Monday newsbriefs #2

July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Toyota has released data from its Prius PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) trial in London. The movements and performance of the 20-vehicle fleet, run in partnership with EDF Energy, have been analysed and “encouraging results” are reported. Most journeys the cars did were at an average speed and of a distance that the PHEV system could kick in to advantage; overall fuel efficiency was
27% better than than of  “an equivalent” diesel car.

In the first year of the three-year UK trial, the average journey was 7.3 miles; 59% of all journeys were 3.1-12.4 miles; average speed reached was 17.7mph; 69% of all journeys were at less than 18.6mph; average recharging time was 72 minutes and drivers with access to a domestic charging point recharged more frequently. The Prius PHEV can run up to 12.5 miles on battery power alone, and can be driven by its electric motor at speeds of up to 62mph – so it can do the majority of typical urban journeys in all-electric mode. 22% of users actually managed to get more than 12.5 miles in EV mode, and one-third of all mileage in the trial was electrically-driven.

Feedback from users so far has been “very positive”, says Toyota, and the study’s findings are in line with those from programmes elsewhere in Europe, including a 100-car trial in Strasbourg.

  • In other news: Taxi drivers could become ambassadors for more fuel-efficient driving techniques and road behaviour, according to a study by the RSA. More at Business Green. But will it make them go south of the river?
  • Portugal is to gain 1,300 new standard-speed EV charging points plus 50 fast-chargers, thanks to a partnership with Oracle Utilities, the non-profit firm Inteli and the country’s MOBI-E programme to install a recharging infrastructure. Portugal is also boasting that 43% of its electricity is now generated from renewable sources such as wind or hydropower.
  • What can the EU do with the 3.4 million tonnes of used tyres discarded each year? Only 38% are recycled – but tyres could be reused to make street infrastructure such as bollards, kerbs and pavements, according to the Eco-Rubber project.
  • There’s been a “less than electrifying” take-up of government grants to buy EVs in the UK, according to the RAC Foundation, with just 215 EVs bought through the scheme in the second quarter of the year. 465 were bought in the first quarter since the grants – of up to £5000 to subsidise the cost of buying an EV – were introduced, but there are still fewer 2,500 or so EVs on the UK’s roads. The RAC Foundation reckons that “the figures show how difficult it will be to get UK motorists  to own and drive the greenest cars available on the market”, citing purchase costs, battery longevity and depreciation as concerns. The SMMT and DfT are both forecasting growth in the EV market next year, however, saying that it’s early days yet.
  • Comment – in a roundabout way – on the above by Robert Llewellyn, dedicated EV campaigner, at The Charging Point. Worth clicking through to read his explanation of grid balancing.

MINI E trial: more data and feedback released

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

More data has been released from the BMW Group’s MINI E trial, said to be the largest publicly-available study of electric car users yet conducted. Test fleets have been deployed in the US, Germany, France, Japan and China, and a study carried out in partnership with the University of California, Davis, and including more than 120 households in California, New York and New Jersey running the all-electric MINI E between June 2009 and June 2010 has been a comprehensive piece of research into how the Americans use their EVs and their experiences. Headline figures include:

  • 100% of respondents said that electric vehicles are fun to drive, and practical for daily use
  • The MINI E met 90% of their daily driving needs
  • 71%  drove fewer than 40 miles a day, and 95% drove fewer than 80
  • 99% said home charging was easy (most charged overnight at home)
  • 71% said they are now more likely to purchase an EV than they were a year ago; only 9% said they are less likely
  • 88%  said they are interested in buying an EV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in the next five years
  • However, most thought that the electricity used should be from renewable sources, i.e. solar, wind or hydro power, and were against using coal-fired electricity to charge their cars.

Researchers also noted that drivers were interested in making their driving more efficient, appreciating the regenerative braking function and that some were inspired to make other energy-saving measures in their lifestyle, such as installing solar panels on their houses.

Ulrich Kranz, head of BMW’s i-mobility project, said: “The results of the UC Davis study have a direct impact on the development of all BMW Group electric vehicles to come. BMW Group now is developing the next generation of full electric cars, with the BMW ActiveE test fleet coming into the market in 2011, and the series-production BMW i3 following in 2013.”

The full findings of the UC Davis study can be read at its Institute of Transportation Studies site.

Monday newsbriefs

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

The final phase of the three-year GM-sponsored EcoCAR Challenge has started: 16 teams from North American universities are taking part in tests at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan. Their vehicles will undergo engineering tests similar to those on pre-production cars, including safety, handling and technical assessments, evaluation for consumer appeal, braking and acceleration measurements, and emissions and energy consumption tests. The teams will then make presentations in Washington DC, before an awards ceremony and a display of the vehicles at the US Department of Energy. Full day-by-day reports from the Green Garage Blog.

