By 2020 it is predicted that oil production will be in decline and with the population continuing to grow, the need for alternatively powered vehicles is on the horizon. London’s new low-carbon motor show, EcoVelocity shows the way forward:
Cars and the combustion engine have been joined at the hip ever since Karl Benz’s first 1896 patent. The twentieth century saw its use in all things automotive and resulted in continuous refinements and improvements.
The energy crisis of the 1970s and 80s highlighted concerns with over reliance on fossil fuels and began the search for a viable alternative. Electrically powered vehicles were investigated and although early concepts, such as the Sinclair C5, now seem laughably way off the mark, they nevertheless got the ball rolling. This electric vehicle quest subsequently lost momentum, but the problem of finding an alternative power source never went away, and has still yet to be completely resolved.
Low emissions, high efficiency, and alternative fuels are today’s motoring objectives. Green issues have gathered so much momentum that car manufacturers have been forced to explore ways to manufacture cleaner and more efficient vehicles.
In 2011, EcoVelocity – the UK’s first green motor show – made its inaugural launch at Battersea Power Station.
The event informed the public on low emission, low carbon and alternative powered vehicles and the positive effect their use can have on making transport more sustainable. Seventeen of the leading automotive brands showcased the latest in low carbon eco technology, which included fully electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrids along with lower CO2 emission petrol and diesel cars
The event, launched in association with Metro newspaper, proved such a hit that this year’s show necessitated a move to larger venue at London’s ExCel. The purpose-built exhibition complex and host to the 2008 London motor show, proved ideal and allowed more visitors to get behind the wheel of low carbon vehicles around a 3.5 mile test route. Available to drive were latest eco cars from Vauxhall, Peugeot, Mia, Honda, Nissan, Citroën and Chevrolet.
Each exhibitor was manned by knowledgeable staff able to answer all manner of questions from visitors interested in low carbon vehicles, in a non-sales environment.
As Steve Beckworth, Automotive product trainer on the Nissan stand, explained: “The event here is much more centered around marketing and product awareness, rather than sales targets. The aim is to give motorists the chance to sample alternatively powered transport, in an environment in which drivers will feel very familiar with, without the sales pressure that might be experienced at a dealership, who is more likely to want to encourage a commitment from people testing their cars.”
I took the opportunity to try out a Nissan Leaf. Upon entering the cabin, you’re greeted by a futuristic, yet uncluttered dashboard. There’s no key here, just a Power-On button, which once depressed powers up the car’s systems with a chime more akin to an electrical appliance, than a car. In place of a gear stick is a joy-stick-like control which is used to select forwards or reverse.
The Nissan leaf has been at the centre of the green car revolution and rightly so. The world’s first purpose-built, family-sized 100% electric car was launched to great acclaim with industry experts voting it European Car of the Year and World Car of the Year 2011.
Although many will be used in town, with a 90mph top speed and 207 lb ft of torque instantly on tap from a 80kW electric motor mean the use of roads bear no restriction on this car, being as happy on A roads and motorways. Indeed, the Leaf felt very grown up – and incredibly refined. With a virtually silent powertrain, all that can be heard are the tyres making contact with the road and some wind rustle, but this was never intrusive.
However the biggest concern with electric vehicles is the well documented ‘range anxiety’ – the fear of being stranded due to running out of battery charge. The leaf’s official range is 109 miles, although the real-world figure is closer to 80.
As Steve points out, the decision on whether or not the leaf is suitable, will come down to peoples’ lifestyle, the type of journeys they make and whether they have at least overnight access to a charging point. “If a driver has a daily return mileage of more than 70miles, without access to power, then we wouldn’t recommend this type of vehicle. But studies have revealed that a large proportion of motorists make daily return commutes of around 25 to 30 miles. For these drivers the Leaf is viable alternative.”
Since deliveries started last March, Nissan has expanded the Leaf dealer network from 26 to 32 dealerships and plans are underway to increase this to 150 by the end of 2012. Nissan is currently working with partners to create a ‘charging pathway’ across the UK motorway network using quick chargers that the company is donating. These chargers can charge the advanced lithium ion batteries in Nissan LEAF from 0 to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.
Prominently located in the middle of the show and featuring a rather snazzy power charging mock-up display, was recently crowned World Green Car of the Year – Vauxhall Ampera. Dubbed Europe’s first ‘Zero range-anxiety’ electric car, this acclaimed model from Vauxhall has garnered a great deal of publicity during development and having now gone on sale, this interest is expected to rocket.
