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Mevo gets 250k investment from Z Energy

New Zealand’s first electric on-demand car rental company has secured a quarter of a million-dollar investment from Z Energy, and will use the funds to expand its Wellington fleet to 50 vehicles.

Kiwi EV on-demand car rental company Mevo has been in operation since late last year, and provides on-demand transport with a network of hybrid Audi e-trons. members can book, lock and unlock the vehicles using the company’s app, which connects securely to the onboard security system.

The Mevo founders Erik Zydervelt and Finn Lawrence.

Mevo users can pay anywhere from hourly to yearly fees for use of the service.

Co-founder of Mevo Erik Zydervelt, said the investment from Z Energy indicates his companies vision is a viable in the long term.

“We’re excited to have forward-thinking partners who support our mission to not only lower carbon emissions, but to increase the livability of Wellington by reducing the number of cars on the road. We are leading the change in the car-sharing industry, not only in New Zealand but globally,” Zydervelt said.

Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts said that his company’s investment is the latest in a series of moves Z is making to provide environmentally sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.

“We are proud to support and invest in a New Zealand company helping change how people get around.”

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Intel: auto drive cars will lead to safer roads

Intel says autonomous driving will end human driving errors and lead to safer roads for everyone.

Brian Krzanich, chief executive officer of Intel Corporation, has discussed his company’s collaboration with Google company Waymo, and says he sees the venture helping to achieve these goals.

“Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes worldwide every year – an average 3,287 deaths a day. Nearly 90 per cent of those collisions are caused by human error,” Krzanich says.

“Self-driving technology can help prevent these errors by giving autonomous vehicles the capacity to learn from the collective experience of millions of cars – avoiding the mistakes of others and creating a safer driving environment.”

Waymo’s newest vehicles, the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans, feature Intel-based technologies that offer Waymo’s fleet the processing power required for high-level to fully autonomous driving.

Krzanich says that at the pace autonomous technology is developing, he expects his children to be using the tech exclusively.

“That’s an astounding thought: Something almost 90 per cent of Americans do every day will end within a generation. With so much life-saving potential, it’s a rapid transformation that Intel is excited to be at the forefront of along with other industry leaders like Waymo.”

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers are moving into the Pacific. Last week Auckland company Ohmio Automation announced it will establish a production facility to build autonomous vehicles in Christchurch, and French company Navya stated its intention to build a production facility in Adelaide, Australia.



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EV car sharing platform to launch in Auckland

Auckland is set to get its own car sharing platform with electric vehicles.

Electricity provider Mercury and start-up Cityhop are offering a new transport alternative that the group helps will address some of Auckland’s transport challenges.

They say that the addition of EVs to Cityhop’s established car sharing platform brings together two parts of the solution to the problems caused by too much city traffic: clean electric-powered vehicles to reduce pollution and noise, and car sharing to reduce the number of vehicles.

The ride sharing scheme will provide a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

“Car sharing and electric vehicles are part of the solution for decongesting Auckland and reducing pollution,” said Mayor Phil Goff, who himself drives an electric car.

“Every car share vehicle takes up to 13 cars off our roads and every electric vehicle is one less car sending carbon into our atmosphere.”

Mercury and Cityhop’s EV car-sharing trial is being extended with a second EV available at the Downtown carpark in the CBD – the same location where Mercury installed the Auckland CBD’s first ever EV charger in 2015.

The new car-share vehicle is a Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), offering the option of a larger SUV while giving drivers another EV model to try. It is located in the Auckland CBD, where over 60,000 people live and around 65,000 work each day, including 1,500 current Cityhop members.

The scheme follows the launch of an EV ride sharing platform earlier this month in Christchurch, a collaboration between Kiwi fleet management company Yoogo and the Christchurch City Council.

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Mitsubishi debuts eCanter

Mitsubishi has unveiled the eCanter, the Japanese car makers first electric medium-duty electric delivery truck.

Unveiled by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corportation (MFTBC), a part of Daimler Trucks, the vehicle will aim to transform urban areas, FleetOwner reports.

According to the company, reduced noise and zero emissions is a key to making cities more liveable.

The eCanter in New York City

The truck was driven through New York city by Fuso president and CEO Jecka Glasman, where Fuso converted an old gas station into its temporary “Energy Station of the Future”.

Introducing the truck, Marc Llistosella, president and CEO of MFTBC and head of Daimler Trucks Asia, said some of the main trends he’s seen that will have major impacts on the trucking and bus industries are urbanisation, emissions reduction, and energy efficiency.

“We have been seeing more and more renewable, clean energy,” Llistosella explained. “There were a lot of hesitations and resistance, but now I would say [electrification] is coming.”

