June 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Lots of column inches last week devoted to the Rolls-Royce Next 100 and Mini Next 100 concepts – interesting vehicles, of course – but this prototype took my fancy too. Olli is a 3D-printed autonomous-driving 12-seater shuttle bus, built by Local Motors, showcasing the IBM Watson IoT cloud-based cognitive computing/vehicle connectivity platform (including speech commands, speech-to-text communication, and 30 embedded sensors). Its design, developed in a crowdsourcing process, is by Edgar Sarmiento from Bogota, who will receive royalties as/when the vehicles go into production. Testing is to start in Washington DC with further trials to follow in Miami-Dade and Las Vegas; more Ollies are being made at the LM HQ in Phoenix. Olli is conceived as part of an ‘ecosystem’ including consumer smartphone apps, and can be shared, chartered and otherwise summoned as well as operating on pre-determined routes; it’s proposed for campus-type environment or developments but also to fill in the gaps in a city’s established transit infrastructure.
Anyway, the BMW group reveals: the Mini Vision Next 100 is a nice little thing, showing some more of the BMW Group thinking: it’s designed to be an on-demand, shared-service EV, which will adapt to the driver’s tastes and preferences, provide a kind of concierge service, bring itself to the user (or take itself off to park), and remain fun to drive. Full details on its design here, but further notes on it are that it has a high recycled-material content inside, including cellulose-derived trim. The Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 is more of a flight of fantasy, a fully-autonomous (without even a steering wheel) proposal for the future ultimate luxury car, again electric-drive, with a virtual assistant.
Both cars – and the BMW Vision Next 100 (see previous post) – are the expression of BMW’s “six central hypotheses for individual mobility in the coming decades, based on key megatrends and future projections.” These six are: Mobility is becoming versatile (new forms and modes of mobility); Connectivity is becoming second nature; Mobility is becoming tailor-made; Technology is becoming human (including adaptivity, learning); Energy is becoming emission-free; Responsibility is becoming diverse (the CSR bit).
- The Hubject project (integrating charging infrastructures across Europe in a single platform) is collaborating with mapping providers HERE to provide real-time information on charging point status – fully-automated updates across the network on occupancy, availability etc. More here.
- Nissan is researching a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) powered by bioethanol, natural gas or multiple fuels: in this first automotive application of SOFC tech, the fuel reacts with oxygen in a reformer to create hydrogen, which then reacts in the fuel cell stack to produce electricity as per a conventional hydrogen fuel cell. The e-Bio Fuel Cell is said to give cruising ranges similar to those of petrol-powered cars alongside the driving experience of an EV. Sounds complex, and of course, there’s the issue of the source of the ‘bio’ ethanol, but Nissan’s pointing to region-specific applications where this can provide cleaner transportation within an existing fuel supply infrastructure, and an “ample power supply” to suit a wide range of needs, such as refrigerated deliveries. Some commenters are also suggesting that this could negate the need for hydrogen production/supply for fuel cell vehicles.
- Latest Navigant Research report on urban transport: car-sharing, with a growing proportion of EVs on fleets, is a growth trend, boosted by an increase in one-way on-demand services and underpinned by network connectivity. It expects almost all major manufacturers to be offering some kind of shared service by 2025, and customers are expected to use on-demand vehicles alongside ride-hailing services such as Uber. The shared fleets are also the key arenas for introducing autonomous-driving elements [i.e. for getting a car to come to you, or for parking itself when you’ve finished]. This is a familiar – and rather idealised – picture now, but more detail in this handy digest by Forbes.
March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
- Natural gas: “not a ‘bridge fuel’ but an expensive dead-end on the road to decarbonising transport”, says pressure group Transport & Environment, based on research by Ricardo Energy & Environment which finds no GHG savings in shifting to CNG or LNG from diesel (cars and trucks) and very little advantage in terms of air pollution. In fact, due to emissions and methane leakage in gas extraction, production and supply, overall GHG emissions are raised. T&E argues for governments to stop incentivising gas use, and says that for cars, petrol-electric hybrids, electric and hydrogen are better bets. Waste biomethane can have niche uses at a local level, but that’s about it. Full set of report downloads here.
- Full text of Audi chairman Rupert Stadler’s speech at the company’s annual press conference here: Stadler outlined [amongst other things post-#dieselgate] three key ‘milestones’, digitisation, electromobility and urbanisation, and confirmed its first all-electric large car for 2018. Hybrids and PHEVs are seen as a ‘bridge’ tech for the next 10 years, with the brand “thinking about electric mobility in high-volume terms” as well as high potential for fuel cell tech. The ‘urbanisation’ part of the plan includes mobility services and apps, including on-demand access to shared vehicles.
