The best-of-both-worlds Benz
MERCEDES-BENZ hinted at its future when it unveiled a new fuel cell car that blends a 105mph top speed with economy equal to 97.4mpg.
But the best-of-both-worlds model will not be going into showrooms. Instead, the sensational F600 HY Genius has been built for research.
Mercedes-Benz research chief Dr Thomas Weber said: ‘We’ve created a groundbreaking drive unit that produces 115bhp and has a range of 186 miles.
‘It’s a major step toward our goal of putting fuel cell motoring on the road in seven to 10 years’ time.’
Despite being 40% smaller, the new hydrogen-powered cell is more efficient, generating a constant output of 82bhp.
Though the car uses a battery-driven electric motor for manoeuvring, it combines both power sources during acceleration.
Weber added: ‘This car has enough energy to power several homes, so passengers could simply plug in any domestic device to a socket in the tailgate. The cell will also keep drinks chilled or hot in the cup holders.’
Another novelty is the use of cameras in the rear view mirrors. If they spot a car or bike approaching from behind, a safety system prevents any door from opening to avoid the risk of a collision.
Weber added: ‘We’ve built 11 research vehicles since 1981 to pioneer new solutions and proximity control, active body control, window bags and active lighting are just some of the features that have been developed as a result. The F600 is set to perpetuate this.’
Meanwhile, Mercedes Car Group chief Dieter Zetsche claimed a new exhaust cleaning technology has made one of the company’s diesel engines the cleanest in the world.
Presenting the Bluetec hybrid based on the S320 CDI, he said the compact and lightweight system cut the V6 unit’s consumption to an average 36mpg while still allowing a 155mph top speed.
‘This is the most economical luxury saloon in the world. We’re now considering further applications,’ he said.
Easy access with Toyota’s concept
GETTING in and out of the latest Toyota concept model couldn’t be easier – just sit down to enter and stand up to leave!
As well as showcasing advances in fuel cell technology, the Fine-X concept comes with special powered seats that slide out of the car while stowing the drive-by-wire steering system neatly out of the way when the gull-wing doors are opened.
The seats glide back in and the steering wheel resumes its working position again as the doors are closed.
Company president Katsuaki Watanabe said: ‘This is a revolutionary concept that provides a glimpse of the future of the car. We think it sets the pace in assisting getting in and out of the vehicle.’
But a novel four-wheel independent drive control arrangement means the Fine-X is able to promote ease of movement of another kind. Mated to four wheel independent steering, its in-wheel drive system allows the car to complete full-circle turns within its own length.
He added: ‘You can literally turn on a dime. Imagine how convenient on-the-spot rotation could prove to be. It means an end to problems with parking and making U-turns – such a high level of manoeuvrability has the potential to make accidents easier to avoid,’ said Watanabe.
In another radical move, the world’s second biggest car firm showed off its suggestion for a single passenger electric vehicle.
Called i-swing, it uses just two wheels when manoeuvring and three for travel on the open road – should you dare.
‘When you’re in a bustling street full of people, i-swing can operate in two-wheeled mode so it takes up little space. You could travel slowly enough to talk to someone who is walking,’ said a spokesman.
Fuel efficiency is at the top of Honda’s agenda
HONDA has promised that the most popular cars it builds will be giving their owners more miles to every gallon in the future.
Company president Takeo Fukui said: ‘For the past five years we’ve been making a transition to our next generation of compact and lightweight high performance engines.
‘This work has been completed with the arrival of the new Civic range but over the next three years we will further improve the fuel efficiency of our mass market vehicles with intelligent technologies and the future advancement of VTEC and variable cylinder management.
‘Our hybrid system will be combined with more engines and made widely available as one of the powertrain options for mass production vehicles.’
Fukui was speaking as he unveiled the FCX (below), a concept using the firm’s more compact fuel cell to provide more interior space and superior driving performance.
He added: ‘We want to make sure the next generation of fuel cell vehicles deliver not just environmental performance but a level of comfort and enjoyment beyond petrol vehicles.
‘FCX represents advancements seven to eight years down the road, so it will take a little more time to achieve it all. But we’re devoting ourselves to further downsize and improve the efficiency of the fuel cell stack and hydrogen tank with a view toward mass production,’ he said.
Tipped to be the basis of the 2007 model Accord, the Sports 4 concept (below) claims to use the firm’s super handling all-wheel drive technology to bring the thrill of performance motoring to passengers as well as the driver.
New Lexus LS makes debut
IT is called the LF-Sh and will replace Lexus’ range-topping LS saloon. It is due to go on sale late next year.
In common with the smaller IS and GS ranges, the LS features Lexus’ L-Finesse design language which has given all three models a sharper look.
Power will come from a V8 petrol engine, and there are plans for a hybrid version, too, using similar technology to that foud in the RX400h and the GS450h.
Odd-man Mazda opts for hydrogen
A NEW dual-fuel rotary engine is set to make Mazda the odd man out in the race to develop alternative fuel cell technology.
While rival Japanese firms are focusing on the cell, the Ford subsidiary famous for its rotary power units is putting a hydrogen-petrol version on the road next year.
The special RX-8 Hydrogen RE will be available through leasing contracts – but in the meantime, Mazda is working to put more traditional petrol-electric hybrid models into production in three years’ time, such as the Mazda5 version.
Terios grows up
DAIHATSU is planning to put a bigger, more capable version of its Terios mini-SUV model in UK showrooms next year.
Unveiled as the Be-go at Tokyo, the revised car is four metres long and is said to allow up to five adults to ride in comfort and still offer 380 litres of luggage space.
Until this year, the compact car specialist, 60%-owned by Toyota, has had a ceiling of 1.3-litres on the size of its engines. Now the limit has been lifted, the firm has developed a new 16-valve,1.5-litre unit that delivers 2.0-litre performance.
In the Terios, it operates a full-time four wheel-drive system to give the car the ability to travel over rough terrain.
Subaru’s hybrid concept
SUBARU debuted the B5-TPH at Tokyo, unveiling not only a hybrid petrol-electric powerplant but also some clues to the look of a forthcoming sports car.
The three-door hatchback TPH – for Turbo Parallel Hybrid – has an electric motor and a turbocharged 2.0-litre flat-four engine, offering 255bhp.
Subaru insists this concept will not make it into production, although the firm said that it provides a glimpse of a future specialist sports car.
Coming to you company car park?
THE Japanese are known for coming up with some wacky concept cars, and here’s just a small selection from Tokyo. Don’t expect to see them in a showroom anytime soon...