Llistosella noted that 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in cities, which has become a main driver for electrification and the need for clean trucks and buses.

“Cities have a voice,” he says. “It’s clear they want less pollution, less emissions and much less noise. We see a lot of tendencies and strong statements – from cities like Paris – that from 2040 on, they will no longer allow combustion-engine vehicles and trucks allowed into the cities. We will see changes driven by the cities.”

The eCanter has a range of about 100kms and a load capacity up to three and a half tons – depending on body and usage. The vehicle’s electric powertrain contains six high voltage lithium ion battery packs with 420 V and13.8 kWh each. According to the company, when comparing the eCanter to a conventional diesel truck, it offers savings up to US$2,000 per 16,000 kms on operating costs.

The eCanter will be delivered to customers starting this year in the US, Europe and Japan. MFTBC says it is planning to deliver 500 units of this generation to customers within the next two years. Larger scale production is intended to start in 2019.


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Samsung follows Intel into auto drive tech

South Korean electronics giant Samsung is looking to enter the autonomous vehicles market, Reuters reports.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is building on its recent USD$8 billion acquisition of audio and auto parts supplier Harman.

Samsung announced on Thursday at the Frankfurt Motor Show that is has set up a new business unit to research and develop autonomous driving technologies. It has also created a USD$300 million fund to invest in automotive start-ups and technology.

Samsung’s competitors have also moved to enter the autonomous vehicles market. Intel announced plans to purchase Israeli technology company Mobileye in March.

“It’s time to communicate our intent to enter the autonomous driving market,” Young Sohn, the company’s president and chief strategy officer, told Reuters. “Samsung has been incubating this business for quite a while.”

Sohn says that Samsung’s hugely diverse electronics business, and its recent acquisition of Harman, provides the company with the technical expertise and experience it needs to succeed in the autonomous vehicle market.

Samsung’s two biggest rivals have also moved into the connected car market over the past year, at greater cost: Intel Corp paid $15.3 billion last month to acquire Mobileye, the current market leader in collision-detection ADAS software, while Qualcomm Inc is seeking regulatory approval for its USD$47 billion deal to buy NXP Semiconductors NV, the world’s biggest maker of automotive-grade chips.

Sohn said the Autonomous/ADAS business unit will absorb hundreds of engineers Samsung already has working on autonomous driving technologies.

The new unit will sit within the connected car business of Harman, an independent subsidiary of Samsung, a spokesman added.

In recent months, Samsung has secured licenses for autonomous driving pilot projects in South Korea and California.

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Scotland to end sales of diesel, petrol cars by 2032

Scotland has announced they will phase out sales of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2032.

Scotland now follows a growing list of counties that have outlined intentions to move away from the internal combustion engine.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, outlined plans to “massively expand” charging points and set up pilot projects to encourage uptake of electric vehicles.

If Scotland meets its target, it will do so eight years ahead of the UK as a whole.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, outlined the plans.

“Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032,” Ms Sturgeon said.

The Government said the commitment was necessary due to the avoidable impact poor air quality was having on people’s health.

Jesse Norman, the parliamentary under-secretary at the Department for Transport, confirmed the Government’s plans.

“The Government has a manifesto commitment for almost all cars and vans on our roads to be zero emission by 2050. We believe this would necessitate all new cars and van being zero emission vehicles by 2040,” Mr Norman said in a written answer to the Commons.

The UK government said earlier this year that in the interests of meeting targets under the Paris climate accord and to reduce emissions to zero by 2050, they would end the production of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

France has an even stricter target, announcing they would ban sales of the internal combustion engine the same year as the UK plans to have them phased out.

Earlier this week China also announced it would phase out the combustion engine, and focus on the production of electric vehicles.

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Production facility for autonomous vehicles in Christchurch

An Auckland company has announced it will establish a production facility to build autonomous vehicles in Christchurch.

Ohmio Automotion launched in Christchurch yesterday with the company showcasing three shuttle buses, which feature self-driving vehicle technology.

Fully operational prototypes of the electric Ohmio Hop shuttles carried passengers including school children as they performed on a circuit around the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Ohmio claims to be one of the first companies whose shuttles can form a connected convoy.

An Ohmio autonomous bus outside the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Ohmio vehicles include self-mapping artificial intelligence. Once they have completed their route once, they are able to self-drive the route over and over.

A range of four Ohmio models is planned for production before 2019, the vehicles will range in size from small to large shuttles and freight pods and vehicles will be customisable to suit their customer. All models will be built around the innovative technology developed by parent company HMI Technologies, a technology company that specialises in Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).

