Design Concept of the Day: Toyota FV2

November 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

toyotafv2Drivers will develop relationships with their vehicle much as riders do with horses, Toyota believes – or at least, they will when using the technologies developed in its Heart project, a communications/artificial intelligence programme which has included the development of the Kirobo and Mirata humanoid robots. Key to this is the use of sensors monitoring expressions, gestures and even recollections of past events  – for “emotional communication” – and establishing “a rapport between humans and machines that can make life more enjoyable and rewarding”.

Showcase for this is the FV2 concept, destined for the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. In place of a steering wheel, it is steered by the driver shifting his/her body to indicate direction; and it is also digitally connected to other cars and an intelligent transport infrastructure to give safety information, such as the presence of vehicles in blind spots or at junctions. It’s all about “stronger physical and emotional connections with the driver”, apparently, and voice and image recognition determines the driver’s mood; accumulated driving history suggests destinations; driving skills information is presented to assist the driver (“calm down”, perhaps). There’s a head-up augmented reality display on the windscreen, and projections allow the colour of the external display to be changed. Oh, and there’s an app for all of that – Toyota’s offering a taste of the FV2 driving experience, which can be downloaded (free) from the Apple AppStore and Google Play. But you can’t feed the FV2 carrots or stroke its mane…

  • Other Toyota concepts of note at Tokyo include the near-production FCV Concept (fuel cell, due for launch “around 2015”). This is said to have a range between refuelling of about 300 miles/500km, and a refuelling time of around three minutes, and it can carry four (the fuel cell stack and pair of fuel tanks are packaged under-body). Power output is “at least 100kW”, with a smaller motor, increased voltage and more compact fuel cell stack than in the earlier FCHV prototypes – and if stationary, a fully-fuelled vehicle “can provide enough electricity to power an average Japanese family home for a week”.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Lexus RC four-seat luxury coupe:  RC 300h, with a 2.5-litre engine. Launch at Tokyo.
  • And the (Honda) Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD – a sports saloon; more performance- than economy-oriented –  will debut at the LA Show. Press release posted here.
  • Caterham (Cars) is expanding into the two-wheeled sector, with products including an e-bike (for 2014). More here.
  • Some more technical detail on the Volvo S80 EV prototype with structural elements holding charge: the body panels which act as energy storage incorporate carbonfibre and polymer resin, supercapacitors and nano-batteries. More info from the LowCVP, and from Volvo.
  • Renault-Nissan are to expand their platform-sharing deal with Mitsubishi, reports EV Fleet World; there’ll be a ‘kei car’ A-sector city EV based on the jointly-developed 660cc minivan already in production, as well as C- and D-sector Mitsubishis based on Korean-built Renault-Samsung models
  • The Nissan Leaf EV was the best-selling car – of all persuasions – in Norway last month. Nice sales chart here.
  • How do you get hydrogen? A team from Caltech have outlined a standardised protocol to assess oxygen-evolving electrocatalysts (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, using solar energy). More at Green Car Congress.
  • The Compass 4D ITS connected-vehicles trial – a partnership with Audi, cars talking to infrastructure – has been launched in Verona. More at alphagalileo.
  • The US military is set to become one of the world’s largest EV fleet operators, according to Navigant Research: it predicts the forces will buy over 92,400 EVs between now and 2020. The EVs, as well as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, will work in tandem with the military’s development of secure, resilient renewable-fuelled micro-grid systems for energy storage. More at Business Green.

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.

Goodwood Festival of Speed #3: Best of the rest

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Goodwood Festival of Speed’s mainly about high-performance motorsport machinery, classic and modern, of course, but there were a few DFT-friendly vehicles scattered around the site… From the top, in no particular order:

1. Drayson Racing B12/69EV, an 850bhp wirelessly-charged Le Mans prototype, featuring a Lola chassis, and fastest EV up the Goodwood Hill on Sunday.

2. Audi A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid concept with a 211hp 2.0 TFSI petrol engine and 27hp electric motor, giving up to 34 miles in all-electric mode. But why the four-door saloon bodystyle?

3. Tata Megapixel, a range-extended EV concept with a single-cylinder 30bhp, 350cc petrol engine and four in-wheel electric motors. It’ll do 68mph and has an all-electric range of 54 miles; overall range is nearly 560 miles.

4. Morgan Plus E; this Zytek-motored roadster is being seriously developed with production in mind.

5. The Riversimple hydrogen fuel cell lightweight. Cars are to go out on trial in Herefordshire and Shropshire this year,  the company has announced.

6. Infiniti M Hybrid. The Emerg_e coupe concept went up the Goodwood Hill, too, but it was too quick for me to catch it on camera. As was the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid.

