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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