Sunday, 21 September 2014

Diesel smart engines pre-programmed to foil government emissions tests

Sunday Times: A shocking report claims that car manufacturers are allegedly designing 'smart engines' that are pre-programmed to recognise emissions test conditions and reduce NO2 emissions for the test, and which subsequently increase emissions by up to 10 x when they get to the road.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Infiniti LE EV with 60kWh battery pack to rival Tesla Infini 60kWh battery in 2017/18

Infiniti LE

Wireless Charging Expected To Be Standard On Infiniti LE

Stemming from an earlier Reuters article—in which Nissan is seen dropping out of the battery business in favor of outsourcing batteries from LG Chem—comes this Infiniti LE-related development.

“An all-electric Tesla rival is still planned for Nissan’s premium Infiniti brand in 2018 with batteries as big as 60 kilowatt-hours (kWh), more than twice the energy capacity of the LEAF, which is due for replacement the previous year.”

As big as 60 kWh? How will Infiniti stuff that capacity in the LE? It seems that LG Chem may well supply its next-generation lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) batteries to Infiniti for the 2018 LE. (we are pretty sure the quote misplaces MY for production year)

Increased energy density will allow for the relatively compact LE to boast up to 60 kWh of energy storage capacity.

Nissan recently update/vocalized plans for the LE by saying it would “go on sale close enough to be counted” as part of the company’s Power 88 program, so on or before March 31, 2017.

Additionally, these next-cell batteries are believed to have a price target of only $200 per kWh, according to Reuters. At least that’s the price The Alliance (Renault-Nissan) is willing to pay, no matter if the batteries are bought from an outside source or manufactured by the automaker.

300 mile Audi A2Q city car in 2017/18? According to Auto Bild, Audi is reportedly working on a tiny city car called the A2Q with range of some 300 miles.

We’re not so sure we believe that Auto Bild report, but here it is (via Google Translate):

“In the booming SUV segment, there will be with A2Q and Q6 soon purely electric-powered Audi with thick battery packs. We expect 2017/2018 with the idea. Then the lords of the rings want to give correct flow. If the expected advances in battery technology are true to the compact A2Q from 2018 sparkle with 500 km E-reach, a year earlier-starting Q6 to create even 700 km between the socket stops. Great prospects.”

The A2Q isn’t what we’d call a SUV, but rather more like a small BMW i3 (tall city car).

Auto Bild continues: “The A2Q – the name Q2 and Q4 also has can be protected Alfa – it goes completely against the BMW i3. Unlike the Bavarian neighbors but Audi does not develop completely new electric platform, but uses the familiar MQB modular architecture of Golf/A3.”

The translation gets a bit rough, but here’s the rest of it: “In the Ingolstadt then every but deliberately a unique silhouette in the style of earlier A2 – after all is not the electric Audi may be confused about how the e-Golf with its conventional brethren. One of the identifying features of all future electric novelties include a smaller single-frame grille with chrome and the great aerodynamics package in which you want to replace the mirrors with cameras as soon as this technology is qualified for admission to the major markets.”

Again, we don’t believe that Audi will have ready this A2Q with 300 miles of range in 2018, but perhaps we’ll be proven wrong.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Mercedes: 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017

Car Mercedes-Benz has revealed a plan to bring 10 plug-in hybrid models to market by 2017.

The rapid product offensive was announced by the man responsible for group research and development at Mercedes-Benz, and member of the board of Daimler AG, Dr Thomas Weber at the international launch of the S500 plug-in hybrid this week.

“During the next years we will offer plug-in hybrids in all of our volume segments,” Weber said.

“By 2017, we will launch up to 10 new models with plug-in hybrid powertrains. This covers not only our core ranges – theC-, E- and S-Class – but also a number of SUV models.

“We will bring a new plug-in hybrid to market every four months … the S-Class forms the spearhead of a true plug-in hybrid offensive of Mercedes.”

The S500 plug-in hybrid debuts a modular electric motor/battery platform that has been designed to fit “into different vehicle types from the C-Class upwards,” according to Weber.

Next in line after the S500 is likely the Mercedes-Benz C-Class plug-in hybrid, which could be revealed at September’s Paris motor show. It will utilise the same 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine and 8.7kWh battery pack (read full specifications here).

“In principle, the [plug-in hybrid] system is suitable for all Mercedes models with rear-wheel drive and 4MATIC [all-wheel] drive,” he continued.

“This modular approach enables high volumes and therefore economies of scale … a first-class, standardised modular hybrid system with individual components.

“These modules can be freely combined with gasoline and diesel engines and also with all engine types, starting withour four and six cylinders.”

The next-generation GLC-Class (formerly GLK) and E-Class, both due next year, will be assured of a similar system, while Weber says that Mercedes-Benz will focus on the hybridisation of larger cars first.

The smaller front-wheel drive A-Class, B-Class, GLA-Class and CLA-Class will then follow with an adapted system, with Weber confirming: “our modular system enables us to derive a front-wheel drive plug-in hybrid, too”.

By then, wireless charging capabilities will likely be on offer.

