More Power to Electric Vehicles

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

In some ways, the car of the future is a blast from the past.

The electric car was invented more than 100 years ago, but was overtaken in the 1930s by petrol-powered autos.

A brief history of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) are getting a second wind as a more sustainable alternative to cars. EVs produce no tailpipe emissions—an important quality because global carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars and freight transport are forecast to double by 2050 according to the International Transport Forum, with cars accounting for the lion’s share.

While the electricity powering EVs may be generated by fossil fuels, it still pollutes about 40% less than regular cars. And that could be cut by shifting toward renewable energy for the electricity EVs use to charge up.

About 180,000 EVs are on the road today, a drop in the ocean compared with the global fleet of over a billion petrol -powered cars, a number expected to grow to three billion by 2050. The Electric Vehicles Initiative, a forum of 16 countries, hopes to get 20 million EVs on the road by 2020, which would represent 2% of total passenger cars.

Electric car in charging

In other words, we’re still a long way from the future.

Why are EVs such a hard sell? The advantage of petrol-powered cars is unlimited range, something that has become inseparable from the essence of “automobile”—this thing that lets you go anywhere, at any time. EV ranges run from 70 to 100 miles (112 to 160 kilometers) on a single charge. Statistics show that 95% of vehicle trips in the U.S. are less than 30 miles and that only 1% of trips are more than 70 miles, so current EV range is plenty for most trips.

People cite worries about having to look for a charging station, or that charging will take longer than topping off the gas tank does. However , EVs have advantages.

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Drivers are accustomed to a routine of filling their gas tanks weekly, even though it’s smelly and, in bad weather, unpleasant. “One of the conveniences of electric vehicles is you plug it in overnight and don’t have to go to the charging station,” says Don Anair, research director of the clean vehicles program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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A range of innovations aims to address some of the technical problems.

  • Better batteries. Consumer electronics such as smartphones have helped drive advances in battery technology, particularly in improving battery life while reducing size. Auto-makers are shifting to lithium-ion batteries, from nickel-metal hydride batteries. However, researchers continue to chase new technologies, such as lithium-air, silicon alloy anodes, lithium metal graphene-anode and other battery combinations. Already, the cost of batteries for plug-in EVs has dropped by half in the past four years, and the size and weight have shrunk 60%.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells. A technology at an early stage of commercialization is EVs powered by hydrogen fuel cells. “It’s a good option for consumers looking for an EV, but who don’t have a place to plug in to charge,” Mr. Anair says.
  • Old mixed with new. The hybrid uses both electricity and petrol fuel, with a growing range of choice. At the mostly-petrol-with-a-little-electricity end of the spectrum, conventional hybrids switch to electric in high-consumption situations like traffic jams, with batteries charged by regenerative braking and the gasoline engine. Plug-in hybrids run on the battery and switch to the internal combustion engine when the battery is out of juice. At the mostly-electric end of the spectrum, an EV with a range extender keeps powering the wheels from the battery while a small gas motor charges the battery enough to run the car farther. A range extender allows for a lighter-weight battery, which helps improve efficiency.

The first battery-powered vehicles with range extenders are on the market. BMW’s electric vehicle, the i3, now has an optional range extender that adds up to 75 miles of driving on a charge. General Motors has added a range extender to the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera.

In the future, consumers will have more choices of low-carbon vehicles to drive,” Mr. Anair says.

  • Lighter vehicles. Reducing weight, whether for EVs or conventional vehicles, improves efficiency. The internal combustion engine burns fuel to make power, but only 25% to 30% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline turns the car’s wheels, while the rest is lost as heat, explains Lawrence Burns, professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan. If the driver weighs 150 pounds (68 kilograms) and the car weighs 3,000 pounds, then only about 1% of the energy is being used to move the driver. “We have to get vehicles more in line with our body weight,” he says.

Lighter materials such as aluminum, carbon fiber, magnesium, composites and steel alloys are gaining favor already, as a way to meet fuel efficiency requirements. Ford’s new F-150 pickup truck , for example, now has an aluminum body, reducing the weight by 700 pounds.

F-150

With nanotechnology, we are able to create new types of materials with new products,” Dr. Burns says.

One reason why consumers shy from lightweight or small vehicles is how they withstand crashes. In the future, connected and driverless vehicles will improve traffic flow and reduce accidents. “We can have cars that don’t crash, so we can get mass out of the car,” Dr. Burns explains.

Connectivity and big data could help in another way: by improving systems for people to share vehicles and to deliver goods more efficiently. A global shift away from cars could save $100 trillion, cut 40% of urban passenger transport emissions and avoid 1.4 million early deaths by 2050, according to a new study.

We not only need to improve the vehicles or fuels, but also to think of the whole transport system and how you can improve services in passenger transport and logistics, making use of information and communications technology,” says Nils-Olof Nylund, research professor at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, which has launched a program to make Finland a model country for sustainable transport by 2020.

