Concept of the Day: MAN TGX

September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

MAN TGXMore trucking news: “Hybrid drives in commercial vehicles will be part of the drive concept of the future in all areas of application”, says Volkswagen-owned MAN, which has displayed a diesel-electric concept called TGX at the IAA (truck show), Hannover. This one has a parallel hybrid system for long-distance trips on diesel power (440hp), but with brake energy recuperation and battery storage to power a 130kW motor, which also acts as an alternator when coasting and braking. Total fuel and CO2 savings are around 8%. MAN has also made diesel-electric city buses, and also has a range-extended electric research prototype, the Metropolis, though it warns that engineering an all-electric range into hybrid heavy trucks is technologically complex, demanding big, heavy and expensive batteries.

  • On a more mainstream note, a plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Passat, too: a useful all-electric range of 31 miles, a combined 141mpg, and UK sales from summer next year, reports Autocar.
  • And on a very different note, Porsche is adding a plug to the Cayenne; the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is to make its debut at the Paris Motor Show later this week, joining the existing Panamera S E-Hybrid and 918 Spyder at the charging point. This delivers a combined 416hp and 0-60 in 5.4 seconds; no word yet on its all-electric range, however. Some interesting nuggets of info in the initial release: 9% of all Panameras sold worldwide Jan-August 2014 are E-Hybrids (1,513); the E-Hybrid accounted for 16% of Panameras sold in the US in August. Small numbers, to be sure, but this suggests that something is going on…
  • The University of Delaware is running a pilot project with 23 on-campus EVs, selling electricity back to the grid at profit; more here.
  • Eurotunnel is putting 18 EVs – mostly Renault Zoes – to work at its Coquelles site. More here. Kia’s putting in its own network of rapid-chargers at its offices and retailers across Europe, to be available to consumer-drivers of the Soul EV, reports EV Fleet World; and Norwegian discount store KIWI is putting in 50 rapid-chargers at its sites (more here).
  • Plans in Madrid to restrict car use in four central districts – and to eventually make 25% of the city car-free – are reported at CityLab. Still some exemptions (residents with guaranteed parking spaces), the major through-routes, circular and arterial roads remain (so they’re not quite car-free zones, then; nose-to-tail traffic, as we see on the borderlines of the London congestion charge zone?), plus there’s the need for delivery vehicles, of course – so in tandem with an electromobility policy this might be something really effective in reducing the city’s air quality, noise and congestion problems…

Midweek news round-up

July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lotus has started testing its Evora 414E range-extended hybrid, and had a cutaway model on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend. First seen at the Geneva Motor Show back in 2010, it uses Lotus’s ‘Omnivore’ three-cylinder, 1.2-litre engine (which can run on petrol, methanol or ethanol) plus two electric motors and a seven-speed sequential-shift transmission. It can do up to 30 miles in all-electric mode before the engine kicks in to act as a generator or directly power the motors, giving a total range of up to 300 miles. Total output is 408bhp and 738lb ft, and it’s said to be capable of 130mph and 0-62 in about four seconds.

