Nissan, in partnership with the uYilo e-Mobility programme, is to demonstrate its revolutionary technology that allows power stored in electric vehicles to be used in a range of home and commercial applications.
The Nissan LEAF – the only commercial electric vehicle used for bi-directional energy transfer capability – is being used in a uYilo field test programme to demonstrate and develop Nissan’s charger technology in South Africa. Once implemented, it will allow LEAF owners to utilise the vehicle’s battery capacity in a variety of ways, in addition to driving.
Comprising Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) and Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) systems, the technology allows use of the Nissan LEAF’s battery not only for mobility, but for multiple energy storage uses and applications.
“The technology is part of Nissan’s global Intelligent Mobility vision, demonstrating how we can integrate zero emissions driving with efficient renewable energy systems for domestic and commercial use,” said Nissan South Africa’s managing director, Mike Whitfield.
The technology was first rolled out in Japan in 2012 when Nissan launched the “LEAF to home” power supply system. The system transfers the energy stored in the LEAF’s battery to a dedicated V2H station, providing power for household needs.
The technology has been further developed to deliver V2G, allowing energy in the battery to be traded with municipal and energy utilities to increase capacity, while also providing the opportunity to stabilize the grid during peak electricity usage.
Heading the technology localisation programme is Hiten Parmar, director of the uYilo e-Mobility Programme hosted by Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University engineering innovation hub, eNtsa.
“While the electric vehicle supply equipment for this technology is being introduced gradually globally, we have the opportunity to leverage insight in South Africa where we aim to enable and facilitate development of these value-add products at a lower cost locally”, said Parmar.
Said Whitfield, “Localising the bi-directional battery technology will have enormous benefits for South African LEAF owners, our auto and energy industries, and the economy as a whole.”
uYilo – bringing together government entities and industries, alongside car manufacturing stakeholders – is tasked with fast-tracking the development and commercialisation of key technologies that will support the electric vehicle (EV) industry. Since the establishment of uYilo as the national e-Mobility programme in 2013 by the Technology Innovation Agency, the Nissan LEAF has been used in various field tests.
A 2015 study, for example, found that running an all-electric LEAF for a year costs R18, 000 less than a petrol car, based on the average South African annual mileage of 30,000 kilometres.
“The agreement with Nissan SA and uYilo extends beyond the LEAF being utilised for field testing and creating awareness,” explains Parmar. “It also provides the opportunity for local value-add product and services trials, while also facilitating their development.”
uYilo has initiated the technology localisation study after receiving support from Nissan in Japan to explore local development of the bi-directional technology. This follows acquisition of the necessary specifications by Nissan’s quick-charge partner CHAdeMO.
While the timing for full implementation of the hardware for local product development is yet to be confirmed, uYilo is aiming to unveil an initial demonstration and testing within the next six months.
uYilo is also engaging with Nissan and other global developers and product distributors of a vehicle-to-everything (V2X) system that could eventually be integrated into South Africa’s greater ecosystem.
Project Bloodhound saved
The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.
Two weeks ago, and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.
“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.
“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”
Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.
“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.
“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”
The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.
The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”
Motor Racing meets Machine Learning
The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.
Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.
Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.
Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com, last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.
AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.
But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.
AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.
Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.
As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.
“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.
“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”
Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information.
During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.
This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.
“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.