In looking at mobility as a service, the goal is to reduce the need for cars and instead increase public transport, walking and biking, he says. Key to public transport are frequency and communication—people don’t like to wait for public transport, especially in bad weather. Knowing exactly when the bus will arrive, thanks to a smartphone app, can eliminate that barrier.

In addition, buses, which run along fixed routes on fixed schedules, are ideal for electrification—charging stations can be located on the routes, Dr. Nylund says.

What I see coming is not one thing but a combination of connected, shared, driverless, tailored vehicles, combined with business models focused on selling miles, trips and experiences, not just cars, gasoline and insurance,” Dr. Burns says. “Technologically, I don’t think there’s anything that stops us from having a dramatically more sustainable transportation system than in the past.”

 

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

Art Cars in the Age of Experience

By Neno

Every year, the most famous endurance race in the world occurs two hundred kilometers southwest of Paris. It upholds the traditions of sportsmanship and the quest for performance: Le Mans 24 Hours. At its 90th anniversary last year, OAK Racing paid tribute to the long history of the event that partly runs on public roads being closed during the race. The renowned Le Mans-based team, specializing in sports prototypes, gave the green light for the creation of an “Art Car” competing in the race and at the same time promoting safety on the race track as well as on public roads.

Anne Asensio and Fernando Costa

Art uniting Ambition

Dassault Systèmes supported OAK Racing by putting its technology and knowledge at the service of design, research, education, culture, and artistic creation, becoming an ambitious player in the cultural sector. All innovation should challenge convictions, ask questions about the past and the future, and step aside from well-trodden paths: that’s why DS partners with artists, for whom questioning and innovation is a driving force.

It was therefore a meeting of minds when Jacques Nicolet, owner of the OAK Racing team approached Dassault Systèmes’ Design Studio for a fascinating project, joining forces with an artist passionate about motor sport, endurance, and especially the Le Mans 24 Hours. This trifold collaboration used design as a bridge between art and performance.

The Artist

Fernando Costa created an art masterpiece, combining the spirit of Le Mans 24 hours race and the focus on road safety. He used his favorite material, recuperated road signs, which he assembled and welded in order to transform a race car into an artistic sculpture.

Costa inserted 1,000 rivets into the carbon chassis of the OAK Racing team’s LM P2 car. Prior to becoming the basis of this art car, this chassis ran Le Mans 24 Hours four times and finished in the top three, in 2008 and 2010. So, one could say that since its inception, this artistic object has been inspired by the history of Le Mans 24 Hours.

Fernando Costa OAK racing art car

Image courtesy of DPPI

The Art Car & The 3DEXPERIENCE

Thanks to the Dassault Systèmes Design Studio, a design team incorporating design thinkers, user experience designers, 3D designers, graphic artists and engineers, the work of art was transferred to the livery of the racing LM P2. After having shot precise pictures of all the road signs composing the Art Car, the team created a flat pattern of the body. Keeping the integrity of the artist’s expression while turning it into a completely flat representation was a real challenge that required both artistic and technical expertise. This difficulty was increased by the Art Car’s curves, which added complex effects according to the perspectives and light situations. Finally, the creation of this virtual livery enabled them to produce an adhesive film with the appropriate reproduction of the sculpture to cover the LM P2’s bodywork. Hexis, a manufacturer of self-adhesive vinyl films and digital printing media for large format inkjet printing, accomplished this part of the contribution.

At the Festival Automobile International 2014, both the real Art Car and its virtual mock-up were displayed together for the first time!

A new era for car design has come

Performing design work on the OAK Racing Art Car project, Dassault Systèmes really wanted to become involved in an approach creating a relationship between Art and Technology. While respecting Costa’s original creation and the sculptural aesthetic, they supplied expertise and creativeness by producing the robe of the Art Car in 3D Mapping, which involved putting material and colors of the original work on the complex surfaces of the racing prototype. This work required a keen sense of observation as well as understanding of the volumes aligned, to sure judgment of the graphic composition and mastery of the numeric tools.

Fernando Costa and Dassault Systemes Design Studio team

Image courtesy of DPPI

As Anne Asensio, Vice President Design Experience of Dassault Systèmes, puts it: “It’s the beginning of the understanding that there’s something beyond styling and design and the collaboration between design, engineering and technology. It’s about a large ecosystem of people providing all the systems together, and Dassault Systèmes is right there.

We can enable any of those stakeholders to create industry-wide solutions. We work for the car industry to give them the best tools to get beyond beautiful cars, to cars that are smart and deliver beautiful benefits for citizens, whether they are living in the city or in the middle of nowhere.

