Concept of the Day: QUANTiNO

February 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

quantinoNot content with launching the Quant F super-coupe (see earlier post), nanoFlowcell AG is also to show a smaller, more affordable EV in Geneva, showcasing its flow-cell battery tech. The QUANTiNo 2+2 has a lower-voltage 48V system – enabled by the efficiency of the flow-cell battery – delivering around 136hp via four 25kW motors; it promises a top speed of over 200kph plus a range of over 1000km (between top-ups of charged battery fluid into two 175-litre tanks, one positive and the other negatively-charged). It’s intended to be accessible to a mainstream audience – and the company is seeking to put it through the Euro-homologation Type Approval tests “very shortly”. More details here.

  • And Magna Steyr is to show the eighth model in its series of MILA concepts: MILA Plus is a plug-in hybrid sports car, with lightweight construction (1520kg),  a range of over 70km in all-electric mode and overall CO2 output of 32g/km. No more details than that – or pictures – at the moment. It follows the CNG-fuelled MILA Blue (2014).
  • Cenex is co-ordinating an EU-funded project to tackle ‘transport poverty’ in outer urban areas – with shared EVs. The project will involve trials in the West Midlands and Scotland, as well as in areas of Poland, Spain and Italy, and partners include housing associations. More here.



NAIAS Detroit: Chevrolet Bolt

January 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

chevy boltFollowing the Mk2 Volt and Spark EV, here comes the Chevy Bolt: General Motors’ all-electric mainstream model. It’s to cost from around $30,000 and promises a range of over 200 miles. No word yet on its powertrain tech, and how that range is going to be achieved (at that price), but features we do know about – on this concept if not to appear in the first production models – include selectable operating modes (commute, weekend cruising) for throttle response, ride height and suspension settings, a smartphone app enabling ride-sharing management (vehicle location, reservations, digital key, payment), automatic park-and-retrieval (self-parking and autonomous return to driver when summoned) and projection of all app/smartphone data onto a 10-inch touchscreen display. The Bolt itself (thought to give more than a few clues as to the design of the upcoming ICE Viva small car too) is a one-box minivan-like crossover. More details here.

GM CEO Mary Barra has also issued a statement of intent: “The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity,” she said. “Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers… We have made tremendous strides in technologies that make it easier and more affordable for Chevrolet customers to integrate an all-electric vehicle in their daily lives. The Bolt EV concept demonstrates General Motors’ commitment to electrification and the capabilities of our advanced EV technology.”

  • On a rather more rarified note, the Acura NSX: its hybrid powertrain (550bhp+ turbocharged V6 plus three electric motors) enables AWD, with torque-vectoring and a 9-speed CT gearbox. AutoblogGreen has the lowdown. OK, it’s not exactly a ‘green’ car, but the words “halo effect” do spring to mind.
  • And why’s electrification important anyway? Just one example: a new study linking diesel exhaust inhalation with DNA methylation – impacts upon genetic material due to particulate matter,  implications for asthma, heart arhythmia, blood pressure. More details plus academic references here.

Monday news: Toyota Mirai, and more

November 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

toyota miraiToyota has named its fuel cell vehicle Mirai (“future”, in Japanese). To be launched tomorrow in advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show, the former FCV – a four-door saloon – has a 300-mile range on a tank of hydrogen and can be refuelled in less than five minutes, Toyota’s claimed advantages of hydrogen over electric vehicles. Text of company president Akio Toyoda’s speech here. Honda’s also showing its latest FCV, but production is now delayed till 2016.

