Newsflash: Bentley broedt op hybride Continental GT

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+++ The ALPINE A110 replacement being co-developed with Lotus will retain its focus on agility over power, despite the added weight of its electric powertrain, according to technical chief Gilles Le Borgne. Talking at the Munich motor show, Le Borgne said: “Alpine has always been about building smiling machines, not chasing big power outputs and we will keep our focus on that. For us, it’s more important to keep the right balance between power and agility. That’s what performance means when you talk about Alpine: it’s our DNA”. To combat the likely weight penalty of the battery pack, Borgne expects Alpine (which is also developing a hot derivative of the Renault 5 supermini and an SUV in the vein of the Porsche Macan) to employ sophisticated torque-vectoring technology to ensure familiar sports car characteristics. Le Borgne also highlighted the potential for faster, more direct steering on EVs, noting that the set-up on the new Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric already offers an enhanced, sportier feel than previous cars. “The angle of the steering wheel and the wheels is almost direct – and that’s the sort of characteristic I expect to sit very well with Alpine, too”, he said. “Combined with the torque-vectoring technology we’re investigating, it should be something very special”. +++

+++ BENTLEY ’s new 650 hp Continental GT Speed will be the hottest, most driver-focused version of the third-generation luxury coupé, company insiders have hinted. Instead of to successors to either the 700 hp W12 engined Continental Supersport of 2017 or the V8 engined GT3-R of 2014, the development effort for the GT now turns to petrol-electric options to further broaden the GT model spectrum and drive down the average carbon emissions of Bentley’s new-car line-up. Bentley engineering boss Matthias Rabe told that there is “some interest in an electrified GT from Bentley customers who live in metropolitan areas and will need a car capable of zero-emissions running to drive in new clear-air zones”. The company has a strategic roadmap for the total electrification of its product line by 2030, and has already introduced PHEV versions of the Bentayga and the Flying Spur. Crewe’s technical options for any GT Hybrid would include the same V6 hybrid system fitted to those sibling models; a more powerful V8 hybrid technically similar to the powertrain in Porsche’s Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid; or even a more powerful and sophisticated combination of electric motors and piston power to rival Mercedes-AMG’s recently announced GT 73. “We are investigating several options in the experimental prototype stage”, said Rabe, “but we are still talking to customers and testing the appetite of the market”. While a smaller-engined, less powerful PHEV could give Bentley the best chance of scoring a sub-50 g/km European emissions rating, it might not be the obvious choice. Buyers in key global markets continue to favour the GT’s 12-cylinder engine over the smaller V8, and there are even some at Crewe with memories long enough to recall how poorly the BMW engined Arnage of the late 1990s was received by customers who were quick to swap them in for 6.75-litre, Bentley engined Red Label cars. Meanwhile, and at the other end of the derivative spectrum, Bentley insiders have strongly hinted that no replacement for either the Continental Supersport or the GT3-R is in the product plan for the current GT model generation. The predecessors of these derivatives came along late in the life cycle of the second generation GT; and it can be assumed that, by the same time in the life cycle of the current-generation GT later this decade, Bentley’s pivot towards an all-electric model line-up will make hardcore petrol-engined GTs an awkward fit. +++

+++ BMW has revealed the road-ready iX5 Hydrogen at the Munich motor show, paving the way for a more widespread introduction of FCEV technology by the end of the decade. The iX5 Hydrogen won’t be offered for conventional sale. Instead, users will be taking part in a live trial to study how the technology is used, similar to what BMW did a decade ago with the original Mini E and its early study of BEVs before launching the i sub-brand. BMW’s hydrogen boss, Jürgen Guldner, said the firm is “convinced that a second energy carrier will be needed in the future” and that hydrogen is that technology. It’s not in competition with battery electric vehicles, said Guldner, but instead is a complimentary technology better suited to larger, heavier vehicles and people who travel long distances and/or can’t easily charge. The iX5 Hydrogen is fitted with the most powerful fuel cell stack yet seen in a passenger car, at 125 kW, using cell technology that has been developed in conjunction with Toyota but given a bespoke integration into the X5. It’s fuelled by two hydrogen tanks, one where the transmission tunnel would usually be and one below the rear seats. These hold 6 kg of hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar. The fuel stack then powers a 374 hp electric motor and 150 kW battery booster on the rear axle. The range is put at 500 kms, which BMW believes is more than adequate given fast hydrogen refuelling times. The iX5 Hydrogen weighs the same as an X5 plug-in hybrid, at around 2.500 kg. There are a few exterior and interior trim and detail changes to mark out the iX5 Hydrogen from the X5 on which it’s based, including a design theme and trim package inspired by BMW’s other i models. New 22 inch alloy wheels are also offered, wrapped in tyres made from sustainable rubber. The iX5 Hydrogen won’t be offered for general sale, but its successor will be. Guldner confirmed that BMW is working on BEV architectures that would also work for FCEV models, by designing slimmer hydrogen tanks to fit in where the battery pack sits in the floor. “This will give us the flexibility we need for the future”, said Guldner. “That will come by the second half of the decade. That’s the key to taking the technology further, and it will allow us to do that”. By that time, fuel cell stacks themselves will be smaller and more efficient; and developments in the heavy truck industry (where the adoption of hydrogen is now gathering pace and somewhat of an inevitability as it meets its own aggressive zero-emissions targets) will benefit the car industry and its hydrogen rollout plans, due to high levels of commonality between fuel cell stacks. BMW is committed to ensuring that green hydrogen is adopted to power its fuel cells and believes that the full cradle-to-grave emissions of an FCEV car match those of a BEV car. +++

