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Nissan reveals next step in its electric future

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Nissan has unveiled plans around the four key pillars of its future electric ecosystem in Europe, launching of new electric vehicles, additional infrastructure investment, battery charging and home storage advances.

It also presented a revolutionary new vision to give Nissan customers free power for their EV using its unique bi-directional charging technology. The announcements were made at the third Nissan Futures event, “The Car and Beyond”, in Oslo, Norway.

“Nissan kick-started the electric vehicle revolution almost a decade ago,” said Paul Willcox, chairman of Nissan Europe.  “In that time, we’ve sold more EVs than any other manufacture on the planet. Now we’re outlining our plans for the next decade, which will see even bigger investments in infrastructure, new battery advances and will even change the way people access and pay for the power in their cars. Put simply, we’ve been doing it longer than anyone else, we’ve sold more than anyone else, and we have a more exciting plan for the future than anyone else.”

New vehicles

Headlining the Nissan Futures 3.0 event was the European premiere of the new Nissan LEAF, with a special “2.ZERO” version for Europe. As the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the new Nissan LEAF is capable of travelling 378km on a single charge* and is packed with ingenious technology, including ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system for a safer, more comfortable drive and ProPILOT Park for fully autonomous parking. The car’s e-Pedal technology also lets motorists drive and brake seamlessly, while a sleeker design makes the world’s best-selling electric vehicle even more desirable than before.

Another new product announced at Nissan Futures was the new longer-range 100% electric van – the e-NV200. With a 280km range*, Europe’s best selling electric van, can now travel 100km further than ever before on a single charge – a 60% range improvement. And, with no increase in size or weight of the battery itself, customers do not have to compromise in either load space or payload. Crucially, it can help make 100% electric last mile delivery a reality for businesses and professional drivers everywhere.

Infrastructure commitment

Nissan announced its plan to expand its existing outdoor charging network in Europe by 20% over the next 18 months. Working with EV fast charging standard CHAdeMO, the company has already built Europe’s most comprehensive charging network, with over 4600 quick chargers across the region. Nissan now plans to invest in supporting the installation of a further 1000 chargers over the next 18 months. The company is working with its partners, business owners, municipalities and sector leaders across Europe to ensure the roll out plans are focused on providing maximum convenience to its drivers, with installations on highways, in towns, and throughout key European cities.

New battery advances

Nissan also announced its new 2018 range of home and office charging units giving more choice to owners than ever before.

The Nissan double speed 7kW home charger allows Nissan electric vehicle owners to achieve 100% charge in just 5.5 hours – a 70% reduction in charging time from the previous charging technology. The double speed charger has been designed to benefit consumer EV owners, with faster home charging than Nissan has ever offered before.

The Nissan 22kW charger goes even faster, capable of charging your Nissan EV in just two hours. Designed for fleet and business owners, the super-fast charger can also be purchased by consumers who want an even quicker charging experience.

Nissan also showcased its new home energy storage system, which follows on from the success of xStorage. Created especially for EV owners, customers can plug their electric vehicle directly into the wall box to charge. It comes with its own built in energy storage system, giving customers the ability to better manage their energy costs and even generate their own electricity from solar panels, delivering 100% renewable and zero emission power for their car.

It follows the success of Nissan’s existing xStorage solution, which was developed in partnership with Eaton and has sold more than 1,000 units across Europe in just three months, with 5,000 units expected to be sold by the end of March 2018. Nissan expects to sell 100,000 home energy units by the end of FY2020 in Europe.

The new range of home and office charging units will be available from early 2018.

Revolutionary free energy breakthrough for EV drivers

Nissan also revealed its bold mission to offer customers free power for its EVs.

Over the past year in Denmark, Nissan has been testing this revolutionary new way of driving and today, this has become an offer open to all fleet customers throughout the country. Using Nissan bi-directional charging, customers can draw energy from the grid to power their car or van and then “sell” back to the grid for others to use. This means, once a nominal charge has been paid by the business for the installation of a V2G charger there are no fuel or energy costs – just free power for your EV.

