Thursday, 31 March 2011

Sub 100g CO2/km petrol car emissions up to double the reported figure.

According to a report by, the actual on the road emissions of new conventional cars proudly being marketed as sub 100g CO2 / km, could in reality be as much as double the official reported figures. That's right, up to 100% more.

Jos Dings, director of Brussels-based green transport campaigners Transport & Environment, says that the official CO2 results given by the manufactures on cars sold in Europe "are less and less a reflection of what we are seeing on the road."

Dings says that there has always been a difference between the amount of CO2 a car emits during a controlled test and what it produces when actually driven. He said that gap used to be 20 percent but has risen to as high as 50 percent for models advertised as sub-100g/km cars.

Sigrid de Vries, spokeswoman for European auto industry association ACEA, says that the current test – which dates back to the 1970s – does not factor in today's driving conditions, new technologies and other changes that have occurred over time.

Without an updated test for Europe, the automakers' published CO2 results become less believable every year and therefore threaten the credibility of all green products in the EV space in consumers' minds.

6% EV penetration required in UK by 2020

tick, tock...
New figures released by WWF-UK today show that at least 1.7 million electric vehicles will be needed by 2020 and 6.4 million by 2030 if the UK is to achieve its climate change targets. Higher numbers of EVs would enable us to reduce our dependency on oil further. 

Findings from the report Electric avenues: driving home the case for electric vehicles show that a rapid introduction of EVs is needed if we are to reduce 80 per cent of carbon emissions by 2050.

1.7m EVs is equivalent to roughly 6% of the total car parc (not 6% of annual sales) in 2020 and 6.4m means penetration must reach 17% by 2030. The well written report offers clear scenarios that will require significant incentives and continued investment in order to reduce prices and create the charging infrastructure required to deliver these numbers.

“Be it oil and coal or flights and car kilometres, people need to consume and travel less – and more intelligently – if the UK is to meet its climate change targets. We need to make the right set of choices to bring about fundamental change if we’re to reduce our oil dependency and make the transition to a low-carbon economy” Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change, WWF-UK.

So, please go join a car club or buy that electric car :D

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Pure EVs to outsell plug-in hybrids by 2015

Pike Research has released a market research report on future sales of all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars, indicating the annual sales of plug-in electric cars will cross the one million mark worldwide by 2015. Cumulative EV sales will have reached 3.2m in 2015 they say.
Pike forecasts that among the two types of plug-in electric cars, all-electric cars will have the edge on a worldwide basis with 56% of total plug-in sales in 2015. Electric cars will be especially popular in the Asia Pacific region, which will represent more than half the total global market, as well as in Europe.
In the United States and Canada, on the other hand, the cleantech market intelligence firm anticipates that plug-in hybrids will be the clear choice due to their extended driving range and gasoline engine fallback option.  In those markets, plug-in hybrids will represent 71% of all electric car sales in 2015.

Who is responsible for EV education?

New research from market research firm Synovate suggests that the majority of consumers do not understand the difference between hybrid, plug-in hybrid, range extended and pure electric cars. 

As Stephen Popiel, senior vice president of Synovate Motoresearch, says, "This low level of understanding about the way in which electric powertrain vehicles work will have profound consequences for vehicle sales. In the short term, dealers will have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the workings of PHEVs and BEVs to interested buyers. We have to wonder if consumers will become disillusioned when they understand the actual requirements of electric vehicles. Will the person who goes to their Chevy dealer to buy a Volt, or their Nissan dealer to buy a Leaf, still buy the vehicle once they discover the need for plugs and 220 volt outlets? And, if they become discouraged with the electric option, will they stay and buy a different Chevy or Nissan vehicle? Or simply leave in confusion?"

The bigger question is, "Whose job is it to educate consumers about these powertrains?" First mover advantage can bring glory but also the need to educate consumers. Is it in the best interest of Nissan to educate the market about electric vehicles? Or is it the role of government, given the strategic importance of electric vehicles to the economies of the future?

