If you’re an average Joe like most of us, then green technology for motor vehicles hasn’t really trickled down to our everyday life. Our day-to-day interaction with these so-called green vehicles has been limited to the occasional Toyota Prius, the iconic Tesla that we see in the glossy pages of magazines or the more prevalent e-jeepneys and e-trikes. All that may soon change.
If the recently concluded 43rd Tokyo Motor Show is any proof, we can expect some of these green vehicles to hit our shores in the near future. And make no mistake, these aren’t just little city apartment to mall vehicles. Some of them are real rubber burners and mud splashers. Vehicles made to take you anywhere in whatever fashion you please. What this tells me is that the green technologies that we’ve been seeing of late have reached a measure of maturity. So here are my picks of the highlights of the show.
MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORPORATION
Mitsubishi unveiled 3 stunning concept vehicles. And if rumors are to be believed, these vehicles are close to production and we may be seeing them as early as 2015.
Mitsubishi Concept GC–PHEV
A next-generation full-size SUV with full-time 4WD this looks like the next iteration of our beloved Pajero. It features a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) system. To ensure it can deliver the all terrain performance of a true all around SUV, this beast has a 3.0-liter V6 supercharged MIVEC engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, with a high-output motor and a high-capacity battery. The PHEV system automatically switches operation between pure EV drive and hybrid drive depending on driving conditions, remaining battery charge and other factors.
Concept GC-PHEV also adopts an Augmented Reality (AR) windshield to display various information like: Satnav-linked Route Guidance; Active safety system-linked Distance to Vehicle in Front; and Lane Departure Warning and Caution Tracking information. This technology is supposed to aid the driver in making split-second decisions when driving the vehicle and makes for safer driving.
While the concept car features a futuristic touch screen tactical table that runs through the entire cabin, I doubt we’ll see it in the production model.
Mitsubishi Concept XR-PHEV
This next-generation compact SUV is easily the replacement for our current ASX. It uses a front engine, front-wheel drive layout PHEV system that is configured with a new downsized 1.1-liter direct-injection turbocharged MIVEC engine together with a lightweight, compact and high-efficiency motor with a high-capacity battery.
Choosing a FF-layout PHEV system with no motor at the rear reduces weight as well as friction losses and returns improvements in fuel and electricity economy. A boost converter increases motor and generator output and efficiency. An interesting feature of the Concept XR-PHEV is that it uses solar panels built into the roof. These serve to charge the auxiliary equipment battery.
On a side note, a variable angle spoiler on the trailing edge of the roof can be adjusted for different driving conditions.
As far as safety is concerned, XR shares many of the same safety features as the Concept GC so we can expect it to be a pretty safe vehicle.
Mitsubishi Concept AR
The Mitsubishi Concept AR is a compact MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). Now I’m not quite sure if we have the local equivalent of what this vehicle would replace. Is it the new Fuzion or a replacement for the Grandis? Perhaps it will be something entirely new to us and that’s a bit exciting.
The Concept AR is powered by a lightweight Belt Start Generator (BSG)-type mild hybrid system which comprises a downsized 1.1-liter in-line 3-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged MIVEC engine mated to a low-output BSG torque circuit.
According to Mitsubishi, they employed weight reduction in the engine, the hybrid system and overall with the more extensive use of high-tensile strength steel panels and of lightweight structural materials in strategic locations. The result is a significant reduction in fuel consumption together with a smoother and more comfortable ride.
N The spacious cabin offers three flexible seating patterns giving generous seating room for six occupants, for four occupants with a sizeable luggage space or for a generous common space between the 2nd and 3rd row seats when they are turned to face each other. It also features a gently bowed Crystal Lighted Roof that lets in ambient light.
The AR is no slouch on the safety side, featuring many of the safety systems as the previous two concept vehicles.
HONDA MOTOR COMPANY
Honda NSX Concept
This concept car was a real head turner that we can only hope becomes reality. According to Honda, the key technology for this car is Sport Hybrid SH-AWD® (Super Handling All Wheel Drive). The powertrain consists of a midship-mounted direct injection V6 engine and a dual clutch transmission. Working in conjunction with this is an internal high-efficiency motor, and an electric motor for each front wheel. A torque control system manages left and right drive torque independently to deliver a revolutionary cornering-on-rails steering feel.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
The A3 Sportback e-tron from Audi is no slouch in the performance or efficiency departments. This latest-generation of plug-in-hybrid cars from Audi offers 150 kW (204 hp) of system power and achieves average mileage of an impressive 66 kilometers per liter of gasoline. In the electric mode its operating range is up to 50 kilometers, with the TFSI engine adding a further 890 kilometers.
