Pre-Geneva news round-up

February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

rimac concept oneNormal service (such as it ever is) resumed following a three-week stand-in stint at Car Design News (cheers, guys! Invoice on its way!). So a quick news round-up, starting with an exotica alert: no shortage of high-price, high-tech electrified offerings on show at Geneva motor show next week, including the TechRules turbine-recharging EV and the Arash AF10 hybrid,  as well as the Morgan EV3 three-wheeler in production form. I think the most interesting, however, are Nanoflowcell AG’s Quantino – which has just completed a test run in which it operated non-stop for 14 hours on an urban cycle – and the production-ready Rimac Automobili ‘Concept One’ [pictured]. Well, production-ready in that eight are going to be made… Lowdown on the Croatian-developed Rimac is a motor at each wheel giving a total 800kW/1088hp and 1600Nm, four gearboxes (single-speed up front, two two-speed double-clutchers behind), all-wheel torque-vectoring with regenerative braking, 0-100kph in 2.6 seconds, adjustable settings including drift mode, full telemetry and 4G cloud connection, but for me the most interesting bit is its battery pack: 8450 cells, each individually monitored and controlled, with liquid thermal management and the ability to deliver 1MW of power under acceleration yet 400kW when braking. Rimac is shaping up to be an influential battery-supplier to several sectors (including e-superbikes, such as the Greyp G12S made by its sister company) and the Concept One is, effectively an ad for this end of the business. Lowdown here.

  • Americans: driving more than ever before, according to data from the FHA [3.15trillion miles in 2015, with December’s VMT up 4% on December 2014]. The lowering price of fuel and urban sprawl are fingered as contributing factors, as well as a growing economy, says Scientific American, and a spokesman from the Union of Concerned Scientists describes policy to reduce car use full stop as ‘a very long game plan’ making efficiency and alt-fuels ‘ever more pressing’. As for the idea that Millennials aren’t driving, the fall in under-30s’ license-holding is only 1% 2004-2014, incidentally, and counterbalanced by more older adults staying on the road for longer. Can we now officially declare ‘Peak Car’ over?
  • Hubject has come up with a solution for detecting and transmitting ‘dynamic occupation data’ on availability of EV charging points – whether they’re in use already, or the space is ICE-d. More here.
  • ‘Green ergonomics’ research by Southampton University/TU Chemnitz with 39 already economy-conscious Toyota Prius drivers: even among those highly motivated to save energy, eco-driving strategies differed and were not necessarily successful. Many had “false beliefs” about energy-saving, and did not fully understand their vehicle’s tech and energy use, i.e. over-estimating energy recuperated under regenerative braking or overall energy saved in all-electric mode. Recommendations for HMI design include comprehensive feedback incl. real-time drivetrain performance data and predictive info, design for ease of perception, system support for driver ‘learning’, incorporation of automated interventions, i.e. energy-optimised adaptive cruise control, better displays on drivetrain dynamics and energy flows, and ability to configure info displays. More detailed rundown here,  full paper in Applied Ergonomics.
  • Unveiling of the Riversimple Rasa fuel cell microcar, developed for long-term leasing. Some more thoughts, from Cardiff University’s Paul Nieuwenhuis, co-director of the Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, here
  • And another fuel cell micro-vehicle, this time the Austrian-developed HET Engineering Citylog EMF, for urban deliveries. It can also connect up with others to form a ‘train’, and would suit shuttle and other passenger transport services as well. More here.
  • Tie-up between Seat, SAP and Samsung which takes IoT-enabled cars a stage further: new connectivity products under development (announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week) include a ‘global inventory’ of cloud-connected parking spaces which can be reserved and paid-for via Samsung Pay, using fingerprint recognition and integrated with location/navigation services. Same tech could apply to EV charger reservation too, of course. Also, ‘digital key sharing’ (keyless operation via smartphone, transferable with potential for time-limiting and even performance-limiting). To be worked into the My Seat app. (Volvo is also to offer a Bluetooth-enabled digital key, to operate via a phone app, from next year.)
  • From Ford at MVC: new offers and geolocation services in partnership with the likes of BP and McDonalds, plus Parkopedia with payments via Mobile City, within the FordPass membership programme; Ford is mentioning robot refuelling and auto-parking as future extensions. A pilot scheme called GoPark is under test in London (Islington) with volunteers sending live traffic/parking data, alongside the GoDrive on-demand car-share.
  • And BMW: I can’t pretend to understand the tech here, but it has announced trials of a ‘vehicular small cell’, a mobile femtocell which is said to optimise in-car mobile radio reception/transmission. Project’s called Vehicular Crowdcell, suggesting there’s an element of crowd-sourced data collection, and one possible application, BMW suggests, is carsharing schemes. More here.
  • Ericsson is working with Volvo (and wider Geely Auto group) on high-bandwidth streaming tech for autonomous vehicles – including improving network coverage, data storage and the quality of connectivity. V2V and V2X services will be developed on Ericsson’s Connected Vehicle Cloud platform with open API. Initial services to be offered to DIY drivers will include remote monitoring/activation of vehicle systems and a dynamic app store, next stage is sharing of info on potential road hazards.
  • Quote from Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche in the Euro am Sonntag paper: “Batteries have become more attractive [than fuel cells] in recent years. It has become more likely that they could prevail.” Zetsche cites progress in range and charging time as key factors – “Cars with electric driving ranges of 500 km and fast-charging times of 20 minutes are within reach” – whereas the issue of affordable and widespread hydrogen supply/distribution has not yet been solved.
  • Research from CIED, Sussex University, looking at 40 years of driver behaviour (1970-2011), mileage and fuel prices has found a 20% ‘rebound effect’ – as car fuel efficiency improves, people drive more, thus cancelling out a lot of the benefits of creating more efficient vehicles (a fifth of the energy-saving eroded). More here, full paper in Energy Economics (February 2016) here.
  • KTH Stockholm has developed a wood pulp-based carbonfibre material to form a roof and integrated battery for an electric vehicle: this saves weight, and the ‘lignin battery’ can be made from forestry byproducts. More here.
  • Linkoping Unversity has come up with a streamlined truck design that can cut fuel (100% biodiesel) use by 12%: more here.
  • Important development for EV awareness as well as to inform existing drivers: availability (or at least, presence) of fast-chargers is to be added to motorway service station signposts. More here.
  • A series of lectures from TSU Oxford on Urban Mobilities in the Smart City can be listened-to (podcasts) or viewed (presentation slides) here.
  • An interesting & thoughtful long read on autonomous cars, parking and urban space here
  • …and insight into Ford’s work with design agency Ideo on multi-modal transport apps here
  • Fun concepts of the last week: autonomous on-demand micro-catamarans, for city commuting by water. More on the SeaBubble here. And a clever electric tractor/compactor here
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Citroën e-Méhari revealed

December 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Citroen-Mehari.jpg&MaxW=622&cci_ts=20151208101349So today we celebrate the relaunch of the Citroën Mehari: Citroën’s much-loved 2CV-based open-top utility vehicle has been reborn, albeit as a version of the Bolloré Bluesummer – which makes it an electric vehicle, the e-Méhari revealed. Range of 124 miles at city speeds, top speed of 68mph, and destined for car-shares (in dry, warm climates, presumably) much like the Bolloré Bluecar, probably, as well for appropriate fleet deployment (tourist applications have been suggested) plus private sales.

In other news:

  • Nissan is starting smart-grid trials with energy supplier/distributor ENEL, to explore offering vehicle-to-grid tech to European consumers, the extended use of second-life EV batteries for static storage, and designing and evaluating affordable energy/mobility pack offers. Participating Leaf owners can charge at low-demand, cheap-tariff times, with energy stored in the vehicle battery at home during peak times or even sold back to the grid; each car functions as an ‘energy hub’, says Nissan, ‘with the ability to store, use or return electricity to the grid’.
  • And Nissan has also announced this week a partnership with Eaton to develop battery-reuse; the first experimental modules will combine Leaf lithium-ion batteries with Eaton’s power management, control and integration tech and solar PV to create a stand-alone storage/control package which will allow customers to manage energy supply and consumption while either connected to or independent of the grid. Good for integration of renewable energy, good for grid stability and efficiency.
  • Renault’s also doing second-life stuff with French start-up Carwatt, looking at repurposing car batteries into low-cost e-van conversions. And it has also announced this week that it’s working on an app for Zoe owners with energy-provider Eneco, similarly to facilitate charging on renewable electricity at most favourable times. Pilot tests by Eneco in the Netherlands have found that owners can save up to 15% on their electricity costs by using an app, too.
  • Conclusions from the 18-month My Electric Avenue research project (Scottish/Southern Energy Power Distribution, EA Technology): when 40-70% of utility customers have EVs and need to charge their cars at home, only 32% of Britain’s local electricity networks will need upgrades; the ‘Esprit’ demand management system could reduce the cost of the interventions by up to £2.2billion through to 2050. The ‘clusters’ of participating Nissan Leaf drivers modelled the future demand scenarios based on 3.5kW/13-amp home charging; the concerns were around local networks with available capacity of less than 1.5kW per customer. However, rather than replacing underground cables, fitting the Esprit tech can guard against system overload at much lower cost. “However, for this solution to work, car manufacturers and the energy industry will need to work together more closely,” it concludes. Full project reports here.
  • Porsche has confirmed production of the Mission E, its first all-electric car, at “the end of the decade”. This four-door, four-seater had, in the Frankfurt show car, a 600hp-plus power output, an 800-volt charger plus wireless induction-charging capability, and a claimed range of over 500km; 0-62mph acceleration in under 3.5 seconds.
  • Hyundai is to launch a compact/hatchback next year with electric, PHEV and hybrid powertrain options: the Ioniq will be revealed in Korea in January, then seen at the Geneva and New York motor shows.
  • Audi, BMW and Daimler have teamed up – to complete their buy-out (from Nokia) of digital services provider HERE, supplier of real-time mapping data and location-based services, and tech that underpins, for example, automated driving or traffic management. HERE can take data from cars, phones, transport and logistics-sector sources and infrastructural elements to power its mapping, connecting to millions of vehicles; this pooling of resources between the German carmakers should effectively have the potential to more quickly achieve a critical mass of data-providers (sensor-equipped vehicles) by aggregating the data, as well as accelerate the growth of the HERE platform itself and the mobility services which can be created from it.
  • Never mind second-life batteries, how ’bout second-life engines? Ford has developed a plasma coating process said to deliver a 50% reduction in CO2 compared to building an all-new engine, and enabling effective recycling/remanufacturing/reconditioning of old ones.

 

Uruguayan electricity and other stories…

December 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

gttc-5Slightly off-topic but I have been particularly struck by the news today from the Paris summit that Uruguay – a small and not very wealthy country – has achieved an electricity mix of 94.5% renewables. Without government subsidies, or rising consumer prices. That’s 55% of the overall energy mix including transport fuels, with wind, hydro, solar and biomass all playing a part – but no nuclear. It’s good for business, too, energy accounting for 15% of its GDP. The Guardian story does note, however, that “the transport sector still depends on oil”, which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix – though it is at least in a good position to start using electrified vehicles (UTE, the state electricity generator/distributor, is already running a fleet of Renault Kangoo ZEs).  And I can’t resist making the point that this was mostly achieved under the watch of the country’s colourful former ‘peasant president’, a man who made Jeremy Corbyn look like a marauding free-marketeer. Or resist the temptation to post a holiday snap from Uruguay a few years back, suggesting that the country does still have some way to go before it cleans up its transport… (anyone want to hazard a guess what this is?)

