Concept of the Day: Buick Riviera

April 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

buick riviera shanghaiGM’s Buick has revived the Riviera nameplate (again: there was a 2007 concept using this name) for a plug-in hybrid developed by Shanghai GM and GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Centre. This one previews the styling of future Buick products – now largely targeted at the Chinese/Asian market, hence the PATAC design – and features the characteristic ‘waterfall’ grille. Fuel-saving features include aerodynamic lines plus active grille shutters and diffusers, and wireless charging; it can run in all-electric or hybrid modes though there’s no more detail than this yet on the powertrain. In a nice touch, however, the concept’s charging port (it can be recharged via a traditional cable or wireless ‘sensory panel’) echoes the traditional Buick ‘porthole’ window. Further features include 4G mobile internet access, voice- and gesture-recognition controls, forward active safety monitoring with 10 cameras and a full suite of active safety/driver assist systems. Wouldn’t bet against something like this going into production. More here.

  • Some more Shanghai news. Nissan’s Chinese-market sub-brand Venucia, a JV with Dongfeng, has come up with an EV concept: a city car called Viwa (pics here). It’s claimed to be the first of a number of new upcoming Venucia EVs, featuring existing Nissan e-drive tech, and to have “a driving range which meets the daily requirements of Chinese customers”. Venucia is also to start pilot-testing its e30 in Guangzhou and Dalian this year; more on that here. And BMW, meanwhile, is to make  EVs in partnership with Brilliance, to be sold under a new ‘Zinoro’ brand-name, reports Automotive News.
  • Detroit Electric has unveiled the Lotus Elise-based SP:01 in Shanghai; like the Tesla Roadster, but faster, and with a four (or optional five-) speed gearbox as standard (two-speed auto also available). Orders have already been taken, says Autocar.
  • And at (my) home here in the UK: Hyundai has joined the London Hydrogen Partnership to “develop a plan for fuel cell vehicles” and plot the roll-out of refuelling stations in the city. It is now delivering its iX35 Fuel Cell (in a production run of 1000) to public and private fleets and demonstrating it to the European Commission. The iX35 Fuel Cell – a small crossover – has now completed over two million miles-worth of testing in total in Europe, Korea and the US, and the headline stats for it are a 369-mile range per tankful of hydrogen, a top speed of 100mph, and 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds.

And the big research story (so far) this week:

A study by Ricardo-AEA for the RAC Foundation and the UK Petroleum Industry Association has a pessimistic forecast for electric and plug-in hybrid car sales in the UK: unlikely to meet the government’s targets for 2020. The EU target of an average 95g/km of CO2 is feasible, however, thanks to improvements to diesel and petrol engines. An annual sales figure of 200,000 plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles is expected for 2020, taken from an average of 14 different forecasts, but the actual numbers from this report are vague. Market share of hybrids is expected to be anywhere between 5-20% by 2020 and 20-50% by 2030, the latter accounting for anything between 400,000-1million cars; for plug-in hybrids, 1-5% (2020) and 15-30% (2030), and 300,000-600,000 sales; for ‘pure’ EVs 1-5% (2020) and 5-20% (2030), and 100,000-400,000 sales; and for range-extended EVs, 1-2% (2020) and 5-20% (2030) with sales of 100,000-400,000. Whichever way you look at it, even the more conservative figures still represent a fair amount of vehicles (at least compared to today’s numbers), but basically, there’s no clear consensus.

Conclusion of the report: “In the longer term, the likely mix of technologies is extremely difficult to predict. The speed with which plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles achieve significant market shares is highly dependent on their total cost of ownership in comparison to that of more conventional alternatives. This is, in turn, dependent on factors such as oil prices, further battery and fuel cell cost reductions, and government policies.” Comment from Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation: “Estimating future sales of electric cars is not quite like sticking the tail on the donkey, but not far from it. There are so many variables to factor in that even those paid to predict the future of low-carbon vehicles cannot agree on what is in store. The only common ground amongst the experts is that we are unlikely to see as many electric cars sold as politicians might like.”

The RAC Foundation makes the point that advances in battery technology and purchase price are key factors, and says that a target of an average new-car 60g/km should be set for 2025 to incentivise development. The director of UKPIA, Chris Hunt, notes that, including range-extenders and engines in hybrids, 60% of vehicles in 2030 will still feature the ICE, and said: “The key conclusions of the publication are that conventional petrol and diesel cars are expected to remain the dominant technology in the overall vehicle fleet until at least 2030.” As Mandy Rice-Davies (she of Profumo scandal infamy) once said: “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”.

  • Ah, but on the other hand… the IEE (Innovation, Electricity, Efficiency, an institute of the Edison Foundation: yes, you can see where they‘re coming from) reckons one in ten light-duty vehicles, including cars, could be electric in the USA by 2035. “Even under the most conservative scenarios” that means five million American EVs, and possibly as many as 30 million. More, including link to download full report, here. Worst-case scenario is a 2% market share, best-case 12%, depending on advances in battery tech and oil prices.
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