Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Mercedes-Benz shows its plug-in technology

Mercedes-Benz will take the battle up to Chevrolet’s plug-in hybrid Volt when it unveils its latest version of the BlueZero eco-friendly concept in Frankfurt this month. The German manufacturer has already showcased full electric and fuel cell versions of the BlueZero, but this new plug-in hybrid concept for the Frankfurt motor show features a diesel three-cylinder engine to recharge batteries and extend the vehicle’s range. This means the car will always run on battery power.

Plug-in Benz.
With the debut of the plug-in version - named the BlueZero E-cell Plus - Mercedes-Benz has locked into place the final piece of its three-pronged BlueZero strategy. The range-extending battery-electric powertrain will go into production before 2015, according to Daimler sources.
Built around the patented sandwich-floor chassis of the existing B-Class, the BlueZero sees Mercedes mate up a 1.0 liter, 50 kW three-cylinder diesel engine directly to a generator, which then drives the car’s electric motor. Known as a “Series” hybrid, it is a step more advanced than the “Parallel” hybrids offered by Lexus and Honda, which drive the wheels through either the electric or the petrol motors. Incidentally this is the same principle as used first by Dr Ferdinand Porsche in 1902. That’s 107 years ago, so it isn’t “new” technology!
The BlueZero is recharged by the three-cylinder diesel engine, which has been lifted from the smart for two.
Benz sits the diesel engine inside the sandwich floor at the back of the car, the 18 kW/hour Lithium-ion battery pack sits inside the middle of the floor and the electric motor sits in the engine bay, driving the front wheels.
As yet, there are no official fuel consumption numbers, because the diesel engine only ever charges the battery pack and never directly drives the wheels, but Benz suggests it will emit around 32 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
Even so, it will still cover the zero to 100 km/h in less than 11 seconds and will hit 120 km/h as a top speed. On the flip side of the performance coin, Benz claims the five-door hatchback will stretch to 100 km on a single battery charge, while the advanced battery pack can be fully recharged in under half an hour. Coupled with its diesel engine, the BlueZero E-cell Plus has a range of almost 600 km.
The cementing of the car’s future means Benz will also retain the expensive sandwich floor architecture, while the next generation A - and B-Class cars can move to cheaper single-floor designs when they go on sale in 2011. Insiders say that the Benz concept will definitely go into production. Whether that is limited or series production remains to be seen.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what RPM was the red line in an E-Type Jaguar? It was a very slow 5,500 RPM.
So to this week. The GT40 was named because it was 40 inches high. Ford has recreated the GT40 and has called it the Ford GT. What height is this new one?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Two plus Four racing at Bira
Round 3 of the exciting Pro Racing Series 2009 was held at Bira International Circuit Pattaya August 29-30. With almost 200 entries included in Pro Car, Pro Truck and MMRRC, the event was extremely well attended, and included both cars, pick-ups and motorcycles.

Two wheeled action

Live TV broadcasting via NBT and True Sport channel on Sunday 30 was also a great touch to stimulate both competitors and Thai audiences.
The race program began with a stunt motorcycle show with plenty of mono-wheels and donuts on the main straight. The first competition was the Super Bike 1000 Pro A-B, with victory going to Naruchit Keitmaneesri.
After the big bikes, smaller engined bikes took to the track, with my favorite, the half-pint sized Kemin Kubo showing the way to his bigger competitors. This lad is so small he cannot reach the ground while sitting on the saddle, so on the grid he has to stand beside his bike and then hop on when the race starts!
This series comes somewhere between the very professional SuperCar series and the amateur SuperClub series. Promoted for both four wheels and two, the events come thick and fast and there is something for everybody.
The 4th round of the Pro Racing Series 2009 will be on October 10-11, 2009 at Bira International Circuit Pattaya as usual. For more information, visit the website at

What’s around the corner?
A device to see around blind corners and provide a “top view” will help drivers to maneuver trucks and buses more safely. Alpine’s Multi Camera technology is linked with a navigation database offering the ability to see all aspects of the vehicle and its surroundings, eliminating dangerous blind spots.
At blind intersections, for example approaching a T-junction, a front mounted camera shows the view to the left and right as well as straight ahead. This information is displayed on a screen in the cab. For lane changing, cameras on the side of vehicle eliminate blind spots that have been a particular problem for left hand drive trucks and cars in right hand driving countries. “According to insurance data, the vast majority of accidents involving lorries happen on motorways and many are a result of the HGV being left-hand drive and this causing a blind spot on the right of their vehicle,” says Alpine’s OEM business manager Keith Price.
A further innovation of the system is the “Top View”. The array of cameras can be combined to provide, in real time, a plan view of the vehicle in its surroundings, and enables the driver to park or maneuver safely, seeing all four sides.
The technology works by processing multiple camera views together with road information from a navigation database. Complex processing ensures the information is presented in real time, even for larger vehicles such as articulated trucks or buses. The first prototypes have been tested on cars but Alpine believes the safety aspect is much more relevant to larger commercial vehicles. “This technology could help eliminate being sideswiped on the motorway or just avoid damage when backing into a loading bay,” adds Price. “It could also be useful for bus applications to see passengers as they dismount or cross the road.”
Likely to be a factory fit, Alpine suggests that the technology could be on the road in less than three years.

Electronic vision sees around the corner.

Provisional calendar for 2010
The FIA have released a calendar for 2010 which includes Canada, but no US GP. Donington is on the list, but there is much doubt that Donington will be completed by then. If that is the case, the British GP will revert to Silverstone. The dates given are below:
Mar 14 - Bahrain (Sakhir)
Mar 28 - Australia (Melbourne)
Apr 4 - Malaysia (Sepang)
Apr 25 - Turkey (Istanbul)
May 9 - Spain (Barcelona)
May 23 - Monaco (Monte Carlo)
Jun 6 - Canada (Montreal)
Jun 27 - Europe (Valencia)
Jul 11 - Great Britain (Donington Park)
Jul 25 - Germany (Hockenheim)
Aug 1 - Hungary (Budapest)
Aug 22 - Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)
Sep 5 - Italy (Monza)
Sep 19 - China (Shanghai)
Sep 26 - Singapore (Singapore)
Oct 10 - Japan (Suzuka)
Oct 24 - Brazil (Interlagos)
Nov 7 - Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)
The Valencia, Hungary and Singapore bore-fests are still on the calendar, I regret to say. But when has Bernie and the FIA ever listened to the enthusiasts? Please open your anti-pig poo umbrellas at the count of three.