US clean fuel company Universal Hydrogen has signed letters of intent with three airlines to convert at least 15 regional airliners to run on green hydrogen. The company is developing conversion kits that accept interchangeable hydrogen modules that the company’s press release suggests works like coffee pods.
Founded by former Airbus technology chief Paul Eremenko, Universal Hydrogen aims to speed up the introduction of hydrogen for smaller regional airplanes to 2025 by using fuel cells fed by modular hydrogen capsules to replace their turboprop systems.
Universal Hydrogen has been working on a conversion kit for the De Havilland Canada DHC-8, commonly known as the Dash 8, replacing the standard plane’s Pratt & Whitney turboprops and jet fuel tanks with a pair of two-megawatt Magnix electric motors, a hefty fuel cell and the modular hydrogen fuel system incorporating 2m pop in and out fuel capsules
The hydrogen conversion takes up some space – the Dash 8’s cabin capacity reduces from 56 seats to 40 – but the planes will offer a claimed emissions-free range of 740 km. That, according to a report by Reuters, covers about 75 percent of current routes flown by Dash 8s and could be extended to 95 percent when anticipated developments in liquid hydrogen mature.
The company has signed letters of intent with Spain’s Air Nostrum for 11 aircraft, Ravn Alaska for five, and Icelandair Group for an unspecified “fleet” of planes.
US Energy company and utility Exelon has joined the Electric Highway Coalition, a partnership of 14 US utilities established to create a seamless network of rapid electric vehicle charging stations connecting major highway systems, stretching from the Atlantic Coast through the Midwest, South and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.
“Protecting our future means ensuring electric vehicles are an affordable, accessible, and reliable transportation option for customers in the communities we serve,” said Calvin Butler, CEO of Exelon Utilities. “Our customers and communities want cleaner air and action on climate change – just one reason why we want to make sure rapid charging is as easily available along major highways as traditional gas stations. Our partnership with the Electric Highway Coalition will help alleviate range anxiety by creating convenient, rapid charging stations that will give travellers in our communities the confidence to know they can rely on electric vehicles for long distance travel wherever they need to go.”
The members of the EHC have agreed to work together to ensure efficient and effective fast charging deployment plans that enable long distance EV travel, avoid duplication and complement existing corridor fast charging sites. Sites initially will be located less than 100 miles apart on major roadways. Additionally, each site will have at least two charging stations with universal vehicle compatibility and at least 100 kilowatts of output per station. This will enable drivers to get back on the road in 20-30 minutes. Each member company will determine its own execution methods, specific pricing models and charging equipment providers for their service territory.
The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on US roads by 2030, and the progress made by the Electric Highway Coalition demonstrates to customers that industry leaders are united in a commitment to ensuring accessibility and convenience for rapid charging stations across an expanded network of major highways.
Exelon has already committed to electrifying half of its utility vehicle fleet by 2030 and will continue to find new ways to partner with leaders across the industry to provide equitable, safe and sustainable energy and transportation solutions for customers.
In addition, Exelon’s utilities continue to actively work with stakeholders to promote the expansion of EV infrastructure and remove barriers to adoption. Through approved programs at each of its utilities, Exelon will enable the installation of more than 7,000 residential, commercial and/or utility-owned charging ports across Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware and New Jersey.
The installations will help jurisdictions achieve climate and zero-emission vehicle goals, improve air quality in their regions and prepare for the economic opportunities connected to the growing EV market.
British energy and environment consultancy Ricardo is leading an international consortium to support the Mexican Government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the freight sector.
Over the next 12 months, specialists in sustainable transport will work with organisations, including Mexico-based Centro Mario Molina and Urbanistica, to provide advice to the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) as part of the Sustainable Transport Programme.
The country’s commitment to reducing GHGs by 22% by 2030 depends on the successful decarbonisation of its transport sector, which contributes to 25% of total CO2 emissions nationally. Road activity is responsible for 97% of all transport emissions and freight transport plays a key role by moving nearly 75% of land-based cargo across the country while railways serve the remaining transport flows.
Lorenzo Casullo, Associate Director, said: “Initiatives addressing greenhouse gas emissions will also improve urban air pollution and noise levels that negatively affect Mexican cities.
“This project demonstrates our growing influence in Central and Latin American countries as we continue to win more work across the region. Being able to deliver the entire project in Spanish, thanks to the multi-lingual capabilities of our team, is a bonus for us and shows the global support Ricardo is able to offer.”
Ricardo’s focus will be on green freight, helping national and local policy makers, as well as freight operators based in Mexico, to reduce the climate change and air pollution impacts of the transport of goods through a series of practical actions.
The team will provide regulatory advice to the Mexican Ministry of Environment on how to implement the regulations on air pollution standards for trucks. Ricardo and partners will also engage in capacity building efforts, looking at training courses and case studies covering telematic applications for fleet management and eco-driving.
