Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Electric Car Ecosystem and the Future of the Industry

6 Areas of Opportunity in the Electric Car Ecosystem

Electric cars like GM's Chevrolet Volt—due to be launched in November 2010—are pretty much everything the U.S. economy is banking on for a recovery. But before the use of electric cars becomes widespread, the industry must prepare for the parts and technologies that will be necessary to advance in order for the transition to occur. Here are six areas in the electric car ecosystem that are currently evolving to achieve this outcome.

The New Parts and Suppliers

Presently, many of the conventional cars we see on the road each day are powered by belts. In the future, when electric cars take over our roadways, car belts will be replaced by electric motors. The companies that develop integrated components - such as power steering and air conditioners - will be crucial first-tier suppliers in the electric car industry.

Battery Makers and Integrators + Battery Farmers

The undertaking of developing innovative designs to make car batteries cheaper, lighter, and more powerful will become a challenge as several companies and agencies compete to solidify their stake in the business. The winners will therefore becomes suppliers to the automakers, and there will be plenty of room to expand their businesses in the years ahead. So far, the U.S. Department of Energy is just one organization that is bestowing companies with grants to build a lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility.

Additionally, there will still be usefulness for old car batteries that can no longer store enough electricity to power an automobile. In an effort to keep the electric car industry green, companies will assemble with the purpose of collecting the old batteries, and work to connect them to sources of sustainable energy. The batteries will then be able to store the energy, and sell it to power companies and consumers. For example, a Japanese company called Yazaki has developed a new design for recharging electric cars, from virtually any wiring up to 240 volts.

Auto-Telecom Companies

Electric cars will link directly to the electric company, sending data about their charging status and needs. The development of this industry will most likely be centered on this communications path, which will allow companies to be able to monitor car components and navigation records. It will also allow new companies to trace navigation the way that Google tracks Web surfing.

Builders of the Smart Grid

The need for seamlessness in the electric car industry will require new communications standards. America’s 3,200 electric utilities will require massive upgrades of infrastructure and technology, and public areas will have to be restructured electrically for charging, such as apartment blocks, airports, and supermarket parking lots.

The Connectors

We are already seeing the first businesses involved in the installation and maintenance of home and commercial charging stations. Five connectors will run from battery packs: one will be used for cooling, heating, charging, monitoring the car’s performance, and the final connector will be used with the vehicles information and entertainment system. This system will allow the businesses to network with power companies to create an integrated bill for customers.

The Future of the Industry

It is important to understand that electric cars will benefit from a supplier base already structured like an ecosystem—and there are far too many living things in the emerging ecosystem to be anticipated by any single OEM. It will take an implicit partnership of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of suppliers to fill out the technology. The key is to bring them into alignment and, for that, the public sector may play a major role. "If governments act to consolidate standards, they can really make a difference in catalyzing competition among suppliers," says Tony Posawatz, the line director for the Volt.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

2015 - Autopilot Vehicles Common

It is expected that by 2015 a number of models of popular cars and trucks will be equipped to drive themselves at least part of the time with the help of on-board computers, GPS satellite navigation, and sensors, lasers and video cameras that will detect other objects around them. However, most experts say that people will generally want to retain control for some aspects of driving and manual options will still be included in vehicles. The concept car pictured here is the winner of a 2005 Peugeot design contest; the car design was proposed by Andre Costa.

General Motors announced in 2005 that it expects it could have a self-driving car that could pilot itself in heavy traffic at a speed of up to 60 mph in production by 2008. A team from Stanford University won a $2 million cash prize in 2005 for designing a robotic car that maneuvered across a difficult 132-mile course in the Mojave Desert.

A car on autopilot would allow the driver to take a nap, read or complete work for his or her job. There might be a feature for dimming the windows or altering their look to provide a more soothing interior environment with few distractions.

KPMG analyst Bernard Salt says cars will also be "smaller and tailor-made to the owner's specifications; they will be micro-designed and micro-marketed; an electronic fusion of home and office; a communications center as much as a means of transportation." He says people may also have the option of owning cars that have changeable exterior colors to fit their moods.

Travel update


The low temperatures and snow have been causing hazardous road conditions.

In the current severe weather conditions, road users are being advised by the Highways Agency to check their route and the weather forecast before setting out and take extra care if they decide to travel. In the worst affected areas, if a journey is not essential then drivers are advised to delay setting out until local conditions improve. If you have to travel, be prepared with a severe weather emergency kit and keep up to date with the road and weather conditions.

When driving, take care around vehicles clearing snow or speading grit. Only overtake if you can do so safely, without driving on uncleared snow. Even when driving on treated roads, you should still take care, especially on stretches that have a greater risk of ice forming due to the local road layout or landscape.

You can monitor the traffic and weather conditions and plan your journey by using the Highways Agency website, listening to DAB digital ‘Traffic Radio’ or local radio stations, or by calling their information line (08457 50 40 30).

If you have an iPhone, try Directgov's Travel News app. For live traffic information the Highways Agency also provides a 24-hour voice activated telephone service on 08700 660 115. (Calls from BT landlines to 0870 numbers cost no more than 8p per minute; mobile calls usually cost more.)


Many train operators have been cancelling trains or running revised timetables . Passengers are advised to check how services are operating before travelling, by following the link below. Eurostar is continuing to run a restricted service up to and including Monday 11 January.


If you are flying you should check directly with your airline in case your flight is affected, and allow extra travel time to get to the airport. For advice on what to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed, follow the 'UK flight services' link below.