Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Diesel cars face £10 charge for driving into central London' Plans to charge drivers of diesel cars about £10 to drive into central London are being considered.

The levy would be on top of the current £11.50 congestion charge for driving into the centre of the capital.

London Mayor Boris Johnson wants the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to be introduced by 2020.

The Times newspaper says he will lobby the government to increase vehicle excise duty on diesel cars to encourage motorists to move to cleaner vehicles.

Only diesel vehicles meeting the Euro 6 emissions standard will be exempt, while petrol cars registered before 2006 will also have to pay.

All new cars sold from 1 January 2015 must meet the Euro 6 emissions standard, a stringent European Union directive to cut exhaust pollutants which targets a cut in nitrogen dioxide, seen as an air pollutant.

London has been in breach of European targets on air pollution

A spokesman for the mayor said the plans will be subject to a full consultation and any levy on cars not meeting the Euro 6 emissions standard would be "likely to be a similar amount to the congestion charge".

The mayor's environment adviser, Matthew Pencharz, said: "Over recent years the Euro diesel engine standards have not delivered the emission savings expected, yet governments have been incentivising us to buy them.

"This has left us with a generation of dirty diesels."

Correspondent analysisMatt McGrath, BBC News environment correspondent

Many politicians argue that the root cause of London's poor air quality is Europe.

EU attempts to improve diesel engines in cars have focused on reducing carbon dioxide, but emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) weren't restricted.

Many governments, not just in Britain, gave incentives to motorists to turn to diesel as a way of meeting EU climate change targets. So NO2 levels soared.

Mayor Boris Johnson will give more details about his plans to curb emissions of nitrogen dioxide in a speech to mark 60 years since the first London-specific Clean Air Act was passed, stopping the burning of coal in some areas of the city.

Campaigners now believe the mayor should take a note of the history and announce a complete ban on the dirtiest diesels.

The RAC foundation has said incentives, such as putting diesel cars in lower vehicle excise duty bands, was to blame.

Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "This isn't quite a mis-selling scandal, but for years ministers took their eye off the ball and encouraged drivers to buy diesels to help fight climate change.

"That has come at a cost: local air pollution. Today 10 million cars in Britain are powered by diesel engines - a third of the total.

"Part of the problem is regulation. In laboratory conditions diesel cars have met strict test criteria. Unfortunately that performance hasn't been matched on the road and now we have a significant health issue because of the dash for diesel."

The initiatives are being considered to help meet European regulations on clean air and avoid the threat of heavy fines for breaching them.

'Backward step'

But AA president Edmund King said the vehicles with the most impact on air quality were buses, taxis and trucks.

"Very few cars enter central London so these measures will have more effect on the growing numbers of small businesses and service vehicles on whom London's economy relies.

"They will have to plan ahead to change their vehicles if they are to stay in business."

Simon Birkett, from Clean Air in London, said: "In February last year Boris was planning to ban older diesel vehicles from the congestion charging area from 2020.

"What he's now announcing is a backward step. It will be a charge for some diesel vehicles 10 years after a city like Berlin actually banned the oldest diesels.

"It's like allowing rich people to pay ten quid a day to smoke cigars in pubs and schools."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that unless action was taken, London, Birmingham and Leeds would face dangerous levels of pollution from vehicle exhausts by 2030.

Government figures show long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to more than 28,000 deaths across the UK in 2010.

And in February, it was reported that pollution near Buckingham Palace was the worst in the UK and almost four times the EU legal limit.

Jenny Jones, from the Green Party on the London Assembly, told BBC London 94.9: "I back Boris on this but he is making a lot of promises that a future mayor will have to implement.

"He should show some political bravery and bring the Ultra Low Emission Zone forward - what is he waiting for?"

Ireland: rapid charge point every 60km Ireland now has 1,200 public charging points for electric cars all over the island – and a fast charger, on average, every 60km on main roads.

The announcement of the major infrastructure milestone may go some way towards alleviating 'range anxiety' – fear of not having enough charge on a long journey – which has deterred people from buying electric cars.

The ESB (the national electricity board in Ireland) says it has just completed installing fast chargers across the country as well as 10 AC chargers at Iarnród Éireann sites. All big towns and cities have electric vehicle chargers.

ESB's head of innovation, John McSweeney, said: "It is expected that the nationwide network of charge points will encourage people to go electric in the near future."

