Friday news round-up…

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup1Today’s news round-up is illustrated by a picture of one of the cleaner Volkswagens on the road, charging away happily in central Brighton… Dieselgate is well-reported elsewhere, and this is a story that will continue to unfold, so no great detail here – but I will smugly point out that I did write about how “cycle-beating… can involve activating selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx” as part of a lengthy cover story feature (click here to read!) for a well-respected engineering magazine earlier this year. This looked more generally at the emissions/fuel consumption testing regime and the gaping disparities between ‘official’ data and real-life driving, but the SCR dodge was discussed, albeit without reference to a specific manufacturer (fear of legal action, given that manufacturers and trade associations were adamant that all this was within the regulatory framework.) So yeah, we knew. Problem was getting people to listen.

Kudos has to go to the ICCT, of course, for doing the testing work, and to European lobbying organisation Transport & Environment for continuing to raise awareness and kick up a stink, and for providing mere writers/observers like me with data, quotes and general backing-up of arguments. Hoping now, of course, that all this will put an end to the diesel disinformation/greenwashing campaigns, bring on far more stringently-monitored regulation, and accelerate the demise of diesel (at least in passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, in the short-term) and ultimately fossil-fuel dependency full stop. As the far-cleverer-than-me people at the Economist wrote this week, “if VW’s behaviour hastens diesel’s death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.”

And in other news/musings this week…

  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed a new real-time data exchange system for electromobility, better-linking service providers, vehicles, fleet operators, charging equipment and users. The ELISE project resulted in a telematics-based control system which can support energy storage and even selling energy from a car back to the grid. More here.
  • Bosch (enabled by the purchase of Californian start-up Seeo Inc.) is working on solid-state battery tech said to potentially double the range of EVs and PHEVs within five years – without an increase in size. These batteries have no ionic liquid, and can have pure lithium anodes; more here.
  • Some updates on the ‘Apple car’: 2019, according to the WSJ, which adds that the 600-person team currently working on the project is set to triple. The car will certainly be electric, but while Apple is researching autonomous driving very seriously, it may not be fully-autonomous at first.
  • Have to admit that the whole smartwatch thing utterly baffles me, but should such things appeal, Ford is now making its MyFord Mobile apps wrist-compatible (Apple, Android Wear; US.) For EV and PHEV users, the watch app enables remote monitoring of charge levels, notification of reaching full charge levels, pre-heating/cooling of cabin, locking/unlocking doors, and mileage/last trip summary data showing efficiency, plus vehicle location directions (i.e. to walk back to the car.) Google Maps is incorporated, with info on charging stations.
  • Catching up on the Uptake of ultra low emissions vehicles in the UK report for the Department for Transport (August 2015): it’s an overview of socio-demographic characteristics of EV drivers (UK) and likely next-generation uptake, general usage, charging behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Nothing new or surprising here, but a very useful summary of research so far in this area…
  • Looking again at a London/Berlin comparo: 35% of Londoners rely on a car for their daily travel, over half prefer to travel by car than other means, and 75% of households have a car, according to a study outlined by Citylab. (Full report from LSE Cities/Innoz here.) Patterns were similar in both cities apart from much more cycling in Berlin, but the interesting thing here is the segmentation of the participants – ‘technology-focused individualists’, ‘pragmatic transit sceptics’, ‘green-oriented’, ‘innovative access-oriented’ and ‘traditional car-oriented’ – and how policy and incentive-offering need to tackle these groups differently. (This kind of approach has been called for in the above-mentioned report for the DfT, with regard to EV drivers.)

JLR Concept_e research vehicles and more…

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

JLR Concept_e carsJaguar Land Rover has revealed three Concept_e research vehicles at the Low Carbon Vehicle show this week, featuring an electric-drive module (eDM) said to produce twice the power and torque of any motor-generator currently in production; this can be mounted between any motor or transmission and configured to create mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains, or used alone in an all-electric vehicle. Partners in this government-funded two-year programme include GKN Driveline of Redditch,  contributing its eAxle tech (a single-speed eAxle driving a front axle, and a higher-performance two-speed gearbox eAxle system driving a rear axle, which can be combined in an AWD vehicle) as well as Zytek Automotive, Drive System Design, Motor Design Limited, Williams, Delta Motorsport, Tata Steel, and Bristol, Cranfield and Newcastle universities.

