Friday news round-up…

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

vw eup1Today’s news round-up is illustrated by a picture of one of the cleaner Volkswagens on the road, charging away happily in central Brighton… Dieselgate is well-reported elsewhere, and this is a story that will continue to unfold, so no great detail here – but I will smugly point out that I did write about how “cycle-beating… can involve activating selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx” as part of a lengthy cover story feature (click here to read!) for a well-respected engineering magazine earlier this year. This looked more generally at the emissions/fuel consumption testing regime and the gaping disparities between ‘official’ data and real-life driving, but the SCR dodge was discussed, albeit without reference to a specific manufacturer (fear of legal action, given that manufacturers and trade associations were adamant that all this was within the regulatory framework.) So yeah, we knew. Problem was getting people to listen.

Kudos has to go to the ICCT, of course, for doing the testing work, and to European lobbying organisation Transport & Environment for continuing to raise awareness and kick up a stink, and for providing mere writers/observers like me with data, quotes and general backing-up of arguments. Hoping now, of course, that all this will put an end to the diesel disinformation/greenwashing campaigns, bring on far more stringently-monitored regulation, and accelerate the demise of diesel (at least in passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, in the short-term) and ultimately fossil-fuel dependency full stop. As the far-cleverer-than-me people at the Economist wrote this week, “if VW’s behaviour hastens diesel’s death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.”

And in other news/musings this week…

  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed a new real-time data exchange system for electromobility, better-linking service providers, vehicles, fleet operators, charging equipment and users. The ELISE project resulted in a telematics-based control system which can support energy storage and even selling energy from a car back to the grid. More here.
  • Bosch (enabled by the purchase of Californian start-up Seeo Inc.) is working on solid-state battery tech said to potentially double the range of EVs and PHEVs within five years – without an increase in size. These batteries have no ionic liquid, and can have pure lithium anodes; more here.
  • Some updates on the ‘Apple car’: 2019, according to the WSJ, which adds that the 600-person team currently working on the project is set to triple. The car will certainly be electric, but while Apple is researching autonomous driving very seriously, it may not be fully-autonomous at first.
  • Have to admit that the whole smartwatch thing utterly baffles me, but should such things appeal, Ford is now making its MyFord Mobile apps wrist-compatible (Apple, Android Wear; US.) For EV and PHEV users, the watch app enables remote monitoring of charge levels, notification of reaching full charge levels, pre-heating/cooling of cabin, locking/unlocking doors, and mileage/last trip summary data showing efficiency, plus vehicle location directions (i.e. to walk back to the car.) Google Maps is incorporated, with info on charging stations.
  • Catching up on the Uptake of ultra low emissions vehicles in the UK report for the Department for Transport (August 2015): it’s an overview of socio-demographic characteristics of EV drivers (UK) and likely next-generation uptake, general usage, charging behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Nothing new or surprising here, but a very useful summary of research so far in this area…
  • Looking again at a London/Berlin comparo: 35% of Londoners rely on a car for their daily travel, over half prefer to travel by car than other means, and 75% of households have a car, according to a study outlined by Citylab. (Full report from LSE Cities/Innoz here.) Patterns were similar in both cities apart from much more cycling in Berlin, but the interesting thing here is the segmentation of the participants – ‘technology-focused individualists’, ‘pragmatic transit sceptics’, ‘green-oriented’, ‘innovative access-oriented’ and ‘traditional car-oriented’ – and how policy and incentive-offering need to tackle these groups differently. (This kind of approach has been called for in the above-mentioned report for the DfT, with regard to EV drivers.)

Design Concept of the Day: Volkswagen PCP Hover Car

May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Volkswagen’s People’s Car Project, launched in China 11 months ago, has involved crowd-sourcing ideas for vehicle and technology projects. Suggestions developed by Volkswagen are the Music Car, a Beetle with an LED-enhanced exterior which changes colour according to the sounds from within, the Smart Key, which features touchscreen displays, remote birds’ eye monitoring via sat nav and 3G infomatics, plus this: the levitating Hover Car. This is a zero-emissions two-seater designed to travel, hovercraft-style, above electromagnetic road surfaces – and as it doesn’t roll along the ground, it barely looks like a car at all. “The creative ideas from the People’s Car Project give us a valuable insight into the wishes of Chinese drivers”, says Simon Loasby, Head of Design at Volkswagen Group China. “The trend is towards safe cars that can easily navigate overcrowded roads and have a personal, emotional and exciting design.” The project has been extended beyond the year initially planned, with a new phase and a competition to be launched soon. The findings from the project “will influence Volkswagen’s product strategy”, said director of marketing Luca de Meo. Video and more pics at Car Body Design.