  • No, not the Self-driven Volt but a fleet of self-driving Volts… GM is to deploy a fleet of autonomous Chevys at its technical centre in Warren, Michigan, involving a valet-service app: GM’s employees will reserve and summon the cars, which can park themselves. More here. (And to refer back to the esteemed Mr W Self and his recent series of radio shows, quite why the BBC thought it acceptable to send him on a long road trip in an obsolete electrified vehicle – discontinued UK-spec Volt – without the necessary charging cable and adaptor to use public charging points, then broadcast his predictably negative comments on his not-very-electric driving experience, I really don’t know. I don’t expect a writer and cultural commenter to be an EV expert/authority, but I would have expected better research and representation from the Beeb.)
  • Couple of summing-up-state-of-play studies from consultancy EY (Ernst & Young): first one, Who’s in the driving seat?, looks at autonomous vehicles and reckons that people are receptive to the idea, especially younger generations, seeing particular advantages for congestion and road safety, though they’re concerned about driving fun and liability issues. It points to a reversal of the driver-car relationship in terms of maintenance, safety and wellbeing, and importance of new values such as connectivity, reliability and safety in place of power or image – a shift from ‘extrinsic’ product values to ‘intrinsic’. Other one, Urban Mobility Redefined, goes down the “sharing is the new buying” route, with digitalisation and connectivity the key drivers. Nothing new here, but handy consolidations.
  • Swiss research institute Empa has opened a new platform called “move” in collaboration with ETH Zurich to study the use of surplus renewable electricity in cars, utility vehicles and machinery, encompassing a shift from fossil to renewable energy with a view to creating ‘a closed carbon cycle model.’ Mobility is responsible for 40% of Switzerland’s CO2 emissions, and the country anticipates a large surplus of solar-generated electricity in summer months. The project includes looking into synthetic electricity-based fuels, with the opening of an electrolysis plant to convert renewable electricity into hydrogen, as well catalytic conversion of hydrogen and CO2 into methane, and apparently nature is the role model since ‘plants have been using sunlight, water and CO2 to supply themselves sustainably with energy for millions of years.’ More here.
  • A frightening thought: mobility-on-demand, connectivity and autonomous vehicles could lead to “a profound impact” on consumers and vehicle mileage travelled, according a report from KPMG, which suggests that VMT could soar to an extra trillion additional miles a year by 2050. KPMG puts this down to increased demand for mobility and related services from older people and millennials in particular, citing older people using on-demand autonomous services as they age, as well as tech-savvy youngsters (aged 10-15) not yet old enough to drive, but who can get into an on-demand vehicle. It warns of large numbers of empty cars going to pick people up, and a possible increase in VMT of up to 3-4 trillion additional miles by 2050, as personal mileage escalates. More here; full report, “The Clockspeed Dilemma”, for download here.
  • University of Glasgow student Morven Fraser (BEng Mechanical Engineering) won this year’s Autocar-Courland Next Generation award for aspiring automotive engineers: her energy-capture and storage system concept involves PV film on a vehicle’s body panels to capture  energy, then stored in nanobatteries integrated into the carbonfibre panels, and used in an electrified powertrain. This could extend EV range and reduce reliance on heavy conventional batteries. Fraser, 21, wins £9000 plus work experience at six of the sponsor OEMs.
