May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
Bit of an overdue catch-up here, but we’ll start with this BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept shown at Villa d’Este last week. Design-wise, you can read the full lowdown here, but of interest to me is this ‘eBoost’ function supplementing the straight-six. BMW hints only at “energy accumulators”, with the instrument panel including a charging display, but this sounds to me like some sort of supercapacitor-based hybrid system, perhaps…
- Back in the real world, the Frazer-Nash/Ecotive Metrocab taxi is to go into production in Coventry next year. Assembly is by Multimatic, and the Metrocab will first hit the streets of London (where a small-scale trial is already underway). It’s a range-extended EV with two electric motors, a 1.0-litre petrol engine and generator (which can recharge the batteries in just 10 minutes), regenerative braking, lithium-polymer batteries and external charging; its overall range is over 560km.
- We hear a lot about Generation Y and millennials, but how ’bout Generation Alpha (born 2010-on)? Design students from Art Center Pasadena see them as getting around in shape-shifting, shared, autonomous, connected EVs: some nice ideas in the SABIC-sponsored Design For Alpha project, reported here.
- Vodafone’s M2M (machine-to-machine) platform is underpinning a new service/app for EV users called Ubitricity – a ‘virtual network’ for billing/accessing power supplies. More here.
- Ford has launched its GoDrive carshare in London, with half its 50-car fleet Focus Electric Drives; more here.
- Some interesting stats via Fleet News: over half of the BMW i3s registered in the last three months, and over 60% of Audi A3 e-tron PHEVs, are for fleet buyers/the corporate sector.
- The global market for EV chargers will increase more than 12-fold 2014-2020, according to research by IHS Automotive; mainly AC charging still, it thinks, with just 10% of chargers in public/semi-public domain and DC fast-chargers a minority. More here.
- Latest from Navigant Research: plug-in vehicle sales to exceed 1.1million a year in the US by 2020. More here.
- Smith Electric Vehicles (US) has formed a JV with FDG Electric Vehicles (with lithium-ion battery-making division); the former is to assemble and distribute the latter’s vehicles in the USA, with a view to the urban delivery/transport sector. Smith will continue to make its Newton/Edison conversions. More here.
- EV buyers are economy-driven first and foremost, more than environmentally-focused, and are also younger and more affluent than the average, according to a (US) survey. They’re motivated by tax rebates and other incentives, reports TrueCar, which admittedly only compared a small sample of Ford Focus Electric and Fiat 500e buyers against their ICE-purchasing equivalents.
- The Institute of Energy and Transport, University of Leeds, is modelling electromobility: more on the project (for the Joint Research Centre) in this presentation.
- BMW has added 30 all-electric i3s to its DriveNow on-demand fleet in Hackney, Islington, Haringey and Waltham Forest (NE London).
- Not a car, but a boat worthy of note: an electric car/passenger ferry has gone into service in Norway. Built by Fjellstrand and featuring a Siemens-developed drive system with lithium-ion batteries, it uses 150kWhr per trip, said to be equivalent to three days’ electricity use by the average Norwegian household (length of trip not stated). Oh, and it’s charged using hydro power. Operator Norled reckons at least 50 further routes along Norway’s coastline could be served by electric ferries, too. More here.
March 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Oh, what could have been… Volkswagen was experimenting with hybrid and electric vehicles in the 1970s including this Type 2 Microbus-based hybrid reports Jalopnik – featuring a system based around the original air-cooled 1600cc flat-four plus Bosch motor-generator. The pictured drawing (found in a 1979 book on electric vehicles) depicts this ‘bus kitted out as a wheelchair-accessible taxi with an electrically-operated side door, as well as a bullet-proof glass screen between driver and passenger; Volkswagen apparently considered this “the taxi of the future”.
Anyway, in 2015’s electromobility-related news, today’s snippets…
- A handy side-effect of EV usage: as they emit less than 20% of the heat, mile-for-mile, emitted by ICE vehicles, they could help keep city temperatures down and save on the energy usage/carbon emissions from air conditioning systems. A paper from Michigan State University takes Beijing as the example.