The Range Rover Evoque-based Concept_e MHEV is a mild hybrid with a prototype three-cylinder 90hp diesel engine and 48V electrical system incorporating clutch-disconnect and a nine-speed transmission. Concept_e PHEV – Range Rover Sport donor vehicle – has a prototype 300hp petrol engine, eight-speed transmission, a 150kW motor and 320-volt lithium-ion battery pack and full-time four-wheel drive. Concept_e BEV, meanwhile, is the all-electric research demonstrator built on the new JLR aluminium architecture, modified to house the e-drive units and battery; it has a single-speed transmission with 85kW motor driving the front axle, and a two-speed transmission and 145kW motor driving the rear axle. Other techs in the research vehicles include brake-by-wire (giving optimum energy recuperation) and torque-vectoring; JLR has also been working on HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technologies to reduce energy consumption, including infra-red reflecting glass and infra-red panels embedded in sun visors, door tops and key places such as the transmission tunnel, lightweight carbonfibre seating, lightweight fabrics and sound-proofing materials, and its further news this week is the Provoque concept: an Evoque with 2.0-litre diesel engine, 48V electrics and electric supercharger, said to emit 99g/km of carbon dioxide.

  • Winners have been announced of the 2016 Michelin Challenge Design, which called for concepts for low-cost mobility solutions for developing regions. Many clever and amusing ideas, but of the top-placed entrants, I’m liking second-prize Edgar Sarmiento’s Arriero: a rugged electric off-road quad bike for Columbian farmers and herders. Ride it, cowboy.
  • Haven’t heard much from Wales-based Riversimple lately, but they report that they’ve now built Mk2 vehicle architecture, and are showing it off at the Low Carbon Vehicle Show this week. The latest iteration of the super-lightweight, easy-assembly fuel cell vehicle features 120 lithium super-capacitors for energy storage, and four in-wheel motors delivering 160Nm of torque. A two-seater with carbon monocoque construction, it has a target weight of 520kg, a cruising speed of 55mph and a range of 300 miles between hydrogen top-ups. Riversimple has a vision of  decentralised production and a business model based around leasing/mobility services rather than vehicle sales.
  • Biofuel from waste products = better than biofuel from specially-grown crops, and bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘drinking fuel’, government funding of £11million is being given to Celtic Renewables, Edinburgh, to develop biofuels from waste by-products of whisky-making. Advanced Plasma Power, Swindon, also gets £11milion for household biowaste-to-biofuel research, and Nova Pangaea Technologies, Tee Valley, £3million to develop biofuel from forestry waste. More here.
  • Volkswagen is to reveal (yet another iteration of) its Microbus concept at CES in Vegas next January, reports Autocar, which says the reborn Kombi/Bulli/camper van is to get an (optional) electric-drive system delivering a range of 250-310 miles. Conventional ICE models will also be offered, of course, but the electric version will get an updated version of the R8 e-tron’s powertrain. Official announcement expected soon, with production said (this time) to be scheduled for 2017. The zero local emission driveline, which relies on the Volkswagen Group’s latest lithium-ion battery technology as used by the Audi R8 E-Tron and upcoming Audi E-Tron Quattro concept, is claimed to provide a range of between 400 and 500km (250-310 miles) depending on the driving conditions. It is planned to be offered alongside more conventional turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants on the production Microbus, which senior Wolfsburg sources describe as being smaller than the latest Multivan.
  • The BlueIndy carshare is now up and running in Indianapolis, and now the latest destination for the Bollore Group’s concept: Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, capital Kinchasa). 50 electric cars and 14 electric buses, plus 80 charging points and solar panels, are to be shipped out there in time for the African Games, in partnership with the state of Qatar. More here.
