MotorBeat

MotorBeat covers the latest developments in car manufacturing, and technological advancements in transportation as a whole. The blog will help automotive enthusiasts and drivers to get a glimpse of the motoring future.

Jordan Perch loves automotive innovation and that is his ultimate passion. He is managing the resourceful DMV.com and is an active contributor to numerous consumer and automotive blogs.

IHS Expects Hydrogen Car Sales Boost by 2027

Posted June 21, 2016 6:26 AM by Jordan Perch

Thanks to drastically longer range and much shorter refueling times than electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are regarded as the best alternative to conventionally-powered vehicles, but they have yet to reach mass adoption, due to high production costs and lack of infrastructure.

However, although there are only a handful of hydrogen-powered models on the market at the moment, their number is bound to increase at a much faster rate over the next few years, slowly making their way into the mainstream. But, a new study now says that even though fuel cell car sales are going to see a significant boost in the next decade, they will still represent only a tiny fraction of total car sales.

70,000 Sales Annually

A recent report by IHS Automotive, the leading automotive industry market performance data firm, suggests that global sales of hydrogen fuel cell cars are expected to reach 70,000 per year by 2027, which would be a major jump compared to today's figures, but even with that large increase, they will only account for about 0.1% of all new vehicles sold.

“Recently there has been an increasing focus on battery electric vehicles and battery technology, but FCEVs could also play a key role in zero-carbon mobility,” said Ben Scott, senior analyst with IHS Automotive. “We are now in the third wave of FCEVs from OEMs and more Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure is beginning to be rolled out,” he said. “This could be a ‘now or never’ situation for FCEVs in mass market mobility.”

Plenty of New Models Set to Be Introduced

According to the report, the number of hydrogen-powered models is expected to increase to 17, a strong jump over the current 3, over the next 11 years. At the moment, consumers can only choose from three fuel cell models: the Honda Clarity, the Hyundai ix35, and the Toyota Mirai, with some of them available for purchase, and others only available for lease.

IHS Automotive states that Japan and South Korea will continue to play a significant role in hydrogen car production, but their leading position will be taken by European car makers by 2021. The report states that stricter emission standards will make automakers based in Europe to ramp up their hydrogen vehicle production, in an effort to meet tougher regulations.

The IHS Automotive report goes on to state that the lack of refueling stations will continue to be a huge obstacle for hydrogen cars, noting the fact that they are very expensive to build and install, estimating the cost to be somewhere around $3 million.

The report concludes with a couple of arguments in favor of the viability of hydrogen cars, saying that their short refueling times and long range will make them appealing to future car buyers. “Refueling habits with an FCEV will be very similar to that of a conventional car. This will definitely help with customer acceptance of FCEVs,” Scott said. But, it also warns that if they don't achieve mass adoption within the next 20-25 years, they will never be able to become commonplace.

13 comments; last comment on 06/27/2016
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Autonomous Taxis to Hit Singapore Streets

Posted May 04, 2016 10:14 AM by Jordan Perch
Pathfinder Tags: autonomous vehicles

One of the most common predictions when it comes to driverless vehicles is that they will first be used as fleets of autonomous taxis and some other forms of public transport, with private ownership expected to occur in the later stages of adoption.

Some ridesharing companies and several automakers already have specific plans for launching robotaxis once self-driving vehicles become commercially available, which is not likely to happen for at least another ten years, though. In the meantime, however, a new startup seems to be ready to start operating a fleet of autonomous taxis much sooner and beat traditional automakers and tech companies to the punch.

MIT Startup Developing Self-Driving Cars

An autonomous car startup called nuTonomy, that was created as a spinout company by researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is set to launch a taxi service using fully-autonomous vehicles in the city-state of Singapore later this year.

NuTonomy has tested its driverless vehicles on an obstacle course simulating driving in an urban area, and is now waiting for an approval from the Singaporean government to start a pilot program in the One North business district, which residents would be able to use as an alternative to existing public transport options.

The company says that Singapore is an ideal place for such a pilot project, because of its busy streets and dense population.

"This could make car-sharing something that is almost as convenient as having your own private car, but with the accessibility and cost of public transit," says nuTonomy co-founder and chief technology officer Emilio Frazzoli, an MIT professor of aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

Electric Cars Using nuTonomy's Self-Driving Software

NuTonomy says that the cars it wants to deploy in Singapore have been built in collaboration with automakers and are operated by a self-driving system it has developed itself. All of them are electric vehicles, equipped with sophisticated software that allows them to choose the ideal route for picking up passengers and dropping them off, in order to reduce traffic congestion. The fact that they are electric means that they can help reduce carbon emissions, as well.

