Bentley Encourages Drivers to Plug-In and Maximize Electric Benefits by Bringing Style to EV Charging

Photo of Bentley Bentayga Plug-In Hybrid with home charging station concept by Philipe Starck.

Teaming up with world-renowned artist Philippe Starck, Bentley has unveiled conceptual images of a home charging station for the Bentayga plug-in hybrid. Designed to keep charging cables neat and safe at home while blending sophistication with utility, the “Bentley by Starck Power Dock” is intended to encourage Bentayga Hybrid customers to ensure each journey begins with the maximum electric-only range by not missing an opportunity to plug in.

While not difficult, plugging in a vehicle is hardly what most people would consider stimulating or glamorous. And while drivers of fully-electric vehicles need no coaxing to plug in their vehicles, charging is optional for plug-in hybrids. But if customers forgo charging, they will be missing a great benefit of electrified transportation. Bentley and Starck recognize that making the task of charging enjoyable and rewarding will enhance the overall experience of driving an electric vehicle.

“As always with my designs I wanted the maximum of intelligence with the minimum of materiality. I wanted it to be a modern art piece: durable, real and avant-garde high tech. It was also important for me that the unit was as sustainable as possible,” explained Starck. In addition to Starck’s home charging station, Bentley equips each Bentayga with bespoke bags containing charging cords for use when away from home.

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Starck, who happens to be a Bentley customer, describes his connection with the vehicles not as about design or horsepower, but as “a mental and sentimental relationship.” It is just this sort of emotion that draws many customers to electric vehicles today. Extending this aura to charging will increase the likelihood that customers will take an extra few seconds to plug in their vehicles and maximize the opportunity to drive with zero tailpipe emissions.

Bentayga Highlights

The plug-in hybrid Bentayga, which will be available for ordering in select markets in the second half of 2018, will have an all-electric range of about 31 miles. Level 2 charging will take 2.5 hours (from fully empty), while charging on a household outlet will take about 7.5 hours.

To maximize fuel efficiency (whether electric or gasoline), the vehicle uses satellite navigation information to determine when and where to use the battery-powered electric motor versus the internal combustion engine. When the driver programs in the trip’s destination, the navigation system will dynamically calculate the most efficient route and use of gas and electricity, with the goal of maximizing electricity. For example, if the vehicle determines that the beginning of a journey will be on the highway but the end will be on local or urban roads (whose slower speeds and denser development are well-suited for electric drive), the computer will reserve battery energy for the end. In every case, the system is designed to maximize overall efficiency by reducing on-board charge to zero just as the vehicle reaches its destination.

 

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Cold Weather Testing for Electric Vehicles; Mercedes Benz and Jaguar Achieve Milestone

Photo of Mercedes-Benz EQC undergoing winter testing.
Copyright Daimler, used with permission.

Electric vehicles possess many advantages over their internal combustion engine counterparts, but extremely cold weather remains a challenge because it prevents batteries from performing at optimal levels. For this reason, demonstrating all-around performance under extreme winter conditions is an important milestone for new models. Jaguar and Mercedes recently announced the successful completion of cold-weather testing for, respectively, the I-Pace and EQC.

Cold Weather Testing

Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, along with many other OEMs and suppliers, test their vehicles (including EVs) in the northern Swedish town of Arjeplog (AR’-yuh-plog), home to more than 1,000 miles of track and where temperatures drop as low as -40°C. More than 3,000 engineers make the annual pilgrimage to the small town, more than doubling the permanent population.

New vehicles routinely undergo hundreds of tests; cold weather tests for anti-lock brakes and all-wheel drive (a popular feature in high-end EVs) include steep grades and slick surfaces such as Arjeplog’s many ice-covered lakes.

Tests that are specific to electric vehicles typically include motor and battery performance, vehicle range, and climate control. Battery charging is also assessed under extreme cold conditions; for this, the facilities at Arjeplog have been equipped with a full range of hardware ranging from household receptacles to high-powered DC fast charging.

