Kia to market hybrid executive and small E.V.

Kia is set to introduce a hybrid version of its Optima executive model and an all-electric small MPV called Venga. Both are currently under development in South Korea; the Optima hybrid will be the first to arrive in the U.K., possibly late next year.

The new Optima range, which replaces the Magentis, is being launched in the U.K. later this year. Two engines are available for the car, one a petrol unit and one a diesel, and both are of two litres capacity. The U.K. market is certain to get the diesel, and might get the petrol version as well.

Kia Venga E.V.

The hybrid model is currently being rolled out in the U.S. with a market-specific 2.4-litre petrol engine and 30kW (40PS) electric motor. A two-litre petrol engine is under development for other markets.

The Venga will be Kia’s first all-electric car. The Company currently has 250 of the E.V.s undergoing evaluation in Korea; senior research engineer C.Y. Jeong said a small production run of about 2000 cars will start next year, followed by volume production from 2013. The Venga E.V. will then go on sale in various markets around the world, including the U.K.

Jeong said the car will have a range of around 90 miles. Power comes from an 81PS electric motor. Kia claims that the battery-pack takes six hours to charge, though a fast charge can be carried out in 25 minutes.

Kia also plans to start marketing hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles in 2015.

Audi builds cutting-edge broadband into A8

At present it’s only a prototype, but Audi has built an A8L with long-term evolution (LTE) broadband technology, the next step in mobile communication technology.

LTE technology offers data transfer speeds of up to 100Mbps, which is similar to a good fixed-line broadband connection. This means that passengers in the prototype can stream music, high-definition videos and other data on up to six computers or mobile phone devices. The current standard, 3G, can only offer data transfer speeds of around 14.4Mbps.

Developed in collaboration with communications giant Alcatel-Lucent, the car’s mobile broadband connection is a fourth generation (‘4G’) technology that is tipped to replace the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard (UMTS) systems that underpin 3G. LTE allows data to be transferred faster than conventional 3G technology and modern digital subscriber line (DSL) connections. LTE can also cope with large numbers of users streaming data, even at peak times, because of its extra bandwidth.

Order books open for Porsche 918 hybrid

Porsche’s hybrid 918 is now available to order, though deliveries won’t begin until Nowember 2013.

The 918 is a plug-in hybrid with a CFRP monocoque structure. Motive power comes from a mid-mounted V8 petrol engine — offering over 500PS — plus two electric motors that deliver 218PS. The V8 powers the rear wheels through a seven-speed ZF dual-clutch transmission and is based on the racing engine of the RS Spyder; the electric motors power the front wheels.

Fuel consumption over the NEDC is estimated to be around 3l/100km, or 94mpg. The battery-pack is a liquid-cooled lithium-ion unit that can be charged from a conventional domestic power socket, delivering an electric range of around 16 miles over the NEDC. The charging time depends on the mains network — Porsche quotes a time of three hours for the German grid. A quick-charging option is planned.

Porsche 918 Spyder.

The 918 accelerates from a standing start to 100km/h in 3.2s and has a maximum speed of roughly 200mph. Porsche estimates that the Spyder will be able to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in less than seven minutes and 30 seconds — the Porsche Carrera GT needs seven minutes and 32 seconds. The top speed under electric power is 94mph.

The car will be built at Zuffenhausen from September 2013, and only 918 examples will be made. Prices start at €645,000 — plus taxes.

London lets down BMW’s electric commitment

Only a few hundred of the 4000 cars BMW is to supply for next year’s Olympics will be electric — not because BMW can’t find the cars, but because the London Olympics organisers have not provided sufficient charging points.

BMW’s U.K. boss Tim Abbott says that fewer than 300 E.V. recharging points will be available at a time that the City had promised to have more than 1500 installed, despite pressure from London Mayor Boris Johnson.

F1 in schools: winners announced

F1 in schools is a sponsored competition aimed at promoting careers in mathematics, engineering, science and technology.

Students are given a brief to design a model F1 car of the future using CAD-CAM. Cars are then manufactured on a CNC machine. Each team of between three and six students brings together their work to present to a judging panel with a verbal and written presentation to support their model car; this is then raced on a specially designed 20-metre test track. The F1 Class cars cover the distance in just over one second.

This year’s winners are Dynamic, a team from St. John Payne Catholic Comprehensive School, Chelmsford. Winning the event is becoming a habit for Dynamic: they won last year, too.

The F1 in Schools National Finals take place with the assistance of a host of sponsors and supporters: Tata, Tata Steel, Denford Limited, The Transformation Trust, Jaguar, The Big Bang, Institution of Engineering and Technology, Bloodhound SSC, Silverstone Circuit, Dassault Systèmes Solidworks, City University London, Tomorrow’s Engineers, the Design and Technology Association and Autosport International.

Saab and ZF cooperate

Engineering supplier ZF is building a factory next door to Saab’s Trollhättan assembly plant. From next year, the new facility will deliver chassis components for Saab’s 9-3 replacement.

ZF will develop and deliver complete rear axle systems as well as front axle components. Just-in-sequence supply will allow Saab to keep small inventories. The Saab production plant will deliver large pressed parts made of metal sheets that are then welded to build chassis subframes. ZF will mount rear axle systems onto the rear chassis sub-frames; the front axle will be assembled by Saab. ZF will deliver dampers and steering components.

Porsche Cajun will be built at Leipzig

Porsche has confirmed that its forthcoming small SUV, the Cajun, will be produced at the Company’s Leipzig plant alongside the Cayenne and Panamera.

Porsche Cajun.

No details of the Cajun have yet been officially released, though it is highly likely that the model will share a platform and driveline components with the Audi Q5.

To date, Porsche has invested around €280m in Leipzig. Its plant there was opened in 2002.

Ferrari chooses Michelins for FF

Michelin’s recently-launched Pilot Super Sport will equip Ferrari’s four-wheel drive FF. The sizes fitted are 245/35ZR20 on the front wheels and 295/45ZR20 on the rears.

The Pilot Super Sports was developed by Michelin in collaboration with Porsche, BMW M and Ferrari. The design uses a Twaron (para-aramid) belt and a bi-compound tread — a hard, carbon-black-reinforced compound is used on the outside, while that on the inside is softer and aimed at improving wet road performance.

Additionally, Michelin has incorporated a feature called ‘Variable Contact Patch 2.0’, a result of computer modelling. Although the contact-patch inevitably changes shape as loads change, the aim of this design feature is to keep the area of the contact-patch (and indirectly the available frictional force) constant.

Kia’s newcomers

Kia has announced all-new Rio and Picanto models, as well as a B-segment electric concept car called Naimo.

The new Rio is the fourth incarnation of Kia’s B-segment hatch. A new 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel provides the range with its banner headline: an NEDC CO2 return of 85g/km. Though a fine performance on the face of it, the car is pretty slow and we suspect that most examples will be driven too hard to deliver genuinely impressive fuel returns. A four-cylinder 1.4-litre diesel and two petrol engines are also available.

Kia Naimo.

The Picanto is Kia’s A-segment city car. Three- and five-door models will be available. Power comes from three versions of Kia’s all-alloy ‘Kappa’ petrol engine family, though only two will be available in the U.K. — the missing power-unit is a bi-fuel variant of the three-cylinder 998cc unit, designed to run where possible on LPG. Overall length has increased by 60mm over the previous model, though only 15mm of this is in the wheelbase. The Picanto’s drag coefficient is a very respectable Cd 0.31.

