BMW Joins VW in Backing Germany’s 1 Million Electric-Car Goa

BMW backed the German government’s goal to have 1 million electric cars by 2020 on the country’s roads, a week after Volkswagen said the target is achievable under broader terms for alternative drives.

Developing the European Union’s electric-vehicle market will need the backing of authorities, though official support in the bloc is lagging behind initiatives in the U.S. and China, BMW Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer said today in a speech at an industry conference in Munich.

“I hope the ongoing discussions between national governments, the European Parliament and the European Commission lead to a package that’s viable,” Reithofer said at the conference sponsored by Handelsblatt newspaper. “At the moment, the commission’s proposals don’t offer incentives to speed up introduction of alternative drives.”

Carmakers are promoting electric-powered models to comply with tightening regulations that apply to their fleets’ emissions across the globe. Munich-based BMW, the world’s biggest maker of luxury vehicles, is putting the 34,950-euro ($48,200) all-electric i3 city car into showrooms in Germany next month.

VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said last week that the Wolfsburg, Germany-based manufacturer, Europe’s largest volume carmaker, will “contribute” to the German goal for electric vehicles to play a larger role in the market by 2020. Authorities’ plans are feasible as long as they include plug-in hybrids, which can switch between rechargeable battery power and conventional combustion engines, as the models offer the biggest market potential, he said.

Volkswagen outlined plans in September to offer as many as 40 electric or hybrid models in the event that demand for low-emission cars takes off. The manufacturer will produce 14 vehicles with alternative drive through next year after introducing electric versions of the Golf hatchback and Up! city car at the Frankfurt auto show last month. VW also showed new plug-in hybrid versions of the Porsche brand’s Panamera four-door coupe and Audi’s A3 compact.

Purely or partly battery-powered vehicles accounted for 4,157 new car registrations in Germany in 2012, about twice as many as the year before, according to the VDA auto-industry association. Germany’s new car market amounts to about 3 million vehicles a year.

Volkswagen’s e-Up! went on sale in Germany this month for 26,900 euros. The model is “deliberately positioned” against BMW’s i3, Rudolf Krebs, head of electric-powertrain technology at VW, said on Sept. 4.

BMW presented the i3 at the Frankfurt show, as well as a plug-in hybrid version of the X5 sport-utility vehicle. Reithofer reiterated today that the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car will be added to BMW’s lineup in 2014.

Battery-powered driverless cars to be launched on UK streets by 2015

Driverless cars will be trialled in Milton Keynes city centre from 2015, as part of a five year pilot scheme.

100 pod devices will run on specifically marked out lanes between Milton Keynes Central train station, the centre:mk shopping centre and the offices in-between.

They will be powered by an electric motor, and will travel along pavements at speeds of up to 12mph. Initially, they will be on separate lanes but the government may remove these lanes as the experiment progresses.

The pods will be big enough to fit two passengers and luggage. They will also be fitted with sensors to avoid colliding with pedestrians and parked cars.

A trial of the devices will begin in 2015, with a full rollout expected two years later. This will allow customers to hire pods from £2 a ride using smartphone apps to either hail or advance book one of the machines.

The experiment is expected to cost £65million over the five year period, and has the backing of Business Secretary Vince Cable and Higher Education minister David Willets.

Milton Keynes was chosen for the experiment because of its wide pavements. The trials will be the first driverless cars in operation on Britain’s streets.

Tesla eyes 10,000 annual sales of Model S in Germany

Tesla Motors is aiming to sell around 10,000 cars a year in Germany by 2015 as it builds out its networks of charging stations, its chief executive told a German paper.

"I have confidence in the German consumer," Tesla Chief executive Elon Musk was quoted as saying in an interview with Welt am Sonntag.

"Our fast charging stations should cover around half of Germany by the end of March 2014 and the entire country by the end of 2014," he said, adding he expected there to be 25 Tesla dealerships in Germany by the end of next year.

Tesla's high performance, all-electric Model S went on sale in Europe in August, and even overtook Volkswagen's Golf as the bestselling car in Norway in September.

Even vehicle sales of 10,000 would be only a small fraction of the German car market. Main industry association VDA expects sales to reach between 2.9-3.0 million cars this year from 3.08 million in 2012, and keep hovering at around 3 million vehicles in coming years.

Germany was the biggest market outside the U.S. for Tesla Roadster sales. The Model S costs from 71,400 euros ($98,500) in Germany, according to the group's website.