And, of course, consumers need to understand what electric vehicles will mean to their driving behaviours and vehicle maintenance habits. Long-term success of the electrification of the fleet will only come about with a better-educated consumer.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

EU to phase out conventional cars by 2050

The European Union has announced a white paper that contains plans to reduce the number of oil fuelled cars by 50% by 2030 and to phase them out completely by 2050.

This will be achieved by the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and promotion of alternative transport systems such as rivers.

Meanwhile, an HSBC report states this week that there is at best 49 years worth of oil remaining, even if demand does not increase, which it of course will.

Get ready for the end of fast cars as legislators wake up to ways to conserve energy and limit emissions.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Are we building the wrong electric cars beautifully?

MIT stackable EV concept - already 5 years old.
Do you have a vision for the future of personal mobility?

If the population continues to rise?
If more and more people live in cities?
If the roads become gridlocked?
If oil becomes too expensive to use in cars? Or the supply too unreliable?

Do you think plug-in hybrids and range extended cars are the answer to these issues? The best solution because they are the incremental solution? Because they allow us to drive further and faster (for now)? Or the one that lulls us into a false sense of security because they make it seem like we don't really have to change?  Even though we know that developing cars that still require oil to fuel them makes no sense from an economic, environmental or energy security sense? Are we building the wrong cars beautifully?

Consider this scenario:

Car ownership gives way to car usership. Car sharing programmes average 1 car for 24 drivers compared to car ownership, which averages 1.2 cars for 1 driver. Share schemes become the norm, such as the Paris Autolib and the London Bike share scheme.

All cars are 100% electric, a core component of the smart grid and the smart city. Electric cars for commuting shift to small one-plus-one seat vehicles with low cost, low speed configurations such as the Renault Twizy. Electric cars for family needs offer a maximum range of 300 miles per charge.

Development of the smart grid, mass adoption of batteries and micro-generation from renewables delivers affordable prices and secure energy supplies.

Extended range travel requirements are delivered by high speed trains complimented by high availability of fast charging stations for EVs and by connecting EV parcs to train stations.

A single large city is selected by government to focus resources and to create a showcase for the technology and systems, with government and industry collaborating on the investment required to ensure appropriate pricing and penetration levels.

Is this so difficult? The shocks (climate, oil, nuclear, economic, political) are coming thick and fast, much faster than the rate at which we are anticipating and preparing for them. Why not break away from our incrementalist thinking in order to de-risk our transport system and deliver a clean, secure, viable future?

Monday, 14 March 2011

EVs: 1000 reasons why: No. 3

Next up in an occasional series called EVs: 1000 reasons why.

No. 3: Joining the tribe

The first car I bought was an old MG B GT. A two seater 'sports' car that handled terribly, accelerated slowly, was dangerous around corners in the wet and I loved it. Why? Because when I purchased that car I joined a tribe. Every time another MG went past the driver would wave, flash his headlights, and smile. I didn't know these people, yet, I knew them very well. They were dreamers who spent more money than they needed to on their car (on repairs mostly). I just knew they were cool and of course they were all (in my memory at least) extremely good looking and intelligent. They knew the joy of driving an MG and of being an MG owner regardless of what other more practical and sensible people said and thought and bought. MINI owners have a similar feeling today.

But drive an EV and you will know what it is like to belong as an outsider. A leader of change. Someone who gets it. Someone with high social status and respect. Someone strangers want to talk to and whom they admire. Someone who can connect not just across the road but  across the world, via Twitter and Facebook - if that's your thing.

Weird but true. 

1 in 3 online dealer enquiries unanswered after 24 hours

You snooze, you lose.
We live in the internet age, yet according to new research published by the zingily named 2011 Pied Piper Prospects Satisfaction Index Internet Lead Effectiveness (TM) Benchmarking Study, US auto dealers do not. 

