Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Audi confirms electric supercar for production

Audi will build a production version of its e-tron electric supercar concept. The zero-emission sports car, to be called the R4, could hit the road as early as 2011.
The new car could share a platform with the next generation Porsche Boxster and Cayman, given that Porsche is now part of the Volkswagen Group, which also owns Audi.

Audi R4 electric
The R4 will slot in just above the TT coupe in the Audi range, and Audi’s US boss Johan de Nysschen told US industry journal, Automotive News, that “running examples” of the R4 would be on the road in the next two years.
The low-slung, lightweight e-tron concept, unveiled at last month’s Frankfurt motor show, has four in-wheel electric motors and covers 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds.
Its lithium-ion battery pack, which was positioned where the engine would go on petrol versions, could be recharged from a domestic power point in about eight hours and had a range of about 250 km.
Audi is also developing a rapid-charging option that can recharge the battery in about two-and-a-half hours.
Audi will use a lightweight aluminum frame and carbon fiber components to keep the car’s weight down, while it will also have regenerative braking KERS system, which capture kinetic energy usually lost when a car slows down and use this to recharge the batteries on the move.
No pricing information is available on the R4, but with the most expensive TT costing about $100,000 and the cheapest R8 going for $260,000, there’s plenty of room for the R4.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which British Grand Prix team built their cars to the 3 liter formula, when the limit was 2 liters? Clue - it was 1922. And the correct answer was Vauxhall, now part of the beleaguered GM/Opel group.
So to this week. What car manufacturer began operation in Thailand in 1960, gave up in 1976 and began again in 1995?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Lexus LFA - the Japanese supercar
Not to be outdone, the Japanese also have a new supercar. The Lexus brand is usually associated with quiet luxury, impeccable build quality and drivers over 60 years of age, but Toyota, owner of the marque, is boasting a V10 Lexus with a maximum power of 412 kW, and maximum torque 480 Nm. Zero to 100 km/h is 3.7 seconds (goodbye Audi) and the top speed is 320 km/h.
Lexus say this LFA is a true “clean-sheet” design, and was created by a small, passionate and dedicated team of engineers whose achievement has been to push the boundaries of technologies materials and engineering at every stage to produce a car like no other to have carried the Lexus badge.
Constructed using advanced carbon fiber technology, the rear-wheel drive LFA is powered by a bespoke, high-revving 4.8 liter naturally aspirated V10 engine, matched to a rear-mounted six speed sequential automatic transmission. This is a purpose-designed six speed Automated Sequential Gearbox (ASG) that drives the rear wheels via a limited slip differential. To help achieve the optimum 48:52 front to rear weight distribution, it is contained in a transaxle mounted over the rear axle.
The ASG is operated by paddle shifts mounted on the steering column and is engineered for exceptionally fast shifts: an upshift can be effected in just 0.2 seconds.
The system has four driving modes: Auto, Sport, Normal and Wet, activated by a selector dial on the dashboard. Each mode has a specific gearshift program, and engine and brake control logic systems to let the driver tailor the car’s performance to suit driving conditions.
Keeping the car’s weight to an absolute minimum was one of the defining elements in the development of the LFA and this led to the decision to switch from using aluminum for the car’s construction to advanced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) for the chassis and bodywork.
At four times the strength of aluminum, CFRP gives the LFA an exceptionally stiff and strong structure, and also delivers major weight advantages, saving around 100kg on an equivalent aluminum body. CFRP accounts for 65 percent of the body-in-white, with aluminum alloy used for the remaining 35 percent.
With its staggering performance, the LFA has one of the most advanced and powerful braking systems fitted to any production car, appropriate to meet the demands of its 320 kays-plus performance capabilities.
The brake discs are made of Carbon Ceramic Material (CCM), which as well as being lighter than steel, gives fade-free performance in all conditions. The front discs are 390 mm in diameter and 34 mm thick, gripped by six-piston aluminum calipers; the rear discs measure 306 mm across, are 28 mm thick and are fitted with four-pot calipers. All use high-friction micron pads, manufactured exclusively for use with CCM brakes.
Passive and active safety provisions are in line with the LFA’s exceptional performance. The central carbon fiber reinforced plastic central structure is extremely strong and provides excellent impact protection. Crash boxes are fitted front and rear that are designed to deform in a controlled fashion in the event of an impact. That at the front is made of CFRP; that at the rear from extruded aluminum. Side impact protection includes strong and rigid carbon fiber side members and door structures comprising an aluminum inner panel and a Glass fiber reinforced Sheet Moulding Compound (G-SMC) outer skin.
The LFA is equipped with Lexus’s Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system, which co-ordinates the smooth operation of the ABS, vehicle stability and traction control systems as the vehicle approaches its performance limits, based on critical data on brake operation, yaw and roll rates, individual wheel speed and longitudinal, lateral and vertical acceleration
Passive safety features include two-stage adaptive front airbags and seatbelt airbags for driver and passenger and a driver’s knee airbag.
In the words of Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi, “The LFA is a thoroughbred supercar, a machine engineered to achieve a single goal - to deliver a supreme driving experience. Over the past decade we have pushed every boundary in pursuit of this goal and I believe we have created the most driver-orientated car we possibly could.”
Even though Lexus will only hand-assemble 500 examples, at a maximum rate of 20 per month, that should be enough to blow the ‘fuddy-duddy’ Lexus image away! Yes, I’d have one.