  • Thermal management in EVs is serious stuff, and Bosch is to debut a new system at Frankfurt next week. It’s said to increase battery range by up to 25% and is heat pump based: pumps and valves collect heat (and coldness) and redistribute this via coolant. More here.
  • A certain morbid fascination with this concept – a driverless, autonomously-guided electric hearse, the latest idea proposed via Charles Bombardier in his regular column for the Globe and Mail (Canada).
  • Latest BMW app news: as seen at the IFA 2015 consumer electronics show in Berlin, the ConnectedDrive suite is to include two new apps, Smart Home for Apple iOS, or Samsung SmartThings (Android, still in research stages). Both enable in-car control/checking of linked household functions such as heating, intruder alerts, etc – and even check whether ‘smart’ sensor-fitted windows and doors are locked. Not sure if they can check yet whether you’ve left the gas on or iron plugged in, however… Full release on these (and other new ConnectedDrive developments) here.
  • Some transport-related feedback from the Future of Cities conference (government-backed Foresight Project) here: reports from Cambridge (“expecting an explosion in cycling”), Newcastle (identifying need for cross-sector data-sharing) and Lancaster looked at visions for 2065; the Foresight Project’s own report (“People in Cities: The Numbers”) looks at demographics and trends to 2040 and 2065; a report from Sustrans makes the case for active travel (walking, cycling) and David Metz (UCL) for investment in rail  in his report “Future of Cities: Beyond Peak Car”. Great – but do we have to choke on exhaust fumes and consume fossil fuels till the necessary shifts are made?
  • And more discussion on a similar theme – review of new book, Urban Transport Without The Hot Air, talks about successful case studies and opportunities for change in terms of lessening car-dependency (good), but dismisses ‘techno-fix’ solutions (EV-ICE ). Like it’s some sort of either-or solution and we can’t have modal shift, behaviour change and (a smaller number of) cleaner vehicles where appropriate.
  • In the meantime until car-free Utopia is achieved, the majority of new diesel cars fail to meet the latest Euro 6 EU emissions standards on the road, chuffing out up to five times the amount of harmful particulates and nitrous oxides measured in lab tests, Transport & Environment reminds us, quoting a new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) which looks at NOx emissions. This problem and its implications for air quality is far too serious for us to wait until we can shift everyone onto bikes, feet or public transport, even presuming that this is in any way possible.
  • As an aside, incidentally, some interesting stats via the Campaign for Better Transport. Rail passengers have more than doubled in the UK to 1.7billion over the last 10 years, with 22% of passengers going into London having to stand on a typical weekday and an average 4.1% of peak-time trains ‘over capacity’ (passengers standing for more than 20 minutes) – 10.1% over capacity at Paddington and 26% of all morning peak trains, with a total 59% of training having passengers standing. Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield also had high numbers of over-capacity trains arriving at the morning peak. (If we want to get people out of cars, there has to be a viable alternative).
  • Report on ridesharing from Deloitte looks at potential for its expansion, saying that nearly 19million commuters in US metro areas could feasibly share a car, giving total CO2 savings of 91.million metric tonnes a year as well as massive societal benefits (I paraphrase) in terms of reduced accident rates, spend on infrastructure and lower congestion, plus personal economic benefits. It points to ‘ring’ neighbourhoods as a potential hotspot (drivers/riders not necessarily commuting to city centres), and discusses incentives and policies to support its growth.
  • And further to all the above, some fun… The Guardian Cities has collected a few ideas for easier London commuting, including underground travelators, walkways and bike lanes, swimming lanes in the Regent’s Canal, and a floating bike lane along the Thames.

