Geneva preview: Heuliez Microbus

February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

French coach-building firm Heuliez – supplier of electric folding roof systems and seating modules, as well as maker of special-build vehicles – is to show a tiny Microbus concept in Geneva, reports Auto Motor Und Sport.

The electric Microbus is developed to come with 6kW, 12kW or 18kW battery packs, and is just 2.91m long. It’s a three-seater with sliding side doors, giving one seat up front for the driver and two to the rear; Heuliez points out that access to the seats is easy even in the tightest parking spaces.

Designed under the leadership of former Volkswagen design chief Murak Gunak, the Microbus could go into production in the autumn, suggests the German magazine.

Geneva preview: BMW 5-Series ActiveHybrid

February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

BMW’s 5-Series ActiveHybrid concept has a similar powertrain to the 7-Series hybrid already launched, but instead of a V8,  features a 300bhp straight-six cylinder petrol engine (as in the 535i) plus 40kW electric motor, stop-start system and regenerative braking. Unlike the 7-Series hybrid, it can operate in electric-only mode for short distances at low speeds, thanks to the more powerful motor. Fuel economy is around 10% better than that of the 535i, and is aided by a new sat nav feature which anticipates upcoming road conditions and primes the electric-drive system accordingly.


Geneva preview: Hispano-Suiza

February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

There have been a few attempts to revive the Hispano-Suiza brandname, and this is the latest: a hybridised Audi R8. This is to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next week, according to AutoBild.

Details are sketchy so far, but apparently the Audi V10 is boosted to around 750bhp with the addition of a supercharger, with an additional 150bhp from the electric-drive system. It’ll have an electric-only mode – and still live up to supercar expectations with a 0-60mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 205mph. A price tag of E700,000 is suggested.

Week-end odds and ends

February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz is to launch its E300 BlueTec diesel-electric hybrid early next year, reports Autocar. Much of its hybrid powertrain – including motor and lithium-ion battery pack – will be shared with the S400 hybrid, but the twin-turbo engine’s a version of of the 2.2-litre diesel in the E250 CDI. It’s said to be capable of over 56mpg.

Two titbits from supplier firms. Continental AG has developed an ‘intelligent’ accelerator pedal which pulses to indicate when a driver should change up or down a gear. In tests, this reduced fuel consumption by an average 8%. Continental says that drivers are more likely to take notice of a pulsing pedal than a visual display on the dashboard, as in current gearchange-indicator systems, and that this could be linked to sensors to warn drivers of hazards ahead, as well (AutoBeat Europe).

Valeo is to significantly increase the number of components it makes for hybrid powertrains, reports AutoBeat Europe; at the moment, it only supplies a battery-cooler in this sector. The company will lay out its new strategy at an investors’ meeting next month.

Geneva preview: AC electric city car

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

AC Cars is to show a new interpretation of the Cobra, called Mk VI, in Geneva – but at the other end of the scale, it’s also proposing an electric city car.

After a short-lived and controversial attempt at manufacturing in Malta, AC now has a base at Brooklands in Surrey, and will be  partnering with a German firm to build the Mk VI. However, the historic company (formed as Auto Carriers Ltd in 1901) plans to license the technology and structural design of this EV prototype, rather  than put it into production itself, reports Autocar.

This Geneva show concept features an innovative lightweight magnesium frame construction, with bonded joints and built-in roll cage; the frame can be assembled in minutes, and weighs only 67kg. It has been developed in partnership with Israeli company ALubin, and the electric drivetrain is the work of former GM EV consultant Dr Moshe Miller.

Whilst this might seem like an unlikely product from the makers of the Mk VI, AC also has a long history of ultra-light economy cars, including the much-maligned fibreglass-bodied pale blue ‘InvaCar’ three-wheeler issued to disabled drivers till the mid ’70s, and the prettier Petite.

Geneva preview: Hyundai i-flow (2)

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hyundai has released a front-end picture and some tech spec for its i-flow concept, to be the star of its stand in Geneva next week. The i-flow – which previews the next i40 large family car from the company – has a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain with a 1.7-litre engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission; it’s capable of 94.2mpg, says Hyundai, and it emits 85g/km of carbon  dioxide.

Hyundai is also showing its facelifted i30U small family car, complete with cleaner engines, and five low-emissions models: the i10, i20, i30, i30cw (estate) and ix35 ‘blue’. All of these have a stop-start system, modified aerodynamics and low rolling-resistance tyres, and all except the latter emit less than 100g/km; the ix35 blue puts out 135g/km, very respectable for a compact SUV.

An iX35 FCEV fuel cell concept will also be on display, fitted with the latest version of the powertrain in the trial Tucson FCEV;  this “moves Hyundai closer to the commercialisation of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles”, according to a statement today, “and will lead to production volume of Hyundai FCEVs in the thousands by 2012.” The new fuel cell powertrain is said to be easier to make and cheaper to produce.

Geneva preview: Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lotus Engineering is demonstrating its plug-in range-extended hybrid powertrain in the Evora 414E Hybrid concept. This shows off the potential of Lotus’ versatile vehicle architecture (VVA) structure to support such a system, as well as an eye-catching integrated glass roof and engine cover from Lotus Design.

The 414E Hybrid promises 0-60mph in less than four seconds, a range of over 300 miles between refuelling or recharging, and 414bhp to play with; it features a simulated seven-speed paddle-shift transmission in its sports mode, with a fully-auto eco mode, though the transmission is actually single-speed. All that speed is despite the tiny size of the Lotus Range Extender engine: a three-cylinder, 47bhp  1.2, which acts as a generator when required to provide power for the pair of electric motors driving the rear wheels.

This coupe can do up to 35 miles on battery power alone, and can be recharged from a domestic power socket. But is this all a bit dull and worthy for Lotus buyers?

“The Evora 414E Hybrid provides less of a psychological step change for people familiar with high performance cars compared to other electric and hybrid sports cars”, says Lotus, citing the paddleshift-style sports mode and ‘torque vectoring’ chassis control system (which directs drive to each individual wheel) as reasons why this car will still be great fun to drive.

And that’s not all: the HALOsonic sound-engineering software will simulate the engine noise of your choice. Select a sporty six-cylinder sound or a lavish V12 – or two ‘futuristic’ engine noises, whatever that might mean; the engine noises are amplified in the cabin for the driver’s pleasure, with further external speakers ensuring that the car can be heard (more subtly) by pedestrians around town.

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