Tag: green vehicle technology
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com Over the last dozen years, Volkswagen has gradually been working to perfect a concept car so revolutionary in its fuel efficiency that it was known as the “One-Liter.” The naming reflected VW’s original goal for the car, to produce a vehicle that could travel 100 kilometers on a single gallon of fuel. Now, with the addition of a small lithium ion battery pack and plug-in hybrid charging capability, the One-Liter has evolved into the XL1, a limited-run production vehicle that will not only meet, but exceed the original goal of 100 km/L fuel economy by 10 km/L. VW recently invited a small group of journalists to drive the car in Wolfsburg, Germany, giving them a chance to peep some of the more nuanced fuel-saving features and find out how the final production vehicles drive. The verdict form PluginCars.com is that while the XL1 most certainly wasn’t built to appeal to the mainstream, its single-minded focus on reducing inefficiencies provides a unique look into the future of automotive transportation. The most noticeably deviant feature of the XL1 compared to other cars is its shape. With a wider front that tapers off into a teardrop-like rear, the XL1 was designed to be among the most aerodynamic vehicles ever on the road. A coefficient of drag of just 0.19 blows production plug-ins like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt (which both have a 0.28 coefficient,) and the Tesla Model S (0.24) out of the water. Another measure Volkswagen undertook to reduce drag was the elimination of side and rearview mirrors in favor of cameras that display on screens inside of the cockpit. This approach saves weight and drag on the vehicle, and is an example of a feature that may see its way onto production vehicles from a number of carmakers in the future. Full-sized power windows have also been replaced by small, hand-cranked miniature sub-windows which exist as part of the full window glass on the driver and passenger-side doors. This kind of feature, as well as minimal sound-proofing that makes every bump and acceleration audible to those inside of the cabin, is likely a sacrifice that would be unacceptable to mass-market consumers. For Volkswagen though, the XL1 is still largely a test vehicle, even if 250 will soon be made available on the European market. What the company learns from its experience with the XL1 though will likely pave the way for a number of future fuel-saving innovations available to the greater market.
Toyota Motor Corp and BMW AG will jointly research a lithium-air battery expected to be more powerful than the lithium-ion batteries used in many hybrid and electric vehicles, according to the two firms. The companies signed binding agreements to collaborate on several projects meant to usher in future vehicle technology.
“[Toyota] and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of future sustainable mobility,” said Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board at BMW. “In light of the technological changes ahead, the entire automotive industry faces tremendous challenges, which we also regard as an opportunity. This collaboration is an important building block in keeping both companies on a successful course in the future.”
The Japanese and German automakers aim to complete a fuel-cell vehicle system by 2020, and a concept for a mid-size sports vehicle by the end of this year. They will also work together on developing lightweight technologies such as composites, which will help make cars greener.
“In order for FCVs (fuel cell vehicles) to become more widely used, it needs to be cheaper. That would require a great deal of time and cost for development,” said Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, who led development of the bestselling Prius hybrid in the late 1990s.
“By bringing together the wisdom of two companies, we can aim to make FCVs more popular much quicker,” he told a news conference with BMW at Nagoya, central Japan. While BMW said a launch date had not been decided. Toyota aims to start selling a fuel cell sedan by around 2015.
A lithium-air battery has its anode filled with lithium, and cathode with air. Theoretically, the battery can generate and store more electricity than the existing lithium-ion battery. The technology is being studied by researchers including IBM, which is working to develop a lithium-air battery that will let electric vehicles run 500 miles on one charge.
Toyota and BMW also said they would work on a shared platform and technology for a mid-sized sports car, and develop technologies to make cars lighter and thus more fuel-efficient.
“It is just over a year since we signed our collaborative MoU [memorandum of understanding), and with each day as our relationship strengthens, we feel acutely that we are making steadfast progress,” said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota. “Now, we are entering the phase that promises the fruit. While placing importance on what we learn from the joint development, we will work hard together in reaching our common goal of making ever-better cars.”