Monday, 1 September 2014

06-audi-a6-e-tron-concept Though electric cars represent less than 1% of all new car sales today, in 15 years the market could look decidedly different, especially among luxury automakers. Audi says that by 2030, 40% of all new luxury cars will be electric vehicles, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tesla Motors and the Model S are obvious leaders in the electric car segment now, even taking a bite out of Lexus sales with the fast-selling electric sedan proving popular despite reliability woes. Other automakers, including Audi, are now playing catch up with Tesla, though not all of them are going the pure-electric route. The Audi A3 e-tron is the vanguard of the German brand’s ambitions to add plug-in hybrid and electric versions of every model in its lineup, with a stretched Audi A6 e-tron following up in China. A pure electric Audi Q8 e-tron is said to take aim at the upcoming Tesla Model X as well.

Meanwhile the Mercedes S 500 Hybrid has launched with an exorbitant price tag, but performance nearly as impressive as its fuel economy. The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid is equally impressive and even more expensive if you can believe it, and some of the most expensive cars in the world (LaFerrari, lookin’ at you) are hybrid vehicles.

In other words, automakers have woken up to the fact that buyers will pay a premium for a well-built electric or hybrid car, and the next 15 or so years should see the market flooded by them. Audi’s prediction of 40% of luxury cars being somewhat electrified may seem optimistic, but if anything it sounds conservative to me. Europe, the U.S., and China are all imposing stricter emissions standards, and most automakers seem to think combustion engine efficiency isn’t worth the diminishing gains. Then again, there will always be those buyers willing to pay a hefty premium to have their V8-powered muscle cars and opulent SUVs, so the market for combustion engines isn’t going to just disappear.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

UK: EV car parc now 13,000 strong With the recent announcement from OLEV that 11,260 claims have been made through the Plug-in Car Grant scheme, the total number of electric cars and vans in the UK now exceeds 13,000 vehicles for the first time.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has also published figures which show that, as of30 June 2014, 637 claims have been made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme.

Taken together with 1,379 electric cars and vans which are not eligible for the Plug-in Grant scheme, but are nevertheless fully electric, the total UK light-duty electric fleet will number 13,276 in the coming weeks as vehicles are delivered and formally registered for use on UK roads.

Another indicator that the electric market is growing in strength is the number of fully electric and plug-in hybrid models available in the UK. While only 9 EVs were available for the major manufacturers in 2011, this increased to 18models in 2013, and now stands at 21 high-quality, fully crash tested cars and vans with more models due for launch in 2014 and 2015.

Dr Ben Lane, Director of Next Green Car said: “The EV market continues to grow exponentially in the UK as elsewhere, demonstrating that UK car buyers are fully embracing the EV revolution. With the continuing investment from manufacturers the number of electric models continues to increase, making the future EV market look very secure.”

As the chart of registered models shows, the Nissan LEAF continues to be the UK market leader, with at least 3,845 vehicles registered in the UK and representing over a third of all EV sales in the UK. In second and third places are two plug-in hybrids, the Toyota Prius PHEV(with 1,089 registrations) and the Vauxhall Ampera (767 vehicles).

However, recent 2014 entrants such as the BMW i3 and the Renault ZOE are already selling well with 513 and 462 sales respectively; indeed, the ZOE is now the most popular EV across Europe as a whole (in 2013). Yet to make their mark in the statistics due to their very recent launches, the Tesla Model S and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are also expected to do well in the UK during the remainder of 2014.

In a press release made shortly after the OLEV announcement, Mitsubishi said that in July theOutlander PHEV outsold all other vehicles which qualified for the governments Plug-in Car Grant, accounting for 43% of successful applications.

Tesla Rolls Out “Destination Charging” Program At Hotels, Restaurants And Resorts Tesla has begun installing high-power wall chargers at restaurants, hotels, beach parking and other locations that can send 80 amps of electricity into the Model S and add 58 miles of range in an hour. While that’s not nearly as fast as a Supercharger, which can recharge the 85 kWh pack in around 30 minutes, it’s twice as fast as the standard 240-volt chargers that can be more commonly be found around in parking lots and garages.
Tesla has been rolling these out quickly across the US as a convenience to customers. The company says 106 of them have been installed since the program began this spring, with more coming online daily. Like the Superchargers, they are free to use for Tesla owners.
Unlike Superchargers, which function more like a petrol station, these wall chargers are designed for destinations. Teslas can also use standard charging stations with the use of an adapter that comes with the car but due to the out-sized capacity of the battery in a Model S (up to 85 kWh), a full charge from a standard 240v 10 amp outlet might take as long as 30 hours. To make utilizing the full range of a Model S practical, for example for weekend trips, higher powered 'destination' charging is required to provide up to 500 km worth of charge in approx 4-5 hours.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

BMW’s Beautiful Solar-Powered Charging Station Working with design and construction firm EIGHT, BMW has installed the first of its Point One S solar-powered charging stations in front of its ultra-modern BMW World building in Munich, Germany. Looking like the wing of a bird, the station is part of a national program to develop and popularize e-mobility in Germany. EIGHT also created a highly efficient manufacturing system for the Point One S to keep construction waste and energy consumption to a minimum. The design is adaptable to many different environments.