  • A researcher at Stuttgart University is working on a wireless induction charging system for super-accurate positioning of an electric vehicle over an induction plate, and for optimised efficiency. PhD student Dean Martinovic has developed and patented a magnetic field technology to match up induction coils to an accuracy of 1cm, using a low-frequency pulsed magnetic field; this gives lower interference with the car’s metal underbody and no reflection of electromagnetic waves. The driver is guided by a 3D image (on a tablet, in the prototype) to the optimal positioning of the car and the system is said to be both very space- and cost-effective.
  • A lifecycle analysis study in New Zealand has found EV impact to be significantly lower than that of conventional ICE vehicles, with over 60% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to petrol, 40% reduction in energy use compared to diesel, and in a NZ-specific context, an 80% fall in CO2 compared to petrol, thanks to NZ’s high proportion of renewable electricity. More here.
  • Heuliez Bus – making over a quarter of French buses – is to trial its first all-electric model, the GX ELEC, in Paris. More here.
  • Further to the above, the European Environment Agency has released a report claiming that nitrogen dioxide emissions – predominantly from diesel vehicles – are responsible for an additional 75,000 premature deaths in Europe each year (and 432,000 premature deaths caused by particulates, with ozone another health-problem emission). That’s 21,600 in polluted Italy, 14,100 in the UK, 10,400 in Germany and 5,900 in Spain, it says – all countries which have lobbied for weaker emissions controls and higher limits for diesel vehicles, Transport and Environment points out. T&E also notes another study claiming 23,500 UK deaths are attributable to NO2, suggesting that “the EAA’s method may be conservative.”
  • And just in case the role of vehicles in all this isn’t clear, the EC’s Joint Research Centre and the World Health Organisation have released a report identifying traffic as the biggest source of particulate matter in 51 world cities. Traffic accounts for 25% of PM2.5s and PM10s, combustion and agriculture 22%, domestic fuel burning 20%, natural dust and salt 18% and industrial activities 15%, although the proportions differ around the world. Domestic fuel burning is the greatest contributor to PMs in Eastern Europe, for example, and natural dust in the Middle East and North Africa, but  traffic, heating and agriculture are the main culprits in North America and Western Europe. More here.
  • Looking into the myth of peak car: VMT (vehicle mileage travelled) may be up in the US, but not when looked at per capita, and is a few % down on all-time peaks when population growth is taken into account, argues this piece (with handy graphs). Yeah, but mileage is still pretty damn high, whether it’s peaked or not…
  • Loads of fleet-related news this week, but one of the biggest/most symbolic is 2000 EVs to New York City’s non-emergency fleet, which already runs 300 EVs on municipal duties. This will mean that half the fleet is electric, with a claimed reduction in fuel consumption of 2.5million gallons a year plus CO2 emissions halved by 2020, and is thought to be the biggest fleet deployment yet of EVs in the US. More here.
  • Audi America is in talks with other car-makers over establishing a single common-standard fast-charging network across the USA, a la Tesla Superchargers; another (potential) example, I think, of how the carmakers are expanding their businesses beyond building hardware to service provision. More here.
  • And more news from Germany’s most excellent and innovative Frauenhofer Institutes (a network of well-funded universities and research centres developing engineering solutions): a prototype battery cell with its own integrated microcontroller charting temperature, state of charge and suchlike, able to communicate with other cells, the main controller and other devices. An empty or defective cell can be decoupled from the system. This should allow for greater battery range (by up to 10%) – since it eliminates the problem of cells linked in series, whereby the weakest cell determines overall capacity – and lower costs, it’s claimed. This is part of the EU 3Ccar advanced systems design project, which aims to reduce EV complexity, costs and maintenance requirements.

Electromobility important for GHG reductions

November 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

LichtBlick_1504_3E-Haus_mw_013Electric mobility (not just cars) could contribute far more than previously thought to the reduction of GHG emissions, according to a new paper from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/Mercator Research Institute of Global Commons and Climate Change. The transport sector (currently accounting for 23% of global energy-related emissions) could nearly halve its emissions by 2050 if a large-scale shift to electric mobility – alongside the promotion of public transport in cities, disincentives to drive, promotion of cycling, etc – is achieved. This would include car-sharing, e-bicycles and electric rail as well as cars, says the paper’s lead author Felix Creutzig, noting: “Efficiency gains will be very difficult to achieve with the conventional automobile fleet from 2025 on. A fuel shift will be the only remaining option to advance decarbonisation.” KIT’s Patrick Jochem adds: “Electrification of cars may also contribute to the energy turnaround, provided that electric vehicles are integrated smartly into the energy system. Shifting of charge processes to strong-wind hours might relieve the energy system and, hence, create synergies between both sectors.” More here; full paper – in Science, Vol. 350, no. 6363, pp.911-912, here.

  • On that note, the launch yesterday of the 100% London campaign -100% clean energy by 2050, also aimed-for by 50-odd Labour-run councils across the country – involves some hearty targets for GHG reductions. Implications for transport policy, of course, and talk about biogas and fuel cell vehicles as well as EVs.
  • And the clever folks at KIT are also working on ‘powercaps’ or ‘hybrid capacitors’ – devices combining the properties of batteries and capacitors for energy storage, storing twice as much power as capacitors but able to supply up to ten times more power than a battery. Science bit here.
  • Renault has been testing smart-charging management in German with TMH (The Mobility House), which has developed tech to automate EV charging at times of lower-cost electricity. Eleven Zoe-owning Renault employees in Germany have tested the system at their homes and research is ongoing between Renault and TMH on smart-grid communications to smooth out demand peaks and troughs, as well as optimising costs (and charging times) for EV owners. Payments for feeding electricity back to the grid (from cars) are also being studied. TMH has further ongoing collaborations with Daimler (energy storage and second-life batteries) and with Volkswagen (supply of home-charging solutions).
  • Volvo’s Concept 26 – revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week – is another vision of the future of commuting. It’s a take on the autonomous theme with a three-way seat which adapts to Drive, Create and Relax modes, involving degrees of seat recline, retraction of the steering wheel and a fold-out display screen – to either make use of the commute time “creatively” or to sit back and relax, watch media or listen to music. Volvo’s Drive Me research project is to get fully-autonomous vehicles on the road, “driving real customers” in Gothenburg next year. And the ’26’, apparently, refers to the average US commuting time. (On a related note, interiors supplier Faurecia is working on a research project with a team from Stanford University to study the issue of motion sickness in self-driving cars…)
  • Speaking of Gothenburg, I’m liking the Stadsleveransen – a city delivery service combining an electric vehicle-pulled ‘train’ of goods trailers and six-wheeled cargo bikes, driven by the ‘pooling’ and aggregation of deliveries to shops and businesses in a central area. Has cut down on traffic and parked vehicles, enabled increasing pedestrianisation and cycling, and created an all-round more pleasant place, they say.

Friday electromobility news & updates

November 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

fraunhofer HEMS solar chargingA home energy management system with Android app created by researchers at the Frauenhofer Institutes is to help integrate EV-charging with domestic solar panels, and feeding surplus solar power back to the grid. The HEMS has been fitted in upgrades of ‘Passiv Haus’ properties in Fellbach, Baden-Württemberg, as part of the German federal Electric Mobility Showcase programme and Fellbach ZeroPlus project. Five of the seven houses feature a 22W fast-charger with embedded software, collecting data from the houses’ electricity meters and displaying information about the power flows and consumption as the solar energy is fed to the car, heat pump and other household needs. The HEMS also forecasts solar intensity and anticipates household power loads and demands, with the ‘leftover’ power sent to the vehicle for storage in its battery before any further surplus is then sent to the grid; the app allows owners to control the fast-charger and monitor the car’s charge levels and charging times. It is the result of two years’ field-testing and feedback from the homeowners. More here. Incidentally, two of the five households in the project are involved in a car-sharing project as well.

