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Surface Transport Industry News (Automotive, Marine, Rail)


Flexible energy options needed for EV growth - reports

Flexible energy options, such as energy storage, smart-charging electric vehicles, demand response and interconnectors, are needed to ensure that the energy transition proceeds on an optimal path, according to two new reports from BloombergNEF in partnership with Eaton and Statkraft. The four types of flexibility can accelerate the transition to a cleaner power system and ultimately enable the efficient integration of 80% or more renewable energy by 2040, the reports claim. The Flexibility Solutions for High-Renewable Energy Systems reports model a number of alternative scenarios for future power systems in the UK and Germany, respectively, depending on how each flexibility technology might develop in the coming years. Energy storage and smart electric vehicle charging provide flexibility by moving large volumes of renewable energy to periods of high demand, or moving demand to periods of high renewable generation. Dispatchable demand response reduces the need for fossil-fired backup plants in the power system, reducing emissions. Interconnecting to Nordic hydro can address periods of both excess supply and excess demand, providing different benefits over the decades as the needs of the system evolve. The two studies - focused on the UK and Germany - highlight that policies and regulation accelerating the adoption of these technologies are key to make a cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient power system possible.


Daimler uses organo panels in new SUV

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz is using organo panels in the main front end member of the redesigned, US-built GLE SUV, noting it's the first time it has used this innovative material for such a large and visible component. Organo panelling provides an alternative to sheet metal panels and consists of fibre-reinforced plastic panels. After heating in a press, these panels are formed into three-dimensional components via a process which involves very short cycle times. The fibre reinforcement endows organo panels with very good mechanical properties, such as rigidity and strength, combined with only a fraction of the weight of their sheet metal counterparts. The thermoplastic plastic matrix offers another advantage. An injection moulding process follows in a second, integrated production step, in the course of which ribs, mountings, and any other required items are added. This takes place in the same tool in which the organo panel was formed. The organo panelling of the GLE can be permanently fused to adjacent parts made of polypropylene. Only butt-welding was possible previously, with the risk of fractures. Use of the sandwich construction principle means that fewer components are needed overall, as air ducts and sleeves for bolt-on components are directly integrated. As organo panels do not corrode, they do not need to be painted. The front end member made of organo panels is around 30% lighter than a conventional design.


BMZ sets course for battery cell production in Germany

The BMZ Group (Karlstein, Germany), which claims to be Europe's largest manufacturer of lithium-ion battery systems, has acquired a majority stake in the TerraE consortium co-founded by BMZ. The aim of the measure is to establish the first cell production facility in Germany by 2020. Previously, the industry in Germany had limited itself to the production of battery systems (stacks) and left cell production to the dominating Asian companies. In addition to the €120M that BMZ is already investing in the expansion of production lines for battery systems, the company also plans to establish cell production in Germany. In this way, the company wants to serve the European manufacturers of electric vehicles, which will be launched on the market from 2019. In the course of the majority takeover of TerraE, BMZ is prepared to make an investment of €300M in the first expansion stage of the planned cell production. This expansion stage will have a capacity of 4GWh. In the medium term, the company plans to expand its production capacity to 8GWh. The Fab4Lib consortium, led by TerraE-Holding and comprising 19 European companies and institutes, will be continued with all partners. As planned, Fab4Lib will deliver competitive lithium-ion technology production results in 2019, which will directly feed into mass production of battery cells. The funding project is also maintaining talks with several German states regarding a location decision.


Nuclear fusion testing facility eyes autonomous vehicles industry

Reports on a visit to the UK centre for fusion research, the Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham in Oxfordshire, where research is leading to spin-off technology that could make autonomous vehicles a reality in a shorter time frame. The key to this is RACE-Test, the testing facility for remote applications in challenging environments (RACE). Originating in the research effort to support the development of robotic devices for maintaining and installing equipment inside the cramped and dangerous confines of a fusion reactor – the materials of the reactor shell become activated by the neutron bombardment triggered by the nuclear fusion reaction – RACE-Test is now involved in a series of projects both inside and outside the fusion application. Autonomous vehicles may be the area where the RACE expertise makes its first – widely-felt – entrance into the marketplace - as many of the devices it has been involved in developing have to be able to navigate their way through complex labyrinths of pipework or highly confined spaces crowded with equipment, and this navigation has direct applications in the AI systems that autonomous vehicles will need. The Culham site already provides a partially segregated space for vehicle testing, where traffic moves around in a situation resembling public roads, but a new facility currently under construction will mimic various types of junction and other 'street furniture' to facilitate development.


