Concept of the Day: Citroen CXperience

August 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

citroen-cxperience-14Paris Motor Show is promising a fair few exciting things: am liking the Citroen CXperience Concept, for a start. The ‘CX’ reference is no mistake – it revives the idea of a big luxury hatchback, albeit this time with rear-hinged rear doors, full connectivity and, making it of interest here, a PHEV drivetrain set to make it into the Peugeot-Citroen production range. In the CX it’s delivering a useful 60km all-electric range, 150-200hp plus 80kW from the motor to give a total 300hp, plus eight-speed auto gearbox. Charging takes 4.5 hours on a standard socket or less than 2.5 hours at 6.6kW (via a connector to a 32-amp socket). As a way to ease people into electrification, it looks like a comfy one, even if the citrus yellow interior [see here] is not to everyone’s taste.

vision-mercedes-maybach-6-3One from last week: the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept, a 6m-long luxury 2+2, is a bit of an aerodynamically-optimised stunner, and its 750hp all-electric drivetrain is surely showcased with real-life application in mind. Range of 500km, and a quick-charge capability to zap up for another 100km in five minutes. [More pics here].

  • Beijing-based Techrules has hired the Giugiaro studio to develop its GT96 concept for production. Not just a design story: the GT96 super-coupe is an EV with micro-turbine recharging range-extender tech. More here.
  • Volkswagen is working with the city of Hamburg on a three-year strategic mobility programme: this will look at new urban mobility concepts, intermodal transport, traffic management, autonomous driving and parking, vehicle concepts and pollution control, positioning Hamburg as a ‘model city’ and testbed for experimentation in both freight and passenger transport. Meanwhile, Porsche has opened a Digital Lab in Friedrichshain, Berlin to look at IT solutions for ‘exclusive and dynamic mobility’- the use of innovations in big data, machine learning, cloud tech, IoT etc, for practical solutions. Teams at the Lab will cover project phases from trend-spotting and ideation to building IT prototypes and platforms.
  • Gamification can help increase acceptance of e-mobility projects and services, a study at Fraunhofer IAO has found. Case studies in Finland, Estonia, Denmark and Norway showed that when game-like techniques were used to involve customers in the development process for services, the more successful they were, and the earlier customers were involved in the ‘co-design’, the better. More here; full report here.
  • A Canadian start-up is proposing a new business model for selling and marketing EVs and PHEVs: a cross-brand platform with both online sales and physical showrooms to market electrified vehicles only. Idea is that it will make shopping around and making comparisons easier, and we’d hope for specially-trained and EV-enthusiastic salespeople as well. More on the EVEN Electric plans here.
  • Here’s a step forward, at least in Germany and the Netherlands: aggressively-expanding mapping provider HERE is collaborating with EVSE tech company Virta on providing data on public EV charging points, including those off-street. Data can be filtered by connector type, pricing, availability and other factors; more, um, here.
  • Report from MIT: electric cars can meet US drivers’ needs 87% of the time. And to help drivers work out when they’re going to need an ICE, the team s developing a predictive app to assess the risk of battery drain for a planned journey – so they can take the household’s other car, borrow a vehicle or access one via a shared, on-demand scheme or similar. This will take into account factors including distance, time spent at highway speeds, weather and temperature. The MIT research is also optimistic that the US grid can cope with increased EV charging, with only minimal changes needed. More here.
  • PHEV drivers – running on electricity 55% of the time, at least in Norway. A survey of 8000 owners by the Institute of Transport Economics, Norwegian Centre for Transport Research, found that PHEVs were typically owned by younger people with more children than average, with long work commutes, and multiple vehicles in their household; they charged mainly at home, partly at work but rarely elsewhere, except using fast-chargers on out-of-routine longer trips or to solve issues when out and about. Handy summary here, full report here.