Further support will come from pilot projects at the sub-national level, helping regions and cities test new business models for more effective vehicle scrapping policies, fleet renewal schemes and urban logistics approaches.
The project will support the cooperation between Mexico and Germany, which aims to promote climate mitigation efforts in Mexico’s road freight sector by supporting ministries, authorities and companies.
Electric Assisted Vehicles Limited (EAV), the Oxford, England-based sustainable zero-emissions vehicle manufacturer, has released renderings of its new LINCS model, a modular multipurpose lightweight vehicle designed to provide urban light commercial van capability.
LINCS has been designed in association with Saietta Group, whose new in-hub electric motors will power a lightweight skateboard platform. The LINCS platform will contain enclosed Li-ion batteries and become the basis of the new modular vehicle.
“The operational requirements for LINCS are both complex but also required a simple solution,” says Adam Barmby, CEO and Founder of EAV. “We wanted to produce a multipurpose light commercial vehicle as a logistics platform to transform the way we move people and goods around our urban environment.
“Positive disruption is needed right now”, he adds. “The electrification of current fleets simply isn’t any kind of real solution. We’ve comprehensively analysed the inefficiencies in the current transportation of goods and people.”
LINCS, in its logistics role, acts as a fully dynamic ‘hub-and-spoke’ mobile depot vehicle, delivering EAVRoRo boxes to EAV eCargo fleets in various different dynamic optimised locations such as forecourts or car parks. This significantly reduces stem distances and increases operational efficiency within the last mile. LINCS will also be able to operate as a simple covered urban van or open pick-up or drop side. The uniqueness of the design and engineering is in its versatility, packaging, light weight, strength and in the understanding of current and future urban cargo operations which we’ve already been successfully developing with our current EAV models.”
LINCS is built on an aluminium skateboard chassis platform utilising two linked in-hub motors from Saietta Group. The chassis itself contains EAV’s standard removable interchangeable Li-ion battery pack providing a range of up to 100 miles within an urban or intra-urban environment. The driver’s cab is located either on the left or righthand side of the LINCS, depending on the market, and is equipped with ‘EAVAdvanced’ driving controls and in-cab systems. LINCS has been designed and future-proofed for fully autonomous operations. Uniquely, LINCS also features a ‘Road train’ capability where, on inter-urban or urban deployments, multiple LINCS can be linked together into a single autonomous vehicle.
“EAV is much more than an eCargo bike company. We’re a transport technology solutions business.” commented Nigel Gordon-Stewart, Executive Chairman at EAV. “We developed and launched the EAV2Cubed and its predecessor the EAVan as the foundation of a complete urban Future Transport vision conceived from a blank sheet of paper. In a new, environment and resource conservation-focused world, legacy automotive design and engineering solutions simply don’t work. They’re too heavy, too big and, from a resource and environmental point of view, are just wasteful. LINCS is the next step in our programme which sees a complete replacement of legacy urban road transport with new, sustainable, zero-emissions, environmentally-friendly, safe – but extremely efficient – solutions for cargo and passengers.”
Mobileye, the intel owned company that specialises in vision-based autonomous vehicles, is now testing its AVs in New York City. The company says the trial in New York – the largest city in North America and one of the world’s most challenging driving environments – “proves how its unique approach is enabling rapid geographic and economic scalability”.
The aim is to test Mobileye’s camera-only autonomous vision system on NYC’s highly congested and often unpredictable streets. The company will initially run two cars, increasing to seven in the near future. Under New York rules the cars must have a safety driver with hands on the steering wheel at all times.
Mobileye’s True Redundancy approach first ‘doubles down’ on the computer-vision subsystem before adding a lidar/radar subsystem for redundancy.
Of particular interest will be to evaluate how the car’s vision and automated control system copes with pedestrians, bicyclists, aggressive drivers, double-parked vehicles, construction zones, emergency vehicles, tunnels and bridges.
Professor Amnon Shashua, senior vice president of Intel and president and CEO of Mobileye, says, “Driving in complex urban areas such as New York City is a crucial step in vetting the capabilities of an autonomous system and moving the industry closer to commercial readiness.”
Mobileye plans to begin operating an autonomous ride-hailing service in Israel in early 2022.
Malaysia Airports has signed a memorandum of understanding with Skyports, a designer and operator of vertiport infrastructure for electric air taxis, and Volocopter, a pioneer of urban air mobility (UAM).
The collaboration forms part of the five-year regeneration plan for Subang’s Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (LTSAAS), which was Kuala Lumpur’s main airport before the opening of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 1998. The project will explore the deployment of electric air taxi services at LTSAAS as well as other locations throughout Malaysia.
