Design Concept of the Day: Aston University Team Shelly fuel cell car

July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Just found this: a team of engineering and design undergraduates from Aston University, Birmingham, won the Eco-Design Award at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe in Rotterdam recently. The competition requires teams to travel as far as they can on one litre of fuel; the Team Shelly Aston car, competing in the ‘UrbanConcept’ class, featured a Nexa Ballard fuel cell, a cardboard/plywood chassis and bioresin-infused hessian-fibre body panels. More at the team’s blog.

Winners of the UrbanConcept class, however, were Team Electricar Solution (France), achieving 262.2km per kWhr and setting a new record for battery-electric vehicles; DTU Roadrunners (Denmark Technical University) achieved 611.1km per litre, improving their record from last year and taking the fuelled-car title.  The winning Prototype car came from the GTL-powered Dutch MAC Eco Team (416.3km per litre), and overall winner was the French Team Microjoule-La Joliverie, achieving a petrol-driven 2832.8km per litre. More at the Eco-marathon site.

  • Mazda is to fit regenerative braking to its new Mazda6 next year. The i-Eloop system stores kinetic energy otherwise lost under braking in a capacitor, for use to power the air conditioning, headlights, audio system and other electrical/electronic functions. It’s said to boost fuel economy by 5-10%, reports Autoweek.
  • Mitsubishi intends to offer plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions in all of its new model-line-ups, reports Autocar. After the Outlander PHV which comes next year, the ASX crossover, Mirage city car, next-generation Lancer small family car and even the L200 pick-up are likely candidates for electrification.
  • BMW is investing 125million euros in its factories at Dingolfing and Landshut, which will make components for the upcoming i3 (2013) and i8 (2014). The first assembly line to make batteries for the i-cars has gone into operation at the Dingolfing plant, which will also make the i3’s aluminium chassis structure and its running gear, plus the front axle and front/rear chassis modules for the i8. Landshut is to make the electric motors and range-extenders, high-voltage battery and motor gear units, and CFRP (carbon-fibre reinforced plastic) body panels (Green Car Congress).
  • China’s State Council has announced that it wants 500,000 domestically-built EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015, and for the country to produce 2million plug-in vehicles a year by 2020. By the end of the decade, it wants 5million such vehicles in operation, and for all new passenger vehicles to emit an average 47mpg (34mpg by 2015). The state plan includes research into fuel cell technology as well as development of batteries, lightweight materials and energy-efficient transmissions, reports AutoTech Daily.
  • Protean Electric, which develops and makes in-wheel e-drive systems, is to build a production plant in China (further to the above). It has received $84million in new funding from GSR Ventures, which has bases in Silicon Valley and Beijing.
  • BMW is recalling the small number of ActiveE EVs which have gone out on trial leases, to address potential issues with their electric power steering.

Concept of the Day: Toyota Camatte

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t get too excited: Toyota’s latest EV concept is only kiddie-sized. Unveiled last week at the 2012 Tokyo Toy Show, the Camatte is an attempt to bring ’em to the brand young. It has an electric motor and cheap lead-acid battery, and will do up to 25mph; though not street-legal, it may be sold for use on go-kart tracks.

In other news to kick off the week:

  • Mitsubishi is going to unveil the Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) at the Paris Motor Show. It’s the sister model to the conventional ICE new-generation Outlander, and Mitsubishi claims it’ll be “the first permanent 4WD electric car in series production” (guess that depends on how you define ‘EV’). It features a motor up front, another driving the rear axle, and a petrol engine acting both to drive the front axle and as a generator, giving three operational modes: ‘pure’ (all-electric), ‘series’ (motors plus generator) and ‘parallel’ (engine plus motors). Total range is said to be over 800km, average fuel economy over 150mpg, and carbon dioxide emissions less than 50g/km. Sales will start in Europe next year.
  • Well, Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrids took the 1-2 at Le Mans over the weekend; both the Toyota TS030 hybrids crashed out, one taking the Nissan DeltaWing with it. Let’s hope Anthony Davidson – airborne in one of the Toyotas, and said to have broken two vertebrae – makes a good recovery.
  • The International Transport Forum has researched the additional costs to EV owners over a vehicle’s lifetime: 4000-5000 euros more for passenger cars (compared to their nearest ICE equivalents) and an even more whopping 7000-1200 euros once vans are added to the calculations. However, this depends on mileage and usage – a delivery van doing an average 90km a day could actually save the operator 4000 euros, for example. Detailed summary at Green Car Congress, report itself here.

The electric Evo, EVs for rental, fuel cell Mercs and more Monday newsbriefs…

May 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Meet the electric Evo… this is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution, one of the company’s entrants in the Pikes Peak hillclimb this July. This stripped-out lightweight roadster shares its drivetrain with the production i-MiEV hatchback, and it will be driven by team manager and Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka. Mitsubishi is also entering a stock i-MiEV, to be driven by off-road racer Beccy Gordon. (And other electric contenders include a very nice retro-converted 1995 BMW M3 – check out the video at Jalopnik).

