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Five of the most interesting urban mobility concepts from this year’s Frankfurt motor show

Smart vision EQ fortwo

According to Daimler, the smart vision EQ fortwo provides a new vision of urban mobility and individualised, highly flexible, totally efficient local public transport.

This is an autonomous concept vehicle, designed for shared-use, which picks up its passengers directly from their chosen location. New individualisation options help users to recognise that it is “their” vehicle by means of the Black Panel Grille at the front as well as large projection surfaces at the sides and the vehicle allows unprecedented individualisation, ideal for car sharing.

Freed from the task of actually driving, the passengers are able to relax in the spacious interior. The show car is the first vehicle from the Daimler Group to take the logical step of dispensing with a steering wheel and pedals.

The smart vision EQ fortwo is the first car in which all of the individual fields of expertise that make up Daimler’s CASE corporate strategy are combined. CASE stands for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric).

“The smart vision EQ fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalisable and, of course, electric,” says smart CEO Annette Winkler. “With the smart vision EQ fortwo, we are giving a face to the themes with which Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the vision of future mobility within the CASE strategy.”

Honda Urban EV Concept

Surely the most appealing city car concept on show this year, Honda’s Urban EV Concept is built on a completely new platform, and showcases advanced technology within a simple and sophisticated design.

By any measure, Honda is lagging behind in the EV stakes and the Urban EV Concept is a statement of intent that the company will be raising its game. Indeed, at a global level, Honda aims to have electrification in two thirds of its new car sales by 2030. In Europe, the target year is 2025.

The styling is an homage to the company’s early small cars from the 1970s and Honda says the production version will look a lot like this when it goes on sale in 2019.

The concept includes what Honda is calling its Automated Network Assistant (essentially a form of concierge service). Honda says the system “learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments,” and uses this intelligence to drive future recommendations and advice.

The car features interesting rear-hinged doors and there is space for four people inside the minimalist interior. A super-wide touchscreen display dominates the dashboard and there is a noticeable lack of switchgear, hinting that voice and gesture control will play a significant role in the vehicle’s HMI.

Also announced was the new Honda Power Manager Concept, a fully integrated energy transfer system that can distribute electricity to and from the main grid, as well as directing power flow from renewable sources and managing the interaction of an electric vehicle battery connected to the home.

Mahle MEET

MAHLE’s Efficient Electric Transport (MEET for short) is described by the company as “vehicle concept for tomorrow’s urban mobility”.

Essentially a showcase for the company’s engineering expertise, what makes the MEET interesting is that MAHLE’s engineers have deployed a holistic approach from the very outset, from the powertrain to the vehicle thermal management to the operating concept.

The heart of the vehicle is the 40 kW IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor) traction drive. This systems output is specifically designed for urban use, but also allows for longer journeys at higher speeds of up to 100 km/h. As a heavy manual transmission is not required, switching losses are eliminated, leading to a further increase in systems efficiency. Using a 48-volt powertrain allows MAHLE to reduce the costs for the motor and power electronics by 25 percent.

Clever thermal management allows for the systematic utilisation of the available sources of energy and heat, helping to improve efficiency and extend the range of the vehicle. Heating and cooling are a huge headache in electric vehicles since the energy required to reach desired temperatures quickly (warm in winter, cool in summer) greatly depletes the battery and reduces driving range. The MEET uses a particularly efficient alternative to traditional vehicle HVAC in the form of targeted surface heating, made up of heating elements in the form of thin, flexible films. These are used only on the areas that come into direct contact with the passengers (such as seats, side trim panels, and arm rests). This quickly creates a pleasant temperature for passengers—largely independent of the cabin air temperature. Clever stuff.

Segway CityGo

We’ve all watched groups of nervous tourists trundling along crowded city-centre streets from Stockholm to Naples on the eponymous gyroscopic scooters (not always competently).

But with the announcement of the CityGo Last Mile System - a smart electric kickscooter network – Segway is making a serious play to reshape the future of first / last mile transportation within cities.

“With the concept of CityGo Last Mile System, we will enable commuters to travel the last mile in an effortless and elegant way, not to mention environmentally friendly. When not in use, CityGo scooters can be locked and charged at conveniently positioned 'Charge'n Go' stations or in cars' boots with the 'Boot'n Go' car storage units,” said Tony Ho, Vice President Global Business Development at Segway. “We are currently actively working with cities, car manufacturers, car-hiring companies, and EV charge networks to roll out this new concept to the mass market”.

Features like the adaptive power assist system enables users to activate and adjust speed intuitively, and to personalize riding preferences accordingly. With a maximum speed of 25 km/h and three different riding modes, Novice, Standard and Sport, the CityGo scooters are intended to appeal to wide spectrum of users.

Needless to say, the scooters are mobile phone ready and can be locked /unlocked, personalised and monitored via Bluetooth communications. The accompanying CityGo app is powered by a cloud-based management system, which allows all scooters, charge stations and car trunk storage units to work together seamlessly.

Car eWallet from ZF, UBS & IBM

German T1 supplier ZF has joined forces with IBM and banking giant UBS to jointly develop an open automotive transaction platform for mobility services based on blockchain technology.

Car eWallet has the potential to radically change the way manufacturers, suppliers and service providers process digital transactions and considerably simplify the use of vehicle services. Car eWallet is a digital assistant in the car that allows secure and convenient payments on the go. Moreover, it can also perform other tasks, like opening the trunk or doors.

The platform is built on IBM’s Blockchain technology, which makes it possible to synchronise the information of each participant in the network in a reliable and unchangeable data record. At the same time, it ensures that users only have access to the information that they are permitted to see and use.

Access to the Car eWallet is provided through the IBM Cloud and driven by Hyperledger Fabric 1.0, a blockchain framework and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by the Linux Foundation. With this public cloud service platform the partners intend to build a secure blockchain network that can collect fees for parking and tolling, as well as future use cases such as car-sharing, energy provisioning to the power system or delivery services.

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