Graphene-Coated Silicon Supercapacitor could make batteries obsolete

Solar cells that produce electricity 24/7, not just when the sun is shining. Mobile phones with built-in power cells that recharge in seconds and work for weeks between charges.

These are just two of the possibilities raised by a novel supercapacitor design invented by material scientists at Vanderbilt University.

It is the first supercapacitor that is made out of silicon so it can be built into a silicon chip along with the microelectronic circuitry that it powers. In fact, it should be possible to construct these power cells out of the excess silicon that exists in the current generation of solar cells, sensors, mobile phones and a variety of other electromechanical devices, providing a considerable cost savings.

“If you ask experts about making a supercapacitor out of silicon, they will tell you it is a crazy idea,” said Cary Pint, the assistant professor of mechanical engineering who headed the development. “But we’ve found an easy way to do it.”

Instead of storing energy in chemical reactions the way batteries do, “supercaps” store electricity by assembling ions on the surface of a porous material. As a result, they tend to charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours, and operate for a few million cycles, instead of a few thousand cycles like batteries.

These properties have allowed commercial supercapacitors, which are made out of activated carbon, to capture a few niche markets, such as storing energy captured by regenerative braking systems on buses and electric vehicles and to provide the bursts of power required to adjust of the blades of giant wind turbines to changing wind conditions. Supercapacitors still lag behind the electrical energy storage capability of lithium-ion batteries, so they are too bulky to power most consumer devices. However, they have been catching up rapidly.

Research to improve the energy density of supercapacitors has focused on carbon-based nanomaterials like graphene and nanotubes. Because these devices store electrical charge on the surface of their electrodes, the way to increase their energy density is to increase the electrodes’ surface area, which means making surfaces filled with nanoscale ridges and pores.

“The big challenge for this approach is assembling the materials,” said Pint. “Constructing high-performance, functional devices out of nanoscale building blocks with any level of control has proven to be quite challenging, and when it is achieved it is difficult to repeat.”

So Pint and his research team – graduate students Landon Oakes, Andrew Westover and post-doctoral fellow Shahana Chatterjee – decided to take a radically different approach: using porous silicon, a material with a controllable and well-defined nanostructure made by electrochemically etching the surface of a silicon wafer.

This allowed them to create surfaces with optimal nanostructures for supercapacitor electrodes, but it left them with a major problem. Silicon is generally considered unsuitable for use in supercapacitors because it reacts readily with some of chemicals in the electrolytes that provide the ions that store the electrical charge.

With experience in growing carbon nanostructures, Pint’s group decided to try to coat the porous silicon surface with carbon. “We had no idea what would happen,” said Pint. “Typically, researchers grow graphene from silicon-carbide materials at temperatures in excess of 1400 degrees Celsius. But at lower temperatures – 600 to 700 degrees Celsius – we certainly didn’t expect graphene-like material growth.”

When the researchers pulled the porous silicon out of the furnace, they found that it had turned from orange to purple or black. When they inspected it under a powerful scanning electron microscope they found that it looked nearly identical to the original material but it was coated by a layer of graphene a few nanometers thick.

When the researchers tested the coated material they found that it had chemically stabilized the silicon surface. When they used it to make supercapacitors, they found that the graphene coating improved energy densities by over two orders of magnitude compared to those made from uncoated porous silicon and significantly better than commercial supercapacitors.

The graphene layer acts as an atomically thin protective coating. Pint and his group argue that this approach isn’t limited to graphene. “The ability to engineer surfaces with atomically thin layers of materials combined with the control achieved in designing porous materials opens opportunities for a number of different applications beyond energy storage,” he said.

“Despite the excellent device performance we achieved, our goal wasn’t to create devices with record performance,” said Pint. “It was to develop a road map for integrated energy storage. Silicon is an ideal material to focus on because it is the basis of so much of our modern technology and applications. In addition, most of the silicon in existing devices remains unused since it is very expensive and wasteful to produce thin silicon wafers.”

Pint’s group is currently using this approach to develop energy storage that can be formed in the excess materials or on the unused back sides of solar cells and sensors. The supercapacitors would store excess the electricity that the cells generate at midday and release it when the demand peaks in the afternoon.

“All the things that define us in a modern environment require electricity,” said Pint. “The more that we can integrate power storage into existing materials and devices, the more compact and efficient they will become.”

Source: Nature

Alain Prost teams up with Dams for Formula E entry

Four-times Formula One world champion Alain Prost will be involved with a team competing in the new electric Formula E series due to start next year, organisers announced on Thursday.