- I like a Living Lab, and the latest to come to my notice is an electric bus project in Helsinki: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, with Helsinki Region Trasnport, is testing platforms for mobility services including new user interfaces and transport/logistics solutions as well as cabin-space innovations. The city of Tampere is also involved. More here.
February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
Normal 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…
January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s the hydrogen society: Honda has signed an agreement with Tottori Gas Co, Sekisui House Ltd and Tottori Prefecture to develop a demo project integrating a hydrogen station, a smart house (pictured; love the graphic) and a fuel cell vehicle. The Smart Hydrogen Station will supply hydrogen created by electrolysis of water, using renewable electricity, and the idea is to show “a comfortable and smart lifestyle that can be achieved through energy-saving and energy-creation with the use of hydrogen energy.” More here.
In other news to end the working week:
- Toyota is showing off a van concept called U2 (U-squared) at the Toronto auto show; no word yet on what kind of powertrain it has, but apparently it’s the “future of urban mobility”. Possibly hydrogen/fuel cell fuelled, too?
- Much ado today about the end of Land Rover Defender production; for all it was about time for it to be pensioned off, people were pretty fond of it. One environmentally-positive part of the tale: remember the trial fleet of all-electric models, in which Land Rover tested out some of its electrification tech?
- Pods, driverless, to be deployed in London: adapted versions of the on-demand mini-shuttles on service at Heathrow Airport will go on trial at the Greenwich peninsula, this time without tracks. Seven cars will be built and tested by Westfield.
- Meanwhile, TfL launched an initiative called LoCITY to encourage take-up of lower-emissions trucks and lorries for us in London, looking at refuelling/recharging infrastructure (incl. hydrogen), affordability/availability, and enviro operating standards. Full programme overview here.
- And another interesting driveless-EV application: for freight, in tunnels, in Switzerland. The ‘cargo sous terrain’ project, using inductive rails, will cover Geneva-St Gallen, and the first stretch will be completed by 2030, reports electrive.com.
- There are many ways this particular cake can be cut, but a ranking of ‘greenest’ vehicles by the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) puts the Smart Fortwo in the top spot, followed by the Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500E, Toyota Prius Eco, Volkswagen E-Golf and then Nissan Leaf. The ACEEE says it has carried out a whole-lifecycle analysis, taking into account the US grid, and that “plug-in vehicles are outpacing all other vehicle offerings in terms of environmental friendliness… nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that how green your electric vehicle truly is depends on the electricity it uses to charge.” Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel models fitted with ‘defeat devices’ were disqualified from this year’s rankings, and rightly so. More here.
- Big charging point installation in California: 3500 in 350 locations, including businesses and residential communities, in San Diego and south Orange counties, with 10% to go to identified ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhoods. There will be incentives to charge off-peak as part of grid-management. More here.
October 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
Quick rundown of – my pick of – Tokyo motor show debutantes and show stars: first up, Nissan IDS, previewing the next-gen Leaf as well as Nissan’s upcoming autonomous tech (production, 2020). It features manual drive and a ‘learning’ automated Pilot Drive mode, said to mimic the driver’s own style and preferences; in this, the steering wheel retracts into the IP, and all four seats rotate inwards a little, under atmospherically dimmed lights. More clues to the next Leaf – or a new member of the Leaf family – include optimised aerodynamics, lower height, wheels pushed out further to each corner, super-thin tyres, and wheels with a fin-type design to smooth air flow. Oh, and a 60kW battery, wireless induction charging, reduced weight (thanks to a carbonfibre body) and the promise of “long distances” between charges. Automatic parking, too. More here. (And the dead cute Teatro for Dayz is – theoretically – electric and autonomous, too).
Latest news from Gordon Murray Design with its iStream Carbon chassis tech in the Yamaha Sports Ride Concept sports car; the structure is said to be affordable, suitable for high-volume production, and thus brings F1 lightweighting to everyday vehicles via the GMD iStream production process. The Lexus LF-FC previews the next-gen LS and features a fuel cell powertrain; Honda’s fuel cell rival for the Toyota Mirai is called Clarity and it’s coming to the UK; on a more conceptual note, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo (an autonomous minivan-like mobile lounge for young people in future megacities…) also features an ‘electric hybrid’ fuel cell powertrain with induction charging and total 980km range. And the all-electric Mitsubishi eX compact crossover concept has been well-received, too.
