Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Smith Electric Vehicles re-launch Zero-emission Commercial Vehicles

Smith Electric Vehicles are a little-known company from the North-East of England that has an extensive history of electric vehicle production. For over 70 years the company has been developing electric milk floats and lighter weight vehicles. In the early 2000's the company made a launch into commercial vehicles (CV's), and may set a new standard for electric CV's - while bolstering a homegrown industry.

Though unfortunately Smith Electric had to pause its operations in 2014 due to low market demand (a consequence of being an early innovator), with market demand for EV's now steadily growing, it is developing a strategy for a strong comeback.

Smith Electric says the fully electric, zero emission CV's are best suited to inner city, localised operations, where emission zone fees are highest, and the journey distances can easily be met by battery range. The company’s two main product lines, the Newton and the Edison, come in a range of sizes, from 7.5 tons to 12 tons.

Their current battery ranges are between 30 and 120 miles, depending on the battery chosen and route requirements. One down side is charge times can be as long as 8 hours for larger batteries.

Smith have been able to optimise battery range by drawing on extensive data it has collected through its many years of operation. With over 13 million miles covered by their trucks, global sales manager David West claims; “Nobody has more expertise, more trucks, or more mileage.” Every component on a Smith vehicle was designed and developed by the company, achieving a highly-integrated design.

Smith offers a prior assessment service with which they record and analyse a customer’s typical duty cycle and conditions, to then match the optimal size and type of battery for their needs. In doing so they ensure no unnecessary weight is added while matching capacity.

The company is preparing an innovative production model with decentralised, local manufacturing hangars in European centres where it intends to do business.

This local assembly model has two key benefits. First, the components for trucks are sent un-assembled from the US greatly reducing their size in shipping. As Freight in the City Magazine reports; ‘The new hangars will enable one container to ship out enough components to build 20 vehicles at a local destination’, achieving financial and carbon savings.

The local hangar approach also means the skills and facilities for repair services become embedded in the local area, which not only improves customer experience and trust, but contributes to regional industrial development. Smith hangars are planned for the North-East, London, Norway (where the EV market is expected to boom thanks to legislation requiring all vehicles to be emission free by 2020), Sweden and Denmark.

Adoption of Smith trucks and other E-CV's is getting a helping hand from the government’s Plug-in Van Grant, that provides a 20% discount on new purchases - bringing Smith’s £96,000 trucks to less than £75,000.

As of February 2017, due to funding issues the company is still waiting to launch its new strategy, but they remain confident that demand is nearly sufficient, with an expected launch sometime during 2017.

A widespread uptake of electric commercial goods vehicles will surely be welcomed by all urban residents, with these large diesel engines being some of the largest contributors to urban air pollution.

This is a summary of an article in Freight in the City, November 2016.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, April 2017.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Autonomous Prototypes are Hard at Work

As the push towards cleaner energy vehicles continues across Europe, with low emission zones that ban polluting road vehicles in use across many European cities, and likely to spread to include off highway vehicles as well, the question must be asked; can technology keep up?

Dr. Mark Settler has used data from 1400 vehicles to try and answer this question. Considering mainly the question of combustion engines, Settler argues that while in rural areas, as diesel engines are significantly more efficient, standards can be met. However, there is an additional challenge in urban areas as diesel emissions, while better for the environment, are worse for human health. This challenge must result in a push towards electric and hybrid vehicles in highly populated areas.

Dr Peter Harrop argues that a push towards electric vehicles is best in all areas, with the end goal of totally energy independent vehicles. In China, a technology company has developed four totally solar panelled cars, and contactless charging of electric vehicles may be closer than we think. Many have also had the idea of swarms of smaller vehicles performing tasks that would traditionally be done by one vehicle, an idea that could be made possible by autonomous technology. Harrop doesn’t argue that all these changes will come all at once however, he instead suggests that by gradual developments in sophisticated electrical components.

As governments are starting to increasingly take note of the dangers of diesel engines, it is imperative that companies start to move towards alternative technologies now, as sudden changes in legislation can cripple companies if they are not adequately prepared.

This is reproduced from an article in iVT International magazine. For the full details see THIS link.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, July 2017.

