV-charging infrastructure in the city. Plans include rapid-charging for taxis, private-hire vehicles and other commercial fleets, in a shift of previous focus, although ‘incentives’ towards mass take-up of EVs, presumably involving private vehicles, is also mentioned. Reported here.
- Meanwhile in Wolfsburg, an e-mobility trial project based around the main station has gone into operation: a fleet of electric bicycles and Volkswagen e-Ups can be hired for use between nine locations. Also, Milan’s BikeMi service is now up to 4,600 electric bicycles, and 70 new docking stations are being added in the city. More here. Also, further news via Eltis – 150 EV charging stations for Hungary; and a trial of four automated driverless minibuses in Vantaa, Finland.
- Renault is to supply 150 Zoes to the King of Jordan for his fleet; to be solar-charged from facilities at the royal palaces as part of “an ambitious solar programme”, says Renault-Nissan.
- Latest registration figures from the SMMT covering January-May: all-electric vehicle registrations doubled compared to this time last year to 3,772. Plug-in hybrid and range-extended EVs numbered 8,147, with the best-seller the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
- TomTom doesn’t just make sat navs: TomTom Telematics has supplied an open API platform for an electric car booking/management programme. This integrates car booking and battery data for the Be Smart EV-share (Italy) and allows for remote battery monitoring, vehicle activation, location tracking and journey information for billing. More here.
March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
To be revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month, an SUV-ed up C4 Cactus with innovative interior design – and a PHEV powertrain. The Aircross compact crossover, which appears to preview a production model, features a 70kW/95bhp electric motor giving 200Nm of torque to the rear axle plus the 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol engine (218bhp/275Nm), and gives an all-electric range of 31 miles. Its lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in three and a half hours from a domestic 16A socket. Total power output is 313bhp, 0-62mph happens in 4.5 seconds, but the “combined” fuel consumption is 166mpg (not that this is a figure which really means anything given the way it’s averaged-out, but anyway) and CO2 emissions are down to 39g/km.
- Q1 2015 e-mobility Index from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants is out. Key trends/notes from this include: Japan is leading in terms of technologies at the moment, followed by France; China is investing heavily although R&D spending has fallen in other regions; vehicle weight remains an issue with few OEMs yet exploiting the possibilities of EV-specific structural design.
- Deaths related to air pollution are being underestimated, with the effects of NOx not taken into account, the Guardian reports: analysis here.
- And acute asthma worsening and attacks in children, linked again to traffic-related air pollution by UC Irvine. Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and PM2.5s particularly implicated, lower-income and ethnic-minority children more vulnerable since they are more likely to live in high-traffic areas. Rundown here.
- 30 Renault Twizy two-seaters have joined the Bluely EV-share in Lyon, with 110 to go into service in Lyon and in the Bluecub fleet in Bordeaux. More here.
- Plenty of electric scooters are coming onto the market, but the Gogoro Streetscooter comes with a battery-swapping trial programme – in Taipei, Taiwan, at least. 100 riders are being recruited to beta-test the scooters and the system, which uses ATM-sized battery dispensers to push out charged batteries, and take in the duds. More here.
- A new-generation Smart Fortwo electric-drive is on the way next year, and its batteries will be supplied by LG Chem. More here.
- There’s been talk of a revived VW Camper/Microbus (as distinct from the modern-day Caravelle) for a long, long time, but latest is that Volkswagen engineers are thinking about a battery-electric model inspired by the Bulli concept, reports Autocar. Other news from New York Motor Show: new Merc GLE (replacement for ML-Class, sportier) comes with plug-in hybrid option and 18-mile all-electric mode; the facelifted Toyota RAV4 also has a hybrid option (2.5-litre petrol engine plus e-motor). And there’s a Volkswagen Beetle Hybrid (non plug-in) prototype knocking around, as well. Oh, and Ssangyong unveiled a hybrid SUV concept – previewing a replacement for the Korando – called XAV at the Seoul Motor Show last week, too.
- A report from Arup/Qualcomm – “Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility” – looks at the potential of harnessing data for urban mobility, including the use of autonomous vehicles; it discusses issues of security, sustainability, ‘usership’ vs ownership, leveraging crowd-sourcing and ‘learning’ devices. More about it here.
- Waste corn stalks, cobs and husks can feed the production of hydrogen, in a twist on the usual biofuel focus: researchers from Virginia Tech have developed a high-rate enzymatic process to convert ‘dirty biomass’ into automotive-grade H2. More here.
