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Posted by: Charles Ng | 20/05/2009

Electric Car in-wheel motor Siemens eCorner

Learn more about EVshttp://electric-vehicles-ca…Ferdinand Porsche put wheel motors on a battery electric car in 1897. They built about 300 of them and there were 4WD & FWD versions. He also ma…

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Posted by: Charles Ng | 20/05/2009

Electric Car In Wheel Motor System

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Lithium Sulfur

The main obstacle to the mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is often said to be the current range limitations of battery technology. What if the energy density of batteries, and therefore the range of EVs, could be increased by 500 percent? Although we’ve not heard much about it for some time, a couple recent developments have led us to ponder the possibilities of energy storage with a lithium sulfur (Li-S) battery.

Read more here Could a lithium sulfur be the next big battery breakthrough?

Lithium-Air Battery


Researchers in the UK are developing a rechargeable lithium-air battery that could deliver a ten-fold increase in energy capacity compared to that of currently available lithium-ion cells. The research work, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is being led by researchers at the University of St Andrews with partners at Strathclyde and Newcastle.

Read more about Lithium-air battery story here Green Car Congress: UK Researchers Developing Rechargeable Lithium-Air Battery; Up to 10X the Capacity of Current Li-ion Cells

Posted by: Charles Ng | 18/05/2009

People’s study – Priority

I have done people study over three weeks period. The purpose of the study is to find out what people really want in the future. I have gone with the approach of trying to find what people’s priorities are when it comes to choosing a vehicle. I did this by requiring them to list out the things they like and dislike out of their cars. From the information received, I could then group the answers into 5 different categories and compare them to get a general statistic of the priorities. These categories are Exterior or car, Interior of car, Cost Efficiency, Car Features and also Speed Performance. The car features include small little things that the car offer such as safety features, music player, automatic controls, roof opening, etc. Everything else is pretty much self explanatory.

The surveys are constructed also to find out the target audience needs of the car such as luggage space, passenger seats, also size of the car. These are some interesting things that I picked up during the people study done through interviews and surveys:

GRAPH - Like Dislike
The highest priority of people is Cost and Efficiency. This is shown in the graph I generated according to the results of the surveys. 30.44% of the answers I received out of the 40 people who filled the surveys are related to cost and efficiency. 13.77% of the answers are actually stating the customers are happy with their car’s efficiency.

However on the other hand, 16.67% of the answers state the opposite. The main complaints of people who have cost issues with their cars are:
– The petrol is costing too much.
– The car requires servicing quite often and the cost of the service is expensive.
– The car parts are expensive when you need to replace them.
– On top of all those costs, they still need to pay for car insurance and registration.

The second highest priority is the Exterior of the car. The answers shown in the survey reach to a conclusion that:
– More people are moving to small and more compact vehicles and they actually like the fact that their cars are compact.
– A few people actually want small cars because of the fact that they are easier to drive and park. This is a very interesting point because not only small cars are easier to drive and park but they also reduce congestion on the road. Less congestion means less traffic and also more parking space.
– Some people are happy with how their car looks but they do not really like the fact that the car gets dirty. This shows that quite a lot of people do not enjoy washing their cars and this could mean two things. First, the people actually do not see the interaction with their cars as an enjoyable activity and they see their cars just as a utility to take them from A to B. Second, It could also mean that they enjoy the interaction but they do not have the time to do the car washing due to their other priorities. Whichever reason, the interaction of people and cars should be more enjoyable to make more people want to buy a certain car.

Car features apply to 22.37% of overall answers. People are aware of the features they have in the car and in fact it plays quite a big part in affecting people’s decision in buying cars. Whereas, the Speed and Performance is the lowest priority when people buy cars. Only 9% of the overall answers are speed and performance related answers. I personally think, most people who filled the surveys are looking for practicality and they do not wish to own a super performance car that is capable of going faster than the speed limit we have in this country especially knowing that faster cars will cost a lot more money to run. This result adds strength and validity to the statement that Cost and Efficiency is the highest priority of people in buying cars.

Belongings Carried Most of the Time
In terms of luggage space, the 82.1% which is a big number of the audience only carry a little bit of belongings with them most of the time. This is a very interesting thing since quite a big amount of space in a car is usually dedicated to space where you can put your belongings. If this space is smaller or can be taken away when not needed, it will contribute quite a lot to car efficiency and footprint of the car since the size of the car can be a lot smaller. The same thing applies to passenger seats as the survey shows 80% of the people usually travel carrying one or no passenger most of the time.

30.44% is the biggest number compared to the other priorities. This proves quite a lot of people have problems with the cost of the having cars and I personally think the number will increase especially during the financial crisis we are facing today. This is showing that more focus has to be put into the car’s cost and efficiency. This can be done in a lot of ways. For example, by having the car running fully on electricity there will be less need of servicing since there will be less moving parts in electric cars. By reducing the size or weight of the car, it will also increase the efficiency since less energy is required to transport the vehicle itself. These two are just some examples of many ways we could design the future vehicles.

