Design Concept of the Day 2: Peterbilt SymbiotUX

November 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

peterbilt symbiotiUXAnd this year’s entrants in the Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge: 2014’s contenders have looked at how the technology of 2029 will transform the relationship between humans and vehicles, including sensual connections and predictive behaviours, with specific reference to interior design. Pictured: Peterbilt Motors’ SymbiotUX, anticipating vehicles operating together in symbiosis, with the truck driver taking a role more like that of an aeroplane pilot; other entries are the Quros Qloud Qubed, which learns the drivers’ habits and preferences and kicks into autonomous mode if the driver starts to behave irresponsibly or out of character; the Honda CARpet with a flexible, shape-shifting carpet and a control-ball interface; the Infiniti SYNAPTIQ driver’s bodysuit; and a Honda-Acura biometric mesh interior fabric which can be pushed or pulled to configure the car’s interior and adapt to driver preferences. Rundown and picture gallery at Form Trends; winner will be announced on Nov 20th.

Plus some for-Friday reading: a round-up of extended essays and recently-found, relevant (to me, anyway) academic journal papers…

  • Big data, predictive analytics (again) and transport planning/deployment: in-depth essay at City of Sound looks at start-ups such as Bridj (on-demand buses directed to where there are clusters of users) and Urban Engines, which collects data on congestion (including crowds on public transport) to calculate and offer real-time incentives for people to delay or alter their journeys and modal choice; Dan Hill discusses the risk that the likes of Uber and other personal/private services might compromise or destabilise public transit, and the idea of predictive analytics providing the ‘bridge’ between private transport (i.e. motor car) and public (operating to fixed and inflexible schedules). And… more on autonomous cars vs. public transit (no, the former won’t displace the latter – it’s a case of the right solutions in the right place, and down to population densities) from Jarrett Walker at Human Transit.
  • A study in Spain, France, Germany, the UK, Poland and Italy, with 600 participants in each keeping an online travel diary, found that not only did most people’s daily driving patterns (including at the weekends) suit the range of an EV, their parking habits – the time their vehicles spent parked-up – were fine for typical recharging times, and that this information could be used for predictive management of electricity demand across the EU. It did note, however, that in all of the countries surveyed, few drivers had access to off-street or private parking, thus recommending on-street and public infrastructure in residential parking areas and garages.
  • Air travel bucks the trend for the reducing of greenhouse gas emissions as urban density rises; and in metropolitan areas there is a trade-off between car ownership and air travel among middle-income groups. Air travel, it seems, is counteracting any GHG gains made by reduction of car travel, according to this paper from Finland.
  • China’s rapid growth in car usage, fuelled by its expanding middle class and consumer society, may be slowing: ‘peak’ vehicle-mileage has now been observed in traffic-clogged Shanghai and Beijing, reports this paper. Demand for driving is high amongst young people and women in particular, as well as from active older people, but this is mitigated by an ageing society in general.
  • The vested interests of neoliberal governance structures mean than EU policies on sustainable transport will fail, claims this paper: Stefan Gossling and Scott Cohen cite specific “transport taboos” such as Germany’s no-speed-limits policy on the autobahn and describe market distortion and externalization and subsidising of costs, unwillingness of people to change behaviour, the small number of “highly mobile” people in upper-income brackets who account for a disproportionate amount of travel, lobbying by automotive and aviation organisations, social inequalities and emerging different societal structures as factors putting up barriers to change.
  • Looking at the mobility behaviour of Generation Y/millennials: Debbie Hopkins and Janet Stephenson suggest that researchers could use an “energy cultures” framework to analyse the norms, practices and material culture of this group, the external influences acting upon these three sets of phenomena, the interactions between them and thus how behaviours are shaped. As yet, not empirically applied, but a few ideas (one for theoretical discussions, with a few useful references).
  • And conversely, US baby-boomers (born 1946-64): over the last decade, they have become less car-dependent, but this is a trend confined to urban-dwellers, who are walking and using public transport more, and who also make more social, recreational and utilitarian trips than their suburban counterparts (at least in the Boston area, where this study was carried out). And a broad migration of older adults to urban areas is, the researchers conclude, unlikely, so measures need to be taken including making public transport and walking more attractive to suburbanites, who are making fewer trips, but still driving.
  • Life-changes are  interdependent and dynamically-interacting with residential and transport choices/behaviour, according to this Japanese study using life history research methodology. The researchers identified four key life-trajectory biographies describing mobility – residential (relocation), household structure (i.e. marriage, birth of a child, divorce, children leaving home), employment/education (including retirement) and car ownership (and other tools for travel, i.e. bicycles) and plotted cause-effect relationships between them. Car ownership was more sensitive to residential mobility than to household structure and education/employment.

