Newsflash: General Motors keert met elektrisch gamma terug naar Europa

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+++ AUDI ’s new Digital Matrix led headlights will revolutionise safety, greatly reduce fatigue and stress in driving at night and even be able to communicate with other drivers, according to the car maker. However, a number of Audi’s more radical ideas (such as oled tail-light clusters displaying warning symbols and the headlights projecting a variety of warning symbols onto the road surface) are held up by complex homologation laws across the globe. The most striking of the various new light technologies revealed at a technical presentation last week at the company’s Ingolstadt headquarters is already an option on the new Audi A8. Costing around €1.800 in Germany, the Digital Matrix Headlights (DMH) are based around a new Digital Micro Mirror device that houses 1.3 million micro-mirrors. These mirrors measure just a tenth of the width of a human hair and can be rapidly switched into 2 distinct positions. Inside the headlight, the light from an led unit is bounced off the micro-mirror array and then sent through a projector lens. Because the resulting beam pattern is effectively made up of 1.3 million individual points of light, the result is closer to the projection of an image than a simple beam of light. The upshot is that the DMH headlights can switch between very different beam patterns depending on the road conditions. Indeed, the micro-mirrors can be reangled as many a 5.000 times per second, allowing the beam pattern to be minutely adjusted at blistering speed. On motorways, for example, the beam pattern can be concentrated centrally, exactly illuminating the lane in which the car is travelling. On unlit country roads, the beam is much more flexible, illuminating the road ahead as well as gently bathing the verge and roadside trees in a seamless wall of light. And thanks to the very fine ‘grain’ of the headlights, the high beam can be shaped precisely around an approaching vehicle, preventing the driver from being dazzled. Such is the versatility of the DMH technology that it can also project warning signs onto the road as part of the headlight beam. The new A8 projects a warning triangle with an exclamation mark inside it onto the road ahead of the driver. Using live traffic information drawn down by an internet link via the cloud, this warning symbol appears for three seconds, alerting the driver of hazards ahead, such as congestion or a dangerous road surface. Further advancing this, including projecting indicator lights onto the road surface, is greatly complicated by having to negotiate with individual countries, according to Audi lighting specialist Johannes Reim. Even so, Audi says it can envisage more innovations using advanced lighting systems to communicate with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. One idea is to use light projections front and rear to inform cyclists of the driver’s intentions or to project a warning light that indicates that the car door is about to be opened. Audi is also working with suppliers to allow rear light clusters to offer information to following vehicles. Using more advanced oled (organic light emitting diodes) in rear light clusters has allowed Audi to use more individual light segments in each cluster. At the moment these multi-segment rear clusters allow the A8 driver to choose from four different rear light signatures (five on the new Audi S8), and they can also send out an indication of proximity to a following vehicle using data from the car’s rear parking sensors. Future oled clusters will jump from 10 segments to 50 and eventually many more. Because oleds offer an evenly diffused light that can be tuned precisely, Audi’s lighting designers envisage rear oled clusters made up of many tiny segments, opening the way for symbols to be presented to following vehicles, such as multiple hazard warning triangles or animations that reflect speed of braking, for example. Audi also envisages projecting warning symbols, such as an illuminated snow symbol, from the advanced oled lights onto the road surface using weather data downloaded from the cloud, warning following vehicles of hazardous conditions. Oled segments could also be joined by ultra-thin oleds just 0.1 mm in thickness, allowing curved oled light to be manufactured. However, Audi’s light specialists say that oled light clusters are difficult to manufacturer for all weather conditions (such as extreme humidity) and must be sealed well enough to prevent to any oxygen leaking into the oled housing. It will take some years of combined effort between Audi and its suppliers to bring these new lights to production, even if the extremely complex issue of homologation can be overcome. +++

