Concepts of the Day: Smart Fourjoy, Citroen Cactus

September 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

smart_fourjoyThe four-seat Smart is back – though this time, it has no doors or rear windows. In concept form, at least; the production-spec new-generation Forfour which the Fourjoy previews (a model co-developed with the next Renault Twingo) is likely to be more of a conventional supermini. The 55kW electric motor-driven powertrain (as in the current Fortwo electric drive) will be developed for the real deal, though, and the concept gives a good preview of the design of the car to be launched late 2014. It keeps the Smart ‘tridion cell’ styling – playing up its structural features – with a polished aluminium finish to this framework plus moulded plastic panels and plexiglass trimmings. The interior incorporates a pair of smartphones for entertainment and connectivity – and the roof holds a pair of electrically-driven longboard skateboards plus helmets with cameras for live image-streaming. The ‘boards are suggested for use over short distances in the city – perhaps solving the ‘last mile’ problem. The Fourjoy goes on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week. Gallery of pics at Car Design News.

citroen cactusAlso on show in Frankfurt: Citroen Cactus, previewing the first of a series of utility-focused C-line models from Citroen (distinct from the design-driven DS-line). This concept is an SUV-style supermini, its most interesting technology its Hybrid Air drivetrain. This uses a tank of compressed air and hydraulics to supplement engine power and eke out a claimed 94mpg-plus. with a 45% reduction in fuel economy promised around town. The Cactus also features an all-digital touchscreen control system with Citroen’s online Multicity Connect applications and location-based information. More pics here. But is it as cute and attention-catching as Citroen’s earlier C-Cactus diesel-electric hybrid with its boggle-eyed headlamps?

  • Another Frankfurt reveal: modular battery technology for e-buses, developed by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
  • Toyota is working on wireless charging for the Prius Plug-In Hybrid (which will, presumably, no longer need to be plugged in). Full text from speech by Satishi Ogiso, managing officer, posted here.
  • Electric trucks for Texas: 30 heavy-duty Smith Newton delivery vehicles are to go into service in the Houston-Galveston region (Green Car Congress).
  • BMW is working with power company Vattenfall on a second-life programme for lithium-ion batteries from its i-range. Leftover EV batteries should still have 80% of their original capacity, it says, and can be used for energy storage and grid-buffering. More here.
  • US EV drivers can now rate their charging experience – equipment broken, busy, inconvenient, etc – with PlugScore, a further app from Recargo’s PlugShare (Green Car Reports).
  • Ford has confirmed that it’ll be selling two hybrids – C-MAX Energi plug-in, new-generation Mondeo petrol-electric – plus the Focus Electric in Europe by the end of next year (EV Fleet World). It’s doing demos of the Focus Electric at the LowCVP event at Millbrook this week.
  • A 50-bike electric scooter-share has been launched in Barcelona: Motit users can reserve bikes via smartphone and it costs from 4 euros an hour or 45 cents per km. More here.
  • “Local laser reinforcement” techniques could reduce weight of steel structures in cars by 20% – thus delivering fuel-efficiency and emissions savings – without compromising crash safety. Work from the Frauenhofer Institute for Material and Bean Technology, Dresden: more here.
  • EV charging points have now been installed in 12 London Underground car parks (Fleet News).
  • Smart Highway, a concept designed by Daan Roosegaarde, has won the Community category of the Index: Award 2013. Smart Highway features solar-charged glow-in-the-dark and temperature-activated paint, reducing the need for energy-inefficient lighting, and could incorporate induction charging for EVs. Looks cool, too.
  •  Oh, and on a watery note, I’m liking the Planet Solar solar-powered catamaran, which has just cruised into London.

Pre-Frankfurt round-up

September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Audi_Sport_Quattro_Concept_Audi_46337The Frankfurt Motor Show is imminent – next week – so time for a very quick round-up of relevant-to-us debuts. Lots of hybrid and plug-in hybrid hardware, a handful of EVs and some fuel cell activity.

