Midweek, midsummer: recent news round-up

August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Headline story ‘cos it’s a pretty picture: this specially-modified Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid just reached 185.394mph on the Bonneville salt flats during Speed Week, setting a new land speed record (unofficial, as yet) for hybrids. More at Green Car Reports.

  • Not ‘green’ in the first instance – the primary objectives are improving road safety and reducing congestion – but with interesting implications: the biggest-yet V2V and V2X trial, involving 3000 vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, starts today. The vehicles, many privately-operated cars as well as trucks and buses, will test real-life applications of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wi-fi communications, including crash-avoidance warnings, as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure comms (V2X) to improve traffic flow. The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working with Ford, GM and the American R&D/technical centre divisions of Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. More at Detroit News.
  • Daimler, meanwhile, is leading a similar 120-vehicle trial in Germany. More detail on both at Wired Autopia.
  • BMW’s DriveNow carshare – giving access to a pool of 70 ActivE EVs – has launched in San Francisco. The cars will be placed in eight locations, hirable by the minute and booked using a smartphone app. More here. It’s also to launch ParkNow, a space-reserving scheme; both this and DriveNow will be rolled out in other cities in due course as part of BMW’s iVentures programme. DriveNow, a partnership with Sixt in Germany, is already operating in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Munich using the conventional Mini Cooper and 1-Series for short-term rentals. More here.
  • Infiniti has confirmed production of its LE (”posh Leaf’) electric hatchback concept for 2014, and it looks as if it will be the first car on sale with integral induction-charging equipment, reports USA Today.
  • Cadillac’s to launch its ELR extended-range EV (on/off-again production version of the Converj concept, using Chevy Volt-derived tech) at next year’s Pebble Beach Concours, reports Left Lane News.
  • Nissan is to show an electric SUV concept at the Paris Motor Show this autumn, says Green Car Reports. It’s likely to be an evolution of the Hi-Cross seen at Geneva earlier this year, a preview of the next-gen X-Trail.
  • Melbourne-based EV Engineering claims to have broken a distance record: its retro-converted Holden Commodore EV ran 1886km in 24 hours on a loop between Port Melbourne and Geelong, aided by battery-swapping. It’s unofficial, but no mean feat; release here.
  • Dwindling sales of the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn have led to a suspension of their production (probably terminal). Too small, too limited, too expensive given current market conditions, I reckon, and though price isn’t necessarily an issue for many EV buyers, the well-heeled are probably now either driving Leafs or holding out for a BMW i3. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (donor car for the PSA pair) continues, however.
  • The first Sanya Skypump has been been installed in Barcelona – a vertical-axis wind turbine, powering an EV charging point. It’s a compact solution which can be easily placed in public spaces where there’s wind… More here.

Goodwood Festival of Speed #3: Best of the rest

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Goodwood Festival of Speed’s mainly about high-performance motorsport machinery, classic and modern, of course, but there were a few DFT-friendly vehicles scattered around the site… From the top, in no particular order:

1. Drayson Racing B12/69EV, an 850bhp wirelessly-charged Le Mans prototype, featuring a Lola chassis, and fastest EV up the Goodwood Hill on Sunday.

2. Audi A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid concept with a 211hp 2.0 TFSI petrol engine and 27hp electric motor, giving up to 34 miles in all-electric mode. But why the four-door saloon bodystyle?

3. Tata Megapixel, a range-extended EV concept with a single-cylinder 30bhp, 350cc petrol engine and four in-wheel electric motors. It’ll do 68mph and has an all-electric range of 54 miles; overall range is nearly 560 miles.

4. Morgan Plus E; this Zytek-motored roadster is being seriously developed with production in mind.

5. The Riversimple hydrogen fuel cell lightweight. Cars are to go out on trial in Herefordshire and Shropshire this year,  the company has announced.

6. Infiniti M Hybrid. The Emerg_e coupe concept went up the Goodwood Hill, too, but it was too quick for me to catch it on camera. As was the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid.

7. The Quimera AEGT electric drift car, I believe.

8. Toyota TS030 hybrid Le Mans car; the winning hybrid Audi R8 e-tron quattro was also around & up the Hill.

9. Audi Urban Concept, as seen at last autumn’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Renault Zoe sets distance record, week-end news round-up

June 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Renault Zoe has completed a marathon run of 1005 miles (1618km)  in 24 hours, setting a new distance record for production EVs. Over the 24 hours – orbiting the circuit at the Aubevoye technical centre, Normandy, 363 times – it was fast-charged 18 times to keep its batteries juiced-up. Two cars took part (the second completing 1506 km), shared between fifteen drivers, and the Renault team used the new Chameleon charger, a universal connector compatible with any socket and power level.

In other news to round off the week:

  • The Eco Technology Show takes place at the Amex Stadium, Brighton, today (15th June) and tomorrow (16th). Lots of exhibits and trade stands re. energy-saving – domestic, transport, for business – plus a test-track to try out e-bikes; participants include ZeroCarbonWorld, which has pledged to give away 10 free EV charging points to local businesses or organisations. Tickets are £5 to get in, with lots of free workshops and seminars.
  • Cutting the cost of making motors is an important part of the EV manufacturing equation. The Technology Strategy Board/BIS is thus co-funding (to the tune of £750,000) a research programme called Rapid Design and Development of a Switched Reluctance Traction Motor – basically, a low-cost motor which doesn’t need expensive magnet materials such as rare earth metals. The three-year project will be led by Cobham Technical Services, and partners involved are Jaguar Land Rover and Ricardo UK. One of the main challenges is producing a torque-dense motor which is quiet enough for use in luxury vehicles, apparently, without using permanent magnets. More details from Ricardo.
  • Better Place is clearly serious about launching its battery-swap tech in Britain: it’s advertising for a Country Program Integrator – UK. The role includes “managing the relationships on the ground and coordinating the various functions and workstreams taking place in the UK”, “managing all of Global’s engagement activities with the specific country OpCo during its launch phases” and “building and maintaining the key relationships with local partners and government officials”, as well as being “the on-the-ground coordinator of all local pre-launch projects (e.g., taxi, utility)”. Full job spec here
  • Infiniti is going to show off the Emerg-e range-extended EV concept at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: it’ll be driven up the Hill by F1 ace Mark Webber.
  • For all that BMW opened its i show room (must stop calling it the i-Store) in London yesterday (see below), the company’s whole e-mobility project is “skating on dangerously thin ice”,  says Automobile. The American mag’s citing sketchy EV charging infrastructure, which hasn’t been developed as quickly as expected, and the pull-back of governmental incentives, and says that “the proposed i1 intra-city car and the i5 eco-van have been put on ice”.
  • Some more detail on the  i3: this compact all-electric hatch keeps the carbonfibre construction of the original concept, with rear-hinged rear doors; the interior incorporates some sustainable natural materials, such as hemp and wool in the trim. Let’s hope that there’s nothing in the rumours (see above) and that this intriguing, very promising-sounding vehicle will make it onto the road next year.
  • The new Smart Fortwo electric drive (see below) is “the most credible pure electric yet”, says Autocar.
  • Daimler’s Car2Go car-share/short-term rental scheme, which uses the Smart Fortwo in ICE and (in some locations) electric drive forms,  is now expanding to Miami, Calgary and Toronto. Pre-registrations are being taken for membership in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) too.

Tesla Model S chills out

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Tesla Model S (the saloon) is  undergoing cold-weather testing. Video of it sliding around in the ice at the Tesla blog. First deliveries begin in July, and online configurator tools will shortly go live; latest news on interior trim and options, and the Personal Delivery service (yes please…) at the blog.

General post-Easter news catch-up:

  • The Toyota Prius Plug-in goes on sale in July in the UK, and it’s priced at £27,895 (once the £5000 government grant is taken into account). Official CO2 output is 49g/km.
  • The Infiniti LE – unveiled at the New York Motor Show last week – is effectively going to be the posh Nissan Leaf (the 2013 version, reports Autocar, with improved  range). The NY concept also featured a home wireless charging system, which could be the first such set-up to reach production, says The Charging Point.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Jaguar F-Type, reports Autocar, following on from the conventional iterations of this two-seater sports car. Roadster models to come first; production-ready examples will be unveiled at Paris Auto Show this autumn.
  • The 2014 Acura RLX – smart US-market saloon – unveiled in NY will also have a hybrid variant. Two motors, a 3.5 V6, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and over 370bhp through all four wheels, reports Inside Line. And there’s a hybrid version of the new-generation Lexus ES, too. Oh, and of the Lincoln MKZ  (featuring the new 2.0-litre Ecoboost four-cyl engine).
  • Another EV-around-the-world trip: the Citroen C-Zero of Electric Odyssey is in the Rocky Mountains on its way down to California.
  • Lithium-sulphur batteries ‘could be  the power storage devices of the future’, according to research from Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. They’re quoting smartphones and e-bikes as likely recipients of these optimised batteries with porous nanoparticles (woo!) but the tech could work for cars too. Science bit at Alpha Galileo.
  • Honda is going to launch the Insight, Fit/Jazz hybrid and the CR-Z coupe in China, and is considering local production of hybrids and EVs there. More will be announced at the Beijing Auto Show, where Honda is also revealing two new concepts.
  • Ford is running a competition in the US to win a Focus Electric, in partnership with Yahoo! Screen: it’s a reality-TV extravaganza, with teams from selected cities taking part in a series of challenges. More here.
  • We will ignore the story about Justin Bieber’s chromed Fisker Karma. Move along, nothing to see here.

Tuesday catch-up: Toyota FT-Bh

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is Toyota’s take on an affordable hybrid city car – its structure, at least. The FT-Bh itself will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show next month; it’s described as “an ultra-lightweight full hybrid city car study, designed to achieve low emissions within an economically viable production framework” – cheap to make in a simple manufacturing process. Toyota will also be showing the production-ready Yaris Hybrid, the NS4 plug-in hybrid and FCV-R hydrogen concept, as well as the GT-86 sports coupe and the personally-configurable, “smartphone on wheels” djii concept (formerly known as the Fun-Vii).

  • Images – of a sort – have emerged of the Infiniti Emerg-e extended-range EV concept, to be revealed in Geneva next month. Full gallery at Edmunds Inside Line, amongst other places.
  • So: it’s got trick concept-car doors. Is my verdict on the Tesla Model X so far. I find it hard to get excited about such a rarefied vehicle, irrelevant to the majority of motorists, but do accept that what with all the column-inches and cyberspace it has generated, it’s a good flag-waver for the EV cause. Good-looking, too. More interesting: the Gen 3 mass-market car Tesla’s working on, now said to be scheduled for early 2015.
  • Mitsubishi has confirmed launch of an Outlander EV: next spring, in addition to the plug-in hybrid already announced (see previous post).

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.

Geneva Preview: Toyota Yaris Hybrid

January 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Barely time to draw breath after Detroit (not that I was there) and the Geneva Motor Show previews start. Toyota has unveiled the Prius C for the States, but in Europe we’ll be getting this instead: the Yaris Hybrid (top). On sale in the UK early summertime, intended to be “the most affordable full hybrid in Europe”, 98bhp, no compromise on luggage space. No figures for mpg or CO2 as yet.

Nissan’s Infiniti division, meanwhile, has been teasing its upcoming EV (below) since time immemorial but the latest is that it’s going to have a mid-ship-mounted range-extended powertrain. More news on this “advanced sports car concept” at Geneva, and then we might actually get to see the thing.

In other mid-week news:

  • The Citroen C1/Peugeot 107/Toyota Aygo have been facelifted and tweaked; CO2 emissions from the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine are now down to 99g/km.
  • Order books are now open for the Vauxhall Ampera; first deliveries in May. Prices from £29,995 (incl. £5000 government incentive). Ouch.
  • The new Bentley-Audi 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 has cylinder shutdown and can operate as a V4 to save fuel, reports headlineauto. A rare configuration, V4, these days; wonder what advantages that would have over an inline, and whether, like the rotary, it has new possibilities in conjunction with the latest tech/hybrid/range extender configurations? If so, bring it back, preferably in a Saab…
  • Tata displayed concepts at the New Delhi Auto Expo including a diesel-electric Indigo Manza hybrid and a mini-minibus Starbus Fuel Cell. More at Green Car Congress.
  • More work on fuel from algae; science bit here.
  • And further to the above post on V-engines: a V2! 800cc, for use as a range-extender, the work of KSPG Automotive. Suitable for packaging as an additional optional module, they say. More at Green Car Congress.

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