Concept of the Day: Volkswagen I.D. ‘Microbus’

December 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

vw_ebusWell, I’m excited about this coming to fruition: Volkswagen’s confirmed the unveiling of the ‘new Microbus’ in concept form at the Detroit motor show early next month, and that it’s the next member of the all-electric I.D. family on the MEB modular platform. The I.D., my favourite car at the Paris motor show, was a really promising start for Volkswagen’s reinvention, and from teaser images so far, the new concept looks as if it’ll share much of the same thinking and character – with a smidgen of additional retro to its styling, perhaps, referencing the original Microbus. The show car will have the same retractable steering wheel as the I.D. for autonomous driving mode, and a suitably “multi-functional, flexible interior” is of course promised. Only details so far on the powertrain are that it’ll involve two motors and all-wheel-drive – and give “a long electric driving range.” This van’s also destined for use in VW’s new Moia mobility services schemes, to include Uber-style ride-hailing. Oh, and other VW news: it’s the seventh company to join the Hubject e-roaming platform for standardised access to EV charging infrastructure. One of my hopes for 2017 is that, following the unforgivable Dieselgate debacle [which will not, I fear, be resolved satisfactorily any time soon] VW gets on track with its electromobility programme. There’s a lot of good and progressive thinking going on at the company, including in terms of design and HMI/interface development, which shouldn’t be overshadowed by what the diesel engineers (and their managers, who must bear some responsibility) have done.

Quick round-up of more recent electromobility news:

  • VW, Daimler, BMW plus Ford are also teaming up to bring super-quick 350kW/800-volt charging on the next-generation CCS system, with a network of 400 stations planned across Europe; more here.
  • And BMW is offering an automated Digital Charging Service for its i customers to optimise both charging tariff and use of solar-generated electricity – pilot schemes in Germany and the Netherlands next year, drawing upon experience from the ChargeForward programme in the US. All good for successfully integrating EVs into the [renewably-supplied] grid…
  • Zap-Map is now offering live charging point info and data covering the Chargemaster/Polar network in the UK, across desktop and iOS/Android platforms. An important breakthrough, this includes real-time status and availability plus feedback from the Zap-Chat peer-to-peer social network. Data from more networks to follow next year.
  • Tesla’s taking a stand against poor charger etiquette: the advent of ‘idling’ charges for occupying a charging bay when not actually zapping-up is intended to end the abuse of parking privileges and to free up points. Expect more networks to follow suit, not least to encourage  EV drivers to charge at home wherever possible – there are a small number (including interviewees in my own research sample) who actively choose to take advantage of free-at-the-point-of-use charging to save on their domestic bills, and as demand for public charging grows, that ain’t really acceptable behaviour.
  • GM is testing the WiTricity wireless charging tech at 7.7kW and 11kW charge rates; more here.
  • Uptake of EVs is not related to charging infrastructure either within or around a local authority, according to a case study from Scotland outlined here.

Quadricycle crashes and more…

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Renault-Twizy-crash-test_thumbQuadricycles are not cars. Well, we knew that, but a reminder of this has come with the latest news from EuroNCAP: four ‘heavy’ quadricycles showed “severe safety problems” in frontal and side impacts at 50kmph in testing and showed “a level of safety that is way below that of cars”. The Ligier IXO J Line 4 and Tazzari Zero both “had major failings of of their restraint system” – seatbelts and seatbelt connections breaking – and the structure of the Club Car Villager 2+2 (basically a golf cart) “virtually collapsed in the frontal impact. Best performer was the Renault Twizy, which does have a standard fit-airbag, but “its stiff structure and restraint system resulted in some dangerously high dummy readings” nonetheless. EuroNCAP is now calling for a minimum crash safety level to be legislated in this sector. More here.

  • Some US sales figures: there are now 61,390 Chevy Volts on the road, and over 52,500 Nissan Leafs; Nissan sold 3117 Leafs Stateside last month (with year-to-date figures now at 10,389) and Chevrolet 1684 Volts (YTD 6838). BMW delivered 336 of its newly-launched i3 and Tesla Model S sales are estimated at around 1,200, says Green Car Reports. (and detailed table here).
  • The American Public Transportation Association estimates that individuals can save an average of around $850 a month if they take public transport rather than driving, and nearly $10,200 a year following petrol price hikes and rising parking costs. Cities where the biggest savings can be made, says APTA, are New York, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago; full table here plus detail on how the calculations are made (includes vehicle depreciation, as with many of these studies – not an issue for drivers of older vehicles). It’s based on having one fewer car in a two-person household, and 15,000 miles a year.
  • Demand for inductive EV charging’s going to grow, with nearly 352,000 units to be sold 2012-2020, forecasts Frost & Sullivan; lowdown here.
  • The Fiat/Eni/Trenitalia car-share has launched in Rome; 300 Fiat 500s, bookable via smartphone app to rise to 600 by September. More here. Though having just come back from Rome, I have to wonder why anyone would possibly want to drive there, adding to the appalling air quality and congestion… The scheme is already up and running in Milan, too.
  • Carbonfibre as electric car battery: latest reports on structural batteries (as in Volvo’s experiments) from KTH, Sweden, outlined here; potential for much weight- and space-saving. Carbon is also posited as a graphite replacement, and could serve as an electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, they say.
  • The French government is running a trial to incentivise cycling to work, pointing out that car and train travel are already subsidised; around 20 companies with 10,000 employees have signed up to offer staff 25c (euro) a mile to bike it, reports Reuters.
  • And another electric motorbike-maker to keep an eye on: Icon of California, which has just launched its very stylish E-Flyer ($4,495). It’s another retro design – looks as if this is the way to go to get people on board. Or maybe that’s just my own personal taste, but well, if I lived in Los Angeles, I could fancy myself on one of these. (via @damonlavrinc – thanks).

Concept of the Day: MG Dynamo

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

mg dynamoMeet the e-Metro.  The MG team at Longbridge (now under ownership of China’s SAIC) has created an electric city car concept – called Dynamo – on display at the SMMT this week. It’s to make its public debut in June at an MG centenary event at Silverstone. No confirmed details on its powertrain as yet, though the car itself is based on the Chinese-market Roewe E50. It’s to gauge European interest/demand in a small MG EV, apparently.

  • Volvo’s showing a petrol plug-in hybrid at the Beijing Auto Show. The S60L PPHEV (as distinct from the diesel V60 PHEV and to be launched in China next year) has its 238hp turbocharged petrol engine supplemented with a 68hp motor (torque is 350Nm+ 200Nm), an eight-speed auto gearbox, selectable all-wheel drive, an integrated starter-generator for stop-start and a 11.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack.In hybrid mode, it emits 50g/km with average fuel consumption of around 141mpg; it can do up to 50km in all-electric mode; or in Power mode, both power sources combine to give 0-62mpg in 5.5 seconds. Total range is about 1000km.
  • As electric motorcycles go,  the Austrian-built Johammer J1 is one of the most bizarre-looking yet. It has a promised range of over 200km (comparable with a high-spec ICE bike), and an in-wheel motor/drive system. Top speed is limited to 75mph but its acceleration is pretty brisk. Smaller-batteried 150km-range versions are available, too. Its USP, though – aside from the styling – is that it has no dash, with all info including speed, range, state of charge and soforth on a digital display on the antenna-like mirrors. There’s also hub-centre steering and double-wishbone suspension rather than conventional forks. Prices from 23,000 euros or 25,000 euros for the top-spec model…
  • So Saab (in its new Chinese-owned NEVS guise) has confirmed the re-start of 9-3 Aero production (petrol engine), and said that electric versions (for China) will come later this year. More here.
  • Danish start-up ECOmove (maker of the Qbeak EV concept) has delivered the first of its lightweight, (relatively) low-cost carbonfibre chassis to German firm TURN-E, for an electric Porsche 356 replica. More here. Its light weight helps give a range of around 500km.
  • Some news from the Taiwan EV Show (via headlineauto.co.uk); fans of the 1950s bubble cars are targeted with the D-Face concept by D Art of Gifu (near Nagoya, Japan). This range-extended prototype – with a 7kW motor plus 3kW petrol generator – only does 45mph, but its all-electric range can be upped from 95-odd miles to nearer 190 when the engine kicks in. Apparently it’ll meet Japanese crash test regulations. More here.
  • Headlineauto also reports that Japanese company Neues (Osaka) is looking for a British company from the kit car world to help develop rolling chassis for special-bodied EVs. It has two chassis under development, one for a four- or six-seater car, the other for a 10-16-seat commercial vehicle. Its show car in Taipei looks like a scaled-down London black cab, apparently, but its chassis could also support a two-seater sports car. Neues is aiming to supply these flexible platforms, which will support front, rear or all-wheel-drive and different battery/motor capacities, to independent coachbuilders.
  • And an affordable Audi – a fold-away electric mini-scooter which will fit in the corner of a TT boot or something, to be offered to Audi fans in Germany. 500 have been made for Audi in Taiwan – by Dijiya Energy Saving Tech, which makes them with or without corporate branding, and which aims to be producing 50,000 a year within the next five years. Range is up to 12.5 miles, and they can be recharged in less than three hours. Dijiya (which supplied the batteries for the Think EV) also “has orders from another premium German auto manufacturer, which intends to supply a mini e-scooter as part of the standard equipment with an electrified car due to be launched later this year”, and plans to supply batteries for e-buses and to possibly expand into electric car-making (headlineauto).
  • News on a mobile charging system from Spain here; looks like a heavy thing to lug around in your boot on a regular basis, but could well have application in particular settings (i.e. fleet work).
  • A nickel-based metal organic framework (Ni-MOF) can improve the performance of lithium-sulphur batteries, according to work at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; this can guard against capacity degradation. Science bit plus full academic references at Green Car Congress.
  • Ultra-fast charging at 625amps has been tested in Umea, Sweden, via an overhead pantograph system, on the Hybricon Arctic Whisper electric bus: more here. Six minutes.