  • BMW’s 2-Series Active Tourer is getting a plug-in hybrid option next year, reports Car magazine; a 102bhp motor is to drive the rear wheels in addition to the engine driving the front, making it 4WD.
  • The Atacama Solar Rally has started this week in Chile: 20 solar-fuelled teams are taking their very odd-looking vehicles 870 miles across the Atacama Desert; more here.
  • Wondered what happened to those Coda EVs? A handful of the saloons made by the now-defunct brand have ended up in Golden, Colorado, in what is thought to be the US’s first all-electric car-share. The eThos Electric Car Share scheme is offering short-trip on-demand rentals in the Golden and Denver metropolitan area, powered by locally-generated renewable electricity; more here.
  • The National Trust is trialling an all-electric Land Rover Defender prototype in Wales. Video here. It’s in operation on Snowdon, where the Trust is running hydroelectric electricity generation schemes as well as experiments with heat pumps, biomass and other technologies at its Hafod y Llan farm. More here.
  • The world’s biggest truck… is now electric, reports Green Car Congress. The20m-long, 800-ton GVW BelAZ 75710, in action at a mine in Kuzbass, Russia, features four Siemens traction motors each delivering around 1200kW; it can carry around 450 tonnes of cargo, around the weight of a fully-loaded Airbus A380. However, there’s a slight hitch in its green credentials: it’s powered by electricity from a pair of generators, each driven by a pair of 16-cylinder diesel engines.
  • Over 24,500 plug-in hybrids were sold in the Netherlands last year, where the tech has really taken off – but 80% of Dutch PHEV drivers spend less than half of their time driving in electric mode, according to a survey by Alphabet. Drivers are attracted by the tax breaks for PHEVs, the fleet management firm says, but not actually planning their vehicle-charging properly as they can fall back on their cars’ engines. It has now launched an eMobility app for drivers to better understand their vehicles’ capabilities and potential for fuel- and emissions-saving.
  • Growing algae by busy roads can absorb CO2, an experiment in Geneva found – as well as producing plenty of the green stuff for use in food supplements or even as biomass or in electricity generation. The algae was grown in tubes mounted to a bridge over a highway.
  • Some more details on the USAF trials of EVs and hybrids here, with some data on the V2G aspect – the 42-vehicle fleet’s capable of generating 700kW, enough to power 140 (large) American houses,


Design Concept of the Day: SPA ‘Luxury EV’

November 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

SPA designOnly a brief promise at the moment, but historic brand SPA (Società Piemontese Automobili), revived, is to partner with OSVehicle on a ‘luxury’ EV. OSVehicle (“enabling new-start-ups in the electric and hybrid vehicle industry”, creator of the TABBY and Urban TABBY platforms) is to supply its open-source vehicle platform to SPA; more (admittedly, not much) here.  Looks like a retro-style, ultra-low production-run coachbuild special, at this stage, reflecting the design of the original racing SPA machines but reinterpreted into a more streamlined modern form (clues at the bottom of the pic?). SPA, in its new guise, appears to be positioning itself as a product design consultancy, with the creation of a centre called SPA Innovation Design; its initial sketches show a bicycle, a watch and a briefcase as well as a car, and the blurb released so far mentions the creation of “unique high-end cars, mainly hybrid and/or electric”. Nonetheless, its first product – ahead of the luxury EV – is going to be the Bicicletto, a two-wheeler e-bike, as announced this week at the EICMA 2014 motorcycle show in Milan; a light quadricycle is to follow.

And also at the EICMA show… a rather different retro-look e-motorcycle, the off-road Bylot e-formidable; the Energica EVA ‘streetfighter’ superbike prototype; the European premiere of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric prototype; the latest Brammo range and the KTM Freeride E electric enduro bikes, which together suggest a pretty decent turnout from the electro-mobile end of the industry.

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: Peugeot Exalt

April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

peugeot exaltPeugeot is showing its follow-up to the Onyx concept car at the Beijing Motor Show: the Exalt, now petrol-fuelled, has a 340bhp plug-in hybrid drivetrain developed from that of the 3008/508 Hybrid4 models with a 1.6 THP turbocharged engine (270bhp), a 50kW electric motor powering the rear axle, and a six-speed auto gearbox. Am liking the bare-steel bodypanels, though not so keen on the ‘shark skin’ low-drag red-coated rear end, and I’m not sure Macassar ebony (used on the upper door panels inside) should be encouraged – it’s rare and edging towards being endangered, apparently. It’s a striking-looking thing, nonetheless.