As a first step, the three parties will combine their aerospace and aviation expertise to conduct a feasibility study examining suitable vertiport solutions to enable the safe take-off and landing of passenger eVTOL vehicles, considering factors such as demand, customer flow, and how to integrate UAM operations within an existing airport.
Malaysia Airports’ Group CEO, Dato’ Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh, says, “Air taxi technology and revolution is the next big thing that we want to see happen in Malaysian aviation. With LTSAAS offering a synergistic ecosystem within the aviation and aerospace sectors, it is timely for us to explore this new service as it complements other key developments of the regeneration initiative. Volocopter and Skyports are both leaders in their respective fields of advanced air mobility and we hope to further futureproof LTSAAS’s position in Asia Pacific by catering to research, assembly, manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul in addition to air taxi operations.”
Christian Bauer, CCO of Volocopter, adds, “The Southeast Asian Market is one of the largest and most interesting ones for UAM due to its geographical layout and dense population. Our feasibility study will help give us insights on demand, customer expectations, and airport integration, which we can apply to other markets in the region. Having expert partners like Skyports and LTSAAS understanding the local needs, is decisive in bringing revolutionary technologies like electric air taxis to new markets.”
The UK Government has published its long-awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan which provides a ‘greenprint’ to cut emissions from “seas and skies, roads and railways, setting out a pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net zero by 2050”.
The plan is based around commitments focused on:
increasing cycling and walking
zero emission buses and coaches
zero emission cars, vans, motorcycles and scooters
accelerating maritime and aviation decarbonisation
It also set out targets for phasing out the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles – with a 2035 phase out date for vehicles weighing from 3.5-26 tonnes and 2040 for vehicles weighing more than 26 tonnes. This builds on the commitment last year to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine cars from 2030 and hybrids from 2035.
“Transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities, and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good, or for bad,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.
“The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities.”
Responding to the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Cllr David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, “the national voice of local government”, said, “Given that transport is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan is key to how the country will achieve its net-zero ambition.
“Councils are already doing a lot to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions to protect their communities and the environment, by investing in cycle lanes, clean air zones, better public transport and EV charging infrastructure. However, the scale of the challenge requires a collaborative approach between local and national government, industry and our communities.
“In order to support local government in its role of leading places and providing a greener future, councils want to work with government and business to establish a national framework for addressing the climate emergency, supported by long-term funding, guidance for individuals and clarity on the practical steps that will be needed locally to help the public to transition to more sustainable forms of transport.”
Drone Delivery Canada Corp has signed an agreement with the University of British Columbia (UBC) as part of UBC’s remote communities drone transportation initiative (DTI).
The project will test the flight infrastructure required for defined-route deliveries using DDC’s Sparrow drone for deliveries to Stellat’en First Nation, the aboriginal community of Stellako, located in Central Northern British Columbia, Canada.
DDC will install enabling infrastructure, including its DroneSpot takeoff and landing zones, over the summer and expects to begin providing drone delivery services during the second half of 2021. The trial is DDC’s fourth First Nations project but its first in British Columbia.
All operations will be conducted in accordance with appropriate Canadian regulations. Flights will be remotely monitored by DDC from its operations control centre located in Vaughan, Ontario.
“We’re pleased to have finalised our contract with Drone Delivery Canada and to be moving on to the next stage of this project. As we transition into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the risk of wildfires, we are looking forward to learning about how this innovative transportation technology can be used to meet community needs and help address inequities in access to health-care supplies and services,” said Dr Michael Allard, Vice Dean, Health Engagement, UBC Faculty of Medicine.
“Based on the isolated location of our community and the needs of our residents, drone transport may enhance our access to COVID-19 testing and medication without traveling and endangering other members of our community,” said Chief Robert Michell of the Stellat’en First Nation. “The futuristic potential of this initiative is exciting. With drone technology, there is so much you can do.”
The project is supported by pension-fund backed LifeLabs, Canada’s leading provider of laboratory diagnostic information and digital health connectivity systems.
“We applaud this UBC Faculty of Medicine initiative to embrace drone delivery to benefit First Nations communities. We also look forward to working with LifeLabs as an important partner in this project. LifeLabs will be supporting the project to ensure an end-to-end solution by participating in data evaluations, sample logistics and training,” said Michael Zahra, President and CEO of DDC.
“Improved delivery times of essential supplies to remote locations can make all the difference in protecting the Stellat’en First Nation community and saving lives,” said Charles Brown, President and CEO of LifeLabs. “We are proud to be participating in this project that will also help to advance our knowledge for the future use of drone technology to transport clinical materials and samples for lab testing.”
Swedish automotive technology company Veoneer has signed an agreement with Australian LiDAR company Baraja to industrialise its Spectrum-Scan LiDAR technology as a means of reaching Level 4 autonomy.
