Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Test-driving Automation in the Tesla Model X

A recent article in The Engineer reviewed a test drive of the new Telsa Model X around London Heathrow airport. It proved an impressive demonstration of automation and driver assistance, fit for every day use.

The technology inside the Model X is identical to the saloon Model S, but housed in an SUV weighing in at 2,467kg. It is classified under international standards as SAELevel 2 driver assistance, which means it can accelerate, brake and steer itself under certain conditions.

This is certainly no easy ride for anyone hoping to catch as snooze on the way to work - the car’s automated brain will shut down if hands are taken off the steering wheel for more than a few seconds. However, Tesla says the car’s hardware is ready for full automation when adequate software calibration (and the perhaps larger barrier of legislation) is adequate.

Automated functions only kick in after 20mph, and there must be white lines on either side of the road for the car’s sensors to lock onto. The car can then position itself on the road, change lanes automatically, and accelerate or brake to the drivers chosen speed, leaving a specified gap between yours and the car in front. All the while, on board computers watch for anyone cutting into your lane.

The Model X’s automation functions through a powerful array of transducers: eight cameras creating 360 degree vision for up to 250m; 12 ultrasonic sensors that can detect both hard and soft objects for up to 5m; a forward facing radar that can penetrate rain and fog; and further yet, it can even bounce signals under the car in front to detect what is happening on the road ahead.

A simple single speed transmission gives drivers the option of forward or reverse, yet it can accelerate 0 - 62MPH in just 3.1 seconds. The range for the Model X on full charge is 250 miles (though the official NEDC figure is 336 miles).

These profound functions are applied modestly in the Model X to achieve a reassuringly normal driving experience. Its proof of concept surely sets a clear direction for the new generation of motorist experience, that will see an increasing degree of automation.

The full article is available at this link

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, March 2017.
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Overhead Lines power Electric Goods Vehicles

New schemes are being developed to help the progress of electric commercial vehicles, both light and heavy.

Scania and Siemens, partnered with the Swedish government will start testing trucks that draw from overhead power lines in 2017. A pantograph mounted behind the cab collects the power from 2km of power lines that stretch from Gavle in Storvik along a single lane section of the E16 north of Stockholm. This technology has been being developed by Siemens for almost 4 years now at a research centre in Germany. Siemens are also trialling a similar system in Los Angeles that will be 3km long. This project is in line with Sweden’s aim to introduce parc of energy efficient and fossil free vehicles by 2030. These trucks would be cheaper, and far better for the environment, but the infrastructure itself is incredibly expensive. To build a route between London and Bristol would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Other companies have instead focussed on improving existing hybrid and electric vehicles to fit the requirements of commercial travel.

MAN are developing a tractor unit, designed for heavy load vehicles where the motor acts as an alternator when the vehicle is coasting or braking. The energy harnessed is stored in a battery and is then used to boost torque on inclines. It is expected to cut fuel by 8%.

The EDIT programme by Renault will also involve a hybrid system that recovers braking energy, in this case the energy, will also supply power to auxiliary equipment, as well as providing occasional engine support.

Japanese manufacturer Fuso is already using hybrids on short haul delivery runs, but is going even further and developing a fully electric version, they are currently trialling the Canter E-Cell 6 metric ton model. Along with a number of companies they are regularly achieved a range of over 100km, and they are expected to save approximately $1072 per 10,000km compared to a diesel model. They take 7 hours to charge, or 1 hour using a rapid charge system.

The French post office, La Poste, are trialling a truck powered by a battery with a hydrogen fuel cell. The fuel cell can supply up to 20kW and the battery supplies whatever is needed additionally. When the vehicle is idle the fuel cell charges the battery and the heat given off by the fuel cell can be used to warm the cab.

These are all just examples of the huge international movement towards zero emission commercial transport.

This is a summary of an article published in Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. You can read the full article HERE

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, November 2016.

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
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Extra-Terrestrial Mining is a Conceivable Reality

The idea of mining materials in space has long been fantasized by science fiction. It would open an immense mineral wealth for use on Earth and space programs. With the new boom in autonomous vehicles and 3D printing technology, extraterrestrial mining may soon become a reality.

Autonomous vehicles (AV's) are already making an impact in the mining sector. In Western Australia’s enormous Pilbara mine, 400 million tons of material has been removed by autonomous trucks. This achieved a 12% productivity increase, along with a 13% reduction in haulage costs thanks to improved efficiency.

Caterpillar, Komatsu, Hitachi and Volvo have all been front-runner’s in the field, pushing forward object detection and anti-collision sensory systems in combination with automated mining functions. One vehicle, Komatsu’s haulage AV, doesn’t even have a driver cab, weighs 400 tons and can travel 64km/h. Hitachi on the other hand, are developing modular automation systems that can be installed to convert non-AV vehicles.

A key efficiency achieved by AV functions is to allow trucks to select more direct and safer paths through mines, without the need for constant communication with traffic control. This is being tested nowhere more than by Volvo in Sweden’s 1300m deep Kristineberg Mine. Here a fully self-driving truck is testing the accuracy of AV systems to limit in some of the harshest condition possible, as yet with great success.

Taking these technologies to space however requires two things; knowing where to go, and getting the equipment up there.

For the first issue, NASA is already trialing an exploratory technology - the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) - that may lead the way. OSIRIS-REx measures visible and near-infrared light reflected and emitted from asteroids, which it then splits into its component wavelengths to determine which materials are present on the asteroid. From this, extraterrestrial mining programs can target where to go.