Mercedes-Benz senior manager and technical hybrid project manager Dr Uwe Keller added: “looking ahead we can anticipate that the plug-in hybrid will also work ‘unplugged’”.

“We are working on the charging mechanism of the future: inductive, wireless charging,” he added, explaining that all a driver would have to do is steer their Mercedes-Benz over a charging ‘plate’ on the road to recharge.

“We will soon be testing this technology on our flee … because we want to offer our customers, in the near future the convenience of wireless charging.”

European EV sales up 91% H1 2014 The most dynamic segment across Europe remained electric cars, which – from a low base – climbed 91% to 23,826 vehicles. The fastest-rising models were Tesla’s Model S and the BMW i3, while Nissan’s Leaf remained the best-selling model in the segment, rising 56% to 7,127 cars.

This looks like continuing the trend of the last four years for the market to double every year.

France: mass charging stations that smooth out grid pressure

PARIS (Reuters) - A consortium of French companies led by construction firm Bouygues has developed an electric car charging system based on old batteries that helps smooth out power demand when dozens of cars simultaneously recharge.

A typical charging station of the popular Paris Autolib self-service rental cars has four to five charging plugs, which each make no more demand on the power grid than an average home.

But imagine a firm or institution where dozens of employees arrive in the morning and all start recharging their cars at the same time. That would put a huge strain on the building's power network and force it to upgrade its electricity connections.

The Eco2charge group, which also includes car maker Renault, electrical engineering group Alstom and cable maker Nexans, has developed a charging system that assembles old batteries from electric vehicles into a power storage bank that can soak up electricity at night and gradually charge vehicles during the day.

The project, which has a 13 million euro ($16.8 million) budget, has been trialed in two Bouygues and Renault pilot sites and the group aims to sell it to office buildings, parking lots, campuses and other sites where fleets of electric cars can park.

"In about a year we will have a commercial offer," Bouygues Energy and Services director Servan Lacire said, adding that it was to soon to say how much the system would cost.

For storage, Eco2charge will use end-of-life Renault electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries. Renault, which sells electric cars but rents the batteries to their owners, owns and manages some 47,000 batteries from four different models.

Once the batteries have lost 20 to 25 percent of their charging capacity, they are no longer used in cars, but still have enough charging power for stationary power storage.

"It is a very cheap form of storage, as the cost of the batteries has already been written off for use in the vehicle," said Thomas Orsini, head of electric vehicle business development at Renault.

The charging system will work for all brands, not just Renault, he added.


The car maker is also looking at developing utility-scale power storage systems, that would assemble as many as 50 recycled car batteries into one container for use with large solar power stations or wind parks.

The system could likewise be part of a grid-wide demand-response system, and in the future it should also be possible to not only temporarily stop drawing power from the grid, but also to feed back power into it at times of peak demand.

Nexans's Alain Robic said the stations will be modular "like Lego blocks" so that companies can install anything from half a dozen to 100 or more.

Utilities across Europe are very eager to boost usage of electric cars as they see it as a way to boost power demand, which has been flat or falling due to the economic crisis and increased energy efficiency.

IHS Automotive estimates that in 2014, car makers worldwide will produce more than 217,000 battery electric vehicles, or 0.25 percent of a global production forecast of 87.7 million vehicles, rising to nearly a million electric vehicles, or 0.9 percent of a forecast 104 million vehicles, by 2020.

Across Paris, Autolib operates some 2,500 cars and nearly 900 charging stations. It has several competitors, including Wattmobile, which opened a new charging station in the French capital on Thursday.

Tesla: fully autonomous cars in 5-6 years The self-driving car debate continues to rage with strong opinions on both sides, but that isn’t stopping major automakers from progressing toward autonomy.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, speaking with Japanese news source Nikkei, recently said that his company will produce partially self-driving vehicles in three years, with more advancements to follow soon after.

“Full autopilot capability is going to happen, probably, in the five or six-year time frame,” he said.

However, because Tesla is a small company (relative to its competition) the American firm will likely need to borrow from other automakers to get the job done.

“The overall system and software will be programmed by Tesla,” he continued, “but we will certainly use sensors and subcomponents from many companies.”

Toyota will likely be one source of technology for Tesla, given the established relationship between both businesses and Lexus’ recent experimentation with autonomous vehicles.

Tesla’s first foray into the autonomy market will be a new electric vehicle that’s due to begin production in around three years. Musk stated that the electric car will incorporate some self-driving features and cost around $35,000.

Could this be the BMW-fighting Model III we reported on in July? The price matches Musk’s previous estimations, and semi-autonomous features could be a great way to differentiate the Model III from its fuel-burning rivals. Tesla will unveil the Model III in 2016 and put it on sale a year later with a 200-mile range.

The 3 Series competitor will also serve as the introduction to the company’s Gigafactory battery plant in Reno, NV. Tesla has deemed it the primary production facility for the sedan’s battery cells.   

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Perfect City EV? Toyota’s i-Road may be the perfect urban electric vehicle.

