Monday newsbriefs

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Volvo’s to reveal an all-new concept car (no picture as yet) in Frankfurt next week, showcasing a “more exciting” look plus one of a new series of downsized petrol engines. The company’s going to chop out six- and eight-cylinder engines from its range and offer only four-cylinder units, including common-rail diesels and direct-injection petrols; these will have higher performance than the current six-cylinders, however, despite lower fuel consumption than the current four-pots.

Dubbed VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture), these engines have 60% fewer unique parts (they’re based around a common modular structure), are up to 90kg lighter than their current equivalents, and offer fuel economy improved by up to 35%. They’re also suitable for incorporation of hybrid-drive systems and technologies such as flywheel kinetic energy recovery (KERS). Volvo will start road-testing a flywheel KERS system this autumn; this is said to offer the driver an additional 80bhp whilst reducing fuel consumption by up to 20%.

Volvo’s also taking a modular approach with its new ‘scalable platform architecture’ (SPA), which will allow most models to be built on the same production line; this will enable it to establish its independence from former owner Ford and create its own stand-alone model-line. “We’re taking our technological future into our own hands”, says R&D chief Peter Mertens. The forthcoming SPA models will be 100-150kg lighter than the current cars, and will be suitable for electric-drive powertrains. “The Frankfurt concept car is a great example of what we can achieve with the new architecture,” adds designerPeter Horbury.

  • This Russian Yo-Auto firm is to reveal a concept at Frankfurt too, previewing its range of affordable hybrids. Not much detail on the car as yet, but the Yo-Concept show car (pictured; not intended for production) has a range-extended EV powertrain, side doors which slide up through the body, an extended windscreen/glass roof and full-length side windows.
  • Skoda is building a 10-car trial fleet of Octavia Green E Line estates, all-electric prototypes with a 60kW motor (peaking at 85kW and 270Nm of torque), an 84mph top speed, 0-62mph acceleration in 12 seconds – and a sound generator to simulate engine noise at up to 25mph. Range is 93 miles, brake energy recovery supplementing the 180-cell lithium-ion battery pack. Skoda says that electric-drive is an integral part of its future strategy, and that a plug-in hybrid will also be offered in the future. The Octavia Green E Lines will hit the road this autumn, and the trial data will feed into research and development work for production vehicles.
  • More engine news: Volkswagen is to add cylinder shut-off to its new 1.4 TSI engine from early 2012. Two of the four cylinders will temporarily, imperceptibly, shut off under low to medium load between 1400-4000rpm and 25-75Nm, improving fuel consumption by 0.4 litres per 100km; this is improved to 0.6 litres per 100km in combination with stop-start, and at 50kph in third or fourth gear, economy savings are nearly one litre per 100km. The range in which the cylinder deactivation can work covers nearly 70% of driving, but all four cylinders stay active when sharp acceleration is called-for. This engine also meets the EU 6 legislation.
  • Nissan’s replacing the 2.0dCi diesel engine (with manual transmission) in the Qashqai and Qashqai +2 with a new 1.6: this emits just 129g/km of carbon dioxide and delivers 62.8mpg. Yet-more economical models with stop-start, delivering 119g/km, arrive early next year.
  • The revised Honda Insight gets its unveiling in Frankfurt next week: it emits just 96g/km, thanks to tweaks to its CVT gearbox, its air conditioning and its aerodynamics. The ride’s been improved too, apparently.
  • The coroner has ruled a verdict of “accidental death” in the sad case of Judit Nadal, killed last year when her G-Wiz EV collided with a Skoda Octavia. It was noted that the G-Wiz ‘disintegrated’ on impact, offering no crash protection, though no further action is to be taken. The most tragic thing of all is that this accident could so easily have been avoided: Dr. Nadal, an academic at Imperial College and a mother of four, pulled out of a junction into the path of the Octavia whilst talking on her phone. She was also not wearing her seatbelt, though that would have made little difference in this particular crash. More at the London Evening Standard. GoinGreen, importers of the G-Wiz, have defended the safety of the ‘quadricycle’ car, though its former MD  has called for an extension of the ‘L7e’ legislative category from the current 450kg weight limit to allow for the building-in of extra safety features and crash protection.
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