Car concepts unveiled at two recent auto shows demonstrated the automotive industry’s continued pursuit of performance and fuel economy. The most notable entry in the fuel-efficiency category was the Toyota 1/X concept, which made its North American debut at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, held Feb. 8-17 at the McCormick Convention Center. Featuring carbon fiber composites throughout its frame, the ultralightweight 926-lb/421-kg 1/X’s aerodynamic design maintains the interior space available in the Toyota Prius hybrid but at about one-third the weight. Pronounced one-exth, the car’s name is derived from its vehicle mass, fuel consumption and emissions output — each a fraction of that of other vehicles in its class. The 1/X reportedly hits a fuel efficiency target double that of the Prius and has a mass so low that the 1/X can operate with an ultrasmall hybrid powertrain located under the rear seat. The system combines a home-rechargeable, plug-in hybrid unit with a small 500-cc, 0.5-liter flexible-fuel engine. The result is a vehicle that could travel more than 600 miles/966 km on a small 4-gal/15-liter tank of fuel, claims the company.
The 1/X roof is produced from a bio-plastic reinforced with fibers derived from kenaf and ramie plants. The result is a roof that improves heat insulation, increases the amount of light entering the cabin, and reduces noise.
Without an indigenous car manufacturer, Switzerland hosts the Geneva Motor Show, which many automotive OEMs have adopted as their home “salon.” At the event’s recent 78th edition, held March 6-16, a number of unique and innovative concepts made their debut. Pininfarina (Turin, Italy) created a new take on the fuel-cell/electric hybrid in the Sintesi. The Sintesi is a four-door, four-seat sports car developed by a highly innovative approach: Pininfarina “did not consider the car as a shape that covers the mechanicals, but gave a sleek shape to the mechanicals around the passengers.” This approach, which the company calls “Liquid” packaging, has reportedly improved weight distribution and lowered the car’s center of gravity. Pininfarina collaborated with Nuvera (Milan, Italy and Billerica, Mass.), the developer the Quadrivium Fuel Cells system used in the concept — four fuel cells, of which one is positioned near each wheel. The result is that the space for passengers is much more generous in proportion to the total volume of the car.
Magna Steyr (Oberwaltersdorf, Austria), which produces vehicles for BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler, introduced its futuristic off-roader called the MILA Alpin (second photo, this page). This tiny SUV is reportedly able to negotiate inclines as steep as 45°. According to the company, the frame consists of straight, lightweight modular sections, which are made of different materials — some composite — to guarantee low weight and enable a flexible body concept, including some innovative options. The Alpin design permits the use of either a CNG (compressed natural gas) drive, a hybrid power plant or a small, supercharged gasoline engine.
Automaker Koenigsegg (Ingelholm, Sweden) launched special Edition CCX and CCXR sports cars launched at Geneva (top photo, this page). Just 20 of the Edition versions will be built, and two Editions already have been sold. The fielded cars feature 5.0-liter twin supercharged Koenigsegg engines that deliver 888 bhp and 1,018 bhp, respectively. Acceleration is quoted as being 0 to 100 kmh (0 to 62 mph) in 2.9 seconds, with a top speed at 417+ kmh (250+ mph). The Edition body panels — standouts because they sported a clear finish that exposes the carbon fiber weave — are molded from MTM57 flexible composite carbon fiber prepreg, supplied by Advanced Composites Group Ltd. (ACG, Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.).
MTM57 prepregs, says ACG, can be processed using autoclave, vacuum bag and press techniques. ACG assisted with the manufacture of tooling and several preproduction prototype body kits. The cars’ commercial production is handled by Hampshire, U.K.-based GE Aviation (formerly Smiths Aerospace), which is known for its involvement in several other “supercar” development projects, including the McLaren-Mercedes SLR.