Tuesday, 21 October 2014

BMW-Backed Researchers Closing In on Cheaper Carbon Fiber

Bloomberg.com; Large-scale manufacturing of cars made with lightweight carbon fiber is moving closer to reality as costs start to fall, according to a materials-development group that has Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) as a partner.

MAI Carbon Cluster Management GmbH, a research effort supported by Germany’s federal government, businesses and research institutions, is making progress toward reducing carbon-fiber production costs by 90 percent, according to Klaus Drechsler, head of the 80 million-euro ($102 million) project.

“We’ve certainly reached a halfway point on our cost-cutting target for suitable carbon-fiber parts,” Drechsler, who’s also a professor at the Technical University of Munich, said a phone interview. “We’ll see a lot more carbon-fiber use in the next generation of cars.”

BMW and Audi AG (NSU), the world’s two biggest makers of luxury cars, are among more than 70 companies and other entities backing MAI. Manufacturers are seeking carbon-fiber components to replace standard metal parts that may weigh twice as much. The material was reserved until recently for high-end sports cars because it costs as much as $20 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) in its raw form, compared with less than $1 for steel, according to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants Holding GmbH.

“The key is to really drive automation” in production, Drechsler said. “There are different scenarios about how carmakers can use carbon fiber -- extensively like BMW, with a carbon-fiber chassis, or with smaller components.”
Electric Cars

MAI, based in Augsburg, Germany, is funded for at least the five years through in 2017. Partners also include planemaker Airbus Group NV (AIR), engineering company Siemens AG and SGL Carbon SE (SGL), which has a joint venture with BMW to produce carbon fiber that’s used in the passenger frame for the vehicle manufacturer’s i3 electric city car and i8 hybrid sports car.

BMW started rolling out the i3 almost a year ago in November and sold more than 10,000 of the model in the first nine months of this year.

Similar research efforts are under way in the U.S. Established in 2011, Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium, based in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is pursuing new, lower-cost carbon-fiber materials with partners including Ford Motor Co. (F) and Dow Chemical Co. (DOW)

The technology is already “very, very economical” in BMW’s i8 and could be used in other models like the high-end 7-Series sedan to cut weight, Herbert Diess, head of development at the Munich-based carmaker, said in an interview at the Paris Motor Show.

Applications of carbon fiber in cheaper vehicles “is going to develop over time,” Diess said. “Mixed use of materials is a becoming a key term across the industry.”

Tesla Teardown Reveals Similarity To Smartphones

CleanTechnica.com: Compared to the often-clunky infotainment systems of conventional cars, the 17-inch touchscreen in the Tesla Model S is a breath of fresh air. So how did Tesla do it? A teardown of the Tesla Model S computing systems show more in common with smartphones and tablets than your traditional car, and that explains a lot.

In less than a decade, touchscreen devices have permeated every aspect of society almost seamlessly… except for automobiles. Carmakers have struggled to integrate a user-focused infotainment system in a car, and while individual systems each have their strengths and weaknesses, the Model S has set a new standard for these systems. Except for the hazard lights (which must have a manual button by law), every system is controlled by the touchscreen. Meanwhile, the Kia Soul I drove last year had 42 buttons on the center console alone, with redundancy on top of redundancy on top of redundancy.

IHS Technology tore down a Model S that it bought at auction and went through every individual system, and what the company found is that Tesla took its cues from smartphones and tablets when designing its driver systems. Andrew Rassweiler, senior director for materials and cost benchmarking at the IHS, said in the report (via Green Car Congress) that:

The cost structure of the electronics, the use of large displays in the cabin, the touch-screen-based controls, the mobile microchips—everything in this design makes the Tesla experience more like a media tablet or high-end smartphone than a traditional automobile. It’s like looking at the components from the latest mobile device from an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy product. When it comes to the user-facing segment of the Model S’s electronics, the company has radically departed from business-as-usual in the automotive market.

But the biggest difference (warning: pun incoming) is the sheer size the central touchscreen, which at 17-inches is 10-inches larger than typical automotive touchscreens. This touchscreen of that size is expensive, and represents a deliberate design choice by Tesla. It seems to have worked, as has the decision to keep much of the infotainment design and manufacturing in-house. Large automakers have a whole network of suppliers and typically farm out components to a wide field of manufacturers; by keeping much of the design in-house, Tesla has more control over each and every aspect of the system. That said, not everything comes from Tesla, like the touchscreen itself, which was made by TPK Holdings, which made the touchscreens for the first generation of Apple iPhones.

