Paris Auto Salon preview: Renault EOLAB

September 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

renault eolabRenault’s EOLAB concept previews nearly 100 different technologies destined for production-fitment within the decade – including a hybrid powertrain. It also showcases Renault’s thinking for an affordable B-sector (supermini) car for “within 10 years”, i.e. a future-generation Clio, and has been developed with mass production in mind. It’s capable of 1 litre/100km (282mpg) fuel economy plus 22g/km CO2 emissions, aided by a 400kg weight reduction from the current Clio (to just 955kg) and a 30% reduction in aerodynamic drag. Features include a magnesium roof (just 4.5kg) and a steel, aluminium and composite bodyshell; the brakes are lighter and smaller, as is the centre-exit exhaust system, ‘tall and narrow’ tyres lessen rolling resistance, lighter window glass, thinner and lighter-weight seats, cabin fittings and trim, and variable ride height further aids aerodynamics.

Renault says that the hybrid powertrain will complement the EVs in its range, and that the EOLAB has an all-electric range of up to 60km at up to 120kph; the three-cylinder, 999cc (75bhp) SCe petrol engine works with a compact 40kW/200Nm axial flux motor, 400V 6.7kWhr lithium-ion battery and a clutchless three-speed transmission (first two gears for electric drive, the third engaged with the engine, giving a combination of nine gears in different modes). It foresees a ‘weekday’ (all-electric) mode for everyday commuting and errands, and ‘weekend’ combining petrol and electric power for longer-distance travel. No more details on charging as yet, but a key feature will include a driver interface specifically designed to engage drivers with their energy consumption and to encourage them to drive more efficiently. And the asymmetric 3-door layout with two rear-hinged doors on the right? To aid safety of passengers getting in on the kerbside, apparently (LHD).

  • Another Paris preview: Peugeot Quartz, a crossover concept with plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This comprises the PSA 1.6-litre THP turbo engine (270bhp, 330Nm), six-speed auto transmission, an 85kW e-motor driving the front axle and a further 85kW motor to the rear; there are three driving modes, Road (engine plus front motor for maximum battery-charging during deceleration), Race (engine plus both motors), plus the all-electric mode with a range of up to 31 miles.
  • Citroen, meanwhile, is to show a C4 Cactus concept called Airflow 2L – said to achieve fuel economy of over 2l/100km (141mpg). This prototype is 100kg lighter than the standard model, shows a 20% improvement in aerodynamics (thanks to side deflectors, active wheel shutters and auto-adjustable front bumper air intakes, modified wheel arches, spoilers and rear-view cameras in place of door mirrors), and has PSA’s Hybrid Air tech to reduce fuel consumption by 30%. Further details include lower rolling-resistance tyres, a smoother floor (featuring lighter-weight composite materials), carbon-based composite and aluminium structural elements and components, a polycarbonate sunroof, and LED light modules in place of the standard headlights. The drivetrain has the three-cylinder petrol engine plus two compressed-air energy storage tanks, which drive a hydraulic pump/motor unit to give an ‘air power’ zero-emissions mode in addition to air-assisted progress and petrol-only. It’s ‘medium-term’ with respect to the production-readiness of its technologies, apparently.
  • A concept of a different kind: Stella, by students at TU Eindhoven, is a solar-powered four-seater capable of capturing more energy (to sell back to the grid) each year than it actually uses. An entrant in last year’s World Solar Challenge, it’s out and about in the SF area right now for the USA’s National Drive Electric Week, reports Autoweek.
  • A lightweight micro-EV last seen at the Geneva Auto Salon, the Eon Weez, is ready for production, reports Automobile Challenges. Under the French quadricycle legislation, it can be driven licence-free. Interesting thing about it is its central driving position – like the McLaren F1, they report, though it’s rather more a la the ill-fated mia electric

Concept of the Day: Twizy Renault Sport F1

April 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

renault-twizy-f1-2Well, Concept of the Day has to be Renault’s Twizy Renault Sport F1. It is, admittedly, pretty silly (especially since its top speed is still only 68mph), but it does showcase a fair amount of interesting F1-developed tech. The race car wheels, front splitter, wing, diffuser, LED lights and all the body kit aren’t really the story: more interestingly, this concept features KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System, capturing heat energy otherwise lost under braking), giving a transient power-boost to 97bhp (an extra 80!) and 0-62mph in six seconds – a savvy way to supplement performance in an EV with little weight/range penalty. The selectable two-mode (recovery/boost) KERS – comprising a dynamo-style electric motor-generator unit linked to the driveshaft, specific lithium-ion batteries and a control unit – is bolted in behind the driver in place of the rear seat. It’s just a demo and a consciousness-raiser at the moment, but it’s all feasible…