36% of dealership online enquiries remained unanswered after 24 hours.

Imagine if you ignored one in three customers that expressed an interest in buying from you until the next day? Do you seriously think they would hang around?

If automated responses are included ('Thanks for your enquiry, we promise to get back to you sometime') then the figure falls to 10%, an improvement on the 40% figure reported three years ago. But really.

In October 2010 commissioned a Polk UK research piece called 'The Automotive Buying influence Study' which found that 71% of car buyers use the internet for car buying, more than twice as much as the next information source. On average a person spent 16 hours buying a car and 60% of that time was online. 

In 2004 in London I ran a company called GoinGreen that sold the G-Wiz electric vehicle. Exclusively online. Our stated policy was to respond to all email enquiries within 24 hours and in practice it was to do so same day. We sold 1000 EVs in three years in London this way. We provided telephone helpline support, but if you wanted to buy, then you did so online.

We tracked this carefully. Not only did our customers like the convenience of being able to book a test drive, configure a car, place an order and make a payment online, often out of normal office hours, but they really really enjoyed avoiding the showroom sales pressure.

Electric cars are hi-tech pieces of kit. Electric car customers are sophisticated users of technology. If you are successful in business today then you already know that it's all about the story and the experience.

But then you probably aren't a car dealer.

Google maps EV charging stations

EVer ready
A small step for the company that does no evil, a giant leap forward for would be EV drivers concerned about range anxiety.

Last week Google added EV charging station locations to its mapping service in the US, providing a centralised source of EV chargers for users of electric vehicles.

Google is collaborating with the US government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to display chargers listed on its GeoEVSE Forum.  It currently displays nearly 7,000 alternative fuelling stations and an international version is expected soon.

This should be huge news. For most EV drivers, in most large cities, this will soon mean the end of range anxiety. Kapow!

Here in the UK, EV Network UK has been providing the same service for more than 5 years, following the early success of the G-Wiz. But unfortunately it doesn't have the reach and resources of Google. One solution available to everyone at a stroke, updatable on a daily basis as charging stations roll out.

Meanwhile, Palo alto start-up Xatori is offering its free Plugshare app for iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch, with an android version to follow. In true Californian spirit it's a free, community driven mobile app that allows users to find nearby charging spots including those in the homes of other users on the network.

Crowd sourcing your juice, that's a really nice idea.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Electric car study encouraging for European market

Another day another EV study
As you know I am not a big fan of expert forecasts for electric vehicles as they have been proven to be as accurate as a bunch of dart throwing monkeys. So today's report from Deloitte's, issued under the negative headline in their press release: 'Mass adoption of electric vehicles still some distance away', should be read with one eyebrow raised.

The figures to support this claim are that 'only 16% of European consumers see themselves as potential first movers to buy or lease an electric vehicle.'

Now the last time I looked at the bell curve, the market for early adopters represented something like 2-3%, so 16% looks like an extremely encouraging number to me.

But wait a minute, a further 53% say that they 'might be willing' to consider the purchase of an EV, with a mere 31% stating that they would not consider purchasing an EV. When you consider what a truly terrible job the vehicle manufacturers are doing at making the case for electric vehicles (ably supported by governments in their ineptitude), then this is a pretty good upside to be chasing.

The small print: range anxiety exists and consumers would like a range of 300 miles per charge (due next year with the Tesla Model S I believe). At 300 miles range, 75% of those asked would consider buying an EV. In London, where electric vehicles are a common sight (the 1000 G-Wiz that GoinGreen put on the streets plus a further 600 or so other EVs) and where media coverage of EVs has been extensive, the range requirement is 200 miles, indicating that with education comes an understanding that you do not need such a high range.

Lower price and lower charging time (2 hours) are wanted by respondents (and the latter is already possible with existing technology). So really it's all about the purchase price.

What a surprise.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Room with a vroom

A simple and effective way for hotels to add value to their guests' stays whilst differentiating themselves from nearby competitors is to offer electric cars for hire.