And Denmark is just the start. Nissan also announced a UK collaboration with OVO allowing customers to purchase an xStorage home energy unit at a discounted price enabling them to “sell” back energy to the grid. This helps contribute to grid stability in a world where demand for energy is increasing due to a growing, urbanizing population. It can result in an additional expected income for users averaging £350 / €400 per year.

Nissan is already exploring other regions in Europe to make free power for EVs a milestone for the future.

“Step by step, we are removing any barriers to electric vehicle adoption, from infrastructure investment to how people access the power itself,” said Willcox. “Over the coming decades, through our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision, the electric ecosystem will transform modern life as we know it. But while the starting point for it is 100% electric vehicles like the new LEAF and e-NV200, the impact goes much further. With fewer emissions, our cities and air will be cleaner. With more intelligent safety features, car accidents would be reduced dramatically. With better connections between vehicles and their surroundings, the school run or daily commute will no longer be clogged with traffic. And by letting people charge their vehicle and their home from each other, we can use our time and energy supplies more efficiently than ever.”

Cars

Mini embraces innovation

Mini has launched its 2018 models with customisable interior features and major technology upgrades, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Mini has never been known as a high-tech car, due to its small form factor being the differentiator. But now the well-known brand has received a long-awaited strategy overhaul, bringing with it a new technology focus. Even the Mini logo underwent a subtle redesign, opting to use negative space to show the gaps in the wings of the logo instead of a raised metal look. This forms part of the new “MINImalism” strategy. 

Mini’s strategy for now and the foreseeable future is to increase automation in its cars.

Connected Drive, pioneered by BMW, allows for an intelligent connection between the car and smartphone. This enables one to check the fuel level, heat the interior and start the onboard navigation, all without having to be near the car, from a smartphone. When one is in the car, calendar events with location data can trigger the onboard navigation to calculate ETAs and time in traffic, offset on real-time data collected through the smartphone’s Internet connection.

We tested it with both the Mini Connected Drive and BMW Connected Drive apps, and both interfaced well with the car. Surprisingly, the BMW Connected Drive app seemed to interface slightly better with the Mini than the Mini Connected Drive app.

While the app is recommended, it’s not required, because the car integrates excellently with Bluetooth-enabled devices. iPhone users are in luck, because the entertainment system includes CarPlay, Apple’s simplified connected car interface software. This allows for music, maps and other CarPlay-enabled apps to be shown directly on the car’s touchscreen ,as they do on the iPhone, save some text-sizing adjustments. 

Pairing the iPhone is as easy as holding down a button on the steering wheel and tapping the car when it appears in the built-in CarPlay menu on the iPhone. No app download is required.

MINImalism runs through the car’s technology. The Mini’s 6.5-inch touch screen control panel shows an image of the car with layman’s terms of what the internal systems are doing, keeping to minimalist design patterns. The new Mini Coopers come standard with a Harman/Kardon 12-speaker setup, which features in the Mini Connected Drive. 

The steering wheel is redesigned, now featuring more buttons to help keep one’s hands on the wheel. The left side of the wheel features cruise control buttons, while volume and call controls are located on the right side. This bears a strong resemblance to the BMW configuration, featuring similarly placed steering controls. 

With all the Mini’s customisations, the company invites consumers to take it further with optional extra.s Mini Yours Customised (yours-customised.mini) is a web platform where one can choose custom side scuttles, custom cockpit facia, customised LED door stills and even a customised door projection light. These parts are either 3D-printed or laser-cut, depending on the material, to the specification outlined on the web app.

As optional extras, one can opt for a wireless charger in the armrest compartment and secondary front USB port for both the driver and front passenger, to charge their phones simultaneously. A SIM card connecting to the 4G/LTE network can be fitted directly into the car, allowing for use of Mini Teleservices and Intelligent Emergency Calling, with automatic vehicle location reporting. The Mini Find Mate is an extra service that uses wireless tags to track items from the car’s onboard system or from the Mini Connected Drive app. This tag can be attached to frequently misplaced items or travel items, like  backpacks, suitcases and briefcases.  

Future Minis are expected to be electric by 2019 in Europe and are expected to arrive in South Africa in mid-2020. This seems realistic, considering that the BMW i3 forms part of the same group. 