The Naimo concept car boasts 109PS and a claimed range of 120 miles. A small number will be built for road-testing.


Ampera range-extender will see other uses

General Motors will put the range extender system used in the Opel-Vauxhall Ampera into other vehicles in the future.

Also under development is ‘Project Junior’, a new all-electric city car which will be made at the Opel plant in Eisenach, Germany.

G.M. Europe president Nick Reilly commented: ‘The range extender can be used in a number of models ranging from compacts to SUVs and I would expect more in our portfolio over the next few years.’

Meanwhile, G.M. has confirmed that the Company has not yet taken a decision about whether to build the Ampera in the U.K. However, even if U.K. production does get the go-ahead, it will not actually commence for some years. The Ampera goes on sale in Britain in early 2012, but if General Motors does decide to build it in Britain it will be the second generation model. Nick Reilly: ‘By then we will have a better idea of acceptance and demand for the vehicle, and we will have a better idea on how much it costs to build. We know that in future it will be less costly to build and hopefully we will be able then to price the car more keenly.’

G.M. Europe hopes to sell between 8000 and 10,000 Amperas per annum.

Hyundai i40: engineered in Germany for Europe

Hyundai’s new D-segment car, the i40, was designed and engineered specifically for European markets at the Company’s R&D centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany. The first body-style to be made available will be an estate with a steeply raked tailgate, while a saloon will follow in a few months.

Standard equipment will be to a high standard: heated front and rear seats, reclining rear seats, a heated steering wheel and automatic windscreen demisting will be available.

Hyundai i40.

The i40 fitted with a 1.7-litre diesel engine — codenamed ‘UII’ — is expected to return CO2 emissions of 113g/km.

Hyndai Veloster will be re-engineered for RHD

Hyundai’s Veloster coupé, which has two doors on the nearside and one on the driver’s side, will be re-engineered for right-hand drive markets. Despite the considerable cost of the exercise, Hyundai has made it clear that the Company values the U.K. market and aims to sell between 5000 and 6000 Velosters here annually.

The only other asymmetric car on the market — the Mini Clubman — keeps its third door on the right for all markets, rather undermining the value of having it in the first place.

Hyundai Veloster: one door on the driver’s side, two on the nearside.

The Veloster will be powered by a directly-fuelled 1.6-litre petrol engine driving through Hyundai’s first dual-clutch transmission, a six-speed unit.

ZF at the Geneva motor show

Engineering supplier ZF specialises in driveline and chassis technology. It is one of the major companies that supply key components and technologies for new cars. We take a brief look at ZF’s contribution to the cars on show at Geneva.


Renault’s new 130PS diesel engine enters production

Renault’s new 1.6-litre R9M diesel power-unit has entered production at the Company’s Cléon plant in Normandy. Also known as the ‘Energy’ dCi 130, the new unit is a product of the same design team — under Jacques Prost, and based at Hauts-de-Seine outside Paris — that was responsible for Renault’s 1.5, two-litre, 2.3 and V6 diesels. The new engine will be built solely at the Cléon site.

The R9M will be fitted to Renault and Nissan C-platform cars, beginning with the Scénic. The new engine slots in between the dCi 110 range (also known as 1.5 dCi or K9K) and the 150PS to 180PS dCi units (also known as 2.0 dCi or M9R). It will ‘gradually’ replace the old 1.9-litre dCi 130 F9Q unit.

Renault R9M dCi 130 ‘Energy’. Click here for detailed images.

The new power-plant is the first in Renault’s new generation of ‘Energy’ units. It features an assortment of efficiency-boosting technologies, including a stop-start system and regenerative braking. Of principal interest, though, is low-temperature (‘cold loop’) EGR, which cools exhaust gases before re-introducing them into the combustion chambers; this has a marked effect on NOx emissions. Renault claims that the new engine delivers fuel consumption and CO2 emissions that are 20 per cent. below those of its predecessor.

In addition to the production version of the engine, Renault has shown a ‘concept’ variant with twin turbochargers. This unit, which is fitted to Renault’s Captur show-car, delivers 100PS per litre of swept volume — 160PS in all — and 380Nm, the latter available from 1750rpm. Drive is through a dual-clutch gearbox, and claimed CO2 emissions for the concept car are 99g/km.


Seat’s hybrid urban crossover will enter production

Seat’s IBX show-car is a statement of intent.

The car was designed to be powered by a hybrid power-train, though the combustion engine has not yet been decided upon. The car is totally practical, and its styling is unlikely to scare the horses.

The IBX measures 4.26m in length, putting it squarely in C-platform territory; width and height of 1.80m and 1.62m respectively mark it out as an SUV.

Seat IBX.

An electric range of 27 miles is quoted, so Seat has clearly finalised the electric part of the drivetrain. And while the prototype is designed to be front-wheel drive, Seat is keen to emphasise that four-wheel drive is a possibility for the future.

All-wheel drive Seat Alhambra débuts

Seat has introduced a four-wheel drive version of its Alhambra people-carrier.

The new derivative is available with a single power-train: Volkswagen’s two-litre TDI 140PS engine driving through a six-speed manual transmission. Four-wheel drive is permanent, with the torque split controlled electronically by way of the hydraulically-operated multi-plate Haldex clutch familiar from other Volkswagen Group products. Unusually, the Haldex coupling is mounted at the rear end of the prop-shaft just ahead of the rear axle; the rear suspension is necessarily re-designed.

A Haldex coupling is a multi-plate clutch pack turning in an oil bath. The pressure at which the plates are pressed together is infinitely variable. A control unit constantly analyses the driving conditions; in the event that the front wheels slip, an electrically-driven annular piston pump immediately builds up the oil pressure necessary for the clutch to divert a proportion of the driving force to the rear wheels. Thanks to a pressure accumulator, this process takes a matter of milliseconds.

The all-wheel drive Alhambra comes with Ecomotive features — to wit, automatic stop-start and brake energy recovery. The engine is fitted with selective catalytic reduction equipment.

Toyota honours Bosch

The Toyota Motor Corporation has presented its Global Contribution Award to the Bosch Group. The award is made in recognition of companies that have performed ‘outstandingly’ over the previous year. Global continuous improvement activities and collaboration with Toyota, especially in the areas of quality, communication, smooth launch management and cost optimisation, secured the award for Bosch.

Artificial photosynthesis boosts biofuel production

A new U.S.-U.K. research project aims to generate biofuels more efficiently by boosting the process of photosynthesis. The project will look at ways of using the excess light energy that reaches phototrophic organisms.

:More on the Engineer web-site (new window).

Biofuel from plant waste

An Anglo-Australian research group is working on developing the commercial production of vehicle fuels from plant waste such as wheat stubble.

The Australian-based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, together with the Australian National University (ANU), RMIT University, the University of Queensland and the University of Manchester in the U.K., will use biological methods to produce liquid transport fuels and other valuable chemical products from the cellulose and lignin solids of waste plant material. A team of enzyme engineers, energy biotechnologists, microbial systems biologists and energy crop biotechnologists will engineer enzymes which can convert plant waste into alternative fuels, adding greater value to plant crops at the same time.

Microbial digestion of plant waste such as wheat stalks could produce vehicle fuel.

The Biofuels Research Cluster was officially launched in March 2011 and will run for three years.

