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News & Events - January '09
29.1.2009Making the world a ‘Better Place’
Californian based company Better Place is continuing to extend its reach across the globe, this week announcing an agreement to fund the initial deployment of a charging infrastructure in Denmark worth €103m, with Danish energy company DONG Energy. The company has now struck pioneering deals across four continents, with governments and energy companies in Israel, Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the US states of California and Hawaii being the first to commit.
Better Place's model for developing a more sustainable transport infrastructure is based on providing easily accessible electric vehicle charging points so people can top-up their batteries regularly and conveniently while at work or during leisure time. For those who are only travelling short distances this will effectively mean bypassing the requirement to `fill-up` completely – a series of quick connections meaning the owner is never left short of charge. For longer journeys, Better Place will provide strategically placed battery exchange stations, where EV owners can pull in and - through an automated process taking two to three minutes - exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one, thus allowing for almost uninterrupted long distance electrically powered travel.
Under the Better Place model the company provide a service to which users subscribe. In the same way as we currently pay mobile phone providers for access to a mobile telecommunications network, users will pay for access to their EV charging network, which, as the Better Place website claims, simply means you'll be "buying miles, not minutes." The company also suggest that in the same way that mobile telephone companies are able to offer handsets at very low cost, their business model - which provides them with an incentive for encouraging drivers into their network - will lead to them offering much more affordable, and possibly even free electric vehicles.
The company have struck a deal with Renault-Nissan, who will provide the first Better Place electric vehicles, which are due to be in production by 2011. The cars will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries, and Nissan will produce the battery packs as part of a joint venture with NEC. Renault's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, said the vehicles will have a range of "100 km in city driving and up to 160 km on the highway," and "will accelerate from zero to 100 kph in 13 seconds."
Better Place have so far been very successful in securing funding, having previously raised over $200m from investors including Israel Corp., Morgan Stanley, the Ofer Group, and VantagePoint Venture Partners. Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, said: "We're a very different company … It's easier for us to raise capital because we are in essence selling a commodity - the electricity-powered mile instead of the gasoline-powered mile. If some of the electric car projects or companies fail, we'll still make it. We can work with any car. In technology terms, we're Cisco, not a dotcom website. We're infrastructure, an enabler."
While at present his company is leading the way in the provision of charging infrastructure, Agassi said he's comfortable with future competition and is pushing for an open network in all the countries in which Better Place is working, asking the governments to require car-charging companies to use international standards for the plugs, and to require every network to be accessible for roaming. Commenting on the potential problems arising from non-co-operation across charging networks, Agassi said: "If we had, God forbid, two standards coming into the market, such as VHS and Betamax, consumers will sit back and say `I'll take my time`, and collectively we don't have enough time. We ran out of time in the last decade. What we have to do is not think about how we make the most profit, but how we get people to switch as fast as possible."
Better Place plans to start electrifying gas stations in Denmark in a few months, have pilot drivers using the system next year, and to do a full roll-out in 2011. In Israel, the company has electrified 30-40 parking lots, developed much of the software and equipment for the recharging stations, and signed up early subscribers to trials also due to start in 2010.
For an interview with Shai Agassi and more information about Better Place, visit their website at: www.betterplace.com.
23.1.2009Mitsubishi iMIEV (electric) review
Determining whether a car name is important or not has some relevance to Iain Robertson, who believes that rather than a nondescript `i`, the most compact and cleanest of Mitsubishi models should be called `incisive`.
To be frank, I have always had a sneaky appreciation of the Mitsubishi `i`. It is small. It is cute-looking. It is undeniably compact. However, above all, since te petrol version went on sale in the UK in the summer of 2007, it's been one of Great Britain's lowest polluting, conventional motorcars. Even at that time of its launch, the promise of an all-electric version was not only discussed openly but was promised at some time in the near future. Well, congratulations, Mitsubishi! You have achieved it. You have lived up to your promise. You have finally delivered the all-electric version of the Mitsubishi `i` and called it the iMIEV…
Instead of a zesty 57bhp 660cc petrol-powered `triple` positioned below the rear boot floor (a la smart car, which it needs to be remembered fostered this Mitsubishi at a time when Mitsu was owned by DaimlerChrysler), a charging system and inverter unit replace it. Rather than a fuel tank located below stairs, there are 22 modules, each containing 88 cells of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. `Refilling` takes the form of a 20 minute rapid charge to provide around 80% `tank` charge capacity, or an overnight `trickle` charge from a simple plug-into a domestic supply for the full 200 volts.
