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November 2010

November 30, 2010

Special versions of Thinsulate material from 3M help refine hybrid vehicles’ acoustics quality

Specially developed versions of 3M’s Thinsulate material can absorb the higher frequency sounds produced by hybrid vehicles’ electric motors and transmissions. The material is lightweight and, because it is compact and compressible, packaging and assembly is straightforward.

The mesh of fibers in specially developed version’s of 3M’s Thinsulate material absorb the higher frequency sounds produced by hybrid vehicles’ electric motors. Click to enlarge.

3M recently formed a European Automotive Acoustics Group to bring such lightweight acoustic materials to European vehicle programs. 3M says it could be particularly useful for the growing number of European model programs based on platforms originally conceived without a hybrid version in mind.

Buyers expect premium acoustic quality. Adding an electric motor generates new higher-frequency noises that require changes to a vehicle’s acoustic package. Instead of adding heavy sound-deadening materials, Japan’s leading hybrid manufacturers have used specially developed grades of Thinsulate as a lightweight and cost-effective solution. We expect 3M’s approach to receive growing interest from European manufacturers.

—Abs Master, head of 3M European Automotive Acoustics Group

Automotive applications of Thinsulate have been rising steadily in recent years with manufacturers using the specialist material to reduce mass in door panels, headliners, wheel wells, pillars and instrument panels. Thinsulate replaces some of the cumbersome mixed-fiber shoddy mats, foams and absorbers, cutting the weight of some acoustic material parts by up to 40% and saving several kilos.

Thinsulate comes die-cut with slits so that it folds and conforms easily around the contours of the vehicle, Master notes, making integration straightforward.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Honda adding new standard features and lower-priced entry-level model to Insight lineup

The new entry-level 2011 Insight. Click to enlarge.

The 2011 Honda Insight hybrid, now on sale in the US, gains new standard features and the addition of a value-oriented entry model featuring an MSRP starting at $18,200. The new base model is simply designated as “Insight”. The Insight LX and top-of-the-line Insight EX are still available. All Insight models are equipped with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) for 2011, which was previously exclusive to the Insight EX.

The five-door dedicated hybrid vehicle is powered by an Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system comprising a 1.3-liter i VTEC gasoline engine and a DC brushless 10 kW electric motor that together contribute to an EPA-estimated city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 40/43/41 miles per gallon US (5.74 L/100km combined). The Insight features the Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist) to enhance efficient vehicle operation while providing feedback related to individual driving styles.

The electric motor, positioned in-line between the engine and the transmission, adds power during acceleration and in certain cruising situations, and recaptures energy from the vehicle’s forward momentum during braking (regenerative braking).

The Insight’s IMA system has the capability to operate exclusively on electric power in certain low- to mid-speed cruising conditions. It can also provide cylinder deactivation during deceleration and an idle-stop feature when the vehicle is stationary. With a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, the Insight delivers an estimated maximum driving range exceeding 400 miles. Models for sale in California and states that have adopted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) ZEV standards receive an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) emissions rating.

The Insight uses Eco Assist to help drivers improve fuel efficiency, both by altering vehicle functionality and providing driver feedback, with fuel-economy dependent on their given set of driving conditions. Pressing the ECON button can further enhance the efficiency of multiple vehicle systems: throttle control, CVT operation, idle-stop duration, air conditioning and cruise-control operation (if equipped).

Eco Assist also provides feedback about driving style via a 3D-appearing background within the speedometer. The background changes colors from green to blue to reflect how efficiently or inefficiently the driver is accelerating or braking (green = efficient). The driver’s results are continuously tracked as fuel efficiency ratings are shown per drive cycle and on a lifetime basis in the form of plant-leaf graphics that appear in the Multi-Information Display (MID). Up to five leaves can be “earned” as the driver demonstrates a fuel-efficient driving style. A real-time score is shown in the Eco Guide MID screen.

Standard safety features on all Insights include dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; front-side airbags with a passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS); side-curtain airbag system; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD); driver’s and front-passenger’s active head restraints; and a front body designed to mitigate pedestrian injuries. All new Insights also feature Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which provides improved occupant protection and crash compatibility between vehicles of different sizes and ride heights in frontal crashes.

