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News & Events - June '12
13.6.2012BMW i electric mobility - more details announced
A new electric bicycle and innovative services will join the first BMW i electric cars when they go on sale next year.
BMW may be 18 months away from putting its first purpose-built electric vehicle on sale, but efforts to drum up demand are already well under way.
Today saw the opening of a showroom on London’s Park Lane, devoted to the company’s new “i” sub-brand. It is the first of a series of dedicated outlets that will spring up in other so-called megacities, such as Shanghai and Tokyo, showcasing BMW’s i3 urban electric car and i8 plug-in hybrid coupe.
The company will shortly kick off a promotional “Born Electric” tour, commencing in Rome and reaching London in early 2013, ahead of the i3’s arrival in late 2013, followed by the i8 in 2014.
BMW has also described the range of services it will offer to future BMW i buyers, gathered under a new “360° Electric” slogan.
Avant-garde electric car
Perhaps the most innovative offering will be roadside assistance for electric cars left stranded by a flat battery. Rather than dispatching a tow-truck to haul an immobile i3 away, the company plans to invest in mobile rapid charging units – presumably trucks stuffed with banks of high-capacity batteries – capable of donating enough charge to get an e-motorist up and running again.
Among more predictable offerings, BMW plans to provide the means to pre-book charging points to ensure they are available when needed, smartphone apps to guide drivers to charging points, and even its own design of wallbox for rapid charging at home. It also plans to extend the DriveNow car-sharing service, which currently operates only in Munich and Berlin, to cater for destinations beyond the limited range of a battery-powered i3.
The opening of the Park Lane showroom also saw the debut of a revised version of the i3 Concept vehicle, adapted to carry a new BMW-designed folding electric bicycle.
The Pedelec is intended to form part of the 360° Electric plan, but remains a concept offering at present. Like the BMW i cars, the bicycle is largely fabricated from aluminium and carbon fibre, and is electrically powered. A limited number have already been made, and 200 will see service at this summer’s Olympic Games.
The Pedelec - BMW-designed folding electric bicycle
The Pedelec is designed to cover the “last mile” in a chain of transportation that might involve the i3 or i8, car sharing, and public transport such as London’s Underground. When folded, the Pedelec adopts an upright stance allowing it to be steered and wheeled around while taking up a fraction of its unfolded length.
The 20kg bicycle will offer 250 watts of pedalling assistance at speeds up to 16mph, with a range of 16 to 25 miles from its 300Wh lithium-manganese battery. A full recharge will take between 1.5 and four hours, depending on the power supply used.
Mounting points in the rear of the i3 Concept allow a pair of Pedelecs to be carried side by side, clamped securely to the backs of the folded rear seats. The i3 also provides charging points, allowing the Pedelecs to be topped up either from the i3’s own much larger battery, or charged simultaneously while the i3 is connected to the grid.
BMW i3 Concept interior
The updated i3 Concept also displayed a new interior fashioned from a variety of natural and sustainable materials. The dashboard features eucalyptus wood grown in Europe, while the upholstery is trimmed with leather dyed using extracts of olive leaves alongside a fabric woven from natural wool fibres.
Benoit Jacob, head of design for the BMW i brand, said the i3’s interior was unusually airy and spacious for a car measuring less than four metres in length, comparing it to an urban loft on wheels.
“We want to offer more than an electric car,” Jacob added. “As a premium carmaker we want to offer craft and beauty combined with sustainability and responsibility. And also the idea of cleverness. We need more clever solutions for the environment.”
Jacob argued that woollen seats were an example of this cleverness, given the material’s natural tendency to feel cool in summer and warm in winter.
BMW i3 Concept price
BMW spokespeople remain vague on questions of price and sales models for the BMW i cars. Ian Robertson, BMW’s board member responsible for sales and marketing, said that the high-performance i8 would likely cost in excess of €100,000, and that the i3 would have premium pricing compared to today’s electric vehicles from volume manufacturers.
Robertson also deflected questions about outright sale versus leasing of the cars or their batteries. “There will be a whole set of different options tailored to different countries, as well as some of the new concepts such as DriveNow and car sharing,” he said.
Despite relatively slow sales of early electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF, Robertson said BMW remains confident that the i3 and i8 will find plenty of buyers in the long term.
“We know which markets are attractive, and we know where government policies are heading,” Robertson said. “We know that the volume of cars like these will build up over time. It will become an aggressive, volume-growth market around the world.”
Robertson predicted that plug-in hybrid powertrains in particular would have a huge role to play in meeting ever-tighter emissions rules. “Legislation on CO2 is moving in one very clear direction,” he said. “It will go down – and go down dramatically, particularly between 2015 and 2025.”
