Friday newsbriefs: More fuel cell research, cloud apps for plug-in Hondas, Tesla hyperloop and an e-plane

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The US Department of Energy is investing $2.4million in five hydrogen/fuel cell research programmes, looking at the performance and progress of hydrogen fuelling stations and supply infrastructure as well as the production of hydrogen from natural gas (uh-oh – are we in fracking territory here?) as well as from (nicer-sounding) solar-powered electrolysis of water. The programmes are in California, Connecticut and Illinois, reports Green Car Congress.

  • Honda’s new-generation infotainment system, Hondalink, will bring full connectivity including cloud-based audio streaming and radio plus Twitter and Facebook feeds – and, for drivers of the Fit (Jazz) EV and upcoming Accord plug-in hybrid, “unique applications designed specifically to maintain connectivity to their vehicle”- probably remote battery and charging management. The system debuts in the US when the new Accord arrives this autumn; a similar set-up is likely to be offered in Europe at a later date.
  • More about Tesla supremo Elon Musk’s idea for a ‘hyperloop’ – a solar-powered hyper-speed train – linking San Francisco and Los Angeles here. Well, a little more explaining the idea, anyway… this one’d be a long time into the future, though Musk stands a better chance than many of making something like this happen.
  • And planes: bike-racer turned pilot Chip Yates has become the first to fly an electric plane at over 200mph. He hit 202.6mph in the Burt Rutan-designed Long-ESA, and now aims to go trans-Atlantic. More at Flight of The Century.
  • Late addition to this bulletin: Aussie start-up EV Engineering of Port Melbourne has retro-fitted nine Holden Commodore saloons with electric powertrains and swappable batteries for a two-year trial. The aim is to see if e-power is feasible in such a large car, and to then offer conversions. Full story at The Age, via battery-swap people @BtrPlcAus.

The hidden agenda behind the Toyota 2000GT EV

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

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

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

Twizy on the tourist trail in Wales; first Tesla Model S delivered

June 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

The British tourism industry appears to be taking to the Renault Twizy, for all it lacks doors to protect its occupants from the rain. “We are supplying six to the Eco Travel Network for tourists in the Brecon Beacons National Park”, says Andy Heiron, Renault UK’s Head of Electric Vehicle Programme. Renault has already sold 135 Twizys since the mid-April launch, many – against expectations – going to businesses. “Twizy has been a surprise as we envisaged it as an almost exclusively (private) retail product”, Heiron explained, “and yet we have a two-month waiting list for fleet demonstrators. We have a large order for Twizy in London where they will be used as a mobile wi-fi platform by TfL. Most customers are looking to capitalise on Twizy’s striking looks as a marketing tool around cities.”

In Wales, the Eco Travel Network began two years ago with a pair of buggies built by Dragon Electric Vehicles of Crickhowell. The ‘b-bugs’ (named Boris and Blodwyn) have been trialled by visitors to the Brecon Beacons, and an informal network of recharging points has been established: free-to-use facilities at cafes, pubs, activity centres and suchlike in the area, some using locally-generated electricity from a micro-hydro system. The Network has now been established as a not-for-profit company leasing vehicles to local businesses, and whilst Boris and Blodwyn have been ‘retired’ for the moment in favour of the Twizys, b-bugs may supplement the numbers again in the future.

The first Twizy on the fleet is making an appearance at the Hay Festival this week as part of the launch of the Community Energy Wales initiative, and it is being used by the festival organisers, who have also been providing free EV charging to festival-goers and participants. It has, by the way, been called Thierry, and he and his friends will be available for rental from July 1st. Check out www.ecotravelnetwork.co.uk for more details.

  • In other news today: The first Tesla Model S saloon off the production line has been delivered to its new owner: venture capitalist and Tesla board member Steve Jurvetson. That’s what investment in a company gets you… oh, and a number plate reading TSLA S1, according to Green Car Reports.First deliveries to other customers start June 22nd, and Tesla is promising news, new video and “a few surprises” at its blog, in the run-up. Latest news on the Model S: the power steering is adjustable, with ‘comfort’, ‘sport’ and standard settings, and the regenerative braking and air suspension can also be configured to driver preferences. Nice video of the production-line robots assembling an S, too.

