Concept of the Day: Lutz Pathfinder

February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

lutz podDriverless cars (well, electric golf cart-type vehicles) have hit the streets of Greenwich this week in the UK Autodrive trial, which will see investigation of public attitudes, legislative changes and protocols as well as technology tests. The Transport Systems Catapult also unveiled these Lutz Pathfinder ‘pods’, which will go into action in Milton Keynes and Coventry later this year, as well as the BAE Wildcat jeeps in Bristol. More detail here. (and here). The Lutz two-seaters are built by the RDM Group, with sensors and navigation tech from the Oxford University Mobile Navigation Group, and are designed with pedestrianised areas in mind, whereas the Greenwich golf carts are larger shuttles.

  • Lichtenstein-based nanoFlowCell is to show an update on last year’s Quant E-Sportlimousine concept at the Geneva Motor Show next month: the Quant F promises a 30% increase in range (to 800km) over last year’s prototype, as well as an all-new two-speed auto transmission, a 1075hp peak output and 186mph top speed, plus some small design tweaks. More details here.  Its flow cell batteries – using charged electrolytes – need a fluid-swap rather than conventional charging.
  •  Electric supercar story #2: a Finnish start-up is to unveil a 1 mega-watt monster called the Toroidion 1MW (of course) at the Top Marques show in Monaco in April, reports AutoblogGreen.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric is planning to build and provide 25,000 new EV-chargers in northern and central California, to be located in places including apartment buildings, retail centres and offices; it’s looking for third-party hosts. Release posted here.
  • Paper (Melanie Swan, Kingston University) on the application of so-called ‘quantified self’ technology – biometric measurements – in the automotive world, i.e. implications for fatigue detection, stress management, personal identification for security, and vehicle interventions, here. Conclusion is that this could be a factor – alongside other innovations such as 3D printing, other models of transport service delivery, energy sector reforms, autonomous driving – in a large-scale reconfiguration of cars, driving and personal transportation.
  • “Electric cars are good but connected electric cars are better”, said Bosch CEO Dr Volkmar Denner, speaking this week at the Car Symposium in Bochum. Bosch is aiming to offer integrated mobility solutions – combining automation, electrification and connectivity; other comments and predictions from this Tier One supplier include the idea that 15% of new cars will have some form of electrified powertrain (from hybrid onwards) by 2025; electrification is picking up pace unhindered by low oil prices; EV batteries will offer twice the energy density at half the price by 2020; hybrid powertrain will become standard-issue in the SUV sector; apps for battery-charging and payment for EV-charging will better-enable electromobility; and the success of e-bikes points to the fun factor of e-mobility.
  • France is to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme offering grants of up to 10,000 euros for people trading in diesels over 13 years old (in selected areas of  poor air quality) for plug-in hybrids or EVs,. Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal told Le Parisien this week that the measures will be introduced in April. This encompasses existing incentives and discounts. Meanwhile, the Bollore Group has just confirmed 150million euros-worth government funding for it to build a 16,000-strong network of fast-chargers across France; more here.
  • A not-yet-famous Belgian: designer Xavier van der Stappen is looking for funding to put his E-Car 333 into production, reports Sustainable Mobility. As its name hints, the E-Car (unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show this week) has three wheels, carries three people – and has a claimed range of 300km. It’s a kind of scooter/microcar hybrid with a chassis (recycled steel) that could accommodate different bodystyles; and interestingly, its panels are made from a flax-fibre laminated material (see previous post).
  • Registration figures from ACEA for last year: 75,331 plug-in vehicles registered in the EU, up 37% on 2013’s figures but still representing just 0.6% of the total market (12.6million cars of all types last year, up 5.7% on 2013).
  • Car-dependency in Washington DC vs similarly-populated Stuttgart: some nice number-crunching reported here. Similar trends in their suburbs, surprisingly.

