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News & Events - January '11
20.1.2011NAIAS 2011 attracts record numbers
Now in its 23rd year, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is mid way through its public opening days – always a very prestigious and popular event, this year is proving to be busier than ever with record numbers of visitors.
This year's show brings together the most innovative designs and cutting edge technologies in the world – all under one roof, the event is as prestigious as ever.
Almost 90,000 people have visited on the first day alone, a single evening's entertainment gathered 10,000 guests for a children's charity event that raised $2.6 million. NAIAS Chairman, Barron Meade, said "Good weather plus great new vehicles equal crowds at NAIAS... People are in line every morning waiting for the doors to open."
With the exception of the US's number 5 carmaker, Nissan, all major manufacturers have a presence, with a total of over 500 vehicles on display. Nissan pulled out after the 2008 event due to marketing reasons, but promise to return for NAIAS 2012.
With a massive 71,700 square foot stand, 75 vehicles and 22 interactive displays, Ford's display is their most engaging consumer experience ever – the impressive display even including a 20 feet high elevated track for rides in the new Focus Electric and Transit Connect Electric.
Ford's theme is that fuel efficiency is for everyone, and their range of vehicles certainly have something to fit every need. As well as the new Focus Electric, their broad spectrum of models includes the new Ford Explorer, Mustang Boss 302, Ford C-MAX and the Ford F-150, with four new powertrains.
Ford are drawing attention to their green efforts this year, emphasizing that environmental considerations go beyond just zero emission power-trains and include recycled and renewable materials, green technologies and and innovative manufacturing processes.
One of the most surprising moments so far came when Ford's Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering Susan Cischke made a speech. Unexpectedly, she pointed out that growing 'mega cities' necessitates that we move away from the old model of 'one car for every person', and that public transport should be encouraged. For a Ford executive to announce this came as a surprise to listeners, but reinforces Ford's green stance.
As we reported last week, Volvo has another eye catching stand, with their centre piece being a crashed electric C30. This unusual but distinctive display demonstrates how a 40mph frontal crash left all electrical components undamaged. Volvo has put their electric vehicles through some of the most comprehensive and stringent crash tests – demonstrating the level of safety that is possible.
Honda are displaying the Fit EV; the 5-person vehicle is to be equipped with the same drive system as the CR-Z sport hybrid. Although a concept, Honda say they are committed to bringing it to market by 2012. Honda are also showing off two versions of the all-new Civic concept, a coupe and a sedan model that are expected to be on sale this spring. The Civic will be available in petrol, hybrid and natural gas versions; with Honda's Eco Assist information system, drivers can learn how to improve their fuel economy by 10%.
Porsche are demonstrating how green hybrid technology does not necessarily mean a compromise in performance. Their 918 RSR is a hybrid super car, which uses an energy recovery system to provide an eight second engine boost on demand. Several reporters described this model as being the star of the show.
With far too many other green model to mention, the 2011 NAIAS show continues to be open to the public until Sunday 23rd January. The NAIAS website has press images and videos to see, and plenty of additional information.
14.1.2011BBC electric car challenge criticised
On Monday, BBC journalist Brian Milligan began driving from London to Edinburgh in an all-electric Mini, using only publicly accessible charging locations.
While the challenge was promoted by the BBC as aiming to put EV technology and infrastructure to a true test, the nature of the challenge has been criticised and described as being unfair by EV supporters and those in the industry.
The first issue raised by critics of the challenge is the choice of vehicle – the BBC said that they chose the Mini E as it was more affordable than other available EVs of similar specification. However, the electric Mini is a test vehicle produced for trials, and is not yet publicly available. Critics argue that an EV already launched would have been more appropriate and informative, such as a LEAF or i-MiEV.
Milligan's journey, documented on the BBC's website, portrays the Mini E rather negatively, with regular references to disadvantages of both the vehicle and public recharging infrastructure. Milligan reports that on his journey, "one worry is quickly overtaken by another". He experienced both "range anxiety" and "charging post anxiety", commenting that the Mini’s range was insufficient and charging posts were hard to find, possibly occupied by another EV driver and took far too long.
However, the critics argue that the reality is that current EVs and their accompanying charging technology are designed for short commuter trips and inner city or sub-urban driving, and the majority of the established infrastructure mirrors this. A 484 mile journey across Britain is far beyond the intentional use for most electric vehicles of today – making the entire expedition an unfair and meaningless test. Testing an EV in the context for which it was designed would have been far more informative.
As noted by Next Green Car's director Ben Lane: "While EVs do not suit all journeys, recent trials have shown that they are ideal for regular city trips and commuting. No one is suggesting that they are the vehicle of choice for crossing the country or for trips more than 100 miles. The fact that a city-based family may need another car for longer trips is much less of a problem than it used to be as city Car Clubs are now available across the UK. Furthermore, most of the research suggests that charging at home, not on-street, will be how most future EVs are refuelled. Having a nation-wide recharging network is not necessary to kick-start the EV revolution."
