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Chinese government representative surprised at lack of British EV companies seeking Chinese partners

The highlight of the Investing in Future Transport conference in London, according to David Thorpe, News Editor of the website Global Trader, was the call from Ke Gang Wu, of the British China Chamber of Commerce, for British partners to work in China in electric vehicles.

"China is prioritising electric vehicles over the next decade with central government funding of £1bn a year. This figure can often be matched by a similar amount from the province where a facility might be located". Apparently, the second largest manufacturer in Guondong Provice is seeking a partner to develop new batteries.

Several are also looking for partnerships with British start-up companies in electric vehicles and their components.

“I am mystified why more British companies are not coming forward when we will pay the research and development", he was reported as saying.

China is already the world’s largest auto market, so it’s not that surprising that it would lead on electric vehicle technology development. Recent US - China partnerships shows that China may follow other technolgy industries for lower cost manafacturing.

As John Reed in the Financial Times put it a few months ago: “The Middle Kingdom is increasingly claiming its place as the centre of gravity of the automotive world.”. . . “This is a 30m market by 2020 – it will be the dominant market in the world.”  

In April 2012, China issued the electric vehicle plan, which stipulated that pure EV would play a key role; the output and sales goal in 2015 is to reach 500,000 and the goal in 2020 is to hit 5 million, which will accelerate the development pace of manufacturers of electric vehicles and related parts.

 

 
 
 

Travel in London Report 4 - motherlode for TfL data

An absolute motherlode for London travel data lies with must be Transport for London’s (TfL's) Travel in London report 4 the annual report on travel behaviour and transport system performance.

Including comparison data going back almost two decades, this 278 page document (published by the Mayor Londons’ office and dated 20 December 2011) is a goldmine for city transport researchers. It may have gathered virtual dust in the corporate publications section of TfL's web site, unheralded by a news announcement or press release for this annual report - maybe the weight of data within has or deterred TfL’s press department from delving into its own statistics....

 

Possibly unique data for a large city

David Metz has picked up on the wealth of data available however of the Centre for Transport Studies, University College London, saying he has “not found similar data sets for other large cities or city regions, whether in the UK or elsewhere” 

 

Arriving not just travelling

The data behind TfL's report 3 for the previous year, including data in a more raw form, was released. It would be valuable to allow simialr data for the latest report to be avaialble in order to review the data more accurately.

There’s plenty to chew on however, much of it very specific and local as well as cumulative.

Being a report on travel in London, it seems natural it should take a more citizen based approach than similar  DfT data that prefers to quantify journeys by miles travelled to TfL that places equal merit to walking, cycling, driving, or rail etc. .

To be fair priorities may differ nationally compared to London, where shorter journey times could be a more appropriate measure of traveling success than an emphasis on speed and distance

Surely for ideal mobility, a journey would be take zero time over zero distance....?

 

Trends over the last decade

As TfL was formed in 2000, the report mainly makes historical comparisons in the decade to  2010 (although frequently in the report data is included back 1993).

Some developments noted for the last decade since year 2000 includes:

  • 33% more bus kilometres and 10% more Underground (including DLR) kilometres were operated in 2010/11, compared to 2000/01.
  • A reduction in the volume of road traffic in London. Seven percent fewer vehicle kilometres were driven in 2010 than in 2000, partly reflecting expanded public transport provision, and part reductions in the capacity of the road network (I'm not sure this is explained although the report is light on discussion of the congestion charge).
  • A substantial growth in demand for travel, with an 8% increase in population and a 5% increase in jobs since 2000. Nine percent more trips were made on an average day in 2010 compared to 2000, with 13% more journey stages.
  • An unprecedented shift in mode shares for travel away from the private car towards public transport, walking and cycling. There was a 7% net shift in journey stage based mode share between 2000 and 2010 towards public transport, walking and cycling.
  • Had the mode shares in London not changed in this way, and all other things remaining equal, in 2010 there would have been more than 1 million additional car trips per day.

