2011 Motor Show hybrid cars EV new king of the road? Crikey

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Auto makers plug into electric atmosphere at motor show

EV technology is now the focus of the global automotive industry.

In one phrase, Mitsubishi Australia president and CEO Genichiro Nishina neatly summed up the overarching theme at the Australian International Motor Show 2011: the rise of the electric vehicle. Mitsubishi was there to showcase, among other things, its 2012 model of the i MiEV (that s short for Mitsubishi Innovative EV), which Nishina said would be the first volume-produced, 100% electric vehicle available for sale on the Australian market, when it arrives on the scene in August.

Indeed, the vast majority of the major car makers at the 2011 motor show   with the notable exception of Ford, whose main reference to the future came with the unveiling of its remake of the mythical Interceptor model, made famous in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max movies   were showcasing their EV/hybrid prototypes, or concepts, or ready-for-market models. And almost without exception, every car maker’s presentation to media and industry on Friday made mention of either sustainable driving, or eco-friendly driving, or the carbon challenge , or noise reduction, or weight reduction, or improved power-train technology, or   at the very, very least   fuel economy (all without compromising performance, of course). Even Jaguar trotted out the numbers for the carbon emissions of its new models.

So who were some of the standout green auto exhibitors? Well, we might as well start with …

After saying a few words in support of his earthquake-stricken colleagues in Japan, Nishina talked about Mitsubishi’s commitment to a climate friendly future, saying the maker had eight new EVs, or plug-in hybrid models, in the pipeline for the coming years. One of these   the concept PX MiEV SUV   was on display at the show and represented, Nishina said, what may be the future of mass-produced cars. Widely considered to be a prototype for a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander model    which is expected to be the car maker s second EV release, after the i MiEV.

This model has a maximum output of 60kW, a battery range of 50km, and a 1.6-litre petrol engine for back-up, which can generate electricity for longer journeys. It can also store power at night and use that, via a normal charging connector, to power household appliances during the day. And for those 4WD enthusiasts out there, the PX MiEV can, while powering the front wheels in normal driving, switch to all-wheel-drive by powering an electric motor on the rear axle when wheel slip is detected.

The German maker humbly proclaimed its all-electric concept vehicle, the e-tron, to be the highlight of the 2011 Australian International Motor Show . But it must be said, it was rather impressive. Resplendent in Samoa orange, the prototype for the car maker s Audi s R8 e-tron sports car   which will go into limited production in 2012   boasts four motors; two each at the front and the rear axles, with a combined output of 230kW. The car can go from 10-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, and from 60-120km in 4.1 seconds, and has a range of 248km and a maximum speed of 200km/h.

The car s body structure is based on Audi Space Frame Technology, while all add-on parts are made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, helping it to weigh in at only 1600kg.

The battery block has a total energy content of roughly 53kWh and uses liquid cooling. When completely drained, it takes between 2.5-8 hours to recharge, depending on whether you use a household charger or a high voltage purpose-built charger (apparently Audi engineers are also working on a wireless charging solution). The battery is also charged when the car is in motion, using energy recovery technology, wherein the alternator converts kinetic energy, generated when the car is breaking, into electrical energy, which it then feeds into the car s on-board electrical system.

The car also uses heat pump technology   a first in the auto world   that uses mechanical work to heat the car with minimum energy input. The charge-point on the car is at the back.

The R8 e-tron is a very important project for Audi, because the competence and experience we glean from it will later flow into the large volume production of electric automobiles, says Franciscus van Meel, Audi s head of electric mobility strategy.

We want to be the leading premium manufacturer of electric vehicles by 2020, he said.

This is a motor show, said Better Place Australia CEO Evan Thornley, in his address to media and industry on Friday   a fact that was not lost on anyone after about five hours of high-octane presentations   and he then added, but we don t make cars we make electric cars make sense.

And as corny as it might sound, the idea did seem to reinvigorate proceedings somewhat. The EV infrastructure group was at the motor show not only to showcase its EV-charging technology, but to unveil the Renault Fluence Z.E.   the first to be seen in Australia   as the world’s first electric car with unlimited range due to Better Place s battery switching technology.

The Fluence Z.E. (Zero Emissions) is powered by stored electricity, in a 48-module lithium-ion battery that s mounted behind the rear seats, which can be recharged at home or work (6-8 hours for a full charge) or switched for a fully-charged replacement at a Better Place battery switch station in less than four minutes. The battery drives an advanced electric synchronous motor, which produces 70kW at 11,000rpm. Maximum torque is 226Nm. An energy recovery system enables the car to charge the battery under braking or deceleration.