The following chart, created by Shawn Salisbury of the Idaho National Laboratory, illustrates the energy consumption profile of a 2015 Nissan Leaf at various temperatures. The difference between cold starts (the first drive of a given day) and hot starts (any subsequent drive) is more pronounced at colder temperatures than at warmer temperatures. Cold starts at temperatures 30°F and below use as much as 100 DC Wh/mile more energy than their hot start counterparts. As ambient temperature rises, the differences between cold starts and hot starts are minimized. Around 70°F, it is difficult to determine any difference between cold and hot starts.

To mitigate the challenges that extreme temperatures have historically presented to EVs, vehicle manufacturers are making sizable investments and collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy and a wide range of suppliers to develop solutions. For example, because batteries do not hold a charge in the cold as well as they do in mild temperatures, electric vehicles typically possess integrated heating technology to warm the battery. But because battery heating itself uses energy that otherwise would be used for driving, alternative solutions are also being researched.

One tactic that EV drivers in cold climates can take is to park their vehicle in a climate-controlled garage; this is because an EV that is “soaked” in extreme cold (i.e., parked outdoors) prior to being driven in very cold weather will experience a diminished range as compared to the same vehicle driven the same distance but parked in a relatively warm garage prior to being driven.

Another challenge for EVs in cold weather is that generating heat for the passenger cabin requires using energy stored in the battery that would otherwise be used to propel the vehicle. Internal combustion engines do not face this situation because they produce large amounts of waste heat that can be used for comfort. EV drivers can mitigate the problem through measures such as heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and pre-heating (which entails activating the heater prior to beginning a trip and using energy from the grid rather than the battery).

Other techniques for maximizing range include:

  • Use the eco mode: Many EVs come with an “eco mode” or similar feature that maximizes the vehicle’s fuel economy. In some vehicles, this mode can be activated by simply pressing a button. The economy mode may limit other aspects of the vehicle’s performance, such as acceleration rate, to save fuel.
  • Plan ahead before driving: Pre-heating or pre-cooling the cabin of an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle while it is still plugged in can extend its electric range, especially in extreme weather.
  • Avoid hard braking and anticipate braking: This allows the vehicle’s regenerative braking system to recover energy from the vehicle’s forward motion and store it as electricity. Hard braking causes the vehicle to use its conventional friction brakes, which do not recover energy.
  • Observe the speed limit: Efficiency usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

Update on the new Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC

Photo and video of Jaguar I-Pace undergoing winter testing.
CLICK IMAGE FOR VIDEO. Copyright Jaguar Land Rover, used with permission.

The Jaguar I-Pace, which went on sale last week, is equipped with a 90kWh lithium-ion battery that delivers an estimated 240 mile all-electric range. The vehicle is capable of being charged from zero to 80 percent in about 40 minutes using a 100kW charger, which is nearly as fast as Tesla’s 120kW superchargers and twice as fast as non-Tesla DC fast chargers deployed in the United States. Ian Hoban, Jaguar’s Vehicle Line Director, said of the I-Pace:

Not only will the I-Pace charge quickly enough for our customers to carry out their everyday lives, it will offer powerful and precise performance in a variety of conditions and climactic extremes. Allied with the versatile credentials of our celebrated Pace family, this will be an electric performance SUV like no other.

Mercedes has not yet released final specifications for the EQC, but the company previously reported that the vehicle will have an estimated 300 mile range. Market launch for the EQC is expected to be in 2019, and the company’s entire lineup is slated to be electrified (either fully electric or mild-hybrid) by 2022.

The all-wheel drive EQC is based on Daimler’s EQ concept, which was introduced in late 2016. Commenting on the vehicle’s performance, Michael Kelz, the EQC’s chief engineer, said:

On the one hand, it’s dynamic and powerful; on the other hand, it’s a quiet glider. It’s a new and at first unusual combination, even for us developers. The pre-production EQC offers a very safe driving feel and is also so much fun that it leaves a permanent smile on its driver’s face.

Photo of Mercedes-Benz EQC.