Trends in 2010

  • A total of 24.8 million trips were made to, from or within London on an average day - an increase of 1% over 2009. There was also a 0.8% increase in journey stages - to 28.7 million on an average day.
  • The shift in mode share away from private transport towards public transport, walking and cycling seen in London over the decade continued, with a 0.6% net shift between 2009 and 2010 to public transport.
  • There was a 3.0% increase in the annual number of journey stages made by public transport in 2010/11 against 2009/10 - up from 3.45 billion to 3.56 billion. This was matched by an increase of 4.1% in passenger kilometres travelled on the principal public transport networks. This increase partly reflected recovery, in terms of aggregate travel demand at least, from the recent economic recession, but also reflected population growth in London over the most recent year.
  • A 5.0% increase in passenger kilometres travelled and 3.9% more journey stages on the Underground in 2010/11, compared with 2009/10. There was also an increase of 0.9% in passenger kilometres travelled by bus, with a corresponding increase of 1.4% in bus journey stages.
  • The amount of traffic on London’s roads continued to fall, with 0.9% fewer kilometres driven in 2010 compared to 2009.
  • The number of journey stages made by bicycle in 2010 increased by 5.8%, following a 5.0% increase in the previous year. On an average day in 2010 there were 540,000 cycle stages in London and 490,000 trips where cycle was the main mode. 
  • Reflected the impact of the economic recession, there was an overall fall in the volume of road freight lifted of 25% between 2008 and 2009, alongside falls of 8% and 12% in rail and waterborne freight respectively. There is evidence of a recovery in 2010, with road freight up by 28% on 2009, recovering much of the previous year’s fall, and air freight moved up by 16% on 2009, following a 10% fall the previous year.

Trips and journeys for different modes

Comparison of daily trips and journey stages are included going back to 1993.  A Trip is defined as a complete door-to-door movement by an individual to achieve a specific purpose (eg to go from home to work). A Journey Stage is a part of a trip made on a specific mode of transport, eg a trip of 3 stages comprising a walk stage from home to a bus stop, a bus stage to central London, and a further walk stage to a place of work.

 

The report tabulates to the nearest 100,000 journeys comparisons for the years from 1993 to 2010 for trips and journeys for different modes. Shown gra

Accumualted data shown graphically in the report mostly just reflects the increases in resident population of London increased by an average of 0.6% per annum, and economic growth - as interuupted in 2008.

Separeted by mode, however, my own graphs using the tabulated rounded data are more revealing of the tipping points, and point to some possible forecasts.

The graphs for daily average number of trips in Greater London reveal the decline in car trips as mirrored by a slightly rising number of walking trips. The trend for decreased car trips seems to have begun in 1999, while the walking trend is continuous so may simply reflect population growth. It also shows:

  • There were more bus passenger trips than car passenger trip for the first time in the period of the data in 2010. 
  • The trends for underground and train trips more or less run in tandem, with a consident gradual increase for both, while trends for cycle trips are diluted by lack of detail in the figures. It would be helpful if the full data were available.
  • If you take the figures at face value you could make a reasonable forecast that there will be more trips by foot that by car in London within two to three years.

For the estimated daily average number of journey stages most noticeable is the increase in travel volumes by bus in London, the tipping point for which also seems to have happened in 1999. 

 

Mode shares

According to the report, "a trend towards higher public mode shares in London has been in evidence since the early 1990s and had accelerated in the years after 2000. It continued, despite the economic downturn, in 2008 and 2009 when travel demand was depressed and resumed in 2010 as travel by private transport (other than cycling) continued to decrease while public transport increased".

Trends in proportion are perhaps best shown graphically by animation - click the link to see how this percentage shares of journey stages by type of transport has developed over the period from 1993 to 2010.

Further data visualisations

Other data visualisations can be found on the Greater London Authority website although these latest figures  seem to reveal no more than the rather obvious that boroughs closer to central London have more journeys  by foot and less by car, and the more dangerous it is to cycle.

A blog specifically covering London Trasnport Data exist but does seem to contain any attribution. 

 
 
 

Two electric vehicle related podcasts to subscribe to...

Here's a couple of transport related podcasts that I've recently subscribed to, both available in iTunes and other channels, that might be of general interest...