Veoneer says it chose to partner with Baraja after extensive testing, as Baraja offers “robust technology and a roadmap that lends itself to be amongst the smallest size lidars to enable vehicle integration”.
Sydney-based Baraja was founded in 2016 by telecommunications engineers Federico Collarte and Cibby Pulikkaseril who developed a way to use the proven optical fibre and photonics technology to solve legacy LiDAR problems.
Instead of relying on fragile moving parts and oscillating mirrors, it uses dispersive optics to scan the environment, significantly improving reliability and robustness compared to traditional Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) or spinning LiDAR.
Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan LiDAR creates high-resolution “pointclouds” to accurately detect objects at more than 250 meters away at speed, while remaining immune to interference from other sensors or light sources. The technology is also more tolerant to factors that have hindered traditional LiDAR systems such as heat, shock and vibration. Baraja has tested its LiDAR in the harshest conditions, from the Australian outback to arctic tundra, to ensure it works in any condition.
This technology will be complimented with Veoneer’s industry experience in developing automotive grade sensing solutions for driver assistance and autonomy applications.
Jan Carlson, Chairman, President and CEO of Veoneer, says, “Veoneer is committed to offering safe, robust, high-quality sensor solutions to vehicle manufacturers globally. We have performed extensive research among 70 LiDAR technology companies globally, and have come to the conclusion that by partnering with Baraja, Veoneer will be able to offer and integrate scalable automotive-grade LiDAR-sensors in future cars, at competitive prices.”
Federico Collarte, Founder & CEO of Baraja, adds, “Veoneer is a natural partner for us.We built our technology to enable autonomous driving that is safer, more accessible and ready today for the next generation of vehicles. By combining our technology with Veoneer’s vast experience in automotive design and platform integration, this partnership helps ensure the world’s leading automotive brands can bring that autonomous reality to more people.”
Human efforts to achieve flight date back to the ancient world, says Rani Plaut, CEO and Co-Founder of AIR. Clearly the Wright brothers’ 1903 triumph hardly marked the end of this millennia-long quest for elevated mobility, but are we about to experience a paradigm shift in personal aviation?
Less than a generation after the Wright brothers’ success at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Glenn Curtiss introduced the first “flying car,” dubbed the Autoplane, at the 1917 Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition. From The Jetsons to Blade Runner: 2049, popular culture is filled with futuristic visions of worlds where people move from A to B in flying vehicles.
Of course, such vehicles have yet to hit the skies. There was even a popular Internet meme about how the realities (and absurdities) of 21-Century life fail to match up with long-ago predictions that we’d all be whizzing around in a flying-car utopia by now.
But recent technological advances have fuelled a burgeoning Electric Vehicle Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) scene, with investors pumping billion into innovative startups in the hopes of seeing Curtiss’s century-old dream take flight.
With forecasters predicting that the eVTOL market will ascend to $14.7 billion by 2041, the coming decades will give rise to a new mobility ecosystem that truly reflects humans’ longstanding ambition to touch the skies – not only on the occasional business trip or a family vacation but in their everyday lives.
Halted Mobility in the Era of COVID-19
As recently as one year ago, the wide-open skies seemed to have closed in. The nascent COVID-19 pandemic ground air travel to a virtual halt in the late winter and early spring, with international air travel plunging 60% over the course of 2020. Predictions that flights wouldn’t return to pre-pandemic levels until mid-decade seemed far from unreasonable. Few would have expected that US flights leading into the Independence Day 2021 holiday weekend would actually exceed those levels – but they did, underscoring the resilience of the human desire to hit the skies and see the world.
At the same time, the pandemic – which has significantly diminished but is not yet over – has spurred a new look at more personal, social distancing-friendly forms of travel, which helps explain why personal auto sales have surged of late. This development is where our abiding desire to move around and seek out new forms of adventure dovetails with the resurgent interest in private forms of mobility.
A Mobility Renaissance
From expanding drone delivery programs to increasing demand for cleaner, greener forms of transportation amid global climate change, the eVTOL market is poised to benefit from larger commercial and economic trends that have reshaped how people think about air transportation and fostered greater interest in alternatives to traditional vehicles.
As with any new form of transportation, public acceptance will be a key barrier for the eVTOL market to overcome.
Developing a robust urban air infrastructure and a viable set of regulatory standards will not only accelerate the industry’s growth but will also help soothe public fears about this newfangled technology. Deloitte projects that following a wave of successful pilot programs and growing public acceptance, autonomous passenger eVTOLs will see greater adoption beginning in 2030, with production costs plunging as manufacturers achieve economies of scale and battery costs decrease.
That means that the next decade will be critical in formulating the regulatory policies and developing the technologies necessary to make flying cars an everyday reality for consumers across the globe.