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Audi Is Paying Drivers to Scrap Old Diesels, Buy New Cleaner Vehicles

Seeking to rid German roads of old, polluting diesel vehicles, Audi is paying a premium for trade-ins when the customer purchases an Audi that is compliant with today’s more stringent Euro 6 emissions standard. The size of the bonus payment, which ranges from about $3,600 to $12,000 based on the vehicle the customer purchases, is highest when paired with an plug-in electric e-tron or CNG-powered g-tron. The trade-in bonus is available until March 31.

Audi’s payments are aimed at drivers of all diesel makes and models that are classified as meeting the more permissive Euro 1 through Euro 4 emissions standards. Audi is scrapping the trade-ins regardless of residual value.

Asked why Audi is offering such a generous incentive, a spokesperson for the company said:

Audi wants to make a contribution to improving air quality in our cities. As an automaker, we are living up to our promise to provide financial support for environmentally compatible mobility. We intend to offer our customers convincing incentives to choose modern, low-emission vehicles of the latest generation.

Germany is a logical market in which to run this program because diesels constitute more than half of all new cars sold in Europe in recent years. In the U.S., meanwhile, the diesel market share is less than one percent.

 

Euro Emissions Standards

As indicated by the numbered Euro standards, European regulation of vehicle emissions has evolved over time to reduce threats to environmental and human health. Tailpipe emissions include carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), as well as greenhouse gases (GHG). Each emission causes different impacts – hydrocarbons and NOx, for example, contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, CO2 contributes to climate change, and other air toxics and pollutants impose a range of harmful effects. The following table illustrates each generation of European emission standards for passenger vehicles.

Table showing EU emission standards for passenger cars (g/km).
EU emission standards for passenger vehicles (g/km)

Audi’s trade-in program specifically targets NOx, a diesel emission, as opposed to other emissions such as greenhouse gases. Technologies that enable diesel vehicles to meet the new standard include exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), the lean NOx trap (LNT), selective catalytic reduction (SCR), diesel particular filter (DPF). Despite movement in the right direction, advances remain achievable through better technical implementation as well as testing that is stricter and more consistent across each country’s regulators. Another major criticism of the European model to date has been that testing conditions are unrealistic and do not reflect real world driving conditions.

Much of the attention being paid today to diesels arises from the enforcement actions brought against Audi-parent Volkswagen for using defeat-devices to circumvent diesel emissions tests in the U.S. Whether or not there is a direct connection between that violation and Audi’s trade-in program in Germany, in the U.S. Volkswagen is committed to spending $2 billion over the next ten years on zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and awareness. Audi, for its part, has announced plans to deploy more than 20 electrified models before 2025. Production of the first two mass-produced models, the e-tron EV in 2018 (shown at top) and the e-tron Sportback in 2019 (shown below), will be in Brussels.

Photo of the Audi e-tron Sportback concept world premiere, Shanghai 2017.
Audi e-tron Sportback concept world premiere, Shanghai 2017.

For more information about the issues discussed above, as well as the many other electric vehicle and clean transportation opportunities, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

Automakers Partner With European Gas Stations On Electric Vehicle Charging; Will This Model Reach America?

Photo of Ionity electric vehicle fast charger.With the goal of making drivers comfortable purchasing fully-electric vehicles without worrying about running out of fuel, a consortium of global automakers is poised to install hundreds of high speed electric vehicle (EV) chargers across Europe by 2020. Earlier this month, BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche announced the formation of a joint venture called Ionity that will develop a network of approximately 400 separate locations with an average of six chargers per location.

Ionity stations will serve vehicles equipped with the Combined Charging System (CCS or Combo Coupler), which support the sponsoring companies and General Motors but exclude Japanese & Korean automakers such as Nissan, Kia, and Mitsubishi (which use the CHAdeMO plug) and Tesla (which uses a proprietary plug and can use CHAdeMO chargers with an adapter). There is no adapter between high speed CCS and CHAdeMO or Tesla.

Ionity’s Strategic Partners

This week, Ionity announced partnerships with European gas station operators Shell, OMV, Tank & Rast, and Circle K, under which more than 200 locations will be constructed across eighteen countries. Ionity’s partnership is clearly mutually beneficial because automakers need to quickly deploy hundreds of fast chargers at convenient locations and gas station operators need to hedge their bets as sales of fully electric vehicles ramp up and the demand for gasoline falls. “By installing fast charging stations … we are taking the next step and gearing our service to the future needs of our customers,” says Jörg Hofmeister, Head of Electromobility at Tank & Rast.