Posted by: Charles Ng | 14/05/2009

Future Prediction-draft1

In the near future, sustainability will even be a bigger trend that people actually want to contribute to it. The number of small cars will increase in comparison with the bigger cars.  This is not only due to the amount of energy large cars required to run, it is also because people want a cheaper, convenient and easy-to-drive cars. The energy source of the future in my opinion will be battery powered electric vehicles because of its many advantages over other energy sources. More people will move away from high performance speed car because they just want to get from A to B safely, comfortably and efficiently.

The market for small size cars will soar in the near future due to the change of people’s thinking. They will go for small cars because they want to contribute to the environment. Small cars have many advantages compared to big cars. They are easier to park, they lessen congestion and they are cheaper and more efficient to run. The problem that often comes up is that small cars do not have the capacity of carrying many people or goods.

In the future, the size of the car will be smaller due to the emerging technology which becomes more and more compact. Therefore eliminating the large space needed to accommodate conventional technologies. Furthermore, the space needed inside the car will be less since 70% of the people who did the survey that I constructed actually only carry 2 passengers at once most of the time. Also 82.1% of them only carry a little belonging. This fact brings up possibility of having a folding/ detachable seats or cargo which can be detached off the vehicle when not used to increase efficiency.

The number of vehicles with conventional motors will be less now that we have in-wheel-motor technology. This is a technology where the motors are put in the wheel which eliminates the needs of gearing and mechanical drive train. By using the space in the wheels, it also gives more space in the car which is great when you try to design a small car. Having more space also means there can be lots of improvement on safety feature of a car which would not have been allowed when conventional engine and motor existed.

In terms of fuel resources, the battery power is looking quite promising as it can accommodate the range needed for most of the drivers we have today. Other than that, advantages of electric cars would be:
– It needs less servicing since there is less moving parts and that mitigates the chance of parts wearing out.
– Cleaner to handle as no oil is needed.
– With the regenerative brake system, the battery receives some energy which otherwise would have been wasted and also it extends longer brake life.
– When charged using renewable energy, it is absolutely a zero emission vehicle to run.
– Batteries flexibility to be distributed throughout a car makes the design more flexible. This flexibility will affect creativity which will affect the look of the vehicle itself.

Fast cars with high horse power have always been some people’s aspiration however in the future, more and more people will move away from this. Not saying that fast cars will despised but being able to travel fast will not be people’s priority when buying cars. People just want to get from A to B safely, comfortably and cheaply.

The Exterior look of the car will still be a huge driving factor when people choose car. It will depend what kind of look a particular person like but I can assure that more exploration and creativity would be possible when the development of battery or hydrogen power is taken further. The technology will be more forgiving in terms of its size which will result in more free space to design around. This will be happening when MORE people starting moving from petrol to more renewable resources.

People will be travelling in short trips, therefore eliminating the need of constant refueling of energy. A facility of where people can swap their almost empty battery with fully recharged one under a few minutes would be provided only for people with long distance travel need. Otherwise, people will be recharging their electric vehicles from house power socket.

Due to oil crisis and also the electric vehicle’s improvements, petrol will no longer be the main source of energy for transportation. People will move to smaller cars due to its advantages over big sized cars however, the look also plays a big part when choosing cars.

Posted by: Charles Ng | 14/05/2009

Better Place Battery Switch Technology Demonstration

I just had this thought a few days ago about battery swapping facility and found this video. It already exists! The idea behind this kind of facility is that customers who need to travel longer would not have to worry about battery recharging time. This sounds great. But it has the same problem as hydrogen fuels as it will need a lot of infrastructure related work to be done. Also,would there be different facility for each car models? or would that mean all the cars in the future will have to be using the same battery, platform and packaging?

Maybe the future cars will all look the same. Imagine having everyone driving the same car. Where people get down to the basic reason of buying cars which is to get from A to B.

If that was the case, I think in the future, this would be the way transportation is. Not everyone travels in long distances. A lot of people commute everyday just to get to work and back home therefore not needing to use this facility. Recharging can be done at home from the wall power socket. This facility will be used by people who really need to use it.

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Posted by: Charles Ng | 11/05/2009

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle explained

These three videos show how a Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle operates, what the advantages and disadvantages are, and also what components are required for the vehicle to run. I think one of the main disadvantages of this type of vehicle is that it still has many different components which take up a lot of the car space and add up so much weight to it. These components include Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Tanks, battery packs, Power Control unit and also the Motor to move the car.

Another disadvantages is that hydrogen has to be produced as it does not come naturally and to produce it, a lot of electricity would be required. This will lead to the original problem of CO2 emission produced by internal combustion engine. This problem could only be solved if the renewable resources like the wind and solar power alone could produce enough electricity to accommodate our electricity needs. Another way would be to not use that much electricity.

