Midweek news round-up: #EVs, mobility challenges, hydrogen, car-sharing amd smart transport

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

simca vanRenault has delivered 30 Kangoo ZEs to Uruguay for electricity generator/distributor UTE. These vans – considerably more up-to-date and cleaner-running than this earlier French-built Uruguayan workhorse pictured here – will be deployed in Montevideo and elsewhere in the small country, with the aim of running them mostly on electricity generated by wind farms. Interesting note: 84% of Uruguay’s electricity is renewable-source, the country aims to up that to 90% in the near future, and wind farms will produce a third of the country’s electricity by 2016. More here.

As regards this picture, snapped a couple of years ago on the dusty, sunny streets of Colonia del Sacramento, I believe it’s a local chop-job based on a Simca Cinq (itself derived from the Fiat Topolino). And not electric, but anyway…

  • Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab in Palo Alto, California, has launched a series of challenges for software developers called Innovate Mobility Series. These are open to developers worldwide, with cash prizes and scholarships up for grabs; the initial challenges are to develop a 21st century parking lot for Los Angeles; improving delivery of goods and services in Lisbon; develop an app to improve mobility in Mumbai in the monsoon season; improve healthcare services and information in Delhi and remote rural regions around Chennai; to overcome congestion and enhance commuting in Shanghai; to develop accessories for commercial vehicles in Johannesburg; and to improve general mobility and mitigate congestion on a country-wide basis in Argentina. Competitors will use Ford SVL’s OpenXC platform. More news on the Series at Green Car Congress.
  • The Linde Group has started production of hydrogen fuelling units including its compressors; a deal to supply 28 to Japan is being fulfilled, and the first has now gone into public use near Osaka. More here. Linde says that this is the first ‘production line’ for hydrogen stations, and that it can make 50 a year.
  • Pisa may be most famous for its Leaning Tower, but it has a future-leaning IoT research project going on: it has teamed up with Deutsche Telekom and Kiunsys to install and test ‘smart parking’ tech to identify and direct drivers to empty spaces, and enable them to pay for parking via smartphone. Full lowdown on this, and Pisa’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan,  here.
  •  Electric motorbike-maker Brammo has teamed up with engineering and manufacturing consultancy TEAM Industries to develop electric vehicle powertrains; more at EV World.
  • Discussion on Helsinki’s ambitious plans for a ‘mobility on demand’ scheme and its intentions to make private car ownership in the city centre more or obsolete by 2015 at Guardian Cities
  • And a detailed rundown of the discussion/presentations at the Innovation In Mobility Public Policy Summit (Washington DC) here at Urban Omnibus – how can policy support new mobility schemes and encourage behaviour change? Conclusion of writer Manavsi Menon: “Shared use must be seen as complementary to existing services, not as antithetical to traditional forms of transport, and integrated into broader land use policy in order for a transportation network to bring mobility options to underserved areas and to be a truly seamless system across modes.”
  • Owning no car in suburban San Diego? Nice blog on “having no car and having plenty of cars” at the California Planning and Development Report – the difference in owning, and having access to cars via car club membership, using Uber as a fall-back, and car club membership as part of a mix-and-match of transport options.
  • BMW has signed a MOU with Samsung SDI for continued supply and development of battery cells for EVs. More here.

News: Nissan e-NV200 launched, e-tricycles + last-mile solutions, + more

June 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

nissan env200Nissan’s launching its e-NV200 electric panel van in Europe this week. This has a 106-mile range and 76mph top speed, and is said to promise 40% lower servicing costs and 4x cheaper energy-refuelling than a comparable diesel van, as well as retaining the ICE version’s 770kg payload and 4.2-cubic metre cargo capacity (two standard Euro pallets). It’s aimed at fleets and comes with the option of a top-hinged single rear door as an alternative to the wide-opening pair of rear doors. Mainland (LHD) Europeans will also be offered the five-seater Combi and plusher-trimmed Evalia people-carrying versions, which will be targeted at customers including taxi firms: a dedicated taxi version will be built (designed to comply with local regulations in specific cities/countries) and a fleet is going into operation first of all in Barcelona, where the e-NV200 is built.

