Car makers seek to cut structural weight

Both Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are to make use of a £38.2 million government fund to cut down the structural weight of their vehicles.

Structural weight accounts for 15-20% of a vehicle’s gross weight, but the overall aim is for the manufacturers to cut up to 60 per cent from their fleet overall.

The two manufacturers will receive £1.7m to research ‘light-join’ technology: a technique found in both Formula One cars and space satellites.  It’s hoped this will enable the creation of cars that are lighter and more efficient.

Cars like the Nissan Leaf could potentially lose more than half their weight through use of the new techniques, resulting in their maximum distance being extended to more than 200 miles from the current maximum of 155.

Both manufacturers are already part of a consortium that uses components made from composites, which can reduce weight when used strategically in the right areas of the vehicle.

Light-join technology could enable weight reductions of around 30 per cent when compared to an all-aluminium alloy structure and 60 per cent when compared to an all-steel structure.

A spokesman for JLR noted their intention is to use the technology in all their vehicles if testing proves successful, rather than just on their hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) lines.  Working prototypes are expected to be finished by 2018, with the techniques reaching passenger cars by 2020.

Nissan’s Intelligent Driving System (IDS) concept has an estimated range of 340 miles and it’s already been hinted that it’ll be used in the next-generation Leaf, a vehicle that could well also benefit from the weight-saving techniques.

The light-join consortium also includes a number of other companies: Gestamp, Stadco, Scott Bader, Granta Design, TWI, Far UK and WMG.

A range of different tests will be carried out on vehicles using the new technology, including safety checks, crash simulations and measurement of engine noise and vibration.

JLR also highlighted the potential value that light-join could offer regarding EU fleet average CO2 emissions.

Their spokesman said: “Light-join is the latest example of our approach. In other programmes we’re optimising the internal combustion engine, producing advanced hybrid and battery-electric propulsion systems, and introducing more new, lightweight materials.”

“We are on a very positive trajectory to reduce vehicle emissions and improve fuel economy through more efficient and downsized engines and alternative powertrains, lighter vehicles and improved vehicle energy conservation.”


Registrations open for first driverless vehicle trials

Members of the public are now eligible to apply to take part in the UK’s first public driverless vehicle trials, which will be held in Greenwich later this year.

The trials form part of Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway), an £8 million research project created to analyse acceptance, perception and use of driverless vehicles amongst the general public.

The new vehicle trials will take place at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in the Greenwich area and will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

Drivers chosen to be a part of the tests will be given the opportunity to use one of the driverless vehicles and will be asked to provide their views on the experience. They’ll also be interviewed on their views regarding autonomous vehicles before and after the test, in a bid to find out if the experience had a positive or negative effect on their opinions.

Sajid Javid, Business Secretary, said: “Making driverless cars a reality is going to revolutionise our roads and travel, making journeys safer, faster, and more environmentally-friendly.

“Very few countries can match our engineering excellence in the automotive sector or our record on innovative research, and this announcement shows we are already becoming one of the world’s leading centres for driverless cars technology.”

Professor Nick Reed, director at TRL, as well as being the technical lead for the GATEway project, said: “The move to automated vehicles is probably the most significant change in transport since the transition from horse drawn carriages to motorised vehicles.

“Testing these vehicles in a living environment, like the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab, takes the concept from fiction to reality.

“It gives the public a chance to experience what it’s like to ride in an automated vehicle and to make their own mind up as to how much they like it, trust it and could accept it as a service in the city.”

Members of the public also have the option of registering to take part in workshops to help visualise the future of autonomous vehicles in the UK as a whole.  These workshops will take place from June 2016 and will aim to try and better understand people’s attitudes towards driverless cars in general.

In addition to debating and discussing the technology, debate participants will also have the opportunity to discuss the creative side of the industry with designers and researchers from GATEway’s academic partner, the Royal College of Art.

GATEway partner, Commonplace has developed and managed a new sentient mapping tool, and anyone with experience and knowledge of the Greenwich area has been encouraged to provide feedback on how they think driverless technology could impact the area.

Mike Saunders, the co-founder of Commonplace, said: “The aim of the site is to give those familiar with the Greenwich area a chance to provide input on where and how driverless vehicles could work in and around Greenwich.


Parking permits increase to force diesel cars off the road

Photo by Edinburgh Greens (CC BY 2.0)A number of local councils are raising the price of parking permits for diesel vehicles that were previously regarded as environmentally friendly due to reduced CO2 emissions.

There are increasing fears amid Government officials that diesel vehicles actually lack the green credentials that they had been previously been given.

Following a report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it is believed the diesel vehicles actually emit too many small polluting particles which can damage the air quality of inner-city areas with high levels of traffic.

The paper also encourages the Government to encourage “small, modern petrol vehicles, petrol hybrids and electric vehicles in urban areas in place of diesel vehicles”.

A spokesman for Environmental Protection UK, said: “Local authorities in the most polluted urban locations must start encouraging residents to choose petrol over diesel. This could be achieved through simple measures such as differentiating between diesel and petrol vehicles for residents’ car parking charges.”

However, diesel vehicles account for a quarter of the cars on the road and automotive experts are opposed to the idea of penalising diesel owners.

Edmund King, the AA’s president, said: “Punishing someone for owning a diesel car that produces up to 20 per cent less CO2 than the petrol version is ludicrous. Councils are plundering residents’ parking for money to balance their budgets.”

It is unknown whether this crackdown on diesel vehicles as local air pollutants carries much weight, but some owners of older diesel models may be tempted to scrap their vehicle in exchange for a newer, greener petrol model.

At ASM Auto Recycling we can scrap written-off vehicles and end-of-life vehicles quickly and efficiently. Our car scrappage service is conducted in accordance with the European ELV Directive which works to control the levels of waste produced by end-of-life vehicles.


Should cars have an expiry date?

While the debate rumbles on regarding expiry dates for car seats for young children, there is another question on the lips of many regarding expiry dates for cars themselves.  It’s a particularly hot topic over in India at present with the Indian government working on a policy to determine the “end of life” of vehicles sold across the nation.

In the next ten years, the Indian government and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) anticipate the country’s automotive industry will explode to upwards of $300 million in value terms; generating up to 12 per cent of India’s GDP.  It’s this unprecedented surge in demand which will lead to more cars on Indian roads and the need for older vehicles to be scrapped.

But the Indian government is not simply sticking an arbitrary number of years on the lifespan of a vehicle; it is set to implement a policy that takes into account a vehicle's actual performance.  By conducting bi-annual periodic emission checks, the government will determine a vehicle is not fit for road use should it fail these tests, deeming it fit for scrapping.

It's a difficult subject, typically because many vehicle owners grow very attached to their cars and have worked to maintain them in the best possible condition.  To some, cars aren’t just a means of transport either, they are a way of life.

However, with saturated roads and automobile markets, in India it’s a solution to a growing issue.  Whether it would work in the same principle in the UK is an altogether different debate, but there’s no doubt that older vehicles emit dangerous levels of pollution.

Every year, two million end-of-life vehicles are processed in the UK, designed to remove and store potential toxins such as fuel, oils and brake fluids that are potentially damaging to the wider environment.

The End of Life Vehicle Directive, as stipulated by the European Union, sets clear targets for reuse, recycling and recovery of ELVs and their components. It also pushes the limits of vehicle producers to manufacture new vehicles without such hazardous substances.

At ASM Auto Recycling we have invested significantly in state-of-the-art de-pollution rigs, designed to process abandoned and end-of-life vehicles in accordance with the EU’s ELV Directive.

For more information on our Authorised Treatment Facilities take a look at our detailed guide to end-of-life vehicles in the UK and how our vehicle de-pollution process not only minimises the risk to the wider environment but breathes new life into tens of thousands of second-hand car parts that can be fitted into different cars to work with ease.


Government denies ‘anti-diesel’ agenda

The Government has insisted that it carries no anti-diesel agenda, despite concerns from the fleet industry as a whole that the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal has started to negatively impact tax decisions.

As part of that the Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne delayed removal of the 3 per cent company car diesel supplement until April 2021.  The supplement was originally planned to be removed in April 2016.

The chancellor said that this was ‘in light of the slower-than-expected introduction of more rigorous EU emissions testing.’  However, a number of fleet industry experts have speculated that the VW emissions scandal influenced the decision.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones sought to try and put the VW crisis into ‘perspective’ as part of his address to delegates at the recent 2015 BVRLA industry conference.

Mr Jones said:

“The Government is not anti-diesel.”

“Diesel cars have played, and continue to play, a valuable role in reducing fuel usage and emissions of CO2.”

The UK government is currently under a lot of pressure to tackle air quality, following on from its failure to meet EU limits on NO2.  The Supreme Court ordered the UK government to create a new air quality plan by the end of the year. 

38 out of the UK’s 43 geographical zones are currently failing EU air quality standards.

Mr Jones said:

“Tackling air quality is a priority for the Government”.

“There are at least 29,000 early deaths each year associated with poor air quality,” he said. “This is unacceptable.

“The Government recently consulted on its air quality plans.

“A major important part of the approach is for local action on clean air zones.

“We will continue to work with DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] on common standards for clean air zones.

“This is designed to give long-term certainty to the leasing and rental sector.”

Mr Jones also added that it was important for the Government to try and influence local organisations to adopt common standards, and that the government was determined to continue to invest in initiatives that helped to tackle emissions problems.

Initiatives backed included the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), with the government setting a target of almost every car on Britain’s roads being ULEV by the year 2050.