  • And more KERS: Volvo has finished testing its kinetic flywheel tech, and confirms that it’s light, financially viable and efficient – in combination with a four-cylinder turbo engine it can reduce fuel consumption by up to 25% compared to a six-cylinder turbo engine giving similar performance (0-62 in 5.5 seconds, in the experimental S60). It adds a transient 80bhp through a flywheel spinning at the rear axle, allowing for switch-off of the ICE up front under braking; indeed, the ICE could be off for around half the driving time, and Volvo claims that fuel savings will be the greatest in stop-start urban traffic and during “active driving” (whatever that might mean: I’m guessing aggressive throttle-brake action). Volvo is now evaluating the production prospects.
  • So now we know who Detroit Electric’s partner is: Geely Automobile Group of China (which owns Volvo, incidentally, not that we’re playing The Chain here). The pair have “entered into strategic partnership to co-develop pure electric vehicles and related electric drive systems for the Chinese market”, and the first models – all-electric – will go on sale in China next year. First up is an EV based on Geely’s Emgrand EC7 saloon, logically called EC7-EV, which will be co-branded ‘Detroit Electric – Technology’. It’ll initially go to business users and public sector organisations, with sales of 3,000 expected in the first year but 30,000 a year in three years’ time; range is 165km (with a 258km extra-cost upgrade), and the EC7-EV is said to be good for 200kmph and 0-100km in less than eight seconds. Tech includes the twin-speed gearbox as in the SP:01; a JV is being formed to make the EV powertrain and its components near to Geely’s HQ in Hangzhou, Zheijang province.
  • London, and the congestion charge: threshold for exemption is lowered to 75g/km as of 1st July, leaving only the EVs, range-extenders and plug-in hybrids to go free. As it should be, I reckon. There’s a three-year grace period for cars already registered for the exemption, however, to mollify the people who just bought a small diesel specifically to drive it into the centre of the city.
  • Meanwhile, the European parliament has approved an average 95g/km target for car-makers for 2020 – more here.
  • Leading by example: the Obama administration is supporting the purchase of 10,000 hybrids for government agencies, reports Detroit News.

Geneva Motor Show Concept of the Day: Subaru VIZIV

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

subari vizivSubaru has been playing around with hybrid tech for a while, but this concept goes a stage further with plug-in capability. It uses the familiar Subaru 2.0-litre flat-four diesel plus Lineartronic CVT, with two independently-controlled motors driving the rear wheels and a single motor driving the front axle in an AWD system likely to feature in future production models. As the rear motors directly drive the rear wheels, there’s no need for a prop shaft, and the floor can be lowered for extra rear legroom. The diesel engine drives the front axle. More here. I like this better – and find it more relevant to the mainstream production-car world – than the other headline-grabbing hybrid in Geneva, the LaFerrari, for all you might argue about tech trickle-down.

  • Volvo pulled out a nice piece of tech at Geneva, too: a pedestrian- and cyclist-detection safety system with auto braking. On sale in model-year 2014, more here. No substitute for drivers using their eyes (and mirrors), obviously, but vulnerable road users need all the help they can get…
  • Non-Geneva news: Toyota is to start a three-year smartcard-enabled EV-share project in France at the end of 2014 in partnership with EDF and the Cite Lib car-share. This will involve 70-odd ultra-light compact vehicles – the i-Road and COMS – and will take place in Grenoble and the surrounding area; the aim is to explore the use of light EVs on a ‘last mile’ basis. More here. And there’s video of the Nissan New Mobility Concept (Japanese Twizy) trial here.
  • Save energy, only light highways when a car is approaching: trials are to start in the Netherlands of ‘smart roads’ with motion sensors, glow-in-the-dark paint, automatic ice warnings – and priority lanes for EVs. More at Forum for the Future.
  • Debate of the day: the RAC Foundation is talking about “transport poverty” – low-income households spending over a quarter of their income on running a car, averaging £44 a week (ONS data). Cuts in buses are a contributing factor to car dependency, and an obstacle for job-seekers, says the Campaign For Better Transport. The answer’s not cutting fuel duty (as the RAC Foundation is calling for), say many, including @geographyjim, who points out that only 31% of the poorest households have a car, and that households in (car) “transport poverty” only account for 2% of the country’s total fuel spending – so any cut would overwhelmingly benefit the better-off, and not help out the majority of low-income households anyway.
  • More fuel (sorry) for thought: a study from UMTRI (University of Michigan Transport Research Institute) argues that all the benefits of efficiency improvements made in the last 40 years in the US have been cancelled out by people travelling higher mileages, and with a higher tendency to travel alone. Handy rundown here; full report here. Data is 1970-2010, however, so may not fully reflect any impact of recession.

