Posts Tagged ‘cars’



FedEx Express and Urban-Cab Join Forces for Ecological Deliveries

Another Step For More Environmentally-Friendly Town-Centre Express Deliveries

PARIS, April 21st, 2009 – FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and the world’s largest express transportation company, and Urban-Cab, Paris leader in 100% ecological passenger transportation, have announced their program for efficient and environmentally-friendly parcel deliveries in the heart of the capital. The two vehicles, specifically designed for town-centre operations, have been tested since the beginning of January 2009 and passed with flying colors.

A recent survey indicates 37% of the French population consider the environment to be one of their major concerns (source TNS-Sofres) –all the more reason for FedEx to continue its environmental impact reduction policy.

FedEx currently operates two vehicles from Urban-Cab-an electric utility vehicle (Goupil & Matra) and an electrically-assisted tricycle-in Paris’ sixth district out of Urban Cab’s Opéra logistics base. During the eleven-week trial, Urban-Cab vehicles delivered more than 2,400 documents and small parcels, with an average of about fifteen emission-free stops per hour.

Based on this experience, FedEx aims to raise the number of vehicles to five in the next few months and to expand its delivery coverage to more districts.
“This project is fully in line with FedEx commitment to connecting the world in responsible and resourceful ways. With a global fleet to 170 hybrid electric vehicles and solar-powered buildings in the United States and as of 2010 in Germany, this partnership clearly demonstrates FedEx desire to reduce its environmental impact and represents a new step in France,” explained Dirk van Impe, managing director, Operations for FedEx Express France. “Urban-Cab is a company able to provide the quality of service needed to meet this challenge,” he added.

The main activity of Urban-Cab’s innovative 100% ecological 22 vehicles is passenger transportation throughout the capital. At the request of FedEx, the company agreed to diversify its business, with the success of the concept justifying the ongoing business and fleet deployment plan.
“The ethical environmental management promoted by Urban-Cab with its emphasis on the individual is fully in tune with FedEx values. It is a real pleasure to see that a major international group such as FedEx is making a concrete commitment,” said Francis Allouche, CEO of Urban Cab.

In addition to the obvious fundamental benefits for the environment, the service provided by Urban-Cab also enables FedEx to anticipate any automobile traffic restrictions in the heart of the capital and to help keep down the particularly dense traffic there. Thanks to this mode of clean parcel transportation, FedEx is also improving its day-to-day efficiency by getting even closer to its end-customers, as the Urban-Cab vehicles can access pedestrian-only areas.


G.M.’s P.U.M.A. prototype in Manhattan.

The New York Times reported of a venture that makes sense: GM and Segway got together to develop prototypes of a vehicle that could revolutionise transport: the P.U.M.A. (short for the rather mouthful description Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility vehicle, a term that must have been invented by an engineer). First good thing: the Puma prototype cost “only one half of one percent of G.M’s typical engineering budget” for a year, which shows that transport modes development does not have to break the bank, especially at a time where GM actually is facing the fate of being broken. Secondly, the Puma would also not cost the Earth: it’s small (low material needs for production), it’s electric (no greenhouse gases) and it doesn’t need highways and extensive road networks. As a kind of self-service rikshaw, it’s ideal for use in hourly rental services like Zipcar, City Car Share or I-Go , which means it has the potential to become one of these paradigm shifts needed to transform our car society into a mobility one.

The Puma is a larger, two-passenger, sit-down version of the Segway PT, with two gyroscopically balanced wheels. The prototype has minimal bodywork (which really could stay that way), even though podlike enclosures are imagined for production (Jim Motavalli from the NYT pointed out that it looks a bit like computer mice on wheels). It is powered by lithium-ion batteries and has a 35-mile range and 35 m.p.h. top speed. A three-hour charge costs 35 cents. It is, in essence, a neighborhood electric vehicle, or NEV.


There could be more futuristic options available with the Puma. Larry Burns, G.M.’s vice president for research and development and strategic planning, said that Puma vehicles would be designed to tap into the two-way communications made possible by G.M.’s OnStar technology, which has six million North American subscribers. The vision is expansive: using “vehicle to vehicle,” or V2V, communications, these “100 percent digital” devices would communicate with one another over a quarter-mile range to prevent collisions, eventually allowing what G.M. calls “autonomous driving and parking.”

There’s more: the pods would also be equipped to communicate with the smart grid of the future (as is the Aptera EV, another podlike electric vehicle that is due to be introduced in Spring), returning electricity to utilities during times of peak demand. That’s not V2V, it’s V2G — vehicle to grid.