He said an electric car costs just two cents a kilometre to fuel and motorists could save €2,300 a year in running costs.

Electric-car buyers also get incentives worth €10,000 in grants and VRT rebates. But official figures show just 125 electric cars were bought in the first six months of this year.

It is an improvement on the 36 for the corresponding period in 2013 but falls well short of the Government's target that 10pc of all cars will run on electricity by 2020.

UK to allow driverless cars on UK roads in January 2015 The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year.

It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time.

In addition, ministers ordered a review of the UK's road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines.

The Department for Transport had originally pledged to let self-driving cars be trialled on public roads by the end of 2013.

Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed the details of the new plan at a research facility belonging to Mira, an automotive engineering firm based in the Midlands.

"Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society," he said.

UK engineers, including a group at the University of Oxford, have been experimenting with driverless cars. But, concerns about legal and insurance issues have so far restricted the machines to private roads.

Other countries have, however, been swifter to provide access to public routes.

The US States of California, Nevada and Florida have all approved tests of the vehicles. In California alone, Google's driverless car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road.

In 2013, Nissan carried out Japan's first public road test of an autonomous vehicle on a highway.

And in Europe, the Swedish city of Gothenburg has given Volvo permission to test 1,000 driverless cars - although that trial is not scheduled to occur until 2017.

Competition cash

UK cities wanting to host one of the trials have until the start of October to declare their interest.

The tests are then intended to run for between 18 to 36 months.

A £10m fund has been created to cover their costs, with the sum to be divided between the three winners.

Meanwhile, civil servants have been given until the end of this year to publish a review of road regulations.

This will cover the need for self-drive vehicles to comply with safety and traffic laws, and involve changes to the Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales.

Two area will be examined by the review: how the rules should apply to vehicles in which the driver can take back control at short notice, and how they should apply to vehicles in which there is no driver.
Nissan is one of many companies developing self-drive vehicles

International rivals

In May, Google unveiled plans to manufacture 100 self-driving vehicles.

The search-giant exhibited a prototype which has no steering wheel or pedals - just a stop-go button.

Google has also put its autonomous driving technology in cars built by other companies, including Toyota, Audi and Lexus.

Other major manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and General Motors, are developing their own models.

Most recently, the Chinese search engine Baidu also declared an interest, saying its research labs were at an "early stage of development" on a driverless car project.

But concerns about the safety of driverless cars have been raised by politicians in the US and elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the FBI warned that driverless cars could be used as lethal weapons, predicting that the vehicles "will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car".

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Iceland ready to switch to EV

Iceland is poised to become the first country in the world fully wired for electric car charging, and it’s happening all at once, with Israel’s misfortune becoming Iceland’s gain. It helps, a lot, that Iceland has abundant clean electricity and is so small—the size of Kentucky, with only 325,000 people.

The first three Tesla Model S cars for 2014 lined up for new customers. (EVEN photo)<a  data-cke-saved-href="">test</a> href="">test</a>
The first three Tesla Model S cars for 2014 lined up for new customers. (EVEN photo)
Huge resources of both hydroelectric and geothermal energy mean that Iceland has generating capacity far beyond what it can use itself. Right now a lot of the excess power is going to making aluminum for export, a dirty process. Since gasoline is very expensive in Iceland (approximately $8 a gallon), fueling with domestic power makes a whole lot of sense. A national effort to run Iceland on hydrogen fizzled out, in part because of the difficulty of getting fuel-cell cars onto the island, but EVs are readily available.

Gisli Gislason, the CEO of Reykjavik-based Northern Lights Energy and EVEN, tells me that he’s bought 200 240-volt charging poles from the flamboyant but now-defunct Better Place, which was to have turned Israel into an electric vehicle paradise. In a deal that splits Better Place’s considerable assets, Iceland gets the chargers and Renault takes back its 359 Fluence Z.E. cars set up for battery swapping. Liquidators have been trying to offload Better Place’s assets since last year, but two previous deals fell through.

Gisli Gislason of EVEN (left) and Shai Agassi of Better Place shake hands on a deal in London. (EVEN photo)
Gisli Gislason of EVEN (left) and Shai Agassi of Better Place shake hands on a deal in London. (EVEN photo)
EVEN is the main EV vendor in Iceland, selling the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf and the Indian-made Mahindra Reva e2o. Since September 2013, Gislason says, 20 Leafs and 20 Model S have been sold. “We expect to put 250 new EVs on the road in the next 12 months. We’re seeing the same trend as in Norway—sales are booming.”

