12 January 2016

Detroit Motor Show 2016 - Sustainability Highlights

Following last week's CES in Las Vegas, where several auto manufacturers shared their new technology, the 'Motor City', Detroit, has started its NAIAS motor show, where a more traditional showcase attracts many more manufacturers.  Below are the highlights which have relevance to sustainability.  

Audi h-tron quattro concept

Hydrogen-fueled powertrains aren't yet commonplace, but as that might change in the future (i.e. when/if hydrogen refueling infrastructure is rolled-out), manufacturers are continuing to develop the technology.  At Detroit, Audi have revealed their h-tron quattro concept.

Audi h-tron quattro concept
Personally, it's the most attractive form factor for future mobility - combining four wheel drive, ample space inside, and of course an emission-free experience.  This particular concept also suggests a 4 minute refueling can offer a 370 mile range - comparable to people's current petrol-pump expectations.

The fuel-cell provides an output of 110kW and has over 60% efficiency.  There is also a 100kW lithium-ion battery, to support short bursts of acceleration.  Power is sent to the wheels via two electric motors - 90kW at the front and 140kW at the rear. Additional efficiencies are made by having a heat-pump to support the air conditioning, and a solar roof.

Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Concept

Keen to find 'good environmental stories', VW recently revealed their Budd-E concept at CES2016.  For Detroit though, they have shown their Tiguan GTE Active Concept:

VW Tiguan GTE Concept

It's actually a 'ruggedised' version of the Tiguan GTE Concept unveiled at Frankfurt:

VW Tiguan GTE Concept (Frankfurt Sept 2015)

Power comes from a 148bhp 1.4litre turbo-charged petrol engine, with electric motors and the front (54bhp) and rear (114bhp).  A 12.4kWh battery is charged either via a socket, or by the engine.  There's a claimed 20 mile all-electric range, with a total range of 580 miles.
Volvo S90

Following the huge success of the XC90 which has received much acclaim, Volvo have now revealed their 'elegant and sophisticated' S90.

Volvo S90

It will feature a plug-in hybrid 'T8' powertrain, delivering 410bhp 44g/km of CO2.  With an incredibly strong heritage in safety, as one would expect, Volvo are looking seriously at autonomous driving capabilities.  The S90 includes 'Pilot-Assist', a semi-autonomous feature which allows hands-free driving on motorways at speeds up to 80mph.


Away from the technology of autonomy, powertrains and entertainment, one of the most interesting developments was from Ford, who introduced the FordPass.

The platform provides a portal to provide its user with a total mobility experience, from reserving parking spaces to participating in car sharing.  In fact, they are "aiming to do the same thing for car owners that iTunes did for music fans".  Encouragingly, Ford are also looking at ride-sharing and multi-modal transportation, all potentially great news for sustainability.

FordPass App
Here's a video which explains the concept in a little more detail:

07 January 2016

CES2016 - Sustainability overview

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is where manufacturers large and small reveal the latest technology in a hope to be the 'next big thing'.  Reports suggest that Artificial Intelligence and HDR TVs are prevalent.  Superficially, materialism and consumerism aren't going to have much to do with sustainability (and neither does Las Vegas!), but dig a little deeper, and one can see some real potential of technology being a sustainability enabler...  Below there are sections on:

Vehicles and Mobility

The fact that several mainstream car manufacturers are choosing CES to launch their new innovations goes a log way to demonstrate some of the fundamental transformations that are happening to the industry:
  • Gas guzzling power to alternative powertrains
  • Splendid isolation to reliable connectivity
  • Car sales to mobility solutions
  • Driving skills to relaxing autonomy
  • Traffic congestion to smart traffic management
Here are some of the announcements which are whetting the appetite of the 'green motorist'...

BMW i Vision Future Interaction

The already desirable BMW i8 electric vehicle just got even better, with the roof removed in the gorgeous 'i Vision Future Interaction' concept (i.e. i8 Spyder).  As a showcase for its autonomous driving and gesture controls, it's an eye on an all-electric future not too far away...

Faraday Future

Touted as a potential Tesla rival, Faraday Future have revealed their much anticipated all-electric supercar, the FFZERO1

Faraday Future FFZERO1
Here's their inspiring teaser video, outlining their vision goes way beyond the traditional model of car ownership:


The expected announcement around a tie-up with Google hasn't happened (yet), but Ford did talk about their electric vehicle roadmap, suggesting they have more patents in the area than anyone else, and will bring 13 electric vehicles to the market by 2020.

