Concept of the Day: Renault NEXT TWO

February 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

renault next twoBig presentation today from Renault on its vision of an autonomous EV for 2020, and more detail on its Zoe-based prototype. It’s positioned as a delegation of certain driving functions to reduce driver stress, improve safety, and free up driver time to use in-car services such as video-conferencing, online shopping, accessing travel information – with the view to marketplace introduction around the start of the next decade.

The system works in congested traffic on designated ‘protected routes’ at up to 18mph on main roads, with no lane-changing and (note the implications of this) no pedestrians or cyclists (should we expect designated car-zones?).  It includes an auto-parking function which finds a place in a car park (equipped with the appropriate sensors) and then manoeuvres into it, thanks to a camera on the rear-view mirror, a forward-facing sensor which detects markings on the road for positioning, and an all-round ultrasound field, all controlled and integrated by a central processor. It can pick up 3G, 4G, wi-fi, Bluetooth etc via an open-source cloud connectivity system (OS platform-agnostic).

Renault outlines a scenario involving ‘Juliette’, who receives a smartphone alert telling her when to leave for her meeting, how long the journey will take, and the congestion on the way, where ‘delegated driving’ will be permitted. Using her Automated Valet Parking smartphone app, she summons her car to pick her up; it auto-recognises her and adjusts its settings for seat, mirrors, radio etc to her preferences, and its sat nav with head-up display guides her till the delegated driving zone, where it suggests taking over. She enters autonomous drive mode, calls up her working documents and video-conferences a colleague – and when the nav alerts her of further delays, she has the option to switch to her multimodal mobility app. This gives her three options, one of which is to reserve a space in a nearby carpark and buy an e-ticket for the underground; she is guided to the car park and straight to her allocated space, where the valet parking takes  over.

On the way back? This is when it gets a bit more Minority Report. In the delegated driving zone, she passes a billboard advertising a concert and gets the option to buy tickets; then she gets an alert that a friend is nearby, and has a video-call, sharing a photo on a tablet; then her Health & Wellbeing app activates a massage function with relaxed lighting, sounds and scents in the cabin.  I’m surprised she’s not asleep (or irritated beyond belief) by this point, but thankfully the car takes her home (via local tourist information).  Presumably there will be a function so you can stop it telling you about the nearby stately home every time you go past.

Anyway, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has also been named by the French government as leader of the autonomous vehicles project in its 34-plan ‘New Face of Industry’ programme. First step for the project is to finalise the roadmap by the end of March, then to look at necessary amendments to legislation to allow autonomous vehicles on French roads.

Some discussion about the context; Renault makes the point that different nations see autonomous driving as having different benefits. Japan sees it as a way to keep an ageing population mobile for longer; the Netherlands (and others) are concerned with regulating traffic, with a focus on ‘platooning’; a third group sees it as a safety measure. It points out that Europe is already on the way, with auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection and suchlike to be made mandatory. And “NEXT TWO is a realistic prototype which incorporates technologies that are sufficiently well-developed to be built into production models in the medium-term future,” says Frédéric Mathis, project leader.

Some more news, observations, general notes of interest:

  • Cumbria: a £500,000 investment in EV charging infrastructure to address a ‘black hole’. Nine rapid-chargers, 14 fast-chargers, from central funding. More here.
  • An excellent series of well-thought-out articles this week on commuting from Atlantic Cities. Some interesting points about how the availability of off-peak travel by public transport benefits all travellers in this one and this one.
  • Very nice piece by eco-designer/TV presenter/all-round eco good guy Oliver Heath (no, I don’t know him personally, though he is a fellow Brightonian) on a year with his Vauxhall Ampera. Some insight into how it’s changed his driving style and approach; and 95% of his journeys have been electrically-powered. And he’s charging his car from his domestic rooftop solar array, too. His blog in general is a good resource for anyone interested in eco-building, green design and suchlike.
  • Sheffield’s getting a tram-train. More at Wired.



Concept of the Day: Renault Kwid

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Renault-Kwid-4_2812566cJust revealed at the Delhi Auto Show: the Kwid’s a cute little mini-SUV – 3.6m long, smaller than the Nissan Juke – intended as a low-cost urban runaround. It features Renault’s 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine plus dual-clutch auto gearbox, but has been designed to take an all-electric powertrain as well; word is that it’s a fairly serious contender for production, albeit minus the show-car Twizy-ish scissor doors. And the little drone (can you spot it?) – apparently that’s an auxiliary toy, sorry, tool, to fly ahead and check out traffic jams or take pretty action photos.

