Here at Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, we're so enthusiastic about the future of motoring that we spend each month scouring the Internet for articles about electric and autonomous vehicle technology that you might have missed.
Here's our reading list for the past month:
- Did you hear about the ‘world’s first electric road’? It has been constructed in Sweden, naturally, along a two-kilometre strip of existing motorway. What happens is that overhead power lines feed electricity to specially adapted trucks. Or, as Commercial Fleet magazine puts it, ‘The truck receives electrical power from a pantograph power collector that is mounted on the frame behind its cab… The pantographs are in turn connected to overhead power lines that are above the right-hand lane of the road, and the trucks can freely connect to and disconnect from the overhead wires while in motion.’ It is perhaps not the most elegant method of clean motoring, having wires everywhere. But it suggests how some engineers are thinking around the issues of charging and range: by having the electricity always there.
- But it’s not just Sweden that is keen on electric vehicles. Leicester is too. The city’s council has recently traded in some of its old diesel fleet for a bunch of new, ultra-low emission Nissan Leafs. It’s a move that, no doubt, other councils will follow. Not only are local politicians rather obliged to protect their local air quality, but there are financial incentives too. As the Leicester Mercury reports, ‘each vehicle will save around £1,000 per year in running costs compared to the older diesel models they are replacing.’
- Speaking of politics, the centre-right think-tank Bright Blue has started a campaign to give all English cities the power to introduce their own low emission zones. We know that London has its own zone coming, and the Government has revealed plans for similar zones in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton – but what about the rest of the country? In Bright Blue’s words: ‘We call on the Government to establish a network of low emission zones across England by enabling all city councils to introduce them where air pollution is occurring.’ You can expect this to become a theme of this Parliament, as it joins together two particularly hot topics: clean air and devolution.
- The tech website Recode recently published its ‘complete timeline to self-driving cars’. It begins in the here and now: ‘Today's most advanced semi-autonomous features can be found in Teslas and a few other cars that allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel on a highway.’ But it looks forward all the way to 2050: ‘There will be no street parking, just parking garages outside of city centres. And traffic signs and infrastructure may disappear — replaced with smaller, cheaper equipment that only needs to communicate with cars.’
- And on a slightly more sinister note, Bloomberg’s David Welch enumerated some of the ways in which new cars are reading their drivers: ‘Fire up a new model and it updates more than 100,000 data points, including rather personal details like the front-seat passenger’s weight.’ And a war is being fought over this data. As one of Welch’s sources tells him, ‘Everyone is trying to control the screens in the car... There is tremendous value in the data, and they are trying to figure out how to get it.’
Look out for our next round-up at the end of August!