Roddy Graham's blog: 20 September 2011 - Personal battery-powered cars at Frankfurt
20 September 2011
The irony of the Frankfurt IAA Show is that it is such a huge event, spread over numerous gigantic exhibition halls that many of the automotive media choose to go about the event on bicycle! In this new green, CSR-focused Brave New World of ours, this surely cannot have escaped the attention of many of the vehicle manufacturers displaying their new concept and production cars. Maybe one bright spark in Detroit or Stuttgart or in Toyota City is already hard at work designing an electric hybrid foldable bike that can be stowed neatly in their next city car and used by future owners, not to mention journos, when the vehicle is next launched in Frankfurt!
The irony doesn't stop there either. With the global car population having overtaken the one billion landmark, China accounted for over half of the world's total new car sales growth but unlike North America and Europe is keener on big 4 x 4s and large executive saloons than small electric hybrid city runabouts and low CO2 emission vehicles. The divergence in approach to the crossroads where East meets West couldn't be more pronounced!
The 64th edition of the Frankfurt IAA is 20 per cent bigger than the 63rd event, held two years ago, and claims over 1,000 exhibitors from 32 countries! In total, there are 89 world premieres to keep the hacks busy over the days to come.
It's interesting to read about what is on show, as the motoring hacks draw breath between halls to disclose to the world what their eyes have just gleaned on some glitzy stand that could have powered a medium-sized town for a month rather than a stand for a fortnight.
Audi, Vauxhall/Opel and Volkswagen have all unveiled small personal battery-powered concept cars which, given their size, are claimed to go further on each charge cycle. Take the Audi concept that fits no current class. It's a 1+1 electric city car weighing just 480 kilos! It's a funky looking fun car - part racecar, part roadster. Will it take off in its current form? I doubt it. Like most concept cars, it's a radical vision of the potential future of personal mobility but you can bet your bottom dollar that some elements will creep in to future production models.
Unlike the BRIC markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China, Europe is taking its emissions' targets seriously with hi-tech hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and full electric vehicles. And, lest we forget, most vehicle manufacturers are squeezing yet more out of the good old internal combustion engine with the likes of BMW now producing a 520d below the magic 120g/km BIK threshold.
Downsizing doesn't just come in the form of vehicle size but also engine size too. Ford has announced at Frankfurt the production of a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre version of its EcoBoost engine, a turbo-charged unit providing the same performance at greater economy than larger engines.
With advances like these from the internal combustion engine, a 100 mpg target cannot be too far away surely?
The final irony is that as the world's population explodes, people get bigger, cars are getting smaller. Soon, we'll all be like little beetles, beetling away. But will we fit into the cars in the first place?
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