Midweek bulletin: Jaguar C-X75, Ford C-Max Energi, various EV-charging developments, and eco-tyres

July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

Latest on the Jaguar C-X75: electric motors at both axles, some 500bhp from a 1.6-litre engine with both turbo and superchargers, a rev limit of 10,000rpm, 0-60 in less than three seconds and 200mph. Ah, and an all-electric range of 60km. More at Autocar.

  • Details on a more accessible hybrid: the upcoming C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid will have a range of around 550 miles, says Ford, and it’ll return an average 95mpg (US) from its electrically-assisted 2.0-litre engine. Its all-electric mode gives a range of about 20 miles. The C-Max Energi goes on sale in North America this autumn; no word on Euro sales as yet, but the tech should filter over at some stage. Ford has also announced that its Fusion saloon will be its first non-hybrid model sold in the US to feature stop-start, saving around 3.5% of fuel.
  • Qualcomm, maker of wireless induction-charging systems for EVs, has signed a memorandum of understanding for co-operation with Renault on a trial programme in London, and “preliminary studies of the integration of Qualcomm Halo WEVC technology into some Renault vehicles”. The London trial starts in November and will involve “a cross-section of stakeholders from government departments and agencies to commercial and private sector enterprises”. It will “evaluate the commercial viability of wireless EV charging and gain user feedback on the use of WEVC enabled vehicles.”
  • BMW’s i Ventures division is making a strategic investment in Coulomb Technologies, operator of the global ChargePoint network and maker of EV charging equipment. “ChargePoint is the largest, longest established network with a significantly advanced and mature feature set. This investment will forge a close and strategic relationship as we further our electric mobility offer,” says i Ventures MD Dr Ulrich Quay.
  • GM and OnStar are contributing to a smart-grid research project with Pecan Street Inc., which is studying the domestic energy usage of volunteer citizens in a testbed community in Austin, Texas. 66 EV owners, including 55 Chevy Volt drivers, are taking part in the trial and will feed back info on their driving and charging habits. The Mueller community has been developed on a former airport site to be a sustainable mini-city with energy-efficient buildings, infrastructure and clean energy supply. More at Green Car Congress.
  • ‘Natural latex’ sounds a bit kinky, but it’s apparently suitable for making sustainable-source, oil-free car tyres. The first prototypes have been made by Dutch firm Apollo Vredestein, a partner in the EU-Pearls project, from a natural rubber synthesised from  guayule and Russian dandelion plants. The former can be easily grown in Mediterranean countries, the latter in northern Europe. More at alphagalileo.
  • Goodyear, meanwhile, has been experimenting with soybean oil (in a project funded by the United Soybean Board): possibility of a 10% improvement in tread life, and the saving of seven million gallons of oil a year, reports Green Car Congress.

Lexus LF-LC “on track” for production; urban mobility and wireless EV charging

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Lexus LF-LC coupe concept – a 2+2 hybrid supercar – is “on track for development”, claims Autoweek, and could come to showrooms in three years’ time. Seen at the Detroit Auto Show last January, the front-engined, rear-wheel drive LF-LC was said to be purely a show car, “but several Lexus insiders now say the overwhelming reaction means it almost certainly will come to market”, reports Autoweek.

  • Evantran has fitted its first three Plugless Power wireless induction charging installations in test Nissan LEAFs, reports Green Car Congress. Its ‘Apollo Launch Programme’, in partnership with Hertz, Duke Energy and Clemson University International Centre for Automotive Research, has been trialling the system for a month already and will continue for three more months; a further three cars will be converted, and Evantran is looking for more fleets/commercial partners running their own Nissan LEAFs or Chevy Volts to take part in the trial. It’s also offering six months’  free electricity for the first 500 buyers of the system.
  • Research reading of the week: Urban Mobility Blueprint from Ernst & Young. Emphasis here on the need for carmakers to move away from traditional sales models and towards collaborations for car-sharing, combining public and private transport modes, infrastructural integration and connectivity – all the usual stuff, crucial for building a transport strategy or, as E&Y puts it, “an emerging ecosystem”.
  • Autocar has spy shots of the next-generation Ford Mondeo, to be launched at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn. A Euro-market version of the Ford Fusion hybrid system, using a 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT, is likely, they say.

