Latest EV sales stats, Gen-Y car rental survey, general news…

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

leaf chargingEV sales fell in the US last month; breakdown of the figures via Detroit News. Just 918 Chevy Volts hit the road (down 10.8% on last January’s figures);although Nissan Leaf sales nearly doubled, to 1,252. Sales of electrified vehicles of all types fell to just over 3.5% of the total US car market. However, this is a fall from a year (2013) in which EV and hybrid sales saw a startling growth, and sales levels are still substantially up on 2011’s results. Falling gas (petrol) prices are thought to be a major factor. (OK, I know that’s a pic of a British Leaf, and indeed, a British Nissan Ecotricity CHAdeMo fast-charger. The 1000th to be installed in Europe, at the Clacket Lane services on the M25, to be precise. But I’m in a hurry this morning).

  • Audi: an all-electric version of the Q8 SUV coming up for 2017, reports Autocar, with the powertrain from the R8 e-tron supercar giving a range of 370 miles; a plug-in hybrid will also be offered, though petrol and diesel versions will continue too. The Q8 e-tron is intended as a Tesla Model X rival and, notably, this mammoth SUV “will meet what Audi planners believe will be a demand for luxury cars that can travel in the zero-emissions city centres of the future”, writes HH. Yep, this is a trend to watch out for. Apparently, however, “Audi believes that at this market level the customers see ‘greenness’ as indivisible from premium values”. Or is that just the right to drive where and when they like, because they can afford to pay for the privilege?
  • US regulators are working to mandate wireless chips for all new cars to enable V2V and V2X communication and ‘internet of cars’ connectivity. Safety is the main motivator, but energy use and congestion reductions are also a consideration. More at Automotive News.
  • Some anecdotal detail on EVs in Norway, where EVs account for one in 100 cars sold and numbers have reached 21,000, at The Guardian. Incentives such as free parking, road tax and toll exemption, the chance to drive in bus lanes, and charging from free (hydro-generated) electricity have played a significant part… but queues for chargers and congestion in bus lanes now issues, says the report.
  • OK, a survey by Enterprise (car hire multinational) comes with an agenda, but some interesting figures for the Gen-Y-disinterest-in-cars debate. Of 1363 25-34 year-old rental customers surveyed at random: 79%  believed that owning their own vehicle was “extremely important”; 68% said their first experience with new automotive technology was in rental vehicles; 53% chose a particular rental vehicle because they wanted to try something new; 88% of then changed their minds about the make and model they rented based on a positive experience; and 28% were motivated to go car-shopping for a new car (compared to 20% across all age-groups). More at Automotive News.
  • Stelios is trying out the peer-to-peer car rental thing: easyCarClub is now being rolled out across the UK following trials in London. More here.

Nissan Leaf on Rio taxi duty; more micro-EVs in Geneva

March 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

With a New Electric Taxi Program, Rio de Janeiro Enters Zero EmiFifteen Nissan Leaf taxis are to go on duty in Rio de Janeiro this year; the first two will serve the Santos Dumont airport and others will follow elsewhere in the city. This follows an earlier trial in Sao Paulo. City authorities have set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 16% 2005-2016 and these electric taxis are part of a plan to “improve the visibility of clean-energy vehicles so that production and consumption models can be changed to a sustainable system”, says the transport department commissioner.  More here. Nissan is the ‘cars’ sponsor for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio, and is to provide 4500 vehicles for the Games and Team Brazil, a fleet which will “prioritize clean energy (ethanol or electricity)”.

  • Nice pictures of the Belumbury electric quadricycles on display in Geneva at AutoblogGreen. The Italian firm has now sold over 100 Dany microcars (including petrol versions) and is showing a concept called Lallo, a doorless beach-buggy variant.
  • And smaller yet: the German-built IMA Colibri single-seater  is scheduled for production next year. It will be positioned as an urban fleet/commuter vehicle, and priced at less than 10,000 euros plus additional battery-leasing. Quote from the company:  “Based on a current market study, IMA sees a market potential of 500,000 customers in the b2b market in Germany. Primary customers encompass carsharing providers, municipalities and delivery and mobile nursing services, for whom the Colibri is economically interesting. Private customers as well are increasingly interested in intelligent traffic concepts which allow for a mix of different modes of transportation like private cars, carsharing, public transportation or rail. Within this mix, the Colibri can cover 80% of the private mobility demand.”
  • Some further thoughts on yesterday’s “transport poverty” debate. How do motoring costs as a percentage of income compare to other travel costs (train fares in particular spring to mind)? Perhaps this is simply about the demands of living on a low income and “poverty” full stop.  And it’s amusing how many of the “I don’t need a car” commenters seem to forget that belonging to a car club, using a car-share vehicle, lift-sharing, getting other people to drive their kids to activities or taking a taxi is still using a car – the latter being even more energy-wasteful than driving yourself, as the taxi driver (probably in a superfluously large vehicle, and if a London cabbie, in a particulate-spewing old diesel as well – has to go pick you up/return without you). You may not need to own a personal car. That’s different.