November 30, 2010 in Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

SOFC company wins Boeing/DARPA contract to supply energy storage and generation technology for ultra-long endurance aircraft

Versa Power Systems, Inc., a developer of high-power solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), has been selected as one of the key suppliers to The Boeing Co. under the next phase of a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program to develop and fly a very long endurance unmanned aircraft. (Earlier post.)

The technology will enable an aircraft to remain on station at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years, will perform persistent communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions from altitudes above 60,000 feet. In the project, DARPA’s Vulture program, Boeing pairs Versa Power’s specialized solid state SOFC technology with solar equipment that together serve as the aircraft’s on-board source of electricity. Combining a fuel cell with solar power provides continuous energy, making long-term propulsion and flight operations possible.

During the project’s next phase, Versa Power will engineer and scale up its technology for an SOFC-based energy storage and power generation system to be incorporated in a demonstrator version of the SolarEagle, Boeing’s name for the demonstrator aircraft. It is slated to remain aloft in the upper atmosphere for a minimum of 30 days.

Versa Power’s work to adapt its SOFC fuel cell designs was funded in part under a US Department of Energy initiative to hasten introduction of green technologies enabling solar and wind installations (renewable but intermittent sources of electricity) to produce energy on a continuous basis.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

NASA and Univ. of Colorado form collaborative Sun-Climate Research Center

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and The University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) have formed a new collaborative research center dedicated to the study of the Sun’s effect on Earth’s climate. The center, called the Sun-Climate Research Center (SCRC), will be directed by Robert Cahalan, Head of Goddard’s Climate and Radiation Branch, Douglas Rabin, Head of Goddard’s Solar Physics Laboratory, and Peter Pilewskie, a LASP research scientist and CU professor.

The exciting thing about this collaboration is that we believe it will promote studies to help answer a key question about the climate system: how does Earth’s atmosphere respond to the sun’s variability, and how does that affect climate? This question is particularly important now, as we seek to quantify the human-induced impact on Earth’s climate.

—Peter Pilewskie

The SCRC, which has been made possible by a NASA Space Act Agreement, will foster collaboration between Earth-atmosphere and solar sciences at the two institutions. Opportunities will include a scientist exchange program between the organizations, the ability for post-doctoral scientists and graduate students in science, engineering, and mission operations to move between LASP and Goddard, annual international Sun-Climate research symposia, and the ability for the two institutions to collaborate more fluidly on future research opportunities.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BWI develops lighter, smarter passive dampers; saves 4 kg per car

Global braking and chassis systems specialist BWI Group has developed a new generation of lightweight smart passive dampers for B, C and D-segment vehicles. The application-ready units improve cars’ handling without compromising passengers’ ride comfort and without the need for more expensive, heavier adaptive dampers.

BWI has reduced typical damper weights from 4 kg to 3 kg by using structural plastics instead of metal brackets and spring seats, by varying the wall thickness of the damper tube, and by using hollow piston rods. Click to enlarge.

Efforts to reduce vehicle weights and CO2 emissions are encouraging vehicle dynamics experts to find new ways to maintain the appropriate ratio between sprung and unsprung mass. Reducing the sprung mass without optimizing the unsprung weight can compromise a car’s handling. The market’s shift towards smaller premium cars is also making it important to find ways of improving ride and handling more cost-effectively.

By using structural plastics instead of metal brackets and spring seats, by varying the wall thickness of the damper tube, and by using hollow piston rods, BWI is able to reduce typical damper weight from 4 kg (8.8 lbs) to 3 kg (6.6 lbs). A saving of 4 kg is possible on a typical C-segment car equipped with front and rear McPherson strut suspension, says the company. The addition of smarter valve designs also allows the dampers to deal more effectively with different road conditions, such as pot-holes and speed-bumps and better protect the vehicle structure from large impacts.

The smarter valves in BWI’s dampers produce damping curves that allow the suspension to react differently to inputs of different amplitudes and speeds. On harsh terrain, the valves also help reduce the shocks transmitted to rubber mounts and limit-stops that could otherwise be damaged.

BWI’s combination of design expertise and process innovation is driving the company’s work to reduce mass cost-effectively. Varying the thickness of the damper tube can save 0.25 kg (0.55 lbs) per corner by removing unnecessary material. Near the suspension knuckle, a damper tube’s wall thickness needs to be up to 3 mm to carry bending loads. Higher up, 1.6-1.8 mm is sufficient for closure, spring seat attachment and welding.