The base2stay Kensington hotel 'is only the second hotel in London to have received the prestigious Gold Award under the Green Tourism Business scheme, an accredited member of Hospitable Climates and iStayGreen.'

Teaming up with Move About, the world's leading electric only car club and car rental company, you can rent an all-electric Citroen C1 for just £4 / hour. With exemption from the £8 / day London Congestion Charge, free parking and no fuel costs, it's a great idea.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Electric motorbikes hit the streets

Tron meets F1
This week saw the launch of the Zero XU, the first motorbike (to my knowledge) with a removable battery, making an EV possible if you live in a flat and have no outside access to charging. Top speed 50 mph, range 30 miles, 2 hours to charge and a price of approximately £8,000.

The bike that excited me however is the Saietta (pictured) from London based Agility Global. I attended an EV Investor briefing & networking breakfast and there it was in the foyer. Due for launch later this month, the Saietta R (Apenine Italian phonetic for 'Thunderbolt', apparently) is a single seat urban sports EV offering a range up to 100 miles and 0-60mph in under 4 seconds, although not both are achievable from the same charge of course. The price is £14,000, with an 'S' variant offering 50 mile range and sub 5 seconds for £10,000.

It just looks exciting doesn't it?

Friday, 4 March 2011

The next big thing in clean mobility: small EVs

From G-Wiz to Twizy
The EV media is once again full of gloom and doom for electric vehicles. Too expensive they say, not enough range. Some people embrace change, others resist it. Renault Nissan are leading the electric charge and this, more than any other vehicle, is the reason why electric vehicles will take off in a big way.

Renault have announced that the funky looking Renault Twizy quadricycle will go on sale at the end of this year, priced at 6,990 euro plus 45 euro per month for the battery (based on a maximum of 7,500 km / year). This could be the vehicle that changes the way commuters commute. 

Just 2.32 m long and 1.19m wide with a one plus one seat configuration, the Twizy is 100% electric with a range up to 100 km per charge, a speed of either 45 kmh or 80 kmh, a three hour charge time and 32g CO2 / km (but Renault do not say in which country this emissions figure is calculated).

This is a vehicle designed to appeal to young people who are environmentally engaged and cost and style conscious. The Reva G-Wiz demonstrated in 2004 an appetite for electric quadricycles, selling more than 1,000 in London before the UK government raised fears of safety in quadricycles in spite of an excellent accident record.

Nissan have showcased their near identical vehicle, called the Nissan Mobility Concept, so watch this space.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


Yesterday I was wondering around the Geneva Motor Show, marvelling at all the plug-in hybrids and the ground-up electric concept cars from the major manufacturers. What struck me was how unispiring the plug-in hybrids were and how the freedom of expression that a pure electric platform gives designers, explicit in the new exterior shapes and interior layouts that were on show. It's great to see the industry embracing the electric future. Two of the new pure electric concept vehicles caught my attention.

First up, the VW Bulli concept.

If you are not from Germany, you may not recognise the name. but you will remember the vehicle. We Brits call it the VW Camper Van, the Americans the Microbus, that expression of the Summer of Love, the spirit of freedom without the macho muscle, reincarnated. The red 'V' on the bonnet remains, as does the two tone colour scheme, the clean lines, bench seats and 6 seat configuration, all updated yet retaining the original spirit. Today's version is squarer, with a docked i-pad at the front console and a 300 km range. The fact that it may never make it into production doesn't really matter. Surfs up. I loved it, I want one for my summer holidays.

Next up was the Townpod concept from Nissan.

I presume the Townpod is the Cube concept updated. First shown in Paris, the Townpod is an MPV, with a Leaf-style front end, large swing doors at the rear, no B-pillar, suicide doors and a low walk through floor front and rear. Room for everyone, another fresh piece of thinking that will make you want to download a few ZZ Top albums and drive your mates around town.