More autonomy from Volvo

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Volvo’s moving a stage closer towards autonomy, in several senses. It’s to fit a traffic jam assistance system in production cars in 2014, adding to existing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping tech to enable a car to automatically follow the vehicle in front in slow-moving traffic. Autonomous Driving Support works at speeds up to 50kmph, and is activated by the driver pushing a button; it will steer the car as well as brake and accelerate it, maintaining a safe gap from the vehicle ahead. It can be overridden at any time, of course, and is a step towards implementation of the full SARTRE ‘platooning’ system. And it is integrated into Volvo’s upcoming self-developed Scalable Product Architecture, the underpinnings of the next-generation models which mark the company’s rebirth since its sell-off by Ford.

  • Londoners – want a free domestic 16-amp EV charger? The Low Carbon London programme (funded by the OLEV/Plugged-In Places government scheme) is handing out free chargers to individuals and businesses willing to take part in a trial and have their charging behaviour monitored. The research, by UK Power Networks, is to study demand on the national grid and build up a picture of potential peaks. Some additional on-street points will also be supplied to Source London. More at just-auto, and you can apply at Low Carbon London.

Midweek news digest: saving Saab, SARTRE, new battery tech and assorted EV snippets

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

And in other news today:

Latest on the save-Saab story: an investment consortium has made a bid for the bankrupt Swedish firm. The group includes a Japanese firm called Sun Investment and a Hong Kong-based firm called National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd; the former “specialises in high-tech environmental projects”, reports Automotive News Europe, and the latter “builds and owns power plants.” Interesting bit is that they have formed a new group called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, which gives a fair clue as to their intentions, and players in the project include a former head of Volvo Trucks. Believe it when it happens, I reckon, though you can follow the story at the ever-hopeful Saabs United.

  • Volvo has carried out the first public-highway demonstrations of road-train ‘platooning’, claimed to save an estimated 20% in fuel: the latest phase of the SARTRE project (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) saw the electronically-controlled, autonomously-driven convoy travel for 200km at 53mph with gaps of just 6m between each vehicle. More from Ricardo, the consultancy which is developing the technology, with video here.
  • More Toyota news: the Prius is now the third best-selling car in the world, with 247,230 sold in the first quarter of 2012. It’s just behind the Ford Focus (277,000) and Toyota’s stalwart Corolla (300,800), with sales boosted by the launch of the Prius C subcompact in Japan. That’s technically not the same car, but never mind, this is calculated on name-plates.
  • Nissan is launching a ‘Leaf to Home’ charging system in Japan; in combination with an EV Power Station device, this enables the connection of the car’s batteries to power a domestic supply, useful in the event of a mains or grid outage or event such as an earthquake. This has been developed by Nichicon Corporation, which has also announced its launch of an ultra-compact 10kW quick-charger, the smallest and lightest of its type.
  • EuropCar has added 30 Opel Amperas to its short-term rental fleets in Brussels and Frankfurt as well as in Amsterdam, where the range-extended EV has been trialled since March. More locations, more countries to follow.

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.

Pininfarina Cambiano; hybrid Routemaster bus on the road, more Monday news

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Pininfarina Cambiano concept – to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show – has four 79bhp electric in-wheel motors and a diesel turbine, reports Autocar. It’s claimed to have an all-electric range of 125 miles before the turbine kicks in as a generator, and can do 170mph and 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. Pictures leaked so far show a 1+2 door layout with a single large driver’s side door and a rear-hinged rear door on the passenger side; there’s a glass roof and LED headlights. Pictures have also emerged of the Infiniti e-Merge (sorry).

  • The first new diesel-electric hybrid Routemaster buses has started operation in London; nice interactive guide at the Guardian. Less than half the carbon dioxide emissions and half the nitrous oxide of their diesel-only equivalents, 40% more efficient; full press release here. Eight of these purpose-designed double-deckers will be in service by the end of May.
  • Tokyo police have been testing the use of their Mitsubishi i-MiEVs as power sources: the EVs were able to keep 20 traffic lights going for 2 hours, which could be useful in the event of outages, reports
  • Volvo, Goteborg Energi, Ericsson and the Viktoria Institute have teamed up to develop mobile connectivity for EVs: the ELVIIS (electric vehicle intelligent infra-structure) system uses GPS data for car-to-grid communications, billing for electricity usage, pre-set timings for charging and smartphone alerts on a car’s state of charge. Volvo is testing the app in five of its C30 Electric prototypes; the company plans to have 250 electric C30s up and running this summer in a three- to four-year trial.
  • California’s Envia Systems has developed a lithium-ion cell which could halve the cost of a battery and give an electric car a range of 300 miles, reports The Charging Point. The cell’s energy density is improved three-fold – and it could be in production within eighteen months.

Detroit Auto Show 2012: The hybrids are here

January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Going all-electric is a step too far for most, but the choice of hybrid cars is growing. Toyota’s previewing a member of the next-gen Prius family with the NS4 concept, a plug-in hybrid with a smartphone-like operating interface and advanced automatic crash-sensing systems; the LF-LC 2+2 coupe, meanwhile, showcases the thinking on the future of Lexus design.

Honda’s Acura division has – after much teasing last year – finally produced a new-age NSX concept.To be built and developed in the US and go on sale by 2015, this  super-coupe will combine a mid-mounted direct-injection V6 and electric motor, driving torque to all four wheels. On a slightly more accessible note, the upcoming Acura ILX compact saloon will come with an Accord-style hybrid option.