  • The benefits of being Royal: Prince Albert II of Monaco has taken delivery of the first Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid off the production line. He already has a standard Prius plus a one-off Lexus LS 600h Landaulet for official state duties, and will take the Plug-In on a two-month loan from Toyota. Monaco, incidentally, has 424 free EV charging points despite being just 48 acres in size.
  • More details on the deal between BMW and Toyota, who have just signed a MoU to build on their current lithium-ion battery development/diesel engine supply partnership. It involves, according to a BMW press release, “joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies.”
  • US firm Green Automotive, of Newport Beach, California, has bought British company Liberty Electric Cars, best-known for its Range Rover conversions. Ongoing Liberty projects include work with Volkswagen, Fiat and Michelin to develop an electric delivery van and research in partnership with Cranfield University, Rolls-Royce Electric Machines and Protean to develop an electric motor which does not use rare-earth metals (Green Car Congress).
  • Danish firm Ecomove is working on a range-extended version of its Qbeak EV, using methanol fuel cell technology to give up to 500 miles. The project is funded by the Danish government, and is a collaboration between Ecomove and fuel cell firm Serenergy, managed by Insero E-Mobility. More details here.
  • Citroen is offering a free wheel upgrade with the DS5 Hybrid4: fitting the 17-inch alloys has the benefit of cutting CO2 emissions to 99g/km (from 107g/km), thus qualifying the car for exemption from the London congestion charge and dropping it down to the 10% BIK company car tax band.
  • Mercedes-Benz is working on an all-electric B-Class, with powertrain developed by Tesla, reports Automobilwoche. This will probably be for the US market, in place of the F-Cell fuel cell and range-extended/plug-in hybrid tech previously considered, and could arrive 2014.
  • GoinGreen (distributor of the G-Wiz) has launched the Tazzari EM1 EV in the UK. The Italian-built EM1 is a tiny two-seater, but it meets with full M1 EU Type Approval for passenger vehicles, so it should be safer than the G-Wiz. Top speed is 62mph, it’ll do 0-31mph in less than five seconds (good enough for a speedy getaway around town) and its range is up to 87 miles, in ‘economy’ mode. The bad news? It costs nearly £25,000. More details at The Charging Point.
  • Another truck story: Daimler is to offer factory-built EcoHybrid Fuso Canter delivery vans. These promise fuel economy savings of 23%, and combine a 150hp diesel engine with a 40kW electric motor, lithium-ion battery (warranted for ten years), regenerative braking and automated manual transmission.
  • Green debate of the week: is peak oil a myth? There’s more than enough oil in the earth and I got it wrong, says George Monbiot. No there’s not, comes today’s rejoinder . If even the Guardian’s writers can’t agree amongst themselves… Not sure what Monbiot is suggesting, anyway. Drill, baby, drill and we all just give up, go home, and go back to gas-guzzling?

Geneva Motor Show Preview

March 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Geneva press day tomorrow, plenty of new cars previewed in advance. I’m liking the look of the Hyundai i-oniq (pictured) which is a preview of the company’s future design thinking, and showcases a range-extended powertrain; this comprises a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, lithium-ion batteries and a 109hp electric motor, giving an all-electric range of 120km and a total range of 700km. Overall CO2 emissions are down to 45g/km. Possibly more relevantly (for consumers, at least) Hyundai is also showing the refreshed i20 supermini, range including a 75hp 1.1-litre BlueDrive diesel model emitting just 84g/km.

Have done a more detailed run-down of things electric, hybrid and plug-in here, with plenty of pics, but a further quick A-Z of cars to look out for takes in the following:

  • BMW: Chance to take a closer look at the i3 and i8.
  • Honda: NSX concept and EV-ster roadster concept, as seen at Tokyo Motor Show last year.
  • Infiniti: Emerg-e range-extended sports car.
  • Lexus: New RX 450h hybrid SUV, plus first European appearance of the LF-LC hybrid coupe concept and GS 450h/GS 450h F Sport.
  • Mercedes-Benz: Vito e-cell van.
  • Nissan: e-NV200 van-based seven-seater electric MPV.
  • Pininfarina Cambiano concept (a range-extended EV with diesel turbine generator, apparently).
  • Renault: Zoe electric supermini, probably Renault’s most important EV yet.
  • Rinspeed: Dock+Go (see below; concept based on Smart Fortwo ed with versatile snap-on trailer/generator).
  • Suzuki: Swift Range-Extender.
  • Toyota: NS4 plug-in hybrid, FCV-R fuel cell and Ft-Bh hybrid concepts (see below).
  • Vauxhall/Opel: RAD-e pedelec (electric bicycle).
  • Volkswagen:a new development of last year’s petrol-electric plug-in hybrid Cross Coupé concept (Tokyo Motor Show), now with a diesel-electric twin-motor plug-in hybrid drivetrain which nonetheless develops 306hp.This is said to return an overall 157mpg, emit 46g/km and be capable of 137mph.
  • Plus out in the Green Pavillion: quadricycle-maker Volteis is to unveil a minimalist Philippe Starck-designed concept car, and there are various interesting microcars including the four-wheeled, four-seater tandem Lumeneo Neoma, the folding/extending two/four-seater AAA Industries 3ai Moduleo, the Synerghetic Tilter, the Belumbury Dany and the Czech EVC Group’s electric-converted Skoda Roomster.