December 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Big reads of the week: first up, the new EV Casebook from Urban Foresight. It outlines 50 ‘big ideas’ for electromobility – the co-developments and influences, potential outcomes, business models and just plain Good Ideas – and supplies plenty of case studies to show how these are being implemented around the globe. And secondly, a 12-essay collection from the RAC Foundation, Moving Cities: The Future of Urban Travel – thoughts and recommendations from a variety of perspectives.Thirdly: Delivering the Smart City, from Arup with UCL, on the use of big data and analytics; concludes that investment, a holistic research agenda and leadership are needed, along with the understanding of what a smart city entails. And how are international financial institutions approaching urbanism? Report here from the Future Cities Catapult.
- London private-hire firm Openstart has ordered a fleet of 80 plug-in Prius and Prius+; 50 are already in service.
- France – where diesels have dominated for decades – is to raise excise duty and remove purchase incentives on oil-burners; French car manufacturers, unsurprisingly, are complaining. More here… Germany, meanwhile, is pushing forward with plans to get a million EVs on its roads; Chancellor Merkel is supporting further subsidies.
- The EU’s putting up 2million euros for a network of fastchargers along major Northern European routes; the Fastned network already has 18 stations in the Netherlands, is adding more at the rate of one a week, and is to expand into Germany. Its to-be-94 stations will form part of a 155-fastcharger corridor across Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, to be completed by close of play December 2015. Oh, and the Fastned stations are solar- and wind-fuelled (80 solar cells on each one).
- Employees with workplace charging are 200x more likely to drive a plug-in car than those without, according to research by the US Department of Energy.
- Veniam, the tech provider behind a 600-vehicle V2V trial in Porto, Portugal, is to set up operations in Silicon Valley: its early experiments with a mobile wifi network, vehicles acting as mobile hotspots, are said to have found improved congestion, near-constant wifi connectivity (for public transport users, for example), and optimisation of freight transport, as well as potential for money- and energy-saving benefits such as more efficient rubbish collections (thanks to ‘smart bins’). Report at CityLab.
November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Mercedes-Benz has revealed a high-riding 2+2 hatchback concept called Vision G-Code, featuring a hydrogen-electric powertrain. Developed with M-B’s advanced design studio in Beijing and unveiled to mark the opening of a new R&D facility in the city, it’s a foretaste of M-B’s attempts to attract young buyers in the Asian market, reports Autocar. It’s shorter, wider and taller than the GLA; and that powertrain – developed from that of the upcoming B-Class F-Cell (2017) – gives three modes, all-electric (RWD) and hydrogen-electric ‘eco’ and ‘Hybrid Sport’ (with engine driving the front axle as well). The hydrogen-fuelled engine is turbocharged, and works with a dual-clutch gearbox via a “digital propshaft”; the G-Code further has plug-in capability to enhance its all-electric range, plus ‘multi-voltaic’ solar- and wind-energy generative paint and hydraulic suspension with energy capture; the air con system pumps out air with the oxygen produced in hydrogen synthesis. There’s also smartphone-operated ignition and driver settings – and a pair of electric scooters stored under-floor in the boot for last-mile city mobility. More detail from Daimler here. (And some comment on the B-Class E-Drive here).
- Fisker Automotive – now under ownership of China’s Wanxiang Auto – is preparing to relaunch the Karma PHEV and related (as-yet stillborn) Atlantic, with hybrid powertrain control software supplied by Quantum. A deal has been signed; press release posted here.
- Report from the Danish end of the e-mobility NSR consortium on urban electromobility and EU policy: it concludes that strong branding is needed for consumers to fully realise the benefits, as well as supportive policies – but effectively, more focused and personalised marketing messages.
- Renault has signed a formal partnership with La Poste to test and develop new vehicles in addition to the current EVs they are running, including differently-sized parcel delivery solutions, and technologies; more here. This coincides with the delivery of the 5000th Kangoo ZE.
- And a Renault-led project: a two-cylinder, two-stroke 730cc compression-ignition diesel engine with common-rail injection, 50-60% lighter than an equivalent four-stroke, and suitable for Twingo-type vehicles. More on the POWERFUL research at Green Car Congress and here.
- The fastest EV 0-60mph is now ‘grimsel’, a prototype built by students at ETH Zurich and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts; this Formula Student competitor achieved a 1.785sec time on an airfield at Dubendorf. More here.
July 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’ve been in Berlin recently, where there’s a wealth of car-sharing options to choose from (pic: a Car2Go Smart Fortwo, on-street in Kreuzberg; other services are available, as they say) as well as a good number of on-street EV charging points, at least in the sort of right-on areas where e-mobility is more likely, excellent public transport and what looks like a pretty decent cycling culture too. (Yes, I would very much like to live there). Appropriately enough, today’s news bulletin contains a fair amount on urban mobility and vehicle-sharing besides things electrified. Not that I’m claiming to be tapping into a zeitgeist or anything…
- Ridesharing platform BlaBlaCar has secured $100million of funding for its expansion through Europe and worldwide. The Paris-based company is claiming some 8million members in 12 countries now, with a million shared journeys a month made via the membership scheme and social media platform/smartphone app.
- An interesting snippet about biogas: Finland now has 21 public filling stations, with 20 more to open by 2016. More here.
- Micro-EV firm ZAP of Santa Rosa, California, has done a deal to sell 1000 URBEEs a month to a firm called SunRa (not to be confused with Sun Ra, though that would be amusing) for sale in China. The URBEE micro-vehicles – commuter cars and utility models – are made by subsidiary firm Jonway Auto in China. SunRa appears to be a division of a firm called Xinri Electric Vehicle Company, also a big EV distributor. ZAP says it intends to sell 8000 vehicles through the SunRa network in the next year, and that ZAP Jonway has the capacity to build up to 50,000 vehicles a year at its facility in Zhejiang Province.
- Solid-state storage of hydrogen enables it to be carried in tanks at much lower pressures; EU-funded research co-ordinated by the University of Turin has developed a system to work with a fuel cell. At the moment, this only supplies power for an APU (auxilliary power unit), but the demo project does show potential. More at Green Car Congress.
- The upcoming eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat will come with the option of a PHEV drivetrain. This combines a 154bhp TSI petrol engine with an 80kW motor to give a total 208bhp and an all-electric range of 50km/31 miles; a combined fuel consumption of 188mpg (though this is a pretty meaningless average figure in the context of a PHEV) and carbon dioxide output of 35g/km is claimed.
- And Volvo’s next-generation XC90 SUV will include a ‘twin engine’ model badged T8: a plug-in hybrid with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine driving its front wheels and a 80bhp/60kW motor driving the rear. An all-electric range of around 25 miles is promised, but with 400bhp/640Nm of power on tap when required
- Two interesting things about the latest UK car sales report from the SMMT. One, that registrations of EVs more than doubled in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period last year – up 144% to 2558 vehicles (‘pure’ BEVs). PHEVs and RE-EVs were up by over 90% to 973 vehicles. OK, the numbers are still exceedingly small, but the growth is in the right direction… But secondly, let’s put this in context: 1,287,265 new cars registered in the first six months of the year, 10.6% up on this time last year, the highest half-year total since 2005, and a market on track for 2.4million new cars on the road in the UK in 2014. In June alone, sales reached 228,291 cars. Britain’s appetite for cars does not appear to be slowing down despite the claims of ‘peak car’, and this illustrates the need for better management of this growing vehicle population and shifting people into cleaner, less polluting vehicles (which need not be privately- or individually-owned). Simply thinking that everyone can be persuaded/coerced onto public transport or a bike and hoping that the nasty cars will just go away is not enough.
- But further to the above, some thought-provoking stuff from Guardian Cities about engineering more liveable cities in which the car is no longer “king” – present, but no longer dominant, enabling more space for pedestrians and cyclists, and for simply hanging out and enjoying the urban environment. It’s about achieving a balance, appropriate means of transport in particular areas and soforth, which all sounds eminently sensible (and, with the right supporting policies, achievable).
- And continuing on this theme, another interesting snippet from Finland: the City of Helsinki is to trial a multi-modal route-planning system with employers and build a platform for its delivery, in the view that private car ownership will reduce in coming years and that city residents will instead buy transport ‘packages’ to include car rental mileage alongside use of the metro, bus and soforth, much as one buys phone/telecommunications packages. It’s a realistic long-term view which involves reducing driving and the numbers of vehicles on the road in cities, not ruling car use out completely or expecting radical, wholesale behaviour changes.
- But it isn’t just about cities, either: Sustainable Mobility reports on two new EV-shares launching in France. One, in the small rural town of Gréoux-les-Bains (2,500 inhabitants) is a six-month trial with the slogan “Even in the countryside, I can drive plugged-in” (I think something may have been lost – or confused – in translation) and is targeted not just at the locals but at the 30,000-odd tourists who visit the resort’s spas each year. It’s offering Renault Zoes from 39euros a half-day and will be extended beyond the initial in-season trial if demand proves sufficient. And back in town, SNCF mainline railway stations in Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille and Paris (Gare de Lyon) are to get an e-mobility service called Wattmobile: subscribers (typically paying 18euros a month) can hop into/onto a Renault Twizy or Peugeot e-vivacity scooter, levied per 15 minutes, to reach their final destinations.
- Daimler and BMW have signed an agreement to develop a standardised EV induction-charging system. More here.