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“WaterBone” design wins grand prize in ARPA-E LITECAR Challenge

20 April 2015

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The winning design: “WaterBone”. Click to enlarge.

Local Motors, in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), announced the winner of the LIghtweighting Technologies Enabling Comprehensive Automotive Redesign (LITECAR) Challenge. The design challenge served to accelerate innovative ideas by using novel material technologies, structural designs, energy absorbing materials and unique methods of manufacturing to reduce vehicle curb weight while maintaining current US automotive safety standards. 254 conceptual designs were submitted. (Earlier post.)

The winning design, Aerodynamic Water Droplet with Strong Lightweight Bone Structure (“WaterBone”), was created by Andres Tovar, a mechanical engineering assistant professor at the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and his group of graduate students. The proposed design—which makes innovations in the structural layout, use of multi-materials, and the 3D printing manufacturing process—has the outer shape (envelope) of a water droplet with an embedded trabecular (graded porous) bone-like structure (spaceframe). The water droplet shape provides a low drag coefficient, while the spaceframe provides the mechanical strength and energy absorption capabilities (crashworthiness) required to protect the occupant in the event of a collision.

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Volkswagen introduces high-end plug-in hybrid C Coupé GTE concept in Shanghai

20 April 2015

At Auto Shanghai, Volkswagen is presenting the world premiere of the C Coupé GTE, which illustrates a new design approach for future top-end sedans at Volkswagen. This four-door concept car for the Chinese market—which is more than five meters in length—is powered by a plug-in hybrid drive system, the drive sources of which combine to produce 500 N·m of system torque.

The front-wheel drive C Coupé GTE can be powered all-electrically up to a speed of 130 km/h (81 mph); this mode enables driving with zero local emissions and a range of 50 kilometers (31 miles). The car’s combined fuel consumption (NEDC for plug-in hybrid vehicles) is 2.3 liters per 100 kilometers. This figure equates to CO2 emissions of 55 grams per kilometer. The car’s total driving range is over 800 kilometers.

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Chevrolet unveils new Chevrolet-FNR autonomous electric concept vehicle at Shanghai

20 April 2015

Chevrolet unveiled the Chevrolet-FNR autonomous electric concept vehicle at Shanghai GM Gala Night. The concept was joined by the all-new Malibu, Bolt EV concept and the 2015 Captiva, which made their China debut. The Chevrolet-FNR was developed in Shanghai by GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) joint venture.

The FNR engineering, design and electrification teams drew on their past experience developing electric concept vehicles. Their aim was to create a unique, intelligent vehicle for tomorrow’s younger consumers by utilizing innovative car networking technology.

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Systematic review of EV battery pack costs suggests economies of scale may push cost toward US$200/kWh without further cell chemistry improvements

20 April 2015

Industry-wide cost estimates for battery packs for electric vehicles have declined by approximately 14% annually between 2007 and 2014, from above US$1,000 per kWh to around US$410/kWh, according to a systematic review of more than 80 different estimates by a team from the Stockholm Environment Institute. Further, they reported in their paper published in Nature Climate Change, the cost of battery packs used by market-leading BEV manufacturers are even lower at US$300/kWh, and has declined by 8% annually.

The results further suggest that it is possible that economies of scale will continue to push cost towards US$200/kWh in the near future even without further cell chemistry improvements. Their study, said Björn Nykvist and Måns Nilsson, has significant implications for the assumptions used when modeling future energy and transport systems and permits an optimistic outlook for BEVs contributing to low-carbon transport.

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Cadillac announces CT6 plug-in hybrid for China

19 April 2015

Cadillac will add a Plug-In Hybrid Electric (PHEV) propulsion system to its upcoming range-topping CT6 sedan, to be manufactured at the new Shanghai GM Cadillac plant, Pudong Jinqiao, China. The new PHEV version of the CT6 will be capable of greater than 60 km (32.4 miles) of all-electric range, and pairs with Cadillac’s 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder gas engine to offer estimated fuel efficiency of approximately 2.0L per 100 km (141 mpg US) based on China testing standards. CT6 PHEV will qualify for China new energy vehicle regulations and incentives, and is planned to be onsale in 2016. The CT6 PHEV may come subsequently to the US, according to Cadillac spokesman Dave Caldwell as quoted in the Detroit News.

The CT6 Plug-In Hybrid system is designed to provide all-electric driving for most daily commutes, while maximizing fuel efficiency by providing blended power from the engine and battery at higher speeds and higher loads, even when there is energy stored in the battery. (By comparison, in the GM taxonomy the Cadillac ELR and its cousin the Chevy Volt are extended-range electric vehicles with all-electric drive, augmented by a range-assisting engine. ELR is not offered in the Chinese market.)