Lignin and cellulose contain a large amount of carbon. Lignin employs around 30 per cent. of the non-fossil organic carbon on Earth; it constitutes between a quarter and a third of the dry mass of wood, as well as making up a significant proportion of the tougher parts of other plants. Cellulose is the structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants and is the most common organic compound on Earth.

Ford’s voice-controlled SYNC system to launch in 2012

The Focus will be the first European car to use Ford’s SYNC voice-controlled connectivity and infotainment system when the package is made available next year. Drivers will be able to use SYNC in any of 19 languages.

SYNC with the MyFord Touch interface makes vehicle functions, settings and information accessible to the driver through voice control, steering wheel controls or a tap of the centre stack touch screen. It is powered by the Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive platform and was developed in partnership with Nuance, the provider of voice-recognition technology. The system’s voice-recognition ability also allows voice operation of the climate control system, audio and entertainment functions, navigation, and devices linked to the car using Bluetooth or USB. When connected to a compatible phone, SYNC can retrieve text messages and read them aloud, allowing a response to be sent using voice activation from a predetermined list of responses while on the move.

SYNC can also turn the car into a mobile WiFi hot spot. Using a portable USB modem or Bluetooth-tethered compatible smartphone, SYNC can turn an incoming single point of internet connectivity into a WiFi broadcast inside the car for up to five passengers to connect their internet-powered devices.

A specific European version is veing developed with the ability to understand not only several languages but also accents. It can also decipher regional text message acronyms. The system can recognise 10,000 commands.

Compatible languages include U.S., U.K. and Australian English; European and Canadian French; European and U.S. Spanish; and European and Brazilian Portuguese. Elsewhere in Europe, German, Italian, Dutch, Russian and Turkish are all understood. Beyond Europe, languages such as Arabic, Korean and Japanese are also compatible.

Cooper SD tops Mini diesel range

BMW has transplanted its two-litre, 143PS turbodiesel from the 118d into the Mini range to sell alongside the existing 1.6-litre diesels. The new cars’ 305Nm makes the Cooper SD the torquiest Mini by some margin, with the petrol Cooper S offering only 260Nm — and then only on overboost.

The number of Mini models available with a six-speed automatic gearbox will also be extended from spring 2011. Buyers will be able to specify this gearbox on any model powered by the new diesel engine as well as 1.6-litre Cooper D models. This transmission is not one of the new generation of automatics that squeeze the efficiency advantage of a manual box: a Cooper D with the six-speed automatic is fully 60 per cent. thirstier than the six-speed manual variant over the NEDC urban cycle, drinking 6.8l/100km (41.5mpg) against the manual version’s 4.2l/100km (67.2mpg).


NEW Mercedes-Benz C-class coupé

Set to take a bow at the Geneva show in March, Mercedes’ C-class coupé takes the Company into a new market sector. It also shares the substantial technical accomplishments of the other C-class models while suffering the ignominy of having little direct competition.

Five power-units are available — two diesels and three petrol units — along with a revised version of Daimler’s G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is also available on some models. As we have come to expect, suspension is by multiple independent links front and rear.


Meanwhile, the C 63 AMG high-performance saloon and estate models have been revised, with the introduction of AMG’s Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic transmission and a plethora of more minor improvements. The new cars will be on sale from the middle of the year.


Taking E.V.s out of town

Engineering consultancy Ricardo has joined the Low Carbon Vehicle Technology Project to develop a new electric vehicle technology platform for larger vehicles with longer operating ranges than today’s city cars.

To date, most E.V.s have been small, aimed at urban use and with a limited operating range — 100 miles at best. Through its work with the LCVTP, Ricardo aims to develop technologies for E.V. applications across all vehicle segments.

Ricardo develop a technology demonstration platform based on a Freelander 2 SUV, loaned to the LCVTP team by project participant Jaguar Land Rover.

The demonstration platform will be developed in three stages. First, the vehicle will be converted from its conventional powertrain into a simple battery electric vehicle, incorporating efficiency-optimising control strategies, all within the framework of a simple architecture based on conventional 3kW recharging rate. This first stage is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011. Stage two, which is planned for completion in the summer of 2011, will incorporate location awareness and adaptive route control, building on Ricardo’s previous work in this area, along with reductions in mass and parasitic losses. Aerodynamics will be improved.

The final stage of work on the new EV technology demonstration platform will see the vehicle developed into a range-extended electric vehicle, incorporating an auxiliary power-unit — a petrol engine integrated with a generator. Scheduled for completion towards the conclusion of the LCVTP in late 2011, this vehicle will provide the basis for development of control strategies for HVAC and other systems.

After completing its work on the LCVTP, Ricardo will continue to develop the E.V. technology demonstration platform.

Volkswagen reveals ‘super efficient’ hybrid

Volkswagen has presented a highly efficient diesel-electric hybrid at the Qatar motor show which the Company says will be the first of a generation of super-efficient cars.

The XL1 is just a design study at present, and its proportions mean that it is only a two-seater, but Volkswagen has succeeded well in demonstrating the technology it has used to create the car. The engine is a twin-cylinder version of the Polo Blue Motion’s power-unit: with a capacity of 800cc it delivers 48PS to the rear wheels through a seven-speed DSG gearbox that you might otherwise find in a Polo GTI. Helping it out is an electric motor of 27PS; as this is a series-parallel hybrid, the two power-units can work together or separately.

Volkswagen XL1.

The bodyshell is built low to reduce aerodynamic drag, rather at the expense of accommodation. For lightness, the chosen material is CFRP, produced by a patented Resin Transfer Moulding process.


U.S. Passat unveiled

Volkswagen’s new ‘mid-sized’ (in north American terms) saloon is called Passat, but it’s substantially different from the European car of the same name.

Set to be built in an all-new factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, its was designed specifically for the North American market. Every external panel is new, and the wheelbase — at 2803mm — is 91mm longer than its European namesake’s. Length overall is 4868mm, some 99mm longer, and width increases by 13mm to 1833mm.

Volkswagen Passats for U.S. (top) and E.U. markets.

Three power-units will be available, including a version of the Volkswagen 2.0-litre TDI with an oxidation catalytic converter, a particulate filter and an SCR catalytic converter: this unit meets emissions standards across all 50 U.S. states. There is also a 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine of 170PS — expected to be the best sellier in the U.S. — and a 3.6-litre V6 that delivers 280PS.

Gordon Murray Design wins SMMT innovation award

Gordon Murray Design’s iStream manufacturing process has won the SMMT 2010 Automotive Innovation Award.

The simplified assembly process means that the manufacturing plant can, according to GMD, be designed to be 20 per cent. of the size of a conventional factory. This could reduce capital investment in the assembly plant by approximately 80 per cent. Another claimed advantage of this assembly process is that the same factory could be used to manufacture different variants, though this already happens in conventional vehicle plants.

Gordon Murray Design bills iStream as a complete re-think on high volume materials, as well as the manufacturing process and will lead to a significant reduction in full lifecycle CO2. Highlights of the system are a tubular steel structure for the load-paths and a lightweight composite monocoque. Significantly higher specific energy absorption rates are claimed, compared with conventionally-bodied cars. Click here for a cutaway showing the iStream structure.

The Company has recently carried out a standard E.U. crash test on an electric car that was designed and built using iStream. The T27 electric city car was subjected to a 40 per cent. offset barrier test at MIRA; it passed easily, with no cabin intrusion.