It’s 0 to 100 km/h time clocks in at 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 222 km/h. In accordance with the ECE standard for plug-in hybrid vehicles, its average CO2 emissions are a mere 35 grams per km.
Based on the Jimny, Suzuki’s world-class compact 4WD vehicle, the X-LANDER is equipped with a 1.3L engine and a newly developed automatically controlled manual transmission. It incorporates a compact lightweight hybrid system equipped with a highly-efficient motor built onto a 4WD system.
It features a size of a compact car while weighing 810kg, the weight of a minicar. With a newly developed 1L 3-cylinder engine, it strikes a balance between power performance and environmental performance.
TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION
Toyota FCV Concept
While the design of the Toyota FCV Concept evokes a sleeker Prius form more than anything, it is a practical concept of the fuel cell vehicle Toyota plans to launch around 2015. The vehicle has a driving range of at least 500 km and refueling times as low as three minutes, roughly the same time as for a gasoline vehicle.
The Toyota FC Stack has a power output density of 3 kW/L, more than twice that of the current “Toyota FCHV-adv” FC Stack, and an output of at least 100 kW. In addition, the FC system is equipped with Toyota’s high-efficiency boost converter. Increasing the voltage has made it possible to reduce the size of the motor and the number of fuel cells, leading to a smaller system offering enhanced performance at reduced cost.
Fully fueled, the vehicle can provide enough electricity to meet the daily needs of an average Japanese home (10 kWh) for more than one week.
VOLVO CAR CORORATION
Volvo Concept Coupe
Volvo finally gets its design cues right; this is definitely not your mother’s staid country car. What we are treated to is a car that oozes effortless power with lines that speak more of performance rather than Scandinavian utilitarianism. And with what Volvo calls its Scalable Product Architecture, these are lines we’ll soon see in their whole line up beginning in 2014.
Powering the Concept Coupe is an impressive gasoline plug-in hybrid driveline that reflects Volvo Cars’ strategy to use electrification to create the most powerful versions in the new four-cylinder Drive-E engine family. This will take power figures up into V8 territory.
The concept car features a two-liter high-performance Drive-E gasoline engine with a supercharger and turbo. The gasoline engine is teamed with an electric motor on the rear axle. This gives Volvo Concept Coupé a total output of about 400 hp and over 600 Nm of torque. Now if that isn’t green power...
NISSAN MOTOR LIMITED
Nissan revealed one of the more unique vehicles in the show, the BladGlider concept car. This vehicle features a center driver seat position. To deliver as Nissan says, “the ultimate in glider-like driving pleasure, and the triangular three-seat cabin configuration enables a shared experience of ‘free soaring’ for all.” The BladeGlider shares sustainable engineering values with both the Nissan LEAF and the Nissan ZEOD RC, the futuristic-looking competition machine which will make its debut in next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The car's in-wheel motors provide rear-wheel propulsion with independent motor management.
Nissan claims that this is a prototype of an upcoming production vehicle. Now this I’ve got to see.
Volkswagen Twin up!
the twin up! concept car – a plug-in hybrid version of the successful city specialist, the up!. The four-seater shares certain parts of its drive system with the XL1 – including its diesel engine, electric motor and dual clutch gearbox (DSG).
The drive unit of the twin up! is mounted at the front of the car. It consists of a 0.8 TDI diesel engine, an electric motor, a 7-speed DSG and the power electronics. Installed at the back, behind the rear seats and the trunk, is the fuel storage system: a lithium-ion battery, the 12V battery for the electrical system and a 33-liter fuel tank.
In all-electric mode, the twin up! has a driving range of 50 km. It’s combination of good aerodynamics, a low unladen weight, lightweight plug-in drive components and tyres (165/65 R 15) optimised for low rolling resistance mean the concept car returns a sensationally low fuel consumption figure of 1.1 l/100 km, which equates to CO2 emissions of just 27 g/km.