Concept of the Day: Seat Leon Verde

June 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

leon verdeDon’t get excited just yet: the Leon Verde is only a research & development vehicle with no plans for its production*. It does, however, show off the work of the Spanish division of the Volkswagen Group in its four-year Cenit Verde (“Green Zenith”) project, now coming to an end. The “culmination” of the programme, this plug-in hybrid prototype (like the earlier Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive) features the VW Group stock 122hp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine plus 102hp electric motor; it gives a 31-mile all-electric range, a total range of 507 miles and a combined 176.6mpg/36g/km.

The most interesting thing about it is its smartphone-integrated driver interface (two patent applications pending), an app to monitor and manage energy consumption, battery status and charging, as well as to track CO2 savings. Seat has also applied for a patent for its Driving Cycle Predictor, which analyses the driver’s style and routines to optimise energy consumption and minimise emissions.

Cenit Verde – a 34million-euro public-private initiative supported by Spain’s Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and involving 16 private companies and 14 public bodies across the country – has also developed a public charging infrastructure and smart-grid system with lower pricing tariffs for charging at off-peak times. The car’s charging management system can be set to only charge the car (if left plugged in) at the low-tariff times, though peak-time – and quick-charge – electricity can also be specified; the Leon Verde can also feed electricity back to the grid in a two-way process.

Ramón Paredes, Seat VP for Governmental and Institutional Affairs for Seat and the Volkswagen Group in Spain, points out that (should one be wondering whether the cash-strapped Spanish state should have funded this programme) that “funds devoted to the financing of R&D activities constitute key elements in the industrial policy of any developed country, or at least if it wishes to continue being one. Experience tells us that those countries who have been able to go against the flow have managed to emerge from the crisis more rapidly and in better shape.” Hear, hear.

Incidentally… Seat has the largest rooftop solar array in Spain at its Martorell facility. And more about Cenit Verde plus test-drive of the Altea XL Electric here; test-drive of Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive here. *Interestingly, at the time (November 2011), they were saying production of a Leon plug-in hybrid for 2015 – perhaps a target now shelved or deferred.

  • Seat, and Spain, needs to be in on the action: though “electromobility is currently still a niche business… after 2020 it could very well become a mass market”, said Dr Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board at Bosch.  He expects that “by 2020, electric cars will have a range of at least 300 kilometers”. Bosch is explicit that it is “betting on the future of electric-drive”.
  • Toyota is putting its Camatte57 EV, first seen last year,  into production (this new version looks prettier). But again, before you get too excited, it’s a. a child’s toy and b. you have to assemble it yourself, like an IKEA flatpack (don’t forget the brakes). Good fun for all the family! More here.
  • BMW’s looking at lithium-air batteries for its EVs, and reckons that average range can be doubled within four to five years, with a tenfold improvement in performance another five years on from that. As told to Detroit News. BMW’s also hedging its bets between improved ICE, hybrids and EVs, and wondering whether the industry’s changing through evolution or revolution (aren’t we all?). And it’s seeing much interest in the i3 (100,000 test-drives booked), adds Automotive News Europe.
  • Croatia’s Rimac Automobili – maker of the Concept_One super-EV – is expanding into component and systems supply and engineering consultancy/services. Press release posted here.
  • Interesting project car to be revealed by a team from the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki: the Biofore is claimed to be “a milestone in the utilisation of next generation biomaterials in the automotive value chain”, and will be made from wood- and cellulose fibre-based biocomposites. Its diesel engine will run on wood-derived biofuel. More here.
  • So Apple wants to get iOS – its mobile operating system – into vehicles, with a number of brands planning to offer it; more here. Much possibility for multi-platform networking, etc.
  • Lifetime costs of owning an EV are pretty similar to those for an ICE vehicle, according to modelling by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), though there’ll be variations due to driving style/patterns, how/when the car is charged, etc. Detailed rundown at Green Car Congress.
  • The Frauenhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and a team from the University of Stuttgart are studying a trial local authority fleet of EVs in the southern mountain resort community of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This six-month project is part of the e-GAP programme in which the community is working as a platform for R&D. More here (and details of the Frauenhofer IAO Shared E-Fleet programme here).
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