+++ DACIA will maintain a commitment to accessible pricing structures for its entire line-up, even amid mounting pressure from environmental and safety legislation. Product boss Andreea Guinea explained that the average Dacia customer does not “want to spend much money on a car”. “They might appreciate the design of a car”, she explained, “but they don’t go into overspending”. For that reason, Dacia will not endow its next-generation products with more safety technology or electrical components than is necessary, which is partly why the Jogger will first be available in pure-combustion guise, then hybrid, with no plug-in hybrid yet on the cards – it simply wouldn’t be cost-effective. “Customers aren’t ready to pay” for such systems, said Guinea. The same ethos extends to the cars’ functional interior and exterior design, she explained: “They don’t go for features that aren’t useful. Our brand strategy is to focus on the essential without being boring; we want to offer essential features in a cool way”. Guinea’s comments come in the wake of the Sandero (now Europe’s bestselling car) being awarded only a 2-star Euro NCAP crash protection rating for the relatively limited performance of its autonomous emergency braking system. “At Dacia, we are not chasing Euro NCAP stars; it’s not our philosophy”, she said. “We are very much preoccupied by always increasing safety for the passengers on board; our cars always have passenger safety improved. A 5-star Euro NCAP rating means lots of electronics, radars, cameras on the car; things that our customers didn’t ask for and are not ready to use. 5-star cars are so complicated sometimes that people do not understand how to use the device and the functionality, so we are confident and happy with what we have”. Guinea acknowledged that it is a challenge for Dacia to maintain its reputation for affordability while striving for compliance with rapidly changing legislation in various sectors, but that access to platforms and technology from parent company Renault Group minimises the financial impact. “We can keep up with the technology”, she said, “but we always keep a second eye (and a big eye) on the price. We always make a balance in what we choose as features for the cars. We don’t have very complicated things or useless features because we don’t want to spend our money developing things and increase the price of the car”. As such, Guinea explained, the new Jogger will not be available with a four-wheel-drive powertrain, despite its rugged styling and raised ride height. There is little crossover between customers who use their cars for off-roading and those who need seven seats, so the Duster will remain Dacia’s sole 4×4 offering until the Bigster arrives in the coming years. +++