Rimac Concept_One to debut in London; fuel cell and EV trials; micro-mobility and more

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Another day, another red super-coupe… The Rimac Concept_One is to make its debut at the Salon Privé event, 5th-7th September in Syon Park, London. This Croatian-developed 1850kg machine has four independently-operating electric motors, one at each wheel, giving a faintly ridiculous 1088bhp in total. All this is kept in check by an all-wheel torque-vectoring system, accelerating/braking each wheel up to hundreds of times each second as required. 0-60? 2.8 seconds, top speed is 190mph and range is 373 miles. Not quite sure yet how they’ve managed that, but I guess that at a price of $1million each, anything is possible. A production run of 88 is planned.

  • Also on a supercar note: McLaren has been collecting ideas for a small, minimalist, stripped-down and eco-friendlier high-performance model of the future, and has held a competition for students on the car design course at the Royal College of Art. Pic of the winning design, and more on what the company’s considering, at Autocar.
  • Nissan’s investigating problems with the Leaf’s batteries in baking-hot Arizona: owners have reported loss of range and battery performance, due to the extreme heat the batteries are exposed to. More here.
  • The US Department of Energy has released its final report on its six-year, 180-vehicle fuel cell trial which involved some 3.6million miles and over 33,000 hydrogen fill-ups. The conclusion? Even the earliest cars achieved over twice the (net system) efficiency of comparable petrol models, driving ranges over 250 miles were achieved, and 2000-hour durability of the fuel cell stacks validated. Detailed breakdown of the report at Green Car Congress, report itself here.
  • The California Energy Commission has given a $95,000 grant to a team at UC Riverside to develop an algorithm for routing EVs to maximise their range. This will take into account road conditions and real-time traffic scenarios, type of roads, vehicle load and number of passengers, and work with the car’s navigation system with a view to enhancing range by over 10% (Green Car Congress).
  • More on micro-mobility: the University of Singapore is to run a year-long trial in partnership with the local Toyota business unit, using a fleet of ten Toyota Auto Body COMS (a single-seat micro-EV) for commuting around its campuses. The trial will look at usage of the vehicles, typical journeys, their performance in tropical conditions and the necessary infrastructure to set up larger schemes such as short-term self-service rentals. It’s seen as an important first step in reducing congestion and pollution in high-density cities such as Singapore. More at alphagalileo.
  • BYD is to supply electric buses to Uruguayan transport firms CTS and Buquebus, with a view to getting over 500 on the country’s roads by 2015. The BYD GreenCity buses have a range of 155 miles per charge, reports Green Car Congress.

The hidden agenda behind the Toyota 2000GT EV

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

So Toyota’s 2000GT EV, as shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently, is more than just a fun project… Autocar today quotes Toyota engineer Naohiko Saito as saying that this concept’s powertrain is “an early part of the development process in refining the technology” for a production EV, with an electric city car to appear before a sports car. These vehicles are expected to get a manual gearbox, using a torque-converter to set gear ratios, and Toyota’s hybrids are also to gain a manual-transmission option. This is at least three years away, however.