Concept of the Day: Riversimple fuel cell microcar

June 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

riversimpleLatest news from Riversimple: they’ve received a £2million R&D grant from the Welsh government, having relocated over the border, and are now aiming to produce 20 of their hydrogen-fuelled microcars for a 12-month trial. Aim for the two-seater, composite-bodied lightweights is to do over 200mpg(e) with a range of 300 miles between refuelling stops, with a cruising speed of 55mph and nippy 0-30mph acceleration; these are very much neighbourhood/short-distance commuting vehicles. Riversimple’s also talking about its leasing model (cars will not be sold outright) with all-in monthly fees, and localised/distributed manufacturing for future expansion. The final design is underway at a studio in Barcelona, led by Chris Reitz (formerly design chief for the Fiat 500).

  • The Bolloré Bluecar (hatchback) is now being made by Renault in Dieppe, but a separate deal has been done with PSA Peugeot-Citroen: Bluesummer convertibles to be made at the PSA plant in Rennes, which can make 15 a day/3,500 a year. Bolloré and PSA are also to co-operate on car-sharing (passenger cars and commercial vehicles) with a view to worldwide operations.
  • More from Jaguar Land Rover this morning on in-car biometric and even brainwave monitoring: the Mind Sense project is looking at predictive gesture-controlled touchscreen HMI and haptic pedals to communicate warning information, as well as sensing fatigue, health problems and suchlike.
  • Several EV battery second-life projects announced this week, including one using packs from the Chevy Volt: five Volt batteries (as distinct from 5V batteries…) are working with 74kW-worth of solar panels and two 2kW wind turbines at GM’s Milford Proving Ground to power the building. Enough power is generated to provide all the energy for the ground’s office building plus lighting for the car park, equating to the energy used by 12 average (American) households. Excess energy goes back to the grid for the wider Milford campus, and the batteries –  with 80% of capacity remaining at end-of-life in the car – can also supply back-up power for four hours in the event of an outage.
  • And Nissan is partnering on a second-life Leaf battery scheme with static storage firm Green Charge Networks; a bank of used Leaf lithium-ion cells will be installed at a US Nissan factory for grid-balancing trials. More here.
  • Report by CE Delft for Greenpeace, ‘Saving fuel, saving costs’, looks at the role of the fleet sector in reducing GHG emissions and energy consumption alongside costs, and concludes electrification’s a win-win. Some useful stats: 64% of global oil demand is for transport; 23% of global GHG emissions are from transport (20% in Europe, 28% in US and Canada); road transport “dominates” transport emissions. Besides electrification – hybrid, PHEV, EV – the report also mentions, for fuel-saving, low-resistance tyres, eco-driving courses and teleworking, as well as modal shift and optimised logistics.

Concept of the Day: Citroen Aircross

March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

citroen aircrossTo be revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month, an SUV-ed up C4 Cactus with innovative interior design – and a PHEV powertrain. The Aircross compact crossover, which appears to preview a production model, features a 70kW/95bhp electric motor giving 200Nm of torque to the rear axle plus the 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol engine (218bhp/275Nm), and gives an all-electric range of 31 miles. Its lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in three and a half hours from a domestic 16A socket. Total power output is 313bhp, 0-62mph happens in 4.5 seconds, but the “combined” fuel consumption is 166mpg (not that this is a figure which really means anything given the way it’s averaged-out, but anyway) and CO2 emissions are down to 39g/km.

  • Q1 2015 e-mobility Index from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants is out. Key trends/notes from this include: Japan is leading in terms of technologies at the moment, followed by France; China is investing heavily although R&D spending has fallen in other regions; vehicle weight remains an issue with few OEMs yet exploiting the possibilities of EV-specific structural design.
  • Deaths related to air pollution are being underestimated, with the effects of NOx not taken into account, the Guardian reports: analysis here.
  • And acute asthma worsening and attacks in children, linked again to traffic-related air pollution by UC Irvine. Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and PM2.5s particularly implicated, lower-income and ethnic-minority children more vulnerable since they are more likely to live in high-traffic areas. Rundown here.
  • 30 Renault Twizy two-seaters have joined the Bluely EV-share in Lyon, with 110 to go into service in Lyon and in the Bluecub fleet in Bordeaux. More here.
  • Plenty of electric scooters are coming onto the market, but the Gogoro Streetscooter comes with a battery-swapping trial programme – in Taipei, Taiwan, at least. 100 riders are being recruited to beta-test the scooters and the system, which uses ATM-sized battery dispensers to push out charged batteries, and take in the duds. More here.
  • A new-generation Smart Fortwo electric-drive is on the way next year, and its batteries will be supplied by LG Chem. More here.
  • There’s been talk of a revived VW Camper/Microbus (as distinct from the modern-day Caravelle) for a long, long time, but latest is that Volkswagen engineers are thinking about a battery-electric model inspired by the Bulli concept, reports Autocar. Other news from New York Motor Show: new Merc GLE (replacement for ML-Class, sportier) comes with plug-in hybrid option and 18-mile all-electric mode; the facelifted Toyota RAV4 also has a hybrid option (2.5-litre petrol engine plus e-motor). And there’s a Volkswagen Beetle Hybrid (non plug-in) prototype knocking around, as well. Oh, and Ssangyong unveiled a hybrid SUV concept – previewing a replacement for the Korando – called XAV at the Seoul Motor Show last week, too.
  • A report from Arup/Qualcomm – “Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility” – looks at the potential of harnessing data for urban mobility, including the use of autonomous vehicles; it discusses issues of security, sustainability, ‘usership’ vs ownership, leveraging crowd-sourcing and ‘learning’ devices. More about it here.
  • Waste corn stalks, cobs and husks can feed the production of hydrogen, in a twist on the usual biofuel focus: researchers from Virginia Tech have developed a high-rate enzymatic process to convert ‘dirty biomass’ into automotive-grade H2. More here.

March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

honda s660So Honda has launched its S660 roadster in Japan – a tiny kei-class 660cc turbocharged lightweight, a belated follow-up to the Beat – but there’s talk there might be an electric version. Remember the EV-ster concept (Toyota Motor Show, 2011)? That clearly had some influence on the S660’s design… More on the (very cute) little S660 here, anyway. Not-so-funnily enough, I’m much more interested in this than the equally long-anticipated NSX.