 

Designers look at future of mobility, & research round-up

August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

minifutures_kmA Dezeen/Mini collaborative exhibition, called Frontiers – The Future of Mobility, opens at designjunction (in the Sorting Office, New Oxford Street) on 17th September as part of London Design Week. Work on display includes that of Keiichi Matsuda, who looks at the use of augmented reality to superimpose information and signage (pictured); Dominic Wilcox  who suggests that, when cars are fully-automated, safety features such as airbags and crumple zones are no longer needed – and thus cars can be made of anything, even intricate stained-glass windows; Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, who explores ‘repair ecologies’ and how genetically-engineered synthetic, biological vehicles could evolve and mutate as they are used and repaired, according to their environments; Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, developing 3D-printed dashboard figurine ‘avatars’ to communicate with drivers; and Pernilla Ohrstedt, predicting how cars could collect detailed 3D scans for mapping and the creation of virtual-reality worlds.

  • A little primer on behavioural insights and ‘nudge’ theory in relation to transport here from SDG; a further summary of this… it’s about the ideas that: people are creatures of habit and like to be consistent, but are not always logical in their decisions; they are influenced by other people and seek their approval, but the sacrifices they are prepared to make to change their habits are actually quite small; decisions (as in what mode of transport to use) are often based on mental short-cuts and misinformed perceptions; decisions are influenced by short-term gains, relative to context (again, not always logical); ‘sticks’ are more effective than ‘carrots’ in changing behaviour; but for successful outcomes, people need to feel empowered or positive about change rather than that they have no choice.
  • And on a not dissimilar theme, a new paper in Transport Geography warns that, unless “transport taboos” – interlinked factors which might harm governmental or business interests or social order, including social inequality of planned measures, social/psychological functions of mobility, lobbying, inequality in contributions towards emissions and transport volumes – are addressed, “it will be difficult to achieve significant emission reductions in passenger transport”. (thanks @RachelAldred).
  • Natural gas, whether powering vehicles directly in an ICE, used to generate electricity for EVs, or used to generate hydrogen for fuel cell cars, shows an improvement over coal or oil in all three scenarios, reports a team from University of Michigan, which has done a series of lifecycle analyses. Detailed lowdown and references here at Green Car Congress.

 

Midweek news round-up: #EVs, mobility challenges, hydrogen, car-sharing amd smart transport

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

simca vanRenault has delivered 30 Kangoo ZEs to Uruguay for electricity generator/distributor UTE. These vans – considerably more up-to-date and cleaner-running than this earlier French-built Uruguayan workhorse pictured here – will be deployed in Montevideo and elsewhere in the small country, with the aim of running them mostly on electricity generated by wind farms. Interesting note: 84% of Uruguay’s electricity is renewable-source, the country aims to up that to 90% in the near future, and wind farms will produce a third of the country’s electricity by 2016. More here.

As regards this picture, snapped a couple of years ago on the dusty, sunny streets of Colonia del Sacramento, I believe it’s a local chop-job based on a Simca Cinq (itself derived from the Fiat Topolino). And not electric, but anyway…

  • Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab in Palo Alto, California, has launched a series of challenges for software developers called Innovate Mobility Series. These are open to developers worldwide, with cash prizes and scholarships up for grabs; the initial challenges are to develop a 21st century parking lot for Los Angeles; improving delivery of goods and services in Lisbon; develop an app to improve mobility in Mumbai in the monsoon season; improve healthcare services and information in Delhi and remote rural regions around Chennai; to overcome congestion and enhance commuting in Shanghai; to develop accessories for commercial vehicles in Johannesburg; and to improve general mobility and mitigate congestion on a country-wide basis in Argentina. Competitors will use Ford SVL’s OpenXC platform. More news on the Series at Green Car Congress.
  • The Linde Group has started production of hydrogen fuelling units including its compressors; a deal to supply 28 to Japan is being fulfilled, and the first has now gone into public use near Osaka. More here. Linde says that this is the first ‘production line’ for hydrogen stations, and that it can make 50 a year.
  • Pisa may be most famous for its Leaning Tower, but it has a future-leaning IoT research project going on: it has teamed up with Deutsche Telekom and Kiunsys to install and test ‘smart parking’ tech to identify and direct drivers to empty spaces, and enable them to pay for parking via smartphone. Full lowdown on this, and Pisa’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan,  here.
  •  Electric motorbike-maker Brammo has teamed up with engineering and manufacturing consultancy TEAM Industries to develop electric vehicle powertrains; more at EV World.
  • Discussion on Helsinki’s ambitious plans for a ‘mobility on demand’ scheme and its intentions to make private car ownership in the city centre more or obsolete by 2015 at Guardian Cities
  • And a detailed rundown of the discussion/presentations at the Innovation In Mobility Public Policy Summit (Washington DC) here at Urban Omnibus – how can policy support new mobility schemes and encourage behaviour change? Conclusion of writer Manavsi Menon: “Shared use must be seen as complementary to existing services, not as antithetical to traditional forms of transport, and integrated into broader land use policy in order for a transportation network to bring mobility options to underserved areas and to be a truly seamless system across modes.”
  • Owning no car in suburban San Diego? Nice blog on “having no car and having plenty of cars” at the California Planning and Development Report – the difference in owning, and having access to cars via car club membership, using Uber as a fall-back, and car club membership as part of a mix-and-match of transport options.
  • BMW has signed a MOU with Samsung SDI for continued supply and development of battery cells for EVs. More here.

Tues news: EV charging, batteries, biofuels and more

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: Chargemaster plc

Pic: Chargemaster plc

UK EV charge point network operator Chargemaster is launching a new app called Polar Instant (iPhone and Android), giving instant access to OCPP (open charge point protocol) points with no need for an RFID card. The app includes mapping and routing plus real-time info on the availability of points, including data on connector type and pricing (where applicable).

  • A lot of hearsay in this one, but a detailed account of the demise/failure/hubris of Shai Agassi’s Better Place battery-swap vision at Fast Company. And also on the Going Under list this week: Smith Electric Vehicles (trucks and vans), with Detroit Electric looking pretty dubious too (plans for Michigan production shelved, assembly now in the Netherlands, file  it under believe-it-when-you-see-it).
  • Latest roadmap report from the EC’s ERTRAC on fuels for heavy-duty transport and freight, Energy Carriers for Powertrains: handy digest at Green Car Congress. To 2050, potential for biomass-derived biofuels limited due to availability of enough sustainable-source (i.e. non-feedstock or food crop) biomass; CO2 ‘recycling’ or binding is crucial; limits on substitutions/blends with petrol/diesel for many biofuels; natural gas (as CNG/LNG) has good potential as drop-in fuel, as well as methanol and DME; thumbs-up to biomethane and renewable electricity (either as direct power source or in ‘carrier’ syngas, hydrogen or converted to liquid fuel); ethanol an economic solution (NB: beware its source?).
  • And how ’bout extracting hydrogen and CO2 from sea water and converting it to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, no ICE conversion needed? The US Naval Research Laboratory has demonstrated this in a replica-model WWII plane… (via Green Car Congress – thanks).
  • Polymer electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries are more stable, less flammable and can give better energy storage capacity and durability than current li-ion battery chemistries, says a team from Autonomous Metropolitan University (Mexico City). They’re looking into batteries for local metro trains, but which could also be used in cars, computers, cellphones and soforth. More here. And how about lithium sulphur graphene batteries – more here?
  • Microsoft has revealed a beta version of Windows in the Car; more at Wired. You better like Windows 8…
  • Autonomous vehicles: shared/hired or personally-owned? Some musings at Atlantic Cities (by a founder of ZipCar, so you can probably guess the vision).