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+++ GENERAL MOTORS , one of the world’s biggest car companies, could make a comeback in Europe with a focus on electric cars. GM left the European market in 2017 when it sold its Opel and Vauxhall brands to PSA for €1.3 billion, but the onset of full electrification could provide the American firm with a fresh opportunity in Europe, according to General Motors CEO, Mary Barra. Speaking at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles, Barra said, “About 5 years ago, we sold our Opel business to what is now Stellantis and we have no seller’s remorse from an internal combustion business, but we are looking at the growth opportunity that we have now, because we can re-enter Europe as an all-EV player. I’m looking forward to that”. Barra gave no indication of which GM brands might potentially be offered in Europe in the future, but did mention the popularity of the new all-electric GMC Hummer, with the firm taking in 70.000 pre-orders. There’s potential for Cadillac, too, with the company already operating in Europe on a relatively small basis, selling only the XT4 compact crossover. The Lyriq is currently the only fully-electric car in Cadillac’s global portfolio of models and would be the most likely to make its way over to Europe. However, Barra also said “the specific conditions that are in Europe right now, we’re not facing”, referring to high petrol prices, parts shortages and the Ukraine-Russia war, which could all prove to be big obstacles. GM has invested heavily in electric cars in recent years with the firm’s first full-EV assembly plant in Detroit opening in 2021; GM also announced that it would invest $750 million in charging infrastructure in the US and Canada. +++

+++ LEXUS has no plans to become an SUV specialist, despite its first 2 electric cars being SUVs and the success of the NX, and is considering a vast array of bodystyles for its future EVs. European boss Spiros Fotinos said that while it “can’t ignore the demand for SUVs” globally, Lexus hasn’t written off plans for more traditional, lower-slung cars in its future line-up. He pointed to the large SUV, saloon and supercar EV concept cars that Lexus revealed late last year as a statement of intent “We’re clearly working on alternative body types that would allow us to not only offer a wider range of vehicles but also meet the growth ambitions we have for Europe”, he said. As for whether this diversity could extend to an electric successor to the discontinued CT hatchback, Fotinos would only say: “We’re not excluding anything. The segments in which we compete and the segments that are the volume-sellers in Europe are the segments we would be looking at primarily”. Interestingly, Lexus isn’t only planning to use Toyota’s e-TNGA platform for its EVs. Fotinos said that it’s “a great starting point” but that “for a company and a brand that has the ambitions we do (to be 100% BEV-ready, offering a BEV in every segment we compete in) technically that would be impossible to do with one platform, so obviously we’re looking at other opportunities as well”. +++

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+++MASERATI is preparing to reveal a convertible version of its flagship MC20 sports car next week, and has confirmed it will be called the Cielo. Set for a debut on Wednesday 25th, the new open-top supercar takes its name from the Italian for sky, which Maserati says “highlights the fact that it is a model devoted to driving pleasure in the great outdoors”. Late last year, the first completed prototype starred in an official photoshoot ahead of on-road testing getting underway. It wore a bold new-look livery in the style of clouds. “After all”, Maserati said, “it is a convertible”. It will be Maserati’s first convertible since the GranCabrio bowed out in 2020, and the first mid-engined roadster since production of the MC12 supercar ended in 2005. There are no shots of the rear, but the silhouette of this prototype suggests it will feature a folding hard top, rather than a fabric item, similar to its Ferrari F8 Spider rival. Otherwise, it is expected to be technically and stylistically identical to the coupé. That means it will take its power from a 630 hp mid-mounted, twin-turbo V6 which revs to 7.500 rpm and will get it from 0-100 kph in around 3.0 seconds. The convertible should nearly match the coupé’s 325 kph top speed. A folding hard top will likely bump the MC20’s kerb weight up slightly. For reference, the similarly conceived Ferrari F8 Spider weighs 70 kg more than its coupé sibling. As for pricing, expect the convertible to command a slight premium over the coupé. +++