  • Audi Sport quattro concept (pictured): Coupe celebrating 30-year anniversary of the Audi quattro, a 690bhp plug-in hybrid.
  • Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid, launch of Panamera S E-Hybrid.
  • An all-hybrid stand from Toyota, including Yaris Hybrid-R (sporty hot hatch) and preview of tech for the next-gen Prius/Prius Plug-In. Plus update on fuel cell/hydrogen plan and FCV-R fuel cell concept, a four-door saloon previewing a 2015 production car.
  • Lexus LF-NX concept – hybrid crossover to take on Range Rover Evoque.
  • Volvo Concept Coupe, with new DRIV-E four-cylinder engine plus hybrid system to give V8-style performance; based on new lightweight scalable product architecture (SPA) platform.
  • Kia Niro – gullwing-doored city car/SUV concept (Nissan Juke-style) with an “innovative new powertrain”.
  • Volkswagen e-Golf and e-Up!, all-electric and production-ready.
  • Peugeot 208 Hybrid FE (petrol-electric, 49g/km, 141mpg-plus).
  • BMW Concept X5 eDrive plug-in hybrid, plus production-ready i8, Concept Active Tourer (1-Series GT) plug-in hybrid, and lots of i3 launch activity.
  • Opel Monza – fully-wired and connected coupe concept with CNG-fuelled range-extended powertrain. Probably just a preview of next-gen Opel/Vauxhall design thinking.
  • Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid.

And in other news so far this week, in no particular order:

Will catch up on the wider automobility news later this week: am following #mobsfutures13 on Twitter. Conference, CeMoRe, Lancaster University: more here.

Monday newsbriefs

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

German coachbuilder/tuner Artega had its all-electric SE on display at Frankfurt, reports Autocar. The mid-engined SE, based on the Porsche Cayman, has a pair of motors producing 375bhp; these individually drive each of the rear wheels, giving over 126mph and 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds. Artega claims a range of 125 miles, and 12 of the car’s 12-cell battery modules are placed at the tail end and 4 up front, mimicking the 57:43 rear:front weight distribution of the standard VW V6-engined Artega GT (original concept designed by Henrik Fisker). The SE (“Sports Electric”) is just 10% heavier than the GT at 1400kg. First seen at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year (its unveiling pictured), the SE’s to go into production at Artega’s factory in Westphalia next year, with a 150,000 euro price tag. Artega, founded in 2006, is currently owned by a Mexican private equity firm which also owns the makers of Corona beer, incidentally.

  • This new Jaguar Land Rover factory nearWolverhampton is going to make “a family of all-new advanced technology low-emission four-cylinder JLR petrol and diesel engines”, says JLR. Yes, four-cylinder engines – downsizing alert. Up to 750 new jobs will be created at the plant, with hundreds more new jobs in the supply chain and supporting businesses. Great news all round.
  • Volkswagen is to launch its Jetta (Golf saloon) hybrid at next January’s Detroit Auto Show, reports Car and Driver. It’s to feature a turbocharged 1.4 petrol engine plus electrics, and will go on sale later in 2012.
  • Electric vehicles will be a “majority” of the car market in two decades’ time, says Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Video posted at Autoblog Green.
  • The payback on installing domestic solar panels could be achieved in five years, according to new figures from British Gas, if you use ’em for energy to charge your electric car. British Gas analysed Robert Llewellyn’s findings, btw.  More at Business Green.
  • Check out the lightweight body structure of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell – more at Autocar.
  • Coca-Cola is ordering six Navistar eStar electric trucks for US deliveries, to add to a fleet which already includes 650 hybrids. Press release posted at Autoblog Green.