The problem though with NEVs is that the public isn’t ready for them, which of course is partly due to the car industry not being ready to move away from the good old car, and governments and the oil lobby not wanting to change their thinking about tranport. So it’s no surprise, that Ford abandoned its NEV when it sold the Norwegian company that made it, Think Nordic, at the end of 2002. Fewer than 6,000 vehicles were sold in the United States that year. Chrysler still sells Global Electric Motorcars vehicles, which have had some success but mainly in gated communities. Let’s hope the Puma will have a brighter future.

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Not only does Tata Motors with its Nano want to dramatically increase car pollution in India and the rest of the world, Chevrolet has joined the mad race hand in hand with some short-sighted European government incentives. In Lombardy, Italy the starting price of about €10,000 can be dropped down to €2,900 with various incentive, including those due to the LPG (Liquiefied Petroleum Gas) conversion kit. Oxymoronic AutoBlog Green reports that the Matiz will be soon to be replaced by the local version of the Spark. AutoBlog Green enthusiastically breaks down the incentive effects as follows: there’s a €1,500 discount from Italy’s environmentally unfriendly scrapping plan, €2,000 for purchasing a LPG vehicle, €800 direct from Chevrolet, and €3,000 from the Lombardy region to stimulate the purchase of new cars. And, if the Matiz is too small, you can get an Aveo for about €4,400. It’s obvious that much of the world (including AutoBlog Green) just doesn’t get the intersection between the current economic disaster and the unfolding environmental one, and the fact that sooner rather than later both will merge.

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BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer has reportedly confirmed a new eco-friendly machine called the Megacity Vehicle as part of the automaker’s Project i. Beyond the name, details are sketchy. According to Reithofer, “Customers will have the choice between a fully electric drive and a high-efficiency combustion engine. Large-scale production could start in the first half of the next decade.”

We’re not entirely sure yet if that means the vehicle will be some sort of hybrid or if it will be offered with two separate and distinct powertrain options. We’re also wondering if the Megacity has anything to do with the rumored small car development with Fiat, which would supposedly spawn new city cars from both the German and the Italian automaker. BMW is also “pursuing a radical approach toward establishing a truly sustainable value chain-from development to production and sales,” said Reithofer.

Autoblog Green

The above pictured BMW Isetta has very little to do with the announcement below – I just think that this 1950s microcar looks very cute. The Isetta was originally designed in Italy and built by many companies all over the world. In Germany it was called the ‘rolling egg’ or ‘coffin car’ (Sargwagen) because of the low survival rates in heavy accidents. I guess the common link between the Isetta and the below mentioned Megacaity Vehicle will be that both share a relatively price tag and were/will be built for short distance travel.


According to R.L. Polk & Co.’s director of industry analysis Lonnie Miller, when he asked a group of over 300 people in Detroit a question about how many of those present drove hybrid vehicles, only three hands went up.  On average, throughout the U.S. 2.5% of people own hybrid vehicles. Furthermore, the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit displayed numerous electric and hybrid vehicles in a market that does not seem to show strong support towards hybridsHybrid vehicles garners a lot of attention from the press and the public, but sales remain low.  Out of a total sales of 13.19 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, only 315,000 were hybrid vehicles, falling short of the predicted sales of 350,000 units.

Sales of hybrid vehicles are expected to increase dramatically by 2012.  However, all is not positive for makers of hybrid vehicles.  Higher priced hybrids can scare off buyers.  Hybrids carry a premium over standard models and many would be buyers do not see it fit in their budget to splurge for the hybrid model.

Furthermore, more than twenty hybrid vehicles are on the market today, and no increase in brand loyalty has been seen by industry observers. To further that point, less than one out of every five hybrid owners return to buy the same vehicle again.  Traditionally, automotive brand (not model) loyalty rate is around 40 percent.  Many of those previous hybrid owners do not even buy another hybrid vehicle.  When the time comes to purchase a new vehicle, only approximately 30% of previous hybrid owners buy another hybrid vehicle.

Owners of hybrid vehicles who do buy another hybrid vehicle are a different group of car buyers.  They are dedicated to hybrids and show their support by joining hybrid groups and forums and frequenting hybrid dedicated websites, according to industry analysis by R.L. Polk.

Finally, having a successful hybrid within a lineup of vehicles does create a strong affect towards how people view a company.  For example, due to the sales success of the Prius, industry analysis has shown that the public believes that all Toyota vehicles are fuel efficient.