The wing-like canopy is topped by an array of solar panels and lined with a smart LED-based illumination system that alerts users at a distance whether the station is booked, occupied, or available for charging. The station features an integrated touch screen to increase the user-friendliness of its intuitive interface. When not in use charging vehicles, any excess electricity is fed back into the local electrical grid.

If the objective is to make recharging a vehicle attractive to electric car owners, the Point One S is clearly a winner. It is so beautiful it makes me want to go out and get an electric just so I could charge it up at one of these facilities. Which is probably the whole point.

Tesal to build 400 chargepoints in China Tesla will work with China’s second-largest mobile-phone company to set up charging points for its vehicles.

Tesla signed an agreement today with China United Network Communications Corp. to build 400 charging points in 120 Chinese cities at China Unicom outlets, Tesla spokeswoman Peggy Yang said today in a phone interview. The two companies will also build 20 supercharging stations that work as much as 16 times faster, she said.

The automaker joins BMW in setting up public charging points in China to make it more convenient for owners of electric vehicles. The central government is considering providing as much as 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) to build charging facilities and spur demand for clean cars, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, has also signed agreements with real-estate developers Soho China Ltd and China Yantai Holdings Co. to set up charging points at their properties around the nation.

Under today’s agreement, Tesla will provide the equipment for the charging stations, while China Unicom will provide the land, Yang said, declining to reveal the cost. Tesla customers will be able to charge their cars for free at the stations, she said.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Siemens & Sunrun Partnering To Promote Home Solar + EV Charging Systems Siemens, manufacturer of the VersiCharge EV home charging system, and Sunrun, a leading solar PV system installer, are now partnering to help promote the products of the two companies, as per a recent agreement.

The new deal will be offering owners of the Siemens VersiCharge EV home charger a $500 Visa gift card if they install one of Sunrun’s home solar PV systems before the end of 2014.

This new deal marks the first such marketing partnership with a solar installer for Siemens’ VersiCharge line — which is, essentially, a Level 2 charger “with a 20-foot cable and delay feature that users can implement to charge during non-peak times.”

Siemens is currently aiming to replace this model with a “smart grid” version of the system that will allow utility companies to take advantage of demand-response charging.

“The smart grid charger will also have Wi-Fi portals that will connect the users via an app that can track their use, as well as allow them to program a time to charge their car,” stated Siemens spokesperson Jacob Curtiss. “It will be able to talk to utilities and the grid.”

“The correlation between EVs and solar is so strong that bringing the two of them together can have an effect at an even greater magnitude,” he continued. “Sunrun has done a very good job in the solar space and we like to align ourselves with the top integrator and solar installer out there.”

Makes sense. Here’s to hoping that similar initiatives gain traction in the coming years.

Big power out, solar in: UBS urges investors to join renewables revolution World’s largest private bank predicts large-scale power stations will soon make way for electric cars and new solar technologies

Solar-powered houses and entire villages, like the one above in Germany, could make Europe’s big power stations redundant in 10-20 years, UBS argues.

Big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years as electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies transform the way electricity is generated, stored and distributed, say analysts at the world’s largest private bank.

In a briefing paper sent to clients and investors this week, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale, centralised power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation. Instead, the authors expect it to be cheaper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies.

In language more closely associated with green NGOs, the bank with assets of more than $1.5tn says it expects a paradigm shift away from large-scale conventional power plants. “Power is no longer something that is exclusively produced by huge, centralised units owned by large utilities. By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, ie, not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities,” say the authors, who urge their financial clients to “join the revolution.”

“Solar is at the edge of being a competitive power generation technology. The biggest drawback has been its intermittency. This is where batteries and electric vehicles (EVs) come into play. Battery costs have declined rapidly, and we expect a further decline of more than 50% by 2020. By then, a mass [produced] electric vehicle will have almost the same price as a combustion engine car. But it will save up to €2,000 (£1,600) a year on fuel cost, hence, it will begin to pay off almost immediately without any meaningful upfront ‘investment’. This is why we expect a rapidly growing penetration with EVs, in particular in countries with high fossil fuel prices.”