BWI’s materials experts are targeting further reductions. The company reports that it is able to produce hollow piston rods with diameters as small 14 mm. Modern high strength steels are also considered for structural components.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Honda unveils new small car prototype

Honda introduced a prototype of Honda BRIO, the new small-sized vehicle developed for Asian markets and scheduled to be introduced in Thailand and India in 2011, at the 27th Thailand International Motor Expo.

The BRIO prototype. (Based on Thai spec.) Click to enlarge.

For the mass-production model, which will be an entry-level car, for which demand is increasing in newly emerging nations, Honda will develop unique versions for Thailand and India to reflect different customer needs in those markets. Moreover, with this vehicle, Honda will leverage the resources Honda has cultivated through its motorcycle business and utilize local sourcing of parts and materials such as sheet steel.

For the Thai model that is scheduled to be introduced in March 2011, the fuel economy of more than 5 liters/100 km (47 mpg US) (ECE R101 mode) will be targeted so that the vehicle will qualify as an eco-car by the Thai government, and a starting price of approximately 400,000 baht (US$13,250) will be targeted as well. For the Indian model that is scheduled to be introduced within 2011, local customer needs for a small car will be reflected and local content will be increased to create a model that achieves a good balance between vehicle performance and price.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NPE working group submits first version of German Standardization Roadmap for Electromobility; focus on charging interfaces, charging stations and battery safety

Timetable for the implementation of the recommendations. Higher priority topics (in red) include safety for charging stations, high voltage wiring, and batteries; and the charging interface. Click to enlarge.

The “Standardization and Certification” working group of Germany’s National Platform for Electromobility (NPE) has submitted its interim report—the “German Standardization Roadmap for Electromobility”—to the Federal Ministries of Economics and Transport. The interim report includes the first recommended actions to ensure a successful launch of electromobility on the market.

The report provides an overview of the existing structures and specifications in the standards landscape and identifies fundamental requirements and recommended actions. The report also identifies the most important requirements for the market introduction of electromobility—charging interface, charging stations and battery safety—in order to contribute to the worldwide breakthrough of electromobility.

A benchmark paper summarizing the standardization roadmap has also been prepared to foster efficient working within European and international committees. It summarizes the requirements of the standardization roadmap and outlines the required boundary conditions, gives concrete recommendations and shows where further action is required by standards organizations. The benchmark paper has already been presented to the European standards and standardization institutes so that standards and standardization can be implemented quickly and transparently.

The working group will also soon publish a document that provides an overview of specifications in the areas of motor vehicle technology and hazardous goods transport.

This working group (WG) is chaired by Michael Dick, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Technical Development. Assisting Dick in this function are two deputies: Roland Bent, Managing Director of Phoenix Contact GmbH & Co. KG, and Dr. Norbert Verweyen, Managing Director of RWE Effizienz GmbH.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched the NPE on 3 May 2010. The objective of this initiative by the German federal government is to turn Germany into the lead market for electromobility and to have one million electric vehicles on the roads of Germany by 2020. Government and the affected industries have resolved to develop a joint approach with customer-oriented and sustainable solutions. Seven working groups were established in pursuit of this objective, including the WG “Standardization and Certification.”


November 30, 2010 in Electric (Battery), Infrastructure, Plug-ins, Policy, Smart charging | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BASF and INEOS to establish a new styrenics JV called Styrolution

BASF SE (Ludwigshafen, Germany) and INEOS Industries Holdings Limited (Lyndhurst, UK) intend to combine their global business activities in styrene monomers (SM), polystyrene (PS), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), styrene-butadiene block copolymers (SBC) and other styrene-based copolymers (SAN, AMSAN, ASA, MABS) as well as copolymer blends into a new joint venture called Styrolution.

ABS (Acrylnitrile-Butadien-Styrene) is a thermoplastic resin, used primarily for aesthetic colorful parts requiring heat and impact resistance, and has automotive applications. Styrene-based copolymers (SAN, AMSAN, ASA, MABS) and blends (ABS/PA, ASA/PA, ASA/PC) are thermoplastic resins mainly used in various technical applications i.e. automotive, garden equipment, tools, appliances and Consumer Electronics, Communications Devices & Computers.

A letter of intent was signed by the two companies on 29 November 2010. The establishment of the joint venture is subject to approval by the appropriate antitrust authorities.

BASF has previously announced that it will carve out its styrenics activities by the end of 2010 and transfer them into separate entities. The carve-out will continue as planned and as of 1 January 2011, BASF’s styrenics activities will operate as a separate company with the name Styrolution. INEOS has also announced that it is to acquire the other 50% shareholding in its 50-50 styrenics joint venture, INEOS NOVA, from NOVA Chemicals. Upon completion of the proposed joint venture with BASF, INEOS will transfer these activities into the new Styrolution group.

Expandable polystyrene is not part of the transaction. BASF and INEOS will retain their expandable polystyrene businesses. The SM/PS capacities in Ludwigshafen used to produce foam will also remain with BASF as well as the SM/PS business of BASF-YPC Co. Ltd., in Nanjing, China.

Based on figures for 2010, Styrolution is expected to generate annual sales of more than €5 billion. Company headquarters will be located in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. 50% of shares of the joint venture will be owned by BASF and 50% by INEOS. BASF will receive cash consideration following the completion of the transaction. The parties did not disclose any further financial details.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cracker Barrel to install 24 Ecotality EV charging systems in select Tennessee locations; Level 2 and Fast Charge

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is becoming a major participant in The EV Project and will install 24 Blink electric vehicle (EV) chargers, provided by ECOtality, Inc., at select locations in “The Tennessee Triangle,” the 425-mile stretch of interstate highway that connects Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. The EV Project, designed to increase the adoption of electric vehicles by creating a solid charging infrastructure across the country, is managed by ECOtality.

Twelve locations will have DC Fast Charging stations, providing an 80% charge in under half an hour; 12 will have the Blink EV L2 chargers. Plans are to start installation of the electric vehicle chargers in the spring of 2011 and to be completed within a few months. Guests will be able to check the Cracker Barrel website to see which locations have installed EV chargers.

In the early days, Cracker Barrel provided food for our guests and fuel for their cars. While we expect that use of the electric chargers will be light during this pilot project, making this available to our guests is consistent with our brand reputation of hospitality, service, and value.

While ownership of electric cars is small compared with traditional vehicles, there’s great curiosity about them, and so we expect our guests will be quite interested in seeing these charging stations when they stop in with us. We like to think that our guests will be pleased to see Cracker Barrel taking an active role in exploring energy alternatives that are aimed at protecting the environment, as well as strengthening our economy. This is a way of showing that Cracker Barrel is focused on the future even as we provide guests with a genuinely hospitable experience reminiscent of times past.”

—Cracker Barrel Chairman and CEO, Michael A. Woodhouse

The original Cracker Barrel locations sold gasoline because founder Danny Evins was an oil “jobber” who wanted to sell more gasoline as well as to offer the food and hospitality he grew up on in rural Tennessee. Fueling pumps were removed in the early 70s during the oil embargo, and Woodhouse sees the new electric car charging stations as being consistent with the company’s roots.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Fiat to provide Opel with Combo successor based on Doblo

The Automobile Sector of the Fiat Group and Adam Opel GmbH signed a contract agreement whereby Fiat will supply vehicles comprising of several variants to Opel commencing December 2011. The model will replace the Opel Combo light commercial vehicle, which reaches the end of its lifecycle in the fourth quarter 2011.

The new vehicles, based on the same platform as the Fiat Doblo models, will be produced at the Tofas plant in Bursa, Turkey where the Doblo is manufactured. They will be sold by Vauxhall and Opel dealers in Europe and other markets outside of North America starting in January 2012.

Opel and Vauxhall will retain the Combo name for this vehicle range which will include a number of derivatives, including cargo vans, passenger vehicles and chassis cabs. The Opel/Vauxhall design team in Rüsselsheim, Germany is actively involved in the development of the new models and works in cooperation with the Fiat Group Automobiles’ Engineering and Design Group in Turin, Italy.

The project calls for an initial supply of up to 6,000 vehicles in 2011. The program is planned to cover the supply of at least 250,000 units. This will extend the total lifetime production of this vehicle platform in the Tofas plant to 1.3 million units. Tofas is a joint venture between Fiat Group Automobile and Koc Holding of Turkey and was established in 1968.

November 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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