How to get equipment there, is an issue already being explored by Elon Musk’s Space X. Space X is the company attempting to colonise Mars, and for this pioneering ambition it is developing ginormous rockets that Musk hopes can carry up to 450 tons - large enough for mining equipment.

However, there are companies developing a far lighter weight approach to getting mining equipment in to space. Using a combination of smaller, automated mining equipment and 3D printers, the larger components could be built in space rather than sent in completed format.

A joint project by Planetary Resources and 3D Systems have already printed a complex component using asteroid materials. The component made of iron, nickel and cobalt, was made by melting the raw material under vacuum then gas atomising it into powder, before being printed into shape.

In combination, this new generation of technologies will revolutionise space program’s longevity and achievement through a new-found abundance of extraterrestrial materials.

This is a summary of an article that appeared in iVT International, November 2016. To read the full article see HERE

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

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org
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Electric Vehicle Batteries are Reshaping Home Energy Storage

With the rise of the electric vehicle (EV), more EV batteries are entering the recycling stream once they have passed their peak on-road usability. Fortunately, even in their second-life they still have a massive utility as energy storage for buildings. Scarcely appreciated is just how much power EV batteries hold, with one alone being enough to run several homes.

Energy storage has become a major policy and commercial objective. Most prominently, it is a central challenge to renewable energy’s success, to capture and hold energy produced when the sun is bright and the wind is strong, for when production is low. But it is not only renewables that are driving an increased interest in energy storage - smart energy metering is allowing more dynamic electricity usage to correspond with peak and troughs of grid prices.

Most popularly capitalising on the rising demand for energy storage is Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack products. In Japan, however, households have used storage batteries for years, where the model has proved its utility during the blackouts following the Tohoku tsunami and earthquake.

A partnership between Nissan and power management specialist Eaton has developed a storage technology called XStorage off the back of the Nissan Leaf - the most popular EV in the world to date. With older Nissan Leaf batteries now passing their peak operation, XStorage recycles these batteries by stripping and reconditioning the cells. The cells are then repacked as modules with a battery management system.

The battery management system controls the loading of electricity to a building from multiple sources, such as from the grid, renewables, or another battery (such as an EV sat in the drive way). It then charges and discharges the battery based on the buildings usage.

XStorage is already being applied on a large scale at the Amsterdam Arena, using the equivalent of 280 Nissan Leaf batteries to provide 4MW of power and 4MWh of storage capacity. This large storage facility will provide a buffer during peak energy consumption, that is projected to achieve a return on the €2.5m investment within 10 years. A 4.2kWh home unit is available for £3,200.

With the storage market growing rapidly thanks to renewables and smart energy management, a question is raised about how EVs should be integrated. Cardiff University’s Dr Nieuwenhuis explains how EV manufacturers should embrace the cross over between EV and energy storage in their business models, by improving modular battery replacement and recycling.

Nieuwenhuis takes this point further in recognising that continued improvements in bodywork and component materials are increasing the lifespan of cars - namely by the use of more carbon fibre and aluminium. Electric vehicles should therefore be as modular as possible to allow upgrades of faster wearing parts.

The application of EV batteries for both transport and energy storage is a clear indication of a new wave of integrated technologies. With the right business model and inter-industry cooperation, EVs can be placed at the centre of the rising tide of the internet of things - a world of data connected smart appliances.

This is a summary of an article in The Engineer, January 2017. To read the full article follow this link

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

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
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A step closer to Graphene Car Bodies

At the ‘Science in the City’ festival in Manchester, BAC, a Liverpool-based car manufacturer partnered with Haydale Composite Solutions to present the first vehicle in the world to utilise graphene.

Graphene is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel but considerably lighter. It is made of many carbon sheets, each only one atom thick. Graphene has been theorized about for years, and small samples have been observed, but it wasn’t until 2004 that graphene was officially rediscovered, isolated and characterized by a researcher at the University of Manchester.

The component in the car that uses graphene is the rear wheel arches. These components were chosen as their complexity allowed the material to be thoroughly tested and explored within the manufacturing process. Test of the new vehicle showed considerable improvement in the thermal and impact performance.

This is a summary of an article from The Manufacturer. Read the full article here

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, November 2016.

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org
To sign up for the Engineering STEM newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html

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Computer Assisted Driving with KIA cars

At CES 2016 Kia allowed a group of journalists to test drive the Autonomous Soul EV tech generator for the first time. Kia are aiming to launch partially automated vehicles by 2020, and fully automated by 2030.

The Autonomous Soul EV has many exciting self-driving features, it can park itself, has integrated technology for handling several different real life traffic scenarios, and perhaps most interesting, can use facial recognition software to detect if there is something wrong with the driver, and then can phone the emergency services, and even follow the ambulance to the hospital.

Seo Ho Choi is the head of the human-machine interface department, and he says that most self-driving vehicles will be electric, as by the time the technology is fully developed electric cars will be far more common on our roads. He also emphasises that the technology for automated cars is still in its infancy, and there is a lot of work to be done before they are ready for the general public.

The work to be done before self-driving cars are ready for the roads is not just technology based. Currently people simply do not trust self-driving cars. Any report of a self-driving car malfunction resulting in a crash reinforces current public opinion that self-driving cars are simply not safe, despite the fact that car crashes on non-automated cars happen every day. There is also the question of where the fault lies if there is a crash involving a car which was employing automated driving features at the time. Choi argues that the public needs to accept that sometimes crashes will happen with automated cars, as with non-automated cars, but that this does not make them dangerous or unusable.

This is a summary of an article published in Electric and Hybrid Vehicle TechnologyInternational. The full article can be read HERE

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, November 2016.

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org  
To sign up for the Engineering STEM newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html
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