They also announced a significant investment in its autonomous vehicle programme, with potential sustainability opportunities to support smart traffic management, reduced accidents (and therefore congestion), and vehicle sharing access models.

Ford Fusion autonomous spatial mapping

Volkswagen BUDD-e

With a desperate need to reposition itself with a robust sustainable future roadmap, VW have launched their BUDD-e - a futuristic reinterpretation of their iconic microbus.  With 4WD, and all-electric powertrain, and estimated 233 mile range, its floor-mounted batteries can be charged to 80% within 30 minutes.

It remains to be seen whether this prototype, which is not dissimilar to their Bulli prototype revealed in 2012, can create the step-change shift required to win back customer loyalty.

Smart Cities

AT&T took the opportunity at CES to announce a major push into smart cities.   Not only have they got strategic partnerships with Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson, GE, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., but signed-up Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Why are smart cities important from a sustainability perspective? Well, quite simply with the population growth and migration to cities continuing unabated, unless cities find a way to manage traffic, air quality, water usage, building energy efficiency and waste minimisation, cities are going to become pretty unpleasant places to live. Or as Mike Zeto, General Manager of Smart Cities, AT&T IoT Solutions says more eloquently - “...Our holistic strategy can help cities save money, conserve energy, improve quality of life, and further engage with their citizens.”

Meanwhile, Panasonic has announced it has an agreement with Denver to provide its CityNOW proposition to support its transformation into a smart city.

Smart Home

The smart home has been the 'bread and butter' of science fiction for decades, but it's now very much reality.  With a reliable, fast internet connection, and the prevalence of smart phones and tablets, smartphone control of the home is very accessible.  Alongside security and entertainment, energy management (e.g. via smart LED lighting, internet-enabled thermostats, smart plugs, etc.) provides a real opportunity to optimise energy spend.  Some manufacturers with new products are introduced below (in alphabetical order).

CastleOS voice-activated hub

Using Microsoft's Kinect microphone system, the CastleOS Hub provides voice-activated integration with a large number of other manufacturers' smart kit.

Elgato Eve

Providing integration with Apple Homekit, Elgato's Eve provides hardware and software to monitor "air quality, temperature, humidity, air pressure, energy consumption and more".

Elgato Eve

Honeywell Lyric

Honeywell have produced their own smart thermostat, with smartphone app, called Lyric.

Honeywell Lyric Thermostat

They've obviously given their design teams something nice in the staff canteen, as the thermostat, and app look great.  Water leak and freeze sensors are also available.

Honeywell Lyric App

It's compatible with Apple Homekit and Samsung SmartThings.


The connected home proposition from iDevices has been strengthen with some new devices (it already had switches and a thermostat in its lineup).  The new devices, with Apple Homekit compatibility, are a wall socket, wall switch, dimmer switch and socket (for lights).

iDevices Connected Home

LG SmartThinQ™ Hub

LG's smart-home hub is a little different to its competitors - as well as managing the wireless data flows between sensors, smart appliances and a smart-phone, it can also display calendar notifications, and is a speaker for music.
LG SmartThinQ™ Hub

Lowe's Iris

After recently announcing its next generation of Iris, at CES, Lowe's announced a professional security monitoring service for $20 per month, with cellular backup.


O2 has announced it will be offering AT&T's 'Digital Life' platform and smart thermostat from tado° to its UK customers this year.

Panasonic ÔRA

Panasonic has introduced a flexible software platform, called ÔRA, aiming to provide smart-phone based control across a range of OS-agnostic devices to cover "lighting, heating, cameras, motion sensors and smart appliances".


Just before CES, Samsung announced the inevitability that their TVs will be integrated into the SmartThings platform.  Perhaps more interestingly, at CES they've now revealed a tie-in with BMW, so drivers can check-up on their smart home from the comfort of their seat (presumably whilst stopped!).


TP-LINK have revealed their SR20 all-in-one router and IoT hub, controlling wi-fi, Zigbee and Z-wave wireless data.

TP-LINK SR20 Smart Home Router

Mobile Power

Finally, UK-based Intelligent Energy revealed some consumer electronics prototypes, powered by hydrogen fuel-cells.

Intelligent Energy Hydrogen Fuel-cell prototype

All images © copyright respective manufacturers, unless otherwise stated.