 

Fully Charged

Fully Charged, sponsored by British Gas, is a weekly video podcast from the creator of 'Carpool,' Robert Llewellyn - better known for playing Kryten in the science fiction comedy Red Dwarf. The show "takes a look at the realities of using electric vehicles, looking behind the myths, seeking the truth about electric cars".

In the 11 July episode Robert checks out two car sharing schemes in Berlin, Germany 

Drive Now, allows smartphone users to spontaneously hire its fleet of BMWs, incluidng Minis, from €0.29 per minute.

Car2go  offers the same rate per minute for spontaneous hire, or €12.90 per hour or €39.00 a day. 

Talking to Robert, Andreas Leo, Corp Communications Manager for Car2go, said the company operates in 11 cities, has 100,000 customers with a fleet of 1000 Smart fortwo mhd two seater car cars, as they are “the perfect urban mobility vehicle; easy to drive and park - and are efficient and fun to drive.”

“The first 30km are included. A fee charge per kilometre after that applies, but this is an urban concept; 97% of Car2go journeys are within the 20km range.”

Car2go plan to incorporate electric vehicles into their fleet next year and more the year after, and to launch in the UK market, in Birmingham, in the third quarter of 2012.

After trying these car share schemes Robert concluded “Maybe we don’t need to own cars, maybe we could just use them - with all the car clubs, the modern technology and Apps - you can find the nearest car, drive it and leave it. It’s brilliant. It’s much more energy efficient when you think that at any one moment 90% of cars not being used, which is kind of waste resource.”

 

Transport Evolved

Transport Evolved is a weekly show which focuses on the world of electric vehicles, hybrids and alternative fuels. This show is sponsored by Audible.com and OwningAnElectricCar.com

Hosted by auto journalist Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield and a "weekly panel from the world of green fuels, we chat about the week’s news, from new vehicle announcements to real-world tests, insurance and consumer advice".

The latest show is Episode 112 for 27 July on “As Old As The Car You Drive” features Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, Michael Thwaite and Mark Chatterley discussing news in the world of electric cars, including a test-drive of the 2012 Model S Sedan from Tesla, Nissan's response to battery life concerns, and the oldest Chevy Volt driver.

 
 
 
 
 

BMW reinventing the scooter, but wouldn't connectivity be a natural fit for urban electric vehicles?

BMW C evolution e-scooter display

 

 

BMW Motorrad is currently exhibiting its near-production prototype C evolution e-scooter at the Olympic pavilion of the BMW Group at the London 2012 Olympic Park.

According to BMW, the proposed electric scooter can be fully charged in less than three hours and has a range of up to 100 kilometres. The e-scooter has storage capacity in its the battery of 8 kWh, claimed as the best level among e-scooters. The battery is charged via the integrated charging device, either at a regular household socket or a charging station. 

The BMW C evolution also offers braking energy regeneration - what BMW calls recuperation. The vehicle recuperates automatically whenever possible - either via engine drag torque in trailing throttle or during braking. This increases the range of the e-scooter by 10 to 20%, depending on riding style.

Something I noticed in the voice over, near the end of this promotional video from BMW, is that "The rider gets all the necessary information on charging, battery status and other information on a large and easily readable TFT display...."

1. Wouldn’t the driver also want to know where the nearest charging points are? Which would presume some connectivity of the display?

2. Why is TFT used as selling point? Most higher end laptop and mobile phone screens offer OLED (organic light-emitting diode) as a superior display technology to TFT (thin-film transistor). OLED dislplays can be brighter and consume less power, but may have shorter life.

3. Which prompts the obvious point - why wouldn’t BMW just not bother reinventing the display, and have the scooter dock as a giant dock for an iPad or Android tablet - and concentrate on the scooter technology and developing apps to optimise the scooter as a connected device?

4. I suppose the same could apply to all electric vehicle manaufacturers...

 

BMW Group UK is the Official Automotive Partner to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Its hybrid and zero emissions cars, motorcycles and bicycles provided by BMW Group for London 2012 will provide mobility for athletes and officials during the Games.

