27 February 2016

Geneva International Motor Show 2016 - Sustainability Highlights

The 86th Geneva International Motor Show gets underway in early March, and it's a key time of year for manufacturers to introduce models with the European buyer in mind.  Alongside the exotica, of course there are a large number of concepts and launches which help deliver a more sustainable driving experience.  Here are the sustainable highlights...

Arash AF10

If you were playing 'Top Trumps', you'd do worse than to have a card for the Arash AF10.

Arash AF10
  • 0-60mph - 2.8 seconds
  • 2080 bhp
  • 200mph+ top speed
  • 1 petrol engine
  • 4 electric motors
  • 5 gearboxes

 BMW 740e iPerformance

The BMW 740e iPerformance is a plug-in hybrid, which is the first to use the important iPerformance subbrand.  This demonstrates where technologies from the 'i' sub-brand (i3/i8) are being mainstreamed into the main BMW lineup.

The powertrain is the same as the X5 xDrive40e, namely a 2 litre petrol engine, mated to an electric motor.  LWB and xDrive variants will be available.


The PSA Group recently re-launched its DS brand as a premium offering. And for Geneva, they're introducing a all-electric concept vehicle, the DS E-TENSE.  The electric motor produces 396bhp, from a 53kWh battery.

DS E-Tense Concept

Hyundai IONIQ

Like most car manufacturers, Hyundai has probably looked at the success story of the Toyota Prius with initial scepticism and pity, quickly turning into envy!  Well, Hyundai hopes it has got a 'Prius killer' on its hands, with the new IONIQ.

The IONIQ lineup includes the three main powertrains which have the potential to become mainstream in the next few years - pure electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid - the world's first model to do so. [Remember, they already brought the ix35 fuel-cell SUV to market, so have hydrogen covered too].

The hybrids have a 1.6 litre petrol engine, then depending on the model, different specifications for the electric motor output and battery capacity are used.  It will be really interesting to see how the different models sell in different markets - an experiment even Toyota will watch with interest.

 Kia will be revealing their Optima Plug-in hybrid at Geneva, with a 33 mile pure electric range, provided by a 9.8 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack paired with a 50 kW electric motor.  There's also a 2.0 litre diesel engine.
Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid

Lexus will launch a hybrid version of the LC500, using a 3.5L V6 petrol engine, coupled with an electric motor.

Lexus LC500h

Lexus LC500h

The Morgan Motor Company is one of the few surviving British car manufacturers, with an illustrious history dating back to 1909.  With a strong heritage of coach-building, the family-run company is keeping apace with its multinational manufacturer competitors, by introducing a new concept at Geneva, the EV3.  A 62bhp electric motor and lithium battery gives a range of 150 miles, a top speed of 115mph and 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds.

Morgan EV3
In the medium-term, Morgan are also benefiting from £6m of funding from the UK Government, to help develop hybrid and electric powertrains.


Nissan have partnered with renowned architects Foster & Partners to outline a vision of the future fuel station - and my personal view is that is spot-on (except maybe the driving the car into work, literally!)  They have created a video which helps bring the concept to life:

SsangYong SIV-2 Concept

SsangYong are due to release a mild-hybrid concept, the SIV-2 [SIV = Smart Interface Vehicle].  A 1.5 litre petrol engine will be paired with a 10kW electric motor, supported by a 0.5Kwh battery.

Toyota C-HR

Toyota have revealed a production version of the C-HR, prototypes which have been seen in previous motor shows.  There is a full hybrid option and it's based around the Prius architecture, but arguably its looks will appeal to a different customer segment.  It is reported to have emissions less than 90g/km.

Toyota C-HR

All images © respective manufacturers

20 February 2016

Vive la France - Sustainability Leadership

On May 14th 2010, the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron said "I want us to be the greenest government ever - a very simple ambition and one that I’m absolutely committed to achieving"... 

In 2016, as UK citizens consider their membership of the EU, the news is full of debate about the relative merits of staying or leaving. Whatever the decision, our friends in France can not only teach us about great cooking, but also sustainability leadership. In fact, they have been delivering innovative business models and regulation which has the potential to nudge the nation to be a global sustainability leader. Let's explore some of their innovations in a little bit more detail...


Air pollution is becoming a huge problem in large cities (London is not an exception, with an estimated 9,500 premature deaths each year), and in Paris in May 2014, drastic traffic restrictions were imposed.  There's more need than ever, then, for new mobility solutions to be promoted.

Cycle hire

Long before London's cycle hire scheme was launched, back in 2007, Paris introduced their Vélib' cycle hire scheme.  With over 20,000 cycles and more than 1,200 stations, it's a sustainable and fit way to travel within the arrondissements of Paris.

Cycle Hire in Paris

Electric Moped Hire

Soon, there will be two-wheeled collaborative consumption competition, when Cityscoot [in French] launches, an electric moped scheme.  Available to riders over the age of 20 with a valid moped licence, they will be bookable from a smartphone app for €3/15 minutes.