Heads-up on some other stuff:

  • Lowdown on the E-Born3, a 14ft-long shuttle bus with in-wheel electric motors, at Autoblog Green, where you can find a full picture gallery plus video. Made by a consultancy called Applus Idiada – said to have worked on the stillborn Optimal Energy Joule – to showcase its skills, it’s a demonstration of form (interesting) following function (useful). There’s three rows of seats with the usual swivelling/configurable variability, plenty of loadspace and a theoretical 124-mile range. Not quite enough for a band tour bus, then. It’s on display at the SAE world Congress.
  • Hydro-Québec is studying EV vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) power exchanges at its research institute, working with the national centre for advanced transport to develop battery and control systems, plus two-way chargers to both recharge the battery and send power back to the grid. The work is supported by the Québec government, and is important because – I gather – it’s pretty damn cold up there in winter at times, and could glean some very valuable info about operating EVs in such conditions. More at Green Car Congress.
  • EcoVelocity show starts tomorrow at London’s ExCel Centre, runs till 13th May. You can nip next door to Grand Designs Live on the same ticket, should you so wish, which isn’t a bad two-fer.

Beijing Auto Show: Volkswagen E-Bugster, show news #1

April 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

First round-up of Beijing Auto Show news. Volkswagen is previewing the next-generation Beetle Cabriolet with the E-Bugster, a drop-top version of the coupe seen earlier this year in Detroit: this has a 115hp electric motor, a range of 110 miles, a 35-minute fast-charge function, regenerative braking and a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds. It’s 30mm wider than a standard Beetle and has its windscreen lowered by 9-mm for speedster effect; check out also the modified bumpers and LED daytime running lights.

  • BMW’s i8 Concept Spyder is showing off a new badge in Beijing: it reads eDrive, and this will be seen on all of BMW’s upcoming electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Volkswagen aims to get the average CO2 emissions of its fleet down to 120g/km by 2015. It’s also aiming to clean up its production plants and operations, reducing energy and water consumption, waste and emissions, by 25% by 2018, and cutting production CO2 by 40%. It is investing 600million euros into renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydroelectric, at its facilities. Full read of the just-released 2011 Sustainability Report here.
  • More details on the proposed plug-in hybrid powertrain option for that phenomenally vulgar Bentley EXP 9F. It’ll feature a V6 engine, do 0-62mph in less than five seconds, emit 130 g/km and have an all-electric range of 30km. But yeah, the example on show in Beijing has a 6.0-litre, 600bhp twin-turbo W12.

Design Concept of the Day: worm-e, the ELVA competition winner

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The winner of the EC-funded ELVA project competition is Spanish designer and 3D development engineer Jorge Biosca, with this city car concept called ‘worm-e’. ELVA (Advanced Electric Vehicle Architectures) worked in partnership with IKA, the Institute for Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, to call for four-wheeled concepts seating four or five people. In the next phase of the project, Biosca and the two runners-up, Enrico Gatto (Italy) and Lazlo Fogarasi-Benko (Hungary) will work with Fiat, Renault and Volkswagen to further develop their virtual concepts. And no, I don’t know, as yet, why Biosca calls his car the worm-e. More details on the comp at Car Body Design.

ELVA presented the winners alongside its own research paper at a symposium in Stuttgart this week. Its study, Customer Expectations and Technical Solutions for Third Generation Electric Vehicles, drew conclusions including: “customers expect changes in mobility and anticipate new drive concepts in the coming years” and that “customers accept that electric vehicles will be most suitable for urban and interurban usage, and related activities”, but “usage patterns contrast very much (with) expressed expectations, e.g. the actual daily driven distance compared to the desired autonomous range”, and “for electric vehicles, the refuelling comfort of an ICE vehicle sets the benchmark”. No surprises there, then.

In other news today:

  • Volkswagen is testing a fleet of 20 electric Golfs in selected US cities. 12 of the cars will be allocated to employees in San Francisco, Detroit and Washington DC for assessment of driving patterns, performance and range in different climatic conditions; no word on who’s going to get the other eight, but all participants will be issued with a 220-volt charging point and an iPhone with an app to monitor temperatures, charging and other data, and will feed back information to Volkswagen via a dedicated web portal.
  • BMW is reminding us that it’s been working on EVs for years with a short video featuring the 1972 electric 1602  which took part in the Munich Olympics opening ceremony, the funny little E1 and a very rudimentary-looking go-kart-style prototype.
  • The EU needs to support car manufacturers’ research and development work, and get behind incentives for consumers to choose lower-CO2 and electric vehicles, says Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby. Speaking at the EU Debate on Electromobility this week, he said: “European car manufacturers are facing a very difficult challenge when CO2 legislations requiring electrified cars are implemented without initiatives that make these cars affordable for a growing number of consumers”, and that “Volvo Car Corporation urges the EU to coordinate incentives whilst supporting research and development.” He also noted that it is far too early to dismiss the conventional diesel and petrol power trains. We continuously improve their efficiency“, and pointed to the high cost of battery systems for both full EVs and plug-in hybrids such as the upcoming diesel-electric V60 Plug-In. More details, more quotes here.
  • Ricardo is to form a “deeper collaboration” with Chinese supplier firm Shengrui to further develop its eight-speed automatic transmission for potential application in hybrid vehicles, or in conjunction with stop-start systems. Ricardo developed, tested and built the first Shengrui gearbox prototypes at its facility in the Midlands. More at Green Car Congress.