Clandestine hybrid, electric van grants, Geneva EV previews and solar bus stops

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Despite being a Guardian-reading peacenik, I do have an interest in military vehicles. Am liking the US Army’s new Clandestine Extended-Range Vehicle (CERV) which has an all-electric mode and an eight mile range in which it can all-electrically creep around being, well, quiet and clandestine. It’s a light armoured buggy with a Quantum-developed diesel-electric hybrid powertrain: a 1.4-litre engine, 75kW generator and over 5000lb ft-worth of torque. Fuel savings are around the 25% mark and it can still do 80mph and climb 60-degree slopes.

  • The first seven vans to be eligible for the government’s Plug-In Van grants – up to 20% of their purchase price, or £8000 – have been announced. Some unfamiliar names here: we know the Azure Dynamics Transit Connect Electric, the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell, the Mia-electric Mia U, Renault Kangoo ZE and Smith Edison SE2 and SE 3, but the Faam Ecomile and Jolly 2000 – Italian micro-vans – were  new to me.
  • A Czech company called EVC is converting the Skoda Roomster to battery power; two conversions offered, R3 (41hp, 110km/ph top speed, range of 140km) and R7 (88hp, 170km/ph, 175km). Both cars to be launched at Geneva Motor Show, more details thanks to Technologic Vehicles.
  • Another Geneva EV preview: quadricycle-maker Volteis is to unveil a Philippe Starck-designed minimalist concept car, reports Technologic Vehicles (again). “I wanted to offer an alternative. A different answer so we can return to the minimalist definition of a vehicle. A simple vehicle. Almost a breeze. With four wheels. A steering wheel. And electricity. A vehicle there to transport. To carry people and luggages,” says Starck  (as quoted by TechVehicles. I like the translation of  “luggages”, which gives a perfect sense of plural items). No picture yet.
  • Nice solar induction-charging concept for buses, developed by Dutch firm Studio Mango for the city of Noord-Brabant, outlined at Smart Planet. Can’t see it working here, though – when did I last see a bus shelter which hadn’t been vandalised?

Early Porsche hybrid on the Veteran Car Run; Ford Focus Electric on sale; hopeful hydrogen tech news

November 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Have just received an invite to drive on the RAC Future Car Challenge this weekend as a last-minute substitution on the British Gas team. I’ll be in a Toyota Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid), setting off from Brighton early Saturday morning for the 60-mile run to London. The Future cars then meet the veterans who come down to Brighton the following day: I’ll be looking out for this one, the Lohner-Porsche ‘Mixte’, a very early hybrid. Ferdinand Porsche (pictured here in a Mixte in 1903) built upon his early Electric Voiturettes for Austrian company Lohner, and combined the wheel-hub motors with a petrol engine which acted as a generator – much like the powertrain concept of today’s extended-range EVs. Only 11 were sold, but one won a hillclimb event and another was used to chauffeur a certain Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Full story (written by myself) on the Lohner-Porsche Mixte here.

  • In other news today: the Ford Focus Electric has gone on sale in selected states in the USA, priced from $39,995, which puts it head-to-head against the Chevrolet Volt. Federal tax credits of up to $7,500 are available, however.
  • Storing and transporting hydrogen could be easier, using surfaces of aluminium coated with titanium: this gives efficient catalysation, and the hydrogen can be stored at higher temperatures and lower pressures as a stable aluminium hydride. Lots of potential for automotive applications; more at The Engineer.

Toyota’s hybrid LMP1; Nissan fuel cells; Friday newsbriefs

October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Toyota is going to Le Mans next year with a petrol hybrid LMP1 racer. This will feature a Japanese-built TMC engine and powertrain, and a chassis built by Toyota Motorsport in Germany; it will be entered in other 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship races, and will break cover at track testing early next year. It’ll be Toyota’s first entry at Le Mans since the GT-One in 1999, which set a lap speed record.