- Dyson has invested $15million into a JV with solid state battery-maker Sakti3, a company with ambitions to supply batteries for automotive application. More here. Meanwhile, collapsed-then-rescued lithium-ion battery-maker A123, embroiled in the whole ongoing saga of Fisker Automotive, doesn’t see a viable market for EV batteries for a while yet…
- Here’s a tie-up of two ambitious contenders: Chinese car-maker BYD is supplying 200 e6 electric minivans on lease to Uber in Chicago. More here.
- Awareness of public EV-charging facilities is not a strong indicator of interest in plug-in vehicles, according to research from Simon Fraser University, Canada: home charging facilities and consumer incentives are more important. Full academic references plus detailed rundown here. Greater interest noted in PHEVs than all-electric models, too.
- You don’t have to understand a complexity theory analysis to pull out a few salient points from this discussion on the slow progress of electromobility and adoption of EVs, from the e-mobility NSR network. It concludes that policy intervention continues to be needed, because the dominant system – including economic, infrastructural, cultural – is carbon-based and framed around ICE vehicles; positive feedback loops need to be set up, even on a micro-level, as they have tipping-point potential; behavioural ‘nudges’ can enhance policy effects (the example of PHEV take-up in the Netherlands is given); and a strategy of small steps in a continuously-learning process is needed.
- Research ongoing at Imperial College, London, is looking into how EV drivers charge and use their cars, with a view to developing solutions for services, information and booking/securing electricity supply… link to take part here. This guy‘s looking into vehicle-to-grid services and predictive driving/charging patterns.
- More feedback from Ford’s Go!Drive car-share trial in London: typical trips are only 5-10 miles.
- And a study linking traffic-related air pollution to Type 1 diabetes in very young children…
- Meanwhile, in the US, total vehicle mileage travelled in 2014 is back up close to the all-time high of 2007, though vehicle mileage per capita rose less slowly. More at Citylab.
- Another aspect of electromobility: BMW Group is deploying an electrified MAN truck to carry materials between its logistics company and its Munich factory. More here. It’ll make the near-2km journey eight times a day and save an estimated 11.8tonnes of CO2 a year, apparently.
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Well, I knew there had to be some point to the Koenigsegg Regera PHEV other than willy-waving over it being the most powerful and fastest-accelerating production car ever (as Koenigsegg claims). Besides showing off the Swedish carmaker’s no-gearbox Direct Drive Transmission (KDD) with hydraulic coupling, three Yasa axial-flux motors (replacing the gears), torque-vectoring and KERS (to give a 50km all-electric range), it features a Rimac Automobili battery pack which can deliver 500kW of power and absorb 150kW from the regen. This has been radically light-weighted to just 115kg yet can deliver 4.35kW per kg and 9.27kWh. More details on that from Rimac, which hopes to collaborate further with Koenigsegg “in various fields”. (Mate Rimac and Christian von Koenigsegg pictured).
And at the near-polar opposite end of the market: Suzuki’s cute little iM-4 mini-4×4 concept – previewing a replacement for the elderly Jimny, and an all-new platform for the brand – isn’t just about stripped-down, slightly retro styling: it showcases a mild hybrid system with integrated starter-generator, regenerative braking and e-assistance to the 1.2-litre engine. Release posted here.
- In other, non-Geneva news: the government Transport Committee’s Motoring of the Future report has been published: it calls for the DfT to develop a comprehensive strategy for introducing new technologies (including driverless vehicle tech and alt-fuels) with five main aims. These are reducing road fatalities/casualties; cutting emissions from road transport; facilitating social inclusion and accessibility of road transport; supporting economic growth; and increasing road capacity. First two aims good, rest more debatable: surely we should be reducing dependency on road transport infrastructure and building better alternatives? Anyway, there’s not a lot to say on electromobility beyond a few obvious points on establishing charging infrastructure, raising awareness and renewable electricity supplies; the government seems far more excited about driverless cars, automated technologies, telematics and data collection, with (valid) questions raised about security, governance and legislation. Disappointing.