Tues news: EV charging, batteries, biofuels and more

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pic: Chargemaster plc

Pic: Chargemaster plc

UK EV charge point network operator Chargemaster is launching a new app called Polar Instant (iPhone and Android), giving instant access to OCPP (open charge point protocol) points with no need for an RFID card. The app includes mapping and routing plus real-time info on the availability of points, including data on connector type and pricing (where applicable).

  • A lot of hearsay in this one, but a detailed account of the demise/failure/hubris of Shai Agassi’s Better Place battery-swap vision at Fast Company. And also on the Going Under list this week: Smith Electric Vehicles (trucks and vans), with Detroit Electric looking pretty dubious too (plans for Michigan production shelved, assembly now in the Netherlands, file  it under believe-it-when-you-see-it).
  • Latest roadmap report from the EC’s ERTRAC on fuels for heavy-duty transport and freight, Energy Carriers for Powertrains: handy digest at Green Car Congress. To 2050, potential for biomass-derived biofuels limited due to availability of enough sustainable-source (i.e. non-feedstock or food crop) biomass; CO2 ‘recycling’ or binding is crucial; limits on substitutions/blends with petrol/diesel for many biofuels; natural gas (as CNG/LNG) has good potential as drop-in fuel, as well as methanol and DME; thumbs-up to biomethane and renewable electricity (either as direct power source or in ‘carrier’ syngas, hydrogen or converted to liquid fuel); ethanol an economic solution (NB: beware its source?).
  • And how ’bout extracting hydrogen and CO2 from sea water and converting it to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, no ICE conversion needed? The US Naval Research Laboratory has demonstrated this in a replica-model WWII plane… (via Green Car Congress – thanks).
  • Polymer electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries are more stable, less flammable and can give better energy storage capacity and durability than current li-ion battery chemistries, says a team from Autonomous Metropolitan University (Mexico City). They’re looking into batteries for local metro trains, but which could also be used in cars, computers, cellphones and soforth. More here. And how about lithium sulphur graphene batteries – more here?
  • Microsoft has revealed a beta version of Windows in the Car; more at Wired. You better like Windows 8…
  • Autonomous vehicles: shared/hired or personally-owned? Some musings at Atlantic Cities (by a founder of ZipCar, so you can probably guess the vision).



Concept of the Day: TUM EVA

November 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

tum_evaTUM Create – a Singapore-based partnership between Technical University Munich and Nanyang Technological University – is to show an electric taxi concept called EVA at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. It’s a showcase for the work at the institution, and the result of research on areas including energy storage, battery charging, thermal management and lightweight materials.

Its range has been calculated using data collected by a research team tracking driving patterns of taxi drivers in Singapore, and it’s said to be good for 200km (with the air conditioning on). Batteries can be recharged in just 15min, giving a low downtime for drivers. TUM Create makes the point that EVA has been designed ground-up as a taxi and is not a conversion of an existing ICE product, and that it specifically meets the heat-management and humidity issues facing EVs in tropical megacities.