The Ampera uses a 16 kWh lithium ion battery to power the 111kW/150 hp electric motor. Depending on the style of driving and road conditions, a distance of between 25 and 50 miles can be covered in the purely battery-operated mode, completely free of emissions. The wheels of the car are always powered electrically. In extended-range mode, which activates whenever the battery has reached its minimum state of charge, the petrol engine drives a generator that supplies the electric drive unit. The range extender enables an operating range of up to 310 miles.
The system removes the issue of ‘range anxiety’ altogether, with the Ampera’s Voltec system helping achieve an impressive 175mpg and combined emissions of below 40g/km, according to official R(EC) 715/2007 regulations
for measuring fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Drivers can expect between 25-50 miles of zero-tailpipe emissions motoring (often enough for a typical daily commute), yet thanks to the Ampera range-extender generator, it can be driven for up to 310 miles without having to re-charge the battery or replenish the fuel tank.
The fuel savings look impressive. Charging the battery (rated at 12.7 kW) overnight using a 10 pence per kWh electricity tariff, means Ampera can be fully charged at a cost of £1.27. Consequently, being able to drive 40 or 50 miles from one charge represents a significant saving over the cost of a tank petrol or diesel.
Ian Allen, Manager Environmental Strategy & Ampera, explained more about the design:
“Ampera is known as a Range-Extender, although its technical term is a series Hybrid. Instead of using a combustion engine for primary propulsion, supported by a small electric battery and motor for low speed and short range EV operation to aid efficiency, as with the original Toyota Prius, the Ampera flips this more established concept on its head. Ampera’s is meant to be driven mainly in EV mode with the petrol engine there to cut in when the battery’s charge is depleted.”
As Ampera is primary designed to run on battery power, it must be treated like an electric vehicle.
“To fully charge the Ampera’s battery pack and consequently get maximum efficiency, it must be plugged in for 6 hours. Currently a fast charge option isn’t available, with the quickest charge of 4 hours being available using a 16 amp socket. Although the petrol engine is used to extend the range of the vehicle by providing a power-supply to the electric motor when battery power is depleted, it will not re-charge the battery. Doing so would use a substantial amount of fuel, which would be defeating the object.”Although Ampera is effectively an electric vehicle with its own generator, it still won’t be suitable for all drivers – particular reps, as clean diesel engines will prove more efficient for high daily mileage. Yet the flexibility and low-carbon footprint of the car, together with its desirability as a technological tour-de-force, will mean Ampera is expected to find favor with a wide demographic of drivers.
From petrol range extenders, to diesel hybrids. Peugeot was at EcoVelocity showcasing its Hybrid 4 technology – the worlds’ first diesel Hybrid system which utilizes 100% electric- zero emission, Diesel-Electric Power for reduced fuel consumption: Up to 74mpg, from 99g/km CO2, zero emissions in electric mode.
Combining a diesel engine with an electric drive helps lower fuel consumption by up to 35 percent. PSA Peugeot Citroën worked in close cooperation with Bosch to develop the electric components (motor, power electronics, and high-voltage alternator) and configure the ESP® electronic stability program specifically for hybrid vehicles.
The new technology is appearing in both the 3008 and 508 RHX models.
In urban and stop-and-go traffic, the electric drive can also be used on its own, enabling Peugeot models equipped with HYbrid4 to run with zero emissions. Depending on the charge status of the nickel-metal hydride battery, the diesel hybrid can cover a range of about four kilometres on electric power alone. As power falls away, the diesel engine starts automatically.
The Peugeot 508 RXH and 508 Saloon HYbrid4 both utilise the latest modular hybrid technology introduced as a world first on the 3008 HYbrid4. They combine the 2.0-litre HDi 163 Diesel engine to power the front wheels with a 37bhp electric motor to drive the rear wheels.
The hybrid system allows EV only drive up to speeds of 30 mph, with a maximum range of 30 miles before the diesel engine kicks in. There are four different modes: auto, 4wd, sport and ZEV, which is programmed for maximum economy and sees the most battery regeneration.
Aside from the economy benefits are the low emissions of 99g/km CO2 and consequent low annual VED of £20.According to Peugeot, the Hybrid 4 technology found in the 3008, 508 RXH and 508 Saloon will filter through to other models in the Peugeot range.
Alongside main manufacture eco models were interesting oddities, including the French electric vehicle Mia, which first debuted at EcoVelocity 2011.
Designed by the former head of design at Volkswagen, Murat Günak, they come in three configurations – the standard short wheelbase model and two extended models, the mia L and the mia box van.