Nissan points out that 70% of compact vans used by fleets in Europe do an average 100km a day, and that 35% of such vans never travel more than 120km, so the 106-mile range of the e-NV200 should be more than sufficient. Overnight single-phase charging takes eight hours, but 32-amp fast-charging just four, and a 50kW CHAdeMO DC quick-charger will zap up to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.

  • Concept of the Day: a sit-down Segway-type vehicle called the Joust. It’s envisaged as a short-distance, wirelessly-charged urban vehicle which could be used in short-term rental schemes, and to be affordable and easily-assembled. Lowdown at the Globe and Mail. The piece is by Charles Bombardier, as in Bombardier Recreational Vehicles and Bombardier Inc., but it’s not an in-house project as such: design is by Michigan-based Boris Schwarzer. More ideas and concepts are showcased at charlesbombardier.com, which describes itself as a “concept vehicle factory” in which renderings are created to CB’s brief.
  • And the Dutch-built Virto and Virto S stand-up electric tricycles have passed the EU Type Approval process for use on public roads, reports Green Car Congress. These promise a range of up to 56 miles, a top speed of 16mph and hydraulic brakes, and feature Li-Fe-Po batteries. Virtu is also planning sales and manufacturing in North America. Again, these have possibilities for on-demand hire/share schemes and as last-mile solutions.
  • Media and mobility – some interesting thoughts coming out of the Transport in the Media symposium at Lancaster University’s CeMoRe (Centre for Mobilities Research), and not just on how different modes of transport are portrayed… #mediatransport is the hashtag.
  • And social media and transport: Monika Buscher is talking about the ‘quantified traveller’, who documents his/her mobility behaviour (rich data) and interacts with software ‘counsellors’ (apps) to devise journeys, etc. “The creative appropriation of social media into the micro-management of mobilities, for example, provides opportunities for a shift from thinking about ‘intelligent transport systems’ and ‘smart cities’ to socio-technical intelligent mobility systems and smart citizens”, she says.
  • But a view from the energy-consumption community (DEMAND Centre) on EVs: developing new powertrain tech, and a ‘techno-fix’ approach, is wrong because we should be looking at alternatives to the car. Blog post here. Because all of those 35 million cars in the UK (not to mention the billions more in the rest of the world, obviously) will then go away and not be needed (yeah, right). Because we haven’t had plenty of academics, multitudes of public bodies, organisations, think-tanks and consultancies looking at how to do this for a long time already, to little avail? And Tesla “the right answer to the wrong question”? No, one right answer to one of very many good questions that we should be asking – including those about electricity generation, other modes of transport, urban design and infrastructure – and an important one regardless of the minorities directly involved right now, because it has impacts on a far wider level. While we wait for this coming mecca in which everyone all over the country can access affordable public transport as and when they need it to go where they want to go, walk or cycle in perfect personal safety at all hours, and the affluent no longer feel the need for status symbols or private chauffeuring away from the great unwashed, I think we’d better get on and clean up the vehicles that continue to be in use, personally.
  • Ford is working with Heinz on a use for waste tomato fibres: these could be used in composite materials for wiring brackets and storage bins, reducing the need for petrochemical plastics in car production. The fibres – from tomato peel, stems and seeds, by-products of Heinz’s ketchup-making – are said to make for lightweight, strong materials. The experiment’s still in the early stages, but Ford is now already making cowl brackets using rice hulls, console components with cellulose fires, coconut-based composites, recycled cotton carpets and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.
  • Interesting feedback from BMW’s sales & marketing chief Ian Robertson on i3 buyers: 80% are new to the brand – and many “never owned a car before but decided to buy a zero-emission vehicle”. More at Automotive News Europe. Interesting because this may hint that the much-hyped ‘end of the Western love affair with the car’ may only mean the ICE car
  • Fleet software-builder CrossChasm has launched an Indiegogo campaign to market its MyEV device and app, reports Transport Evolved. This is said to go beyond current apps and telematics such as GM’s OnStar and Nissan’s CarWings in its tracking of vehicle efficiency and trip logging over time, monitoring state of charge and battery health, mileage, range and usage data, and enabling drivers to identify most energy-efficient routes, improve their technique and share efficiency scores with friends (or fleet managers). It uses a logging device plugged into the car’s diagnostics port and connected to a smartphone. And another neat feature, says TE: buyers get a windscreen sticker with QR code enabling other EV drivers to contact them via smartphone app at a charging station, i.e. to move their vehicle if they’ve finished charging or to ask if it’s OK to unplug them to free up a point.
  • Australians are driving less: fewer trips, with increased use of technology/telecomms a likely large contributing factor (among others), argues Alan Davies of The (Melbourne) Urbanist.
  • BMW is to offer its (US) i customers a new Smart Charging app – integrated with the existing i Remote – to identify best times and rates for domestic charging. Has the potential to save these drivers up to $400 a year, they say. It’s available to the former ‘Electronauts’ (field trial leasees of the ActiveE) first, presumably for sympathetic beta-testing, before being rolled out to further i3 and i8 owners next year.
  •  One to keep an eye on: insinuations of dirty behaviour in a charging infrastructure land-grab, reported here. Apparently Tesla wants exclusive rights to put its exclusive-use superchargers at service stations, shutting out Ecotricity, provider of electricity to any EV driver with the right plug adaptor. That such a battle is going on shows that there’s something in this EV business as an economic proposition, at least…
  • Toyota and Panasonic are to launch their jointly-developed smart home-car link-up service later this year. This uses the cloud-based Toyota Smart Centre for car-to-home communication with appliances, air conditioning systems, heating, etc.



Concept of the Day: Volkswagen e-load Up!

September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

72949vw-e-loadup1_mediumMy favourite of the concepts shown in Frankfurt this week: the practical Volkswagen e-load Up, a panel-van version of the e-Up city car. It’s got 1400 litres-worth and 1 cubic metre of cargo capacity, does 80mph and has a range of up to 99 miles, more than enough for local load-lugging or delivery duties. It has a five-door layout with the rear windows blanked out, and just two front seats; the passenger seat folds to increase load length. It’ll go into (limited-run) production if there is sufficient demand.

In other news today:

  • Renault has signed a letter of intent with the Bolloré Group – maker of the Bluecar as used in the Paris Autolib’ – for “joint development of car-sharing solutions and the implementation of industrial and commercial cooperation agreements in the field of electric vehicles”. Bolloré has won contracts in Lyon (Bluely), Bordeaux (Bluecub) and Indianapolis (!) as well as Paris, and with Renault, is planning joint-venture tenders for further services internationally. Some Bluecar production could be shifted to Renault’s plant in Dieppe, and a convertible version is to join the range next June; a three-seater with Bolloré’s battery (said to give a range of over 120 miles) is also under development. Renault is also to supply components, and may take a stake in the existing operations in Lyon and Bordeaux. (In a separate story, Bolloré has accused a firm contracted by BMW of industrial espionage; P3 claims its employees were checking charging post compatibility for the i3).
  • Also on an EV-sharing theme: Toyota is partnering with City Carshare in Pleasanton, California (Bay Area), to supply a 30-car fleet of Scion-branded iQ EVs. This pilot scheme will be called Dash; release posted here.
  • Here’s a commitment: Transport Scotland has declared that the country will be free from petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles and their emissions by 2050. It has published an Electric Vehicle Roadmap document, Switched On Scotland, and promised that half of all fossil-fuelled vehicles will be phased out of urban environments by 2030.
  • The City of London has voted for a blanket 20mph limit in the Square Mile (as predicted in yesterday’s Evening Standard; thanks to @livingstreets for tweeting the result of the vote). It’ll join Camden and Islington with this; good news for pedestrians and cyclists. Full release here. This marks quite a step forward in reducing car-dominance in city centres, I reckon.
  • Drayson Racing Technologies has entered into a licence agreement with Qualcomm Inc. to use the latter’s wireless charging tech in the cars it supplies. The 20kW Qualcomm Halo system is fitted in the prototype Drayson B12/69EV electric racer, which  has been undergoing high-speed trials, hill-climbing at Goodwood and setting land-speed records for EVs, and Qualcomm Europe Inc is sponsoring the Drayson Racing team. DRT also says that it is “developing systems for use on road-going EVs and for electric racing cars that will participate in the forthcoming FIA Formula E Championship”.