Away from Tokyo… Another autonomous electric bus has been launched this week: the Navya Arma, which can carry up to 15 people at up to 45kmph (on private sites, at the moment, its French makers suggesting industrial sites, airports, amusement parks, hospitals and tourist resorts as potential applications as well as urban areas). It can be induction-charged, and is now in production; three were seen in action at the ITS World Congress in Bordeaux, shuttling 1500 people on 2km trips between centres.
- Two US surveys: the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange questioned 990 EV owners and enthusiasts, and concluded that they were primarily “very well educated, upper-middle class white men in their early 50s with ideal living situations for EV charging”, reports USA Today. Almost all owners had their EV as their primary vehicle, but interestingly, “energy independence, and not environmental anxiety, was the primary reason that these respondents became interested in electric vehicles”. JD Power, meanwhile, has declared that EV prices must come down, and that public infrastructure must improve, if sales are to grow beyond a small proportion; this is despite large savings on fuel bills found in a survey of 7,600 owners who saved an average $147 a month on gasoline but saw their utility bills rise by only $18. One in three owners took advantage of discounted off-peak electricity tariffs; 43% charged their vehicle away from home, and when they do, 85% charge somewhere free. Average daily commute is 34 miles, and only 11% suffer range anxiety, apparently.
- And also across the Atlantic: Montreal is aiming for 1000 EV charging points by 2020, with the first 100+ in by next spring. Worth noting that this is in combination with Quebec’s plentiful hydro-electricity. Another snippet (via electrive-com): 50 Renault-Samsung SM3 saloons are going into a trial EV-share in Seoul; plus a fleet of 30 Toyota COMS micro-vehicles are going into an on-demand fleet on the island of Okinawa.
- Am liking the sound of the Power Road: not just incorporating solar panels and wind turbines on bridges and other structures, but generating more energy over its lifespan than it cost to make. This SINTEF project in Norway is looking at electricity-generating materials for EV charging, as well as locally-sourced, low-energy materials for construction.
October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment
Another electric concept car to appear in Tokyo: the Mitsubishi eX, which also previews a new compact crossover. This is described as a cross between a shooting brake and a compact SUV, and has 4WD (motor driving each axle) plus connected/automated systems; reports also suggest a (perhaps theoretical) 250-mile range between recharges. Mitsubishi Electric, meanwhile (different corporate division) has an updated version of an earlier assisted-driving concept: EMIRAI x3 DAS has LCD displays with cloud content synchronisation, motion-sensing controls, wearables syncs, head-up displays, driver fatigue/condition sensors, predictive/analytic mapping data plus remote control of household appliances.
- Toyota has a series of concepts lined up for Tokyo: prettiest is the S-FR, a small lightweight RWD coupe (ICE), though the cleanest is the FCV Plus, a pod-like fuel cell city car which can also be used as an independent power generator. The third, the Kikai, has its mechanical components exposed (a bit like a Richard Rogers building) to ‘create a new driving sensation.’ Toyota will also be showing its Kirobo Mini compact robot, the Mk4 Prius and the C-HR crossover concept.
- More on the LeTV SEE project: a compact electric sports car will be unveiled at next April’s Shanghai Auto Show (not Beijing, as originally suggested). Release posted here. LeTV is a Chinese equivalent to the likes of Netflix, apparently, and a massive repository/collector of digital content, which no doubt could be harvested/disseminated in its proposed cars (under development with help from Aston Martin, apparently).
- A fleet of 10 wind-powered Renaults is now available for hire in the Outer Hebrides: the E-Car Club-operated vehicles (nine Zoes, one Kangoo ZE van) will use electricity from the six-turbine Pentland Road Windfarm, and can be hired on a daily or hourly basis from a number of locations in Stornoway or across the Isle of Lewis. The wind farm is said to supply sufficient electricity for all the Outer Hebrides’ domestic needs, and nearly 700 households in the local community receive a portion of its lease payments to the Stornoway Trust.
- And hydrogen from artificial photosynthesis – light-activated splitting of water molecules – is being trialled at Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, and the Max Planck Institute, Stuttgart: this is touted as a potential storage method for solar energy, though it could also result in generating hydrogen to be used as fuel. More here.
- Might be a while before there are sufficient numbers of end-of-life EV motors and drive units for this to be viable, but Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Massachusetts) is looking at processes to recover and recycle their rare earth metals (otherwise mined in China, generally). A recovery rate of over 80% is claimed. More, incl. references, here.