What starts as an impossible dream often becomes humdrum within a remarkably short span of time. And while flying cars have existed in the popular imagination for well over a century, they’re closer than ever to going from the stuff of science fiction and Internet memes to conveying passengers on their daily commutes. After a year when the skies seemed harder to reach than at any time in recent history, we’re on the cusp of reaching unprecedented heights of innovation and human achievement.
Rani Plaut is CEO & Co-Founder of AIR
About AIR – promising a paradigm shift in personal aviation
Israeli eVTOL start-up AIR is promising a “paradigm shift in personal aviation” based on what it calls “airEVs for the consumer market”. The company’s vision is for a “private electric aircraft parked by your house”. It says it combines sustainable aerospace innovation with automotive know-how to create airEVs that offer intuitive ‘fly by intent’ handling and a one-of-a-kind user-centric experience for the everyday flier.
While the vast majority of the sector is focused on building commercially piloted or autonomous air taxis for cities, AIR offers an alternative for those who want “to enjoy the ultimate freedom of flying on their own terms”. Thanks to its vertical take-off and landing capabilities and cutting-edge flight control system, the company’s vehicles, it says, offer a completely new and sustainable way to get to any destination.
“Everybody wants to fly, and with AIR, they finally can. We’re creating a fun and functional personal airEVs that will blaze a path towards a new era of air mobility accessible to everyone,” said AIR CEO and Co-Founder, Rani Plaut. “Our company is building airEVs for the reality we live in and the future of our dreams, putting usability, safety and thrill at the forefront of every product decision so we can put the power of flight in every person’s hands.”
Swedish startup Heart Aerospace is developing an all-electric aircraft designed for short trips. While current battery technology limits the distances electric planes can travel, they can service and even offer advantages for shorter trips.
Heart Aerospace’s ES-19 is a 19-passenger all-electric aircraft with a maximum range of 400 km, which will increase as battery technology advances.
It says its electric motor is around 20 times less expensive than the engine in a conventional turboprop of the same size, and maintenance costs are more than 100 times lower.
Heart hopes that these low running costs will make the ES-19 viable servicing routes that are no longer viable for gas-turbine-powered aircraft, or perhaps even open up entirely new ones.
Designed to take off from runways as short as 750 m the company imagines the electric plane transporting passengers on short flights over mountainous terrain where travel by road would be impractical, or perhaps hopping between islands.
The company has attracted the interest of some big names in aviation. Heart recently confirmed completion of a Series A funding round, with investments from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Mesa Airlines and United Airlines – with the two airlines each committing to buy 100 of the planes for commercial use.
“We expect the short-haul regional air travel market to play a key role in the evolution of the electric aircraft,” says Michael Leskinen, United’s Vice President Corporate Development & Investor Relations. “As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable but we’re not going to wait to begin the journey. That’s why we’re looking forward to beginning our work with Heart, so that, together, we can scale the availability of electric airliners and use them for passenger flights within the next five years.”
Heart Aerospace expects to finalize the design for its ES-19 plane by 2023, conduct its first flight in 2024 and enter service late 2026.
Israeli vehicle data platform provider Otonomo Technologies has announced an agreement with Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services to offer advanced fleet optimisation services to fleet management companies and operators with Mercedes vehicles across 25 European countries.
Aimed at organisations such as delivery companies, service providers and car rental companies, Otonomo’s platform gives instant access to connected vehicle data that supports fleet optimisation.
Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and light commercial vehicles come equipped with multiple sensors, processors and high-speed data communication frameworks that provide comprehensive vehicle data. Measurable attributes include position data, maintenance data, vehicle status, warnings, ignition state, fuel level, tyres, door and window status, and electric and hybrid parameters.
Otonomo’s Vehicle Data Platform cleanses, harmonises, and secures this vehicle data and makes it readily accessible through a straightforward API and user-friendly platform. The aim of the collaboration is to accelerate the use of OEM data among fleets.
“We are proud to be collaborating with Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services.”, said Ben Volkow, CEO and Founder, Otonomo, “We look forward to fleets across Europe utilising vehicle data to drive in safer driving, smarter routing and fuel savings.”
Otonomo supports a data ecosystem of OEMs, fleets and more than 100 service providers. Its platform securely ingests more than 4 billion data points per day from over 40 million global connected vehicles, then reshapes and enriches it to provide privacy-regulation-compliant solutions using both personal and aggregate data. Use cases include emergency services, mapping, traffic management, EV management, subscription-based services, parking, predictive maintenance, insurance, media, in-vehicle services, and dozens of smart city solutions.