  • Report from Toyota’s Ecoful Town near Nagora. This project in Toyota City field-trials the HEMS (Home Energy Management System) in Toyota’s eco-homes (yes, it makes them, too), as well as the COMS micro-EV, the i-ROAD scooter, the Ha:Mo EV-sharing, fuel cell vehicles plus a system of ‘eco points’ incentives for inhabitants in return for their data-sharing. It’s looking at the overall transport/energy/habitation system, including the way the electrified/plug-in vehicles can be used as energy storage in their interactions with the grid or domestic electricity generation. More detail here, too.
  • Four small concepts from Suzuki at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show; the Crosshiker is a Nissan Juke-style mini-crossover, the Hustler and Hustler coupe a high-riding mini-MPV and its fastback sister model. More interesting is the X-Lander open-top SUV, based on the Jimny 4×4, which features Suzuki’s 1.3-litre petrol engine plus hybrid system. Lowdown here.
  • Fiat’s running a comp for young designers in partnership with Future Mobility Now (an ACEA project). The theme’s accessibility in future design and sustainable mobility; three winners get to present their ideas to Fiat design chiefs in Turin early next year. Ideas can be submitted here; Fiat will broadcast a round-table seminar on its Google+ and YouTube channels on 4th November at 3pm for a full briefing. Oh, and there’s some work experience and longer internships up for grabs at Audi, looking at next-gen solutions for transportation and urban living.
  • Some modelling of uptake/adoption curves of sustainable transport solutions from Embarq, looking for the tipping point between concept and unstoppable implementation. Charts, detail, here.
  • Piece on the Volvo/Bombardier/Inverto/Van Hool wireless induction charging tech at Autoweek. Note the nod to ‘infrastructure owners’ – ker-ching! And Car & Driver is discussing Tesla’s investment in charging equipment alongside selling cars; battery-swapping back on agenda, perhaps.
  • Launch of Nissan e-NV200 van has been confirmed for next year. News here of an interesting public-private tie-up with the authorities in Barcelona involving installation of Nissan-supplied charging equipment and possible creation of EV-exclusive loading zones, taxi stops, access to areas of the city at certain times plus tax breaks for EV fleets. Expect to see a lot more of this kind of negotiation.
  • Mercedes-Benz is working with Google on in-car integration of Google Glass, apparently. Just for navigation and downloads via smartphone for the mo, though, due to (obvious) issues of driver distraction (first fine issued for that to a GG-wearer this week, btw).
  • Chrysler’s going to Canada (where the goverment’s putting up the cash) to develop EV powertrains and components, and lightweight materials. Partnership with McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, reports Automotive News.
  • Some bicycle-related bits ‘n’ pieces. First up, the E-Velocipede concept, a penny-farthing reinvented as an e-bike. It’s a showcase for the latest materials tech from BASF; more here. In the here-and-now, London’s Boris bikes are to be available in electric-assist form in some hilly districts; and a nice report on the smart ITS-integrated bike-share in Copenhagen.

Concept of the Day: Hyundai Fuel Cell Farm

October 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

hyundai fuel cell farmOK, it’s a gimmick, but Hyundai’s Fuel Cell Farm is quite a charming concept. It’s a contained aquaponics ecosystem – plants growing in water, fed by waste from fish, using waste water from the ix35’s tailpipe – and is on display at the mo at the Design Museum, London. More here. But where does the hydrogen come from? Two refuelling stations in London, a third on the way, but the fuel itself still has to be synthesized from somewhere.

And in other recent green cars/transportation news:

  • An on-demand, personally-tailored bus service – accessed using smartphone apps – is being trialled in Helsinki.  The Kutsuplus service chargers users in its nine-seat minibuses by the mile, clustering together people who want to travel in the same direction. More details on the story from Treehugger.
  • The system is the solution for sustainable urban transportation, and it’s about access (incl. financial) rather than the transport itself, according to a big new report from UN Habitat, “Planning and Design for Sustainable Urban Mobility”. Worth a read…
  • Minimising the need for ‘forced car ownership’ would address growing social and environmental concerns, says a report from Sustrans discussing ‘transport poverty’.
  • The home/car hybrid: Denso and Nagoya University have developed in-vehicle energy management technology to co-ordinate domestic electricity usage and generation (from solar panels) with EV and PHEV charging and energy storage in the car’s batteries. More here.
  • A large-scale trial is to start in Stuttgart of tech to integrate EV/PHEV optimisation, energy demand/supply, traffic/fleet management and the energy and transport sectors on a single platform. The iZeus project is based at KIT, Karlsruhe, and includes 30 Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell vans plus 90 private cars – Smart Fortwo ed, Opel Ampera and Toyota Prius.
  • Over 8000 i3s have been ordered in advance of the European launch next month, and an upping of production is under consideration, says BMW.
  • By 2070, passenger road transport could be almost oil-free. Says who? Shell, outlining two possible scenarios (depending on level of governmental intervention), in a new report discussing transitions and resilience, tipping biomass as an easier/more viable fuel option than hydrogen or 100% renewable electricity.
  • Reality sets in for autonomous car developers? Useful rundown of the challenges – including the possible lack of capacity even with 4G to cope with all the data – here.
  • Volvo is exploring energy storage in car body panels and structural elements, possibly to supplement or even replace batteries; more here.
  • A solar-powered EV-share (on-demand short-term rental scheme) called SUNMOOV has just launched in Lyon; more here. Let’s hope it’s less incendiary (literally) than the Paris Autolib’ has been lately…
  • Discussion on greening the freight sector at Guardian Sust Biz; UPS sees oil as remaining dominant for a long while yet, and diesel best option for road freight, but is liking natural gas, according to latest quotes.
  • Nissan is rolling out its New Mobility Concept (aka Renault Twizy) on trial car-share fleets in Japan: first up is a 30-vehicle fleet in Yokohama, with 100 cars in 70 locations within the year. More here.
  • Interesting blog post at PE (iMechE): connected cars tech is evolving more quickly, but with a different focus, in emerging/developing markets, according to senior engineer at Tech Mahindra.

Design Concept of the Day: Moretti EGS

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

morettiIt’s Friday, so let’s be indulgent with a pretty pic of a retro-style sports car. Only a CAD rendering, I’m afraid, but it is (theoretically) an EV and the work of Coventry University vehicle design student Brian Males (a Slovakian). It’s described as “a modern reinterpretation of the 1954 Moretti 750 Grand Sport”, says Car Body Design, which has a full gallery of images plus video (nice archive footage of the original in action on, I think, the Mille Miglia). Males reckons that, to ease the transition to electric mobility, you’ll need an emotional, human factor to appeal to car-buyers, perhaps including imperfection, nostalgia, sexuality.

  • Who’s buying EVs, and what do they do with them? OK, buyers are mostly men, aged 30-50, well-educated and high-income, living in/near cities, and in households which have more than one car. They’re mostly using their EV for commuting, and some studies have found that owners are now driving more, and in some cases, taking the EV instead of public transport. Big literature review from the Norwegian Centre for Transport Research here (via WNYC and @Sust_Mobility – thanks).
  • Thoughtful report from Sustainable Mobility (@Sust_Mobility, France) on transport in peri-urban areas (outskirts of city centres, not quite out in the ‘burbs). Trams, bikes, EVs and car-sharing… Some useful factoids, stats and snippets of info: for example, SNCF (French train co) has a website for car-poolers to team up for journeys to/from its stations in the Île-de-France regional network, and is testing in-station terminals to enable last-minute lift-share arrangements;
  • EV charging, four times faster and $2000 less expensive: Saeid Haghbin of Chalmers University, Sweden, has developed an integrated motor drive and on-board charger concept, with a patented rotating transformer for power transfer. It’s lighter, more compact and lower-cost to make than existing units capable of full recharges in two hours. More (including link to his PhD thesis) here (via inhabitat).
  • More detail on the news that Porsche is to offer hybrid versions of every model, with a next-generation plug-in hybrid powertrain to debut in the Panamera in 2016, from Autocar; Porsche is working on induction charging, too, apparently.
  • Renault SAS is to team up with Spark Racing Technologies to build the cars for the FIA Formula E race series. The 42 e-powered single-seaters supplied to participating teams will be named “Spark-Renault” .
  • Volvo’s ramping up production of the V60 Plug-In Diesel Hybrid in response to demand: up from 150 to 282 cars a week from the Torslanda production lines, with target production of 10,000 in 2014. Most demand from Holland, Belgium and Italy, it says. Oh, and Mitsubishi’s doubling production of the plug-in Outlander to 4000 a month, too.
  • BMW hosted a Sustainability Hackathon for app developers at its US tech HQ in Mountain View, California: winning app is to help EV owners needing to charge at an already-occupied facility. More at Hybridcars.
  • On a similar note, nice story at Green Car Reports on how Nissan wants to collect data streamed from LEAFs for app development, vs privacy concerns.
  • The University of Missouri is developing a ‘convection cell’ lithium-metal battery said to be lighter and lower-cost than lithium-ion. More at Green Car Congress. And another opposed-piston, sleeve-valve engine under development, from Pinnacle Engine: initially intended for two-wheelers, but automotive applications in mind (again, more at GCC).
  • Source London has now installed its target 1300 public EV charging points, and is putting out a tender for operators to take over the network. More at Fleet News. A new network’s been launched in Manchester, too. Oh, and a 200-EV trial is starting in Malaga (EV Fleet World).
  • More on the falling-out-of-love-with-cars/crisis in car culture discussion/panic/opportunity from CNN’s Futurecast event (via @jeckythump and @talitrigg – cheers).