BASF and LG Chem recognised by BMW for innovations

BASF and LG Chem are among a list of suppliers honoured by BMW Group in the BMW Supplier Innovation Award. A total of 15 suppliers were recognised for their achievements and 'exceptional collaboration'. In the categories Productivity, Sustainability, Efficient Dynamics, Digitalisation and Emotional Experience five winners were selected. BASF achieved an award in the category of sustainability. BMW said BASF achieved the 'best performance in CO2 emissions' and anchored the fight against climate change within the company. BASF is also working to reduce its own suppliers' emissions and is essentially oriented towards the global two-degree target. LG Chem was a winner in the category of 'Efficient Dynamics', awarded for its 12V lithium-ion battery. BMW said that thanks to this battery, 'the current system using two heavy lead starter batteries can be replaced by a lead-acid battery and a lightweight lithium battery'. This, BMW said, saves weight and reduces CO2. The battery is also more powerful than a lead-acid battery, with 'better recuperation ability – which makes the system even more environmentally-friendly'. Other winners of the BMW Supplier Innovation Award 2018 were: Category 'Productivity' - 3Con - World's fastest press laminating system; Category 'Digitalisation' - Inrix - On-street parking; and Category 'Emotional Experience' - Preh GmbH - Modular centre-console control panel.


Smart car technologies save drivers $6.2 billion on fuel costs each year

In the first study to assess the energy impact of smart technology in cars, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have put a number on the potential fuel-cost savings alone: $6.2bn. To figure out the impact of these technologies on fuel-saving cost, the researchers conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on the energy and safety impacts of automated features, providing precise data for predicting how these features would affect fuel consumption nationwide. Using these data, they then analysed the benefits and costs associated with each automation technology, which were categorised into three groups: warning systems (i.e. for lane departures, blind spots, forward collisions, speed limit detection, and traffic warnings); control systems (i.e. for adaptive cruise control, collision detection braking, active braking and cooperative adaptive cruise control); and information systems (i.e. parking aid system and dynamic route guidance). In their work, recently reported in Transportation Research Record, they show that drivers of low-level automated vehicles (those equipped with all technologies considered in this study) could reduce fuel consumption by 27 to 119 gallons per year for each vehicle. This saving equals from 6 to 23% of average fuel consumption in the US and could save each vehicle owner from $60 to $266.


JLR awards UK supply contracts worth GBP4bn for new Evoque

Jaguar Land Rover said it had placed contracts worth over £4bn with UK suppliers for production of the redesigned Evoque unveiled in London recently. Its own £1bn spend to put the new Evoque on sale covered research, development, design, advanced technology engineering and manufacturing. The model has a restyled body on new architecture, emissions reduction technologies including hybrid-electric, and design features such as Velar-like deploying door handles. Improvements to develop flexible manufacturing for the new model at the plant at Halewood, on Merseyside near Liverpool (originally opened to build Ford's Anglia in 1964), included a new stamping line and hybrid-electric assembly technology, alongside 'significant' extensions and upgrades to existing facilities. Data in just-auto's Production Lifecycle Database (PLDB) for the new Evoque shows the new model will be assembled overseas at Tata's plant in Pune, India, the Chery-JLR joint venture factory in Changshu, Jiangsu, China and JLR's own facility in Brazil, at Itatiaia, Rio de Janeiro. All three markets encourage local build by imposing restrictions and/or import duty penalties on imported complete vehicles. When all versions are on sale, the latest Evoque will offer petrol, diesel and hybrid electric engines.