The result is a range of around 100 miles, although these early UK test cars (it is not scheduled to go on sale until late 2009) soon guzzled their charge after a brief run of around 40 miles. Mind you, it was to be expected, after all, the iMIEV is destined primarily for urban commuting duties, not the Oxfordshire countryside and certainly not maximum speed, braking and general dynamics testing, all of which affect its range detrimentally. However, in the pursuit of specific figures, the iMIEV accelerates willingly to the more customary urban and suburban speed levels, topping out eventually at a thoroughly sensible 87mph.
The gearbox, which, of course, isn't stuffed full of ratios, has some extra positions apart from its expected PRN and D settings. Instead of L, there is an Eco, at which level the electric engine only allows access to 75% of the available power, although there is another setting, B, which induces an even higher level of regenerative braking to provide a degree of power recovery during normal use.
Any concerns about the low-slung battery pack, which will be affected by the cold but not water, as Mitsubishi has tested it at depths of up to 30cm, which meant total immersion, are unfounded, as it does not connect with speed humps or car park rumble strips. There is actually a side benefit, because its 200kgs of bulk, positioned low in the car, afford it better handling than the petrol-powered alternative, which remains on sale. Yet, the overall temperature is regulated and the system does run the car's electrics and, unlike the Mini E, the heater in this machine is highly effective.
It needs to be stated that Mitsubishi has brought this model to market somewhat quicker than most of the firm's rivals. The company is committed to electric power and its developments of plug-in electric vehicles continues apace, so you can expect to see more. At the forthcoming G8 Summit, all of the Heads Of State will be driving iMIEVs, which must be a coup of sorts. There is no word on price, as yet, and Mitsubishi's investment in off-shore wind power will offset the issues arising from using conventional, fossil-fuelled power stations for recharging purposes. Now, if we can do something with the name…?
I-nnovator…i-con…i-deal…i-llation…i-llusion…i-mp…i-mpact…i-ncisive…i-ndex…i-nexplicable…oh, you decide.
Model tested: Mitsubishi iMIEV
Body-styles: 5-door city-car
Engines: Li-ion rechargeable electric
Trim grades: Standard
In the showroom: Autumn 2010
Review star rating: 5 STARS
Warranty: Three years, 100,000 miles, tbc
Iain Robertson © WhatGreenCar.com 2009
19.1.2009London Mayor Test Drives Tesla Roadster
London Mayor Boris Johnson has become the latest high profile individual to test drive the world’s only fully electric, zero-emission sports car, the Tesla Roadster last week in London.
Mayor Johnson, who has gone on record saying that his next car will be electric, was attending a preview of the IQ2 Green Festival on Climate Change conference and exhibition, open to the public on Sunday 25th January at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The event will bring together acknowledged experts in the area of climate change to raise the awareness and stimulate debate in this important area. Four lucky visitors to the event will get the opportunity of a test drive in the Tesla Roadster, the first practical and fully available electric sports car in the world.
The Tesla Roadster has been developed by the Californian based company Tesla Motors and is produced at the Lotus factory in Norfolk. Over 160 Roadsters have been sold and are currently in customers hands. With a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 3.9 seconds and top speed of 125 mph, the Roadster delivers supercar performance with far more energy efficiency than compact hybrids. The Roadster conforms to all U.S. and E.U. safety and durability standards. Tesla plans to begin manufacturing a four-door, five-passenger, all-electric, zero-emission luxury saloon in 2011.
15.1.2009Detroit Auto Show 2009 goes electric
The 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is proving to be an altogether different spectacle from previous years, as car manufacturers compete not for the fastest or the fanciest new model, but for the most technologically progressive and environmentally considerate.