  • Mercedes-Benz has started production of the B-Class Electric Drive at Rastatt, with sales to follow (mainland Europe) from mid-year. The e-B features Tesla-sourced lithium-ion batteries (Daimler owns a 10% stake in Tesla), and a 177bhp/250lb ft motor; top speed is 100mph, 0-62mph happens in 7.9 seconds and M-B is considering right-hand drive sales for next year, reports Autocar.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Lexus NX compact crossover – to be launched in Beijing – reports Automotive News. And Toyota is rolling out some new petrol engines with significant economy/emissions improvements, thanks to moves including incorporating Atkinson cycle valve timing (as in the hybrids); more here.
  • And an update on the upcoming plug-in hybrid BMW X5: the Concept X5 eDrive is to appear at the New York Motor Show, nearer finished-spec. This latest iteration delivers a range of 20-odd mile/30km and up to 75mph in all-electric mode, returning over 74.3mpg on the evened-out EU test cycle; it has BMW’s twin-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine (245hp) plus a 70kW/90hp e-motor, and lithium-ion batteries. There are selectable driving modes, with ‘intelligent hybrid drive’, pure electric ‘max eDrive’, and ‘battery save’, and it’s now all-wheel drive, with the xDrive system channelling torque to both axles. And in Eco Pro driving mode, a ‘proactive driving assistant’ works with the sat nav to optimise route profile, given speed restrictions and traffic conditions, which also feed into the range calculations. The nav system shows charging points, and the iDrive OS includes data on charging times, operating status, charge level efficiency history and more; this can be downloaded to a smartphone, with the ConnectedDrive Remote app allowing for remote charge programming and activation plus pre-heating or cooling of the cabin. BMW’s also going to offer a high-voltage Wallbox charger, which can synch with home energy management systems, solar panels and soforth. More details, pics plus press release posted here.
  • And… Audi’s teaming up with Chinese auto-maker FAW to launch the A6 e-tron plug-in hybrid in China. It’ll be locally-built at the FAW-Volkswagen plant in Foshan, based on the LWB A6: a 50km range is promised. Audi already sells hybrid (non-plug-in) versions of the Q5, A6 and A8 L in China, with the A3 e-tron plug-in on its way there.
  • Not to be left out, Volvo is planning hybrid and pure-electric versions of the new XC90 SUV, reports Autocar, with everything in between including a model with the KERS-style flywheel.
  • Hyundai has improved the longevity of lithium-sulphur batteries, thought to offer greater energy density than Li-ion; paper presented at the SAE World Congress, links and lowdown here.
  • More battery news: Dongfeng Motors has taken delivery of new-generation lithium-ion polymer batteries from supplier Electrovaya, reports Green Car Congress.
  • The ‘MotorBrain’ project – Siemens, Infineon, TU Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen – has come up with a small, light e-motor which needs no rare earth metals. More here.
  • Tobacco is a good potential source of bioethanol, and could be grown in Spain (where the traditional tobacco-growing market has collapsed); more here.



Geneva preview; more car-sharing, mobility news and useful resources

February 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

renault twin runRenault’s going to show its new Twingo at Geneva, it has confirmed. Inspired by the Twin’Run (pictured) and Twin’Z concepts, it’s going to be rear-wheel drive, as it’s c0-developed with the upcoming four-seater Smart (previewed by the Fourjoy concept) with which it’ll share a platform. Both cars will be built by Renault in Stare Mesto, Slovenia; there’ll be a five-door, and electric versions are expected.