There aren’t many chargers now, but wiring the country won’t be a huge challenge. “The good thing about Iceland is that we have two thirds of the population in the capital of Reykjavik,” Gislason says. “There’s one 900-mile main road around the island, and only a few small towns off the road, but within 60 miles of it. I think 200 charging poles should do the job.” The company is close to a deal with a fuel retailer that would put chargers in gas station parking lots across Iceland.

Better Place charging poles arrive in Iceland. Two hundred will cover the country. (EVEN photo)
Better Place charging poles arrive in Iceland. Two hundred will cover the country. (EVEN photo)
“If this works out, EV owners in Iceland will not only be using the cleanest energy in the world, but also driving for free,” Gislason said. “Beat that.”

Helsinki's ambitious plan to make car ownership pointless

The Guardian: Finland's capital hopes a 'mobility on demand' system that integrates all forms of shared and public transport in a single payment network could essentially render private cars obsolete

The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point "mobility on demand" system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.

That the city is serious about making good on these intentions is bolstered by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority's rollout last year of a strikingly innovative minibus service called Kutsuplus. Kutsuplus lets riders specify their own desired pick-up points and destinations via smartphone; these requests are aggregated, and the app calculates an optimal route that most closely satisfies all of them.

All of this seems cannily calculated to serve the mobility needs of a generation that is comprehensively networked, acutely aware of motoring's ecological footprint, and – if opinion surveys are to be trusted – not particularly interested in the joys of private car ownership to begin with. Kutsuplus comes very close to delivering the best of both worlds: the convenient point-to-point freedom that a car affords, yet without the onerous environmental and financial costs of ownership (or even a Zipcar membership).

But the fine details of service design for such schemes as Helsinki is proposing matter disproportionately, particularly regarding price. As things stand, Kutsuplus costs more than a conventional journey by bus, but less than a taxi fare over the same distance – and Goldilocks-style, that feels just about right. Providers of public transit, though, have an inherent obligation to serve the entire citizenry, not merely the segment who can afford a smartphone and are comfortable with its use. (In fairness, in Finland this really does mean just about everyone, but the point stands.) It matters, then, whether Helsinki – and the graduate engineering student the municipality has apparently commissioned to help it design its platform – is proposing a truly collective next-generation transit system for the entire public, or just a high-spec service for the highest-margin customers.

It remains to be seen, too, whether the scheme can work effectively not merely for relatively compact central Helsinki, but in the lower-density municipalities of Espoo and Vantaa as well. Nevertheless, with the capital region's arterials and ring roads as choked as they are, it feels imperative to explore anything that has a realistic prospect of reducing the number of cars, while providing something like the same level of service.

To be sure, Helsinki is not proposing to go entirely car-free. (Many people in Finland have a summer cottage in the countryside, and rely on a car to get to it.) But it's clear that urban mobility badly needs to be rethought for an age of commuters every bit as networked as the vehicles and infrastructures on which they rely, but who retain expectations of personal mobility entrained by a century of private car ownership. Helsinki's initiative suggests that at least one city understands how it might do so.

BMW 24Kw DC wall charger's take on the BMW 24Kw DC wall charger:

Being able to rapid charge an electric car’s battery pack from empty to 80 per cent full in around thirty minutes is unarguably one of the biggest selling points among many of today’s modern electric cars. In order to install one however, sites wishing to offer DC quick charging facilities have not only needed the electrical capacity to provide upwards of 50 kilowatts of power to a rapid charge station but the physical space to set aside for the unit itself. Traditionally, that’s meant a spot in a nearby parking lot capable of accommodating a unit as big as a standard domestic upright refrigerator.

You’ll need a BMW i3 fitted with the optional CCS charging socket to make use of the new charging station.

But at yesterday’s Plug-In 2014 conference in San Jose, California, BMW North America unveiled a new DC quick charging station that weighs in at 100 pounds, is small enough to mount on a wall, and will be sold to official BMW partners across the U.S. for just $6,548.

Developed in collaboration with Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, the DC quick charging station is based on the DC Combo Combined Charge Standard (CCS) developed between U.S. and German car makers as an alternative to the already popular CHAdeMO quick charge standard. While the standard itself is capable of supporting power transfer rates as high as 50 kilowatts, BMW’s wall-mounted unit maxes out at 24 kilowatts.

