The future of the automobile industry was the focus of a roundtable of experts at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT). BOLDRIDE summarized the discussion for us. Called Mass vs. Efficiency the panelists grappled with the conundrum of meeting new mileage standards set by the US while simultaneously adding new technology and the extra weight of required safety equipment. US auto sellers are required to meet the goal of a fleet average of 35.5 MPG by 2016 and 54.5 MPG by 2025. The key appears to be to find new ways to replace weight from automobiles.  One alternative is to use lighter materials.  GM and BMW are experimenting with carbon fibre. Volkswagon was highlighted for its use of aluminum extrusions which enable its XL1 to be capable of 200 MPG.  The panelists agreed that there is no magic bullet for reducing weight and that each auto company would have to come up with its own solutions for their vehicles. Another alternative is to introduce innovative powertrains such as the Volvo V60 Plugin.  Combining a diesel powertrain with plug-in capabilities and a hybrid powertrain, this vehicle achieves 125 MPG, with a 31-mile pure-electric range.

In a related post from Green Car Reports, Volkswagon talked about its future at the Vienna Motor Symposium. Going forward the company plans to introduce an eclectic mix of  plug-in hybrid cars, natural gas vehicles, diesels, and a new ten-speed dual-clutch transmission. Most of VW’s plug-ins will feature an electric range of around 30 miles. Volkswagen’s goal is to bring the carbon dioxide emissions of its European fleet down to as low as 95 g/km by 2020. Variable valve timing, high-pressure injection and an ‘e-booster’ electric turbocharger will all contribute to better petrol mileage. We also learn from The Bionenergy Site that Volkswagon is experimenting with biiodiesel made from wood. Finland-based biofuels producer UPM is working with VW to start fleet tests of renewable domestic diesel derived from forest waste. The tests will focus on engine functionality, consumption and CO2 emissions. Test vehicles will drive up to 20,000 kilometres within the Helsinki metropolitan area.

GEEKQUINOX says we may have flying cars by 2021. (see photo above and video) The US. company Terrafugia Inc. plans on producing a flying car that can be flown by anyone, and it should be ready as early as 2021. Its TF-X will be a small four-seater hybrid vehicle that will not only be legal to drive on streets and highways, but will also be able to take off and fly in the air. In order to take off and land, it will only need about 30 metres of level ground. In the air it can travel up to 315 km/h, and with a range of around 800 kilometres. The cost is likely to be between $500,000 and $1 million. See also Gadget Review, A New Hybrid for Land and Air TF-X Receives FAA Approval.

EV World explores The wild and wonderful electric cars of the future. How about folding wheelbases, 360 degree turning capability, strong, light weight materials, easy vehicle disassembly and recycling, in-wheel motors?

With so many competing transportation fuels on the market this decade (diesel, gasoline, natural gas, electricity, hydrogen), greener ideal explores the best way to compare fuel efficiency among alternative fuels . Until now we have used miles per gallon (MPG) or litres per 100 kilometers (l/100 km) as the means of comparing engine efficiency. That is changing with the introduction of electricity where MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) has been introduced. For example, in the US the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is rated at 95 MPGe and the Tesla Model S 85kWh is rated at 89 MPGe. The writer of this post now offers another consideration. How about MPC or cents per mile? “What we really want to know is how much it’s going to cost for us to fill up every week.” However, as the author acknowledges, this measure would fluctuate constantly as the price of fuel differs from day to day and from location to location.  Hence, there would have to be a continuous reassessment of efficiency comparisons among vehicles as the prices of gasoline, diesel, natural gas and electricity change. We really need an all-inclusive metric that relates distance, energy used and price to make an accurate comparison of vehicle efficiency.

Future Cars explains the bioethanol production process as well as why butanol is not a commercially available fuel.

Forbes looks at data that suggests e-bikes (electric bicycles) may be replacing cars in Europe. While car sales continue to decline in Europe, e-bike purchases are climbing. Navigant Research expects the growth of e-bikes in Europe to grow to between 1.0 million and 1.2 million sales in 2013.

 

Not every city is enamored with electric bikes. Gas2 tells us the US city of New York has increased the fine for riding an electric bike from $500 to $1,000, thereby preventing New Yorkers from adopting these bike/scooter hybrids. The city’s decision follows on numerous complaints of pedestrians nearly being hit on the congested NYC streets, and bike lanes, by delivery men using electric bikes which can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. David Pollack from the Committee for Taxi Safety went so far as to say the bikes are “a menace to little children” and a “menace to society”.

REVE says EVs will only comprise between 2% and 10% of the global car population by 2035. A report by Innovation Electricity Efficiency says the higher number will only be reached if battery technology increases markedly. Lower battery cost (a significant portion of the EV total cost), greater range, and faster recharge times are critical if EVs are to become commonplace as hoped for by many governments and environmental groups. It turns out that the initial purchase price of an EV is more important to potential EV purchases than the price of oil (i.e. gasoline or diesel).

To overcome the initial price barrier for consumers, Mercedes-Benz is offering a lease the battery option for its Smart Fortwo EV in the US market. Earth Techling reports customers can buy or lease the vehicle with or without the battery.

The option, called Battery Assurance Plus, enables a customer to buy the vehicle only – without the battery – for $19,990 and separately rent the battery (the performance of which is guaranteed for up to 10 years) for $80 a month plus taxes. For leasing customers, the total monthly payment is $199 with the battery rental included. Battery Assurance Plus also covers annual maintenance on the battery and, if necessary, replacement. The rental contract for the battery is transferrable for up to 10 years with no mileage restrictions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists offers its views on the issue of EV range anxiety while plugincars educates us on what to expect from EV range now and over time. However, having read the latter article’s discussion of battery degradation over time and then the comments on this aspect of the article, one begins to understand why people are not racing to their local EV dealer to trade in their internal combustion engine.  Confusion and lack of knowledge with complicated technology is a bane to product success.

Gas2 notes that the automobile aftermarket is coming out with EV accessories. One of the more popular accessories is a charging cord upgrade that facilitates 240 volt charging of the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius PHEV, MItsubishi i-MiEV, Chevrolet Volt, and Honda Fit EV.  For example, this upgrade will enable the Nissan Leaf to charge in four hours using a 240 volt, 30 amp outlet, rather than 7 to 8 hours on a household circuit.

Click Green gives us the top 5 green vehicles in the UK this year.  Its choices: Nissan Leaf, Peugeot iOn, Renault Zoe, Chevrolet Volt, and Citroen DS5 Hybrid 4.

 

 

 

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