April 20, 2021

2011 Frankfurt Motor Show: In Frankfurt, Automakers Vow to Drop a Few Pounds

The 64th Frankfurt Motor Show offers ample evidence that automakers still cannot agree which energy form will power cars of the future — petroleum, hydrogen, electricity or some fuel yet undiscovered. But they all agree on one point: cars are going to have to become lighter. A lot lighter.

The show, which is open to the public through Sept. 25 at the Messe Frankfurt convention center here, offers millions of square feet of new design studies and production vehicles, all bristling with the latest technologies.

During two days of press previews this week, it seemed that at every automaker’s display, company representatives were eager to explain their efforts to make every component, down to the smallest screw or rivet, as light as it could possibly be and still do its job.

Jaguar Land Rover even has a new executive position — head of lightweight vehicle strategy — to identify areas where shaving pounds is necessary and possible. The executive, Mark White, said the company found 15 pounds of savings in the way it made vehicles’ hoods. Aluminum has replaced steel in roof panels, saving another 15 pounds. Other lightweight materials like magnesium, better plastics and carbon fiber are being used in a wider range of applications.

“Land Rover remains committed to a goal of reducing curb weights of its S.U.V.’s by as much as 500 kilos over the next 10 years,” said John Edwards, the company’s global brand director. That goal — a reduction of more than half a ton — was evident in two lean new concept vehicles, the DC100 and DC100 Sport, that Mr. Edwards introduced here.

Jaguar, which rolled out a design study for a sports car called the C-X16, has over the past decade been an industry pioneer in developing aluminum chassis for its luxury sedans and sports cars. While the weight of most new vehicles has gone up in recent years because of added safety equipment, more electronic gadgets and “gotta-have” options, the company’s cars have become significantly lighter, said Ian Callum, the company’s design chief. As a result, Jaguars are enjoying gains in vehicle dynamics and fuel economy.

Until it developed aluminum space frames for its large sedans, Audi was among the manufacturers guilty of creeping weight gains in each successive generation of existing models. Its latest A8 flagship sedan, which has an aluminum space frame, is larger than the car it replaces but no heavier. The 2012 A6 sedan uses a partial aluminum chassis that Audi says helps to “reverse the spiral” of weight gain, shedding a total of 175 pounds compared with the vehicle it replaced.

In the introductions of several new models here, including “S” performance versions of all its larger sedans, company executives highlighted how many pounds had been engineered out of each.

Exotic sports cars, already among the most weight-conscious vehicles on the road, are also getting lighter. Lamborghini announced here that it would produce its Sesto Elemento, a lightweight hypercar introduced at the 2010 Paris auto show as a technology demonstrator. Porsche reported that it employed a new “intelligent light building” technique on the redesigned 911 that made its debut in Frankfurt; that vehicle is 100 pounds lighter than the model it replaces, despite having grown slightly over all.

Volvo said it was even using different speakers in its audio systems in an effort to squeeze out a few extra pounds.

Component manufacturers also have been put on notice not to deliver porky products.

ZF says that its new 9-speed automatic transmission, unveiled at the show, is lighter than its 8-speed unit even though it carries an extra ratio and other components. Continental Group said it was designing new brake systems that incorporate the parking brake function, eliminating the need for — and weight of — a separate pedal.

Toyota said it was under executive order to reduce the weight and space needed for its Hybrid Synergy Drive system by 35 percent for each new generation of the technology.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f8bf036523c8e04ab1e2e8deeead79e6

Will Plug-In BMWs Turn Enthusiasts On?

BMW fans can soon decide for themselves whether the company has delivered on its promise. On Friday in Frankfurt, BMW unveiled working prototypes of the i8, a plug-in hybrid sport coupe that will carry a six-figure price tag, and the i3, a four-seat battery-powered compact car aimed at a wider market.

The two cars are the first from the company’s new “i” subbrand for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and other alternative-power vehicles. While BMW hasn’t disclosed what other models may be in the works, the i8 and i3 appear to be the high and low ends of what may someday be a broader line of low-emission, high-mileage offerings.

Though officially labeled concept cars, the prototypes presented in Frankfurt are essentially the vehicles that will begin rolling off an assembly line in Leipzig, Germany, in 2013. BMW plans to market the cars in all of its main markets, including the United States, by the end of 2013, with the emphasis on urban areas.


There was never much worry that the i8, versions of which BMW has shown before, would disappoint purists. With a battery-powered electric motor turning the front wheels and a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine driving the back, the i8 will race from a standstill to 100 kilometers per hour (or 62 miles per hour) in 4.6 seconds, BMW says. That is faster than the most powerful version of BMW’s Z4 sports roadster and competitive with most incarnations of the Porsche 911.

The i8 is also a riposte to the Audi R8 E-tron and Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell, electric sports cars that have already been publicly shown in concept form and will go into limited production within the next two years.

The four-seat i8 can go 20 miles solely on battery power and will theoretically travel more than 100 miles on a gallon of gas when the engine and batteries are working together, with the electric motor providing a power boost during acceleration. The company concedes that hard driving will cut that figure in half; this BMW may be green, but it can also be aggressive.