Concept of the Day: Renault Twin-Z

April 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

renault twinzA preview of next year’s next-generation Twingo – and it’s electric. The Twin-Z is a rear-wheel-drive city car and first demo of the shared development programme with the next-generation Smart four-seater (hence the rear-drive layout), and features a 67bhp/167lb ft motor and under-floor lithum-ion batteries. Its LED-studded exterior and rear-hinged rear doors are unlikely to make production, but it’s a good indication of Renault’s thinking for the real deal. The Twin-Z is on display at a furniture fair in Milan this week, and a three-doored version, TwinFun, is said to be about to make its debut too. Three-cylinder petrol and diesel versions are also to feature in the range alongside this Twingo ZE EV. Styling is by British designer Ross Lovegrove, and further notable features include the use of recyclable materials and an infotainment system controlled via a dash-mounted tablet.

  • Community EV-sharing: villagers from Cilgywn, near Newport, have bought a Nissan Leaf with Lottery money and are setting up a car club. A second car is to follow, with more planned if the idea takes off, and the club has sorted out solar charging in Newport for return trips. More here (thanks, @charliemuss).
  • And the MOPeasy EV-share scheme is now in 10 locations in France… more here (via @POLISnetwork).
  • Hydrogen from the ash produced from incinerating rubbish? Lund University Sweden, is developing a technique which could also lessen landfill. More here.

Renault doing a battery deal, delays Zoe; the Daimler carpool

July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Renault is negotiating a three-way deal with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and battery-maker LG Chem for R&D of next-gen batteries for EVs. They’re expected to sign in September, with a view to production from 2017 at a new factory in France (to open 2015 to make current-generation batteries first).

  • Renault’s pushing back deliveries of the Zoe supermini (pictured) till early 2013, however, due to a software glitch in its infotainment system and integration of data/info on its state of charge (Automotive News).
  • The Delta E-4 coupe is to be a testbed for the Qualcomm wireless charging tech in the London trial (see below).
  • Daimler is investing in, a European social media platform for lift-sharing which has 4million registered users who team up for car journeys  online, on smartphones and on Facebook. Carpooling also sells train, bus and plane tickets. The plan is for this to be integrated with Car2Go in Daimler’s ‘moovel’ mobility management platform.

Midweek bulletin: Jaguar C-X75, Ford C-Max Energi, various EV-charging developments, and eco-tyres

July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

Latest on the Jaguar C-X75: electric motors at both axles, some 500bhp from a 1.6-litre engine with both turbo and superchargers, a rev limit of 10,000rpm, 0-60 in less than three seconds and 200mph. Ah, and an all-electric range of 60km. More at Autocar.

  • Details on a more accessible hybrid: the upcoming C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid will have a range of around 550 miles, says Ford, and it’ll return an average 95mpg (US) from its electrically-assisted 2.0-litre engine. Its all-electric mode gives a range of about 20 miles. The C-Max Energi goes on sale in North America this autumn; no word on Euro sales as yet, but the tech should filter over at some stage. Ford has also announced that its Fusion saloon will be its first non-hybrid model sold in the US to feature stop-start, saving around 3.5% of fuel.
  • Qualcomm, maker of wireless induction-charging systems for EVs, has signed a memorandum of understanding for co-operation with Renault on a trial programme in London, and “preliminary studies of the integration of Qualcomm Halo WEVC technology into some Renault vehicles”. The London trial starts in November and will involve “a cross-section of stakeholders from government departments and agencies to commercial and private sector enterprises”. It will “evaluate the commercial viability of wireless EV charging and gain user feedback on the use of WEVC enabled vehicles.”
  • BMW’s i Ventures division is making a strategic investment in Coulomb Technologies, operator of the global ChargePoint network and maker of EV charging equipment. “ChargePoint is the largest, longest established network with a significantly advanced and mature feature set. This investment will forge a close and strategic relationship as we further our electric mobility offer,” says i Ventures MD Dr Ulrich Quay.
  • GM and OnStar are contributing to a smart-grid research project with Pecan Street Inc., which is studying the domestic energy usage of volunteer citizens in a testbed community in Austin, Texas. 66 EV owners, including 55 Chevy Volt drivers, are taking part in the trial and will feed back info on their driving and charging habits. The Mueller community has been developed on a former airport site to be a sustainable mini-city with energy-efficient buildings, infrastructure and clean energy supply. More at Green Car Congress.
  • ‘Natural latex’ sounds a bit kinky, but it’s apparently suitable for making sustainable-source, oil-free car tyres. The first prototypes have been made by Dutch firm Apollo Vredestein, a partner in the EU-Pearls project, from a natural rubber synthesised from  guayule and Russian dandelion plants. The former can be easily grown in Mediterranean countries, the latter in northern Europe. More at alphagalileo.
  • Goodyear, meanwhile, has been experimenting with soybean oil (in a project funded by the United Soybean Board): possibility of a 10% improvement in tread life, and the saving of seven million gallons of oil a year, reports Green Car Congress.