Cityscoot electric moped hire in Paris

Peugeot Mu Vehicle Hire

Before many car manufacturers recognised the upcoming threat of 'access over ownership' business models, Peugeot launched Mu, allowing users to rent a car, moped or even van, depending on their needs.  Of course, their electric vehicles are available to rent as part of the scheme (e.g. iOn).  The scheme also launched in the UK back in 2010, as well as Germany, Spain and Italy.
Peugeot iOn Electric Car

Electric Vehicles

It's not just Peugeot who have 100% electric cars available, Renault has a range of vans (Kangoo Z.E.), as well as its tiny Twizy and Zoe, and Citroën (part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group) has something to offer too with the C-Zero.

Renault Twizy
Renault Kangoo Z.E.
Citroen C-Zero

And of course, with a significant amount of France's electricity generation coming from nuclear (check out this great site to see the energy mix), there's less of an issue of fossil-fuel power plants polluting the environment.

Finally, Renault have announced a partnership with Connected Energy, where their E-STOR proposition uses batteries from Renault cars to support storage from intermittent renewable sources, or for EV charging solutions.
Solar Roads

France hasn't stopped with the vehicles on the roads, it's even considering the roads themselves.  Colas has introduced Wattway, and there's now a plan for 1000km of roads to be made of solar panels across the country.

Colas Wattway Solar Road
Food waste

Food waste is a huge problem at all points along the supply chain from farmer's field, through to the fridge in the customer's home.  France is looking to tackle the problem between the two, banning supermarkets from throwing-away or spoiling food.

Solar / green rooftops

France has another leading policy with new rooftops in commercial zones around France, which must now be built with solar panels, or a 'green roof' covering part of the roof.

Grenelle II - Sustainability Reporting

In April 2012, France decreed that companies must report according to article 225 of law No. 2010-788, or 'Grenelle II', as it's known.  Courtesy of a helpful description from Alcatel-Lucent, it essentially means that corporates must produce an independently-verified report on the environmental, social and societal aspects of their business operations, alongside the financial results.

Corporate Leadership

As well as an active automotive sector referenced above, some other large French corporations are making positive steps to a more sustainable society.


Axa is a French insurance company, as has woken-up to the fact that climate change poses a fundamental threat to its customers, and therefore it's viability as a sustainable organisation.  It has several impressive initiatives underway:


Veolia has long seen the business opportunities around the 'circular economy', and has successfully reinvented itself as a 'resource management' services provider.  It's a member of the Ellen MacArtthur Foundation, and is helping push the circular economy agenda.  One such initiative, is where they have created a recycling loop for small electrical appliances, in partnership with Groupe SEB and Eco-systèmes.

BNP Paribas

Innovative startup, Qarnot Computing, has developed a distributed data centre solution, where schools and offices around Paris can host servers, which are then used to heat their premises, for free, using excess heat as radiators.  BNP Paribas have agreed that 5% of its computing power to support risk calculations will be used via this platform, reducing their carbon emissions required to support this computing effort by 75% (mainly due to reduced cooling needs).


All images © respective manufacturers/organisations, unless otherwise stated 

13 February 2016

Auto Expo 2016 (India) - Sustainability news from Tata Motors

As part of my ongoing low-carbon virtual visits to the world's motor shows extracting interesting sustainability updates, I'm heading to New Delhi in India for the Auto Expo 2016 to check what Tata Motors have been up to...  Whilst we wait for autonomous vehicles and traffic light integration, have Tata offered us a glimpse at the future of urban mobility in the shorter-term?

Tata Motors

Tata Motors are owners of Jaguar Land Rover, and haven't yet made much traction with hybrid/electric powertrains in their Jaguar or Land Rover brands, other than:
  • JLR have just registered the i-Pace and i-Type names, presumably for electric versions of the F-Pace and F-Type Jaguars
  • There is a hybrid Range Rover, but it has minimal electric range, and not a mass-market pricepoint
  • They released the Plug-in Hybrid Electric (PHEV) C-X75 concept 

Back in India though, where air pollution is such a problem that Delhi has introduced alternate day driving restrictions, there are some interesting developments from JLR's parent, Tata Motors.

Tata Magic Iris Ziva Fuel Cell

'Last mile commuting' in India offers a huge opportunity for low-carbon solutions, with inefficient  'auto rickshaws' and taxis dominating the streets.  Tata have revealed a four-wheeled concept to enter the market, the Tata Magic Iris Ziva Fuel Cell.  Critically, it's hydrogen-powered, so the only emissions are pure water.  It seats four passengers, and the driver (this sounds optimistic seeing the pictures!).