 

Metrocab RE-EV specs; Gen-Y research; EV charging in Canada & some hybrid headlines…

January 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

metrocabSo, specs for the Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab extended-range electric taxi: 75mpg; 75% less CO2 than the current London cabs (it emits less than 50 g/km); a 560km combined electric/engine-extended range; typical cost savings to the cabbie of £30-£40 a day; six seats with optional seventh front passenger seats; lithium-ion polymer batteries with an electric motor at each rear wheel. It’ll rival the Nissan e-NV200 (see below). London taxi drivers are being invited to take part in field trials in advance of its roll-out in other key cities and international markets; registration and full details here. Now, can they make it go south of the river? And Mayor Boris has said that he wants all London taxis to be ‘zero-emissions capable’ from 2018, but, well, Boris says a lot of things…

  • Generation Y/Millennials not into cars? Nope, the majority will still buy some wheels when they can afford to, according to a new study from Deloitte LLP. Their priorities are different, however, to those of their parents/grandparents: rather than power and speed, they’re into technology and digital connections, plus alt-powertrains. Lowdown from Automotive News and at Detroit News, chase up the full report (nice infographic here) if you’re interested. Presented at the Detroit Auto Show this week. Some pull-out figures: 61% of Gen Y-ers say they plan to buy or lease a car in the next three years (up from 50% last year); 59% believe they’ll be driving an alt-powertrain vehicle in five years’ time (up from 57%); 80% without a vehicle say it’s simply because they can’t afford one; 75% specifically cite running and maintenance costs as factors. 40% of those who don’t own their own car borrow one or use car-shares, incidentally – so they’re driving nonetheless – though they are willing to walk and use public transport. The majority also said they’d pay a premium for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • Chinese car-maker BYD  plans to bring its Qin plug-in hybrid – a small family hatch – to Europe in early 2015. This has an all-electric mode of up to 44 miles, returns an overall 177mpg, does 115mph and 0-62 in 5.9 seconds, apparently; prices in China start from an equivalent of £19,645.
  • Charging in Canada: Sun Country Highways, which has placed over 1000 free-to-use charging stations coast-to-coast, has signed up VIA Motors in a $80million deal to provide vehicles and equipment for hotels and other businesses. First example of this is electric shuttle vans for Best Western – 1000 of its Vtrux, says Green Car Reports, which notes that Sun Country/VIA /Best Western also have activities below the border for Washington State, California, Florida and Texas. More VIA: the company will offer the Recargo PlugShare app in its in-dash information system (Green Car Congress).
  • Summary of today’s events  at the Transforming Transportation 2014 conference (#TTDC2014) in Washington DC at TheCityFix: the theme’s ‘the future we want/data and technology’, and sessions included ‘Enhancing Transport with Technology – presentations on a case study on smartcard fares from Seoul; modelling geographic and demographic data; platforms to incentivise ‘good’ commuting behaviour.  
  • Oh, and Toyota has now sold 6 million hybrids, and is planning 15 more in the next two years. It sold nearly 157,000 hybrids in 2013 in Europe alone, 43% more than in 2012, and hybrids now make up nearly 20% of Toyota’s total sales in Europe (28% in Western Europe). Yaris and Auris hybrids doing well, as well as the Prius.

Concept of the Day: Citroen DS Wild Rubis

April 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

citroen-ds-wild-rubis-10Am I just being particularly puerile, or does its name sound a bit porn-star? Anyway, the DS Wild Rubis (errggh) is a “vision of a future DS SUV”, though if you were wondering whether the world really needed another large SUV, it is at least designed to take a plug-in hybrid powertrain. This luxury-spec, designer-line Citroen on the C5/DS5 platform goes on display at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month. Autocar has more details: says it’ll be called DSX Hybrid-4 when it goes into production next year for the Chinese market, and that it features a direct-injection 1.6 petrol engine driving the front wheels and an e-motor driving the rear to give a total 240bhp or so.