+++ The head of Apple’s car project, Doug Field, is going to work for FORD to lead the automaker’s advanced technology and embedded systems efforts, a hiring coup for Ford chief executive Jim Farley. Field most recently served as vice president of special projects at Apple and was previously senior vice president, engineering at Tesla. Earlier in his career, Field worked at Ford. In his new role, Field will report to Farley, leading software and connectivity strategy, while Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, will oversee the development of cars and trucks and supply chain operations. The hire of Field and the management structure created to accommodate him underscore the rising importance of software and digital connectivity in the auto industry. Since taking over as Ford CEO last October, Farley has stressed the importance to Ford of developing stronger digital services and connections to generate continuing revenue from consumer and commercial customers. It was not clear what Field’s decision to leave Apple means for the iPhone maker’s efforts to develop a vehicle for its brand. Industry sources told last year that Apple was aiming to launch an electric car with advanced battery technology by 2024. Since then, however, Apple has not disclosed specific plans. Meanwhile, the field of startups and established automakers chasing Tesla in China, the United States and Europe with the investment of billions of dollars has only grown. Apple said in a statement “we’re grateful for the contributions Doug has made to Apple and we wish him all the best in this next chapter”. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG ‘s model range will “decrease a little bit” in future, according to Philipp Schiemer, the performance division’s new boss. He said that under previous boss Tobias Moers (now Aston Martin CEO), AMG reached “a phenomenal position in the performance market” but he believes that, in line with industry-wide electrification trends, its model range should be scaled back. The company will concentrate on high-end models, he said, and reduce its output at the entry level. Future models may also diverge further in design from the regular Mercedes range as AMG starts to make use of a unique performance EV platform currently under development. The company’s engineers and designers will also increase their efforts to incorporate cutting-edge technology, especially more sophisticated aerodynamics, into their designs. Ever more sophisticated chassis software will compensate for the unavoidable weight increase brought by batteries, said Schiemer, although he also believes the rise of rapid-charging and better charging infrastructure should eventually lead customers to accept cars with smaller and lighter batteries, which will deliver a benefit in higher performance. Among the initiatives designed to help AMG to meet the challenge of the battery-electric age is closer co-operation between the Affalterbach headquarters and the High Performance Powertrains (HPP) division in Brixworth, Northamptonshire, that produces Mercedes’ highly successful Formula 1 engines. The challenge, Schiemer said, is to “bring the logic and the philosophy” of F1 to street-legal performance cars. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ ‘ chief operating officer, Markus Schäfer, has said that the firm is looking into the future of estate cars and other model niches, as electrification shifts the balance of traditional market sectors. In an interview at the Munich motor show, Schäfer admitted that with “estate cars, we have to see. This market is under pressure as more and more customers move to SUVs, and there are just a few markets left for estates and stationwagons. So we have to see how the volumes are developing. They’re technically absolutely possible, that wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s more a question of how this niche is developing. I know Europe is a great market for stationwagons”. Previously, other sources at Mercedes-Benz have indicated that with the rise of increasingly efficient SUVs, especially more aerodynamic electric ones that ride lower than traditional ICE varieties, the estate car market is being squeezed. Europe is now one of the few places in the global market where touring versions are being bought in big numbers, as China and the US favour their higher-riding cousins. Schäfer also admitted that Mercedes is looking at the future of coupés and cabriolets: “We have to recognise that the demand for cabriolets is dropping around the world: China is not a roadster-covering market and there are less buyers in Europe who decide on a cabriolet, compared to some years ago. But I think it’s a very attractive product and an emotional product. We will have to think about the coupé as well”. But Schäfer was open that it’s not an easy task. “It’s not that easy to build a good-looking cabriolet as an EV”, he said. “It’s an engineering effort. It’s quite a job and a task to keep it in nice proportions and not to lift it too high, with a big battery underneath it. There are some cars out in the market that would not meet our tastes. So we will come up with something better”. One thing he can’t see Mercedes dropping any time soon is leather. Despite the German firm’s push for sustainability, from the commitment to electrification by 2030 in certain markets to the use of low-carbon steel in its cars, leather is something that will remain in Mercedes. He feels it’s one of the defining characteristics of the cars. “You have a vegan interior that’s available today, as Artico is available. But we don’t want to give up leather. We’re looking into the way leather is treated, looking into this in depth, and so we know where it’s coming from”, said Schäfer. One thing in particular Schäfer wants to retain is the steering wheel materials. “I’m struggling with the steering wheel”, he said. “To be honest, I don’t want a plastic or artificial leather steering wheel. Being frank, that’s the one and only compromise I would not do as leather or wood steering wheels feel much, much better”. +++

+++ PORSCHE is attracting huge demand for the Taycan, causing wait times for the all-electric coupe to stretch to six months, CEO Oliver Blume said. “Our original production capacity for the Taycan was 20.000 units this year. We’ve sold that many in the first half of the year”, Blume told a panel discussion at the IAA Mobility show in Munich. “Incoming orders are huge and they are good in China too”, said Blume, adding that the Volkswagen group unit was, like other carmakers, battling chip shortages and had more incoming orders than it could meet. Normal waiting times for a new vehicle were 4 months but they have now stretched to half a year, he said. +++