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.

Geneva Motor Show Concept of the Day #2: Volkswagen e-Co-Motion

March 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

vw ecomotion vanIt’s an electric Transporter: no detail on the powertrain as yet (it’s very much a concept), but the e-Co-Motion promises an 800kg payload and 4.6 cubic-metre cargo capacity. It could be configured as a driver’s cab with cargo box (like the Geneva show vehicle), a passenger shuttle, a low-platform or refrigerator box van, or to customer order, as the drivetrain, battery and gearbox are packaged under-floor. It’s 4.55mm long, 1.9mm wide and 1.96mm tall – and this concept probably gives more than a few clues as to the styling of the next-generation mainstream ICE Transporter.

And this is Volkswagen’s vision for it: “Electric mobility – especially in light commercial vehicles – could play a crucial role in meeting the growing transport needs of the world’s megacities. Freight trains and conventional or hybrid-powered high-capacity lorries would deliver goods up to the city limits.  Then, at transfer stations, smaller electric delivery vans would take over.  Their predictable travel routes and fixed depots would simplify battery charging and equipment maintenance” (Dr. Eckhard Scholz, Speaker of the Brand Board of Management).

  • A non-Geneva note: a survey by Zipcar found that 18-34 year-olds (“Millennials”) find it easier to live without owning a car and drive less, thanks to the growing availability of car-sharing, lift-sharing and soforth; from the 1015 questioned, there was a clear trend that mobile devices and transportation apps were more important than car ownership. 65% said that losing their phone or computer would have more of a negative effect on them than losing their car; 25% said that transport apps had reduced their driving frequency; 73% said they preferred to shop online than drive or take public transport to a shop; 47% said they sometimes chose to spend time with friends online instead of driving to see them. More here.
  • And the mobility behaviour of Germans is changing too: research from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has found that people are increasingly using different transport modes. Its analysis of data has found that younger folk are less likely to own a car than senior citizens, cycling is becoming more popular and people are increasingly likely to use different transport modes. Just 74% of people have access to a car in their household now, down from 83% in 2002, around a third cycle on a weekly basis and are cycling further. The KIT research – an annual report from 2000 people which has taken place for 18 years – was commissioned by the German federal ministry for transport. More here.
  • A pair of electric buses plus a support van using Bombardier’s Primove wireless induction charging tech are going on trial in Mannheim. More at Green Car Congress. The trial is supported by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (again), and funded by the German federal transport ministry. And Yamato Transport, Toyota and Himo Motors are starting a one-year trial in Japan of a small one-tonne refrigerator truck; more here.
  • Further to the unveiling of the Audi A3 Sportback g-tron (see earlier post), the VW Group’s Spanish division is building its first CNG-fuelled production model. The Seat Mii Ecofuel emits 79g/km, burns 2.9kg of gas per 100km and is said to cost half as much to run as a petrol-powered Mii, given European CNG prices; it uses a version of the familiar VW Group 1.0 three-cylinder. It also incorporates the full suite of energy-saving Ecomotive technologies, including stop-start, low rolling resistance tyres and brake energy recovery. It’ll go on sale in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the Czech Republic plus other regions where there is a suitable gas supply infrastructure (not the UK).

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