March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Have to say that I really liked the textile-skinned EDAG Light Cocoon (body construction 3D-printed): one of the more truly innovative concepts of the show, and it was a pretty little thing, too. A welcome distraction from all the super-coupes, massive crossovers/SUVs and suchlike. The Magna Mila Plus (yellow one, below) was less eye-catching and less obviously impressive at first glance, but is interesting in that it effectively offers OEMs a turnkey solution: its platform can accommodate several PHEV powertrain configurations of varying power/output/range (in combination with a three-cylinder engine) as well as bodystyles.
And Quant – last year, arousing a certain level of scepticism and accusations of vapourware, though I gave ’em the benefit of the doubt – have brought their nanoflowcell tech a stage closer to production-readiness. Quant F (the big red one, gullwing doors) 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, and is close to final Euro-homologation; and the more affordable Quantino (compact, blue) has been developed with larger-volume sales in mind. Quant has been talking with a series of different infrastructure-providers, businesses and relevant bodies about setting up a supply-chain for the charged ionic fluid its batteries need (top-ups every 1000km); this is the difficult bit, but given that Tesla has managed to set up its Supercharger network, by no means impossible with the right partnerships in place.
Hyundai showed a version of its new Tucson SUV with PHEV powertrain: 50km all-electric range, 114bhp 1.7 diesel engine plus 68bhp e-motor driving the rear axle. And the Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II (red, bottom) looked good, too…
Non-pictorially, Koenigsegg’s Regera‘megacar’ is a PHEV, albeit one with electric motive force to add even more power rather than for any great environmental impact, I suspect; twin-turbo 5.0 V8 plus three motors (2x rear wheels, third on the crankshaft) to give a frankly ridiculous 1782bhp/1549lb ft and the title of most powerful car in production, which is probably the entire point of the thing. Similarly baffling (to me, anyway) was the high-riding Aston Martin DBX Concept (in-wheel electric motors, lithium-sulphur battery cells). However, on a far more practical everyday note – and therefore of far more use to the world – Mercedes-Benz showed a PHEV concept version of its latest V-Class MPV/executive taxi-shuttle; petrol-electric powertrain from the C350e, delivering 210hp plus 90kW from the motor (total 333hp output), 94.2mpg and an all-electric range of 50km (more details here). Oh, and the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV (a total 400hp; 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds; 59g/m and an all-electric range of 25 miles; described more in this earlier post) looked impressive, too (below).
March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Motor shows: more fun via Twitter these days, but for a bit more detail… Further to things I’ve already outlined in previous pre-show posts, some more plug-in vehicles of various provenance and philosophy, with pictures (my own). First up, the Volkswagen Group contenders, and the Volkswagen Coupe Concept GTE (replacement for Passat-based CC, larger and intended to go further upmarket, so sort of a sporty mid-point between Passat and Phaeton, I suppose). Gets the Group’s PHEV powertrain with V6 TSI petrol engine and a pair of electric motors, delivering an overall 380hp and 141-odd mpg averaged-out. And the Volkswagen Group’s not confirmed any details, but the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 two-seat coupe concept (notable for its very verdant paintwork) is fitted with a hybrid powertrain too, reports Autocar.
Similarly, Audi e-trons galore: from the diesel-electric Q7 e-tron quattro (373hp, a 35-mile all-electric range, 166mpg, 0-62 in six seconds) and Prologue Avant fastback estate (next A6; near-identical powertrain to the above) to latest R8 e-tron (all-electric – more power, increased range of 280 miles, new spaceframe construction; available to special order) – and the series-production A3 Sportback e-tron PHEV (pictured). And on the Spanish side of the family, the Seat #20V20 concept (an SUV) is said to have – theoretically, at least, at this stage – a plug-in hybrid powertrain too.
