Concept of the Day: Jaguar I-Pace

November 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

jag-i-paceOn the road in 2018, Jaguar says: the I-Pace has a useful claimed range of over 500km, 0-60mph acceleration in around four seconds, twin motors giving 400hp/700Nm, and all-wheel drive. Proper performance car stuff, then, though it’s a crossover-style high-riding five-seater hatchback rather than a sports coupe or saloon. The motors – which drive each axle – and 90kWh lithium-ion battery pack were designed in-house by JLR, and it’s rapid-charge compatible, of course; a full charge takes just over two hours for 220 miles or so. It’s on display this week at the Los Angeles auto show; more here. And more to follow from LA…

  • BMW is about to embark upon phase 2 of its ‘ChargeForward’ trial with Pacific Gas & energy, to further explore grid-balancing and optimisation, load-shifting, adjusting charge timing to prioritise use of renewable electricity, and incentives to drivers for participation. Phase 1 – 100 i3 EV drivers in the SF Bay Area, July 2015-Oct 2016 – saw a 92% satisfaction rate when drivers were encouraged to delay their charging by up to an hour a day to reduce load on the grid; they were messaged according to their charging needs, and supplied with a static [second-life] battery to store solar energy. In 94% of the ‘demand response events’ – when PG&E requested drivers to hold off from charging – the required 100kW load reduction was achieved, and July 2015-August 2016, over 19,000 kWh were ‘shifted’ to avoid the use of carbon-generated electricity. Rundown here.
  • Researchers from Stanford University and TUM [Munich] have concluded that – when required infrastructure is taken into account as well as electricity generation – plug-in electric vehicles are a better carbon-saving bet than hydrogen fuel cell cars. They modelled scenarios in 20 or 30 years’ time, and concluded that total energy use and carbon dioxide emissions in a community – for buildings as well as transportation – would be greater-reduced, and fossil fuel elimination more likely, if there was large-scale adoption of electric vehicles. Battery vehicles were also judged to be the more economically-attractive choice, given the growing economies of scale, and the cost of hydrolysis tech to produce hydrogen; although the latter could be made using ‘spare’ solar energy, the use of hydrogen as energy storage would be limited. In the analysis, battery vehicles were judged to be cost-competitive against ICE from 2025, and to require less than half the electrical energy. More on the study (in Energy, vol 114) here.
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Latest Euro EV sales stats & other electromobility news…

November 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

vw-golf-gteAround 145,000 new EVs were sold in Europe last year, according to number-crunching by Transport & Environment, reaching the milestone of a 1% market share, and bringing us up to around the total 600,000 mark for EVs on the road in the EFTA area (incl Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). However, though doubled over 2014’s figures, that number includes PHEVs and range-extended EVs as well as all-electric cars and vans – which goes to show that there’s a long way to go yet before mass-market acceptance. Full report, with lots of useful references, here. Picture: updated Volkswagen Golf GTE (plug-in hybrid), unveiled late last week, complete with requisite blue styling details to distinguish it; new all-electric e-Golf to be revealed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

  • More good [redemptive] news from Volkswagen: all-EV and PHEV versions of the upcoming T-Roc compact crossover, reports Autocar
  • Finally, finally, the Bollore Group’s Blue City on-demand EV-hire is going into operation in London: first up for the scheme, as seen and well-proven in Paris, will be the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, where an initial batch of five cars will grow to 25 by next spring. The Pininfarina-built Bluecars can be hired for 30 minutes at a time and then left in any Source London EV charging bay, reports the local newspaper.
  • And some interesting data from Scotland, analysed by the RAC Foundation: the country’s 870 public EV-charging points, with 1772 sockets/connectors between them (as of August 2016) were used 26,119 times in that month, suggesting charger use has doubled over the year. However, 25% were still not used at all (probably due to incompatibility with vehicles, poorly thought-out locations, and unsuitability of charger type/speed for their location, if the feedback I’ve collected from Scottish EV drivers is any indication; reliability is also an issue). 18% of the chargers available now are rapid-chargers, and these were used 42% of the time. ChargePlace Scotland is also listing 3,575 electric cars and vans licensed in Scotland (to end of June 2016).
  • Nissan is launching a car-share service with a social twist: users will be ‘profile-matched’ via data from their social media accounts into local communities to share or ‘part-own’ a Micra. The idea is that the users will have compatible, complementary needs; they will be invoiced monthly for their usage of the car, with rates all-in to encompass servicing and insurance, and have “a financial stake” in the vehicle – part-ownership, rather than on-demand hire. Initial trials of Nissan Intelligent Get & Go Micra will take place in Paris from next spring.
  • And something slightly different from Daimler/Mercedes-Benz: its peer-to-peer car-sharing service, Croove, goes on trial in Munich early next month. Any car from any brand, up to 15 years old, can be shared via the smartphone app-based platform: more here.
  • And US truck-maker Workhorse, formerly part of Navistar and, before that, known as International (so it has pedigree), is to make an electric pick-up: the four-seater-plus-flatbed W-15 will have a motor driving each axle plus a small petrol engine acting as a range-extender, giving it an all-electric range of a claimed 80 miles and 310 miles all-in. Workhorse has already delivered 125 electric parcel vans to UPS, apparently, and the W-15 is said to be scheduled for production in 2018.

BMW i3: over-the-air sat nav, chargepoint mapping updates

July 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

LichtBlick_1504_3E-Haus_mw_013Just a note here to pick up on something a few of my interviewees/research subjects reported re. the BMW i3: its sat nav only showing charging points from the Chargemaster network. Of course, these drivers should by now have picked up the updates since our conversations, but just in case [i.e. low-mileage drivers who don’t charge away from home  & very rarely use the navigation, so may not have checked into the system lately], I’ve clarified this with BMW, and here’s a statement as to what i3 drivers should be able to see:

“Regardless of the age of the model the car should receive auto updates… We have dynamic data feeds from Chargemaster and ChargeYourCar to ensure that all points are included and any new, removed or updated points are sent to BMW once a week. With Chargemaster, as they are our ChargeNow partner, we are also able to display the status of these points (available, in use, partially in use, out of service) and this status data is updated every 15 minutes, unless a customer clicks into the BMW Online additional info whereby the status is updated every 3 minutes.

“We also have manual data feeds from PodPoint, ecarni, RCN, Source London and Ecotricity. We update this info on a regular basis, more so if the networks are making a significant number of changes or updates. Ecotricity is often one that customers ‘believe’ they do not have included as this was only added recently in approx. Nov 2015 [my emphasis].

“With regard to vehicle updates, the car refreshes its charging point POI [point of interest] data telematically (over-air) once a week assuming it stays within a 300km homezone. If, however, the car is driven outside of this zone it requests an immediate update for a new 300km radius zone based on its new position, up to 5000 POI points. If a customer searches charging POIs at a destination outside of the homezone it triggers a pull-down of fresh data of up to 20 charging POIs at that destination. Also, if a customer searched charging point POIs along a set navigation route, this would also trigger a pull-down of up to 100 charging POIs along the route within a width of 750m.”

As much as anything else, this serves to very usefully illustrate the pace of change and the ongoing welcome developments in information/data provision and related services. But for i3 drivers still not seeing the full data from all the providers, it’s suggested that your local BMW dealer will be able to help.

Hope this is useful and of interest – Farah

And the year-end final round-up…

December 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Acciona 100x100 ecopowered,electric car, Dakar 2016, Marroco 2015, Zagora, car test.

I’ll sign off for the year with a pic of the car I’m cheering on in the 2016 Dakar Rally: the Acciona Dakar EV. With a 200kW motor giving 800Nm and a 200km range (theoretically enough for each stage) from new Tesla-supplied batteries, this all-electric vehicle, the first to compete in the Dakar Rally (actually in Argentina and Bolivia, these days; 9000km this year), is back for its second go. Last year, it dropped out – along with ICE vehicles, to be fair – before the second stage, but this year’s car has been upgraded and it recently completed the Rally of Morocco. It’s 40% lighter than its predecessor, and the new battery packs, supplemented this time with a roof-full of solar panels, should help too. Whilst I shouldn’t really approve of vehicles – electric or otherwise – charging across delicate eco-systems and all that, I suppose, this is one of the world’s great, legendary motorsport/engineering challenges and tests of endurance, and one hell of a spectacle. So good luck to ’em. Acciona, not-so-incidentally, is a renewable energy/infrastructures business (construction, engineering, services) with solar, wind, hydro and biomass activities in over 20 countries. The rally kicks off in Rosario, Argentina, on January 2nd and this car’s progress can be followed @ACCIONADakar.
In a final round-up of recent EV, electromobility and general relevant-to-me intelligent mobility news from recent weeks, in no particular order:
  • Carsharing – or on-demand hire, as I prefer to call it – has moved much closer to mainstream usage this year, and it’s also going commercial: nice example of this is Car2Share Cargo, a system developed by Daimler Business Innovation and trialled in Berlin. Here’s a heartwarming Christmas story: Berliner Tafel, a non-profit which collects and distributes food for social institutions (i.e. soup kitchens, meals for the homeless, unemployed or children in care), has adopted this logistics-optimisation programme and noted “huge potential of fuel and time savings” and that “satisfaction at our social facilities has increased as the food donations arrive timely and in better condition.” Car2Share Cargo works in partnership with IT logistics partner tiramizoo for the booking of M-B vans from a ‘digital fleet’ and driver management. With van traffic in cities growing (see below; factors involved in this include online shopping/deliveries) this has to be a positive step.
  • New – big – study out from TfL: Travel in London Report 8, latest overview of transport trends in the city. Headline news is that – in line with population growth, as expected – trip/journey rate is rising, with increased demand for public transport; an 11% modal shift since 2000 away from private transport (car) recorded, with gains in public transport, walking, cycling (a 3.3% shift since 2008); although there has been a return to growth in traffic levels in the last two years. Van traffic and private hire/licensed cab traffic up steeply, particularly the latter (blame Uber). In line with projected population growth, transport demand is also expected to grow, albeit concentrated in particular areas (redeveloped East London districts, in particular) and affected by demographic shifts such as a growing number of older people in outer areas.
  • More solid-state battery news: the US DoE Berkeley Lab and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have come up with an electrolyte combining polymers and glass. It’s claimed to overcome both the thermal problems with polymers (which need to be heated, not working well at room temperatures) and better-conducting ceramic electrolytes which need high pressures to maintain electrode contact, and to be stable, compliant and highly-conductive. It works in a lithium battery but would also be compatible with next-gen chemistries including lithium-sulphur. More details, references here.
  • Nissan and BMW are partnering in the US to roll out 120 DC fast-charging points across 19 US states, with both ChaDeMo and CCS connectors; more here.
  • Changes to the UK’s plug-in car grant scheme: extended till the end of March 2018, to continue to incentivise the purchase of EVs and plug-in hybrids, but some modifications. It’ll now be a two-level scheme (from March 2016): up to £4,500 for ‘Category 1’ cars (with a claimed e-range of 70 miles or more), and £2,500 for Category 2 and 3 vehicles (i.e. plug-in hybrids) with only vehicles costing up to £60,000 eligible. (If you can afford a £60K+ car, you don’t need a grant). Grants of £500 will still be available towards the cost of installing charging equipment.
  • Blog post by GM’s CEO Mary Barra sums up her predictions for 2016: she expects “more change in the automotive industry in the next five to 10 years than the last 50”, due to changing views of car ownership, greater urbanisation and digitisation; and rapid evolution of shared mobility, autonomous driving and alt-propulsion.
  • Latest EV market forecast from Navigant Research: global sales of light-duty EVs, hybrids and PHEVs will rise from 2015’s 2.6million vehicles to between 5.7-6.4million in 2024. Plug-in models will rise from 19% of all electrified vehicles this year to between 47-51% of the electrified market in 2024.  More here.
  • And an interview with Padmasree Warrior, new CEO of would-be Tesla competitor NextEV (and Tesla Model S driver): “I really believe transportation and the automotive industry is about to go through a major shift. It’s not just a technology-driven shift, but actually given the fact that we all live in the mobile Internet era, how can we envision a new mode of transportation, new vehicles, while leveraging all the tech advances that have happened on mobile and the Internet? How can we bring it into automotive as a platform and think about it as a technology platform, not just a physical car?” Prototypes and race car under development, mass-market vehicles to follow.
  • NEVS has announced ambitious plans for its reborn (electric) Saab range, and it’s also planning ‘mobility services’ as a major part of the business, it seems. A presentation this week outlined the aims for relaunch of the (improved, updated) 9-3 saloon, a compact SUV, midsize crossover, ‘fastback’ and SUV models, plus hints at connected/sharing services, reports Saabblog. And as it has just taken an order from Chinese vehicle leasing firm Panda New Energy for 250,000 cars, this relaunch might just happen now… The Panda deal involves 150,000 electric 9-3s and 100,000 ‘other’ products; Panda also works with chauffeured car services in China, reports a Swedish news agency, and aims to become one of the largest EV-leasers in the world.
  • Some comment here on Norway’s development of a smart-grid system to cope with all their EVs, aided (of course) by all that hydropower… and predictions as to the effects on Norway’s CO2 output and electricity usage – and subsequent impact on the rest of Europe, to which it exports electricity – should half its vehicles go electric by 2020, here. Conclusion: if 50% of Norwegian cars need to plug in, other European countries will have to generate more of their own electricity, with coal-fired power stations accounting for about half of that increased production, but there would still be a net one million tonne reduction in CO2 across the continent – and much more, if wind power is further developed in Norway.

Concept of the Day: Aston Martin RapidE

October 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

aston rapidEAston Martin has been showing off an all-electric Rapide S to the Chinese president this week: the RapidE, developed in collaboration with Williams, was displayed as part of a British industry showcase at Lancaster House. And yes, a Chinese investment group (ChinaEquity) has announced an agreement “to explore the development of a production version,” Aston Martin says. Production about two years off, reports Autocar, with the choice of a 550bhp RWD model giving a 200-mile range and later, a 4WD version giving 800-1000bhp (!). Aston Martin CEO Dr Andy Palmer noted: “We see luxury electric vehicles as an intrinsic part of our future product portfolio”.

  • More pertinent to most of us, Geely has unveiled a new plug-in hybrid version of the LTI London taxi, with extended all-electric range. More here.
  • Free software for EV charging station management, ‘roaming’ user access and billing: a solution from be.Energised using QR codes and smartphone payments has been launched. More here. Meanwhile ABB and Microsoft have launched a services platform using Microsoft’s Azure cloud tech and connecting all ABB chargers; and the Hubject ‘intercharge’ trans-European network has linked in EV charging providers in Switzerland, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. (cheers, electrive.com).
  • Another Nissan project: research in northern California with Kanematsu Corp looking into EV usage patterns, especially with reference to longer-distance and inter-city trips. It’s in parallel with the introduction of new rapid-chargers in freeway locations, in partnership with utility firm NRG eVgo, and involves guidance of drivers to the chargers en route with a view to encourage them to venture further. Kanematsu is providing real-time information, and looking into data/services relating to EVs and EV charging: basically, this is a Big Data/IoT/M2M (machine-to-machine) project. More here.
  • As asked for by a number of my own survey correspondents/research subjects: road signage indicating EV charging points. Nissan and Ecotricity have launched a campaign to promote awareness of the EV infrastructure, and are calling for the government to introduce ‘official’ signage with universal symbols, further denoting the speed of facilities available.
  • ZF is combining all its electromobility activities into one E-Mobility division, based in Schweinfurt; this is effectively consolidating under one roof, as well as creating this new division within the overall corporate structure. More here. Significant, because it’s the Tier 1 suppliers like ZF that are developing, and driving the adoption of, key new technologies. ZF, incidentally, is going to be showing its semi-autonomous, cloud-connected electric Advanced Urban Vehicle prototype at the Tokyo Motor Show next week.
  • OK, this GoUltraLow survey among teenagers – 800 questioned, 200 aged 14, 200 15 year-olds, 200 16 year-olds, 200 18 year-olds, including teens learning to drive at the moment. 81% said they expected their first car to be electric and 88% said they thought more motorists of all ages should drive EVs. Only 34% thought that everyone would be driving an EV one day, however; 48% associated EVs with cleaner air and 56% with lower CO2 emissions, which again sounds on the low side, and not exactly indicating high environmental concern/awareness or knowledge, as some commenters are claiming. 53% cited low running costs as a beneficial factor, and 29% the latest technology (again, sounds low); other priorities included a long range (32% – again, not exactly high) and driving enjoyment (no % available). A lot of information lacking before anything meaningful can be drawn out of this, I think, but it warrants a bit more digging: I do wonder, in particular, how many of these 800 teens (in the other 19%) said that they didn’t expect to buy a car – or even learn to drive – at all?  Was this even an answer option? How many of the sample were learning to drive already (and therefore how representative are they of the age-group anyway)? I’d like to know more about how this research was carried out, what questions were asked, and how participants were selected, but have put in a request for more detail…
  • Very good points in this piece about flying cars (by my PhD supervisor and examiner) incl. notes that technology adoption and major paradigm shifts in transport are hindered by larger landscape-level trends but ultimately, it’s all about people…