  • Zipcar is adding a Vauxhall Ampera to its car-share fleet in London for a six-month trial period. Meanwhile, Hertz is extending its On Demand scheme to Oxford, where it’s offering ten Nissan Leafs, sited at convenient city locations, from £5 an hour to members.
  • The US federal admin is helping would-be hybrid drivers to calculate their ‘payback time’ – how many miles before savings on fuel cancel out the initially higher purchase price. Check out fueleconomy.gov for more. Is there a similar tool publicly-available in the UK? Nearest things I can find are the very useful running costs databases (and other handy tools) at sites such as Fleet News, though these are, of course, skewed towards fleet/corporate customers and not so easily digestible by private motorists.
  • Engine tech time: researchers at the Texan Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio,  are continuing to develop the Scuderi split-cycle engine. They’ve found that adding the Miller cycle – with a higher ratio in the expansion phase than in cylinder compression – can reduce fuel consumption and enable engine downsizing of up to 50%. Science bit – and link to the paper presented at SAE 2012 – at Green Car Congress.
  • Mercedes-Benz is “on track” to launch a next-generation B-Class F-Cell for the 2015 model-year, to be made in higher numbers, and to launch a fuel cell saloon (probably an E-Class variant) for 2017, reports Green Car Congress. “I am completely convinced the technology has the potential to take over the internal combustion engine, together with pure battery EVs in their niche“, said Sascha Simon, head of product planning for M-B USA.
  • This is supported, not-so-incidentally, by new research from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA) which claims that hydrogen-powered vehicles (in fuel cell, hydrogen-fuelled ICE or plug-in hybrid formats) could account for up to 70% of the car market by 2050. Full lowdown at (again) Green Car Congress.

Nissan DeltaWing, e-bikes, more Tuesday news

March 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

A Nissan-powered prototype called DeltaWing is to run in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and will take some demo laps at Sebring this weekend. The super-aerodynamic DeltaWing features Nissan’s DIG-T 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine with direct injection and turbocharger, developing around 300bhp; it showcases low-drag, weight-reducing tech and despite its small engine and power output (around half that of its competitors, as is its weight and drag) it is expected to run at a pace between than of the LMP1 and LMP2 cars. The driver sits far back – almost over the rear axle – and the car’s engine is rear-mounted; there is a strong rearward weight bias.

The DeltaWing will start from garage 56 at Le Mans – the spot reserved for experimental cars – and carry the number 0; its results will not be classified. Partners in the DeltaWing project include Don Panoz, former F1 driver Dan Gurney and his All-American Racers constructors, the Highcroft Racing team and Michelin Tyres North America, the car’s designer is Brit Ben Bowlby, and drivers confirmed so far are Marino Franchitti and Nissan’s FIA GT1 champ Michael Krumm.

In other news today:

  • EV Innovations is looking for dealers to market the electric truck it’s developed for Bluebird Automotive. Video of the  Bluebird City in action at YouTube, more info to be posted here.
  • Following my ramblings last week about e-bikes and pedelecs (see below), turns out that the University of Brighton is to run a 35-bike trial for six weeks. The researchers will be using GPS and smartphone apps to monitor use of the bikes, studying speed and distance travelled, and work with employers and community groups to look into how they can encourage e-bike usage for commuting. More details from the University here. Incidentally, I was overtaken by an e-bike (not one of the trial models) along the seafront this morning.
  • Aspiring designers are invited to create an urban micro-EV for the future; more on the GrabCAD competition here (thanks, @GreenMotor).
  • Mitsubishi Electric has developed a prototype EV motor with built-in silicon carbide converter, half the size of its existing product. More at Green Car Congress.

Geneva Motor Show #1

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Giugiaro Brivido concept: a good excuse to kick things off with a picture of a red super-coupe. This thing’s got gull-wing doors, of course – which emphasise its Back To The Eighties air – but more pertinently, it does get a modern-day Volkswagen-developed hybrid powertrain with 360hp 3.0-litre engine, giving 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and over 170mph. It’s a four-seater, carbonfibre/aluminium GT with rear-view cameras and steering column-mounted monitors, and iPad-integrated controls for entertainment;it’s said to be fully-functioning and road-capable and, says car design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, “not an object which is destined to remain an unachievable dream. My intention has always been to design something which is close to industrial reality and can easily be released into the market”. Full gallery of pictures and press release posted at World Car Fans.