Ward’s Auto, R.L. Polk via AllCarsElectric

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The West often points its fingers at China’s abysmal environmental record. Whether that’s fair or not given that it was us who with our once insatiable consumer demands have created or at least contributed to it, is still a question that is not easy to answer. But let’s also not forget that China often is leading the West with initiatives contributing to a healthier environment. This post by Green Car Congress is just another example: The government of China is considering providing rebates of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,300) to buyers of cars powered by alternative technologies, Industry and Information Technology vice minister Miao Wei told Caijing in an interview 12 March. Covered vehicles would include those powered by biofuels, electricity and hybrid systems.

<!––>The proposed rebates will range between 10,000 to 50,000 yuan ($US1,500-$7,300) depending on the energy efficiency of the cars, according to Miao, who formerly was president of Dongfeng Motor Corp., China’s third-largest automaker.

The reimbursement plan is being drafted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology, which plan to release a scheme for classifying cars by energy efficiency in two months, Miao said.

The question though is: wouldn’t it be better to use this money to discourage people from buying cars and, amongst other measures, do so by investing more in public transport?

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Good to see that the electric car push is gaining momentum. Governments in Israel, Britain, California, Hawaii and many other places have made a commitment to invest in infrastructure for electric cars (see links below); now Renault has declared its full commitment to the technology – as Autoblog Green reports:


    “While it’s sister company, Nissan, may still be chasing after hybrids and dreaming of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV), reports say that Renault has had enough. It’s dropped the duo and has decided it wants to go steady with electric vehicles. Company COO Patrick Pelata has let it be known that all its research and development resources will be be strictly focused on battery-powered locomotion and that they hope to have a third of the Renault line-up electric in 10 years.
    In the near term, the French automaker will focus on three particular models equipped with batteries from NEC to give them all over 100 miles of range. They include an electric version of the Kangoo, a sedan to fulfill its Better Place commitment in Israel but also with European availability as well as a smaller 5-seat hatchback. Renault is also said to still be flirting with a battery lease and swap model.”
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World Debut at the 79th Geneva Motor Show, March 5th through 15th, 2009

Swiss Automobile Visionary Frank M. Rinderknecht Builds a Concept Car with Adaptive Energy Concept

„iChange“ Alters its Shape – and Automotive Thinking

ichange-1The Swiss auto powerhouse Rinspeed presents the ‘iChange’, the world’s first car whose body adapts to the number of passengers on board. In seconds a streamlined one-seater sports car transforms into a comfortable car with ample room for three. The trick: At the push of a button the rear end of the teardrop-shaped car magically pops up.

The basic idea behind the streamlined, lightweight zero-emission ‘iChange:’: The energy demand of a vehicle depends mostly on its weight, the type of engine it uses, and its aerodynamic properties. The engineering-services company Esoro that traditionally builds Rinspeed concept cars has built an extremely lightweight car weighing in at only 1’050 kilograms. To power the car, the Swiss specialists chose an electric motor. The idea of the pop-up rear end was conceived to account for the sizeable effect aerodynamics play in fuel consumption.

While other cars always have to ferry around their puffed-up exteriors that can accommodate up to seven passengers even if they’re just transporting a single soul, the „iChange“ features an adaptive body. The sole driver is conveyed in a teardrop-shaped car that offers optimal aerodynamic properties and thus minimized energy consumption. If more than one person need to be transported the expanding rear provides room for two passengers. As a result of the increased weight and no longer optimal aerodynamics the energy consumption increases – but only for the time passengers are actually on board.

ichange-2The energy for the electric motor comes from lithium-ion batteries that are available in two different stack configurations for short- and long-distance driving. The electric motor of the „iChange“ produces 150kW, capable of propelling the car to a top speed of 220 km/h. The sprint from rest to 100 km/h takes just slightly over four seconds. This impressive performance is made possible with the help of a six-speed pre-selector gearbox from the Subaru WRX car.

The central research department of Siemens AG (Corporate Technology, CT) supplied the integration technology for engine/generator, electronics and battery connection interface.  Siemens has long been one of the world leaders for energy systems and eco technology with pioneering concepts for electric drive systems. Its products cover the entire electric value-added chain from generation to distribution to consumption.