They said in a statement that the Frenchman, who made a failed attempt to run his own team in Formula One from 1997 to 2001, had linked up with compatriot Jean-Paul Driot to enter a new e.Dams team.

Five teams have now been signed up from a planned field of 10 to race in city centres around the world starting in Beijing in September.

"Being able to actively participate in the development of this new technology, which is 100 percent electric, is extremely motivating," said Prost.

"As we've seen in other championships, 2014 will see a move towards more sustainable racing, proving more than ever that motorsport is the benchmark for the future."

Driot's Le Mans-based DAMS teams have won petrol-engined championships in various junior series, including GP2, A1 GP, Formula Renault 3.5 and International Formula 3000.

Tesla hires Segway / Apple VP to lead vehicle development

Tesla Motors hired a former Apple executive to lead development of the electric carmaker's new vehicles.

At Apple, Doug Field oversaw the development of products including the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iMac, Tesla said in a press release announcing the hiring on Thursday.

Field, who began his career as a Ford Motor Co (F.N) engineer, was previously chief technology officer at Segway, the maker of the self-balancing, battery-operated Segway scooter. His title at Tesla will be vice president of vehicle programs.

The Model S, Tesla's first attempt to reach a mainstream audience for electric cars, has enjoyed stronger than expected sales, helping Tesla shares more than quintuple this year.

But for Tesla to reach an even broader market and silence electric car naysayers, Chief Executive Elon Musk must successfully develop a third-generation electric car by 2017 that will cost between $30,000 and $35,000.

"Tesla's future depends on engineers who can create the most innovative, technologically advanced vehicles in the world," Musk said in a statement. "Doug's experience in both consumer electronics and traditional automotive makes him an important addition to our leadership team."

Volvo Developing Wireless Charging for Electric Vehicles

The Swedish car manufacturer has announced the development of an energy transfer technology that uses electromagnetic fields. Long term, Volvo sees the technology leading to cordless charging solutions for its hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

In an official press release, Volvo's Vice President for Electric Propulsion Systems, Lennart Stegland, announced that “inductive charging has great potential” and is “a comfortable and effective way to conveniently transfer energy.” Volvo's tests also indicated that the method is safe, although there are currently no common standards for charging vehicles using induction, a fact that makes it difficult to bring it to mainstream consumers in the near future. Nonetheless, Volvo will continue researching the concept and will soon evaluate the feasibility of integrating it into future hybrid and all-electric cars.

Inductive charging uses electromagnetic fields to transfer energy from one source to another. One induction coil, located in the power source, creates an alternating electromagnetic field, while a second coil draws the energy from the first to recharge the vehicle's battery. Charging begins automatically as soon as the vehicle is positioned over the charging apparatus, without requiring the use of cables or plugs. Volvo claims that the technology is already used today in a number of home appliances, such as electric toothbrushes.

The research project was carried out in partnership with Flanders' Drive, an automotive industry think tank in Belgium. The study showed that it is possible to recharge the Volvo C30 Electric without the use of cables in 2 hours and 30 minutes.

WiTricity Secures Additional $25 Million in Funding

WiTricity announced today it has secured $25 million in Series E financing from new and existing investors, including Intel Capital and Hon Hai/Foxconn, one of the world’s largest consumer electronics manufacturers. The funding will support the company’s growth strategy as it further develops designs and products for wireless charging in the consumer electronics, electric vehicles, defense and medical device industries, as well as allowing WiTricity to pursue other strategic growth opportunities in the wireless power field.

“WiTricity’s vision is to usher in a world where wireless power is so ubiquitous, you never have to think about plugging in again,” said WiTricity CEO Eric Giler. “In securing this funding from our investors we are even more effectively positioned to fulfill that vision and deliver game-changing wireless technology to partners and customers around the globe.”

The announcement marks the next phase in WiTricity’s continued growth as a leader in the wireless power space. According to analyst firm IMS Research, the global market for wireless power will grow 86.5 percent annually to be worth $4.5 billion in 20161. As the inventor of Highly Resonant Wireless Power Transfer, WiTricity is poised to capture that market through existing and new partnerships with major manufacturers including Audi, Mitsubishi, Delphi, Haier, IHI, MediaTek and Thoratec.

With this infusion of $25 million, WiTricity’s investment funding now totals $45 million. In addition, the company recently secured its 50th patent, positioning it even more strongly for growth and success in the global market.

WiTricity have previously announced wireless electric vehicle charging partnerships with Audi, Toyota, Delphi, Mitsubishi and IHI.