Volvo’s showing off the V60 PHEV (plug-in hybrid) with a view to its US launch, Volkswagen the Jetta Hybrid, and Mercedes-Benz its E400  and E300, the first with a 3.5 V6 petrol engine and the latter a four-cylinder, 2.1-litre Bluetec diesel. Neither of the Mercs can do more than a mile or 35mph in all-electric mode, however.

Arguably the most important of the hybrids at the show, however – at least for us in Europe – is the Ford Fusion, aka next Mondeo. It’ll come in two forms (as well as conventional gas or diesel), standard Hybrid or plug-in Energi, both with a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, and Ford says the Energi will be more efficient than either the Chevy Volt or Prius PHV.

Friday newsbriefs, Mitsubishi PX-MiEV II plug-in hybrid

November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mitsubishi is to show a plug-in hybrid concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next month. The PX-MiEV II is a midsized SUV (previewing the next-gen Outlander) with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine and 70kW motor. It has an overall range of over 800km and an all-electric range of 50km, and selectable all-electric and battery charge modes, the latter switching the engine to act as a generator. The battery can be used as an external power source – when camping, for example, or in an emergency situation – and it is quick-charge compatible. This concept also showcases Mitsubishi’s new twin-motor four-wheel drive system, coupled with traction control developed from that in the Evo X. Acceleration from a standing start – with 100% of the electric motor’s torque available – is said to be equivalent of the oomph from a 3.0 V6. And Mitsubishi is also showing its Minicab-MiEV electric van, the latest ASX (RVR) small crossover with stop-start, an integrated house/car/energy management concept with smart power metering called MiEV House – plus the MiEV Cafe, powered by the battery of the EV parked next to it, via a heavy-duty external power supply device.

  • Easier EV charging? POD Point, a charging point-maker, has received an £89,000 government contract to create a database of publicly-accessible facilities across the UK. This will involve “systematic mapping”, says Transport Minister Norman Baker, and a system called Central Whitelist, allowing e-motorists to use points from different suppliers and different membership schemes in different locations – like mobile phone ‘roaming’. The data will be accessible via sat navs and mobile apps.
  • And further into the future: Qualcomm, which has just bought out wireless induction-charging firm Halo IPT, is to to start a trial of wireless charging in London, in partnership with Transport For London, Chargemaster and minicab giant Addison Lee. The trial, to be based in East London’s ‘Tech City’ development, will involve around 50 EVs and will be funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the Office for Low-Emissions Vehicles (OLEV).
  • Ford has announced a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, developed in the UK at the Dunton and Dagenham engine facilities. This turbocharged, direct-injection unit will feature first in the Focus early next year, giving 125hp (and 56.5mpg) or 100hp, with CO2 emissions from these two versions just 114g/km and 109g/km respectively. The engine – to be built in Craiova, Romania – will then go into the C-MAX, Grand C-MAX and upcoming B-MAX (mid-2012).
  • Nissan is giving away 400 fast-chargers across Europe to help accelerate EV use. 65 will be deployed in the UK at motorway service stations, airports and city centre locations.
  • Volvo is trialling two C30 Electrics in the Jiading district, Shanghai, in a bid to learn what Chinese consumers want from an EV.
  • The world’s smallest electric car is just one molecule big – if you’ve not caught the ‘nano-car’ story yet, then it’s at the BBC website.

DeLorean back to the future with an EV; Tuesday newsbriefs

October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

File this one under Not Exactly Relevant To The Mass Market, though it’s a fun idea: the reborn DeLorean Motor Company (yep, that one) is planning to relaunch with an all-electric DMC-12, by 2013. DMC is now owned by Stephen Wynne of Humble, Texas, and the firm is essentially aiming to convert and update existing/surviving cars (206bhp petrol-powered models also to be offered). The electric tech will come from Epic EV, the (Your Houston News, via AutoblogGreen).

  • More relevant, at least in the US: tests have started of a retro-fit hybrid conversion for the big-selling GM 2500-series vans and trucks, including the GMC Savanna. XL Hybrids is using a kit developed by the UK’s Ashwoods Automotive, and is claiming fuel economy improvements of 20% (Green Car Congress).
  • The London Assembly is investigating the Paris Velib’ electric car-hire scheme with a view to launching something similar, as with the Boris bikes (which should really be called Ken cycles, of course). More at Business Green.
  • Alfa Romeo is offering its new twin-clutch semi-auto gearbox in the Giulietta hatch: this dry-clutch gearbox, called TCT, is available with the 1.4 TB MultiAir petrol engine (170bhp, returning a noteworthy 54.3mpg and emitting 121g/km) or 2.0 JTDM-2 diesel (also 170bhp; 62.8mpg and 119g/km).
  • Fewer than 4% of consumers globally would be satisfied with today’s electric cars, reports a study by Deloitte. That many? No surprise – main issues are range, price and recharging. There’s a “general desire” to buy ’em, but a “general unwillingness to compromise”. Detailed breakdown of the stats in a release posted at Autoblog Green.
  • Nice take on that GM anti-bike ad from Todd Lassa at Motor Trend – hey, even motoring hacks ride bicycles.  In fact, quite a lot of them do, and take their cycling very seriously. Liking cars and bikes is not mutually exclusive (perhaps it’s a gear-nerd thing). Motor Trend’s also reporting that the Audi A2 EV is US-bound.
  • Volvo’s confirmed sales of the V60  plug-in diesel hybrid for 2012. It’s not going to the US, but the tech will appear in another model by 2013/2014 (Automobile).

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