Unite warns 'death by 1,000 cuts' at Vauxhall Ellesmere Port

Britain's Unite labour body says it is demanding 'urgent assurances' concerning the future of Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant, after the carmaker announced 241 further job losses by the end of 2019. Last year the plant - which makes the Astra - dropped a shift - it is now single - and shed 400 jobs. Vauxhall has now entered into a 45-day consultation period with unions and employee representatives to propose a 'restructuring' of the Ellesmere Port plant 'to align headcount and production costs with the 2019 production forecasts and plans'. But Unite is warning Vauxhall's parent company, PSA against 'death by a thousand cuts' and is calling on the French carmaker to provide certainty for the workforce by committing new models to Ellesmere Port. The union maintains the latest round of planned job cuts is the fourth at the plant in recent years, resulting in a reduction of the workforce of almost 60% to 900. In a statement, the company said restructuring is 'critical to ensure that the Ellesmere Port plant develops its competitiveness during this difficult time within the industry'. The company also confirmed it 'remains committed to achieve this essential restructuring without having to utilise compulsory redundancies'. It added there is the possibility for employees to transfer to Vauxhall's other UK manufacturing plant at Luton and it would provide relocation support to employees.


Nexteer readies steering technologies for autonomous and mixed-mode driving

Steering-technology engineers continue to consider different solutions to the issue of whether a driver will be prepared to instantly take control from an autonomously-driven vehicle: furthermore, drivers assuming steering control from an SAE Level 3-5 autonomously driven vehicle might need to pass a hands-on test before the handover. That training session might unfold with the driver performing various steering tasks such as turning the wheel 90° to the right, then 90° to the left — all while the vehicle is still in the automated-driving mode. Human-factors studies vary on the predicted time a driver needs to competently take control from an autonomously-driven vehicle. However, industry experts agree that it's imperative the driver's attention is focused on driving tasks before the handover. Details how the actual handover could be handled via Nexteer's Steering on Demand, an in-development system that transitions steering control between manual and automated driving. Nexteer's steer-by-wire system is the key technology enabler to Steering on Demand, as well as the company's Quiet Wheel Steering, and Stowable Steering Column innovations.


Unease in the East

Gives an overview of the current automotive industry trends in China. The world's largest car market has undergone a series of seismic shifts as it moves to a new level of maturity, bringing both downsides and upsides for those competing there. The main downside has been a slowdown in sales, which is exposing excess capacity. The upside, for foreign makers anyway, is that the Chinese government, which exerts so much control over the industry, has shown to be sensitive to global pressures, slashing import duties and announcing that foreign owners will eventually be able own more than 50% of their joint-venture partnerships. With the aim of boosting competitiveness, the Chinese government is widely expected to merge the three big state-owned firms of FAW (First Auto Works), Dongfeng Motors and Changan Motors to create one of the largest automakers in the world. Notes the government's part in the drive towards electrification. It wants capacity for 2M electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2020, when it will force manufacturers to achieve so-called 'new energy vehicle' (NEV) sales amounting to 12% of their total. By 2025, the government wants there to be at least 7M NEV sales annually.


BMW takes a virtual reality check

In preparation for ramp up of the new BMW 3 Series, virtual reality technology has enabled the OEM to set up cockpit preassembly workstations. By using VR, BMW says it was able to assess the whole of the new production area in virtual reality and test new procedures in 3D. With planning and preparations remaining in a virtual world, production of the existing cockpit continued without disruption. The basis for the planning is digitalised 3D factory data that BMW has been capturing from real structures of its plants for the past few years. The resulting three-dimensional image of production, in the form of a so-called cloud diagram, does away with time-consuming, long-handed reconstruction and manual recording on site. BMW says, when planning future workplaces or entire assembly halls, its departments can now combine existing data with a virtual 'library' of shelves, lattice boxes, small load carriers and around 50 other widely-used operating resources.