An Evolving Business Model

The term “gas station” is increasingly becoming a misnomer as facilities shed vehicle repair services and grow to incorporate retail such as merchandise and fresh-made food along with seating and the kind of restroom that is acceptable even to discerning customers. By offering EV charging, which takes longer than filling up a gas tank, companies are positioning themselves to leverage their retail offerings, which also happen to deliver far higher gross margins than gasoline.

Certain companies in the U.S., such as Wawa and Sheetz, already include relatively extensive food and merchandise, while others are heavily investing in upgrades; Speedway, for example, is investing $380 million to build new stores and remodel/rebuild existing locations. Adding electric vehicle charging is a relatively modest expenditure, especially when the alternative is to lose customers entirely.

Infrastructure 2.0

In the U.S., the first wave of fast-charging infrastructure has been installed at retail locations such as shopping centers. With electric vehicle sales increasing, there will be a need for more chargers and more powerful chargers. Whether the next wave of chargers will be installed in similar locations, or whether the Ionity model will be expanded to the U.S., remains an open question.

Meanwhile, in addition to the inter-city use case targeted by Ionity, there are significant opportunities for charging within urban locations, at workplaces and multifamily housing, and for fleets.

Next Steps

To discuss the factors that go into the strategies discussed above, as well as the many other opportunities that exist, please contact me via my website or LinkedIn. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.

With Dramatic Electric Concept, Mitsubishi Primed for EV Comeback

Photo of Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept.Mitsubishi this week unveiled the e-Evolution concept all-electric high performance SUV. The e-Evolution prototype, which Mitsubishi describes as demonstrating the company’s new direction in sport utility vehicles, electric vehicles, and connected mobility, is a big step forward for an automaker that was early to the electric vehicle space but has recently fallen a step behind.

Photo of 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi photos courtesy Mitsubishi Motors Corp.)

Mitsubishi earned plaudits for the 2009 launch of the all-electric i-MiEV, which is considered the world’s first modern-day highway-capable mass production electric vehicle. In the U.S., though, the subcompact never enjoyed significant sales or garnered much love. Burdened with a cramped interior, modest exterior, and range of only 62 miles, American sales have been downright abysmal.

With the electric vehicle market today growing by leaps and bounds, many industry-watchers have been wondering when the EV pioneer would get back in the game. Although Mitsubishi’s e-Evolution remains a concept prototype, all indications are that the company is on the right track.

Taking a page from Tesla’s playbook, Mitsubishi emphasizes styling and performance capabilities. For example, leveraging the design freedom afforded to vehicles without space-consuming internal combustion engines and the accompanying mechanical systems, the e-Evolution sports a vast digital dashboard, sharply slanted front windshield, short overhangs, and high ground clearance.

Photo of Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept.With regard to handling and performance, Mitsubishi’s concept vehicle provides 4-wheel drive via three electric motors, one for each rear wheel and a shared motor for the front wheels. The triple-motor system uses advanced sensors and other technology to provide superior cornering and traction performance in a system called Super All-Wheel Control.

As reported in Automotive News, Mitsubishi’s general manager for product strategy Vincent Cobee said:

[The e-Volution] is just trying to tickle your intellect and say “an EV is not an apology car, it’s the future of transportation.” This is one example to provoke folks but it is also clearly a symbol of where we want to go from a product development point of view.

Specifications such as range and battery size are not yet available, but based on the competition Mitsubishi will likely target at least 300 miles of range with a battery no smaller than 85 kWh. As for the type of plug Mitsubishi will use for fast charging, based on the company’s experience with the CHAdeMO direct current technology in the i-MiEV it’s a safe bet that plug will appear on the production vehicle along with the industry-standard J1772 Level 2 plug.

