Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Mercedes-Benz zeroes in

Mercedes-Benz claims it is showing the way ahead in environmentally responsible ways, presenting its near-series Concept BlueZERO at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Based on a single vehicle architecture, this intelligent, modular concept allows three models with different drive configurations, all of which are able to meet customer requirements in terms of sustainable mobility:
The three types are

Mercedes-Benz BlueZERO

1: the BlueZERO E-CELL with battery-electric drive and a range of up to 200 kilometers using electric drive alone
2: the BlueZERO F-CELL (fuel cell) with a range of well over 400 kilometers using electric drive
3: the BlueZERO E-CELL PLUS with electric drive and additional internal combustion engine as power generator (range extender). This version has an overall range of up to 600 kilometers and can cover a distance of up to 100 kilometers using electric drive alone.
“Our modular system allows different drive configurations for every customer requirement,” says Dr Thomas Weber, the member of the Daimler AG Board of Management responsible for corporate research and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The modified sandwich-floor platform provides the perfect basis for a wide model range with electric drive systems. We are also developing a new, additional platform for future compact models with power units based on optimized internal combustion engines. The intelligent networking of both architectures enables us to develop our product portfolio extremely flexibly and efficiently. From 2009, we will be producing the first Mercedes fuel-cell cars on a small scale. Small-scale production of Mercedes-Benz cars with battery-electric drive alone will then commence in 2010. This means we are extremely well equipped for the future.”
All three BlueZERO variants share the same key technical components, while the design and vehicle dimensions are identical. Measuring just 4.22 meters in length, the BlueZERO models combine compact exterior dimensions with a generously proportioned and variable interior and luggage compartment. Five fully-fledged seats, a payload of around 450 kilograms and a luggage compartment capacity of over 500 liters make for outstanding everyday practicality. Thanks to their sandwich construction with a raised sitting position, the cars also offer an exceptionally high level of crash safety for the passengers and the technology, not to mention excellent all-round visibility.
These BlueZERO vehicles have been designed from the ground up as electric cars, compared to electric cars based on conventional vehicle platforms and originally only designed for use in combination with internal combustion engines, Concept BlueZERO offers the following conclusive advantages:
* Interior space is retained in full. As the energy accumulators/generators are integrated into the spacious sandwich floor, no compromises are necessary when it comes to passenger space, luggage capacity or variability.
* The powertrain technology built into the sandwich floor ensures a low center of gravity and, consequently, extremely reliable and agile handling.
* Crash safety is of the extremely high standard associated with Mercedes thanks to the sandwich concept and the housing of major powertrain components between the axles.
As a result, the BlueZERO models are very different to conventionally constructed electric cars, which have the heavy and voluminous storage battery housed in the boot or in the rear-seat area, for example.
All three BlueZERO models feature front-wheel drive, which is typical for this class of car. The Mercedes engineers have put together a modular system comprising several flexibly combinable drive components. These include state-of-the-art liquid-cooled lithium-ion batteries with a storage capacity of up to 35 kWh and the compact electric motor with a maximum output of 100 kW (continuous output 70 kW), which develops a peak torque of 320 Nm. All three variants accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 11 seconds. Their top speed is electronically limited to 150 km/h in the interests of optimal range and energy efficiency.
These vehicles will bring practicality to the electric mobility - most people use their cars for short-range commuting most of the time, with only the occasional longer trip. This configuration allows most people the ability to go petrol-free 90 percent of the time without restricting them on longer trips.
2010 is increasingly shaping up as the launch date for much-anticipated electric vehicles from major manufacturers around the world. Bring on the alternatives, I say! I’ve had enough from the pimps at the pumps.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that Honda has pulled out of F1. I asked what other Japanese companies have just pulled out of international level motor sport? The answer was Subaru and Suzuki from the world rally championship.

WRC Subaru

So to this week. What do you know about windscreens? Which car came out with the first curved windscreen without a central divider? Clue: think American and think in trouble.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email viacars
Good luck!


Sat-Nav voted best in-car device
A poll has just been carried out in the UK, with 54 percent of Sat-Nav users saying it to be the best device they have ever had in their car.