  • A steering system based on in-wheel motor tech reduces the drain on battery range in EVs; the three-year e2-Lenk project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is to develop this assisted steering system with a view to saving cost, weight and manufacturing complexity. More here.
  • Not sure about the name (toilet humour alert) but the e-floater (!) is a promising-looking ‘last-mile’ urban transport solution. It’s a battery-powered stand-up scooter, using composites and plastics from BASF (it weighs less than 12kg), with solar charging option. More details from Floatility Gmbh.
  • Alongside last week’s announcement about OLEV grants for electric motorcycle/scooter buyers came confirmation of £6.6million for hydrogen infrastructure projects, including 2 new refuelling stations (Brentford, Croydon), upgrades to existing stations in Sheffield, Port Talbot, Swindon, London/Greater London, an upgrade to a mobile refuelling station (to support test drives, conferences, demos, etc) and one more mobile station. More here.
  • Jaguar Land Rover is to double the size of its Whitley engineering/research/design centre for the development of “ultra-low-emissions vehicles”; these are to include all-electric versions of the XE and F-Pace crossover, reports Autocar, with an all-electric Range Rover likely too. The aim is, says the mag, to tap into the market identified by the Tesla Model S for luxury-level EVs which enable the affluent to get around LEZ/congestion charge-type legislation. Obviously.
  • Another week, another rather ridiculous ‘hypercar’, but the 200mph LM2 Streamliner – to be unveiled at the upcoming New York Auto Show, ‘cos it’s really well-suited to the streets of the Big Apple – will also be offered in all-electric form, says Autocar. Which doesn’t necessarily make it alright.
  • Better biofuels: researchers at University of East Anglia have identified strains of yeast that make the process of  turning waste agricultural material – straw, sawdust, corncobs –  into fuel more feasible. More here.

Concept of the Day: Audi A7 Sportback h-tron

November 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

audi a7 sportback htronAnd following Toyota and Honda, Audi’s showing a hydrogen-fuelled fuel cell car at the LA Show this week – but this one’s got a plug as well. The A7 Sportback h-tron concept is a plug-in hybrid hydrogen fuel cell, with an 8.8kW battery and a 50km/31-mile all-electric range in addition to the 500km/310miles it can do on a tank of H2; recharging takes two to four hours depending on power source. Electric motors – one up front, another at the rear – electronically drive each axle with no mechanical connection in the ‘e-quattro’ layout, giving 170kW, and it’s said to be capable of 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. It uses around 1kg of hydrogen per 100km, said to be the energy equivalent of 3.7l/km of petrol (76.4mpg). This powertrain is ready for production “as soon as the market and infrastructure are ready”, said Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi head of technical development. Full tech lowdown here. Sharing the tech, minus plug-in element, are the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen HyMotion and Passat HyMotion.

  • The Aachen University-based StreetScooter team has been turning out its lightweight modular-construction, purpose-designed EVs for clients including Deutsche Post DHL for a while now, but it’s now come up with a new short-distance, even lighter-weight model – and this one can be printed. All its exterior plastic parts can be produced by a 3D printer, using a Stratsys system, for build quality to match those conventionally-manufactured as well as speeded-up development – the StreetScooter C16 programme took just 12 months to produce a fully-functioning prototype. The 450kg C16 has an 80-mile range and can do 60mph; other upcoming models and variants on the theme include the Compact, a two/three-seater microcar, said to be currently in its prototype phase.
  • Mini’s doing the e-scooter thing – the Citysurfer concept, seen at the LA Auto Show this week, is an electrically-charged push-along which folds up and fits into the boot of a Mini hatch. It’ll do 15mph and has a range of 10-15 miles, more than enough for city-scooting on to a final destination. More here.
  • Citylab’s crunching some numbers to find out why Millennials are driving less – most likely due to their increasingly living a metropolitan life, they conclude. Debts, income, living arrangements (i.e. still with parents), later marriage/children etc. and other factors discussed, point made that if they end up following similar lifestyle patterns as older generations, just a bit later in life, their driving habits may not be different in the end – but if they don’t follow a traditional route to 2.2 kids in the suburbs, they could remain lower-mileage.
  • Some data from KPMG Automotive Network (via AutoblogGreen): though 57% of American households (115million of them) have two or more cars, this figure is dropping below 50% in some cities. Not just New York, but also auto-oriented cities like Los Angeles and Houston; this is down to operating costs in times of recession, and on-demand car-sharing services will see “proliferation” as an alternative to that second car, they say.
  • Rotary engine news: latest contender is the 70cc spark-ignition (diesel) X Mini, developing 5bhp at 15,000rpm. It’s intended for power tools and the like at the moment, but potential for scaling-up of the tech?
  • Software solutions provider Route Monkey is aiming to tap into integration of the transport and energy sectors and is expanding its EV-related team; current projects include working with Energy Saving Trust to map out the optimal locations for fast-chargers in London, reports EV Fleet World.
  • And of course, we can’t overlook the sewage-fuelled Bio-Bus, which is now up and running on the route (yes, the number 2) between Bath and Bristol Airport. Britain’s first poo-powered bus on public service, it’s running on biogas generated by Wessex Water from locally-produced human waste. More here