  • The EC has today completed a basic set of standards for connected cars; full release here.
  • The Toyota Engineering Society – a kind of out-of-hours club for the company’s engineers – has hacked the Prius: the TE-S800, a plug-in hybrid, has been souped-up to 200bhp+, stripped-out  and chopped into a roadster. Not an official Toyota concept, but some of these ideas may filter back into the day job… Video here.
  • Sumito Corporation has built a prototype commercial-level energy storage system using 16 used/recycled electric car battery packs. This will store energy and smooth out supplies for the nearby solar farm on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, reports Green Car Congress.
  • Was talking to a guy this week who belongs to the Autobleue EV-share in Nice; looked it up, and it’s quite a big scheme which has been running since April 2011: 180+ cars, 63 parking/docking stations, reservations by phone and a choice of the Peugeot iOn, mia electric mini-MPV or the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner Electrique. They’ve even got a wheelchair-accessible Partner on the fleet. Though not, confusingly given its name, the Bollore BlueCar as in the Paris Auto’lib. Registration is 26 euros, and then you have access to the cars on-demand, charged on various different tariffs. Worth remembering if you’re on holiday down that way this summer.
  • Car-sharing could cut out 1.2million car sales in the US by 2020, according to research by business consultancy AlixPartners. Their study talked to 1000 drivers in 10 metropolitan areas of the US where car-sharing has already had an impact – Austin, Boston, Chicago, Miami, NY, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco/Oakland, Washington DC and Seattle – and then scaled up the results. Primary motivations amongst the sharers were ease of access, convenience and economics, with environmentalism bottom of the list; 51% said they shared rather than buy a car, 45% indicated they would avoid a future car purchase; most ‘purchase avoiders’ were younger drivers, but also, significantly, households with children (the second-car substitute?). Obviously, similar effects aren’t going to be observed in, say, rural Virginia, but the potential impact identified is probably still greater than in earlier studies. Full release from the firm here; the MD points out that apps, connected-car tech and automation have the potential to reach out beyond the early-adopters, as well as helping to shift towards the pay-per-use model and shared access from traditional ownership in a new mobility system.
  • Another proposal for the 100o-mile EV battery: aluminium-air. Alcoa has teamed up with Israeli battery-maker Phinergy to commercialise batteries using this tech; Phinergy says it has overcome earlier problems with corrosion, recharging and carbonisation. More, including references, here.
  • Education, education, education: personalised travel planning can lead to an 11% reduction in trips taken by car, and a 15-33% increase in walking, cycling and public transport use, reckons Sustrans, which is now rolling out its PTP programme in five cities – London (Greenwich and Haringey), Ljubjana, Burgos (Spain), Riga and Antwerp. More here.
  • Nice interview by Future Mobility Now with BMW’s DriveNow chief Frank Hansen on the use of EVs – including the i3 and ActiveE in car-sharing, here. BMW learnt from DriveNow how members use cars within cities – average trip distance about 12km – and it was always the plan to include EVs on the fleet.
  • BMW also reckons that offering services such as multimodal routing will give them access to people who wouldn’t otherwise buy a BMW; quotes in a feature on the car-makers’ role in future mobility solutions, here. Part One, including details on Sweden’s UbiGo multi-modal mobility system, here.

According to Wakefield, while smartphones and increasing urban density have driven adoption thus far, automated and driverless cars could be key enabling technologies for car sharing to grow well beyond the current early-adopters.

“Car sharing could really get traction as smartphone and automated-vehicle technologies pave the way for new mobility systems throughout America and much of the world,” said Wakefield. “In the future, automated and, especially, driverless cars could be the killer apps for car sharing.”

He continued: “The auto industry can be bypassed by these trends or can seize the opportunity to get out in front of them. It can do that by addressing the dissatisfaction with car ownership that many people, especially urbanites, have today, but also by leveraging the new technologies underpinning car sharing, being relevant in auxiliary services and adapting to what some are calling the new ‘sharing economy,’ where pay-by-use is often preferred over ownership for many types of products.”

– See more at:

According to Wakefield, while smartphones and increasing urban density have driven adoption thus far, automated and driverless cars could be key enabling technologies for car sharing to grow well beyond the current early-adopters.

“Car sharing could really get traction as smartphone and automated-vehicle technologies pave the way for new mobility systems throughout America and much of the world,” said Wakefield. “In the future, automated and, especially, driverless cars could be the killer apps for car sharing.”

He continued: “The auto industry can be bypassed by these trends or can seize the opportunity to get out in front of them. It can do that by addressing the dissatisfaction with car ownership that many people, especially urbanites, have today, but also by leveraging the new technologies underpinning car sharing, being relevant in auxiliary services and adapting to what some are calling the new ‘sharing economy,’ where pay-by-use is often preferred over ownership for many types of products.”

– See more at:

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