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Surface Transport Industry News (Automotive, Marine, Rail)


BAE Systems to supply US electric-hybrid bus systems

BAE Systems says the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has ordered 194 electric-hybrid buses using its Series-ER extended range propulsion system. Half BAE's 10,000 system deliveries were made in the past three years. The company is delivering its Series-ER system with a higher capacity battery to help Massachusetts reduce emissions and noise pollution on its transit bus routes. The Series-ER system (which uses electric motors instead of diesel engines to power the buses) builds on the company's technology, which it claims is saving more than 22M gallons of fuel and 250,000 tons of CO2 each year across the globe. The battery is recharged by both an on-board generator set, using a down-sized internal combustion engine and by regenerative energy produced when the bus slows to a stop. By moving to a Series-ER system, a fleet can operate a portion of the day electrically with the engine off, reducing maintenance, idling, fuel use and emissions. Cities such as Nashville are using Series-ER technology to drive battery-electric power near hospitals, schools and in the downtown tourist area, while Boston plans to use the technology for its tunnels.


Hyundai Motor eyes robo taxi pilot in 2021

Hyundai Motor is planning to start pilot operation of robo cabs in South Korea in 2021, according to a report in the Korea Herald. The company is currently in what many view as a modernisation phase and looking to restructure ahead of the big mobility challenges ahead. The newspaper said the firm's Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun said he would seek partnership with leading global companies to develop eco-friendly robo taxis that were both 'safe and innovative'. The report added that Hyundai will deploy its fuel cell electric vehicle Nexo and compact SUV Kona electric for a driverless taxi service in Sejong, a city 120km south of Seoul that is home to major government offices. Hyundai has reportedly been working with US start-up Aurora which develops sensors and software for autonomous vehicles. The two plan to commercialise a level-four self-driving system by 2021, according to the Herald. The report also said that Hyundai Motor will established an 'exclusive mobility service business model' and seek new business opportunities globally by combining its manufacturing capability and service-oriented businesses.


Ford and Volkswagen announce commercial vehicle alliance

As widely expected, Volkswagen and Ford have announced the first formal agreements of broad alliance that will see Ford develop medium pickup trucks for worldwide sale by both automakers, collaboration on vans for Europe and likely partnerships for mobility and electrification. VW CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed jointly the companies would develop commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for global markets beginning as early as 2022. 'The alliance will drive significant scale and efficiencies and enable both companies to share investments in vehicle architectures that deliver distinct capabilities and technologies', they said in a statement. They estimate the commercial van and pickup cooperation 'will yield improved annual pre-tax operating results, starting in 2023'. The pair have signed a memorandum of understanding to 'investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles and have started to explore opportunities'. Both said they were open to considering additional vehicle programmes in the future and will continue working through details in coming months. The alliance, which does not entail cross-ownership between the two companies, will be governed by a joint committee headed by Hackett and Diess and including senior executives from both companies.


AFC Energy develops hydrogen fuel-cell EV charger

Industrial fuel cell power company, AFC Energy has deployed CH2ARGE, an electric vehicle charger based on hydrogen fuel-cell technology. The demonstration of AFC Energy's CH2ARGE system took place at Dunsfold Aerodrome in the UK and saw a BMW i8 recharged with power generated by a hydrogen fuel cell. AFC Energy is preparing for the commercialisation of fuel cell-based EV Charge solutions to meet the growing demand for environmentally friendly power in the EV market. To recharge the future fleet of EVs, the UK National Grid estimates show this will require generation to be increased by 8GW, while calculations by AFC Energy show if one in ten of EVs is being recharged simultaneously the UK's projected 36M cars would have a peak demand surge of 25.7 GW based on an average EV battery of 57 kWh. This maximum peak demand equates to around half the UK current generational requirement and is the equivalent of 7.9 new nuclear power stations or 17,100 wind turbines. CH2ARGE includes AFC Energy's small-scale fuel cell connected to an inverter similar to those used by other major automotive companies at their Electric Vehicle research centres. The inverter transfers energy created by the fuel cell to a charger. The system is supported by a 48V battery pack to assist with peak power demands. The solution can also be tailored for both on and off grid applications and scale up as required.


