Lean, green machinery from the 2014 Geneva Motor Show
By C.C. Weiss
March 13, 2014
In addition to the sporty and strange, the Geneva Motor Show hosts its fair share of green cars and concepts. This year, everyone from mainstream manufacturers to university teams showed designs built from ultralight components, powered by alternative fuels and otherwise designed around fuel- and emissions-frugal commuting.
Fuel cell concepts have grown into an auto show standard, and the Geneva Motor Show served as the debut platform for the Hyundai Intrado Concept. The concept car is powered by what Hyundai calls a next-generation hydrogen fuel cell system with a 36- kWh lithium-on battery pack that offers up to 373 miles (600 km) of driving range. The car features a simple, streamlined structural and body design that's meant to optimize weight and aerodynamics. The super-lightweight steel body is stripped of the usual decorative trim, and the interior draws attention to functional elements, such as the carbon frame.
A different kind of cell pumps energy through the Nanoflowcell Quant e-Sportlimousine. The radically styled four-seater lays claim to being the first vehicle powered by a flow cell battery. This battery stores energy in tanks of electrolytic solutions, providing easy refueling and an estimated range of between 249 and 373 miles (400 and 600 km), all while backing a 912-hp, four-motor powertrain. Those four motors can team up to slingshot the driver to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds without capping acceleration until 236 mph (380 km/h).
All the numbers and claims about the Quant e-Sportlimousine scream "vaporware," and we're not so sure Nanoflowcell will actually come through with a testable car, but the Quant certainly provides some interesting food for thought, which is what any good concept car/prototype should do.
Lightweight construction through innovative materials was another popular theme in Geneva. The Biofore Concept Car, a project from Finnish biomaterials company UPM, the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and a few other partners, is one of the most interesting examples of this approach. The carbon fiber chassis is familiar enough, but from there, the partners take off in new directions, replacing oil-based plastics with more renewable materials. The body is crafted from UPM Formi biocomposite, a recyclable, cellulose fiber-based composite, while the interior features generous use of UPM Grada thermoformable wood, creating a clean, sustainable cockpit that definitely looks like it came from northern Europe.
The partners say that this construction saves about 331 lb (150 kg) over a similarly sized car using more traditional materials. The car's 1.2-liter diesel engine is fueled by UPM BioVerno, a wood-based diesel that is said to cut greenhouse emissions by as much as 80 percent versus traditional fossil fuels. The car is built to be street legal, and its biomaterials can be recycled or burned after its lifecycle is over.
Another university project that looks well beyond the edges of the box in terms of materials is the Biomobile. An ongoing project of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) started in 2004, the Biomobile uses natural materials, such as banana and plant fibers, in its construction. It's powered by a Honda GX25 four-stroke engine, more commonly used in lawn and garden equipment. That engine runs on a biofuel made from organic waste, which it sips at a glacial rate of 1,960 US mpg (0.12 L/100 km). As a 55-lb (25-kg), 9.7 x 2 x 1.8-foot (3 x .6 x .5-m), streamliner-like one-seater, it's not exactly a practical design for the roads, but it is an interesting experiment in materials and design techniques. It has a top speed around 19 mph (30 km/h).
The MILA Blue concept car from Austria's Magna Steyr doesn't stray outside the box looking for lightweight materials, relying instead on common materials like aluminum, magnesium and composites. Magna Steyr also cuts out unnecessary material, such as interior plastic trim, and downsizes components, saving some 661 lb (300 kg) over the weight of a typical A-segment vehicle. The concept's compressed natural gas hybrid drive emits less than 49 g CO2/km.
The Pariss 2013 electric roadster protoype debuted at last year's Geneva Motor Show, so perhaps it's only natural that this year's show brought the Pariss 2014, which offers a similar combination of green driving and electrifying performance as the Tesla Roadster.
The latest Pariss prototype gets a more powerful 241-hp (180-kW), dual-motor drivetrain that sends the two-seater rolling to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds – more than a second quicker than was advertised on the 2013 prototype. Pariss is still estimating 124 miles (200 km) of range, which can be more than tripled up to 435 miles (700 km) with the available 220-lb (100-kg) range extender. A fast-charge system offers battery top-off in as little as an hour. The roadster's length and wheelbase remain the same, but the 2014 prototype weighs about 110 lb (50 kg) more at 1,764 lb (800 kg). Pariss still doesn't mention any production dates, but it does list a price of €80,000 euro (US$111,000).
The icy Subaru Viziv concept from the 2013 Geneva show was back in 2014, in the form of the updated Viziv 2. The new concept SUV gets transformed into four-door format and uses an updated plug-in hybrid AWD system with a 1.6-liter turbo engine, a high-torque-compatible Lineartronic (CVT) transmission, a front motor and two rear motors. Given that this is the third iteration of the Viziv concept that we've seen in one year's time, we expect elements of it – or even the whole shebang – to show up in Subaru's line-up in the future.
More than just a concept car or an exotic with a "TBA" release date, the Volkswagen Golf GTE revealed in Geneva is a real production car. The model's plug-in hybrid drive adds a fifth powertrain option to the Golf series, which also has gas, diesel, natural gas and electric models. The sporty hybrid hatch gets up to 31 miles (50 km) of all-electric range and 584 total miles (940 km) of total range, courtesy of its plug-in powertrain with 148-hp 1.4-liter turbo TSI engine and 101-hp electric motor. The 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery charges in 2.5 to 3.5 hours. The plug-in Golf earns its "GT" letters with a 7.6-second 0-62 mph time and 135 mph (217 km/h) top speed.