+++ Continuing with the electric theme of the Munich Auto Show, PORSCHE brought with it a thoroughly outrageous electric racecar concept. It’s called the Mission R, and like the Mission E before it that previewed the Taycan, the company says this previews a future racecar, and likely a road-going sports car. And the specs make it sound like a riot. The literal headline number is the horsepower. A 429 hp motor powers the front wheels and a 644 hp unit powers the rear. Combined output is 1.073 hp. Each motor features oil cooling lines within the stator windings for improved cooling and power lost to heat. The car itself, despite having an 82 kWh battery pack, weighs in at a pretty reasonable 1.500 kilos. Porsche claims it can get to 100 kph in 2.5 seconds, and its top speed is 300 kph. The battery is good for around half an hour of racing. The battery also is a 900 volt system that has a maximum charging rate of 350 kW and can go from 5 % to 80 % charge in about 15 minutes. The car itself is actually a bit smaller than a Porsche Cayman. The width is about the same, but it’s 4 cm shorter than the little Porsche coupe. The chassis is based around a carbon fiber driver cell, sort of like how modern McLarens are built. This combined with items such as magnesium wheels and a number of natural fiber composite body and interior parts help it weigh as little as it does (for an electric car). Porsche also notes that the manufacturing of its natural fiber parts (something the company has been working on for a few years now) produce 85 % fewer carbon emissions than equivalent carbon fiber parts. It’s all suspended on fully independent suspension with double wishbones at the front and McPherson struts at the rear. Bringing it to a halt are six-piston front brakes and four-piston rears that are actuated by a brake-by-wire system. While Porsche says the Mission R is a preview of real car yet-to-come, it gave no hint at a timeline. Going back to the Mission E and Taycan, the Mission E was revealed in 2015. The first model year for the Taycan was 2020. So it could be a few years before we see a real-world Mission R. Then again, Taycan was Porsche’s first full-electric car. Maybe its next won’t take as long. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is plotting a hot GTX version of the new ID.Life concept as part of a commitment to offer performance variants of all its new electric models. The ID.Life was revealed at the Munich motor show as a preview of the first Volkswagen model that will sit on the entry-level MEB Entry platform. The production version, which is likely to carry the ID.2 name, is due in 2025 with a target price of €22.000 in the Netherlands. The concept features a 234 hp front-mounted electric motor and a 57 kWh battery for a range of 420 km. Volkswagen sales boss Klaus Zellmer said that the production version is likely to be sold in a standard form, with over-the-air updates used to unlock certain features. However, he didn’t rule out a version with more powerful batteries and larger motors if needed. He added: “If we talk about GTX, as you know, we have an ID.4 GTX and an ID.5 GTX, and in the long run having a GTX version is something we want for every derivative. So GTX is, of course, also something that we want to have potentially for the ID.Life. “We will have to see whether our battery technology for the ID.Life will be able to fulfil the GTX performance promise. If it does, then we will stay with limited variants. If not, then we will have to adjust accordingly, potentially with a bigger or more powerful battery or different motor. But it’s too early to know yet, and we’re in the midst of these project parameters”. While Zellmer wouldn’t confirm that the production version of the ID.Life would be named the ID.2, he did say that “there is a certain number that’s still open”. While the ID.2 nameplate has been pegged for a crossover, it is understood that the model will eventually be twinned with an ID.1 compact hatch. Asked about the potential for a small hatch, Zellmer added: “We kept the ID.1 number open for a potential project, so let’s wait and see. But will there be more cars? There’s always more cars”. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN announced it will begin testing self-driving, ID.Buzz based electric shuttles in 2025. Powered by Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company the firm holds a stake in, the vans will begin carrying users in Hamburg. Argo AI founder and CEO Bryan Salesky and Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess jointly explained the project is as clear-cut as it sounds. The car side of the equation comes from Volkswagen, while the self-driving system is provided by Argo AI. Starting with the upcoming production version of the ID.Buzz concept makes sense. It’s a big van, so it offers plenty of space for people, gear, and the parts required for autonomous driving. It’s also electric: It’s built on the MEB platform that’s found under the ID.4, among other battery-powered Volkswagen Group models. Cameras, radars, and a lidar unit mounted on the roof panel drive the van. Salesky said his company’s lidar has the ability to detect objects up to 1.300 feet away, even if they’re dark (like a flat-black car). Much of the hardware is bolted to the van’s body, so it’ll be easy to identify it as autonomous even from a distance. The prototype displayed in Munich gives us a hint at how the Buzz has changed in its transition from a concept to a production car. While it’s draped in camouflage, we can tell its front end has been redesigned (it notably gains real headlights instead of the design study’s LED units) and it inevitably grew door mirrors and exterior door handles. Changes made to the back include bigger lights, though the overall proportions haven’t been significantly altered. Volkswagen will unveil the production version of the ID.Buzz (whose name hasn’t been announced yet) in 2022, and sales in the United States will start in 2023. As for the autonomous model, it will start shuttling passengers in Hamburg, Germany, in 2025, and it will go through a number of tests on roads and on test tracks until then. +++

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