  • America’s National Highway Transport Safety Adminstration (NHTSA) is researching potential fire risks from lithium-ion batteries. Purely a precautionary measure and probably just about setting minds at rest – no fires have been reported as yet – but they’re concerned about the risks in the event of an accident and when recharging. More at Autoweek.
  • Work continues at Mazda on the rotary engine, despite the impending demise of the RX-8, reports Edmunds InsideLine; new ‘laser injection’ tech could give it another lease of life. This means no need for spark plugs, and easier sealing of the combustion chamber; in combination with stop-start and micro-hybrid systems, lightweight materials and other measures, an RX-8 replacement could emit just 130g/km of carbon dioxide. Mazda’s also talking Wankels and comparing notes with Audi, apparently (Audi’s using a rotary as the range-extender unit in the A1 e-tron).
  • Two electric taxis have taken to the streets in Dublin, reports, in  a pilot programme. They’re a Nissan Leaf and a wheelchair-accessible Peugeot Expert. Though there’s just five on-street charging points in the city as yet, 30 fast-chargers on main routes between towns are coming by the end of the year.
  • Suzuki’s to sell a Swift-based extended-range hybrid next year, reports the Nikkei (via Autobeat). It’s to have a 19-mile all-electric range; Suzuki is aiming to sell ‘several thousand’ in Japan before starting exports. Could be the production version of a concept seen at the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show, which had a 660cc engine, 54kW motor and lithium-ion batteries, and which has been tested in demo form.
  • Another Chinese EV: Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co (BAIC) is to sell a small electric saloon currently codenamed C30DB; launch in September (Beijing Times via Autobeat Asia).
  • Poland’s rolling out an EV charging infrastructure: Polenergia SA and Alva Technologies have announced a joint venture called E+ to develop a network of charging stations, leasing and rental of EVs, their maintenance, insurance and roadside assistance. At least 300 charging stations and operations in 14 cities are planned by the end of 2013 (Autoblog Green).
  • Korean firm Leo Motors (maker so far of electric scooters, microvans, microcars and suchlike) is promising an electric supercar faster than the Tesla Roadster. The 240kW-motor LZ-1 is said to do 161mph, accelerate 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and have a 249-mile range; its body is carbonfibre/aluminium alloy. Development of the rolling chassis has been completed, reports Sustainable Business, and former Ford designers are now working on the styling. A range-extended version with a hybrid LPG/hydrogen (eh?) generator is also planned, apparently, to give a total 560-mile range.
  • The IET (Institute of Engineering & Technology) has posted most of its Smart Grid 2011 conference online.


Midweek newsbriefs

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

An EV incentive: EDF Energy is partnering with Peugeot UK and Citroen UK to offer a package of services to buyers of the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero. They’re to provide a £799 ‘one-stop-shop’ for recharging solutions: site or home survey and installation of a charging point, a charge timer for off-peak charging, a smart meter and energy consumption monitoring, plus a three-year warranty for the charging point. The first 500 private residential customers to sign up will get 500 ‘electricity miles’ free, and EDF is promising 20% cheaper electricity on its low-carbon, off-peak Eco 20:20 package. Similar packages are also on offer to business fleet customers.