Seat shows economical new Leon; build your own electric speedster; tech titbits

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Seat is to launch the third-generation Leon at the Paris Motor Show, with sales to start towards the end of the year. The Spanish-built member of the Volkswagen Golf family is to get engines from 1.2- to 2.0-litres, all direct-injection and turbocharged, and fuel consumption is improved by an average 22%. Most economical will be the 1.6 TDI diesel (104bhp/184lb ft), which will deliver 74.3mpg and emit 99g/km in Ecomotive form with stop/start and brake energy recuperation. The 2.0 TDI Ecomotive (148bhp/236lb ft) will do 70.6mpg, and petrol-wise, watch out for the entry-level 1.2 TSI (85bhp or 104bhp). Seat’s hinting too that the range will expand beyond the sole five-door body-style of the current line-up, too.

  • “If we think of ourselves as a mobility company rather than just as an auto provider, that really opens up possibilities”, said Bill Ford at the recent ‘Go Further With Ford’ trend conference. This thinking involves integrated public-private transport systems, autonomous and networked vehicles, and new business models. Meanwhile, Renault has launched a scheme called MOBILIZ, to include mobility schemes, low-cost car rentals, car-pooling and micro-community transport, and social finance schemes to aid mobility for  people on low incomes. Via  Green Car Congress; more on Renault MOBILIZ here.
  • Detailed story on wireless EV charging and cordless induction charging mats at Detroit News today. Some serious money’s going into developing this stuff.
  • New figures from McKinsey indicate that the price of an EV lithium-ion battery pack, including cells, management software and packaging, could fall to an average $200 per kilowatt-hour by 2020 and to $160/kWhr by 2015 (current price is $500-600). The break-even point for total cost of ownership parity with an ICE vehicle is $250, it claims. The cost reductions will be brought down by a combination of economies of scale, lower prices for individual components, and improved technologies to improve battery capacity. Full report at McKinsey Quarterly, edited highlights (no sub required) here.
  • EV batteries are expensive, and preventing them from overheating is difficult: however, researchers at the Frauenhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology, Oberhausen, have come up with a coolant claimed to be three times more effective than the usual water-cooling. CryoSolplus combines water with ingredients including paraffin and glycol, absorbs three times as much heat as water alone, is more effective at conducting heat away, and can be used in smaller quantities, thus saving on weight and packaging. More at alphagalileo.
  • The Schaeffler Group says its thermal management module can boost a car’s fuel efficiency by 4% compared to a conventional thermostat. It gives more precise control of engine and transmission temperatures, with quicker warm-up. It’s now fitted in Audi’s latest four-cylinder engines (AutoTech Daily).
  • DIY EV of the Day: the Modi-Corp Pius (no ‘r’). It’s an open speedster-style kit car (pictured below), but before you get too excited, it’s just a low-speed single-seater (classed in Japan as a motorised bicycle) intended for assembly by students at engineering colleges and mechanic training centres (via

Design Concept of the Day #2: Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa Prototype

July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the future, we will all be driving cars that look like slugs… or maybe not. This super-aerodynamic economy record-setter is the work of some of tomorrow’s engineers, however. Further to the below post, the Shell Eco-marathon Asia took place last weekend at the Sepang circuit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: overall winning team (for the second year running) was Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from the Dhurakij Pundit University, Thailand. Its ethanol-fuelled Prototype (pictured) managed 2903km on a litre of fuel, breaking the team’s record from last year – and marking the equivalent of driving from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi. The winning UrbanConcept came from Cikal Cakrasvarna, of the Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia, achieving 196km/litre in their petrol vehicle.

Student teams came from 18 countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Japan, Qatar, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, the Lebanon, Brunei and the Philippines. Shell Malaysia Country Chair Iain Lo said: “The level of energy and team spirit exuded in the pit and on the track has been truly amazing. It has shown that with team work, impressive results can be achieved. One can’t help but be optimistic that achieving smarter mobility is not too distant a dream, when our future is already thinking of solutions today.”

More about the event, including video and picture galleries, here.


Design Concept of the Day: Aston University Team Shelly fuel cell car

July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Just found this: a team of engineering and design undergraduates from Aston University, Birmingham, won the Eco-Design Award at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe in Rotterdam recently. The competition requires teams to travel as far as they can on one litre of fuel; the Team Shelly Aston car, competing in the ‘UrbanConcept’ class, featured a Nexa Ballard fuel cell, a cardboard/plywood chassis and bioresin-infused hessian-fibre body panels. More at the team’s blog.

Winners of the UrbanConcept class, however, were Team Electricar Solution (France), achieving 262.2km per kWhr and setting a new record for battery-electric vehicles; DTU Roadrunners (Denmark Technical University) achieved 611.1km per litre, improving their record from last year and taking the fuelled-car title.  The winning Prototype car came from the GTL-powered Dutch MAC Eco Team (416.3km per litre), and overall winner was the French Team Microjoule-La Joliverie, achieving a petrol-driven 2832.8km per litre. More at the Eco-marathon site.

