The flywheel energy-storage technology that was used in, among other things, the Le Mans-winning Audi R18 e-tron quattro is being sold by Williams to GKN Land Systems for use mainly in mass-transit vehicles. Williams initially developed the technology for its 2009 Formula One car but has since switched focus to the automotive and mass-transit sectors including buses and trams. Williams claims the technology can improve fuel economy and reduce emissions by about 30% by capturing some of the energy otherwise lost as heat in braking. The deal involved two units of the Williams group. Mike O'Driscoll, group CEO, said: "The Williams Hybrid Power business has been developed very successfully over the last few years, and is now at the point of broader market commercialization." GKN Land Systems designs, manufactures, and supplies products and services for the agritechnical, construction, mining and utility vehicle markets.
Wanxiang America Corp. (the U.S. arm of a Chinese auto parts manufacturer) has completed the acquisition of the assets of failed U.S. auto startup Fisker Automotive, the companies announced today (March 25). Wanxiang last month won an auction for the assets with a bid of about $150 million, but closing of the deal had to wait until federal regulatory approvals were granted. As part of its bid, the company promised to restart production of the Karma plug-in-hybrid sport car, which Fisker had produced in very low volumes and with the help of a $528.7 million conditional federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technologies Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program that it later defaulted on. The Karma was assembled by Valmet at a plant in Finland. Fisker had planned to move production to the U.S.—to a closed General Motors plant in Delaware it purchased. But those plans did not come to fruition, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2013 having sold fewer than 2000 units. Wanxiang said it is considering whether to build the Karma and several variants in Delaware or at a different U.S. location. Last year Wanxiang purchased U.S. battery maker A123Systems, which also had received a DOE loan.
A Karma plug-in-hybrid sports car on the streets of Pasadena in 2013, before Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy. (Patrick Ponticel)
Confined to private road courses to date, Toyota's tilting three-wheeler takes to regular roads beginning today (March 24). Ten units of the single-seat i-Road are undergoing a roughly eight-week public trial in Tokyo for evaluation of the vehicle's suitability for city driving and of its impact on how users decide what journeys to make with it. A longer-term evaluation is slated to being in the city of Grenoble, France, sometime this year. The i-Road has two wheels in front and one in the back. Propulsion is via two electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery that on a single charge gives it a range of 30 mi (48 km) at a steady 19 mph (30 km/h). Maximum speed is 37 mph (60 km/h). Minimum turning radius is 3.0 m (9.8 ft) and wheelbase is 1695 mm (66.7 in). Curb weight is 300 kg (661 lb). Click here to read a previous Automotive Engineering article on the i-Road.
Kia Motors Corp. is using what it maintains is a 360-V lithium-ion battery pack of “class-leading” energy density (200 W·h/kg) in the 2015 Soul EV to give it range of about 200 km (125 mi) on the European Driving Cycle, and “real-world” range of 80-100 mi (129-161 km) in the U.S. The cells and the battery are the same in all regions. Supplied by SK Innovation, the 192 cells are packaged into eight modules and deliver a total battery capacity of 27 kW·h. The cell cathode is of nickel-rich NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) chemistry, with the raw materials for that and other components optimized for energy density, durability, and safety. Kia says high-performance anode and gel electrolyte additive materials were developed. The new electrolyte additive allows for better range by more effectively dealing with low and high temperatures. A “special” ceramic separator with improved thermal resistance properties is used. The cell casings are of polymer pouch type (as opposed to metal), and the battery pack is air-cooled. Standard equipment on the Soul EV includes receptacles for SAE J1772 Level 1 and Level 2 ac charging, as well as CHAdeMO dc fast charging (480 V).
The battery in the 2015 Kia Soul EV was the result of a three-year development program with lithium-ion cell maker SK Innovation. The car goes on sale in the U.S. in third quarter 2014.
TRW Automotive's steering-wheel concept being shown at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show supports semi and fully automated driving via several multifunctional features including hands on/off detection. The steering wheel is featured in Rinspeed's steer-by-wire XchangE electric vehicle concept. The lightweight design incorporates the following functions, which can be activated by touching transparent switches:
• A "Drive Mode Manager" (DMM) display, located at the top of the steering wheel, illuminating "A" when the vehicle is in automated mode. If the driver touches the steering wheel, "M" (manual) becomes illuminated, indicating that the driver is ready to take back control. If he then touches "Push to Drive" (PTD), control is given back to the driver. Similarly, if the driver later takes his hands off the wheel, the DMM display automatically changes from "M: to A" and the vehicle continues to drive in an automated mode.
• Gear shift—the driver can move from park, neutral, drive, and reverse using the relevant switches on the steering wheel.
• Turn indicators—the indicator switches are illuminated white (ambient lighting), and when activated the corresponding left and right arrows flash.
• Electronic Horn System (EHS)—the horn can be activated by touching a conductive area on the steering-wheel airbag cover.
"With the increasing number of electronically controlled functions in the vehicle, certain controls can be eliminated or packaged into the steering wheel, offering more space and flexibility for the car interior," said TRW's Guido Hirzmann, Group Leader, New Technology, Mechatronic. "For example, with the XchangE vehicle we have been able to remove the center console and integrate the gear shift into the steering wheel."
TRW's concept steering wheel offers a number of multifunctional features including hands on/off detection to help support the driver during semi-automated and fully automated driving situations.