  • Meanwhile, Daimler is partnering with The Mobility House AG, GETEC (energy provider) and Remondis (recycling and services) on a project in Lünen, Westphalia. This involves a second-life battery energy storage unit – claimed to be the world’s largest at 13MW –  which will be connected to the grid for balancing and buffering/levelling out peaks and troughs in demand and better-enable the feed-in of renewable energy. The batteries used have come from the smart electric drive. More here.
  • And good news for standardisation of EV-grid communications: the EC’s Joint Research Centre has opened a lab with a partner facility at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (Chicago), with a view to transatlantic harmonisation. More here. Now they just need to bring the Japanese/other Far Eastern countries on board as well…
  • NEXT (‘The Future of Transportation’ has released a ‘v3.0’ video: this shows a swarm of self-driving, on-demand ‘pods’ which can drive on standard roads, join up and detach as required, complete with dynamic ‘service modules’ – loos, bars, restaurants – and smart-routing. Its latest vision describes a transport ecosystem in which these can serve for private, corporate or public transport.
  • And in the here-and-now, Bombardier Transportation has just done a catenary-free 41.6km test run (in Mannheim, Germany) of a electric tram, featuring its Primove battery system with supercapacitors. More here. This allows for free-running of e-trams without cables, in between flash-charging at stops or via pantograph.
  • On a further practical note, Iveco has unveiled a new electric version of its Daily van. Up to 5.6tonne GVW, payload increased by around 100kg, battery life up 20% and range now said to be up to 174 miles.
  • Apparently Nissan Leaf owners (US) drive a similar electric mileage to Chevy Volt-ers; the latter do a few extra miles on petrol power; 97% of Leaf charging is at home or a workplace, 84% at home (87% for Volts); 13% of Leaf owners and 5% of Volts only ever charged at home; around half the drivers charged away from home only up to 5% of the time; 20% of vehicles studied accounted for 75% of away-from-home charging, most of this workplace. Handy rundown here; full report – from Idaho National Laboratory – here.
  • A wireless induction charging project: the CU-ICAR centre at Clemson University, South Carolina, has developed a testbed using Evantrans coils, used to charge Scion iQ and showing efficiency of 85%. More here.
  • No single tech – i.e. electric vehicles – will solve air pollution issues, and EVs are costlier than other solutions in the short term, according to this report, which calls for scrappage of older diesel vehicles (in favour of new Euro 6), retro-fitting of catalytic solutions to buses, use of biodiesel and photocatalytic road treatments. All rather short-term – and ultimately limited – gains which don’t solve fossil-fuel dependency.

Design Concept of the Day: Nissan/Foster + Partners Fuel Station of the Future

August 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

nissan foster fuel stationNissan is working with architects Foster + Partners on a design concept for ‘Fuel Station of the Future’, the idea being to rethink the petrol station for the age of electromobility. The concept will be revealed later this year. Some interesting thinking behind this, perhaps hinting that this could be about more than just substituting plugs for petrol pumps, as Nissan says it “recognises that the refuelling infrastructure of the future represents the perfect opportunity to integrate and engage with local environments in an innovative way – potentially providing an energy and societal hub for modern communities.” Are we talking local/community renewable energy initiatives here?

Nissan goes on to mention “a zero-emissions society, connected communities, autonomous drive and the internet of things” in a “smart EV ecosystem – not just in terms of mobility, but in harnessing the potential of battery storage and vehicle-to-grid systems.” Look forward to seeing this – but let’s not forget the parallel system of people charging vehicles at home/work from their own (renewably-generated) electricity, arguably a potentially more disruptive development. Full blurb from Nissan here. (But will this fuel station’s equipment be as pretty as the Pininfarina Antares EV chargers?)

  • Comment at Forbes on how Tesla has eaten into sales of premium-brand German models, quoting Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the University of Duisberg-Essen’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR: of course) on “the blind alley of plug-in hybrids”. Prof Dudenhoeffer says that PHEVs are mostly run on their ICE power, and that the must-have luxury vehicle even in markets with no EV subsidies is the Tesla Model S, its 280-mile-plus battery range rendering the PHEV tech (expensive, heavy, not really eco-friendly) redundant.
  • Vehicle mileage travelled (VMT) in the US hit a record high of 1.54trillion miles in the first half of 2015: lowdown at Green Car Congress, which notes that “this is more than double the amount driven during the same period in 1981, continuing a trend of America’s driving mileage doubling nearly every generation.” Per-capita VMT is still below the peak of June 2005, albeit still trending upward over the last year, with total VMT (incl. commercial traffic) hitting record levels in June and total US driving increasing for 16 months in a row. Full release from US Department of Transportation has links to the Federal Highway administration (FHWA) data.
  • However… the example of “mobility fees” in Florida shows a different approach in US city development: restricting new road-building, concentrating development in areas with existing infrastructure, and attention to vehicle mileage, reports Citylab.

Concept of the Day: Riversimple fuel cell microcar

June 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

riversimpleLatest 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.

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