Digest of other news so far, in no particular order:

  • That Bentley SUV, called EXP 9F: replete with twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 but plug-in hybrid (with V6) and V8 diesel to be offered as options. Should any of its target audience be interested. Ain’t pretty, either.
  • Great news: Nissan is to build the Invitation (Micra replacement) in Sunderland, creating 2000-odd jobs (underwritten by £9million of goverment funding, it has to be said). Could the range include a Renault Zoe-like EV, too? Just a thought…
  • Volkswagen Polo BlueGT has cylinder deactivation, shutting down two of its four cylinders under light demand and when cruising; this sporty 140hp turbocharged 1.4 petrol will thus return 60mpg and 108 g/km (62.8mpg and 105g/km with optional DSG transmission). On sale in mainland Europe in July, UK sales tbc.
  • First pictures of Toyota’s Ft-Bh hybrid concept, proposal for a low-cost hybrid supermini – looks interesting. This could be production-feasible.
  • Mitsubishi has confirmed a 50g/km plug-in hybrid version of the new-generation Outlander SUV for 2013; this will have a 30-mile all-electric mode and 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s also showing the MiEV House, a prototype grid-balancing car/home energy system (as seen in Tokyo last year).
  • Jaguar’s honing the final design of the hybrid C-X75 supercar, reports Autocar: this’ll cost around £700,000 and will have a Cosworth four-cylinder engine, a 60km all-electric range and CO2 ouput of 99g/km.

Mitsubishi EV to climb Pikes Peak; Geneva Motor Show Preview #2

March 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mitsubishi is to run an i-MiEV-based prototype in the legendary Pikes Peak hillclimb in July. The one-off single-seat racing EV – which looks a little like a Smart Roadster, upon first impression – shares its powertrain with the road-going city car, but is lower, lighter and purpose-designed to charge up the 14,110-foot Colorado course. Its driver will be twice-Dakar Rally champ Hiroshi Masuoka.

More news today:

  • Bentley is considering an SUV, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, reports Automotive News Europe. A concept previewing this could be revealed in Geneva tomorrow…
  • Another Geneva preview: Smart Brabus Fortwo ed (electric-drive), with the usual Brabus trimmings, including 17-inch alloys, plus a very lurid-looking green interior trim; Brabus e-bike (pedelec), capable of 25 mph. Press release, picture gallery posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Audi’s revealed the R18 E-tron quattro, its hybrid 2012 Le Mans contender. This features a 3.7 V6 diesel engine driving the rear axle and twin electric motors powering the front wheels, plus flywheel energy storage. More details at Autocar. And Audi’s  planning to filter down its E-tron plug-in hybrid tech through the road car range, starting with versions in the A3, A4 and Q7, from 2014; e-tron models in every model-range by 2020. Full rundown of chairman Rupert Stadler’s annual press conference speech at Green Car Congress.
  • More Geneva: The LC Super Hybrid, created by CPT (Controlled Power Technologies) and the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, is touted as a “micro mild hybrid”. It’s based on a Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI with added electric supercharger, and delivers 50.4mpg and under 130g/km (down from 140g/km) despite a 20hp power boost (to 140hp) and improved acceleration. The tech costs an estimated 750-1,500 euros, and it’s being proposed as a low-cost solution for mass-market engine downsizing. Detailed lowdown at Green Car Congress.

Pininfarina Cambiano; hybrid Routemaster bus on the road, more Monday news

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Pininfarina Cambiano concept – to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show – has four 79bhp electric in-wheel motors and a diesel turbine, reports Autocar. It’s claimed to have an all-electric range of 125 miles before the turbine kicks in as a generator, and can do 170mph and 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. Pictures leaked so far show a 1+2 door layout with a single large driver’s side door and a rear-hinged rear door on the passenger side; there’s a glass roof and LED headlights. Pictures have also emerged of the Infiniti e-Merge (sorry).

  • The first new diesel-electric hybrid Routemaster buses has started operation in London; nice interactive guide at the Guardian. Less than half the carbon dioxide emissions and half the nitrous oxide of their diesel-only equivalents, 40% more efficient; full press release here. Eight of these purpose-designed double-deckers will be in service by the end of May.
  • Tokyo police have been testing the use of their Mitsubishi i-MiEVs as power sources: the EVs were able to keep 20 traffic lights going for 2 hours, which could be useful in the event of outages, reports Cars21.com.
  • Volvo, Goteborg Energi, Ericsson and the Viktoria Institute have teamed up to develop mobile connectivity for EVs: the ELVIIS (electric vehicle intelligent infra-structure) system uses GPS data for car-to-grid communications, billing for electricity usage, pre-set timings for charging and smartphone alerts on a car’s state of charge. Volvo is testing the app in five of its C30 Electric prototypes; the company plans to have 250 electric C30s up and running this summer in a three- to four-year trial.
  • California’s Envia Systems has developed a lithium-ion cell which could halve the cost of a battery and give an electric car a range of 300 miles, reports The Charging Point. The cell’s energy density is improved three-fold – and it could be in production within eighteen months.

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