While that might seem a lot slower than the full 50 kilowatts maximum allowable under the standard, the 24 kilowatt charger isn’t that much slower than a more powerful unit. That’s because electric cars only charge at the full 50 kilowatts for the first few minutes of a quick charging cycle. As the battery pack’s state of charge rises, the amount of power being fed into the battery pack gradually drops, as this very informative graph from the MyNissanLeaf forum shows.

As a consequence, someone who wishes to charge up their BMW i3 with the new BMW DC rapid charger from empty to 80 per cent full may notice that they need to wait around for a few more minutes than they might with a 50 kilowatt charger, but the only people who will really notice are those who have a completely empty battery pack and need a few minutes of quick charging versus a full charge to help them reach their destination.

BMW’s wall-mounted charging station is designed to offer 24 kilowatt DC quick charging power to the BMW i3

We should probably note at this point that the BMW i DC quick charger should work with any electric car fitted with the DC Combo 1 CCS connector, yet quick charging capability isn’t included as standard with the BMW i3. To make use of this charging station and the connector, you’ll need to have specified your car at the point of ordering with DC CCS capability, regardless of it being an all-electric i3 or a range-extended i3 REx. If your car doesn’t have the CCS socket, you won’t be able to quick charge.

Designed to either pedestal or wall-mount, the new BMW-branded DC quick charging station is not only a lot easier to site than full-size 50 kilowatt units, but it should also be cheaper for businesses to install thanks to its more modest power requirements. While you’re unlikely to be able to install one in a domestic situation, the lower cost over more powerful units should encourage more medium-sized businesses to offer CCS DC quick charging as a customer perk.

Alongside the launch of the new quick charging station, BMW announced that like Nissan and Tesla, it plans to offer its electric car customers unlimited DC quick charging for free. Unlike Tesla’s nationwide Supercharger network and Nissan’s expanding No Charge to Charge program, BMW’s free charging scheme will initially only be offered in the state of California.

Offered under the BMW ChargeNow program in collaboration with NRG eVgo, BMW says i3 owners will be able to charge for free across California at any CCS equipped eVgo Freedom Station sites from now through 2015. In order to be eligible, owners need to charge at least once by the end of 2014 at an eVgo DC quick charger. While there are limited numbers of CCS charging stations in the wild at the time of writing, BMW says eVgo plans to install at least 100 CCS charging stations across California to support the promotion.

Stanford Foresees $25,000, 300-Mile EV Battery Range With New Honeycomb Battery A research team from the Stanford School of Engineering has just figured out how to stabilize the lithium in a lithium-ion battery, and that could help bring the typical EV down to the level of mainstream affordability. 

The team is looking at a price point of $25,000 for an EV battery range of 300 miles, which would be competitive with a 40 mpg gasmobile.

The dream of extending EV battery range usually comes with a high price tag, so the idea that longer range could actually bring down costs is of particular interest, especially considering that former Energy Secretary Steven Chu is a member of that Standford research team.

Monday, 28 July 2014

BMW Introduces Its Own BMW i DC Fast Charger in US

bmw i3 BMW Introduces Its Own BMW i DC Fast Charger

After criticising Tesla for introducing its superchargers incompatible with other models, BMW of North America launched its BMW i DC Fast Chargers which can charge the BMW i3 all-electric vehicle’s battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes.

A joint development between BMW and Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, BMW i DC Fast Chargers will 'change the face of public charging' as the first compact and affordable DC Combo fast charger.

The first BMW i DC Fast Charger will be on display at Plug-In 2014 on July 28 at the San JoseConvention Center. BMW also announced its new ChargeNow DC Fast program in cooperation with NRG eVgo, in which BMW i3 drivers in California can enjoy no cost unlimited 30 minute DC fast charging, at NRG eVgo Freedom Station sites equipped with DC Combo Fast Charging, through 2015.

Conventional DC fast chargers are about the size of a standard refrigerator, cost tens of thousands of dollars and require a significant amount of electricity. Half the size of a traditional electric vehicle DC charger – measuring 31”H x 19”W x 12”D and weighing approximately 100 pounds – BMW i DC Fast Chargers can be mounted on a wall, a first for electric vehicle DC fast chargers. In addition, BMW i DC Fast Chargers will be priced significantly less than other DC Combo chargers in the market at $6,548 for authorized BMW partners.

The 24 kW DC Fast Charger feeds the current directly to the vehicle’s battery, resulting in a more efficient and faster charge. BMW i DC Fast Chargers use the SAE Combo 1 connector, the North American automotive industry standard for fast charging; feature a rugged aluminum IP54 enclosure; meet NEMA 3 requirements; and are designed to perform in extreme weather conditions, from -40°F to 185°F.

Additionally, the BMW i DC Fast Charger is ChargePoint network-enabled, allowing electric vehicle drivers with the SAE Combo 1 inlet to access the BMW i DC Fast Charger using a ChargePoint or ChargeNow card. Major automakers including BMW, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche have committed to adopting the SAE Combo 1 inlet for DC charging.

The BMW i DC Fast Chargers will be available for BMW i Centers across the U.S. beginning in August.

Introducing ChargeNow DC Fast for BMW i3 Drivers
In keeping with its holistic approach to making DC fast charging more accessible and, in turn, increasing the adoption of electric vehicles, BMW, in cooperation with NRG eVgo, will offer no cost charging to BMW i3 drivers at participating eVgo Freedom Station sites equipped with DC Combo Fast Charging in California through 2015.

Using their ChargeNow cards, BMW i3 drivers will have access to unlimited 30-minute DC fast charging sessions with the ChargeNow DC Fast program. BMW i3 owners can sign up easily for ChargeNow DC Fast at In order to receive the full benefits of the program, BMW i3 drivers must use the ChargeNow card, provided with their BMW i3, to charge the vehicle at least once by December 31, 2014, at a participating eVgo Freedom Station. By doing so, BMW i3 drivers will enjoy continued access to no cost DC charging sessions through the end of 2015. Eligible BMW i3 vehicles must be equipped with the DC Fast Charging option (SAE).

eVgo will deploy a minimum of 100 BMW i3 compatible DC Fast Chargers across California to support the ChargeNow DC Fast Program.

Ampera is to be retired

Opel chief Karl-Thomas Neumann has confirmed that the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera is for the chop.
"After the eventual run-out of the current generation Ampera, we'll introduce a successor product in the electric vehicle segment," Neumann said. "Our next electric vehicle will be part of our massive product offensive - with 27 new vehicles in the 2014-2018 time frame.
"We see e-mobility as an important part of the mobility of tomorrow and we will continue to drive down costs and deliver affordability."
According to JATO Dynamics data the Ampera was "the fourth most popular plug-in in Europe (25 countries including Russia) in 2013 with 2,925 sales (plus 947 Chevy Volts) after Mitsubishi's Outlander (8,239), the V60 (8,066) and Toyota's Prius (4,958).
"Neumann also confirmed Opel's planning a new entry level model but this would not be a budget car but a real Opel (quality, innovation, German engineering)."

Next Toyota Prius Plug-in Will Be Able To Charge Wirelessly

wireless-prius Toyota had previously announced that it was testing Massachusetts-based WiTriCity’s wireless charging system on the Prius Plug-In, and those tests apparently went well. Plug-In Cars reports that the WiTriCity wireless charging system will be offered as an option on the next Toyota Prius Plug-In, due out in the fall of 2016.

The system is based off of technology developed down the street at MIT by Marin Soljačić, and what seems to have courted Toyota is the concept of “positional freedom.” Basically, the car and charging pad don’t need to be precisely aligned to deliver a charge, as they are in many other systems. This means drivers are free from annoying repositioning of the car in order to ensure it gets juiced up. RIght now charging is limited to just 3.3 kw, but should be up to 6.6 kw by next year, before it goes on sale in the new Prius Plug-In. Wireless charging is a huge boon for EV and plug-in hybrid owners, as it totally eliminates the plugging-in part.

It makes sense that Toyota would pursue wireless charging with the next Prius Plug-In, as reports are painting a picture of a more high-tech hybrid than the current car. Wireless charging is likely to be just one piece of the puzzle, as Toyota is finding it more and more difficult to improve fuel economy due to diminishing returns on engine and aerodynamic efficiency. As far as my wish list for the Prius Plug-In goes, more operational range would be nice, and would probably boost sales as the competition is eating away at the hybrid’s annual sales lead.

Make no mistake, the Prius is still top dog, and by making if techier, Toyota is only broadening its appeal. 2016 is supposedly the year wireless charging goes mainstream, and it could make the growing number of EV charging stations obsolete in short order. Or it could be a nifty feature that works better in theory than in practice.