  • Autocar’s also updating us on Tesla’s upcoming third model-line, scheduled for 2015. This is a BMW 3-Series-type electric vehicle, to cost from around $30,000 (£19,000) and be “more experimental” than the Model S; its platform could spawn a number of variants, even including a pick-up truck.
  • The European Commission has put forward some amended targets for CO2 reduction: an average 95g/km for cars by 2020 with a mandatory 130g/km in 2015, and 147g/km for vans with 175g/km mandatory from 2017. Manufacturers will be fined €95 per vehicle per gram/km over the target, but incentives and “super credits” will be put in place for vehicles emitting less than 35g/km. All detailed nicely at Green Car Congress.
  • Latest on Chargemaster’s POLAR network of EV recharging facilities: it is teaming up with Transport for London’s Source London to install more chargers in London. This private-public partnership will add 200 new jointly-branded POLAR/Source London fast-charge points in the city this year, and the first of these – at the Waitrose store in North End Road, Fulham – went live yesterday. All POLAR members will be automatically enrolled into the Source London scheme and able to use those charging points  from August.
  • Daimler is expanding further into the world of mobility management services with a scheme called moovel, to be piloted in Stuttgart. A mobile app has been developed to integrate information from local transport providers such as train and bus companies with a ride-sharing/car-pooling scheme, and in phase two of the trial, Daimler’s Car2Go short-term rentals will enter the equation as well (thanks, Green Car Congress).
  • Worth mentioning for its name alone, though it’s only a 25mph golf cart/mobility scooter: the Eggasus, an upright three-wheeled EV with all-weather ability, has just gone on sale in California after being a finalist in the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge. Initial models cost from $5000, through a crowd-funding social venture – expect to see more of such set-ups in the EV start-up world. More at Inside Line.
  • The Portuguese police force is the first to use the Nissan LEAF; it has taken delivery of eight, which will be deployed mainly for the force’s Safe Schools initiative and for use in urban centres. Pic and more info at EV Fleet World.
  • EVs by divine decree: the Pope has been given an NWG Zero, a two-seat EV which can do 62mph and 86 miles per charge (not that you’d need all that, around the Vatican). However, it can’t accommodate all the armouring necessary to protect the Pope against assassination attempts, so he’s unlikely to use it; instead, Mercedes-Benz is working on an M-Class plug-in hybrid for Papal duties. More at Green Car Reports.

Midweek news digest: saving Saab, SARTRE, new battery tech and assorted EV snippets

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

And in other news today:

Latest on the save-Saab story: an investment consortium has made a bid for the bankrupt Swedish firm. The group includes a Japanese firm called Sun Investment and a Hong Kong-based firm called National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd; the former “specialises in high-tech environmental projects”, reports Automotive News Europe, and the latter “builds and owns power plants.” Interesting bit is that they have formed a new group called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, which gives a fair clue as to their intentions, and players in the project include a former head of Volvo Trucks. Believe it when it happens, I reckon, though you can follow the story at the ever-hopeful Saabs United.

  • Volvo has carried out the first public-highway demonstrations of road-train ‘platooning’, claimed to save an estimated 20% in fuel: the latest phase of the SARTRE project (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) saw the electronically-controlled, autonomously-driven convoy travel for 200km at 53mph with gaps of just 6m between each vehicle. More from Ricardo, the consultancy which is developing the technology, with video here.
  • More Toyota news: the Prius is now the third best-selling car in the world, with 247,230 sold in the first quarter of 2012. It’s just behind the Ford Focus (277,000) and Toyota’s stalwart Corolla (300,800), with sales boosted by the launch of the Prius C subcompact in Japan. That’s technically not the same car, but never mind, this is calculated on name-plates.
  • Nissan is launching a ‘Leaf to Home’ charging system in Japan; in combination with an EV Power Station device, this enables the connection of the car’s batteries to power a domestic supply, useful in the event of a mains or grid outage or event such as an earthquake. This has been developed by Nichicon Corporation, which has also announced its launch of an ultra-compact 10kW quick-charger, the smallest and lightest of its type.
  • EuropCar has added 30 Opel Amperas to its short-term rental fleets in Brussels and Frankfurt as well as in Amsterdam, where the range-extended EV has been trialled since March. More locations, more countries to follow.

Beijing Motor Show preview: Citroen Numéro 9

April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Citroen is launching its DS line models in China this year, and the Numéro 9 concept car – to be unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show next week – signals the future style of this growing product-range. It’s a slinky ‘shooting brake’ coupe-estate previewing the upcoming DS line saloon (small family-sized, ‘C’ sector), SUV and large ‘D’ sector family saloon which will join the DS3, DS4 and DS5 already on sale alongside the mainstream Citroen line-up.

Numéro 9 also showcases the latest iteration of Peugeot-Citroen’s plug-in hybrid technology; it has a powertrain delivering an average 166mpg and emitting 39g/km, with a 50km range in its all-electric mode. Total power output is a sporting 295hp, with a ‘boost’ function for quick bursts of acceleration; the Beijing show car features the 1.6 THP petrol engine (225hp/275Nm), but Citroen says that diesel versions will also be offered. The 70hp electric motor drives the rear wheels and the engine the front, giving 4WD capability, and 4WD can be manually selected for slippery driving conditions.

A full recharge of the lithium-ion batteries takes 3.5 hours from a standard domestic power supply, and with both motor and engine engaged, the ‘boost’ function enables acceleration 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds. The engine takes over at highway cruising speeds but otherwise remains on stand-by to supplement the motor as required and when battery power dwindles; top speed is 152mph.