7. The Quimera AEGT electric drift car, I believe.

8. Toyota TS030 hybrid Le Mans car; the winning hybrid Audi R8 e-tron quattro was also around & up the Hill.

9. Audi Urban Concept, as seen at last autumn’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Goodwood Festival of Speed #2: Toyota 2000GT SEV

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

This pretty little coupe – a 1967 Toyota 2000GT – was converted by the Toyota Auto Fan Club of Tokyo to run on solar-generated electricity in the self-declared “Crazy Car Project”. It’s good for around 160bhp and 124mph, apparently.

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.

Concept of the Day: Toyota Camatte

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t get too excited: Toyota’s latest EV concept is only kiddie-sized. Unveiled last week at the 2012 Tokyo Toy Show, the Camatte is an attempt to bring ’em to the brand young. It has an electric motor and cheap lead-acid battery, and will do up to 25mph; though not street-legal, it may be sold for use on go-kart tracks.

In other news to kick off the week:

  • Mitsubishi is going to unveil the Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) at the Paris Motor Show. It’s the sister model to the conventional ICE new-generation Outlander, and Mitsubishi claims it’ll be “the first permanent 4WD electric car in series production” (guess that depends on how you define ‘EV’). It features a motor up front, another driving the rear axle, and a petrol engine acting both to drive the front axle and as a generator, giving three operational modes: ‘pure’ (all-electric), ‘series’ (motors plus generator) and ‘parallel’ (engine plus motors). Total range is said to be over 800km, average fuel economy over 150mpg, and carbon dioxide emissions less than 50g/km. Sales will start in Europe next year.
  • Well, Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrids took the 1-2 at Le Mans over the weekend; both the Toyota TS030 hybrids crashed out, one taking the Nissan DeltaWing with it. Let’s hope Anthony Davidson – airborne in one of the Toyotas, and said to have broken two vertebrae – makes a good recovery.
  • The International Transport Forum has researched the additional costs to EV owners over a vehicle’s lifetime: 4000-5000 euros more for passenger cars (compared to their nearest ICE equivalents) and an even more whopping 7000-1200 euros once vans are added to the calculations. However, this depends on mileage and usage – a delivery van doing an average 90km a day could actually save the operator 4000 euros, for example. Detailed summary at Green Car Congress, report itself here.

Design Concepts of the Day: Motorexpo EV competition winners

June 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

The London Motorexpo opened yesterday at Canary Wharf, and students from the Vehicle Design course at the Royal College of Art were invited to submit their concepts for an electric vehicle of 2032 in a competition to run alongside the displays of new production cars. The only guidelines given were that the car had to accomodate four adults plus luggage; the winning design is the creation of first-year student Michal Vlcek, whose concept features in-wheel motors, a hinged opening canopy at its nose in place of doors, and rear lights mounted on aerodynamic, stability-enhancing vanes. The highly-commended submission is the ‘Autobianchi’ of Nir Siegel (below), whose cabin seats the passengers in a diamond-style configuration.

In other news today:

  • BMW is to build the three-cylinder petrol engine for the i8 plug-in hybrid at its UK facility, Hams Hall. The engine’s a turbocharged 1.5-litre giving 349hp/300Nm, and said to deliver 0-62mph in less than five seconds and around 78mpg. All-electric mode is about 20 miles.
  • New video of Toyota’s electric Pikes Peak contender, the TMG EV P002, is up on YouTube. This development from last year’s P001 again has a Radical chassis plus a pair of Evo Electric motors, but power is up to 350kW (469hp) and torque to 900Nm (664lb ft). Top speed is said to be about 149mph, and it has been specifically geared for the Peak.
  • There are spy shots of something purported to be a plug-in hybrid Honda Accord at Autoblog Green. Extra ‘fuel filler’ opening in the bumper masks the socket; styling gives some clues as to that of the mainstream next-gen Accord as well.
  • The Chevy Volt’s to get a minor update already in the USA: an extra 0.5kWhr of battery capacity to bump up the all-electric range by three miles  to 38, plus a new power information display, a ‘hold’ (‘eco’) mode for the transmission (as the Euro-market Ampera) and some tiny styling tweaks. The mpge rating (US test-cycle) is now 98. More info here and here.
  • The Hydro-Quebec research lab is working on a lithium-ion fast-charging solution which could enable a full zap-up for an EV in five minutes. More at
  • Renault is to start trials of a Twizy-share in the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines area this month in advance of a full launch of a scheme called Twizy Way in September. 50 of the two-seat EVs will be sited in public car parks for short-term loans to members, with booking via a smart-phone app or QR codes on the car at point-of-use. Some 200 people will take part in the intial trial.
  • What’s happening with hydrogen and fuel cell tech? Detailed look into the state of play (or lack thereof, in the UK) at the Telegraph. Good mention of the use of excess off-peak electricity for the extraction of hydrogen, in parallel with hydro-power.

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