  • Interesting rundown of state of play re. electromobility in Berlin at electrive: the city’s not doing quite as well as you might expect, as “the analogue island in a digital mecca” (nice). Though Berlin has a lot more public charging points than many cities, there’s still not a lot, rapid-charger provision has been slow, there’s a confusing and obstructive series of different providers and networks, varying, unpredictable and often high pricing, and chargers frequently blocked by ICE vehicles, it seems. Cross-provider apps for accessing and paying for charging aren’t quite there yet, either, with slow integration, they report.
  • Are ‘pioneer’ EV drivers – early-adopters – different to mainstream car buyers? Research (Axsen, Goldberg & Bailey, 2016) from Simon Fraser University, Canada, suggests (unsurprisingly) that yes, they are, and that they illustrate the ‘chasm’ between early visionaries and later pragmatists in the diffusion-of-innovations/Technology Adoption Life Cycle model. 1900 Canadian new-car buyers were surveyed; 1,750 in English-speaking Canada (2013) then 150 who bought plug-in vehicles in British Columbia, 2014-15. The ‘pioneers’ were happy to pay extra to be part of a revolutionary advance, and were prepared to accept inconvenience and risks’; they preferred all-electric cars (just about) over PHEVs. But even the ‘potential early mainstream’ buyers preferred evolutionary change and were unwilling to compromise; they overwhelmingly preferred the idea of a PHEV. A factor in this may have been that more of them (43%) lived in one-car households (only 17% of pioneers); the pioneers also had higher income, education, and greater access to recharging facilities, were much more engaged with the environment and tech in terms of their lifestyle, and were 5x more likely to value renewable electricity and to be prepared to pay much more for ‘green recharging’. Handy digest of the research at Green Car Reports.
  • Interesting paper here from Italy on gamification ‘to incentivise sustainable urban mobility’ – an EU-funded research programme and trial in Rovereto (north-east Italy) saw 40 people use an app for their daily itinerary planning over five weeks, with increasing levels of points-gathering and rewards for choosing more sustainable or healthy transport options. There was a significant shift noted towards reduced car usage, with gains for walking and cycling a privately-owned bike, though the incentives weren’t judged sufficient to get people using the city’s new bike-share scheme.
  • A new third-party route-planning tool (cross-platform and device) for EV drivers incorporating both vehicle and charger data has been launched in the US. EVTripping as yet only supports Tesla models, but plans to expand, funded by on-website ads and, later, subscriptions. Its algorithms are said to take into account data from the vehicle (i.e. state of charge), weather conditions, temperature, elevation, speed, payload etc.,  and give info on charging rates, power usage and driving time: the submitted data adds a crowdsourcing element to it, adding to the intelligence.  Looks professional and comprehensive; interesting to see how this develops.
  • And eco-driving training: ineffective after six months, when drivers just return to their old habits, according to a study from TUM Munich, and useless, even short-term, unless incentives are offered to the drivers to save fuel.
  • Paper in Applied Energy looks at governance for a transition to electromobility by 2050: Nilsson and Nykvist (2016) model both incremental and breakthrough scenarios, and conclude that strong interventions are needed in the next 5-10 years to reduce costs, build consumer knowledge and industry confidence, provide accessible charging infrastructure and support structural change in the auto industry. They [note to self!] use an MLP analysis to suggest that this could also lead to formation of a new regime involving energy supply, digital connectivity, wider mobility, etc. Which is pretty much what I’m arguing for.