- And nanoparticles of candle soot (carbon) could make cheap, efficient electrodes for car-capable lithium-ion batteries, reports research from Hyderabad. The recovered carbon has high conductivity, the researchers say. I’m not sure of the overall benefits of this in terms of lifecycle energy consumption and emissions involved in burning candles, though, I have to admit…
- Californian EV drivers can sync their car-charging with home appliance use and lower their energy bills using a new app called OhmConnect: savings of around $200 a year are said to be possible, timing electricity consumption to benefits from incentives from local energy suppliers to charge off-peak. More at Cleantechnica. And (also US): new software called JuiceNet, from eMotorWerks in partnership with ClipperCreek, connects charging points into a cloud-controlled and app-enabled, ‘learning’ smartgrid. This is known as aggregated EV charging load management; more here.
- Meanwhile, in Europe, MaaS Alliance: a new initiative of 20 organisations has been formed to develop Mobility as a Service – flexible multi-modal travel service options and related integrated information/billing systems. The Alliance includes universities and research centres, tech firms, public and private sector organisations and companies including Ericsson, Transport for London and Xerox.
October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
Now I feel really, really old. Nissan’s Teatro for Dayz concept – to be revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show shortly – is designed not even for millennials but social media-obsessed Gen Z ‘share natives’ born this century, kids who might use a car to connect and share experiences with their mates, and be more likely to hire/share than buy. The interior is fully-customisable with digital touchscreen surfaces, allowing for a choice of colours and patterns on the seats and interior trim; there are no knobs or switches, and some motion-sensing controls instead. It’s electric, and an external LED strip along the side sills indicates its battery-charge levels; it’s also a kei-class tiddler. And really quite kawaii. More about it, with pretty pictures, here.
(Debate on Twitter re. a disparaging piece on Autoweek; while, as a bit of a social media curmudgeon, I have some sympathy for the argument about encouraging self-promotion and vanity, this is, I think, demonstrating how, quite blatantly, the mainstream auto press Just Doesn’t Get It and is becoming less and less relevant. Very good point by @drewdraws2 – “The idea that interest in cars should only be about ‘driving pleasure’ and theoretical excitement needs to die”. We could add ‘driving’ full stop into that, of course).
- Further Tokyo previewing: Subaru has a pair of concepts, and VIZIV Future – a compact SUV – previews an all-wheel-drive hybrid system. Suspect it’ll run mainly on its turbocharged petrol engine, though. More here.
- Honda will be showing its FCV (fuel cell vehicle), successor to FCX Clarity and rival to Toyota Mirai, said to be on its way to the UK. Its powertrain is entirely packed in the ‘engine’ bay, and it will give nearly 135bhp via its electric motor; driving range between hydrogen fill-ups (currently somewhat harder to find than electric charging points) is 435 miles. New fuel cell concept(s) also expected from Toyota.
- Future Transport Systems and Ricardo have developed an EV fast-charger using second-life batteries: the FTS E-STOR system is also specifically developed to play a role in grid-balancing and buffering within a smart-grid. It can involve batteries from any vehicle – although the prototypes use Renault batteries – and the first installations are expected mid-2016.
- GM has launched a car-share scheme (well, on-demand hiring by the hour: I can’t see much ‘sharing’ here) in New York. A fleet of Trax and Equinox SUVs (!) can be reserved by app. For residents of upmarket developments in Manhattan only, at the moment, perhaps as the vehicles can be housed in private car parks/garages. Interestingly, this comes as BMW pulls DriveNow from San Francisco: due to problems with parking permits, apparently, though there is an intention to return. And DriveNow has just added 20 new electric BMW i3s to its London fleet.
- Research by Morpace (Michigan) with a panel of nearly 250 US EV/hybrid owners: government incentives and tax rebates were an important factor in purchase; buyers were wary of secondhand EVs; nearly a third thought salespeople/dealers were poorly-informed and gave an unsatisfactory purchase experience. Lots of detail on some specifics, i.e. changes in driving habits (42% now accelerate more slowly); a preference to buy aftermarket/independently-sourced chargers rather than OEM equipment; a preference for midsize crossovers and a desire for their car to stand out as an EV or PHEV. On charging behaviour, 79% use apps to locate public charging points; 94% know the locations in their area and choose to go to establishments/locations with charging facilities; they charge in public on average 3.5 times a month for two hours; 71% pay for public charging and 48% of those who don’t would be willing to.
- Hamburg is the first city in Germany to pass new federal EV legislation; from next month, EVs can park for free, and the number of charging points will rise from the current 150 to 600 by the end of next year, reports electrive.com.
- UK EV sales in September 2015: 1,549, up over 28% compared to this time last year, plus 2,363 PHEVs (up 25.6%) and 7,605 non-plug hybrids.