Gordon Murray Design T27 in 40 per cent. offset barrier crash test at MIRA. Click here for a vertical view.

The T27 was developed jointly by Gordon Murray Design and Zytek Automotive Ltd., which in turn was responsible for creating the electric Smart.

G.M.’s hybrid drivetrain will feature in MPV

The range extender technology from the Chevrolet Volt will feature in an MPV within the next few years, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson told the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

Akerson also said he expects Volt production to exceed 25,000 units this year, up from an original estimate of 10,000. He said he had been ‘pleased and surprised’ by initial demand for the Volt, which comes to Europe as the Opel Ampera later this year and as the Vauxhall Ampera early in 2012.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, Akerson added that he expects at least 10 per cent. of G.M. cars and trucks to be hybrids, plug-in hybrids or electrics within 10 to 15 years.

Two-wheel drive Jeeps head for Britain

The new Jeep Patriot and Compass models will be available with both two- and four-wheel drive when they come to the U.K. later this year.

Two-wheel drive versions of the vehicles have been available in the U.S. for some time. Jeep’s president, Briton Mike Manley — who also heads Chrysler’s international operations — said, ‘You also have to take a look at the success of other two-wheel drive SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai in the U.K. and Europe to see why we are doing this.’

Jeep’s Compass is a more luxurious version of the Patriot, giving Jeep two models in the C SUV segment. Mike Manley commented that the two models will appeal to different customers in what is the largest SUV segment. The Compass has been outselling the Patriot in international markets, and we hope it will create more interest in the brand in the U.K.

Also available with a diesel will be the new Chrysler 300 saloon when it comes to Britain. ‘It’s important to have diesel in the large car segment — around 95 per cent. of sales of these models in Europe are diesel.’

Manley also believes the smaller Chrysler 200 would work in Europe, despite the fact that its predecessor, the Sebring, was withdrawn a year ago because of poor sales. Chrysler is currently ‘evaluating the situation’.

‘With the 200, 300, the Lancia Delta and Ypsilon which will all be badged as Chryslers, plus the Jeep models, we will have a full range for the first time.’

Jaguar ‘seriously considers’ building C-X75

Jaguar’s extraordinary C-X75 hybrid supercar, which appeared for the first time at the Paris show in the autumn, could enter production.

The car uses four electric motors, with two gas turbine generators to charge the battery-pack. The motors between them deliver 788PS and 1600Nm. In ‘Track’ mode, the gas turbine generators can also deliver extra power to the wheels. The car can travel 68 miles on battery power alone, or up to 560 miles when the gas turbines are charging the battery. Acceleration from rest to 60 mph is accomplished in 3.4s, while Jaguar quotes a maximum speed of 205mph.

Jaguar C-X75.

Jaguar’s Brand Director Adrian Hallmark told journalists at the Detroit motor show that the Company is looking seriously at the technology used in the C-X75. ‘There is a potential for this technology and if we could get it to work it would be great. There are a lot of technical issues to be addressed, such as dealing with the heat from the exhaust, but it would be great if we could get it to work. It would also be great for a British company to do it. But we are seriously looking at it.’

Hallmark also said that Jaguar’s ‘green’ strategy is following two streams, one of which is to make its cars lighter. ‘We are already using aluminium for the bodywork and we are looking at ancillary materials and composites.’

The other stream is lowering emissions. ‘We are looking at stop-start systems, classic hybrid and high performance systems.’


Jaguar to introduce new body system and smaller diesel

Jaguar’s Brand Director Adrian Hallmark has announced that funds have been released for a new body system for a new generation of cars. A new, smaller Jaguar is a certainty, while a crossover model is a possibility.

Hallmark added that the company will stick closely to its engineering traditions: to wit, rear-wheel drive luxury cars; but all-wheel drive will probably feature on some models in the future. ‘For us to be a full player in this segment we have to have all-season capability.’

Curiously, Jaguar will not call on the expertise of its stablemate Land Rover for the technology. ‘Off-road four-wheel drive and high performance 4x4 are very different things, but we may be able to find synergies are some point in the future.’

Chrysler 200 for U.K.?

Chrysler is considering bringing its new 200 model, which was announced last November, to the U.K. as part of the Company’s ‘rebirth’. It would line up alongside the Lancia Delta and Ypsilon in a completely revamped range of vehicles being launched by Chrysler, which is now under Fiat management control.

The U.S. car-maker’s last attempt to compete in the D-segment in the U.K. failed, and the company has yet to decide whether to give it another try. Insiders at the Detroit Motor Show said that although Chrysler U.K. had not planned to take the 200, it is now giving it further thought.

The 200 is a conventional front-driven saloon currently offered with a choice of four- or six-cylinder petrol engines coupled with four- or six-speed automatic transmissions.

The 200’s styling echoes many of the design themes of the new 300, which is also being launched at Detroit. This model comes to the U.K. early next year. Before that, April will see the introduction of another Detroit débutante, the Voyager people carrier.

Company President, Olivier Francois, has indicated that there is a lot more to come on the product front from Chrysler. ‘We have other “hundreds” in the oven,’ he told reporters at Detroit.


C5 2.0 HDi
Superb TDI 170
Swept volume 2360cc 1997cc 1968cc
Fuel RON 87 D D
Aspiration A T T
PS/rpm 175/6000 160/3750 170/4200
Nm/rpm 225/4400 340/2000 350/1750
Emissions EU4 EU5 EU5
Transmission A4 (A6) A6 M6
Kerb mass 1537* 1609 1555
Length 4870 4779 4838
Width 1842 1860 1817
Height 1482 1458 1462
Wheelbase 2765 2815 2761
* U.S. standard.

Infotainment from a distance

A connectivity software provider and a remote access software specialist are collaborating on a system to provide interconnectivity between personal mobile devices and car infotainment systems.

Jungo and RealVNC are basing their joint system on VNC Mobile Solution for Automotive, supporting Terminal Mode, which is based on VNC, a specification published by Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) — an automotive industry working group comprising Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche, Volkswagen and Nokia.

The combined Jungo-RealVNC system enables the head unit of the car’s infotainment system automatically to detect, access and control mobile devices in the vehicle and display their content on the dashboard display. The design combines VNC remote access and control technology from RealVNC and Jungo Automotive Connectivity Middleware.

RealVNC Mobile Solution for Automotive supports a wide range of mobile operating systems and legacy devices, as well as also providing support for those handsets that support Terminal Mode. Terminal Mode allows users to display their smartphone screen on the infotainment screen and control their devices from the dashboard, without altering the interface. One of the benefits cited for Terminal Mode is that it automatically filters out applications deemed ‘unsafe’, so that they can’t be used while driving. The definition of ’safe’ is, however, fairly liberal.

U.S.-market Mitsubishi iMiev débuts

Mitsubishi has announced a U.S. version of its iMiev electric car. The new derivative is substantially different from European and Japanese versions, with a larger body and bigger bumpers.

Airbags that detect passengers’ seating position and control the bags’ deployment, tyre pressure monitoring and Active Stability Control (ASC) are all standard equipment.

Mitsubishi iMiev: U.S. (top) and U.K.

Track increases by 110mm front and rear, with a corresponding increase in overall width; width increases by 285mm, height by 5mm.

Mitsubishi iMiev E.U. U.S.
Length 3395 3680
Width 1475 1585
Height 1610 1615
Track (f/r) 1310/1270 1420/1380

Electric Merivas test ‘smart grid’

General Motors has produced three electrically-powered Merivas as part of a research project to explore the potential of a ‘smart’ power grid.