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+++ MERCEDES-AMG is developing the second-generation GT with an 800 hp-plus plug-in hybrid drivetrain and the first prototypes of the petrol-electric super-coupé have been spied testing on the Nürburgring. Expected to see a salesstart during the latter half of 2023, the GT 63 E Performance 4Matic will join the recently introduced Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E Performance 4Matic 4-Door and upcoming SL 63 E Performance 4Matic in a growing line-up of huge-output PHEV models from Mercedes-Benz’s performance car division. Mercedes-AMG is remaining tight-lipped on details of the new GT model, though its drivetrain is set to draw heavily on that of the GT 63 S E Performance 4Matic 4-Door with a front-mounted twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine and an electric motor sited within the rear axle assembly in combination with a 6.1kWh battery pack. It remains to be seen whether the 2-door coupé will receive the same 840 hp and 1.500 Nm as its 5-door liftback sibling, though the new range-topping GT model does appear certain to adopt AMG’s fully variable 4Matic+ four-wheel drive system, which is not offered on the existing rear-driven first-generation model. In the GT 63 E Performance 4Matic 4-Door, the electric motor is tuned to deliver a maximum 204 hp for short bursts of full throttle acceleration, with a milder 95 hp of continuous electric drive available with sufficient battery energy reserves. The overall electric range is put at 12 km. The so-called P3 system developed by Mercedes-AMG sees the reserves of the combustion engine channelled through a 9-speed MCT Speedshift automatic gearbox to all 4 wheels. The electric motor, meanwhile, sends drive through a two-speed gearbox directly to the rear wheels. Overall, the packaging of the electric motor, battery and power electronics add 460 kg to the weight of the standard GT 63 S 4Matic 4-Door. Despite the added weight, it is claimed to hit 100 kph in just 2.9 seconds and reach a top speed limited to 300 kph. Jochen Hermann, head of Mercedes-AMG R&D operations, has already confirmed the 7th generation SL will receive a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The open-top SL and fixed-roof GT both share the platform, body structure and other components, ensuring the cost of development can largely be shared between the 2. The key giveaway to the new GT model is the charging port located within the upper-right-hand section of the rear bumper of the prototype seen here. As with the GT 63 S E Performance, it is expected to allow charging at up to 3.6 kW on an AC system. Standard versions of the upcoming second-generation GT are set to run an updated version of the existing first-generation model’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine, the M177 as it is codenamed. In the recently introduced SL 63 4Matic+, it develops 585 hp and 800 Nm of torque. +++

+++ The new, second-generation MERCEDES-BENZ GLC will be officially revealed on 1 June, the manufacturer has confirmed. Confirmation comes alongside a new preview image showing off the SUV’s rear end, and not long after new spy shots gave us a good look at its final design. The GLC, which will again look to rival the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, will adopt the same fundamentals as its more-than-7-years-old predecessor, which has established itself as the brand’s best-selling car worldwide with over 270.000 sales in 2021 alone. But subtle improvements and tweaks across the board have been made with a view to sustaining that momentum. It will be 60 mm longer at 4.718 mm, for example, and adopts a 15 mm longer wheelbase, giving more legroom for passengers and greater boot space. No prices have been released yet, but it is expected to be more than the current GLC. On release, it will be offered with a range of 4 cylinder engines boasting mild-hybrid properties. Included are the petrol-powered GLC 200 and GLC 300 as well as the GLC 220d and GLC 300d on the diesel side. Also planned is the GLC 400d: the sole new model to feature a 6-cylinder engine. There will also be a trio of newly developed plug-in hybrid drivelines in the petrol-electric GLC 300e and GLC 400e as well as the GLC 300de. Successors to both the GLC 43 and GLC 63 from Mercedes-AMG are planned for launch in 2023, both running the same 4-cylinder petrol engines as those planned for the upcoming C 43 and C 63, with the more potent tipped to make more than 500 hp. Underneath, the GLC will be closely linked to the C-Class, as it is today, sharing the same MRA (Modular Rear Architecture) platform, which means should come with a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension system as standard. Optional will be an air-sprung set-up. And Mercedes is aiming to make the GLC the most advanced model in its class. It will help achieve this via a new Drive Pilot function with Level 3 autonomous capability. It’s a similar system to that which made its debut on the latest S-Class. +++