If it uses electricity to produce Hydrogen which will be fed to the fuel cell to produce electricity, why not just use the electricity needed in the first place to run the motor? I guess this is when Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is a better option to a electric vehicle which is powered by battery. Hydrogen vehicle is better in terms of power availability when it is urgently needed. Even though there are not many hydrogen powered station just yet, refueling a hydrogen vehicle is a lot faster than recharging battery on electric vehicle.

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Posted by: Charles Ng | 11/05/2009

Aesthetic study – BMW Bangle Era

Like many other, BMW is one of my favourite car manufacturers. It always attracts my eyes whenever one goes down the road. I have decided to do an analysis on BMW aesthetic and this aesthetic study intends to understand how BMW designed their cars in the past and what design language they use.

The study will focus mainly on BMW cars developed by design team led by Chris Bangle, a powerful man who took BMW design to a whole new level. During the ‘Bangle’ era, the team developed a design language which introduces a term called ‘Flame Surfacing’. This style means designing cars whose surfaces depict “shapes inspired by the flow of flames, such as those from the burning of gas under pressure”. Although they were not particularly designed by Chris Bangle, he was responsible for the design direction of the cars. There have been a lot of controversy around his vision of car design which is quite different from what other people have imagined. However, his strong belief of the new BMW design language has saved BMW from the ‘culture’ of designing the same old contemporary cars.

Moving to the analysis, the cars I have chosen are 1 series, 3 series, 5 series, z4 and also Gina. I understand they are different cars designed for different types of audience. However, I would like to gather up similarities of the cars I have chosen to conclude what makes these cars BMW cars.

BMW comparison

(Click image to show animated image about the study in larger detail)

These are the main things I picked up from this study:

BMW grille evolution copy
– The signature Kidney Grille is the feature that stand out the most distinguishing BMW from any other car manufacturers. That is also the reason why they still keep them.

BMW hofmeister kink
– There are more design elements which BMW decided to keep other than the kidney grilles. The DLO (Day Light Opening) shape of 1,3 and 5 series incorporate the Hofmeister kink feature (a small cutout of the rear of the side window panels) which was popularised by Wilhelm Hofmeister-who used to be the Director of BMW design- on the 1961 BMW 1500. This feature is often copied by many other car manufacturers today.

– There are overlapping lines which allow catchy-complex convex and concave surfaces to be produced. This kind of surface treatment is beautiful because it is visually stimulating to see how such complex surfaces can still create such elegant and emotional shape.

– All the cars have flat vertical surface on the side of the fender.

side continous lines
– The lines when viewed from the side profile are very curvy, organic and continuous along the side of the cars. The lines are also emotional and very dynamic to give the car ‘movement’ even when they are stationary. They also make the car look very sleek.

– The shoulder line on the cars are very bold and dynamic due to the sharp crease. The sharp creases are also applied to the surfaces to create tension and beauty at the same time.

vanisihing line
– The twisting of surfaces which is part of the flame surfacing technique creates a very interesting visual effect. This effect involves the transition between convex and concave surface shown when the shoulder lines which is very tight line often appear to vanish and mold itself into the surface.

– The Gina concept have identical proportion and character lines to z4. They both have proportion of a roadster. The difference is they used different materials and also Gina’s surfaces are a lot more tighter due to its fabric material.

Words that could be used to describe BMW design language:
– Flow
– Tension
– Continuous
– Emotional
– Organic
– Agile
– Dynamic

BMW can be considered as the leader in automotive industry today. Their success in designing cars can be a reward for all the risk, innovation and hard work Chris Bangle has led the design team through.

Posted by: Charles Ng | 09/05/2009

BMW Design Talk: is Modesty the new Luxury?

BMW Design Talk: is Modesty the new Luxury?

A few artists and designers from different disciplines talk about how the present crisis will influence design. This is very relevant to the project we are doing since it talks about predicting the future. The ideas of customer’s priorities in terms of what kind of car they want in the future is kind of similar ideas to what I was trying to find out in the questionnaires activity I did. I re-analyze the results and post the conclusion up soon. They also talk about beauty and aesthetic which has to be included in sustainable products and ideas.

BMW Design Talk: is Modesty the new Luxury? - Image Gallery
The term ” “Sustaethics” is used as a reference within which Adrian van Hooydonk creates new form.”

“As car designers we necessarily need to think in terms of extended product cycles and long-term trends. Presently, we are working on concepts that are three, five and even more years down the line, by then the crisis might be long overcome. Certainly, the present situation has taught us to eliminate the superfluous.”

“A combination of aesthetics and sustainability in my work might also mean looking to aerodynamics again.”

“People are reassessing their priorities. As they are think about what kind of car they want they are also looking for intelligent solutions. It will be up to us as designers to combine the power and precision traditionally associated with BMW with these evolving values”

Adrian van Hooydonk, director of design for BMW group.

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