  • DIY EV of the day: Black Current, a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle/milk float hybrid which has just become the first EV to sprint a quarter-mile in under ten seconds – and it’ll do 0-60mph in 1.6 seconds and reach 135mph. Built by Sam and Olly Young of Hungerford, Black Current won the annual Alternative Energy Racing contest on the drag strip at Santa Pod (Daily Mail).
  • Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing semi-solid flow battery cells which could make recharging an EV as fast as refuelling a petrol car. These batteries would also be lightweight, about half the size of those currently used, and cheap to make. Semi-solid flow batteries have their positive and negative electrodes suspended in particle form within a liquid electrolyte, which is then pumped through the cell. The charge and discharge functions are separated, making energy storage more efficient, though the charged liquid itself could also be swapped and replaced in a quick electrolyte-swap operation.
  • Audi is reviving the A2 badge for a purpose-designed electric supermini, reports Auto Express, which could make its debut this autumn at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It’ll have a lightweight aluminium spaceframe chassis like the original A2, and there could be a related ‘family’ of A2 variants.
  • The Cambridge University Eco Racing team is to compete in this year’s World Solar Car Challenge with a new version of their Endeavour three-wheeler; full report and pictures (of the 2009 car) at Wired Autopia.
  • Nissan has developed a roadside assistance vehicle with an EV charger to assist those with flat batteries. It’s on trial now in Japan.
  • Gatwick Airport has installed eight EV charging points in its short-term parking area: free to use for up to four hours, enough for a juice-up.
  • The e-bikers are preparing for the TT Zero on the Isle of Man next weekend; shots of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc – tipped to be the fastest – plus videos from the practice sessions at Hell For Leather.
  • More e-bikes: Dale Vince of Ecotricity tasked a team from Kingston University to build him an electric superbike, and he’s taking the 140mph, 0-60 in 3 seconds, 220kg Ion Horse (which cost £150,000 to make) to the TT as well.
  • The grandson of Sir Donald Campbell is aiming to set a new land speed record in an electric ‘Bluebird’. Don Wales’ attempt at 500mph is scheduled for 2013, but is going to do some test runs at Pendine Sands on July 2nd/3rd. He’s looking for volunteers to marshall, remove stones from the sand and support the team; more at the Bluebird site.
  • Better Place has signed a $AUS 60million, 10-year deal with Australian energy supplier ActewAGL for renewable electricity – wind, hydro and solar – for its charging network in Canberra. Whilst battery-swap stations still seem to be on the agenda, Better Place appears to be concentrating on conventional recharging, battery-leasing and energy management, and providing car-grid-driver communications and software. Learnt a new phrase today: car as “distributed storage mechanism”, which means it takes on board off-peak electricity from an intermittent renewable supply to then utilise it at times of greater demand. More at the Better Place Australia site, where the master plan is outlined.
  • Volkswagen’s adding a Bluemotion model to the latest Passat range. Based on the 105hp 1.6 TDI diesel with six-speed manual gearbox, it has stop-start, battery energy recovery, low rolling-resistance tyres, lowered suspension, underbody panel and revised radiator grille to improve aerodynamics, and a small spoiler (saloon). The saloon (from £19,875) returns 68.9mpg and emits just 109g/km of carbon dioxide, the estate (from £21,180) 65.7mpg and 113g/km.
  • Chrysler is working with the US Department of Energy on an experimental multifuel engine which can burn petrol, E85 bioethanol or diesel. It’s a turbocharged 2.4-litre, on test in a Chrysler Town & Country MPV, and a 25% fuel economy improvement is cited (Autoweek).
  • Toyota is installing a huge deck of solar panels at its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, to be operational next month. The 17,000-panel array will provide 5% of the plant’s annual energy requirements, which may not sound much, but is enough to build 7000 cars.
  • The Citroen C-Zero EV is now available with the French MultiCity rental service; it’s on offer at six sites in Paris and surrounding area, including Orly airport and at major train stations, and can be rented by scheme members from E35 for a half-day.
  • Indianapolis-based car designer Marlon Kirby and financier David McMahan are touting their latest creation: the Maxximus LNG 2000. It’s a 1600bhp V8 super-coupe (hmmm) which runs on compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas, so they’re claiming it as “the fastest green car on the market today”. My feminist principles won’t allow me to upload a picture of a car with posing Playmate alongside, so go to to read about it.


More Thursday thoughts

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Researchers at a Mitsubishi-sponsored lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a concept for mobile, portable emergency EV charging stations which can be deployed rapidly where required. Participating electric vehicle owners would have sensors fitted to their cars to alert a central operations base to their state of battery charge – and the mobile units placed on standby in areas where a number of EVs are expected to run out of juice, such as long stretches of highway (New Scientist).
  • Daimler is running a lift-share pilot project in Ulm, Germany, as part of its Car2Go car-share programme. Car2gether links drivers with people needing to get somewhere via social media and smartphone apps; users create a profile – with photograph – and input their location and desired destination, and will make a contribution to the driver via cash or smartcard micro-payments (the recommended rate’s 9.5 euro cents a minute). It will be trialled amongst students at Ulm’s two universities. More details at

Thursday thoughts

August 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hyundai has set out its plans for meeting an average 50mpg (US) across its entire range by 2025. Key to this target – which is ahead of the US CAFE standards – are cars such as the recently-launched Sonata hybrid (pictured), and a concept car to be unveiled at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show will be “an important part of this fuel-economy puzzle”, said Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik in a speech yesterday.

    • San Francisco and the Bay Area will benefit from a $5million grant through the government-funded Spare the Air Programme. This will fund 3000 private electric vehicle charging points, subsidised for individual houses and apartment blocks, 2000 on-street and public-access charging points at businesses, plus 50 fast-charge stations easily accessed from the freeways.
    • Thought-provoking claims on the impact of aeroplanes vs cars on global warming: long-term, cars are the greater culprits, according to a study published this week. It’s all to do with the lifespan of the gases emitted, and altitude; more at Green Car Congress.

    Recharge on a Parking Pad

    August 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Here’s a piece of kit I’d not seen before: the Evatran Parking Pad, a wireless EV charger. Edmunds Green Car Advisor notes that it works much like a charger for an electric toothbrush or similar, via electromagnetic induction. Virginia-based Evatran is looking at marketing these both for domestic and public applications, and is also selling conventional plug-in charging posts.

    • Green Car Advisor’s also reporting on a controversial debate from this week’s  management briefing seminars at the Automotive Research Centre  in Traverse City, Michigan. A mass public recharging infrastructure for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles isn’t actually necessary, claimed participants, ‘cos owners of such vehicles can get the range they need from charging at home. “Very little charging is needed in the public sector”, said Robert Bienenfeld of American Honda, senior manager of environment and energy strategy, who added that a large-scale investment in infrastructure could lead to “stranded assets”.  Range anxiety, anyone?

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