Top speed is electronically limited to 135km/h.

Better Place also used the motor show to announce its deal with GE Australia, with the latter signed up to purchase at least 1000 EVs in Australia by 2015, as part of its 2010 pledge to purchase 25,000 EVs worldwide.

Today’s statement from GE and the unveiling of the Fluence Z.E. are the culmination of a range of announcements over the past few weeks that clearly show that the transition to mass-market electric cars is beginning in Australia, said Thornley.

The transition begins with Better Place’s national charge network roll-out which starts from Canberra later this year. From the middle of 2012 the first mass market cars with unlimited range, the Renault Fluence Z.E. arrive on our shores. A progressive national infrastructure roll-out will give Australia the largest electric car charging network anywhere in the world by the end of 2013.

Hot on the heels of Better Place s presentation, BMW s motor show spot was used to trumpet the recent launch of the car maker s new sub-brand BMW i    which will be focused on developing sustainable mobility solutions    and to unveil its hero car, the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept. Joining the Audi e-tron in the realm of auto fantasy, for most, it is a four-seater sports plug-in hybrid, combining a three cylinder turbo diesel engine with a hybrid synchronous motor at the front axle and a full hybrid engine at the rear.

It has a maximum power output of 241k and go from 0-100km in 4.8 seconds. It uses 3.76 litres of fuel per 100km and produces 99 grams of CO2 per km. It also has a lithium-polymer rechargeable battery that can be fully recharged using a conventional power source in 2.5 hours.

RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars

The battery allows for 50km of zero-emissions driving, while the 24-litre diesel tank can extend that out to 700km.

This is a vehicle that proves sustainable motoring can still be an enthralling experience, said BMW managing director Phil Horton.

And Australians will be able to enjoy (it) for themselves, when it goes into production in the form of the BMW i8.

That ll be sometime in 2013. As well as the hybrid sport number, BMW i is also working on the i3, the car maker s first all-electric series model aimed at the urban driving market. This is also expected to be released in Europe in 2013, which may mean 2014 for Australia.

The now Chinese-owned Swedish car maker also had an EV/hybrid focus to its motor show presentation, although in keeping with what it knows best, it chose to focus on EV safety. Part of its display   albeit tucked away at the back   was a crash-tested C30 Electric model, that had endured an offset frontal collision at 64km/h, with a fully-charged battery.

Our tests show it is vital to separate the batteries from the electric car s crumple zones to make it as safe as a conventional car, said Volvo Cars president and CEO Stefan Jacoby.

This is of utmost importance not only to the people riding in an electric car, but also to, for example, first responders.

And Jan Ivarsson, senior manager of Safety Strategy and Requirements at Volvo, said: The test produced exactly the results we expected. The C30 Electric offers the very same high safety level as a C30 with a combustion engine. The front deformed and distributed the crash energy as we expected. Both the batteries and the cables that are part of the electric system remained entirely intact after the collision.

Volvo s C30 Electric is already in production, being built on the regular assembly line at the car maker s Ghent plant in Belgium, and then transported to Goteborg, Sweden, for installation of the motor, batteries and other model-specific electronics. About 250 cars are expected to be built by the end of 2012, more if market interest takes off. The car is recharged from a regular household power socket, a full recharge taking about seven hours. It s range is up to 150km per full charge. Top speed is 130 km/h, with the ability to achieve 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds.

Unveiled at the motor show was the car maker s brand new V60 model   a plug-in hybrid set to be released in Europe in 2012. It features a diesel engine backing up the electrical motor, that cuts emissions to less than 50g CO2 per kilometre. The V60 will be released in the US with a petrol engine backing up the electrical drive.

Not counting the unveil of the aforementioned Ford Interceptor remake, the 2011 Australian International Motor Show closed with the drawing of the winner in a competition among local motoring journalists to trial Nissan s Leaf EV for three months. The comp was part of a broader experiment that saw the keys to 15 of the Nissan EVs handed to the Victorian government at the motor show, with the cars to be trialled over five years, in 180 households, for three months at a time.

Nissan boss Dan Thompson said he hoped it would encourage similar deals with other state governments, ahead of the Leaf s local launch early next year. It s important to get feedback on what it s like to live with a 100% electric vehicle, he said. GoAuto contributor Byron Mathioudakis was the winner, so we look forward to reading about his experiences.

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