Fleets can utilise the Otonomo vehicle data to perform the following:
Track the location of fleet vehicles in real time to optimise routes and save fuel expenses
Maintain automated logbooks to provide effortless reporting and ensure compliance
Monitor vehicle health in real time to prevent vehicle breakdown
Keep track of vehicle health to increase safety
Trace excessive vehicle idling to cut fuel and maintenance costs
Optimise service times and enabling predictive maintenance
Calculate optimal de-fleeting
Fuelling and charging management to reduce costs and fight fraud and theft
EV route planning to reduce range anxiety
Monitor vehicle usage to detect theft or unauthorised vehicle use
German energy storage systems developer Tesvolt has become a shareholder in Munich-based Stercom Power Solutions, which develops inductive charging technology. The investment aims to accelerate the development of wireless charging and potentially dynamic inductive roads.
Wireless charging involves transferring electrical energy in an inductive process from a magnetic coil in or on the road pavement to a receiver coil in the vehicle. This allows for many short but high-speed charging processes – for example at shopping centres, in multi-storey car parks or even at home. Car makers including Audi and BMW are already installing charging coils in new vehicle models.
“Stercom is a complete technology specialist and one of the first to develop really good products in the field of inductive charging,” explains Simon Schandert, founder and Chief Technical Officer at Tesvolt. “Our aim is to work together to bring highly efficient charging systems to the market and even in the medium term to enable inductive supercharging with up to 200 kW charging power. This would also make it more efficient to charge while driving in the future.”
But the big problem to date is capacity. “So far the only wireless charging suitable for mass-production offers just 3.2 kW. We want to introduce an inductive charging station with a charging power of 44 kW, which is 14 times faster,” explains Daniel Hannemann, founder and Commercial Director at Tesvolt.
Of particular interest to Tesvolt is Stercom’s breakthrough silicon carbide technology that offers 95% efficiency and works at a distance of up to 20 cm between the sender and receiver coils. This says Hannemann is something no other provider has been able to do. Stercom has also developed intelligent charging stations which, for instance, show the driver the right parking position for the vehicle over the magnetic coil.
“Short and frequent charging dispenses with the need for large car batteries. This significantly lowers the price of electric vehicles while making them lighter and therefore more efficient,” says Robert Sterff, founder and CEO at Stercom.
There are still significant challenges when it comes to inductive charging. Short and powerful charges place high demands on batteries and the issue of how to pay for wireless charging is yet to be resolved.
Electric vehicle wireless power transfer systems is still in the development stage, says Sterff. But test sections of road with magnetic coils under the asphalt are already in place in Italy, France and Sweden. “Wireless charging is the future,” concludes Sterff.
Electric Last Mile Solutions, Inc, a US designer of last mile e-mobility vehicles, has signed a long-term supply agreement with Liuzhou Wuling Automobile Industry Co (Wuling Motors) a supplier of automotive components and one of China’s leading automotive manufacturers of electric cargo vans and light duty speciality vehicles.
Under the agreement with Wuling Motors, ELMS will have long-term access to EV component systems and parts from Wuling Motors’ commercial EV cargo van platform for the manufacture of the ELMS planned all-electric Urban Delivery vehicle.
“At ELMS, we are reimagining the design of commercial vehicles as efficient, intelligent and profit-driving e-mobility workstations for our customers,” said ELMS Co-Founder and CEO, James Taylor. “We are delighted to be collaborating with a company of Wuling Motors’ calibre to broaden our long-term, strategic supply base. We believe that this partnership, as a part of our solutions ecosystem model and supplemental to our core vehicle integration and engineering capabilities, will enable us to quickly bring to market, segment-defining and US-made EVs customized to our customers’ individual needs and optimized for the qualities that matter most to them: efficiency, reliability and total cost of ownership.”
The agreement with Wuling Motors adds to the Company’s existing and developing strategic partnerships with other industry-leading suppliers and service providers, including CATL for battery packs, Geotab for advanced telematics, Cox Automotive for comprehensive service coverage and Randy Marion Automotive Group for distribution.
The ELMS Urban Delivery, anticipated to launch later this year, will be produced at the Company’s plant in Mishawaka, Indiana. The Urban Delivery is anticipated to have a range of approximately 150 miles and is also expected to come with a suite of connectivity and productivity solutions, including over-the-air updates.
German urban air mobility (UAM) group Volocopter is to acquire DG Flugzeugbau, a global leader in composite aircraft production and its long-standing innovation and production partner.
Volocopter also announced that it recently secured Production Organisation Approval (POA) in compliance with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA Part 21G).
According to the company the two developments establish Volocopter as the only electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company holding both the required design and production organisation to advance its aircraft towards launch, which it considers to be key milestones in bringing urban air mobility services to commercial reality.
DG Flugzeugbau’s entire team of manufacturing experts will join Volocopter’s production and workshop teams. Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter says, “Our ten-year partnership with DG Flugzeugbau has been an extraordinary learning experience. Having this legendary industry leader on our side to kick-start scalable and affordable UAM for people and cargo has been a game changer. This marks an exciting milestone as we unify DG Flugzeugbau’s leadership in aviation production with Volocopter’s pioneering UAM goals to establish yet another crucial stepping-stone for our collective global endeavours.”
