More EVs for hire and lease, prepare for Urban Mobility 3.0

June 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Citroen is delivering 100 C-Zero EVs to DB Rent, the car rental division of rail operator Deutsche Bahn, for a car-share scheme in Berlin. The cars will be located at railway stations and S-bahn stops in the city, and will be available for one-way trips; cars and charging points can be located using a smartphone app. A further 400 C-Zeros are on order for DB Rent to make up a large fleet.

In other news today:

  • Bolloré, supplier of the Pininfarina-designed Bluecar EV to the Paris Autolib’ scheme, is now offering the car for lease to private customers and businesses. It’s up for 330 euros a month for a minimum three-month period, and yes, you can have it in colours other than blue, reports Technologic Vehicles. Private cars can get up to 130kph, too (the Autolib’bers are limited to 110kph). Pre-order forms are at the Bluecar website.
  • Mazda is to start leasing a range-extended EV in Japan next year, featuring its hydrogen-fuelled rotary engine as the range-extender, reports The Nikkei. No word yet on which model this will be based, but Mazda is already offering for lease a Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid (more on that here).
  • Liberty Electric Cars of Peterborough is in discussions with California’s Green Automotive Company over joint projects. Liberty is best-known for its e-Range Range Rover electric conversion, and is expected to supply its technology to Green Automotive  of Newport Beach, which has ditched its original plans to produce and sell its own e-SUV and now intends to convert existing vehicles which are already approved for US sale, reports EV Fleet World.
  • Battery tech story of the day: ionic liquid electrolytes could make batteries ten times as powerful as lithium-ion technology and cost less, says Colorado Ionics Corporation. Working in conjunction with ultracapacitors to double energy storage limits, ‘Iolite’ salt electrolytes can operate at high temperatures and voltages, are not flammable and do not evaporate, the company told MIT’s Technology Review (AutoTech Daily).
  • The first Australian-built, right-hand drive Holden Volts hit the road this week, reports EV Fleet World. They’ll be run on a 12-week trial in partnership with the state of Victoria’s government, and all results/findings/data will be publicly shared.
  • Some more detail/updates/general thoughts on the news that Audi may be pulling the plug on its A1 and A2 e-tron. Here at the Charging Point.

Design Concept of the Day: Audi urban concept

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Audi’s simply-named ‘urban concept’ is an ultra-light two-seater, with occupants sitting in a slightly staggered 1+1 arrangement – not quite a tandem layout, as previously rumoured. It’s narrow for slipping through city traffic, thus also aerodynamic, and should prove super-efficient as well; Audi’s also claiming that it has elements of “a racing car, a roadster, a fun car”, as it “concentrates on the pure essence of dynamic motion.” Power comes from two electric motors, with lithium-ion batteries – no more detail than that at this stage – and the cockpit’s constructed from carbonfibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP), which also underpins the seats. The interior’s simple and stripped-down, with adjustable steering wheel and pedals (the driver’s seat is fixed) – and entry is via the tailgate, with the roof canopy sliding to allow access. The freestanding 21-inch wheels have LED-adorned protective (and aerodynamics-enhancing) covers.

The urban concept will be displayed at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month; Autocar reports that there will also be several “less extravagant” interpretations on the same theme, and the reaction of showgoers and the media will be gauged before a design is chosen for production. And there’s the further rumour that Audi is considering a resurrection of the defunct NSU brand-name it owns, to be applied to a range of city cars and perhaps even motorcycles. It’d be appropriate for range-extended e-tron models using a rotary engine, as well…

Bristol Cars coming back – with range-extended EV

August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bristol Cars is coming back with a range-extended electric supercar, reports Evo. Earlier this year, the low-volume British luxury car-maker was bought by Kamkorp Autocraft, part of the Frazer-Nash Group – which makes extended-range electric powertrains. Kamkorp will source a base car from another manufacturer rather than develop a vehicle from the ground up, apparently, but the aim’s for an ultra-comfy four-seater capable of 200mph and 100mpge, with a decent range well beyond that of an all-electric vehicle. The car, pencilled in for 2013, would be a rival for the similarly range-extended Fisker Karma.

Evo’s citing a powertrain with twin electric motors front and rear – giving four-wheel drive – plus a mains-chargeable 14kW/h battery pack, brake energy recovery and a Wankel (rotary) engine acting as an onboard generator. No word yet as to what the donor car might be, but Evo suggests that it will have “a very sophisticated suspension system” and also that Kamkorp’s owner Kamal Siddiqi’s favourite Bristol is the 411 (pictured). Are those clues?

