New Models for Top Electric Vehicle Brands

ENGINEelectricCAR
ENGINEelectricCAR

2013 has ushered a new rush of models coming from the major car manufacturers who are seeking to get ahead in the electric car revolution. Nissan and Cadillac have just recently unveiled their newest models at the Detroit Auto Show.

Nissan has unveiled its latest crossover plug-in hybrid concept named the Resonance. This is essentially an upgrade to its current Murano crossover, this time with a plug-in hybrid drive train. The concept focuses on being lightweight, as well as having an aerodynamic design, using the V-Motion Look that begins at the front grille of the vehicle and moves throughout the hull of the car until the now familiar boomerang shaped headlamps.

The Resonance design team consisted of the Nissan Design America under the aegis of Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer. Other innovations include a ‘floating’ roof design which was executed through the use of steeply cut pillars that frame a full length glass panel on a D-pillar design. It also utilizes the concept ‘one motor, two clutch hybrid’, where the 2.5 liter dual overhead cam (DOHC) internal combustion engine works hand in hand with Nissan’s high performance electric motor. The battery pack is made from lithium ion which drives Nissan’s XTronic CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission System.

According to Francis Bancon, Nissan Motor Co.’s Division General Manager for Product Strategy and Planning, “Resonance is meant to be provocative, energetic and engaging- even polarizing. Its edgy yet sophisticated design, combined with an environmentally sensitive powertrain and intelligent utility provides a clear exciting view into the future of crossover innovation.”

Another car manufacturer, namely Cadillac, has announced that it would be launching its Cadillac ELR in 2014. The vehicle based on the Converj concept unveiled back in 2009, the latest reincarnation of that design would include the brand’s very first Extended Range Electric Vehicle.

While related to the Chevy Volt, the Cadillac ELR would draw its power from a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and able to produce 295 pound feet of torque. Once the battery charge is depleted the gas powered generator would then take over, providing another 300 miles of range after the projected 35 miles of all electric range.

The main focus of the ELR is its emphasis on luxury in both the exterior and interior of the vehicle. According to Cadillac, the ELR styling ‘establishes a new, progressive proportion for the brand’, yet at the same time retains its identifiable design themes, such as the vertical headlights and taillights that has been synonymous with the brand since 1948.

Its aerodynamic design allows only 0.305 coefficient of drag, which helps extend range for the vehicle. This is achieved through the small details such as, tapered fascia corners, active grille shutters, sharp rear edges, and rear spoiler designed to optimize airflow. The HiPer strut front suspension and Watts compound crank rear set up is fully utilized under the Continuous Damping Control system for a comfortable ride. The vehicle has four driving modes, with special emphasis on the Hold mode which defaults to generator mode when the battery charge is depleted.

The interior accentuates modern elegance with integration of technology showcased in the Cadillac CUE with Navigation System which is in essence an eight inch full color touch screen display.

Clearly, the electric car revolution is in full swing.

The Hybrid Technology Future

Hybrid Cars
Hybrid Cars

When the Toyota Prius hit the market, many were enamored with the technology and the resulting fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, not many understand how this system works and the following are the basics on hybrid vehicle technology.

While first adopters and owners have an understanding of how a second powertrain helps in increasing mileage and fuel efficiency, many have not been able to accommodate new innovations such as the plug in hybrid technology and other improvements. The increased number of hybrid platforms has required clarifications on this kind of technology.

The basic system involves the pairing of an internal combustion engine with one or more electrical motors. These provide the driving force but the fuel is taken from high capacity battery array that releases energy to the motors together with one or more clutch mechanisms and controllers or capacitors that regulate the power generated in the vehicle.

The internal combustion engine is larger than the electric motor, as it provides more power during acceleration while the electric motor has a smaller output capacity. When the brakes are used, additional energy and power is generated and then captured for storage in the battery for later use.

The technology involved in hybrid vehicles is amongst the cutting edge in the market today, but the different car manufactures differ in design, functionality, efficiency and costing for these vehicles. To some extent, carmakers are trying to provide options for they hybrid market and an example is General Motors with three different hybrid platforms across many of its brands.

Despite the differentiated designs, the basic objectives remain the same. These include allowing each powertrain to operate efficiently, such as electric motors for better acceleration while gasoline engines would do more work when cruising down the motorway. Even the kind of fuel and which platform would be the main and which is the assist varies across makes and models for vehicles currently in the market today.

As the technology improves, the issues regarding the hybrid technology increase. This includes common nomenclature and even standardized measurements would come to fore. The cost of research and development would also increase tremendously, as the demand for efficiency and range further increases and the ultimate determinant would be the sticker price to the consumer. With all these that lie ahead, the hybrid vehicle surely would have a long way to go but is assured of a fulfilling future ahead.

The Honda Hybrid

HONDAlogo
HONDAlogo

The Honda Insight is the Japanese automaker’s contribution to the green car revolution. It is also the first vehicle in its line to include its Integrated Motor Assist system. The first version of the Insight was produced from 1999 to 2006 and garnered the recognition as the most efficient car in the United States from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000.

The second generation Insight was introduced in Japan in February 2009 and in the United States in March 2009. This latest version is a five-door hatchback vehicle and was considered as the least expensive hybrid vehicle in 2011 with its base price of just US$18,200. The Insight was introduced to the UK market in 2009 and became the most affordable green vehicle with a base price of GBP 15,940. These prices made the Honda Insight the best selling hybrid not only in the UK but in other markets as well.

The Insight is able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds and a braking distance from 70 to 0 mph of 181 feet. The mileage of the Insight was at 38 mpg and has been lauded by Car and Driver magazine as “fun to drive” because of its superior handling, steering power, braking ability and the paddle-shifted transmission.

The second generation Insight is a five-passenger vehicle with the patented Integrated Motor Assist system power train. This system connects an internal combustion engine with an electric motor mounted into the engine’s crankshaft between the engine and its transmission. This design allows for lesser complexity, lower cost and space saving to allow the vehicle to accommodate more capacity.

The gasoline engine is a 1.3 SOHC I-Vtec four-cylinder engine that is highly efficient, lightweight and produces less friction. The engine is rated for 98 hp at 5800 rpm producing 123 pounds per foot of torque from even at 1000 to 1700 rpm. When the engine is at high torque but low rpm, the electric motor also contributes to power the vehicle with 13 hp at 1500 rpm through 58 lbs per foot of torque to the power train. These two power sources would assist the acceleration of the vehicle.

Another aspect of the hybrid engine is that the motor would become a generator during braking, cruising, deceleration and coasting to be able to recharge the car’s battery. When the engine starts, the motor would rev up to idle speed which would then switch to back up, a conventional 12 volt starter to start the engine on its way.

The IMA battery of the Insight is a flat, nickel metal hydride battery pack located under the cargo floor and the rear wheels. The battery provides 100.8 volts and is recharged automatically through the regenerative braking system.

Another plus for the Insight is it s ECO Assist system which is designed to provide guidance to the driver to maintain a fuel-efficient driving style. This system monitors and displays the effects of driving style to the vehicle’s overall fuel economy.