Friday news round-up

January 15, 2016 § 2 Comments

mitsu outlander phevYear-end totals for plug-in car sales in the UK: 28,188 registered in 2015 (of 2.6million overall, but a significant growth in market share nonetheless). Of these, 18,254 were plug-in hybrids and 9,934 (48%) all-electric. 9,186 of the total were registered in south-east England, but 4,420 went to the south-west and 3,371 to the West Midlands. Top-seller was, inevitably, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (11,681; latest version pictured), followed by the Nissan Leaf (5,236) and then the BMW i3 (2,213). Estimates from the government currently put plug-in cars as taking a 5% market share (around 100,000 a year) by 2020.

And estimates of electrified vehicle sales (incl. hybrids) cross-Europe stand at 2.2million a year by 2021, says PwC Autofacts; that’s a growing share, but still, let’s face it, pretty damn tiny in the great scheme of things. It’s also forecasting a dip in PHEV sales in Europe as government subsidies and tax breaks are being canned, i.e. in the Netherlands, although all-electric vehicle production is expected to rise. More here.

  • The Fraunhofer IKTS research institute, Thyssenkrupp and IAV are working on an EV battery project: EMBATT aims to develop a more compact, more affordable and longer-range concept with cells integrated into the car’s chassis. A 1000-km range is targeted. More here.
  • And BMW is working with the Viessmann Group on ‘digital energy solutions’ to optimise energy use, including static storage systems, for decentralised and flexible electricity supply. Better-integrating electromobility and its demands into (renewable) energy supply, I think is the gist of it.. more here.
  • The Ubeeqo ‘mobility platform’ (majority-owned by Europcar) has launched in London and Paris, with other cities to follow: this gives access to cars on-demand via a service called Matcha (from £6 an hour, incl. fuel for the first 50 miles); conventional rental from Europcar, and taxi-booking. A range of public transport options are to be added. Effectively, it’s streamlining/aggregating access from different service providers; this is part of the start-up’s portfolio of corporate solutions, but now extended to private individuals. Not quite the ‘super app’ talked about by Bosch here, but a step in the right direction… (and meanwhile, the car-makers are all circling to negotiate their position in all of this; some detail on Audi’s current thinking here).
  • On a further note of consolidation, the Uber API has been integrated into a (US) app called TransLoc Rider, which combines private and public transport options to facilitate multi-modal journeys and commutes. This will debut in Memphis and Raleigh/Durham next month. More here.
  • And a different business model for car-sharing/on-demand: WaiveCar, just launched in California (Santa Monica and Venice Beach, says electrive.com) gives the first two hours free and then charges $5.99 an hour thereafter. But… the cars are rolling advertising billboards, funding the service.
  • Amsterdam’s aiming for 4000 EV charging points, using wind-generated electricity, by 2018, with 1500 already; partner in the expansion is EV-Box, also aiming to kit out the Benelux countries.
  • The biggest auto industry trend to 2025? Connectivity and digitalisation, says this year’s KPMG International Global Automotive Executive Survey (800 executives in 38 countries, plus 2100 consumers). Major business model disruption is also thought to be likely in the next five years. Leverage data from car and driver, says KPMG, to become a customer-oriented service provider. BMW and Toyota are expected to lead in e-mobility and autonomous driving – not least due to their strong brands and breadth of product portfolios compared to the upstart start-ups like Tesla.

 

 

Detroit show snippets, more on mobility…

January 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

2016_NAIAS_Kymeta_Mirai_02Snippets from the Detroit motor show this week (no, no Panic in Detroit… aaaah): first up, some satellite tech from Kymeta, maker of flat-panel antennae, fitted to the roof of a Toyota Mirai. Liquid-crystal chemistry plus software means no mechanical componentry and easy integration, plus “much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies”, says Toyota. It’s said to be stable, giving broad global coverage and common standards – and could just be the enabler for next-gen connected-car, autonomous and vehicle networking systems. Ground control to… no, stop it.

  • Volkswagen’s Tiguan GTE Active concept – toughened-up version of its smaller SUV – is a hybrid with an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. Squeezes out a claimed 75mpg (US) from the 1.4 TSI petrol engine with an electric motor driving each axle; more here. Not a gamechanger but, well, better than a diesel SUV, I suppose.
  • Audi, meanwhile, has turned its e-tron quattro into a fuel cell-driven SUV, now h-tron; 124mph, a 373-mile range and a four-minute hydrogen refuelling time, apparently, with production on course for 2020.
  • Interesting in that this takes electrification to a different sector: there will be a PHEV version of the new Chrysler Pacifica (replacement for the Town & Country/Grand Voyager big MPV), giving a claimed all-e range of 30 miles. Given the short daily-drive routines of people-carriers like this, appropriate. Also, lowdown on Ford Fusion (US-market Mondeo) hybrid and Energi (PHEV) versions here: Fusion Energi does 19 miles in all-e mode, they say.
  • And in terms of non-metal product, Ford is launching a service called FordPass in February: free membership, open to non-Ford owners, with reward/loyalty scheme, parking space location/reservations app, FlightCar (borrowing/sharing cars), mobility/transport advice, FordPay mobile payments and more to come, all linked up to FordHubs (‘innovation centres’ rather than trad dealerships, one coming to London). More here.
  • Survey from IBM presented in Detroit: A New Relationship – People and Cars; notes that consumers are interested in autonomous, self-driving and adaptive, preference-learning vehicles, but don’t necessarily want to own one. The study – 16,494 consumers in 16 countries interviewed – looks at expectations of vehicle use in the next ten years, and concludes that the private car will continue to be a primary mode of transportation nonetheless. However, there is interest in part/shared ownership of cars, access by subscription and on-demand ride-sharing, and automakers need to develop new revenue-streams, buyer experiences and customer models. More in handy digest here.
  • In non-Detroit news: research for BMW at MIT has developed a photovoltaic polymer film to capture and store solar energy to de-ice windscreens. Implication is that this could mitigate against the estimated 30% range reduction in an electric vehicle due to heating, cooling and de-icing. More here.
  • Pipping the Bollore cars to the (charging) post, E-Car Club has launched in East London: £5.50 per hour, Renaults Zoe and Fluence in Poplar and Bow. More here.
  • Though incidentally, some research from Erasmus University is suggesting that car-sharing and car clubs don’t lead to mileage reductions, and that displacement from public or active transport can actually mean more car use. Reductions are seen only in specific scenarios when club car use replaces a single high-mileage private car, or when drivers are truly convinced of the benefits, apparently. Original paper – in Dutch – here (I think)…
  • …but more significant benefits can be seen in wider Mobility as a Service (MaaS) trials, such as one in Gothenburg, which involve modal shift and a wider range of transport choices/incentives. More on the UbiGo project here, too.
  • Report on London’s air quality issues (NOx, primarily, these days) from The Policy Exchange; concludes that diesel cars remain main culprits and the ‘improvements’ from Euro 6 compliance may be overstated, with gas-fired CHP (combined heat and power) systems a further concern. Some handy references involved.