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Indian researchers propose fuel-chemicals-electricity cellulosic biomass biorefinery scheme

19 April 2015

Researchers from the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum are proposing a biorefinery scheme using lignocellulosic biomass feedstock (sugarcane bagasse) for the production of fuel (ethanol), chemicals (furfural), and energy (electricity). The proposed scheme could be integrated with existing sugar or paper mills, where the availability of biomass feedstock is in abundance as a means to address some of the cost and logistics issues, they suggest in their paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

In their approach, they extract fermentable sugar components (xylose and glucose) from sugarcane bagasse employing acid hydrolysis and enzymatic saccharification; recovery and reuse of the enzyme is a process advantage. The pentose fraction is used for yeast biomass generation and furfural production. High-temperature fermentation of the hexose stream by the thermophilic yeast Kluyveromyces sp. IIPE453 with cell recycle produces ethanol with an overall yield of 88% ± 0.05% and a productivity of 0.76 ± 0.02 g/L h−1. A complete material balance on two consecutive process cycles, each starting with 1 kg of feedstock, resulted in an overall yield of 366 mL of ethanol, 149 g of furfural, and 0.30 kW of electricity.

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Carbon Core of next-gen BMW 7 Series helps reduce sedan’s weight by up to 130 kg; remote control parking

18 April 2015

BMW presented an initial selection of technology highlights for the next generation of the BMW 7 Series model range featuring developments in lightweight design, driving dynamics, comfort, intelligent connectivity and operation.

Due to the BMW EfficientLightweight strategy, the new BMW 7 Series line-up will weigh up to 130 kilograms (287 lbs) less than the outgoing generation of models. At its heart is a body structure with a Carbon Core based on the transfer of technology from the development of the BMW i models. The use of CFRP for structural elements of the passenger cell based on hybrid construction with ultra-high-strength steels—such as the B-pillars—increases both the overall strength and the torsional and bending stiffness of the passenger cell. To this end, the configuration of sheet metal elements can be adjusted as required, allowing for a significant reduction in the weight of the body.

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Ford investing $2.5B for new engine, transmission plants in Mexico

17 April 2015

Ford is investing $2.5 billion in new engine and transmission plants in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Guanajuato, respectively. The investment covers three projects: a new engine plant in Chihuahua; expansion of Ford’s I-4 and diesel engine lines in Chihuahua; and a new transmission plant—Ford’s first in Mexico—in Guanajuato.

The investment, which comes during the celebration of Ford’s 90th anniversary in the country, will bring 3,800 direct new jobs plus additional indirect jobs to Mexico. Ford officials announced the investment today during a ceremony with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other members of the country’s Federal Government.

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Ford, DowAksa jointly to develop carbon fiber for high-volume automotive light-weighting applications

17 April 2015

Ford and DowAksa signed a joint development agreement (JDA) formally to advance research on cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing of automotive-grade carbon fiber, a material poised to play a significant role in the drive to make vehicles lighter. (Earlier post.)

The agreement, between Ford Motor Company, Ford Global Technologies and DowAksa (a 50/50 joint venture between The Dow Chemical Company and Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş.) will combine DowAksa’s feedstock capacity, carbon fiber conversion and downstream intermediates production capabilities with Ford’s expertise in design, engineering and high-volume manufacturing. The goal is to produce materials that make cost-effective carbon fiber composite parts that are much lighter than steel but meet automotive strength requirements.

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Libertine FPE builds demo prototype of linear free piston generator

17 April 2015

UK-based Libertine FPE has built a demonstration prototype of its linear electrical machine for what it is calling “Digital Piston Motion Control” in free piston engine applications. (Earlier post.) This technology will allow researchers to develop future combustion engines free from the piston motion constraints dictated by the crankshaft. Already validated at proof-of-concept level, Libertine’s new hardware uses production-feasible component designs suitable for automotive hybrid powertrain modules, such as range extenders.

Unlike conventional engine-generator combinations which use a crankshaft and mechanical powertrain to rotate an electrical machine, Libertine’s technology uses a linear electrical machine to generate power directly from the piston’s motion. The linear generator can also be used as a motor to apply a variable force to the piston, and this approach permits each piston’s velocity, motion profile and compression and expansion ratio to be optimally controlled via the ECU to accommodate startup, transient and flex-fuel operation. This flexibility offers significant improvements in combustion efficiency and has the potential to produce a third more power from the same fuel input.

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Peugeot unveils 308 R HYbrid plug-in with 500 hp and four-wheel drive

17 April 2015

Peugeot has unveiled the Peugeot 308 R HYbrid, a plug-in hybrid version of the compact family hatchback boasting a combined 500 bhp and four-wheel drive. The Peugeot 308 R HYbrid was developed by Peugeot Sport, the brand’s in-house engineering and racing division. The car’s plug-in gasoline hybrid powertrain delivers 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.0 seconds, yet with CO2 emissions of 70g/km.

The powertrain combines three sources of power, each capable of moving the vehicle independently of the others: a four-cylinder 1.6-liter THP 270 S&S gasoline engine, plus two 85 kW electric motors mounted one on each axle. The front one is linked to the six-speed gearbox.

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ARPA-E holding Workshop on Powertrain Innovations for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

16 April 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will be holding a Workshop on Powertrain Innovations for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, taking place in Denver, CO on 14-15 May 2015.

Even beyond 2030, the majority of vehicles in the US will continue to be engine-powered, either in conventional or hybrid configurations. As a result the light- and heavy-duty vehicle fleet will continue to consume about 30EJ of primary fuel energy, including substantial volumes of imported oil. Currently, each 10% improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency corresponds to a ~3% reduction in primary energy usage in the United States, with concomitant GHG emissions reductions.

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