According to the company, this service will be cheaper than Uber and traditional taxis, because there is no driver who needs to be paid.

Competing with Silicon Valley Giants

NuTonomy's venture might not seem like a major threat to more prominent companies with similar plans involving autonomous taxi services, given that it's just a small startup that has yet to prove that it can compete with larger and wealthier players. But, the fact that nuTonomy is about to start operating a fleet of fully-autonomous vehicles on public roads puts them one step ahead of potential competitors, which include far more established tech companies like Google and Uber, along with electric-car maker Tesla, with all of them having expressed interest in entering the future driverless taxi industry.

5 comments; last comment on 05/08/2016
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Alternative Fuel Vehicles to Make Up Two-Thirds of Honda's Lineup by 2030

Posted April 20, 2016 11:19 AM by Jordan Perch
Pathfinder Tags: fuel vehicles honda

Electrified vehicles are starting to make their way into the mainstream, in a process that has picked up its pace lately, with virtually all major automakers expanding their hybrid and pure electric model lineups and managing to make them more affordable to the average consumer.

Japanese manufacturer Honda has decided to join the group of companies with long-term commitments to electric vehicles, with its CEO stating that the company plans to drastically increase the number of hybrids and all-electric models over the next few years.

Setting an Ambitious Target

Honda's CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, said during a press conference recently that by 2030, two-thirds of all vehicles sold by Honda will be either powered by electricity, hydrogen, or a combination of gasoline and electricity.

According to him, pure electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fuel-cell vehicles, will make up almost 70 percent of all Honda vehicles within the next 15 years, which is an ambitious goal that at the moment seems hard to achieve.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, about 50% of Honda's sales by 2030 would be hybrids and plug-in hybrids, with hydrogen-powered vehicles accounting for an additional 15 percent.

Right now, vehicles with alternative powertrains represent only 5 percent of Honda's overall sales, with the majority of them being conventional or plug-in hybrids.

New Fuel-Cell Models to Be Launched

Currently, Honda offers several hybrid models, including the Accord and the Civic, in addition to the pure electric Fit EV. As far as fuel-cell vehicles are concerned, Honda has big plans for them.

The FCX Clarity was the first hydrogen-powered vehicle introduced by Honda, which is available for lease in Europe and Japan, in addition to the U.S. market. It was also the world's first vehicle with a dedicated fuel-cell powertrain platform.

Later this year, Honda will launch the new-generation Clarity sedan, which will be another zero-emission vehicle, with a range of over 300 miles, and refueling time between 3 and 5 minutes. It will first be available for lease in California for $500 a month, and later on, consumers will be able to purchase one for around $60,000.

On top of that, Honda has agreed to a collaboration with General Motors on a project for co-developing a new fuel-cell system, with the first model to use it expected to launch by the end of the decade.

Not a Lot of Competitors at the Moment

The only competitors that Honda's Clarity will be initially up against are the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, with Toyota's hydrogen-powered sedan having a similar price tag, while the South Korean-built SUV can only be leased at the moment.

This means that Honda is in a good position to gain a large share in the fuel-cell vehicle market, but in the future, the competition is expected to become much fiercer.

To put it briefly, the announcement that two-thirds of Honda's lineup will consist of hybrids, fuel cell cars, or electric vehicles, is a pretty big deal for the automotive world. Honda is one of the world's largest automakers, so this news might be interpreted as an indication that the trend to abandon conventional vehicles and focus on alternative fuel vehicles, in particular hydrogen-powered ones, is about to be reinforced and the day when they become commonplace is getting closer.

1 comments; last comment on 04/21/2016
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Europe Might Get Elon Musk's Hyperloop Before the U.S.

Posted April 07, 2016 6:19 AM by Jordan Perch
Pathfinder Tags: Elon Musk

When Elon Musk first announced his plan for building a futuristic transportation system called "Hyperloop", that would be able to transport passengers and goods at speeds of up to 760 mph, most people thought that it was nothing more than a pipe dream.

But, despite the skepticism surrounding the Hyperloop, the idea continued to gain traction over the past couple of years, and it now seems to be pretty close to becoming a reality. However, while Elon Musk, the person who envisioned the Hyperloop, intended to build the first public transport line based on that concept in California, it seems that it might come to Europe first.