  • Further to yesterday’s launch of the Citroen Berlingo Electric, here’s confirmation of its (Peugeot) Partner. From £21,300+VAT (before 20% Plug-In Van Grant), on sale in the UK 23rd May. Same basic spec as the Citroen, and offered with an all-inclusive three-year/60,000-mile warranty plus five years/40,000 miles drivetrain/battery cover.
  • Not the most elegant solution, but it works: a fold-out 18-panel solar charging system which packs away neatly in a car boot for travelling. The Lotus Mobile system (no relation to the Hethel-based car co) is the work of Monarch Power of Scottsdale, Arizona, and car-charging is just one application the firm has in mind; it’s also been designed to act as a power source in emergency situations and in areas with poor infrastructure, as well as for recreational camping. More here (via @damonlavrinc, thanks).
  • There are a total 48,705 public EV charging stations in the world right now, according to a report by Navigant Research in its Electric Vehicle Supply EquipmentTracker 1Q13. Navigant is also predicting the sale of 200,000 plug-in vehicles with vehicle-to-building (or V2G/V2infrastructure) capability – for energy storage, grid-balancing and soforth – will be sold 2012-2020, and that electric bicycle sales will climb to 37.9million a year worldwide by 2020.
  • Latest count of charging stations in the USA: the Dept of Energy expects 7,100 by the end of the year, reports Autoblog Green. To include over 225 more at the grocery chain Kroger’s, announced this week.
  • Against that, there’s news that just 27 new hydrogen refuelling facilities opened – worldwide – last year. World total now stands at about 210, says Green Car Reports. 16 in Europe, including five in Germany, and 58 in the US (24 of which are in California), apparently.
  • I’ve written and researched on alternative engine architectures in the past, and long concluded that in many cases, they do not progress to mainstream production as much for practical and industrial-cultural reasons rather than any inherent failings in the technology itself. It’s down to the cost of new production lines, the leap-of-faith needed for investment, concerns over consumer acceptance and soforth – which is why the conventional ICE remains little-challenged bar the odd spark of interest in, for example, the Wankel rotary. Still, here’s some news on the diesel OPOC (opposed-piston, opposed-cylinder) engine developed by EcoMotors and said to be lighter, smaller and 20-50% more efficient than a comparable turbodiesel, as well as cheaper to make. China’s Zhongding Power is investing over $200million to build a plant for its production in the Anhui Province, reports Green Car Congress.

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

July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

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

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

Midweek bulletin: Jaguar C-X75, Ford C-Max Energi, various EV-charging developments, and eco-tyres

July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

Latest on the Jaguar C-X75: electric motors at both axles, some 500bhp from a 1.6-litre engine with both turbo and superchargers, a rev limit of 10,000rpm, 0-60 in less than three seconds and 200mph. Ah, and an all-electric range of 60km. More at Autocar.

  • Details on a more accessible hybrid: the upcoming C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid will have a range of around 550 miles, says Ford, and it’ll return an average 95mpg (US) from its electrically-assisted 2.0-litre engine. Its all-electric mode gives a range of about 20 miles. The C-Max Energi goes on sale in North America this autumn; no word on Euro sales as yet, but the tech should filter over at some stage. Ford has also announced that its Fusion saloon will be its first non-hybrid model sold in the US to feature stop-start, saving around 3.5% of fuel.
  • Qualcomm, maker of wireless induction-charging systems for EVs, has signed a memorandum of understanding for co-operation with Renault on a trial programme in London, and “preliminary studies of the integration of Qualcomm Halo WEVC technology into some Renault vehicles”. The London trial starts in November and will involve “a cross-section of stakeholders from government departments and agencies to commercial and private sector enterprises”. It will “evaluate the commercial viability of wireless EV charging and gain user feedback on the use of WEVC enabled vehicles.”
  • BMW’s i Ventures division is making a strategic investment in Coulomb Technologies, operator of the global ChargePoint network and maker of EV charging equipment. “ChargePoint is the largest, longest established network with a significantly advanced and mature feature set. This investment will forge a close and strategic relationship as we further our electric mobility offer,” says i Ventures MD Dr Ulrich Quay.
  • GM and OnStar are contributing to a smart-grid research project with Pecan Street Inc., which is studying the domestic energy usage of volunteer citizens in a testbed community in Austin, Texas. 66 EV owners, including 55 Chevy Volt drivers, are taking part in the trial and will feed back info on their driving and charging habits. The Mueller community has been developed on a former airport site to be a sustainable mini-city with energy-efficient buildings, infrastructure and clean energy supply. More at Green Car Congress.
  • ‘Natural latex’ sounds a bit kinky, but it’s apparently suitable for making sustainable-source, oil-free car tyres. The first prototypes have been made by Dutch firm Apollo Vredestein, a partner in the EU-Pearls project, from a natural rubber synthesised from  guayule and Russian dandelion plants. The former can be easily grown in Mediterranean countries, the latter in northern Europe. More at alphagalileo.
  • Goodyear, meanwhile, has been experimenting with soybean oil (in a project funded by the United Soybean Board): possibility of a 10% improvement in tread life, and the saving of seven million gallons of oil a year, reports Green Car Congress.

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