Funded by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology, the project looks at the possibility of integrating electrical vehicles as mobile energy storage units in future power networks.


Compact hybrid Lexus on sale

Lexus’s CT200h hybrid is now on sale. Despite its technical complexity, it will be the Company’s entry model for some time to come.

Designed for European markets, the new Lexus competes squarely with established — and conventional — C-segment premium products. A provisional rolling-road fuel consumption figure of 68.9mpg overall is claimed, equivalent to 96g/km CO2. Expect best results at low speeds.


Ford boasts of pothole strategy

With British roads in a worse state than many can remember, Ford has been boasting about the steps that it takes during the development of a new car to make it ‘road-proof’.

These days, much of the early development work of components and assemblies is carried out using computer simultions. In Ford’s case, this happens at the Company’s research and development centre at Dunton in Essex.

Focus undergoing testing at Lommel, Belgium.

When the assemblies have actually been built and need to be tested on the road, they are fitted to a test car — a Road Load Data Acquisition vehicle — and taken to Ford’s Lommel test track in Belgium. This facility provides an assortment of terrible surfaces, including a facsimile of a lane that used to run near Dunton. Perhaps it would be cheaper just to drive the prototypes around in England, as Kia does?

Load and strain at each wheel are measured and recorded using sensors that register in three dimensions. On some vehicles there are sensors delivering around 200 data channels.

Mini E field trial ends

The Mini E U.K. Field Trial, which has been researching and analysing the use of fully electric Minis on British roads since December 2009, has come to an end. The 40 ‘pioneers’ — the second cohort of participants in the trial — handed back their cars at an event at the Mini plant at Cowley, Oxford, on 18 March.

The ‘pioneers’ are part of Mini E U.K. Research Consortium, one of eight U.K. projects supported by the Technology Strategy Board and Department for Transport’s £25m Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator Programme aimed at accelerating the introduction of viable electric passenger vehicles to the U.K.

During the U.K. trial, the Mini E was tested on British roads by a mixture of 80 private, corporate and public sector drivers — all of whom gave feedback to the project consortium and U.K. Government. Between them they covered over a quarter of a million miles throughout the duration of the trial. Lessons learned in the trial will ultimately be used in the engineering and infrastructure support of mass-produced electric vehicles and in examining the social and economic issues and aspects of running an electric car.

Mini E. Click here for larger image.

The 40 Mini Es will remain in the U.K. and will be used in a small number of commercial partnerships, at consumer and corporate events, and in partnerships with government and industry stakeholders.

Although the second cohort’s feedback is still being analysed by BMW and its partners, a number of conclusions have been drawn from the first half of the trial —

  • Mini E usage differs only marginally from a control group of conventional car drivers in terms of average journey distance, daily mileage and frequency of use.
  • Before the trials began, users expected limitations in terms of range and charging times. In practice, these issued have arisen in only a very few specific cases.
  • Users felt reassured that both the Mini E itself and the charging process are completely safe.
  • There was a very strong feeling from both private and fleet users that renewable energy should play an important role in future electricity generation. There was also a strong feeling that the battery of an electric vehicle should be charged using renewables to optimise the ecological advantages of an E.V.
  • The BMW Group is trusted to provide a technically mature solution to the challenges presented by E.V.s.
  • Users reported a need for more interior space for journeys requiring more passengers and more storage capacity. (The Mini E is a two-seater, with the battery-pack occupying the rear part of the car.)
  • Users felt strongly that public charging facilities for E.V.s were desirable and even essential. However, at the same time, the majority claimed that they coped without public charging facilities.
  • In summary, users liked the Mini E’s lack of noise, the convenience of home charging, low off-peak power charges, not having to go to a petrol station and queue, driving a zero emissions vehicle, Mini E’s acceleration characteristics and regenerative braking.
  • Drawbacks include current mileage range for certain journeys, limited carrying capacity and ‘sub-optimal’ [BMW’s phrase] car performance during the extremely cold weather conditions in December 2009 and January 2010.

Tom Tom launches new live traffic map

Sat. nav. manufacturer Tom Tom has launched what it claims is the world’s most accurate live traffic map.

The system, which covers 18 countries, can be viewed on any Tom Tom sat. nav. that operates the Company’s HD Traffic system — a subscription service. Tom Tom’s live traffic map can be seen on-line here.

CO2: A decade of progress

The CO2 emissions of new cars — as measured over the NEDC rolling-road test — dropped by a fifth between 2000 and 2010.

A new report issued by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders breaks down car test results by class, showing the percentage change, as well as showing general trends. In 2010, for example, cars emitting less than 130g/km CO2 over the NEDC represented nearly 40 per cent. of the market; in 2000, the figure was less than one per cent.

The figure of 130g/km is the European fleet emissions target for 2015. By 2012, 65 per cent. of the fleet must comply, with the proportion increasing towards total fleet compliance in 2015. There is an ultimate target of 95g/km CO2 by 2020, subject to impact assessment.

Figures for 2010 are down 3.5 per cent. on 2009 at 144.2g/km; this represents a 20.3 per cent. improvement on 2000.

SMMT segment by CO2 performance, g/km
Segment CO2 2010 %/2009 %/2000
A: mini 114.1 -1.3 -25.8
B: supermini 127.6 -3.3 -16.6
C: lower medium 140.6 -4.6 -19.8
D: upper medium 145.5 -5.8 -24.4
E: executive 169.4 -4.4 -28.1
F: luxury 234.3 -6.4 -19.9
G: specialist sports 191.0 -5.1 -13.4
H: dual purpose 4x4 195.5 -5.1 -24.2
I: MPV 159.6 -5.9 -24.4
Overall 144.2 -3.5 -20.3

Jaguar will build C-X75 hybrid supercar

Jaguar has announced that it will build a hybrid supercar based on the design of its C-X75 concept car.

It won’t be the same car, though: the show car’s two tiny gas turbine engines have been ditched — exhaust temperatures were very high, among other issues — in favour of a small, highly boosted piston engine, mounted low in the car. The number of electric motors has been cut from four to two. Nevertheless, the production car will have four-wheel drive and colossal road performance: Jaguar quotes a time of ‘less than three seconds’ for standing-start acceleration to 60mph and a maximum speed of over 200mph. The C-X75 will also have an electric range of around 30 miles. An NEDC CO2 return of 99g/km is claimed.

Jaguar C-X75.

The car’s carbon-fibre chassis will be produced in association with Williams F1, which will also provide expertise in developing the car’s aerodynamics and hybrid system. A total opf 250 C-X75s will be built, with a selling price of between £700,000 and £900,000.

Jaguar has not completely abandoned gas turbine technology. Jaguar’s parent company, Tata, has taken a significant stake in Bladon Jets, which provided the turbines for the show car. The technology will be developed for possible use in future Jaguars.

Mercedes E 63 AMG: new engine, more power, lower consumption

Mercedes-Benz has replaced the atmospheric 6.2-litre V8 in its most powerful E-class cars with AMG’s twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre M157 power-plant. The engine is familiar from the CLS 63 AMG and, as is the case with the CLS, the ‘63’ model designation remains.

The blown engine offers 525PS and 700Nm in standard form, with the maximum torque available between 1750rpm and 5000rpm. NEDC fuel consumption, at 9.8l/100km (28.8mpg) overall for the saloon, is some 22 per cent. below that of its predecessor.