February 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Mitsubishi has released more details of its small SUV concept, a plug-in hybrid, prior to next week’s Geneva Auto Salon. The XR-PHEV II has a new powertrain promising a motor output of 163hp (no details yet on the engine) and overall emissions below 40gkm, and is front-wheel-drive despite its mini-Shogun styling; think next-generation ASX urban crossover. It has all-electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid modes – designed for prioritising all-electric operation, with the engine acting as a generator, but the engine can also kick in to supplement the motor power.
- Toyota is putting its i-Road into action in an EV-share in central Tokyo next month, in partnership with Park24’s Times Car Plus service. A trial – supplementing Toyota’s programme in Grenoble, France – will run till the end of September to gauge user feedback, activity patterns and ease of usage.Toyota expects the cars, to be located at the Times Station, Yurakucho ITOCiA shopping centre, to be used one-way to businesses, shops and sight-seeing locations; they can be returned to any of five central bases. Times Car Plus members opting into the service will pay 412 yen (about £2.25) per 15 minutes with max hire time two and a half hours. There are around 430,000 members of this mobility service (operated by car park network Park24) across Japan.
- Springer has published a book on Electric Vehicle Business Models, including case studies and research on car-sharing, wireless charging, grid-balancing, marketing (‘technology push vs market pull’), and cost of ownership; more details and samples here.
- Volkswagen’s Geneva concept previewing the next CC is to have a (petrol) plug-in hybrid powertrain, reports Autocar, but the Audi Prologue Avant (next-gen A6 Avant estate) is diesel-electric – 3.0 TDI engine, 353hp, plus 100kW motor and eight-speed tiptronic transmission, delivering 0-62 in 5.1 seconds, 155mph, 176mpg overall, 43g/km and a 54km range in all-electric mode. Wireless induction charging capability, too.
- Zap-Map.com has launched a mobile app (£4.99, iOS, Android to follow) enabling UK EV drivers to search for public charging points (by rated power, connector type or compatibility with their vehicle as well as by postcode or location), and to provide feedback and ratings , i.e. on correct functioning. It’s the first of a series of apps the Zap-Map/Next Green Car team (managers of the government-funded National Chargepoint Registry) are developing to support electric car drivers. More here. This follows debate on EV user forums about the ins and outs of repurposing and selling data from OpenChargeMap and other OS databases…
- Some notes from a DEMAND Centre workshop on energy demand in relation to time use and social practices, including with relation to mobility and car-dependency; research presentations looked at factors including sequence patterns of activities and energy/mobility-intensive activities and practices.
- Proterra has upgraded its e-bus battery packs to deliver a range of 180 miles; more at Green Car Congress.
- Not all biofuel bad: the Greater London Authority is planning to get vehicles used on council fleets running on a blend with used cooking oils, fats and greases, and Hackney is to trial blends of B20 and B30 in its LCVs by the end of the year, reports Fleet News. This could also help tackle the problem of ‘fatbergs’ clogging the capital’s sewers.
November 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
BMW has produced a plug-in hybrid 3-Series prototype. Its powertrain combines a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and e-motor to give a combined 245hp and 400Nm/295lb ft of torque; fuel consumption is down to an averaged-out 140mpg and CO2 to 50g/km, thanks to a 22-mile all-electric range (in which it can do 74.5mph). This model is rear-wheel-drive only, with eight-speed Steptronic transmission; there are three selectable driving modes, Comfort, Sport & Eco Pro, which include different suspension settings and powertrain operating strategies. Two hybrid modes can also be chosen – Max eDrive for all-electric driving, and Save Battery to maintain a 50% charge level. A navigation-enabled function, Proactive Driving Assistant, also manages the powertrain with reference to battery capacity, traffic conditions, road speeds and topography of upcoming roads, to optimise charge (i.e. to ensure you have enough to enter an upcoming zero-emissions zone). And BMW’s promising “only a minimal reduction in boot space” to accommodate the extra components.