 

Tokyo show stars and more…

October 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

nissan idsQuick rundown of – my pick of – Tokyo motor show debutantes and show stars: first up, Nissan IDS, previewing the next-gen Leaf as well as Nissan’s upcoming autonomous tech (production, 2020). It features manual drive and a ‘learning’ automated Pilot Drive mode, said to mimic the driver’s own style and preferences; in this, the steering wheel retracts into the IP, and all four seats rotate inwards a little, under atmospherically dimmed lights. More clues to the next Leaf – or a new member of the Leaf family – include optimised aerodynamics, lower height, wheels pushed out further to each corner, super-thin tyres, and wheels with a fin-type design to smooth air flow. Oh, and a 60kW battery, wireless induction charging, reduced weight (thanks to a carbonfibre body) and the promise of “long distances” between charges. Automatic parking, too. More here. (And the dead cute Teatro for Dayz is – theoretically – electric and autonomous, too).

Latest news from Gordon Murray Design with its iStream Carbon chassis tech in the Yamaha Sports Ride Concept sports car; the structure is said to be affordable, suitable for high-volume production, and thus brings F1 lightweighting to everyday vehicles via the GMD iStream production process. The Lexus LF-FC previews the next-gen LS and features a fuel cell powertrain; Honda’s fuel cell rival for the Toyota Mirai is called Clarity and it’s coming to the UK; on a more conceptual note, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo (an autonomous minivan-like mobile lounge for young people in future megacities…) also features an ‘electric hybrid’ fuel cell powertrain with induction charging and total 980km range. And the all-electric Mitsubishi eX compact crossover concept has been well-received, too.

navya armaAway from Tokyo… Another autonomous electric bus has been launched this week: the Navya Arma, which can carry up to 15 people at up to 45kmph (on private sites, at the moment, its French makers suggesting industrial sites, airports, amusement parks, hospitals and tourist resorts as potential applications as well as urban areas). It can be induction-charged, and is now in production; three were seen in action at the ITS World Congress in Bordeaux, shuttling 1500 people on 2km trips between centres.

  • Two US surveys: the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange questioned 990 EV owners and enthusiasts, and concluded that they were primarily “very well educated, upper-middle class white men in their early 50s with ideal living situations for EV charging”, reports USA Today. Almost all owners had their EV as their primary vehicle, but interestingly, “energy independence, and not environmental anxiety, was the primary reason that these respondents became interested in electric vehicles”. JD Power, meanwhile, has declared that EV prices must come down, and that public infrastructure must improve, if sales are to grow beyond a small proportion; this is despite large savings on fuel bills found in a survey of 7,600 owners who saved an average $147 a month on gasoline but saw their utility bills rise by only $18. One in three owners took advantage of discounted off-peak electricity tariffs; 43% charged their vehicle away from home, and when they do, 85% charge somewhere free. Average daily commute is 34 miles, and only 11% suffer range anxiety, apparently.
  • Am liking the sound of the Power Road: not just incorporating solar panels and wind turbines on bridges and other structures, but generating more energy over its lifespan than it cost to make. This SINTEF project in Norway is looking at electricity-generating materials for EV charging, as well as locally-sourced, low-energy materials for construction.