Midweek briefs Mk2

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Audi’s A1 e-tron concept won the Silvretta electric car rally  last weekend. The three-day, 190-mile route through high altitudes and up Alpine ascents included tests for performance, efficiency and overall aptitude The e-tron combines a 75kW electric motor with a 254cc range-extender engine (a rotary unit) to give a 31-mile all-electric range, and can be quick-charged in 30 minutes.

  • Volvo is working on three distinct extended-range EV concepts. Concept I has a three-cylinder flex-fuel (E85-compatible) engine (60bhp) and 40-litre fuel tank, which drives a generator to power a 111bhp electric motor; it’ll do 68 miles in all-electric mode before the engine kicks in, extending the total range to 620 miles. Concept II has a turbocharged, 190bhp version of the engine driving the rear wheels, plus the 111bhp motor for a parallel hybrid set-up, and a 40kW generator to give an all-electric mode. Concept III has the engine, motor and generator all mounted up front, and is electric-only up to 31 mph. Full lowdown at Green Car Congress.
  • The biogas-fuelled garbage truck (see below)? Pah! 1060 all-electric dustcarts are hitting the streets of Beijing. There are three versions – two-tonne, 8-tonne and 16-tonne payloads – giving a range of upto 67 miles and a top speed of up to 87mph; all the trucks were developed and built in China (People’s Daily Online, via Autoblog Green).
  • Mitsubishi is to launch a plug-in hybrid version of its Outlander Sport crossover in 2013; it’ll be sold in the USA, and combine a 1.6-litre petrol engine with electric-drive powertrain (Ward’s Auto).
  • Fisker has taken 3000 orders for the $100,000 plug-in hybrid Karma; first buyer to take delivery will be Leonardo Dicaprio. The car’s sold out till 2012; convertible, saloon and ‘shooting brake’ versions will follow, plus the more compact ‘Project Nina’ range. More at Autocar.

Monday newsbriefs

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Schoolkids have built a car that’ll do 1980mpg, or the equivalent thereof. Yes, really. Kingdown School from Warminster took victory in this year’s Mileage Marathon Challenge at Mallory Park, Cambridgeshire, with their streamlined vehicle. Also noted is the 1325mpg car driven by 11-year-old Kitty Foster from King’s School, Ely, though this car (pictured, as I can’t find a decent copyright-free shot of the winning car) was built with help from the professional Cambridge Design Partnership, complete with trackside telemetry and GPS to get the best out of the microdiesel engine with oxygen generator. 

  • BMW’s M3 CRT made its debut at the Nurburgring last weekend; this 450bhp V8-engined racer is, quite apart from being very quick, the first car to feature carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) made in a new production process. CFRP has been used, in a super-strong cellular carbon structure, for its bonnet and seats to give a weight saving of up to 50% compared to conventional carbonfibre, and will next be used to make the bodyshells of the upcoming i3 and i8 electric and hybrid vehicles. The basic carbonfibre-threaded material is woven into ‘mats’, impregnated with synthetic resin and then hardened; all cuttings and waste from the process can be reused. With the M3 CRT’s seats, the CFRP layers are wrapped around a honeycomb of recycled paper and a layer of carbon.
  • Continuing last week’s aviation theme: from September, Royal Dutch KLM is to start operating 200 flights between Amsterdam and Paris using biokerosene synthesised from waste cooking oil. Full story at Green Car Congress.
  • More on Mazda’s new laser-ignition rotary engine at Autocar. It’s up to 1600cc, and part-aluminium; the laser-controlled combustion (instead of spark plugs) enables more precise monitoring of the fuel-air mixture and thus improved efficiency, lower emissions and better torque delivery, it’s reported.
  • Autocar also has spy shots of the revised Renault Twingo, coming later this year – but the real story’s the all-new 2014 model. This will be smaller, a sister model to a reborn Smart Forfour (Daimler did the deal with Renault-Nissan this time) and will feature a new 900cc three-cylinder engine (to be used extensively in the Renault-Nissan line-up). Expect all-electric versions, too.
  • Americans marvel at tram use and pedestrianisation in Europe’s cities: a rather charming just-woken-up report in today’s New York Times.
  • Meanwhile down in Nevada, the state has authorised the use of automated driverless cars on its roads. Only in clearly defined areas and with appropriate certification, however, before you get worried about robo-cars prowling the highways like zombies. It’s all in aid of ongoing research, such as the DARPA work on drones for military use.