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+++ A new hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric SUV is set to appear at this year’s Paris Motor Show, styled by famous Italian design house Pininfarina. Called the NAMX HUV, the newcomer features a unique removable fuel capsule system. With stakeholders from across Africa and Europe, NAMX calls itself an “Afro-European industrial and technological venture”, and aims to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with the HUV. The car is a striking coupe-SUV that will enter development in 2023 and 2 versions will be offered when it goes on sale in late 2025. Selection of hydrogen cars Hydrogen fuel cells: do hydrogen cars have a future? The cheapest HUV will use a 300 hp electric motor to drive the rear wheels, enabling a 0-100 kph time of 6.5 seconds and a 200 kph top speed. It’ll cost around €65,000, but for more performance buyers will be able to opt for the four-wheel-drive GTH version with 550 hp. This gets to 100 kph in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 250 kph. The GTH will command a €30.000 premium over the base model. The HUV will utilise a patented removable fuel capsule system, and while NAMX hasn’t detailed exactly how it will work, the innovation aims to make “hydrogen fuel widely available”. The tanks are mounted in the rear of the vehicle and can be swapped in minutes, with a home fuel capsule delivery service in the pipeline. The HUV is an angular machine, with a sloping coupe-esque roofline and NAMX’s “X” logo appearing on the front grille and stamped along the flanks. There’s an LED light bar across the front end, which extends to an X-shaped running light signature that traces the perimeter of the grille. Customers can register their interest for the new model on the NAMX website, ahead of the proposed launch in the final quarter of 2025. +++

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+++ PORSCHE has unveiled a track-only EV race car to showcase its bleeding edge electric drivetrain technology. Called the 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance, the project previews the brand’s future in all-electric motorsport, and will serve as a test bed for the current Cayman’s EV-only replacement. The Cayman GT4 ePerformance is built using the same chassis as the flat-six powered Cayman GT4 Clubsport racer. It’s a development of the Porsche Mission R concept and features that car’s dual-motor powertrain technology to produce a total maximum of 1.100 hp. However, during a race power is pegged back to 610 hp to maintain enough battery charge for a 30-minute stint; the GT4 ePerformance trades blows with the 510 hp 911 GT3 Cup car in terms of top speed and lap times, says Porsche. The car’s electric motors are permanently excited synchronous units, and a specially designed oil cooling system keeps motor and battery temperatures in check while on track. This limits performance capping due to excessive temperatures, which can occur with some high-performance EVs, and allows the driver to access the full 604bhp in race mode for half an hour. The GT4 ePerformance utilises a 900 volt electronic architecture, which enables a 5-to-80 per cent charge time of just 15 minutes. It also receives a bespoke aero package that draws from the 911 GT3 Cup; the EV is 140 mm wider than the GT4 Clubsport, with new 18 inch wheels and a towering swan-neck rear wing. The muscular body panels are made from natural fibre composites. Porsche recently announced that the next generation of its Cayman and Boxster models would go all-electric, and although the forthcoming compact coupe and roadster models won’t arrive with the aggressive aero and mammoth peak power of the racer, the GT4 ePerformance project will help develop Porsche’s next-generation sports cars. For the time being, however, the firm is eyeing up an all-electric one-make race series with the GT4 ePerformance. Matthias Scholz, Porsche’s GT racing project manager, said: “With the Mission R, we’ve shown how Porsche envisages sustainable customer motor racing in the future. The 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance now demonstrates that this vision works impressively on the racetrack. We’re very excited about the response because a one-make cup with electric racing cars would be an important addition to our existing customer racing programme”. The Cayman GT4 ePerformance will make its public debut at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. +++

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