Design Concept of the Day: eSetta

April 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The problem with microcar design is that most tiny, utilitarian vehicles, however cleverly thought-out in their packaging, are just not cool. Well, if in doubt, go retro. Tony Weichselbraun’s eSetta is inspired by the BMW-Isetta bubble car of the 1950s (UK-market versions were built in Brighton, incidentally) but has state-of-the-art induction charging tech. The idea is that it can be frequently charged at shared hubs located around a city, rather than needing large, expensive and heavy batteries; this could work in a Velib’-style short-term rental scheme, for example. And entry to the cockpit is via a front canopy, of course. More pics at Yanko Design. And more from me on bubble cars and micro-motoring in this feature at The Charging Point, should you be interested…

Geneva Motor Show Concept of the Day: Valmet Dawn

March 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Valmet Automotive – which builds the Karma for Fisker in Finland, amongst other contracts – is showing off its EV engineering skills in Geneva with a concept called Dawn. This low-slung roadster, with open-mouthed grille incorporating what appears to be an induction-charging system (either that, or it’s a hob for cooking whilst on the move), displays Valmet’s battery pack, drivetrain, control unit, charging and vehicle integration capabilities. Full-size pictures and press release posted at Autoblog Green.

In other news today:

  • Renault’s collecting votes in its Design A Twizy competition; ten student finalists have been selected, and the closing date’s 30th March. The winner will get a year’s tuition fees paid, so support the poor starving student (ha!) of your choice.
  • I’m liking the Invisible Mercedes video: M-B is promoting its zero-tailpipe-emissions B-Class F-Cell by covering the car with LED mats on one side and a camera on the other, so images of what it’s passing are projected onto the LED-side. We won’t go down the how-do-you-extract-hydrogen-without-emissions route today and spoil the fun (OK, I know that’s an old link and reference. Problem’s not been cracked yet, though).
  • Congratulations have to go today to Nikki at Green Car Reports for managing to combine two of my great preoccupations in life – EVs and bluegrass music – into one news story. Nissan sponsors a Tennessee telly show called Bluegrass Underground, which is filmed in a cave (yes, really), and of course, you don’t want exhaust fumes and flammable fuels down there, so they’re supplying LEAFs to ferry the performers, crew and all their kit to the stage.

Friday round-up

February 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Audi’s going to run two diesel-electric hybrids at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year. These are thought to have flywheel energy storage instead of batteries, says Autosport. They’ll be unveiled at the end of the month, and will make their racing debut at the Spa-Francochamps six-hour race on May 5th. Audi’s hedging its bets, however, and entering a pair  of conventional R18 TDIs as well. Toyota, meanwhile, has confirmed a two-hybrid entry at Le Mans as well, and says that the TS030 will be entered in the FIA World Endurance Championships; it too will debut at Spa.

  • Bladon Jets – backed by Tata – has opened a new engineering centre in Coventry. This has facilities to prepare its micro gas turbines “for volume production.” Bladon describes its products as “miniaturised jet engines”, scaled-down from aircraft-size to be well-suited for use as generators in range-extended EV powertrains. The company supplied the unit in the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid-electric concept, and continues to collaborate with Jaguar Land Rover.
  • Infiniti’s sports car concept, to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show next month, is to be called Emerg-e. It’s  a range-extended EV, with its powertrain mid-mounted. I refuse to post yet another teaser pic.
  • Much crowing in some quarters over the Honda Civic Hybrid lawsuit – an owner’s win in the Californian small claims court over her failure to achieve the advertised 50mpg. Yup, hybrids aren’t necessarily the best tech for all driving conditions… but since when did any mpg claim hold up in real-life driving, anyway? (Check out this Which? investigation). As one Detroit News commenter wryly notes, “And once again, only the lawyers win.”
  • And the sad story from Indiana, and the demise (yet again) of Think – 100 EVs left on the factory floor. Wrong car, wrong place – shame they can’t be sent to some car-share scheme in Europe, or would that be too simple a solution?
  • Electric commercial vehicles equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology could be up to 12% cheaper to operate than equivalent diesels, reports a study from MIT. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Latest news on the Stanford University ‘electric highway’ project at Green Car Congress. A patent has been filed for the induction coil-type wireless charging system.

Friday newsbriefs, Mitsubishi PX-MiEV II plug-in hybrid

November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mitsubishi is to show a plug-in hybrid concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next month. The PX-MiEV II is a midsized SUV (previewing the next-gen Outlander) with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine and 70kW motor. It has an overall range of over 800km and an all-electric range of 50km, and selectable all-electric and battery charge modes, the latter switching the engine to act as a generator. The battery can be used as an external power source – when camping, for example, or in an emergency situation – and it is quick-charge compatible. This concept also showcases Mitsubishi’s new twin-motor four-wheel drive system, coupled with traction control developed from that in the Evo X. Acceleration from a standing start – with 100% of the electric motor’s torque available – is said to be equivalent of the oomph from a 3.0 V6. And Mitsubishi is also showing its Minicab-MiEV electric van, the latest ASX (RVR) small crossover with stop-start, an integrated house/car/energy management concept with smart power metering called MiEV House – plus the MiEV Cafe, powered by the battery of the EV parked next to it, via a heavy-duty external power supply device.

  • Easier EV charging? POD Point, a charging point-maker, has received an £89,000 government contract to create a database of publicly-accessible facilities across the UK. This will involve “systematic mapping”, says Transport Minister Norman Baker, and a system called Central Whitelist, allowing e-motorists to use points from different suppliers and different membership schemes in different locations – like mobile phone ‘roaming’. The data will be accessible via sat navs and mobile apps.
  • And further into the future: Qualcomm, which has just bought out wireless induction-charging firm Halo IPT, is to to start a trial of wireless charging in London, in partnership with Transport For London, Chargemaster and minicab giant Addison Lee. The trial, to be based in East London’s ‘Tech City’ development, will involve around 50 EVs and will be funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the Office for Low-Emissions Vehicles (OLEV).
  • Ford has announced a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, developed in the UK at the Dunton and Dagenham engine facilities. This turbocharged, direct-injection unit will feature first in the Focus early next year, giving 125hp (and 56.5mpg) or 100hp, with CO2 emissions from these two versions just 114g/km and 109g/km respectively. The engine – to be built in Craiova, Romania – will then go into the C-MAX, Grand C-MAX and upcoming B-MAX (mid-2012).
  • Nissan is giving away 400 fast-chargers across Europe to help accelerate EV use. 65 will be deployed in the UK at motorway service stations, airports and city centre locations.
  • Volvo is trialling two C30 Electrics in the Jiading district, Shanghai, in a bid to learn what Chinese consumers want from an EV.
  • The world’s smallest electric car is just one molecule big – if you’ve not caught the ‘nano-car’ story yet, then it’s at the BBC website.

Friday newsbriefs

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

This little thing’s the Greentech Automotive myCar, going into production in the US, reports Autoblog Green. The company’s under new management, and intends to build the car near Tunica, Mississippi. Whilst this Fortwo-sized neighbourhood EV can only do 35mph, apparently “full-speed, all-road vehicles” are on the way, as well as European sales. An earlier version of the MyCar has been sold in the UK by the NICE Car Company and then EV Stores. I’m none too enthusiastic about many of these microcars and quadricycles, but if they make ’em strong, safe and speedy enough… perhaps the bubble car is on its way back?

Industry snippets:

  • Vauxhall/Opel’s “seriously considering production” of the RAKe tandem two-seater, says Autocar.
  • Hybrids – including extended-range plug-in models – will account for 20% of all car sales worldwide by 2020, says Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive VP for R&D and engineering. Hybrids already account for 20% of sales in Japan (where they don’t do diesel), reports Bloomberg. Toyota has just sold its millionth Prius in Japan.
  • Siemens AG is aiming to make some acquisitions to get back into the automotive market, and specifically to develop products for electric powertrains, recharging systems and power grid management (Reuters). It set up a business unit called Inside Electric Car last year.
  • Delphi Automotive has shown off its wireless EV charging tech at Frankfurt; its magnetic coupling system is claimed to be more practical and flexible than earlier induction charging concepts (Green Car Congress).
  • Hyundai is partnering with the Beijing Automobile Industry Holding Co to form an new Chinese brand to sell EVs. BAIC chairman Xu Heyi tells Bloomberg that the brand could be introduced by the end of the year. BAIC already builds ICE Hyundais for sale in China.
  • Mitsubishi is in talks with Proton over a partnership for advanced powertrains and small-car development, reports Autobeat Daily. The deal could see sharing of components from Mitsubishi’s new small car, and Mitsubishi’s EV and hybrid technologies.
  • Gearbox supplier Getrag has announced a new dual-clutch, two-speed transmission for EVs and plug-in hybrids. The 2eDCT600 ‘box gives a range improved by 10%, better off-the-mark acceleration and a higher top speed than a typical single-speed transmission; it can handle up to 369lb ft of torque (AutoTech Daily).
  • Best summary of the Frankfurt Motor Show comes from Car’s Ben Barry. Yes, been there, done that, happy to leave it to someone else’s feet these days.

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