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UPS begins testing Hydrogen fuel-cell Delivery Truck

The first prototype of a fuel cell delivery truck from UPS is to be deployed in Sacramento this year. The truck contains a hydrogen cell powered power train, with converts compressed hydrogen gas to electricity, powering a 45kWh battery which runs on 10kg of hydrogen fuel.

Some other hydrogen powered vehicles use other energy to power some features, whereas hydrogen totally powers this truck. This move is just the next in a long line of developments that attempt to reduce emissions from delivery vehicles; the only by-product of these vehicles being water.

The vehicle will be deployed alongside additional trucks, in the California area, as this is the only place with enough existing hydrogen infrastructure. The trucks will need to be refuelled roughly every 125 miles.

The project was partially funded with a 2013 grant from the Department of Energy, which focuses on hydrogen fuel-cell technology in commercial delivery vehicles.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, July 2017, and is a summary of an article from CNET. The full article can be read HERE:

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Focus on Engineering "Habits of Mind" to Produce more Engineers

A recent study from the Royal Society of Engineers with TES has found that a less discipline bound method of teaching could be essential for equipping students with the skills necessary to succeed in engineering. Engineering makes up 20% of the UK’s gross value and is currently facing a massive skill drain, with not enough students going on to study at a higher level.

The study found that rather than the traditional model of focusing on STEM subjects: science, technology, English, and maths, to encourage budding engineers, a different model, STEAM which includes a focus on art and design subjects is needed as well.

It identifies that the way to develop the “habits of mind” which are needed by engineers, and include problem solving, visualising, and adapting, is to move away from strict disciplinary style teaching and instead use exercises involving playful experimenting and engagement with engineers.

This is a summary of an article from tes. The full article can be found HERE:

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, July 2017.
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Friday, 23 June 2017

Hydrogen Trains on Trial

Alstom has run the first tests of its Coradia iLint passenger train, claimed to be the first in the world to be run on electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell. The test, which took place at the company’s test track in Lower Saxony, Germany, saw the train running at 80km/h.  The test marked the start of 4 weeks of iLint trials, which will check stability of the energy supply system and the interface between the electric and pneumatic brake systems.

Alstom claim the train uses innovative clean energy conversion, flexible battery storage, and smart management of traction power.  While the trial is running on hydrogen produced as a by-product of industrial processes, the long-term plan is to generate hydrogen from wind power.

Further tests in the Czech Republic will see the train running at its full-service speed of 140km/h

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Autonomous Refuse Trucks debut in the UK

Volvo Group has debuted an autonomous Refuse Truck to help speed up delivery and improve safety and environmental concerns.

Developed in collaboration with recycling firm Renova, the truck is driven manually the first time to ‘learn’ the route with the help of sensors and GPS. Thereafter, on entering a mapped area the next time, it knows which route to follow and at which bins it needs to stop.

At the first stop, with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it as normal. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon the driver’s command.
The driver walks the same route as the truck to have a full view of what is happening in the direction of travel. Reversing, rather than driving forwards, enables the driver to remain closer to the compactor during collections.
Volvo said the self-driving truck aims to reduce the risks associated with reversing an HGV in urban areas, even when fitted with cameras. Sensors continuously monitor the vehicle’s vicinity and the truck stops immediately if an obstacle suddenly appears in its path, or if the driver activates the emergency stop function.
This is reproduced from an article in Motor Transport magazine. For the full details see THIS item.

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Solar Power opportunity for UK Rail

A new collaboration between Imperial College London, UK charity 10:10, Turbo Power Systems, Community Energy South, and Energy Futures Lab is becoming the first in the world to investigate the possibility of fixing solar panels directly to train tracks to provide electricity. The project is funded through the Innovate UK Game Changers Programme.

The Renewable Traction Power Project is first going to focus on the possibility of adapting the existing third rail system, which involve a power line close to the ground. This system is currently used on one third of the UK's tracks, and the system should be relatively easy to adapt to using solar panels. With network rail investing billions of pounds into electrifying the UK's train lines, researchers predict a massive cut in the carbon footprint of the rail system by 2050.

This is a summary of an article from Energy Live News, read the full article HERE

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, March 2017.

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