Another sign of the difference between the Model S and other automakers is the sheer amount of computing power on board the Tesla. An NVIDIA graphics processor powers the 12.3-inch gauge cluster display as well as the 17-inch touchscreen, which helps give every digital button a crisp, almost-3D look. Compared to other automakers, Tesla uses a Tegra 3 computer processor, whereas other luxury carmakers are still using the Tegra 2, which debuted back in 2010. In terms of computers, that’s pretty much ancient history.

Thanks to Tesla, automakers can no longer put forth outdated infotainment systems as the industry standard, and this could usher in a new era of driver-focused infotainment systems. 

UK: Over a quarter of the UK’s plug-in cars sold in last 3 months

Gov.co.uk: Sales of electric cars and other plug-in vehicles continue to rapidly increase, with a record number of people taking advantage of government grants.

The Plug-in Car Grant reduces the price of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) by up to £5,000 for cars and £8,000 for vans, making them more affordable for the public and businesses.

Between July and September 2014, over 5,000 grants were provided, more than double the number than in the previous 3 months and almost a third of all grants since the scheme was launched in 2010. There are now over 17,000 grant funded ULEVs on the UK’s roads.

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said: 'It is not surprising that people want these vehicles – they are a pleasure to drive and incredibly cheap to run, as well as beneficial to the environment. The government is breaking down barriers that may have put people off in the past.

This growing confidence helps the UK strengthen its position as a global leader in developing green technology. Expanding this sector is also creating thousands of jobs and contributing to Britain’s thriving £11 billion automotive industry, and encouraging more investment in the UK – a key part of this government’s long-term economic plan.'

All new vehicles will have some kind of ULEV element by 2040. There has been a steady rise in the number of people taking up low emission vehicles, as more models become available and the nationwide network of charging points continues to expand. Driving costs are as low as 2p per mile.

The plug-in car grant is one of a range of Department for Transport measures in place to encourage uptake with a further £500 million to be invested by government in the industry between 2015 and 2020.

The Go Ultra Low campaign website, which is supported by government and industry, provides advice and information on ULEVs, including a guide that matches those using the site with the vehicle that most closely matches their needs.

Gizmodo.com: At over 60 feet in length the BYD Lancaster eBus uses an articulated dual-body design to maximise rider capacity, but even when full BYD Motors promises the electric bus can travel over 170 miles on a single charge. To ensure the technology on board is safe for the public, the eBus uses the company's iron-phosphate batteries which are fire-safe, recyclable, and can be recharged in about two to four hours. And since the buses would be charged overnight during off-peak energy hours, a whole fleet can be recharged without requiring an increase in power to a local power grid.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

UK: EV Sales Surge

As of September, 2014 sales of plug-in electric cars in the UK are 8,803, so it looks like full year sales could reach 10,000 units for the first time.

Of the 8,803 sales, 4,500 were pure electric and 4,303 were PHEV.

By the end of the year the UK EV car parc could reach 17,000 units.


(source: SMMT)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Research: EVs a $533 bn Market By 2025

IDTechEx: Electric Vehicles - A $533 billion credible prospect.

Electric Vehicles are on a roll, with the global market forecast for all hybrid and pure electric vehicles expected to exceed $533 billion in 2025 for all hybrid and pure electric vehicles 

These are the new findings by analysts IDTechEx in their recently updated report Electric Vehicle Forecasts, Trends and Opportunities 2015-2025. 

 The sales of the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S pure electric cars are rising rapidly, with Tesla holding back demand because it cannot produce enough for at least a year. Those are premium priced vehicles. The major problem with mainstream pure electric cars is price. 

However, Apple electronics contract assembler, Foxconn has just partnered with BAIC Motor Corp. in China to produce a sub-$15,000 pure electric car. In the race to introduce an 'affordable', $30,000 pure electric car with the range of 200-miles people demand, GM is betting it can out- compete Tesla which has chosen Nevada for their gigafactory where they plan to produce car traction batteries at only $100 per kWh within the decade. If that is successful, some of the gain can be used to increase range. 

 Hybrid cars are making profit with sales rapidly growing at the expense of conventional cars. The growing number of new models is a strong indicator of future growth. Chinese car manufacturers produced 11 times as many new energy vehicles in August 2014 as they did in August 2013 because of new incentives. The Chinese Government has reaffirmed its commitment to buying electric buses. 