Photo of Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV at an EVgo Freedom Station.
Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV at an EVgo Freedom Station. © 2017 Michael Krauthamer

Further enhancing CHAdeMO’s chances is the fact that Mitsubishi is in the same corporate family as Nissan, whose 250,000+ Leafs use CHAdeMO. Finally, using CHAdeMO will enable Mitsubishi to leverage the nationwide network of DC fast chargers that Nissan has deployed at its dealerships and retail locations with EVgo to support Nissan’s No Charge To Charge program, under which Nissan customers get up to two years of free charging.

While the CHAdeMO chargers currently deployed in the U.S. supply up to 50 kW of power, the next generation of chargers is expected to deliver 150 kW, with the following generation after that expected to supply 350 kW. This is important because the coming wave of EVs will have large batteries, necessitating faster fast charging than is generally available today. At 150 kW, a 300-mile range EV would be expected to charge from empty to 80 percent in about a half hour, though with such a long range the vast majority of charging for nearly all drivers will be Level 2 charging overnight or while at work.

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With Holistic Approach, Mazda To Introduce Electric Vehicles

Photo of Mazda Concept RX-Vision.Every automaker takes pride in their engines, but few match the passion and conviction shown by Mazda. Mazda has reason to believe it’s on the right track; in 2016, for the fourth year in a row, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the company, whose fleet-wide adjusted fuel economy performance is 29.6 miles per gallon, the most fuel-efficient auto manufacturer in America. Mazda achieved this distinction despite offering not a single all-electric or plug-in, and only one hybrid electric model. No surprise, then, that Mazda’s approach to electric vehicles has been relatively tepid.

Nonetheless, Mazda has announced that, starting in 2019, it will introduce electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies. And, by 2030, according to a recent report in the Japanese outlet Kyodo News, Mazda anticipates that all of its models will use electric motors; this does not mean that every vehicle will be fully electric, but each will have an element of electrification. This follows on the heels of similar news from other major automakers, most notably Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, who are also transitioning to electrified powertrains.

What’s particularly interesting about Mazda’s news is that the company says it will be releasing electric powertrains “in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.” This principle is set forth in Mazda’s recently updated long-term vision dubbed “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.”

Mazda's Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 graphicBy limiting deployment of electrified vehicles to regions meeting these specific characteristics, is Mazda adopting the “compliance car” mentality under which EVs are sold only to avoid penalties, or is Mazda looking to examine various regulatory and environmental market attributes and determine which of its vehicles will create the smallest environmental footprint by balancing tailpipe emissions against power plant emissions?

Mazda’s strategy includes:

  • “continu[ing] efforts to perfect the internal combustion engine” with innovations such as SKYACTIV-X, the company’s new engine technology that combines compression ignition and a supercharger to improve fuel economy; and
  • introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies starting in 2019.

The goal appears to be to deploy gasoline and diesel vehicles where emissions from tailpipes are lower than from power plants, and electrified vehicles where electricity generation is cleaner than tailpipe emissions.

Electricity Production

It is well known that the fuel used to generate electricity makes a big difference in the type and quantity of greenhouse gases produced per mile driven by an electric vehicle. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, electricity from American power plants fueled by natural gas instead of coal results in a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The following table (reproduced from the UCS’s 2015 study titled “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave; How Electric Cars Beat Gasoline Cars on Lifetime Global Warming Emissions) shows the benefits of each fuel type:

Table showing GHG reduction by electricity fuel type.Fuel mixes vary regionally, within regions, by time of day, and based on prevailing market conditions. In general, though, the overall fuel mix by region in the U.S. is as follows:

Map showing generating capacity by fuel type (2017).The good news is that, overall, electricity generation in the U.S. is increasingly powered by natural gas and other technologies that are cleaner than coal, with the trend toward clean energy clearly continuing. Because natural gas is largely displacing coal, the result will be reduced air emissions.

Graph showing U.S. electricity production by fuel type, 2011-2016.Regardless of the overall fuel mix, individual customers’ electricity is generally derived from a variety of fuel sources at any given time based on economic dispatch directed by regional grid operators.

Renewables

Drivers can ensure, in a sense, that their vehicle is charged with renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy credits, but this is a financial and not physical transaction.