 
 

Network Rail and rural broadband provision - a few four letter acronyms running on parallel lines

Shaping the 30-year Rail Technical Strategy

Back in October 2010, the rail industry’s Technical Strategy Advisory Group (TSAG) published a consultation document proposing challenges to be met, and key ‘game changers’ it suggested be adopted for the next 30 years.  

Facilitated by RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board) - a not-for-profit company owned and funded by major stakeholders in the railway industry - the consultation proposed:

  • Cost: Halve the cost of rail operations 
  • Capacity: Double network capacity 
  • Carbon: Halve the industry’s carbon footprint 
  • Customer: Increase customer satisfaction to 99%,
  • To lead to: Competitiveness: GB rail as part of the fabric of economic success

Plus five ‘game changers’ indetified as requiring research and development for these ambitions:

  1. Enable innovation, not re-invention:
  2. Establish next generation traffic management:
  3. Optimise energy strategy:
  4. Build in whole system reliability:
  5. Provide smarter data and communications:

FTN - a nationwide fibre optic cable network already laid

Within the Data and communications section of the detailed version of the document  (registration required) it was suggested that “A fundamental issue for the strategy is what rationale there could be for the rail industry to have its own data transmission capability rather than procure from the open market.” In addition an ‘operational communications strategy, with a focus on plans for putting in place the backbone network, is planned to be complete by July 2012’.

Network Rail is, however, already the largest private telecoms network in the UK, and according to a report this February in The Rail Engineer had already decided to install a nationwide fibre network (the FTN – Fixed Telecommunications Network) in readiness for the provision of GSM-R, the future track-to-train radio system; an investment around £1.5BN.

Network Rail as stated in Wikipedia “operates various essential telecommunication circuits for signalling and electrification control systems, train radio systems, lineside communications, level crossing CCTV, station information and security systems as well as more general IT and business telephony needs. The fixed bearer network infrastructure comprises transmission systems and telephone exchanges linked by a fibre optic and copper cable network that is located mainly within trackside troughing routes on the former British Rail Telecommunications network. 

The Rail Engineer report went on to say that Network Rail (September 2011) announced the formation of Network Rail Telecoms (NRT), to ‘design and deliver a new, single, unified telecoms organisation focussing, among other things, on improving the effectiveness of our deployment and use of telecoms assets and managing whole life telecoms in the most efficient manner.’

‘Growing demand for improved communication for passenger usage on stations and trains, both broadband and voice, will indeed be something in which NRT would wish to be involved, and NRT is currently looking at technology and partnerships to ensure that both asset utilisation and services are aligned with regulation. Providing WiFi and WiMAX access on stations is a logical expansion, and product development is underway in line with access technology and customer demand.’

 

Funding for Rural Broadband

Separately, the Government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) plan, part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is attempting to address market failures in broadband delivery in rural areas. Funding of £530M from BDUK, plus additional local funding, is potentially available to stimulate investment in high speed broadband in rural communities.

The current and future proliferation of devices means there will inevitably be demand for fast connectivity from passengers in stations and while traveling; an obvious market or additional services.

There should also be synergies should Network Rail proactively extend sideways from the tracks; into countryside currently poorly served by internet backhaul providers.

Partnership with community groups working with BDUK or independent network operators could provide new markets, and partnerships for Network Rail.

 

The making of an Olympic winning rower - hybrid engined, efficient machine - with added beetroot power

With the London 2012 Olympic Games opening in just 16 days time, for my first blog post for Transport KTN, I thought I’d ease myself in with a discussion about rowing.

Bear with me. This, and cycling, is perhaps Britain’s most successful Olympic sport in recent Games. I’ll be stretching sporting metaphors quite a bit for a transport blog, but the flinging about of links in values and performance between Olympians and big business, looks set to be in open season from here on in.

Besides, here in Oxford, success in rowing is a serious matter. MaDr Andrea Dennis at Science Oxfordybe, there may also be lessons to be learned from the Darwinian testing ground of Olympic competition - as likely as for Formula 1 motor racing at least. Though perhaps still matephorical, there did seem to be some associations with the mission of the Transport Knowledge Transfer Network and last night’s presentation by sports scientist Dr Andrea Dennis at Oxford’s Café Scientique - with some resonances for moving people more intelligently and efficiently.