 

 

Design Concept of the Day: Toyota FV2

November 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

toyotafv2Drivers will develop relationships with their vehicle much as riders do with horses, Toyota believes – or at least, they will when using the technologies developed in its Heart project, a communications/artificial intelligence programme which has included the development of the Kirobo and Mirata humanoid robots. Key to this is the use of sensors monitoring expressions, gestures and even recollections of past events  – for “emotional communication” – and establishing “a rapport between humans and machines that can make life more enjoyable and rewarding”.

Showcase for this is the FV2 concept, destined for the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. In place of a steering wheel, it is steered by the driver shifting his/her body to indicate direction; and it is also digitally connected to other cars and an intelligent transport infrastructure to give safety information, such as the presence of vehicles in blind spots or at junctions. It’s all about “stronger physical and emotional connections with the driver”, apparently, and voice and image recognition determines the driver’s mood; accumulated driving history suggests destinations; driving skills information is presented to assist the driver (“calm down”, perhaps). There’s a head-up augmented reality display on the windscreen, and projections allow the colour of the external display to be changed. Oh, and there’s an app for all of that – Toyota’s offering a taste of the FV2 driving experience, which can be downloaded (free) from the Apple AppStore and Google Play. But you can’t feed the FV2 carrots or stroke its mane…

  • Other Toyota concepts of note at Tokyo include the near-production FCV Concept (fuel cell, due for launch “around 2015”). This is said to have a range between refuelling of about 300 miles/500km, and a refuelling time of around three minutes, and it can carry four (the fuel cell stack and pair of fuel tanks are packaged under-body). Power output is “at least 100kW”, with a smaller motor, increased voltage and more compact fuel cell stack than in the earlier FCHV prototypes – and if stationary, a fully-fuelled vehicle “can provide enough electricity to power an average Japanese family home for a week”.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Lexus RC four-seat luxury coupe:  RC 300h, with a 2.5-litre engine. Launch at Tokyo.
  • And the (Honda) Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD – a sports saloon; more performance- than economy-oriented –  will debut at the LA Show. Press release posted here.
  • Caterham (Cars) is expanding into the two-wheeled sector, with products including an e-bike (for 2014). More here.
  • Some more technical detail on the Volvo S80 EV prototype with structural elements holding charge: the body panels which act as energy storage incorporate carbonfibre and polymer resin, supercapacitors and nano-batteries. More info from the LowCVP, and from Volvo.
  • Renault-Nissan are to expand their platform-sharing deal with Mitsubishi, reports EV Fleet World; there’ll be a ‘kei car’ A-sector city EV based on the jointly-developed 660cc minivan already in production, as well as C- and D-sector Mitsubishis based on Korean-built Renault-Samsung models
  • The Nissan Leaf EV was the best-selling car – of all persuasions – in Norway last month. Nice sales chart here.
  • How do you get hydrogen? A team from Caltech have outlined a standardised protocol to assess oxygen-evolving electrocatalysts (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, using solar energy). More at Green Car Congress.
  • The Compass 4D ITS connected-vehicles trial – a partnership with Audi, cars talking to infrastructure – has been launched in Verona. More at alphagalileo.
  • The US military is set to become one of the world’s largest EV fleet operators, according to Navigant Research: it predicts the forces will buy over 92,400 EVs between now and 2020. The EVs, as well as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, will work in tandem with the military’s development of secure, resilient renewable-fuelled micro-grid systems for energy storage. More at Business Green.

Design Concept of the Day: Volkswagen Aerrow

September 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

01-Volkswagen-Aerrow-Concept-10-720x508It’s Friday fantasy car time… this is a project by Andreas Blazunaj of HBK-Braunschweig, designed for maximum energy efficiency and aerodynamics plus ultra-light weight. It’s a two-seater in which the driver sits in a recumbent position, and stays stable using gyroscopes. Power comes from a two-cylinder diesel engine, with all-wheel drive and steering. Full gallery of pics at Car Body Design.

