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The Mercury Cars Guide : September 19th 2009
10--- Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, September 19, 2009 An electric future for motoring Battery-powered hero cars, from city runabouts to a genuine supercar, are stealing the show in Frankfurt this week. Paul Gover reports from Germany LIVE WIRE: The Audi R8 e-tron was just one of the battery powered stars at the Frankfurt Motor Show. THE sparky newcomers are almost everywhere at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, easily the biggest motoring event of the year. But no-one can look past the first battery-powered supercar from a major manufacturer, the Audi e-tron, which turns the mid-engined R8 road rocket into a genuine future car. A giant lithium-ion battery pack and electric motors for each wheel - putting a new twist on Audi's signa- ture quattro drive - ensure the racy red concept car can zap to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds and has a top speed limited to 200km/h. Proving it's not just a flashy fraud, Audi says it has a range of 248 kilometres between recharging. But the Audi e-tron is just the start of the electric action at the show. Volkswagen has converted its tiny Up! city car into a plug-and-play runner, Renault has four surprise electric concept cars, and Mercedes- Benz is showing three electric- powered concept cars that get their volts from sources including a con- ventional home socket and a hybrid fuel cell. Inevitably, there are hybrid cars on the stands of almost every maker --- with BMW setting the benchmark --- but the serious talk is about a fully electric future beyond 2015. ''We are at the tipping point now with electric cars,'' says head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche. ''Electricity within the car as a growing percentage is the name of the game.'' Officially, Benz only has its con- cepts but, behind the scenes, it is finalising a battery-powered version of its SLS super-coupe for full-scale production in 2012. The born-again Gullwing cur- rently uses a stonking AMG V8 motor but development of the plug-in SLS already has produced a car with a top speed of 215km/h and a range of 240 kilometre, with an eventual target of at least 250 and 350. The update of the Up! from Volks- wagen comes two years after the company first tickled potential buyers with a modern interpretation of the basic Beetle. It lost the rounded body but was compact, cost-effective and capable of converting young customers. This time the plug-in car has 240 kilograms of lithium-ion batteries that allow it to accelerate to 100km/ h in 11.3 seconds with a top speed of 140km/h and a range of more than 120 kilometres. The car has space inside for three adults and a child --- or luggage --- despite a body that is just 3.199m long. And its trimmed-down equipment means old-fashioned manual adjust- ment for the windows and mirrors. The E-Up! concept looks headed for production, based on the unveiling speech of Volkswagen chairman Dr Martin Winterkorn. ''Cars with pure petrol and diesel engines --- which in the foreseeable future will continue to be unbeatable for mid- to long-range distances --- will be supplemented by cars like the E-Up! in coming years,'' he says. ''The concept now being presented in Frankfurt very realistically shows how we envision such a Volkswagen with pure electric drive technology, visually and in terms of size.'' Still, it's the e-tron that is drawing the big crowds. It looks like a mildly- tweaked R8, which is just what Audi wants, as it knows the car is its hero. Visually, the only real differences are the lack of air intakes for the radiators and a clean-up of the wheels and nose, as the 470 kilogram battery pack, inverter and computer controller sit in the space behind the seats that is normally filled by either a V8 or V10 petrol engine. But the changes run deep, down to a heat pump for the cabin and a thermal management system for the battery pack. The cabin is also missing the central console needed for a conven- tional gearshift, there are light- weight ceramic disc brakes and an energy recovery system. Audi says the battery pack can be recharged from a home socket in six to eight hours, although this drops to 2.5 hours with a high-voltage charg- er. ''We are trying to find a concept that requires no compromises,'' says Michael Dick, the Audi board mem- ber in charge of technical develop- ment. ''Electromobility means more to us than just electrifying conventional cars. ''Instead, we are dedicated to a holistic approach to all aspects of the topic.''
September 12th 2009
September 26th 2009