Design Concept of the Day #2: MUTE

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Meanwhile, back in the real world. The Technical University of Munich (TUM) presented this one at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Developed  by over 200 staff and students from 20 departments in TUM’s Science Centre for Electromobility, it marks the start of the new Munich School for Engineering. MUTE is all-electric and designed for low-cost mass production; it’s a roomy two-seater with luggage space and it weighs only 500kg. Its 15kW motor takes it to 120kph, and it combines a lithium-ion battery (giving a range of at least 100km) with a zinc-air ‘reserve’ battery extending the range further.

TUM says that, with its sporty suspension and active torque-vectoring differential, MUTE gives “good cornering stability and excellent driving performance.” It has stability control, and is developed to be both crash-safe and comfy; it is built around an aluminium frame with a CFRP chassis. With a view to further weight- and cost-saving, all non-essential user interfaces (ie audio, navigation) are controlled via a central touchpad, and functions such as charging and communications can be operated via smartphone. Full story – including video – at the MUTE website; thanks to @GreenCarReports.

Friday newsbriefs

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

This little thing’s the Greentech Automotive myCar, going into production in the US, reports Autoblog Green. The company’s under new management, and intends to build the car near Tunica, Mississippi. Whilst this Fortwo-sized neighbourhood EV can only do 35mph, apparently “full-speed, all-road vehicles” are on the way, as well as European sales. An earlier version of the MyCar has been sold in the UK by the NICE Car Company and then EV Stores. I’m none too enthusiastic about many of these microcars and quadricycles, but if they make ’em strong, safe and speedy enough… perhaps the bubble car is on its way back?

Industry snippets:

  • Vauxhall/Opel’s “seriously considering production” of the RAKe tandem two-seater, says Autocar.
  • Hybrids – including extended-range plug-in models – will account for 20% of all car sales worldwide by 2020, says Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive VP for R&D and engineering. Hybrids already account for 20% of sales in Japan (where they don’t do diesel), reports Bloomberg. Toyota has just sold its millionth Prius in Japan.
  • Siemens AG is aiming to make some acquisitions to get back into the automotive market, and specifically to develop products for electric powertrains, recharging systems and power grid management (Reuters). It set up a business unit called Inside Electric Car last year.
  • Delphi Automotive has shown off its wireless EV charging tech at Frankfurt; its magnetic coupling system is claimed to be more practical and flexible than earlier induction charging concepts (Green Car Congress).
  • Hyundai is partnering with the Beijing Automobile Industry Holding Co to form an new Chinese brand to sell EVs. BAIC chairman Xu Heyi tells Bloomberg that the brand could be introduced by the end of the year. BAIC already builds ICE Hyundais for sale in China.
  • Mitsubishi is in talks with Proton over a partnership for advanced powertrains and small-car development, reports Autobeat Daily. The deal could see sharing of components from Mitsubishi’s new small car, and Mitsubishi’s EV and hybrid technologies.
  • Gearbox supplier Getrag has announced a new dual-clutch, two-speed transmission for EVs and plug-in hybrids. The 2eDCT600 ‘box gives a range improved by 10%, better off-the-mark acceleration and a higher top speed than a typical single-speed transmission; it can handle up to 369lb ft of torque (AutoTech Daily).
  • Best summary of the Frankfurt Motor Show comes from Car’s Ben Barry. Yes, been there, done that, happy to leave it to someone else’s feet these days.

Design Concept of the Day: Rimac Automobili Concept One

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Can’t make up my mind whether this is vapourware* or viable – but whether or not it goes on to be commercially successful, there’s genuine innovation and imaginative thinking in Rimac’s Concept One, if it can live up to the promises. This much-teased supercar – 1650kg, 1088bhp, 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds plus a 600km range – boasts four independent sub-powertrain units, one per wheel, to give all-wheel torque vectoring; Mate Rimac (apparently just 23 years old; would it be condescending to call him a wunderkind engineer?) developed the system from his super-quick test-lab ‘Green Monster’ e-M3, a familiar vehicle on the European eco-rally scene.