Many companies have promised first pure electric motorcycles on sale in 2015, following lift off in sales from leaders, Zero Motorcycles and Brammo in the US. For example, Yamaha will offer its first two pure-electric light motorcycles next year and has recently patented a three wheeler with two motors following Toyota gaining huge interest in its iRoad pure electric three wheeler, an enclosed motorcycle with two electric motors. 70,000 people in 170 countries have pre-ordered the first pure-electric robot vacuum cleaner from Dyson, world number one in vacuum cleaners. IDTechEx are the only analysts forecasting 37 categories of electric vehicles. Recent examples are e-motorcycles and car-like Micro EVs homologated as quadricycles in Europe, including e-rickshaws and e-tuktuks for emerging nations.

Tesla: P85D extreme specs

Tesla P85D: Dual motor, all-wheel drive electric car unveiled
The P85D will go on sale in December, with a $120K base price

CBC.Ca: Luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors is making its Model S sedan faster and safer in an effort to compete better with other high-end sedans.

At an open-to-the-public unveiling Thursday night that included bumping music, free alcohol and test rides on an airport tarmac, CEO Elon Musk unveiled an all-wheel-drive version of the car that includes self-driving features he called "auto pilot."

The announcement ended a week of speculation following a cryptic Musk tweet that said, "About time to unveil the D and something else."

Taking the stage with more than 1,000 Tesla fans in the audience, he explained that the "D" stands for "dual motor." The current Model S is a rear-wheel-drive car with one motor. The "D" will have two motors — one powering the front wheels and one powering the rear wheels.

Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk unveils a new all-wheel-drive version of the Model S car in Hawthorne, Calif., on Thursday. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Musk said unlike all-wheel-drive systems on gas-powered cars, which tend to be heavy and make the cars less efficient, Tesla's system improves the speed, acceleration and mileage by optimizing which motor is used.

The dual motor version of the P85 performance sedan will have a top speed of 250 kilometres per hour, compared with the current speed of about 210 km/h. It will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, akin to exotic sports cars.

"This car is nuts. It's like taking off from a carrier deck," Musk said at a municipal airport near Los Angeles where another of Musk's companies — the commercial rocket firm SpaceX — is based. The crowd obliged with cheers and applause.

After Musk left the stage came the rides, which demonstrated both the car's acceleration and safety features. Attendees, many dressed up and some well-lubricated with drink, were not allowed behind the wheel.
Upgraded safety features

The all-wheel-drive system helps grip slippery roads, and analysts have said Tesla needed it to boost sales in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Europe. The company sold 13,850 cars in the U.S. this year through September, down 3 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp.

Tesla is also significantly upgrading its safety features.

The Model S will steer itself back if it wanders from its lane and brake automatically if it is about to hit something. Those features are offered on luxury competitors, as well as mainstream brands such as Ford, Hyundai and Toyota.

But Tesla is going a step further. Its new system will move the car over a lane when the driver uses the turn signal. It will also use cameras to read speed limit signs and decelerate accordingly. Volvo has a system that reads signs and alert drivers if they are over the limit, but does not change the speed.

Musk said "auto pilot" does not mean that the car could drive itself — as he put it, a driver cannot "safely fall asleep." Although, he said, on private property — not public roads — a driver could summon the car remotely.

While the addition of all-wheel drive catches Tesla up with other in the luxury car market, pulling together all the driver-assist features impressed Brian A. Johnson, an analyst with Barclay's. "It's a year ahead of the timeframe I was expecting," he said.

Formula E: A possibility in India in 2016-17 say Mahindra

TimesofIndia.com: NEW DELHI: Following a successful outing in the first ever Formula E race in Beijing last month, Mahindra Racing is looking at the possibility of bringing the electrically-powered car series to India in the 2016-2017 season.

With the inaugural 2014-15 seasonal calendar set and 2015-16 unlikely to see an ePrix in the subcontinent, Mahindra Racing team principal Dilbagh Gill said the team is exploring options of bringing the race to India in the third season.

"I have no definite information but we at Mahindra are exploring the possibility of bringing the race to India in year three i.e. the 2016-2017 season. It is definitely on the cards. I don't think we would be ready for next year," Gill said from London.

With most of the races being held on temporary street circuits, the ePrix can be organised in any Indian city.