Design Concept of the Day: ECOmove Essence EV

March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Following yesterday’s update on the progress of the ECOmove QBEAK (see previous post), today’s Design Concept is a variant thereof. Simon Sneftrup created the Essence as his thesis project for his MA in Automotive Design at Coventry University; it’s a two-seater sports coupe-cum-commuter car based on the flexible, modular QBEAK chassis and with its electric powertrain, incorporating in-wheel motors.

“With this unique platform I have been able to design a low-chassis e-car with an element of sportiness and excellent driveability”, says Sneftrup, a Dane and a graduate in industrial design from the Aarhus School of Architecture. “We think it is very interesting to see our platform being used in different contexts”, says ECOmove CEO Mogens Løkke. “This also inspires us to see things in a different perspective”. Full gallery at the ECOmove website.

In other news today:

  • Peugeot is launching a 508 HYbrid4 saloon alongside the SW estate-based 508 RXH, with the same 37bhp e-motor driving the rear axle in addition to the 2.0 HDI 163 engine. This 200bhp car emits just 95g/km and returns a claimed 78.5mpg (the RXH does 107g/km and 69mpg) and it’s priced from £31,450 (ouch. A lot, for a Peugeot).
  • Volkswagen’s confirmed the all-electric Golf Blue e-motion for a late-2013 US launch; European sales around the same time. Plug-in Audi A3 follows 2014 (Automotive News Europe).
  • The first Solar Sail solar-recharging point – a very cool-looking structure – has been installed near Austin, Texas. Pictures, press release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Car2go is to launch in Birmingham this autumn, its first UK location. A fleet of up to 250 Smart Fortwos will be available for on-the-spot hire within a 30 square-mile area, from selected off-street parking spots or any on-street spaces; more details on pricing will be released shortly.

Geneva Motor Show #1

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Giugiaro Brivido concept: a good excuse to kick things off with a picture of a red super-coupe. This thing’s got gull-wing doors, of course – which emphasise its Back To The Eighties air – but more pertinently, it does get a modern-day Volkswagen-developed hybrid powertrain with 360hp 3.0-litre engine, giving 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and over 170mph. It’s a four-seater, carbonfibre/aluminium GT with rear-view cameras and steering column-mounted monitors, and iPad-integrated controls for entertainment;it’s said to be fully-functioning and road-capable and, says car design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, “not an object which is destined to remain an unachievable dream. My intention has always been to design something which is close to industrial reality and can easily be released into the market”. Full gallery of pictures and press release posted at World Car Fans.

Digest of other news so far, in no particular order:

  • That Bentley SUV, called EXP 9F: replete with twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 but plug-in hybrid (with V6) and V8 diesel to be offered as options. Should any of its target audience be interested. Ain’t pretty, either.
  • Great news: Nissan is to build the Invitation (Micra replacement) in Sunderland, creating 2000-odd jobs (underwritten by £9million of goverment funding, it has to be said). Could the range include a Renault Zoe-like EV, too? Just a thought…
  • Volkswagen Polo BlueGT has cylinder deactivation, shutting down two of its four cylinders under light demand and when cruising; this sporty 140hp turbocharged 1.4 petrol will thus return 60mpg and 108 g/km (62.8mpg and 105g/km with optional DSG transmission). On sale in mainland Europe in July, UK sales tbc.
  • First pictures of Toyota’s Ft-Bh hybrid concept, proposal for a low-cost hybrid supermini – looks interesting. This could be production-feasible.
  • Mitsubishi has confirmed a 50g/km plug-in hybrid version of the new-generation Outlander SUV for 2013; this will have a 30-mile all-electric mode and 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s also showing the MiEV House, a prototype grid-balancing car/home energy system (as seen in Tokyo last year).
  • Jaguar’s honing the final design of the hybrid C-X75 supercar, reports Autocar: this’ll cost around £700,000 and will have a Cosworth four-cylinder engine, a 60km all-electric range and CO2 ouput of 99g/km.

Midweek newsbriefs

January 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Announcement of the day: the £400million government-backed UKH2Mobility programme, involving 13 companies. It’ll investigate the future of fuel cell vehicles, the necessary infrastructure for refuelling and what the UK needs to do to be at the forefront of the ‘hydrogen economy’. Participating firms include Toyota, Daimler, Vauxhall and Nissan.

  • The French government, meanwhile, is funding a project called e-MECA to develop high power density solutions for motor-generators. It’s coordinated by Valeo and will run for three years. More at Green Car Congress.
  • Volkswagen E-Bugster (pictured) is a “serious proposal” for production, reports Autocar.
  • Renault is running an EV-related design competition for students – and the first prize is a year’s-worth (up to £9000) of tuition fees paid. Second prize is a weekend for two in Paris. Check out for the lowdown; Renault will also be taking the Twizy on a campus tour, going to University College London, Birmingham City Uni, Manchester Metropolitan and Glasgow Uni next month to promote the two-seat city EV as a student transport solution.

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