Honda FCV and fuel cell thoughts…

November 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Honda-FCX-2016Honda has been leasing hydrogen-driven fuel cell cars since 2002 to selected customers, and has finally confirmed a date for formal launch and production of its FCV: March 2016 in Japan, with sales in the US and Europe to follow. Name to be announced nearer to the time. Latest version was unveiled in Tokyo this week – timed to coincide with Toyota’s launch of the Mirai – and Honda’s claiming a first in its powertrain layout: the entire drivetrain, including the fuel cell stack, is packaged under the bonnet, thus enabling a five-seat cabin (the Mirai’s only a four-seater). This also allows for the easier development of other bodystyles on the same platform at a later date. Developments from the earlier FCX Clarity prototypes include a downsizing of the fuel cell stack, 33% smaller but showing a performance improvement of around 60%, achieving a power output of over 100kW and power density of up to 3.1kW/L. The FCV has a single high-pressure tank for hydrogen storage, and Honda promises a cruising range of over 700km (434 miles), again outdoing the 300-mile Toyota; refuelling takes around three minutes.
Honda has further developed a couple of handy accessories and items of auxiliary equipment: also on display in Tokyo is its Power Exporter Concept, a device delivering 9kW of external AC power from the FCV, and its Smart Hydrogen Station, a mini-generator with a high-pressure electrolyser.

The week’s focus on fuel cells has got me thinking about hydrogen again; as a fuel, it demands energy for its synthesis and supply, and the establishment/expansion of an industrial infrastructure, just to produce electricity which can otherwise drive a car very effectively when supplied from an externally-charged battery. WTW carbon-impact lifecycle analyses bear this out. In the car, a fuel cell is still a complex and expensive thing to fit – again, to drive a motor which can be directly powered by electricity. But perhaps my biggest objection to hydrogen as a claimed fuel of the future is that it’s increasingly looking like a like-for-like solution for petrol/diesel on a business level and it lacks (though the advent of home electrolysers could change this) the disruptive potential of EVs, which can be charged at home or work, from solar/wind/hydro, without having to run to a filling station or engage with the oil companies.  Still, zero tailpipe emissions (apart from water vapour) can only be a Good Thing, and it does occur to me that, until the 400-mile EV arrives at a reasonable price, a fuel cell car is going to be easier to run for longer-distance drivers, especially those who (like me) have no access to domestic/workplace/somewhere to plug in overnight or for sufficient time to completely charge. That three-minute refuelling time is sounding pretty  convenient.

  • The Audi Prologue concept (upcoming A9) unveiled at the LA Auto Show this week features 48-volt mild hybrid tech. Energy recovery under braking of up to 12kW, mitigating the CO2 output of the twin-turbo V8 to 199g/km and fuel consumption to 32.8mpg, reports Autocar.
  • Well, it’s back… the Coda Automotive Sedan has been revived (yet again) as the Mullen 700e. Transport Evolved has a go at unravelling the long and undistinguished story of attempts to bring this rather sorry-looking ‘lectric saloon to market. It’s based on the mid-90s Mitsubishi Lancer, apparently (hardly cutting-edge even in its time) and was looking exceedingly dated even by the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show, when it debuted as the Miles XS 200. Yeah, me neither.
  • Here’s a handy primer on power-to-gas – ‘free’ hydrogen using surplus renewable electricity (i.e. from turbines on a windy day, difficult to store) to electrolyse water. This can then be ‘stored’ in the natural gas grid in a process known as blending to decarbonise the gas supply system, as well as making use of otherwise lost energy; more here.

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