The basic car is less than 20cm longer than a Smart ForTwo, with the long wheelbase adding another foot to
Thanks to its light-weight construction of tubular chassis and ABS plastic body, the standard model weighs only 765kg, (extended models weigh 786kg) giving it economical power consumption and low running costs of approximately £1.30 per 100 kms).
All three vehicles are powered by an 18kW electric motor at the rear and use a lithium iron phosphate 12 kWh battery pack that give a 70-80 mile range.
According to Paul Evans, Director & CEO of Mia Importer, Venture Automotive Ltd, this year’s show resulted in lots of public interest, even though mia vehicles have yet to go on sale in the UK.
Paul explains: “We’re working on going on sale in late July, early August, with our first dealer to be appointed in Croydon, Surrey, and another four to follow situated around the London area. We will begin with selling mias alongside other brands, but then plan to work on having our own dedicated retail outlets”.
The benefits of an all-electric car extend to aftercare and service. “The mia has no moving parts, oil, or fuel, so consequently could be repaired in high street or shopping centre locations – something that isn’t possible for conventionally powered brands. This means we can look into different forms of marketing”, says Paul.
There’s also a 5-year guarantee on the battery and the firm is confident in reliability as the battery pack has been fully tested up to 8,000 cycles, which each cycle taking the battery from zero to fully charged and back to zero again 8,000 times – replicating 8-10 years of normal usage.
Currently the mia’s battery can be trickle-charged – which means the battery is topped up in around 4 hours. A full-cycle charge takes 8 hours, as fast charging isn’t currently available, but the company hopes to have a fast-charging system available in around a year to 18 months time. “This will enable a full charge to be completed in 20 minutes”, Paul adds.
The Mia feels very different from an ordinary car. Despite its diminutive exterior dimensions, the interior is surprisingly spacious, with rear passengers enjoying black-cab amounts of head and legroom.
The driver is located up-front of the passengers Mclaren F1 style. In the model I tested, there were also swathes of carbon fibre looking material and sporty leather bucket seats. Even the digital dash has a ‘track-car’ feel….however here any similarities to Mclarens or racing cars end… a quick trip round the block confirms the feeling that the Mia is very much a town/city orientated car. There’s none of the stark silence, refinement and effortless urge of the more powerful and sophisticated Leaf. Think more golf-cart and you’ll be closer to how the mia feels on the road. Performance – with a top speed of 60 mph – is also more limited, although it got up to 40 mph without too much fuss.
Still, the cheeky looks give the little mia instant character and kudos and judging on the huge interest it had at the show, will surely be a hit on the streets of London.
For people more interested in electric thrills there werefour supercars on display at the entrance to the show – from the USA the Fisker Karma; the Lightning GT – an exclusive British high technology 100% electric supercar; Tesla the electric car from Silicon Valley; and the Delta E4 Coupe – an ultra efficient electric sports car.
For more information on other manufacturers in attendance, click here
One of the key concerns of electric only vehicles at present, alongside range anxiety, is the perceived lack of existing charging points. This issue was addressed by EDF energy, whose prominent central stand demonstrated the different types of charging solution available to users of electric vehicles.
EDF offers different charging systems, so you can charge your electric car more cost effectively than from a conventional mains plug. The special Eco tariffs include a timer and a smart meter that calculates how much charge to send the electric vehicle’s battery. Site surveys establish where charging units can be mounted and are hard wired into the property’s mains feed on a dedicated distribution (fuse) box.
EDF energy has been working in partnership with source London who are working with boroughs and private sector partners to install a network of charging points for electric vehicles across the capital. Joining ‘Source London’ provides various perks including details on the locations of public charging points.
Source London estimate that by the summer of this year there will be 700 charge points in Greater London and by 2013 there will be around 1300. The ultimate aim is for every Londoner to be within one mile of an electric vehicle charge point.
Giles Brown, Event founder and Organiser of EcoVelocity, explained “I’m delighted that EDF Energy was involved in the second year of EcoVelocity. Their experience in developing and installing recharging infrastructure is invaluable. Visitors were interested to learn how easy and simple it is to recharge a plug-in vehicle and be amazed at the carbon savings that can be achieved”.
Given that one of the main factors so far, aside from cost, has been concern over electric vehicle infrastructure,
green motor shows such as this help to bring to the public’s attention the behind-the-scenes development in new eco technologies and the infrastructure to support them.
It was clear from attending EcoVeleocity, that although many of the low carbon vehicles on display were different, they all shared a common theme… being instrumental in the quest for a way to reduce emissions, increase efficiency and ultimately end the unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels.