TECHNOLOGY Mercedes to deploy inflatable seat-belts

Mercedes-Benz is not the only car manufacturer to investigate seat-belt with built-in airbags — Ford, for instance, has experimented with such a system — but the German company is set to be the first to introduce a belt-bag. The system was one of the highlights of Mercedes’ 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle, and is due to become available in an unspecified luxury-class model soon.

The inflatable seat-belt strap is able to reduce the risk of injury to passengers in the rear in a head-on collision by lessening the strain placed on the ribcage. Should the crash sensors detect a severe frontal impact, the airbag control unit will trigger inflation of the belt-bag. A gas generator then inflates the multi-layered belt strap with Velcro seams to nearly three times its normal width. The resulting larger surface area is better able better distribute the force acting on the seat occupant, thereby reducing the risk of injury.

Mercedes inflatable seat-belt.

The belt-bag is used in exactly the same way as a conventional seat belt. It received top marks in practical trials for being extremely comfortable to wear and for its extra-soft belt strap edge.

‘MyMazda’ app. delivers vehicle information by smart-phone

To help drivers keep a check of their vehicle’s maintenance, review its service history and even request roadside assistance, Mazda has launched its new MyMazda app. This makes Mazda owners among the first drivers to have all the information about their vehicle and its service history available on their smart-phone.

The MyMazda app. is available to customers free of charge. Linked to Mazda’s Digital Service Records (DSR) — which records all service events for Mazda vehicles on a central database — MyMazda app. allows Mazda owners to review their service history, automatically receive service reminders, request roadside assistance, check and edit their personal and vehicle details, or find their nearest Mazda dealership. A car’s full service history will appear on MyMazda, which will also take into account the user’s driving patterns and remind them when to book their next scheduled service.

The MyMazda app. can be downloaded from the iTunes store or the Android Playstore.

NEW Seat Leon

Completely redesigned from the ground up, the third generation Leon has a longer wheelbase despite being shorter overall, and offers a broader range of ‘infotainment’ functions and driving aids. There is a claimed improvement in cabin materials, too, which will be welcome — Seat actually uses the word ‘craftsmanship’ in describing the new interior. There is also more space inside, thanks to the longer wheelbase.

Among the technology options are full LED headlamps and a drowziness detection system, which recognises when the driver is losing concentration and ‘suggests’ taking a break. A camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror manages both the Full Beam Assistant, which switches automatically between full and dipped beam, and the ‘Heading Control’ lane-keeping assistant, which delivers torque to the steering wheel using the electric power steering motor.

Seat Leon.

Inside, the Easy Connect operating system controls the Seat sound system entertainment and communication functions, as well as a wide array of vehicle functions, by way of a touch-sensitive screen.

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NEW Aston Martin announces V12 Vantage Roadster

Aston Martin’s new ragtop, which will be available as a limited edition in a handful of markets, is the most potent convertible Vantage. Power is supplied by Aston Martin’s atmospheric 5935cc quad-cam V12 power-plant, driving through a rear-mounted six-speed manual transmission. Joining the engine and transmission is an alloy torque tube; the engine-speed prop. shaft is of carbon-fibre, and a conventional limited-slip differential is used. Engine outputs are 517PS at 6500rpm and 570Nm at 5750rpm. Claimed performance figures include a standing start time to 100km/h of 4.5s and a maximum speed of 190mph.

While the Roadster shares much of its specification with the V12 Vantage Coupe, some elements are predictably a little different. The V12 Vantage Roadster features a redesigned boot lid and lower front air intake to maintain aerodynamic performance, and there are also a number of chassis revisions. These include a modified rear damper set-up, front and rear damper valve tuning and a new rear spring design.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster with engine installation (click here for additional images).

Braking is by ventilated carbon-ceramic discs at both ends: of 398mm diameter and with six-piston calipers at the front, and 360mm with four-piston calipers astern. The usual safety aids are fitted: dynamic stability control (DSC) with ‘Track’ mode; ABS; electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD); emergency brake assist (EBA); and traction control.

Unique to the V12 Vantage and the new V12 Vantage Roadster is a ‘Sport’ mode button, which does much the same job in the Astons as lesser such buttons do in humbler cars. There are two modes, with ‘Normal’ the default from start-up: this provides not only a more relaxed throttle response but also a quieter, more refined exhaust note. In ‘Sport’ mode, responses are sharper, and exhaust system bypass valves are also kept open for longer to create a sportier exhaust note.

Audi R8 gets new twin-clutch ’box

Next year’s Audi R8 features a totally new seven-speed twin-clutch transmission as an optional extra, replacing the existing automated manual unit. The strandard transmission remains a six-speed manual unit. With a three-shaft layout, the S tronic transmission is less than 60cm in length. Its two multi-plate clutches are positioned behind one another (a new feature), and serve two mutually-independent sub-transmissions; gears are shifted directly as the clutches alternately open and close. As a result, gear-changes take place within hundredths of a second and with virtually no interruption to tractive power.

A new 550PS V10 version of the R8, called the V10 Plus, will also be available. Cheaper (if that’s the right word) versions of the R8 still use V8 power. Both engines use dry-sump lubrication, allowing them to be mounted lower in the frame. The 4.2-litre V8 FSI engine produces 430PS at 7900rpm and 430Nm between 4500rpm and 6000rpm; the V10 unit provides 530Nm at 6500rpm and 525PS at 8000rpm.

The flagship R8 V10 Plus offers some 550PS and 540Nm. This coupé-only version reaches 100km/h from rest in 3.5s and achieves a maximum speed of 197mph when driving through the S-tronic DCT. Combined NEDC rolling-road fuel economy is 21.9mpg. With manual transmission, the acceleration time lengthens slightly to 3.8s, while maximum speed increases by 1mph to 198mph; combined fuel economy is 19.0mpg.

The R8’s chassis is a classic sportscar setup, with forged aluminium double-wishbones locating all four wheels. Magnetic adaptive damping is standard for the R8 V10 and optional for the V8 variants; it offers a normal mode and a sports mode. The steel brake discs are internally ventilated, perforated and joined to the aluminium disc bowls by pins. The new ‘Wave’ design of the discs, with their wave-like exterior contour, lowers the weight overall by about two kilograms compared with round discs of the same dimensions. At the front, the aluminium callipers operate with eight pistons each, and at the rear wheels with four pistons each. Carbon-fibre ceramic brake discs are standard for the V10 Plus and optional for other models. The electronic stabilisation control system offers a sports mode and can also be fully deactivated.

The R8s are built using Audi’s aluminium space-frame technology. The Coupé body weighs 210kg, the Spyder 216kg. The unladen R8 V8 Coupé with manual transmission weighs in at 1560kg, while the open-top version registers 1660kg. The R8 V10 Plus, available only as a coupé, adds 10kg to the kerb mass of the V8 Coupé, taking it to 1570kg. Its additional CFRP body components combine with adjustable bucket seats with glass fibre-reinforced polymer (GFRP) chassis, reduced insulating materials, special light alloy wheels and chassis components such as the standard ceramic brakes to keep weight to a minimum.

Audi R8 e-tron sets a Nürburgring lap record

During preparations for its production début in late 2012, the all-electric Audi R8 e-tron has set a world record for a production vehicle with an electric drive system on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Racing driver Markus Winkelhock piloted the electric R8 around the 12.92-mile track in 8 minutes and 9.099 seconds.

A comparison with the current record lap for a production car with a conventional combustion engine shows the e-tron’s result in context. The record time of 7'11.57" was achieved by a Gumpert Apollo Sport, which is powered by a 700PS Audi V8 petrol engine.

Audi R8 e-tron.

The drive system of the Audi R8 e-tron that Markus Winkelhock drove is identical to that of the road-going model that will enter production towards the end of the year. The car’s electric motors generate a combined output of 380PS and 820Nm. Audi quotes an acceleration time to 100km/h of 4.6s; its maximum speed is normally limited to 124mph to preserve the battery-pack, though the Nürburgring test car was allowed to run to 155mph.

The R8 e-tron’s 49KWh battery is built up from modules that form a T-shape in the centre tunnel and in the area between the passenger compartment and the rear axle. It is charged by energy recovered on the overrun and during braking. The body of the e-tron is made primarily of aluminium, along with some CFRP components; this is the main reason why kerb mass could be kept down to 1780kg, despite the large battery.

Revisions to MX5 include active bonnet

An ‘active bonnet’ features on the Mazda MX5 for the 2013 model year. This feature helps to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision by forcing the bonnet panel upwards by a few centimetres: the unfortunate pedestrian’s head is then (relatively) cushioned by the raised bonnet panel, instead of hitting any of the mechanical components which lie immediately beneath the bonnet when it is in its normal lowered position.

Other changes to Mazda’s phenomenally successful sportscar include tweaks to the throttle response and the braking system, and a new front bumper.

Torotrak’s variable-drive supercharger nears production

Lancashire-based Torotrak has developed a miniature version of its toroidal continuously-variable drive system to operate a supercharger. As we have reported previously, the aim is to provide ‘downsized’ engines with good performance and fuel economy without the lag and unprogressive delivery of some single turbocharger installations, or the cost and complexity of hybrid systems such as Volkswagen’s TSI. The system has now graduated from the bench to the car — a 1.1-litre Clio — and Torotrak reports that the results have been very promising.

The system, now called V-Charge, can boost torque from zero (on the overrun) to 95 per cent. in less than 400ms at any engine speed. This is just under half a second: in practical terms, you would have to slam the accelerator to the floor very quickly to detect any lag.

Torotrak V-Charge. Click here for larger image.

V-Charge combines elements of both mechanical and exhaust-driven forced induction systems. A small, high-efficiency compressor impeller, similar to that used in a conventional turbo, is driven mechanically using Torotrak’s Compact Variable Drive, a gearless variable speed transmission that can change ratio from 0.4 to 2.5 (a ratio range of 6.25:1) within 250ms. This allows high boost to be provided on-demand at low engine speeds, giving instant throttle response, without the inefficiency of providing too much boost at higher engine speeds.

The V-Charge system also solves another cost-critical challenge with turbocharging: heat. In petrol engines, high-pressure turbos can drive exhaust temperatures beyond 1000°C, requiring the use of exotic materials and additional cooling. But because V-Charge is mechanically driven, it can be placed on the cool side of the engine. This also means that the exhaust line is uncompromised so there is no impact on aftertreatment: this can then be mounted closer to the exhaust manifold and receive the full thermal energy of the exhaust to provide faster warm-up. This means potentially that the amount of precious metals required can be reduced.

Torotrak says the V-Charge system will offer the performance of complex boosting technologies — multiple blowers or hybrids like the VW system — for a cost that is only slightly more than a basic, single turbo system.

The build and vehicle integration of the V-Charge system was carried out by Torotrak’s engineering team at the Company’s U.K. technical centre. Initial design simulations were confirmed over twelve months of development and rig testing. Before installing the system in the Clio, the Company’s calibration engineers mapped the performance of the standard turbocharger installation so that it can be electronically simulated, allowing realistic back-to-back comparisons with V-Charge at the flick of a switch.

Delphi offers reconditioned turbos

Delphi Product & Service Solutions is now offering remanufactured turbochargers, including variable-geometry units.

The Company boasts that the units perform to O.E. standards, and we have no cause to doubt this, although no mention is made of a warranty. Blowers for BMW, Volkswagen, PSA and Renault — amongst others — are offered.

New lightweight piston allows greater power density

Engineering giant Federal-Mogul has developed a new lightweight, high-strength aluminium piston that allows engine manufacturers to increase the power density and efficiency of boosted, direct injected petrol engines. Dubbed Advanced Elastoval II, the new piston is up to 20 per cent. lighter than (unspecified) previous generation pistons. It enters series production later this year in a new European passenger car.

Piston wall sections are currently around 4mm, while the new piston achieves wall sections as thin as 2.5mm. Any reduction in wall thickness requires the entire piston structure to be redesigned, but advances in piston design, analysis tools and testing have led to better stress distribution; this, in turn, allows mass to be reduced.

Federal-Mogul Advanced Elastoval II piston.

The complex curved side panel forms of the Advanced Elastoval II piston are inclined in two planes and are closer together at the top to support the piston crown, using multiple weight-reducing pockets and crown reinforcing ribs. The piston pin bosses are curved towards the side panels and boss distance is reduced to the minimum possible. The piston’s design uses asymmetric geometries to enable maximum mass reduction.

All Federal-Mogul Elastoval pistons use different skirt widths for the thrust and non-thrust sides of the piston, with the aim of reducing mass, NVH and scuffing. Advanced Elastoval II has a skirt width to 50 per cent. of bore diameter on the thrust face and 45 per cent. of bore on the non-thrust face.

Federal-Mogul Advanced Elastoval II piston.

Several vehicle manufacturers are validating the Advanced Elastoval II piston, with the first scheduled for series production later this year.

Reducing the dry mass of the engine is a secondary issue here. The new AEII piston sets out to permit greater power density in ‘downsized’ petrol engines. Federal-Mogul predicts that, in the coming years, specific volumetric power outputs will increase from current levels of around 95kW/l to 130kW/l, while peak combustion pressures will rise from 110 Bar (11MPa) to 130 Bar, and even to 160 Bar in engines using ‘alternative’ fuels like E100 or compressed natural gas (CNG).

NEW Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake

Daimler’s new estate offers a fine specification in all of its derivatives, but — as we would expect — the AMG version is particularly formidable.

In standard form, the twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 power-unit offers 525PS; if this is not enough, a 557PS ‘Edition 1’ version is available. The engines have direct petrol injection with spray-guided combustion, piezo-electric injectors, air/water intercooling, generator management (charging the battery chiefly on the overrun) and a stop-start function. The transmission is AMG’s Speedshift MCT seven-speed epicyclic unit.

Because turbocharging is used to achieve the AMG engines’ high performance, the torque outputs are more than respectable at 700Nm and 800Nm for the two variants. The NEDC rolling-road overall fuel consumption return is 27.9mpg for both versions, equivalent to a CO2 yield of 235g/km.

Mercedes CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake.

The drivetrain has four operating modes to suit the whim of the driver, and the Speedshift transmission features double-declutching and race start functions. Suspension changes over a standard CLS include greater negative camber for betterturn-in and ‘bite’. Elastokinematics (the behaviour of the rubber bits) is, perforce, enhanced over lesser cars to deal with higher cornering loads. Buyers can specify AMG’s Ride Control suspension as an optional extra; this uses air suspension struts at the rear with automatic level control and an electronically controlled damping system.

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NEW Audi snaps at BMW in diesel performance

Audi’s new three-litre V6 Bi-TDI power-unit provides an answer to BMW’s remarkable triple-turbocharged N57S engine, without truly challenging the Bavarian’s outright brutality. The Audi motor’s two turbochargers deliver up to 3.2 bar of boost, helping headline outputs to 313PS and 650Nm — substantial figures which should not be dismissed simply because they do not match the 381PS and 740Nm of the BMW straight-six.

The new V6 is available initially in A6 and A7 models. Transmission is through a Quattro four-wheel drive system by way of ZF’s 8HP automatic gearbox; in addition to the usual self-locking centre differential, a torque-vectoring rear differential is available as an optional extra.

Audi 3.0-litre Bi-TDI V6.

Unlike the BMW engine, the Audi unit does not use Bosch’s latest 2200 bar injection set-up, sticking with 2000 bar (200MPa) injection. Piezo injectors with eight nozzles are used, and the unit is currently specified to meet Euro 5 emissions standards.

There is more detailed technical information about the engine in our description of the Audi A6 Allroad: click here.

NEW Ford’s compact performer

Ford has introduced its impressive new three-cylinder, one-litre Eco-Boost petrol engine in the Focus.

The new power-plant is exceptionally compact and delivers very good specific (volumetric) outputs of 100PS/l and 125PS/l for the two versions that are offered. No torque figure is quoted for the lower-rated engine, but the 125PS derivative offers 170Nm between 1400rpm and 4500rpm.

Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, with a cutaway model of the one-litre Eco-Boost engine.

Overall CO2 outputs from the NEDC rolling-road test régime are 109g/km for the 100PS version and 114g/km for the 125PS model.

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche 1935-2012

Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, has announced the death on 5 April in Salzburg of Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. He was the Honorary President of the Company’s Supervisory Board, and great-grandson of founder Ferdinand Porsche.

F.A. Porsche was born on 11 December, 1935, in Stuttgart, the eldest son of Dorothea and Ferry Porsche. In 1958, he started work in the design office of the Porsche car company. His artistic talent was soon demonstrated, as he modelled the first plasticine model of a successor to the 356 series. In 1962 he was made head of the Porsche Design Studio; the following year, the Porsche 901 (or 911) was shown, and quickly became as much a design icon as a successful sportscar.

F.A. Porsche also designed other significant models. Among his most famous designs are the Type 804 Formula 1 racing car, and the 904 Carrera GTS.

When Porsche was made into a limited company in 1971/72, F.A. Porsche — along with all other family members — retired from the business operations of the Company. In 1972 he founded the Porsche Design Studio and earned a reputation as a functionalist, minimalist designer. His trademark was a strong, clear line.

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche received numerous honours and awards both for his work as a car designer as well as for individual designs. The Comité International de Promotion et de Prestige honoured him in 1968 for the outstanding aesthetic design of the Porsche 911. He earned the title of Professor from the Austrian Federal President in 1999.

F.A. Porsche with 911, 1962.

Bosch produces the 75 millionth common-rail injestion system

In the late nineties, there were two competing technologies for diesel fuel injection systems: common-rail and unit injectors.

Volkswagen’s unit-injector system offered superior performance for some time, simply because its injection pressures — and thus fuel dispersion characteristics — were far ahead of common-rail, delivering fuel at 200MPa rather than common-rail’s 135MPa. But common-rail offers a critical advantage, albeit one that was not decisive for several years: the injection of fuel into each cylinder is controlled electronically and independently, using (historically, and still widely) solenoid valves to admit fuel into the cylinders. Multiple injection pulses are possible, with current systems offering up to eight pulses per cycle. Injection timing is infinitely variable, cylinder-by-cylinder. So as common-rail technology has advanced, unit-injectors have fallen by the wayside. The best current common-rail engines use piezo-electric control of injection and offer 2200 bar (220MPa) injection pressures, with Bosch promising 250MPa in the future.

Bosch CRS3 injection pump with piezo-electric injector. Click here for larger images.

By 2001, four years after the introduction of the first car powered by a common-rail engine — the Alfa Romeo 156 JTD — three million Bosch common-rail systems were in use; by 2002 the figure had grown to 10 million, and by the start of 2009 it was 50 million. The components are produced by an international manufacturing network of 17 locations. In 2011 alone, Bosch produced some nine million common-rail systems, which were fitted in passenger cars, commercial vehicles, in the off-highway segment, and also in large diesel engines such as those found in ships.

The term ‘common-rail’ refers to the main fuel rail or pressure accumulator to which the individual injectors are connected. Multiple injection régimes allow for a quieter and more controlled combusion process.

The first generation of common-rail systems operated at a rail pressure of 135MPa, but today’s Bosch CRS2 — using solenoid injectors — achieves up to 200MPa. Up to eight injection pulses per power cycle are possible. The long-standing CRS2-16 and CRS2-18 variants deliver 160MPa and 180MPa respectively; the newer CRS2-20 delivers 200MPa.

With piezo-electric injectors, the Bosch CRS3 system offers more precise fuel metering and delivers injection pressures up to 220MPa. The technically more complex CRS3 system is designed for engines with high specific power — above around 100PS/l. Bosch is currently working on systems that run at 250MPa.

... and the two-billionth MEMS sensor

MEMS stands for micro-electro-mechanical systems. These sensors are used to measure a wide variety of parameters in the automotive world, notably acceleration and yaw — controlling driver-assistance systems such as ESP — and engine combustion characteristics and fluid flow rates.

The sensors use microscopic springs, bars, weights or membranes to make their measurements. The structures etched into their silicon substrate are thousandths of a millimetre across. Since micromechanical sensors produce only weak electrical signals, developers have integrated electronics — either into the component housing beside the sensor or sometimes even directly on the same chip — to take the signal and either process it, amplify it, or convert it into digital data. In this way, MEMS sensors can deliver measurements directly to control units. A modern car features up to 100 of these sensors.

Development of MEMS sensors began 16 years ago. It took 13 years to produce the first billion; the two-billion mark was recently passed, just three years later. Production volumes are still growing. Recently, annual production had reached almost half a billion units — more than 1.3 million every working day.

New premium navigation app. from Bosch

Bosch has launched a premium mobile sat. nav. app. for Apple users in the U.K. Bosch Navigation 1.5 will take on leading mobile sat. nav. brands in the Apple App. store, un on iPhone and iPad.

Features include intermediate destinations — known elsewhere as ‘via points’ — and a ‘Plus Routes’ tool, which offers real-time suggestions of alternative routes that may offer time or distance savings. Bosch Navigation uses quasi-3D art mapping, city models and landscapes to make surroundings more recognisable; it also omits ‘unimportant details’.

More interestingly, ‘Driver Assistance’ calculates the severity of upcoming bends in the road and proposes an optimum speed. The built-in ‘Eco Navigation’ settings help plot a route that offers the best fuel efficiency for a particular type of vehicle.

Bosch Navigation 1.5. We would rather have a car’s-eye view than a helicopter’s.

Additionally, there’s a POI database, real-time traffic reports, lane guidance and an autozoom function.

Bosch Navigation 1.5 is developed and maintained by Bosch SoftTec, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bosch.

Lightweight seats for Astra VXR

The sporting Astra’s new seats are formed using an injection moulded sheet in the seat shells, reducing their mass by 45 per cent. compared with a conventional shell. The sheet is filled with a composite material made from polyamide and fibreglass; its strength means that it only needs to be two to three millimetres deep.

To squeeze the VXR’s centre of gravity down a little, the front seats are mounted 17mm lower than in the Astra GTC and 40mm lower than in the standard Astra Hatch. The number of adjustments available to the driver depends on specification, but the seat design allows for these:

  • Entire seat backwards and forwards
  • Entire seat upwards and downwards
  • Seat backrest forwards and backwards
  • Seat cushion angle adjustment
  • Seat cushion length adjustment
  • Four-way lumbar support adjustment
  • Adjustable side bolster support in back
  • Adjustable side bolster support in seat cushion.

Additionally, cushions built into the seats’ flanks can be adjusted electro-pneumatically.

Vauxhall Astra VXR driver’s seat detail. Click here for large image.

The Astra VXR’s seats are certified by Action for Healthy Backs, an independent German organisation comprising leading doctors and therapists. Before they gained approval, the seats had to meet a list of ten criteria, including checks for lordosis support.

New tyres just for E.V.s

Continental has announced a new range of tyres designed specifically for electric vehicles, and has won a contract to be the exclusive tyre supplier for the Renault Twizy.

The first and most important issue in developing the new tyres was reducing rolling-resistance, which Continental claims is 30 per cent. lower for the largest size of its new ‘eContact’ rubber than for (unspecified) con­ven­tional tyres. High-speed performance is obviously less important than with conventional tyres. For directional stability and handling, though, different tread variants need to be produced for the front and rear in some cases. And, obviously, sizes differ as well.

One of the reasons for the impressive improvement in rolling-resistance is that the figure quoted relates to a tyre of 195/55x20 dimensions, intended to replace the 205/55x16 size on full-size cars. Rolling-resistance drops as diameter increases, all other things being equal, because the tyre deforms less when it enters the contact patch. In addition, the side-wall of the tyre is designed in such a way that less energy is lost when the tyre deflects and rebounds, and the tyre is quite light for its size, reducing the unsprung mass — which is, in itself, a factor in rolling-resistance.

Completely avoiding the use of lateral grooves is a good way of reducing noise as well as rolling-resistance; sipes (small cuts) are used to make up for any loss of water-dispersal ability. The tread ribs are very rigid.

The Continental eContact will be available in sizes 125/80R13 and 145/40R13 from this year. It is produced in the Company’s passenger car tyre plant in Korbach.

Click here for a close-up image of the Continental eContact tread pattern.

Chevrolet announces new Aveo

Chevrolet’s second-generation Aveo is almost completely new. Although a gearbox and two petrol engines are carried over, the latter are re-engineered for the new model. For the first time in a Chevrolet, the 1.3-litre G.M.-Fiat diesel is offered. The Aveo’s body structure is new, using a substantial amount of high-strength steel; kerb mass is well-contained on all models.

Chevrolet Aveo.

The Aveo is a little on the large side for a supermini, with an overall length of 4039mm — this compares with 3950mm for the Fiesta, exactly four metres for the Fabia and 4065mm for the Punto Evo.

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Ricardo to help develop zero emission Dearman engine

An assessment by Ricardo has provided the first step towards the commercialisation of a ‘liquid cryogen’ engine concept, aimed at competing with hydrogen fuel cells and pure battery electric systems.

The Dearman engine is a piston engine that uses the temperature difference between air at cryogenic temperatures and ambient air to provide rapid expansion and thus pressure in the cylinder.

Dearman describes the engine as ‘offering highly competitive energy density and re-fuelling rates. It operates by vaporising liquid air with ambient heat to produce high pressure gas that drives the engine, with cold air as the only exhaust.’

Dearman engine.

Because the working fluid (‘fuel’) is at cryogenic temperatures (below -160°C), ambient temperatures can superheat it and return it to gaseous air. When the piston is at the top of the cylinder, some heat exchange fluid is admitted to the engine cylinder. Immediately after this a small quantity of cryogenic liquid is sprayed into the cylinder; it comes into contact with the ambient (but in relative terms to the cryogenic temperatures, superhot) heat exchange fluid and boils very rapidly. The cryogenic liquid quickly turns to gas building up pressure in the confined space of the engine pushing the piston down the cylinder.

At the bottom of the stroke, the exhaust valve opens. As the piston returns to the top of the cylinder the heat exchange fluid and now gaseous air are pushed out of the engine. Afterwards, the cold air can be exhausted and the heat exchange fluid can be recovered for reheating and use in another cycle.

The Dearman Engine Company (DEC) asked Ricardo to carry out a review of Dearman’s liquid cryogen engine concept, the development work carried out to date and the market potential for a fully developed product.

‘Clearly we still have a long way to go to build a fully optimised demonstration engine and also get people to believe that using cold air as an energy vector is not a load of hot air,’ commented Toby Peters, founder of DEC. ‘It is very exciting news that Ricardo has not just validated the technology and its commercial potential, but also the team working on it.’

Dearman has just embarked on a two-year technology development programme led by Ricardo. The aims are to develop the sub-systems necessary to control the engine and, vitally, to build a test engine.

Alongside Ricardo, the company can call on an advisory team from Loughborough, Brighton, Leeds and Queen Mary Universities and STFC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Volkswagen announces five-door Up

Volkswagen’s Slovak-built Up is now available with five doors. The new version is technically the same as the existing three-door.

Volkswagen Up 5-door.

Click here for details of the three-door Up.

Torotrak starts testing variable-rate supercharger

Testing work on the Rotrak supercharger, which is driven by a miniaturised CVT, is underway at Torotrak’s rolling-road test facility in Lancashire.

The Company’s engineers have a prototype supercharger running in a Clio with a 1.2-litre petrol engine. At present, the car is on a dynamometer while the supercharger’s control strategy is developed. The raison d’être of the Rotrak supercharger is the relatively poor ability of two- and three-cylinder engines to drive turbochargers at low crankshaft speeds — a comparison of the torque delivery of three- and four-cylinder versions of Volkswagen’s TDIs will confirm that this is true in practice as well as in theory. The Rotrak unit is mechanically driven, with its compressor turbine speed controlled by the CVT.

Work to develop a driveable prototype for interested licensees and vehicle manufacturers will continue on the rolling road for the next few months. At the same time, Torotrak will gather data on the system’s efficiency to validate fuel economy simulations.

New engines for Renault Mégane and Scénic

Following the introduction of the 1.6-litre R9M diesel last year, Renault is introducing two new power-units into its Mégans, Scénics and Grand Scénics.

The first of these is the Energy dCi 110. Renault describes this as an ‘extensive metamorphosis‘ of the familiar 1461cc K9K, which has been available in 75PS, 90PS and 110PS forms for some time. In the Mégane, the new version delivers fuel savings of around 15 per cent. over the NEDC test cycle compared with its predecessor, with an overall return of 80.7mpg (3.5l/100km) and 90g/km of CO2. Torque improves by 20Nm to 260Nm.

Renault Energy dCi 110.

The second new engine for the spring of 2012 is the 1.2-litre TCe 115 petrol unit, which replaces the existing 110PS 1.6-litre engine with a fuel saving of roughly 20 per cent.

Front-end styling of Méganes and Scénics has also been revised for 2012.

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Škoda starts testing of electric Octavia

Škoda has begun testing electric traction in everyday use for the first time, with a fleet of ten electrically-powered Octavia Green E-Line estates in use around the Company’s home town of Mladá Boleslav in northern Bohemia.

The standard Octavia Combi’s modular chassis is described by Škoda as ‘ideal for holding the battery, electronic controllers and electric motor’. The electric motor puts out peak power of 115PS for 60s — its continuous rating is 81PS — and 270Nm. Škoda claims acceleration from rest to 100km/h in 12s with a maximum speed of 83mph.

A lithium-ion battery is used; its 26.5kWh capacity delivers a claimed range of 150km. The battery-pack consists of 180 cells, each with a diameter of 55mm and a length of 233mm, and weighs about 315kg. Battery modules are mounted under the middle and rear floor panel, and in part in the boot.

Škoda Octavia Green E-Line. Click here for a larger image.

Charging times are two hours at 400V, three-phase, or eight hours at 230V, single-phase.

NEW Audi A6 Allroad

Audi has announced a third generation of its A6 Allroad, a breed which uses four-wheel drive to provide traction in bad weather rather than to massage the self-importance of the owner. That’s to say, it’s not huge or aggressively in-your-face.

Three power-units will be available — one petrol and two diesel — and adaptive air suspension is standard. As we have come to expect of any new model these days, fuel economy is substantially improved model-for-model over the previous Allroad.

Audi A6 Allroad.

The current incarnation of Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system uses torque-vectoring to deliver drive torque to the wheels with the most traction. Volkswagen’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a new four-level reactive air suspension system are standard on all versions.

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CPT develops 48V electric supercharger

U.K.-based engineering consultants Controlled Power Technologies is developing a 24V electric supercharger to exploit the proposed 48V electrical architecture which is gaining some momentum in Europe. The new unit exploits the Company’s experience with switched reluctance motor technology at 12V and 24V.

The prototype 48V supercharger runs at a substantial 7kW, putting a substantial electrical load on the engine. The unit will run up to 70,000rpm from rest in less than a third of a second, which is very impressive, though we are dubious about CPT’s assertion that the electric charger is mechanically decoupled from the engine ‘unlike exhaust-gas driven turbochargers’. We beg to differ.

CPT 48V electric supercharger.

CPT recently sold its supercharger business to French engineering company Valeo, though engineering work continues to be carried out at CPT’s site at Laindon in Essex.

NEW Hello, Adam

Perhaps ‘Vauxhall Adam’ sounds no less meaningless than most car names, but the same could not be said of ‘Opel Adam’ — the name G.M. Europe’s new small car will wear in most territories. The Opel company was founded, you see, by one Adam Opel, and despite the globalisation of its parent company it still bears his name today: Adam Opel AG.

So what do we know about the new small car? First, with a wheelbase of 2311mm and an overall length of somewhat less than 3.7m, it is an A-category car that fits into Vauxhall’s range beneath the Corsa. In its marketing, Vauxhall is keen to stress the use of ‘quality cabin materials, normally found in premium cars’. We’re not surprised at this, as the last couple of Corsa models have felt rather cheap when you start prodding and pushing things. In perceived contruction quality, the Corsa has been well behind the Fiesta and Fabia, for example.

Vauxhall Adam.

Like the new Renault Clio, drivers will benefit from internet-based apps and safety systems. And the Adam will be the first Vauxhall to get a new generation of engines, though not at first: the line-up will feature distinctly familiar power-units initially, and there’s no sign of a diesel model in the range.

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Ford celebrates 40-millionth engine from Dagenham plant

It’s amazing but true. Ford’s Dagenham plant has been in business since 1931, and in that time it has produced 40 million engines. Nowadays the plant specialises in diesel power-units, and over 50 per cent. of global Ford diesel engine demand is supplied by Dagenham.

Production for Ford vehicles accounts for around 70 per cent. of Dagenham’s output, with the remainder — over 270,000 engines — sold to Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, PSA and Volvo.

Ford 1.6 TDCi engines at Dagenham.

Petrol engines from Bridgend and diesel engines from Dagenham power one-in-three of all Ford vehicles produced globally. These two plants have a total combined U.K. production capacity of two million engines, of which over 85 per cent. are exported.

NEW Renault unveils fourth-generation Clio

Set to go on sale in the U.K. in early 2013, the new Clio will be available only as a five-door model. It will feature new engines — including a three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol unit of 899cc developing a useful 90PS, as well as 1.2 TCe 120 and 1.5 dCi 90 units. New technologies include ‘R-Link’ — an integrated, internet-connected touchscreen tablet with an associated R-Link Store — the automotive industry’s first-ever application store.

Renault’s Efficient Dual Clutch transmission will make an appearance for the first time in the Clio range. And significantly, the new car is around 100kg lighter than its predecessor.

2013 Renault Clio.

The smallest engine in the lineup is Renault’s first three-cylinder unit. Nominally it replaces the TCe 100 engine, with a 21 per cent. fuel saving. A low-inertia turbo is used to improve responses at low crankshaft speeds — often a problem with small engines, particularly those with fewer than four cylinders. The maximum torque is 135Nm at 2000rpm, but significantly 90 per cent. of this is available from 1650rpm to 5000rpm. An ‘economy-optimised’ version, with taller gear ratios, delivers NEDC rolling-road fuel economy of 65.7mpg overall, equivalent to CO2 emissions of 99g/km — good for a petrol engine. A four-cylinder version of the engine, delivering 120PS, will also be available a few months into 2013; this 1.2-litre unit will be paired with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2013 Renault Clio. Click here for a larger image.

Also new is the 1.5 dCi 90m which replaces the 85PS version with a 20Nm gain in torque, taking the output to a satisfying 220Nm at 1750rpm. Once again, a high-geared economy version is available: this manages an NEDC overall economy figure of 88mpg, equivalent to 83g/km of CO2. Renault’s DCT will be made available with this engine some time after launch.

Quaife débuts seven-speed sports gearbox

Quaife Engineering, a specialist in automotive high-performance transmissions, has announced an in-line seven-speed transmission — its first. Called the QBE89G, it was shown in prototype form at the Autosport show earlier this year and is now in full production.

The seven-speed format is a response to market demands from specialist sportscar manufacturers and motorsport customers who want an in-line sequential transmission with very close ratios — chiefly for front engined, rear-wheel drive cars running small capacity engines with a narrow power band.

Quaife QBE89G.

Lightweight construction and user adaptability were key criteria during development of the QBE89G. The structure of the transmission is a lightweight alloy two-piece casing; the unit’s overall weight is just 33kg. For easy installation into a wide variety of front engined, rear-wheel drive machinery, the QBE89G uses a quill-type input shaft.

The unit’s seven forward gears feature very close ratios, a modular gear cluster and an open face dog design to ensure rapid gearshifts. Quaife’s addition of a pair of interchangeable drop gears within the QBE89G allows users to tailor the overall gearing to suit their needs — for example, for fine-tuning between racing circuits.

From the outset, the QBE89G was designed to run with an optional electronic semi-automatic paddle gearchange system to maximise the transmission’s potential.

Gear ratios for the seven speed Quaife QBE89G are:

I 2.750
II 2.214
III 1.800
IV 1.471
V 1.238
VI 1.043
VII 0.920

The drop-gear ratio is 1.045.

First B-Max christens Romanian plant

Ford has begun volume vehicle production at its new manufacturing facility in Craiova, Romania. The first car off the line was the very first example of the Company’s B-Max, which will be built exclusively at Craiova. Ford has also confirmed that it is starting work to build a second engine in Craiova — a 1.5-litre petrol engine; this will go into volume production early in 2013.

B-Max Job One at Craiova, Romania.

In total, Ford is investing more than €675m in its Craiova engine and vehicle manufacturing facility, of which more than €500m went to modernising and upgrading the vehicle manufacturing plant. Vehicle production follows the start of engine production: the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is made here.

Delphi at le Mans

Parts supplier Delphi has been boasting of a le Mans win, though it was not the car or the engine that the French-based company built. The Ferrari 458 Italia GT2, which won its category at in the 24-heur du Mans road-race recently, was definitely built by Ferrari. Delphi’s contribution was the HVAC — the heating, ventilation and air conditioning module.

It’s easy to think that an air-conditioner never won a motor race, but it’s worth bearing in mind that accessories like this have to work as efficiently as possible. And if two competitors are a fiftieth of a second apart, who is to say that their HVACs didn’t make all the difference?

Delphi HVAC for Ferrari 458 Italia GT2.

Based on the standard production 458 Italia components, the GT2’s condenser was changed to reduce the impact on engine cooling and aerodynamic drag. Additionally, the compressor on the racing version is 2.2kg lighter and uses 30 per cent. less power. It also uses a coil/pulley assembly to withstand the higher vibration that is experienced in racing. Finally, the HVAC module was modified to remove functions and features not required in the racing environment, including heating (!), recirculation and a duel-zone function.

BMW announces further £250m investment in U.K. manufacturing

BMW Group has announced a further £250m investment in its U.K. manufacturing operations by the end of 2015 at its Mini plant in Oxford, steel body pressings operation at Swindon and engine plant at Hams Hall near Birmingham. This is to support the company’s international growth strategy for the Mini brand, with increasing volumes and up to 10 different models in the new line-up in the mid-term.

The new cash comes on top of the £500m U.K. investment announced in June 2011, and means additional job security for the 5500 workers in the U.K. Mini production network.

Mini Es on the production line at Cowley, Oxford, November 2008.

The extra volume for the growth strategy of the Mini brand, and the complexity of new model lines, means that production capacity beyond Oxford’s current limit is needed in the medium term. BMW is now considering how to achieve this.

BMW board member Harald Krüger has stated that ‘Our preferred option is to establish a contract manufacturer as a satellite production as close to our U.K. operations as possible, at the Nedcar plant in the Netherlands, with whom BMW is in discussions. Oxford will provide special Mini production expertise for any new operation, particularly in dealing with the high complexity and customer individuality which Mini demands and in operating state-of-the-art, multi-model production lines.’ Krüger also commented that Oxford will remain the home and the heart of Mini, as Munich is the home of the parent company.

As the volume and variety of the MINI model line-up grows, there will be additional production requirements for engines and body panels from the BMW Group’s specialist U.K. facilities in Hams Hall and Swindon. Part of the new investment is to develop specific production facilities to meet these requirements.

Ford plans big cut in landfill waste and water use

The Ford Motor Company has announced that it plans a 70 per cent. reduction in landfill waste across Europe, while water use is to be cut by 30 per cent. — the latter saving more than 1 billion litres of water and reducing costs by €2.3m.

Out of the entire annual waste produced at Dagenham — 5937t in 2011 — 85 per cent. is recycled, with 15 per cent. presently going to landfill. Dagenham engine plant is currently working on an ‘oil reclamation’ process which, if successful, will eliminate virtually all of the remaining landfill material.

The new Ford of Europe commitment covers manufacturing in Genk in Belgium, Valencia in Spain, Saarlouis and Cologne in Germany as well as Southampton, Bridgend and Dagenham in the U.K. Genk, Saarlouis and Cologne had previously taken significant steps to reduce landfill waste, and now send nothing to landfill.

A nice bit of the Ford Dagenham site.

Ford says it will initially work ‘internally and closely with partners to reduce the resources used in production’; then reduce the quantity of waste from that production; and finally, ensure that as much waste as possible is recycled or used to generate energy.

Production of Ford’s new 1.0-litre Eco-boost engine in Cologne is an example of the process. The introduction of a new production line and new manufacturing techniques reduced water use by 37 per cent. compared to the manufacturing line it replaced. One part of the process sees the amount of coolant used to produce aluminium engine parts reduced from two litres to five millilitres.

Euro NCAP’s best cars of 2011

Car safety organisation Euro NCAP has announced the five safest cars tested last year. And without further ado, the winners were:

Supermini Chevrolet Aveo
Small family Ford Focus
Small MPV Mercedes B-class
Large family Volvo V60
Small 4x4 Audi Q3

The runners-up — and please note that the categories don’t match — were the Chevrolet Malibu, Mercedes M-class, Toyota Yaris, Lexus CT200h, Opel Zafira Tourer, Hyundai ix20 and BMW X1.

The Organisation tested four electric vehicles. Plug-in vehicles are exposed to the same test conditions as their conventional counterparts, while special attention is paid to battery integrity after a crash. The Nissan Leaf was the first of its breed to achieve a Euro NCAP five-star overall rating, placing itself amongst this year’s best small family cars.

Euro NCAP rewarded several car-makers for their use of advanced safety features that are not yet included in the rating scheme. The Ford Focus, offered with optional Active City Stop, Driver Alert Forward Alert and Lane Keeping Aid, made headlines as the first high volume car receiving four rewards. The Mercedes B-class and Volvo V60 also were rewarded for Collision Prevention Assist and City Safety respectively — both are Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems (AEBs).

This year, Euro NCAP is introducing stricter standards by increasing the minimum score in the pedestrian assessment from 40 per cent. to 60 per cent., reflecting the improvements introduced by manufacturers.

Lemon of the year was the Dacia Duster.

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Paul Pietsch Prize for Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 4 drive system

This year’s Paul Pietsch Prize has been awarded to PSA for the diesel hybrid drive system of the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 4. The Hybrid 4 drive system, which uses two separate drive-trains — diesel at the front, electric at the rear — was developed by PSA and Bosch.

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 4.

The two electric motors, one of which acts as a high-voltage generator, were developed in-house at Bosch and are manufactured at the Company’s Hildesheim plant. Bosch also developed the extremely compact power electronics, comprising DC/DC converter, dual inverter, and integrated hybrid control unit, in close collaboration with PSA.

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Updated BMW X6 leads with 381PS diesel

BMW’s revised X6 range, due on sale in June, will include a new ‘M’ model powered by the most powerful diesel engine the Company has yet built, offering 381PS and a relaxed 740Nm.

The new power-unit — designated N57S — is a derivative of BMW’s existing 2993cc straight-six, in this case fitted with no fewer than three turbochargers: two are small, high-pressure blowers with variable nozzle geometry, while the third is a larger, lower-pressure unit with a wastegate. One of the two small turbochargers is activated at engine speeds just above idle; its low moment of inertia allows it to respond quickly to any movement of the accelerator. As the revs increase to 1500rpm, the flow of exhaust gas reaches the large blower; the result is that peak torque of 740Nm is maintained from 2000rpm until 3000rpm. At 2700rpm, a vacuum-modulated exhaust flap opens allowing exhaust gas to flow past the second small turbocharger creating additional charge pressure, boosting maximum power. The engine’s 381PS peak is available from 4000rpm to 4400rpm.

BMW X6.

Fuel rail pressure is an industry-leading 2200 bar (220MPa) — for the first time, a common-rail engine has beaten the 200MPa injection pressure offered by Volkswagen’s old unit-injector system, in which each cylinder effectively had its own miniature injection pump. The Bosch CSR3 injection system is used, with piezo injectors delivering a total of eight injection pulses per cycle: three pre-injections, one main injection and four post-injections.

The new triple-turbo engine is also offered in the X5 and the mechanically similar M550d xDrive.

As we would expect, kinetic energy capture and on-demand ancillary architecture are used. The standard transmission is ZF’s 8HP automatic, driving all four wheels. Over the NEDC rolling-road test régime, the X6 M50d produces 204g/km CO2.

The 245PS 30d model can now be specified (at extra cost) with what BMW calls Blue Performance Technology. This means that, in addition to the standard components of diesel particulate filter and oxidation catalytic converter, the AdBlue system is used, with urea injection and a NOx catalyst storage system which eliminates sulphur dioxide as well as nitrogen oxides. This allows the 30d to meet the EU6 emission standard, which comes into effect from 2014.

Apart from the new power-unit, revisions to the X6 are not major and largely affect the car’s styling. Adaptive LED headlamps are now available as an alternative to the standard bi-xenon units on more ‘downmarket’ models (if that’s the right word), while the M-series cars have the diode lights as standard kit. Self-levelling air suspension is fitted at the rear, and the electronically-controlled dampers — which are optional — incorporate BMW’s Adaptive Drive active anti-roll function.

Dynamic Performance Control is a standard feature in all versions of the X6 as an element of BMW’s xDrive system, working with the electronically-controlled power distribution. As the car enters a bend, additional power is fed to the rear wheels to improve turn-in. Optional equipment includes a head-up display, lane departure warning — though not for the M50d and X6M, perhaps because of wiring issues — speed limit information, and side view and rear view cameras with a top view function.

BMW and Toyota to collaborate on lithium-ion battery research

BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) have signed an agreement on collaborative research in the field of next-generation lithium-ion battery cells. They have also begun the research. The agreement follows the memorandum of understanding announced by the two companies on 1 December, 2011, concerning a mid-to-long-term collaboration on next-generation environment-friendly vehicles and technologies.

The research project being undertaken under the new agreement is focusing on increasing the performance and capacity of lithium-ion battery cells through the use of new combinations of materials for cathodes, anodes and electrolytes.

In addition to the collaborative research agreement between BMW Group and TMC, Toyota Motor Europe (TME), TMC’s European subsidiary, and BMW Group have entered into a contract under which BMW Group is to supply 1.6- and two-litre diesel engines to TME starting in 2014.

More collaboration between Gordon Murray Design and Toray

The two companies which recently announced their partnership in producing an electric sportscar concept — the curiously-named Teewave — are to collaborate in the fields of materials and production technologies.

Joint work will cover further development of GMD’s ‘istream’ manufacturing system, and research and development of materials and processes for the automotive sector that use Toray’s products.

Click here for more information about the Teewave AR.1 sportscar.

Ricardo wins further Bugatti DCT production contract

Bugatti has placed a further contact for the production of the Veyron’s dual-clutch transmission with Ricardo, which co-developed the unit. The new order represents a further two years of production for the transmission, which is manufactured at the Ricardo facility at Leamington, U.K.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport.

The Veyron’s seven-speed DCT is the result of a long-standing design, development and manufacturing collaboration between Ricardo and Bugatti, encompassing both the transmission hardware and its electronic control unit and software.

Axeon to supply batteries for Spanish electric micro-car

Spanish firm Hiriko isn’t a household name, but its two-seater electric micro-car prototype is every bit as bold as Renault’s Twizy, and it can do a trick the little Renault can’t: you can fold it up.

If that’s not enough, it has four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and a hepatic steering-wheel, with steer-by-wire. The claimed driving range is 75 miles, while the maximum speed is 56mph. Access to the interior of the car is at the front.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso enjoys a comfortable chat with Jesus Echave, chairman of Hiriko, at the European Commission.

During the first quarter of 2012, Axeon will supply each Hiriko prototype with two lithium-ion batteries mounted in parallel, one in each half of the vehicle. Wheel-mounted motors are used.

Hiriko intends to franchise the production model to enable the vehicles to be locally and sustainably produced by a number of consortia in different markets. Hiriko urban electric vehicles will be particularly targeted at large cities in which they will be available for rental. The vehicles will be homologated during 2012, and the prototypes will be tested in cities around the world, with the expectation that they will come to market in 2013.

1950s reductionism: BMW Isetta.

Falken announces tyres for high-performance SUVs

Japanese tyre manufacturer Falken has introduced a new range of SUV tyres, with the emphasis on the top end of the market

The snappily-named FK453CC range runs from 235/65R17 108W (for the Freelander and Q5) to the substantial 315/35R20 110W size used by some versions of the X5 and X6.

Falken has used comparatively round shoul­ders and phase-shifted tread bars in an attempt to reduce drive-by noise. The tread pattern is notable for very wide circumferential grooves but very narrow lateral ones and few sipes: this is a summer tyre with no appreciable off-road capability and relatively low roling-resistance. The tyre compound does make appreciable use of silica, though, which improves wet road performance.

Other SUV models covered by the new Falken tyres include the Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Mercedes M-class.

Platoons could save fuel

Most of us would be pretty horrified at the sight of this:

But, in fact, what is happening here is an attempt to improve road safety, not abandon it, while also improving the fuel consumption of the cars.

The experiment is known as SARTRE: Safe Road Trains for the Environment. The vehicles are six metres apart and, with the exception of the truck, they are being driven autonomously. This formation is referred to as a ‘platoon’, exploiting an aerodynamic effect known in motor-sport as ‘towing’, whereby the slipstream of the leading vehicle substantially reduces the amount of work needed to push the following car through the air.

SARTRE has successfully completed its first test demonstrations of a multiple-vehicle platoon. The test fleet comprised a lead truck followed by three cars, with the convoy running at speeds of up to 90km/h. The vehicles were never more than six metres apart.

The perceived advantage of road trains is that the car driver has, in Volve’s words, ‘time over to do other things’. The energy saving is expected to be in the region of up to 20 per cent. There is also the potential to use road capacity more efficiently.

As to how this type of formation actually improves road safety, that is a moot point. The autonomous systems controlling the cars react, theoretically at least, quite quickly; but only to the vehicle immediately ahead. For example, the third vehicle’s control system cannot ‘see’ what the truck is up to, as a real driver would. Volvo — presently the only car manufacture involved in SARTRE — points out that the lead vehicle is being driven by a professional driver, but everyone makes mistakes.

New Hyundai i30 arrives

Hyundai’s second-generation i30 will go on sale in the U.K. shortly.

Five engines will be offered: 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrol units of 100PS and 120PS respectively, and three versions of the Company’s 1.6-litre diesel, delivering 90PS, 110PS and 128PS. The 90PS diesel is a carry-over from the earlier model, while the other two are re-engineered versions of the engine. All diesels are fitted with a stop-start system as standard; the 100PS variant returns a CO2 emissions figure of 97g/km over the NEDC rolling-road test routine.

Hyundai i30.

Safety systems fitted as standard across the range include vehicle stability management, emergency stop signal and hill-start assist control. One model — dubbed Active — offers the driver the choice of Comfort, Normal or Sport driving modes.

E.U. tyre labelling will help buyers

November 2012 will see the introduction of a standardised tyre label by the European Union. The goal of the E.U. Tyre Label is to promote low emissions and better road safety, with standardised information focusing on three key criteria: fuel efficiency, wet grip and external rolling noise.

Intended to give consumers essential information to help them when choosing new tyres, each tyre will be rated from A-G in each category. Oddly, a rating of ‘D’ is excluded, ‘to avoid an average performing tyre’. Presumably that makes sense to someone.

Example of E.U. standard tyre label.

In the wet braking category, vehicles with tyres from class A will stop in the shortest distance from 50mph, while tyres from class B take an additional 3-6 metres. This trend continues for the subsequent values and results in an increase in braking distance of over 18 metres from a class A to class F. For wet braking, category G is not used.

For rolling-resistance, a car using tyres from class C (for example) will use 1l more fuel than one using tyres from class B over a journey of 1000km.

Structural changes for Prius

The bodyshell of Toyota’s Prius is now stiffer, thanks to an increase in the number of spot-welds and reinforcements. This increased rigidity has allowed the use of softer suspension tuning, apparently without undermining the car’s dynamic abilities.

Additionally, a redesign of the bracing has made the steering column more rigid, improving steering feel, and NVH has been cut by the use of extra soundproofing materials.

Government and industry consider hydrogen vehicle future

U.K. H2Mobility, a consortium of 13 automotive companies, government organisations and energy companies, will consider the actions needed to secure the U.K.’s global role in the manufacture and use of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, ahead of an anticipated roll-out to consumers in 2014/15.

Work undertaken by the Automotive Council to develop the strategic direction for automotive technologies has played a pivotal role in identifying ‘sticky technologies’ and developing an industry-wide consensus in its Low Carbon Vehicle Roadmap, which forecasts mass market hydrogen vehicle uptake to begin within the next 10 years.

Industry signatory parties to the Memorandum of Understanding are Air Liquide, SA; Air Products PLC; Daimler AG; Hyundai Motor Company; Intelligent Energy Limited; ITM Power PLC; Johnson Matthey PLC; Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Limited; Scottish and Southern Energy plc; Tata Motors European Technical Centre plc; The BOC Group Limited; Toyota Motor Corporation; Vauxhall Motors.

Toyota has said that it plans to market ‘fuel-cell vehicles’ (Toyota’s plural) in 2015.

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Toyota Land-Cruiser V8 improved

Toyota’s biggest Land-Cruiser has been revised, with changes to the power-unit and a variety of new and upgraded driver-assistance systems.

The Land Cruiser’s twin-turbocharged 4461cc diesel has gained new injectors and a particulate filter to bring it up to EU5 emissions standards — a trifle tardily. A device called Turn Assist — no details are available yet — reduces the vehicle’s turning radius when driving through tight off-road bends, and the Crawl Control now has five speed settings for tackling steep climbs or descents.

The sat-nav said ‘Turn right’.

The variable assistance of the power steering system now has an off-road setting. A new terrain monitor uses four external cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the area immediately around the vehicle, while Multi-terrain Select offers five selectable driving modes to tailor the car’s behaviour to different off-road conditions.

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Bosch research finds engineering is undervalued

A survey by Bosch has found that engineering is undervalued and misunderstood by adults in the U.K.

The research was carried out amongst 1347 people aged between 18 and 45. In general, it shows that many people, particularly younger adults, see engineering as a ‘back of house’ function in business that is not critical to the U.K. economy.

Peter Fouquet, President of Bosch U.K., said: ‘The findings are concerning given that the engineering sector in the U.K. makes up nearly a fifth of the economy and employs over 4.5 million people. Combined, engineering and manufacturing contribute around £800 billion to the U.K. economy.’

Bosch testing its predictive braking system.

The research found that only 45 per cent. of people — and only 23 per cent. of young people — thought engineering was a key industry for the U.K. economy. Retail, banking and tourism were all seen as more important. Respondents also did not see engineering as a frontline role in business, with 92 per cent. saying that they thought engineers have mostly technical roles in business and less than two per cent. thinking that engineers are involved in running businesses.’

EngD Opportunity

Received 27/1/12: The University of Strathclyde is now recruiting for a student to undertake leading edge Engineering Doctoral research with Rolls-Royce. This EngD project will be located in Inchinnan, Glasgow. For more information please read the PDF file and contact the EngD Programme Coordinator or visit the University’s EngD web-site.

BMW newcomers: 1-series and 3-series engines, 1-series coupé and convertible

March 2012 sees the introduction of three new powertrains for the BMW 1-series five-door: the 116d Efficient Dynamics, the 125d and 125i. The newcomers complete the range’s engine range, at least for the time being. Coupé and convertible models also join BMW’s smallest model range. Additionally, a new four-cylinder petrol engine powers the 320i and there are revised turbodiesels for the 318d and 316d.

The 116d Efficient Dynamics uses the four-cylinder 1.6-litre BMW-PSA turbodiesel and offers 116PS and 260Nm. Over the NEDC rolling-road test routine, the 116d Efficient Dynamics returns 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. Unique features include a ‘centrifugal pendulum’ engine mounting — to reduce vibration at low crankshaft speeds and encourage gentle driving — plus a longer final drive ratio. The ride-height is lowered by 10mm compared with the standard cars.

The 125i and 125d will be available only as M-Sport models. The 125d features a two-stage twin-turbo version of BMW’s two-litre engine developing 218PS and 450Nm.

The petrol-powered BMW 125i introduces the latest version of BMW’s turbocharged two-litre petrol engine. With a twin-scroll blower, it offers 218PS and 310Nm. A de-rated version of the same engine, delivering 184PS and 270Nm, powers the new 320i, while variants of the familiar 1995cc all-alloy diesel are used in the 316d and 318d.

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Jaguar introduces 163PS diesel for XF

Jaguar is introducing a 163PS variant of PSA’s four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel in the XF to complement the existing 190PS engine, which itself is substantially revised. The new 163PS power-unit offers a CO2 yield of 149g/km over the NEDC rolling-road test cycle — identical to the more powerful version — while standing-start acceleration to 100km/h deteriorates from 8.5s to 9.8s.

The XF has been restyled for 2012, and significant changes have been made under the skin, too. Z.F.’s eight-speed 8HP transmission and automatic stop-start become standard on the diesel models.

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Drive to find an alternative to Rare Earth metals

A team of U.K. engineers has been charged with developing a new motor for electric vehicles that will significantly reduce our future dependency on Rare Earth metals.

Sevcon, Cummins Generator Technologies and Newcastle University have been awarded £518,000 by the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board to develop a novel electric motor for hybrid electric and pure electric vehicles.

Unlike the current E.V. motors which rely on Rare Earth metals such as neodymium and dysprosium, the new motors will replace these rare earth metals with steel. Steel is not only much cheaper and less damaging to the environment, but also much more widely available.

Rare Earth metals are a range of minerals which have become increasingly important in the delivery of new and sustainable technologies ranging from electric vehicles to solar panels. However their success in these applications is now raising worldwide concern about the supply and environmental impact of mining these materials.

Charging-point supplier says standardisation will be too late

The continued lack of agreement across Europe regarding a common standard for electric vehicle plugs and sockets is delaying the roll-out of charging points and holding back volume sales of E.V.s to consumers and businesses, according to charging-point manufacturer Elektromotive.

The ACEA has issued recommendations for a universal standard, but has called only for them to be in place by 2017. ‘This could be too little, too late,’ asserts Calvey Taylor-Haw, Managing Director of Brighton-based Elektromotive. ‘While consensus from car manufacturers is both necessary and very welcome, the proposed timescales for implementation need to be much shorter. We have a range of E.V.s on the market right now, and many more are due next year. In order to give people across Europe sufficient confidence in the E.V. market so that they will actually buy these vehicles, we need widespread agreement on standards, right now.’

Elektromotive reports that the present situation, where each new E.V. recharging station must have the facility to be retro-fitted with a socket compatible with the new standard plug, when it is eventually approved, is making the charging units more costly to manufacture and purchase. Some governments, local authorities and businesses are deferring issuing tenders for new charging networks until after the standards issue has been resolved.

E.V. sales still poor

JATO Dynamics has carried out a survey of European E.V. sales. If there is a message at all from the figures, it is that incentives don’t seem to be having much effect. Click here to see the survey results as a graphic.

Agreement on universal standard for E.V. charging

The European motor industry body, the ACEA, has set out a comprehensive set of recommendations to standardise the charging of electric vehicles.

The joint industry proposal will enable the use of one type of plug independent of car make, electricity provider or country. Standardisation of the connection between the electricity grid and the vehicle is one of the prerequisites to help E.V.s gain acceptance. At present, a variety of solutions is used, leading to a fragmentation of the market across Europe and elsewhere.

The ACEA’s recommendations cover the whole link between the public charging infrastructure and the vehicle charge socket, including the communication between the two, and they address both slow and fast charging with direct or alternating current. As soon as the recommendations are approved by the relevant standardisation bodies, vehicle manufacturers will start integrating the approved system into their products. The ACEA advocates the full implementation of a universal standard for new vehicles types from 2017.

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