The streets of one French city will soon be filled with funky vehicles that resemble hulked-up mopeds. But before you make fun, consider that while they look silly, the way these things are being used may make them the perfect electric vehicles.

Next month, Toyota and Grenoble will launch a program giving residents access to two of the weirder vehicles built in recent memory. Through the Cité Lib by Ha:Mo (harmonious mobility) system, Toyota is providing 70 EVs that can be rented for short periods of time. Like bike sharing, the idea is to give people a way to get from public transit stations to their destinations, covering the “last mile” so they don’t feel the need to take their car.

The goal is to “be a part of creating a future urban mobility,” says Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, to make getting around cities easier and reduce emissions. We’ll have to see how the Grenoblois react to the program to gauge its success, but it’s got two things going for it. The very fact that it’s a new kind of vehicle sharing service makes it worth trying out. And more importantly, Toyota has found what may be the ideal application of electric vehicles.

Anyone 18 and older with a driver’s license can sign up for the program, which uses two kinds of Toyota vehicles: the three-wheeled i-Road, which seats one, and the four-wheeled COMS, with room for two. Fees vary, but expect to pay about €3 ($3.89) for 15 minutes, or €5 ($6.50) for half an hour. Users can park at any of 27 stations around the city, where they plug in to charge before walking away.

The new program calls to mind two kinds of vehicle sharing services. The first is car sharing. A good example is Car2Go, a Daimler AG-run company that lets users in cities in Germany and the US rent Smart cars by the minute. Users can park wherever they find a space, not at set stations, which fully solves the last mile problem.

The second is bike sharing. More than 500 cities around the world have a program, and while the specifics vary, the basic premise is usually the same: Sign up for a membership, and you can borrow a bike from any station in the city, ride it for a set amount of time (usually around 30 minutes), then return it to any station where there’s an open spot. Bikes are even better than electric cars when it comes to the environment and public health, and you can pack many more bikes into a standard bike share than you get vehicles in a car share. Of course, biking is less convenient when you’re lugging around groceries or offspring. Or when you remember that humans invented automobiles because sometimes being lazy is totally fine.

The Toyota-Grenoble program is a blend of these services. The vehicles are better than Smart cars for moving around a cramped old city like Grenoble (maneuverability is an undervalued part of mobility), though you can’t just park them wherever. Using electricity instead of gasoline is good for the environment and lungs of le peuple, but not as good as making everyone pedal. In any case, these are early days for vehicle sharing services, and we don’t know what exact combination of pros and cons people want. The very fact that Ha:Mo is a new system makes it worth trying.

But beyond that, there’s a reason we’re excited about this system: It may be the perfect application of electric vehicles. The two big downsides to the technology today are limited range and high cost. Apart from Tesla, whose vehicles can actually cross the country, automakers pitch electric cars as city vehicles with enough juice to handle most daily driving tasks. The problem is that prices are still real high, and few people are willing to pay $30,000 or more for a vehicle that’s useless when they need to hit the road for a few hours to see the in-laws. Until range goes up and prices come down, mass adoption of EVs won’t happen.

Ha:Mo solves neither problem, but sidesteps both. On a full battery, the i-Road and COMS can each drive about three hours at a presumably limited speed. That’s actually excessive for vehicles meant to be used for a few minutes at a time and charged in between. Cost isn’t an issue because people are renting the vehicles (at a reasonable rate), not buying or leasing them. EV ownership may not happen on a grand scale for years or decades. In the meantime, these vehicles fill the niche that is open to them.

One potential weakness of the Ha-Mo program is its network of just 27 parking/charging stations. The fact that the cars must be parked there limits their usefulness. Surely some residents will be too far from stations to make the vehicles worth renting.

Toyota could take a lesson here from Car2Go San Diego, one of the cities where the program uses electric instead of gas-powered cars. There, users can park wherever they want, unless the car’s battery drops below 20 percent of its range while they’re driving. In that case, they must end their journey at one of the stations around the city where they can plug in. If Ha:Mo follows suit or finds another way to solves that issue, it could finally make mass EV adoption—if not ownership—a reality.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

China’s electric cars production explodes after government backing

Xinhua: Chinese carmakers produced 11 times as many new-energy vehicles in August 2014 as they did in August 2013, as the government rolled out more support for the sector, recent data showed.

They made a total of 5,191 of the green vehicles in August, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement.

For the first eight months of the year, total production more than quadrupled to 31,137units.

New-energy vehicles include pure electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

During the January-August period, output of pure electric passenger cars soared nearly 700 percent from a year earlier to 16,276 units and that for plug-in hybrid passenger cars climbed about 12 times to 6,621 units.

Output of pure electric and plug-in hybrid commercial vehicles went up by 55 percent and 91 percent, respectively, the statement said.

China has rolled out a raft of measures to encourage the use of new-energy vehicles, including tax exemptions, subsidies for car purchases and requirements for government bodies to buy the cars.

In July, the government announced that new-energy cars will be exempted from a 10-percent purchase tax from September 1 to the end of 2017.

However, new-energy cars still account for only a tiny proportion of China's total auto output.

In the first seven months, the country's auto industry produced 13.3 million vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.