Overall, the Mini range has received a subtle yet effective cosmetic and technology overhaul, delivering loads of functionality in a minimalist package.

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Why SA needs connected taxis

Traffic across South Africa continues to be a headache and digital acceleration may just be the answer in mitigating daily congestion, says CLAYTON NAIDOO, General Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, Cisco.

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Creating smart cities and digital workplaces means connecting infrastructure and digitizing transport systems, particularly in the taxi industry. Can you imagine what South Africa roads would looks like in 10-years-time, if taxis were connected?

According to Statistics SA’s 2013 Household Survey, taxi operators transport over 15 million commuters daily.  Around 200,000 minibus taxis, across 2 600 taxi ranks, provide the main mode of transport for 50% of SA’s population earning less than R3 000 per month. 

The impact of the taxi industry on the daily lives of South Africans is huge, research by Transaction Capital, a financial services provider in the taxi industry revealed.   An estimated 70% of people who attend educational institutions make use of taxis, 69% of all South African households use taxis in their transport mix, and a staggering 68% of all public transport trips to work are in taxis. Plus, minibus taxis reach remote places other forms of public transport don’t – the average South African lives within a 5-minute walk of a minibus taxi. 

Sadly, the industry is still faced with challenges when it comes to road congestion, accidents and safety, and with drivers often forced by financial needs to work long hours. But a future where taxis can operate efficiently and profitably, while improving safety and providing a more convenient customer and employee experience, is possible. But it requires a digital business transformation. 

Our cities need to start connecting infrastructure and piloting these digital experiences now. Globally, there will be 380 million connected vehicles on the roads by 2020, but that is only half the battle. The first step toward making the frictionless commute a reality is for local governments to begin investing in technology architectures and physical infrastructure to accelerate connected transportation systems and create workplace innovation. 

On the strategic side, transportation officials can begin by identifying best practice. It is best to first pinpoint a problem that is unique to a city or region. For example, a city with notorious traffic congestion might want to start integrating smart sensors on roadways to alert drivers and connected vehicles in real-time of potential hazards, and possibly prevent accidents before they happen.

How would that look in practice? Let’s take the example of Sipho Ngwenya, a fictional character, from Zola in Soweto, one of the 600 000 people employed in the industry. 

He gets up at 4am everyday to get to the taxi rank where he parks his mini bus overnight. Sipho hopes to be one of the first drivers there to ensure he fills his taxi with commuters, who travel to the northern suburbs of Johannesburg for work and school. 

The earlier he starts transporting people, the better chance he has of generating the daily “rental fee” he pays his boss – the owner of the minibus. If Sipho is even 10 minutes late, the queue of people at the rank may have halved. If his taxi is the last one in the queue, it may not fill up, and he may need to drive around the block to find more commuters. The delay means longer hours for him, his conductor-cum-assistant (guardjie) will have to spend more time calculating and collecting fares, and it will increase his costs – he’ll spend more money on fuel.

Fast forward six-months later, when the Joburg metro area would have implemented the Cisco Connected Mass Transit technology solution to connect the taxi industry. Sipho’s alarm goes off at 4am. He grabs his phone and logs onto the Cisco platform before he jumps out of bed: the weather is clear but there’s been an accident overnight on his route to the rank – he’ll have to take a detour. He checks once again just as he leaves home, and sees that he has time to grab breakfast on his way. 

He is the first driver to arrive at the rank that morning – stress-free and ready to start. The rest of the minibuses are stuck behind the accident. He loads commuters and manages to get all of them to their destinations 10 minutes early, by checking the best routes.  Payments are no longer collected in person – there is now an easy mobile payment option that customers love, especially the young ones. And Sipho no longer needs to search for commuters – they stop his minibus on the road because it is marked as a ‘connected minibus’. This is a smart workplace.

These digital solutions are real and available to the SA taxi world. There are some caveats, though: Cisco’s international experience shows that these solutions are best implemented alongside awareness campaigns for commuters and government incentives to drive adoption, as well as ensuring the regulatory environment is conducive. Luckily, technology itself isn’t too much of a problem: the solutions work with existing IT systems local governments have installed.

Imagine South Africa in a decade. Now imagine a South Africa where traffic congestion is a thing of the past. 

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