Holger Back, CEO of DG Aviation, adds, “At DG Flugzeugbau, we have always continued to strive for perfection through unique innovation with gliders, vast aerodynamic improvements, and, for the past ten years, with Volocopter’s eVTOLs. We see the future in these aircraft and are excited to combine a section of our company with Volocopter to invest in the future of sustainable aviation while continuing our tradition of building gliders and maintaining aircraft.”
Founded in 2011, Volocopter has 400 employees in offices in Bruchsal, Munich, and Singapore. The company has raised a total of €322 million in equity through investments from Daimler, Geely, DB Schenker, BlackRock, and Intel Capital amongst others.
US online food-ordering and delivery platform Grubhub has announced a partnership with Russia’s Yandex Self-Driving Group as its robot delivery provider.
Grubhub operates across US college and university campuses. The agreement is Yandex’s first entry into the US delivery market.
Brian Madigan, vice president of corporate and campus partners at Grubhub says, “Together with Yandex, we’re changing the way college students experience food delivery. We’re excited to offer these cost-effective, scalable and quick food ordering and delivery capabilities to colleges and universities across the country that are looking to adapt to students’ unique dining needs. While college campuses are notoriously difficult for cars to navigate, specifically as it relates to food delivery, Yandex robots easily access parts of campuses that vehicles cannot — effectively removing a major hurdle universities face when implementing new technology.”
Dmitry Polishchuk, CEO of Yandex Self-Driving Group, adds, “We chose to partner with Grubhub for campus delivery because of Grubhub’s unparalleled reach into college campuses across the United States, as well as the flexibility and strength of their ordering platform. We are delighted to deploy dozens of our rovers, taking the next step in actively commercialising our self-driving technology in different markets across the globe.”
Yandex first began working on driverless technology in early 2017, combining its expertise in machine learning, navigation, mapping tools, and cloud technologies. It is also testing cars equipped with its technology in all weather conditions across three countries and operating robo-taxi services in two cities in Russia.
Volvo Cars presented its plans to become an all-electric premium car brand by 2030 at the recent Volvo Cars Tech Moment event in Gothenburg.
Promising a “behind-the-scenes tour of our future”, Volvo launched its all-new Concept Recharge, which suggests the Swedish automaker’s next generation electric vehicles will push toward longer driving ranges, faster, bidirectional charging, and rapidly evolving safety tech to develop a series of electric cars that are as convenient and practical as its current range.
“Our Concept Recharge represents a manifesto for the all-electric future of Volvo Cars, as well as a new type of vehicle,” said Robin Page, head of design. “It displays new and modern proportions that go hand-in-hand with increased versatility and shows what technology can enable in terms of design.”
Volvo used the event to highlight its new partnership with Swedish battery specialist Northvolt, to achieve 1,000-km real-world driving ranges by the latter part of the decade. It will also seek to cut charging times in half and add bidirectional charging capabilities so that cars can send power back into the grid during peak times and charge during periods of low demand.
“We want to offer our customers sustainable pure electric cars that make their lives easier and more enjoyable. By simplifying the design and integration of our battery cells, we can reduce weight and maximize space, allowing for considerable improvements in battery capacity, range and charging times,” said Volvo CTO Henrik Green.
Software is another key component of the Concept Recharge and Volvo will integrate computer functions from the current myriad electronic control units into a single core computing system, due to be introduced on production models next year.
The centralized computing system will run the all-new VolvoCars.OS and receive over-the-air updates to improve cars over time. In developing the updates, Volvo will collect real-time customer driving data collected by sensors that include the high-resolution LiDAR, helping to identify issues and roll out improvements and new features more efficiently. Volvo says the collected data will lessen development time frames from “years to days,” and help the company toward its goal of zero collisions.
Volvo also announced it will be working with Google on “cutting extraneous information, promoting driver attentiveness and safety, and integrating the Android system into the VolvoCars.OS architecture”.
Porsche, Vodafone and HERE Technologies have teamed up to trial ways to use 5G and precise geo-location technology to reduce the number of road accidents at the Vodafone 5G Mobility Lab in Aldenhoven in Northern Germany.
The three companies are collaborating in the development of a real-time warning system so that vehicles and their drivers can receive hazard warnings directly using 5G mobile network technology delivered using the intelligent message broker MQTT network protocol.
Following initial tests in Aldenhoven, HERE Technologies, Porsche and Vodafone plan to further optimise the real-time warning system and evaluate its potential in a range of locations and weather conditions.