"We haven't really started the exploration on that part but the obvious choice of cities would be some of the major centres. Personally, we would like it to be in Mumbai while New Delhi and Bangalore could be the other possibilities," added the team principal.

The first and only Formula E race yet, the Beijing ePrix, was held Sep 13 with Mahindra Racing's Karun Chandhok finishing a strong fifth after a topsy-turvy race.

Chandhok's teammate Bruno Senna looked fast during practice but a battery issue during qualifying hampered the Brazilian's race, where he eventually retired after an early collision.

"We have a very fast car. Karun did a fantastic job in qualifying fourth and drove a credible race. We had some technical issues but he was able to drive around it and we are very satisfied with his performance.

"In practice we were doing the fastest laps with Bruno setting the lap record. He could not set his qualifying lap and this compromised his race," said Gill.

"The Mahindra cars, on paper, seemed to be the best team in qualifying in terms of average performance. So overall, we are a bit disappointed because we did not bring in the results we had demonstrated."

Now that the first race is over, with the next scheduled Nov 22 at Putrajaya in Malaysia and the team aware of the advantages and disadvantages of others, have Mahindra Racing set an aim for the season?

"It is too early to have an aim. We are definitely among the contending teams and are among the top 3-4 teams. We have demonstrated that."

Questioned about the 'Indianness' of the only Indian team on the Formula E grid, Gill explained that their priority is to be a strong racing team with an Indian identity.

"We want to be a strong racing team with an Indian identity. We have Indian ingredients in our outfit which will be augmented. Karun is an Indian driver, his race engineer is of Indian origin. I, in my capacity as team principal, am of Indian origin," said Gill.

"Most importantly, lot of our engineers are Indian. We will be looking for talent and if we find that in India we will encourage it."

Since Formula E is a one-make series (all cars being essentially the same), how do the teams differentiate their cars from others?

"The biggest variable is the driver because each one drives differently. Also, a lot of work can be done on set up and strategy and that is how the differentiation comes in," said Gill.

"In Formula E, it is not the fastest driver who is going to win but the most efficient one. So it is a combination of speed and energy utilisation. So while all things might look equal, it is not. There is a lot of strategisation that is done."

VW: EV range will be 310-370 miles by 2020

Treehugger.com: True mass-adoption of EVs will probably require for even the most inexpensive models to have 150-200 miles of driving range.

But there's good news on that front. Volkswagen's head of powertrain development, Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser, recently said that he believes that plug-in hybrids are only a stop-gap technology that is only bridging the past and the future on the road to 100% electric vehicles, and that as early as 2020, these could have between 310 and 370 miles of range (500-600 kilometers).

"Battery [technology] makes the biggest steps in very short time frames. If you look at when we started with the e-mobility of the Golf, and you look now to the Passat, we have done the first step," said Dr Neusser. "We have more energy density in the batteries [than before], and in 2015-16 will come the next step which means we come from 25-28 ampere hours (Ah) energy density to 36-37Ah. Now we are actually working on the next step to around 60Ah... with research will come a completely new electro-chemical chemistry inside the batteries, and this will come at the beginning of the next decade. We have to look to the e-Golf, which had an operating range of around 190km. I expect the next generation in 2015-17 will increase to around 300km and the following step will be around 500-600km."

Hopefully Dr. Neusser is right. Even just getting to $20k EVs that have 200 miles of range would be a huge milestone because of how cheap these vehicles would be once you factor in fuel savings. Who would want to get a gasoline vehicle when you can get an electric vehicle that is quieter, cleaner, and cheaper to own? The electric motor torque will also make it more fun to drive... It's a no brainer.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

US: California Targets 1m EVs By 2023

Menfn.com: The US state of California is aiming to have at least one million electric cars on the road by the year 2023.

The state has passed several laws to subsidize the price of electric vehicles to make them more affordable to poorer residents.

The goal is to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide from cars that run on petrol, which scientists say contributes to global warming. California's governor, Jerry Brown, is addressing a heads of state summit on climate change this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and long-term, it's an economic loser," Brown said in a video speech before his UN appearance.

"We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate," he said. "The time to act is now, the place to look is California. We're not finished, but we sure are setting the pace."California already has the most electric cars on the road of any US state, an estimated 40% of all American electric vehicles. More than 100,000 cars that plug into electric power points were sold in California in the last four years, according to the Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative.