Seat Mii, Monday newsbriefs

October 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

And here’s the Spanish version of the Volkswagen Up! – the Seat Mii. The three-door goes on sale in Spain before the end of the year, with sales elsewhere in Europe in spring 2012; five-door versions follow later next year. As with the Skoda Citigo and the Up! itself (ha – just noticed that unfortunate connotation) it gets the new VW Group three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine (60hp and 75hp); economy-optimised Ecomotive versions will emit just 97g/km. Kit on offer will include stability control, side airbags, a portable sat nav/phone device, and City Safety Assist auto braking; on a practical note, its 251-litre boot expands to 951 litres with the rear seat folded, despite an overal length of just 3.55m. More figures: the 60hp version is good for 99mph and the 75hp model 106mph; they’ll return 62.8mpg and 60.1mpg respectively; the Ecomotive models will do 67.2mpg; a CNG-fuelled model (to be offered in mainland Europe) emits just 86g/km. An automated manual gearbox is optional. No word on UK pricing as yet.

  • Mazda’s second Skyactiv model – featuring extensive detail-changes and technologies to bring down fuel consumption and emissions – has gone on sale in Japan. The latest Axela (aka Mazda3) follows the Mazda5 in being lighter-weight, and it also gets Mazda’s new direct-injection 2.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed auto gearbox. Press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Nissan’s expecting the Leaf’s battery pack to have a lifespan of at least five years/60,000 miles before it dips below 80% of its original charge capacity, and is planning a cost-saving system of individual cell module swap-outs after than if necessary. Full story at AM-Online.
  • Tesla will unveil the Model X crossover at the Detroit Motor Show next January. It’s based on the same platform as the Model S saloon; a hot M5-rivalling version of the saloon has just been announced, doing 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and, with optional high-spec battery pack, good for a range of up to 300 miles. The Model S, even in its saloon form, seats up to seven (there are two fold-out, rear-facing child seats in the back) and has “the largest panoramic roof in a production car”, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. More at Autocar. Musk also noted that Tesla’s Toyota RAV4 EV conversion is ready to go on sale next year.
  • Renault Sport F1 is to source KERS from Red Bull Technology for next year.  Team Lotus and Renault Sport F1 are to continue to collaborate, with the V8 engine deal extending to the end of 2013, and aim to carry on under the new engine regulations. “KERS is now an essential part of a competitive performance in F1”, says Jean-Francois Caubet,Renault Sport F1 MD, “and we hope this supply will help the team continue its evolution. Furthermore, a wider experience of using the KERS system at this point in time will help in the development of the powerful energy recovery systems that will be introduced under the future engine regulations.”
  • First installment of the 12.grn.hrs story – a design-an-eco-car-in-a-day workshop, part of London Design Week – is at Green Car Design.

Frankfurt Motor Show preview: Jaguar C-X16

September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Jaguar’s describing the C-X16 as a “production concept”, and a statement of its “future design and technological intent”. This compact coupe – Jaguar’s smallest since the XK120 – is an aluminium-chassied rear-wheel drive two-seater. It has a supercharged 380hp  3.0-litre V6 (EU 6-compliant, with stop-start) – plus a ‘push to pass’ system which gives extra electrically-assisted boost on-demand from a steering wheel-mounted button. This KERS-style hybrid system with motor generator is integrated into the eight-speed gearbox; batteries store energy recovered under braking and there’s an extra 95hp on tap. The C-X16 can travel at up to 50mph on electric power alone, and overall CO2 emissions are just 165g/km. Not bad for a car capable of 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, 50-75mph in 2.1 seconds and 186mph…

Low Carbon Vehicle 2011 newsbriefs

September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s the news from the LCV2011 conference at Rockingham. First up, the latest prototype from the government-funded Low Carbon Vehicle Technology Project is on display. The Ricardo-developed demonstrator vehicle (pictured) addresses the need to increase range in EVs and improve energy efficiency in all aspects of a vehicle’s operation and features a next-generation 108kW motor, advanced control electronics and ‘intelligent’ heating and air con systems. Ongoing work on this project will see the vehicle incorporate a range-extending two-cylinder petrol engine and generator.