The expected 50% reduction in the cost of batteries by 2020 will not just spur electric car sales, but could also lead to exponential growth in demand for stationary batteries to store excess power in buildings, says UBS. “Battery storage should become financially attractive for family homes when combined with a solar system and an electric vehicle. As a consequence, we expect transformational changes in the utility and auto sectors,” it says. “By 2020 investing in a home solar system with a 20-year life span, plus some small-scale home battery technology and an electric car, will pay for itself in six to eight years for the average consumer in Germany, Italy, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe.”

A solar panel fitted on top of a hybrid car. As battery technology improves and becomes cheaper, electric and hybrid cars will become more popular than conventional petrol and diesel cars, UBS says.

By 2025, falling battery and solar costs will make electric vehicles cheaper than conventional cars in most European markets. “As a conservative 2025 scenario, we think about 10% of new car registrations in Europe will be EVs. Households and businesses who invest in a combined electric car, solar array and battery storage should be able to pay the investment back within six to eight years,” UBS says. “In other words, based on a 20-year technical life of a solar system, a German buyer should receive 12 years of electricity for free.”

But the bank does not expect power companies or the grid to disappear: UBS says they have a future if they develop smart grids which manage electricity demand more efficiently and provide decentralised back-up power generation.

“Electric vehicles are the key catalyst for driving mass adoption of battery storage technologies, as autos will fast-track mass production, which will be significant in driving down costs. We see battery costs moving down from $360/kWh today to $200/kWh by 2020, and as low as $100/kWh within 10 years. We believe that by 2020, lithium battery pack cost will drop by more than 50%, compared to 2013.

The UBS report follows similar analysis by other large financial institutions and energy experts who expect new solar and renewable technologies to drive rapid change in large scale utility companies.Earlier this year, Michael Liebreich, founder and CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “The fact is that wind and solar have joined a long list of clean energy technologies – geothermal power, waste-to-energy, solar hot water, hydropower, sugar-cane based ethanol, combined heat and power, and all sorts of energy efficiency – which can be fully competitive with fossil fuels in the right circumstances.

“In most sunny parts of the world it is cheaper to generate power from photovoltaic modules on your roof than to buy it from your utility. The best newly built windfarms are selling power at the equivalent of 3p/kWh before subsidies, which neither gas, nor coal, nor nuclear power can match. LED lightbulbs can be bought for a few pounds, providing home-owners a quick and cheap way of cutting their utility bills. What is even more important is that the cost reductions that have led to this point are set to continue inexorably, far out into the future.”

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Start your Model S with your iPhone iPhone Starting May Come To A Model S Near You (No More Keys!)

The Tesla Model S has been declared “An Intergalatic Spaceboat Of Light And Wonder” by some of its biggest fans thanks not only to its electric drivetrain, but futuristic features as well including a highly functional phone app, which is about to update the Model S even more. reports that a screenshot of the new v6.0 firmware update to the Model S includes an option that lets drivers start their car with the new Tesla app. An android version of the app is also on the way, but this is a major development that opens a flood of questions.

There’s been a lot of movement between Tesla and Apple, with the former poaching several of the latter’s employees and there even being talk of a merger between the two tech giants. So far though none of that panned out, though enabling Tesla owners to operate their car, sans the key fob, is an incredibly neat feature that really ups the “Wow!” factor. There is speculation though that this new feature could debut alongside the iPhone 6 and the iOS 8 update.

There is, however, question about the security of it all. A Chinese team recently hacked into the Model S, and was able to remotely replicate many of the smartphone features, which lets you lock/unlock the doors, flash the lights, and set the climate control. Add the ability to start and stop the motor is one step away from being able to drive the car itself.

The update will also improve the navigation system and GPS to take into account real-time traffic reporting, as well as enabling a “Night Mode” that shifts the Model S into an energy-conserving state between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM. This update will also allow owners to name their Model S

Thankfully, Tesla is taking security seriously, even attending the recent DEFCON hacker conference with the hopes of recruiting some Internet security experts to protect the Model S. It’s another futuristic feature that makes the Model S even more the cutting edge car everybody says it is.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Amsterdam's electrifying progress Amsterdam is synonymous with three things: canals, coffee shops and cycling. There are around 400km of cycle paths in the city, making getting around by bike a safe, popular and environmentally friendly way of traveling for a large number of residents.

Since 2009, the city has been promoting the adoption of another form of sustainable transport: electric vehicles. The initiative, known as Amsterdam Elektrisch – or Amsterdam Electric – has seen a raft of measures introduced in the city to encourage uptake of clean, electric transport.

Maarten Linnenkamp, who was responsible for the introduction of the scheme in 2009 and is now Project Manager for the city's metropolitan area, said Amsterdam's willingness to be pro-active when it came to electric vehicles was key.