Friday newsbriefs – and flying to the future

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

A plane story: EADS, Diamond Aircraft and Siemens have built a hybrid aircraft concept. The two-seater DA36 E-Star, showcased this week at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, has a Siemens 70kW motor driving its propellor; a small Wankel rotary engine (supplied by Austro Engine) functions solely as a generator to supply the motor with energy, and an EADS battery provides power during takeoff and climb. The battery is then recharged when cruising. The tech could save 25% of fuel, and is scalable to larger aircraft, says Siemens, and the plane has now taken two-hour test flights. More, including video, here. Also, a team from the Institute of Aircraft Design at the University of Stuttgart has just flown its e-Genius prototype for 211 miles and two hours, averaging 100mph and returning the equivalent of 260mpg; more on that project here. It looks as if electric flight is on the verge of becoming a realistic possibility. However, the EAA Flight Venture competition for electric planes has now been delayed a year to allow participants more time to gain the necessary certification, reports Green Car Congress.

  • GM India is showcasing an all-electric Chevrolet Beat in New Delhi. The Beat BEV features a 300-cell lithium-ion battery, a 45kW electric motor and a 130km operating range; it’s just a demo vehicle, however, to evaluate the feasibility of electric vehicles in India. Full release here.
  • A one-off hybrid Lexus LS 600h L ‘laundaulet’ limousine has been built for the wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco on 2nd July. This features a one-piece transparent, 8mm-thick polycarbonate roof and has been specially reinforced with Kevlar and carbonfibre composites to compensate for the removal of its metal roof and pillars. It will “operate in zero-emissions mode for most of the newlyweds’ tour of the principality”, says Lexus. Belgian coachbuilder Carat Duchalet worked closely with Lexus engineers based in Brussels to create the car, which took over 2000 hours to build and which has been finished in a water-based Midnight Blue paint.
  • Norwegian EV-maker Think Global has filed for bankruptcy. The Oslo-based firm, once owned by Ford, has now been restructured and relaunched four times in its 20-year history; this time, it has suffered since the ending of a four-year deal with battery-maker and investor Ener1, said to be owed some £20million. Norwegian courts are to appoint a trustee to oversee the short-term running of the business and production has halted at the Valmet facility in Finland.
  • In better news, Fisker is hiring around 120 engineers, technicians and production-line workers for its plant in Wilmington, Delaware. The company’s preparing for the launch of its second plug-in hybrid, a premium saloon currently code-named Project Nina and scheduled for launch at the end of 2012. The Wilmington facility, a former GM plant, has been comprehensively recommissioned; more on this at Fisker’s website. Let’s not argue just yet whether Nina is a plug-in hybrid or, as Fisker calls it, an electric vehicle with extended range (“EVer”), though in my book, the Karma coupe is definitely the former rather than the latter.Fisker has also just announced a deal with EV Connect for installation and service of charging points for Karma buyers in the US and Canada.
  • Kenya, which imports over 100,000 new and used cars every year, is to exempt electric vehicles from import duty. There’s no charging infrastructure as yet, but this may be developed as part of a programme to improve the country’s roads (Africa Business Daily, via Autoblog Green).

Cheap Russian hybrids: factory under construction

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Late last year Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov announced a partnership with truck-maker Yarovit Motors to build ‘the world’s cheapest hybrid’. Ground has now been broken to build a factory, and production of 45,000 a year is planned; prices will start from around $13,000, say latest reports (though originally, $7000 was the target once full-scale production was up and running).

The Yo-Avto cars will be mostly sold as CKD (‘complete knock-down’) assembly kits, for final putting-together after export or delivery by local agents, though around 20,000 a year will be completed on-site. The factory’s in an industrial park outside St Petersburg (though original reports suggested Togliatti, Russia’s Detroit) and three models will initially be offered: Yo CrossCoupe (pictured), Yo Microvan (mini-MPV) and Yo Furgon (no idea), all around the same chassis and with the same electric/petrol and CNG- compatible hybrid powertrain capable of 75mph and a range of 249 miles. They’ll do around 80mpg (imperial), apparently. Nearly 123,000 pre-orders have been taken, reports Ward’s Auto.

Autostat reports that the engines are supplied by German firm Weber (maker of powerplants for snowmobiles and similar vehicles), the vehicles’ bodies are plastic, that some engineering work has been carried out under contract by Magna, and that the hybrid system uses supercapacitors to store energy. Further details from Marchmont (a Russian business news service, which reports at length on the Yo-Avto plan) suggest that the engine develops around 60bhp, that the car’s been throughly tested to ensure it’ll operate in minus-50 degree temperatures to cope with a Russian winter – and that at least one of the Yo-cars will be on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show this autumn.

Russia-Now, reporting on Vladimir Putin’s test-drive of prototypes, gives a bit more info: the cars weigh 650-700kg, the engine in the production versions will be a rotary unit (and not the two-cylinder Webers as in the concepts), and there are two 15kW motors, one on each axle, thus giving four-wheel drive. The outer bodyshell is a composite based on a material called Polipropylan, a motor industry first, it says. Intriguing.

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