It is less clear if the i3, presented as a city car, will rate a place alongside highly regarded BMWs like the 3 Series. The fuzzy renderings the company had shown before Friday, as it carefully rationed information about the electric-car project, looked more like a streamlined Mini than a prototypical Bimmer.

There had remained doubts as to whether the company was really willing to risk its prestige on a market for electric cars that, for all the hoopla, remained unproven. But based on the model shown in Frankfurt, BMW has clearly concluded that the i3 will cast a positive halo on its brand.

The car is visually a BMW, including the trademark double-kidney grille, which, however, is purely decorative. The battery-powered i3 doesn’t need a front air intake for engine cooling.

The i3 also preserves the rear-wheel-drive format that is another BMW hallmark. At the same time, designers have updated the design language for the iPhone generation. Familiar elements, including a prominent roundel badge and L-shaped taillights, mix with features like transparent roofs and side panels, the better to show off the carbon-fiber passenger compartment and the seats of leather tanned with environmentally friendly olive oil.

The i cars also signal that they represent a new kind of BMW. In contrast to the monocolor of most conventional cars, the i8 and i3 prototypes have what BMW calls layered schemes, swoops of carbon black and light gray on the body panels, with blue accents.

The i3 aims for Euro-coolness rather than the techno-nerdiness of a Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf.

“It is a BMW,” said Richard Steinberg, who is in charge of the company’s electric car operations in the United States. “It remains an ultimate driving machine.”

The performance metrics of the i3 seem respectably BMW-like. It can go from 0 to 62 m.p.h. in less than 8 seconds, faster than some variants of BMW’s 1 Series and 3 Series cars. Moreover, the i3 will deliver a nice kick from stoplights, reaching 60 k.p.h. (37 m.p.h.) in just 4 seconds, according to BMW. That is because electric motors deliver peak torque from a standstill. In internal combustion engines, torque increases, up to a point, with the engine speed.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/automobiles/will-plug-in-bmws-turn-enthusiasts-on.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Greentech: Tesla Prepares for a Gap as Roadster Winds Down


TESLA MOTORS has spent eight years building a new kind of car company — one with Silicon Valley roots that makes slick electric vehicles and takes its retail cues from Apple rather than from traditional dealerships. Now Tesla is undergoing a makeover as it tries to evolve from a niche maker of expensive sports cars that has never turned a profit into a money-making provider of electric cars for the masses and a technology supplier to bigger automakers.

In the interim, Tesla — which reported its highest-ever quarterly revenue on Wednesday — is hitting pause on its main moneymaker, the $100,000-plus Roadster. In its most recent annual report Tesla said it intended to sell the current version of the Roadster only until its supply of “gliders” — essentially, the shell of the car — runs out, perhaps early next year.

Tesla does not expect to introduce its next-generation Roadster until at least 2013, a year after the promised debut of the Model S sedan.

In a conference call with analysts, the company’s chairman and chief executive, Elon Musk, said the Model S remained on track for deliveries in mid-2012. The first 1,000 sedans will be in the premium Signature Series, priced at $77,400; later versions are to start at $57,400.

The Model S was previously scheduled to go on sale this year.

For the Roadster, Tesla has obtained gliders from Lotus of Britain, which uses the same body for its Elise sports car. But Lotus is retooling for a new Elise, and Tesla’s contract for 2,400 gliders expires at the end of this year.

Expanded over a year ago from an earlier deal for 1,700 gliders that would have expired in March, the agreement lets Tesla keep Roadsters in showrooms longer. But the end of the supply of Roadster gliders “sheds light on how Lotus views the relationship,” said Kevin See of Lux Research. If Lotus saw the Roadster and Tesla as an important revenue source, he said, “it would find a way to keep those gliders coming.”

Tesla has sold more than 1,650 Roadsters, including 145 in the first quarter. The car accounts for the bulk of Tesla’s revenue to date, with additional revenue from sales of zero-emission vehicle credits, battery packs and chargers as well as development services.

While most Roadsters have been sold in the United States, the chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, said Wednesday that international sales exceeded domestic sales in the first quarter.

In all, Tesla recorded a net loss of $48.9 million on revenues of $49 million in the first quarter. That compared with a loss of $29.5 million on revenues of $20.8 million for the period a year earlier. Tesla said its gross margin improved to 37 percent, up from 19 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

Mr. Musk — who is featured in the new documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car” — attributed the revenue increase to Roadster sales as well as to supply and development deals with Daimler and Toyota. He said Tesla was still working toward an agreement to supply components for the 2012 production version of the electric Toyota RAV4; prototypes of that vehicle are being developed with Tesla powertrains.

These types of projects will be “critical for Tesla’s long term success,” said Dave Hurst, senior analyst with Pike Research. “Vehicle production is so expensive and cash-intensive that I think Tesla will need the additional sources of revenue.”

As for the Model S, Mr. Musk said Tesla was preparing for a “beta build” this year after tests of the “alpha” fleet. The company has collected more than 4,600 Model S reservations, for which prospective customers pay a refundable deposit of at least $5,000, or $40,000 for the Signature Series.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c8f02f475bea72ebb9b1ce7788293ac6