In news today:

  • Did I hear someone say ‘peak car’? The UK’s vehicle population has just reached 35million, including 29million cars, for the first time, according to data from the DVLA. A preliminary blog post from the RAC Foundation suggests that factors influencing this growth in car ownership may include a rising population, more women in employment, a record number of people in employment, more people living on their own, and longer-term changes in land use such as relocation of workplaces, services and retail to out-of-town sites.
  • Heard the one about the electric car which booked in its own slot at a charging station? Norwegian researchers at SINTEF are working on a GPS-enabled system with route planning and range calculation; a small trial in Trondheim and a larger 200-car programme in Oslo and Kongsberg will kick off next year. Full story here. SINTEF is also working on electric buses and studying the benefits of electric goods vehicles in Norway, which currently boasts an EV population of around 11,000.
  • How are bike-share systems used? What/who goes where, and when? Interesting-looking spatial network analysis study (from CASA, UCL) looking at spatio-temporal flow data from bike-shares in five cities (incl London) and creating data visualisations: see here.
  • And duel-fuel cars: researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a natural gas/diesel hybrid in which diesel is injected into the intake manifold of a diesel engine converted to run on CNG. This could bring CO2 emissions down to 43g/km, and fuel consumption up to 118mpg, in a typical subcompact (supermini) fitted with the trial VW 2.0-litre diesel.

Concept of the Day: Bluebird DC50

July 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

bluebird dc50Pembrokeshire-based Bluebird Automotive, which has been punting around some lightweight electric van concepts in recent years, is planning to make a limited-edition sports car. The DC50 (50 to be made) commemorates the 50th anniversary of Donald Campbell’s water and land-speed records (in Bluebird prototypes) and will be launched in September at the Sustainable MotoExpo, to be held at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. The scissor-doored car’s said to give up to 360bhp and “acceleration to match a Porsche”, plus a range of up to 200 miles. It’ll come in blue paint only. And Bluebird is also to show its GTL electric racer, designed for next year’s FIA Formula E series.

  • Discussion today at the LowCVP Annual Conference on measurement of lifetime carbon emissions from vehicles: whole lifecycle analysis ‘beyond tailpipe’. Recognising the need to measure impact taking into account emissions embedded in the production process, from the manufacturing of components, from power stations/energy sources, end-of-life disposal, recycling etc., the LowCVP is calling for a new test-cycle and well-to-wheel approach, and the development of standards for measurement. Building on the earlier study for the LowCVP by Ricardo, a new report by PE International – “Life Cycle CO2e Assessment of Low Carbon Cars 2020-2030” can be downloaded here.
  • Will connected cars benefit consumers? Yes, says the telematics industry (obv.), pointing out direct cost-saving equations in terms of fuel efficiency, shorter journey times and safety. Now they have to persuade buyers to pay extra for the tech… More here.
  • Further to the LowCVP story (above): total lifecycle carbon and greenhouse gas emissions of medium-duty electric trucks are lower than, and total ownership costs similar to, those of comparable diesel trucks. Benefits vary according to the type of usage/duty cycle/speed. Study from a team at Georgia Tech, published in Environmental Science and Technology; handy rundown at Green Car Congress.
  • Car buyers are more likely to go for a plug-in vehicle if they are offered access to renewable electricity, i.e. a complementary solar cell installation – a 23% increase in demand from would-be ICE purchasers. Study by Jonn Axsen (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and Kenneth Kurani (UC Davis) in Environmental Research Letters (ERL); they also found that EV/hybrid buyers were more motivated by saving money and local air pollution than wider concerns about climate change. More here.
  • How very Silicon Valley: Tesla Model S owners can remotely control some functions of their car via a Google Glass app. But of course. More here.
  • 25 BYD electric buses are going to Los Angeles Metro: more here. These use BYD’s lithium-ion phosphate batteries, said to give a 155-mile range.
  • BMW is showing its Concept Active Tourer (seen in New York earlier this year) again: the concept features a plug-in hybrid powertrain, though conventional ICE, no doubt, for the production 1-Series GT. More here.

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