  • Nissan has announced its new-generation fuel cell stack. Improvements to its membrane electrode assembly and separator flow path (sorry to get all arcane on you here on a Friday) have improved its power density 2.5 times over that of the 2005 model. It’s now giving 2.5kW per litre, which Nissan claims as “a world’s best” (from the car makers, at least). Changes to its supporting frame also means that it’s now half the size – and as it needs only a quarter of the platinum and number of parts as used in the 2005 design, it costs one-sixth of the price.
  • Also from Nissan: its new front-wheel drive hybrid system, developed in-house  in combination with an improved CVT gearbox, and to go in next year’s Altima (US-market). Lowdown at Autoweek.
  • Detailed range-by-range rundown of BMW’s future product plans at Autoweek. i3 and i8 we know about (2013, 2014), and they’re also talking about the rumoured front-wheel drive compact cars, to include the new 1-Series ‘family’, Minis, a mini-MPV and a compact wagon.
  • A drive (briefly) in the Audi E-Tron Spyder plug-in diesel hybrid concept – Auto Observer gave it a go.
  • Heard about the 8,571mpg car? It might not be the most practical thing to go shopping in, but the Team Fireball entrant achieved this phenomenal economy in the 2011 Honda Eco Mileage Challenge. Full story from Integrity Exports.
  • Volkswagen is launching a car-share programme called Quicar in Hanover next month. Members get to use a fleet of 200 Golf Bluemotions for short-term use, and Quicar Plus gives access to 70 more cars for longer-term use including the up!, Passat estate, Golf cabrio, Caravelle and Transporter. Membership is a one-off fee of 25 euros, with a minimum rental of 30min (6 euros, all-in) and further charging by the minute (20 cents); preferential parking fees apply (Green Car Congress).
  • Had been ignoring this proposal by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne re. extending the motorway speed limit to 80mph for EVs only, as I thought it was far too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Because, y’know, doing 80mph is really good for an EV’s battery range, and such a ruling is going to be really enforceable. But it’s still making me laugh, until I consider the consequences of having such a well-informed energy secretary… ‘Strewth.

Kia Naimo; Subaru and BMW hybrids; Nissan trials Mobility Concept

September 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Kia is developing a CUV-style electric vehicle, reports just-auto.com. This is codenamed TAM, and is thought to be based on the Naimo concept, a small Nissan Juke-style crossover, seen at the Seoul Motor Show last spring. Coming 2014, with a Hyundai counterpart in 2015, apparently. The Naimo (“square shape”, Korean) is a 3.9m-long five-door, four-seater; the concept featured an 80kW motor and a claimed range of 124 miles.

  • Subaru is to go it alone with its hybrid technology and not source it from Toyota, reports just-auto.com. Subaru is said to be planning to develop its own ‘mild’ hybrid system for a model to be launched in Japan in 2013; this will not have an all-electric mode, but will work with Subaru’s own trademark ‘boxer’ engines to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Clues were given in 2009’s Hybrid Tourer concept, which featured a 2.0-litre flat-four with direct injection and turbocharger, all-wheel drive and Lineartronic auto gearbox, a 10kW motor driving the front wheels and a 20kW motor powering the rear, plus lithium-ion batteries, though that was a full hybrid – and a production Legacy’s unlikely to get gullwing doors.
  • BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5 – based on the 535i saloon – is to go on sale in the US inMarch 2012. The 5 combines the 3.0-litre straight-six with BMW’s EfficientDynamics tech and eight-speed auto gearbox to give 335hp and 330lb ft, 0-60mph acceleration in 5.7 seconds and all-electric propulsion for up to 2.5 miles and 37mph; no official figures yet for mpg, but it’s thought to be a 10% improvement over the standard car’s. Full lowdown at Green Car Congress.
  • Nissan is to trial seven Mobility Concepts in Yokohama; local residents and tourists will try out this electric two-seater on public roads in free test-drives. The Mobility Concept is Nissan’s version of the Renault Twizy; it’s good for around 80kmph and a 100km range. Further short trials will then take place in Aomori and Fukuoka prefectures, reports Integrity Exports; Nissan will collect feedback from users.

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