If not, here’s a helpful TV guide to what makes an Olympic gold medal winning rower.

Rowing requires extreme levels of fitness, muscular strength and motor skills. While originally a gentlemen's game, it is fiercely competitive at elite level. The development of sport science over the last 40 years has led to large improvements in boat speed and the longevity of an athlete's career.

Dr Andrea Dennis is a reigning rowing world champion who also has a degree in sports science and physiology, and a doctorate in neurophysiology. She is the first reserve for the Olympic rowing team at London 2012, and combines her training with work as a post-doc at the centre for the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain in Oxford.

At the Science Oxford Live centre, St Clement's, Oxford, Andrea gave a presentation on ‘The science behind that Olympic rowing gold medal’. From someone involved as both an athlete and a scientist, this was am insight into the science which goes into developing the Great Britain rowing team.

There are rowing - and sculling - disciplines that have separate events for lightweight and heavyweight crews. Bigger crews have muscular advantage. That doesn’t apply to the boats, but unlike the Oxford v Cambridge Boat race Olympic rules standardise boat weights. Carbon fibre is used extensively for strong and safe materials but Lightweighting is officially removed from the equation as far as materials technology is concerned.

Intelligent mobility? Strike that too as all races are a straight 2000m across a lake. Dorney Lake, near Windsor being the location of the rowing events at London 2012.

Energy Efficiency and recovery (which relates to Funding) is the focus of the rowing coach and exercise physiologist. Funding has been crucial to the emergence of Britain as a force in rowing, with the National Lottery meaning athletes now have the chance to recover to an optimum degree from the rigours of their average 22 hour per week of hard training effort.

Wherever it can ever be possible to correlate a living system with machines and systems that transport people and goods (ie recovery from damage after effort a factor in engineering?). For the human athlete recovery from exercise, including during exercise, is crucial in improved performance for the rower.

The rower is a biological machine, more complex than any transport system or technology, and as described by Andrea has a hybrid engine made up of at least three energy systems, a transmission system that takes years of dedicated tuning, and all sort of fuel additives commonly used - Dr. Dennis’ personal favourite being beetroot juice!

Dr Andrea DennisDr. Dennis described how athletes have three energy systems used for exercise - the Phosphagen-creatine system produced short intense muscle-bursting efforts, lasting only up to about 10 seconds (akin she pointed out to the short term boost of the Formula 1 Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems); the glycogen-lactic acid system is for lung bursting efforts utitlised mainly for between 1.3 to 1.6 minutes (such as a 400m swim) and the more moderate intensity aerobic respiration, used for a 15km run, available for longer efforts.
All these systems are used to different proportions and different times according to effort required, plus other factors including fitness, exhaustion and individual physiology.

Along with the work put in by our rowers, advances in performances can be largely be attributed, according to Andrea, to application of sports science that seeks to develop the efficiency of these systems and other ways to improve performance and chance of success.


The four areas she regarded as most significant are:

  • Exercise Physiology (her focuses being on lactate training for rowers - although the majority of training in terms of time is over long slow distances.
  • Biomechanics - fine tuning the rowing or sculling stroke for efficiency - with a focus on maximising the area under the power output curve as the oar is pulled through the water.
  • Strength & Conditioning - for more power and injury prevention.
  • Nutrition - nearly all GB rowers will be using diet supplements - with Beetroot juice Andreas latest additive to the diet she has some evidence has lowered lactate output in performance tests.

Andrea didn’t hazard a guess about the numbers of gold medals she expects the Great Britain rowing squad to win at London 2012 but she is confident that the gold winners will be rowers that have:

  • High VO2 max and lactate tolerance - ie highly trained and efficient bodies.
  • Supreme skills
  • Extreme strength and power
  • Appropriate fueling
  • Mental toughness
  • ... and luck.

That last one sounds like modest humility in case of making home advantage count.
When it comes to applying science to the complex human machine, science in sport is helping ensure luck is less and less a factor.

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