This year, electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid technologies are taking centre stage in the battle for the hearts and minds of the world’s auto industry representatives. While the 'big three' Detroit manufacturers have home advantage, their contributions have so far been overshadowed by a number of promising EV designs from international manufacturers including: Mercedes, Toyota, and China's BYD Auto.
Mercedes-Benz is profiling its new BlueZero concept range, which currently includes three models: the E-Cell, a pure battery electric vehicle; the E-Cell plus, a series-hybrid which uses an electric motor to drive the wheels and a petrol-powered engine to charge the batteries; and the F-Cell, a hydrogen powered vehicle. The E-Cell claims a 120 mile range on a one-hour charge or 240 miles on a two-hour charge, while the E-Cell Plus is reportedly good for a range of 370 miles on a tank of fuel and a charge, or 60 miles in electric-only mode.
Chinese automaker BYD has unvieled the new E6, a concept electric five-seater MPV, which BYD claim represents the first part of a plan to introduce battery-electric cars with ranges of up to 250 miles. The E6 employs what is felt by some to be the potentially game-changing Ferrous battery technology, which is similar to current Lithium-Ion technology, but designed for more heavy-duty use. The ferrous batteries can be recharged to 50% of capacity in just 10 minutes, are more easily recyclable than other battery types, and are very durable, being good for up to 2,000 charge cycles – or potentially 10 years of use. BYD is also using the technology in its two plug-in hybrid models, the F3DM and F6DM, both of which were also on display.
Peter Rawlinson, chief executive of PFPR Communications, a leading British automotive PR consultancy, said that European and US industry insiders have begun to take Chinese car makers "very seriously." "With the advanced propulsion technology, the quality, proved reliability, good value and hopefully good price," BYD is going to "make it big," he added.
As well as showcasing the new third generation Prius (the platform upon which any likely plug-in version will be based), Toyota revealed their new four-seater EV: the Toyota FT-EV. Based upon the recently launched Toyota IQ, the FT-EV is felt by Toyota to represent a "natural pairing of product strategies".
Irv Miller, group vice president of environmental and public affairs at Toyota, addressing the auto ahow, said: "Last summer's four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly. It was a brief glimpse of our future... We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size. This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity." While Toyota acknowledges that the FT-EV remains a pure concept at present, they have suggested that we could see a production version in 2012.
Smart also gave the motor industry another look at the fortwo ed ('electric drive'), following its debut at the 2008 Paris motorshow. The stats, which suggest a range of 150 miles on a single charge are still looking impressive, although no definitive date has yet been offered by smart for either a European or US release.
From the big three Detroit automakers, however, there was less to get excited about. Ford presented perhaps the strongest offering, launching what they are calling an "aggressive plan" to bring pure battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid to market quickly and affordably during the next four years. General Motors made much of their Volt – their plug-in hybrid due to be launched in Europe in 2011 – but gave no inclination of a desire to produce an all electric vehicle. While Chrysler showcased their Dodge Circuit EV, which they are adding to an ever expanding portfolio of "production-intent" vehicles.
6.1.2009Mitsubishi to launch i-MiEV in 2009
Autumn 2009 should see the launch of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle). The i-MiEV is designed to similar specifications as its petrol-engined sibling, but produces zero-tailpipe emissions and provides running costs to the user of less than 2p per mile.
The i-MiEV has an engine displacement of up to 660cc, managing 0-62mph in 13.0secs and a top speed of 87 mph. The electric motor produces 47 kW making it more powerful 0.6 litre petrol. The batteries are a weighty addition however, adding about 200kg to the car's weight; that said, the placement of the battery pack low down in the car contributes to increased stability and handling through corners.
Although the i-MiEV is smaller than a smart car, in relation to many of the other EVs on the market, it's positively spacious, boasting 246 litres of boot space. It can also seat four adults comfortably, and unlike many electric vehicles on the market (which are often classed as quadricycles), it is fully crash tested.