Mercedes E 63 AMG.

AMG’s all-alloy biturbo engine has a number of noteworthy features, including spray-guided direct injection, piezo injectors and air/water intercooling.


Renault R-Space: the next Scénic?

Renault’s R-Space not only shows the Company’s latest thinking around the people-carrier genre — which Renault invented — but it also previews a talented new TCe petrol engine that delivers 122PS per litre of swept volume and very respectable fuel consumption. A variable-displacement oil pump, thermal management and ‘pulse-starting’ for the stop-start system feature in the power-unit’s technical armoury. Radio-frequency spark-plugs are a real novelty: these increase the size of the spark.

The three-cylinder power-unit has a capacity of 900cc and is described as being a product of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. It drives through a fully-automatic EDC dual-clutch transmission and offers headline outputs of 110PS and 160Nm. Claimed CO2 emissions are 95g/km, equivalent to fuel consumption of 3.7l/100km or 76mpg.

Renault R-Space.

Intercooled EGR is a technology this concept engine shares with the new R9M diesel power-pack. The exhaust gases are cooled in a heat-exchanger before being fed back into the intake system: this increases the density of the gases, increasing the engine’s effective compression ratio.

The R-Space is the third concept car to be designed under the guidance of Laurens van den Acker. While the show car is clearly just that, with one or two quite extravagant touches, we suspect that the nose treatment represents a statement of intent by van den Acker.

Renault R-Space
Cylinders 3I
Valves 4
Aspiration T
Swept volume 900cc
PS 110
Nm 160
CO2 (g/km) 95
Maximum Speed 124
0-100km/h 11
Length 4250
Width 1850
Height 1547
Wheelbase 2717
Track: front 1592
Track: rear 1592
Cd 0.28
Kerb mass 1300
Figures in italics are for current Scénic 1.6 110 model

Rapid A3 gets boot

Audi has unveiled a four-door version of the A3 powered by a 408PS five-cylinder engine.

At present the car is only a concept study, although the bodyshell and powertrain have been fully engineered. The turbocharged 2.5-litre five-pot FSI engine offers 500Nm to go with its 408PS, and drives through Volkswagen’s seven-speed twin-clutch DSG transmission to all four wheels by way of a Haldex coupling centre differential. The engine’s output is 68PS and 50Nm ahead of the production RS3, with maximum torque available between 1600rpm and 5300rpm.

Audi A3 saloon concept.

Contemporary construction techniques include the use of custom-tailored blanks in the floor area, CFRP in varying proportions for the grille surround, front air intake, door mirror elements, rear apron and 20-inch alloy wheels, and aluminium for the bonnet, doors and tailgate. Kerb mass, which Audi describes as ‘relatively low’, is actually rather substantial at 1540kg. Headline performance figures include 4.1s to reach 100km/h from rest and a governed maximum speed of 155mph. The overall NEDC fuel consumption return is 31mpg, equivalent to 212g/km CO2 — hardly parsimony by modern standards. The concept car’s engine features an on-demand oil pump and thermal management. Intelligent alternator control is also used.

Wheel location is by McPherson struts at the front and four independent links at the rear.

There are five driving modes on offer, which tune the power delivery, power steering feel and gear shift points for the S-tronic transmission. As well as the more familiar comfort, auto, dynamic and individual settings seen on other Audis, the latest iteration of the system also features an efficiency mode designed for maximum economy.

E10 fuel ‘not detrimental’ — BMW

Following reports in Welt am Sonntag that the use of E10 fuel (petrol with 10 per cent. ethanol) leads to engine damage, BMW has stated that this is not the case. The Company goes on to say that ‘E10 fuels can safely be used in all BMW passenger cars from all model years... The use of E10 fuels in our petrol engines is fundamentally safe.’ Further, BMW makes clear that, in its experiance, ‘The report’s falsely-claimed link between the use of E10 fuel and more rapid engine wear does not exist.’

Additionally, ‘The condensation effect is a side effect of the normal combustion process — independently of the use of E10 — and therefore does not pose a problem. The oil-change intervals defined by BMW are not affected.’

Tata shows new Pixel city car

The Geneva show was the début for Tata’s Pixel, a city car intended for European markets. Detailed technical specifications are not available, but we do know that the car is powered by a rear-mounted turbodiesel and features a novel toroidal transmission developed in Britain.

Tata Pixel.

Tata is rapidly becoming a technologically competitive manufacturer, and we have no doubt that the Pixel, when it goes on sale, will be a formidable product. It won’t have the cachet of a Smart, but it will have more room inside.


NEW Ford B-Max

Toyota’s new Verso S isn’t the only mini-MPV to be making a début. Ford’s new B-Max, built on the Company’s global B-platform, has a novel body structure to go with its funky-small-Ford styling.

The new car’s most obvious feature is its single-aperture sides, with no fixed B-pillars. Their structural job is carried out by the doors.

Ford B-Max.

The B-Max is engineered for production, though you can’t buy one yet. An on-sale date has not yet been announced.


Innovative gearbox for new Lamborghini

Lamborghini’s new Aventador supercar will use an innovative automated manual transmission to meet packaging and torque capacity demands.

The new unit was developed by transmission specialist Oerlikon Graziano and its British satellite Vocis Driveline Controls. It is a seven-speed synchromesh box with a single clutch and highly novel internal architecture designed to provide very fast gearchanges, challenging twin-clutch transmissions, but without the bulk and mass of a twin-clutch unit.

Lamborghini Aventador.

The new 6.5-litre V12 power-unit Lamborghini is deploying in the Aventador generates 690Nm — albeit at a very high 5500rpm — yet the dry mass of the new gearbox has been pared down to 79kg: substantially less than its manually-operated six-speed predecessor.


Mini Rocketman concept

The star of the Mini stand at the Geneva motor show was undoubtedly the Rocketman concept.

The Rocketman is a small (3.3m) three-door car which offers accommodation for the driver, front passenger and one rear passenger; a second seat can be added in the rear if necessary. The luggage compartment is flexible and unusual, with a pull-out drawer where the original BMC Mini had its boot-lid.

Mini Rocketman concept. Click here for more images.

The concept car’s passenger doors are also unusual, with hinge pivots ahead of the for’ard door jams. Side sills are integrated into the doors. The transparent glass roof is divided by illuminated braces in the pattern of the British union flag.

The Rocketman is built using a carbon-fibre spaceframe, whose surface structure is visible from the outside on the radiator grille and in the interior. Inside, armrests and trim strips are made from a special paper that has been pressed and folded into the desired structure.

The central speedometer houses a projection surface that can deliver 3D graphics. This allows topical information to be displayed in the foreground. The display is operated using both the steering wheel buttons and an integrated trackball.

A removable control element for all comfort and connectivity-related functions can be configured on a computer before the start of a journey, allowing the driver to transfer new music files, a navigation destination and contact details for mobile communications and internet usage into the vehicle.

Kia Motors to join the Clean Energy Partnership

As part of its work on fuel cell vehicles, Kia Motors will join the Clean Energy Partnership in 2011.

The agreement between Kia Motors and members of the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) will help to promote fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) across Germany as well as providing a promotional apportunity for Kia.