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1.6.2012Hybrid van achieves 232mpg
A new electric 3.5 tonne hybrid van with a diesel range-extender promises 232mpg and 31g/km CO2, which is 80 per cent lower than the emissions of current vans.
This may be seen as a hybrid van, although it's described as a Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV) - in other words it is designed to operate on the electric powertrain most of the time, unlike a hybrid van that would operate on its diesel engine most of the time.
The use of a variety of new technologies have helped IE-LEV and Revolve Technologies, working in partnership, to successfully complete the Lightweight Ultra Low Emissions Delivery Van project co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) as part of their Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform.
The CO2 emissions of the demonstrators were 31.4g/km over the UNECE101 cycle with fuel consumption of 232mpg. With further development, figures of 25g/km and 300mpg are predicted.
IE LEV were responsible for developing the original concept for the vehicle, the specification of vehicle requirements, overall project management and the development of the plans for commercialisation of the product. Revolve were responsible for the engine calibration work, integration of the vehicle systems, thermal and electrical systems engineering and vehicle build.
This 18 month project has delivered two fully functioning prototype lightweight, electric vans, with diesel range extender, which demonstrate the UK’s engineering skills and low carbon component supply base. The overall van design and driver ergonomics were specifically configured to meet the onerous duty cycle requirements of commercial vehicle fleet operators (running 3.5t gvw vans), maintain payload and have a total life running costs significantly lower than current equivalent vehicles.
Conversions of standard vehicles to electric generally suffer an increase in kerb weight when the electrical components such as batteries, inverters and traction motors are added, which can then significantly reduce payload capability. The development of a lightweight structure was therefore key to the maintenance of a competitive payload for the vehicle.
This is achieved by the innovative use of new materials, the latest vehicle and component technologies and new approaches to integration, control and system management and vehicle systems health monitoring architectures.
The van features an aluminium chassis, space frame cab structure, lightweight composite body panels and UK-based battery and traction motor technology. The development programme has blended conventional approaches with UK automotive engineering advances of the type that are typically applied to motorsport, high end and more exotic passenger vehicles. The result is a concept for a truly unique commercial van which could be easily developed for local soft tooled, lower volume (but scalable) production. The demonstrator vehicles were successfully built by Revolve with the aluminium understructure developed and supplied by Multimatic, lightweight composite body panels from ACG, battery packs from Axeon and traction motors and generators from EVO. The Vehicle Control Units (VCUs) were developed by Ricardo.
The target market is fleet operators who have a commitment to de-carbonising their transport operations. Fleet operators contacted so far have shown real interest in the product with Royal Mail and DHL recognising the potential after driving the vehicles. The development of interest in the US from potential customers such as AT &T, Enterprise and Federal Express USA has opened up the US possibilities and the extension of the plans to include that market.
The full exploitation of the initial project will be realised through putting the vehicle into series production. At present the project has been validated by the creation of two fully functioning, representative demonstrator lightweight electric vans and other outputs from the project. These include a de-risked process to manufacture vehicles, a fully detailed Bill of Materials (BoM), manufacturing processes and a ‘Route to Production’ roadmap for transition to the manufacturing stage. IE-LEV has established a subsidiary company, Emerald Automotive, to complete the engineering integration and manufacture vehicles.
The project partners have been able to exploit the results of the project through the demonstration of their design skills, development of IP, simulation and other skill sets and either supply similar services in the future or increase their own outputs. There will be opportunities to exploit lightweight aluminium structures and lightweight panels on vehicles other than sports oriented passenger cars and to exploit the diesel range extender and HV electrical components for other vehicle applications.
Revolve sourced a 50kW Ford diesel engine for the range extender. Revolve has a long term and close relationship with Ford (Revolve Technologies is Ford’s Technical Partner for third party Ford engine applications via the Ford Component Sales organisation), and as such has full access to the associated designs and control system. Previous work on the Ford Transit and Focus vehicles provided an underpinning knowledge of the engine and vehicle integration issues and provided for effective development for the range extender for the lightweight van - and created a capability for use in other vehicle applications. Revolve would not have attempted this development without the umbrella of the lightweight van and supporting TSB funding.
The lightweight aluminium chassis technology approach is now a well recognised platform for sports oriented passenger cars (such as the Lotus car family and was recently used for the Tesla). The technology has now been proven applicable for lightweight commercial vehicles generally - and for the lightweight electric van in particular to provide a durable and robust vehicle platform for fleet operations.
Other UK automotive technologies typically focused on lightweighting, performance and optimisation in the passenger car sector were deployed in design, development and realisation of ultra low carbon commercial vehicles, which would not readily have occurred without this project and support of TSB funding.
Funding from the TSB was to act as a mechanism to unlock value and the activities would not have been considered by the members of the project team individually. TSB funding was also to help unlock investor support and attract asset financers to support the full programme to production.