 Lexus LFA supercar

China auto sales jump 78 percent in September
Associated Press - China’s vehicle sales vaulted 78 percent in September from a year earlier, widening a lead over the US as the world’s top auto market, with sales spurred by tax cuts and government stimulus spending.
Overall vehicle sales totaled 1.33 million units, while passenger car sales climbed 84 percent to 1.02 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported.
Total sales for the first nine months of the year rose to 9.66 million units, up 34 percent from a year earlier, it said.
September was the seventh month that China’s auto sales, boosted by tax cuts and subsidies as part of Beijing’s stimulus, exceeded 1.1 million units. Sales in smaller cities have also been booming as automakers rush to woo first-time car buyers with new models.
China leads the world in total 2009 sales, with the US in second place with January-September sales at about 7.85 million units. US sales fell 23 percent from a year earlier in September to just under 746,000, following a summer buying spree driven by big discounts to consumers.
Given the weakness in other major markets, global automakers are looking to China to drive revenues amid sluggish demand elsewhere.
China, with 1.3 billion people, has long been expected to overtake the United States as the biggest vehicle market. But the US economic slump hastened that shift by depressing American sales while China surged ahead.
“The China market we expect to surpass the U.S. market in size for both the right and the wrong reasons,” General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson told reporters in Shanghai on Tuesday. Henderson predicted a “very modest recovery” in 2010 for the US market, but China, he said, would continue to enjoy very strong growth. “The China market has benefited from economic stimulus that has generated primary demand. We see substantial opportunities in product-driven, competition-driven growth,” he said.

A book to go looking for
André Lefebvre - The Life Story Of A Passionate Automotive Pioneer is the biography of André Lefebvre by Gijsbert-Paul Berk and gives a revealing insight into the work of a practically unknown aeronautic engineer who, after building and racing competition cars for Gabriel Voisin in 1933, created for André Citroën the revolutionary front wheel drive Traction Avant (also known in some areas as the Light Fifteen). He was responsible for the minimalist 2CV and the Citroën DS which was the sensation of the automotive world in 1955, and is still an icon of original automobile engineering and avant-garde design today.

Andre Lefebvre’s book

Published by Veloce, containing 150 pictures, some of which are from André Lefebvre’s personal archives, this unique book pays tribute to the brilliant engineer who left car enthusiasts around the world such an important heritage.
The 144 page hardback book is available now from