The 3-Series PHEV is expected to hit production by 2017, but further plug-in options are also on the cards: next stage includes some “highly electrified” performance models with increased all-electric range. The Power eDrive – as showcased in a 5-Series GT prototype – features more powerful motors and batteries with twice the capacity, to give two-thirds of output from the electric-drive system in a 500kW-plus powertrain and an all-electric range of up to 100km/62 miles. On future high-performance PHEVs, the motor will drive the rear wheels, with an additional motor plus the ICE driving the front axle. More details on all the above here.
- Report from LSE Cities, Accessibility in Cities: Transport and Urban Form, looks at how transport and urban form (layout, infrastructure, issues such as urban sprawl) shape access to/for people, goods, services and information, with reference to sustainability and development. Some interesting data on urban car use (globally) and emissions; correlations are drawn with density (less dense suburbs = more private car use). Conclusion is that smart growth – for compact, energy-efficient urban centres – is needed, involving brownfield fill-in, small-scale, mixed-use and decentralised developments and services, and an emphasis on public space and integration of routes/road types/paths. “In the foreseeable future it is highly unlikely that technological innovation will fundamentally change the co-dependence of urban form and transport systems and their combined role in providing accessibility in cities”, it argues, though alongside better city design and fiscal/local transport policy to de-incentivise car use, “technological innovation and related socio-technical disruption will have to play a significant role in further facilitating the transition to new, more environmentally and socially sustainable urban transport systems” (p37); “the potential for system-wide technological innovation in the urban transport sector is considerable” (p38). “Important areas for related experimentation include shared electric mobility, grid-to-vehicle technology and, in the medium term, the testing of autonomous vehicles” (p.39). Broad frameworks, integrated and multi-sector approaches, etc.
- Some news from my home town: a trial with buses in Brighton & Hove by Ricardo has shown that retro-fitting Euro III-standard buses with selective catalytic reduction and continuously-regenerating particulate filtering can lower emissions to below those of Euro V hybrids. Exhaust aftertreatment: (relatively) cheap, effective, could help to keep older vehicles on the road, more cleanly.
- Electric vehicle adoption in North America: the experience in Oregon suggests that it’s driven more by good infrastructure than cash incentives or tax breaks, according to a report at Transport Evolved.
- Car2go is going cardless: Mobile Access, an upgraded app feature, has been launched in North America, enabling members to search for, reserve and now get access to/start up cars via their smartphones. The service – carrying membership swipe-card no longer required – will be rolled out to Europe as well. Rundown here.
- Audi’s factory at Győr, Hungary, is going geothermal: the nearby geothermal plant at Pér (a 2400m-deep well) is to supply at least 82,000MWhr of energy each year, about 60% of its total heat requirement and part of reducing Audi Hungaria’s CO2 output by an estimated 19,800 tons. More here.
- Toyota’s promising V2V and V2X in production cars as soon as possible and certainly by 2017; more here.
- BMW i Ventures has made another investment: in Zendrive, a data/analytics provider. They will “explore ways to co-operate on innovative, car-related services in order to make the in-car mobility experience even smoother by optimising commuting and driving patterns for a safer, more convenient ride”, says i Ventures MD Ulrich Quay. Yes, these days you don’t drive, but have an in-car mobility experience…
- Fuel cell cars are going to cost consumers more to run than hybrids, with EVs the cheapest, according to Lux Research; rundown at Green Car Congress.
- Report from OPEC suggests that electric/electrified vehicles will remain a pretty damn small minority for the next 25 years or so. Obviously.
- But EVs have a role in grid-balancing, and also in maintaining grid transient stability at times of disturbance/tripping out/severe load changes, according to this study. By regulating the power output of the vehicles, grid fluctuations and speed can be reduced, and the grid is generally made more robust, guarding against power surges and brown-outs (via Transport Evolved).