Global sales of plug-in vehicles (PEVs) rose by more than 55% in 2013, and the market is expected to continue to grow at a steady pace over the next nine years, according to a recent report by Navigant Research. That expansion has led to solid growth in the market for electric vehicle charging equipment (better known in the industry as electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE) – growth that is expected to accelerate over the next several years. Worldwide revenue from EVSE sales will grow from $567 million annually in 2013 to $5.8 billion in 2022. The report says: “The market for EV charging has seen an imbalance between the relatively high number of available chargers and the number of vehicles on the road, but that ratio is moving toward equilibrium. In some markets, charging demand outstrips supply,” Lisa Jerram, Senior Research Analyst with Navigant Research said in a press release. “The market has seen a wealth of offerings, including a wider range of EVSE at varying power levels and price points, and this diversity will help drive demand as consumers’ choices increase.” The EVSE market is divided between residential and commercial equipment, which includes workplace, public, and private facilities. The market will see higher demand for residential units than for commercial units through 2014, according to the report, as early PEV buyers are more likely to own their own homes. As the PEV market grows, it will reach a broader base of consumers living in multi-family dwellings, leading to greater growth in the sales of commercial EVSE for private use.
ClipperCreek on Jan. 28 announced availability of its HCS-40P charging station with factory installed NEMA 14-50P or 6-50P wall plugs for 240-V, 30-A charging.
Battery behemoth Johnson Controls and Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI, announced Jan. 29 that they will team to identify and validate new energy-storage technologies for vehicles. Johnson Controls says it will donate and install state-of-the-art test equipment and deploy technical resources to the university to propel academic and applied research into optimizing vehicle and battery design. “We believe strongly in building the next generation of technical leaders through academic partnerships,” said MaryAnn Wright, Vice President of Engineering and Product Development for Johnson Controls Power Solutions. “Our partnership with LTU is an example of our commitment to developing new battery technologies. It is also an investment in both the future of academic research in energy management as well the development of the talent pipeline for our industry,” said Wright, who joined LTU’s board of trustees in 2013. LTU will leverage its faculty expertise and research facilities in energy-storage systems, electrification applications, modeling and simulation, and vehicle testing to assist Johnson Controls in meeting its R&D objectives, LTU said in a press release. Johnson Controls Power Solutions says it is the global leader in lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for stop-start, hybrid, and electric vehicles, and was the first company in the world to produce lithium-ion batteries for mass-production hybrid vehicles.
"The new partnership between Johnson Controls and Lawrence Technological University will identify and validate energy-storage technologies, including absorbent glass mat technology." (Johnson Controls)
Because its engineers have made faster progress than expected, Toyota will offer a fuel-cell car in the U.S. in 2015—earlier than it had planned—the company announced Jan. 6 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Hyundai and Honda were first to announce 2015 launch dates for their fuel-cell vehicles. The Toyota vehicle's name and price will be announced later, as will more details about its technologies, said Bob Carter, Senior Vice President, Automotive Operations, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. The vehicle will be a four-door midsize car with a range of about 300 mi (483 km). Fuel-cell stack output will be more than 100 kW. Acceleration from 0-100 mph (161 km/h) will be in the 10 s range. Rapid technological developments have enabled the company to reduce cost of the car's fuel-cell powertrain and hydrogen storage tanks by an estimated 95% compared with those used on the original Highlander fuel-cell demo vehicle in 2002. A key advance is an improved converter that triples system voltage from the fuel cell to the electric motor, saving weight, space, and "considerable cost," Carter said. A study by Toyota and the University of California-Irvine shows that only 68 hydrogen fueling stations would be needed statewide to accommodate 10,000 or more fuel-cell vehicles concentrated in five urban areas.
A Toyota FCV mule undergoes cold testing in Yellowknife, Canada. Program engineers have logged more than a million fuel-cell test miles in North America.
Airbus signed a memorandum of understanding with EGTS International, a joint-venture company between Safran and Honeywell Aerospace, to further develop and evaluate an autonomous electric pushback and taxiing solution for the A320 Family. The agreement marks the selection of EGTS International’s Electric Green Taxiing System to be evaluated as a new option on the A320 Family—referred to by Airbus as eTaxi. This option would allow the aircraft to push-back from the gate without a tug, taxi-out to the runway, and return to the gate after landing without operating the main engines. (For more on the Electric Green Taxiing System, visit http://articles.sae.org/12662). Over the next few months the partners will jointly develop and present a global commercial case and implementation plan to determine the feasibility of an electric taxiing solution for the A320 Family. To this end, Airbus and EGTS International are reinforcing their existing teams to finalize validation studies, define specifications, and converge on market requirements for a fully tailored forward-fit and retrofit technological solution.
Per trip, the projected fuel savings and CO2 reductions for the A320 Family would be approximately 4% with the eTaxi option.
“The 2014 xEV Industry Insider Report” recently was released by noted battery expert Dr. Menahem Anderman, President of Total Battery Consulting. Based on on-site interviews with senior battery technologists and business development executives at 18 major automakers and 20 battery-system suppliers across three continents, the 175-page work dissects hybrid and electric vehicles and battery technology, the market for each, and provides an assessment of the likely trajectory of all three tiers of the industry as far out as 2020. “The heavy discounts offered by carmakers to buyers of EVs and PHEVs (Tesla excluded) put a price pressure on the whole supply chain. The key question here,” Anderman told Automotive Engineering International, “is whether or not EVs with a longer range, say 150-200 miles, will prove more viable. Most car companies do not see a route for a cost-effective 150-200-mile EV, but Tesla did surprise them once.” On the other hand, he continued, “strong (full) HEVs are sold with profits—providing a more attractive business environment. This poses a big challenge to companies who have over-invested in EVs and PHEVs, rather than strong HEV technology.” Anderman will present some of his findings at his company’s event, the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference Feb. 3-7, and at the SAE 2014 Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium Feb. 11-13