Even without renewable energy credits, though, drivers who plug into the grid at night are likely to be fueling their vehicles with at least some wind power. This is because onshore wind is typically strongest at night. The following chart illustrates wind generation in PJM over three days earlier this month, with each of the peaks occurring during overnight hours:

Graph showing hourly wind generation in PJM.
Hourly Wind Generation in PJM (Sept. 15-17, 2017).

Solar power is having a comparable (though inverse) effect during daylight hours, as shown in the following “Duck Curve” graph from the California ISO (the state’s electrical grid operator), which illustrates demand for traditional electricity falling during the day and then quickly increasing at dusk; this energy supply coincides with EV drivers charging while at work:

Graph showing California ISO Duck Curve.

The amount of energy produced from wind and solar is growing as the price of installing these technologies continues to fall due to reduced costs and increased productivity.

Global Market

Compared to countries with less-stringent air quality regulations, both power plant and tailpipe emissions in the U.S. are relatively clean. For this reason, the Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded:

On average, [battery electric vehicles] representative of those sold today produce less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, even when the higher emissions associated with [battery electric vehicle] manufacturing are taken into consideration.

Globally, as the cost of batteries falls and vehicles’ electric ranges increase, driving electric will become more and more feasible. In countries with weak electrical grids, proliferating distributed energy resources such as solar, wind, and battery storage can serve to strengthen the grid, improve reliability, and bring cleaner air.

Conclusion

Whether fueled by electricity or gasoline/diesel, the transportation sector is a key factor in reducing greenhouse gasses. Because electric vehicles, when paired with the decarbonizing electricity sector, will bring so many benefits, every auto manufacturer offering EVs is to be applauded. Mazda’s plan is not only commendable, it is also highly thought-provoking because the company is taking a rational approach to its sales strategy with the purpose of not only doing well financially by responding to the clear market demand for electrified vehicles, but also doing good by strategically deploying vehicles where they will be most effective in helping the planet.

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Are Smart Dealers Making a Wise Decision? Dealers Drop Out As Ohio Proves EVs Sell and Daimler Launches Radical Concept

Photo of Autonomous concept car smart vision EQ fortwoJust weeks after more than two-thirds of Smart’s U.S. dealerships elected to stop selling the small vehicle following news that the brand would be shifting to all-electric, the next-generation “Smart vision EQ fortwo” concept vehicle has been introduced. The most prominent feature of the Smart concept is what isn’t there: no steering wheel or pedals.

Photo of interior of Smart concept vision EQ fortwo.Smart Vision

Designed to showcase a new vision of urban mobility, the concept vehicle expands on parent company Daimler’s long range “EQ” plan and offers a glimpse into what Daimler has in mind for the future, which includes ten electric vehicles scheduled to launch by 2022. (Smart is a division of Daimler AG and is distributed in the U.S. by Mercedes-Benz USA.)

Smart’s concept is a shared autonomous electric vehicle that will pick up passengers directly from their designated location. And don’t worry about getting into the wrong car, as so many of us have with Uber and Lyft (even with real drivers at the wheel!). Daimler’s future autonomous vehicles will solve that problem with a message board displaying the name and photo of the next passenger on the front of the vehicle:

Photo of message board on front of Smart concept vision EQ fortwo.“The Smart vision EQ fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalizable and, of course, electric,” says Smart CEO Annette Winkler. “With the Smart vision EQ fortwo, we are giving a face to the themes with which Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the vision of future mobility within the CASE strategy.”

CASE stands for Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric, and this strategy is a significant undertaking at Daimler. As described by Chairman of the Board Dieter Zetsche, “each of [the CASE features] has the power to turn our entire industry upside down. But the true revolution is in combining them in a comprehensive, seamless package.”

Smart Strategy

Most of the 27 remaining Smart dealerships are in states with zero-emission vehicle requirements, and a cynic would conclude that EVs can’t make it without a regulatory requirement or heavy subsidies. But that’s not true, as evidenced by Germain Motor Group’s decision to continue selling electric Smarts in Columbus, Ohio, a state with no zero emission vehicle (ZEV) requirement. Unusually high demand for electric vehicles in Columbus appears to be driven by a coordinated emphasis of the benefits of decarbonizing transportation and an effort to mitigate obstacles to charging and driving electric vehicles.