Concept of the Day: Nissan Teatro for Dayz

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Nissan-Teatro-7Now I feel really, really old. Nissan’s Teatro for Dayz concept – to be revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show shortly – is designed not even for millennials but social media-obsessed Gen Z ‘share natives’ born this century, kids who might use a car to connect and share experiences with their mates, and be more likely to hire/share than buy. The interior is fully-customisable with digital touchscreen surfaces, allowing for a choice of colours and patterns on the seats and interior trim; there are no knobs or switches, and some motion-sensing controls instead. It’s electric, and an external LED strip along the side sills indicates its battery-charge levels; it’s also a kei-class tiddler. And really quite kawaii. More about it, with pretty pictures, here.

(Debate on Twitter re. a disparaging piece on Autoweek; while, as a bit of a social media curmudgeon, I have some sympathy for the argument about encouraging self-promotion and vanity, this is, I think, demonstrating how, quite blatantly, the mainstream auto press Just Doesn’t Get It and is becoming less and less relevant. Very good point by @drewdraws2 – “The idea that interest in cars should only be about ‘driving pleasure’ and theoretical excitement needs to die”. We could add ‘driving’ full stop into that, of course).

  • Further Tokyo previewing: Subaru has a pair of concepts, and VIZIV Future – a compact SUV – previews an all-wheel-drive hybrid system. Suspect it’ll run mainly on its turbocharged petrol engine, though. More here.
  • Honda will be showing its FCV (fuel cell vehicle), successor to FCX Clarity and rival to Toyota Mirai, said to be on its way to the UK. Its powertrain is entirely packed in the ‘engine’ bay, and it will give nearly 135bhp via its electric motor; driving range between hydrogen fill-ups (currently somewhat harder to find than electric charging points) is 435 miles. New fuel cell concept(s) also expected from Toyota.
  • Future Transport Systems and Ricardo have developed an EV fast-charger using second-life batteries: the FTS E-STOR system is also specifically developed to play a role in grid-balancing and buffering within a smart-grid. It can involve batteries from any vehicle – although the prototypes use Renault batteries – and the first installations are expected mid-2016.
  • GM has launched a car-share scheme (well, on-demand hiring by the hour: I can’t see much ‘sharing’ here) in New York. A fleet of Trax and Equinox SUVs (!) can be reserved by app. For residents of upmarket developments in Manhattan only, at the moment, perhaps as the vehicles can be housed in private car parks/garages. Interestingly, this comes as BMW pulls DriveNow from San Francisco: due to problems with parking permits, apparently, though there is an intention to return. And DriveNow has just added 20 new electric BMW i3s to its London fleet.
  • Research by Morpace (Michigan) with a panel of nearly 250 US EV/hybrid owners: government incentives and tax rebates were an important factor in purchase; buyers were wary of secondhand EVs; nearly a third thought salespeople/dealers were poorly-informed and gave an unsatisfactory purchase experience. Lots of detail on some specifics, i.e. changes in driving habits (42% now accelerate more slowly); a preference to buy aftermarket/independently-sourced chargers rather than OEM equipment; a preference for midsize crossovers and a desire for their car to stand out as an EV or PHEV. On charging behaviour, 79% use apps to locate public charging points;  94% know the locations in their area and choose to go to establishments/locations with charging facilities; they charge in public on average 3.5 times a month for two hours; 71% pay for public charging and 48% of those who don’t would be willing to.
  • Hamburg is the first city in Germany to pass new federal EV legislation; from next month, EVs can park for free, and the number of charging points will rise from the current 150 to 600 by the end of next year, reports electrive.com.
  • UK EV sales in September 2015: 1,549, up over 28% compared to this time last year, plus 2,363 PHEVs (up 25.6%) and 7,605 non-plug hybrids.