  • Mazda is to fit regenerative braking to its new Mazda6 next year. The i-Eloop system stores kinetic energy otherwise lost under braking in a capacitor, for use to power the air conditioning, headlights, audio system and other electrical/electronic functions. It’s said to boost fuel economy by 5-10%, reports Autoweek.
  • Mitsubishi intends to offer plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions in all of its new model-line-ups, reports Autocar. After the Outlander PHV which comes next year, the ASX crossover, Mirage city car, next-generation Lancer small family car and even the L200 pick-up are likely candidates for electrification.
  • BMW is investing 125million euros in its factories at Dingolfing and Landshut, which will make components for the upcoming i3 (2013) and i8 (2014). The first assembly line to make batteries for the i-cars has gone into operation at the Dingolfing plant, which will also make the i3’s aluminium chassis structure and its running gear, plus the front axle and front/rear chassis modules for the i8. Landshut is to make the electric motors and range-extenders, high-voltage battery and motor gear units, and CFRP (carbon-fibre reinforced plastic) body panels (Green Car Congress).
  • China’s State Council has announced that it wants 500,000 domestically-built EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015, and for the country to produce 2million plug-in vehicles a year by 2020. By the end of the decade, it wants 5million such vehicles in operation, and for all new passenger vehicles to emit an average 47mpg (34mpg by 2015). The state plan includes research into fuel cell technology as well as development of batteries, lightweight materials and energy-efficient transmissions, reports AutoTech Daily.
  • Protean Electric, which develops and makes in-wheel e-drive systems, is to build a production plant in China (further to the above). It has received $84million in new funding from GSR Ventures, which has bases in Silicon Valley and Beijing.
  • BMW is recalling the small number of ActiveE EVs which have gone out on trial leases, to address potential issues with their electric power steering.

Design Concept of the Day: MDI AirPod

May 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tata Motors has completed the second phase of its work on compressed-air cars using technology licensed from Motor Development International (MDI) of Luxembourg. The project has involved building specific vehicles and stationary applications, including two demonstrator vehicles, and the plan is to sell cars with the technology in India. Full statement from Tata here, more on the tech (including video) at the MDI website.

MDI appears to be closer to the launch of its first product, the AirPod (pictured), which has developed into a four-wheeler with 430cc, 2-cylinder engine. This is despite an undignified falling-out with Catecar, which was to build AirPods under licence in Switzerland (more details on that, plus extensive picture gallery and update on the AirPod programme, on this page). Fascinating stuff, for all sorts of reasons, but the involvement/investment from Tata does make this project look like much more of a go-er than it once seemed…

  • Further to the news of the MUTE project (see below), BMW Forschung und Technik is also teaming up with TUM (Technical University Munich) on a research project studying next-gen networked vehicle technology. This will be the next phase of an ongoing programme looking at car-to-X wireless, developing suitable communications architecture. More at Green Car Congress.
  • More news from the recent SAE Congress: BorgWarner has developed a system called Valve-Event Modulated Boost (VEMB), for use in already-downsized and turbocharged engines. This separates the exhaust phase into an early ‘blow-down’ towards the turbo and a later ‘scavenge’ phase towards the exhaust gas recirculation system, and is said to offer fuel efficiency improvements of up to 17%. More at Green Car Congress.
  • A train story: Ricardo is teaming up with Bombardier Transportation and Artemis Intelligent Power to implement its Kinergy flywheel energy storage tech in diesel commuter locomotives. Along with regenerative braking, this can be retro-fitted to existing trains, and there’s potential for fuel savings of 10-20%. Press release here.
  • On yer bike: Audi is to launch its ‘Wörthersee’ e-bike at an event at the conveniently-named Wörthersee lake in Carinthia, Austria, this weekend. This lightweight pedelec with 2.3kW motor is made from carbonfibre-reinforced polymers, and has operational modes selectable by touch-screen – ‘pure’ (pedal power only), ‘pedelec’ (leg-power supplemented by the motor), ‘eGrip’ (e-power only, giving up to 31mph), plus ‘power wheelie’ and ‘balanced wheelie’ for the stunt artists and ‘training’ for the MAMILs. No word yet on price; nice gallery of pics at Inhabitat. Oh, and smart has confirmed the launch of its escooter for 2014.
  • And whilst we’re not on the subject of cars, a company from Portland, Oregon called Volta Volare has developed a concept for a range-extended electric plane. 300 miles in all-electric mode, 700 miles-worth of range in all, apparently. More at Inhabitat.

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