This is all happening because Columbus, the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, is launching the Smart Columbus Electrification Plan. “Columbus has established itself as a leader in electrification with its ‘Smart Columbus’ initiative,” Germain COO John Malishenko wrote in an email reported by Automotive News. “It’s well funded and focused on making Columbus a leader in alternative transportation solutions, so for that reason, we’ve decided to stay put.”

The fact that sales in Columbus remain at a level high enough to warrant keeping the dealership open in the absence of a regulatory mandate demonstrates that a concerted effort to shift behavior can cause meaningful change for the better. Only time will tell whether the 58 departing dealers should have stayed Smart.

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U.K.’s Royal Mail Goes Electric, Reducing Tailpipe Emissions and Lowering Operating Costs

Photo of Arrival's Royal Mail electric delivery vehicle.Growing up, I remember finding out the mail was delivered because my dog barked on hearing the mail truck. Starting later this year, lucky customers on certain routes in the United Kingdom will no longer have that convenience because the U.K.’s Royal Mail Fleet has begun deploying more than 100 electric delivery vehicles. Not only will neighborhood and city streets be quieter, electric vehicles will also put an end to belching tailpipe emissions exacerbated by frequent starts and stops. (The vehicle pictured above, manufactured by U.K.-based Arrival, offer an additional innovation, namely compliance with London’s vehicle design standards intended to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety by greatly improving visibility from behind the steering wheel.)

Last-mile services and urban or stop-and-go driving such as mail delivery are perfect applications for electric vehicles because these conditions provide the optimal mileage per kilowatt-hour. With today’s falling battery prices, along with unpredictable oil prices and the health hazards presented by tailpipe emissions, there is little excuse for light-duty vehicles such as mail trucks not to convert to electricity.Photo of Royal Mail's electric delivery vehicle manufactured by Arrival.By traveling on fixed routes with highly predictable conditions and returning to the same facility each night for charging, little is left to chance. Unlike high speed driving or conditions requiring rapid acceleration, demands which require a lot of energy, gradual acceleration and slow speeds such as on mail routes draw paltry amounts of stored electric energy while regenerative braking constantly charges the battery.

In addition, lacking most of the complex systems and parts found in vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine (e.g., engine, transmission, fuel pump, catalytic converter), the Royal Mail’s electric vehicles will enjoy sharply-reduced operating expenses even before fuel is taken into consideration.

Silent, clean, and inexpensive to operate, the Royal Mail’s zero-tailpipe-emission vehicles will be supplied by Arrival (nine vehicles now beginning a one-year trial period, pictured above) and Peugeot (100 Partner L2 Electric vans, expected by year-end, pictured below).

Photo of Peugeot Partner Electric.Each electric Peugeot Partner will carry a 22.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and offer a payload capacity of more than 1,000 pounds with a range of up to 106 miles. The Arrival vehicle’s specifications reportedly are similar, with the possible addition of a range extender.

The ~100 mile all-electric range being tested will be sufficient for a typical mail route, especially because regenerative braking recharges the battery throughout a day’s journey. When driven at slow speeds or with frequent stops, such as in urban environments or on mail delivery routes, electric vehicles are exceptionally efficient. And when the vehicles return to the depot, they can be easily charged using electricity priced at a less-expensive off-peak rate.

The Peugeot is charged with a Level 2 charger (for overnight) or a CHAdeMO direct current fast charger (providing an 80 percent fill-up in 30 minutes if starting from empty). As an alternative to grid power, the large roofs at mail facilities may offer the prospect of these vehicles being truly 100% emission free by utilizing rooftop solar panels, storing the energy in batteries during the day, and then using that energy to charge the delivery vehicles overnight.

Paul Gatti, Royal Mail Fleet Director, said: “Our research has shown that electric vans are a good operational fit with our business and we are delighted to be ordering such a large volume to use in our daily operations. This is good news for our customers and the towns and cities which we serve. It also means we are on the front foot for future changes in emissions legislation. Emissions are an important issue for us at Royal Mail and we are continuously looking at new and innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint and our impact on air quality. Improving the efficiency of our fleet by introducing electric vans is just one example of this.”