Tesla axing 3,000 workers as cars too expensive

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has told employees the company will cut about 7% of its workers as its cars are too expensive. The automaker employs around 45,000 people so that will work out at about 3,000. In an email to staff, Musk said Tesla would 'retain only the most critical temps and contractors'. Tesla would need to 'make these cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months. Higher volume and manufacturing design improvements are crucial for Tesla to achieve the economies of scale required to manufacture the standard range (220 mile), standard interior Model 3 at $35,000 and still be a viable company. 'There isn't any other way'. He said 2018's Q3 4% profit was in part the result of preferentially selling higher priced Model 3 variants in North America. 'In Q4, preliminary, unaudited results indicate that we again made a GAAP profit, but less than Q3. This quarter, as with Q3, shipment of higher priced Model 3 variants (this time to Europe and Asia) will hopefully allow us, with great difficulty, effort and some luck, to target a tiny profit. However, starting around May, we will need to deliver at least the mid-range Model 3 variant in all markets, as we need to reach more customers who can afford our vehicles. Moreover, we need to continue making progress towards lower priced variants of Model 3. Right now, our most affordable offering is the mid-range (264 mile) Model 3 with premium sound and interior at $44,000'.


Prodrive's solution to composite recycling

Prodrive Composites has developed a process for manufacturing recyclable composite components that can satisfy future end-of-life requirements without compromising the performance of the original parts. Interviews John McQuilliam FIMMM, Chief Engineer at Prodrive Composites and board member of the British Composites Society, on these developments. Questions included: Could you explain a little more about the type of projects Prodrive Composites is working on; it appears that processes to manufacture carbon fibre have moved faster than those for recycling it - are there still challenges when it comes to end of life recycling of carbon fibre parts; can you envisage cheaper, easier-to-form alternatives to carbon fibre; what new and potential automotive applications are there for composites; is increased structural use of composites is on the horizon; and which automotive applications are the most promising for 'smart materials'?



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Military and Off-highway

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Siemens Alstom merger blocked by European Commission

The European Commission has blocked the proposed merger of Siemens Mobility and Alstom, saying the companies had not offered sufficient remedies to address its concerns about the impact on competition in the signalling and very high speed train markets. 'Siemens and Alstom are both champions in the rail industry', explained Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager when she made the announcement on February 6. 'Without sufficient remedies, this merger would have resulted in higher prices for the signalling systems that keep passengers safe and for the next generations of very high speed trains. The Commission prohibited the merger because the companies were not willing to address our serious competition concerns'. The decision followed an in-depth investigation by the Commission, which had received numerous objections from customers, competitors, industry associations and trade unions, along with negative comments from several national competition authorities. The Commission concluded that the merger would create an 'undisputed' leader in the supply of mainline and urban signalling including ETCS and CBTC, and a 'dominant' player in the market for trains capable of 300 km/h and above in the European Economic Area and the rest of the world, except for South Korea, Japan and China 'which are not open to competition'. Also details responses from Siemens and Alstom.


3D printed components to be tested on passenger trains

Rolling stock leasing company Angel Trains, engineering consultancy ESG Rail and 3D printing technology company Stratasys have collaborated to use additive manufacturing to produce four train interior components meeting the standards required for use on UK rolling stock. The components include an arm rest, a grab handle and seat-back table, which have been approved for use and are to be trialled in service this year. The aim is to produce replacements for obsolete parts, reducing whole-life rolling stock costs and enabling vehicles to remain in service for longer. Operators would be able to produce low-run parts as required, without needing the mass production of large quantities. The parts were printed using Stratasys' fused deposition modelling technology, and structurally assessed by ESG Rail. Standard thermoplastics which have traditionally been used for 3D printing can have poor mechanical properties and fire performance, making them unsuitable for rolling stock applications. However, new materials including the Stratasys Antero 800 NA PEKK-based thermoplastic are capable of complying with UK rail standards. (Item contains no further information.)


IMechE recommends electrification instead of hydrogen trains

Although investment in hydrogen-fuelled trains is a 'vital' part of the process to improve air quality, it must not be seen as an easy replacement for electrification, according to The Future for Hydrogen Trains in the UK, a new report published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The report considers both 'brown' hydrogen made by steam reforming of non-renewable fossil fuels and the currently more expensive 'green' hydrogen produced by electrolysis using renewable electricity. It says 'the overall efficiency of a hydrogen train is about a third that of an electric train', calculating that hydrogen traction requires 3 kW of electricity to deliver 1 kW of power to the wheel while an electric train needs 1-2 kW. This 'undermines the green credentials of hydrogen trains' if non-renewable sources are used; efficiency becomes less important if renewable energy is used. The report concludes that hydrogen should only be used in places where long-term technical environmental and economic factors make electrification a poor option, for example on remote rural routes. It confirms that hydrogen is not suitable for high speed and freight trains, because the fuel requires a large amount of storage space.


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