Concept of the Day: Rinspeed Σtos

October 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

rinspeed etosRinspeed’s next concept is to be shown at CES in Las Vegas next year: the Swiss consultancy’s latest creation is a hybrid sportster called Σtos, complete with ‘learning’ autopilot function, an adaptive interior with a steering wheel that folds away and retracts into the dashboard in autonomous-driving mode, two curved info screens, a full suite of connected-car tech from Harman – plus an accessory drone with landing pad on the car’s tail end. So far, so Rinspeed, but note the departure from the firm’s usual protocol of a local reveal at the Geneva show. Canny Frank M. Rinderkneckt says: “The major and especially the disruptive innovations in future automotive engineering will come from the digital realm. That is why all major manufacturers and suppliers are now present at the CES Consumer Electronic Show.” Indeed.

  • The Transport Systems Catapult’s Intelligent Mobility: Traveller Needs and UK Capability study reports: 75% of journeys have ‘pain points’, 57% of travellers are always looking to optimise journeys; ‘start-stop’ traffic and parking are biggest pain points for drivers (12% each); multi-modal journeys are particularly painful; 31% of journeys wouldn’t have been made if virtual mobility had been possible. This involved 10,000 online questionnaire respondents, 50 company interviews, 100 expert interviews. Their answer? It’s in the emerging intelligent mobility industry, using tech incl autonomous vehicles (39% indicating they’d consider them), exploiting mobile data for user-focused integrated, efficient, sustainable transport systems. 4 transformational themes for roadmaps have been identified – Access, Automation, Demand and Supply, Integration: each could revolutionise travel (people and goods) but greater step change is possible if they’re combined, it concludes.
  • In the week Tesla took the headlines for its autonomous-features introduction, and Toyota formally launched its Mirai fuel cell car (fleets to go to Transport for London, private hire firm Green Tomato Cars and hydrogen co ITM, in the UK), Swiss (again) start-up nanoFlowcell AG updated us on progress on its Quant F super-coupe (heading towards European Type Approval and small-series production) and its embarking next year on construction of ‘Quant City’, 25,000sq-m R&D centre in Tenero, Switzerland. This is where its flow cell batteries (salt-water electrolyte, to be ‘swapped’) and the car itself will be developed and built. Expect also for the batteries to be promoted for use in energy systems for buildings as well as “applications in shipping, aerospace and rail traffic.”
  • EVs and PHEVs could account for 30% of vehicle sales in Europe by 2030, according to a study ‘Scenarios for the Electrification of Transport’, published by the ScelecTRA (Scenarios for the Electrification of Transport) project, reported here. ScelecTRA is one of the EU-funded Electromobility Plus programmes.
  • Aiding the above, Volvo’s announced plans to put a PHEV version in each of its model-ranges, as well as to “develop an entirely new range of electrified smaller cars and build a fully electric car for sale by 2019.” Medium-term forecasts – two years’ time – are for electrified vehicles to account for up to 10% of its sales. First up will come PHEV versions of its ’90-series’ and ’60-series’ vehicles, with the XC90 T8 Twin Engine PHEV already on sale; S90 PHEV is upcoming, as well as front-wheel-drive PHEVs. The anticipated 40-series small cars are based on Volvo’s new architecture said to have “been designed from the outset for electrification.” Interesting footnote: feedback from Twin Engine cars so far suggests that they’re driven in electric mode around 50% of the time.
  • Latest registration figures from the SMMT: 20,992 people bought a plug-in car in the first nine months of this year (up 138.5% on last year’s figures). Uptake of PHEVs was biggest, though, up 226.5% to 14,041 year-to-date; this marks a 1% share of the UK car market for cars with plugs. Breakdown of YTD figures: 9,303 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs, 4,285 Nissan Leafs, 1,564 BMW i3s as the top three.
  • India’s Mahindra & Mahindra plans to bring a four-door version of its E2O EV to Europe, reports electrive.com. This car will be launched next summer, and a UK distribution centre is to be set up, apparently.
  • Auto Club Europe is launching a PAYG charge card for EV-owning members; this will give access to 25,000 facilities across Europe, with charging to be, er, charged according to operators’ tariffs, but there will be no admin fee. ACE is also offering a tow-to-nearest-charger service for members who run out of range (electrive.com).

 

Frankfurt Motor Show: quick round-up

September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

FullSizeRender-14FullSizeRender-12OK, quick precis of the mammoth metal-fest that is the Frankfurt Motor Show… Most jaw-dropping for me design-wise was the stunning shark-nosed Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA – how to nod to your history yet produce something futuristic as well – and it also happened to have a PHEV powertrain. Much of the tech and interior styling of the self-driving F015, very cool extending rear louvres and other speed-sensitive flaps/spoilers enhancing its already slippery aerodynamics, and the considerable probability that it’s previewing the next CLS.

IMG_1124FullSizeRender-3Closer to a production car, however, was the all-electric Porsche Mission e; also a four-door, four-seater coupe, this one promises 600hp+, 0-62mph in less than 2.5 seconds and a range of over 500km plus 800-volt ultra-rapid ‘Porsche Turbo Charging’ giving 80% of battery charge in 15 minutes. Induction charging-compatible, too. Loved the Peugeot Fractal (see earlier post), effectively an experiment in interior acoustics but also featuring a (functional) 200bhp e-powertrain with a motor driving each axle plus a 450km range; however, was underwhelmed, at least aesthetically, by the three-motor, 800Nm, 130mph Audi e-tron quattro, though  it does have an interesting button-free cockpit and also a 500km range…

FullSizeRender-1Otherwise, the Borgward BX7 SUV (PHEV variant promised) wasn’t exactly exciting, but the Nissan Gripz concept (pictured)FullSizeRender, a high-riding 2+2 inspired by the Safari Rally-winning 240Z (like the thinking) and with (theoretical) electrified powertrain, was great fun. BMW showed four new plug-in hybrids, 740e, 330e, 225xe and X5 XDrive40e, Volkswagen is promising a GTE PHEV version of the new Tiguan, and Toyota had three new hybrids – an updated/nearer -production C-HR concept (small SUV), new-generation RAV4 Hybrid (bigger) and of course, the Mk4 Prius, as well as its Mirai fuel cell car, making its Euro debut.

FullSizeRender-20Reborn Artega is hoping to make a limited production-run of its Scalo (updated, electric version of the GT) and, importantly, its parent company has a whole load of EV tech to licence, although the electric Roding roadster turned out to just be a rolling showcase for Siemens. However, the prize for total batshit craziness had to go to the Thunder Power EV (see earlier post), seen in Frankfurt in white-painted luxury-spec and also tricked out as a hardcore GT racer. Turns out this Taiwanese wannabe-Tesla has been designed by Zagato.

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Concept of the Day: Thunder Power EV

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

thunder power EVTo be revealed at Frankfurt next week, the Thunder Power EV is all a bit mysterious as yet, but the company is promising that it “will have a long drive range, short charge time, lighter weight and will be competitively priced relative to the equivalent competing ICE.” Looks like a sports coupe, from the preview shots on the website, and the blurb accompanying an invite to the press conference/unveiling claims a range of over 600km, 0-100km acceleration in less than five seconds, 320kW of power plus a 250kmph top speed, suggesting it’s reasonably high-end. Also, “dedicated EV architecture”, “revolutionary powertrains” and “European engineering wrapped in Italian design.” So who are Thunder Power? Originally a Taiwanese power tool-maker, it seems, which has lately gone into biotech as well as electric vehicles, for which it has been developing “a number of proprietary technologies”. It has outposts in Taipei, Hong Kong, Hangzhou and Shaoxing in China, plus Milan, and has hired some auto industry veterans including Peter Tutzer as Chief Technical Officer (former technical director at Lotus, working on Elise, Exige and Evora, technical director at Bugatti) and chief production officer Franz Schulte (30 years planning prototype-building and production engineering at Ford, then at EDAG). Which may signal a. some money behind it  and b. some intent for the concept to be more than a showcase for the for-sale technologies. Will go and have a look at this one…