This good-looking concept car is 4.93m long, 1.94m wide yet just 1.27m tall, and it sits on 21-inch wheels with turbine-style details to aid efficient airflow. Citroen promises “plenty of room for rear occupants”, the cabin benefits from glass roof panels – and the plug-in powertrain also enables it to be pre-heated on cold days.  Numéro 9 is finished off with full LED headlights and daytime running lights, chrome trim and a violet-tinted deep black paint.

In other news today:

  • Lithium-air batteries are  “the most promising technology in terms of energy density”, according to a study by battery-maker Axeon, Professor Peter Bruce from the University of St Andrews and Element Energy. The research looked into issues of cost and performance of lithium-ion batteries to 2030, from where lithium-air looks the most viable. Full (100-page) report here for all the detail.
  • One of the first two Nissan e-NV200 electric van prototypes will make its UK debut at the  EV & Low CO2Fleet Show at Silverstone next week. This van is currently being trialled by British Gas, and has also been tested by FedEx in London and the Japan Post Service in Yokohama. It’s due to go into production next year. Other new vehicles which can be driven by show attendees include the Peugeot 208 (with one petrol and three diesel engines which all emit less than 99g/km of CO2), the diesel-electric Peugeot 508 RXH hybrid, the Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 (also diesel-electric) and the Renault Twizy electric quadricycle. A number of recharging infrastructure providers will also be there to explain their fleet solutions.
  • Nice video about the University of Michigan’s solar car project, and the team’s entry in the World Solar Car Challenge, at Translogic.
  • Mitsubishi is building a prototype smart-grid system utilising ‘waste’ EV batteries – which have come to the end of their useful working life in cars – as energy storage units to balance demand/supply and enable overnight charging of a fleet of cars. More on the M-tech Labo project at Green Car Congress.
  • Some debate for a Friday. Autocar’s Hilton Holloway is loving ‘his’ Nissan Leaf, and says that “in the medium term, I reckon any serious luxury car has to have a electric motor driving its wheels, starting with the next flagship Rolls Royce.” Brave words. But down on the ground in the real world – well, the strange bubble that is Brighton – there’s been little usage of the council’s EV charging points, which critics are dismissing as a “green vanity project”. Discuss. Remember, folks, chickens and eggs – more here, too, on the Brighton issue.
  • More debate for a Friday: interesting article at the BBC about wireless automotive technology (connected cars, intelligent traffic flow systems, etc). The answer to making this stuff work is ‘white space spectrum’ and ‘Weightless’ chips, apparently (note the vested interest of the writer). Hmm. A bit over the top, says the Campaign For Better Transport’s @RichardHebditch on Twitter – “wireless and other intelligent transport system technology will help but overhyped claims bit like that for paperless office”. Yes indeed.


Audi R8 etron gets audio

April 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Audi is in the studio, developing synthesised sounds for the R8 etron to compensate for its lack of engine or exhaust noise and to warn pedestrians of its presence. Speakers front and rear on this all-electric sports car will broadcast speed-dependent tones specially-created to give an impression of power. Make your own mind up: video, sound effects and a nice gallery of pics at Wired Autopia.

More news today:

  • Gases venting from an experimental battery pack caused yesterday’s explosion at the General Motors Tech Centre in Warren, Michigan, says GM. One employee was kept in hospital overnight, windows were broken at the Alternative Energy Centre and around 1,100 people were temporarily evacuated. It was the result of ‘extreme testing’ on a prototype battery and nothing to do with the Volt or any production vehicle, GM stresses. More at Detroit News.
  • The US Department of Energy is offering up $4million-worth of funding for development of wireless EV charging systems. Up to four projects researching, integrating and testing the tech will receive the cash; more here.
  • Honda’s American division, meanwhile, is teaming up with IBM and Pacific Gas & Electric on a project to develop communications between electric vehicles and power grids. The Honda Fit EV will serve as a testbed for a system using IBM’s cloud-based platform. More at Green Car Congress. IBM is also working with Slovakian energy provider ZSE to create a recharging and support infrastructure for Bratislava, with a view to building a ‘green highway’ with strategically-placed charging points linking Bratislava with Vienna. More on the VIBRATe project here.
  • Building the European-market Nissan Leaf at Sunderland will reduce its production cost by around a third, reports Automotive News. The UK-built Leafs – to be made from early next year – will be specifically retuned to suit Euro tastes, and will have an improved range and smoother power delivery.

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