Agreement with Slovakia

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the company that develops the transportation system introduced by the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has announced that it has reached an agreement with the government of Slovakia, to see whether there is a possibility to build the system in this Central European country.

"Slovakia is a technological leader in the automotive, material science, and energy industries, many of the areas that are integral to the Hyperloop system," said Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT. "Having a European Hyperloop presence will incentivize collaboration and innovation within Slovakia and throughout Europe."

Connecting Bratislava with Vienna and Budapest

Neither HTT nor the Slovakian government released detailed information on when the project could be launched and what the construction of the system could cost, but the California-based startup did say that there are a couple of potential routes for the system that are being considered at the moment.

One of the routes would connect the Slovakian capital of Bratislava with Vienna, Austria. It's a 50-mile route, with passengers completing that journey in around 60 minutes by train. If the system is put in place, travel time between the two cities would be reduced to just 8 minutes.

The other route would be between Bratislava and Budapest, Hungary, potentially cutting the time it takes to cover the distance by train from 2,5 hours to 10 minutes in a low-pressure tube train designed by HTT.

If the project ever reaches realization, it will undoubtedly revolutionize transport in Central Europe and boost economic growth in that region.

"Hyperloop in Europe would cut distances substantially and network cities in unprecedented ways," said Vazil Hudak, Minister of Economy for Slovakia. A transportation system of this kind would redefine the concept of commuting and boost cross-border cooperation in Europe. The expansion of Hyperloop will lead to an increased demand for the creation of new innovation hubs, in Slovakia and all over Europe."

At the moment, building a Hyperloop system in Europe is just an idea, but the agreement between HTT and the Slovakian government shows that the project could see the light of day in the near future. There will be a lot of hurdles that will need to be overcome before construction can begin, including regulatory issues, along with the fact that such a project is expected to be extremely expensive, with Musk originally estimating overall costs to be somewhere between $6 and $7.5 billion.

3 comments; last comment on 04/11/2016
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Google Admits One of Its Self-Driving Cars Has Caused an Accident

Posted March 15, 2016 10:52 AM by Jordan Perch
Pathfinder Tags: driverless cars google

Last year, Google started testing a fleet of its driverless cars on California's public roads, and so far, they have only been involved in a dozen of minor accidents, with all of them being caused by other vehicles.

The tech company claimed that its autonomous driving technology wasn't at fault for any of the incidents involving its vehicles, suggesting that it is reliable enough and does not pose a threat to public safety. But now, according to the latest report of a traffic accident involving an autonomous vehicle, which Google has submitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the search engine giants claims responsibility and admits that one of its vehicles has caused a collision.

Collision with a Bus

In the report, Google provides a detailed description of how the accident occurred, stating that it happened while its vehicle was driving in autonomous mode on a street in Mountain View, near the company's global headquarters.

The vehicle in question was a modified Lexus SUV, equipped with autonomous driving technology. According to the report, the crash occurred on February 14, while Google's car was approaching an intersection, when it moved to the far right lane to make a right turn, but was forced to stop as it came across sandbags that were blocking its path.

The car had to drive around the sandbags, moving back to the center of its lane, but in the meantime, a public transit bus approached it from behind in the same lane, which was extra wide, with the test driver sitting in the self-driving vehicle thinking that the bus had enough time to stop or slow down to allow Google's car to move along.

But, the bus didn't stop, and its right-hand side was hit by Google's autonomous vehicle. At the moment of the collision, Google's car was traveling at less than 2 mph, while the bus was moving at 15 mph, as reported by Google.

The report concludes by stating that there were no injuries at the scene, and that Google's car sustained body damage on several places.

"Some Responsibility"

As reported by Tech Insider, which has received Google's February report on accidents involving autonomous vehicles, the tech company admits that its car is responsible for the incident to some extent.

"In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved there wouldn't have been a collision," the report notes.

Even though this accident did not result in injury or severe property damage, it might have serious consequences to the company's self-driving project. While fault for all previous incidents involving Google's autonomous vehicles was attributed to other vehicles they were sharing the road with, this time around, the company itself admits that it bears responsibility.

This means that Google can not make the claim that its cars are flawless anymore, which will affect the way the general public perceives Google's self-driving technology, raising the question of whether an autonomous driving system is truly better and safer than the average human driver.

13 comments; last comment on 03/18/2016
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