The gearbox and drivetrain are lubricated with eco-friendly lubricants from Motorex. Custom-made lightweight 17” and 18” forged wheels with aerodynamic shrouds are supplied by light-alloy wheel specialists AEZ. Pirelli P Zero tyres in size 215/40-17 in front and size 245/40-18 in back provide optimal grip. The front lights derive from the Opel Insignia, the rear lamps come from the Opel Astra Twin Top.

ichange-3An initial walk-around reveals that the concept car has no doors. The entire electrically powered roof section of the car measuring just 1.03 meters in height tilts forward to allow passengers to board. Also gone are such mundane things as a key. Its role is filled by an Apple iPhone, which also controls the most important vehicle functions.

The „iChange“ is drastically different than ordinary cars in every detail: At the heart of the concept car lies the groundbreaking next-generation Harman/Kardon infotainment system. The system uses an innovative Intel processor technology that guarantees minimized power consumption. The same is true for the Harman/Kardon high-efficiency audio system. This revolutionary technology meets highest demands on sound quality, weighs much less than ordinary systems and at the same time uses only a fraction of energy. This opens the door to a new dimension of energy efficiency. The route guidance of the navigation system is also especially eco-friendly: The system calculates the most energy-saving route and displays the directions in realistic 3D view.

ichange-4When it comes to the subject of heating systems, the “iChange” is as versatile as its car body. Because the electric motor produces too little waste heat, the concept vehicle depends on a high-performance auxiliary heater. The Esslingen-based Eberspächer Group – one of the world’s leading manufacturers of vehicle heating systems – designed two tailor-made ecological heating systems especially for this project: an electric heater as well as an ethanol 85 heater. This optimally accentuates the advantages of the two technologies: The entirely emission free electric PTC heater proves itself at short distances. Over long distances, the battery-independent alternative fuel-powered heater ensures a significantly longer operating range of the vehicle. As a result, even the heater of the “iChange” variably adjusts to the respective requirements.

The pure wool used in the interior was further refined into high-tech wool by Schoeller using state-of-the-art processes. The wool is spun and died in accordance with the highest eco standards. It provides an extremely extravagant ambiance in ichange-5the ‘iChange,’ looks stunning and is delicate to the touch. The competence partner Strähle + Hess transformed this natural product into a striking interior. Its surface character and materiality combine to create a symbiosis of shell, firmness and frothy air. Unconventional techniques create unusual surfaces. The seams of the seats are reversed and the removable seats cushions are adorned with the prototype’s name. Xmobil provided further customization services.

While textiles can be found in the „iChange“ in their original form in other areas, they are newly interpreted on seats and cargo floor using various refinement techniques such as braiding and gathering and a combination of both. Leather strips alternate with technical textiles. The seat cushions are interchangeable, braided felt alternates with technical textiles formed into three-dimensional shapes. This transfers the adaptive concept of the „iChange“ to the interior as well. The diamond-coated anti-slip floor is supplied by abrasives specialist KGS.

The Swiss Federal Ministry for Energy (Bundesamt für Energie) supports the „iChange“ project as a groundbreaking research and development project. Solar panels on the top and sides of the roof provide electricity to the fan to keep temperatures in the „iChange“ comfortably low on hot summer days. The large Sharp solar panels also provide additional eco-friendly charging of the batteries.

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ecopiaBridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BTAO) officially launched the Ecopia EP100, a low rolling resistance tyre which provides drivers with improved fuel economy without sacrificing wet handling performance.

The Ecopia tyre line targets fuel efficient vehicles, including hybrids and electric vehicles and will be used in original equipment and replacement applications. The new Ecopia EP100 is the first aftermarket product in the Ecopia tyre line for the North American market, and is a summer replacement tyre fitment for popular fuel efficient, hybrid and electric vehicles including the Mini Cooper, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Versa, Toyota Corolla and a selection of other conventional vehicles.

Available in H- and V-speed ratings, the Bridgestone Ecopia EP100 has a UTQG of 400AB and will be offered in six different sizes ranging from 14-16 inch. The tyre will be available in March in the first phase of a two-phase rollout in 2009.

The Ecopia EP100 incorporates Bridgestone’s NanoPro-Tech materials technology which controls the interaction between polymers, filler materials and other rubber chemicals used in the manufacture of the tyre. (Earlier post.)

Design elements in the Ecopia EP100 include 3D Cut Circumferential Ribs to help reduce irregular wear and lessen road noise. Consistent Surface Contact, through a special tread block design, improves wet and dry handling and reduces irregular wear. Interconnected Rib Blocks enhance wet performance and help reduce energy loss. High Angle Lateral Grooves are incorporated into the Ecopia EP100 to help avoid hydroplaning.

[Source: Green Car Congress]