Richard Harris of HMI Technologies says that he expects the autonomous vehicles would operate well in a confined area, when fully introduced.

“I can imagine them moving around a set space, perhaps a CBD, picking up and dropping people off, rather than shooting out to the airport or somewhere further away.”

HMI has been developing and manufacturing ITS solutions for 15 years, their customers include governments and transport agencies. Their technology includes electronic signs, sensors and software for monitoring transport to aid management of urban and rural transport environments, making transport safer and more efficient.

Being in New Zealand offers the new company a formidable advantage, explains Mohammed Hikmet, founder of HMI Technologies. 

“The testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles elsewhere is slowed down by legislation or requires special permits. Here in New Zealand, the government already allows for testing of driverless vehicles. That gives Ohmio an advantage as we scale up and develop our technology, especially as we understand regulations here and in Australia.”

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is excited by the Ohmio technology and what it will mean for the city’s future direction.

“And they have done it here in Christchurch where we are seizing the opportunity to become a testbed for emerging technologies. We won’t be swamped by disruption – we will embrace it, learn from it and turn it on its head,” says the Mayor.

“This could help write a regulatory framework for the roads and the signals that provide guidance to the vehicles. We can set the standards for NZ and the world.”


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Industry experts discuss MaaS

Intelligent Transport Systems New Zealand (ITS) today hosted industry expert and director of ITS UK, Richard Harris, who delivered a talk about an emerging force in the transportation industry, Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

Harris is also the international director of NZ company HMI technologies, currently piloting autonomous buses and other transportation technologies throughout New Zealand.

Richard Harris of ITS in Wellington.

The key concept behind MaaS, is providing a “back office” that collects data from transport users, providers and authorities to create a single, network-wide transport system, focused on providing optimal routes and modes of transport for the end user.

To many of us, the term MaaS will be an unfamiliar concept, yet international transportation thought leaders are predicting the concept will bring about big changes for personal transport, and soon.

Not only could MaaS change the way we travel, but according to research from a UK transportation think tank in 2014, the intelligent transport market is estimated to grow from its current annual value of around USD$184 billion to around USD$1.2 trillion a year by 2025.

Harris spoke about the importance of being prepared for the changes MaaS will bring.

“We are seeing dramatic change from year to year. You used to be able to skip [transportation] conferences for a couple of years, now if you miss a year, you won’t keep up.”

Harris has previously worked for a number of American transportation technology providers, and has recently joined ITS. He says his personal quest at ITS is to help unlock the community benefits of intelligent transport.

The adoption of MaaS points to the possibility of reduced car ownership, especially with the development of autonomous vehicles. If a user wants a vehicle, they could simply request one via an application developed for that purpose.

More than just an updated version of Uber however, MaaS applications would provide multi-modal transportation solutions, offering the user the option to purchase rail, bus, and airfares, hire public bikes, ride share, and even recommend if it is better to walk.

Harris says honesty and data sharing is the key to MaaS’ success.

“Trust in systems is important, say you ask for a relatively green, environmentally friendly route. The app says, drive here, get a train, then get a bus. If you’re the only person on the bus, it’s not that green. You have to have that data and be honest with people.”

Harris’ ideal MaaS platform would see centralised control of transportation data, with a central authority (a “back office”). That back office would then provide open and free access to that data for developers, to create transport apps for the end user.

MaaS sees centralised transportation data, and aims to create more efficient and cost effictive transport solutions.

“London has made their data open and available for applications. Private companies develop them, stick them out there, and the best ones win,” Harris said.

Harris believes in the future, paying for all your transportation could be as simple as paying for your phone plan

“Instead of owning your car, or even your bike, you get access to it. It’s transport on demand. Just like your phone, you pay a monthly subscription to get your transport requirement.”

NZTA in collaboration with local transport providers, rolled out a MaaS app in Queenstown last month. Named Choice, the Queenstown pilot is a trial run for larger NZ markets. Should choice prove successful, the NZTA plans to bring it to Auckland.

Minister for Transport Simon Bridges is supportive of the technology.

“Enabling the utilisation of improved transport information alongside technology like the MaaS Marketplace is a real game changer,” Mr Bridges says.

Richard Harris will be speaking in Auckland tomorrow, the last of three speaking dates in New Zealand. See the ITS New Zealand website for details.


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NZ Uni to build wireless charging roads

The University of Auckland will receive almost $12 million in funding to research and build wireless charging technology that charges electric vehicles as they are being driven or are parked.

It is estimated that by 2050, 37 million electric vehicles will be on the road worldwide. By developing economically viable wireless charging technologies, big hurdles such as cost, weight and range for EVs could be overcome.

Professor Grant Covic leads the development of dynamic charging roadways at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Engineering.

Along with Computer and Electrical Engineering Emeritus Professor John Boys, he founded a global start-up company that has been sold to technology development company Qualcomm. However the University retains Intellectual Property rights.

Qualcomm recently tested vehicles over a specially-designed track in France.

The project has a number of implementation companies in New Zealand involved including Vector, Downer, JuicePoint along with public agencies Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Auckland Transport.

It is estimated that by 2050, 37 million electric vehicles will be on the road worldwide. Extending the range of electric vehicles is critical to their success but many of the challenges of plug-in cars have proved difficult to solve.

Professor Covic said a further objective of the work is to help New Zealand companies and iwi benefit from the technology through new knowledge and use of local materials.

“This work represents the kind of leading-edge design that is going to be so important to the transportation needs of our future cities and how we provide solutions for the public and private infrastructure we are going to need as the world moves towards electric vehicles.”

New Zealand joins a number of other countries testing the viability of wireless charging roads.

Earlier in the year, an Israeli firm ElectRoad build 80-foot test route at its headquarters, and were awarded a $120,000 grant from Israel’s Ministry of Transport and Road Safety and approval to outfit a portion of a Tel Aviv bus route.

South Korea already has several wireless bus routes, and the European Union has established a consortium to research the technology.

The University of Auckland has been awarded funding of $11,981,875 for five years.

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First electric rubbish truck on NZ streets

Waste Management NZ is currently trialling their first electric truck for wheelie bin waste collections, which will start work on New Zealand streets from October this year.

Christchurch will be the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to put a 100% electric residential waste collection truck into service.

More electric trucks will arrive into Waste Management’s fleet in other cities around New Zealand towards the end of 2017.

Waste Management announced its move towards a fleet of electric vehicles in September last year as part of its Sustainability Commitment.

Waste Management NZ’s first electric truck.

The company has introduced more than 20 electric cars within its light fleet. It also launched an electric box body truck, which collects food waste from Countdown supermarkets across Auckland, earlier this year. This new truck will be the first electric truck which is designed and dedicated to collecting residential wheelie bins from the kerbside.

Tom Nickels, Waste Management Managing Director, says the new truck is further evidence of the company’s continued shift to EVs.

“With a large fleet of trucks and cars on the road we believe we can help safeguard our environment for future generations through the adoption of electric vehicle technology. I am delighted we’re bringing this strategy to life by rolling out electric trucks across New Zealand.”

Other logistics operators, such as Infratil NZ, have been trialling electric vehicle technologies. Their business NZ bus is testing the Chinese made BYD fully electric vehicle, in a bid to accelerate the transition to electric-powered public transport in New Zealand.

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EV completes 12,000k trip across Europe

A Scottish husband and wife team have become the first entrants to complete the Mongol Rally in an electric vehicle, after travelling over 12,800 kms through 13 countries in a Nissan Leaf.

Chris and Julie Ramsey, dubbed Plug In Adventures, crossed the Mongol Rally finish line in Ulan-Ude on Saturday, after charging the Leaf 111 times and claiming to have spent about $182 in electricity costs.

Team Plug In Adventures at the finish line.

 The modified 2016 Nissan LEAF, labelled the AT-EV (All-Terrain Electric Vehicle), faced its critics, Chris said.

“There were a number of detractors who told me an electric car isn’t capable of long distance journeys,” he said.

“After thousands of miles and almost zero problems, I can tell you that is not the case.”

Throughout Europe, Chris and Julie had the use of an extensive rapid charger network that can provide an 80 per cent battery charge in just 30 minutes.

However, once they got into Bulgaria and beyond, they faced far less rapid charge options. They charged the EV at bars, cafes, hotels, hostels, a barbershop, a post office, garages, car dealerships, a tractor showroom, a police station, and three fire stations in Russia.

They even had their LEAF plugged directly into an electricity pylon in the middle of the woods in Siberia, by a local who (Nissan is keen to stress) was a trained electrician.

“In terms of vehicle reliability, the car’s been brilliant. We’ve had one puncture, one damaged alloy wheel, a mud flap came off and someone stole one of our stickers,”Chris said.

The longest stretch the couple did on a single charge with their fully loaded vehicle was 115 miles, pulling in to charge with 6 per cent capacity left.

The Plug In Adventures’ car was a standard 2016 30kWh Nissan LEAF Acenta, which offers a range of up to 250 km on a single charge, though with a number of modifications for better off-road performance.

Nissan has announced the 2018 Leaf will go on sale in Japan October 2.

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