The initial agreement was signed in Seoul, attended by Dr. Hyun Soon Lee, Vice Chairman and head of Hyundai-Kia R&D; Dr. Klaus Bonhoff, Managing Director of NOW GmbH (National Organisation of Hydrogen and Fuel-Cell Technology); and Patrick Schnell, Chairman of the CEP.

The German Federal Government, together with stakeholders from various industry sectors and academia, set up the National Innovation Programme to help prepare the market for fuel-cell technology in Germany. The combined budget for the programme amounts to €1.4bn for the period 2007-2016.

In 2010, Kia Motors signed a memorandum of understanding with four northern European countries to operate a test fleet of FCEVs in the European market.

Next-generation Vauxhall Zafira shown at Geneva

General Motors’ Zafira has earned a reputation for being worthy but unimaginative. A pre-production version of the next generation, shown at Geneva, could change things, with an innovative seating arrangement that accommodates four, five or seven passangers. The four-seater configuration sees the outer middle-row seats positioned further back and closer together to improve the amount of space available.

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer Concept in four-seat mode. The outer middle-row seats move backwards and inwards.

The dash is dominated by a large touch-screen display above which a covered storage compartment can hold a tablet P.C. The Geneva show car also had tablet P.C.s mounted on the backs of the front seats.

Big orders for Nexteer single-pinion electric PAS

Specialist electric power steering supplier Nexteer Automotive has won a number of substantial orders from major European car manufacturers. The contracts are for single-pinion systems.

Volumes for single-pinion EPS are growing very fast. Premium steering feel requirements, packaging constraints and crashworthiness considerations are contributing to this growth.

Nexteer single-pinion electric PAS.

In a single-pinion EPS system, the electric motor is mounted next to the steering pinion in the engine compartment, instead of on the steering column.

NEW Porsche Panamera S Hybrid

Porsche has transplanted the hybrid powertrain from its Cayenne Hybrid into the Panamera. The result, the Panamera S Hybrid, will be formally unveiled at the Geneva show in March.

Although the Porsches are full series-parallel hybrids, most of their motive power still derives from petrol. The supercharged three-litre V6 provides 333PS, while the single electric motor delivers a peak of 47PS and also operates as a generator and a starter for the V6. A nickel hydride battery pack is used. the Panamera’s performance under electric power alone is modest, with a maximum speed of 53mph and a maximum range of a little over a mile.

On the other hand, the Panamera S Hybrid accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.0 seconds. NEDC combined fuel consumption on standard tyres is 39.7mpg, which equates to 167g/km CO2; Michelin low rolling-resistance tyres are available as an optional extra, and improve the NEDC results to 41.5mpg and 159g/km.

The Porsche hybrid drive, which is a Bosch system shared with the Volkswagen Touareg, is unique in allowing the vehicle to freewheel when no power is required. Porsche calls it ‘sailing’: the petrol engine is shut off and the drivetrain disengaged. Sailing mode works at speeds up to 103mph. The Cayenne S Hybrid, by contrast, will not ‘sail’ above 97mph.

Hybrid powertrain testing facility opens

The UK’s first purpose-built independent hybrid powertrain testing facility has opened at the University of Warwick.

The £2.28m Vehicle Energy Facility will give businesses access to the state-of-the-art equipment and research support. Two dynamometers are available; using the advanced Texcel control system, they can test electric motors or any kind of internal combustion engine. There is also a Robot Driver to allow the testing of various hybrid powertrain designs.

The VEF also includes a battery simulator and test station, as well as full exhaust emissions measurement capability. Transmissions and powertrain systems can be tested, and the facility exists to simulate powertrain components that are not available for test.

Hydrogen made easy

The use of hydrogen fuel for heat engines has its pros and cons. On the positive side, it doesn’t directly produce any carbon emissions, and the fuel has a good energy density by mass. Unfortunately, it’s energy density by volume that matters in a car, and here hydrogen is not very impressive. For a hydrogen-powered car to have a reasonable operating range, the storage tanks need to encroach on the car’s ability to accommodate people and luggage.

A possible answer to this has been developed by a British company, Cella Energy, itself a spin-out from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell. Working with the London Centre for Nanotechnology at University College London and University of Oxford, scientists from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS neutron source have developed a way of making tiny micro-fibres 30 times smaller than a human hair. These form a tissue-like material that is safe to handle in air. The new material contains as much hydrogen for a given mass as the high pressure tanks currently used to store hydrogen; the material can also be made in the form of micro beads that can be poured and pumped like a liquid.

We hope to have more details of how the materials work — particularly what happens to them when the hydrogen has been stripped away — as soon as possible.

BMW to début electric 1-series

No-one who saw BMW’s Concept Active E last year believed it would just be a show car. And we were right. The BMW Active E, set to be premiered at the Geneva show in a few weeks, is the Company’s second electric prototype after the Mini E.

The Active E will be trialled in Europe, the U.S. and China to learn about users’ habits and concerns, as well as reliability and durability issues. The results will be fed into the development process of BMW’s Megacity vehicle, which is due to enter production in 2013.


NEW Ford Focus Electric

Ford’s new Focus is set for launch in the U.K. in March. A few months behind will be an electric version, proving that Renault-Nissan isn’t making all the running with electric vehicles.


Four-wheel drive Ferrari unveiled

Ferrari has released the first photographs of its first new four-wheel drive model, along with a few snippets of technical information.

The new car is called FF, for Ferrari Four. Not only does it have all-wheel drive, but it is also a four-seater, aimed at the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Cayenne.

Power is provided by a new directly fuelled 6,262cc engine, developing 660PS at 8000rpm and 683Nm at 6000rpm. The power-unit is a V12 with an unusual 65° block angle. Driving torque is delivered to the wheels by a transaxle dual-clutch F1 gearbox.

Ferrari FF.

The FF uses the Company’s first four-wheel drive system, designated 4RM, which Ferrari claims weighs 50 per cent. less than a conventional four-wheel drive setup. The car’s mass distribution places 53 per cent. over the rear axle, generally considered to be perfect for a grand touring car. The four-wheel drive system is integrated with the car’s electronic dynamic control systems, and includes a torque vectoring function. The FF is also equipped with the latest magnetorheological damping system (SCM3), which varies damper rates using a damper fluid whose viscosity can be varied by applying a magnetic field across it.

The brakes, supplied by Brembo, are carbon-ceramic items.

Ferrari FF
Cylinders 12V
Injection D
Aspiration A
PS/rpm 660/8000
Nm/rpm 683/6000
speed (mph)
0-100km/h (s) 3.7
Emissions N/S
Dry mass 1790
Length 4907
Width 1953
Height 1379
Wheelbase TBA
Combined MPG
CO2 g/km 360

Asymmetric bearing saves energy

Bearing manufacturer SKF has introduced a new asymmetric design of wheel bearing which, the Company claims, solves the long-standing issue of calliper piston knock-back on high performance cars, which can occur when cornering at high speeds or when driving on rough ground.

Called the X-Tracker, the new design of hub bearing is believed to cut wheel bearing friction by 25 per cent. compared with conventional ball bearing hub units. A CO2 saving of 1.3g/km for (unspecified) medium cars over the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) is claimed.

The new hub bearing unit consists of a double row bearing arrangement in which the outboard row is of a larger diameter and contains more rolling elements (balls) than the inboard ring. This unique asymmetrical design increases the load carrying capacity and operational life of each bearing, while significantly improving stiffness compared with traditional symmetrical hub units.