The body’s carbonfibre, the interior designed by ex-Pininfarina stylists, and it’s kitted out with head-up displays and state-of-the-art entertainment/communications kit. It looks as if there’s some serious investment behind this project, too, and Rimac is working with a team of 20 designers and engineers at a base near Zagreb, Croatia. They’re planning production of 88 cars, with the first deliveries in 2013. More, including video, at the Rimac Automobili website. Car looks the part, too, as the photographs from the Frankfurt Motor Show suggest.

*Looks a lot more of a realistic proposition than some other ground-breaking supercar concepts which have tested credibility in recent years, anyway. Does anyone remember the gas-turbine Project 1221? Don’t know why that suddenly came to mind; and indeed, it’s very unfair on Rimac to hint at any comparison.



Midweek newsbriefs, the Frankfurt aftermath

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Infiniti has released a further sketch of its upcoming electric saloon, described as a “stylish, high-performance five-seat luxury vehicle” set to launch in 2014. It’s thought to be reasonably compact, and thus to share some mechanicals with the next-generation Nissan Leaf. And Infiniti has also done a deal with Mercedes-Benz to use the next B-Class platform for a small crossover (also 2014), reports Autoweek; hybrid or EV version of this possible too.

  • Flurry of news from Bosch today. The major supplier is to form a 50:50 joint venture with Daimler to develop and manufacture electric motors. The venture, called EM-motive GmbH, will be based in Hildesheim and production will start next year; it will make versatile, modular motors for use in battery-electric, fuel cell or range-extender powertrains in the Mercedes-Benz and Smart ranges and by 2020, plans to make one million motors a year. First vehicle to get an EM-motive motor will be the next-generation Smart Fortwo electric drive, to be launched next spring, but the motors can be adapted for a wide range of vehicles, including vans.

The EV infrastructure Bosch is building in Singapore is now operational, with 40 charging points to be available by the end of the year; these use Bosch’s software and eMobility web solution which directs drivers to a vacant point. This will eventually integrate route-planning, reservation of power at preferential rates and connections with other forms of transport. The compaany’s latest Motronic injection system for direct-injection, spark-ignition petrol engines aids downsizing and turbocharging; fuel economy improvements of up to 30% are promised, as well as reduced CO2, hydrocarbon and nitrous oxide emissions; its Denoxtronic exhaust gas treatment system gives nitrous oxide emission reductions of up to 95% and fuel economy improvements of 5% from diesel engines – important for meeting the forthcoming Euro 6 legislation. Enhanced stop-start systems are now on offer with ‘gliding’ functionality, increased engine shutdown times and potential fuel economy improvements of 10% over current systems, and Bosch is also working on new-generation brake energy recuperation systems for hybrids and EVs. Read your way through all this paragraph? Good – this stuff’s important. It’s at the supplier end of the industry where many of the most significant technologies are developed.

In other news:

  • Frankfurt Show pics of the Russian Yo-Auto concept at Autoblog Green – it’s now thought to have an extended-range EV powertrain.
  • The cost of owning an electric or hydrogen vehicle is to fall significantly by 2030, says the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. It’ll cost an average of just £500-750 a year more  to buy and run one (compared to £5000 now), as batteries and fuel cells get cheaper, and the cost of conventional cars rises, according to the LCVP’s latest figures.
  • TRW has announced its next-gen regenerative braking tech for hybrids and EVs too; more at Green Car Congress.
  • Honda is setting a target of a 30% CO2 reduction across all product areas by 2020. “We continue to develop our Hybrid, Battery Electric, Plug-in, and Fuel Cell products alongside energy generation technologies such as Solar Cell and Cogeneration”, said president Takanobu Ito at Frankfurt. The new Civic (on sale early next year) is a good start: a 10% CO2 reduction from the 1.8 petrol engine, nearly 20% in the 2.2 diesel despite better performance, and an all-new smaller diesel will be added to the range later next year.
  • Latest update from the BMW i/Wallpaper Sustainable Neighbourhoods project now on YouTube.

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