Tata Magic Iris Ziva
It's got a 9kW electric motor, a 40km electric only range, and without gears or a clutch, makes for easy driving in urban environments.  Cleverly, the 8" infotainment screen can also send GPS data and fault codes to authorised repair centres.  The vehicle might look a little quirky, but we might just be looking at the future of urban mobility...
There's more information here.

To carry a larger number of passengers, Tata Motors have also introduced the world's first commercially produced CNG hybrid bus, the Starbus Hybrid.

Tata Motors Starbus Hybrid
And finally, an all-electric bus, the Ultra Electric.
Tata Motors Ultra Electric Bus

07 February 2016

Why EV batteries are like Star Wars™

I'm one of the very few people that I know who hasn't ever watched a Star Wars film (I see this as a badge of honour).  Arguably therefore, I'm not the best person to reflect on the parallels between Star Wars and Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries.  So I won't, other than to say that in the same way Star Wars has its sequel and prequel, business models are emerging which give EV batteries the same accolade.

The original - Batteries used in EVs and hybrids

We're all familiar now with batteries in a vehicle's powertrain.  There are a variety of different approaches - conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.  Due to ever-tightening tailpipe regulations and tax incentives for drivers, almost all manufacturers have at least one of these in their model range, and I expect by 2020, almost every model from every manufacturer will have a hybrid/electric option.

Toyota Prius 2016 - Conventional Hybrid

BMW 740e -Plug-in Hybrid

Nissan Leaf - Electric Vehicle
In all of these cases, it's expected that the battery lasts as long as the vehicle itself.  Obviously, as a relatively new technology, time will tell, however, there is some very encouraging news from Nissan, showing a 99.99% reliability after 5 years (only 3 problems with 35,000 sales in Europe) - a much better reliability record than cars with a conventional engine.

One of the perceived drawbacks of an electric vehicle is the time taken to charge the battery.  Although the growth of rapid chargers makes this a reduced issue, an alternative is to be able to 'swap-out' the batteries.  Popularised by Israeli start-up Better Place, now Elon Musk's Tesla is trialling a similar approach to compliment its fast charger network:

Eventually though, EV/hybrid batteries will reach the end of their life in a car, but that doesn't mean the battery cannot be used in another form... Time for a sequel...

The sequel - the EV/hybrid battery secondary market

To minimise the carbon footprint of a battery, and extend its use phase for as long possible, manufacturers are starting to look at partnerships where their batteries can be re-used in another form.

Renault have announced a partnership with Connected Energy, where their E-STOR proposition uses batteries from Renault cars to support storage from intermittent renewable sources, or for EV charging solutions.

Connected Energy's collaboration with Renault
And in the US, Nissan are partnering with Green Charge Networks with a similar proposition.
Nissan's US partnership with Green Charge Networks

Finally, in the US, BMW are running an innovative V2G demand response programme, BMW i Charge Forward, allowing 100 BMW i3 drivers to earn extra income from demand response requests from their utility PG&E. In parallel to this, some additional static storage is being provided by used Mini E batteries.

So that's the sequel understood.  But a prequel...?

The Prequel - a living parts store

Earlier in this article, news from Nissan gave us confidence that batteries in vehicles are more reliable than sceptics assumed.  But of course, there are situations where batteries will need to be replaced... and manufacturers need to have spares available.  In an innovative partnership with enercity, Daimler will create a 15MWh storage facility, using batteries which are yet to be used in a car - they call it a 'living parts store'.  Its energy storage will be marketed in the German primary balancing power market, helping provide a lower-carbon mechanism to flatten/shift grid peaks.  And incredibly, managed charging and discharging is exactly what a battery benefits from, rather than a 'deep discharge' if it's just sat on a shelf.

Daimler's Energy Storage facility
The spin-offs

Obviously lithium-ion batteries don't need to have a direct use-case around vehicles, and car manufacturers are very aware of that.  Telsa is making an impact in the domestic energy storage market with its Tesla Powerwall (the first UK installation was made in a home in Wales last week). 

Tesla Powerwall

They are also making the technology available at the utility level, with the Powerpack. Their Gigafactory will be churning-out large numbers of batteries (it's ahead of schedule) - I wonder if they are exploring the 'living parts store' option too...

And, as I wrote in an earlier article, Daimler are actively working in the same way, partnering with EnBW AG for private customers.

Daimler Energy Storage Solution

As car manufacturers introduce lithium-ion batteries into powertrains, the driver benefits from improved fuel consumption, tailpipe emissions are reduced/eliminated, and they may even be able to use their car battery to provide energy to their home (V2H) or the grid (V2G).  But as we've seen above, the associated business models mean the potential for car batteries to provide an even greater contribution to our energy ecosystem are really exciting.

So, a tenuous link to Star Wars I admit, but with the humble lithium-ion battery making futuristic transformations to our energy system today, who needs fantasy action adventure films? 

End Credits

All images © respective manufacturers unless otherwise stated.