The vehicle has a range of 100 miles under optimum conditions, and can be charged in around seven hours from a standard household electricity socket or from a 200 volt outlet in half the time. Quicker recharges of up to 80% in 20 minutes are also possible with Mitsubishi's special three-phase system, which the company plan to import and lease alongside the cars. Given the recharging machine's size however (about the size of a vending machine), owners will need to find a significant amount of space for it.
Mitsubishi plan to offer a ten-year or 93,600-mile warranty for the battery; in terms of its longevity they are confident that even after ten years it will retain an 80% charge. However, although the batteries are reliable, they are extremely costly, which is in fact one clear downside to the i-MiEV. This cost has evidently bumped the price of the car to well beyond parity with its petrol equivalents; prices are expected to be in the region of £750 per month for a lease and £35,000 for an outright purchase. Perhaps as a result of this the company anticipates the majority of early sales to be to high-profile fleets wishing to be `seen to be green`, as opposed to individual consumers.
Mitsubishi anticipates that the cost will fall as sales increase however. After they have sold the first 200 units, which represent around 10% of 2009 global production, manufacturing should increase and reduce the price of the car. Their joint venture with Japanese company Yuasa Batteries involves a plan to produce 10,000 i-MiEVs in 2010 with the potential for a doubling of output in the following year. Mitsubishi expect that if production increases in-line with expectations, then the price, which will at present be prohibitive to most motorists, will fall, perhaps to level of around £15,000-£20,000.
While this is still expensive for a city car, the financial benefits of owning an i-MiEV such as the incredibly low running-costs of under 0.5 pence per mile and the numerous tax breaks available to EV owners more generally, may go some way to making the new Mitsubishi a financially viable option.CleanGreenCars
6.1.2009REVA launches new Li-Ion G-Wiz
REVA has announced the European launch of the lithium-ion powered G-Wiz. Based on the current G-Wiz platform – the world's best selling city electric car – the new model fitted with a new lithium-ion battery pack is the result of more than two years of testing, and boasts a range of 120 km (75 miles) per charge and a maximum speed of 50 mph. REVA is also to introduce a fast charge station capable of charging the G-Wiz to 90% in one hour.
With Li-ion technology, REVA's proven EV platform now offers an increased range, faster acceleration, shorter charging time, less energy consumption, improved cold weather performance, maintenance-free battery operation and a longer operating life. REVA has also developed a new proprietary intelligent battery management system that tracks the performance of each cell for uninterrupted performance, which allows a three-year battery warranty to be provided to customers.
Research conducted by Professor Julia King for 2008's King Review of low carbon cars concludes that 93% of car journeys are less than 25 miles and 97% are less than 50 miles. REVA's own data, based on 55 million kms of driving habits by customers in 20 cities worldwide also reflects the nature of every day city driving and the number of short trips. REVA says that their decision to offer this combination of increased range and speed is with a view to extending usage to the suburbs, and means that up to 95% of all car journeys can be completed without the requirement to recharge.
A G-Wiz's normal full charging time is six hours using standard mains electricity, with an 80% charge taking 3.5 hours. The new REVA off-board fast-charge station, which gives a 90% charge in one hour, uses three-phase power. It is primarily aimed at organisations that require constant vehicle availability during the day and will be offered to purchase or lease.
Chetan Maini, REVA's deputy chairman and chief technology officer, said: "With this launch, we are now able to offer a choice of performance options to suit commuter needs and preferences. The introduction of fast charge stations really opens up the market to reach new customers and increase the availability of EVs. Local authorities and businesses can now create the charging and parking infrastructure necessary to make zero-emission personal transport an everyday reality."
The updated G-Wiz (which will be launched in Europe as the REVA L-ion) and the fast-charge stations, will be available to pre-order from REVA distributors in Norway, UK, France, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Belgium and Ireland from February 2009, with the first test drive vehicles and customer deliveries commencing May 2009. Customers will have the option of outright purchase or battery leasing, with prices to be announced by the end of January. REVA say that their European expansion, under the guidance of Keith Johnston, president of European operations, will continue throughout 2009, with new distributors being sought in all European countries.
The company is also developing upgrade kits that will enable existing G-Wiz owners with an ac motor and lead-acid powertrain to upgrade to the lithium-ion powertrain later in 2009.Going Green