Built around the Live Sense SDK technology from HERE, the trial system will use computer vision and artificial intelligence to “identify objects and changes in the behaviour of other road users or road conditions not visible to drivers that could lead to hazardous situations”.
According to André Schlufter, who is responsible for connectivity and SIM management at Porsche, by using 5G mobile network technology hazard warnings can be delivered to the road user “in real time with a latency of less than ten milliseconds”.
Michael Reinartz, director of innovation at Vodafone Germany, said, ““If cars warn each other about hazards in real time, human lives can be saved.”
NewMotion, a leader in smart EV charging solutions and a Shell group company, has been selected as a preferred EV charging supplier for Europe by fleet management company, LeasePlan. Under the deal, NewMotion will provide LeasePlan customers with EV charging solutions at home, the workplace, and on the go.
This partnership is a significant step for NewMotion to operate more than half a million charge points for businesses, fleets, at retail sites and customer’s homes by 2025.
The first phase of the roll-out will see LeasePlan customers in the UK, Germany, Norway and Sweden, then extending across other European markets.
NewMotion will support LeasePlan with the installation of charge points, back-office technology for controlling its charge points and a charge card to access public chargers.
LeasePlan has approximately 1.9 million vehicles under management in over 30 countries.
It has set itself the goal of achieving net zero tailpipe emissions from its entire funded fleet by 2030, in support of the Paris Agreement.
Melanie Lane, CEO at NewMotion says, “We’re really excited to support LeasePlan, one of Europe’s largest players in leasing, in their efforts to scale up e-mobility. To make the transition seamless for both businesses and their employees, companies need a smart charging ecosystem that helps them to monitor and control their charging.”
Researchers in Britain and the US are reporting significant breakthroughs in recycling electric vehicle batteries that could help the auto industry tackle criticism that EV batteries come with a heavy carbon footprint thanks to the effort of extracting mined materials used in their manufacture.
And as national governments and regions race to secure supplies for an expected acceleration in EV demand, the breakthroughs could make valuable supplies of materials such as cobalt and nickel go further. They would also reduce dependence on China and difficult mining jurisdictions.
“We can’t recycle complex products like batteries the way we recycle other metals. Shredding, mixing up the components of a battery and pyrometallurgy destroy value,” Gavin Harper, a research fellow at the government-backed Faraday Institution in Britain, said.
Pyrometallurgy refers to the extraction of metals using high heat in blast furnaces, which analysts say is not economic.
Current recycling methods also rely on shredding the batteries into very small pieces, known as black mass, which is then processed into metals such as cobalt and nickel.
A switch to a practice known as direct recycling, which would preserve components such as the cathode and anode, could drastically reduce energy waste and manufacturing costs.
Researchers from the University of Leicester and the University of Birmingham working on the Faraday Institution’s ReLib project have found a way to use ultrasonic waves to recycle the cathode and anode without shredding and have applied for a patent.
The technology recovers the cathode powder made up of cobalt, nickel and manganese from the aluminium sheet, to which it is glued in the battery manufacture. The anode powder, which would typically be graphite, is separated from the copper sheet.
Andy Abbott, a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Leicester said separation using ultrasonic waves would result in cost savings of 60% compared with the cost of virgin material.
Compared with more conventional technology, based on hydrometallurgy, which uses liquids, such as sulphuric acid and water to extract materials, he said ultrasonic technology can process 100 times more battery material over the same period.
Abbott’s team has separated battery cells manually to test the process, but ReLib is working on a project to use robots to separate batteries and packs more efficiently.
As supplies and scrap levels take time to accrue, Abbott said he expected the technology to initially use scrap from battery manufacturing facilities as the feedstock and the recycled material would be fed back into battery production.
In the United States, a government-sponsored project at the Department of Energy called ReCell is in the final stages of demonstrating different, but also promising recycling technologies that refurbish battery cathode to make it into new cathode.
ReCell, headed by Jeff Spangenberger, has studied many different methods, including ultrasonics, but focused on thermal and solvent based methods.
“The US doesn’t make much cathode domestically, so if we use hydrometallurgy or pyrometallurgy we have to send the recycled materials to other countries to be turned into cathode and shipped back to us,” Spangenberger said.
“To make lithium-ion battery recycling profitable, without requiring a disposal fee to consumers, and to encourage growth in the recycling industry, new methods that generate higher profit margins for recyclers need to be developed.”
There are challenges for direct recycling, including continuously evolving chemistries, Spangenberger said. “ReCell is working on separating different cathode chemistries.”
Early electric vehicle battery cells typically used a cathode with equal amounts of nickel, manganese, cobalt or 1-1-1. This has changed in recent years as manufacturers seek to reduce costs and cathode chemistries can be 5-3-2, 6-2-2 or 8-1-1. In the future the aim will be to blend recycled with virgin material to get the required ratios of nickel, manganese and cobalt.