To redeem EV's reputation, and to prove that electric cars can drive longer distances than one might expect, a driver from the Tesla Motors Club is to drive the same route in a Tesla sports car, only he set out this morning and aims to beat Milligan to Edinburgh this evening – with the aim to prove the true capability of EVs that are actually on the market today. Supported by Robert Llewellyn, the trip has been motivated because of the unfairness and misleading nature of the BBC's journey. The Tesla will stop twice for charging, with the aim to "counter the ludacris anti-EV reporting from the BBC."
10.1.2011BBC Mini E on high road to Edinburgh
The introduction of the new Plug-in Car Grant has prompted BBC Breakfast's Brian Milligan to embark on an ambitious trip from London to Edinburgh in an all-electric Mini E, starting today.
The beginning of the grant highlights our Government's devotion to making 2011 the year that EVs take off. However, a relative lack of public recharging points means that range anxiety leaves the many people feeling sceptical about the potential of electric vehicles being their everyday mode of transport.
The EVs available to us today are primarily suited for short-distance urban use, but the BBC have decided to test their long-distance ability but attempting to drive an all-electric Mini E on the 484 mile journey. To provide a fair test of how prepared the UK's electric recharging infrastructure is, only publicly accessible recharging will be used. Of the nine different en route charging stations that have been provisionally selected – seven are Elektrobays, manufactured and maintained by Brighton-based Elektromotive.
It may seem surprising but, no-one really knows exactly how many public recharge points are available in the UK, not even OLEV – the Government office for low emission vehicles. Thankfully however, Milligan has had help planning his recharging schedule by Calvey Taylor-Haw, Managing Director at Elektromotive, who has also provided a wireless key needed to access the Elektrobays.
Calvey commented: "It will be interesting to see how Brian grapples with the practicalities of powering an EV over such a long distance. At present, undertaking such a trip in an EV takes quite some planning, as recharging points are still relatively low in number and are concentrated in a few major cities. We wish Brian the best of luck for his journey, and are confident that his experiences will highlight how Elektromotive is driving the fledgling EV revolution."
The anticipated increase of EVs on UK roads in 2011, resulting from an influx of new production EVs coupled with the Government grant, is expected to highlight the growing need for a comprehensive nationwide charging infrastructure. Milligan's journey will certainly be a true test of the extent of our existing recharging infrastructure.
Although the choice of vehicle, the Mini E, will not be available to the general public in the UK in the foreseeable future, its specification, in terms of range etc, are in line with several models that are available to purchase very soon, such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV or Nissan LEAF.
Milligan will begin his EV challenge today from London, and expects to reach his final destination on Friday 14 January. Throughout the week Milligan's progress will be followed by BBC Breakfast viewers.
3.1.2011Electric car revolution starts today
From today, the Plug-in Car Grant worth up to £5,000 is available for the purchase of selected electric vehicles in the UK.
The vehicles that qualify for the Plug-in Car Grant include nine electric and plug-in hybrid cars – while three are available from January, the remaining six will be launched on the market during 2011 and 2012.
The first nine cars that are eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant are:
* Mitsubishi i-MiEV (available January 2011)
* smart fortwo (available for limited lease January 2011, full sale mid 2012)
* Peugeot iON (available for lease January 2011)
* Citroen C-Zero (available for lease early 2011)
* Nissan LEAF (available March 2011)
* Tata Vista EV (available March 2011)
* Toyota Prius Plug-in (available early 2012)
* Vauxhall Ampera (available early 2012)
* Chevrolet Volt (available early 2012)
It is worth noting that not all nine cars are yet available for full private purchase, and will not be available to buy or lease until 2012. The Mitsubishi electric vehicle is also technically the same as the offerings from Citroen and Peugeot, although marketed under the different brands and sold with different leasing or purchase options. Likewise, the Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt are identical vehicles, but again will be marketed separately in the UK for sales purposes.
On top of many of several models in the list technically being the same, some will only be available to lease for some time. The Citroen and Peugeot models will initially be available for lease only, and the smart fortwo will only be available in a small batch to be leased, until mid 2012 when it can be purchased in full.
Both private car buyers and fleets are eligible to receive the new grant, which is administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) – no applications forms are required as the dealership completes all the necessary paperwork on the buyer's behalf and the grant is automatically deducted from the vehicle price at the point of purchase.
The grant has been designed with the aim of making whole-life costs of a qualifying car more comparable with petrol or diesel equivalents. Over time, as manufacturers increase the volumes of low carbon cars, production costs are likely to fall.
As the Grant is rolled out, the Government will continue to receive applications from manufacturers for more vehicles that may be eligible to qualify for the grant. An updated round of qualifying vehicles will be announced in the next few months.
The government has also been encouraging a network of electric recharging points to become established across the UK, through a scheme called Plugged-In Places. Phase 1 has been successfully implemented, with OLEV providing £8.8 million to fund infrastructure roll out in London, Milton Keynes and the North East. Phase 2, just announced, is to include the Midlands, Greater Manchester, the East of England and Scotland and Northern Ireland, which will between them receive £20 million to develop their electric vehicle infrastructure.
Newspress, Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)