So what can those who got a new Sat-Nav for Christmas look forward to?
61 percent of respondents agreed that their Sat-Nav had stopped them getting lost countless times.
Only 10 percent disagreed.
44 percent use it very frequently.
Almost half (49 percent) are worried that it might get stolen.
Only 4 percent strongly agree they are worried it might take them to somewhere they do not want to go.
Almost half (47 percent) disagree that they are worried.
But 30 percent of respondents say that their sat nav has taken them to a place that they did not want to go with 44 percent disagreeing.
Three-quarters with a sat nav still carry a road atlas.
22 percent of respondents agree that their Sat-Nav sometimes distracts them when they are driving (3 percent strongly agree) but almost half (45 percent) disagree.
38 percent of respondents with a Sat-Nav would prefer a female voice to a male voice although 44 percent didn’t mind either way.
Commenting, Edmund King, Automobile Association president in the UK said, “Satellite Navigation systems are brilliant devices if used safely. A majority of those that have them think they are the best in-car device ever. These devices can enhance safety by reassuring drivers they are on the right route. Often roads are poorly signed so the Sat-Nav helps as a guide. However, the road atlas is still alive and well. We recommend that every driver should have an atlas to back up the Sat-Nav. You don’t want to end up in Stratford, East London if you really wanted the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon.” Ah yes, but will it find the difference between Soi Sam and Sai Sam I wonder?
Some other interesting facts from the survey included:
Men were much more likely to own one than women, with almost half (47 percent) owning one compared to less than one-in-three women (30 percent)
The age group most likely to own a Sat-Nav were 18-24 year olds (43 percent).
Drivers in Northern Ireland were least likely to say that Sat-Nav had prevented them getting lost countless times (50 percent) and those in London Wales and East Anglia most likely (64 percent).
The AA’s Top Ten sat nav tips:
1. You are driving the car, not the Sat-Nav. If you have an accident or commit an offence, it’s your fault.
2. What you see through the windscreen must take priority over what the Sat Nav says. If the road doesn’t look suitable, don’t use it.
3. You know what sort of vehicle you are driving, the Sat-Nav probably doesn’t. Watch for signs that could tell you the road isn’t suitable for your vehicle.
4. Don’t let the Sat-Nav dominate your driving - watch the road not the Sat-Nav.
5. Put the Sat-Nav in a sensible place. Don’t create a blind spot, or put it where it could cause injury.
6. Don’t try to program the Sat-Nav while you are driving. You know it will take one hand from the wheel, two eyes from the road and a brain from driving.
7. Use all the Sat-Nav’s features. When driving gets complicated, use the spoken instructions, and/or the simplest display.
8. Check the route is practical before you start. Are you being taken to the right place? If you put in the wrong destination, it will take you to there. Does the route look right?
9. Update the Sat-Nav regularly. Old information can be wrong information.
10. Remember, thieves like Sat-Navs! If it is detachable, always take it out when you leave the car. People tend to hide them in the car, so mounts or suction cap marks attract thieves.

Electrifying 911
The electric performance car of 2008 is the American Tesla, which goes from zero to 100 kays in four seconds! That is true supercar performance. However, over in der fatherland, German Porsche tuner Ruf has produced the world’s first professionally built electric 911, modestly known as the eRUF.
The electric 911 prototype replaces the flat six engine with a brushless three-phase motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. Although not as quick as a petrol-engined 911, Ruf’s engineers say the eRUF is still good for a 0-100km/h time of under seven seconds and has a top speed of 255km/h. More importantly it’s claimed to have a maximum range of nearly 320km.
The battery pack provides 317-volts and 480-amps and consists of 96x 160Ah Axeon lithium-ion iron-phosphate cells, each weighing 5.6 kg. Total weight of the pack is 550 kg. The pack is constantly monitored by a battery management system from Axeon. Each individual cell is coupled with a sensor that sends information on cell temperature and voltage to the central control system. The cells, with a nominal voltage of 3.3 V, have a lifespan of 3,000 charging cycles. Pack capacity is 50.72 kWh which is around the same capacity as the battery pack found in the Tesla Roadster but at 318 kg the Tesla pack is 232 kg lighter than the eRUF battery pack. In fact the complete Tesla weighs in at 1247 kg as opposed to the eRUF’s 1920 kg.
The eRUF prototype utilizes a 150 kW brushless three-phase BLDC motor supplied by UQM in place of Porsche’s traditional 345 hp flat six. The electric motor makes around 650 Nm of torque that, like other electric cars can be had immediately from zero rpm. Unfortunately though, because of the weight of the batteries, Ruf’s modifications push its weight up to 1920 kg versus a base 911 Carrera S weight of 1420 kg. The eRUF remains rear wheel drive with the motor and the bulk of the batteries positioned over and behind the car’s rear axle. The eRUF also retains the standard six speed manual gearbox which contributes to the car being overweight, no doubt to be replaced with a lighter and more energy efficient single speed transmission in the production version.