Tesla Model S chills out

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Tesla Model S (the saloon) is  undergoing cold-weather testing. Video of it sliding around in the ice at the Tesla blog. First deliveries begin in July, and online configurator tools will shortly go live; latest news on interior trim and options, and the Personal Delivery service (yes please…) at the blog.

General post-Easter news catch-up:

  • The Toyota Prius Plug-in goes on sale in July in the UK, and it’s priced at £27,895 (once the £5000 government grant is taken into account). Official CO2 output is 49g/km.
  • The Infiniti LE – unveiled at the New York Motor Show last week – is effectively going to be the posh Nissan Leaf (the 2013 version, reports Autocar, with improved  range). The NY concept also featured a home wireless charging system, which could be the first such set-up to reach production, says The Charging Point.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Jaguar F-Type, reports Autocar, following on from the conventional iterations of this two-seater sports car. Roadster models to come first; production-ready examples will be unveiled at Paris Auto Show this autumn.
  • The 2014 Acura RLX – smart US-market saloon – unveiled in NY will also have a hybrid variant. Two motors, a 3.5 V6, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and over 370bhp through all four wheels, reports Inside Line. And there’s a hybrid version of the new-generation Lexus ES, too. Oh, and of the Lincoln MKZ  (featuring the new 2.0-litre Ecoboost four-cyl engine).
  • Another EV-around-the-world trip: the Citroen C-Zero of Electric Odyssey is in the Rocky Mountains on its way down to California.
  • Lithium-sulphur batteries ‘could be  the power storage devices of the future’, according to research from Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. They’re quoting smartphones and e-bikes as likely recipients of these optimised batteries with porous nanoparticles (woo!) but the tech could work for cars too. Science bit at Alpha Galileo.
  • Honda is going to launch the Insight, Fit/Jazz hybrid and the CR-Z coupe in China, and is considering local production of hybrids and EVs there. More will be announced at the Beijing Auto Show, where Honda is also revealing two new concepts.
  • Ford is running a competition in the US to win a Focus Electric, in partnership with Yahoo! Screen: it’s a reality-TV extravaganza, with teams from selected cities taking part in a series of challenges. More here.
  • We will ignore the story about Justin Bieber’s chromed Fisker Karma. Move along, nothing to see here.

Friday round-up

February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Blimey: Tesla says it has taken $40million-worth of advance orders for the Model X. Those ‘falcon’ doors are clearly a hit. Tesla has also flagged up its deal with Daimler to develop an electric powertrain for the Mercedes-Benz (a memorandum of understanding was signed last November), mentioning it at the announcement of its 2011 fourth-quarter financial results. How’s the company actually doing? Losses 59% greater than for the same period 2010, up to $81.5million, but that’s down to R&D spending, they say, and the sales of the Model S and Model X will make up for that, as well as forthcoming contract-engineering deals like the one with Daimler.Tesla stock price rose 1% in the wake of the announcement. Detailed rundown at Green Car Reports.

  • Exciting news from the EcoVelocity folk: the green car show will run in partnership with Grand Designs Live, giving show-goers the chance to check out sustainable home improvements and green house-building as well as cleaner cars, all on the same ticket. The events will both run at the ExCel centre, London Docklands, 10th-13th May. The company behind Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show, Media 10, has purchased a majority stake in IGME Ltd, the organisers of EcoVelocity which suggests that the ‘low-carbon motor festival’ is very much a growing and ongoing concern.
  • Bristol Cars has appointed a board chairman, Sir George White, the son of the Bristol Car Company’s founder, and patron of the Bristol Owners Club and BOC Trust. He will work with the marque’s new owners, Frazer-Nash Research, as they work “on designs for a luxury, high-performance range-extender Bristol”. Work on reviving the company is underway, including a redesign for the famous Kensington showroom.
  • Honda, Google, Stanford University and city authorities in Torrance, California are running a Fit (Jazz) EV trial programme. More at Autoweek.

Tuesday catch-up: Toyota FT-Bh

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is Toyota’s take on an affordable hybrid city car – its structure, at least. The FT-Bh itself will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show next month; it’s described as “an ultra-lightweight full hybrid city car study, designed to achieve low emissions within an economically viable production framework” – cheap to make in a simple manufacturing process. Toyota will also be showing the production-ready Yaris Hybrid, the NS4 plug-in hybrid and FCV-R hydrogen concept, as well as the GT-86 sports coupe and the personally-configurable, “smartphone on wheels” djii concept (formerly known as the Fun-Vii).

  • Images – of a sort – have emerged of the Infiniti Emerg-e extended-range EV concept, to be revealed in Geneva next month. Full gallery at Edmunds Inside Line, amongst other places.
  • So: it’s got trick concept-car doors. Is my verdict on the Tesla Model X so far. I find it hard to get excited about such a rarefied vehicle, irrelevant to the majority of motorists, but do accept that what with all the column-inches and cyberspace it has generated, it’s a good flag-waver for the EV cause. Good-looking, too. More interesting: the Gen 3 mass-market car Tesla’s working on, now said to be scheduled for early 2015.
  • Mitsubishi has confirmed launch of an Outlander EV: next spring, in addition to the plug-in hybrid already announced (see previous post).

No, I haven’t seen the Tesla Model-X yet

February 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Another day, another electric Elise – but the Evonik Industries Elise-E, on show at an event in Bochum this week, is more interesting than most of the myriad Lotus conversions. It’s a showcase for Evonik, an Essen chemicals firm, and features a lithium-ion battery with an innovative ceramic cathode/anode separator. Benefits of this are that it’s highly stable and allows for very compact battery cells, giving improved energy density at a low weight. The car’s body has patented Evonik structural foam and carbonfibres – it weighs just 950kg – and its composite panels are sealed with a new resin infusion process which improves surface quality. Weight is further reduced by  Plexiglas windows and lightweight low-friction tyres – and this thing thus does 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds. Top speed’s limited to 124mph, though. More detail at Green Car Congress.

In other news:

  • Mitsubishi is to launch the third-generation Outlander at the Geneva Motor Show next month, and the new range is to include a plug-in hybrid (on sale 2013), as previewed by the PX-MiEVII concept in Tokyo last year. CO2 emissions will be less than 50g/km and it’ll return a combined-cycle 140mpg-plus; the all-electric range will be 30 miles. The powertrain combines a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors, one driving each axle to maintain AWD capability.
  • A blast from the past: a start-up in Colorado which has the rights to the historic Studebaker brand-name plans to revive the long-defunct car company (d. 1966). First model to recycle the Lark name and to be a hybrid; motorcycles and scooters also in the plan, though there’s the little stumbling block of capital in the meantime. (ViaAutoblog Green).
  • Tesla will reveal the Model X crossover, complete with ‘falcon’ (upward/pivot/fold) doors, tomorrow. Not that there’s been much hype about this on t’ net or anything…
  • This Fisker business is getting messy; company’s calling it a “bump in the road” and says that Karma production is unaffected. However, it’s going to have to renegotiate its US government loan terms or find independent funding to bring the Nina to production, it seems.
  • Europcar is offering the Nissan Leaf EV on its short-term rental fleets in London and Paris. Charging will be free, with no ‘refuelling’ service charge. Hertz, meanwhile, is now trialling wireless induction charging in New Jersey.
  • The UK’s first pay-as-you-go public EV charging scheme has started in the north-east for a short trial; it includes fast-chargers and involves existing charging points already available through the Plugged-In Places network. More at, umm, The Charging Point.
  • Powered by plums: the Fraunhofer Institute, Stuttgart, is starting a project to extract biogas (methane) for vehicle fuel from waste fruit and veg at the city’s fruit and veg wholesale market. One of the challenges, apparently, is that “sometimes it (the waste) has a high proportion of citrus fruits, while other times there are more cherries, plums and lettuce”.
  • There’s a pretty rubbish new Beetle on display at  Delhi Airport at the moment as part of Volkswagen’s Think Blue eco-campaign: this totally-recycled Bug has been built from scrap and trash by Indian sculptor  Haribaabu Naatesan and his handy team of assistants. Nice time-lapse video showing its construction here.

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