  • The flywheel hybrid-drive system developed by Prodrive in partnership with Torotrak, Ricardo and Xtrac is delivering fuel economy improvements of up to 22.4% in real-life driving, says the Flybrid consortium, and a 11.9% improvement on the NEDC cycle. This mechanically-driven flywheel energy storage system delivers up to 80bhp of recovered energy from its easily-installed hybrid module, and is combined with stop-start and a CVT gearbox.  It’s cheap, lightweight, efficient and needs no heavy, costly batteries.
  • Warwick’s CPT (Controlled Power Technologies) is showcasing its SpeedStart system, and says that microhybrid solutions offer big CO2 reductions at low cost. The production-ready SpeedStart’s a powerful belt-integrated starter-generator stop-start system which works at just 12 volts, combined with exhaust energy regeneration and electric supercharging; next comes the LC Super Hybrid ‘micro mild’ hybrid system, with added brake energy recuperation.
  • Transmission firm Antonov, partipating in the Jaguar LimoGreen projects, is talking about its three-speed transmission for EVs and says that just two ratios can improve energy efficiency by 10% and that “three or more ratios are better, delivering additional improvements in performance and refinement as well as efficiency, with each additional ratio providing small incremental gains in cycle efficiency.” More at Green Car Congress.
  • The Flybus consortium has installed Ricardo’s Kinergy (kinetic energy recovery, or KERS) flywheel plus a Torotrak continously-variable transmission into an Optare Solo Midibus. The system should be cheaper than current hybrid systems, and promises fuel savings of well over 10%. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Vocis is showing its two-speed EV transmission, fitted in an electric minibus developed in partnership with Zytek; this twin-shaft system promises uninterrupted torque, thanks to high-precision electromechanical actuators. Again, more detail at Green Car Congress.
  • Other highlights of LC2011 include the Racing Green Endurance EV which completed a 26,000km journey down the Pan-American Highway last year; the range-extended Jaguar C-X75; the Kingston University ‘Ion Horse’ electric superbike (third in the TTXGP on the Isle of Man) and the Bluebird Electric land speed record challenger. Lola and Drayson Racing are also to unveil their all-electric Le Mans Prototype. a contender for the proposed 2013 FIA EV championship.

Monday newsbriefs

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Volvo’s to reveal an all-new concept car (no picture as yet) in Frankfurt next week, showcasing a “more exciting” look plus one of a new series of downsized petrol engines. The company’s going to chop out six- and eight-cylinder engines from its range and offer only four-cylinder units, including common-rail diesels and direct-injection petrols; these will have higher performance than the current six-cylinders, however, despite lower fuel consumption than the current four-pots.

Dubbed VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture), these engines have 60% fewer unique parts (they’re based around a common modular structure), are up to 90kg lighter than their current equivalents, and offer fuel economy improved by up to 35%. They’re also suitable for incorporation of hybrid-drive systems and technologies such as flywheel kinetic energy recovery (KERS). Volvo will start road-testing a flywheel KERS system this autumn; this is said to offer the driver an additional 80bhp whilst reducing fuel consumption by up to 20%.

Volvo’s also taking a modular approach with its new ‘scalable platform architecture’ (SPA), which will allow most models to be built on the same production line; this will enable it to establish its independence from former owner Ford and create its own stand-alone model-line. “We’re taking our technological future into our own hands”, says R&D chief Peter Mertens. The forthcoming SPA models will be 100-150kg lighter than the current cars, and will be suitable for electric-drive powertrains. “The Frankfurt concept car is a great example of what we can achieve with the new architecture,” adds designerPeter Horbury.

  • This Russian Yo-Auto firm is to reveal a concept at Frankfurt too, previewing its range of affordable hybrids. Not much detail on the car as yet, but the Yo-Concept show car (pictured; not intended for production) has a range-extended EV powertrain, side doors which slide up through the body, an extended windscreen/glass roof and full-length side windows.
  • Skoda is building a 10-car trial fleet of Octavia Green E Line estates, all-electric prototypes with a 60kW motor (peaking at 85kW and 270Nm of torque), an 84mph top speed, 0-62mph acceleration in 12 seconds – and a sound generator to simulate engine noise at up to 25mph. Range is 93 miles, brake energy recovery supplementing the 180-cell lithium-ion battery pack. Skoda says that electric-drive is an integral part of its future strategy, and that a plug-in hybrid will also be offered in the future. The Octavia Green E Lines will hit the road this autumn, and the trial data will feed into research and development work for production vehicles.
  • More engine news: Volkswagen is to add cylinder shut-off to its new 1.4 TSI engine from early 2012. Two of the four cylinders will temporarily, imperceptibly, shut off under low to medium load between 1400-4000rpm and 25-75Nm, improving fuel consumption by 0.4 litres per 100km; this is improved to 0.6 litres per 100km in combination with stop-start, and at 50kph in third or fourth gear, economy savings are nearly one litre per 100km. The range in which the cylinder deactivation can work covers nearly 70% of driving, but all four cylinders stay active when sharp acceleration is called-for. This engine also meets the EU 6 legislation.
  • Nissan’s replacing the 2.0dCi diesel engine (with manual transmission) in the Qashqai and Qashqai +2 with a new 1.6: this emits just 129g/km of carbon dioxide and delivers 62.8mpg. Yet-more economical models with stop-start, delivering 119g/km, arrive early next year.
  • The revised Honda Insight gets its unveiling in Frankfurt next week: it emits just 96g/km, thanks to tweaks to its CVT gearbox, its air conditioning and its aerodynamics. The ride’s been improved too, apparently.
  • The coroner has ruled a verdict of “accidental death” in the sad case of Judit Nadal, killed last year when her G-Wiz EV collided with a Skoda Octavia. It was noted that the G-Wiz ‘disintegrated’ on impact, offering no crash protection, though no further action is to be taken. The most tragic thing of all is that this accident could so easily have been avoided: Dr. Nadal, an academic at Imperial College and a mother of four, pulled out of a junction into the path of the Octavia whilst talking on her phone. She was also not wearing her seatbelt, though that would have made little difference in this particular crash. More at the London Evening Standard. GoinGreen, importers of the G-Wiz, have defended the safety of the ‘quadricycle’ car, though its former MD  has called for an extension of the ‘L7e’ legislative category from the current 450kg weight limit to allow for the building-in of extra safety features and crash protection.