"Five years ago, nobody knew hardly anything about electric mobility, so we thought: don't talk, but act," he told CNBC in a phone interview.

This willingness to act saw many incentives introduced to encourage people to buy or use electric cars.

During the scheme's "launch phase" those using electric vehicles in the city were offered not only free access to charging points, but free parking too. Today, 'e-drivers' are automatically placed at the head of parking space waiting lists.

"It can take a year or more to get a parking permit," Bart Vertelman, Project Manager of the electric mobility program in the city of Amsterdam, told in a phone interview. "When you buy an electric car you get to the top of the list… which is a big advantage in a city like Amsterdam," he added.

According to data compiled by Amsterdam Electric, in 2013 and the first half of 2014, 2.2 million kilowatt hours of energy were charged using public charging points, which is equivalent to 11 million clean, emission free kilometers. An electric car sharing scheme with car2go has put a further 300 fully electric vehicles on the roads.

Accessibility to charging points has been crucial to the program's success. "All kinds of cities put [charging] infrastructure on the street, just to make it visible, [to say] 'look at us, we have electric mobility'," Vertelman said. "But… infrastructure was put in front of the city hall, for example. Nobody is going to charge in front of city hall, it's not where they live or where they work," he added.

"We made it demand driven, basically at the places where people live and work, so they can ask us, 'I live here, I work here, is it possible to put a charging point on the street?'"

By 2015, it is hoped that there will be 2,000 public charging points throughout Amsterdam, while this autumn will see the introduction of an electric taxi service from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

Why has electric transport been such a success in Amsterdam? "In the Netherlands as a whole, it's quite suitable to use electric cars," Linnenkamp said. "The distances are not that big, the climate is OK, we don't have mountains and people are well educated and interested in new things," he added.

Monday, 25 August 2014

By 2020 Europe might not need power plants

Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe.

That’s the word from investment bank UBS, which just released a new report anticipating a three pronged assault from solar power, battery technology, and electric vehicles that will render obsolete traditional power generation by large utilities that rely on coal or natural gas. According to Renew Economy, whichpicked up the report, the tipping point will arrive around 2020. At that point, investing in a home solar system with a 20-year life span, plus some small-scale home battery technology and an electric car, will pay for itself in six to eight years for the average consumer in Germany, Italy, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe. Crucially, this math holds even without any government subsidies for solar power.

“In other words,” the report says, “a German buyer should receive 12 years of electricity for free” for a system purchased in 2020.

That would mean that after 2020, the economic incentives will align to encourage the average European household to stop relying on the traditional utility model for their electricity needs. “Not all [power plants] will have disappeared by 2025,” the report concedes, “but we would be bold enough to say that most of those plants retiring in the future will not be replaced.”

The analysis also suggests that for utilities to survive in this new world, they’ll need to focus on providing smart distribution networks to better manage demand on a much more decentralized grid, and providing small-scale local back-ups for storage and power generation to that same effect.

The way this would work on the household level is that the electric car could charge at night, solar would provide electricity during the day, and excess solar generation stored up in the battery could be discharged in the evenings to cover most of a household’s remaining power needs. Power supplied by the grid likely wouldn’t go away completely, but would be relegated to plugging some small remaining holes, primarily in the early morning. And smarter grid systems for homes will allow energy demand to be met with supply much more efficiently.

UBS thinks it will take a while longer for electric vehicles to knock out reliance on oil to fuel transportation. But the total cost of ownership over three years for a Tesla Model S is already equivalent to comparable combustion-driven car like an Audi A7. And Tesla is planning to release a new $35,000 electric car for the consumer market in 2017.

So UBS thinks the rate at which electric cars are taking over the market will increase substantially after 2020, and that 10 percent of the market is a conservative estimate. That said, despite the remarkable growth in electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid sales, they remain an extremely small slice of the global car fleet — and the International Energy Agency believes they’ll need to take up three-fourths of global automobile sales by 2050 to stick with the goal of keeping the world’s average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius.

Under UBS’ analysis, the combined effect of solar, batteries, and electric cars all intersecting at once is crucial to this tipping point. They anticipate advances in battery technology and pushes to scale up battery production — like Tesla’s anticipated gigafactory— will drop battery costs by more than 50 percent by 2020. That will make electric vehicles and stationary battery storage for homes cheaper, driving up demand for both. Then expansion of the electric car market will drive further improvements in battery technology, and a virtuous cycle will set in.

Meanwhile, power will be consumed more efficiently, because it will be consumed in lots of dispersed local settings, rather than being consumed by broad areas served by a single power source. That cuts down on the need for electricity transmission over long distances, and the accompanying power losses.