That’s what we call the 3DEXPERIENCE. It spreads from the creative world, with the imagination to see what’s happening, to engineering, simulation and all the way to marketing and sales, and answering how to sell and connect the car to the user.”

The perspectives for the new designers’ generation

Anne Asensio added: “Future generations will get their cars directly through the internet, not the showroom, and the way they will use their car will include things like near-field technology to change their experience.

We want new designers to have this kind of mindset. The younger generation doesn’t have to worry too much; they just need to sell their talents as designers, as they have that digital background. Solutions designed by engineers are going away, to be replaced by a more application and user-friendly design. We have a new type of car designer that is not focused on delivering beautiful skin, they are after experiences and are eager to participate with the car industry.”

Whatever generation you belong to: how would you perceive this mindset change? How do you interpret Anne’s vision about focusing on the user experience as your design priority?

Smart is Beautiful, or the Aesthetics of a Connected Vehicle Experience

By Neno

At this year’s Festival de l’Automobile International (FAI), the contenders for the “Creativ’ Experience” award showed impressive new ways to bring harmony, style and passion to the interfaces of the connected, intelligent vehicle.

Scene

Festival de l'Automobile International

In the 29th edition of the renowned FAI many of today´s automotive design leaders had their latest innovations on the catwalk – in front of the magnificent scenery of the Hôtel National des Invalides in the heart of Paris.

As every year, prestigious awards were waiting to honour outstanding design achievements in categories like the most beautiful car, the most beautiful interior or for achievements for the environment.

Scope

2014 Festival de l'Automobile International - all winners on stage

Dassault Systèmes, a many-year partner of this venue, last year introduced a second “Grand Prix” award for companies doing significant research optimizing the user experience of driving an intelligent car, including the user experience of connecting with its surrounding world. Industry professionals call this approach “creative experience”.

Solutions

Anne Asensio and Pierre Marchadier on FAI 2014 stage

It should be no surprise that most contenders presented solutions around the Human-Machine-Interface. While it looks simple to get information to the car and back to the external world, we find that many user concepts today overstrain drivers who – in contrast to a smartphone user – must not be distracted from driving at any time. In that respect, all present OEMs showed impressive achievements that make functional complexity more simple and safe to use. At the same time, the user interfaces become more intuitive, aesthetic and compelling to explore. Here are some examples we saw at the FAI:

BMW i App

BMW has designed an amazing digital navigation environment integrating the smartphone and cockpit interfaces that invite drivers to discover the many new benefits from electric mobility, and at the same time master the range limitation with multi-modal mobility solutions – that’s cool!

Nissan NISMO watch

NISSAN brings “lifeblood into the driving experience”: NISMO, a beautifully designed arm-watch integrates body data like blood pressure with vehicle information to generate entirely new statistics about driving behaviour.

Amongst such a fabulous competition, it was not an easy win for AUDI, who took the award of the “Creativ’ Experience”, yet a well deserved one for sure: Their “eKurzinfo”, which is a dynamic electronic user manual for the new A3 model, creates an unprecedented user experience: Augmented Reality is helping to discover vehicle functions with handheld devices. Users are provided with an instant and intuitive way to get to know their A3, simply using a marvelously designed app for mobile devices. The jury was impressed how AUDI realised such a smart and seamless digital continuity to ignite emotion and comfort in discovering vehicle functions. Audi A3 users for sure will appreciate this experience too.

AUDI eKurzinfo 01AUDI eKurzinfo 02
AUDI eKurzinfo 03
AUDI eKurzinfo 04

Seeking perfection

These are all brilliant achievements in a moment of time. But how can designers keep up with the ever-increasing complexity and speed of innovation? How can they match with continuously changing tastes and styles, with societal and technological influences all over the globe?

Virtualisation is a key enabler to cope with these challenges. Creating innovation by means of an immersive digital model allows designers to imagine a holistic user experience. Dynamic, three-dimensional views very close to reality help them conceive the physical and emotional outcome of their designs. Moreover, they can even invite the future users to validate the experience at very early stages, and they can incorporate the feedback from these “virtual clinic” multitudes faster than in a physical design environment.

Dassault Systemes My Car Experience - Industry Solution Experience

Dassault Systèmes has recently launched “My Car Experience”, a digital platform for designers on which they can imagine vehicles and “virtual universes” for creating mobility innovation. Along with the 3D-environment, process and data management, this collaborative platform provides capability for “social listening and collaboration”.

Seeking perfection by means of virtual universes will certainly be a key enabler for creating the future of mobility, but in my view nothing can replace some key events in the real world – like the FAI is one – when designers, their creations and the judging client meet for a unique and unrepeatable moment in life.

  • What do you think about designing the future of mobility?
  • How do you think virtual universes can help on this endeavour?

I am looking forward to your comments!  :-)

Neno HorvatNeno Horvat is a member of the Transportation&Mobility Industry team.



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