Wednesday newsbriefs

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Citroen’s launching the DS5 (posh C5-based hatchback) at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The range is to include a diesel-electric Hybrid4 model, with 200bhp, four-wheel drive, an all-electric mode, acceleration boost function, sport mode, six-speed auto gearbox, stop-start and CO2 emissions from 99g/km. On sale next spring. Oh, and Lexus is to show the new GS 450h hybrid for the first time in Europe.

  • Autocar’s driven the Volkswagen Up (1.0 Bluemotion version): “the most modern baby car going and one of the most technically interesting.” Auto Express likes it too, especially that three-cylinder engine.
  • Hyundai will be offering passenger rides in the iX35 fuel cell prototype at the EcoVelocity Show in London next week.
  • Also at EcoVelocity, 3.15-4pm on Saturday Sept 10th: an EV discussion panel with debate and Q+As, featuring TheChargingPoint’s Robert Llewellyn, radio DJ/Nissan Leaf owner Mark Goodier, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, a spokesman from the Nissan Technology Centre Europe plus one special guest tbc.
  • Heard the one about laser-powered cars, giving emissions-free transport, forever? “Still a few problems to solve”, says Autoweek
  • The new Audi S6, S7 and S8 feature a 4.0 TFSI V8 (turbocharged, stratified-charge fuel injection) with cylinder deactivation, energy recuperation and stop-start; fuel consumption improved by up to 25%.  Launch at Frankfurt. Full lowdown at Green Car Congress.
  • Leaf looks like a limo: stretch jobs now available from the Electric Car Company, reports Autoblog Green. One for the more eco-minded hen party, perhaps.
  • Fisker is to source a four-cylinder turbocharged engine from BMW for its ‘Project Nina’ saloon, an extended-range EV due next year (Green Car Congress).
  • Williams F1 is to supply its flywheel energy recovery/storage system, developed for KERS, for use in mass transit and rail systems. It’s just signed a deal with Kinetic Traction Systems Inc. to advance and promote the tech for such applications (Green Car Congress).
  • The Canadian province of Ontario and Magna International are to jointly invest some CAN$400million in the development of electric vehicles (Globe and Mail).

Thursday newsbriefs

July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

A lightning-quick digest of the top stories. First: 4000 new EV charging points for the UK (40 apiece in 100 towns and cities) courtesy of Chargemaster & a privately-funded initiative. Payment 90p a time and a monthly subscription for access to the network. More at The Charging Point; debate continues over public vs. private facilities.