New C-segment Fiat will not be ‘traditional’

Fiat needs a C-segment car to compete in the biggest sector of the market, and when it comes it will not be a traditional model. Fiat group boss Sergio Marchionne has made it clear that he does not want a ‘me too’ vehicle: the Company’s offering will need to be ‘sufficiently different’.

But what does that mean? ‘I don’t know yet,’ Marchionne said at the Detroit Motor Show. ‘We have various ideas and designs that we are looking at, but we really don’t know what it will be yet. One thing for sure is that it will not be a traditional option.’

Marchionne said that Fiat was working with Chrysler on new C- and D-segment vehicle architectures for the future. ‘But we don’t know what the top hats will look like yet. While they may be the same underneath, the body styles will be sufficiently different for Europe and the U.S.’

M.G. set to return, courtesy of G.M.

Vauxhall is geared up to help M.G. return to the U.K. thanks to an agreement in China between Vauxhall parent General Motors and long-term Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp.

But the deal will not mean Vauxhall dealers selling M.G.s, stressed G.M. Europe boss Nick Reilly, speaking to reporters at the Detroit motor show.

‘SAIC want to start selling M.G.s in the U.K. and we will help them, but it will be a separate franchise and not through Vauxhall dealers,’ he said.

‘We know the market, the dealerships and will facilitate their entry into the U.K.,’ said Reilly, former boss of Vauxhall.

The G.M.-SAIC partnership has long been considered the most successful one in the Chinese auto industry. G.M. became the first foreign car maker to sell more than two million vehicles in China, passing that threshold in the first 11 months of 2010.

SAIC became the owner of M.G.-Rover’s Longbridge plant after a merger with its much smaller peer, Nanjing Automobile Group, in late 2007. The company wants to start selling M.G.s in the U.K. by the end of this year before rolling them out across other E.U. markets.

— Headlineauto

M.G. unveiled its Zero concept car at the Beijing motor show last April. The four-metre hatch was developed by the M.G. Global Design team, led by British M.G. Design Director Anthony Williams-Kenny, based in Birmingham. Additionally, SAIC is known to be developing a front-engined replacement for the T.F.

M.G. Zero concept.

Volvo displays crashed C30 electric, starts work on fuel cells

Volvo has displayed a crashed C30 Electric on its stand at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The North American market has always been nervous about safety issues, and Volvo’s gesture may go some way to allaying fears among some buyers that alternative drivetrains aren’t safe.

The car was subjected to a 40mph offset frontal test, and all key electric components of the car were undamaged — hardly surprising, as they are installed inside the wheelbase.

Volvo Cars’ electric car project currently involves about 250 vehicles that will be used by a number of companies and authorities. Deliveries of the first Volvo C30 Electric to customers in Sweden will start early next year. A demo fleet is also planned for the United States later in 2011.

Volvo will introduce a plug-in hybrid in Europe in 2012. It features a diesel engine backing up the electric motor. Emissions of less than 50g/km CO2 are claimed. Later, a plug-in hybrid will be introduced to the United States, though with a petrol engine instead of a diesel — perhaps Volvo should have the courage of their convictions.


In a related development, Volvo has announced that it is working on the development of fuel-cells to extend the range of the electric C30. The Company plans to have prototypes running in 2012. Volvo’s work initially involves the use of reformers, which produce hydrogen gas from hydrocarbon fuel; the hydrogen is then used to feed the fuel-cell.


Cadillac: European designers to create models for Europe

British-based G.M. designers have been contributing to Cadillac products for some time, and a new facility is presently under construction for them here.

The exact location of the new facility is something of an enigma at present, but according to Ed Welburn — vice president of global design for General Motors — the British-based designers are working on models that could see the American brand making inroads into European markets in a way that it has never achieved before. ‘We now have the right products in the pipeline to do it,’ Welburn said.

The Urban Luxury Concept, unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show last November, shows the sort of direction that a small Cadillac for Europe could take, according to Welburn. ‘I wanted to call it micro exotic because that’s what it is,’ he said. ‘It’s a design we will continue to play with.’

Despite its scissor doors, Welburn said that technically the concept is ‘not beyond possibility’ as a production car, and a number of powertrains — including electric — are being considered.

Volvo joins European research group

The European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR), which represents the major European automobile manufacturers in their common research activities, has confirmed the Volvo Car Corporation as a new member.

EUCAR’s members participate in common research projects in the areas of fuels and powertrain, materials and manufacturing, mobility and transport, and integrated safety. In particular, EUCAR’s members participate in projects funded by the E.U.’s Research Framework Programmes, which bring together manufacturers, suppliers, SMEs and research institutions from many member states to work on collaborative research.

Current EUCAR members are BMW, Daf, Daimler, Fiat, Ford Europe, G.M., Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Renault, Scania, Volkswagen Group, Volvo A.B. and Volvo Car Corporation. EUCAR is closely connected to ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

ZF develops nine-speed automatic for cars

Drivetrain engineering specialist ZF is developing a range of new fuel-efficient automatic transmissions, including an entirely new nine-speed unit for vehicles with a transverse engine.

Like the existing eight-speed automatic transmission for longitudinal installation, the new nine-speed front-transverse transmission promises rapid shift times of around 200ms — this is around twice the shift time of a dual-clutch transmission, but it’s very good for an epicyclic box. Double shifts and direct multiple gearshifts are also possible.

Modern shock-absorber systems in the torque converter, which make a rapid lock-up of the converter clutch possible, should mean better fuel economy.

TECHNOLOGY Porsche 918 RSR concept

Porsche’s 918 RSR, which premieres at the Detroit motor show, is a fusion of the Company’s two recent hybrid vehicles: the 911 GT3R racer and the 918 Spyder show car.

Like the successful GT3R, the RSR uses a flywheel accumulator to store energy recovered during braking and to deliver the energy as electrical power to drive motors for the front wheels whenever the driver demands it.

Most of the 918’s motive power comes from a mid-mounted V8, a development of the directly fuelled petrol engine from the RS Spyder race car. In the 918 RSR, output is 563PS at 10,300rpm. The electric motors on the front wheels each contribute 102PS, giving a maximum system output of 767PS.


Nissan and Mitsubishi expand cooperation

Nissan and Mitsubishi have announced that the two companies are to expand the current scope of their cooperation, especially in the Japanese mini car and global commercial vehicle markets.

The two companies currently have several OEM agreements for vehicles in the Japanese market, including for mini cars and commercial vehicles. The cooperation agreement between Nissan and Mitsubishi will be in addition to any agreements the two parties have already established with other partners, such as Mitsubishi’s use of PSA engines in the former’s SUVs.

Specific plans include Nissan providing a light van to Mitsubishi for the Japanese domestic market, and Mitsubishi providing an SUV to Nissan for markets in the Middle East. Additionally, the companies are discussing plans for Nissan to provide Mitsubishi with upper-end segment models for the Japanese domestic market.

Mitsubishi introduces new diesel engine for Outlander

An all-new 2.2-litre diesel engine has been introduced for manual-transmission Outlanders. The new power-unit was developed in-house by Mitsubishi and supplants the 2.2-litre PSA engine. Outlanders with automatic transmissions retain the PSA engine, as Mitsubishi’s epicyclic automatic does not have the torque capacity to cope with the new engine.

The new engine’s headline power output of 175PS is 14 per cent. up on the PSA unit’s 154PS, while Mitsubishi is claiming a 12 per cent. improvement in CO2 emissions.

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