Venturi ventures thru’ Africa; EV week-end round-up

March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Venturi is to venture 4,800km in its electric Citroen Berlingo conversion (as supplied to the French Post Office, but with extra batteries) across Africa. The ‘Mission Africa’ trip will take in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa, Kilimanjaro to Okavango. You can follow its progress (in English) at missionafrica.fr ; the purpose of the trip is to prove reliability, raise awareness and study the infrastructure in a continent where 65% of people are said to have no access to mains electricity. The trip is backed by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and the car was presented at the EVER show in Monte Carlo this week.

In other news today:

  • Some spy shots of a big-wheeled Chevrolet Volt at Autoblog Green: word is that this is actually the Cadillac Converj (the Volt’s luxury sister model) in disguise. GM has also started testing the Chevy Spark EV.
  • Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute are to show next-generation lithium-ion batteries for EVs which have improved charging/discharging properties, optimised cooling, more flexible layouts and better pressure resistance. These will be on display at the Hanover Messe next month; more at Alpha Galileo.
  • The IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) has published a Code of Practice for electric vehicle charging equipment installation. Good stuff. Paperback or e-book available from the IET.
  • Robert Llewellyn has launched a new series of his EV web TV show Fully Charged, now sponsored by British Gas. More about it at the Charging Point, show itself at fullycharged.tv.

Clandestine hybrid, electric van grants, Geneva EV previews and solar bus stops

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Despite being a Guardian-reading peacenik, I do have an interest in military vehicles. Am liking the US Army’s new Clandestine Extended-Range Vehicle (CERV) which has an all-electric mode and an eight mile range in which it can all-electrically creep around being, well, quiet and clandestine. It’s a light armoured buggy with a Quantum-developed diesel-electric hybrid powertrain: a 1.4-litre engine, 75kW generator and over 5000lb ft-worth of torque. Fuel savings are around the 25% mark and it can still do 80mph and climb 60-degree slopes.

  • The first seven vans to be eligible for the government’s Plug-In Van grants – up to 20% of their purchase price, or £8000 – have been announced. Some unfamiliar names here: we know the Azure Dynamics Transit Connect Electric, the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell, the Mia-electric Mia U, Renault Kangoo ZE and Smith Edison SE2 and SE 3, but the Faam Ecomile and Jolly 2000 – Italian micro-vans – were  new to me.
  • A Czech company called EVC is converting the Skoda Roomster to battery power; two conversions offered, R3 (41hp, 110km/ph top speed, range of 140km) and R7 (88hp, 170km/ph, 175km). Both cars to be launched at Geneva Motor Show, more details thanks to Technologic Vehicles.
  • Another Geneva EV preview: quadricycle-maker Volteis is to unveil a Philippe Starck-designed minimalist concept car, reports Technologic Vehicles (again). “I wanted to offer an alternative. A different answer so we can return to the minimalist definition of a vehicle. A simple vehicle. Almost a breeze. With four wheels. A steering wheel. And electricity. A vehicle there to transport. To carry people and luggages,” says Starck  (as quoted by TechVehicles. I like the translation of  “luggages”, which gives a perfect sense of plural items). No picture yet.
  • Nice solar induction-charging concept for buses, developed by Dutch firm Studio Mango for the city of Noord-Brabant, outlined at Smart Planet. Can’t see it working here, though – when did I last see a bus shelter which hadn’t been vandalised?

Monday: Mindset and more

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

An update on the Mindset EV: the Swiss firm has optimised the performance of its lithium-ion batteries, doubling their power density in a “major breakthrough for electric vehicles”. Three models are planned; two are all-electric (and one of these four-wheel-drive), and the third a range-extended EV with a single-cylinder 300cc four-stroke engine acting as a generator. Prices from 76,000 euros, they say. (Thanks to @TechVehicles).

In other news today:
  • Honda is to introduce a new 1.6-litre diesel engine at the Geneva Motor Show; it’s the first of a new series of engines dubbed “Earth Dreams Technology” (hm…) which will “see Honda become number one in fuel economy within three years” (take that, dissatisfied Civic Hybrid owners). Going into the Civic late this year, this 120hp/300Nm diesel will emit less than 100g/km. Honda will also show the NSX Concept (hybrid) and EV-Ster concept, plus a Jazz 1.2 with stop-start (giving a 3g/km reduction), which goes on sale this spring.
  • The EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show will be held at Silverstone on August 18th. Manufacturers including Renault, Nissan, Peugeot and Citroen will have cars at the event for fleet managers to test-drive, and charging point/infrastructure firms will also attend. The show is organised by Fleet World magazine in association with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association; Fleet World’s managing editor Ross Durkin says: “Fleets’ attitude towards electric vehicles is changing steadily as some of the myths are dispelled, and the recharging infrastructure develops… With oil prices widely expected to rise again, I think EVs will make commercial sense to a growing number of organisations… maybe 10% of new cars into fleet in five years’ time.”
  • Mercedes-Benz will launch its Citan van at the Hannover CV show in September; this small van is developed from the Renault Kangoo, so electric versions are probably on the agenda too.
  • Bluebird Automotive is testing its prototype electric trucks in London this week. Follow @ev_innovations for all the news.

Meet mia electric

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The mia electric (yes, all lower-case, like smart) is to launch at the EcoVelocity show in London next month. The mia cars made their debut at the Geneva Motor Show last year, and will be seen in the UK for the first time. Mia plans to reach a production capacity of 14,000 cars  in 2012 at its factory in Cerizay, France; 3000 orders have been taken, production started in June, and mia expects to make 4000 cars this year; UK sales start early 2012.

Mia – a French-German company which was originally part of coachbuilding firm Heuliez – is to show three versions of its Microbus. There’s a standard three-seat short-wheelbase model, the slightly longer mia L (four seats) and mia box van (a 1500-litre cargo capacity). Designed by Murat Günak, former head of design at Volkswagen, they feature a central driving position which allows the driver to get in and out on either side; the rear passengers thus have plenty of legroom as well, and there’s space on the dash to mount a tablet computer and iPod.

Günak says: “As a father of four I wanted to pursue a new, sustainable path towards environmentally-friendly mobility of the future. We started with a blank piece of paper and asked ourselves the same question over and over again: what does a customer really want to be mobile in the city? Our conclusion was a compact-yet-spacious microbus that’s well organized and single-mindedly focused on urban transportation.”

Design partner David Wilkie, the former design director of Bertone, adds: “Working on the mia project was like reinventing the car itself. It hasn’t been designed to look swoopy and fast, it’s designed to be practical and likeable. A lot of cars are derivatives of mainstream cars but this is all new and perfect for big cities. It will undoubtedly become harder, and maybe even illegal, to drive petrol cars in downtown urban areas, so electric city cars like the mia have enormous potential.”

All three mia models (which weigh 750-759kg)  have an 18kW rear-mounted motor, giving a top speed of 68mph. Range  is 120-130km, and a full charge takes five hours, but the lithium-phosphate batteries can take short top-up charges without any detriment. A ten-minute charge gives an extra 6km.

Pricing is still hefty, for a vehicle so small, however. The mia electric starts from £22,000 – after the £5000 government subsidy is taken into account – though incentives do include exemption from the London congestion charge, free road tax, 0% BIK tax for company car users and of course, big savings on fuel. There’s a three-year warranty for the car and its batteries, which can be extended to five years.

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