  • Volkswagen’s Up! city car (new Lupo; pictured) will be unveiled in Paris next month in an event prior to the Frankfurt Motor Show. 1.0-litre petrol and 1.2-litre diesel versions first, EVs follow later. Prices from around 10,000 euros, say reports.
  • Scepticism growing about these Russian Yo-Avto low-cost hybrids; word is that they’ll be launching with conventional engines first of all. Reports of lots of interest (not the same as firm orders). Best pics yet at Car Advice (Australia).
  • From 2013, F1 cars will have to run on electric power only in  the pit lane, from KERS (kinetic energy recovery). Much resistance to electrification from Ecclestone and from Ferrari, says F1 pundit James Allen, but a change is gonna come – probably in the form of a series parallel to the mainstream one at first, like the TTXGP for electric bikes.
  • More EV charging points: the US state of Washington is installing Aerovironment quickchargers every 40-60 miles along the I5 and Route 2 major highways.
  • Toyota is doing a $100million deal with Tesla for electrification of the RAV4 – an ongoing programme leading to proper production from 2012.
  • GM and the ABB Group have demonstrated a prototype energy storage system using recycled Volt batteries – a use for them at the end of their automotive life. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Mercedes-AMG is to launch a new 5.5-litre V8 (415bhp) with cylinder shut-off; it’ll go in the SLK 55 AMG first, giving an average 30% fuel saving. Launch at Frankfurt (Green Car Congress).
  • The BBC has checked out the HaloIPT wireless induction charging system for EVs. Yep, wireless is the way to go, and it’s got to be better than battery-swapping.
  • More EV charging, Stateside: mega drugstore chain Walgreens is installing a first batch of 60 charging points in its carparks in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Chicago, and aims to become the country’s largest ‘retail host’ of charging points. It’ll have quick-chargers, too, reports Green Bang.
  • EVs connect to the cloud: Coulomb Technologies has developed services for billing, charging, charging point location and support, battery charge monitoring, car usage monitoring and car-to-grid communications. All connected up on a cloud-based platform (Reuters).
  • And more US EV charging news: IKEA has jumped on the EV train to provide charging points, reports Autoweek – an initial batch of 10 at stores in Arizona, California, Washington and Oregon. With meatballs.
  • DIY EV of the day… is a flying car. Well, a hybrid, with two 450cc engines driving generators, which drive the motors, in a bizarre twin-hulled arrangement. More on the Burt Rutan Model 367 BiPod at Wired Autopia.

Friday newsbriefs

May 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

London mayor Boris Johnson launched Source London yesterday: this scheme integrates all the various boroughs’ EV-charging schemes. Members get an electronic card which will unlock any London charging point, for £100 a year (charging then free). 1000 more charging points in a variety of public places by 2013 (there’s only 150 at the moment), says BJ. Full press release here; to register or find out more, go here.  Nissan has responded quickly to the above by offering 12 months free membership to any Leaf owner living within 40 miles of a Source London charging point. Boris himself took delivery of a Leaf recently (pictured).

  • Seat is starting trials of its Leon TwinDrive plug-in hybrid. A number of prototypes are being tested in the Barcelona area by public authorities and organisations. Petrol-electric, thought to be slated for production in 2014.
  • Ford is to offer five different electric, plug-in hybrid or hybrid models on the Focus platform by 2013 (thanks, @Dan_honestjohn).
  • Volvo Cars has received a 6.57million kronor grant (about £624,000) from the Swedish Energy  Board to develop and test a flywheel KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) in partnership with Volvo Truck and SKF. There’s the potential of 20% fuel savings and six-cylinder-like performance from a four-cylinder engine; in-car testing starts later this summer.
  • No hybrid or KERS-type system in the next-gen Porsche 911, reports Autocar, but when there is a 911 hybrid, it’s likely to be a plug-in.
  • Is government intervention needed to incentivise EV sales, asks Detroit News, or should EV-makers stand on their own two feet? Discuss. 57% of American car buyers said they wouldn’t want an EV, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll; further debate at Good Transport which explains “why electric cars will succeed even though six in ten Americans don’t want them” (via @TeslaMotors).
  • Global sales of 1.25million EVs a year by 2020, according to figures from a battery consultancy (Edmunds Auto Observer).
  • Tesla is hoping to raise nearly $215million in a secondary stock offering; this cash will enable it to develop the Model X crossover.
  • Pictures and video (crash!) of the  Grand Prix de Pau Electrique at Autoblog Green. Check out the Exagon Racing cars developed from the Andros Trophy ice-racers.
  • Saab has restarted production at Trollhatten, thanks to an agreement on investment from Chinese firm Pang Da, and  the all-electric 9-3 ePower trial project is underway again. Construction of a 70-strong  test fleet is going ahead, reports Autoblog Green.
  • Nissan’s helping out the Red Bull Racing F1 team (sponsored by Infiniti) with its KERS tech, reports What Car?, which is a collaboration for mutual benefit. WC? also says that Leaf prices are going to come down as Nissan’s planning to make its batteries in Sunderland.
  • GE Energy Industrial Solutions has launched its Solar Car Port; this be-panelled structure can charge up to 13 vehicles a day from six points, plus power the lights in the parking lot where it lives. More at Green Car Congress.

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