  • Nissan has confirmed significant battery upgrades to give the 2016 model-year Leaf a 155-mile range*. The new 30kWhr battery is the headline news here – but the Leaf will also get an improved NissanConnect EV information/entertainment system to replace the much-maligned and frequently-malfunctioning Carwings set-up. Word on this is that it retains the Carwings functions, “but adds new features, a much-simplified activation process and a new design”, and very importantly, gives a new charging map with real-time information on availability of charging points, plus revised navigation, maintenance alerts and a car-finder function. There’s a new 7-inch touchscreen interface. *Of course, this is the under-lab-test ideal-world figure; real world results may vary, etc etc. Full lowdown incl. UK pricing for the revised cars, on sale for December delivery, here.
  • Chargemaster has launched its new (British-built) Ultracharger EV rapid-charger this week: this enables PAYG payments via contactless debit or credit cards as well as RFID cards, and can incorporate automatic numberplate recognition. It can charge all vehicles capable of taking up to 50kW, via a choice of three cables, and it is small enough that it can be installed without the need for planning permission. Sales of 1000 a year are targeted.
  • Renault is showing off its prototype Kangoo ZE+H2 electric vans with hydrogen fuel cell range extenders this week at the Low Carbon Vehicle show, reports EV Fleet World. Two of these, converted by Symbio FCell, are on trial with Aberdeen City Council as part of a hydrogen-adoption research programme, and are said to have double the range of the standard Kangoo ZE. A similar prototype, ZERE (Zero Emissions Range Extender; based on a Nissan eNV200?) is also being displayed by Intelligent Energy.
  • Feedback from the 18-month My Electric Avenue trial has found that some local electricity networks will need to be upgraded to cope with demand as EV use increases – but that the lower-cost Esprit demand-management system could be a solution rather than cable replacement. The Ofgem-funded project studied ‘clusters’ of EV users (Nissan Leaf drivers) and their impact on their local electricity grids, with Esprit-controlled domestic charging to prevent overloading, and determined that networks can typically cope with 30-50% of customers having EVs before additional investment is required. However, car-makers and the energy industry need to work together “much more closely”, it says.
  • Meanwhile in Toulouse, the Sogrid smart-grid project has kicked off; this is looking at 1000 households, with a view to integrating EV charging, demand management and renewable energy, and developing an international communications standard. More here (via electrive.com).
  • Handy stat: Transport is now the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world – 33% of final consumption (end users), compared to 31% accounted for by industry, and 20% by domestic use, according to new figures from the International Energy Agency. In Europe, industry is still a little ahead of transport in its consumption, but IEA points out that 95% of transport energy use is oil-based, whereas industry uses more of a mix of electricity, biofuels and gas. More here.
  • Toyota is working with Japanese energy companies and local authorities in Japan on a ‘carbon-free’ hydrogen production project – electrolysis of water, using wind power. Trials will take place near Yokohama and Kawasaki, looking at the development of a supply chain and logistics. More here.
  • Borgward – a reborn historic brand-name based in Stuttgart, to reveal a PHEV SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week – has announced a longterm partnership agreement and joint research centre with alt-drivetrain developer FEV GmbH. More here.
  • Ford surveyed 5000 ‘millennials’ (aged 17-34) in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and, far from finding that they’re not interested in cars, predicts a sales boom in SUVs as they reach peak car-buying age. The survey claims that 84% of this age-group think that SUVs have become more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly in the last five years. Mmmm… Reported here.
  • Segmentation/spatial mapping study from the Department for Transport looks at different locations/demographics and their likelihoods of making more sustainable transport choices – downloads and datasets here.
  • TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) is leading a two-year project with partners including EDF, Route Monkey, EV Connect and Aberdeen University to look at integrating energy supply systems/market structures to encourage greater uptake of plug-in vehicles. More on the CVEI programme here; it will also look at consumer responses, and later, run a trial with 300 mainstream EV users.
  • Wrightbus is building a range of electric buses to go on sale next year; single and double-decker versions will be available, with the option of pantograph flash-charging, inductive charging or conventional overnight charging. More here. Oh, and Volvo’s new ElectriCity bus, currently on trial, shows the potential for a vehicle fully-integrated into urban planning, it’s claimed, such as quietly gliding ‘indoors’ i.e. into shopping malls, airport terminals and soforth. More here.

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