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Nissan showcases Leaf energy in South Africa

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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.

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For users, in-car touchscreens ever more useless

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As touchscreens become more commonplace, the gulf of perceived differences in the performance of these features between cars and other devices (such as mobile and in-home) has become wider. A new report from the In-Vehicle UX (IVX) group at Strategy Analytics has investigated car owners’ satisfaction with their on-board touchscreens. Long hamstrung by poor UX and extended production cycles, in-car touchscreens are seen by car users and buyers as lagging behind the experience offered by touchscreens outside the car. As such, consumer satisfaction has continued to slide in China and Europe, while reaching historic lows in the US.

Surveying consumers in the US, Western Europe, and China via web-survey, key report findings include:

  • Difficult text entry and excessive fingerprint smudging are common complaints among all car owners.
  • Because touchscreens have reached market saturation in the US, satisfaction with in-car screens has tailed off significantly.
  • However, touchscreens remain a relatively newer phenomenon in many car models in Western Europe (compared with the US) and thus their limitations are less prominent in the minds of car owners.
  • Overall touchscreen satisfaction fell for the fifth straight year in China, indicating a growing impatience for in-car UX to match UX found elsewhere in the consumer electronics space.

Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author, says, “Part of the issue with fingerprint smudging is the angle at which in-car touchscreens are installed – they make every fingerprint increasingly visible.

“Fingerprint smudging is an issue across all touchscreen-based consumer electronics. But in most form factors and especially mobile devices, consumers can quite easily adjust their viewing angle. This is not always the case with fixed in-car screens.”

Says Chris Schreiner, Director, Syndicated Research UXIP, “Although hardware quality certainly figures in many of the usual complaints car owners have about their screens, it is not the sole factor. Cockpit layout and UI design can play important roles in mitigating some issues with in-car touchscreens.”

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Volvo to use blockchain to trace battery cobalt

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Volvo Cars will become the first carmaker to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. The announcement follows the reveal last month of the company’s first fully electric car, the XC40 Recharge.

Traceability of raw materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, such as cobalt, is one of the main sustainability challenges faced by carmakers. Volvo says its committed to full traceability, ensuring that customers can drive electrified Volvos knowing the material for the batteries has been sourced responsibly.

“It is a mineral that is essential to the production of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars,” says Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director of Volvo Cars South Africa. “But, sadly, it has long been suspected that some of the cobalt comes from mines that don’t use ethical mining practices. Now, thanks to blockchain traceability, we will know that the cobalt has been sourced responsibly. We are the first and only vehicle manufacturer that can make this statement. Accordingly, South African motorists who buy a Volvo in our XC90 T8 range can do so with pride – with the guaranteed knowledge that only ethical mining practices have taken place in the cobalt supply chain.”

Blockchain technology, which establishes a transparent and reliable shared data network, significantly boosts transparency of the raw material supply chain as the information about the material’s origin cannot be changed undetected.

Volvo Cars has now reached an agreement with its two global battery suppliers, CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea, and leading global blockchain technology firms to implement traceability of cobalt starting this year.

Technology firms Circulor and Oracle operate the blockchain technology across CATL’s supply chain following a successful pilot earlier this summer, while the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN), together with responsible sourcing specialists RCS Global and IBM, is rolling out the technology in LG Chem’s supply chain.

“We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials,” says Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars. “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

A blockchain is a digital ledger containing a list of records linked to each other via cryptography. Within supply chains, the technology creates records of transactions, which cannot be changed while also enforcing a common set of rules for what data can be recorded. This allows participants to verify and audit transactions independently.

In this particular case, data in the blockchain include the cobalt’s origin, attributes such as weight and size, the chain of custody and information establishing that participants’ behavior is consistent with OECD supply chain guidelines. This approach helps create trust between participants along a supply chain.

Volvo Cars last month launched the XC40 Recharge, the first of an upcoming family of fully electric cars under the Recharge banner. By 2025, it expects half of its global sales to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids.

Last month, Volvo Cars also launched an ambitious climate plan, which includes a radical reduction of carbon emissions by 40% per vehicle by 2025, as well as a continued commitment to ethical business across its entire operations and supply chain.

CATL and LG Chem are renowned battery manufacturers, both with long and successful track records supplying lithium-ion batteries to the global automotive industry. They fulfil Volvo Cars’ strict sourcing guidelines in terms of technology leadership, responsible supply chains, reduction of carbon emissions and competitive cost models.

The agreements between Volvo Cars, CATL and LG Chem cover the supply of batteries over the coming decade for next-generation Volvo and Polestar models, including the XC40 Recharge.

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