Seat shows economical new Leon; build your own electric speedster; tech titbits

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Seat is to launch the third-generation Leon at the Paris Motor Show, with sales to start towards the end of the year. The Spanish-built member of the Volkswagen Golf family is to get engines from 1.2- to 2.0-litres, all direct-injection and turbocharged, and fuel consumption is improved by an average 22%. Most economical will be the 1.6 TDI diesel (104bhp/184lb ft), which will deliver 74.3mpg and emit 99g/km in Ecomotive form with stop/start and brake energy recuperation. The 2.0 TDI Ecomotive (148bhp/236lb ft) will do 70.6mpg, and petrol-wise, watch out for the entry-level 1.2 TSI (85bhp or 104bhp). Seat’s hinting too that the range will expand beyond the sole five-door body-style of the current line-up, too.

  • “If we think of ourselves as a mobility company rather than just as an auto provider, that really opens up possibilities”, said Bill Ford at the recent ‘Go Further With Ford’ trend conference. This thinking involves integrated public-private transport systems, autonomous and networked vehicles, and new business models. Meanwhile, Renault has launched a scheme called MOBILIZ, to include mobility schemes, low-cost car rentals, car-pooling and micro-community transport, and social finance schemes to aid mobility for  people on low incomes. Via  Green Car Congress; more on Renault MOBILIZ here.
  • Detailed story on wireless EV charging and cordless induction charging mats at Detroit News today. Some serious money’s going into developing this stuff.
  • New figures from McKinsey indicate that the price of an EV lithium-ion battery pack, including cells, management software and packaging, could fall to an average $200 per kilowatt-hour by 2020 and to $160/kWhr by 2015 (current price is $500-600). The break-even point for total cost of ownership parity with an ICE vehicle is $250, it claims. The cost reductions will be brought down by a combination of economies of scale, lower prices for individual components, and improved technologies to improve battery capacity. Full report at McKinsey Quarterly, edited highlights (no sub required) here.
  • EV batteries are expensive, and preventing them from overheating is difficult: however, researchers at the Frauenhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology, Oberhausen, have come up with a coolant claimed to be three times more effective than the usual water-cooling. CryoSolplus combines water with ingredients including paraffin and glycol, absorbs three times as much heat as water alone, is more effective at conducting heat away, and can be used in smaller quantities, thus saving on weight and packaging. More at alphagalileo.
  • The Schaeffler Group says its thermal management module can boost a car’s fuel efficiency by 4% compared to a conventional thermostat. It gives more precise control of engine and transmission temperatures, with quicker warm-up. It’s now fitted in Audi’s latest four-cylinder engines (AutoTech Daily).
  • DIY EV of the Day: the Modi-Corp Pius (no ‘r’). It’s an open speedster-style kit car (pictured below), but before you get too excited, it’s just a low-speed single-seater (classed in Japan as a motorised bicycle) intended for assembly by students at engineering colleges and mechanic training centres (via

Tuesday news round-up; latest on Tata eMo

June 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Latest news on the Tata eMo project: the first feasibility study, carried out with Dassault Systems’ 3DExperience Platform simulation tech, has been completed, reports First Post. The eMo programme is researching a sub-$20,000 EV; a concept was shown by Tata Technologies at the Detroit Motor Show.

  • Renault is evaluating high-performance Renaultsport and Alpine-branded EVs, reports Autocar. Nothing more concrete than that at this stage, but it’s a thought.
  • Toyota is to supply BMW with hybrid and fuel cell technology, reports the Nikkei, in addition to lithium-ion batteries for use in hybrids and EVs as agreed earlier this year. The two companies have already agreed a diesel engine deal, with BMW supplying Toyota  its smaller oil-burning units.
  • Driver assistance technologies can bring benefits in terms of fuel economy as well as road safety, driver behaviour and cost savings, according to a report by the euroFOT (Field Operational Test) consortium. 1000 cars and trucks fitted with tracking software, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, speed regulation, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, curve speed warning and a ‘safe human/machine interface and fuel efficiency advisor’ were studied for 12 months. The cars returned a 3% fuel efficiency improvement, the trucks 2%.
  • The US Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority are putting $4.4million into installing a network of over 325 public EV recharging points in New York city and across the state. Full press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • How does smart grid tech and EV charging fit into Web 3.0, the cloud and the ‘Internet of Things’? Nice piece by SINTEF (a Scandinavian research institute working in partnership with the Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim, and the University of Oslo) at Alphagalileo.

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