The delivery vehicle specs are modest compared to a passenger vehicle such as the BMW i3, which generates 170 horsepower from a 125 kW motor producing 184 pound-feet of torque. The electric Partner, by comparison, produces 67 horsepower from a 49 kW motor with maximum torque of 148 pound-feet. But the Royal Mail’s vehicles’ moderated performance will provide reliable operation that is environmentally friendly, safe, and highly energy-efficient.

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Audi to Introduce Solar Roofs, Improve Fuel Efficiency and EV Range

Thin-film solar cells in panoramic glass roofs of Audi models: Audi and Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, are working together on this development project. With this cooperation, the partners aim to generate solar energy to increase the range of electric vehicles.
Photo courtesy Audi AG.

Audi today announced a plan to increase the range of the company’s electric vehicles by generating onboard solar energy using thin-film solar cells. Audi and its partner, California-based Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist Hanergy, are taking an incremental approach and will first integrate Alta’s efficient, thin, and flexible mobile power technology into panoramic glass roofs. A prototype is expected by the end of this year.

Recognizing that drivers demand maximum range from their electric vehicles, and also responding to ever more stringent fuel economy requirements around the globe, Audi and other vehicle manufacturers are going to great lengths to maximize every opportunity to increase overall efficiency as well as replace liquid fuels with electricity. Consistent with this effort, Audi’s next step after integrating solar into glass panels will be to cover almost the entire roof with solar cells.

By generating onboard and clean renewable power for systems such as air-conditioning and seat heaters, the solar cells will reduce the demand on an all-electric vehicle’s main battery, thereby providing a longer range for driving. But solar cells also can improve fuel efficiency in mild-hybrid vehicles by making the gasoline or diesel engine’s output more fully available for moving the vehicle instead of producing electricity for in-cabin use. Eventually, Audi and Alta envision solar energy directly charging a fully-electric vehicle’s main battery. “That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” said Bernd Martens, Audi’s Board of Management Member for Procurement.

The partnership with premier automaker Audi is a high-profile opportunity for Alta, holder of multiple world records for energy conversion efficiency. “This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first cooperation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology and Audi’s drive toward a sustainable mobility of the future, we will shape the solar car of the future,” said Alta CEO Ding Jian.

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Advanced Transportation Projects Receive Federal Investment

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office this week announced $13.4 million in investments to support five new cost-shared, community-based projects focused on energy efficient mobility systems. Funding will go to support research and development related to connected and autonomous vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and infrastructure including natural gas, propane, biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

The specific winners are:

  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New York), which will receive $2 million to evaluate changes in freight demand patterns that reduce energy use, incorporate energy efficient technologies and practices into freight logistics, and publish lessons learned.
  • Pecan Street Inc. (Austin, Texas), which will receive $1 million to pilot “last mile” electric bus services. The project includes a feasibility assessment of new technologies such as autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles and dynamic app-driven re-routing.
  • City of Seattle Department of Transportation (Seattle, Washington), which will receive $1.9 million to accelerate the use of EVs in shared mobility applications in four major U.S. markets and establish best practices for all U.S. metro regions.

In addition, two community partner projects focusing on alternative fuels will also receive funding:

  • Center for Transportation and the Environment (Atlanta, Georgia) and its partners will receive $4.6 million to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure throughout the southeastern United States.
  • Metropolitan Energy Center, Inc. (Kansas City, Missouri) and its partners will receive $3.8 million to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, as well as supporting infrastructure, through community-based partnerships throughout Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado.

One of the Vehicle Technologies Office’s areas of focus is energy efficient mobility systems. Energy efficient mobility systems includes efforts to identify and support technologies and innovations that “encourage a maximum-mobility, minimum-energy future in which transportation systems may be automated, connected, electric, and/or shared (ACES).”

According to independent third-party evaluations of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s R&D portfolio that has been evaluated to date, taxpayer investment of $12 billion has yielded an estimated net economic benefit of more than $230 billion, with an overall annual return on investment of more than 20 percent.

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