Automakers Step up in the Push for Electrification
There are several driving forces behind the electrification of vehicles, including infotainment, car-to-x communication, advanced driving systems and ultimately fully autonomous vehicles. These are desirable functions envisaged to improve the driving experience and/or increase road safety; but the more immediate drivers towards electrification are the legislative requirements for better fuel economy and reduced emissions.
To meet these targets automakers are heavily investing resources into the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, and with several new technologies, concepts and new models slated to be unveiled in 2016, this month’s column will look at the approaches some of the world’s largest OEM’s are taking towards electrification.
Earlier this month Ford announced that it is to invest $4.5bn into electrified vehicle technology over the next five years. This is a significant step that represents the company’s largest ever investment in electrification in a five-year period, and confirms Ford’s shift towards electrified vehicle solutions as an answer to increasing global trends calling for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.
In 2016 Ford will begin selling a new Focus Electric model, which features a new DC-charging system that is capable of delivering 80% charge and a projected 100-mile range, within 30 minutes – two hours faster than today’s Focus Electric. However, that is just the start of Ford’s new direction, and it was also confirmed that 13 new electrified vehicles will be added to their range by 2020, after which point some 40% of the company’s global nameplates will come in electrified versions.
Ford also hinted that it may be set to unveil a new large plug-in vehicle at January’s Detroit Motor Show – so we will keep our eyes peeled – while confirming that it is to expand electrified vehicle research in Europe and Asia to accelerate work on battery technology around the world.
Audi is also on the road to electrification, and the news this year that the A3 Sportback e-tron, Audi’s first plug-in hybrid car, is available in Europe was quickly followed by confirmation that the vehicle will also be released in the USA as a pre-cursor to the introduction of new electric and hybrid models.
The A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid which utilizes a 1.4 litre TFSI gasoline engine and an electric motor, to provide a system output of 150kW or 204hp. The vehicle’s fuel consumption is in line with the NEDC standard for plug-in hybrids at just 1.5 litres of fuel per 100km, with CO2 emissions of just 35g/km.
Audi has gone beyond simply introducing the model into both markets either side of the Atlantic, and is pursuing a much more active role in the infrastructure and benefits of buying the car. In Europe some 410 dealerships (105 in Germany) will sell the new model, and Audi has been busy training dealer staff in sales and service related to electric vehicles. It is also offering an ‘e-tron plus’ package, which in Germany includes the charging dock, a cable for public charging points, MMI navigation plus, and Audi connect and phone box. The manufacturer is also offering an installation service in Germany for those that take up the option of a home charger, as well as confirming that in the future all dealers will have a charging point that Audi customers can use at any time – even after they’ve purchased the car.
In the USA Audi is also engaged in training dealer staff, and is set to offer a home charging package and rooftop solar panels as optional extras for customers who buy one of the cars. All of this groundwork is not just to entice customers, but also to lay the foundations and build the infrastructure to ease the rollout of new electrified models in the future. The company is likely to release up to four new models in the next few years – two plug-in hybrids and two electric cars.
News from the other side of the world from Hyundai is that it is due to unveil a world’s first – a selection of three different powertrains for a single body in the shape of the new IONIQ.
The Korean automaker released a teaser image of the new vehicle (above), which will be available with an electric, plug-in hybrid, or hybrid powertrain. The IONIQ is set to be introduced officially in Korea in January 2016, and will also feature at the Geneva and New York Auto Shows in March.
The model is based on an exclusive platform made specifically for the car’s three powertrain options, with the chassis optimized to deliver responsive handling while remaining efficient in each of its powertrain configurations. In its fully-electric form the IONIQ is powered by a high-capacity, ultra-efficient lithium ion battery; in plug-in hybrid form it utilizes fuel-efficient energy with battery power obtained by charging the car with electricity, boosting range while reducing emissions; while the hybrid version uses the petrol engine and the vehicle’s motion to charge the on-board battery.
Hyundai’s commitment to a green-vehicle strategy is underlined by sister company Kia’s five-year plan to increase its green-car line up from four to eleven models. Both are making strides towards competing with Japanese rivals Toyota and Nissan, who have dominated the market with the Prius and Leaf respectively. Hyundai says that the new IONIQ can better those rivals by providing a "unique mix not yet achieved in a hybrid vehicle."