FTA warns 'chaos' as France yellow vests movement grows

Massive unrest in France against fuel price rises has led British logistics body, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) to urge its members to exercise caution. The so-called 'gilets jaunes' (yellow vests) protest movement saw more than 100,000 people take to French streets, culminating in significant unrest on the Champs Elysée in Paris, with unrest showing no sign of dissipating. 'FTA advises all drivers planning to travel to Calais, France to be very careful: protests against rising fuel prices are escalating on the A16 in Calais', said FTA European policy manager, Sarah Laouadi. 'Trucks have been caught in illegal road blocks, with dangerous objects being placed on the road by protesters and two drivers have been victims of attacks with broken windows. Drivers are advised to be particularly vigilant as stowaway attempts have been reported amid this chaotic situation; vehicles stopped in queues are particularly vulnerable and there is notable traffic congestion. Industry best practice on preventing clandestine entrants – as described in the Border Force Code of Practice – is more relevant than ever. Incidents between demonstrators and police officers have also been reported. FTA is advising its members to stay safe and will keep its members informed of any developments – please stay tuned and remain vigilant'. The French government is focusing on the need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels.



The ferry using Rolls-Royce technology that sails itself

Sensors and cameras help a ferry in Finland navigate independently and allowing it to dock itself. In an emergency it can be controlled by humans from dry land using satellite and internet communications. Rolls-Royce, who have developed the technology, believe it could eventually lead to ships not needing staff.

BBC News online, 3rd December 2018


AR set to be a cornerstone of BAE's future naval combat systems

BAE Systems has unveiled a number of new technologies for future naval combat, including AR (augmented reality) glasses for the watch officer on the bridge. At a media briefing in London on November 22, 2019, the company provided details on the AR system currently under development, as well as a demonstration of the technology in action. The watch officer on the bridge of warships is the person ultimately responsible for the safety of the vessel but is quite often overloaded with information. BAE is developing a set of lightweight AR glasses that bypass the need for objects in the field of view to be confirmed by the ops team. Based on the same system found in the Striker II helmet-mounted display used by Typhoon fighter pilots, the AR glasses deliver information on ships and aircraft direct to the officer, who also has the ability to interact with this data via a simple clicker. BAE is currently using Microsoft's HoloLens AR headset platform to develop the system, but the plan is to scale the technology down to a more lightweight piece of hardware that can be used untethered. Another area that BAE is targeting for change is the operations room itself where the hardware and software used is functional and reliable, but much of it is often decades old.


FellowSHIP project concludes 15 years of maritime battery and fuel cell research

After 15 years of extensive research, project partners Eidesvik Offshore, Wärtsilä Norway and DNV GL have recently announced the closure of the FellowSHIP project which aimed to explore the use of battery, hybrid and fuel cell technology in the maritime industry. The project partners started to explore marine fuel cell technology in 2003 and installed a prototype fuel cell on board Eidesvik Offshore's Viking Lady PSV in 2010. While the fuel cell vision may have been ahead of its time in 2003, proof of concept and basic principles for maritime fuel cells were established that guided the industry through the next stages of development. In the last phases of the FellowSHIP project, focus shifted to demonstrating the applicability of hybrid battery power systems, and the project signaled the change to lithium ion batteries. Now, class rules have been established and the technology is fully commercialised; thus the partners have determined that it is time to decommission FellowSHIP.


Military and Off-highway

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New study examines benefits of composites in the rail sector

Applications for pultruded composites in the rail sector are set to grow, according to a new report from the European Pultrusion Technology Assn. (EPTA, Frankfurt, Germany). Lightweight, durable composite materials offer energy-efficient solutions with lower environmental impact and reduced life cycle costs in rolling stock and rail infrastructure, according to 'Opportunities for Pultruded Composites in the Rail Market.' Pultruded profiles can find applications in external and internal parts, enabling multi-functional design. For example, full-span roof panels are possible, from window to window, with integrated air conditioning ducts and heating channels. Partitions, luggage shelves and storage units, tables, window trims, catering and toilet modules, and door components are also applications for pultruded profiles. Unlike metals, glass fiber composites do not need to be electrically earthed, making them ideal for applications such as cable trays, third rail covers, rail joints and trackside cabinets and ballast retention systems. Further infrastructure applications include railroad ties and embankment shoring systems, tunnel lining panels, access platforms, and fencing and barriers. The full briefing can be downloaded from the EPTA website. Extra, 28th November, 2018