Friday news round-up…

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup1Today’s news round-up is illustrated by a picture of one of the cleaner Volkswagens on the road, charging away happily in central Brighton… Dieselgate is well-reported elsewhere, and this is a story that will continue to unfold, so no great detail here – but I will smugly point out that I did write about how “cycle-beating… can involve activating selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx” as part of a lengthy cover story feature (click here to read!) for a well-respected engineering magazine earlier this year. This looked more generally at the emissions/fuel consumption testing regime and the gaping disparities between ‘official’ data and real-life driving, but the SCR dodge was discussed, albeit without reference to a specific manufacturer (fear of legal action, given that manufacturers and trade associations were adamant that all this was within the regulatory framework.) So yeah, we knew. Problem was getting people to listen.

Kudos has to go to the ICCT, of course, for doing the testing work, and to European lobbying organisation Transport & Environment for continuing to raise awareness and kick up a stink, and for providing mere writers/observers like me with data, quotes and general backing-up of arguments. Hoping now, of course, that all this will put an end to the diesel disinformation/greenwashing campaigns, bring on far more stringently-monitored regulation, and accelerate the demise of diesel (at least in passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, in the short-term) and ultimately fossil-fuel dependency full stop. As the far-cleverer-than-me people at the Economist wrote this week, “if VW’s behaviour hastens diesel’s death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.”

And in other news/musings this week…

  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed a new real-time data exchange system for electromobility, better-linking service providers, vehicles, fleet operators, charging equipment and users. The ELISE project resulted in a telematics-based control system which can support energy storage and even selling energy from a car back to the grid. More here.
  • Bosch (enabled by the purchase of Californian start-up Seeo Inc.) is working on solid-state battery tech said to potentially double the range of EVs and PHEVs within five years – without an increase in size. These batteries have no ionic liquid, and can have pure lithium anodes; more here.
  • Some updates on the ‘Apple car’: 2019, according to the WSJ, which adds that the 600-person team currently working on the project is set to triple. The car will certainly be electric, but while Apple is researching autonomous driving very seriously, it may not be fully-autonomous at first.
  • Have to admit that the whole smartwatch thing utterly baffles me, but should such things appeal, Ford is now making its MyFord Mobile apps wrist-compatible (Apple, Android Wear; US.) For EV and PHEV users, the watch app enables remote monitoring of charge levels, notification of reaching full charge levels, pre-heating/cooling of cabin, locking/unlocking doors, and mileage/last trip summary data showing efficiency, plus vehicle location directions (i.e. to walk back to the car.) Google Maps is incorporated, with info on charging stations.
  • Catching up on the Uptake of ultra low emissions vehicles in the UK report for the Department for Transport (August 2015): it’s an overview of socio-demographic characteristics of EV drivers (UK) and likely next-generation uptake, general usage, charging behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Nothing new or surprising here, but a very useful summary of research so far in this area…
  • Looking again at a London/Berlin comparo: 35% of Londoners rely on a car for their daily travel, over half prefer to travel by car than other means, and 75% of households have a car, according to a study outlined by Citylab. (Full report from LSE Cities/Innoz here.) Patterns were similar in both cities apart from much more cycling in Berlin, but the interesting thing here is the segmentation of the participants – ‘technology-focused individualists’, ‘pragmatic transit sceptics’, ‘green-oriented’, ‘innovative access-oriented’ and ‘traditional car-oriented’ – and how policy and incentive-offering need to tackle these groups differently. (This kind of approach has been called for in the above-mentioned report for the DfT, with regard to EV drivers.)

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